Bello says peace talks still on as CPP backs Sison's call to end negotiations

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The communist rebels' chief political consultant said a council will have to decide if talks with the Duterte administration will continue or not. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 29) — The government's top peace negotiator said peace negotiations between the rebels and the government will still push through, despite the Reds pushing for its termination.

Secretary Silvestre Bello, chief government negotiator, said the peace talks are in the "interregnum" phase but formal negotiations will proceed afterwards.

"Kasi we realized na this is now the end game eh. End game na ito. What we are going to initial is an interim peace agreement, which will graduate into a final peace agreement," Bello said.

"And we realized na anyway it will only mean additional two or three months para siguraduhin natin na yung ating lalagdaang agreement ay tanggap ng taong bayan," he added.

The Communist Party of the Philippines, meanwhile, said it backs the statement of National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Chief Political Consultant Jose Maria Sison to postpone the talks with the government headed by President Rodrigo Duterte.

"Indeed, it has been starkly clear that peace talks with the GRP (Government of the Philippines) under Duterte was going nowhere. Duterte has proved himself a stubborn anti-peace president and warmonger.

It also alleged the President was unwilling to listen to calls for socio-economic reforms.

"From the start, Duterte did not budge an inch in demanding the NDFP to sign a bilateral ceasefire agreement  while not committing himself to basic socio-economic reforms demanded by the people," the CPP said.

Sison's statement not definitive

Sison on Thursday said the NDFP "can no longer negotiate" with the Duterte administration.

However, Sison clarified Friday that he does not have the authority to decide on the termination of peace talks and his earlier statement that rebel forces can no longer negotiate with the Duterte administration was just his advice. 

Sison said in a statement: "Only the National Council of the NDFP can make the decision to suspend, cancel or terminate the peace negotiations with GRP and (it) has not yet made such a decision. I can only make the pertinent advice to the Council in my capacity as Chief Political Consultant."

NDF Panel Consultant Rey Casambre said the communist rebels are still open to resume negotiations with the government.

"Bukas pa naman. Wala pa pong statement mula sa leadership ng NDF na nandito sa Pilipinas na ite-terminate na o ica-cancel ang negotiations," Casambre said.

The NDFP represents rebels in talks to end the communist movement's five-decade insurgency.

Lorenzana in defense

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana criticized Sison for calling for a stop to negotiations after Duterte decided to examine all previous agreements with the NDFP before proceeding with the talks.

"Ngayong gustong himayin at intindihin ng ating mahal na Pangulo ang mga naging kasunduan na halos lahat pabor sa kanila ay nagmamaktol siya at nananakot. Palagi kasi siyang pinagbibigyan ng gobyerno," Lorenzana said. "He is the quintessential spoiled brat."

[Translation: Now that the President wants to understand the terms and conditions of the rebels which were considerably in their favor, he (Sison) issues threats and incites fear. It's because you are always given chances by the government.]

Lorenzana added that they will vigorously pursue ongoing localized peace talks that will keep Sison "out of the picture."

"Mr. Sison, you know that the peace talks is the only thing that is keeping you in the limelight. Without it you are irrelevant…in response to your childish tantrums we will vigorously pursue the ongoing localized peace talks," he said.

"I am sure that once you are out of the picture, true peace will have a chance to become a reality and you will be consigned to the dustbin of history," Lorenzana added.

Sison said, however, it might be more productive for rebel forces to instead participate in efforts to oust Duterte.

He cited the multiple postponements of the talks and the President's failure to grant amnesty to political prisoners as previously agreed.

On June 14, Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza announced 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.

The President earlier reacted to Sison's initial statement, saying he had no problem with the rebels' refusal to proceed with the talks.

"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.

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

CNN Philippines' Digital Producers Janine Peralta and Ver Marcelo contributed to this report.