Amnesty Offer, Peace Talk Overtures ‘Hypocritical’ – NDFP

Moreover, past amnesty programs were a source of corruption. Billions of pesos went into the pockets of civilian and military bureaucrats who produced fake surrenderees.

Does not the Arroyo government contradict itself by offering, on the one hand, a general amnesty for all armed groups fighting the government – including the CPP-NPA which it has labeled as a “terrorist” organization – while on the other hand vowing to “crush the terrorist movement” with the HSA?

Indeed, the Arroyo government is self-contradictory. It pretends to be magnanimous by appearing to offer reconciliation through amnesty but at the same time Mrs. Arroyo tries to talk and look tough to prove her subservience to the U.S. war of terror.

Her tough statement before a gathering of Air Force generals of Southeast Asia covers up the defeats suffered by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) in the face of the increasing tactical offensives of the NPA.

The Arroyo government will no doubt use the HSA as a tool for further intimidation and repression of all those who oppose its rule. The HSA will result in more human rights violations.

What can you say about Ermita’s statement that there is a need “to look into the human rights aspect” of the counter-“insurgency” campaign?

This is mere pretense and hypocrisy of General Ermita. With this propaganda, he seeks to appease especially the international community which has severely criticized and condemned the human rights violations of the Arroyo government and the military.

As head of the Cabinet Oversight Committee for Internal Security (COC-IS), Ermita is responsible for Oplan Bantay Laya I and II which have caused the extrajudicial killings of more than 860 unarmed civilians and about 200 enforced disappearances, the uprooting and forced displacement of over a million internal refugees and other human rights violations.

Oplan Bantay Laya I and II are similar to the Operation Phoenix* used by the U.S. in Vietnam, from 1965-73, with the avowed purpose of destroying the political infrastructure of the revolutionary movement in Vietnam. It was. Ermita was involved in Operation Phoenix, when he was assigned in Vietnam from 1966-68 as part of a contingent of Philippine troops called the Philippine Civic Action Group (PHILCAG), and so was John Negroponte** of the U.S.

The ages-old socio-economic problems of the Philippines are precisely among the issues that the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations are supposed to address. What then can you say about De Venecia’s call for a nationwide ceasefire declaration as a precondition for what he calls the resumption of the peace negotiations which, he said, would “end the conflict…and launch the full-scale economic development of the country”?

Such a precondition violates The Hague Joint Declaration which puts as No. 4 in the substantive agenda the cessation of hostilities. The Hague Joint Declaration and subsequent agreements stipulate that socio-economic and political reforms have first to be agreed upon so that the roots of the armed conflict are addressed and resolved before coming to the negotiation on the cessation of hostilities or ceasefire. An indefinite ceasefire without addressing the socio-economic and political problems would be tantamount to pacification and capitulation, which the revolutionary movement will never agree to.

Do you think that, considering the GRP’s recent “prescriptions” for the continuation of the peace process, there is a real possibility for exploratory talks that would address prejudicial questions like the extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations, the “terror” tag on the CPP-NPA, and the indemnification of the victims of human rights violations?

For as long as the Arroyo regime insists on an indefinite ceasefire before resumption of peace talks without addressing the prejudicial questions as stated above, there is no real possibility of meaningful exploratory talks. The actions, policies and statements of Mrs. Arroyo, General Ermita, Norberto Gonzales and Gen. Hermogenes Esperon go against the resumption of formal peace talks.

The NDFP is open to holding exploratory talks with the objective of coming out with a joint statement of principles which takes into consideration the demands of the people as stated in the NDFP Proposal for Immediate Just Peace. These exploratory talks should address and resolve such questions as the extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations, the killing, enforced disappearance and harassment of NDFP Consultants and Staff and other victims, the unjust “terrorist” listing by foreign governments of the CPP, the NPA and Prof. Jose Maria Sison, the indemnification of human rights victims and the release of prisoners.

What would it take to really get the GRP-NDFP peace talks “back on track,” to use a term from Ermita?

It needs the political will of Mrs. Arroyo to go for serious peace negotiations that address the roots of the armed conflict. She and her generals must give up the illusion that they can use the militarist solution to defeat the revolutionary movement.

If Mrs. Arroyo really wants to start solving the problem of extrajudicial killings, abductions, massive displacement of people and other human rights violations, she could issue a clear order to all military and police forces to stop the extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances. This order could be accompanied by concrete action for the investigation and prosecution of those military and police personnel against whom, as UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston said, “the extrajudicial killings are convincingly attributed.” These military and police personnel should be suspended because they are either positively identified by victims and witnesses, or there is circumstantial evidence against them or within their area of responsibility a pattern of human rights violations has been established.

Overall Remark

As a conclusion, may I state that if the “terrorist” listing by foreign governments of the CPP, the NPA and Prof. Jose Maria Sison threw a monkey wrench into the peace talks, the implementation of the Anti-Terror Law or HSA with the “proscription” of the CPP and the NPA will totally scuttle the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations. (Bulatlat.com)

*Operation Phoenix was a wide-scale assassination program targeting Vietnamese revolutionaries and their supporters.

**John Negroponte is currently the U.S. deputy secretary of state, and formerly its director for national intelligence. He was assigned as ambassador to Iraq (June 2004-April 2005) and the Philippines (1993-96).

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