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About 50 political prisoners – mostly women, elderly, sick, and long-term detainees – could be set free in the coming weeks as part of the peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front.
This was disclosed by NDF consultant Wilma Tiamzon and confirmed by a member of the GRP peace team which has been in talks with the communist rebels since August.
“They are trying to release a batch of 50,” Tiamzon said. And when asked if this could happen in time for Christmas: “Masyado na matagal yun.”
According to the GRP source, “the next batch of political detainees will be released because of humanitarian reasons – many of them will be women, the sick, the elderly, and those who have been detained for more than 10 years.”
The source added that both the GRP and NDF lawyers have been “exploring all legal means to secure the release of the prisoners.”
These include allowing the prisoners to post bail, pardon from President Duterte, or withdrawal of cases filed by the government.
There are still 432 political prisoners that the NDF has reportedly asked the Duterte administration to immediately release.
“May commitment (sa releases) si President Duterte. Tapos nung first at second round ng peace talks, in-affirm ng GRP panel yung release of all political prisoners,” said Benito Tiamzon, Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army chairman until his arrest in Cebu last March 22, 2014. Wilma was then the CPP-NPA Secretary General.
However, Benito also made it clear that the release of the political prisoners was different from another commitment made by Duterte to grant amnesty to the communist rebels.
“That’s another commitment (by Duterte) that we are pinning our hopes on,” he said.
The Tiamzons, themselves, were in the first batch of 22 detainees ordered released by the Duterte administration last August.
Wilma and her husband Benito were released from detention in Camp Crame, Quezon City last August 19, and went straight to Oslo, Norway where they served as NDF consultants at the re-opening of the long-drawn negotiations between the government and communist rebels with the first round of the talks last August 22.
They were joined by 20 other NDF consultants, considered as the big wigs in the local insurgency that started in 1979, in the Oslo talks. (Rocky Nazareno)