HUMAN rights group Karapatan has criticized the Duterte administration for insisting on not freeing the political prisoners which he promised to the communist rebels even before the peace negotiations began last year.

“[Duterte’s] statement on the non-release of political prisoners confirms the active role of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in sabotaging all efforts to derail the peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace panels,” said Karapatan secretary-general Cristina Palabay, in a statement Friday.

Palabay said the AFP is blocking the release of the unjustly detained political detainees and it has never ceased to deploy its forces to kill, threaten, and harass civilian communities, even during the government-sanctioned unilateral ceasefire.

Political prisoners, Palabay added, were illegally arrested and detained for their beliefs and work in defense of human and people’s rights.

“Their unconditional release is a most legitimate demand of their families, human rights and church workers, lawyers, civil libertarians, international rights activists and poor communities where political prisoners serve.”

The plight of the political detainees, Palabay added, is a matter of human rights obligation and an issue of justice.

“What is coercive is the state security forces’ gross violation of rights to due process, criminalization of political beliefs and torture of those who are working for the defense of the people’s rights,” she said.

Palabay added: “The release of political prisoners is also an act of compassion, especially for nursing mothers, sick, elderly and detained for ten to thirty years. They have been deprived of productive time with their families and communities. They are actually the most ardent supporters for a just and lasting peace.”

Karapatan has reiterated its call for the release of the more than 400 political prisoners, without conditions, and for the continuation of the peace talks between the government and the NDFP for the substantive agenda of social, economic and political reforms.