Palace pushes for ‘localized’ peace talks, says Joma now irrelevant

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 05 2018 04:11 PM

MANILA - Malacañang on Thursday said the government is now pushing for localized peace talks with communist rebels, as it deemed exiled Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chair Jose Maria "Joma" Sison “irrelevant.”

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said localized peace talks, where local government units will be holding negotiations with communist rebels within their respective jurisdictions, may be the way forward for the stalled peace efforts.

“Joma Sison can say anything he wants, that’s his opinion. He’s living 10,000 miles away, so I don’t see how he can be relevant,” Roque said in a Palace press briefing of Sison, for long on self-exile in The Netherlands. 

“We will be able to see whether someone who has been away in the Philippines for 30 years still has influence over troops on the ground.”

Roque said local government units may pursue localized peace negotiations provided that they do not concede any aspect of governance and pursuant to guidelines to be agreed upon by the cabinet cluster on security, which will meet next week.

Sison has been in exile in The Netherlands since 1987. While in Europe, Sison has participated in the on-and-off talks between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), where he is chief political consultant, but the military has raised doubts whether he still wields influence over communist rebels back home.

The CPP, meanwhile, said localized peace talks will not prosper, as it insisted that all units of the New People’s Army, it's armed wing, remain united.

“So-called localized peace talks only seek to obscure the ruthlessness and brutality of the all-out military offensives of the AFP,” the CPP said in a statement.

‘DOOR STILL OPEN FOR TALKS’

Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza, meanwhile, said the door remains open for the resumption of the peace talks between the NDFP and government peace panels, but the President has laid down certain conditions.

Dureza said the President wants the peace talks be held in the Philippines and a ceasefire arrangement where armed communist rebels are “encamped” in designated areas.

The President is also seeking a stop to the rebels’ collection of so-called revolutionary taxes and a guarantee that the communists would not seek a coalition government.

Sison, for his part, said Dureza’s pronouncement that the government remains open for a resumption of peace talks was an “outright lie.”

“This is a desperate PR stunt to obscure the fact that the GRP (government panel) has repeatedly terminated the talks and make it appear that it is the NDFP which closed its doors,” Sison said in a statement.

He also slammed demands laid down by the President, saying his call for the peace talks to be held in the Philippines “is driving another nail” to the stalled negotiations. 

“He knows fully well that the demand to hold talks in the Philippines is unacceptable and unworkable for the NDFP, unless he thinks the NDFP will be negotiating only to surrender the Filipino people’s aspirations and give up all its revolutionary principles,” Sison said.

OCTOBER OUSTER?

Sison also denied the military’s claim that the CPP-NPA was planning to oust the government by October this year.

He said Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Department of the Interior and Local Government officer-in-charge Eduardo Año, and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., whom he called the “militarists” in the Duterte administration, were “obviously misrepresenting the 3-year plan of the CPP Central Committee to strengthen the CPP ideologically, politically and organizationally.”

“By completely shutting the door to the negotiations, Duterte is laying down the conditions for imposing martial law or a general crackdown, use the terror proscription against the CPP and NPA against his critics and dissenters against his tyranny, and push charter change for pseudo-federalism to perpetuate himself in power,” he said.

The CPP said the military’s claim that the CPP was aiming to oust Duterte by October was a complete fabrication aimed at laying the grounds for a possible declaration of nationwide martial law.

“Duterte’s henchmen are hyping-up this lie prompting many to ask, whether Duterte is, in fact, planning to declare martial law or a general crackdown by October,” the CPP said in a statement.

Roque refuted the CPP’s claim, saying the President himself has already dismissed the idea of putting the entire country under martial rule.

Mindanao remains under martial law as the government cited remaining threats despite the end of the Marawi siege in October last year. 

The war of words between government and military figures and Sison erupted after the administration postponed the resumption of formal peace talks by the end of June, citing the need for further public consultation.