The NDFP believes that genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization are key measures in addressing the roots of the armed conflict, but the GPH refuses to discuss these saying that climate change is the country’s biggest problem.
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – The Government of the Philippines (GPH) peace panel is veering away from the important bilateral agreements it signed with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
In a forum organized by the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP), May 3 in Manila, GPH panel chairman Alexander Padilla expressed indifference in discussing the roots of the armed conflict.
“Let’s talk about lessening the level of violence… Or any other thing that the NDF wanted to talk about but certainly, we don’t want to talk about what are the roots of social conflict, the basic ills of society and we can discuss it for the next 50 years and we will not arrive at the same conclusion,” Padilla told Church leaders. “We want something identifiable, time-bound.”
Padilla’s statement is incongruous with The Hague Joint Declaration , the framework agreement signed by the GPH (then referred to us Government of the Republic of the Philippines or GRP) and the NDFP on September 1, 1992.
According to The Hague Joint Declaration, the substantive agenda for peace talks are as follows: 1) human rights and international humanitarian law; 2) socio-economic reforms; 3) political and constitutional reforms; and, 4) end of hostilities and disposition of forces.
The GPH and the NDFP already signed the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) in March 1998. Next in the agenda would be the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (Caser).
Speaking at the same forum, Rey Claro Casambre of the Philippine Peace Center and NDFP consultant said both parties “have difficulty in arriving at a common understanding of the root causes of the armed conflict.”
In a previous Bulatlat.com webcast , Casambre said the NDFP has prepared tremendously for its draft on Caser and identified agrarian reform and nationalist industrialization as the solutions to poverty. Casambre said the Aquino administration, on the other hand, shot down the NDFP’s proposals on agrarian reform and national industrialization, calling it “ideologically-charged” terms. He said the GPH panel identified climate change as the country’s biggest problem today.
As early as May 2011, several people’s organizations from various sectors presented their proposals to the reciprocal working committees on socio-economic reforms of both parties.
Casambre said that in any peace negotiation, a common understanding of the roots of the armed conflict is important.
Casambre added that for the first time in the 22 years of negotiations (counting from 1992), the GPH panel registered reservations regarding the framework agreement, The Hague Joint Declaration, calling it a document of “perpetual division.”
Release of political prisoners, an obligation
For the NDFP, the GPH is also violating the spirit of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig) with the arrest of NDFP consultants. Recently arrested were Wilma Austria and Benito Tiamzon, both covered by Jasig as NDFP consultants.
Padilla branded the demand for the release of NDFP consultants as a “precondition” imposed by the NDFP and as the reason for the impasse.
Casambre said the NDFP’s demand for the release of its consultants is not a precondition but an obligation stated under Jasig and even CARHRIHL. “By arresting these consultants, the GPH is violating its own jurisprudence, the Hernandez political doctrine, which states that no one can be charged with common crimes for their political beliefs,” Casambre said, noting that 15 NDFP detained consultants are charged with “fabricated” criminal offenses.
Padilla said the NDFP is the one violating the Jasig, citing that there was a failure in the verification of Jasig-protected persons in July 2011. Without verification, Padilla said, the GPH could not release the NDFP consultants.
Casambre pointed out, however, that according to Jasig, the release of NDFP consultants, may also be made on humanitarian grounds or for practical reasons.
Casambre recalled that in 2010, the PEPP offered to be the custodian for NDFP consultants who would be released on recognizance. “But the GPH set additional requirements on top of the legal requirements,” Casambre said. The conditions, Casambre said, are next to impossible.