NATIONAL Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) senior adviser Luis Jalandoni reiterated the need to release the political prisoners prior to the signing of the peace pact.
Jalandoni, along with wife Consuelo Ledesma, a member of the NDFP peace panel, served as guest speakers at the #JustPeace forum held at the Department of Education Social Hall in Bacolod City Saturday. It was attended by 250 people from various sectors, including those from Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, Karapatan, and Promotion of Church People’s Response.
Before speaking at the forum, Jalandoni and his wife visited two political prisoners at the Negros Occidental District Jail in Bago City.
The two are Victor Tapang and Renald Febreo, who are among the four political detainees in the province, according to Karapatan-Negros Island Region (NIR).
Tapang, an alleged leader of the New People’s Army, was arrested in 2014 while Febreo was apprehended last year, the police said.
To continue the ceasefire and for the peace talks to move forward, it is a must for the National Government to release the political prisoners, Jalandoni said at the forum.
“It's a key factor, and it would be also a big obstacle that causes peace negotiations to start going backwards. It will be an incentive for the peace talks to move forward. Without it, it will be difficult to continue with the ceasefire and it would be difficult to continue the discussions on socio- economic reforms,” Jalandoni said.
Moreover, the NDFP adviser noted that there’s an existing ceasefire between the government and the communist rebels although they received reports that violations against the truce are being committed by the military.
For years, Jalandoni, along with his wife, had been in self-exile with communist leader Jose Maria Sison and other members of the NDFP in The Netherlands. They came back to the country in 2010.
In October this year, Jalandoni resigned as NDFP chief negotiator, a post he held for 20 years. He was replaced by Fidel Agcaoili. He is still involved in the peace negotiations with the Philippine government as a senior adviser.
Last Friday, President Rodrigo Duterte signed an order granting presidential pardon to four communist rebels convicted for murder and kidnapping.
To date, there are about 434 NDF members who are detained throughout the country.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, government’s chief peace negotiator, said the release of four pardoned detainees is part of the continuing commitment of Duterte to free detained communist rebels.
More political prisoners are reportedly set to be released before the next round of talks in January at Rome, Italy.
For her part, Clarizza Dagatan, secretary-general of Karapatan-NIR, said they are supporting the peace negotiations between the government and NDF as it could benefit the Filipinos.
She reiterated the call of Jalandoni to release the more than 400 political prisoners nationwide.
In Negros Occidental, we have four political prisoners, she said.
Some NDFP members staged a hunger strike on Saturday to demand the release of political prisoners.
Meanwhile, Alejandro Deoma, secretary-general of Bayan Muna-Negros, said he is expecting that the draft on the comprehensive agreement on socio-economic reforms, political, and constitutional reforms will be approve in the next round of peace negotiations.
He added that a bilateral ceasefire is needed for the cessation of hostilities and disposition of forces.