THE Supreme Court has allowed three communist leaders temporary liberty to attend the resumption of peace talks with the government on August 20 in Oslo, Norway, but denied freedom to 11 others who have pending cases in the lower courts.
Given provisional liberty by the High Court were Randall Echanis, Vicente Ladlad and Satur Ocampo, who were slapped with murder charges following the discovery of a mass grave in Leyte in 2006.
The three, who have posted cash bonds of P100,000 each with the Supreme Court, were required to return to the Philippines once the talks end. Their murder case had reached the high tribunal.
The court however dismissed the urgent motion of the Office of the Solicitor General for the temporary release of 11 other communist leaders named by the National Democratic Front (NDF), the political arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines, as its consultants.
In an en banc resolution released Friday, the Supreme Court pointed out that the 11 NDF consultants have pending criminal cases at the regional trial courts (RTCs).
The tribunal said the Solicitor General should file its pleadings and motions with the appropriate RTCs.
Denied temporary release were Rafael Baylosis, Tirso Alcantara, Ma. Loida Magpatoc, Alex Birondo, Adelberto Silva, Winona Birondo, Benito Tiamzon, Wilma Tiamzon, Maria Concepcion Bocala, Reynante Gamara and Alan Jazmines.
Despite the non-release of a number of its consultants, the NDF welcomed the Supreme Court decision.
“We trust that the trial courts handling the cases of these consultants will keenly take into account the sense of the Court as a barometer in considering motions for their release based on their urgency and import in the higher interests of peace and unity. We further renew broad calls for the immediate release of all political prisoners in the most effective, expeditious and principled mode,” the NDF said in a statement.
Labor Secretary Silvestro Bello 3rd, the government’s lead negotiator, said he was confident the detained NDF consultants would be released in time for the resumption of peace negotiations on August 20 in Oslo.
He said government prosecutors will work with the lower courts for the speedy release of detained communist leaders.
“We will cooperate and collaborate with the defense counsels of the detained NDF consultants and will not oppose petitions for bail or their temporary release for them to join the peace negotiations,” Bello said.
He noted that “the Supreme Court did not dismiss the petition to grant bail or release the NDF consultants. It merely denied the motion for intervention of the Solicitor General on the grounds of jurisdiction and technicality.”
President Rodrigo Duterte had instructed the government peace panel to hasten the release of NDF consultants likely to join their exiled colleagues in the peace talks either as panel members or members of reciprocal working committees, Bello said.
“This has nothing to do with any precondition to the resumption of the peace negotiations.
The commitment of the President was made during the campaign period when he promised to re-open talks with the National Democratic Front and release detained communists,” he said.
Senator Antonio Trillanes 4th however warned that the release of the communist leaders could be a “costly blunder.”
“The Duterte Administration hasn’t learned from history at all,” Trillanes said in a text message, referring to the release of communists in 1986 under President Corazon Aquino.