MANILA BULLETIN — 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 (NDF).
“They are trying to release a batch of 50,” NDF consultant and former Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) secretary general Wilma Tiamzon disclosed to the Manila Bulletin Saturday, October 29.
Asked if this could happen in time for Christmas, Tiamzon said: “Masyado na matagal iyon (That would be too late).”
A member of the government peace team (GRP), which has been in talks with the communist rebels since August, also confirmed this: “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 Rodrigo 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.
Benito Tiamzon, Wilma’s husband and previously CPP-NPA chairman, pointed out that while President Duterte made a commitment on the political prisoners’ release, the president also pledged to grant communist rebels amnesty.
“That’s another commitment (by Duterte) that we are pinning our hopes on,” he said.
The Tiamzons, who were arrested in Cebu last March 22, 2014, were in the first batch of 22 detainees ordered released by the Duterte administration last August.
Upon their release last August 19, they went to Oslo, Norway and served as NDF consultants in the resumption of the long-drawn negotiations between the government and communist rebels.
Photo from Manila Bulletin article.