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‘NDF demand to release political prisoners up to Rody’

The Philippine Star

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – President Duterte has the final say on whether government would agree to the demand of the communists to release all political prisoners as part of confidence-building measures in the ongoing peace negotiations in Oslo, Norway.

Government panel member Angela Librado-Trinidad said they have submitted a draft amnesty proclamation to the Office of the President a week before leaving for the second round of peace talks.

Trinidad said the matter is consistent with the panel’s commitment to immediately recommend to the President a draft amnesty proclamation covering personalities listed by the National Democratic Front (NDF).

“We have in our possession a stamped receipt of our endorsement letter together with the draft proclamation. It was received by the Office of the Executive Secretary,” Librado said.

Covered by the draft proclamation are 434 detained leaders and alleged members of the NDF, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and New People’s Army (NPA).

The NDF is representing the CPP-NPA in the peace talks with the Philippine government in Norway.

The NDF earlier included in the list 81 detained rebels to be released on humanitarian grounds.

The draft proclamation will also include NDF consultants already released on bail and now participating in the peace negotiations.

NDF chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili stressed the release of political prisoners is a matter of justice – an important issue in the ongoing talks. 

“The NDFP stands firm in calling for the release through amnesty of the 432 political prisoners not only as a matter of justice but also in basic compliance with the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law,” Agcaoili said. 

“Their release will undoubtedly serve as an incentive in accelerating the peace negotiations and in forging a more stable ceasefire agreement. I hope we can resolve these crucial issues so that we can move forward,” he stressed. 

During the opening session of the second round of talks in Oslo, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said they understand the concerns raised by the NDF panel over the continued detention of their members.

Dureza, however, explained the amnesty has to go through the process, which includes review of the draft proclamation and concurrence of Congress after the President signs the proclamation.

Government panel chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III said the release of detained rebels would just be a matter of time.

“I see no reason why we cannot do it the way we are accelerating the peace process,” he added.

The draft proclamation under review covers only the updated list of detained rebels submitted on Sept. 15 by Agcaoili.

The NDF said the peace negotiations in Oslo were an “initial success” even as it criticized government panel member Hernani Braganza for making a “foul and erroneous” report.

Alan Jazmines, vice chairman of the NDF’s  Reciprocal Working Committee on Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (RWC-CASER) faulted Braganza for saying the NDF had “refused to include” nine major points or “outcomes” up for agreement in the peace talks.  Jazmines said Braganza had stated the other day that the talks hit a snag because of the issues.

NDF RWC-CASER chair Julie de Lima said, however, that nine items were mere enumerations actually lifted from the NDF’s lengthy draft proposals amid the government’s alleged lack of elaborations “to explain the content and expectations of those nine outcomes.”

“After a couple more of editing sessions, the two negotiating panels on CASER agreed to a final outline on a comprehensive CASER proposal,” Jazmines said.

Still in combat mode

In a related development, a spokesman for the NPA claimed the military is still in combat mode despite the prevailing ceasefire between the government and the communist rebels.

NPA spokesman Jorge Madlos admitted, however ,that the ceasefire has been holding.

“All NPA units have strictly abided by the ceasefire declaration. Aside from maintaining defensive posture, NPA units are conducting counter-maneuvers to avoid armed skirmishes with the AFP,” Madlos said, referring to the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Not a few NPA units are having difficulty holding back offensives amid threats from the AFP in its counter-insurgency intelligence operations, Madlos said.

From North Luzon to Southern Mindanao, Madlos claimed, there were reports that military units are telling civilians that the ceasefire is no longer in effect to justify their operations and presence in their communities.

The NPA’s Agustin Begnalen Command based in Abra said the Army’s 24th Infantry Battalion have been telling civilians in Sallapadan town that the ceasefire has ended.

Madlos said the AFP has yet to observe the advice of President Duterte to be friendly with the NPA.

However, Madlos claimed the AFP continues to conduct hostile operations against the NPA, “even the drug campaign is being used by the AFP to conduct anti-NPA operations.”

Madlos is calling on the President “to tame” the AFP to end all counter-insurgency operations in the rural areas. – With Ding Cervantes, Artemio Dumlao, Jose Rodel Clapano

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