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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ON THE JASIG

 

Philippine Peace Center
26 March 2014


Q1: What is the JASIG?

A1: JASIG stands for “Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees”. It is an agreement between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH, formerly GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, signed by their respective negotiating panels in February 24, 1995.

JASIG came into effect and became binding on the two Parties upon its approval by their principals on April 10, 1995 (NDFP Chairperson Mariano Orosa) and April 25, 1995 (GRP President Fidel Ramos).

Two additional agreements were entered into by the two Parties providing implementing rules related to the JASIG: The “Additional Implementing Rules Pertaining to the Documents of Identification” (June 26, 1996) and “Additional Implementing Rules of the JASIG Pertaining to the Security of Personnel and the Conduct of Consultations in Furtherance of the Peace Negotiations” (March 16, 1998).

Q2: Why is the JASIG essential to the GPH-NDFP peace negotiations? What purpose does it serve?

A2: JASIG provides safety and immunity guarantees that protect the rights of negotiators, consultants, staffers, security and other personnel who participate in the GRP‑NDFP peace negotiations, in order to facilitate the peace negotiations, create a favorable atmo­sphere conducive to free discussion and free movement during the negotia­tions, and avert any incident that may jeopardize the peace negotiations.

Without the JASIG, negotiations would not be possible. Without the JASIG, persons involved in the negotiations would always feel or actually be under a cloud of threat and would be unable to perform their functions freely. The negotiations would always be at risk of being disrupted and totally jeopardized.

Q3: Who are covered or protected by JASIG? What is the Document of Identification (DI) or safe conduct pass?
A3: Persons designated by either Party as being involved in the peace negotiations and acknowledged by the other Party are “duly accredited persons” enjoying the protection of JASIG. Such persons shall be issued documents of identification (DIs) or safe conduct passes, which contain the following:
- official seal of the issuing party,
- the bearer's photograph,
- name, sex, date and place of birth, height, color of hair and eyes, distinguishing physical features,
- the assigned number,
- designation or duty in the peace negotiations (panel member, consultant, RWC member, staffer, courier, security or other personnel) , and
- the period of validity.

Each party shall provide the other with the name, designation and assigned number on each document of identification issued in accordance with this Joint Agreement.

Q4: What safety and immunity guarantees does a duly accredited person enjoy?

A4: All duly accredited persons are guaranteed immunity from surveillance, harassment, search, arrest, detention, prosecution and interrogation or any other similar punitive actions due to any involvement or participation in the peace negotiations.

The immunity guarantees shall cover all acts and utterances made in the course of and pursuant to the purposes of the peace negotiations.

Upon presentation by the duly accredited person to any entity, author­ity or agent of the party concerned, the document of identification or safe conduct pass shall be honored and respected and the duly accredited person shall be accorded due recognition and courtesy and allowed free and unhin­dered passage

All duly accredited persons who are already publicly known to be involved in the GRP‑NDFP peace negotiations shall be free from surveillance and shall be allowed freely to consult with the leaders and entities of the party concerned in the Philippines and abroad.

Q5: Is the JASIG still in effect?

A5: Yes. The JASIG is binding and effective on both parties until it is terminated by either party through an official notice of termination to the other Party, and shall be considered terminated 30 days after receipt of the other party. In the 19 years since the JASIG took effect, it has been terminated only once, in July 1999, 30 days after the GRP issued a notice of termination of the peace negotiations in June. The JASIG is co-terminus with the peace negotiations.
The GPH under Estrada announced its unilateral suspension of the JASIG in 1999, and under Arroyo in 2005, but there is nothing in the JASIG which provides for its unilateral suspension, and so such suspensions were invalid and were violations of JASIG.


Q6: What will happen to the immunity guarantees once the JASIG is terminated?
A6: The JASIG categorically provides that the immunities shall remain in effect even after it has been terminated.

Q7: Must a duly accredited person be physically present or visibly participating in the negotiations to remain JASIG protected?

A7: No. There is no provision in the JASIG nor in its Additional Implementing Rules that requires one to be physically present or visibly participating in the negotiations to be duly accredited or to be JASIG-protected. In the case of the NDFP, many of its consultants, staffers, couriers are in the revolutionary underground and perform tasks for the peace negotiations in such capacity. Many of the consultations being conducted by the NDFP are done in the guerrilla areas beyond observation by the GPH.

Thus an NDFP consultant who is released from detention and returns to the underground to resume one’s functions including those in relation to the peace negotiations remains duly accredited or JASIG-protected.

The GRP/GPH under administrations previous to the BS Aquino administration had acknowledged and recognized those designated by the NDFP as duly accredited or JASIG-protected persons even if they were in the underground, not physically present in the talks nor visibly participating in the negotiations. It is only under the BS Aquino administration that the GPH has unilaterally demanded that persons designated by the NDFP as duly accredited should not go underground, should “remain visibly aboveground” or “visibly participating in the peace negotiations”.

Q8: Can a person facing charges in court or already detained in jail be designated as a duly accredited or JASIG-protected person?

A8: Yes. There is nothing in the JASIG that disqualifies a detained person or one who is facing charges in court from being designated by either Party as a duly-accredited or JASIG-protected person. In fact, the JASIG provides that “In all (court) cases involving duly accredited persons, the prosecutors shall move for the suspension, during the peace negotiations, of criminal proceed­ings or processes including arrest and search, for acts allegedly committed prior to the effectivity of this Joint Agreement.”

Q9: Aside from the JASIG, is there any other issuance by the GPH that binds it to the implementation of JASIG?

A9: Executive Order 276 issued by then President Ramos on September 25, 1995, “Formalizing the Inter-Agency Security and Immunity Guarantees for the GRP-NDFP Peace Talks” recognizes the “the need for a permanent Inter-Agency Committee to provide a mechanism for coordination and joint decision making and problem-solving and monitoring of the JASIG implementation”. This permanent committee was explicitly tasked to “oversee the implementation of the JASIG and to resolve problems and issues arising from the same.”

In practice, the meetings of the GRP’s SIG Committee and the corresponding team formed by the NDFP for the purpose provided an effective mechanism for resolving issues and problems that arose especially with the arrest of NDFP-designated consultants and other duly accredited persons.

Executive Order 276 remains valid and binding on the GPH until today since there has been no issuance to repeal or amend it. Unfortunately, the GPH Negotiating Panel unilaterally declared in the GPH-NDFP informal talks in June 2012 that it would no longer avail of this mechanism in resolving JASIG-related issues.

Q10: Why has the JASIG become the center of controversy in the GPH-NDFP Negotiations, to the point that the non-resolution of the controversy has caused a 3-year impasse in talks?

A10: The controversy revolves around the issue of compliance or non-compliance (i.e., violation) with JASIG in relation to persons detained by the GPH who the NDFP claims are JASIG-protected and must be released. Both Parties had agreed, in their February 2011 Joint Statement, that the GPH shall take measures to release from detention “most if not all” of the detained persons claimed by the NDFP to be CJASIG-protected persons “subject to verification, or for humanitarian or other practical purposes.”
The GPH claimed in August 2011 that the process for verifying whether or not the detained persons are duly-accredited or not (by checking the real identities from DIs with photographs deposited in a bank) had failed due to the NDFP’s violation of the JASIG procedure, and concluded that the JASIG has been rendered inoperative. The NDFP for its part explained that it had not violated the JASIG procedure, since the use of electronic data in place of hard copies were legally admissible, and that the failure to open the files was a result of the confiscation by the Dutch police of the decrypting files. The NDFP further argued that this was not the sole method of verification, especially for those publicly known participants and those who used their true name in the documents.

Eventually the GPH Panel Chair Padilla was compelled to clarify that the failed procedure only applied to those using assued names in the their DIs but does not apply to those who are already publicly known and acknowledged to be participating in the negotiations and are thus duly accredited persons.

The NDFP proposed that the list of NDFP-designated accredited persons including those using assumed names be reconstituted, in accordance with JASIG provisions, but the GPH has so far refused to do so.

Q11: Is there a possibility of resolving the issues on JASIG and thus breaking the impasse in the talks? Does the JASIG provide for means by which controversies and disagreements can and should be resolved?

A11: Yes. The impasse can be broken if both Parties agree to hold consultations and/or informal talks to discuss the alleged violations and the disagreements mentioned above, including reconstituting the list of duly-accredited or JASIG-protected persons. Section III, General Provisions, Articles 2 and 3 explicitly stipulate that violations, disagreements and ambiguities in interpretations and applications of the provisions “shall promptly be the subject of consultations between the two panels of the negotiating parties in order to remove im­pediments to the peace negotiations... in accordance with the letter and spirit of the HAGUE JOINT DECLARATION and the pertinent provisions of the BREUKELEN JOINT STATEMENT.

Informal talks can also be held to discuss how the “special track” proposed by the NDFP in January 2011 for alliance and truce based on a common general declaration for unity, peace and development can be
resumed.

Breaking the impasse and resuming the formal peace talks will bring the two Parties back to the negotiations on social and economic reforms, which have all the more urgency and importance with the continuing global and domestic economic crises and the disasters that continue to wreak destruction and hardships on our people.

Q12: What are the prospects for resuming informal talks in the near future?

A12: Both GPH and NDFP have repeatedly announced that they are still open to continuing the peace negotiations. Neither one has issued a notice of termination to the other Party, although the GPH had announced in Aril-May 2013 that they will only return to the regular track under a new framework.

The NDFP has further proposed that informal talks be held this May 2014. The Third Party Facilitator has announced that they are always ready and willing to continue with their facilitating role, and in particular to support formal or informal talks whenever the two Parties agree to hold one. The only lacking ingredient now is the GPH’s concurrence with the proposal.


Reference: Rey Claro C. Casambre, Executive Director
09238109428; 8993439; 8993416 (fax)

 

 

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