By Genalyn Kabiling
Communist leader Jose Maria Sison could return to the country if the peace negotiations between the government and the communist rebels would resume, Malacañang said Thursday.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said Sison, founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines currency in exile abroad, would not be arrested if he decides to return home.
“If the peace talks resume, the President said he’s even able and willing to grant Joma Sison an assurance that he can come home without being arrested for the purpose of participating in the peace talks,” Roque said during a Palace news conference.
President Duterte earlier authorized the resumption of the peace talks with the communists, saying he wanted to give the peace process another chance.
The government however has imposed some conditions, including rebels declaring a ceasefire pact and halting their revolutionary taxation, before it would return to the negotiating table.
These conditions are “not subject to negotiation,” according to Roque.
“The President has informed the Cabinet that he has authorized the resumption of the peace talks subject to the conditions. Number one that the CPP-NPA (New People’s Army) would honor a genuine ceasefire, that there should be actually no shooting if and when the peace talks would resume,” Roque said.
Roque said the communist rebels must also desist from collecting revolutionary tax while the ceasefire is in effect.
He said the rebel group must also not insist on a coalition government “which is absolutely not part of the bargaining table.”
“If the CPP-NPA agree to these conditions, then peace talks can resume,” he said.
Roque said the President is also ready to provide support to rebels, such as possible livelihood and housing aid, provided they stop collecting revolutionary taxes.
On whether the government will move to lift the terror tag of the communist group, Roque said this was a “possibility” but it was prudent to wait for the rebels’ response to the President’s peace offer.
The government terminated the peace talks with the communist rebels last year in protest of their violent attacks on troops. it also moved to declare the rebel group as terrorists due to their atrocities.