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Supporters demand release of political prisoners

As President Rodrigo Duterte postponed yet again the resumption of its formal peace negotiations between his government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, the chances of more than 500 political prisoners to be given general amnesty has again been put into doubt.

Human rights defenders held a protest march from Plaza Salamanca to the Department of Justice offices along Padre Faura Street in Manila last June 20 to condemn the continued incarceration of political prisoners.

Ifugao court frees two political prisoners

By Aldwin Quitasol

BAGUIO CITY — The Regional Trial Court of Lagawe, Ifugao province today acquitted two Cagayan Valley activists, apologizing for their unjust imprisonment for nearly five years.

Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Cagayan Valley organizer Rene Boy Abiva and Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Opereytors Nationwide (Piston) Party Cagayan Valley regional coordinator Virgilio Corpuz were deemed innocent of charges of multiple murder, according to National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Randy Felix Malayao.

Abiva and Corpuz were charged with 12 counts of murder at the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Lagawe, Ifugao by the 86th Infantry Battalion and 5th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army.

The two were detained at the Bureau of Jail and Management Penology (BJMP) facility in Tiger Hills, Kiangan, Ifugao.

Abiva was an employee of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Region 2 and an ACT organizer of the in the region when nabbed on December 28, 2012 by the military.

He was tagged as one of the New People’s Army fighters who staged an ambush against the Philippine Army troopers in Tinoc , Ifugao in April 2012 that killed 10 soldiers.

Abiva’s DSWD daily time record (DTR), however, revealed during trial he reported for work on the day the Tinoc, Ifugao ambush happened.

Corpuz for his part was nabbed in his residence in Santiago City, Isabela by elements of the Philippine National Police Regional Regional Mobile Group on January 2013.

Corpuz, also a development worker of the Katinnulong Daguiti Umili ti Amianan at the time of his arrest, was accused by the Philippine Army to be a certain “Harold Castillo” who participated in another ambush.

“The State must be made accountable for the trumped-up charges and for the more than four years Abiva and Corpuz were made to suffer,” Malayao said.

Various progressive organizations also rejoiced at the acquittal of the two political prisoners.

“The Ifugao Peasant Movement, Cordillera Human Rights Alliance-Karapatan and Cagayan Valley Karapatan join the family and friends of Rene Boy Abiva and Virgilio Corpuz in their long-delayed release from BJMP Ifugao after nearly five years of detention,” the organizations said.

“The court apologized for detaining the two who have been falsely accused and jailed wrongly. The judge said if there were only a law to justly compensate the two, they would be compensated,” they added.

“Their freedom is the people’s victory. Their commitment to serve the people remains and their families are with them,” Cita Managuelod, Virgilio Corpuz’ wife, for her part, said. (With reports from Raymund B. Villanueva in Manila)

UPDATED: Duterte pardons NDFP consultant, 9 others

President Rodrigo Duterte granted pardon to 10 political prisoners including a National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) consultant today, human rights group Karapatan announced.

Peace consultant Emeterio Antalan, along with Joel Ramada, Apolonio Barado, Jose Navarro, Generoso Rolida, Arnulfo Boates, Manolito Patricio, Josue Ungsod and Sonny Marbella were ordered released today from the New Bilibid Prison (NBP), Karapatan said.

The pardon came after Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III recently announced they are conducting informal meetings with the NDFP for the possible resumption of formal negotiations in August.

Upon his election in May 2016, Duterte promised to release all political prisoners in a bid to revive the peace negotiations with the NDFP.

He released 19 NDFP consultants in August last year in time for the first round of formal negotiations in Oslo, Norway.

The presidential pardon of the 10 political detainees today is his second release of political prisoners.

Antalan was convicted with fellow NDFP consultant Leopoldo Caloza of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment in September 2015 by the Benigno Aquino administration with no possibility of parole.

A source told Kodao the pardoned detainees were released from their jail cells at four o’clock in the afternoon.

Karapatan volunteers are still on their way to NBP to fetch them as of posting time.

Too few, too late

NDFP chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili, however, said the release of the 10 prisoners is “too few and too late.”

“It is just a fraction of the 409 political prisoners still in detention whose liberty was supposed to have been given through general amnesty as offered by PRRD (President Rodrigo Roa Duterte) on 16 May 2016 as part of the package to resume the peace negotiations with the NDFP,” Agcaoili told Kodao.

Agcaoili said the release of the 10 through pardon was in fact volunteered by the GRP Panel for the Christmas season last December.

“It took more than six months for that voluntary offer to happen,” Agcaoili complained.

“This manifests the regime’s total lack of empathy and concern for the plight of political prisoners who are/have been in prison for trumped up charges in violation of the CARHRIHL (Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law),” he added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva / Featured image from Karapatan)

GRP and NDFP informal talks put peace process back on track

Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) negotiators agreed to resume formal peace talks more than a month after President Rodrigo Duterte’s termination of the negotiations.

After several weeks of heated exchanges between both parties, the informal talks held in Utrecht, the Netherlands last Friday and Saturday put the peace process back on track with several new agreements such as the release of five NDFP consultants and a prospective bilateral ceasefire.

Here is the formal announcement made by Ambassador Elisabeth Slattum of the Royal Norwegian Government of the results of the backchannel negotiations in The Netherlands in the past two days.

Read more

NDFP-GRP close 2nd round of talks with commitment to release political prisoners

OSLO, Norway–The Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) promised to deliver on its commitment to release political prisoners after four days of intense negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) which ended today. Read more

Last batch of NDFP consultants arrive in time for signing of joint statement

Six more NDFP consultants arrived in Oslo, Norway on the fourth day of the ongoing formal peace talks between the group and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines.

They are Porferio Tuna, Ernesto Lorenzo, Tirso “Ka Bart” Alcantara, Ruben Saluta, Pedro Codaste and Jaime Soledad, who were all released recently by the Duterte administration to enable their participation in the formal peace talks. Read more

BREAKING NEWS: More NDFP consultants walk free

National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) consultants Alan Jazmines, Tirso “Ka Bart” Alcantara, Renante Gamara and Ernesto Lorenzo were released on bail this afternoon at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.

Simultaneously, Alfredo Mapano, another NDFP consultant, was released on bail this afternoon from the Misamis Oriental provincial jail. Read more