Duterte has no jurisdiction over consultants; talks ‘suspension’ not in any agreement–NDFP

THE National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) said the jurisdiction over its 17 peace consultants released last August for the formal peace negotiations with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) lies with the judiciary and not on President Rodrigo Duterte.

In a statement, NDFP chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili said the consultants have been put under the effective jurisdiction of the GRP courts because they were released only on bail and only for a six-month period.

Responding to Duterte’s statement that those released should voluntarily go back to prison and GRP intelligence units shall monitor the whereabouts of the peace consultants, Agcaoili clarified that it was the judiciary which granted them bails and issued them permission to travel abroad to participate in the last three rounds of talks.

“Their bail renewal is due this month and, as reflected in the Rome Joint Statement of 25 January 2017, both their lawyers and the GRP have agreed to cooperate in this regard,” Agcaoili said.

The NDFP also said all 17 NDFP consultants are in the country and are not in hiding.

“Those who took part in the third round of formal talks in Rome, Italy from 19 to 25 January 2017 have returned to the country as of 31 January. They are all protected from re-arrest in accordance with the JASIG (Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees),” Agcaoili said.

Since August, the consultants have participated in three formal peace negotiations in Norway and Italy as well as in numerous peace forums all over the Philippines and in many countries abroad to drum up support for the NDFP-GRP peace process.

Peace consultant Felix Randy Malayao said there have been three important documents that the 17 NDFP consultants have helped bring about: the NDFP-GRP Joint Statements of August 2016, October 2016 and January 2017.

The NDFP also clarified that the GRP are not paying for the expenses of its consultants.

“The Royal Norwegian Government in its capacity as Third Party Facilitator in the peace talks has been providing for the travel expenses and accommodation of the NDFP delegation in formal and informal peace talks since the beginning,” Agcaoili said.

Talks ‘suspension’ not allowed

Agcaoili said the NDFP is waiting for the formal notice from the GRP Negotiating Panel on its termination of the peace negotiations.

He clarified that the NDFP has never terminated the peace negotiations with the GRP since The Hague Joint Declaration was signed in 1992 to govern the conduct of talks.

“Only the GRP by President Joseph Estrada did when he issued a formal notice of termination in accordance with JASIG. Presidents Gloria M. Arroyo and Benigno C. Aquino suspended the peace talks. And now Duterte,”

“There is no provision for suspension in any agreements,” Agcaoili said.

The NDFP said “the JASIG defines the mode of termination.” (Raymund B. Villanueva)