THE government will spend for airfare to fly recently released communist leaders to Oslo, Norway, to participate in the resumption of peace talks, Peace Process Secretary Jesus Dureza said Wednesday.
“I do not think that the NDF [National Democratic Front] will spend. As a matter of principle, [we] agree that they travel at [government] expense,” Dureza told the Manila Standard in an interview.
Dureza added that the Norwegian government will provide logistical support for the NDF consultants.
Dureza made this clarification after the NDF admitted that they were having problems raising the bail for their consultants.
In a message to reporters, NDF’s chief legal consultant Edre Olalia said that while many of the political prisoners have already secured court orders for their release, they are having problems pending the need to post bail from different regional trial courts where they have pending cases, ranging from murder to kidnapping, among others.
“My clients do not have any money. They are having problems right now on where to secure the bail amounts for them to be released,” Olalia said.
As of Wednesday, five out of 22 jailed consultants were already released.
Those released were Jaime Soledad, Ruben Saluta, Kennedy Bangibang, and Winona and Alexander Birondo.
Also awating release were Renante Gamara, Ernesto Lorenzo and Allan Jazmines, who are all incarcerated at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig.
The NDF is seeking for the release of 16 other political prisoners, including Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, Concha Araneta Bocala, Adelberto Silva, Loida Magpatoc, Alfredo Mapano, Emeterio Antalan, Leopoldo Caloza, Eduardo Sarmiento, Pedro Codaste, Porferio Tuna, Tirso Alcantara, Eduardo Genelsa, Ariel Arbitrario, Renato Baleros Sr. and Edgardo Friginal to join the Oslo peace talks.
Dureza said that while the government will shoulder money for their flights, it will not post bail for them.
He added that the final list of consultants has yet to be determined, since this depends on the courts.
Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria Sison, meanwhile, said that his ties with President Rodrigo Duterte remain strong, despite their verbal tussle over issues related to the upcoming peace negotiations.
“Once more I am grateful to President Duterte for his acts of goodwill to move forward the peace negotiations between his government and the NDFP. He has made possible the release of the JASIG-protected NDFP consultants from prison and has graciously met the NDFP lawyers and consultants together with his negotiators and other officials,” Sison said in a statement.
“Despite a previous glitch in our communications, President Duterte and I remain good friends. Our friendship has a strong basis in previous cooperation of long duration and in a common desire to serve the national and democratic rights and best interests of the Filipino people. Furthermore, we have plenty of mutual friends who help maintain our friendship,” he added.
Sison said that he and Duterte will keep in touch as the formal talks in Oslo unfold next week.
“We intend to perform our respective parts in order to make the talks successful and beneficial to our people,” he said.
On Monday, Duterte told NDF negotiators who paid a courtesy call on him at the Palace that he would forget his word war with Sison.
“He told us he would forget it because he is committed to resuming the peace talks,” former Bayan Muna lawmaker Satur Ocampo said.
One of the released communist consultants, Alfredo Mapano, said he was optimistic that peace talks would bear fruit after years of being stalled.
Mapano, one of 22 NDF consultants ordered released, has been imprisoned for close to seven years and faces multiple counts of murder, robbery and frustrated murder. With Sandy Araneta, Lance Baconguis