Karapatan backs Church call for resumption of GPH-NDFP peace nego, release of peace consultants

Karapatan joins the Pilgrims for Peace as it calls for the continuation of the peace negotiations between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), the release of all detained NDFP consultants to the peace process, and in standing by the four substantive peace agenda as stipulated in theHague Joint Declaration especially the agenda on social and economic reforms.

However, the human rights group finds the Aquino government’s stance as “malicious and insincere on the non-resolution of the roots of the armed conflict by adamantly demanding for a ceasefire while repeatedly violating the previous agreements, especially the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), and refusing to tackle the next substantive issues.”

“Not only is the GPH reneging on its commitment to release most, if not all, of the NDF consultants who were illegally arrested and detained, but it has also perpetuated the arrests and detention of the peace consultants based on trumped up criminal charges. The most recent is the arrest of Kennedy Bangibang, an official of the NDF affiliate organization, the Cordillera People’s Democratic Front (CPDF), and a consultant of the NDFP on Cordillera and national minority affairs,” said Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan.  

Bangibang was illegally arrested on February 23, while on board a bus at a PNP checkpoint in Buguias, Benguet. His arrest brings the total of detained NDFP consultants to 14. Other detained consultants are: Alan Jazmines, Tirso Alcantara, Eduardo Serrano, Edgardo Friginal, Eduardo Sarmiento, Leopoldo Caloza, Emeterio Antalan, Renante Gamara, Jaime Soledad, Danilo Badayos, Pedro Codaste, Alfredo Mapano and Ramon Patriarca. There are also 11 NDF consultants and staff who remain missing under the Aquino government.

The signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) between the GPH and the NDFP marks its 15th year on March 16, 2013. The CARHRIHL was the first of the four substantive agenda to be tackled in the peace negotiations as agreed upon by the GPH and the NDFP. The three other substantive agenda, which should be worked on in the following sequence, were identified as:  Social and Economic Reforms; Constitutional, Political and Electoral Reforms; and the End of Hostilities and Redisposition of Armed Forces. 

“Today, 15 years after the signing of the CARHRIHL, the peace negotiations continue to be stalled, with the rest of the substantive agenda at the backburner. This is mainly due to the insistence of the Aquino government that the NDFP surrenders and lay down its arms,” added Palabay.  

Karapatan also expressed disgust with the GPH’s action that muddled the PEPP’s offer “to release on recognizance (ROR), under the collective custodial guarantee, the NDFP consultants who are willing to be under the sanctuary of the churches.”  Palabay said that, “instead of heeding the PEPP’s offer, the GPH inserted conditions to the ROR that are ridiculous and not acceptable to the NDF consultants and, at the same time, puts the bishop-custodians in a difficult situation.” 

“We also hold accountable the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) for peddling amnesty and ROR with GPH conditions to the NDF consultants and playing with the emotions of the consultants’ families to trick the consultants to surrender. This act, beyond doubt, impairs the peace negotiations and a sure sign of the GPH’s insincerity,” said Palabay.  

Karapatan joined the protest action led by the Pilgrims for Peace at the OPAPP to call for the release all detained NDFP consultants and all political prisoners.  Karapatan also reiterated its call to surface all disappeared NDFP consultants.