DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Rodrigo Duterte plans to send Silvestre "Bebot" Bello III and Jesus Dureza to Oslo, Norway to initiate peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
Jose Maria Sison, founding chairman of the CPP, currently lives in the Netherlands. If all goes well, Dureza and Bello may even bring Sison back to the Philippines, ending his exile.
"I have commissioned them to go to Oslo... to hold the preliminary talks there for the broader framework for the agenda and accompany, maybe, Joma Sison in coming home," Duterte told reporters on Saturday, May 28.
Bello, Duterte's incoming Labor Secretary, will take on an additional role as a "consultant" for peace talks with the Left. Dureza, meanwhile, will be Duterte's adviser for the peace process with Moro rebels.
If Sison is ready to fly back, Duterte will give him a "safe conduct pass." With Sison in the Philippines, the Duterte administration and the CPP will be able to fully conduct peace negotiations.
If negotiations are not successful, "then he can go back," said Duterte.
Duterte repeated his plans to release high-profile political prisoners like CPP leader Benito Tiamzon and his wife Wilma "because they have to participate in the peace talks."
He would release more political prisoners if the two sides arrive at an agreement.
"But if we are able to hammer out a perfect agreement then I would release all the political prisoners as long as I am satisfied that the agreement will enhance, not jeopardize, the Republic of the Philippines," he said.
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 email@example.com.