Reds drop talks with Duterte administration; President says that's fine

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 28) — Communist rebels said Thursday they have given up on talking with President Rodrigo Duterte's admnistration to end one of Asia's longest insurgencies. That's fine, the President replied.

"If they are not willing to talk to me, that's fine. Wala akong problema so we continue with the war. Anyway we have been there for 50 years, ano ba naman na dagdagan natin ng 30 years?" Duterte told reporters in Bohol.

[Translation: I have no problem with that, so we can continue with the war. Anyway we have been there for 50 years, what's the big deal about adding another 30 years.]

Duterte was reacting to a statement earlier in the day by self-exiled Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chairman Jose Maria Sison, who said they would rather wait for a new government and participate in Duterte's ouster than talk peace with his administration.

"So sige, basta alam ng Pilipino na ganun ang nangyayari. If you want to overthrow governments, fine. Gusto mo mag-usap, pumunta ka dito. Ayaw mo, di wag," he added.

[Translation: That's okay, as long as Filipinos know that is what is happening. If you want to overthrow governments, fine. If you want to talk, come here. If you don't want to, then don't.]

In his statement, Sison said "based on the implications drawn from the current impasse, the NDFP (National Democratic Front of the Philippines) can no longer negotiate with a GRP (Government of the Philippines) that is headed by Duterte."

"So long as he heads the GRP, the Filipino people, especially the oppressed and exploited, cannot expect any benefit from negotiating with the Duterte regime," added Sison, who is on self-exile in the Netherlands.

The NDFP is the umbrella organization of communist groups - including the CPP and its armed wing, the New People's Army (NPA) -  that has been holding peace talks with the government.

On June 21, government negotiator Hernani Braganza relayed President Rodrigo Duterte's decision to again postpone talks with the NDFP pending a three-month review of all signed agreements related to the negotiations.

This followed an earlier postponement of the fifth round of talks scheduled for June 28 in Oslo, Norway as the government said more public consultations are needed.

"It is relatively easier and more productive for the NDFP to participate in the oust Duterte movement and to prepare for peace negotiations with the prospective administration that replaces the Duterte regime," Sison said.

The communist leader said the CPP and NPA have to fight military and police offensives in different parts of the country "unleashed by the Duterte regime."

Sison said agreements and drafts so far produced in the peace talks may be carried over to negotiations with the next administration.

"The room is open for the further improvement of the drafts in the meantime...Many of the reforms can be promoted and developed even without peace negotiations," he added.

He said the Duterte administration is "hated by the people because of its brutality, corruption, involvement in drug traffic, the rising prices of basic goods and services."

In May, Sison said the government and the NDFP were set to sign an interim peace deal also on June 28, which could lead to peace talks.

Representatives of the government and the rebels held back channel discussions on returning to the negotiating table, after Duterte walked away from the talks in November 2017. The President ended the on-and-off negotiations as both sides accused each other of violating the ceasefire agreement.

The Duterte administration is the sixth to hold peace talks with the NDFP. Communist rebels have been waging a nearly five-decade war against the government.