Human rights group calls for release of political prisoners
WITH the formal peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) about to resume this week, the human rights group KARAPATAN calls on the Aquino administration for the unconditional release of all political prisoners in the country.
“This would be a gesture of goodwill on the part of the government,” KARAPATAN spokesperson Jigs Clamor said.
Militant groups and peace advocates will march to Mendiola on Monday to support the resumption of talks between the government and the NDFP.
“If President Aquino could grant amnesty to mutinous soldiers, why couldn’t he grant the release of all political prisoners who fought injustices and oppression? In the interest of fairness and justice, they should be freed immediately and unconditionally,” Clamor said.
There are 344 political prisoners in various detention facilities, 290 of whom were arrested during Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s term, 27 before Arroyo and another 27 since the start of President Aquino’s presidency.
At least 14 political prisoners are in the initial list of NDFP peace consultants covered by the Joint Agreement on Security and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) and are known to have assisted in the peace process, namely: Randy Malayao of Cagayan Valley; Emerito Antalan of Nueva Ecija; Glicerio Pernia of Albay, Jaime Soledad of Leyte; Alfredo Mapano of Misamis Oriental; Angelina Ipong of Misamis Occidental; Maria Luisa Pucray of Agusan del Norte; Edwin Brigano of Davao City; Pedro Codaste of Cagayan de Oro; Eduardo Serrano, Eduardo Sarmiento, Jovencio Balweg detained at Camp Crame; and Tirso Alcantara held in maximum security at Fort Bonifacio.
Alcantara and Brigano were arrested during an official ceasefire declared by both parties over the holidays.
At least two prisoners are also being considered to be part of the NDFP peace process: Ramon Patriarca of Central Visayas and Leopoldo Caloza of Nueva Ecija.
The government peace panel chaired by Alexander Padilla agreed “to work for the expeditious release of detained NDFP consultants and other JASIG-protected persons” during the preliminary talks held last January 14-18 in Oslo, Norway. Ambassador Ture Lundh of the Royal Norwegian Government witnessed the talks.
Formal talks will resume on February 15-21 after six years since the Arroyo administration suspended negotiations with the NDFP.