By RAYMUND VILLANUEVA
The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) negotiating panel admonished the Rodrigo Duterte government on the arrest of New People’s Army (NPA) leader Elizalde Cañete while still recuperating from an 11-hour brain surgery in Bukidnon Province.
The NDFP said it views with great concern the arrest, saying the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) is under obligations to uphold their Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) under which hors de combat like Cañete should be afforded safeguards as regards to health, among other rights.
The group issued a statement following reports that Cañete’s kin as well as human rights paralegals are being barred from visiting him at Don Carlos Memorial Hospital in Kitaotao Town where he is confined.
Human rights group Karapatan-Southern Mindanao Region said Cañete’s relatives were also harassed by military intelligence agents under the 88th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army.
Karapatan SMR also said that hospital nurses and medical attendants were told by high-ranking officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) Cañete has been issued a warrant of arrest and is prevented from receiving relatives unless allowed by military and police authorities.
The group added Cañete’s family and paralegals are uncertain of Cañete’s health status as he is guarded heavily by combined elements of the PNP and AFP.
“We admonish the GRP to honor its commitments under CARHRIHL. Likewise, we warn the GRP that any harm done to Cañete can have adverse consequences to the efforts of both sides to resume the peace negotiations,” NDFP chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili said in a statement.
Agcaoili added AFP and PNP’s disregard of Cañete’s rights can jeopardize the back-channel talks for making preparations for the resumption of the stalled peace talks that have already reached an advanced stage.
Earlier, the Communist Party of the Philippines also admonished the GRP for violating its agreement with the NDFP that unilateral statements will not be issued prior to actual agreements in the ongoing series of backchannel talks.
While saying it is looking forward to positive resolutions, the CPP said officials of the Duterte government should be more circumspect in issuing public statements or comments so as not to preempt the outcome of the informal talks and efforts to revive formal negotiations.
Earlier, The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process said in a statement issued on Tuesday said that “[e]fforts to resume peace negotiations with the CPP/NPA/NDF are underway, with informal back-channel talks now taking place in Europe.”
OPAPP also announced it received positive results from the backchannel talks in Europe, the statement said.
The CPP however urged the media and the public to await official statements on the outcome of informal talks between representatives of the NDFP and the GRP.
NDFP chief political consultant Jose Ma. Sison echoed CPP’s statement, saying any announcement or statement on the ongoing backchannel talks must be co-signed and jointly issued by the GRP and the NDFP.
“The point is to avoid misundertandings and preemption of the outcome by any side at the expense of the other,” Sison told Kodao.
Sison added there is a strong trend towards resumption of formal talks within June, based on the fact that the back channelers are determined to put together a package of agreements on ceasefire, amnesty and release of all political prisoners.
He added that the signing of the Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ARRD) as well as National Industrialization and Economic Development (NIED) sections of the prospective social and economic reform agreement CASER may also constitute an Interim Peace Agreement.
“Bilateral teams are poised to finalize the common drafts of the ARRD and NIED for submission to the Reciprocal Working Committees on Social and Economic Reforms,” Sison said.