It’s ok for Duterte to insist I visit home—Joma

President Rodrigo Duterte is not being disruptive in his insistence for Jose Maria Sison to come home and conduct the peace negotiations in the Philippines despite written agreements that the fifth round of formal talks will be held in Norway, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) said.

Replying to Duterte’s latest statement that Sison should come home to the Philippines, Sison told Kodao it is likely that Duterte has yet to be briefed on the agreements reached at the informal talks between the NDFP and representatives of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) negotiating panel.

“I tend to believe that [Duterte] is not being discordant or disruptive. It is more likely that he has not yet been briefed by his negotiating panel,” Sison said.

NDFP chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili said he also thinks Duterte has yet to meet with the GRP panel on the results of the informal talks last June 5 to 10.

“In fact, we were informed that the members of the GRP Panel who attended the informal talks have a scheduled meeting with him on Wednesday, June 13,” Agcaoili told Kodao.

“So he (Duterte) would know only [today] that the two sides have agreed to hold the resumption of formal talks on 28-30 June in Oslo,” he said.

In his Independence Day speech, Duterte again said he wishes for Sison to come home for two months, describing his offer as a “small window of opportunity” for the GRP and the NDFP to reach a peace agreement.

“I said I will talk to the enemies. That is why I am talking to Sison. I said, ‘we can talk. Come back here. I will take care of all the expenses,” Duterte said in his speech in Kawit, Cavite.

“We will talk and we will give each other 60 days to agree,” Duterte added.

Sison, however, said the June 28 schedule for the resumption of formal talks has already been agreed upon by the GRP and NDFP negotiators.

“It is most reasonable that the June 28 resumption of formal peace talks proceed in Oslo. The agreements to be signed under the general title of interim peace agreement are well within the competence of the negotiating panels. However, Duterte or his Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea can grace the occasion and co-witness with me the signing of the agreement,” Sison told Kodao.

He, however, did not dismiss outright coming home to the Philippines to confer with Duterte and stimulate the further acceleration of the peace negotiations.

“The best time for me to go to the Philippines will be anytime between the last week of July and second week of August,” Sison said.

He added that those dates will allow time for the legal and security guarantees for his safety, for the amnesty proclamation to become effective with the concurrence of Congress, and for the national peace conference to be organized by the GRP and NDFP for celebrating the progress of the peace negotiations.

Not possible

Agcaoili said it is not possible to comply with all the legal and security requirements for Sison’s visit to the Philippines in time for the resumption of the formal talks on June 28 as mutually agreed upon by the Parties or in mid-July as proposed by Duterte.

“There are other countries involved, as well as treaty obligations, to ensure that all the legal and security requirements are complied with in the planned visit of Prof. Sison to the Philippines. The process would take some time to accomplish,” Agcaoili said.

The NDFP chief negotiator is referring to the possibility of Sison losing his political refugee status should he visit the Philippines without guarantees from both the European Union and the Manila government for his safe return to The Netherlands.

Sison is a recognized political refugee under the Geneva Convention on Refugees and is guaranteed protection by the European Convention on Human Rights Against Torture and Inhumane and Degrading Treatment.

Sison was first set to visit the Philippines in 1998 to participate in a public signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) by the NDFP and the GRP under former President Fidel Ramos.

He was then reissued a GRP passport as a replacement to his passport cancelled by the GRP under Corazon Aquino in 1988 while he was on a global university lecture tour, forcing him to seek asylum in The Netherlands.

Sison failed to use his passport then because the Ramos government was delayed in asking the Dutch government to give him a return visa to the European country.

Agcaoili said Sison’s visit to the Philippines is possible only if all the requirements have been worked out. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)