By Genalyn Kabiling
Refusing to give up the quest for peace, President Duterte has directed Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III to travel to the Netherlands and talk to communist leader Jose Maria Sison.
The President admitted that his latest directive would be his “last card” to jumpstart peace talks with the communist group.
“This is the first time that I will reveal it. I am sending Secretary Bello, komunista naman talaga siya (He is a communist, anyway). He should go there, talk to them, and I cannot talk about it. Basta I’m sending him back to Sison and talk to him about, malaman lang ninyo yan pagdating ng panahon (you will know about it one day),” he said during the typhoon situation briefing in Legazpi City Thursday.
“If he agrees, ito ang sabi ko last card (If he agrees, I said this will be my last card). When I say last card, my time is running out,” said Duterte, who has less than three years in office.
Bello served as the chairman of the government peace panel.
Duterte explained that he could not totally close the doors on peace negotiations with the rebel group despite failed attempts. He said there must be at least one open channel to try to revive the talks.
“Three times we attempted to talk sense dito (here) and it has always failed. Now, I cannot stop. Hindi ko pwedeng sabihin na ayaw ko na makipag-usap (I don’t want to say I don’t want to talk anymore). That is not a statement of a leader, of a President,” he said.
“You should understand that the quest for, the longing for peace is always there not for military and police but for everybody na kailangan, the doors must be always open. there must be at least one channel if everything closes na pwede mong pakiusapan (that you can talk),” he said.
In his attempt to pursue peace talks, Duterte noted that there is a “serious problem of insurgency” in Bicol region. He lamented that many soldiers and policemen have been killed amid the insurgency conflict.
Last September, Duterte has ordered the military to launch a “full-scale” attack against the communist rebels with the chances of the revival of the talks “almost nil to nothing.” Duterte, in declaring an all-out war against the rebels, said he would not accept any surrender amid plans to finish the insurgency problem within his term.
Early this year, he dissolved the government peace panel led by Bello since the peace talks were scrapped in November 2017.
The government previously terminated the peace talks with the communist rebel group in protest of the atrocities committed against troops and civilian communities. Duterte instead repeatedly urged the rebels to surrender to the government, promising to give them food, shelter and livelihood assistance.