The National Democratic Front (NDF) – Negros urges the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) to release all political detainees to pave way for the resumption of the peace talks between the two governments in conflict in the Philippines and also in line with the recent Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic that deems prisoners vulnerable.
On March 24, 2020 the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) issued a unilateral ceasefire declaration that orders all New People’s Army (NPA) units to stand down starting on March 26 until April 15, in response with the call of Unite Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for a global ceasefire. Just recently, Guterres also acknowledged the CPP’s ceasefire declaration. This is in accordance with the commitment of the entire revolutionary forces in the Philippines to continue to address the COVID-19 pandemic, and stand in the frontlines alongside the doctors, nurses, and health workers.
Additionally, the temporary ceasefires between the GRP and the CPP-NPA-NDF promotes a conducive atmosphere for the resumption of peace talks. In line with these developments, NDF-Negros is in unity with the entire NDFP negotiating panel and calls for the release of all political prisoners in the Philippines. Currently, there are 106 detainees from Negros scattered nationwide, most notably Frank Fernandez and Cleofe Lagtapon, both holders of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), along with other peasant leaders wrongfully accused of being members of the NPA and charged with trumped-up cases.
With COVID-19 spreading, prisoners, especially the sickly and the elderly, are left exposed due to the current sorry state of Philippine prison, not to mention the military ergo lackluster preparation of the Duterte regime against the virus. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet’s recommendation for the release of those detained with no sufficient legal basis is highly acknowledged by the NDFP. The state should also ensure to protect the health and safety of people in detention.
This act would pave way for a positive atmosphere towards the resumption of informal and, later on, formal talks between the NDFP and the GRP. The peace talks would discuss the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER), which addresses the roots of the armed conflict and proposes meaningful reforms that include genuine land reform and national industrialization. Its agenda also pushes for a nationalist, scientific, and mass-oriented healthcare compared to the glaringly rotten commercialized healthcare system that implements backward solutions proven to worsen the situation and bureaucrats abusing power to prioritize themselves instead of promoting mass testing.
If the GRP is truly sincere in its efforts to quell the continuing COVID-19 crisis, it should prioritize the medical situation of the people rather than implementing a militarist and elitist solution. ###