MANILA, Philippines — Communist leader Jose Maria Sison won’t last three years, so the government will just continue fighting the rebels for the next 50 years, according to President Duterte.
Duterte said he reached out to the communist rebels and their leaders since he assumed office in 2016 but no substantial development has been reached during formal and backchannel talks.
Duterte doubted whether Sison could survive the next few years, bolstering earlier claims by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr that the communist leader is ill.
“You think Sison can survive for another three years and after that? And what is in his head you consider it as gospel truth of an ideology,” Duterte said on Friday.
“I tried reaching out to the communists. If any of you are listening, ask the rebels what could they gain for another 50 years of fighting,” Duterte told a gathering in Barangay Casisang, Malaybalay.
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Last month, Esperon said the government will still exert efforts to reach a peace agreement with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).
The government cancelled all backchannel talks last June after Duterte ordered a review of all the agreements made with the communists in the previous talks with the National Democratic Front (NDF), the umbrella organization representing the CPP-NPA in the peace talks.
Among the agreements being reviewed are the Joint Security and Immunity Guarantee (JASIG), Hague Declaration and Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).
Esperon said President Duterte wanted to review the provisions of these agreements as it now appeared that the CPP-NPA-NDF have been conveniently using them to further their own agenda of toppling the government.
The NDF said the peace talks could resume if Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana abandons his demand for the rebels to surrender.
“Lorenzana can avoid humiliating himself in the future by abandoning the tack of peace negotiations as surrender talks. That way, he will not be coming up with such absurd statements, and the … peace talks can be put back on track,” the NDF said.
The NDF was referring to Lorezana’s earlier pronouncement that “if we (government) have peace talks with the CPP, why not the ASG (Abu Sayyaf).”
The NDF said Lorenzana’s statements equates the CPP-NPA with the bandits.
As this developed, fighting erupted anew between the government and the rebels in Jones, Isabela yesterday.
Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) spokesman Lt. Col. Isagani Nato said the firefight was still in progress as troops from the Army’s 86th Infantry Battalion are pursuing the rebels.
Over the past months, government troops and NPAs have figured in a series of clashes in various areas of Northern Luzon, as the communists have been trying to re-establish their presence in the region.
Last month, four soldiers were killed while another was wounded in fierce fighting between Army troops and rebels in the outskirts of Sitio Dadanac, Barangay Tambon, Basea town, Mountain Province.
The rebels lost their hospital camp in Abra while a number of their fighters were killed in Isabela, Kalinga and Ilocos Sur. – With Jose Rodel Clapano, Jaime Laude
Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) – August 5, 2018 – 12:00am
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