By: Elena Grace Flores
Silvestre Bello III, incoming Labor Secretary and peace panel chair in the upcoming peace negotiations, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer; “Duterte wished to grant freedom to several political prisoners upon his assumption to power.” Incoming President Rodrigo Duterte will assume office on June 30 and he intended to free several political prisoners prior to a general amnesty signing could take place.
Political prisoners who are reportedly covered by JASIG or Joint Agreement on Security and Immunity Guarantees and those elderly and sick prisoners on humanitarian basis will be prioritized on the planned release. It was known that 18 NDF consultants were among 543 political prisoners in detention nationwide. Human rights group Karapatan also said that 88 were sick while 48 others were already too old.
JASIG and NDF peace panels were signed by the government in 1995 for the safety of individuals from both sides and to ensure participation in the peace process. JASIG was however violated and arrests of NDF consultants also took place – thus the reason why talks collapsed during Aquino’s term.
According to Inquirer; “Duterte’s peace negotiators and the NDF also agreed to discuss five agenda items in the formal talks, including the affirmation of previously signed agreements, like the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). The second item discussed was the “accelerated process for negotiations, including the timeline for the completion of the remaining substantive agenda for the talks: socio-economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms, and end of hostilities and disposition of forces.” The third agenda was the reconstitution of the JASIG list while the fourth agenda was the amnesty proclamation for the release of all political prisoners, subject to concurrence of Congress. The fifth agenda evolved around the mode of the interim ceasefire, which would include mechanisms and coverage of the agreement.”