Irresponsible talk by GPH does disservice to the Peace Talks*
Fidel V. Agcaoili
Spokesperson, Negotiating Panel,
National Democratic Front of the Philippines
16 August 2011
The Government of the Philippines (GPH, formerly designated as the GRP) has really gone berserk in its extremely irresponsible disinformation campaign against the revolutionary movement in connection with the recent arrest of four (4) Prisoners of War (POWs) and three detainees under the custody of the New People's Army (NPA) in Mindanao.
The GPH wants to hide the fact that it still has more than 350 political prisoners under its custody who have either been charged or convicted with common crimes in violation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) and have suffered torture while undergoing interrogation and in detention.
These political prisoners have been on hunger strike since 25 July 2011, prompting Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, head of the National Secretariat for Social Action-Justice and Peace of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) to call for the “immediate and unconditional release of those whose arrests are deemed to be politically motivated” and “have already served long and completely unjust sentences.”
Among the political prisoners are the 13 remaining individuals protected under the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) whose releases have long been overdue – before the second round of formal talks slated in June 2011 as provided for in the 21 February 2011 Joint Statement signed in Oslo, Norway between the GPH and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). The GPH is bound in solemn agreement to expeditiously release all, if not most, of the 17 JASIG protected individuals by June 2011.
It is now August 2011, yet only four of the 17 have been released. So I ask Atty. Alexander Padilla, Chairman of the GPH Negotiating Panel: which side is delaying the resumption of the second round of formal talks? The GPH should immediately comply with signed agreements and not engage in dilatory tactics in an attempt to exert pressure on the NDFP.
Moreover, the Aquino regime deliberately glosses over the fact that it has been condoning the culture of impunity in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP) and their paramilitary groups (Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Units/CAFGUs and Civilian Volunteers Organizations/CVOs). Such tolerance is manifested in the failure to bring to justice the human rights violators under the Arroyo regime and to address the continuing violations of human rights under its own rule.
Under the Aquino regime, human rights groups have already documented 50 cases of extra-judicial killings and eight (8) cases of disappearances from 30 June 2010 to 31 July 2011 – the most recent of which involved three peasant organizers in Negros Occidental last 19 July.
There have also been a spate of arrests of peasant and labor organizers – most recently in La Union and Batangas – as well as surveillance, harassment, threats and attacks on human rights groups and advocates. For example, it is now deemed an “act inimical to national security” to render assistance to human rights groups as evidenced by the resolution of the National Police Commission signed by Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, depriving a local official of administrative control over the police for helping a local human rights group.
Under Oplan Bayanihan, the Aquino regime continues the practice of the previous regime’s Oplan Bantay Laya in attacking communities and deploying thousands of troops in areas suspected to be under the influence, control or supportive of the revolutionary movement. These troops base themselves in schools, health centers, church premises, barangay halls and civilian houses. They conduct surveillance and interrogation of the populace under the guise of census-taking and civic action. They actively recruit members into the CAFGUs and CVOs and set-up Barangay Intelligence Network (BIN).
They harass, threaten, arrest and torture people, including children, who oppose their presence and recruitment and protest their rowdy behavior during their daily drinking sessions which often lead to the indiscriminate shooting of work animals and houses. They molest local women, restrict the free movement of residents and the flow of food into the community, thereby disrupting the normal lives of the people during planting and harvesting seasons and the education of schoolchildren. They act as occupying troops over these communities.
The Aquino regime should not begrudge the New People's Army (NPA) for having the capability to arrest four (4) armed components of its counterrevolutionary and coercive apparatus, and an abusive local official and his two bodyguards who are deemed to have taken active part in military operations against the revolutionary forces.
The NDFP is a legitimate national liberation movement and a co-belligerent in the ongoing armed conflict in the country within the purview of international law and international humanitarian law. As a principled revolutionary organization, the NDFP represents 17 allied organizations and local organs of political power that are present throughout the country in urban and rural areas and in more than 120 guerrilla fronts with a mass base running into millions and an armed force operating nationwide under the guidance of a central political authority that functions within the framework of the Guide for Establishing the People's Democratic Government.
As Atty. Padilla knows very well, the NDFP has acquired such status of belligerency by dint of hard struggle since a long time ago against the US-Marcos fascist dictatorship. He should ask Atty. Marvic Leonen of this fact and point of international law. Such status was not bestowed by any entity external to the revolutionary movement. Direct or implied recognition by any foreign State merely enhances such status inherent in the people's revolutionary government.
Atty. Padilla should be reminded that there are two governments in the Philippines. One is the revolutionary government of workers and peasants based in the countryside and the other is the reactionary government of big compradors and landlords represented by Mr. Aquino in Manila. The NDFP Negotiating Panel has always declared that it represents the revolutionary organs of democratic political power, together with the CPP as the ruling party, the New People's Army as the main armed component of people's state power, the mass organizations and the broad masses of the people.
Since its founding and in the course of decades of practice, the NPA has treated POWs well in accordance with the 1969 Basic Rules of the New People's Army, international humanitarian law, the CARHRIHL and within its capabilities and circumstances. These have been publicly attested to by former POWs themselves, such as Gen. Victor Obillo, PA Major Eduardo Montealto, P/Major Rene Francisco, P/Major Roberto Bernal, among others, and by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
Let me also assure Atty. Padilla that the people's court of the democratic people's government is guided by the principle of fair administration of justice in observing the rights of individuals to due process. This is provided for in Part III on the Fundamental Rights and Duties of Citizens in the Guide for Establishing the People's Democratic Government. Atty. Padilla has nothing to fear for the POWs and the detainees in the criminal justice system of the revolutionary movement.
The NDFP is committed to pursue the peace negotiations with the GPH to bring about just and lasting peace in the country by addressing the roots of the armed conflict. It has even offered truce and alliance with the Aquino regime provided it firmly stands up for national sovereignty, democracy and social justice on the basis of the NDFP ten-point proposal for a Concise Agreement for an Immediate Just Peace issued on 27 August 2005. What the GPH should do is to respond to the NDFP proposal instead of engaging in irresponsible provocative talk that threatens to terminate the peace negotiations.