Release of political prisoners could fast track GRP-NDF peace talks—Bello

Oct. 22, 2016

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The release of remaining 434 political prisoners could hasten the GRP-NDFP peace talks and improve trust between two parties, the chair of the government peace panel said.

“If possible, from the commitment of our president, we’ll have the political detainees and prisoners released at the same time but we have to understand that the nature of their situation is not the same,” government peace panel chair Silvestre Bello III said.

Bello clarified that some of the political prisoners are either detained, investigated, on trial or convicted.

“While the optimum resolve will be to have them all out all together we have to understand the processes through which we have to obtain their releases.” he said.

Meanwhile, in a statement on Oct. 13, the Communist Party of the Philippines said the release of the political prisoners “will further boost the Duterte regime’s efforts to forge an alliance with the patriotic forces.”

The CPP said the remaining political prisoners were imprisoned “because they stood up and struggled against the US-puppet regimes of Aquino and Arroyo.”

The CPP also said that the release will “pave the way for the signing of a bilateral ceasefire agreement” and warned if such agreement would be unfulfilled by the end of October it “would prevent the forging of a bilateral ceasefire agreement.”

Bello, however, said the release will not tie up with the ceasefire declaration, saying  “there is a commitment from the president that he will release the political detainees and prisoners so we will do our best to obtain those releases.”

“[The] ceasefire is a separate issue although [the] releases can be taken as a confidence building measure which would motivate the other party to finally not only go to into signing but upgrading the level of ceasefire from unilateral, indefinite to joint and permanent ceasefire,” Bello said. “The releases of the political prisoners will continue even before the joint permanent ceasefire is signed and that a process is being followed for the amnesty.”

Joint ceasefire

During the first rounds of the resumption of peace talks, both GRP and NDFP issued separate indefinite ceasefire declarations.

Bello said that both parties already agreed to craft and agree on signing a joint, permanent ceasefire, 60 days after the first round of the resumption of peace talks, Aug. 27.

“So you count it from there, it should be October 26 [in which] we will be signing [the] joint, permanent ceasefire,” Bello said.

The CPP, however, recognized that the absence of a joint ceasefire agreement and the continuing military operations of the government troops, might force the hand of the CPP and New People’s Army to cut short its earlier declaration of an indefinite ceasefire.

This, according to the CPP, is “in order to enable the NPA to more effectively defend itself and the people’s rights and interest.”

On September 22, the Office of the Presidential Adviser for Peace Process said panel members from both parties met in Manila “to discuss the possibility of a bilateral ceasefire agreement between the two parties and the revitalization of their monitoring mechanism for human rights and international humanitarian law.”

“I am pleased to tell you that unlike in the previous processes, this time, we see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Bello said. “Secretary [Jess] Dureza and I were discussing this and he said that this is the only time that they felt the peace negotiation has a direction.”

On the other hand, the CPP said the Filipino people “would like to see the initial efforts of the Duterte regime to promote peace negotiations to gain further track by effecting the release of all remaining political prisoners before the end of the month.”

“The revolutionary forces are also keenly interested in forging a patriotic alliance with the Duterte region as this can serve the aspiration of the Filipino people to achieve national sovereignty and end foreign intervention in order for the country to plan out and tread and independent path of mass-oriented development and progress,” the CPP said.

Bello hopes that future decisions “may be able to succeed to bring this process into its logical conclusion and that is, lasting peace for our country.” (

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