File photo by Fritzie Rodriguez
MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte asked Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria "Joma" Sison to come home in 60 days, as he rejected Sison's suggestion that they meet in Vietnam.
"I have provided a small window of 60 days and if you come home, do not worry about being killed. I do not do that," said Duterte on Wednesday, May 30.
This was part of his speech at the Presidential Security Group Change of Command Ceremony, attended by defense, military, and police officials.
"Come home and talk and as long as you do not ask for a coalition government which I cannot give and will not give, you can come home and talk to me and the others," added Duterte.
He said there was no need to meet in Hanoi in Vietnam, which Sison suggested. Duterte surmised that Sison, his former professor, only made the recommendation because he felt unsafe meeting in the Philippines.
"He took offense and said, 'Let's just talk in Hanoi or the Netherlands. He might have felt threatened," said Duterte in a mix of English and Filipino.
Sison can return to Netherlands
If nothing is resolved in their meeting in the Philippines, the President said he would let Sison return to the Netherlands "unfettered, unbridled."
"If it is unsucessful, please go home. Hatid ko siya sa airport, walang Aquino-style na patayan. Barilin ko sa likod? No," said Duterte, referring to the murder of democracy icon Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino.
(I'll bring him to the airport, no Aquino-style killing. I'll shoot his back? No.)
The President, who promised to pursue peace with communists, hoped talking with Sison would end the communist insurgency, Asia's longest-running.
"Maybe in the fullness of God’s time, we can achieve peace," said the Mindanaoan Chief Executive.
Duterte formally terminated peace talks with the communists in November 2017 but has expressed openness to its resumption since then.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.