COMMUNIST Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria Sison has condemned the Duterte government for reneging on its supposed commitment to free 434 rebel leaders languishing in jails across the country.
Sison, chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front (NDF), the CPP political arm negotiating peace with the Philippine government, claimed the Duterte government violated two previous agreements on so-called political detainees: the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.
“The non-release of political detainees also runs counter to the possible declaration of the bilateral interim ceasefire agreement between the NDF and the Philippine government and the acceleration of the peace negotiations,” he said in a message during the 48th founding anniversary of the CPP on Monday.
Sison’s video message was shown during the CPP anniversary rites in Davao City, Duterte’s turf, which was joined by more than 15,000 people.
Government chief peace negotiator Silvestre Bello 3rd joined the celebration as well as the “National Peace Assembly” in Paquibato district, a first for a government official, assuring rebel leaders that sickly and elderly political detainees would be released soon.
Speaking before rebel sympathizers and supporters, Bello said: “It is just a matter of time. The President will keep his word. Let us just wait for the formal announcement of the President.”
He said the release of rebels for humanitarian reasons was not tied to the bilateral ceasefire agreement that the government wanted the rebels to sign.
Bello, who is also Labor secretary, was accompanied by Interior and Local Government Secretary Mike Sueno and Labor Undersecretary Joel Maglunsod.
The Cabinet official said he would meet the President on December 29 and bring up the matter of the detained rebels.
“There are some legal processes that we have to comply with before they can be released,” he explained.
He said the next round of peace talks that will be held in Rome, Italy would focus on the crucial agenda of social and economic reforms.
“We have tapped the expertise of economists from the University of the Philippines to draft the economic reform agenda of the government which we will present on the negotiating table in Rome,” Bello said.
At least two days have been dedicated for discussions on social and economic reforms during the five-day formal talks, which begin on January 19, he said.
Duterte has repeatedly said he would not free the prisoners unless the NDF agreed to sign a bilateral ceasefire with the Philippine government. Both sides are operating on unilateral ceasefire declarations made in August when the peace talks began in Oslo, Norway.
NDF won’t lay down arms
Luis Jalandoni, former head of the NDF peace negotiating panel and now senior adviser, stressed that the CPP won’t not lay down arms even as it is engaged in peace talks with the Duterte government.
Jalandoni also warned that “as human rights abuses are perpetrated with the continued implementation of the counter-revolutionary program Oplan Bayanihan and Enhanced Oplan Bayanihan, it (NDF) will be forced to withdraw its ceasefire declaration to protect the masses and defend communities.”
Communist rebels are accusing the Philippine military of violating its own truce by deploying troops to areas where the CPP armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), was operating.
NDF consultant Eduardo Genelsa said: “Mindanao continues to be resilient and to advance despite escalating enemy attacks because communists, cadres, NPA combatants, and revolutionary forces have vigorously waged the armed struggle and raised the people’s war to greater heights.”
NDF leaders have said “there can be no peace until the roots of armed struggle are addressed decisively. The revolutionary forces are now stronger more than ever to wage armed revolution, gain concrete benefits for the people, and ultimately attain justice and true peace.”