Rights groups call on Aquino gov’t to honor previously signed agreements & resume peace talks with the NDFP

Peace is dead. 

In a picket at the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), rights groups and family members of the peace consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) depicted the situation with a replica of white doves locked in 13 plastic jars. The 13 doves, the protesters said, also symbolize the jailed 13 NDFP peace consultants. 

“Amid the military siege in Zamboanga City; the series of killings, bombings of communities, illegal arrest and detention of innocent civilians, the Aquino government is on a rampage. Whether the government is  still interested in pursuing the road to peace remains to be seen. For our part, as human rights advocates, we will never tire in calling for the resumption of the peace negotiations between the GPH and the NDFP. This is one of the options we have to undertake to resolve the root causes of un-peace in the country,” said Karapatan chairperson Marie Hilao-Enriquez. 

In June of this year, the Aquino government, through its peace panel head Atty. Alex Padilla, unilaterally ended the peace talks with the NDFP. 

“The insincerity of the Aquino government in the peace negotiations has long been bared when it continues to disregard previously signed agreements such as the Hague Declaration that serves as the  framework of the peace negotiations between the two parties; and its  non-compliance with the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG),” added Hilao-Enriquez. 

“The GPH not only refused to release the 12 NDFP peace consultants but, instead arrested Ma. Loida Magpatoc, a JASIG-protected person, on July 28, 2013. The Aquino regime refused to acknowledge the documents and agreements signed by the previous representatives of the GPH in the peace talks,” Hilao-Enriquez said. 

With Magpatoc’s arrest, there are now 13 NDFP peace consultants who are detained in various jails all over the country because of trumped up criminal charges.  Common crime charges slapped against these NDFP consultants and personnel as well as other political prisoners effectively hide the political nature of the cases and the government continues to fool the public declaring  no political prisoners are being kept by the present dispensation; hence it cannot be accused of political persecution against political dissent. There are also 10 NDFP consultants and staff who were victims of enforced disappearance and who remain missing to date. 

Hilao-Enriquez said, “worse, instead of honoring the agreements the GPH signed with the NDFP, the government  resorts to an order of battle(OB) list of so-called ‘wanted communists’  and a reward system for so-called informers who can lead to their capture amounting to PhP466 million of people’s money. This is the latest ‘one-time, big-time’ organized racket of the DILG and the DND. As if the pork barrel scam is not enough scam,” said Hilao-Enriquez.  

The protesters ended their program with a call to release the 13 peace consultants, surface the 10 disappeared, and release all political prisoners. 

Break free from pork 

On September 19, political prisoners, including the 13 NDFP consultants, will add their voices to the call to abolish the pork barrel system, punish the guilty in the pork barrel scam, and rechannel the pork funds for the benefit of the people. 

Dubbed, “Break free from pork”, the political prisoners will hold various forms of protest actions inside their jails. Rights groups and peace advocates will hold a counterpart activity at  Plaza Miranda in Quiapo starting at 10 a.m.  Both activities also aim to underscore the plight of the 449 political detainees in the country, and to highlight the call for their release, especially the women, the sick  and the elderly among them.