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Honor all agreements!

Notes for short speech at KAPAYAPAAN launching
July 15, 2014, Claret School AV Room, Quezon City
By Satur C. Ocampo, Convenor

1. It is a basic principle, or a mutual premise, for the two parties in a negotiation that they are duty bound to honor any and all agreements that they will conclude and sign. Further, they must faithfully implement the agreement(s) within the explicitly defined time frame (when so provided) or within a reasonable period of time, when not so specified.

Otherwise, what’s the sense or rationale of negotiating and signing agreements if these will not be honored and aptly implemented by the concerned parties?

2. In the case of the GRP/GPH-NDFP peace talks, there are standing 17 “major written agreements,” forged in 13 years and 7 months of on-and-off negotiations -- from August 31, 1992 to March 31, 2006.

(March 2006 was when the Macapagal-Arroyo government filed a spurious rebellion charge and threatened to arrest several persons led by Jose Ma. Sison, NDFP chief political consultant, NDFP panel chair Luis Jalandoni, panel members Fidel Agcaoili and Juliet Delima-Sison, NDFP consultants Vicente Ladlad, Rafael Baylosis, Randal Echanis, and Rey Claro Casambre, and the so-called “Batasan 6” progressive partylist members of Congress -- Crispin Beltran, Liza Maza, Rafael Mariano, Teodoro Casino, Joel Virador, and Satur C. Ocampo. The Supreme Court threw out the case for lack of merit.)

For our ready reference, the 17 agreements have been published in a book, titled The GRP-NDFP Peace Negotiations – Major Written Agreements and Outstanding Issues,” by the NDFP Human Rights Monitoring Committee. Included in the book are the outstanding issues between the two parties, plus the chronology and timeline study of the peace negotiations.

2.a. When we raise the call, “Honor all agreements!,” we refer to these 17 documents. To ensure their authenticity, the agreements are printed in facsimile (exact reproduction of the originals), including the signatures of the authorized representatives of the two parties and the witnesses, plus their initials on the margin of every page of each agreement.

2.b. The main agreements are the following:

+ The Hague Joint Declaration, September 1, 1992
+ The Bruekelen Joint Statement, June 14, 1994
+ Joint Agreement on Security and Immunity Guarantees, February 24, 1995
+ Agreement on the Ground Rules of the Formal Meetings, February 26, 1995
+ Joint Agreement on the Formation, Sequence and Operationalization of the Reciprocal Working Committes (RWCs) of the GRP and the NDFP Negotiating Panels, June 26, 1995
+ Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law
(CARHRIHL), March 16, 1998

All of these were negotiated and signed under the Fidel V. Ramos administration, except in the case of the CARHRIHL wherein the signing as principal (a form of affirmation or ratification) was done by former President Joseph Estrada, who succeeded Ramos. Mind that the CARHRIHL is the first accord among the four topics on the agenda of the GRP-NDFP peace talks. It has been hailed as a unique and landmark bilateral agreement by the European Parliament.

There are two supplemental agreements to the JASIG, signed on June 26, 1996 (re documents of identification) and on March 16, 1998 (re security of personnel and consultations in furtherance of the peace negotiations). Likewise, there’s a supplemental agreement to the Joint Agreement on Reciprocal Working Committees, signed on March 18, 1997.

2.c. Two other important agreements were signed under President Gloria M. Arroyo, after went through the motion of fulfilling her promise to resume the peace talks (abandoned by Estrada who pursued an “all-out-war” policy), should she become president. These are:

+ Oslo Joint Statement (Oslo I), February 14, 2004, and
+ Oslo Joint Statement (Oslo II), April 3, 2004

= Oslo I renewed the commitment between the two parties to “address the roots of the armed conflict by adopting social, economic and political reforms to lay the ground for a just and lasting peace,” and reaffirmed the 10 previously signed agreements.

= Further, Oslo I complied with Part V of the CARHRIHL to enable its implementation: the two panels constituted the Joint Monitoring Committee (by appointing their respective three members plus two observers), and approved the operational guidelines for the JMC.

= For confidence-building measure, the GRP committed to do the following: 1) expedite the release of political prisoners who had been ordered freed by GMA in 2001 yet; 2) review the cases of others listed by Karapatan for release on humanitarian or legal grounds; and 3) per Part III of CARHRIHL, review the cases of 300+ prisoners (already convicted) and detainees to determine who may qualify for immediate release under the 1956 Hernandez political-offense doctrine.

= Oslo II pursued the agreed points in Oslo I by calling the first (organizational) meeting of the JMC. The members discussed pertinent documents to arrive at a common understanding of the nature, mandate, organizational structure and rules of procedure of the JMC. They agreed to set up the Joint Secretariat in April 2004, draft the rules of procedure subject to approval by the two panels, hold its next two meetings in April and June 2004, and set up a system to ensure efficient flow of communications between them.

= On June 4, 2004 the two panels inaugurated the offices of the JMC Joint Secretariat. They held a third formal meeting on June 22-25, 2004 without any result. After efforts to sustain the talks failed, the GRP declared a suspension of formal negotiations on June 22, 2005.

2.d. Before he became president, B.S. Aquino III vowed (in a pre-written speech on April 12, 2010) to resume the peace talks based on “a comprehensive understanding of the roots of the armed conflict and with clear guidelines to pave the way ahead.” He made a good start to fulfill that promise. The formal GPH-NDFP peace talks resumed in February 2011on a positive note: the parties reaffirmed the 17 agreements. They also agreed to shorten time frame for completing the negotiations on the remaining three topics in the agenda within 18 months.

Alas, the scheduled formal negotiation on social and economic reform in June 2011 was aborted. Reason: bitter differences between the parties over the JASIG. The dispute turned pugnacious and truculent with the exchange of accusatory statements from both sides. These have shunted the peace talks in limbo.

2.e. From this brief review, we can discern several instances of failure to honor signed agreements. Yes, there are valid, palpable grounds for KAPAYAPAAN to call for the honoring of all agreements.

Many commitments made in the 17 agreements – mostly by the GRP/GPH – have remained unfulfilled, have been ignored or violated. Let me cite just three instances:

1. In the1994 Bruekelen Joint Statement, replying to the NDFP assertion that political prisoners should not be treated, charged, prosecuted or convicted as common criminals, the GRP denied that there were political prisoners. It reiterated the government’s avowed policy that “offenders who may have committed crimes in pursuit of political ends are to be charged with said ‘political’ crimes as may be warranted by the evidence.”

Fact: Since 1994 (in fact even earlier) all administrations have pursued a policy contrary to what the GRP avowed in Bruekelen, which human rights lawyers call “criminalization of political offenses”: they have been filing charges against persons arrested and tagged as members or supporters of the CPP-NPA with multiple counts of non-bailable common crimes (such as murder, arson, kidnapping, robbery in band).

2. In the same Bruekelen Joint Statement, the NDFP asserted that the GRP “seeks to impose upon the peace negotiations the GRP constitution as the framework for the peace talks… in violation of the Hague Declaration.” Disputing this assertion, the GRP averred that its commitment to “constitutional processes and the rule of law” doesn’t violate the JHD “nor does it mean that it will cite the GRP Constitution as basis for rejecting what otherwise would be just and valid proposals for reforms in society.”

The GRP added that if it was shown that certain provisions of its constitution hinder the attainment of genuine reforms, “the GRP Panel is willing to recommend to GRP authorities amendments thereto.”

Fact: That the GRP has invoked the Constitution or argued that a certain proposal by the other side would be anathema to the Constitution has been publicly reported at several stages of the government’s peace negotiations – both with the NDFP and the MILF.

Verily, such concern over the Constitution is at the core of the now three-month delay in finalizing a draft Bangsamoro Basic Law forwarded to Malacanang in March by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission. Presidential lawyers vetted the draft to ensure that it conforms with the Constitution. The MILF decried that Malacanang “heavily diluted” the draft, whereas it “copy-pasted the essential elements” of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed in Malacanang last March 27, with President Aquino and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak as witnesses.

3. Since the formal talks stalled in June 2011, the GRP panel has stonewalled against releasing any more detained NDFP consultants. It has even unilaterally declared that the JASIG had become “inoperative”.

Fact: The JASIG provides that it shall be effective and binding upon the parties “for the duration of the peace negotiations, unless this Joint Agreement is sooner terminated by written notice given to one party by the other…(and) shall be deemed terminated 30 days after receipt of the notice of termination.” The GRP has not sent a written notice of termination -- either of the JASIG or of the peace talks.#





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