As NDFP consultants released, ‘long-standing barrier’ to peace talks lifted

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More consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) were released on bail today, in time for the resumption of formal peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH) and the NDFP.

Alan Jazmines, Tirso “Ka Bart” Alcantara, Renante Gamara and Ernesto Lorenzo walked out of the Special Intensive Care Area (SICA) 1 of Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City around 5 p.m. with raised fists.

In a statement, they said that they “appreciate that the matter of the foul arrest and detention of NDF peace consultants by previous regimes is now being rectified by the new Duterte regime.”

They divulged that the “higher ups’ immediate and direct intervention” helped in overcoming bureaucratic hitches that have delayed the release of NDF peace consultants.

“We see such interventions as indications of the new Duterte regime’s real interest that the resumption of the NDF-GRP peace and talks would immediately be pulled through, and that barriers to such would be overcome,” they further said.

Alan Jazmines, a former businessman and professor, and a member of the NDFP Working Committee on Socio-Economic Reforms. Photo by Karapatan Metro Manila.

They added that they “hope to reach agreements for solutions to long-standing basic socio-economic-political problems towards the qualitative betterment of our nation and people.”

Alcantara, an alleged New People’s Army commander, walked out of prison carrying a pet cat named “Brown.”

All prisoners in SICA 1, including common offenders, were chanting “Bilanggong pulitikal, palayain!” as the consultants walked free, said Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general.

The four NDFP consultants expressed gratitude for the “hard work” of people’s lawyers and human rights who worked for their release, and expressed hope that the more than 500 political prisoners left languishing in jail will be released soon as well.

Also released earlier today were Ruben Saluta, Alex and Winona Birondo, Alfredo Mapano, and Concha Araneta Bocala.

Bocala was detained in Iloilo City; while Mapano was detained in Misamis Oriental province.

In a press conference, 65-year-old Bocala said, “[President] Duterte’s promise was not just to the NDFP but to the Filipino people. For me, if the government would just open its eyes to the real situation and experiences of the people…there could be meaningful reforms.”

Yesterday, Kennedy Bangibang, who was detained in Kalinga province, was also released.

The GPH Panel, through the Office of the Solicitor General, filed a motion for the issuance of orders to various trial courts to issue conditional releases to specified members of the NDF Panel so that they can participate in the peace talks, scheduled to start in Norway on August 22.

Jaime Soledad, an NDFP consultant detained in Ormoc City, was meanwhile acquitted from murder charges last week and also released.

Human rights group Karapatan is expecting that a total of 20 NDFP consultants, who are protected by the Joint Agreement on Immunity and Safety Guarantees, will be released before the start of the peace talks.

“All charges they face are trumped-up. Thus, the withdrawal of the fabricated charges against them and all political prisoners should be the next step to effect their unconditional release,” Palabay said.

Here are some photos of the released NDFP consultants:

(From left) Tirso Alcantara, Renante Gamara and Ernesto Lorenzo. Photo by Karapatan Metro Manila.
Alex and Winona Birondo. Photo by Karapatan.
Ruben Saluta with human rights workers and lawyers. Photo by Karapatan.
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