Release political prisoners now before warmongers sabotage peace efforts

“The longer the wait for release of all political prisoners, there will be more chances for warmongers, especially the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the US government, to sabotage the peace talks between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and the Philippine government. It has been more than two months since the first public pronouncements of the Duterte administration on the release of political prisoners, yet not a single political prisoner has been released in line with the peace talks,” Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general, said after the affirmation of both parties on the resumption of formal peace talks this August 2016 despite Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s lifting of the unilateral ceasefire against the Communist Party of the Philippines.

Karapatan said that “aside from the commitments of the Duterte administration and the GPH peace panel on the release of political prisoners through public pronouncements and the Oslo Joint Statement in June 2016, it is an obligation of the Philippine government to effect the release of all political prisoners in compliance to previously-signed agreements with the NDFP such as the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) and the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).”

“All the 525 political prisoners are victims of illegal arrest through the previous administration’s use of alias or John/Jane Doe warrants, planting of evidence, concoction of stories and perjured testimonies of professional witnesses, and buildup of trumped up criminal charges against activists, leaders of revolutionary movements and civilians to put and keep them in jail,” Palabay said.

Among the 525 political prisoners documented by Karapatan as of June 30, 2016, twenty-two are peace consultants of the NDFP and Jasig-protected persons, 117 have ailments and 47 are elderly.

“The detained National Democratic Front of the Philippines consultants should be released immediately to be able to take part of the formal peace talks. Their release is based on the JASIG and there should be no conditions imposed on their release. Their contributions are necessary in discussions on the comprehensive agreements to address the root causes of the armed conflict and reforms needed to resolve it,” Palabay said.

“The need for release of political prisoners and the resumption of the formal peace talks between the Duterte government and NDFP becomes more paramount than ever,” Palabay said.

“Pinatunayan lang ng mga pangyayari hinggil sa unilateral ceasefire declaration ng GPH kung gaano ka-tuso ang AFP. The US terrorist listing of the CPP-NPA, and the visit of US State Secretary John Kerry and his offer of $32 million military aid package are telling signs of the US government’s efforts to derail the formal peace talks,” Palabay said.