DAVAO CITY — Presumptive President-elect Rodrigo Duterte will release all political prisoners if leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines – National Democratic Front (CPP-NDF) say “yes” to come home and sit down with government to talk peace.
Duterte said coming home for the negotiations will be his only pre-condition.
He said they can agree on when, where and how the process of their coming home, including CPP founding chair Jose Maria Sison, and how to conduct the talks. The time frame would depend how events would develop.
“Kailangan ko lang yes or no (All I need is yes or no),” Duterte told reporters on Monday night at the Leticia Suites here.
Duterte emphasized the release of prisoners as part of confidence-building between the two sides.
The release of political detainees would even include couple Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, the chair and finance chief of the CPP, respectively. The couple was arrested in Cebu in 2014.
Duterte said there could be a workable plan to assimilate the Tiamzons back into society.
“I might even decide to free all of them before the talks (could formally start),” Duterte said.
He stressed that if the leaders of the CPP-NDF are confident that his government would work for everybody especially for the poor, not corrupt and satisfied, “I can welcome them back.”
When asked about the criminal cases filed against political detainees, Duterte said it would be part of the pardon.
“For as long as we deal peace in good faith. (Talking) peace must be in good faith, wala akong agenda basta huwag lang akong lokohin (I do not have an agenda just do not fool me),” Duterte said.
The formal peace negotiations with the CPP-NDF has been stalled since 2004 after the communist movement withdrew from the negotiating table on account of the renewed inclusion of Sison and the CPP-NPA (New People’s Army) in the US terrorist list.
The NDF also reportedly backtracked from their commitments and insisted on their demand that the government release their 14 priority consultants, who are all facing criminal charges in various courts, before formal negotiations are resumed.
Although there had been informal talks through the facilitation of the Royal Norwegian Government (the third party facilitator) as an attempt to revive the negotiations these were stymied by prejudicial questions, impediments and preconditions raised at the negotiating table. Lilian Mellejor/PNA/northboundasia.com