OSLO, Norway — The second round of formal talks here between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) opened at six o’clock in the evening (Oslo time) after nine hours of delay.
Punctuated by a standing ovation by both parties to long-time and recently-resigned NDFP chief negotiator Luis Jalandoni, the opening ceremony was attended by more than a hundred panel members, consultants, staff and observers.
In his opening remarks, newly-appointed NDFP negotiating panel chairperson Fidel 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).”
Agcaoili maintained that the continuing detention of political prisoners violates CARHRIHL, which upholds the Hernandez political doctrine. The doctrine is a Supreme Court jurisprudence that prohibits the criminalization of political dissent. Agcaoili said political prisoners are charged with “trumped-up common crimes.”
Agcaoili recalled GRP President Rodrigo Duterte’s offer of a general amnesty to political prisoners in a meeting on May 16.
“The most effective method of release is through an amnesty proclamation as offered by President Duterte himself,” Agcaoili said.
Agcaoili explained that “the proffered amnesty proclamation pertains to political prisoners and not to a general amnesty that is mutually extended to both Parties in the final settlement of an armed conflict.”
GRP Negotiating Panel chairperson Silvestre Bello III for his part focused on the approval of a joint ceasefire, along with the exchange of draft frameworks and outlines on socio-economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms and end of hostilities and disposition of forces.
The joint ceasefire is being awaited by the public, Bello added.
Members of the media were immediately asked to leave the conference room after the speeches but were not informed of the schedule of the usual briefing after each opening and closing ceremony of the talks.
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza and NDFP Chief Political Consultant Jose Maria Sison spoke before the panel chairpersons delivered their opening speeches.
While Dureza focused on thanking the Royal Norwegian Government, congratulating Agcaoili and introducing the House of Representatives delegation, Sison for his part also talked about the release of political prisoners.
“The release of all political prisoners, in accordance with the CARHRIHL, would also serve as a very big incentive for a stable kind of ceasefire,” Sison said.
Other substantive agenda
In a press statement, the NDFP said that social and economic reforms agenda would be discussed starting on the second day of the talks.
The parties exchanged proposed framework and outline for the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (Caser) , the second agenda of the peace negotiations set by The Hague Joint Declaration of 1992.
The NDFP said Caser’s main objectives are agrarian reform and national industrialization; advancement of the rights of exploited, oppressed, discriminated and disadvantaged sectors of society; economic sovereignty; and national patrimony and the protection of the environment. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)