LOCAL rights group Karapatan on Friday called on presumptive president Rodrigo Duterte to immediately release all political prisoners, some of them ailing and elderly, and resume the stalled peace negotiations between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), once he assumes office in July.
“We challenge the Duterte presidency to build on the people’s votes that was mostly repudiation of everything that is the ‘tuwid na daan’. He can start by junking Oplan Bayanihan and similar counterinsurgency programs and take the road to genuine peace by addressing the roots of unpeace and the ongoing civil war through the negotiating table,” Cristina Palabay, the group’s secretary general, said in a statement.
The rights group said farmers and indigenous people, especially from Mindanao, have been calling for the immediate pullout of military troops from their communities. The operations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines have resulted in 318 killings and the forcible evacuation of thousands under the Aquino administration, Palabay added.
“There are still more than 2,700 evacuees at the Tandag Sports Complex in Surigao del Sur and at the United Church of Christ in the Philippines-Haran in Davao City. The pullout of military troops in their communities and the disbandment of paramilitary groups can enable them to go home,” Palabay said.
She urged the incoming Duterte administration to release all the 543 political prisoners who are detained on false criminal charges. Of the 543, 18 are NDFP peace consultants, whose protection under the GPH-NDFP agreement on safety and immunity guarantees have been violated.
“He [Duterte] should likewise address the justice system—tailored to favor the moneyed and those with powerful friends and connections—as a means to curb impunity,” Palabay said.
There are 88 ailing and 48 elderly among the political prisoners, mostly poor peasants fighting for their land rights.
Palabay said that the Aquino administration has wasted six years and the opportunity to address the longstanding causes of the armed conflict in the country.
“We would like to see how the incoming Duterte administration can put his money where his mouth is,” she added.