“If by talking and being friendly with Joma Sison makes Mayor Duterte a communist, I must then be in a far more worse situation.”
This was the reply of former President Fidel V. Ramos when he was asked by his former Malacanang aide , Lawyer Jesus Dureza to comment on the accusations of some detractors of presidential candidate Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte tagging him a communist for his alleged links with the rebel leader, Jose Maria ( Joma) Sison. Dureza was FVR’s presidential assistant for Mindanao in the late ’90s.
The former president even hailed Duterte’s move of reaching out to exiled Joma Sison of the National Democratic Front saying he (FVR) went further, even to the extent of abolishing Republic Act 1700, the so-called Anti Subversion Law during his administration that penalized mere membership in the communist party, an unprecedented move that was viewed as favoring the communists. The former president said it was a necessary step to “heal a divided nation”. He said Duterte’s early efforts to unite the nation is a “right move” and must be welcomed instead of being criticized and condemned.
The former president even recalled that it was during his administration that significant strides were done to reach out to the communist rebels to seek for lasting peace.
“You were with the Philippine negotiating panel then with Ambassador Howard Dee, Sec. Bebot Bello and Cong. Apeng Yap of Tarlac that I sent to Europe several times to negotiate peace with Joma and the CPP/NPA/NDF panel, remember?” he reminded Dureza who was the spokesman of the government negotiating panel and Davao congressman representing the House of Representatives in the Philippine panel at the time.
Duterte, in several occasions had said that he valued FVR’s advices; someone whom he would go to for guidance from time to time. The former president is also widely perceived as among those reportedly responsible for convincing the Davao city mayor to consider the presidency.