MANILA – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is full of hope for the peace negotiations in Norway between the National Democratic Front (NDF) and the Philippine government.
"We hope they are sincere. We hope that their release will eventually lead to peace in our country. We hope they will take advantage of the peace offer of our President," the AFP said in a statement on the release of Wilma and Benito Tiamzon on bail.
The AFP is ready to face the next challenge and move forward, it said, "whatever the outcome."
The couple, alleged to be among the Communist Party of the Philippines' (CPP) highest-ranked members, will fly to Oslo, Norway this weekend along with other communist consultants for talks between the government and the NDF.
READ: Tiamzons released, to fly to Norway for talks
They have 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 afterwards.
The couple has promised to come back to the country after the talks.
READ: PH communist leaders vow to return home from Norway peace talks
In a statement, the NDF said it considers the release of all its consultants an "act of goodwill" by President Rodrigo Duterte.
The CPP, meanwhile, said it will issue a unilateral ceasefire in the coming days to show support for the government’s efforts to attain peace.
According to Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza, the administration is eager to start the negotiations.
"With their release, in addition to more than a dozen of NDF consultants earlier granted bail and already freed, one more stumbling block [to peace] is removed," Dureza said.
The CPP's armed wing, the NPA, has been engaged in bloody battles with government forces all over the country since the 1970s. Peace negotiations have been ongoing for close to 30 years.
The Tiamzons' capture was a point of pride for the military and police, with intelligence operatives tailing them for months before they were apprehended in Cebu in 2014.
In a press conference in 2014, then-AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista said Benito Tiamzon directed the communists' armed struggle in the country, and was the CPP-NPA's "true center of gravity."
Wilma Tiamzon, he said, supported her husband as the CPP-NPA's finance officer. - With a report from Chiara Zambrano, ABS-CBN News