MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte signed the pardon of 4 consultants of the communist National Democratic Front (NDF) who had previously been convicted by local courts.
“I was reliably informed that it has been signed,” said chief government negotiator to the NDF Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III.
“This will move the peace process forward again, building the confidence that the President would like to assure the NDF about his sincerity in pushing the peace process,” Bello added.
Their release will partially fulfill government commitment to the communist group that agreed to return to the negotiating table to end Asia’s longest running communist insurgency.
But on Friday, December 2, the Communist Party of the Philippines demanded that the government release all 432 prisoners by January next month, saying failure to do so would prompt the rebels to end their ceasefire. (READ: CPP: Release all political prisoners or we resume war)
Two of the pardonees were convicted of murder while the other two were convicted of kidnapping. The NDF claimed these were trumped up charges. The 4 who were granted pardon were:
- Martin Villanueva, 59, from Quezon province, who was convicted of kidnapping. He has been in jail for 18 years, 8 months and 11 days. He is currently at the National Bilibid Prison.
- Bonifacio Suyom, 44, from Leyte, who was convicted of kidnapping. He has been in jail for 24 years, 6 months and 12 days. He is currently at the Leyte Regional Prison.
- Dindo Absalon, 40, who was convicted of murder. He has been in jail for 19 years, 9 months, and 19 days. He is currently at the Leyte Regional Prison.
- Rico Bodino, 42, who was convicted of murder. He has been in jail for 20 years, 5 months, and 6 days. He is currently at the National Bilibid Prison.
The development comes after key personalities in the Philippien Left led massive protests and court petitions against Duterte’s decision to bury the late Philippine Dictator at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
More political prisoners to be released
The 4 excludes 3 other NDF consultants who had been convicted but who are on the NDF’s list of prisoners to be released. They are Eduardo Sarmiento, Leopoldo Caloza, and Emeterio Antalan.
The President could not immediately grant them pardon because there are pending appeals in their cases. They first have to wait for the entry of final judgment.
Bello said another 50 political prisoners – the old and the sickly – will be released, too.
Progressive groups slammed the delay in the release of the political prisoners. Rights group Karapatan held the Duterte government accountable for the recent death of Bernabe Ocasla. His name was among the political prisoners submitted by the NDF to the government. – Rappler.com
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