Philippine boxing champ and senator Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao vowed to resume peace negotiations with communist rebels if elected in the coming presidential election.
“Let’s revive the peace talks between the government and the communist rebels,” he said in Filipino in an online forum hosted by the Citizen’s Alliance for Just Peace on February 15.
“Everything has a solution if you talk about the problems. They are not asking for anything in return but development, sustainable livelihood, and food so they will not get hungry,” said the senator.
“We resume the peace talks because it is not good for our image as a nation that we Filipinos kill each other,” said Pacquiao.
He said the country’s communist insurgency has its roots in poverty, lack of economic opportunities, and systemic corruption that results in social inequalities.
President Rodrigo Duterte terminated the peace talks with communist rebels in November 2017.
Pacquiao said rebellion is a result of injustices that are perpetrated by government officials. He said that if he did not become a boxer, he would have probably taken up arms due to poverty.
In an earlier pronouncement, he said the problem of corruption in the country is worse than the drug problem.
“This is the real cause of poverty,” he said in Filipino. “We will punish them and give back their ill-gotten wealth to our people,” said Pacquiao.
He said that if elected president he would push for wide-ranging reforms on law enforcement, prosecution, and the judiciary.
“We should fix the three pillars of our justice system so that we will only punish those who are really guilty,” he said.
He said the “red tagging” of activists should end, adding that his administration would prioritize the respect for human rights.
He also promised to expedite judicial proceedings involving political prisoners to ensure that innocent detainees will be released.
He is also open to the release of political detainees for “confidence building” measures to bolster the chances of restarting formal talks with the rebels.
The boxing superstar said genuine agrarian reform should be implemented to address the roots of the armed conflict.
He also called for the inclusion of indigenous peoples in the resumption of peace talks.
Pacquiao earlier backtracked on his position to revive the death penalty in the predominantly Catholic country.
“I don’t want… innocent people [to] be punished by death. So we want to fix first our judicial system in this country and arrange everything and make sure that the government is performing their duty,” he said.
Pacquiao, a born-again Christian, has been an advocate of the revival of capital punishment for heinous crimes, including the manufacture and sale of illegal drugs.
When asked about his position on same-sex marriage, the boxing champ said, “Being a Christian, I’m against that. In terms of belief. I’m against that but that doesn’t mean that you condemn them.”