By Elena Aben
With the exception of the elderly and the sickly, President Rodrigo R. Duterte said he will not release the remaining political prisoners in the country unless an agreement is signed between the government and the National Democratic Front (NDF).
The Chief Executive said in a speech during the Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Malacañang on Monday, that he had already granted a lot to the communists in order for the peace process to succeed.
“We have to continue and even now they’re asking for the release of 130 political prisoners. Sabi ko: I cannot. I cannot give you that. I’m sorry but I have already conceded so much on the side of the government,” said the President.
“But you’re going back (to Oslo) … and if you can show me a document signed by the Republic of the Philippines representatives at ‘yung mga komunista, then I will release the 120, 30 plus more,” he added, but did not specify what kind of document he wants signed by both the government and NDF peace panels.
The president, however, said he is ready to pardon the elderly and sickly political prisoners before Christmas. “How many are there still beyond 70 years old and those suffering from incurable diseases at this time, may cancer or kidney or anything… if they are ready to be released and will be accepted by the families, i-release ko na before Christmas time,” said Duterte.
“There’s really no point in detaining a person na matanda na tapos may sakit. I find it something not… It’s a very awkward feeling, uncomfortable ako. So ‘yung lahat ng matatanda, may sakit, umalis na kayo,” he continued.
The president’s statement was in fulfillment of a commitment he made last week to Fidel Agcaoili, chair of the NDF peace panel, and Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, NDF consultants, that he will work on the release of elderly and sickly political detainees within the month.
Meanwhile, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said that earnest efforts have been ongoing on the releases of prisoners. But necessary legal processes take awhile as cases are within the jurisdiction of the judiciary, an independent and co-equal branch.
“We understand their angst and impatience but we are all forgetting that these efforts were never possible nor even imaginable in the previous times. It is only in the Duterte administration that these releases are all happening,” said Dureza.
“We are appalled why some sectors are now even publicly attacking government for “not delivering enough” and for the perceived delay,” he added.
Dureza pointed out that the president has exercised bold political will to quickly resuscitate the peace process from where it was. “And he does so also mindful that there is a need to balance things taking into account the processes that must be observed and the whole citizenry that he must also engage and serve,” the official said.
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