Reds soften demand for talks

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — THE Communist Party of the Philippines has softened its demand to be removed from international terror lists, saying a joint statement with the government clearing it of terrorist acts was enough to revive the stalled peace talks.

Jose Ma. Sison, CPP founder and chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front, said statements by government officials that the communists were demanding to be de-listed from the terror lists were lies.

“How can a puppet government compel its imperialist masters?” Sison said in an e-mailed statement.

“All that the NDF demands as a minimum is for the government and NDF to make a joint statement against the terrorist listing of the aforesaid. This is a very small reasonable demand, especially because it was the government that had lobbied and continues to lobby with the foreign governments for the blacklisting,” he said.

But National Security Adviser and acting Defense chief Norberto Gonzales said the government would not settle for less than a ceasefire before peace talks could resume.

“All of their demands can be accommodated, but they have to sign a ceasefire accord with us first. Otherwise, everything is just propaganda,” he said.

In Malacañang, a top official said the government was not inclined to declare the CPP and its armed wing, the National People’s Army, as terrorist organizations under the new anti-terror law because of efforts to revive peace talks with the communists.

“It is not easy to declare the CPP-NPA as terrorist groups at this point in time because we are negotiating to bring them to the peace table in Norway,” chief presidential legal counsel Sergio Apostol said.

But he frowned on the communists’ demand that the Philippines persuade the United States, the European Union and Canada to remove them from their list of foreign terrorist organizations.

Gonzales said a joint statement with the NDF could be easily done if only the rebels would agree to a ceasefire first.

Armed Forces Chief Hermogenes Esperon earlier offered the communist group a three-year bilateral ceasefire to revive the decade-old talks.

Meanwhile, a policeman and two children age 7 and 13 were killed in Taytay, Palawan, in an ambush by communist guerrillas, officials said yesterday.

Police Officer 2 Saturnino Lazon and sisters An-An and Jennifer Cortez were killed while PO1 Walter Gapuz and the children’s mother Nida were injured, the officials said.