Rights amid War
NDFP launch Joint Monitoring Committee
Alexander Martin Remollino
of the GRP-NDFP Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) and their respective observers
in a light moment. Not in picture is Danilo Borjal, JMC member from the NDFP.
Photo by Alexander Martin Remollino
big event was happening in a small room at the office of the Catholic Bishops
Conference of the Philippines last April 15.
a press conference, the peace negotiating panels of the Government of the
Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the
Philippines (NDFP) announced the launching of the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC)
on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.
to Prof. Carlos P. Medina, Jr. JMC co-chair for the GRP, “The purpose (of the
JMC) is to bring together the GRP and the NDFP in a joint collaborative effort
to ensure the compliance of the signatories, the parties to the Comprehensive
Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).”
launching of the JMC is considered a major breakthrough in the GRP-NDFP peace
negotiations, which have been going on and off since 1986.
a Message of Congratulations to the GRP and the NDFP panels released on the
occasion of the launching, NDFP chair Mariano Orosa said: “With the JMC now
fully operational, the mechanism to monitor the implementation of the CARHRIHL
and investigate any reported violations thereof is in place. Both the NDFP and
the GRP shall now be more conscious of their respective obligations to respect,
protect and promote human rights and abide by the rules of war in the conduct of
the armed conflict under international humanitarian law.”
is most important in the setting up of the Joint Monitoring Committee, as well
as the Joint Secretariat,” said Fidel V. Agcaoili, JMC co-chair for the NDFP,
“is that…now the two parties can proceed to discuss the other matters in the
substantive agenda and the peace negotiations need not be bogged down by
accusations of human rights violations or accusations of political
Paul Moe of the Norwegian government, which is acting as a third-party
facilitator to the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations, said in the press conference:
“It is a great achievement, this establishment of the Joint Monitoring
Committee and its Secretariat…and we hope it will contribute greatly to
speeding up the peace talks/peace process, and we think it will be a very
important contribution to…a just and lasting peace.”
JMC is tasked with receiving and investigating reports or complaints of
violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, and initiating
recommendations or requests for the implementation of the CARHRIHL. Decisions on
these are to be made by consensus.
the press conference, Agcaoili said: “Anyone can file complaints, so long as
he feels that his human rights have been violated by either of the two
parties.” He also said that individuals as well as organizations can file
for his part, said: “The person who could file a complaint may be a victim of
a human rights violation, or a person with a substantial or sufficient interest
in the subject or nature of a violation.”
what rights are covered by the CARHRIHL, Medina said that the agreement covers
civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights violations. “Although
when we start to operate, there will be areas which we will consider priority
cases,” he added. “We are aware that we will not be able to handle all the
possible cases that can be filed with the Joint Monitoring Committee, and for
that purpose we have agreed on some areas where there can be prioritization. It
(the complaint) must arise from a civil/political rights violation arising from
the armed conflict, that is a priority case…it must involve a case of urgency,
it must be a grave case, it must involve a big number of victims.”
the opening of talks on social and economic reforms, which make up the next
agenda in the peace negotiations, how can economic, social, and cultural rights
be tackled in the JMC? Agcaoili explained in a subsequent interview with Bulatlat.com:
“For example, if peasants are being ejected from their lands, then they can
submit complaints. If there are workers who are being paid less than the minimum
wage, that is a violation of their rights, so they can also file complaints.”
formation of the JMC took place in the midst of the two rounds of formal
GRP-NDFP formal talks held in Oslo, Norway last Feb. 10-14 and last March
V, Article 2 of the CARHRIHL states: “The Committee shall be composed of three
members to be chosen by the GRP Panel and three members to be chosen by the NDFP
Panel. Each party shall nominate two representatives of human rights
organizations to sit in the committee as observers and to do so at the pleasure
of the nominating Party. The Committee shall have co-Chairpersons who shall
serve as chief representatives of the Parties and shall act as moderators of
co-chairpersons of the JMC are Prof. Carlos P. Medina, Jr. for the GRP and Fidel
V. Agcaoili for the NDFP. Other members of the JMC are: lawyers Edgardo B. Gayos
and Robert L. Larga for the GRP, and Coni K. Ledesma and Danilo F. Borjal for
the NDFP. Nominated as observers to the JMC are Mercedes Contreras-Danenberg,
former commissioner of
the Commission on Human Rights, and Mary Aileen Bacalso of Families of Victims of
Involuntary Disappearance for the GRP; and Marie Hilao-Enriquez of Karapatan
(Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights) and Obispo Maximo Tomas
Millamena of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (Philippine Independent Church).
JMC has also formed its Joint Secretariat, composed of five nominees each from
the GRP and the NDFP. Members of the JMC Joint Secretariat are: Ma. Carla
Munsayac-Villarta, Fe A. Oaing, Linda Cañete, Sandra Garcia, and Atty. Ma.
Ngina Teresa Chan-Gonzaga for the GRP; and Atty. Edre Olalia, Marissa Dumanjug-Palo,
Irein Cuasay, Rosie Tumbagahon, and Levie Ebio for the NDFP.
to Agcaoili, “The Joint Secretariat is actually a technical and working group.
It is the Joint Monitoring Committee…who would be acting on the complaints.
The Joint Secretariat will (do) the office work…they will receive the
complaints and distribute these to the parties concerned for their respective
it took long
formation of the JMC is provided for by the CARHRIHL, which was signed by the GRP
and the NDFP in 1998.
an interview with Bulatlat.com after the press conference, asked why it
has taken so long before a Joint Monitoring Committee could be established,
Agcaoili said: “Remember, it was (former President Joseph) Estrada who
approved the CARHRIHL, but afterwards he also terminated the peace negotiations,
so all the time Estrada was there, nothing moved.
when Mrs. (Gloria Macapagal-) Arroyo came to power after the overthrow or ouster
of Estrada, she said she wanted the peace negotiations to continue, but then
came the death of Col. Rodolfo Aguinaldo—the number one human rights violator,
according to Amnesty International, during the time of (Ferdinand) Marcos—they
suspended the peace negotiations. Until last year, November, when they sent
emissaries to conduct the formal negotiations.
sides have seen the necessity of setting up a Joint Monitoring Committee—at
least the GRP panel, you know, they see that if you keep the JMC pending and not
in operation, then there will continue to be disruptions in the peace
negotiations, with each side charging each other of human rights violations.
Although I must stress, the NDFP has never suspended nor terminated peace
negotiations for any reason whatsoever. We do not, as the GRP has been doing,
terminate/suspend peace negotiations for reasons like the death of Aguinaldo,
the holding of General (Victor) Obillo as prisoner of war—that was the reason why
Estrada terminated the peace negotiations. Now if the Joint Monitoring Committee
was already operational at that time, these matters could have been discussed
there…so I think the GRP has already recognized the need for a JMC.
you know, it’s election time. I think Mrs. Macapagal-Arroyo would like to be
seen as someone who is supportive of the peace talks.” Bulatlat.com
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