Government, CPP at odds over localized peace talks

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 15) — A war of words has erupted between the founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the country's Defense Secretary.

The CPP said the localized peace talks being pursued by the government are "pretend talks" and "a waste of time", in a statement Friday.

It came after Malacañang announced to release an executive order that will formalize and spell out guidelines for the localized peace talks.

Department of National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said, in a statement Sunday, CPP founder Jose Maria Sison's rejection of localized peace talks was not a surprise.

"Unfortunately for him, what he thinks and says are immaterial because we have now brought the discourse to the local insurgents sans Mr. Sison. I consider Sison's rejection and rant as just a noisy distraction, like the barking of a dog that is best ignored," Lorenzana said.

Lorenzana added the fighters Sison left behind when he went to live in the Netherlands were "wizening up and returning to the folds of the law."

The Secretary also took Sison to task over the amount of money being spent on the talks.

Lorenzana said if Sison considered the money being given to former communist forces who returned to normal life wasted, so be it.

"Let us waste more money on these kinds of endeavors then," he said.

The CPP said people are not looking for localized peace talks, but instead an end to President Rodrigo Duterte's "total war against civilians, the aerial bombings, the military occupation of communities, the sham campaign of forcing people to enlist as 'surrenderers,'  widespread killings, and other abuses."

"To Duterte, we repeat: The entire leadership of the CPP in the Philippines, along with  the national command of the New People's Army (NPA) and all  revolutionary forces under the National Democratic Front of the  Philippines (NDFP)—from Luzon to Mindanao—firmly reject this pretend 'localized' peace talks," the CPP said.

Lorenzana said it was the money collected by the reds under the guise of the "revolutionary taxation scheme" that was wasted.

"While we are at it, let us also include the money spent to maintain your luxurious lifestyle in the Netherlands. Now, that is a real waste of money," he said.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque also called out the CPP's rejection of the localized peace talks, saying they were offering it to on-ground fighters and not their "alleged leaders living comfortable lives in Europe."

Sison, however, countered allegations of living a comfortable life, saying it was Roque and "his fellow  bureaucrats with fat wallets in Malacañang who are so alienated from  Philippine realities."

The CPP said the "pretend peace talks" were bound to fail.

CNN Philippines' Pia Garcia and Eimor Santos contributed to this report.