FOLLOWING President Rodrigo Duterte's declaration of "permanent" termination of talks with the communists, Malacañang clarified on Saturday, March 23, that the current administration is still bent on pursuing peace negotiations with the communist insurgents at the local level.
In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the local peace talks with the communists who seemed to be not controlled by communist founder Jose Maria Sison would push through.
"The Administration still seeks peace. We are just trying a different tact by localizing the peace talks as the concerns of rebel groups vary from one locality to another especially so that Mr. Sison appears not to have control over the communist forces on the ground," the Palace official said.
The President on Thursday, March 21, announced the permanent termination of peace talks with the communist movement, saying that he was no longer keen to entertain any persuasions to return to the negotiating table.
Duterte made the pronouncement, even as he had already officially scrapped the peace dialogue with the communist rebels in November 2017 through Proclamation 360.
Responding to Duterte's latest statement, Sison said the Chief Executive is like an "old broken record repeating ad nauseam (to a sickening degree)" his termination of the peace negotiations.
Panelo said the remark of Sison, who has been in self-exile in the Netherlands since 1987, was a "case of the pot calling the kettle black."
"If as Mr. Sison says the President sounds like a broken record, the cantankerous steak chieftain of the National Democratic Front is like an echo with his repeated criticisms of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and this Administration to stay politically relevant in the Philippines while maintaining and lapping up his lavish lifestyle in Europe," he said.
"Unlike Mr. Sison who has prolonged the peace process so he can milk the situation and continue freeloading in the Netherlands as well as enjoying the donations and grants by socialist organizations to his group, President Duterte has tread the path that his predecessors did not dare take to achieve genuine peace," Panelo added.
Panelo also defended Duterte, saying that the President is merely using the presidency as a "bully pulpit" to expound his views and agenda to a greater and wider audience.
He also stressed that Duterte has reasons to permanently scrap the peace talks.
"Such platform is given to him by the people who placed him there by a democratic process," he said.
"It is thus vital to explain to the people where the President is coming from and why he officially announced the permanent termination of talks between the government and the CPP, notwithstanding the issuance of Proclamation No. 360," Panelo added.
Panelo expressed hope that the communist group would show "genuine sincerity," as it seeks to pursue talks with Duterte's successor.
He remained optimistic that the communist guerillas would realize that they first need to lay down their arms and avoid violence and destruction of public infrastructures and private properties before engaging in peace negotiation with the government.
"While Mr. Sison is right that the peace negotiation can still be resurrected by a new administration, which President Duterte himself said, the [communists] must first demonstrate genuine sincerity in the peace process," he said.
"Until such demonstration of sincerity, the localized peace talks shall be given impetus," Panelo added. (SunStar Philippines)