GRP rejects Joma-Duterte meet in Hanoi

The Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) negotiating panel rejected a National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) suggestion that its chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison and President Rodrigo Duterte meet in Hanoi, Vietnam.

This was revealed by Sison in a statement Saturday, May 26, saying he and his former student could have agreed to attend the signing of substantial agreements, including an interim peace declaration, by the two parties.

“The NDFP has offered Hanoi as the alternative venue to facilitate the attendance of Duterte. But the GRP side did not give a positive answer and the RNG [Royal Norwegian Government, third party facilitator to the peace negotiations] special envoy cannot make any arrangement with Hanoi,” Sison said.

“Hanoi as a venue near the Philippines was proposed by NDFP in consideration of the heavy work schedule of Duterte,” he added.

Sison added that the original plan mutually agreed upon by the GRP and NDFP representatives in back channel consultations in recent weeks was to have Duterte attend the Oslo ceremony for the signing of the Interim Peace Agreement.

But the GRP side backed out and offered Duterte’s executive secretary Salvador Medialdea as his proxy instead, Sison added.

Duterte has repeatedly challenged Sison to come home to the Philippines and continue the peace negotiations in the country.

In a speech in Davao City Thursday, Duterte again said he is guaranteeing Sison’s safety and will even escort him back to the airport should the talks fail.

Sison, however, said his acceptance of Duterte’s challenge will violate earlier GRP and NDFP agreements such as The Hague Joint Declaration and the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees to hold the talks in a foreign and neutral venue.

“Second, I would be placing myself and the entire peace negotiations in the pocket of Duterte and at his mercy. Third, any peace spoiler or saboteur would be able to destroy the entire peace negotiations by simply abducting or harming any NDFP panelist or consultant,” Sison added.

NDFP negotiators and staff were arrested and killed when their 1986-1987 peace talks with the Corazon Aquino government collapsed, prompting them to insist on a foreign and neutral venue when formal peace negotiations resumed with GRP President Fidel Ramos in 1992.

Sison however is not ruling out returning to the country.

“I have consistently declared that I will return home when substantial progress is already achieved in the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations and my comrades and lawyers are satisfied with the legal and security guarantees,” Sison said.

“By substantial progress, I mean the entire CASER [Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms] has been mutually approved by the GRP and NDFP principals,” he said.

For his soonest possible interface with Duterte, Sison said the NDFP has considered the possibility of the meeting “at the signing of the Interim Peace Agreement, packaging the ceasefire agreement, amnesty proclamation and the ARRD and NIED sections of CASER either in Oslo or Hanoi.”

GRP chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III’s comment on Sison’s statement is still being sought by Kodao. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

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