LABOR Secretary and chief government peace negotiator Silvestre Bello III on Wednesday expressed hope that peace negotiations with the communists would soon resume even as President Rodrigo Duterte made another fresh call for the rebels to “surrender.”
“In my view, the prospect of resumption is very bright and we are just waiting for the final instruction from the President because I’m aware that the President, on his first day of assumption of office, declared openly that his legacy to the country was lasting peace for our countrymen,” Bello said in a GMA News TV interview.
Bello said the panel was working to address the contentious issues such as the release of political prisoners.
“Slowly we are addressing these and our respective committees in the panel are addressing these situations..but we still have to wait for the President to give us the go-signal to return to the peace table,” he added.
Returning from a two-day official visit to Tokyo, Duterte on Tuesday night reiterated the communists must surrender first, and assured them of houses and jobs if they would give up their armed struggle against the government.
“Look, I am addressing myself to all the soldiers of the New People’s Army. Mag-surrender na lang kayo ngayon at ibaba ninyo ang inyong baril o i-surrender ninyo,” he said.
Despite repeated moves to dissuade the communist rebels, the President said he was “not ready to give up” the peace talks which got suspended twice.
“Fifty years in the making, then you add another 50 years. We can talk continuously with the left. I am not about ready to give up everything and anything in the—in the, in the altar of peace for our country,” he said.
“I do not fight them with money or… I’m just saying na kung mag-surrender kayo, ayaw na ninyo gusto ng patayan, or pumatay ng kapwa mo Pilipino, mag-surrender ka na. Bigyan kita ng bahay automatic, at bigyan kita ng trabaho,” he added.
In the same interview, Bello welcomed Wednesday the move of presidential daughter and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio to talk with the local New People’s Army, saying this would not have any conflict with the national policy.
“There is no conflict…we have to recognize and respect the decision of the local authorities of Davao.” Bello said.
Carpio has created Davao City Peace Committee to negotiate with the New People’s Army in Davao City.
The government was initially slated to resume the fifth round of talks with the communists last May, but suspended the negotiations following the “serious challenges” both parties were facing.
The slated resumption of the talks last August were likewise canceled, amid the lack of enabling environment to proceed with the talks.
In his second State of the Nation Address, Duterte warned that the communists would soon be the government’s next target when the crisis in war-torn Marawi City ended.
At the same time, President Duterte on Tuesday expressed support for his daughter to have localized peace talks with the communists.
But he also reiterated his call to the New People’s Army to surrender and his promise to the surrenderers would have jobs.
“If you’re tired of killing a human being, you can always go back mainstream. I’ll take care of you,” he added.
In May, even after the government peace panel backed out from the fifth round of talks with the National Democratic Front, Mrs. Carpio reiterated her call for the rebels to lay down their arms if they wanted to talk peace.
“I’ll push things that I think can make the city better and one of them is the local peace talks,” she said.
Early last month, Duterte said he would leave it up to the next Philippine leader to pursue talks with the communists.
“You can just imagine, we are fighting the New People’s Army. At this stage, I am not ready to talk to them because it is not good for the country.” he said.
Duterte nixed peace talks with the communists after the New People’s Army conducted a series of attacks against government troops.
Duterte’s remarks prompted Bello to say that the talks were on “suspension mode.”