After communist leader Jose Maria Sison claimed that President Rodrigo Duterte wanted the peace talks to be held in the Philippines, Malacañang on Sunday assured him he would not be arrested on his return to the Philippines for the talks.
READ: Duterte: Reopen talks with Reds
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said the venue for the peace talks would not matter if Sison was “sincere” to sit on the negotiation table with the government.
“They will not be arrested. The President is promising that. All the pending warrants of arrest against them will be suspended in case the peace talks resume,” Panelo said in a radio interview.
“If they are sincere, they will agree to talk in any venue.”
But Sison said holding the peace talks here was “unacceptable” because it would put the National Democratic Front of the Philippines under “control” and “surveillance.”
Duterte said Thursday he has asked Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III to talk to Sison, who is in self-exile in the Netherlands, in a bid to craft a peace deal and put an end to the decades-long insurgency, calling it his “last card.”
The President wants to achieve peace and order in the entire country before his term ends in 2022, Panelo said.
“That is what he is always saying. He leaves the window or the door ajar,” Panelo said.
Early this year, Duterte shut down a possible resumption of the peace talks through Proclamation 360 and told the communist groups to just “talk to the next President.”
Duterte said he would no longer entertain “any interventions or maybe persuasions in this democratic state of the Republic of the Philippines.”
He cited the government’s preference for localized peace engagements.
Last month, Duterte met with the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police, and National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict to discuss the continuing anti-insurgency campaign.
During the meeting, Duterte stressed the need to focus government efforts on conflict-prone communities and provide them with housing, water, education and health.