MANILA – Three days before the scheduled peace talks between communists and the Philippine government begin, two supposed top leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) were released from police custody Friday noon.
Wilma and Benito Tiamzon, who are suspected to belong to the top echelons of the group, were granted bail earlier this week, but had to wait for their release papers to be processed before being allowed to join consultants of the National Democratic Front (NDF) in negotiations with government officials in Oslo, Norway from August 22 to 27.
Each Tiamzon carried a P10-million bounty before they were arrested in April 2014. They were charged with murder, multiple murder and frustrated murder over the death or torture of over 100 alleged military spies and civilians from 1985 to 1992.
Upon exiting Camp Crame, where they were detained since their arrest in 2014, the couple thanked those who helped bring about their release and made it possible to resume peace negotiations, including President Rodrigo Duterte.
"Kami ay nagpapasalamat kay Presidente Rodrigo Duterte, sa pagbubukas muli ng usapang pangkapayapaan para pagusapan ang mga malalimang reporma sa lipunan, sa ekonomiya, [at] sa politika," Benito Tiamzon said, adding that they believe peace, and the reforms they are asking for, are possible to be attained.
("We would like to thank President Rodrigo Duterte for reopening peace negotiations to address possible reforms to society, the economy, and politics.")
Video by Jorge Carino, ABS-CBN News
Wilma Tiamzon meanwhile said that they are grateful to the president, because as political prisoners they had no hope of being speedily freed.
"[Umaasa kami na] maibabalik sa tamang landas ang usapang pangkapayapaan, [at mapaalala] sa ating lipunan at mamamayan kung bakit may digmaan [sa pagitan ng mga komunista at pamahalaan]," she said.
("We are hoping that the negotiations will bring the peace process back on the right track, and remind society and Filipinos why there is a conflict between communists and the government.")
The couple has been instructed by the Cebu Regional Trial Court to report to the Philippine Embassy in Oslo during the talks, and to return to the Philippines directly afterwards.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier assured the NDF that its detained consultants, a total of 22 including the Tiamzons, will be able to fly to Norway to participate in the formal talks with the Philippine government.
In a statement released Thursday, the NDF said it considers the release of all its consultants an "act of goodwill" by Duterte.
"In appreciation, the CPP reiterates its full support for the NDFP-GRP peace negotiations as a venue to discuss the roots of the armed conflict and forge agreements to resolve the urgent as well as strategic problems of the people in the socio-economic, political and cultural fields," the NDF said.
The CPP also extended its support to the NDF panel, chaired by Luis Jalandoni and advised by CPP founding chairman and NDF senior political consultant Prof. Jose Ma. Sison.
The CPP, to which the movement's militant arm New People's Army (NPA) answers, is set to issue a unilateral ceasefire in the coming days to show support for the government's overtures of peace.
"The CPP hopes that mutual efforts by the NDFP and the GRP under Duterte will accelerate peace talks with unprecedented speed and surpass the amount of issues that will be covered and resolved," it said.