Six top leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) have been allowed by two Metro Manila courts to leave for the Netherlands to join another round of talks to end the nearly half-century-old insurgency in the country, a lawyer for the group said on Saturday.
Judge Thelma Bunyi-Medina of Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 32 granted the motion “to participate in the conduct of informal and formal talks” to five CPP leaders led by party chair Benito Tiamzon, according to human rights lawyer Edre Olalia, legal consultant for the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
Tiamzon and the four other CPP central committee members — Rafael Baylosis, Adelberto Silva, Vicente Ladlad and Randall Echanis — are accused of involvement in the killing of 15 civilians in 2006 in Inopacan, Leyte province.
On Tuesday, another central committee member, Alan Jazmines, who is facing rebellion and murder charges, was granted temporary liberty by the Taguig City RTC.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the government was sincere in wanting a peace agreement with the communist rebels.
“We hope they will show similar sincerity as we need to end the world’s longest-running insurgency soon,” he said in a statement.
The latest round of talks followed President Duterte’s directive in April to his peace panel to resume the negotiations, which he canceled in November last year, complaining of continuing attacks by the communist New People’s Army (NPA).
In February, the Duterte administration petitioned a court to declare as terrorists the CPP-NPA and more than 600 people, including about two dozen NDFP negotiators and consultants.
On Thursday, he announced that formal talks would resume in July.
Communist party founding chair Jose Maria Sison, who now serves as chief political consultant for the NDFP, earlier said negotiations would resume on June 14 following the announcement of a stand-down agreement, or a preliminary truce between government and rebel forces.
Olalia said the CPP leaders wanted to leave as early as June 3, but with changes in the dates of the talks he expected the courts to modify their respective orders accordingly.
The Manila RTC set conditions in granting provisional liberty to the five communist leaders, which were also imposed on Jazmines by the Taguig RTC. These included appearing in court before they leave and submitting a written report on the outcome of the negotiations.
They also are to return home within three days after the talks end, and Tiamzon and Silva must each pay a P100,000 bail.
Tiamzon is a member of the NDFP negotiating panel and its ceasefire committee along with Baylosis. Ladlad serves as an NDFP panel consultant while Jazmines, Echaniz and Silva are members of a working group on socioeconomic reforms.
Baylosis remains in detention following his arrest in February in what he had said were trumped-up charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives. —With a report from Christine O. Avendaño
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.