Fate of political prisoners should not be hostage to peace pact — NDF

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/04 Oct) — The successful conclusion of the peace talks should not be made a precondition for the release of all political prisoners, National Democratic Front (NDF) chief peace negotiator Luis Jalandoni said in a statement Tuesday.

The NDF was reacting to a statement by government (GRP) peace panel chair Silvestre Bello III that “a draft amnesty proclamation that enables the release of the political detainees is ready for submission during the second round of peace talks”.

But Bello qualified that “a general amnesty could be declared by President Duterte, with the concurrence of Congress, once the peace talks are successfully concluded.”

Jalandoni said the GRP panel’s proposal “would make the more than 400 detained political prisoners and the recently released NDF consultants as virtual hostages to the peace talks.”

He said their immediate release is a matter of compliance with the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law and the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees.

He added that “there seems to be a disconnect between President Duterte, who commits to the expeditious release of all political prisoners through an amnesty proclamation, the GRP Peace Panel, and the legal courts in the Philippines.”

He urged the GRP panel not to use the political prisoners and the recently released NDF consultants as “trump cards” in the peace negotiations.

In the August 26, 2016 Joint Statement, the Parties agreed that “the GRP Panel will immediately recommend to President Rodrigo Roa Duterte the issuance of an Amnesty Proclamation, subject to concurrence of Congress, for the release of prisoners who are listed by the NDFP and who have been arrested, imprisoned, charged, and/or convicted for alleged acts or omissions within the ambit of the Revised Penal Code or special laws in connection with alleged crimes in pursuit of one’s political beliefs.”

“The Parties will discuss the content and language of the Amnesty Proclamation,” the Joint Statement stated.

The panels will hold the second round of peace negotiations in Oslo, Norway from October 6-10 to tackle social and economic reforms.

Last month, the NDF exchanged with the GRP a proposed “framework and outline” for the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms, the second substantive agenda of the peace negotiations according to the framework agreement set by The Hague Joint Declaration of 1992.

The NDF proposal includes agrarian reform, national industrialization, economic sovereignty, and environmental protection. (MindaNews)