By Genalyn Kabiling
President Duterte has denied designating former Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) chief Avelino Andal to initiate backdoor negotiations with the communist rebel group.
“Look, everybody is talking. So (I have) no instruction on Andal about back-channeling,” former Special Assistant to the President Christopher Go said quoting Duterte.
Andal earlier claimed that the President has asked him to conduct backdoor talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) in an effort to revive the stalled peace process. He is currently a member of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB).
Andal said he has reached out to some representatives of the rebel group, who have welcomed the planned informal talks. The President’s order was supposedly given to Andal last week.
Malacañang, however, doubted Andal’s pronouncement about his role in the peace process.
“I do not think so,” Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said when asked about the assignment of Andal to lead back channel talks with the rebel group.
“He’s not involved in the negotiation process. Members of the panel would be (Labor) Secretary (Silvestre) Bello, he’s one of them,” he added.
He earlier said he could not yet confirm Andal’s designation. “I do not have any information on that. It could be,” Panelo told reporters at the Palace.
“Kung sinabi ni Presidente sa kanya, di good. He can do his best and I hope the other side will do his best too. But let me say that we are always positive on any development… good for all of us,” he added.
Panelo said the President remains open to the revival of the peace talks if the rebels would stop their attacks and other illegal activities “because he doesn’t want Filipinos killing each other.”
“What is important to me is if there is one, then the CPP-NPA at this time and for a change should listen to the President – enough of these ambuscades, enough of these extortion activities and we will sit down. And most likely, they may finally listen to the urgings of the President. I think they are also tired fighting the government,” he said.
Peace talks between the government and the communist group collapsed in 2017 after Duterte denounced the deadly rebel attacks on government troops and other atrocities against the people.
The government initiated backchannel talks to try to resume the formal negotiations last year but later scrapped them to pave the way for a review of all signed agreements with the rebel group.