NDF denies dropping demand for release of political prisoners

(Philstar.com) - December 13, 2016 - 2:56pm
BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – The National Democratic Front said it is not abandoning its demand to release more than 400 political prisoners in the country, as it took exception to the government’s latest statement implying the former’s willingness to enter into a bilateral ceasefire agreement.
On Monday, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III welcomed the NDFP’s supposed readiness to work with the government peace panel on forging a bilateral ceasefire agreement. 
Bello, who is also chair of the government peace panel, “conspicuously omitted the NDFP’s position that any such agreement should take effect 48 hours after the signing, in keeping with the timeframe within which President Rodrigo Duterte said he would order the release of all political prisoners,” NDF peace panel senior adviser Luis Jalandoni said.
The NDFP stands firm, Jalandoni said, in its position that the release of political prisoners “is first and foremost an obligation of the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) under signed agreements, particularly the CARHRIHL and the JASIG, which the GRP has reaffirmed.”
The Comprehensive Agreement for Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law and the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees are agreements signed in past peace talks.
Implementation of the JASIG, which protect NDF peace consultants and negotiators from arrest, was a contentious issue that scuttled talks between the NDF and the Aquino administration. 
While it plays a part in building an atmosphere of trust and confidence in the negotiations, Jalandoni explained, “the release of political prisoners cannot be reduced to a simple act of goodwill that the GRP can opt to take or not.”
Interim ceasefires on the other hand, whether unilateral or bilateral, are among the options that can be taken to build mutual trust and confidence, the rebel group’s peace panel senior official said.
“But they can also contribute to the erosion of goodwill when they are routinely violated, as what has happened to the GRP’s unilateral ceasefire in the last four months.”
The president has said that he will not order the release of the political prisoners without a bilateral ceasefire. He said that he has already conceded too much to the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-NDF.

Ceasefire violations?

Reports continue pouring in from the countryside, Jalandoni said, of alleged relentless AFP and PNP combat and intelligence operations in rural communities.  
The statistics this December are grim, he said, citing that “18 activists killed extrajudicially, with 20 others surviving attempts on their lives; more than 13,000 civilians victimized by forced evacuation; more than 14,000 cases of schools, clinics, chapels and other civilian infrastructure used as barracks by the AFP, all in violation of the CARHRIHL.”
Jalandoni claimed that, “if the AFP’s bogus unilateral ceasefire is anything to go by, all it has achieved is to give the AFP a free hand to encroach on revolutionary territory and violate the people’s rights with impunity.”
He continued, “a bilateral ceasefire agreement could therefore prove more disastrous to the people if entered into precipitately by the NDFP and divorced from the larger context of the GRP’s continuing noncompliance with signed agreements.”
The NDF reiterated to government that “it must release the political prisoners as a matter of commitment, while it must order the military to be confined to barracks to show genuine reciprocity.” 

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