Duterte sets condition for freeing 130 political prisoners

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday, December 5, said he will only order the release of 130 political prisoners if the government peace panel and NDF sign a bilateral ceasefire deal during talks in Oslo, Norway this week.

"Now they’re asking for the release of 120 to 130 political prisoners. Sabi ko (I said), I cannot. I cannot give you that. I'm sorry but I have already conceded so much on the side of the government," he said,

"But you're going back tomorrow and if you can show me a document signed by the Republic of the Philippines representatives and the communists, then I will release the 120, 30 plus more," he said.

The government aims to have the ceasefire deal signed by December 10 after both panels missed the October 27 deadline. 

On December 2, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) gave the Duterte administration until January next year to fulfill its promise to release all 432 political prisoners or risk rebel attacks.

While Duterte has set conditions for the release of political prisoners, he said he will order the release of old political prisoners and those with incurable diseases by 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, and if they are ready to be released and will be accepted by the families, i-release ko na before Christmas time," Duterte said.

He was giving a speech during a Christmas-lighting ceremony at Malacañang.

"There's really no point in detaining a person who is old and sick. I find it something not – it's a very awkward feeling, uncomfortable. So all those who are old and sick, get out of there," said the President in a mix of English and Filipino.

According to the government's chief negotiator Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, there are around 50 elderly and sick political prisoners out of the over 400 detained communist rebels in the National Democratic Front's list. 

Both sides reopened formal talks in August this year with the aim of ending Asia's longest running communist insurgency. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.