DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Three days before the second round of peace talks in Oslo, Norway, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) urged the Philippine government to release all 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.
For Sison, the release of all political prisoners “would also serve as a very big incentive for a stable kind of ceasefire.” He noted that President Rodrigo Duterte has committed the issuance of an amnesty proclamation to “expeditiously” release all the political prisoners.
In a joint statement issued last August 26, the panels agreed that the GRP will recommend the issuance of Amnesty Proclamation to the President, which is subject to the concurrence of Congress, “for the release of prisoners who are listed by the NDFP and who have been arrested, imprisoned, charged, and/or convicted for alleged acts or omissions within the ambit of the Revised Penal Code or special laws in connection with alleged crimes in pursuit of one’s political beliefs.”
The joint statement, however, noted that both the GRP-NDFP will discuss the content and language of the Amnesty Proclamation.
Calling it as issue of “justice,” human rights group Karapatan has echoed the same sentiment, urging the Duterte administration to give justice to all the political prisoners across the country.
“We urge the Duterte administration to render justice to political prisoners, their families and the communities they serve by making good its commitment to release the PPs,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said in a separate statement Monday.
“The general amnesty and release of all political prisoners is an issue of justice for activists and political dissenters who were illegally arrested, detained and some, wrongly convicted,” the human rights group said.
Karapatan and other human rights groups have long campaigned for the general, unconditional and omnibus amnesty to free the 525 political prisoners in the country.
Karapatan also called for the release of three “wrongly convicted” NDFP peace consultants: Eduardo Serrano from Eastern Visayas, Leopoldo Caloza and Emeterio Antalan from Central Luzon.
Karapatan claims the three are protected by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).
“They should have been immune from arrests and detention to be able to perform their duties as peace consultants,” the group said. “Their contributions will be valuable in the discussions on social and economic reforms and political and constitutional reforms because they hail from regions where peasants have been oppressed and exploited for many decades.”
Antalan, 57, and Caloza, 59, were found “guilty” for murder, the last of the 21 false charges both had to hurdle in court. All of the 20 cases were dismissed, except for the trumped-up murder case in Nueva Ecija, wherein both were convicted, and two long archived criminal charges against Caloza, which were only revived and made known to Caloza in August 2015.
Sarmiento, 66, was sentenced in December 2013, to life imprisonment for fabricated charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives, despite his assertion and compelling proof that the evidence against him were planted and that there were numerous violations on the chain of custody of the said planted evidence.
Sarmiento served as the NDF consultant representing the Eastern Visayas Region in the peace negotiations with the GPH since 1986. In February 2009, he went to Metro Manila to participate in peace negotiations, when he was arrested by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP).
“Just and lasting peace can be achieved by addressing the needs and democratic interests of the marginalized sectors. We need to maximize the knowledge and experience of people who worked with the poor, such as Sarmiento, Caloza and Antalan. We hope that they will be released immediately,” Palabay said. (davaotoday.com)