• Duterte to free 20 political prisoners


    President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to grant pardon to around 20 political prisoners before Christmas, a government chief negotiator said on Monday.
    In a chance interview, government panel chief negotiator and Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello 3rd said the prisoners will be released on “humanitarian reasons” or “bail recognizance.”
    “Around 20. Mostly these are the sickly, elderly, and women,” he told reporters.
    He added that some of those to be released may join the peace talks between the government and National Democratic Front (NDF), the negotiating arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines. Formal peace talks will resume in Rome on January 18 to 25.
    The NDF has demanded the immediate release of 130 of the more than 400 political prisoners on humanitarian grounds, but President Rodrigo Duterte had said that he will only release them once the NDF signed a bilateral truce agreement.
    The government said only 200 political are eligible for release under the new guidelines laid down by the Presidential Committee on Bail Recognizance and Parole.
    Of the 200, 25 are women, elderly or sick. Four were given presidential pardon last week. CATHERINE S. VALENTE


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