Duterte to rebels: Take advantage of 60-day window to restart peace talks

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(L-R) Pres. Rody Duterte, Joma Sison

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 22) —President Rodrigo Duterte is staying true to his call to the possibility of renewed peace talks with communists.

"My duty, my fundamental basic duty, is to see to it that the country is peaceful," the President said at an event in Legazpi City, Albay Saturday.

He also revealed he was talking to National Democratic Front (NDF) Chief Political Consultant Jose Ma. Sison on how to achieve this goal.

"I'm talking to Sison now. It's an off and on thing. Probably, ang mga military pati mga pulis may [the military and the police have] misgivings, but sinabi ko naman sa inyo [but I have told you] I am not a President who is a soldier and I am not a President who is a policeman," Duterte said.

On April 5, Duterte announced the government and the Communist Party of the Philippines-NDFP (CPP-NDFP) have 60 days to restart the peace talks.

The NDFP is the negotiating arm of the CPP.

On Saturday, Duterte advised that those who want to talk peace to make good use of the 60 days.

He said he was willing to spend for the cost of discussions, and would even order the military and police "to be nice" to the other side.

"Take advantage of that 60 days. If it succeeds, then I would like to thank God una [first] and the Filipino people and the military and the police and - for their understanding. Eh wala akong magawa eh [I can't do anything], I have to seek peace that is to be sought," he said.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorezana said on April 14 that he supported Duterte's push for the possible resumption of talks, but was skeptical of the sincerity of the communists rebels.

"Peace is not their purpose, but to take advantage. When the government declared ceasefire, the NPAs (New People's Army) benefited more than the government. Their leaders were freed and went abroad to join the negotiations and they also launched massive recruitment in upland areas, taking advantage of the peaceful situation," Lorenzana said.

Talks between both sides stopped in November 2017, after Duterte signed Proclamation 360 declaring the termination of peace negotiations with the NDFP-Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) -the New People's Army (NPA).

However, on April 4, the President said he was open to talking peace with communist rebels, but only if certain conditions were met.

A ceasefire and an end to the clamor for a revolutionary government and the collection of revolutionary taxes were Duterte's conditions.

In response, Sison said Duterte's demands should be brought to the negotiating panel.