05 August 2016
  • Bello confident NDF consultants will be released despite SC ruling

Bello confident NDF consultants will be released despite SC ruling
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said they will ask government prosecutors to file and respond to necessary motions and manifestations for the speedy release of detained communist leaders after the Supreme Court said the proper procedures for their releases are within the ambit of the regional trial courts handling their cases.

Bello said he is confident that detained consultants of the National Democratic Front (NDF) will be released in time for the formal resumption of the peace negotiations on August 20 in Oslo, Norway.

The Labor Secretary also welcomed the Supreme Court decision as it set into motion the urgency of the granting of the provisional release of the NDF consultants.

Reacting to the Supreme Court ruling on the motion for intervention filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida, Bello said, “the Supreme Court did not dismiss the petition to grant bail or release the NDF consultants. It merely denied the motion for intervention of the Solicitor General on the grounds of jurisdiction and technicality.”

Bello added that the Supreme Court “underscored the immediacy of the issue at hand and urged the Regional Trial Courts, which have jurisdictions over their cases, to act with dispatch petitions that would come their way with regards to the detained NDF consultants so as the peace process could be expedited.”

The Office of the Solicitor General on July 22 filed before the Supreme Court a petition for intervention to grant bail for the temporary liberty of communist rebels who were named consultants by the NDF.

The Philippine government and the NDF have agreed to reopen peace negotiations following the election victory of President Rodrigo Duterte.

The GPH-NDF peace talks have been suspended since 2012 after both panels cannot agree on several issues, such as the release of detained communist leaders and the interpretation of the joint agreement of security and immunity guarantees and the The Hague Agreement.

Bello, who heads the recently reconstituted government panel (GPH) for the peace talks with the communists, said the decision to agree on the release of the NDF consultants is “an expressed manifestation of President Rodrigo Duterte’s earlier promise to free all political prisoners in the country.”

“This has nothing to do with any precondition to the resumption for the peace negotiations. The commitment of the President was made during the campaign period when he promised to re-open talks with the NDF and release detained communists,” Bello said.

“We will cooperate and collaborate with the defense counsels of the detained NDF consultants and will not oppose petitions for bail or their temporary release for them to join the peace negotiations,” Bello said.

“We should understand that these detained leaders have been charged with common crimes and we have legal proceedings to observe before they can be released,” Bello explained.

President Duterte earlier instructed the government panel to expedite the release of NDF consultants who are likely to join their exiled colleagues in the peace talks either as panel members or members of the reciprocal working committees that are to be constituted during the formal resumption in Oslo.

The Royal Government of Norway (RNG) is brokering the peace talks as a third party facilitator.