DAVAO CITY, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte said communist negotiators with whom the government is supposedly working with for a peace agreement should go back to prison.
“Those who were released by the government they should on their own… return and go back to prison,” he said as he announced Saturday night that there will be no more peace negotiations with the almost five-decade old communist group.
“I’m alerting all the intelligence community to keep track where they are now,” Duterte added.
The NDFP consultants included Benito Tiamzon, who is part of the NDF peace panel and Wilma Austria who both attended the latest round of talks. The list also includes six from Mindanao namely Porferio Tuna, Jr., Ariel Arbitrario, Eduardo Genelsa, Ma. Loida Magpatoc, Alfredo Mapano and Pedro Codaste, who sit as resource persons and consultants in several committees under the peace panel.
In an interview with reporters here, Duterte backtracked on an earlier well-publicized campaign promise to release all political prisoners and said he made no such commitment.
He said he never promised the Left that he would grant amnesty to all political prisoners. He claimed he only promised to release its leaders and not the grant of amnesty.
“I never promised, I said leaders, so that the leaders can go to Oslo to talk,” Duterte told reporters when asked about his promise to grant amnesty to all political prisoners.
“I would not be stupid in entering that kind of arrangement… Why would I promise that? That’s practically granting amnesty,” he said.
Duterte said amnesty is given after a successful talk and not before the conclusion of a peace negotiation.
“It’s a mutual thing,” he said.
“You do not release all prisoners because they committed a crime along the way against the Republic of the Philippines,” Duterte added.
Duterte also said that freeing about 400 political prisoners would offend the Philippine military.
‘Fold the tents’
Duterte announced on Saturday that he will ask the government peace panel to “fold their tents and go home” after deciding that there will be no more peace negotiations with the Communists.
He said he has tried everything and “walked the extra mile” for the peace negotiations with the Communists.
Duterte said he had allowed the release of leaders including the Tiamzon couple who were described as the “ideologues” in the CPP.
“Ngayon 400, eh di lahat na lang.. ano pang pag-usapan natin? (Now you want the 400, all of them.. what else is left to talk about?),” he said.
Duterte said: “If they will not come back I will alert the international police to arrest them because they are wanted here and cancel their passports.”
“I don’t know if they will be granted asylum there… the leaders, they should be imprisoned without bail,” he said.
Prior to Duterte’s announcement, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the National Operations Command of the New People’s Army said they will terminate the unilateral ceasefire effective Feb. 10.
Despite the government peace panel’s recommendation to retain the unilateral ceasefire, Duterte reciprocated and lifted it effectively on Friday night.
The communists cited two reasons for lifting their ceasefire – one is the non-release of 392 political prisoners and the non-compliance to the promise of granting amnesty to all prisoners. The second is the encroachment of the government troops to guerrilla territories while the ceasefire is standing.
The communists also said that the militarization in the communities did not stop and is only being intensified with the AFP’s continuing implementation of its “peace and development programs” and the government’s anti-drug campaign.
Amnesty as agenda
During the exploratory talks in Oslo on June 14 to 15 last year, the amnesty proclamation for the release of political prisoners was among the agenda that for the formal talks.
Until the third round of talks held in Rome last month, the NDFP brought the to the table the status of the amnesty proclamation of all political prisoners.
In the Joint Statement signed by both Parties, the NDFP reiterated that the amnesty is “the most expeditious way of releasing them.”
“The Parties agreed to continue to study the issuance of an amnesty proclamation consequent to the substantial progress of the peace negotiations,” the Joint Statement reads.
More than 30 political prisoners released, but…
Lawyer Edre Olalia of the National Union of People’s Lawyers said since July 2016 there were more than 30 political prisoners released “on bail, recognizance, demurrer, acquittal or service of sentence— ALL outside & independent of the peace process but on their own merits arising from the routinary “judicial & legal process”.
“These include the sick & elderly who should have been released on humanitarian grounds as previously promised,” he said.
Olalia said aside from the 19 NDFP consultants who were released on bail in August, only four previously pardoned political prisoners were released in December last year until January this year “out of the peace process.”
“The 200 the GRP committed (out of almost 400) to release in October 2016 are still rotting in jail. It seems the tortoise is really faster than the hare,” he said.
In a previous interview with NDFP peace panel chair Fidel Agcaoili said it was Duterte who offered giving amnesty to political prisoners last year.
Agcaoili also said that Duterte recognized that the political prisoners face “trumped up charges.”
The NDFP said the release of the political prisoners is “not just a goodwill measure” but also an issue of compliance to the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law signed by both Parties in 1998. (davaotoday.com)