MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday reiterated that he will not order the release of 130 political prisoners unless communist rebels agree to sign a bilateral ceasefire with the government.
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) has been demanding the release of political prisoners by Duterte through a general amnesty proclamation.
The president, however, said he would lose leverage in the peace talks if he would agree to the release of all the prisoners.
“You are asking, demanding to release of 120 (sic) political prisoners. I declined to do it because I’ve given so much too soon,” Duterte said in a speech in Bukidnon.
“Sabi ko sa kanila, ‘Produce to me a document which says you’ve agreed to an indefinite ceasefire. Huwag ka magbigay ng timeline because it would be a long and winding round sa negotiations.”
The CPP has threatened to end its unilateral ceasefire with the government if the president fails to release political prisoners and order military troops to withdraw from “guerrilla zones and areas under the control of the revolutionary government”.
“If he accomplishes this by January, Duterte can have the guarantee that the CPP will prolong its unilateral ceasefire declaration. It will further encourage the revolutionary forces to forge with it a bilateral ceasefire to boost accelerated negotiations for a just and lasting peace,” the CPP said in a statement last December 7.
The CPP has also accused the government of violating the unilateral ceasefire, citing the supposed continued deployment of troops to the countryside.
“The unilateral ceasefire declarations issued reciprocally by the GRP and the NDFP have persisted only because NPA units have chosen to carry out evasion maneuvers to avoid armed skirmishes with the AFP as well as combat troops of the Philippine National Police (PNP),” the CPP said.
“Against the spirit of the reciprocal ceasefire declarations, the AFP leadership itself ordered its troops to continue with Oplan Bayanihan counter-insurgency operations. When confronted by people, its operating troops even make such claims as ‘only the NPA has a ceasefire.’”