GRP should investigate 4,000 human rights complaints against State security forces

Upon signing of GRP-NDFP supplemental guidelines on monitoring committee on human rights, international humanitarian law 

ROME, ITALY - Karapatan welcomed the signing of the Supplemental Guidelines for the GRP-NDFP Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) on the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) today, January 21, 2017, in Rome, Italy during the third round of formal peacetalks between the two Parties.

The CARHRIHL, signed in 1998, is the first of the four substantive agenda in the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations. The JMC is the mechanism to monitor the Parties' compliance.

“The signing of the guidelines should further enable the two Parties, most especially the GRP, in meeting its obligations under the CARHRIHL. There is no reason now, as before, for the GRP JMC to renege on its role to investigate at least 4,000 complaints filed against GRP State security forces since 2004 which includes political killings and enforced disappearances from the Arroyo to the present Duterte administration, continuing illegal detention of political prisoners, numerous violations in relation to military operations, drug-related killings, among other violations of human rights and international humanitarian law,” said Cristina Palabay, Karapatan Secretary General and Independent Observer to the GRP-NDFP Joint Monitoring Committee on the CARHRIHL.

Among the complaints filed at the GRP Nominated Section of the Joint Secretariat of the JMC are the enforced disappearance of NDFP consultants and persons protected under the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) such as Leo Velasco, Prudencio Calubid, his wife Celina Palma, niece Gloria Soco and NDFP staff Ariel Beloy and Antonio Lacno; Rogelio Calubad and son Gabriel, Nestor Intise and wife Nelly Intise, Leopoldo Ancheta, Philip Limjoco and Cesar Batralo.

Also filed are complaints on extrajudicial killings in line with counter-insurgency programs such as the killings of Karapatan human rights workers Benjaline Hernandez and Eden Marcellana and peasant leader Eddie Gumanoy, and of Lumad leaders defending the right to ancestral domain such as Dionel Campos and Datu Juvello Sinzo, and alternative school director Emerito Samarca.

Since the establishment of the JMC in 2004, Karapatan has been engaging with the JMC, assisting victims and their kin in filing complaints. “However, no actions have been undertaken by the GRP on the said complaints. The GRP has to show that it is sincere in its adherence to the CARHRIHL and to meet its obligations on human rights and international humanitarian law by addressing the calls for justice. Otherwise, any agreement, international covenant or law that the GRP says it has signed on to and/or enacted is just for show,” Palabay said.

Karapatan also said that the GRP’s insistence on a bilateral ceasefire agreement with the NDFP prior to the release of political prisoners betrays its view on the CARHRIHL. “The continuing incarceration of 392 political prisoners, including the three detained NDFP peace consultants Eduardo Sarmiento, Leopoldo Caloza and Emeterio Antalan, is a clear violation of the CARHRIHL and JASIG. The GRP is obliged to release the PPs as its commitment under the CARHRIHL and as a matter of justice,” Palabay stated.

“Even with the GRP’s unilateral ceasefire declaration, human rights and international humanitarian law violations continued. So what good can a bilateral ceasefire declaration do if the GRP cannot meet its minimum obligations under the CARHRIHL?,” she added.

Karapatan reiterated its call for the release of all political prisoners, who are also supportive of the crafting of an agreement on socio-economic and political reforms. “The PPs, who are social activists and defenders of people’s rights, are among the most ardent supporters of comprehensive reforms to address the roots of the armed conflict. To keep them in jail is to obstruct efforts to achieve just and lasting peace,” Palabay concluded.