Sison sets conditions for returning home

Founder of Communist Party says he will change his mind if the government and NDF sign a comprehensive agreement on reforms

Manila: Self-exiled Jose Maria Sison, founder of the 50-year old Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed-wing, the New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) rejected President Rodrigo Duterte’s invitation for a 60-day of peace talks in the Philippines, adding he would change his mind if the government and the National Democratic Front (NDF), CPP-NPA’s negotiating arm, sign a proposed comprehensive agreement on economic and social reform.

“I have always declared that I will return home when substantial progress is already achieved in the peace negotiations and my comrades and lawyers are satisfied with the legal and security guarantees,” Sison told ABS CBN, a TV network.

He referred to the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) which calls for independent foreign policy, massive implementation of agrarian reform programmes, and national industrialisation (in the face of globalisation).

Explaining another reason why he rejected Duterte’s call for him to return to Manila, Sison said, “I would also be placing myself and the entire peace negotiations in the pocket of Duterte and at his mercy,”

“Any peace spoiler or saboteur would be able to destroy the entire peace negotiations by abducting or harming any NDF panellist or consultant,” argued Sison.

There were initial plans for Duterte to attend the signing of the ceasefire agreement in Oslo, capital of Norway, said Sison, adding the government negotiating panel, however, suggested that Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea will represent Duterte in Oslo,

As an alternative, the NDF suggested that Duterte and Sison meet in Hanoi, but the Philippine government and the special envoy of Norway, a peace broker, rejected the plan, said Sison.

Uptil to now, the two camps have not yet agreed on the venue of the meeting, said Sison, adding these were the things that happened before Duterte asked Sison to come home for a two-month of peace talks.

But the holding of peace talks in Manila would be against the original plan to hold them in a foreign and “neutral venue,” argued Sison.

Government and NDF peace negotiators have been holding informal and back channel talks in the Utrecht to hammer provisions of the ceasefire agreement after negotiators signed its framework agreement in the Netherland last April5.

The signing of the detailed ceasefire agreement was scheduled on June 28, Sison said on TV, adding there will be amnesty proclamation for all political prisoners,

Last November, Duterte stopped the holding of peace talks and criticised leftist rebels for attacking government troops and civilians.

Former President Corazon Aquino released Sison from prison in 1986. The waging of failed coups by right wing rebel soldiers (who ousted former President Ferdinand Marcos and propped Aquino to power) prompted Sison to escape to the Netherlands in 1987. Sison was Duterte’s professor in Manila’s Lyceum University in the 70s.

The country’s longest running insurgency has claimed 45,000 since the late 60s.

The government-NDF peace talks started in 1992. For a long time, the two camps have been negotiating on provisions of comprehensive agreements on social and economic reforms and on political and Constitutional reforms — before tackling bilateral ceasefire.

Criticising the great divide between the rich and the poor, the CPP-NPA reached 25,000 in 1968, during the time of former president Marcos; dwindled to 5,000 in 1986 during the time of Aquino. But a 3,800 strong CPP-NPA has remained in control of several “red zones” which hardly receive government services.

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