Bello confident NDF consultants will be released to attend Oslo talks

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/05 August) — Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III expressed confidence the detained consultants of the National Democratic Front will be released to enable them to attend the formal resumption of peace talks in Oslo, Norway on August 20.

This after the Supreme Court ruled on Friday that the regional trial courts handling their cases have the jurisdiction to decide whether to allow their temporary release.

In a press release issued Friday by the Office of Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, Bello, chief government peace panenegotiator with the NDF urged the government prosecutors “to file and respond to motions and manifestations for the speedy releases” of the consultants.

He also welcomed the SC decision “as it set into motion the urgency of the granting of the provisional release of the NDF consultants.”

Bello also clarified reports that the high court dismissed the “petition for intervention to grant bail for communist rebels identified as NDF consultants” filed on July 22 by Solicitor General Jose Calida.

“The Supreme Court did not dismiss the petition to grant bail or release the NDF consultants. It merely denied the motion for intervention of the Solicitor General on the grounds of jurisdiction and technicality,” he said.

Citing the SC’s ruling, he said the high court “underscored the immediacy of the issue at hand and urged the Regional Trial Courts, which have jurisdictions over their cases, to act with dispatch petitions that would come their way with regards to the detained NDF consultants so as the peace process could be expedited.”

The press release also cited Duterte’s instruction to the government’s peace panel to fast-track the release of consultants who will act either as panel members or members of reciprocal working committees that will be formed during the peace negotiation in Oslo, being hosted by the Royal Government of Norway as a third party facilitator.

In a statement, former Davao City Councilor Librado-Trinidad, a member of the government’s peace panel also hit a report on the SC decision by the Philippine Daily Inquirer for “bordering on the malicious”.

“The right of the people to information is beyond question. As such, the State shall respect the right of the media to report and reveal information without fear from subsequent punishment or prior restraint. But that right carries with it the obligation to provide the correct information especially when an information is not even susceptible to multiple interpretations,” she said.

She added, “Such is the case of the recently released resolution of the Supreme Court decision on the manifestation filed by the Office of the Solicitor General on the release of NDF consultants for the incoming peace negotiations. To state in its title and even first paragraph that the Supreme Court junked the motion for the release of the NDF consultants, Inquirer is not only inaccurate but bordering on the malicious.”

She said that during his first State of Nation Address President Rodrigo R. Duterte and even in his other pronouncements made it clear the “only way to go now is to talk, and a careless interpretation of the SC ruling would not be at all helpful.”

The GPH and NDF peace panels agreed to resume peace talks after negotiations were stalled in 2012 when “both panels cannot agree on several issues among them the release of detained communist leaders and interpretation of the joint agreement of security and immunity guarantees and the The Hague Agreement.”

Bello said the government’s decision to support the release of the NDF consultants is consistent with Dutertes promises to free the political prisoners in the country and is not a precondition for the peace negotiations.

“The commitment of the president was made during the campaign period when he promised to reopen talks with the National Democratic Front and release detained communists,” he added.

He vowed they will not object to any petition for bail of the consultants.

“We should understand that these detained leaders have been charged with common crimes and we have legal proceedings to observe before they can be released,” he said. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)