Release of political prisoners expected in matter of weeks

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 03 2016 04:40 PM

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte has agreed to release as many as 130 political prisoners after meeting with National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) officials in Davao Friday night, a source with knowledge of the meeting said Saturday.

Duterte spoke with Fidel Agcaoili, the NDFP peace panel chair; panel member Benito Tiamzon; panel consultant Wilma Tiamzon;
and Carlos Isagani Zarate, vice chairman of the special committee on peace, reconciliation and unity at the House of Representatives, an official who was at the meeting but refused to be identified told ABS-CBN News.

"They discussed and clarified issues on how the peace talks can move forward (such as the) continuing process for the release of political prisoners as soon as possible, especially for the elderly and the sick," the source said.

The political prisoners are expected to be released "before the next round of talks in January," the source added.

NDFP members, along with the family and supporters of more than 400 political detainees, were set to take part in a hunger strike demanding the release of the prisoners, the group said earlier.

Despite the expected hunger strike, the NDFP did not make the release of political prisoners a precondition for the joint ceasefire proposed by the government, NDFP peace consultant Rey Casambre said in a separate interview.

As early as the 1980s, Duterte was already helping the Left with the release prisoners of war, NDFP senior adviser Luis Jalandoni earlier said in an interview on ANC.

The Marcos burial, the war on drugs and threats of terrorism by extremist groups in Mindanao were also tackled in the "generally cordial meeting" between Duterte and the Reds, the source said.

"It is the long history of cooperation that is also the basis of this kind of thinking and ideas of President Duterte, to cooperate with the leadership of the revolutionary movement to attain national unity, and a just and lasting peace," Jalandoni said.