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GPH-NDFP peace talks: Is the Aquino gov’t setting the stage for all-out war?

Peace-DoveThe peace negotiations between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) have hit a snag after the GPH refused to release imprisoned NDFP consultants, effectively suspending the new round of formal talks proposed to take place this September.

In the joint statement issued by both parties in February 2011, the GPH committed to work for the “expeditious release of all or most of the fourteen (14) NDFP listed Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) consultants and personalities before the second round of formal talks subject to verification as provided in the JASIG Supplemental Agreement dated June 26, 1996, or on the basis of humanitarian and other practical reasons.”

The GPH now seems to be reneging from this and has even assailed the NDFP for imposing this as an unreasonable “precondition” for the second round of talks. Government spokespersons in various instances  are quoted as saying that they are not obligated to release the consultants and that these are only “confidence-building” measures which the GPH can choose not to implement.

JASIG inoperative

The GPH has gone so far as to declare that JASIG “inoperative,” a statement that has been assailed as “foolish” and has dangerous implications for the talks. For one, the GPH panel cannot terminate an agreement that is signed by principals of both parties, it would need the signature of its principal to do so. More importantly, the continuation of the talks requires that both panels uphold previous agreements including JASIG, which ensures safety and immunity of panel members and consultants. The NDFP has also clarified that the release of the consultants is not a precondition but an obligation of the GPH under JASIG and affirmed in the February joint statement.

Indeed, how can the talks continue when negotiators and consultants are under constant threat of arrest, detention, and assasination? And how can there be any substantial agreement reached when both parties cannot even agree to uphold security and immunity of the panels and their consultants?

Verification

The GPH is blaming the NDFP for the continued detention of the consultants through a flimsy argument of technicality. Padilla says that the verification process for the identification of the consultants has failed because the NDFP violated JASIG and used encrypted diskettes which are now corrupted and cannot be opened.

The Philippine Peace Center however criticized Padilla and explained that legal jurisprudence holds that encrypted documents are deemed identical to and of the same value as the document itself and that the GPH has previously accepted the NDFP’s explanation for encrypting the documents as a necessary or reasonable security measure.

The group also said that the GPH and Padilla is aware that the  that the JASIG stipulates that the photographs in the safety deposit box are not the sole means of verifying whether one is a duly-accredited or JASIG-protected person or not, but only serve as further verification if necessary.

They recalled that “in practice, since 1995, the GRP  and NDFP have been able to determine the accreditation of detained persons and agree on their release without having to open the safety deposit box containing the photographs.” Also, the JASIG clearly states that persons who are publicly known to be involved in the peace negotiations enjoy safety and immunity guarantees even if they are not issued documents of identification. Thus, to tie the JASIG to the verification process which is not an absolute necessity is problematic if not malicious.

Immediate truce

Clearly, the GPH is making all sorts of excuses not to comply with obligations and uphold JASIG. Is the government scuttling the peace talks to pin the blame on the NDFP and set the stage for all-out war?

It should be noted that the NDFP has also put forward a proposal for “immediate truce and alliance” with the government as another track along with the formal peace negotiations in response to the proposals for periodic ceasefires. The GPH has also shut the doors to this doable and concrete proposal ridiculously misreading the truce as “capitulation” of the government and dismissing the proposal as “deceptive.”

The Filipino people should push for the resumption of the peace talks based on compliance with previous bilateral agreements including the Hague Joint Declaration, JASIG and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). The GPH’s scuttling of the peace talks should be exposed and condemned. It is time that the roots of insurgency and poverty be addressed seriously and meaningful reforms pave the way for a just and lasting peace.

 

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