PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte said on Tuesday that he would allow Fidel Agcaoili, chief negotiator of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), to return to the Philippines to resume stalled peace talks.
The Netherlands-based Agcaoili has actually been in the Philippines since last week, according to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzanam, however the communist leader’s whereabouts are unknown.
The NDFP, a coalition of leftist organizations, has been representing insurgents in the on-and-off peace talks with the government.
“I think Attorney Agcaoili has sounded off. He was coming again to talk and I told the military and the police just allow him,” Duterte said in a speech during the 9th anniversary of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) in Davao City.
“After all, we’re on a waiting period about the appropriate time to talk about peace. I am not that cruel,” the President added.
The President made the statement after warning not only communist rebels but also Nur Misuari, founding chairman of the Moro National Liberation Front, that they were running out of time.
He said he had only three remaining years in his post, so, they would need to talk now.
He also told Jose Maria Sison, founding chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), to “find time to talk sensible peace” because their time was running out.
“Before he goes to the blue yonder, kindly find time to talk sensible peace,” the President said, referring to Sison. “We have been in that war for 53 years, if you had not succeeded in just about five years, it’s a lost cause.”
The President was referring to the war being waged against the government by the New People’s Army (NPA), the CPP’s armed wing.
“Unless we somehow reduce to the barest minimum their sentiments — their hunger for social justice — there will be no peace in the land,” he added.
But presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo doused hopes of another round of talks.
He noted that the CPP had remained resistant to the President’s demand that they stop collecting revolutionary taxes.
“The President told them not to kill and not to extort, but they’re saying we need that to come up with funds,” Panelo told reporters in an interview here in Davao City.
In his speech, however, the President said he did not hate Sison.
“I am not saying that I am now in agreement with Sison. I don’t like his style, but I do not hate him. We are friends and we can be friends,” he said.
“We go to the table and to talk about it. And if he approaches something which is not acceptable and I would say, ‘No, I cannot accept that’,” he added. “And if I propose something and he does not relish it, then maybe he can go back to the Netherlands.”
Sison could also live in the Netherlands permanently and start a family, he noted.
“If I were him, I’ll just — since he is there already permanently — I would rather that he gets another two wives and start breeding a new family there,” the President said.
Agcaoili is also currently in the Netherlands.
He was supposed to return to the Philippines in November 2018, but that trip was canceled as his appointment with Duterte was also postponed, according to Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, who heads the government negotiating panel.