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There's '50-50' chance of war with Left breaking out anew as talks to resume in Rome
The online news portal of TV5

MANILA - Despite peace talks resuming soon in Rome, the risk of armed hostilities erupting anew with communist rebels remains real, and the military is prepared for this, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Thursday.

Asked by reporters about the possibility of the peace talks collapsing as President Duterte remains cool to some of the rebels' demand especially the release of hundreds of political prisoners, Lorenzana said: 50-50 kasi marami silang hinihingi na ayaw ibigay ni Presidente [because they're asking for many things which the President does not like].”

Pressed about what could happen eventually, Lorenzana said, “E di giyera uli. Sabi ng presidente, giyerahin natin uli [kung] mag-collapse, ‘yun naman ang sinasabi niya. I’m just repeating what he said,” he added.

In some of his public statements, Duterte had said he might grant amnesty to all communist rebels, including those jailed for many years for criminal offenses, as part of efforts to forge lasting and genuine peace with the government.

This has led to the declaration of a unilateral ceasefire by the government in fighting with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).

The idea of a bilateral cease-fire remains a wish on both sides, though.  The rebels have been pressing Duterte to make good on his promise to release all the more than 400 “political prisoners.”

Ayaw ni President, ayaw niya [The President does not want it],” Lorenzana said, of the demand for release. The President has been advised it is entirely his call, and he has in turn told advisers he is still weighing whether or not to approve the release order, added Lorenzana.

In recent weeks, dozens of rebels have already been released from jail on orders of Duterte, but the Left said this was not enough.

Talks in Rome

Meanwhile, Lorenzana said, peace talks between the government and the NDF will resume next week and central to this is the possible signing of a bilateral cease-fire.

The talks will be held in Rome.

“What they are going to accomplish in Rome is to discuss the terms of the bilateral cease-fire agreement. That’s why yesterday some of my people went to OPAPP [Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process],” Lorenzana said.

He said OPAPP Secretary Jesus Dureza sought the opinion of Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Eduardo Año on the matter.

“They (OPAPP) asked us what inputs do we want to be placed into this agreement. So meron kaming inputs diyan…puwedeng mailagay naman sa agreement ‘yung mga hinaning din namin sa Armed Forces. The process will take a little bit longer than we hope it will be. But hopefully they will be able to agree on this bilateral cease-fire agreement,” Lorenzana said.

He explained that the existing unilateral ceasefire may have been taken advantage of by some rogue communist rebels and some lawless elements posing as rebels.

“People keep on making trouble in the south like extorting money from businessmen, burning facilities and buses. That’s one of the things that we would like them to stop; that's among the things we will include in the bilateral cease-fire agreement,” Lorenzana said.