Duterte to grant amnesty to political prisoners: NDF

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 18 2016 12:34 PM | Updated as of May 18 2016 01:54 PM

MANILA - The National Democratic Front of the Philippines confirmed Wednesday that presumptive President Rodrigo Duterte is set to grant amnesty to all political prisoners in a bid to end a four-decade communist insurgency.

In an interview with radio dzMM, NDFP chairperson Luis Jalandoni welcomed Duterte's gesture which is aimed at reviving stalled peace talks with communist rebels.

"Natutuwa kami na sinabi ni President-elect Duterte na magkakaroon ng general amnesty declaration 'pag siya ay presidente na para mai-release itong mga political prisoner," Jalandoni said.

Jalandoni said there are currently 543 political prisoners, 88 of whom are sick and elderly. Out of the total, 18 are also NDF peace consultants while three were sentenced with life imprisonment.

The NDFP chairperson said peace negotiations with the Aquino administration failed in 2011 when the government refused to free political prisoners.

He said government peace negotiators Teresita Deles and Alex Padilla did not honor the the 1992 Hague Joint Declaration that pardons political prisoners. He also accused the Aquino administration of violating the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) and Hernandez Political Doctrine, which prohibit the filing of criminal charges against political prisoners.

Jalandoni praised Duterte for recognizing the rights and political cause of imprisoned insurgents.

"Tama si President-elect Duterte: iba iyung sa NDF, [Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army]; iba rin iyung sa [Moro National Liberation Front], [Moro Islamic Liberation Front] kasi mayroon silang cause na ipinaglalaban. Hindi sila mga magnanakaw, hindi sila mga kriminal. Iyung pagkilala niya, napakalaki," Jalandoni said.

"Sa tingin namin, malaking bagay ito para makamit ang peace and national unity po," he added.

Jalandoni added that unlike Duterte, previous administrations lacked the political will to implement the peace agreements signed by former President Fidel Ramos.

He is confident that with hard work on both sides, government and communist rebels can hammer out a final peace agreement that will end hostilities which have already killed 40,000 people.

The military and police, which have long been opposed to the communists, have yet to comment on any such amnesty.

CABINET POSTS

Incoming president Rodrigo Duterte walks with communist New People's Army rebels during the release of five policemen held by the rebels for a week, in Davao City, on April 25, 2016. Keith Bacongco, Reuters

Aside from granting political asylum to communist insurgents, Duterte earlier offered to appoint communist leaders to his Cabinet.

Duterte said Monday that he offered to the CPP the Cabinet posts of agrarian reform, labor, social welfare and environment and natural resources.

In the interview, Jalandoni welcomed Duterte's gesture but clarified that NDF and CPP officials would not accept the offer themselves, but would instead only nominate members of the Legal Democratic Movement.

The NDF and the CPP will have to prioritize laying the groundwork for peace talks, Jalandoni said.

He added that there will be other opportunities for them to serve in government once a final peace agreement is inked.

"Kasi kami ay andyan pa sa paghahanda ng proseso ng peace negotiation. Pag natapos na iyan at nagkaroon ng kasunduan at final peace agreement, maraming opening at posibilidad for that," he said.

He also said they have received reports that Duterte is mulling an order to halt all military operations against Leftist rebels while the final peace agreement is being ironed out.

READ: Duterte camp preparing peace roadmap with Reds

Jalandoni assured that guerrilla fighters will reciprocate any ceasefire that the incoming President may impose.

He also mentioned that they have a good working history with incoming Justice secretary Silvestre "Bebot" Bello III, who is poised to represent the next administration in peace talks.

Bello, he said, hammered out over 10 peace agreements with the NDFP since 1994.

"Magaling, maganda ang experience namin sa kanya," Jalandoni said.