Military, police worried NPA will use peace talks to regroup

MANILA, Philippines – The military and police, during a command conference with President Rodrigo Duterte, expressed concerns that the New People's Army (NPA) will use the impending resumption of peace talks to strengthen their forces against the government.

This was among the matters raised by security officials during the meeting on Wednesday night, June 13, said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Thursday, June 14.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana confirmed this.

"The AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and PNP (Philippine National Police) wholly support the President's peace initiative. But they also raised the alarm that the peace process could be used by the CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines) to regroup and strengthen their mass base as they have done numerous times before," said Lorenzana in a message to Rappler.

Nevertheless, Roque said Duterte is determined to push through with the talks. Discussions on the peace process took the bulk of the meeting's time.

"What was clear yesterday is the peace talks must proceed," said Roque, adding that Duterte had told the room: "We need to give the peace talks a chance."

The President earlier said the talks would only push through if the communists declare a ceasefire and stop extorting from private businesses.

Lorenzana had previously cautioned against a return to peace talks, saying that the communists were making "unreasonable demands."

Can Joma come home?

The command conference also discussed the possibility of CPP founder Jose Maria "Joma" Sison coming back to the Philippines, where the talks could be held.

It was decided that, because there is "no warrant of arrest" for Sison, there's nothing stopping him from flying home.

Sison, however, is in the United States' international list of terrorists. Malacañang had said last year it was confident the US would grant the Philippine government's request to delist Sison, if it chose to make such a request.

The CPP founder, and Duterte's former professor, had suggested meeting in Vietnam instead of the Philippines, a suggestion the President rejected.

Duterte recently said the peace talks could resume in July. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

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 pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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