NDF: Political prisoners’ release highlights continuing struggles

July 8, 2017 - 10:49 PM
Emeterio Antalan freed political prisoner
Detail from a poster featuring Emeterio Antalan. Photograph from SELDA

In a statement attributed to Alan Jazmines, Vice-Chairperson of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Reciprocal Working Committee on Socio-Economic Reforms, the NDFP welcomed President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent move to release 10 political prisoners.

“This is a step in the right direction, despite being quite partial and belated, and should immediately be followed up with the soonest release of more than 400 other political prisoners, some of whom have long been imprisoned,” NDFP said, pointing out that the demand for the immediate release of political prisoners has long been a nagging issue of justice, of human rights, and of the peace talks “and should be undertaken immediately, free from the whims of GRP officials, and without at all imposing conditions on the NDFP.”

NDFP added that among the long-held political prisoners the NDFP has been pressing to be immediately released by the GRP are NDFP peace consultants Leopoldo Caloza, Ferdinand Castillo and Eduardo Sarmiento. “Like newly-released Emeterio Antalan, who had been a staunch advocate of and fighter for comprehensive agrarian reform before his arrest and even while in prison, the imprisoned NDFP consultants could significantly contribute in the current talks on socioeconomic reforms given their decades of leadership in the struggles of peasants and workers in the country.

“It is only right that they should be immediately released, together with hundreds of other political prisoners.

“Many among the newly-released political prisoners, like Manolito Matricio, are also farmers, who were imprisoned just because of their struggle for land. They attest to the fact that the demand for genuine land reform, a priority in the ongoing talks on socioeconomic reforms, has been a long-standing demand the mass of our farmers will continue to stand up and fight for.”

At the press conference held by the newly-released political prisoners, Matricio declared his staunch support for the continuation of the peace talks and the forging of a comprehensive socioeconomic agreement that would include a genuine land reform program.

Matricio is a member of the militant peasant organization Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas and part of the “Mamburao 6” group of farmers who were imprisoned for resisting land grabbing in Mamburao in Mindoro Occidental.

“The political prisoners’ cause and activism for land reform show that the peace talks between the NDFP and GPH must indeed continue and succeed.

“With the resumption of the stalled 5th Round of the peace talks, the NDFP RWC-SER is intent on again urgently bringing to the table this very basic demand for genuine land reform and other proposals for socioeconomic reforms.

“We expect that, this time around, substantial gains for the benefit of the Filipino people will be achieved,” NDFP said.