Former President Fidel V. Ramos said that Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte is not a communist despite his alleged links with rebel leader, Jose Maria “Joma” Sison.
“If by talking and being friendly with Joma Sison makes Mayor Duterte a communist, I must then be in a far more worse situation,” Ramos said when asked by former Malacañang aide, Atty. Jesus Dureza, to comment on the accusations that the tough-talking mayor is a communist.
Dureza was Ramos’ presidential assistant for Mindanao in the late 1990s and also served as Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process and Press Secretary in Malacañang.
The former president even appreciated Duterte’s move of reaching out to Sison, recalling that during his administration, he went even further in abolishing Republic Act No. 1700, the so-called Anti-Subversion Law that penalized mere membership in the communist party, an unprecedented move that was viewed as favoring the communists.
Ramos’ statement came after presidential bet Sen. Miriam Santiago warned of possible dangers from the supposedly close ties of Duterte with the New People’s Army (NPA).
“It appears he is a favorite friend of Joma Sison. We all know here in Manila the NPA is divided into pro-Joma and anti-Joma camps; so if he has a pro-Joma approach, that might explain why he has the support of leftist groups,” Santiago told reporters.
Sison, the founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), has been in exile in the Netherlands since 1992. The NPA is the armed wing of the CPP.
But Ramos said Duterte’s early efforts to unite the nation is a “right move” and must be welcomed instead of being criticized and condemned.
“It was a necessary step to heal a divided nation,” Ramos said as he recalled that it was during his administration that “significant strides were done to reach out to the communist rebels to seek for lasting peace.”
“You were with the Philippine negotiating panel then with Ambassador Howard Dee, Sec. Bebot Bello and Cong. Apeng Yap of Tarlac that I sent to Europe several times to negotiate peace with Joma and the CPP/NPA/NDF panel, remember?”
Ramos reminded Dureza who was the spokesman of the government negotiating panel and Davao congressman representing the House of Representatives in the Philippine panel at the time.
Duterte, in several occasions had said that he valued Ramos’ advices and the latter someone whom he would go to for guidance from time to time.
The former president is also widely perceived as among those reportedly responsible for convincing the Davao city mayor to consider the presidency.