MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte again said he was open to resuming peace talks with communists as long as a mutual ceasefire was declared, communists stop extorting from businesses, and stop trying to establish a "revolutionary government."
These were the "fundamentals" he wanted if he was to green-light the resumption of talks, he said in a speech on Tuesday, April 3, in Oriental Mindoro.
"Kaya pwede tayong mag-usap. Hintuan ninyo ang revolutionary government, huwag na kayong mag-sunog in the name of taxation kasi kaawa 'yung mga negosyante," he said.
(We can talk. Just stop the revolutionary government, stop burning in the name of taxation because the businessmen are pitiful.)
"In the meantime na kung gusto niyo talagang totohanan (if you want it for real) is you stop immediately, you and I ceasefire tayo. Ni walang isang putok, maski labintador (Not even one shot, not even a firecracker) and I would be happy," he added.
His remarks come right after his own defense chief, Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, reiterated his stance against the resumption of peace talks, insisting the communists were making "unreasonable demands."
Lorenzana and Presidential Peace Process Adviser Jesus Dureza had condemned the New People's Army attacks in Davao during Holy Week.
Duterte, who had begun his presidency with a promising relationship with the Left, spoke on Tuesday of finding a "middle ground" and not completely closing the door to peace with communists.
"So if we can have a middle ground, hindi ko naman sinasarahan lahat because hindi totoo ‘yang forever (I am not closing the door on everything because forever is not true)," he said, eliciting laughter from the audience.
He likened the relationship between the Reds and government to a couple in love with their fair share of spats.
"Maski sa magkakasintahan, ngayon lang 'yan. Bukas, 'pag hawakan na ang kamay wala na," he said.
(Even between lovers, the quarrel is just temporary. The next day, when they hold hands, all is forgotten.)
While assuring communist rebels that he understands why they need to collect revolutionary tax, Duterte said the government is ready to again shoulder their expenses for the negotiations.
"I understand that you have to have money to proceed to where you would like to be. I am ready subsidize the peace process. I will pay for the hotel, all your expenses. And your people, what you earn, that's what you spend," he said.
These remarks from Duterte is further proof his anger with the communists is cooling off. There had already been an indication of this a month ago when he said he would "reconsider" peace talks if communists declared a ceasefire.
Duterte formally terminated peace talks with the communists in November 2017 when he signed Proclamation 360 where he declared "the termination of peace negotiations with the NDF-CPP-NPA and all its adjuncts and organizational units.”
The document also asserted that the communists "failed to show its sincerity and commitment in pursuing genuine and meaningful peace negotiations as it engaged in acts of violence and hostilities."
Duterte had cited specifically the death of a 4-month-old baby during a New People's Army ambush in Bukidnon as one of the major reasons that pushed him to shut the door to peace talks.
Aside from ending the negotiations, Duterte also declared the Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA as a terrorist group and has asked the justice department to file a petition with the appropriate regional trial court to formalize this. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.