Duterte tells Joma Sison: Come home, you're free

ANGELES CITY, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte said in a speech on Wednesday, April 5, that Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria "Joma" Sison can come home and enjoy freedom.

Duterte said he had just relayed this offer through Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza and government chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III, who are both in the Netherlands for the 4th round of talks with the communist National Democratic Front (NDF).

While Duterte was delivering his speech at the Prosecutors League of the Philippines (PLP) convention at a hotel in Angeles City, Pampanga, news broke that the government and the NDF reached an interim joint ceasefire agreement.

Duterte said Sison, who has lived in political asylum for 3 decades in the Netherlands, is "sick, very sick."

"He can come home. I'll give him freedom of movement. I will not arrest him. I'll even pay for his hospitalization kung gusto niya (if he wants)," the President said.

Duterte reiterated, however, that his conditions for the communists still stand. These conditions include an end to the collection of revolutionary tax by the communist armed wing New People's Army (NPA).

"Una is to stop the revolutionary tax. Napapahiya ako eh. So if you continue, engkwentro talaga tayo diyan. Second is release all prisoners. Sabi nila within the next two days. Third is do not claim any territory in this... as an administrator of government, ako ang may-ari ng lahat ng lupa dito. Do not claim any territory. Kasi pagpasok ng mga sundalo at sibilyan sabihin man nila na eh pumasok siya sa teritoryo namin. Sabi ko, 'Loko-loko ka ba?'" he said.

(First is to stop the revolutionary tax. I'm getting humiliated. So if you continue, we'll really clash. Second is release all prisoners. They said they'll do that within the next two days. Third is do not claim any territory in this... as an administrator of government, I own all lands here. Do not claim any territory. Because when soldiers and civilians enter an area, the communists claim it's their territory. I said, "Are you crazy?")

The NDF earlier announced it will release its 4 remaining "prisoners of war" – state forces captured since the ceasefire broke down in February.

The government also committed to release up to 23 political prisoners, mostly based on humanitarian grounds.

Back in January, the government peace panel asked the United States to remove Sison from its list of terrorists so he could come home. Despite this plea, the US said the CPP-NPA "continues to meet the criteria" for designation as a terrorist group. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.