Groups, churches laud success of Oslo talks

CHURCHES, peace and human rights groups lauded the resumption of formal peace talks between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the incoming Duterte administration of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) in July.

Hundreds gathered at the Immaculate Concepcion Cathedral in Quezon City yesterday for a series of activities that also celebrated the release of two political detainees last Wednesday.

Church-led Pilgrims for Peace welcomed NDFP and GPH’s agreement to negotiate on the affirmation of previously signed agreements, accelerated process for negotiations, reconstitution of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), Amnesty Proclamation for all political prisoners, and mode of interim ceasefire next month in Oslo, Norway.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), for its part, said that it is possible that the incoming Duterte administration can do more in its first 100 days in office compared to the full six years of Benigno Aquino III.

Release of political prisoners

The advocates also welcomed the release of women’s right activist Sharon Cabusao and labor activist Isidro de Lima from detention in Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City on Wednesday.

Cabusao was arrested with her husband, Adelberto Silva, peace consultant to the NDFP, and De Lima on June 1, 2015 in Bacoor, Cavite.

Political detainee Sharon Cabusao in her first public appearance after release. (Photo by Keilah Dimpas)

Political detainee Sharon Cabusao in her first public appearance after release. (Photo by Keilah Dimpas)

Charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives against Cabusao and De Lima were dismissed by the Bacoor Regional Trial Court’s Branch 19.

The court cited that the search and seizure conducted was “unreasonable” and that the evidences were planted.

Silva, however, remains in detention for two other charges.

Human rights group Karapatan said that almost all of the 509 political prisoners were imprisoned because of “trumped-up criminal charges to cover up the political nature of their arrests.”

“No person should be treated as a criminal or be tortured just because of his political ideologies,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.

Cabusao and de Lima called for the release of all other political prisoners.

Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez, Jr., Pilgrim for Peace convenor, added that other than dismissing false charges, the elderly and ailing political prisoners should be immediately released on humanitarian grounds.

Just and Lasting Peace

The advocates used white paper doves outside the cathedral to symbolize their call for peace before celebrating a special Mass for political prisoners.

“The peace we want is more than the absence of armed conflict,” faith-based group Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR) said.

The group said that the “just and lasting peace” cited in The Hague Joint Declaration (THJD), will only be attained through genuine and pro-people political, economic and social reforms.

Signed by the GPH and the NDFP in 1992, THJD provides the framework for peace negotiations between both parties.

“We urge all Filipinos to attune our ears to the melodies of justice and the harmonies of freedom and democracy that should be known by our nation,” PCPR added.

Bayan added that despite the incoming administration’s “openness to reach out,” people’s vigilance on social issues is still necessary. # (Report and photos by Mikhaela Dimpas of UP CMC for Kodao Productions)