Philippines: President and Politicians Stir a Media Riot of Rumors and Speculation

PNoy: Joma may run in 2013 polls

by Joyce Pangco Pañares and Maricel Cruz, Manila Standard Today

Sunday March 4 2012

Benigno Aquino III ("Noynoy")

Jose Maria Sison ("Joma")

PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III on Friday confirmed that Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria Sison will be returning to the country.

However, Sison, who has been on a self-imposed exile in Utrecht since 1988, would only return to the Philippines after a formal and comprehensive peace agreement between the government and the National Democratic Front has been signed, the President said.

“Joma Sison will return home once there is already an agreement … There is ongoing negotiation for the signing of a peace agreement. But negotiations for his return have not yet begun,” Mr. Aquino said.

He also hinted that Sison could participate in the 2013 elections but did not elaborate.  “We have an upcoming election.  Whoever wins in the elections will represent the people and will decide for the majority. So the end point is if he returns to the country, it will be for the final peace agreement,” Mr. Aquino said.

The anti-communist party-list group Alliance for Nationalism and Democracy earlier claimed that at least four members of Mr. Aquino’s Cabinet were convincing Sison to return to Manila to join the government as part of national unification efforts, a claim the Palace has denied.

The group’s spokesman, Joey Sison, named presidential peace adviser Teresita Deles, presidential political adviser Ronald Llamas, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, and government chief negotiator for the CPP-NDF Alexander Padilla as among the conduits of the communist leader.

Padilla, in a phone interview Friday, denied that the government is offering a Cabinet post to Sison for the sake of “national unification.”

“If the government and the NDF sign a peace agreement tomorrow, then maybe Sison would come back here. But that is so impossible at this point because the NDF is still insisting on the release of their political prisoners, which we cannot agree to,” Padilla said.

“And even if a breakthrough is achieved, this government will not offer any Cabinet post to Sison. And we have already rejected their offer for a coalition government.”

Padilla also denied that the CPP founder slipped into the country recently.

Llamas has also denied that there are negotiations for a coalition with the CPP-NDF, saying the talks are centered on the peace negotiations and not on Sison’s return to the country.

‘There are talks for a political settlement,” Llamas said but did not elaborate.

A party-list lawmaker who accused the Aquino administration of trying to set up a coalition government with the communists on Friday demanded the creation of a special oversight committee to look into the real status of the peace talks with the CPP-NPA-NDF.

Rep. Pastor Alcover of the Alliance for Nationalism and Democracy said much government resources, time and effort had been wasted in carrying out the peace talks with the communist groups.

His colleagues involved in the peace process, however, rebuffed Alcover’s call as being “unnecessary, redundant and superfluous”.

Basilan Rep. Salliman Hataman, vice chairman of the House committee on peace, reconciliation and unity, said a resolution was already being discussed by the House special committee on peace, reconciliation and unity.

“I do not see the logic or rationale of Alcover’s demand,” Hataman told the Manila Standard.

“Obviously, Alcover is just anxious and is pushing his political agenda.”

Cavite Rep. Joseph Emilio Abaya, secretary general of the administration’s Liberal Party and member of the House committee on national defense and security, shared Hatama’s view.

“There is no need for an oversight committee,” Abaya said.

“There is an existing committee chaired by Rep. [Jesus] Sacladalan. The said committee has its inherent oversight functions.”

Opposition lawmakers, on the other hand, rallied behind Alcover.

House Minority Leader and Zambales Rep. Milagros Magsaysay and Maguindanao Rep. Simeon Datumanong said the move to inquire into the status of peace talks was a good one.

But Hataman said if national unification would hasten a peace agreement, there was nothing wrong with talks being held toward that goal.

Over the last few days, Alcover has warned the government of a Nepal-style takeover by the communists.

But on Friday, he said oversight would allow the public to scrutinize how government resources were being spent on the peace talks.

“We must allow the Filipino people access to what is really happening in the peace process with the communists and Muslim insurgents,” Alcover told the Manila Standard.

“The system right now prevents the people from knowing what is really happening in the peace talks because everything is limited and confined at the panel level only,” Alcover said.

Also on Friday, a spokesman for the Armed Forces reiterated there was no plot to oust the President despite his own warning Thursday to the Presidential Security Group.

“As far as the Armed Forces of Philippines is concerned, we have not monitored any report of an ouster plot against the President … We will continue to monitor and validate information and we will continue to intensify collecting information,” Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr. said.

With Florante S. Solmerin

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