MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday said he won’t agree yet to the release of 130 political prisoners affiliated with the with leftist movement.
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) has been demanding the release of of 432 political prisoners through an amnesty proclamation.
Duterte, however, said he cannot yet accede to the communists’ demand.
“Now they are asking for release of 130 political prisoners. Ang sabi ko I cannot. I cannot give you that. I’m sorry but I have already conceded so much on the side of the government,” Duterte said at the traditional lighting of a Christmas tree at the Malacañang grounds.
Duterte said he might agree to the release of the political prisoners if the negotiators from both the government and communist movement will show him a signed document. He, however, did not specify what kind of document he was referring to.
He also agreed that elderly prisoners must be released, if possible, in time for Christmas.
“If they are ready to be released and will be accepted by their families, i-release ko na before Christmas time. There’s really no point in detaining a person na matanda na tapos may sakit,” he said.
The CPP has warned the government that failure to release political prisoners might lead to a collapse of the unilateral ceasefire imposed by both parties and close the door for a bilateral ceasefire.
The CPP rejected the government’s plan to release 50 political prisoners by the end of December, saying the release of 432 prisoners is the only acceptable path.
“The planned release of a mere 40-50 political prisoners is an unacceptable token,” the CPP said in a statement.
“Worse, they are being made to go through a tedious legal process which add to their agonizing legal ordeal after being made to face trumped up criminal charges, typically, possession of explosives which are unbailable (sic).”
The intensifying calls by various militant groups were made in the wake of the death of peasant leader Bernabe Ocasla who was being considered for release on humanitarian grounds.
Militant leaders and peace consultants from the National Democratic Front of the Philippines have also launched a hunger strike to protest the delay in release of political prisoners.
Presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza said the government is doing its best to expedite the release of political prisoners. He explained that necessary legal processes take awhile.
“We understand their angst and impatience but we are all forgetting that these efforts were never possible nor even imaginable in the previous times. It is only in the Duterte administration that these releases are all happening,” Dureza said.