DAVAO CITY - President Rodrigo Duterte and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) leaders, including Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, tackled the release of political prisoners during a meeting in Davao City on Friday night.
After the three and a half hour-meeting, Benito expressed hope that Duterte will keep his promise to give amnesty to more political detainees, especially the old and sickly, as well as the women.
"Syempre nagagalak kami sa apat na pinalaya pero obligado naman kaming bigyang daan yung nangangamba na baka hindi nila maranasan yung katuparan ng commitment ng gobyerno na palalayain at bibigyan ng amnesty ang lahat ng political prisoners", Benito said.
(Four prisoners were released recently. We are glad about this but we also worry about others who may not experience the fulfillment of the government's commitment to release and give amnesty to all political prisoners. )
"Sana matupad na yung matagal nang pangako na palalayain... May pangako si Presidente Duterte kagabi na lahat ng sickly at matatanda. Ang gusto sana namin pati mga kababaihan ay agad palayain," he added.
(We hope the long-overdue promise of freedom will be fulfilled. President Duterte promised t that all sickly and elderly detainees will be released immediately. We hope that female detainees will also be freed.)
Duterte has agreed to release as many as 130 of the 410 political prisoners in the country after meeting with NDFP leaders, an official who was at the meeting but refused to be identified told ABS-CBN News.
Also present at the meeting were spokesman Fidel Agcaoili and Carlos Isagani Zarate, vice chairman of the special committee on peace, reconciliation and unity at the House of Representatives.
VIOLATION OF CEASFIRE?
The meeting also tackled the Philippine Army's alleged violation of the government and NDFP's unilateral ceasefire, as well as the militarization of some southern areas.
Benito said the President promised to act on their concerns.
Wilma, meanwhile, was glad that Duterte talked with them.
"Magandang bagay na nakikipag-usap siya, magaan naman yung naging takbo ng pag-uusap. Sa ngayon, nasusunod yung schedules at agenda ng pag-uusap. Sa totoo lang bago pa lang naman pumapasok doon sa mga seryosong usapin," she said.
(It is good that he is talking with us, the talks are going well. For now, the schedule and agenda of the negotiation are being followed. Honestly, we have just started tackling the serious issues.
HERO'S BURIAL FOR MARCOS
The Tiamzon couple, however admitted that the burial of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani may have an effect on the peace negotiations between government and NDFP.
But they are also confident that the issue cannot impede the peace process.
"May epekto pero hindi naman makakapekto sa pagsusulong ng kapayaan", said Benito.
They added that government should recognize and give financial compensation to the victims of human rights abuses during Martial Law.
The burial has previously set the communists and Duterte on a collision course. The Reds were bitter rivals of Marcos who declared Martial Law to suppress communism while Duterte, a friend of the Marcoses, has insisted that the late strongman deserves a hero's burial for serving the country as a soldier.
The government and NDFP will hold the third round of the peace talks in Rome, Italy on the third week of January 2017.
Socio-economic reforms are expected to be central in the discussions.