“This is just an initial step in the long struggle for genuine peace.”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — Nine consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) have been released this week.
Released on bail were Maria Conchita Araneta-Bocala, Renante Gamara, Ernesto Lorenzo, Ruben Saluta, Alan Jazmines, Tirso Alcantara, Alfred Mapano and Kennedy Bangibang.
Another NDFP consultant, Jaime Soledad, was freed after the Ormoc Regional Trial Court Branch 35 dropped all the charges against him for lack of evidence.
Speaking at a press conference at the office of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), Lorenzo said their release proves the seriousness of both parties to resume formal talks.”This is just an initial step in the long struggle for genuine peace,” he said.
Cristina Palabay, secretary general of human rights alliance Karapatan, said she expects other NDFP consultants to be released on bail tomorrow.
Twenty-two NDFP consultants filed petitions for bail last week after the Supreme Court issued a resolution calling on local courts to give appropriate priority to cases involving NDFP consultants.
The government has said there are certain conditions for the release of NDFP consultants. The temporary liberty of NDFP consultants is only for the duration of the peace talks.
Other conditions include returning to the Philippines after the formal peace negotiations in Oslo, Norway and reporting to the Embassy of the Republic of the Philippines in Norway whenever required. The GRP panel also maintained that once the participation of the NDFP consultants ceases or the peace negotiations are terminated, their respective bonds shall be automatically canceled.
Alcantara said NDFP consultants should not have been arrested and detained in the first place because they are covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig) signed by both parties in 1995.
Jazmines said they will push for socio-economic and political reforms during the peace talks.
Also released on humanitarian grounds were political prisoners Alex and Winona Birondo.
The NDFP consultants thanked their lawyers from the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) and the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) and paralegals from Karapatan who worked hard for their release.