Irresponsible Talk by GPH Does Disservice to the Peace Talks

by Fidel V. Agcaoili
Spokesperson, Negotiating Panel

16 August 2011

The Government of the Philippines (GPH, formerly designated as the GRP) has really gone
berserk in its extremely irresponsible disinformation campaign against the revolutionary
movement in connection with the recent arrest of four (4) Prisoners of War (POWs) and three
detainees under the custody of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Mindanao.

The GPH wants to hide the fact that it still has more than 350 political prisoners under its
custody who have either been charged or convicted with common crimes in violation of the
Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law
(CARHRIHL) and have suffered torture while undergoing interrogation and in detention.

These political prisoners have been on hunger strike since 25 July 2011, prompting Manila
Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, head of the National Secretariat for Social Action-Justice
and Peace of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) to call for the
“immediate and unconditional release of those whose arrests are deemed to be politically
motivated” and “have already served long and completely unjust sentences.”

Among the political prisoners are the 13 remaining individuals protected under the Joint
Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) whose releases have long been
overdue – before the second round of formal talks slated in June 2011 as provided for in the
21 February 2011 Joint Statement signed in Oslo, Norway between the GPH and the National
Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). The GPH is bound in solemn agreement to
expeditiously release all, if not most, of the 17 JASIG protected individuals by June 2011.

It is now August 2011, yet only four of the 17 have been released. So I ask Atty. Alexander
Padilla, Chairman of the GPH Negotiating Panel: which side is delaying the resumption of the
second round of formal talks? The GPH should immediately comply with signed agreements
and not engage in dilatory tactics in an attempt to exert pressure on the NDFP.

Moreover, the Aquino regime deliberately glosses over the fact that it has been condoning the
culture of impunity in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine National Police
(PNP) and their paramilitary groups (Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Units/CAFGUs and
Civilian Volunteers Organizations/CVOs). Such tolerance is manifested in the failure to bring to
justice the human rights violators under the Arroyo regime and to address the continuing
violations of human rights under its own rule.

Under the Aquino regime, human rights groups have already documented 50 cases of extra-
judicial killings and eight (8) cases of disappearances from 30 June 2010 to 31 July 2011 – the
most recent of which involved three peasant organizers in Negros Occidental last 19 July.

There have also been a spate of arrests of peasant and labor organizers – most recently in
La Union and Batangas – as well as surveillance, harassment, threats and attacks on human
rights groups and advocates. For example, it is now deemed an “act inimical to national
security” to render assistance to human rights groups as evidenced by the resolution of the
National Police Commission signed by Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, depriving a local
official of administrative control over the police for helping a local human rights group.

Under Oplan Bayanihan, the Aquino regime continues the practice of the previous regime’s
Oplan Bantay Laya in attacking communities and deploying thousands of troops in areas
suspected to be under the influence, control or supportive of the revolutionary movement.
These troops base themselves in schools, health centers, church premises, barangay halls and
civilian houses. They conduct surveillance and interrogation of the populace under the guise of
census-taking and civic action. They actively recruit members into the CAFGUs and CVOs and
set-up Barangay Intelligence Network (BIN).

They harass, threaten, arrest and torture people, including children, who oppose their presence
and recruitment and protest their rowdy behavior during their daily drinking sessions which
often lead to the indiscriminate shooting of work animals and houses. They molest local
women, restrict the free movement of residents and the flow of food into the community,
thereby disrupting the normal lives of the people during planting and harvesting seasons and
the education of schoolchildren. They act as occupying troops over these communities.

The Aquino regime should not begrudge the New People’s Army (NPA) for having the capability
to arrest four (4) armed components of its counterrevolutionary and coercive apparatus, and an
abusive local official and his two bodyguards who are deemed to have taken active part in
military operations against the revolutionary forces.

The NDFP is a legitimate national liberation movement and a co-belligerent in the ongoing
armed conflict in the country within the purview of international law and international
humanitarian law. As a principled revolutionary organization, the NDFP represents 17 allied
organizations and local organs of political power that are present throughout the country in
urban and rural areas and in more than 120 guerrilla fronts with a mass base running into
millions and an armed force operating nationwide under the guidance of a central political
authority that functions within the framework of the Guide for Establishing the People’s
Democratic Government.

As Atty. Padilla knows very well, the NDFP has acquired such status of belligerency by dint of
hard struggle since a long time ago against the US-Marcos fascist dictatorship. He should ask
Atty. Marvic Leonen of this fact and point of international law. Such status was not bestowed
by any entity external to the revolutionary movement. Direct or implied recognition by any
foreign State merely enhances such status inherent in the people’s revolutionary government.

Atty. Padilla should be reminded that there are two governments in the Philippines. One is the
revolutionary government of workers and peasants based in the countryside and the other is
the reactionary government of big compradors and landlords represented by Mr. Aquino in
Manila. The NDFP Negotiating Panel has always declared that it represents the revolutionary
organs of democratic political power, together with the CPP as the ruling party, the New
People’s Army as the main armed component of people’s state power, the mass organizations
and the broad masses of the people.

Since its founding and in the course of decades of practice, the NPA has treated POWs well in
accordance with the 1969 Basic Rules of the New People’s Army, international humanitarian
law, the CARHRIHL and within its capabilities and circumstances. These have been publicly
attested to by former POWs themselves, such as Gen. Victor Obillo, PA Major Eduardo Montealto, P/Major Rene Francisco, P/Major Roberto Bernal, among others, and by the
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Let me also assure Atty. Padilla that the people’s court of the democratic people’s government
is guided by the principle of fair administration of justice in observing the rights of individuals to
due process. This is provided for in Part III on the Fundamental Rights and Duties of Citizens
in the Guide for Establishing the People’s Democratic Government. Atty. Padilla has nothing to
fear for the POWs and the detainees in the criminal justice system of the revolutionary

The NDFP is committed to pursue the peace negotiations with the GPH to bring about just and
lasting peace in the country by addressing the roots of the armed conflict. It has even offered
truce and alliance with the Aquino regime provided it firmly stands up for national sovereignty,
democracy and social justice on the basis of the NDFP ten-point proposal for a Concise
Agreement for an Immediate Just Peace issued on 27 August 2005. What the GPH should do
is to respond to the NDFP proposal instead of engaging in irresponsible provocative talk that
threatens to terminate the peace negotiations.#