PRESIDENTIAL prospect and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday night asked communist leader Jose Maria “Joma” Sison to abandon the “armed struggle” waged by the New People’s Army (NPA) for over 40 years now and participate in democratic processes to achieve change in the country.
The mayor, one of the probable presidential candidates in next year’s elections, made the appeal to the self-exiled communist leader during an overseas call made by Sison to Duterte.
The communist leader has been living and working for many years in The Netherlands.
Duterte took Sison’s call while he was in the middle of a dinner with top Armed Forces officers who have just been assigned to the Davao region.
“Armed struggle as a means to achieve change is passé in the modern world we are living in today,” the mayor said.
“Over 40 years of armed struggle and thousands of lives lost is too much to bear,” added the 70-year-old local executive who is known to have a direct communication line with rebel groups and has facilitated the release of government men held captive by communist rebels.
“In the modern world we live in today, you would look ridiculous carrying guns and hope to effect change in society through violence,” Duterte said.
“The armed struggle is simply misplaced idealism,” he added.
According to him, the self-exiled leader of the National Democratic Front, the umbrella organization of the Left in the Philippines, called him to ask if the Davao City mayor would find time to travel to Europe before the elections of 2016.
“He said he would like to talk to me and ask me about my plans for 2016,” Duterte told the military officers about his conversation with Sison.
He said he also told Sison that he had no travel plans to Europe and that the presidency was not being considered because of the difficult situation in the country today.
“The presidency is not an easy job. You have the secessionists in southern Philippines and you have the NPA all over the country,” Duterte noted.
“[But if the rebels say they are] willing [to]give up armed struggle under my watch, I might consider,” he said.
Duterte, who admits publicly that he is ideologically Left-leaning, also told the Army generals and colonels who shared a dinner table with him in a Davao City restaurant on Wednesday night that the country should unite and address external problems.
The mayor was obviously referring to China’s annexation of atolls and islets in the Kalayaan Island Group in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) and the still unresolved Sabah issue with Malaysia.
Duterte’s call on the communists to give up their armed struggle and participate in the democratic processes to achieve change was received positively by the military officers, many of whom have seen action against the communists.
Many of them have also lost foot soldiers and even young officers in the 40-year communist insurgency, which is considered the “longest communist revolution” in the world.
“I believe that they [the NPA rebels]are fighting for a cause but armed struggle is not the way,” Duterte said.
Sison previously issued a statement that Duterte is a presidential prospect who is more acceptable to the Left because he has an “open mind” on the issues behind their struggle.
The mayor is known to have open lines with the NPA, enabling him to secure the release of soldiers and policemen who were captured and held captive by the rebels.