Duterte offering Cabinet posts to the CPP

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — "Thankful for the offer," is what Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison said about positions in four different government offices being offered to members of his group.

On Monday (May 16), Sison gave an exclusive interview to CNN Philippines to talk about the possibility of him returning to the country and the offer of presumptive president Rodrigo Duterte to give Cabinet positions to members of the CPP.

CNN Philippines chief correspondent Pia Hontiveros spoke to Sison via Skype and asked, "Incoming president Duterte has said that he offers his hand of peace, will this mean that you are coming home and it is just a matter of deciding exactly when?"

Sison, who was in Utrecht, the Netherlands, said, "...[A]s the peace process progresses, I shall have the opportunity of returning home and I thank him (Duterte) for his welcome."

Hontiveros then asked, "Are you saying, sir, that you want him to say first that, yes, we are going to talk peace then you come home? And you will only come home after June 30, after he is sworn in as president?"

Sison said, "We can prepare my direct conversation with President Duterte through emissaries. As a matter of fact, I have an emissary now in Davao City. So, you know, preparations can easily be made for my meeting with President Duterte. And, of course, we are now laying the groundwork for the peace process."

When asked about whether the meeting with Duterte would mean the mayor traveling to meet Sison or if it would happen in the Philippines, Sison said there was an offer from the presumptive president when they spoke via Skype on April 25.

"He said he would come to visit me," Sison said. "But I suppose he is so busy, he might have to rearrange his schedule. I do not know when he can come abroad, and I am prepared to go over to the Philippines after a certain point is reached in the peace process."

When the topic of positions in the departments of Agrarian Reform, Labor, Environment and Natural Resources, and Social Welfare being offered to the CPP was discussed, Sison said it was "fine."

He added, "The Communist Party of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines are thankful for the offer of the president-elect. We shall consider seriously his offer and will do everything possible to help him make the best possible appointments to those Cabinet positions offered."

Sison, however, made it clear that he did not want any position for himself, but said "there are many people who are competent – those who are oriented to serve the people, who have the expertise and the competence; who are diligent and they are not necessarily communist. The NDF will see to it that the best possible appointees can be recommended to President Duterte."

When asked if he had any particular people in mind for the Cabinet posts, Sison said, "I cannot run ahead of our own selection committee. There are now responsible people in the National Democratic Front of the Philippines who are studying the prospects for appointments."

Sison was asked if he was familiar with Lt. Gen. Ricardo Visaya, a candidate for the chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Chief Supt. Ramon Apolinario, Chief Supt. Ronald Dela Rosa, and S/Supt. Rene Aspera. The last three individuals are candidates for the chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP).

Related: Duterte's top choices for PNP chief are all ex-DCPO head

Sison said, "It is the prerogative of President Duterte to choose officials for the Armed services including the military and the police. That's his prerogative. He would have to choose people he can trust, and of course for Finance, that's also his prerogative."

He added, "Defense and Finance are supposed to be off-limits to recommendees of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines."

Sison closed the interview by thanking Duterte, saying, "I'm proud, I'm very proud of him. I was once his teacher...he was once my student at the Lyceum of the Philippines. I share in the joy of his success. I wish him to succeed in his mission as president. He promises to be the first left president of the Philippines and he will keep his socialist orientation – that's fine. So, I will be satisfied if he would remain patriotic and progressive and, of course he can do the best possible that he can do for the benefit of his people."

Read: Duterte Cabinet taking shape: Executive secretary Medialdea, presidential spokesperson Panelo