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NDF pushes amnesty for political prisoners

OSLO, Norway – Peace negotiations between the Philippine government and National Democratic Front encountered rough waters Friday, as both parties tried to vigorously advance their conflicting stands on the release of political prisoners, a permanent general ceasefire, and the adoption of social and economic reforms.

“No amnesty (for the political prisoners), no ceasefire,” declared NDF Senior Political Adviser Jose Maria Sison as he insisted on a more firm commitment from the government that the more than 400 detainees will be released with the grant of amnesty.

Sison’s remarks came after the NDF was not satisfied with the status report given by the GRP on the amnesty proclamation and releases of the political prisoners.

Newly installed NDF Peace Panel Chairman Fidel Agcaoili also reminded the GRP panel that in his May 16, 2016 meeting with then Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, the soon-to-be President had stated that “granting amnesty would be the most effective method in releasing (detained NDF consultants), the sick, elderly, women, and long-term detainees for humanitarian reasons, and all the political prisoners.”

“I am mentioning this in order to clarify that the profferred amnesty proclamation pertains to the political prisoners, and not to a general amnesty that is mutually extended to the forces of both parties in the final settlement of an armed conflict,” said Agcaoili, who took over from 81-year-old Luis Jalandoni, whose retirement was announced before this second round of talks started Thursday.

Sison pointed out that they “were not asking more than what they heard.”

The founding chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines also underscored that the release of the political prisoners was “a significant concession” for the NDF to agree to a ceasefire. “Kaliwaan. This should be give and take,” Sison maintained.

Otherwise, he proposed that while the two camps continue to talk peace, “we can go on with the fighting.”

GRP Peace Panel Chairman Silvestre Bello III said the government position was to schedule all the releases after the peace deal with the NDF is signed.

“We all want these prisoners released. They have to trust us on that,” said Bello. (Rocky Nazareno)