A leftist leader on Wednesday said President Duterte will free political prisoners after he and Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria Sison sign a ceasefire deal early next year.
Senior adviser Luis Jalandoni of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) said both parties have agreed in a conversation on Monday to work on the ceasefire deal before, during, or after the formal peace talks in Rome in January.
"The signing of the bilateral ceasefire by the two negotiating panels and the approval of bilateral ceasefire by President Duterte and Comrade Joma Sison, with the authority of the Communist Party, will follow and then the release of political prisoners will take place within 48 hours after," he said.
Jalandoni said the release of sick and aging political prisoners "could be done during the Christmas holidays" while other political prisoners could be freed in January.
He said Duterte did not commit a specific number of prisoners to be released in a specific timeframe, but "the idea was that the general amnesty and release of all political prisoners would be carried out."
"What would be done before would be subject to his discretion and it would improve the atmosphere, but the release of all political prisoners with amnesty would be the one that both sides would agree and both President Duterte and Comrade Joma Sison would sign and approve," he said.
He recalled then-President-elect Duterte and then-negotiating panel vice-chair and now chair Fidel Agcaoili had agreed in May 15 that the President "would declare a general amnesty for all political prisoners."
An ABS-CBN source earlier said Duterte phoned a top communist leader promising to free 60 political prisoners by the end of the year.
Half of the them will be released before Christmas, Duterte told Sison, founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines, the source said.
The National Democratic Front of the Philippines is seeking freedom for some 400 political prisoners, 130 of whom are said to be sick and aging.
For his part, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella confirmed that Duterte and Sison had a conversation earlier this week but said the two did not discuss anything political.
"It was a warm conversation between old friends. There were no details, no political issues that were covered. However, both agreed that the peace process must move forward," he said.
Jalandoni noted it was Duterte who initiated the conversation with Sison, following a suggestion from Agcaoili that the two leaders converse regularly.
"He took the initiative and he had agreed to a regular conversation between him and Comrade Joma Sison," he said.