PROGRESSIVE GROUPS called on Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte to fulfill his promise to free political prisoners once he assumes the presidency.
In a rally outside Camp Crame on June 10, militant laborers and human rights workers said political prisoners such as Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria must be freed to help in the peace process between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Government of the Philippines (GPH).
The rally was timed with a court hearing inside the camp against Tiamzon and Austria on kidnapping, illegal possession of explosives and serious illegal detention charges.
Arrested on March 2014, Tiamzon and Austria are claimed by the NDFP as long-time consultants in its peace talks with the GPH.
Duterte has repeatedly announced he will free political prisoners through a general amnesty.
Karapatan lists 543 political prisoners all over the country, 18 of whom are NDFP peace consultants.
Karapatan said charges against Tiamzon and Austria, alleged Communist Party of the Philippines chairperson and secretary general, respectively, were fabricated and should be dismissed immediately.
Tiamzon and Austria are also covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) between the GPH and the NDFP, Karapatan said.
Forged and signed in 1995, the JASIG was meant to protect GPH and NDFP negotiators, consultants and staff from arrest and harassments in order to participate in the peace process.
The KMU for its part questioned the continued detention of political prisoners.
“Bakit ang mga tumutulong sa mga Pilipino ang ikinukulong, hindi yung mga malalaking kriminal na pinapahirapan ang mga tao?” KMU secretary general Jerome Adonis said. (Why are they imprisoning those who help the Filipino people, instead of the big criminals who bring misery to the people?)
Addressing root causes of armed conflict
The KMU expressed support to the ongoing preliminary talks between the incoming Duterte GPH and the NDFP in Oslo, Norway.
“Nagpapakita ito na seryoso ang susunod na administrasyon na pag-usapan talaga ang dahilan ng armed conflict sa bansa,” Adonis said. (The incoming government shows it is serious in talking about the root causes of the armed conflict in the country.)
Incoming presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza, chief negotiator with the NDFP Silvestre Bello III and peace panel member Hernani Braganza are reportedly in Oslo for preliminary talks with the NDFP “to work for the early resumption of the stalled peace negotiations.”
The rallyists also called on the people to join in the demand for the release of the political prisoners. “The government won’t give in if we won’t demand for it,” Iglesia Filipina Independiente’s Fr. Dionito Cabillas said. # (With reports and photo by Keilah Dimpas, UP CMC)