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Lorenzana, ‘Joma’ clash over venue of peace talks

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By Martin Sadongdong

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria “Joma” Sison engaged in a word war on Wednesday as they expressed opposing opinions on the rightful venue where the peace talks should be held, when and if it is indeed revived.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria "Joma" Sison (MANILA BULLETIN)

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria “Joma” Sison (MANILA BULLETIN)

Sison, who is in a self-exile in Utrecht, The Netherlands, rejected the condition set by the Philippine government (GRP) that the peace negotiations be held in the country while giving him the assurance that he will not be arrested despite several standing warrants of arrest issued against him as the leader of the Communist group.

“The standing agreement between the GRP (Government of the Philippines) and the NDFP [National Democratic Front of the Philippines] enshrined in the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) is to hold GRP-NDFP peace negotiations in a foreign neutral venue,” Sison said in a statement.

“The NDFP cannot trust any ‘no arrest’ declaration from the GRP side unless the repressive issuances and campaigns of Duterte are ended, the political prisoners are amnestied and released, the CASER [Comorehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms] and a bilateral ceasefire are already in place,” he added.

However, Lorenzana argued that if Sison would not believe the government’s first condition, then the burden lies on the part of the Communist group since they were the ones who approached the President to revive the talks.

“Ano siya sinuswerte (Do you think you’re a lucky man)? In the first place, it was they who came to the President to request for the reopening of the talks through Sison’s emissaries,” Lorenzana countered.

“If they do not trust the assurance of the President that they will but be arrested, then that is their problem,” he added.

The possibility of the revival of the peace talks was floated last week when Duterte ordered Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III to go to The Netherlands and start informal talks with Sison.

Lorenzana earlier said that two emmisaries of Sison from the Makabayan group reached out to Duterte and appealed to him that the talks be opened anew.

The military had expressed support to the decision of the President to resume the talks, after the latter officially terminated it in 2017 due to the supposed insincerity of the communist group.

Duterte had claimed that even if the national government and the CPP-NPA [New People’s Army]-NDFP were engaged in peace talks, its armed wing would often stage ambushcades against the government troops.

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