• ‘Safe conduct passes for Sison, Misuari’

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    PALAYAN CITY, Nueva Ecija: President Rodrigo Duterte doubled down on his peace overtures on Tuesday, promising to grant safe conduct passes to top communist and Muslim rebels, but said the Army will be ready in case of “instant failure” in peace talks.

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    Speaking to the military at Fort Magsaysay, Duterte said his decision to declare a unilateral ceasefire with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) was made by the Cabinet, not just himself.

    Duterte said he is “a President that seeks peace with everyone,” and mentioned peace efforts with the CPP founded by his former professor Jose Ma. Sison, and rival Muslim rebel groups —the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) under Al-Haj Murad and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) under Nur Misuari.

    “I have to start with releasing the leaders, not on anything, but safe conduct pass for Sison, Misuari. There’s no problem with Murad,” Duterte said.

    The MILF signed a final peace deal with the previous government in 2014.

    “My job as President is not to fight wars. My job as President is to see to it that there is no trouble in the Philippines, and you the military are there ever ready to guard the integrity of the Republic, to protect the people,” he said.

    Duterte promised however that his government will be “ready for instant failure.”

    “We’re in a very delicate situation now and we’re now talking [with the rebels], so … restraint, we won’t look for fights. At least it won’t come from us,” he said.

    “But we should be prepared for any eventuality just like any country in the world. We have to have strong armed forces,” he added.

    ‘Cut ties with Sayyaf’
    Duterte also said that while the MNLF and MILF were both ready to talk peace with his government, there will be “no significant result” unless the two Muslim groups cut their ties with the Abu Sayyaf kidnap group.

    The Abu Sayyaf gets its arms from the MNLF and MILF, Duterte alleged.

    “If they are still connected with the Abu Sayyaf, I don’t think there will be a significant result,” he said.

    “If they want I can train a lot of soldiers, the Armed Forces asked for about 20,000 more soldiers,” he added.

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