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Philippine Government Scuttling Peace Talks

Thursday, September 10, 2009

NDFP Artwork

The Philippine Inquirer reported today:

The resumption of peace talks with the communist National Democratic
Front of the Philippines under the Arroyo administration has become bleaker with the latter engaging in “double talk” and the elections moving closer, said Presidential Peace Adviser Avelino Razon Jr. on Thursday.

“The NDF is professing to go back to the negotiating table but it is persistently bringing forth immovable stumbling blocks that prevent the resumption of the peace talks,” lamented Razon in a statement.

By “immovable stumbling blocks” what the government really means is that the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) wants its own advisers and negotiators out of prison in accordance with the Joint Agreement on Security and Immunity Guarantee (JASIG) and the NDFP wants the government to respect the JASIG and Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law in the Philippines (CARHRIHL) (for more on those agreements click here).

The government also considers it an “immovable stumbling block” that the NDFP wants to tackle the question of the JASIG during the negotiations in Oslo.  The reason why the NDFP wants to tackle this issue is because ten of its panelists are still in prison (in violation of the JASIG) and that the implementation of JASIG will allow for the free movement of communist and NDFP leaders (and guarantee protection from harassment and surveillance) during negotiations.  Now, to any sane individual this would seem like a reasonable request: the NDFP wants to go over the JASIG agreement and guarantee the safety of its members during peace talks.  Obviously, the more freely they can move around and communicate the smoother the peace talks will go, which in turn will benefit both parties in trying to find a just and lasting peace.

So far only Elizabeth Principe and Randall Echanis have been released from prison.  The NDFP states:

The Arroyo regime has persisted in the use of false charges of common crimes to cause the abduction, torture, detention and/or murder of NDFP panelists, consultants and other JASIG-protected persons. Since June 15, it has aggravated the impediments on these persons and has tried in vain to maneuver the NDFP into subordinating itself to the rotten political and legal system of the GRP.

Despite their protection under JASIG the ten panelists from the NDFP have been arrested on trumped up charges of murder, bribery, smuggling, and the rest.  When I met with Elizabeth Principe in the Philippines she had told me that she was originally charged with different counts of murder so she couldn’t post bail.  She was then released due to the June 15th agreement of this year, but only after her jailers “consulted” with the military (despite having civilian orders to release her, so, I take it that the civilian government is subordinate to the military), which delayed her release for a few days.

The real, and major, immovable stumbling block, is this:

[T]he vicious and arrogant response of the GRP has been to inform the NDFP that there can be no meeting of the negotiating panels to focus on compliance with JASIG, unless the NDFP agrees first of all to set aside the negotiation of social, economic and political reforms and give highest priority to the discussion of “disarmament, demobilization and reintegration” (DDR) through the premature formation of a working group on the end of hostilities and disposition of forces (EHDF).

All the NDFP wants, is this:

First, the GRP and NDFP negotiating panels, assisted by their respective lawyers, meet in Oslo within the last week of September to make a written agreement on complying with JASIG and expeditiously removing the impediments on NDFP panelists, consultants and other JASIG-protected persons.

Second, immediately after signing the aforesaid agreement, the two panels can agree on the date and agenda for the preparatory meeting and formal talks in Oslo in November, subject to successful implementation of the aforesaid JASIG-related agreement during the entire month of October.

Third, during the preparatory meeting and formal talks possibly in November, the two panels reaffirm all bilateral agreements, give priority to the negotiation of the social and economic reforms and the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) and take up matters (including possible working groups) within the context of the Joint Agreement on the Sequence, Formation and Operationalization of the Reciprocal Working Committees (Agreement on Reciprocal Working Committees).

A pretty small price to pay for peace, if you ask me.

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