DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza said they are appalled by some sectors attacking them on the delay of the release of political prisoners in the country.

“We are appalled why some sectors are now even publicly attacking government for ” not delivering enough” and for the perceived delay,” Dureza said in a statement Monday night.

He said “mass actions and media attacks serve as good reminders for us in government that we need to do more.”

“But putting undue public pressure on the government which has already taken unprecedented steps may not yield their intended results,” he said.

Dureza said the government is doing its part to effect the releases of the politicalprisoners. However, he reiterated that the legal processes take awhile because cases need to undergo judicial procedures.

“Cases are within the jurisdiction of the judiciary, an independent and co-equal branch,” he said.

Dureza said they understand the frustration of some sectors but he said the efforts of the government now were unimaginable in the previous administrations.

“We are all forgetting that these efforts were never possible nor even imaginable in the previous times. It is only in the Duterte administration that these releases are all happening,” he said.

No ceasefire agreement, no release

On Monday night, President Rodrigo Duterte said that he wanted both peace panels to sign a ceasefire agreement before political prisoners will be released, saying that the government has given up a lot so that the peace process with communist rebels will push through.

“Alam mo, we have to continue and even now they’re asking for the release of 130 political prisoners. Sabi ko, I cannot. I cannot give you that. I’m sorry but I have already conceded so much on the side of the government,” Duterte said in a speech during the lighting of the Malacañang Christmas tree.

The President, however, maintained that old and sick political prisoners will be released soon. “Because by asking that how many are there still beyond 70 years old and those suffering from incurable diseases at this time, may cancer or kidney or anything, and if they are ready to be released and will be accepted by the families, i-release ko na before Christmas time,” Duterte said.

“There’s really no point in detaining a person na matanda na tapos may sakit. I find it something not… It’s a very awkward feeling, uncomfortable ako. So ‘yung lahat ng matatanda, may sakit, umalis na kayo,” he added.

Various groups reiterated their calls for the government to immediately release all political prisoners following the death of an elderly prisoner, Bernabe Ocasla on Nov. 28.

Ocasla, 66 died after a cardiac arrest. He was among the 401 political prisoners on the list of the human rights group Karapatan that was forwarded to the government.

Karapatan said two other elderly and ailing political prisoner are in hospitals right now.

One of them is Apolonio Barado who was admitted to the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) hospital in Muntinlupa City due to chest pains.

Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general said Barado, 62, has coronary artery disease, hypertensive cardiovascular disease, and diabetes mellitus.

“He had previously suffered a heart attack. He is supposed to be transferred to the Philippine Heart Center in Quezon City this morning (Dec.4); the NBP hospital does not have the basic cardiac and blood sugar monitoring equipment to keep up with his condition,” Palabay said in a statement on Sunday.

Another political prisoner, Amelia “Amy” Pond, is currently at the Southern Philippines Medical Hospital recuperating, after she was admitted on November 11, 2016 for an operation on her lumbar spine. Pond also has chronic renal infection (non-obstructive chronic pyelonephritis), osteoporosis L3-L4, and hyperlipidemia, said Palabay.

“Both Pond and Barado are among the 130 sickly political prisoners recommended for immediate release on humanitarian grounds. The hospitalization of Pond and Barado and the death of Bernabe Ocasla last November 28, 2016 prove the urgency of the releases, especially those political detainees with humanitarian considerations,” Palabay said.

Political prisoners across the country also started a hunger strike calling for their immediate release.

However, Dureza said that the immediate release of the prisoners should be kept in step with the efforts of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte.

“As the President always says and does, this administration will walk the extra mile for peace. Yes, let’s all be in a hurry but let’s all keep the pace and be in step with him so we don’t stumble,” he said. (davaotoday.com)

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