WHO’S WHO: Political prisoners released for Oslo peace talks

Jodesz Gavilan
The political prisoners, identified as consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, will participate in the peace talks set to end Asia's most stubborn insurgency

FOR PEACE. Some of the freed political prisoners raise their clenched fists as they hold a press conference at the social hall of the Episcopal Mission Center in Quezon City. Photo by Ben Nabong/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – At least 20 political prisoners are expected to join the formal opening of peace talks between the Duterte administration and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDF) on Monday, August 22 in Oslo, Norway.

The temporary release of the prisoners, identified as consultants of the NDF, the political arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), is the latest in the efforts of the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte to end the conflict that has claimed thousands of lives.

In his first State of the Nation Address on July 25, Duterte ordered a unilateral ceasefire with the communist rebels. But it was short-lived, after communist guerrillas attacked government militias in Davao del Norte. The government ended the ceasefire on July 30. 

This led to a word war between exiled CPP founder Jose Maria Sison and Duterte. 

However, Sison later thanked the President for making the release of the NDF consultants possible after years of opposition from previous administrations. 

The NDF has previously hit the imprisonment of its consultants over alleged trumped-up charges. They have also pointed out that arrested consultants are protected by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG). (TIMELINE: Arrests of CPP-NPA leaders under Aquino)

Under JASIG, members of the NDFP negotiating panel may consult underground members on the peace process.

Who are the JASIG-protected political prisoners who temporarily walked free as they take part in the negotiations?

Newly released political prisoners Benito Tiamzon and wife Wilma Tiamzonalong with recently released political prisoner Ma. Loida Magpatoc (seated) during press conference at the Immaculate Conception Multi-purpose Hall in Cubao, Quezon City on August 19. Photo by Joel Liporada/Rappler  

Benito Tiamzon

  • Alleged former chairman of the CPP-New People’s Army
  • Arrested in 2014 for crimes against humanity, including murder, multiple murder, and frustrated murder charges
  • Granted bail by the Manila Regional Trial Court on August 12 in relation with the multiple murder case filed over the alleged 1985 purge of communist rebels in Leyte suspected of being military informants
  • Released on August 19, 2016
  • Peace panel consultant

Wilma Austria Tiamzon

  • Alleged former CPP-NPA secretary-general
  • Arrested in 2014 for crimes against humanity, including murder, multiple murder, and frustrated murder charges.
  • Granted bail by the Manila Regional Trial Court on August 12 in relation with the multiple murder case filed over the alleged 1985 purge of communist rebels in Leyte suspected of being military informants
  • Released on August 19, 2016
  • Part of the Reciprocal Working Group on End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces (RWG EHDF) 

Loida Magpatoc

  • Tagged as the head of the Far South Mindanao Committee of the CPP-NPA. According to the NDFA, she is a peace consultant “who had been immersing and consulting with the local community folk in the villages of Far South Mindanao.”
  • Arrested in July 2013 in Davao del Sur on the basis of an outstanding warrant for robbery with double homicide and damage.
  • Released on bail on August 18, 2016
  • Part of the Reciprocal Working Group on Political and Constitutional Reforms (RWG PCR) 

FREE. Freed political prisoners (from left) Reynante Gamara, Tirso Alcantara and Adelberto Silva hold a press conference at the social hall of the Episcopal Mission Center in Quezon City on August 18, 2016. Photo by Joel Liporada/Rappler

Reynante Gamara

Tirso Alcantara

  • Former spokesman for the NDF-Southern Tagalog region
  • Arrested in January 2011 over murder charges
  • Released on August 17, 2016
  • Part of RWG EHDF

Adelberto Silva

  • Identified by the AFP as the secretary-general of the CPP-NPA after Wilma Tiamzon was arrested in 2014. However, in a statement made during his arrest, Silva only identified himself as a peace consultant involved in the making of the labor and economic agenda in the talks.
  • Arrested in 2015 for 3 counts of murder, 3 counts of frustrated murder and 4 counts of attempted murder.
  • Released on bail on August 18, 2016
  • Part of the Reciprocal Working Committee on the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (RWC CASER)

FREE. Freed political prisoners (from left) Concha Araneta Bocalo, Alan Jazmines and Ernesto Lorenzo hold a press conference at the social hall of the Episcopal Mission Center in Quezon City on August 18, 2016. Photo by Joel Liporada/Rappler

Concha Araneta Bocala

  • Military tagged Bocala as the leader of CPP’s Panay Island Regional Party Committee. She, however, denied it and claimed that she was a consultant for Visayas of the NDF peace panel.
  • Arrested in Iloilo City in August 2015 for two murder charges in 1987 and 1998.
  • Released on bail on August 17, 2016
  • Part of RWC CASER

 Alan Jazmines

  • Former professor at the Asian Institute of Management.
  • Alleged member of the CPP central committee and secretary-general of the party.
  • Arrested in February 2011 for rebellion and murder 
  • Released on bail on August 17, 2016
  • Part of RWC CASER)

Eduardo Genelsa

  • Arrested on June 29, 2016
  • Released on bail on August 18, 2016
  • Part of RWG EHDF

Released NDFP consultants hold a press conference at St. Andrews Chapel in Quezon City on August 18. (Counter clockwise from left to right) Renante Gamara, Tirso Alcantara, Adelberto Siva, Concha Araneta Bocalo, Allan Jazmines, Alexander Birondo, Winona Birondo, Kennedy Bangibang, Ruben Saluta, Ernesto Lorenzo, Jaime Soledad and Raffy Baylosis. Photo by Joel Liporada/Rappler

Alfredo Mapano

  • Alleged former head of the Communist Party in Northern Mindanao
  • NDF consultant since 1986
  • Arrested in 2009 in Cagayan de Oro
  • Granted bail in August 17, 2016
  • Part of RWG PCR

Ernesto Lorenzo

  • Arrested in July 2015 for destructive arson
  • Released on bail August 17, 2016
  • Part of RWG EHDF 

Jaime Soledad

  • Arrested in 2012 over murder and frustrated murder charges
  • Released on bail on August 17, 2016

Kennedy Bangibang

Ruben Saluta

  • Tagged as NPA commander by the military
  • Arrested on March 2015 in Quezon City for illegal possession of firearms
  • Released on bail on August 17, 2016

Ariel Arbitrario

  • Tagged by the military as secretary of the NPA’s Guerrilla Front 2
  • Arrested in February 2016 for alleged  involvement in NPA-initiated incidents and killings in Compostella Valley.
  • Released on bail on August 18, 2016
  • Part of RWG EHDF

Pedro Codaste

  • Tagged by the military as “secretary of a “front committee” of the North Central Mindanao Regional Committee of the CPP
  • Arrested in 2010 over murder and attempted murder charges. The NDF claimed the arrest was illegal as it was right after the announcement of a 18-day truce between the CPP-NPA and the government.
  • Released on bail on August 19, 2016

Porferio Tuna

  • Tagged by authorities as allegedly the deputy secretary general and spokesperson of the NPA in southeastern Mindanao
  • Arrested in 2015 over kidnapping and murder charges
  • Released on bail on August 19, 2016

Meanwhile, two other political prisoners, Wilma and Alex Birondo, were also released on August 17, 2016. They were arrested in August 2015, together with Saluta. – Rappler.com

Sources: KARAPATAN: Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights, Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, and various news reports

Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.