NDFP consultants to be released through JASIG–Bello

DETAINED National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) consultants may still be released to join the resumption of formal peace negotiations with the Government of the Philippines (GRP) on August 20 in Oslo, Norway.

Chief GRP negotiator Silvestre Bello III said that they are working on the release of 22 NDFP negotiators through the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) despite the Supreme Court’s rejection of the government’s request to allow 10 of them to post bail.

“GRP peace panel lawyers, the Solicitor General and the Department of Justice are working on another track, the JASIG, so I do not think the Supreme Court resolution will affect our effort,” Bello said.

The high tribunal said Tuesday that it does not have jurisdiction over some key members of the NDFP negotiating team as they are still facing criminal charges in trial courts around the country.

The ten are Benito Tiamzon, Wilma Austria, Alan Jazmines, Tirso Alcantara, Maria Concepcion Araneta, Alex Birondo, Reynante Gamara, Ma. Loida Magpatoc and Adelberto Silva.

Earlier, human rights group Karapatan said it is an obligation of the government to release the 22 NDFP peace consultants along with more than 500 other political prisoners under the JASIG as well as the GRP-NDFP Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.

Relatives of the detainees have also asked the GRP why it is taking so long for them to release the political prisoners despite repeated pronouncements by President Rodrigo Duterte.

Duterte has since altered his statements saying he will release political detainees in batches, starting with the NDFP consultants, then the sick and elderly, before issuing a general amnesty after the signing of a final peace agreement with the NDFP.

Bello said it is more realistic to expect a final peace agreement in nine to 12 months, double the length of time of the President’s initial timetable. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)