Reds press prisoners' release before bilateral ceasefire

Christian V. Esguerra, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 07 2016 02:11 PM

MANILA - Communist rebels will agree to a bilateral ceasefire if President Rodrigo Duterte could assure them that he would release all political prisoners within 48 hours, a senior adviser to the rebels said Wednesday.

The document can be signed before or during the crucial third round of the peace talks in Rome from Jan. 18 to 25, said Luis Jalandoni, former chief negotiator for the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

Jalandoni said the proposal came from Jose Maria Sison, founding chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines, after Duterte on Monday held back on releasing some 130 political detainees.

"He is willing to work very quickly, very steadfastly for the signing of a bilateral ceasefire document... this month," Jalandoni told ABS-CBN News.

"(But) there should be a promise or commitment from President Duterte that within 48 hours, he will amnesty and release all 434 political prisoners."

Duterte committed to free political detainees during that period, chief government negotiator Silvestre Bello III said Tuesday.

But Bello said the President first wanted to see a signed bilateral ceasefire agreement.

Duterte on Monday announced that he was open to releasing sick and elderly political prisoners before Christmas.

But he refused to free a total of 130 detainees in the NDFP's priority list, saying "I have already conceded so much on the side of the government."

Jalandoni said the number in fact referred to ailing and aging political detainees.

He said both sides could reconcile their respective drafts of a joint ceasefire mechanism within four days of "intensive discussions."

Duterte could be shown a copy of the final draft for his signature before formal talks resume, he said.

A bilateral ceasefire agreement will ensure that government troops and communist rebels will be governed by the same rules on the ground, Rey Casambre, an NDFP consultant, told Mornings@ANC.

Rebels have recorded alleged ceasefire violations by the military in at least 470 villages, Jalandoni said.