Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said the venue of the talks is immaterial to those who want a peaceful resolution to the longstanding conflict.
Edd Gumban
Reds urged: Be sincere on peace
Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - December 9, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Communists should be willing to hold talks anywhere if they are sincere in pursuing peace, Malacañang said yesterday, after rebel leader Jose Maria Sison announced that he would not participate in the negotiation if it takes 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.

“Anywhere is fine if you are sincere...The venue is not important,” Panelo said in Filipino a radio interview.

“What is important is the sincerity of each side that will talk peace,” he added.

Two years ago, Duterte canceled peace negotiations between the government and the communists after the Maoist guerillas launched successive attacks against security forces.

The President has also claimed that the communists are demanding a coalition government, a power-sharing set-up that he said is unconstitutional.

Last week, Duterte 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-old 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 should 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 in 2022, 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.”

Human rights group Karapatan, meanwhile, expressed its support for the resumption of peace talks between the government and communists.

Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said they would “always welcome” any move to continue the peace negotiations, as well as the release of political prisoners.

“Karapatan expresses its support for the possible resumption of the peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). We support earnest endeavors at attaining peace and resolving the roots of the armed conflict,” she said in a statement.

Still, she said caution should be exercised until anti-people and militarist policies like martial law are withdrawn and junked.

The group also hit the lifting of martial law in Mindanao as a supposed gateway to facilitate the passing of amendments to the anti-terror law or Human Security Act of 2007.

She noted that if this passed, it would further diminish the democratic space in the country and pose real dangers against people’s rights.

“Having benefited from it after two years, the government is now using the lifting of martial law as a bait to pass a nationwide policy that will practically place the entire country under de facto martial law,” she added. 

SALVADOR PANELO
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