“The NDFP proposal to defer the talks of the Reciprocal Working Committees on Social and Economic Reforms (RWCs SER) and the Working Groups on Political and Constitutional Reforms (WGs PCR) scheduled in Oslo this month is meant to allow the GPH to comply with the Jasig.” – Luis Jalandoni
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — The peace talks between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) has been postponed.
In a letter dated June 2 addressed to GPH peace panel chairman Alexander Padilla, NDFP panel chairman Luis Jalandoni proposed the postponement of talks scheduled this month until such time that the NDFP consultants and other individuals protected by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig) are released.
The Joint Communique signed by both parties and witnessed by Ambassador Ture Lundh of the Royal Norwegian Government on 18 January 2011 in Oslo read: “The GPH Panel agreed to work for the expeditious release of detained NDFP consultants and other JASIG protected persons in compliance with the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig) and in the spirit of goodwill.”
As of June 8 (Manila time), Padilla has not responded to Jalandoni’s letter dated June 2 and to an earlier letter dated May 27, Jalandoni told Bulatlat through email. In his first letter, Jalandoni also followed up the GPH’s commitment to release detained NDFP consultants.
There are 17 NDFP consultants and Jasig-protected persons in different jails.
During his visit to Manila late last month, Fidel Agcaoili, NDFP panel vice chairman was asked by Padilla and Secretary Teresita Deles of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) to stay until June 1. Padilla and Deles apparently assured Agcaoili that there would be an announcement of releases.
“We are deeply disappointed that no such announcement has been made by the GPH,” Jalandoni said.
In her statement posted at the OPAPP website, Deles said: “The resumption of the formal negotiations with the NDFP will focus on the remaining substantive agenda on: socio-economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms and end of hostilities and disposition of forces. To avoid unwarranted disruptions of the negotiations, the Parties also established side table mechanisms to review and address procedural and non-substantive issues such as JASIG implementation, the release of alleged political prisoners (APOs), and confidence-building and goodwill measures.”
Agcaoili took offense on the statement. “The Parties may create mechanisms to facilitate discussions on the full implementation of the JASIG. But such mechanisms do not relegate the full implementation of the JASIG to a side-table issue. The claim of Ms. Ging Deles is simply preposterous,” he said.
“Ms. Ging Deles should be reminded that the primary purposes of the JASIG are “to facilitate the peace negotiations, create a favorable atmosphere conducive to free discussion and movement during the peace negotiations, and avert any incident that may jeopardize the peace negotiations,” Agcaoili said.
Agcaoli said that Jasig is a very important agreement in the GPH-NDFP peace negotiations. “It is what enables the Parties to directly engage in peace negotiations by providing safety and immunity guarantees to their respective negotiators, consultants, staffers, security and other personnel who participate in the GPH-NDFP peace negotiations. It actually tests the sincerity and commitment of the Parties to the peace negotiations,” he said.
“The NDFP proposal to defer the talks of the Reciprocal Working Committees on Social and Economic Reforms (RWCs SER) and the Working Groups on Political and Constitutional Reforms (WGs PCR) scheduled in Oslo this month is meant to allow the GPH to comply with the Jasig,” Agcaoili said.
In the meantime, Jalandoni said the NDFP panel continues overseeing the work of the NDFP Monitoring Committee in the JMC, the NDFP RWC-SER and NDFP WG-PCR.
“That means we continue working in preparation for the eventual next round of formal Panel talks, the JMC meeting scheduled for July 11-15 in Manila, the bilateral meetings of the RWCs-SER and WGs-PCR. But of course the GPH will have to comply with their commitment and obligation to release the NDFP Consultants and Jasig-protected persons,” Jalandoni told Bulatlat.com.
Deles said, “As far as I know, there has not been any changes on the agreements between the government and the NDFP. Preparations for the substantive agenda are moving forward. The GPH panel is fully aware of the developments brought about by the statements issued by Jalandoni and Agcaoili. I am confident that the Panel will manage this issue well and shall release its own official statement soon.
Jalandoni was informed by Lundh that the GPH panel are meeting June 8. “But we have not heard anything (yet) from that meeting,” Jalandoni said.
“[i]f the GPH cannot be trusted to comply with the JASIG, how can it be expected to comply with agreements on social and economic reforms, and on political and constitutional reforms, or, for that matter, in any agreement that would enable the Parties to enter into an alliance and truce?” Agcaoili said.
Bulatlat.com also sent an email to Padilla about the issue but got no response.
In a statement, the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP), the largest ecumenical formation of church leaders in the Philippines, urged both parties to remain focused on seeing the peace process through.
“We call on the two parties to follow the spirit of the JASIG as it is a crucial issue around the formal peace talks. Its faithful implementation enables the two parties to resume the negotiations in earnest,” the PEPP said.
“On the agenda of the formal peace talks are the social and economic reforms. This second substantive agenda is very central to the negotiations as it seeks solutions to address the roots of armed conflict that has afflicted our land for decades,” the group said.