CARHRIHL, JASIG and The Hague Declaration – these are important peace documents signed by the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front. If the peace talks will resume next month, the next agenda should tackle CASER.
What is the meaning and significance of these terms? If these agreements are crucial to the peace process, why did the BS Aquino government ignore them?
The Hague Declaration
Signed on September 1, 1992, the two-page document provides the framework of the peace process. It identified the substantive agenda of the formal peace negotiations. These include human rights and international humanitarian law, socio-economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms, end of hostilities and disposition of forces.
It is a statement of both parties affirming the need to address and resolve the roots of the armed conflict instead of merely requiring armed groups to surrender their weapons to the state.
The Aquino government ridiculed it as a “document of perpetual division” forgetting that the declaration actually specified the sequence and conduct of the peace negotiations which would lead to the resolution of the armed struggle.
It stands for “Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees”. It is basically an identification system that gives protection to security consultants of both parties. JASIG-protected individuals are given the freedom to discuss and promote the peace negotiations across the country. They cannot be arrested or charged in the courts. JASIG ensures the continuity of the peace talks by assuring both parties that their negotiators and consultants can move and speak freely in relation to their role in the peace process.
The Aquino government tried to nullify the JASIG by declaring it as inoperative. The army and police forces refused to honor the JASIG by arresting NDF consultants based on trumped-up cases. Aquino’s peace adviser even accused the NDF of using the JASIG to force the release of detained NPA members.
But the truth is that the NDF is not invoking the JASIG every time an activist or revolutionary leader is arrested. Out of more than 500 political prisoners, the NDF has named only 18 JASIG cardholders who ought to be released immediately as stipulated in the signed peace agreement.
The Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law is a landmark agreement signed in 1998. It recognized the need to apply human rights principles when responding to the armed conflict. It obligated both parties – the NDF and the government – to promote the respect of and adherence to international humanitarian law among its forces. It emphasized the urgency of protecting the civilian population.
It specified the duty of both parties to probe all cases of human rights abuses. It asserted the right of victims and survivors to seek indemnification. A joint monitoring committee was set up in 2004 to receive and investigate human rights complaints.
CARHRIHL also compelled the government to repeal repressive laws and decrees such as authorizing checkpoints and warrantless searches, allowing the filing of charges of illegal possession of firearms with respect to political offenses, requiring physicians to report cases of patients with gunshot wounds to the police/military, restricting and controlling the right to peaceful assembly, legalizing the Citizens’ Armed Force Geographical Units, and allowing the imposition of food blockades.
As expected, the government didn’t deliver on this commitment.
The agreement also “recognize the right of the people to demand the reduction of military expenditures and the rechanneling of savings from such reduction towards social, economic and cultural development.”
CARHRIHL was mainly disregarded by the governments of Gloria Arroyo and BS Aquino which deprived ordinary Filipinos of the opportunity to invoke its progressive provisions in order to advance human rights protection in the country.
It is unfortunate because the CARHRIHL could have served as a model to other war-torn countries. In fact, the European Parliament passed a resolution in 1999 praising both the NDF and the government for signing this “outstanding” peace agreement.
Trivia: The phrase “persons deprived of their liberty for reasons related to the armed conflict” is repeated several times in the CARHRIHL. It simply means “prisoners of war”.
Some experts believe the proposed Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms or CASER will be the most important document in the peace process because it aims to resolve the historical and structural inequities in Philippine society.
Before the suspension of the peace talks, the government panel has initially identified its priorities: “asset reform and improvement of the human resource base (agrarian, fishery and urban land reform) and agricultural development; and private sector-led industrialization that seeks to generate livelihood, full employment and quality jobs.”
For its part, the NDF listed economic sovereignty and national patrimony, agrarian reform and agricultural development, national industrialization and economic development, economic planning, rights of the working people, livelihood and social services, environmental protection plus rehabilitation and compensation.
But the CASER drafts of both parties have yet to be updated and presented to the public.
This is the perfect opportunity for the public to advance concrete proposals on how to address chronic poverty, hunger, jobless growth, labor export, rural deprivation, homelessness, wealth disparity, and environmental deterioration. We have to discuss what kind of economic reforms are needed to uplift the lives of the majority. We have to ask and engage the government about its concept of “private sector-led industrialization.” We have to clarify NDF’s economic planning program. There is still time to influence how both parties will present and finalize the CASER.
CAPCR and EoH/DoF
Meanwhile, the special track of the peace talks could pave the way for the acceleration of the peace process by convening a separate committee to discuss the remaining agenda as identified in The Hague Declaration. The next two agreements after CASER are the Agreement on Political and Constitutional Reforms (CAPCR), and the draft treaty on end of hostilities and disposition of forces (EoH/DoF).
Mong Palatino is a Filipino activist and former legislator. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org