President-elect Rodrigo Duterte may release jailed communist rebels in an effort to restart peace talks aimed at ending a decades-old insurgency that has claimed tens of thousands of lives, an aide said Tuesday.
The aide said Duterte, set to be sworn into office on June 30 after a landslide election victory on Monday, signaled his readiness to discuss the release of a number of imprisoned rebels, a key factor in the breakdown of peace negotiations three years ago.
President Benigno Aquino 3rd ended talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines in 2013 over the rebels’ demand for the unconditional release of their detained comrades that his government was unwilling to grant.
Duterte’s spokesman Peter Lavina said the president-elect will consider allowing exiled communist leaders to return for the talks, and review the status of “political prisoners.”
Lavina suggested the new government will not be averse to releasing detained rebels so they could take part in the talks, and allow ailing ones get treatment outside of prison.
“It is important to release political prisoners suffering from ailments,” he said.
Duterte, a hardline mayor accused of running vigilante death squads that have killed more than a thousand crime suspects in Davao, is a friend of Netherlands-based Jose Maria Sison, who set up the communist party in 1968.
Last month during the election campaign, Duterte won the release of five Davao policemen and a civilian taken hostage by the New People’s Army guerrillas.