Fidel Agcaoili said the National Democratic Front of the Philippines is now contemplating on inviting new GRP peace panel chair AlexPadilla to a one-on-one meeting in Hongkong to clarify whether the current Aquino government accepts the validity of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) and can ensure the safe and trouble-free visit of the Jalandoni couple in Manila.
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Hopes for the resumption of the peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) brightened after the Aquino government reconstituted its five-member panel for the peace negotiations with the NDFP to include two human rights lawyers. But a few days after, the talks hit a snag again.
?In an interview through email, Luis Jalandoni, chairman of the NDFP peace panel, said he and Coni Ledesma, member of the negotiating panel are planning to visit the Philippines on December 1. “The plan is to have informal talks then in order to pave the way for the resumption of formal peace talks in Oslo in January or February of next year.”
But Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said early this week that “it will be better for the NDF to visit the Palace with a signed peace agreement.” Peace Adviser Teresita Quintos-Deles also said “the President could not be expected to comment” on the proposed visit.
In reaction, NDFP panel member Fidel Agcaoili said in a statement the NDFP is reconsidering the visit of Jalandoni to Manila in December “in view of the negative attitude of GRP President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino, Jr. to the proposed courtesy call.
“Despite the presence of enlightened elements in the reconstituted GRP negotiating panel like Atty. Alex Padilla and Atty. Pablito Sanidad, the brutes on the GRP side do not seem to appreciate the idea of a?courtesy call to Noynoy as a gesture of goodwill, following precedents with Ramos, Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo,” Agcaoili said. “They are trying to make the NDFP look like a beggar.”
?Earlier, the NDFP welcomed the appointments of Padilla and Sanidad to the GRP panel. “With his [Padilla’s] background as an active leader in the anti-Marcos dictatorship campaigns and a human rights lawyer is for us in the NDFP negotiating panel an excellent choice as chairperson of the GRP negotiating panel. This a very positive signal from the Aquino administration. Atty. Pablito Sanidad is also a well-known and appreciated pro-people personality,” Jalandoni told Bulatlat.
Agcaoili said the NDFP is now contemplating on inviting Padilla to a one-on-one meeting in Hongkong to clarify whether the current Aquino government accepts the validity of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) and can ensure the safe and trouble-free visit of the Jalandoni couple in Manila.
The GRP has unilaterally suspended the JASIG after formal talks bogged down in 2004. Some consultants of the NDFP to the peace process have been abducted, arrested and charged with common crimes. In fact, new murder charges in Leyte were filed against Agcaoili, NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison, Rafael Baylosis and several others.
NDFP consultants Leo Velasco, Prudencio Calubid, and Rogelio Calubad, among others, were abducted and forcibly disappeared. NDFP consultants and JASIG-protected persons who were arrested and are still detained are Angie Ipong, Glicerio Pernia, Eduardo Sarmiento, Eddie Serrano, Alfredo Mapano, Jovencio Balweg, and Jaime Soledad, among others. Out on bail is Randall Echanis. Elizabeth Principe, meanwhile, was released after the common crimes charged against her were all dismissed by the local courts.
Agcaoili added that the GRP is capable of arresting Jalandoni and Ledesma when they arrive in Manila “to show off their reactionary power and kind of law over the NDFP.”
Rey Casambre, executive director of the Philippine Peace Center and co-convener of the Pilgrims for Peace, described as “unfortunately narrow-minded and infantile” the GRP’s response to the NDFP proposal.
“Taken seriously, it shuts the door to any possibility of a top-level direct exchange of views, of whatever form or circumstance,” Casambre said, adding that in January 1998, then GRP President Fidel Ramos received Jalandoni and Ledesma in a courtesy call in Malacanang. He said that at the minimum, the said meeting was a clear reciprocal confidence-building and goodwill measure from both Parties. Two months later, on March 16, 1998, the GRP and NDFP panels formally signed the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). On that day, Casambre recalled, Ramos even had a friendly overseas phone conversation with NDFP Chief Political Consultant Jose Ma. Sison.
Jalandoni reiterated that the resumption of formal peace talks ought to be within the framework of The Hague Joint Declaration and other agreements, without preconditions. This is also the position of the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP), Ecumenical Bishops’ Forum (EBF) and other peace advocates. “But there is no explicit position, as far as I know, that has been made by the GRP Negotiating Panel,” Jalandoni said.
?Signed in September 1992, The Hague Joint Declaration lays down the substantive agenda for the peace talks: human rights and international humanitarian law, socio-economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms, end of hostilities and disposition of forces. Based on this agreement signed by both parties, the peace talks should now proceed with the negotiations on a Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER).
?Casambre said the offer or request from the NDFP for Jalandoni and Ledesma to pay a courtesy call to President Aquino and their suggestion to meet with newly designated GRP panel chair Padilla could be considered a goodwill and confidence-building measure, which would considerably improve the atmosphere and could pave the way for preliminary talks and eventually the resumption of formal talks.
Casambre said goodwill and confidence-building measures always play a very important and sometimes crucial role in any kind of negotiation. “It clears the air and provides an atmosphere of optimism and trust conducive to negotiating and entering into an agreement,” he said.
Former presidents Corazon Aquino and Fidel Ramos released political prisoners as part of confidence-building measures.
“Goodwill and confidence-building measures from the GRP are much needed at this point where the formal talks have been suspended for more than five years, the JASIG was suspended and only recently restored by the GRP, a dozen or so consultants have been arrested and detained as a result of the suspension of the JASIG, and thousands of complaints of human rights violations filed with the Joint Secretariat of the JMC (Joint Monitoring Committee) could not be acted upon because the GRP refuses to convene the JMC while there are no formal talks,” Casambre said.
The JMC is a mechanism for the monitoring of compliance of both parties to the CARHRIHL.
“The GRP regime is showing a certain measure of unreasonableness and hostility to the NDFP by failing so far to release as good will measure the 388 political prisoners, while ordering the release of 400?military prisoners,” Agcaoili said. “It has also shown extreme slowness in moving for the resumption of the formal talks in the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations. There are continuing signs of ill will from the GRP towards the NDFP. ”
Jalandoni said the release of the Morong 43 and other political prisoners would be a good confidence building measure to improve the atmosphere for the resumption of formal peace talks, as well as the release of detained NDFP Consultants and the withdrawal of trumped up charges against NDFP personnel involved in the peace talks. He said the release of NDFP personnel who are detained in violation of the JASIG would demonstrate compliance with the JASIG.
“These are points which we expect to bring up in the informal talks. These issues are also being raised by progressive organizations and individuals as measures which would promote the peace negotiations,” Jalandoni told Bulatlat.??In a separate statement, human rights group Karapatan called on President Aquino to take a “hands-on action” regarding the peace process.
“The President should not pass the buck on this all-important issue. If he closes the door on peace, the gates for more human rights abuses would surely be flung open,” Karapatan acting secretary-general Roneo Clamor said.
“Indeed, there can only be progress and development if there is peace; but there can only be peace if it is based on justice. Human rights groups are asserting that human rights violators be punished, their victims indemnified, and the policy for reactionary war by state security forces be ended. The President could start by releasing all political prisoners, including the illegally detained Morong 43 community health workers,” Clamor added.
Asked to comment on Deles’s statement that the GRP could not do anything about the ‘demand’ of the NDFP to remove the New People’s Army from the US’s and European Union’s list of foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs), the NDFP said the GRP has the duty to stand up for the inherent right of the Filipino people to judge on the internal situation and matters in the Philippines.
Jalandoni said the “terrorist” listing of the CPP, the NPA and Prof. Jose Maria Sison, the NDFP Chief Political Consultant is a violation of that inherent right to national sovereignty. “We do not agree that the GRP can do nothing about such gross violation of the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Philippines. The very least the GRP can do is to stand up, together with the NDFP, for the sovereign right of the Filipino people to judge on matters internal to the Philippines,” Jalandoni said.?
“The NDFP have expressed clearly and unequivocally their desire and preparedness to resume formal talks on the basis of all prior bilateral agreements. At this point, it would all depend on the political will of the GRP President, whether the formal talks will resume, prosper and arrive at substantial agreements or not,” Casambre said.
Casambre, who has been an advocate of a just and lasting peace for the past 18 years, said open-mindedness and a capacity to understand the position of the other side and the ability and creativity to craft agreements on the basis of mutually acceptable principles and common values are important in peace negotiations.
“The panels of the two Parties have time and again accomplished this in good fashion. Unfortunately, the past 18 years, and especially the past nine years under the Arroyo government, have shown that this is not enough. Time and again, the agreements painstakingly reached and crafted by the two panels had been vetoed by the GRP Cabinet cluster on Internal Security, particularly by the militarists and hawks in that Cabinet cluster. This is the main reason why the formal talks have been suspended.” (Bulatlat.com)