Karapatan welcomes efforts to revitalize GPH-NDFP Monitoring Committee on CARHRIHL

As the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) gear for the continuation of the formal peacetalks on October 6-10, 2016 in Oslo, Norway, Karapatan welcomed efforts for the revitalization of the two parties’ Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) on the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). 

Members of the JMC, led by co-chairpersons Efren Moncupa of the GPH and Fidel Agcaoili of the NDFP, held a joint meeting on September 20, 2016 at the Royal Norwegian Government Embassy in Makati. Legal consultants of the NDFP, staff members of the Joint Secretariat, and independent observers, including recently designated independent observer Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay, also attended the said meeting. 

“After years of attempts by the Arroyo and Aquino regimes to derail the work of the JMC, all efforts to ensure and pave the way for the full operationalization of its work and mandate to receive and investigate complaints on violations of human rights and international humanitarian law are very welcome,” Palabay said. 

Karapatan called on the GPH to investigate the 4569 complaints filed at the GPH-nominated section of the Joint Secretariat from June 4, 2004 to March 13, 2014. Majority of the said complaints were filed by Karapatan, its member organizations, and victims of rights abuses. 

Among the complaints filed were those by relatives of victims of human rights and international humanitarian law violations in connection with the operations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Lacub, Abra on September 4-5, 2014. 

In the said military operations, seven members of the New People’s Army (NPA) - Pedring Banggao, Robert Beyao, Arnold Jaramillo, Brandon Magranga, Recca Noelle Monte, Robert Perez and Ricardo Reyes – were killed by 41st Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army (IBPA). The retrieved bodies of slain NPA members bore signs of possible violations of the International Humanitarian Law. 

Two civilians, Engr. Fidela Salvador of the Cordillera Disaster Response and Development Services (CorDisRDS) who was on a monitoring visit for various socio-economic projects and Lacub resident Noel Viste, were also killed. The military also indiscriminately fired upon civilians and used them as human shields and guides in the conduct of their operations. 

“In the midst of these violations, medals and commendations were accorded by the AFP to 2Lt. Joe Mari Landicho and Capt. Deo Martinez, head of operating troops and operations officer of the 41st IBPA. It is appalling how such violations were encouraged and even applauded,” Palabay said. 

“Accountability for the said crimes should be determined and meted. There are numerous complaints brushed aside by the Arroyo and Aquino regimes, because of their complete disregard of the CARHRIHL and insincerity in the peace negotiations. We hope that this time, the complaints will be given due course,” Palabay emphasized. 

She underscored the significance of the full operationalization of the JMC as an additional step to sincerely and effectively address the pervasive climate of impunity, that has defined the previous administrations and which we hope will not be the case in the present one. 

The JMC will hold another meeting in Oslo, Norway in the next round of the formal peacetalks under the Duterte administration.