Palace: No reason for US to insist on terror tag for Sison

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang is optimistic that the United States will not deny its request for Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison to be removed from its list of international terrorists.

"The government maintains that there is no reason for the US to deny this request bearing in mind that Mr Sison is part of the negotiating panel," said Presidential Spokesman Undersecretary Ernesto Abella on Thursday, January 26 during a Palace news briefing.

The government panel committed to work on Sison's delisting during peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDF) in Rome.

Sison's removal from the US' list would allow him to participate in peace talks outside of Europe and meet with President Rodrigo Duterte in a neutral country in Asia. It will also allow Sison to fly home to the Philippines.

"The request of the delisting of Jose Maria Sison is aligned with the President's wish to hold peace talks with the leadership of the Communist Party of the Philippines," said Abella.

The inclusion of the CPP and its armed wing, the New People's Army, in the international terrorist list allows the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) to arrest Sison anywhere outside the territory of the European Union (EU) which has long removed him from its list of terrorists.

The Palace reiterated the Duterte administration's determination to ensure that the agreements between the government and the Left "will be inclusive, comprehensive, and integrated with all stakeholders meaningfully involved with the process of negotiation and implementation."

About reports that lower-ranking members of the CPP want an end to the unilateral ceasefire declared by the New People's Army, Abella said such "noise" will not affect peace talks.

The government spokesman said if these were true, the administration leaves it to the CPP members to discuss such issues internally.

"We understand that their organization is also in convesation with their own people so let us leave it to them to be able to settle matters amongst themselves," said Abella.

The NPA and the military declared unilateral ceasefires as confidence-building measures for the ongoing peace talks. President Duterte had wanted a bilateral ceasefire agreement reached.

The NDF, however, demanded the release of more political prisoners before signing the deal.

The government panel reported making headway in the recently concluded peace talks in Rome. During the talks, the government and NDF panels submit drafts on key reform proposals, sign side agreements to resolve contentious issues, and schedule informal meetings to fast-track the completion of a peace deal.

They are set to meet again in April. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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