President Corazon Aquino today freed the wife and driver of the Philippines' top communist rebel commander, and the government said the move increased the chances of restarting stalled peace talks.
"This agreement to release . . . (them) is to be welcomed because it underscores the effort of the government to continue the pursuit of peaceful efforts to arrive at a negotiated settlement," presidential spokesman Teodoro Benigno told reporters.
Solicitor-General Sedfrey Ordonez told the Supreme Court that the jailed head of the New People's Army, Rodolfo Salas, had agreed to withdraw a petition for habeas corpus in return for the freedom of his wife, Josefina, and driver, Jose Concepcion.
Under a compromise approved by Aquino, Salas' wife and driver will continue to face criminal charges while Salas remains in detention.
"This is yet another gesture by the government to arrive at a peaceful solution to the insurgency problem," said Agriculture Minister Ramon Mitra, one of the three government emissaries to peace talks with the National Democratic Front, a communist-dominated leftist coalition.
Salas, his wife and driver were arrested in Manila on Sept. 29. Rebel negotiators later demanded that all three be freed before cease-fire talks begin.