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10 Reds Pardoned

Ten communist rebels, most of whom had been languishing in jail for more than 10 years, were recently granted pardon by President Rodrigo Duterte as part of confidence-building measures for the resumption of the peace talks.

The presidential pardon came several days after the head of the government peace panel (GRP) announced the resumption of the peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front (NDF) next month, according to the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP).

The President earlier pardoned four convicted rebels in December last year. He also ordered the release of 18 NDF consultants in July last year.

The latest pardoned communists bring to 49 the total number of released NDF leaders since President Duterte came to power in June last year.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III,  head of the GRP panel, said the latest batch of releases was in line with the government’s continuing commitment to release detained rebels on humanitarian grounds.

“This is in accord with the process that will eventually lead to a general amnesty proclamation once we reach a final peace agreement with the communist rebels,” Bello said.

“We are continuing to work on the releases of the sick, elderly, those long detained and the women as the peace negotiations progress,” he also said.

Among those ordered released was NDF consultant Emeterio Antalan, who already served nine years and six months in prison, is covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantee (JASIG).

Also included in the recent batch of pardoned prisoners were Ricardo Solangon (17 years, 11 months), Joel Ramada (11 years), Apolonio Barado (15 years, 10 months),

Generoso Rolida (13 years,  9 months), Manolito Matricio (18 years, 4 months), Josue Ungsod (18 years, 7 months), and Sonny Marbella (15 years, 5 months). The period of detention of Jose Navarro and Arnulfo Boates were not available.

The releases of two other JASIG-covered NDF consultant, namely Eduardo Sarmiento and Leopoldo Caluza, were withheld pending completion of their court documents.

Three other communist rebels were also scheduled for release. They are Raul Villar, Armando Vidar, and Juanito Itaas.

Itaas, along with Donato Continente, was convicted of the murder of Col. James Rowe, an official of the Joint US Military Assistance Group (Jusmag) in April 1989 in Quezon City. He was allegedly a hitman of the Alex Boncayao Brigade, the erstwhile urban hit squad of the New People’s Army.

Those pardoned were convicted and serving a sentence at the New Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa for common crimes ranging from illegal possession of firearms and explosives to homicide and murder.

Lawyer Angela Librado-Trinidad, a GRP supervising panel member, said the release was based on the resolutions of JASIG and the Presidential Committee on Bail, Recognizance, and Parole (PCBREP) which covered 15 prisoners. Trinidad oversees the JASIG implementation and releases of detained rebels.

Trinidad said the joint GRP-NDF statements during the 3rd and 4th round of talks held in Rome, Italy and The Netherlands, respectively, was also considered.

Peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the NDF resumed in August last year in Oslo, Norway.#