Peace talks between GPH and NDFP likely to resume in September

Fidel Agcaoili, member of the NDFP peace panel and chairman of its Human Rights Committee, told Bulatlat.com that they already proposed a date for the next round of talks to be held in Oslo, Norway and are now waiting for the response from the GPH panel.

By RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – A member of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace panel disclosed that formal peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH) and NDFP may continue next month.

Fidel Agcaoili, member of the NDFP peace panel and chairman of its Human Rights Committee, told Bulatlat.com that they already proposed a date for the next round of talks to be held in Oslo, Norway and are now waiting for the response from the GPH panel.

Talks scheduled last June have been deferred due to non-compliance of the GPH to its commitment to release most, if not all, of the 17 detained NDFP consultants and personnel protected under the Joint Agreement on Security and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig).

“They started to release some but that is not enough,” Agcaoili said in an interview with Bulatlat. “We hope they will comply [with the agreement to release the Jasig-protected individuals].”

Recently released from detention are NDFP consultants Jovencio Balweg, Jaime Soledad, Maria Luisa Purcray and Glicerio Pernia. Thirteen more have yet to be released.

Agcaoili said all the “fabricated” charges against the four NDFP consultants have been dismissed by the courts.

Another source from the NDFP revealed that nine more Jasig-protected individuals will soon be released. The source from the NDFP said these include Tirso Alcantara and Alan Jazmines who have not yet been arraigned. “The executive still has the jurisdiction, we hope it would be easy,” the NDFP official said.

Jazmines was designated as a member of the NDFP Reciprocal Working Committee on Socio-Economic Reforms (RWC-SER). The item on socio-economic reforms is the second substantive agenda stated in the Hague Joint Declaration signed by both parties in 1992.

Agcaoili said consultations on the respective drafts on the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (Caser) are being undertaken by both parties. In May, Agcaoili said they proposed an exchange of Caser drafts but the GPH refused.

Prisoners of war

The source from the NDFP said the New People’s Army (NPA) unit taking custody of four Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BMJP) officers agreed to release the four prisoners of war (POW).

“The NPA is willing to release them on humanitarian grounds and to encourage the GPH to release the remaining detained NDFP personnel and more than 320 political prisoners. It is also an act of good will,” he said.

Philippine National Police (PNP) Officer Jail Inspector Murphy B. Todyog, PNP Officer/Jail Inspector Eric D. Llamasares, Special Jail Officer 2 Rogelio E. Begontes, and Jail Officer 1 Rolando D. Bajuyo Jr. were taken by the NPA in Kitaotao, Bukidnon last July 21.

In a separate statement, the Merardo Arce Command of the NPA slammed the AFP for portraying the taking of POW as “kidnapping” and the taking into custody of armed personnel belonging to a party to an armed conflict or one who is facing criminal charges to face investigation for various criminal offenses and serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law as “hostaging.”

Under international conventions, being a POW is a protective status that guarantees the recognition and full respect of the POW’s basic rights.

“They not only reveal a sheer ignorance of International Humanitarian Law but also a state of extreme anxiety. The former is due to their predilection to fascism and black propaganda; the latter to mounting failures in the face of the ever-rising political and military capabilities of the armed revolutionary forces in spite of the US imperialist-crafted counter-insurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya of the previous regime and the sugar-coated Oplan Bayanihan of the current Aquino government,” Rigoberto F. Sanchez, NPA spokesman, said.??Sanchez said their actions are in accordance with the Geneva Conventions, the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), the NPA policy of humane and lenient treatment of its POWs, and the legal and judicial system of the People’s Democratic Government.

GPH chief negotiator Alexander Padilla publicly denounced the “attacks” carried out by the NPA.

Sanchez said the ongoing military offensive operations of the 8th Infantry Battalion, 57th Infantry Battalion and 61st Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army in the municipalities of Kitaotao and Kibawe in Bukidnon province and in Arakan, North Cotabato, will only result in the disruption of the process being undertaken by their custodial unit, the Herminio Alfonso Command of Guerilla Front 53.

Meanwhile, the NPA said municipal Mayor Henry Dano of Lingig, Surigao del Sur will be investigated for his alleged direct and indirect, overt and covert participation in armed hostilities waged by the AFP, PNP and their intelligence and paramilitary units against the NPA.??Dano and his two bodyguards Philippine Army Corporal Alrey Villasis Desamparado and Private First Class Allan Pelino, both of the 75th Infantry Battalion’s Intelligence Section, were taken by the NPA in Lingig town in Surigao del Sur last August 6.

?Right abuses

Meanwhile, in a statement sent through email, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) said President Benigno Aquino III “has no moral high ground” to demand a gesture of sincerity from the NDFP.

“How can Aquino question the sincerity of the NDFP when it has been his government that has failed to show good faith in the peace talks after carrying out the arrest earlier this year of at least two key NDFP?peace consultants and failing to fulfill its obligations to effect the release of at least 17 peace talks consultants of the NDFP?” the CPP said, referring to Alcantara and Jazmines.

“The Aquino government is in no position to demand that the revolutionary forces stop waging the war of resistance when its armed forces continue their war of suppression in the countryside under the?AFP’s Oplan Bayanihan,” said the CPP. “Behind its human rights rhetoric, the AFP continues to violate with impunity the political, economic and cultural rights of the people as well as international rules on the conduct of war.”

The source from the NDFP told Bulatlat that the AFP continues to commit human rights violations including arrests of activists. He said they will demand justice for the NDFP consultants who have been victims of enforced disappearances during the Arroyo administration.

For his part, Agcaoili said that while he welcomes the statement of Aquino regarding the Marcos compensation bill, he said: “It’s a good thing but he should be telling Etta [CHR chairwoman Loreta Ann Rosales] not to be partial.”

Agcaoili, then secretary general of Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at para sa Amnestiya (Selda), along with the late Jose Marie Veles, secured the services of Robert Swift for the class suit against the Marcoses.

Agcaoli, who was among the original complainants in the class suit, did not receive a single centavo as compensation. His wife, Rosario, who had been detained for three years during martial law, was not included in the list of victims who received compensation. “The victims of Marcos deserve to be compensated in accordance with the decision of the US court. Aquino should tell his appointee not to be partial,” he said.

The compensation for martial law victims is cited in the provisions of the CARHRIHL signed by both parties in 1999. ()

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