Gov't to free 11 communists; talks moved to August

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 19 2016 06:16 PM

CPP-NDF leaders Jose Maria Sison and Luis Jalandoni meet with Duterte peace negotiators led by Jesus Dureza in Norway. Thirdy Ado, ABS-CBN News

MANILA – Eleven leaders of the Philippine communist movement will be freed ahead of the resumption next month of peace talks with the Philippine government under President Rodrigo Duterte.

Presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza said the resumption of talks between the government and the Communist Party of the Philippines - New People’s Army - National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) in Oslo, Norway will take place from August 20 to 27.

"This is a milestone because as you know, the peace talks broke down four years ago," Dureza told reporters.

The Philippine government will be represented by Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III.

Among the topics that will be discussed during the first formal talks will be the affirmation of the previous agreements, reconstitution of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), amnesty proclamation, and mode of interim ceasefire.

The JASIG is a mechanism which grants CPP-NPA-NDF leaders immunity and protection while peace negotiations are ongoing.

Dureza said 11 detained leftist leaders will be released so they can participate in the talks. He, however, said it might be premature at this point to name those who will be released.

"The president directed yesterday for the different agencies of government to start working on the possible temporary release of members of the CPP-NPA-NDF who will participate in the peace negotiations," Dureza said.

"The legal procedures will have to be followed accordingly."

Dureza added, the political detainees' release will only be "temporary" as only the courts hearing their charges have the power to determine their legal status. The granting of an amnesty, nonetheless, is also a possibility, he said.

The leftist movement's demand for the release of political detainees was one of the reasons for the breakdown of the group's talks with the administration of then-President Benigno Aquino III.

The Aquino administration argued there was no way of verifying who was qualified for release under JASIG, as the diskette containing their names got corrupted over time.

The leftist leaders were detained for various criminal charges, but the NDF says the charges were trumped up.

The nearly half-century long Maoist campaign of the NPA, one of the world's longest running insurgencies, has claimed over 30,000 lives, according to military estimates.

Dureza said Tuesday that Duterte has already approved the government's peace road map, which also tackles the Bangsamoro struggle as well as the the implementation of closure agreements with other rebel groups in the country.