“Legalities, judicial processes should not be a hindrance but in fact should facilitate the peace negotiations because the peace negotiations have a higher objective.”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Human rights alliance Karapatan reminded the Duterte administration to fulfill its commitment to release detained consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
In a recent resolution, the Supreme Court did not grant the motion for temporary release of the eight detained peace consultants of the NDFP and two political prisoners on humanitarian grounds. The high court stated “the substantive issue of jurisdiction belongs not to this Court but in the Regional Trial Courts hearing the various cases which are now in different stages.”
In its motion, the high court set a condition limiting to six months the temporary liberty of two NDFP consultants Vicente Ladlad and Randall Echanis and Makabayan president Satur Ocampo. The three have been granted bail several years ago in connection with the Gloria Arroyo-era Hilongos murder case.
The six-months limitation is one of the conditions cited by the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) panel, through the Office of Solicitor General (OSG), in its Motion for Conditional Release of NDFP Consultants to Attend and Participate in Peace Negotiations.
Karapatan reiterated that the Duterte administration and the GRP panel committed to release political prisoners through public pronouncements and the Oslo Statement in June 2016. The group added that the release of NDFP consultants is in compliance to previously signed agreements such as the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).
Aside from six-months temporary liberty, other conditions sought by the GRP panel for the temporary liberty of NDFP consultants include returning to the Philippines after the formal peace negotiations in Oslo, Norway and reporting to the Embassy of the Republic of the Philippines in Norway whenever required. The GRP panel also maintained that once the participation of the NDFP consultants ceases or the peace negotiations are terminated, their respective bonds shall be automatically canceled.
Rachel Pastores, one of the legal consultants of the NDFP peace panel, likened these conditions to “the sword of Damocles” hanging above the heads of NDFP consultants. She added the conditions are inconsistent with the purpose of peace negotiations.
“Can we expect it [peace talks] would be finished within six months considering that both parties should deal with decades-old problems?” Pastores told Bulatlat in an interview.
Pastores said that the GRP panel opted to adopt a complicated mode for the release of NDFP consultants. She said the process could have been simpler.
“Legalities, judicial processes should not be a hindrance but in fact should facilitate the peace negotiations because the peace negotiations have a higher objective,” Pastores said.
Still, Pastores hopes that with the Supreme Court resolution, the local courts would hasten the proceedings.
The NDFP peace panel legal consultants remains optimistic that the GRP and all its agencies and concerned officials will do everything to comply in good faith with its commitments to release the detained NDFP peace consultants so that they can timely participate in the formal peace talks.
Pastores said the charges against the NDFP consultants were filed with various courts in different parts of the country. She said the GRP panel should ensure that the local courts prioritize the cases.
In a statement, GRP peace panel chairman and Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said they will ask government prosecutors to file and respond to necessary motions and manifestations for the speedy release of detained NDFP consultants.