Int’l lawyers group urges resumption of peace talks, prosecution of rights violators

"The recent statement of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) is a much needed boost to the Filipino people’s call to resume the peace talks and to end the culture of impunity in the country," Marie Hilao-Enriquez, Chairperson of Karapatan, said. Established in 1946, the IADL is an organization of lawyers worldwide, which has a consultative status with the United Nations’ Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and United Nations’ Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). 

On May 27, the IADL came out with a resolution calling on the Aquino administration to hold human rights violators accountable and to continue peace negotiations. The international lawyers group challenged the Philippine government to "immediately arrest and prosecute Gen. Jovito Palparan Jr. who is a representative of most horrendous abuses of human rights." The IADL also stated that "the failure to hold him (Palparan) demonstrates the continuing impunity for extrajudicial killings, disappearances, torture and other violations." 

Gen. Palparan has been in the wanted list for cases of grave human rights abuse, particularly the enforced disappearance of two University of the Philippines students, Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan, who were abducted in 2006. Palparan remains a fugitive. 

Karapatan-Alliance for the Advancement of People's Rights, among other people's organizations and human rights bodies, had urged the Aquino administration to push through with the peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). "Yet, the Aquino government ignored these calls and continues to insist on its own framework in the peace negotiation, ignoring previously signed agreements with the  NDFP and pushing instead for the surrender of the CPP-NPA-NDF members," Hilao-Enriquez said. 

The Karapatan chairperson said that the peace negotiations have been scuttled for the failure of the GPH to abide by its commitment to release imprisoned NDFP consultants covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG). Recently, the Aquino government, through its peace panel head Atty. Alex Padilla, unilaterally terminated the peace talks through media releases.  "It shows the GPH only means war," Hilao-Enriquez said. "For us, it means more human rights violations," Hilao-Enriquez continued. 

"We call on the parties to resume the negotiations based on their previous agreements to earnestly, patiently and sincerely address and comprehensively resolve the underlying social, economic and political reasons for the armed conflict and resistance," the IADL resolution stated. 

The IADL further said, "we call on our affiliates all over the world and our colleagues in the legal profession to undertake international legal actions and campaigns complementary to those being waged in the Philippines." 

"It’s disgusting that despite repeated calls to end impunity in the country and to pursue peace and justice, to respect its previous commitments at the negotiating table such as the release of the NDFP consultants and to tackle the agenda for socio-economic reforms to truly address the root causes of the armed conflict, the Aquino government continues to be on the warpath through its Oplan Bayanihan. The Aquino government intends to intensify war and bring terror to the Filipino people," Hilao-Enriquez ended.