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)