THE communist National Democratic Front on Tuesday accused President Rodrigo Duterte of holding political prisoners hostage to force the rebels to sign a peace agreement with the government.
“There is only one reason for the non-release: the political prisoners, including the sick and elderly, have been held hostage to pressure the NDF into agreeing to a haphazardly drawn-up peace agreement that would redound to the revolutionary movement’s capitulation instead of addressing the roots of the armed conflict,” the group said in a statement.
NDF consultant Rey Casambre said Duterte’s statements on Monday were contrary to those of chief peace adviser Jesus Dureza and government peace panel chairman Silvestre Bello III.
“It belies Dureza’s statement that efforts are being undertaken but legal processes are unavoidably slow and validates the NDF view that political prisoners can be released within days along judicial processes once a decision to release is made, and that the political prisoners are being hostaged to force the NDF to a bilateral ceasefire or a final peace agreement,” Casambre said Tuesday.
Bello earlier said 21 sick detainees, three elderly and a woman were recommended for immediate release. On the other hand, Dureza said the necessary legal processes could take a while since the cases were already with the judiciary.
In a statement, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process said Duterte’s pronouncements Monday to produce first a signed bilateral ceasefire agreement before a substantial release of detained communist rebels were his newest “instructions” given to Bello and panel member Angela Librado-Trinidad who left for Oslo on Tuesday.
“Produce [for] me a signed bilateral ceasefire agreement and I will release them within 48 hours. You can take my word for it,” Bello quoted the President as saying.
He said Duterte promised to release a number of elderly and sick detained rebels before Christmas.
“The President told us that once he receives even just a facsimile copy of the signed agreement, he will immediately order the release of communist rebels,” Bello said.
Bello and Librado sought instructions from Malacaîƒng after Duterte met with top rebel leaders Benito and William Tiamzon in Davao City Friday night. Duterte said he would keep his campaign promise to release the detained communist rebels during that meeting.
But Duterte gave his latest instructions during the break of the Cabinet meeting at the Palace Monday night.
Although both the government and the NDF have declared their own unilateral ceasefires, the two camps have been complaining of reports of violations from the field.