AMR: The indemnification of human rights victims under the Marcos regime was also among the agenda for the recent round of talks. Is there a proposed time frame for the indemnification?
LJ: While there is no fixed time schedule set, the last sentence in the section of the agreement on indemnification, indicates that it should be done as soon as possible: “…the GRP shall indemnify martial law victims of human rights violations, giving priority to the successful plaintiffs in the Human Rights Litigation against Marcos who shall be indemnified WITHOUT FURTHER DELAY AND IN THE MOST EXPEDITIOUS MANNER.”
No doubt, the organizations of victims of HR violations, such as SELDA (Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainee Laban sa Detensyon at para sa Amnestiya), and other HR organizations
and their supporters should intensify the pressure on the GRP to abide by this provision in the Oslo Joint Statement.
The NDFP will press for retaining in an escrow account the said amount solely for the purpose of indemnifying victims of human rights violations during martial law. This is to be done by the executive (no need to wait for Congress to pass a law). The Oslo Joint Statement cites the precedents in the contingency legal expenses and lawyers’ fees incurred by the PCGG (Presidential Commission on Good Government) to indicate that the principal (the GRP president) can undertake such action.
AMR: Regarding the release of political prisoners, is there a proposed time frame within which the GRP shall review the cases of the detainees in the Karapatan list?
LJ: The NDFP panel stressed the urgency of releasing the 23 persons whose orders of release had been signed since 2001, while the GRP Panel stressed their “judicial procedures.” The same urgency was stressed by the NDFP Panel for the Karapatan list of women, children, sick and elderly persons, and the review of the more than 300 political prisoners.
While no time frame is set in the Oslo Joint Statement, it is clear from the letter and spirit of the text, that the review and the releases should be done “expeditiously.” So, the NDFP will be pressing for their expeditious release and early review.
We are proposing that Karapatan and other human rights organizations and advocates intensify the pressure on the GRP to comply with their obligation to release and make the review soonest.
AMR: Social and economic reforms form the next phase in the peace negotiations. Does the NDFP expect a more difficult battle in this area than the fight for HR-IHL?
LJ: Yes, the NDFP expect the negotiations on these topics, such as land reform and national industrialization, which are at the very root of the 35-year-old civil war in our country to be tougher than the negotiations on HR-IHL.
AMR: Are there already plans for the venue of the next round of formal talks?
LJ: Should the measures for resolving the issue of “terrorist” listing be considered effective and there is substantial compliance by the GRP with its obligations, the next round of talks may be held toward the end of March 2004. The venue could be Beijing, if and when the People’s Republic of China agrees, or Oslo again.