“While it plays a part in building an atmosphere of trust and confidence in the negotiations, the release of political prisoners cannot be reduced to a simple act of goodwill that the GRP can opt to take or not.”
By JONAS ALPASAN
MANILA – The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) said the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) must refrain from “misrepresenting” the revolutionary group, implying that the former is willing to enter into a bilateral ceasefire agreement and abandon its stand on the release of political prisoners.
NDFP peace senior adviser Luis Jalandoni said this in reaction to a statement by the head of the GRP’s negotiating panel, Labor secretary Silvestre Bello III, who welcomed the NDFP’s supposed readiness “to sign a bilateral peace agreement with the government, even before the release of the political prisoners.”
Jalandoni, who formerly headed the NDFP peace panel, said the GRP’s statement “conspicuously omitted the NDFP’s position that any such agreement should take effect 48 hours after the signing, in keeping with the timeframe within which President Rodrigo Duterte said he would order the release of all political prisoners.”
“The NDFP stands firm in its position that the release of political prisoners is first and foremost an obligation of the GRP under signed agreements, particularly the CARHRIHL and the JASIG, which the GRP has reaffirmed. While it plays a part in building an atmosphere of trust and confidence in the negotiations, the release of political prisoners cannot be reduced to a simple act of goodwill that the GRP can opt to take or not,” Jalandoni said.
CARHRIHL and JASIG refer to the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law and the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees.
There has been no further release of political prisoners since 17 detained NDFP peace consultants and two political prisoners were freed on humanitarian grounds for the first round of peace talks in August.
Jalandoni stressed that interim ceasefires, whether unilateral or bilateral, are “options” that may be taken to build mutual trust and confidence. However, this can also lead to the erosion of good will if it is “routinely violated” as evident in the last four months, with reports “pouring in from the field about relentless AFP and PNP combat and intelligence operations victimizing rural communities.”
These combat and intelligence operations have led to the extrajudicial killing of at least 18 activists; 20 frustrated killings; 13,000 civilians displaced by forced evacuation and 14,000 people affected in cases of schools, clinics, chapels, and other civilian infrastructure used by the military as barracks, he said.