Kin of political prisoners react to statements of GRP peace panel head Sec. Bello’s on ceasefire agreement with NDFP

Atat na atat silang magkaroon ng bilateral ceasefire agreement, samantalang hindi pa nga nila tinutugunan yung pangako at komitment nilang magpapalaya ng mga bilanggong pulitikal (They are so eager to come up with a bilateral ceasefire, they couldn’t even comply to their own commitment of releasing political prisoners),” Julieta Caloza, wife of political prisoner and peace consultant Leopoldo Caloza, said referring to the recent statement of Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello, also the head of the peace panel of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP), that a bilateral ceasefire agreement between the GRP and NDFP may soon be signed this December. 

Members of the GRP peace panel to the formal peacetalks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) were quoted by media networks several times in the past months saying they will release political prisoners, including the sick, elderly, women and long-detained. “Yet, aside from the nineteen (19) NDFP consultants released in August 2016 to participate in the resumption of the formal peace talks, there were no further releases despite the GRP’s repeated commitments,” Mrs. Caloza said. 

“There are even four more peace consultants of the NDFP who remain in jail who should have participated in the talks,” Mrs. Caloza said. Eduardo Sarmiento, Emeterio Antalan, and Leopoldo Caloza are still at the New Bilibid Prisons Maximum Security Compound, while Edgardo Friginal remains imprisoned at the Aurora Provincial Jail.

Sa unilateral ceasefire pa nga lang ng GRP, andami nang human rights violations ang AFP, paano pa natin masisiguro kung tutupad sila sa kahit anong kasunduan?” (The GRP’s unilateral ceasefire is already filled with AFP’s human rights violations, how can we be sure that they’d honor and implement any the  succeeding agreements?),” Mrs. Caloza asked. 

Karapatan has reported several community occupations by the Armed Forces of the Philippines regions of Bicol, Caraga and Socksargens. There are at least 1000 Lumad students who were forced to stop coming to class because their schools were closed down due to harassment and threats to students and volunteer teachers. Karapatan reported that counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan remains under the guise of “peace and development” activities, even with the GRP’s unilateral ceasefire declaration.

Gloria Almonte, wife of ailing political prisoner Dionisio Almonte, said that the GRP should immediately release political prisoners now, especially those based on humanitarian grounds. “Seryoso ang mga kamag-anak naming nakakulong para magkaroon ng pagbabago. Kaya lang dapat na palayain na sila para makatulong sila na paunlarin ang bayan,” (Our detained consultants are serious in pushing for reforms. They should be released to help in developing our country) Mrs. Almonte said. 

“Pero kung tigil-putukan lang ang gustong mangyari ng GRP, sila ang hindi seryoso sa usapang pangkapayapaan,” (If it’s just the ceasefire that the GRP wants, it is them who are not serious in the peace talks) Mrs. Almonte said. 

Dionisio is one of the 130 ailing political prisoners in the country. He is considered one of the seriously ill prisoners. He has severe diabetes, suffering from slip disc. Detained at the Special Intensive Care Area-1, he currently awaits for a court’s permission to be confined at a hospital to be able to address his ailments.