The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) seeks the release of its detained peace consultants and staff as a goodwill measure to boost chances of peace talks resumption this month.
Along with the success of the ongoing ceasefire between the Rodrigo Duterte administration and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison said it is widely expected that the government ought to release consultants who are under detention.
“The release of the political prisoners on humanitarian grounds will ensure the success of the formal meeting to resume the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations within January,” Sison said.
He said the consultants are being detained in violation of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees that prohibits harassment, arrest and detention against personnel of both the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the NDFP negotiating panels.
Long-time NDFP peace consultants Vicente Ladlad, Adelberto Silva, Renante Gamara, Rey Claro Casambre, Frank Fernandez, Cleofe Lagtapon, Esterlita Suaybaguio, and Leopoldo Caloza as well as NDFP panel staff Alex and Winona Birondo were arrested in succession after negotiations broke down in November 2017.
All had been similarly charged with illegal possession of firearms, ammunition, and explosives.
Consultant Rafael Baylosis was the first to be arrested in January 2018 but was released by the Quezon City Regional Trial Court a year later due to lack of evidence.
Consultants Eduardo Sarmiento and Ferdinand Castillo were arrested by previous administrations.
NDFP consultant Lora T. Manipis has been reported missing since February 24, 2018, last seen with her husband Jeruel B. Domingo in Kidapawan City.
Manipis joined other missing NDFP consultants believed abducted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, such as Leo Velasco, Rogelio Calubad, Prudencio Calubid, NDFP staff members Philip Limjoco, Leopoldo Ancheta, and Federico Intise.
Meanwhile, youngest NDFP consultant Randy Felix P. Malayao was assassinated in Aritao, Nueva Vizcaya by still unidentified gunmen in January 2019. Another peace consultant, Sotero Llamas was killed in Tabaco, Albay in May 2006.
Sison said Duterte should also immediately release sick and elderly political prisoners on humanitarian grounds.
“As regards the rest of the political prisoners, they can look forward to the general amnesty that is already slated for proclamation upon the approval of the Interim Peace Agreement (IPA),” Sison said.
Reaffirming past agreements
Sison said the formal meeting to resume the peace negotiations has the task of reaffirming all previous joint agreements since The Hague Joint Declaration of 1992 and setting the agenda for negotiating and approving the Interim Peace Agreement
The IPA has three components: 1. the general amnesty and release of all political prisoners; 2. approval of the articles of CASER (Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms) on land reform and national industrialization; and 3. coordinated unilateral ceasefires, Sison said.
“The CASER will benefit the entire Filipino people, including families of adherents to the GRP and NDFP, through land reform and the generation of jobs under the program of national industrialization. These provide the economic and social substance for a just peace,” Sison said.
He added that a resumption of formal negotiations shall effectively supersede all Duterte issuance that terminated and prevented peace negotiations since November 2017. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)