Ceasefire, amnesty for 400 political prisoners up in Oslo talks

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/03 Oct) – Over 400 political prisoners have been listed for possible coverage of an amnesty proclamation in relation to the ongoing peace negotiations between the Philippine government (GRP) and the National Democratic Front, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process said Monday.

In a press release, OPAPP quoted Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, who heads the GRP peace panel, as saying the panels will tackle the draft amnesty proclamation when they resume talks in Oslo, Norway on Oct. 6.

“The list has been narrowed down to just over 400 from a high of more than 500.  As per agreement during the formal resumption of the peace talks in August, the proclamation will only cover NDF members currently detained,” Bello said.

He said the president can declare a general amnesty for political prisoners with the concurrence of Congress.

The panels are also expected to exchange drafts on the proposed bilateral ceasefire on Oct. 6.

OPAPP Secretary Jesus Dureza said that they hope to come up with a ceasefire agreement that will include joint monitoring body with a third party overseer.

“The previous ceasefires were unilateral.  We need to craft mechanisms to monitor violations and resolve conflicts and issues arising from them,” Dureza explained.

He said both panels have proposed drafts on Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER), considered the “heart and soul” of the peace negotiations.

“These can only be done if we are able to agree on the more substantial issues of social and economic reforms.  These are the more contentious issues and we expect humps and bumps during the peace negotiations,” he said.

The press release added that the “end of hostilities and disposition of forces, the other substantive agenda of the peace talks, hinge on the success of CASER along with political and constitutional reforms.”

Dureza said he is optimistic both panels can put the the peace process through with the “inspiration provided by President Rodrigo Duterte.”

“He may not be capable of elegant language, as you have noticed, but he has pure spirit and heart in wanting to have peace in the land,” he said.

He said the GRP is confident that a peace deal will be signed with the NDF by August 2017, after 30 years and 40 rounds of formal and informal talks. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)