National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison clarified that he was not informed of any planned backchannel talks with any representative of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Asked to confirm Movie and Television Review and Classification Board member Avelino Andal’s claim he was tapped by Duterte to open backchannel talks with the NDFP, Sison told Kodao that he has yet to talk to Andal.
“He has not approached anyone of us in Utrecht,” Sison said.
Newspapers reported Tuesday that Andal claimed he was ordered by Duterte to talk to Sison to try to revive the peace negotiations between the NDFP and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) .
“Actually, napag-utusan ang inyong lingkod, utos mula sa Presidente kung maari i-resume ang pag-uusap sapagkat ang kanyang pinagdidiinan bilang Presidente, siya ay kaibigan at ‘di kaaway ng sinuman, kabilang na rebelde,” the Philippine Daily Inquirer quoted Andal in its report. (I was ordered by the President if the talks could be resumed because he is resolute that he is a friend, not an enemy, to everyone, including the rebels.)
Andal reportedly claimed he already sent “feelers” to the communist rebels, who were “extremely glad” of the President’s move.
Palace officials were quick to deny Andal’s claim, however.
In a Philippine News Agency report yesterday, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana described Andal’s claim as “fake news.”
“The President says he never ordered him to do so,” Lorenzana reportedly said.
Former Presidential aide Christopher Go for his part said Duterte did not order Andal to talk to Sison.
“Look, everybody is talking. So [I have] no instruction on Andal about back channeling,” Go quoted Duterte as saying in a phone interview.
In a Palace briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo neither confirmed nor denied reports that Duterte has ordered Andal to lead the backdoor talks with Sison.
“I do not think so. He (Andal) is not involved in the negotiation process. Members of the panel would be (Labor) Secretary (Silvestre) Bello, he’s one of them,” Panelo said.
‘Only the GRP panel’
Sison said he believes the statements of Duterte and Lorenzana that the President did not order Andal to open back channel talks with him and others in Utrecht.
“Andal himself has admitted that he wished to do back channel talks in his private capacity,” Sison clarified.
He added that he is not sure if he remembers Andal.
Sison said that as far as the NDFP Negotiating Panel is concerned, it continues to recognize as its counterpart the GRP Negotiating Panel under the chairmanship of Silvestre (Bebot) Bello III.
“[The NDFP] has not been informed by the GRP of any change of representation that is different from the panel headed by Bello,” he said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)