LUCENA CITY — Holding formal peace talks in the Philippines as President Rodrigo Duterte insists will spell doom for negotiations between the government and communist rebels, the exiled founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) said on Sunday.
“It’s the end of peace negotiations if Duterte will dictate the venue where he can conduct surveillance and control,” Jose Maria “Joma” Sison said in an online interview from Utrecht, the Netherlands, where he has been living as a political refugee since the mid-1980s.
Sison added: “The most effective way for the [government] to end the peace negotiations is to dictate that the venue is under the control of Duterte and his military brutes.”
Revolutionaries do not negotiate under the terms and conditions “of an emergent fascist dictatorship and in a place where mass murders are occurring with impunity,” said Sison, chief political consultant to the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), the CPP’s political arm that is negotiating with the government.
On Thursday, the President canceled the resumption of formal talks in Oslo, Norway, scheduled for June 28. The date was agreed upon by government and NDFP negotiators in a series of back-channel talks.
The President insisted that the talks be held in the Philippines next month but gave no specific dates.
Gen. Carlito Galvez, Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff, maintained that the deferment of formal peace talks was meant to give way to public consultations on “substantive issues” raised during the back-channel negotiations.
In an interview aired on Friday over AFP radio dwDD, Galvez said, “We support the President and the Opapp (Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process) to have more time so we could at least consult our constituents.”
National security officials met with the President on Wednesday night.
Sison said the talks could still proceed even if delayed for one or two months as long as these were held in a neutral venue abroad as agreed upon by both parties in the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig) they signed in 1995.
Under the agreement, consultants and staff of the NDFP who are part of the negotiating team are granted immunity from arrest and detention and are provided safety guarantees.
Lessons of 1986 talks
Sison said the experience of the rebels during a ceasefire and failed peace negotiations in the Philippines in 1986 had taught them life-and-death lessons.
“The NDFP negotiators, auxiliary personnel and peace volunteers were all placed under surveillance. When the negotiation broke down in early 1987, lots of them were arrested, detained, tortured and killed,” he said.
Disappointed with the cancellation of the resumption of formal talks, Fidel Agcaoili, NDFP peace panel chair, said one prerequisite for ensuring that gains in the peace talks were protected “is for both sides to stand by agreements.” —WITH A REPORT FROM JEANNETTE I. ANDRADE
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