March 26, 2017

NUSP slams Duterte for treating political prisoners as trump cards, reminds him that peace talks is no game

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“The Filipino people are not playing games with you, President Duterte. Release all political prisoners who are wrongly-accused and falsely-implicated. Take this matter seriously if you really are fighting for just and lasting peace.”

This is the reminder of the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) spokesperson Kevin Castro to President Rodrigo Duterte after the latter blurted out that the political prisoners who are still in jail are his trump cards in a game of poker with the progressive groups. Duterte’s reference of poker game is in relation with the ongoing peace negotiation between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

“We are not calling for the release of the political prisoners to win this so-called ‘poker game’ that you are playing. These are innocent people who are just fighting for the rights of the basic masses in the country. They have committed nothing but service to the Filipino people. It is just to release these detainees who are charged with trump-up cases. Differing ideologies are not grounds for political persecution,” Castro said.

Earlier, the NDFP talked with President Duterte regarding the release of not less than 130 political prisoners based on humanitarian grounds. Duterte, eventually, responded that he cannot do any concessions with the militants regarding the matter. According to him, he has already sacrificed too much of the government’s side.

“The unconditional release of political prisoners is consistent with the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Laws (CARHRIHL).  The Duterte administration must uphold these agreements if he wanted to pursue the peace talks with the NDFP. The release of political prisoners is not a concession; it is a just demand from the progressives that qualifies and quantifies the sincerity of the administration to move forward with the peace negotiations,” Castro added.

The NUSP also commented on the attempts of the current administration to derail the ongoing peace process by forcing the NDFP to concede to a bilateral ceasefire agreement with the GRP.

“Before Pres. Duterte forces the NDFP to join a truce with the GRP, he must first ensure that the armed forces under his direct control are following the unilateral ceasefire he declared months ago. Reports of human rights violations and abuses executed by the AFP and its paramilitaries in the countryside have been increasing wildly. The Filipino people are demanding the pull-out of military forces in their communities, but they keep on making these communities their camping sites. In the first place, a ceasefire, from the side of the GRP, has never existed in practice,” Castro explained.

Castro reiterated that a just and lasting peace can only be attained once the socio-economic needs of the people are addressed accordingly, once poverty has been resolved by rooting out its cause. He ended that the release of political prisoners is a not just a promise that he needs to conform with, but a legitimate demand from the people that needs to be addressed once and for all.#

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