DESPITE their exchange of harsh words, President Rodrigo Duterte and communist leader Jose Maria Sison are not closing their doors on peace talks.
In a speech in Camarines Sur Friday night, Duterte said the government remains open to resuming peace negotiations with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), which has waged a five-decade armed insurgency -- the longest-running in Asia.
“Ngayon, hindi na kami magkaintindihan ni Sison pero (Now, Sison and I can no longer understand each other but) I’d like you to know that we are keeping the fire burning and hindi mo pwedeng sarahan eh (you cannot close it entirely). You cannot afford to lose all channels of communication, mag-iwan ka talaga maski maliit (you will leave it even slightly open),” Duterte said.
In response, Sison in a statement on Saturday said it has been the “consistent policy” of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, which represents the communist rebels in peace talks, to remain open to the negotiations.
“I welcome the statement of Duterte that he is still open to peace negotiations even as there is still an exchange of hostile words in the mass media and exchange of bullets in the battlefield,” Sison said.
He, however, stressed communist rebels are determined to oust the Duterte government, which he earlier said is their “principal work” now.
The CPP, founded by Sison in 1968, has always aimed to overthrow the government and replace it with a “national democratic” state.
The Duterte administration is the sixth to try to end the communist group’s armed struggle, but the President walked away from peace negotiations in November 2017, after repeatedly accusing rebels of violating their unilateral ceasefire.