By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – At the start of the preliminary talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) today, the NDFP peace panel said it would take up the matter of the GRP’s violations of the previous agreements.
Preliminary talks began today, Jan. 14, in Oslo, Norway. The meeting is preparatory to the resumption of formal peace negotiations in February.
The CPP accused the GRP of violating the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig) and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).
Jasig guarantees the safety of all consultants and personnel of both negotiating panels. Since the GRP unilaterally suspended Jasig in 2004, at least 12 NDFP consultants and other accredited NDFP staff members have been arrested and detained.
“These issues should be resolved before the resumption of formal peace talks,” the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) said in a statement sent through email.
The CPP called for the immediate release of Tirso “Ka Bart” Alcantara who was arrested last Jan. 4, saying that Alcantara is supposed to represent the revolutionary forces in Southern Luzon in the peace talks.
The CPP also demanded the immediate release of Eduardo Sarmiento, Eduardo Serrano, Edgardo Sacamay, Glicerio Pernia, Angela Ipong, Jaime Soledad, Randy Felix Malayao, Alfredo Mapano, Jovencio Balweg, and other NDFP consultants who have remained in prison since they were arrested during the previous Arroyo regime.
The CPP also asked the Aquino government to resolve the cases of enforced disappearance of other NDFP peace consultants, including Leo Velasco, Prudencio Calubid, Rogelio Calubad, and their staff members.
If unresolved, the CPP said, violations of the Jasig, as well as other violations of other agreements, may stall the resumption of formal negotiations.
In a meeting with leaders of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), Jan. 14, former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo said the demands of the NDFP are not preconditions but a commitment and responsibility that the GRP must undertake.
Ocampo has been consulted by the Royal Norwegian Government, the third party facilitator to the peace talks between the GRP and the NDFP. Ocampo also served as chair of the NDFP negotiating panel during the administration of President Corazon Aquino, the current president’s mother.
Ocampo said the two parties must implement CARHRIHL. Signed in 1999 by then President Joseph Estrada, the CARHRIHL commits both parties to adhere to human rights and international humanitarian law. It is the first of the four agenda item stated in the Hague Joint Declaration.
Through the help of the Norwegian government, the Joint Secretariat of the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) was set up in 2004. The JMC is supposed to monitor compliance and violations of both parties to the CARHRIHL. However, after its first meeting, the JMC has never been convened again.
Ocampo underscored the importance of the CARHRIHL, saying that violations of human rights have affected thousands of civilians. “The sincerity of both parties would be tested in the implementation of CARHRIHL, whether both of them would accept sanctions and pay damages,” he said.
Ocampo said justice must be served to the victims of human-rights violations, including compensation for martial law victims. “It must be implemented as soon as possible. The mechanisms and resources are there,” he said.
The CPP also demanded the release of almost 400 political detainees, in accordance with the CARHRIHL.
“The current ruling regime must also work to undo its predecessor’s connivance with the US and other imperialist powers to falsely and maliciously include the CPP and New People’s Army (NPA) in those countries’ list of ‘foreign terrorist organizations,” the CPP added.
The NDFP reiterated that the peace talks should be in accordance with the framework long drawn by the Hague Joint Declaration and other previous agreements. The Hague Joint Declaration, co-signed by the NDFP and the GRP in 1992, has served as the basic document guiding the peace negotiations. It outlines the objectives, framework, principles and agenda of the peace talks. It enumerates, in particular order, the substantive issues both sides should discuss: human rights; socio-economic reforms; political and constitutional reforms; and disposition of forces. The resolution of these issues through peaceful settlement would serve as the basis for putting an end to the armed hostilities.