UTRECHT, The Netherlands — National Democratic Front chief negotiator Luis Jalandoni said the concurrence of Congress for the declaration of a general amnesty for political prisoners is possible under the Duterte administration.
“We think the concurrence of Congress will be gotten by President (Rodrigo) Duterte because the PDP-Laban now has an overwhelming majority in the House of Representatives,” Jalandoni told Davao Today in an interview Monday (7:00 pm PH time).
PDP-Laban or the Partido Demokratiko Pilipinas – Lakas ng Bayan is the President’s political party.
Jalandoni said they got reports that “from three members originally, they have gone up to more than 260, out of the 292.”
“In the Senate, due to various arrangements with the members of the Senate, we expect that the Senate will be able to give the majority for a declaration of amnesty by President Duterte,” he said.
Both negotiating panels of the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines are looking forward to the success of the next round of talks.
But while they have similar hopes to have positive developments for the peace negotiations, the two panels apparently differ in the priorities to be attained immediately.
Three days before the talks, Presidential Peace Adviser Secretary Jesus Dureza said the government panel hopes to come up with a ceasefire agreement. He also said the agreement will include a joint monitoring and a possible third party overseer.
During his State of the Nation Address on July 25, President Duterte announced a unilateral ceasefire with the NDF. Meanwhile, the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army National Operations Command declared a unilateral ceasefire on August 28.
But Dureza said the government “is eyeing a more permanent cessation of hostilities.”
“We need to craft mechanisms to monitor violations and resolve conflicts and issues arising from them,” Dureza said.
Dureza said this is only possible if the negotiating panels achieve an agreement on social economic reforms described as “the heart and soul” of the peace process.
Meanwhile, the NDF is drumbeating the release of political prisoners in “compliance with the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).”
“The amnesty and release of all political prisoners is an act of righting the violations of the CARHRIHL and the Hernandez political offense doctrine,” NDFP chief political consultant Jose Ma. Sison said in a statement on Monday, October 3.
The Hernandez doctrine or the Amado V. Hernandez doctrine refers to the Supreme Court ruling in 1956, in the case People of the Philippines vs. Hernandez, saying that a person who commits a political offense could be charged with rebellion but not with common crimes such as murder, arson, robbery, etc.
Sison said the release of all political prisoners “would also serve as a very big incentive for a stable kind of ceasefire.”
Government panel head and Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said there is already a draft amnesty proclamation that they will submit when the talks resume on this week in Oslo, Norway.
“The list has been narrowed down to just over 400 from a high of more than 500. As per agreement during the formal resumption of the peace talks in August, the proclamation will only cover NDF members currently detained,” Bello said.
Bello, in the same statement, said Duterte, who ordered the release of 22 detained peace consultants of the NDF “could declare a general amnesty once the peace talks are brought to a successful conclusion.” The declaration of general amnesty will also require the concurrence of Congress, which Jalandoni said Duterte could do.
The government believes that it will be able to strike a deal with the communist rebels waging the longest Maoist insurgency in Asia by August next year.(davaotoday.com)