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Duterte mulls creation of new panel to talk peace with communist rebels

President Rodrigo Duterte said he might form a new five-member panel that will negotiate for peace with communist rebels.

Duterte made the statement last Saturday, weeks after he terminated the peace talks, including the appointment of government negotiators led by Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, and told the rebels to just talk with the next administration.

“If you want to talk to me, I’ll send someone else. You talk to each other. I don’t want to talk anymore,” he said in Cebuano at the PDP-Laban campaign rally in Bukidnon.

“I’ll look for another way and new people to talk to. Maybe one, two, or three from the military, and… Maybe around five. Two civilians and three from the military,” he added.

Duterte said he abolished the former peace panel because the talks did not yield positive results.

“It’s been three years but I wasn’t even able to achieve anything,” he said.

Malacañang earlier said localized panels will be formed following the dissolution of the government panel. It said sectoral representatives, local government units and the military will make up the panels for localized peace talks.

Explaining the President's pronouncement, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Duterte "has always made himself open to any talks on peace."

"‘Di ba palagi niyang sinasabi, ‘bigyan natin nang konting window,'" Panelo said at a news conference.

Panelo added the government will still push through with the localized peace talks.

Duterte also scored exiled Communist Party of the Philippines founding chairman Jose Maria Sison.

“The talks were often interrupted because your chief is hotheaded, that fool. Maybe it’s because of old age,” he said.

Duterte and Sison have traded barbs over the canceled peace negotiations and claims about the chief executive’s health.

Agrarian reform

In the same speech, the President maintained his vow to distribute available government lands to agrarian reform beneficiaries.

“Whatever the NPA promised to give you, I can give that too. Son of a b*** how will they be able to give you land titles? They don’t even own a typewriter. So where are your promises now?” he said.

“What kind of land title will you be able to give? Will you be able to give it just like that? Will it be handwritten and then signed? Is that even allowed?”

He also announced that he is taking back government lands that were leased to private entities.

“The rich multinationals who acquired leases on many lands, those leases have expired. If they haven’t yet, consider it cancelled because your lands are now under land reform,” he said.

Duterte added government lands would no longer be leased or up for acquisition by private corporations.

“There will be no acquisition. You can no longer purchase land from the government and leases have expired because land reform is being implemented,” he said.

“So what if they say that they lost a huge investment? I don’t care. We have to follow the law. If they say, ‘We have invested 100 million,’ I’m sorry. I’m sad that you lose money,” Duterte said.

He said agricultural tenants, especially those who have worked hard to till the land for several generations, should benefit from the land reform law.

The President however said military camps were exempted from land reform.

“Most of the lands are intended for military camps, so those will not be given away. We won’t give away the lands that we need,” he said. — RSJ, GMA News