The NDFP Perspective on the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER)

By Randall B. Echanis

Screen Shot 2015-10-16 at 21.47.35I congratulate the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform for initiating this dialogue on the peace process. On behalf of the NDFP Negotiating Panel, I express my deep appreciation of your initiative since we share with you the fondest hopes for the resumption of the formal talks in the peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

I am pleased to be your resource person to discuss the NDFP proposed Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER). It is unfortunate that I cannot be physically present and I will miss the opportunity to engage in a lively dialogue with you on this very interesting subject.

As an NDFP consultant and member of the NDFP Reciprocal Working Committee (RWC) for Social and Economic Reforms (SER), I am covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), but on January 28, 2008, the police of the GRP arrested me while I was performing my duties as deputy secretary-general of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and facilitating a national consultation in Bago City, Negros Occidental on the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) attended by agricultural workers belonging to the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW). The conference was part of our preparation to participate in the National Rural Congress II called by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) last year.

Right now I am still in prison on trumped up charges, unfairly accused of something I could not have possibly done or participated in as I was also then languishing in solitary
confinement when the alleged acts took place. After my arrest last January 28, 2008, I was placed for more than a year in the Manila City Jail, one of the most crowded, dirtiest, poorly ventilated jails in the country. I am suffering from chronic hypertension and have been diagnosed to have gall stones. Last week I was transferred to Camp Crame because the GRP knows that the swine flu epidemic could prove fatal to me because of the state of my health.

Since the announcement two weeks ago of the possible resumption of formal talks in August and the GRP’s promise to honor the JASIG, it is but logical that people covered by the JASIG like myself who are in prison on trumped up charges and are actually imprisoned for political reasons should be immediately released. Let us see if the GRP will keep to its own pronouncement that it will respect the JASIG and speedily act to release the political prisoners it had promised to release.