Duterte still open to peace talks with communists

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (UPDATED) – President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday, September 16, said the door is still open for the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) to resume peace negotiations, despite already expressing pessimism after ending a government ceasefire.

"If you want to resume the talks, I am not averse to the idea," said Duterte during his meeting with released prisoner of war SPO2 George Canete Rupinta at the Matina Enclaves.

Rupinta was caught by the New People’s Army (NPA) on June 9 in Lupon, Davao Oriental, for his police unit's alleged "anti-people activities" in the municipality.

A month later, the NPA released a video of the sickly police officer, who urged the government to resume talking with the Communists.

Duterte, however, told the Communists: "I am not the only one in control of this government."

The President, who was standing near Rupinta and his wife, a public school teacher, spoke this time in a sober tone, and went on to elaborate how the head of state has to play a balancing act when in comes to negotiating with the CPP.

"The problem is there are threats.. the deployment of NPA soldiers," he said.

Previously, the armed wing of the CPP threatened Duterte that it would intensify its tactical offensives to counter what they call the President's "tyrannical rule."

It came after Duterte emphasized that his administration would not be willing to return to the table to talk about peace if the NPA would not declare a ceasefire first.

"Do not be in a hurry because we have been fighting for the last 50 years," he said.

Duterte, however, thanked the Communists for a "humanitarian" gesture for releasing Rupinta.

"I see that all prisoners of war have been treated well in accordance to the Geneva Convention. For that I would also like to acknowledge their respect for the law," he said.

On Friday, the 52-year-old police officer was released in the mountains of Maco town in Compostela Valley. He burst into tears upon meeting his wife and son, and became emotional again upon hearing the news that his father-in-law had died when he was in captivity.

Malacañang, meanwhile, said that the resumption of talks will need to be discussed by the President with members of his security council, "considering the many lives lost, civilian and government property destroyed."

"The President likewise has to confer with the other branches of government regarding matters require their consent/approval," Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said on Sunday, September 17.

"In spite of PRRD's firm position to protect the nation from violence and terrorism, his fundamental goal is sustainable and lasting peace; which in this case begins with addressing the social injustice as the historical root of conflict," he added. – Rappler.com