PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has granted conditional pardon to 10 political prisoners, including National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) consultant Emeterio Antalan, in line with the peace talks between the government and the communist rebels.
Antalan and nine others were released from the New Bilibid Prison Thursday evening, July 6, human rights watchdog Karapatan said in a statement.
The other political prisoners are Apolonio Barado, Arnulfo Boates, Barigueo Calara, Sonny Marbella, Manolito Matricio, Joel Ramada, Generoso Rolida, Jose Navarro, and Ricardo Solangon.
A document released by Malacañang showed that the conditional presidential pardon was granted on June 28.
The prisoners were released about a month prior to the scheduled informal talks between the government and NDFP to pave the way for the resumption of the 5th round of formal peace negotiations in August.
“This is good news for their families, friends and supporters who have witnessed how their loved ones have been wrongly convicted for trumped-up charges and have endured unimaginable injustices throughout their years in jail," Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said in a statement.
She pointed out that Boates, who was arrested in February 1996, has already spent 21 years behind bars.
She said the release of the 10 prisoners is "actually bread crumbs, because at least 392 political detainees continue to languish in jail and many more are being illegally arrested under Duterte’s martial law."
Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao on May 23, shortly after fighting broke out between government troops and Maute terrorists in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur.
In reaction, the communists' armed wing New People's Army (NPA) declared it would intensify offensives, prompting Duterte to instruct the government panel not to participate in the 5th round of peace talks scheduled for May 27.
Both parties later separately said offensives would be suspended in Mindanao to allow the military to focus on the Marawi siege.
Government and NDFP negotiators are scheduled to meet in August for the resumption of the 5th round of talks. An informal meeting has been set for the third or last week of July.
On Thursday, the President said he would only permit the government peace panel to resume the dialogue if the communist rebels cease collecting revolutionary taxes. (SunStar Philippines)
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