• Joma to end 30-year exile

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    Philippine communist rebel leader Jose Maria Sison has expressed hopes of ending nearly three decades in exile under the new presidency of Rodrigo Duterte, a potentially explosive homecoming opposed by senior military figures.

    Sison, now 77, fled to Europe soon after peace talks failed in 1987 and has stayed abroad since, while one of Asia’s longest-running insurgencies continued to claim thousands of lives.

    “I will return to the Philippines if Duterte fulfils his promise to visit me,” the Netherlands-based Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder said in comments posted on his Facebook page late on Wednesday.

    “The prospects [for peace talks]seem to be bright at the moment,” Sison added.

    Sison, a political science professor, “reestablished” the CPP in December 1968 and it launched a guerrilla campaign three months later.

    The rebellion has left at least 30,000 people dead, by official account.

    The New People’s Army (NPA) is believed to have fewer than 4,000 soldiers, down from a peak of 26,000 in the 1980s, according to the military.

    The NPA, however, retains support among the deeply poor in rural Philippines.

    President Benigno Aquino 3rd revived peace talks soon after taking office in 2010 but shelved them in 2013, accusing the rebels of insincerity in efforts to achieve a political settlement.

    The talks got bogged down after the communists demanded the release of scores of their jailed comrades whom they described as “political prisoners,” which the Aquino government rejected.

    Duterte, who was Sison’s student at a Manila university in the 1960s, is the long-time mayor of the southern city of Davao.

    Some of the communists’ strongholds today are near Davao, and Duterte has maintained relations with them.

    Last week, local television station ABS-CBN radio and television network released footage of Duterte chatting with Sison via Skype on his laptop.

    “I’m a socialist,” said Duterte, who won Monday’s elections in a landslide.

    The network said the chat took place shortly after communist rebels freed five police hostages last month in Davao.

    Peace hopes

    Sison said in the comments posted on Facebook that he had congratulated Duterte via an intermediary on his win and called for the resumption of peace talks, a ceasefire, the release of political prisoners and the “arrest and trial of Aquino.”

    Duterte was ready to release ailing and elderly rebels on humanitarian grounds, as well as those whom the communist movement appoints as peace negotiators after vetting by the military, police and state prosecutors, his spokesman Peter Laviña said also on Thursday.

    “Our people are suffering from the internal conflict… [Businessmen] doing business in these areas have been suffering for long. Any move to still the guns, declare ceasefire would be very welcome,” he told reporters.

    Lavina said Duterte had planned to see Sison during a trip to Europe before the President-elect takes his oath of office on June 30.

    Sison’s comments were a transcript of an interview he gave to Dubai’s Khaleej Times newspaper.

    Sison said he hoped to return home after Duterte begins his term but the communist leader added that the new government must first take steps to ensure his personal safety.

    “I will not dive into any situation in which the Duterte government is still unsettled and there are unwieldy elements… who violently oppose my homecoming,” he said.

    Lavina said the new government would uphold previous security guarantees for rebel negotiators while the military said it would support Duterte’s peace efforts.

    “If it’s part of the peace efforts, he [Sison] is welcome to come [back]here. But as for his other enemies, that would be another matter,” military spokesman Col. Noel Detoyato told Agence France-Presse but declined to elaborate.

    Senator Antonio Trillanes 4th, a Duterte critic and former military rebel, warned last week that some in the military were “strongly averse” to Duterte’s long-standing ties with communists, and that the reaction “could be violent.”

    Lavina said Trillanes’ warning was a personal opinion that “remains to be seen.”

    The spokesman added that Duterte would consider communist figures for his Cabinet, where retired military and police figures would also be represented.

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    6 Comments

    1. Bakit hindi natin bigyan ng pagkakataon ang incoming duterte government na makapagkasundo sa mga rebelde tungo sa kapayaan? Huwag natin pagduduhan na ang gobyerno ni duterte ay tungo sa pagiging komunista ng ating bayan, dahil nabanggit na ni duterte sa maraming pagkakataon na hindi siya miyembro ng kahit sinong rebel groups at ayaw niya ng patayan sa pagitan ng mga sundalo ng gobyerno at mga rebelde. Marami ng mga presidente ng ating bansa ang dumaan at daraan, kagaya ng kasalukuyang gobyerno, pero wala silang nagawa na marisolba ang rebelyon sa ating bansa sa mahabang panahon. Pagkakataon na natin ngayon na meron tayong lider na nirerespeto hindi lang na mga NPAs, gayun din ng mga ibang rebel groups. Kaya mataas ang posibillidad na makakamit natin ang kapayapaan sa ating bansa. Maganda siguro na tulungan na lang natin ang incoming duterte government na makamit ang kapayapaan, kaysa pulaan na lang natin siya at bansagan ng kung ano ano. Batid ng marami nating mamamayan ang tunay na layunin at saloobin ni duterte na makamit ang kapayapaan sa ating bansa.

    2. Girlie Bebbeb on

      My wish is for Joma Sison will get rotten somewhere because too many people’s lives were lost and he was an obstacle for the country’s progress. He is a very selfish man so he don’t deserve to come home. Sana ay matudas na lang siya kung saan man siya naroroon.

    3. Juan T. Delacruz on

      The government of Duterte should only guarantee the safe return of JoMa Sisson to the Philippines. It seems that Sisson is asking for an indefinite 24/7 security at the expense of the government and this type of request should NOT be granted because all of the money being spent to make him safe and secure is coming out from people’s money. This would be against his campaign promise to safeguard the people’s money.

      The first condition that has to be met on this peace efforts is for JoMa to dissolve and disarm the NPA, because this what he called movement, has cost many lives on both sides, Filipino lives, that is. Antagonism still exist in the hearts and minds of our AFP and PNP, and Sen. Trillanes has expressed his repugnance at the idea that JoMa is coming home from his exile, that created three decades of hatred and divisions of Filipino people.

      We will never know the end result of this peace talk, but the Filipino people hope that it will be a unity and lasting peace. President Duterte should be careful on this type of negotiation, and should think of himself as a representative of the Filipino people, and must work for the interests of the people. Country first before self, and country is the people, and he should be guided by this principle.

    4. ‘…communist figures in his cabinet,…” is a big word. In addition that Duterte is admitting he is a socialist is something anathema, not dedicated not to our Constitution. The first and foremost duty of Philippine president is to depend the Constitution.. Pres. Aquino while still have the time and the means as the Commander-In-Chief shall stop Duterte and Sison in their tracks to turn our country into a communist, dictatorial state.

      • Melinda Nacario on

        When there is sever poverty around the archipelago in the entire Philippines what would you expect from the people? They wanted changes, Does it mean’t Communist? NO! it means justice from starvation of our human rights especially living for centuries with no water, roads, foods, education, health, jobs and basic housing! is that communism?