By Francis Wakefield
Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chairman and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Chief Political Consultant Jose Maria Sison on Wednesday welcomed President Rodrigo Duterte’s statement to give NDFP chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili safe passage once he returns to the country for possible peace negotiations with the government.
According to Sison, the statements of Duterte at the ninth anniversary of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) in Davao City on February 19, although mixed, carried positive and negative content as well as serious and joking expressions.
“But they seem to be better than entirely hostile statements. I prefer to welcome the positive content and serious expressions about being open to peace negotiations and to let NDFP chief peace negotiator sort out Duterte’s statements with Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) chief peace negotiator Labor and Employment Secretary Silvestre Bello III,” Sison said.
“I cannot try to answer the mixed statements of Duterte publicly because to do so can make me appear as the one mixed up. It is best to let the negotiators meet and do their job,” he added.
Sison said both Agcaoili and Bello were competent representatives of the NDFP and GRP, respectively, and “were conscious of seeking a common ground by responding to the needs and demands of the people and striving to agree on social, economic and political reforms as basis for a just and lasting peace.”
Peace talks between the government and the communist group collapsed in 2017 after President Duterte denounced the deadly rebel attacks on government troops and other atrocities against the people.
Duterte later signed proclamations declaring the termination of the talks and designated the CPP-NPA as terrorist group.
The President on Tuesday revealed that he has directed the government forces to let Agcaoli return home, saying he was “not that cruel.”
“I think Atty. Agcaoili has sounded off — he was coming again to talk and I told the military and the police just allow him. For after all it’s just on a — we’re on a waiting period about the appropriate time to talk about peace. I am not that cruel,” he said during an assembly in Davao City.
The President expressed his interest to resume the peace talks with the Communist rebel group during his speech.
He made clear that he does not hate Communist leader Jose Maria Sison, saying they could still be friends.
“I am not saying that I am now in agreement with Sison. I don’t like his style but I do not hate him. We are friends and we can be friends,” he said.
“Some other time they say I would kill for money. But since Sison is my professor, I will kill him for nothing. Except that before he goes to the blue yonder, kindly find time to talk sensible peace,” he said.
He said the two sides should not impose demands and instead simply talk peace.
“I suggest that we do not make any demands. We go to the table and to talk about it. And if he approaches something which is not acceptable and I would say, ‘No, I cannot accept that,’” he said.
“If I propose something and he does not relish it, then maybe he can go back to Netherlands. If I were him, I’ll just — since he is there already permanently, I would rather that he gets another two wives and start breeding a new family there,” he added.