Palace plays down Sison statement on ousting Duterte
The Palace calls Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria Sison an "illusionist," a term more commonly used to refer to stage magicians.
Jose Maria Sison's Facebook page
Palace plays down Sison statement on ousting Duterte
Ryan Macasero ( - January 3, 2019 - 7:31pm

MANILA, Philippines — Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo on Thursday called communist party founder Jose Maria Sison an "illusionist" for saying ousting President Rodrigo Duterte will be the party's priority this year.

“Just like the rebel senator, he is an illusionist,” Panelo said, also referring to Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, who led two failed coup mutinies against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Illusionist is more commonly used to refer to magicians and sleight-of-hand performers.

“He has been saying that and, as I said, his is a failed rebellion. It's about time he realizes that fact, that 50 years of rebellion has not borne any fruits,” Panelo said.

"The [National Democratic Front of the Philippines] is authorized to be open to peace negotiations with the current and prospective regime of the reactionary government but its principal work now is to work for the ouster of the Duterte regime," Sison said in a statement Tuesday.

Sison has been living in exile in the Netherlands since 1987 and is a chief political consultant for the NDFP, which negotiates with the goverment on behalf of the Communist Party of the Philippines and New People's Army.

The NPA has been waging armed rebellion against the Philippine government since it was founded in 1969, several months after the CPP was founded.

READ: '50 years of CPP-NPA a failed rebellion'

Tensions between the president and Sison have heightened since the government ended peace talks with the communist rebels in 2017.

Duterte ordered the military to “crush” the NPA last month.

“[The communists] will kill this republic and I will not allow it. One day I will get all of you. And if I have the identity and I can validate it with the police and the military, they will all be dead in two or three days. We will be floating in blood,” Duterte, who had previously claimed to be the first president from the Left, said in December.

This is an about face from his position following the 2016 elections where he proclaimed on several occasions that he would be the “first left-leaning” president.

Duterte appointed four “leftist activists” to government positions in 2016 as a prelude to the resumption of peace talks: Liza Maza to the National Anti-Poverty Commission; Judy Taguiwalo to the Department of Social Welfare and Development; Rafael Mariano to the Department of Agrarian Reform; and Joel Maglunsod to the Department of Labor and Employment.

READ: Makabayan bloc leaves House supermajority, ends Duterte alliance

The appointments were meant to be a gesture of sincerity while the administration pursued peace talks with the CPP-NPA. Although the appointees were left-aligned, that does not mean they are directly involved in the armed movement.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, who is also the government’s chief peace panel negotiator, said on December 27 that the panel will take a back seat next year as the government will push through with "localized" peace talks in 2019. This is part of the government’s new direction in addressing the communist insurgency with the “whole of nation approach” formalized through Executive Order No. 70 last December 4. 

The talks focus on negotiations with local armed fronts instead of negotiating with the umbrella NDFP.

“Sison himself doesn’t pose a serious threat, but those on the ground are the actual threats,” Panelo said in Filipino. “But our armed forces are ready for it.”

'Red October' plot

In October 2018, the Armed Forces of the Philippines claimed the existence of a communist-led "Red October" plot to oust the president. Part of the plot, it said, was recruitment at colleges and universities in Metro Manila .

It later admitted that its list of schools supposedly being used for communist recruitment was based on information that had yet to be verified.

It later said that the "Red October" plot had fizzled out.

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