By RAMON M. PATRIARCA
AFP Central Command Headquarters
CEBU City — In December 2010, Malaca?ang announced it will review the cases of more than 200 political prisoners – most of whom were unjustly arrested for opposing the nine-year Arroyo regime — with the end-view of effecting their release.
In February 2011, the Government of the Philippines (GPH) peace panel signed the Oslo Joint Statement with its National Democratic Front (NDF) counterparts, committing, among others, to release ‘most, if not all’ detained NDF peace consultants in order to resume in earnest the GPH-NDF formal peace negotiations.
These twin developments served to strengthen major peace documents between the government and the revolutionary movement, most especially the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) of 1998, and the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) of 1995.
More importantly, these developments were a yardstick on the Aquino government’s willingness to actually fulfill GPH obligations made on the negotiating table with the NDF, and consequently, on its readiness to confront the three more difficult substantive agenda of the GPH-NDF formal peace negotiations regarding socio-economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms, and cessation of hostilities and redisposition of forces.
Halfway through his six-year term, there is no doubt that President Aquino has failed miserably in advancing the cause of a just and lasting peace in the country.
No review of the court cases of political prisoners was ever conducted. Instead, the illegal arrest, torture and detention of social activists and suspected revolutionaries were intensified, such that the number of political prisoners nationwide has almost doubled now to more than 400.
Detained NDF consultants were not released, and their ranks increased, as the Aquino government pursues its counter-revolutionary Oplan Bayanihan with more vigor. Worse, in imposing the latest termination of the GPH-NDF peace negotiations, Malaca?ang made it appear that the imperative of releasing detained NDF peace consultants is nothing but a ‘precondition’ capriciously imposed by the NDF, instead of the GPH obligation that it really is.
Political prisoners and human rights advocates are therefore justified in launching various forms of protest, in coordination with other progressive groups, as President Aquino delivers his mid-term State of the Nation Address (SONA) this July 22.