By Alan Jazmines
February 14, 2012
It has been exactly a year now since I was treacherously arrested – on February 14, 2011, just a few hours before the resumption of the long-delayed formal talks between the peace panels of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH).
The arrest and the surveillance that led to it were schemed and perpetrated with vicious malevolence. They were made at the time when, from the underground and with great risk to my security, I was closely working and consulting with the NDF peace panel, related units, fellow consultants and others in the last few days up to the final hours just before the start of the first round of the resumption of the formal talks between the NDFP and GPH peace panels.
The surveillance and arrest maliciously disregarded my status as an NDFP peace consultant, did all they could to pry into my security and all communications between the NDFP peace panel and NDFP peace consultants, and violated a standing NDFP-GPH standing agreement – the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) – that is supposed to protect peace consultants from surveillance, arrest, detention and other antagonistic acts.
On these bases, I protested my arrest. But the higher ups of the arresting forces just ordered the latter to totally disregard the JASIG, proceed with the arrest and just let the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) and the GPH peace panel handle the related problems as may crop up. The anti-peace authorities behind the arrest wanted to prove that the”military solution” is superior and remains the GPH’s only real response to the civil strife that has long been prevailing in the country, to tie the hands of those at the opposite side of the negotiating table to test their limits and make them just capitulate and settle for measly crumbs or tokenisms, or just end up being frustrated.
Right after learning of the arrest, at the very start of the first round of the resumsption of the NDFP-GPH peace talks, the NDFP peace panel immediately raised its vehement objection and demanded my release and that of the other detained NDFP consultants. The GPH panel agreed to effect this on a best effort basis before the start of the second round of the formal peace talks.
But the GPH has not at all proved true to its word. None have been released, aside from those who have won their freedom through hard earned court victories over trumped-up charges .The GPH has not made any move at all to rectify its violations of standing peace agreements, including the JASIG. The GPH has, in fact, not at all shown real interest in seriously pursuing the peace process. Because of the GPH’s insincerity in the peace process, the NDFP-GPH peace talks continue to be stalled.
My arrest and imprisonment – given specially the present hostile and intensely restrictive conditions of prison – have, in particular, made it impossible for me to perform my tasks in relation to the peace talks, especially as a peace consultant of the NDFP and a member of the NDFP Committee in the NDFP-GPH Reciprocal Working Committees on Socio-Economic Reforms (NDFP-GPH RWCs SER). I am not able to travel, attend meetings, communicate efficiently and securely with the NDFP peace panel, co-committee members and others.
Socio-economic reforms comprise the second substantive agenda in the peace talks, which aims to unite in coming out with a Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER)—after having much earlier gained a meeting of minds on the first substantive agenda of human rights and coming out with a Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). But the peace talks have remained stalled because the GPH has not been fullfilling its obligation to release detained NDFP peace consultants, including one deeply involved and should be directly participating in the next substantive agenda, once peace talks are resumed. Clearly, the continuing imprisonment of consultants in the peace process is nothing but sheer hostility to the peace process.
In the meantime that fascist and anti-peace authorities are keeping us, NDFP peace consultants, in prison, we, together with other political prisoners who should also be freed, are determined to fight prison. This smaller prison that is but a part of the bigger prison that is the entirety of the failed and defunct, exploitative and opressive political and socio-economic system in the country, that we in the NDFP and the mass of the Filipino people are determined and struggling to change. The smaller prison we are presently confined in, after all, is a means of getting rid of those who cannot be tolerated by the fascists forces but are still kept alive in the bigger prison of the present system.The fight in the smaller prison goes in tandem with the fight in the bigger prison.
There have been spikes in prison atrocities, abuses and repression that we, NDFP peace consultants and all other political prisoners together with other prisoners here have wielded concentrated tactical struggles against and have won during the past year.
Such tactical gains, won under the leadership of NDFP consultants, include the cessation of some intense prison atrocities, abuses and repressions, such as the raiding of prisoners’ cells deep in the night after padlocking; abuses against female detainees; padlocking of cell blocks during the day on non-visiting days; forced labor and relaated verbal abuses; and others.
Still, continuing to underlie prison life, despite such tactical gains, are the continuing violations of our rights, specially our political rights as well as more of our human, legal and other rights – directed mainly against political prisoners.
We are now capping a year of a series of tactical struggles, this time with a more explosive struggle to expose and seek decisive remedies to the unjust, arbitray and illegal arrest, prosecution and continuing detention of practically all political prisoners here. It took practically a year for us to gather data, study and document the cases of unjust, arbitrary and illegal prosecution and detention of political prisoners here.
Our findings give lie to the GPH’s statement that there are no political prisoners in the country. The findings, on the other hand, give basis for the NDFP’s demand that the GPH adhere to and implement the Hernandez doctrine and the CAHRIHL, and that all political prisoners – morethan 350 of them all over the country – should be released.
We have proposed to various relevant government entities (the Commission on Human Rights, the Department of Justice, the Public Attorneys Office, the Senate Committee on Social Justice, the PNP Human Rights Affairs Office) and human rights organizations (National Union of Peoples Lawyers and Karapatan) their active participation and help in a joint investigation for deeper study and decisive remedial action on the matter and are sending these entities copies of the prepared documentations. The CHR has explicitly agreed to take the lead in the joint investigation.
We are also sending copies of the prepared study and documentation to the NDFP and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (especially as half of the victims are NDFP consultants and MILF members and the unjust, arbitrary and illegal arrest, prosecution and detention of these victims ar every much in the agenda of the NDFP-GPH and MILF-GPH peace talks) and to international human rights organizations, such as the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the Amnesty International United Kingdom and the Human Rights Watch Asia Division (especially as these international organizations are very much concerned in regard to issues of unjust, arbitrary and illegal arrest, prosecution and detention and issues of violation of human rights, and also especially as many of the victimized political prisoners are foreign nationals.
My having been in the forefront of tactical struggles and especially my having taken the lead in the study and documentation of unjust, arbitrary and illegal arrest, prosecution and detention have resulted in the ire and hostility of prison authorities here against me, and in moves (three, so far) to compel my transfer to another detention center where I can be more gagged and repressed. The last attempt was in early January, soon after prison authorities here have learned about the work I have been doing to study and document the cases of unjust, arbitrary and illegal arrest, prosecution and detention of political prisoners here and the proposal I have submitted to various government and human rights entities for a joint investigation here of those cases. Prison authorities here and other involved police/military/ intelligence units have become very concerned about the possible implications on them of findings and actions resulting from the joint investigation.
The struggle continues ….