Resume peace talks instead of 'bogus' amnesty — ex-political prisoners

James Relativo - Philstar.com
Resume peace talks instead of 'bogus' amnesty � ex-political prisoners
Members and supporters of the communist party of the Philippines' armed group, the New People's Army (NPA) display streamers and shout slogans as they march toward the peace arch for a protest near Malacanang Palace in Manila on March 31, 2017. Fourth round of formal peace talks between the Philippine government and communist rebels are to be held in Oslo, Norway aimed at ending one of Asia's longest insurgencies.
AFP / Ted Aljibe

MANILA, Philippines — A group of former political prisoners urged President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. to pursue peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front of the Philippines (CPP-NPA-NDFP), labeling the government's recent amnesty program a "bogus peace plan."

The Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA) on Saturday said that formal peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the NDFP woud ensure "just and lasting peace". However, these talks were stopped in 2017 by President Rodrigo Duterte's order.

"Our goal should be the achievement of a just and lasting peace in the country, where amnesty becomes part of a comprehensive agreement to end hostilities after the signing of other comprehensive agreements on human rights and international human rights law, socio-economkc reforms and political and constitutional reforms that address thr roots of armed conflict," said SELDA.

"The armed conflict will continue to rage nationwide without a thoroughgoing resolution of its social, economic and political root causes."

Besides the Communist Party of the Philippines and New People's Army, represented politically by the umbrella group NDFP, Marcos Jr. extended his amnesty proclamation to members of the Partido ng Manggagawa ng Pilipinas/Revolutionary Proletarian Army/Alex Boncayao Brigade and members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Moro National Liberation Front to encourage them to return to the folds of the law.

The amnesty covers former rebel members who committed crimes in pursuit of their political beliefs, including but not limited to, rebellion or insurrection, conspiracy and proposal to commit rebellion or insurrection, disloyalty of public officers or employees, inciting to rebellion or insurrection, sedition, conspiracy to commit sedition and inciting to sedition.

Confidence-building measures

SELDA, on another hand, emphasized that resuming peace talks should mean that the administration must uphold all agreements previously signed between the NDFP and GRP like the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).

Included in this call is the immediate release of all peace consultants, dropping of "trumped-up charges" filed against them and ensuring their protection under the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) as a confidence-building measure.

"Currently, 12 peace consultants are incarcerated, with Frank Fernandez and Eduardo Sarmiento among them, having been wrongfully convicted on trumped-up criminal charges," continued SELDA.

The group also urged the immediate repeal of Executive Order 70 and the dismantling of the controversial National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), which has faced criticism for multiple human rights violations.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur has recently recommended the disbanding of the NTF-ELCAC, alongside the junking of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, saying that it has lead to targeting government critics.

In April, the government said it is hopeful that it could end the communist armed rebellion "in two years." Although state forces have frequently announced these objectives, they have yet to achieve them.

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