Joma Sison open to talking peace with Bello

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The communist leader says the National Democratic Front of the Philippines "has always been open" to peace negotiations. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 6) — Communist leader Jose Maria "Joma" Sison said he is willing to meet and discuss peace negotiations with ex-chief negotiator and Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello.

"If and when President Duterte sends Sec Bello to meet me, I will meet and discuss with him seriously the possibility of peace negotiations," said the Communist Party of the Philippines founding chairman on Friday.

This comes after the President revealed on Thursday that he will send Bello to meet with Sison, who is currently on self-exile in the Netherlands. He did not detail what they would be talking about, but he said this meeting will be his "last card" in reaching an agreement with the communist chief.

Sison admitted that some of the moves made by the President such as the termination of peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao, pose "tremendous odds." However, he added that these can be resolved if the government sticks to the agreements they made in the past.

"These can be easily overcome by reaffirmation of all previous agreements since 1992 by the [government of the Republic of the Philippines] and NDFP," he said.

"And we can go back immediately to the substantial progress made on draft agreements on the release of political prisoners, CASER, CAPCR and ceasefire from 2016 to the time in 2018 when Duterte completely terminated the peace talks and even the back channel talks," Sison added, referring to the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) and the Comprehensive Ageement on Political and Constitutional Reforms (CAPCR).

The President ended the peace talks earlier in March and terminated the services of its peace panel, including Bello as chief government negotiator. This after talks were shelved in November 2017 after the two parties accused each other of violating ceasefires.

"The NDFP has always been open to peace negotiations in the interest of the Filipino people," said Sison.