The members of the government peace panel negotiating with the National Democratic Front (NDF) offer deepest sympathy to the family of peasant leader Bernabe Ocasla who passed away on Monday at Jose Reyes Hospital in Manila. The 66-year-old Ocasla, one of the political prisoners considered for release on humanitarian grounds, succumbed to cardiac arrest after days in coma. "It was a sad development. We offer our sympathies to the family of Mr. Ocasla," said Secretary Silvestre Bello III, the chairperson of the GRP peace panel. Bello said, "We would have wanted to allow his freedom before he died." Given this development, Secretary Bello assured that President Rodrigo Duterte is determined to release political prisoners through judicial processes. "The more than 400 political prisoners will be released in due time," Secretary Bello said. "It was unfortunate that it (Ocasla's death) happened just as we are working for the release of the elderly, sick and long detained NDF members on humanitarian grounds," he added. Secretary Bello hoped the incident would not affect the ongoing peace talks. Secretary Bello said the release of the political prisoners is a work in progress. He emphasized on the strong commitment of the President on the release of political prisoners. However, he said there are legal and judicial issues that need to be addressed. "There will be a release of substantial number of political prisoners based on humanitarian grounds particularly the women, sickly and senior citizens in the coming days," he said. This is also in accordance with the signed agreements between the GRP and NDF panels in Oslo, Norway during the resumption of formal talks last August. The planned release is part of the continuing efforts to expedite and accelerate the peace negotiations and processes that are also brokered by the Royal Norwegian Government.
Source: Philippine Information Agency