HEADLINE: 2-month deadline set for talks with New People’s Army
MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte wants the peace talks with the communist rebels to move forward in two months and threatened to “collect” from the rebels if the peace talks fail anew.
Duterte said he is ready to shoulder the expenses of communists negotiators who will join the talks but warned that the next few weeks would either make or break the talks.
“I will do it. I will be the one who will deliver. But I’ll have a timeline of something like two months, 60 days. Good or break tayo,” the President said during a dinner concert at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza in Pasay City last Thursday.
“I will spend for it. I will bring rice… I will shoulder the hotel (costs). You can all go out, all of you. Nothing will happen. But if we fail, I’ll start collecting. That’s for sure,” he added.
Duterte did not elaborate on how he would collect from the communist rebels, who have been waging an armed struggle against the government for almost 50 years.
The President, however, threatened to shoot Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chairman Jose Maria Sison if he returns to the country after a failed negotiation.
“I said ‘OK if you withdraw from Norway.’ I told Sison, I will give you your freedom during the truce period. And if we fail, then I will be happy to send you off
to the airport,” he said.
“But do not ever, ever come again, because the next time, I will personally shoot you,” Duterte added.
Sison, a former professor of Duterte at the Lyceum University where the President finished his political science degree, has been on self-exile in the Netherlands since 1987.
Last November, Duterte terminated the negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, the panel that represented the communists in the talks with the government.
The President cited the communists’ supposed demand for a coalition government, a power-sharing set-up that he said is not allowed by the Constitution.
He also lambasted the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the rebels, for attacking government forces and civilians and extorting money from businesses.
The collapse of the talks prompted the Duterte administration to ask a Manila court to declare about 600 persons, including communist peace consultants, as terrorists.
Duterte, however, reversed his pronouncement last week, saying he is open to resuming negotiations because he no longer wants to fight with fellow Filipinos.
He said the talks can progress if there is a ceasefire agreement and if the rebels stop collecting so-called revolutionary taxes.
The administration, however, would not drop the court petition seeking to declare the communists as terrorists until a final peace deal is forged.
Duterte said the communists were the ones who sought the resumption of the talks.
“I ordered the military. Many are surrendering. It is Sison now. I’m not begging. But you can read in between the lines. They are really asking for talks to resume,” the President said.
“I can already read you because because there are fronts that have totally collapsed already… So they are now asking us. I said ‘OK, sige (go ahead), OK’.”
Duterte said the military supports his decision to order the resumption of talks.
Meanwhile, six alleged couriers of the NPA surrendered yesterday to the Army’s 5th Infantry Division of the Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom).
In a statement, Nolcom identified the surrenderees as Recto Luminis Campo, 40; Marvie Bumanglag Campo, 30, reputed to be the former commander of the NPA unit Central East sometime in 2007; Marlon Campo Balawag, 20; Jerry Balawag Pascua, 45; Randy Baingan Tapaoan, 27 and Gellyn Danao Tapaoan, 27, who had operated in Cagayan.
The rebels surrendered to Army troopers in Barangay Balanni in Sto Niño, Cagayan and they were transported to the headquarters of the 17th IB in Alcala, Cagayan.
Nolcom said the military will continue supporting efforts to achieve lasting peace and sustainable development in the country. With Ding Cervantes / Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) – April 8, 2018 – 12:01am
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