Left-wing groups seek release of Morong 43 political prisoners

MANILA, Philippines — After the release of rebel soldiers, can political prisoners from the left be next?

This was the question of the militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) after President Aquino issued on Tuesday an order pardoning the soldiers involved in coup d’etat attempts against the Arroyo administration.

Renato Reyes Jr., Bayan secretary-general, said Mr. Aquino should also grant amnesty to the political prisoners who were jailed by the Arroyo administration.

“There are a lot of political prisoners from the previous regime. Many of them were staunch critics of Arroyo. Many were slapped with trumped up charges by the now disbanded IALAG,” Reyes said in an interview.

He was referring to the Interagency Legal Action Group, which was created in 2006 to handle cases related to national security.

Bayan said it welcomed the amnesty to military officials led by Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV.

Trillanes was one of the junior officers in the Magdalo group who took over the Oakwood serviced apartments in Makati City in 2003 to demand reforms and expose corruption in the military.

“We welcome the proclamation of President Aquino granting amnesty to Senator Trillanes and other rebel soldiers. It is our hope that the President will also undertake positive steps in addressing the plight of political prisoners,” Bayan said.

The grant of amnesty, under Proclamation 50, covers all active and former personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and their supporters who took part in the July 27, 2003, Oakwood mutiny, the February 2006 Marine standoff in Fort Bonifacio and the Manila Peninsula siege on November 29, 2007 and related anti-Arroyo mobilizations.

Mr. Aquino’s amnesty proclamation is awaiting Congress’ concurrence.

Reyes counted 400 political prisoners, including the 43 health workers who were arrested in Morong, Rizal, several months ago.

Bayan said the President should also release the `”Morong 43,’’ who were accused of being members of the New People’s Army, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

“It is only fitting that Mr. Aquino correct this grave injustice by releasing the political prisoners,” Reyes said.

He added that it would be “conducive for the peace process” between the government and the communist-led National Democratic Front (NDF), the political wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army.

The NDF has signaled that it is ready to talk to the new administration. Its talks during the Arroyo administration collapsed, due to the failure of the Arroyo government to call for the removal of the CPP-NPA-NDF from the terror lists of US and Europe.

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