Palace opts for localized peace talks, says Sison now 'irrelevant'

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

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 5) — Malacañang is pushing for localized peace talks with communist rebels amid another setback in the negotiations. 

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Thursday said local government units should wait for the guidelines from the Cabinet security cluster before talking to members of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). The Palace eyes to finalize the guidelines on July 12.

"Ang sabi lang ng ating presidente, wag silang (local government officials) magbibigay pagdating doon sa any aspect of governance. Wag sila papasok sa kasunduan on any aspect of governance," Roque said in a Palace press briefing.

[Translation: "The President said the local government officials should not enter into any agreement on governance."]

Roque added that the local government's talks with the NDFP have been proven successful in the past, as evidenced by the surrender of rebels.

Sison 'irrelevant,' Duterte ouster 'laughable'

Roque, however, let out some harsh words against NDFP Chief Political Consultant Joma Sison, calling him "irrelevant" now that peace talks are still suspended.

"I'm not under compulsion to comment on anything Joma says. Now that peace talks are not being held, he's completely irrelevant as far as I'm concerned," Roque said.

Sison earlier said they would rather wait for a new government and participate in Duterte's ouster than talk peace with his administration.

Roque said the government is "laughing at" the supposed target of the rebels to oust Duterte by October.

READ: Communist group: Duterte ouster 'highly probable'

This word war between the government and the rebels followed Duterte's postponement of peace talks, initially set for June, for a three-month review.

Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza said the government remains open to talking peace with the NDFP as long as Duterte's conditions are met.

Duterte wants the rebels to assure that there will be no coalition government; there will be a stop in the collection of revolutionary taxes; they will agree to talk peace in the country; and that the armed members of the New People's Army will encamp in designated areas as part of a ceasefire agreement.

The NDFP represents rebels in talks to end the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)'s five-decade insurgency.

CPP shoots down 'open talks' claim

The CPP, however, said Duterte is trying to "completely shut down" the peace talks by making "unacceptable" demands.

"He knows fully well that the demand to hold talks in the Philippines is unacceptable and  unworkable for the NDFP, unless he thinks the NDFP will be negotiating only to surrender the Filipino people's aspirations and give up all its  revolutionary principles," the CPP said in a statement.

It said the government's claim that it remains open to the talks was meant to "obscure the fact that the GRP has repeatedly terminated the talks and make it appear that it is the NDFP which closed its doors."

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.

"By completely shutting the door to the  negotiations, Duterte is laying down the conditions for imposing martial  law or a general crackdown," the CPP said.

Roque, however, reiterated Duterte has no plans of placing the entire country under martial law, even after declaring military rule in Mindanao.

"If he wanted to, he could have," Roque said.