DAVAO CITY, Philippines (Updated as of 12:54 pm Saturday, March 25)— President Rodrigo Duterte reiterated his previous position that there will be no more releases of political prisoners aside from those who are dying and elderly more than a week before the scheduled fourth round of talks with the communists.
“There will be no releases this time. I am not… Iyong last release ko ‘yon na. Pero ‘yung mga NPA na matanda na may sakit kasali ‘yon doon,” Duterte told reporters at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2 early morning Thursday.
“But that is a different category. It’s because they are dying or helplessly old age, they cannot even lift a finger towards their bodies. At saka mahigpit na masyado ‘yung Muntinlupa hindi na maglaban. Ano bang laban ‘yang matanda?” Duterte added.
He said the government and the Communists were already talking “with (a) very slight difference (on) how to look at the problem,” when the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army lifted the unilateral ceasefire on February 10.
In December, Duterte said there will be no more releases of prisoners unless he sees a document signed by the NDFP that they are agreeing to a bilateral ceasefire.
But human rights group Karapatan said the release of all political prisoners, including the sick and elderly, “remains a most just and reasonable demand to Duterte and to all reactionary regimes for that matter.”
“More than sounding like a sirang plaka (broken record), Duterte’s callousness in the non-release of political prisoners manifests his shallow understanding of the roots of injustice against them and the Filipino people,” said Crisitna Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan Alliance for Human Rights.
Palabay told Davao Today that Duterte’s “partiality” to military and the police “betrays his propensity to employ more fascist attacks against the people, rather than propel reforms that can make substantial changes in poor people’s lives.”
Palabay said as of January 31, 2017, there are 387 political prisoners, 121 of whom are ailing while 30 are elderly.
10 more days
Duterte’s latest statement came 10 more days before the fourth round of talks take place in Noordjwik town in the Netherlands on April 2-6.
The resumption of the formal talks was pushed by a back channel talk held by the negotiators from both the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, the political wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, in Utrecht on March 10-11.
Duterte announced the termination of the talks following his decision to immediately lift the government’s unilateral ceasefire in response to the Communists announcement on February 1 that they will lift their own unilateral interim ceasefire.
Among the reasons why the CPP and NPA lifted the ceasefire is the non-release of political prisoners.
Ka Oris, spokesman for the NPA National Operations Command said the CPP and NPA declared the unilateral ceasefire declaration based on “the mutual understanding with the GRP that such releases will take effect within 60 days of August 28.”
“Such was the context why the GRP panel approached the NDFP towards the end of October seeking an extension of the CPP/NPA’s declaration with a promise that around 200 political prisoners were set to be released,” he said.
He said the government failed to fulfill such obligation even though the CPP obliged it by extending the ceasefire declaration to more than 150 days.
He also said that the government took advantage of the ceasefire to encroach the territories claimed by the NPA. The area covers 164 municipalities and 43 provinces.
“The GRP’s armed forces have occupied at least 500 barrios which are within the authority of the revolutionary government,” he said.
Duterte also clarified his conditions “which are no longer negotiable.”
“There’s a back-channeling going on, I must admit that. But there are certain conditions to me which are no longer negotiable. So either I have it before I embark on another journey of peace talks,” he said.
Among the conditions set by Duterte is that the communists should stop collecting revolutionary taxes and that government troops should not be prohibited from entering the territories claimed by guerrillas.
“The forced taxation must stop. Second is that, they have been talking about their territory, that the soldiers of this Republic cannot enter into territories which they claim is theirs,” Duterte said.
“You know, I do not recognize any territory belonging to any group of persons. Only the Republic of the Philippines own every inch of our territory, period,” he added.
Duterte also said that the Communists guerrillas should release all their prisoners.
“At this early I would say that I would have tried everything but these are the demands that I cannot negotiate anymore. It sets the tone of how a Republic, how a country would deal with the enemies of the State. Nothing short of it,” he said.
He said if the conditions he imposed are not met, “I am sorry I cannot deal with you anymore.”(davaotoday.com)