OSLO, Norway–The Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) promised to deliver on its commitment to release political prisoners after four days of intense negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) which ended today.
The second round of peace talks also concluded with the approval of the outlines for further negotiations on the three remaining substantive agenda, namely Social and Economic Reforms (SER), Political and Constitutional Reforms (PCR), and End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces (EHDF).
In addition, the negotiations produced an agreement on the implementation of joint activities of the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).
The parties also agreed to continue their discussions on a possible bilateral ceasefire declaration within the month.
In his closing remarks, NDFP Chief Political Consultant Jose Maria Sison congratulated both panels and delegations for their success, particularly on their agreement on common outlines of prospective comprehensive agreements as well as the release of political prisoners.
“The most essential success that has been achieved is the agreement on common outlines on social and economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms, and the end of hostilities and disposition of forces,” Sison said.
Sison also mentioned the release of political prisoners as one of the significant achievements of the negotiations.
“There is mutual understanding on the rendering of justice to the unjustly imprisoned political prisoners accumulated during the (Gloria) Arroyo and (Benigno) Aquino regimes through prompt compliance with the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law,” Sison said.
Possible release of all political prisoners
The release of political prisoner had been one of the issues that the NDFP pressed the GRP with starting with new NDFP Negotiating Panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili’s opening statement last Thursday.
Agcaoili demanded for a general amnesty for more than 400 political prisoners as “a matter of justice and compliance with the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).”
The GRP Negotiating Panel chairperson said they will deliver on their promise to release NDFP-listed political prisoners.
“We know our objectives, we know our process. We will not give you timelines, but we will deliver the expectations of the NDF-CPP-NPA (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army),” Bello said.
Bello said it is possible to release all political prisoners.
While the PCR and EHDF outlines were swiftly approved by the parties’ respective Reciprocal Working Groups after just a few hours of negotiations yesterday, the Reciprocal Working Committee (RWC) on SER worked the hardest and longest to unify their vastly differing outline proposals.
The parties said their unified outline has eight items that they will try to craft into a draft comprehensive agreement within nine months.
A press statement by the GRP said the CASER outline include the following:
- Rural equality and development to achieve food self-sufficinecy;
- A sovereign, self-reliant and industrialized national economy;
- Protected and rehabilitated environment, just compensation for effected populations, and sustainable development;
- Social, economic and cultural rights of the working people upheld and discrimination eliminated; and
- Sustainable living incomes for all;
- Affordable, accessible and quality social services and utilities;
- Sovereign foreign economic policies and trade relations supporting rural development and national industrialization; and
- Monetary and fiscal policy regime for national development.
The GRP and the NDFP also announced that their respective ceasefire committees have until October 27 to discuss proposals for a bilateral ceasefire agreement.
In his closing statement, Bello suggested the prospective bilateral ceasefire agreement may be signed in Davao with GRP President Rodrigo Duterte.
Agcaoili was quick to clarify, however, that Bello’s proposal still needs to be discussed.
The panels announced that the next round of talks may be held on the third week of January in a neutral and foreign country to avoid Norway’s harsh winter weather.
Members of both delegations had been suffering from coughs and cold, with several needing hospitalization brought about by the chilly weather in this Norwegian capital. # (Raymund B. Villanueva with Jola Diones-Mamangun and Pom Cahilog Villanueva)