Lorenzana, Sison lock horns over preconditions to peace talks

Credit to Author: The Manila Times| Date: Wed, 11 Dec 2019 10:57:02 +0000

THE reopening of the peace talks remained in limbo as officials from both sides locked horns over conditions before the negotiations.

In a statement on Wednesday, Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria “Joma” Sison insisted that the talks should be held in a “foreign neutral venue,” saying that the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) does not trust the “no arrest” assurance of the government.

A precondition set by President Rodrigo Duterte and which Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. supported was the hosting of the talks by the Philippines.

Sison rejected the proposal.

The government also guaranteed that there would be no arrests of the NDFP consultants despite court-issued warrants across the country.

“The NDFP cannot trust any ‘no arrest’ declaration from the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) side unless the repressive issuances and campaigns of Duterte are ended, the political prisoners are amnestied and released, the CASER (Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms) and a bilateral ceasefire are already in place,” Sison said.

“Right now, the Duterte regime cannot gain the trust and confidence of the NDFP while it refuses to carry out [the] goodwill measures [of the NDFP],” he added.

Some of the preconditions that the NDFP wanted were the release of political prisoners and a holiday ceasefire to be declared by both the state forces and the New People’s Army (NPA).

“The NDFP is under no obligation to negotiate with a regime that is already discredited and is running out of time. The revolutionary movement is advancing,” Sison said.

Lorenzana, however, disagreed with the preconditions reiterated by Sison and questioned his distrust over the government’s assurances.

“Ano siya, sinuswerte? (What is he, lucky?)” the Defense chief said in a message when asked for his comment on Sison’s latest statement.

“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 said.

“If the NDFP will not trust the assurance of the government that no consultants will be arrested in the country should peace talks resume, “then that is their problem,” Lorenzana said.

The military said it would pursue its operations against the communist rebels even if the peace talks would reopen.

“We are continuing with our operations and we said we are successful,” Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo, the Armed Forces spokesman, said in an interview over CNN Philippines.

Asked if the military backed the resumption of peace talks, Arevalo said: “If it’s the President’s desire to move along this way, once again, we always are going to support and we are supportive of the President.” DEMPSEY REYES