Karapatan to Atty. Alex Padilla: Don’t stand in the way of peace

“We all grew up with an old saying that goes: if there’s a will, there’s a way. The old and tested adage, in case Atty. Alex Padilla missed this, can very well aid him in his role as GPH peace panel head,” said Marie Hilao-Enriquez, chairperson of Karapatan and an independent observer to the GPH-NDFP peace negotiation. 

Hilao-Enriquez added, “there’s no use in banging his head on the wall, doing what he called as ‘internal review process to recommend for the possible release of alleged National Democratic Front (NDF) consultants according to Philippine laws.’ He only had to fulfil his panel’s commitment during the February 2011 round of talks to release all, if not most’ NDFP peace consultants.”

The GPH, Karapatan said, continues to ignore not only the commitment to release NDFP peace consultants but also disregards previously signed agreements such as the Hague Declaration, the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG). “It has gone as far as unilaterally declaring the termination of the peace talks with the NDFP.”

“The GPH must show some goodwill in this journey to peace. The release of the JASIG-protected NDFP peace consultants has been a subject since the start of the negotiations under the Aquino government. Now,  Atty. Padilla conspicuously added the word “alleged” to refer to the NDFP consultants as if there were no previous discussions and exchanges on this between the two panels,” Hilao-Enriquez said. 

There are now 13 NDFP consultants in various jails in the country.  The longest-held detainee among the peace consultants is Eduardo Serrano who was abducted and illegally arrested in May 2004.  On July 28, 2013,  Ma. Loida Magpatoc, consultant to the Social and Economic Reform agenda, was arrested by joint elements of the Davao del Sur Police Provincial Office and the 1002nd Infantry Brigade, Philippine Army.

“Instead of removing  hindrances, the GPH never runs out of alibis that block all roads to peace,” Hilao-Enriquez said.