Peace talks in peril

>> Thursday, December 15, 2016


Peace talks between the National Democratic Front-Communist Party of the Philippines and the government may now be in peril after communist rebels warned President Duterte they may be forced to end their months-long ceasefire and resume fighting if he does not suspend the government’s counterinsurgency program and withdraw troops from rebel-influenced areas.
The CPP said if Duterte fulfills the demands by January and releases remaining political detainees through an amnesty, it can guarantee the ceasefire’s extension, helping to foster peace talks brokered by Norway.
New People’s Army guerrillas, however, will be forced to engage troops if the President presses the military’s deployment of troops in what the rebels claim as “guerrilla zones” in the countryside, the CPP said in a statement.
“He will only have himself to blame if this forces the hand of the Communist Party of the Philippines to terminate its unilateral cease-fire declaration,” it said.
While no fighting has erupted since both sides declared separate ceasefires in August, the Maoist guerrillas have complained that troops continued to be deployed in rebel areas to carry out surveillance and other counterinsurgency operations in what they say are violations of the government’s own truce. 
Families of political prisoners are questioning the sincerity of the government to fulfill its commitment to release their loved ones from prison.
“Is the (government) sincere in fulfilling its commitment to release family members from prison?” asked Amado Cadano, father of political prisoner Guiller Cadano and spokesman of the political prisoners’ relatives.
Cadano criticized the “snail-paced action” of the government’s peace panel on its commitment to release all political prisoners, in line with peace talks with the left’s political group, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
“This delay, which is tantamount to neglect, has unfortunately resulted in the death of ailing and elderly political prisoner Bernabe Ocasla,” said Cadano.
Last Nov. 28, Ocasla, 66, died of a heart attack at the Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center. He was among the130 sickly of the total 401 political prisoners.
“We are pained by the continuing incarceration of our children, partners or sisters and brothers because of their defense of people’s rights and their work for genuine social change. There is no pain greater than that felt by the family of Ocasla upon his death while imprisoned,” Cadano said.
Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza and members of the government peace panel have made various pronouncements on the release of political prisoners.
Cadano said families of political prisoners have yet to see concrete action from the government on this.
“Are they really serious? Are they really sincere? Because our imprisoned and suffering relatives are serious in their advocacies for reform,” said Gloria Almonte, wife of ailing political prisoner Dionisio Almonte. “The only remedy to correct the injustice done to them is to immediately release them.”
Dionisio is considered one of the seriously ill prisoners. He is detained at the Special Intensive Care Area-1 and awaiting the court’s permission to be confined at a hospital for his severe diabetes and slip disc.
According to the group Hustisya, as of Oct. 31, 401 political prisoners were awaiting release. “With the untimely death of Ocasla, the number comes down to 400,” Cadano said. “There is no absolving of the government in Ocasla’s death, no excuse for them to delay his release, which indirectly caused his death.”


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