Hopes for a resumption in the GPH-NDFP peace talks were dashed when the government panel refused the NDFP’s proposal for talks in September until the reciprocal working committees (RWC) on the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (Caser) shall have completed the common tentative agreement on social and economic reforms.
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Formal talks between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (GPH) will not resume soon.
Alexander Padilla, GPH chief negotiator, wrote to Luis Jalandoni, head of the NDFP panel, stating that there will be no formal talks of the panels in Oslo next month and indefinitely until the reciprocal working committees (RWC) on the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (Caser) shall have completed the common tentative agreement on social and economic reforms.
In the letter dated August 19, Padilla also said there shall be no formal talks between the panels about issues involving the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig).
The Joint Statements signed in January and February in Oslo, Norway, state that the GPH shall release most or all of the 17 NDFP personnel protected under the Jasig, before the second round of formal talks in June. Talks, however, did not resume that month. So far, only four have been released and 13 Jasig-protected individuals are still languishing in prison.
“The GPH position expressed in writing by Padilla brazenly violates the Jasig and the entire peace process, and alerts the NDFP that the GPH is already scuttling the peace negotiations,” Fidel Agcaoili, NDFP spokesman, said in a statement sent through email.
Agcaoili said the “GPH is under obligation to comply with signed agreements, if it expects the NDFP to enter into an agreement on social and economic reforms.”
Caser is the second substantive agenda item under the 1992 Hague Joint Declaration. The first was the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), which was signed by both panels in 1998.
In a report, Padilla accused the NDFP of calling for formal talks so they can demand the release of detained leaders of the New People’s Army (NPA).
“The GPH must have palabra de honor (word of honor) and release most or all of the Jasig-protected individuals before the rescheduled second round of talks in September which it has itself proposed to the Royal Norwegian Government (RNG) in a letter dated 15 July 2011. There is a Tagalog saying that concretely applies to the present situation: ang balasubas ay kailanma’y di mapagkakatiwalaan (one who reneges on agreements can never be trusted),” Agcaoili, who met with Padilla early this month in Manila, said.
“Obviously, there is a pattern and …their primary concern is the release of detained NPA rebels. It’s their fault why the talks on Caser were postponed so the ball is now on their court,” Padilla added.
In an interview with Bulatlat early this month, Agcaoili said they had proposed an exchange of Caser drafts but the GPH refused. He said that as early as 1999, the NDFP’s draft was ready and has been updated in subsequent years.
During the nine years of the Arroyo administration, Agcaoili said both panels have only managed to agree on the preamble of the Caser draft.
Padilla also scorned the NDFP’s statement that they would subject abducted Lingig, Surigao del Sur Mayor Henry Dano to a “people’s court” and treat four jail guards as “prisoners of war.”
Dano was taken from his home, along with two Army bodyguards, by NPA guerrillas on August 6. The four jail guards, on the other hand, were captured last month in a rebel operation to rescue a jailed comrade who was being transferred from Ozamiz City to the Davao penal colony.
“These acts committed by the NPA are nothing short of criminal. They are violative of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law or CARHRIHL, which they have signed, as well as every human rights protocol,” the government panel said in a statement.
“It is unfortunate that while they are talking peace with government, the NPA has escalated its attacks and other acts of violence to unprecedented levels, committing the very acts they accuse government of doing. Obviously, they are working on the assumption that human rights apply only to them and that they can easily deprive those they choose to,” the government panel added.
In reaction, Agcaoili said, “For the information of Atty. Padilla, the regional authorities of the revolutionary movement have the right to hold Lingig Mayor Henry Dano for investigation for actively participating in military operations against the people. Mayor Dano shall be dealt with in accordance with the laws of the people’s democratic government.”
“Atty. Padilla should stop accusing the NDFP of what the GPH is precisely doing – holding hostage the JASIG-protected individuals to extract concessions from the NDFP or set preconditions for the second round of talks. He should instead recognize the clear obligations of the GPH under signed agreements. But thanks to his foolish talk, the NDFP is now duly forewarned of the malicious intention of the GPH in the peace negotiations,” Agcaoili added.
In a separate statement sent through email, Rubi del Mundo, spokesman of the NDFP-Southern Mindanao, said the revolutionary movement has a long history of dealing with prisoners of war and those accused who were arrested for various crimes, and a track record of upholding international humanitarian law and its own legal and judicial processes, which “Mr. Padilla wants to gloss over in a veiled attempt to belittle the achievements of the people’s democratic government.”
Del Mundo said in respecting Dano’s legal rights as an accused, the NPA custodial force facilitated the communication between Dano and his wife on the evening of 15 August.
Earlier, Padilla called it a “blackmail” and “bad precedence” to negotiate for the release of the four personnel of the Philippine National Police / Bureau of Jail Management and Penology and Dano and two military intelligence escorts.
“The GPH is engaged in treachery, where on one hand, it is on a murderous rampage, with its Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) scouring the countryside in various acts of reprisal and offensive military operations, using as dubious pretext the so-called rescue operation for the New People’s Army captives, while on the other hand, it is foisting the issue as blackmail in the non-resumption of the peace negotiations with the NDFP,” del Mundo said.
Del Mundo said the 75th, 28th, 67th, 66th Infantry Battalions and the 2nd Scout Ranger Battalion of the Philippine Army and PNP contingents are using “rescue operations” for GPH Mayor Dano and his two escorts, to cover up its fascist offensives against the peasant communities in the towns of Lingig, Boston, Monkayo, Cateel, Bagangga, Trento and Mangagoy. In the towns of Kitaotao, Kibawe, Arakan, Magpet and Makilala, the 8th, 57th and 61st Infantry Battalions are also engaged in offensive actions in search of the PNP/BJMP POWs.
“The GPH is accountable for putting at risk the safety and security of the NPA captives by ordering the full-scale military offensives, by refusing to acknowledge the Geneva Conventions-mandated protective status of the four PNP/BJMP personnel, and by ignoring the status of GPH Mayor Dano who enjoys his rights while under custodial investigation,” Del Mundo said.
In a report, Padilla also shot down NDFP’s proposal for a truce, saying it was tantamount to asking for “government capitulation.”
“In shooting down the NDFP offer of truce and alliance, Atty. Padilla has also foolishly misinterpreted the offer given that is based on the Concise Agreement for an Immediate Just Peace. It is obvious that Atty. Padilla is hellbent on scuttling the peace negotiations, both its regular and special tracks,” Agcaoili said.
“We thank him for unwittingly justifying the determination of the armed revolutionary movement to defend the people against worsening exploitation and oppression and the escalating campaigns of military suppression, which are propagandized by the US-directed Aquino regime as peace and development operations,” Agcaoili concluded.