COMMUNIST Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria Sison on Thursday threatened to call off the truce it declared last August if the government fails to release all political detainees by January next year.
“The central committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines is ready to terminate the Aug. 28, 2016 unilateral declaration of interim ceasefire in case no amnesty and release of all political prisoners would occur in December or January,” Sison said in an interview with Kodao Productions.
“We shall be back to a situation of negotiating while fighting, unless the [government] terminates the peace negotiations completely,” added Sison, the chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front, which is currently talking peace with the government.
Despite these threats, however, President Rodrigo Duterte maintained that should he proceed with the release of political prisoners right away, he would “lose his cards” to seal a peace deal with the rebel group.
In a chance interview with reporters at Legazpi City, Duterte said he has yet to see a substantive progress in the peace talks and reiterated his precondition of a bilateral ceasefire before any release.
“I have conceded to the communists too much, too soon. As yet, I have yet to see a substantive progress in the talks,” Duterte said.
“They are asking for 130 detainees to be released… Sorry, I cannot do that. I cannot do it because they will use up all my cards. That is my ace. Those detained are my ace,” he said during the inauguration of the Bicol International Airport on Thursday.
Sison, however, accused the government of prolonging the agony of political prisoners and suggested that a bilateral ceasefire agreement can be signed even before the amnesty and release of political detainees, only to take effect upon the actual release of political prisoners.
“The signing of the bilateral ceasefire agreement by the government and NDF panels can come ahead of the amnesty and release of all political prisoners by President Duterte but said agreement becomes valid and effective only upon the actual release of said political prisoners and upon the approval of the agreement by the government and NDF principals,” Sison said.
“No chance for the GRP to get the bilateral ceasefire agreement and then renege on the commitment to amnesty and release all political prisoners,” he added.
The CPP and the New People’s Army on August 28 declared the unilateral interim ceasefire in a bid to promote and accelerate peace negotiations between the NDF and the government.
In a statement Tuesday, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process said that the President ordered to produce first a signed bilateral ceasefire agreement before a substantial release of detained communist rebels to Labor Secretary and government peace panel chairman Silvestre Bello III and panel member Angela Librado-Trinidad who left for Oslo.
“Produce [for me] a signed bilateral ceasefire agreement and I will release them within 48 hours. You can take my word for it,” Bello quoted the President as saying.
“The President told us that once he receives even just a facsimile copy of the signed agreement, he will immediately order the release of communist rebels,” Bello said.
Bello and Librado sought instructions from Malacañang after Duterte met with top rebel leaders Benito and William Tiamzon in Davao City last week. Duterte likewise said he would keep his campaign promise to release the detained communist rebels during that meeting.