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Exiled Philippine Communist Leader Charged with Murder - 2003-01-28

Philippine prosecutors have filed murder charges against the exiled leader of the Communist Party. The move comes day after Communist rebels rejected a government-drafted peace proposal to end 34 years of bloody conflict.

The final draft of the peace plan had not even reached rebel leaders when the exiled founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines, Jose Maria Sison, rejected the proposal as nothing more than a "demand for surrender."

Under the proposed agreement, the government would grant the rebels an unconditional amnesty in exchange for a cease-fire, disarmament and disbanding of the party's military wing.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo approved the draft late last week as a "last ditch" effort by the government to end 34 years of insurgency. Ms. Arroyo instructed government negotiators to push for the deal after a former Communist Party leader, who has since reintegrated into the government, was killed by suspected assassins last week.

Peace talks between the communist rebels and the government have been stalled since June 2001 following similar killings of former CPP leaders.

Tuesday, police filed murder charges against Mr. Sison for allegedly masterminding those murders.

Rodolfo Biazon, a Philippine senator and a former military chief is disappointed with the rebels' repsonse, but said "this rejection by the CPP ... is expected. However the government must be ready to formulate an alternative program in the event that the peace process completely fails," he said.

He says that the government could take a harder line with CPP guerillas by intensifying military action against the group.

A presidential spokesman said Tuesday that despite the rejection, the government has not given up on peace talks with the rebels.