Reds declare 7-day truce
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) last night declared a seven-day unilateral ceasefire after the government freed two top insurgent leaders who would join peace talks in Norway next week.
The CPP Information Bureau said in a statement that the truce would take effect at 12:01 a.m. tomorrow and last till 11:59 p.m. on Aug. 27.
The statement said the CPP Central Committee and the National Operational Command of the New People’s Army, the CPP’s armed wing, declared the ceasefire “to celebrate and bolster” the resumption of peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), the CPP’s political wing.
“This ceasefire declaration is encouraged by the [government’s] facilitation of the release of nearly all NDFP consultants who are set to participate in peace negotiations in the course of the next several months,” it said.
The CPP also thanked President Duterte for accelerating the resumption of peace talks as a means of dealing with the roots “of the civil war in the Philippines.”
Benito and Wilma Tiamzon smiled and raised their fists as they were freed from the national police detention center yesterday, and thanked Mr. Duterte for freeing political prisoners as a first step toward ending one of Asia’s longest running insurgencies.
They later joined others who were also freed as Manila prepared to engage the NDFP in talks slated in Oslo, Norway. But they all vowed to return home after the five-day negotiations ending on Aug. 27, a testament to the goodwill shown by the government.
“We were released from jail to take part in the peace talks and we are serious about it,” Benito Tiamzon said. “The negotiations in Oslo are only one part of the process and there are other talks happening in other venues.”
Tiamzon, the highest ranking leader of the CPP, said he and his wife, Wilma, “will return home” after the talks, which have been stalled since 2012 after Manila previously refused rebel demands to free jailed cadres.
“We are optimistic that both sides have enough will to move forward despite the obstacles,” Tiamzon said. “Our confidence in the talks springs from our belief that it is only now that we have a President who has shown a determination to bring about reforms.”
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said freeing the rebel negotiators showed the government’s sincerity to the talks.
“The President has the political will to make it happen without short-circuiting the judicial process,” Dureza said. “We are looking forward to a fruitful, but intense negotiations.”
19 freed so far
Cristina Palabay, secretary general of rights group Karapatan which welcomed the ex-detainees at St. Andrews Chapel in Quezon City, said they were freed separately this week. She said as of Friday, 19 “peace consultants” of the 22 on their list have so far been freed.
Alan Jazmines, a 69-year-old NDFP consultant who was detained at Camp Bagong Diwa since February 2011, said he considered their freedom a welcome “ray of light” as the rebel movement struggles with the negotiations.
“We went through a lot of disappointments before we were released and we have fought to continue the peace talks,” he said.
Maria Concepcion Bocala, 66, who was detained for a year at Iloilo District Jail, said she hoped that more female political prisoners would be freed soon. She admitted that she had anxiously waited for her release, and had to go through several courts to approve her papers.
“We are a force to reckon with and we are not criminals,” she stressed, adding that they were pushing for “peace based on justice” which she said would lead to meaningful reforms.
Karapatan for its part called on the Duterte administration to release all 500 other political prisoners. “The formal peace talks should pave the way for discussions between the two parties on substantive issues like genuine agrarian reform, decent jobs, national industrialization and living wages,” Palabay added.
Earlier yesterday, the CPP said it would declare a unilateral ceasefire in order to “bolster” the negotiations.
The CPP, however, called on the government to free an estimated 500 political prisoners still languishing in different jails across the country, and called for an end to “the dirty legal tactic” of slapping trumped-up criminal charges against its members.
In appreciation for freeing the detainees, the CPP “reiterates its full support for the peace negotiations as a venue to discuss the roots of the armed conflict and forge agreements to resolve” what it calls the strategic problems of the masses.
The CPP said it hoped mutual efforts by the NDFP and the government would speed up the talks.
CPP founder Jose Maria Sison said the rebel ceasefire was “an act of goodwill” and that the government was not required to reciprocate. He said both panels would discuss the mode of ceasefire “which will run indefinitely in exchange for the amnesty and release of the political prisoners.”
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said it had issued electronic passports (e-passport) to the freed rebel consultants to allow them to attend the peace negotiations.
DFA spokesperson Charles Jose told the Inquirer more or less 10 e-passports had been issued to NDFP leaders based on information from the Office of the Consular Affairs. Reports from Maricar Brizuela, Leila B. Salaverria, Jaymee T. Gamil, Estrella Torres and Delfin Mallari, Inquirer Southern Luzon; AP/TVJ
Tiamzons confident of peace talks, Duterte thrust toward reforms
Release of Tiamzon couple shows Duterte sincerity—OPAPP
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