Karapatan expresses support for the resumption of peace negotiations, calls for the release of political prisoners

"Karapatan expresses its support for the possible resumption of the peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). We support earnest endeavors at attaining peace and resolving the roots of the armed conflict. Likewise, the sincerity in pursuing the talks is inevitably linked to the release of all political prisoners in the country, as an issue of justice," said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay, citing that of the 629 political prisoners in the country as of November 2019, 382 were arrested under the Duterte government.

Political prisoners are victims of illegal arrests and detention, planting of evidence, torture, and trumped-up charges because of their activism and political beliefs. "The Duterte government is responsible for the arrest of more than half of political prisoners detained today. Political detainees should be immediately released in line with the government's obligations under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) and the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG). These agreements should foremost be reaffirmed by both parties," added Palabay.

According to Palabay, continued progress in the peace talks can only be realized "if the militarist voices are drowned out and militarist policies are withdrawn and junked." She added: "The peace talks will always face roadblocks if militarists run the show. Regardless of Duterte's repeated pronouncements, if anti-people policies such as his counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapanatagan, martial law, Memorandum Order No. 32, and Executive Order No. 70 remain in place, then the talks will always hit a snag."

The Karapatan official reiterated that behind rhetoric and repeated promises, the actual policies and actions of the Duterte government still take precedence. She cited that alongside the continued detention and targeting of NDFP peace consultants, Duterte established the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELAC), created under Duterte's Executive Order No. 70 (s.2018), which has instigated a witch-hunt spree against political dissenters and activists.

"It is imperative to be cautious when pronouncements like this are fed into the public, especially when the policies and reality on the ground do not match alluring promises. However, we will always welcome the thrust to continue the peace negotiations and call for the release of all political prisoners. This should be accompanied by the junking of E.O. 70, the withdrawal of anti-people policies, the reaffirmation of the CARHRIHL and JASIG, and the release of PPs," ended Palabay.