Yearender 2016 | Will the talks bring the country closer to peace based on justice?

GRP Peace Panel Chairperson Silvestre Bello III and NDFP Peace Panel Chairperson Luis Jalandoni shake hands during the signing of the joint statement in the first round of formal talks in Oslo, Norway. (Photo by Kodao Productions)
GRP Peace Panel Chairperson Silvestre Bello III and NDFP Peace Panel Chairperson Luis Jalandoni shake hands during the signing of the joint statement in the first round of formal talks in Oslo, Norway. (Photo by Kodao Productions)

Whatever happens in the negotiating table, the CPP said the Filipino people must unite, strengthen their ranks and intensify the struggle for a better society.

By RONALYN OLEA
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – Hopes were high when formal peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines(GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) resumed in August in Oslo, Norway.

The release of 19 NDFP consultants and political prisoners, albeit mostly on bail, provided a favorable atmosphere for both sides to sit again on the negotiating table.

Thorny issues that caused the impasse during the Benigno Aquino III administration were addressed in the first round of formal talks. All previous agreements were affirmed. The GRP gave a go-signal for the NDFP to reconstitute its list of individuals protected by safety and immunity guarantees. The government peace panel also agreed to recommend to Duterte the issuance of amnesty proclamation for political prisoners.

Moreover, both parties declared unilateral and indefinite ceasefire. They also agreed to fast track the agenda in accordance with the framework agreement or The Hague Joint Declaration.

All these positive developments are now being dimmed by ceasefire violations, and non-release of over 400 political prisoners.

In its message on the 48th anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines, the CPP’s Central Committee said the unilateral ceasefire of the CPP and the New People’s Army has become increasingly untenable amid the continuing Oplan Bayanihan operations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

These operations, the CPP said, do not only trample on the spirit of the reciprocal ceasefire declarations but have also brought about rampant cases of human rights abuses. The AFP operations covered more than 500 barrios affecting half a million individuals in different parts of the country, the CPP added.

“…[t]he termination of the CPP’s unilateral ceasefire declaration becomes inevitable,” the CPP Central Committee said.

No releases of political prisoners

The Left has also criticized the Duterte administration for reneging on its promise to release political prisoners through an amnesty proclamation.

For the NDFP, the release of political prisoners is a matter of justice and compliance with the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (in the case of NDFP consultants) and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). CARHRIHL prohibits the criminalization of political offense. Majority of political prisoners are facing trumped-up criminal charges.

Since August, not one political prisoner has been released in relation to the peace talks. Those who walked free were released because the cases filed against them were dismissed by local courts for lack of merit.

Five days before the Human Rights Day, Duterte said he couldn’t release more political prisoners. Duterte said he told NDFP to present documents signed by the GRP and the NDFP before he could order their release.

Three days later, Duterte reiterated he would not release political prisoners because the latter are his “ace cards.” “We’re playing a poker game here. Maubos ang baraha ko. I-release ko lahat iyan ano pa ang pag-usapan namin [I will lose all my cards if I release them all]?” Duterte was quoted as saying.

Such statement, according to Jaime Soledad, one of the NDFP consultants, reveals that Duterte seems to be interested only in a bilateral ceasefire and not in resolving the roots of the armed conflict.

Soledad, in an interview with Bulatlat and Kodao Productions, said the NDFP has entered into peace talks to push for socio-economic reforms that will benefit the Filipino people. On the other hand, the GRP, said Soledad, is pushing for prolonged ceasefire without instituting socio-economic reforms.

Both parties are set to meet again in January in Rome, Italy for the third round of talks. The NDFP said its draft on Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (Caser), the next substantive agenda item, is ready. The GRP panel has yet to give a copy of its Caser draft.

Whatever happens in the negotiating table, the CPP said the Filipino people must unite, strengthen their ranks and intensify the struggle for a better society. (http://bulatlat.com)

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