Tiamzons released from Crame
By Jaime Laude (The Philippine Star) | Updated August 20, 2016 – 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines – Communist leaders Benito and Wilma Tiamzon were freed yesterday from the Camp Crame Custodial Center, where they had been detained since their arrest in Cebu in March 2014.
The couple was considered high risk detainees, being the overall head of the New People’s Army.
They were released after posting bail for cases filed against them in various courts.
The Tiamzons are among the last of the detained ranking members of the National Democratic Front to walk free, although the court granted only temporary passes for the duration of the formal peace talks in Oslo, Norway.
Rallying comrades waited for them at the gate of the Philippine National Police headquarters before noon yesterday.
Being consultants of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front, they will fly to Oslo for peace talks with the government on Aug. 22.
The Tiamzons thanked President Duterte for allowing their release for them to be able to participate in the Oslo talks.
With clenched fists, Wilma faced waiting supporters while expressing hope their release will steer back to the right path the stalled peace negotiations.
Benito told their supporters reopening the peace talks will focus on societal, economic and political reforms, and issues needed to be tackled to put an end to the armed struggle.
“In whole, we strongly believe that we can now move forward to unite peacefully for societal reforms,” he said. “We know there a lot of challenges, stumbling blocks that we must hurdle for the peace talks to truly succeed.”
Meanwhile, the Regional Trial Court in Compostela Valley released late yesterday afternoon another NDF consultant for him to be able to participate in the peace talks in Norway.
Released last night upon posting bail was Porferio Tuna Jr., who was detained at the Compostela Valley provincial rehabilitation center. His provisional release was reportedly delayed because he was facing charges in other courts in Davao City and Davao del Norte.
An hour before the Tiamzons were released, members of Gabriela, Anakbayan, Anakpawis, Courage, Piston and Karapatan assembled in front of the Santolan gate of the PNP headquarters, questioning the delay of the release of the couple.
Rachel Pastores, NDF legal consultant, said the release of the Tiamzons propels the talks to a positive higher ground.
“With the peace talks set to resume next week, we hope for substantial agreements on socio-economic and political change,” she said.
Fifteen detained communist leaders have already been freed for them to be able to participate in the Oslo talks.
More than 550 members of the CPP and NPA are still under government custody in various detention centers throughout the country, the government said.
The Armed Forces has no objection to the release of the Tiamzons.
President Duterte has promised to release elderly and sick communist rebels on humanitarian grounds, while the mode of the releases of the remaining rebels will be subject of the negotiations.
He will declare a general amnesty for all communist rebels, he added.
Presidential adviser on the peace process Jesus Dureza said the release of the Tiamzons indicates that the President is sincere in peace talks with the NDF.
“There should no longer be any doubt that President Duterte is serious and determined to find a peaceful solution to the decades old communist insurgency in the country,” he said.
“With their release, in addition to more than a dozen of NDF consultants earlier granted bail and already freed, one more stumbling block is removed. We are looking forward to fruitful but intense negotiations in Oslo.”
The Tiamzons were the highest-ranking communist leaders to fall into government hands.
Benito was chairman of the CPP, while Wilma was secretary general.
Duterte ordered the Bureau of Immigration and the Department of Foreign Affairs to assist in providing travel documents and allow the orderly departure of the consultants who will join the NDF panel in Oslo.
Beginning Tuesday this week, the NDF consultants numbering 22 have been issued Philippine passports.
The Norwegian embassy has also started issuing visas to all delegates from both panels who will travel to Norway for the reopening of the government-NDF peace negotiations.
Dureza said they have agreed to expedite the peace process by simultaneously holding negotiations on five major agenda items through reciprocal working groups.
This explains the large number of NDF consultants who are traveling abroad, he added.
The peace panels are expected to immediately tackle the following: social and economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms, end of hostilities and disposition of forces, ceasefire, joint security and immunity and release of political detainees.
Government peace panel chairman Silvestre Bello III is in Saudi Arabia, but he will travel directly to Oslo in time for the arrival of the Philippine delegation.
Other members of the government panel are lawyers Rene Sarmiento, Antonio Arellano and Angela Librado-Trinidad.
The fifth member, former agrarian reform secretary Hernani Braganza, had left ahead to confer with the NDF panel in Utrecht, the Netherlands.
The Philippine delegation will leave for Oslo tonight.
The peace talks are scheduled for Aug. 22-26.
Peace talks to continue
Dureza said the government will continue negotiating with the Communist Party of the Philippines on Monday in Oslo.
Speaking at a media forum in Iligan City, Dureza said the government will seek to establish a bilateral ceasefire agreement.
He said an interim ceasefire will be observed first while the government and the CPP talk about a bilateral ceasefire agreement and establish a mechanism to implement and monitor the ceasefire and coordinate all forces on the ground.
The administration is still confident that the peace negotiations would succeed, Dureza said.
The CPP and NPA issued last night a unilateral declaration of a seven-day ceasefire to celebrate and bolster the resumption of formal peace talks between the government and the NDF panel.
The ceasefire will take effect starting 12:01 a.m. of Aug. 21 and will last until 11:59 p.m. of Aug. 27.
“This ceasefire declaration is encouraged by the government panel’s facilitation of the release of nearly all NDF consultants set to participate in peace negotiations in the next several months,” said the CPP and NPA in a statement.
The CPP reiterated its “deep appreciation of the determined efforts of government of President Duterte to push forward and accelerate the peace negotiations as a means of addressing the roots of the civil war in the Philippines.”
“We hope that this ceasefire declaration will be reciprocated by the government as a show of all-out determination to move forward with peace negotiations,” the CPP said. – With Jose Rodel Clapano, Lino dela Cruz, Artemio Dumlao