Manila: More than 350 leftist political prisoners began a week of fasting to press for their release, a rights group said.
“It has been two years since we started to campaign and lobby for the release of political prisoners who are in various jails [nationwide], but President Benigno Aquino not only ignored our call but has also arrested and detained 107 more farmers, indigenous peoples, leaders of organisations and activists, as well as suspected rebels,” Marie Hilao-Enriquez, chairperson of Karapatan, a rights group, said in a statement.
“The president cannot go on pretending that there are no political prisoners in the country because he is already responsible for detaining 107 activists based mostly on fabricated charges filed against them,” said Enriquez, adding that recent arrests of political leaders in the provinces, raised to 385 the number of political prisoners who were charged with trumped-up cases.
The communist National Democratic Front (NDF), the negotiating arm of the 46-year old Communist Party of the Philippines and its military arm, the New Peoples’ Army (NPA) has demanded for the release of all political leaders as a condition for the resumption of formal peace talks with the Philippine government.
Earlier, both negotiators of the Philippine government and the NDF have agreed that NDF’s peace consultants should be released ahead of all other political prisoners.
But the NDF has not yet given all the names of the peace consultants who were imprisoned, following its request for their release as a condition for the resumption of peace talks, government peace negotiators said.
Peace talks between the two parties began in 1992.
Although they have inked several initial agreements since then, they have failed to sign a ceasefire agreement.
Talks are held in Norway, which has served as a peace broker for the negotiations.
The NDF refused to return to the negotiating table in 2004, when the Philippine government did not stop the United States and the European union from including the CPP-NPA in the lists of terror groups.