President Duterte has said he is open to resuming peace talks with communists — but only if they desist from atrocities and extortion.
In a speech in Oriental Mindoro today (Tuesday, April 3), he said that for a mutual ceasefire to be declared, the reds must stop extorting “taxes” and end attempts to establish a “revolutionary government”.
He described these steps as the “fundamentals” he needed to back the resumption of talks.
“We can talk. Just stop the revolutionary government, stop burning in the name of taxation because the businessmen are pitiful,” he said.
“In the meantime, if you want it for real is you stop immediately, you and I can have a ceasefire. Not even one shot, not even a firecracker and I would be happy.”
The remarks come soon after defence chief 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.
The president, who began his term of office with a promising relationship with the left, spoke today of finding a “middle ground” and not completely closing the door to peace with the communists.
“So if we can have a middle ground, I am not closing the door on everything because forever is not true,” he said.
“Even between lovers, the quarrel is just temporary. The next day, when they hold hands, all is forgotten.”
While assuring rebels that he understood their reasons for collecting revolutionary tax, he added that the government was ready to cover 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 subsidise 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.
His remarks are the latest sign that the president’s anger with the rebels is cooling off.
He formally terminated peace talks with the communists last November when he signed Proclamation 360 in which he declared “the termination of peace negotiations with the NDF-CPP-NPA and all its adjuncts and organisational 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”.
It also cited the death of a four-month-old baby during an ambush in Bukidnon as one of the atrocities that pushed him to shut the door to peace talks.
The government has also petitioned the court to declare the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army, as terrorist groups.
The National Democratic Front of the Philippines said yesterday that it was open to the possibility of resuming talks “without preconditions.”