DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Government peace panel chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III said President Rodrigo Duterte may pardon peace consultants of the National Democratic Front before the year ends.
An estimate of 40 to 50 political prisoners who were urged by the NDF to be released could be set free.
“In a few days, the President may pardon some of the consultants,” Bello told reporters Tuesday, in a press conference in Malacañang.
He said there is a possibility that those political prisoners who are elderly, sickly and women may be given pardon.
As of October 31, 2016, human rights group Karapatan documented 482 political prisoners in the Philippines. Of the total, 33 are women, 130 are sickly and 37 are elderly.
Karapatan said there are at least 103 political prisoners who were detained for more than 10 years.
Confidence building measure
Bello reiterated that the release of the political prisoners is not a precondition for the talks, but a “confidence-building measure” to show the government’s sincerity of talking with the NDF.
“I’m not trying to raise up PRRD but he is the only president who came up with a statement that he will release all political prisoners and detainees and that gave a lot of confidence for the NDF,” he said.
Bello cited that it was only during the time of President Duterte that the communists declared an indefinite ceasefire.
“During the time of Cory, Ramos, Estrada, GMA, and the previous administration, they (NDF) would never discuss or even talk about ceasefire because to them it is already capitulation,” Bello said.
Duterte announced a unilateral ceasefire with the Communist Party of the Philippines, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and the New People’s Army during his first State of the Nation Address on July 25.
For its part, Karapatan said the release of the political prisoners is not only a confidence-building measure for the peace talks, but an “obligation and show of adherence to the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.”
CARHRIHL is the first substantial agreement signed between the government and the NDF.
Karapatan also said that while they welcome the upcoming release of other political prisoners, all the 400 political prisoners should be released immediately.
“We shouldn’t wait for Christmas to do what is compassionate and just, especially for the elderly, sick, women and minors, and those languishing in jails for more than ten years,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said.
Palabay clarified that there have been only 19 political prisoners released in line with the GRP-NDFP peace talks.
“Majority of those released are consultants to the peace process. NDFP consultant Jaime Soledad was acquitted from the fabricated charges against him, and political prisoners discharged from prison from July to October 2016 were released because of the merits of their counsels’ defense and the campaign for their releases,” Palabay said. (davaotoday.com)