MANILA, PHILIPPINES – Former political prisoners today criticized Pres. Benigno Aquino III’s refusal to meet with representatives of negotiating panel of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) as an “act of arrogance,” one that is standing in the way for the release of political prisoners, including consultants and staff of the NDFP.
The Samahan ng Ex-detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA), an organization of former political prisoners, said the proposal for a courtesy call of NDFP Panel Chairperson Luis Jalandoni and panel member Coni Ledesma to Aquino is a gesture of goodwill for the resumption of the peacetalks between the NDFP and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP). SELDA expects that among the pertinent points before and during the resumption of the negotiations will include the release of the 388 political prisoners, including at least 11 NDFP peacetalks consultants, who are still languishing in jails and detention centers nationwide due to trumped up charges against them.
“While NDFP has shown goodwill and seriousness in pursuing just and lasting peace, Pres. Aquino’s rebuff of this effort and his non-committal stance on the release of political prisoners, despite mounting calls for their immediate release, is an act of conceit. It undermines the efforts of church workers, peace advocates and human rights organizations for the resumption of the peacetalks between the NDFP and the GRP. It is indicative of the continued injustice being inflicted on the political prisoners,” Cabillas stated.
SELDA reiterated its call for Aquino to pursue the peacetalks and, especially in the light of Aquino’s declarations on the release of the 400 military rebels, to release all political prisoners, including the eleven NDFP peace consultants, who are detained the various detention centers and jail facilities in the country.
“They were abducted, illegally arrested, tortured and charged with fabricated criminal charges. Their cases constitute violations on the GRP-NDFP Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) and the Hernandez doctrine, which all state that so-called ‘political offenses’ or the exercise of political beliefs should not be criminalized. Their constitutional rights to due process and against torture are severely trampled upon. They should be immediately released in the interest of justice and lasting peace,” Cabillas ended.