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Wednesday, September 29, 2021

SC allows 3 political prisoners to attend Norway peace talks

THE Supreme Court (SC) has granted provisional liberty to three political prisoners who will participate in the peace negotiations in Oslo, Norway in August.

The Court en banc, in its August 2 session, affirmed the decision of Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 32 Judge Thelma Bunyi-Medina that gave former Bayan Muna Partylist representative Saturnino Ocampo, Randall Echanis, and Vicente Ladlad provisional liberty with a corresponding cash bond.

The Court in its decision, however, stressed that the provisional liberty given to Ocampo, Ladlad, and Echanis must only be for their attendance to the peace negotiations in Norway.

"Their provisional liberty shall only be for the purpose of their attendance and participation in the formal peace negotiations in Oslo, Norway commencing in August 2016 up to six months thereafter," the Court said.

It also gave ​additional conditions for the temporary liberty of the three political prisoners. The High Court stressed that the three shall:

-Continue to be secured by the cash bond in the amount of P100,000
-Provide the Manila RTC and all parties with complete contact information, both in the Philippines and in Norway
-Return to the Philippines after the formal peace negotiations in Oslo, Norway
-Report to the Embassy of the Republic of the Philippines in Norway whenever required.

The Court said that once the participation of the said political prisoners ceases or the peace negotiations are terminated, their respective bonds shall be automatically canceled.

Furthermore, the tribunal also declared the forfeiture of the that the cash bond posted by Rafael Baylosis in the amount of P100,000 dated 1 February 2012.

The Court averred that his cash bond can only be reinstated "only upon a justifiable cause as may be determined by the Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branch 32, after his arrest or surrender."

The Court then ruled that any request for his provisional liberty shall only be placed under consideration after the said condition has been satisfied.

'Not SC's jurisdiction'

Meanwhile, the SC denied the petition of the Office of the Solicitor General seeking the temporary and conditional release of the members of the National Democratic Front (NDF) Panel:

Tirso Alcantara
Alex Birondo
Winona Birondo
Maria Concepcion Bocala
Reynante Gamara
Alan Jazmines
Ma. Loida Magpatoc
Adelberto Silva
Benito Tiamzon
Wilma Tiamzon

The SC said the appropriate motions and pleadings regarding the 10 NDF members should be filed in the lower courts and not with the SC.

"The substantive issue of jurisdiction belongs not to this Court but in the Regional Trial Courts hearing the various cases which are now in different stages. To grant temporary and conditional liberty to these personalities may have the inadvertent but irremediable effect of pre-empting the trial courts’ own determinations in the exercise of their original jurisdiction to try the cases before them," the decision states,

The peace negotiations between the government and CPP/NPA/NDF will be held on the third week of August in Oslo, Norway.

The NDF panel will be headed by Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Ma. Sison, NDF Spokesman Fidel Agcaoili, and its negotiating panel chairman Luis Jalandoni.

NDF, the political arm of the CPP is set to represent the rebels in peace negotiations to end the 47-year-old uprising waged by the New People’s Army.

NDF welcomes SC's decision

Despite SC's denial to let some of their members participate, the NDF Panel welcomed the decision that granted provisional liberty to its two leaders.

In a statement released by Atty. Edre Olalia, NDF Panel's Legal Consultant, the group said they welcome the Court's ruling amid the additional restrictions given to Echanis and Ladlad.

The NDF is optimistic that the lower courts would also grant the release of the other political prisoners mentioned above.

"We remain optimistic that the [government] and all its agencies and concerned officials will do everything to comply in good faith with its commitments to release the detained [NDF] peace consultants so that they can timely participate in the formal peace negotiations starting August 20 in Oslo," Olalia said. (Sunnex)
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