Hundreds of students in Tacloban City along with patriotic group Bayan Sinirangan Bisayas installed streamers all over the city showing support for the release of all political prisoners, among them are National Democratic Front (NDF) peace consultants, to boost the upcoming peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the NDF in Oslo, Norway.
The group calls for the immediate release of remaining political prisoners numbering to more than 500. Also, Renato Baleros, a JASIG-protected person, is still locked up at the Samar Provincial Jail. Baleros was recently sent to the National Kidney and Transplant Institute in Quezon City after suffering from severe kidney and liver infections. He was sent back to jail after recuperating.
According to local rights group Katungod Sinirangan Bisayas, the presiding judge of Branch 28 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Catbalogan City was on official leave thus suspending Baleros’ immediate release today. However, Katungod paralegal workers are hopeful to facilitate the prisoner’s release on Monday, August 22.
Meanwhile, the Ormoc City Regional Trial Court Branch 35 dismissed what rights group call ‘trumped-up charges’ against Jaime Soledad, another of NDF’s peace consultant who is now in Quezon City preparing for his actual participation in the Oslo talks. Out of 22 jailed NDF consultants, 19 are already out of jail, among them are alleged top revolutionary leaders Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria.
After unfurling banners in key areas in the city, the group proceeded to the Oblation Grounds of UP Tacloban and held a forum discussing the importance of the political prisoners’ freedom and the peace talks itself. “Aside from the fact that the detention of these individuals are actually illegal and a breach of previously signed agreements between the GRP and the NDFP, the peace consultants have a huge role to play in the negotiations especially in tackling critical points of discussion such as socio-economic reforms, thus the necessity of their immediate release,” said Rey Miranda, Secretary General of Bayan Sinirangan Bisayas.
The activity tackled the ‘relevance of releasing all other political prisoners.’ Youth leader Joshua Sagdullas of the League of Filipino Students in Metro Tacloban stressed that while other political prisoners are not listed consultants of the NDF, they too should be released on “the plain reason that the charges filed by the military against them are all but fabricated, while such release is also a confidence-building measure intended to accelerate the negotiations.”
“The very fact that the country has political prisoners is an indication of the country in crisis. These individuals were jailed because of their political values to make the Philippines better not for the few but for the majority of the Filipinos. But they were maliciously charged with trumped-up criminal cases by no less than the state,” added Jun Berino of Katungod Sinirangan Bisayas.
The day-long activity culminated with the group hanging a streamer bearing the message “Support the peace talks! Support just and lasting peace” at the iconic Oblation statue of the University of the Philippines.