Military tackles release of political prisoners
Jaime Laude (The Philippine Star) - July 21, 2016 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines – In line with the coming resumption of peace talks between the government and communist rebels, the military is now discussing the release of political prisoners in support of the Duterte administration’s peace initiative.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Ricardo Visaya met Army chief Lt. Gen. Eduardo Año and other top Army officers during his visit to the Philippine Army (PA) headquarters at Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City yesterday morning.

“The AFP chief reiterated the guidance of the President on the government peace program. He talked about the pending release of political detainees,” said Army spokesman Col. Benjamin Hao.

The top communist leaders currently under police and military custody and facing various criminal charges include Benito Tiamzon, head of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) military arm, the New People’s Army and his wife Wilma, and Celso Alcantara, commander of the NPA in Southern Tagalog.

The Tiamzons are detained at the Philippine National Police (PNP) Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City, while Alcantara is at the Army’s detention facility in Fort Bonifacio.

Visaya also emphasized to the troops the government’s anti-drug drive, an effort continuously being conducted by the Army leadership to cleanse its ranks of illegal drug users. 

“The chief of staff also explained the importance of the anti-drug campaign of the government as well as our efforts in getting rid of illegal drug users in the service,” Hao said.

Joining the soldiers in a boodle fight at lunchtime, Visaya also told the troops that they would subsequently get their most awaited pay increase.

“Have patience. What the President says, he always makes it happen,” Hao quoted Visaya as saying.

During the campaign period, the President promised soldiers that once he gets elected, he would double their pay.

Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno had earlier said that the increase in the soldiers’ salaries is not possible to implement immediately because it’s not included in this year’s national budget.

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