Iron out differences, pursue talks
In a separate statement, the Philippine Peace Center, said that since 1995, the GRP (now GPH) and NDFP have been able to determine the accreditation of detained persons and agree on their release without having to open the safety deposit box containing the photographs. “In fact, eight of the 17 detainees in question had, in 2009, been acknowledged by the previous GPH panel to be Jasig-protected, and the GPH had actually begun to take the necessary legal measures to secure their release, although these were subsequently aborted. Padilla and his panel now deny and refuse to honor this acknowledgment by the previous panel,” the group noted.
“Tirso Alcantara is one such person who, on this basis, should have been released immediately, or should not have been arrested in the first place. Ironically, while Alcantara figured prominently in the release of prisoners of war of the New People’s Army as confidence-building measures, he now continues to be detained due to the GPH’s refusal to comply with the Jasig,” it said
The Philippine Peace Center maintained that Padilla’s declaration “has grave implications and potentially fatal consequences for the GPH-NDFP peace negotiations, not to mention its participants.”
“Padilla’s statement at the minimum sends a strong signal to the GPH prosecutors, military and police that NDFP consultants and other personalities involved in the peace negotiations are once again fair game for arrest and detention, not to mention torture and enforced disappearance that NDFP consultants became victims of under the Arroyo government and continuing under the current Aquino regime,” the group said.
Under the Arroyo administration, NDFP consultants Leo Velasco, Prudencio Calubid, Rogelio Calubad, Philip Limjoco, among others, were abducted and forcibly disappeared. Scores were arrested and charged with common crimes.
“Padilla and the GPH are fully aware that without the Jasig, there can be no peace negotiations since the NDFP will not negotiate under duress and with its panel members, consultants and staff under threat of surveillance, harassment, arrest, detention, torture and enforced disappearance with criminal charges based on fabricated evidence thrown on them with impunity by the GPH,” the Philippine Peace Center said.
“Padilla is merely paying lip service to the resumption of formal talks when he says the GPH wants to proceed with the negotiations on the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (Caser) and that formal panel talks can be held when these are completed. In declaring the Jasig inoperative and saying no one can claim to be protected by Jasig until the documents of identification are reconstructed, Padilla and the GPH are really shutting the doors to further peace talks,” the Peace Center said.
Meanwhile, the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) has joined calls for the resumption of talks. In a statement, the group expressed disappointment over the recent pronouncements to the media made by GPH Peace Panel Chair Atty. Alex Padilla and NDFP Peace Panel Spokesperson Fidel Agcaoili, wherein the two traded accusations regarding the lack of sincerity in pursuing the peace talks. The statement was released last August 28 and signed by Rev. Deogracias Iniguez, PEPP Head of the Secretariat, Archbishop Antonio Ledesma and Sharon Joy Ruiz-Duremdes, both co-chairpersons.
“Their recent pronouncements bodes for another postponement of the formal talks. The talks was postponed already last June and we feel that another postponement may truly derail the peace negotiations,” they said.
“We would like to appeal to both panels to iron out their differences and proceed with the formal peace talks. We believe that it is better to engage in principled debate over the negotiating table rather than other venues. The PEPP also encourages both sides to abide by their own reaffirmation of the validity and binding effect of all previous bilateral agreements as stated in the February Joint Statement. This includes the JASIG. We have previously stated that both parties follow the spirit of the Jasig as it is a crucial issue around the formal peace talk and that its faithful implementation enables the two parties to resume the negotiations in earnest,” the PEPP said.
The PEPP noted that there have already been major developments in the talks, including the setting up of a timetable for the negotiations. It said that the the schedules indicated in the timetable can be guideposts to peace.
We call on both panels to work hard in order to meet the proposed schedules. If both sides abide by this, and try to build bridges instead of hurdles, and we reiterate this – through principled negotiations – our country will enjoy what the Psalmist promised, ‘a future awaits those who seek peace’ (Psalms 37:37),” the PEPP said.