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Thousands of complaints since CARHRIHL signing, NDFP says

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) said nearly seven thousand complaints of human rights and international humanitarian law violations have been received by its Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP).

At a forum marking the 20th anniversarry of the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) at St. Scholastica’s College in Manila Friday, the NDFP said a total of 6,898 complaints have since been lodged at the JMC from its establishment in June 2004 to March 14, 2018, nearly six years after the signing of the agreement.

The NDFP said 4,886 complaints have been received by the GRP section while 2,012 have been received by the NDFP section of the JMC.

The NDFP said it is incumbent upon the parties to avail of the monitoring mechanism for the submission of complaints, instead of resorting to drastic means such as terminating the formal talks every time an armed incident happens.

President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly blamed the New People’s Army (NPA) whenever he cancelled formal talks with the NDFP.

After Duterte again cancelled talks last November, his government has since asked the courts to proscribe the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the NPA as terrorist organizations.

The CPP and NPA are allied organizations of the NDFP.

Peace advocates and St. Scholastica’s College-Manila students who attended the event marking the 20th anniversary of the signing of the CARHRIHL Friday morning.

Peace advocates who attended the CARHRIHL anniversary event, however, called on Duterte to respect the human rights agreement and resume the peace process with the NDFP.

“At this time,  when the Duterte administration appears focused on moves like pulling out of the International Criminal Court and declaring more than 600 persons as terrorists under the Human Security Act, we urge President Rodrigo R. Duterte to instead focus the attention of his government on faithful adherence to the principles of human rights and international humanitarian law,” the advocates said in a statement.

The group added that CARHRIHL’s full implementation not only provides additional protection for the people amid armed conflict, it will also propel both the GRP and the NDFP to resume peace negotiations.

The statement was signed by Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez of the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform, Bishop Reuel Marigza of Pilgrims for Peace, Kaye Limpado of Sulong CARHRIHL, Saharon Cabusao of Kapayapaan Campaign for Just and Lasting Peace, Benjie Valbuena of ACT for Peace and Rey Casambre of the Philippine Peace Center.

Iñiguez in his own speech called on both the GRP and the NDFP to convene the JMC to discuss the complaints it received.

“Convene the JMC. Confront the many complaints from the people. According to Article 1 of the Final Provisions of the CARHRIHL, the JMC is still operative and it has to regularly convene until it is formally dissolved,” Iñiguez said.

“The sincerity of both parties can only be measured by how faithfully they implement their agreements. We call on the GRP and the NDFP, ‘Respect and vigorously implement all agreements!’” the prelate added.

Since the Gloria Arroyo administration, however, the GRP has repeatedly refused or caused the cancellation of JMC meetings to discuss the complaints.

The Benigno Aquino administration of the GRP has even asked the royal Norwegian Government, Third Party Facilitator to the peace process, to stop funding the committee’s operations.

The current GRP administration, for its part, has convened the JMC with the NDFP during and in between its four fomal rounds of negotiations with the NDFP, but no actual complaints have been tabled before Duterte cancelled all meetings and negotiations last year. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDFP to GRP: Stop AFP-PNP if you want ‘lowering levels of violence’

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Negotiating Panel said the Rodrigo Duterte government should look at its own forces if it wants to see “lowering levels of violence” in the country.

In a statement, NDFP chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili said it is the Armed Forces of the Philippines -Philippine National Police (AFP-PNP) that sows violence in the country.

“Sec. Bello should look at their own troops and police before making such outrageous demands on the revolutionary movement,” Agcaoili told Kodao.

Agcaoili was reacting to Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III’s statement Monday that formal peace negotiations could be resumed if the New People’s Army decreases its attacks against the military.

BusinessMirror reported Monday that the government panel is closely monitoring the situation in the countryside to evaluate if the environment is conducive for peace negotiations.

“We are still waiting for better developments, [a] lowering level of violence,” Bello said.

But Agcaoili said Bello should address his call to the AFP-PNP.

“Since in the month of September alone, the AFP and PNP have conducted three aerial bombardments against communities in Batangas, Agusan del Norte and North Cotabato and killed Lumad and civilians in Davao Sur, Negros Occidental and Sultan Kudarat,” Agcaoili said.

“(The military also) have claimed to have killed nine Red fighters in Nueva Ecija, four in Pangasinan, two each in Zamboanga and North Cotabato, one each in Batangas and Ilocos Sur, and have arrested alleged NPA fighters in the above-mentioned provinces as well as in Palawan, Catanduanes, Mindoro, among others,” Agcaoili added.

GRP President Rodrigo Duterte cancelled the fifth round of formal in The Netherlands last May after failing to force the NDFP to sign a bilateral ceasefire agreement.

Duterte however said he is not averse to the resumption of the talks after the NPA released a prisoner of war (POW) September 15 in accordance with the GRP-NDFP’s Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).

The NDFP chief negotiator said the NPA’s release of former POW Senior Police Officer 2 George Rupinta in Compostela Valley Province proves it follows humanitarian laws in its conduct of war.

“The NPA is waging a just war of national and social liberation in accordance with its own humane rules of engagement with utmost respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law and in accordance with its circumstances,” Agcaoili said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

4 POWs, 23 political prisoners to be released soon—NDFP, GRP

NOORDWIJK, The Netherlands—The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) held a press conference this morning (local time) to reiterate their respective commitments to expedite the release of New People’s Army (NPA) prisoners of war (POWs) on one hand and political prisoners in the other.

“The NDFP today reiterates and confirms the February 19, 2017 statement of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) directing the concerned NPA units to expedite the release of the six captured POWs still in their custody as a ‘positive gesture’ for the ongoing fourth round of the peace talks,” the NDFP said.

Last March 25, however, two POWs, paramilitary members Rene Doller and Mark Nocus, captured in Lupon, Davao Oriental on February 14, were already released by their NPA custodial force to the members of the Third Party Facilitators and Independent Humanitarian Mission (TPFIHM) in Mati City, Davao Oriental.

The GRP said its security forces are amenable to suspending military and police operations for 10 days to allow the NPA to affect the POW releases to TPFIHM members.

The four (4) remaining POWs are PFC Edwin Salan (captured in Alegria, Surigao del Norte on January 29); Sgt. Solaiman Calucop (captured in Columbio, Sultan Kudarat on February 2); PFC Samuel Garay (also captured in Columbio, Sultan Kudarat on February 2); and PO2 Jerome Natividad, captured in Talakag, Bukidnon on February 9.

The GRP for its part said it will soon release 23 NDFP-listed political prisoners held in various jails across the Philippines.

The GRP said most of the political prisoners to be released on humanitarian grounds are sick and elderly.

Four of the 23 political prisoners were convicted, including three NDFP consultants, who will be released through presidential pardon.

The NDFP and GRP said the agreement to expedite the releases of POWs and political prisoners are part of the successes of the ongoing round of talks. # (Video by Jola Diones-Mamangun / Text by Raymund B. Villanueva / Featured photo by Jon Bustamante)