NDF spokesman: Joma Sison return ‘ticklish issue’

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Hope springs eternal for peace between the government and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) under a Rodrigo Duterte administration, but the return of its leader, Jose Maria “Joma” Sison won’t exactly be a walk in the park. 

“Joma's coming home is a very ticklish issue,” admitted National Democratic Front (NDF) spokesperson Fidel Agcaoili in a press conference here on Wednesday, June 8. 

Agcaoili flew into Davao City on Tuesday, June 7, to meet with President-elect Duterte and headline a forum hosted by the Ateneo de Davao University. The NDF is set to hold “preliminary” talks with representatives of the incoming administration next week, a precursor to the resumption of formal talks between the Philippine government and Asia’s longest-running insurgency. (READ: Roxas ally joins panel in informal talks with communists)

Sison had earlier expressed hopes that his nearly 3 decades of living in exile in The Netherlands would end as early as July 2016, once Duterte is sworn into office. (READ: Joma Sison hopes to end exile under Duterte)

"I want to visit (Manila) in July or August to hold serious talks with President Duterte," Sison said early June. 

But Agcaoili pointed out the “problem” that is the United States, which recently reaffirmed its inclusion of the CPP’s armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), in its list of foreign terrorist organizations. 

“First of all, the US has again come up with a statement that they have put the CPP and the NPA in the terrorist list. That really supposes a problem,” added Agcaoili. 

To return to the Philippines, Sison would have to make stopovers in different countries, said Agcaoili. 

At kung mag spoiler itong US (If the US proves to be a spoiler), through its control of interpol, they might present a warrant sa kanya sa (in) Taipei. Then everything is kaput. So there's a very... it's an issue that would have to be discussed seriously,” he added. 

Agcaoili added: “There has to be some guarantees from the Dutch government, the Norwegian government, including the US government to respect the sovereignty of the Filipino people in their desire to pursue a just and lasting peace. To allow Professor Sison to come home without interference. I don't know if the US will agree to that... it has always been a bullying agent, right?”

The NDF is the political arm of the CPP. Under the Aquino government, the party's chief, Benito Tiamzon, and wife Wilma were arrested in Cebu in 2014. It is expected that the NDF will demand for the release of the couple and other political prisoners. (READ: Benito Tiamzon: Writer, organizer, party man)

The Aquino government also tried to talk peace with the NDF, but negotiations bogged down repeatedly.

Sison and Duterte have personal ties.

Sison was once Duterte’s teacher in Lyceum. The incoming president, who has described himself as a “leftist,” earlier offered 4 Cabinet posts to left-leaning activists: Department of Agrarian Reform, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), and the Department of Labor and Employment.

He later backtracked on the offer to allow a left-leaning official to head the DENR, citing issues about mining in the country. Recently, during a thanksgiving party held here, Duterte himself warned against irresponsible mining, telling mining firms to “shape up.” – Rappler.com