NDF consultants vow hunger strike for release of prisoners
The National Democratic Front (NDF) negotiating panel announced on Friday that 15 of its consultants and staff will hold a “sympathy fast and hunger strike” starting Saturday to urge the Duterte administration to release other political prisoners.
“The NDFP consultants and staff will take turns in joining political prisoners in detention facilities nationwide as well as relatives and supporters of the detainees who will be fasting for the first four days, and go on hunger strike for another four days until December 10,” the NDF panel said in a statement.
The NDF is the political arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). The CPP’s military arm, the New People’s Army, has been waging the longest communist insurgency in Asia. Negotiations between the NDF and the Philippine government improved after President Rodrigo Duterte won in the elections.
The hunger strike was announced a couple of days after Bernabe Ocasla, a political prisoner, died in jail due to a stroke.
“Bernabe Ocasla, who was detained on trumped-up multiple murder charges for nine years, was on a list of 130 ailing and elderly political prisoners provided by human rights groups to the peace panel of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) after the latter said that it would prioritize them for release,” NDF panel said, adding that the list was later reduced to 70 names.
The group pointed out that government peace panel chief Silvestre Bello sympathized with Ocasla’s family but also announced that the list will be further reduced to 50 names as the Duterte moves its self-imposed deadline for the releases from the month of November to December 10.
The NDF panel said the government has “been missing its own deadlines” despite then president-elect Rodrigo Duterte’s promise to free all 400 political prisoners through a general amnesty.
“Despite numerous pronouncements from the GRP, not a single political prisoner has been released through the peace process since 21 NDFP consultants and staff were freed on bail last August,” it said.
Human rights group Karapatan also urged the government to free political prisoners.
“How many more political prisoners should die before the Duterte administration and the GRP act on their commitments in the peace negotiations with the NDFP? While tyrants and plunderers like Ferdinand Marcos and Gloria Arroyo are absolved of their crimes and treated as heroes, peasant organizers and freedom fighters like Ocasla are left to die in handcuffs and in prisons,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.
Citing the NDF, the peace panel said the release of political prisoners is “not merely a goodwill measure but a matter of justice and compliance with the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law which both parties signed in 1998.”/rga
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