QUEZON CITY - The National Democratic Front (NDF) will still pursue peace talks with the government next year in Rome even if not all political prisoners have been released.
In an interview, NDF consultant Satur Ocampo said the issue of political prisoners, who have not been released by President Rodrigo Duterte as promised, will not halt the negotiations.
Ocampo explained that the issue of political prisoners will be part of the discussion between two panels under the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER).
But, he said, the public should not expect the CASER signed by two parties when they meet in Rome on January 18 to 25.
Most likely, according to Ocampo, the meeting will focus on the agreements of the two parties on dates for the conduct of formal round of peace negotiations.
Ocampo said, a bilateral ceasefire may be signed between two parties during the peace talks in Rome.
He explained that as of now, the New People's Army (NPA) and government have their own respective ceasefires.
"Sa ngayon kasi may sarling guidelines ang AFP, may sariling guidelines ang NPA. So, kapag sasabihin ng NPA na nagba-violate kayo, hindi amin yang guidelines yan. Pero yung guidelines nila, sa pagsuma, ay talagang naka-design na samanatalahin nila yung pagkakataon na naka-ceasefire ang NPA, para malaya silang makapasok," Ocampo told ABS-CBN News.
He said, if the two parties will agree, then both panels can set up a monitoring team to oversee the conduct of the ceasefire, making it easier to determine who between the NPA and the military is violating the ceasefire.
Ocampo said President Rodrigo Duterte himself gave the assurance that he will sign the document once the two panels agree on the ceasefire.
The bilateral ceasefire will eventually pave the way for the release of the political prisoners.
"Ang usapin na lang nyan kung mabubuo nila yung bilateral ceasefire na ang pangako ni President Duterte, kapag binigay sa kanya ang kasulatan, pirmado ng GRP [Gov't of the Republic of the Philippines] at NDFP panels, palalayain nya yung mga bilanggong pulitikal," Ocampo said.