“He [Duterte] said that he will be a servant of the people in achieving just and lasting peace.”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Church leaders and peace advocates praised the incoming Duterte administration and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) for their commitment to resume formal peace talks this July.
On June 15, the incoming GPH peace panel and the NDFP issued a joint statement stating they would hold formal talks in the third week of next month, uphold previously signed agreements, hasten the negotiations, among others.
Formal talks between the GPH and the NDFP hit a snag since 2011. Despite calls from various groups, informal talks between Aquino’s peace panel and the NDFP did not prosper.
Hopes are high with the incoming Duterte administration.
In a press conference this morning, June 17, Bishop Deogracias Iniguez of the Ecumenical Bishops Forum and Pilgrims for Peace said that President-elect Rodrigo Duterte’s statement is “very positive.” Iniguez said, “He [Duterte] said that he will be a servant of the people in achieving just and lasting peace.”
Pilgrims for Peace, an alliance of peace advocates, said they “are committed to supporting the negotiations, especially through engaging, involving and mobilizing people from all walks of life.”
The alliance said further that a broader section of the population “will be ready to participate in the crafting of the next substantive agenda on socio-economic reforms.”
According to the Hague Joint Declaration of 1992, the next agenda items are: socio-economic reforms; political and constitutional reforms; end of hostilities and disposition of forces. The first substantive agreement, the Comprehensive Agreement for Respect on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), was signed in March 1998.
Release political prisoners
Duterte’s earlier statement that he would release political prisoners has sparked hopes for the relatives and human rights advocates.
Amador Cadano, father of Guiller, said he was elated to hear that Duterte has recognized the existence of political prisoners.
The Aquino administration has denied there are political prisoners in the country.
Human rights alliance Karapatan said there are 509 political prisoners, 297 of whom were arrested during the Aquino administration.
Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general, said the charges against political prisoners are fabricated, pieces of evidence were “planted” and their right to due process was grossly violated in the conduct of the illegal search and seizure.
Newly freed political prisoners Sharon Cabusao and Isidro de Lima called for the release of all political prisoners in the country.
The local court in Bacoor, Cavite dismissed the charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives against Cabusao, de Lima and NDFP peace consultant Adelberto Silva.
Niki Gamara, daughter of NDFP consultant Renante Gamara, said her father is excited to get out of jail. “In the first place, he did not commit the crimes he was accused of,” Gamara said.
Palabay said the release of political prisoners is “a way to correct the injustice done to them.” She said the arrest and detention of these activists violate the CARHRIHL and in the case of NDFP consultants and staff, the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig).
Raymond Palatino, chairperson of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-National Capital Region, called on the public support efforts to release political prisoners. He said constituents must push their legislators to support the declaration of general amnesty for all political prisoners.
For his part, Renato Reyes Jr., Bayan secretary general, said their groups will hold a mobilization on Duterte’s inauguration to express support for the peace talks and push for what he calls as “People’s Agenda.”