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May 18, 8:59 AM EDT

Philippine communist rebels welcome Cabinet post offer

AP Photo
AP Photo/PAT ROQUE

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MANILA, Philippines (AP) -- Communist rebel leaders welcomed on Wednesday a possible offer from the Philippines' presumptive president-elect of four Cabinet posts, raising the prospect of a government that includes Marxist guerrillas who have long demanded an end to the U.S. military presence and the redistribution of land.

Rodrigo Duterte, who won the May 9 presidential election by a landslide according to an unofficial count, has said he will likely offer the Communist Party of the Philippines Cabinet positions in agrarian reform, environment, social welfare and labor.

"The CPP and the revolutionary forces welcome the possibility of joining presumptive President Duterte in an alliance government, whether in the form of assigning Cabinet positions to the CPP or its endorsees or some other more radical form of unity government which the maverick new president might be open to consider," the party said in a statement.

It said an alliance would need to be based on principles such as social justice and national sovereignty, including an end to the presence of U.S. troops.

American troops have no permanent bases in the country, but hold regular joint exercises and have backed Philippine troops fighting Abu Sayyaf militants in the south.

It remains to be seen what common ground could be forged, given the wide gap between the longstanding demands of the rebels and past governments. On-and-off peace talks between the two sides have not led to a peace agreement or a long-term ceasefire as in the case of Muslim rebels, who have signed two separate autonomy deals with Manila.

While Duterte's proposed offer of Cabinet posts could foster peace talks, any major political concessions are likely to be complicated, given the many years of fighting and enmity between the rebels and government forces. Business and industry leaders would also likely oppose demands such as an end to contractualization, the widespread practice of short-term employment, and higher wages. The government has also relied on closer military ties with the United States amid an increasingly tense territorial dispute with China over areas of the South China Sea.

The party said in its statement that it anticipates Duterte's offer would be followed by peace negotiations in which key policy changes could be discussed thoroughly, because he knows "that what is more important to the revolutionary forces are the necessary changes in the policies and programs that govern these departments and the entire government."

It said a labor secretary could only effectively serve the interests of workers if there are laws promoting unions, establishing a national wage system, and prohibiting contractualization. Similarly, an agrarian reform secretary could only serve the interests of farmers if there is genuine land reform, it said.

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