Venue immaterial if both sides are sincere in seeking peace, Palace says
In this file photo, the government peace panel holds an informal meeting with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines in Oslo, Norway. Peace talks were terminated in November 2017 and again "permanently" last March.
Jesus Dureza, Facebook, file

Venue immaterial if both sides are sincere in seeking peace, Palace says

Alexis Romero ( - December 8, 2019 - 6:43pm

MANILA, Philippines — Communist rebels should be willing to hold talks anywhere if they are sincere in pursuing peace, Malacañang said Sunday after party founder Jose Maria Sison announced that he won't participate in the negotiation if it has to take place in the Philippines.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said the venue of the talks is immaterial to those who want a peaceful resolution to the longstanding conflict.

"Kahit saan lugar kung talagang matapat ka... Hindi mahalaga yung lugar (You are prepared to talk anywhere if you are sincere...The venue is not important)," Panelo said in a radio interview.

"Ang mahalaga yung katapatan ng bawat panig na mag-usap sa kapayapaan (What is important is the sincerity of each side that will talk peace)," he added.

Peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, with which the government has signed and implemented a peace agreement, were held in Malaysia.

Two years ago, Duterte canceled the peace negotiations between the government and the communists after the Maoist guerillas launched successive attacks against secrity forces. The president has also claimed that the communists were demanding a coalition government, a power-sharing set-up that he said is unconstitutional. 

Last week, Durerte revealed that he is sending Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III to the Netherlands to talk to Sison for what he called his "last card" to end the five decade-conflict with the communists.

Sison, who has been on self-exile in the Netherlands since 1987, has said the precondition that the talks should be held in the Philippines is "unacceptable" because it seeks to put the communists and the peace negotiations "in the pocket of the Duterte regime and under the control and surveillance of the bloodthirsty military and police who engage in mass murders and other heinous crimes with impunity."

Panelo said Sison need not worry if the negotiations are held in the Philippines because he and other communist negotiators would not be arrested.

"He (Sison) won't be arrested and that has been promised by the president. All pending warrants against them would be suspended while talks are ongoing," he said.

Panelo called on communists to display sincerity when talking to the government, noting that the rebels launched offensives against security forces while previous negotiations were ongoing.

"They have not been sincere. We were talking and yet they kept on ambushing our policemen and soldiers," the Palace spokesman said.

Asked if he thought a peace deal could be sealed before Duterte steps down, Panelo replied: "That's up to them. We are always open to that. It's up to the other side, if they are sincere in their goal to fix this problem." 

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