"The general amnesty and release of all political prisoners is an issue of justice for activists and political dissenters who were illegally arrested, detained and some, wrongly convicted, for crimes they did not commit. We urge the Duterte administration to render justice to political prisoners, their families and the communities they serve by making good its commitment to release the PPs," said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said, three days before the second round of peace talks between the GPH and the NDFP commence in Oslo, Norway.
In the GPH-NDFP peace panels’ joint statement on August 26, 2016, they agreed that “the GRP Panel will immediately recommend to President Rodrigo Roa Duterte the issuance of an Amnesty Proclamation, subject to concurrence of Congress, for the release of prisoners who are listed by the NDFP and who have been arrested, imprisoned, charged, and/or convicted for alleged acts or omissions within the ambit of the Revised Penal Code or special laws in connection with alleged crimes in pursuit of one’s political beliefs. The Parties will discuss the content and language of the Amnesty Proclamation."
"The Duterte administration’s release of 21 political prisoners, majority are NDFP peace consultants, last August was warmly welcomed by the PPs, and human rights and peace advocates. Releasing all political prisoners will be certainly appreciated. Peace spoilers and saboteurs in the AFP and in Congress should not stand in the way of justice," Palabay said.
Karapatan also expects the release of three wrongly convicted NDFP peace consultants, at the soonest possible time to enable their full participation in the ongoing peacetalks.
"Their contributions will be valuable in the discussions on social and economic reforms and political and constitutional reforms because they hail from regions where peasants have been oppressed and exploited for many decades," Palabay said.
The three wrongly convicted NDFP consultants are Eduardo Serrano from Eastern Visayas, Leopoldo Caloza and Emeterio Antalan from Central Luzon.
All three, as peace consultants, are protected by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), “this they should have been immune from arrests and detention to be able to perform their duties as peace consultants."
Antalan, 57, and Caloza, 59, were found "guilty” for murder, the last of the 21 false charges both had to hurdle in court. All of the 20 cases were dismissed, except for the trumped up murder case in Nueva Ecija, wherein both were convicted, and two long archived criminal charges against Caloza, which were only revived and made known to Caloza in August 2015. The Nueva Ecija local court ruled for their conviction, despite no material and objective proof of their involvement and actual participation in the said crimes and the questionable testimony of a military agent.
Caloza and Antalan hail from families of peasants in Nueva Ecija.
Sarmiento, 66, was sentenced in December 2013, to life imprisonment for fabricated charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives, despite his assertion and compelling proof that the evidence against him were planted and that there were numerous violations on the chain of custody of the said planted evidence.
Sarmiento serves as the NDF consultant representing the Eastern Visayas Region in the peace negotiations with the GPH since 1986. Despite the perils of state repression that continued under the Corazon Aquino administration, when killings of activists and revolutionary leaders commenced, he represented the NDFP in various public fora and negotiations in Eastern Visayas as spokesperson and representative of the NDFP in the local peacetalks with the GPH.
Sarmiento hails from Catarman, Northern Samar, a province located in the poorest region in the Philippines.
In February 2009, Sarmiento went to Metro Manila to participate in peace negotiations, when he was arrested by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP).
"Just and lasting peace can be achieved by addressing the needs and democratic interests of the marginalized sectors. We need to maximize the knowledge and experience of people who worked with the poor, such as Sarmiento, Caloza and Antalan. We hope that they will be released immediately,” Palabay concluded. ###