HomeNewsPhilippine political prisoners win battle to remain together as peace talks loom

Philippine political prisoners win battle to remain together as peace talks loom

Political prisoners, including suspected top leaders of the country’s communist insurgency, prevailed this week against efforts to throw them to far-flung detention centers.

Fides Lim, spokeswoman of a support group for political prisoners, said jail officials have ordered a stop to the transfer of political prisoners to the provinces from Manila.

Lim, the wife of political prisoner Vicente Ladlad, said jail officials have also pledged to stop moves for the transfer of political prisoners.

Kapatid, the organization supporting political prisoners, sought a dialogue with the officials amid threats of a hunger strike by political prisoners, many of them elderly.

Lim said no political prisoner wants to be transferred because of personal security concerns.

The victory came as Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III announced that the Communist Party of the Philippines and the Philippine government have agreed to the resumption of peace talks.

“All I can tell you is we agreed for the resumption, I cannot say where,” said Bello in an interview with media in Manila on Dec. 12.

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He flew to The Netherlands early this week to speak with exiled leaders of the rebel National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

Jose Maria Sison, a political consultant of the rebel group, had earlier demanded “confidence-boosting” gestures from the government for the talks to resume.

Bello said the rebels “agreed to 90 percent” of the proposal of President Rodrigo Duterte for the talks to resume. He said the president will decide on the process and set-up for the talks’ resumption.

The Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform “welcomed and celebrated” the announcement.

The church leaders had earlier urged both sides to resume the stalled peace talks, citing growing violence in the provinces by both government and rebel forces.

Decision on the venue of the talks has been a major stumbling block for its resumption.

While the government has given assurance that no rebel leader will be harmed or arrested if they arrive in the country, the military and the police have a record of pouncing on peace negotiators whenever the talks are suspended.

More than a dozen of the 382 political prisoners arrested over the last three years are registered as consultants of the rebel group and were involved in peace negotiations held in 2017 and 2018.

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