Sunday, January 12, 2020

Duterte invites Joma Sison to return, resume peace talks

President Duterte reiterated yesterday his call to Communist Party of the Philippines founding chairman Jose Ma. Sison to return to the country for a one-on-one talk about the resumption of peace talks.

“I said I guarantee his safety and if nothing happens, he can go back freely where he came from. Nobody would stop him. Upon my oath, I said that, as the President and as maybe as a negotiator. But we should have a one-on-one first,” Duterte said in an interview with ABS-CBN’s Ted Failon. Sison has refused to accept the President’s challenge despite various assurances from the government that he will not be arrested once he returns to the Philippines.

Duterte renewed his call to resume the peace talks last December despite the snags in the negotiations.

Meanwhile, the Army leadership has relieved a battalion commander in Bicol for releasing to the media a manipulated photograph of alleged New People’s Army (NPA) rebels who supposedly surrendered in Masbate, that had gone viral as fake news last December. Lt. Col. Napoleon Pabon was sacked as chief of the Army’s 2nd Infantry Battalion of the 9th Infantry Division by the Philippine Army Inspector General that conducted an investigation on the manipulated photo of the supposed NPA returnees.

“The Philippine Army Board of Inquiry concluded on Jan. 1 the inquiry on the release of a manipulated photo by the 9th Infantry Division last December with Lt. Col. Pabon admitting the mistake and taking full responsibility for what happened,” said Army spokesman Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala. Zagala, however, did not mention other penalties that Pabon would suffer following his relief. Zagala said that the Army is now reviewing its policy to institute necessary changes that will ensure that 9ID’s mistake will be avoided in the future.

On the other hand, Zagala maintained that the 306 surrenderees as reported by the 9ID in its press release are genuine as the NPA returnees are now undergoing various levels of processing under the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP). “There were also 45 firearms surrendered to the government,” Zagala said, referring to the firearms that were seen on top of a long table in front of the manipulated photo of NPA surrenderees. It was just unfortunate that the soldiers, he said, in their eagerness to show to the public what they have so far accomplished in ridding Masbate of communist insurgents, photoshopped the two photos of the firearms and the NPA surrenderees to make it look as one picture in their news release. “We hold our personnel with high esteem in all our dealings, especially in our releases to the media and the public. We constantly train and remind them of our policies so that everyone is knowledgeable in the proper release of information and we take this incident as a valuable experience that will enable us to better perform our mission,” Zagala said.