MANILA – The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) on Friday warned the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte that it may resume its armed resistance if the government fails to release over 400 political prisoners.
The CPP said it is waiting for the Duterte government to make good on its promise to release an amnesty proclamation for 432 political prisoners, as stated in the August 26 Oslo joint statement between the government and the CPP's arm, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.
The CPP said a failure to comply may result in the collapse of the unilateral ceasefire and close the door for a bilateral ceasefire.
“The revolutionary forces are extending their patience and giving the Duterte regime up to the month of January to comply with its obligation to release all political prisoners,” said the CPP.
“The Duterte regime’s compliance will be taken as an indication of its ability to stand by its word. If it fails, the Duterte regime will not only forego the possibility of forging a bilateral ceasefire agreement, but will risk cutting short as well the mutual interim ceasefire declarations with the NDFP, especially amid the continuing military deployments and operations in the countryside.”
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.
“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.”
The intensifying calls by various militant groups were made in the wake of the death of a peasant leader who was being considered for release on humanitarian grounds.
“The death last Monday of peasant activist Bernabe Ocasla from Eastern Visayas rouses the people’s indignation against the Duterte regime for its failure to release the elderly and sickly political prisoners,” the CPP said.
“Ocasla was detained for almost nine years without ever being convicted.”
Ocasla, 66, died at the Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center afer suffering from cardiac arrest. He was 66.
As this developed, government chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III announced Friday that Duterte has pardoned four communist rebels convicted of murder and kidnapping.
Bello, concurrently the labor secretary, said Martin Villanueva, Bonifacio Suyon, Dindo Absalon and Rico Bodina have been granted pardon by the president.
“We are giving them the justice they deserve regardless of their guilt or innocence. They deserve to be freed,” Bello said in a statement.
Bello said the four convicts, who have been in jail for 18 to 26 years, may be released Friday or Monday.
Bello said the government is now working for the release of about 200 detained rebels. He said the recommendation to have the prisoners released have already been submitted for review.
“But we have recommended the immediate release of 21 sickly detainees, three other elderly suspected rebels and one woman detainee,” he said.
Bello asked for more patience from leftist groups over the release of political detainees, noting that the current Presidential Committee on Bail, Recognizance and Pardon (PCBREP) guidelines only allow the release on bail, recognizance or pardon of prisoners who committed offenses on or before 1998.
The Duterte government is currently holding talks with the Philippines' communist movement in an effort to end one of Asia's longest-running Maoist insurgency.