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Philippine Peace Center

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29 August 2011

 

 

Statement  on the GPH Negotiating Panel Chair Padilla's declaration

that the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG)  

is now Inoperative

 

Rey Claro Casambre

Executive DIrector

 

 

The Philippine Peace Center calls on all peace advocates to protest and condemn the statement of GPH Negotiating Panel Chair Alex Padilla that the JASIG is now inoperative.  This statement has grave implications and potentially fatal consequences on the peace negotiations as well as on those involved in it.

 

"The JASIG (Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees) right now is inoperative. They [rebels] cannot cite JASIG now."  

 

GPH Negotiating Panel Chair  Alex Padilla declared thus in an interview published in Business World online today (see complete article below and attached) . The GPH and Padilla have thereby, once again, unilaterally set aside the JASIG, in flagrant violation of its provisions.  

 

Although Padilla has been in the GPH panel for less than a year, he cannot feign ignorance of the fact that JASIG  cannot be terminated, suspended  or declared as "inoperative" unilaterally by either GPH or NDFP.  

 

Padilla justifies the GPH position by accusing the NDFP of violating the JASIG when they put diskettes of "ostensibly encrypted" photographs of the duly-accredited or JASIG-protected persons in the safety deposit box instead of hard copies of these photographs.  

 

He argues that due to this alleged violation, and of the failure to decrypt the files and retrieve the original photographs, there is no longer any way of verifying the identities of duly-accredited or JASIG-protected persons working with the NDFP Panel in the peace negotiations.  

 

Padilla concludes non-sequitur that the NDFP can no longer invoke JASIG and the GPH cannot release the detained consultants and others who the NDFP have listed as JASIG-protected persons.

 

Being a lawyer, Padilla should know that legal jurisprudence holds that encrypted documents are deemed identical to and of the same value as the document itself. Besides, the GPH panel had earlier accepted the NDFP's explanation for encrypting the documents as a necessary or reasonable security measure. 

 

More important, Padilla and the GPH  are definitely aware  that the JASIG stipulates that the  photographs in the safety deposit box are not the sole means of verifying whether one is a duly-accredited or JASIG-protected person or not, but only serve as further verification if necessary. 

 

The NDFP has repeatedly pointed out that in practice, since 1995, the GRP (now GPH) and NDFP have been able to determine or agree on the accreditation of persons arrested and detained by the GPH and effect their release without having to open the safety deposit box containing the photographs.  In fact, at least eight of the 17 detainees in question had,  in 2009,  been acknowledged by the previous GPH panel to be JASIG-protected, and the GPH had actually begun to take the necessary legal measures  to secure their release, although these were subsequently aborted.  Padilla and his panel now deny and refuse to honor this acknowledgment  by the previous panel.

 

Further, the JASIG clearly stipulates that persons who are publicly known to be involved in the peace negotiations enjoy safety and immunity guarantees even if they are not issued documents of identification.  Tirso Alcantara is one such person who, on this basis, should have been released immediately,  or should not have been arrested in the first place.  Ironically, while Alcantara figured prominently in the release of NPA-held POWs as confidence-building measures for the peace negotiations, he now continues to be detained due to the GPH's refusal to comply with the JASIG.

 

Declaring that the JASIG is again no longer operative has grave implications and potentially fatal consequences for the GPH-NDFP peace negotiations, not to mention its participants.  It reinforces the perception that  the hawks and militarists in government continue to determine the direction of the GPH peace negotiations and the  conduct of its negotiating panels, just as they had with the Arroyo regime.  The current GPH panel's initial soft and conciliatory approach and make-up has worn off  rapidly, exposing its real belligerent face and hardline stance. . 

 

Padilla's statement at the minimum sends a strong signal to the GPH  prosecutors,  military and police that NDFP consultants and other personalities involved in the peace negotiations are once again fair game for arrest and detention, not to mention torture and enforced disappearance that NDFP consultants became victims of under the Arroyo government and continuing under the current Aquino regime.  

 

Padilla and the GPH are fully aware that without the JASIG, there can be no peace negotiations since the NDFP will not negotiate under duress and with its panel members, consultants and staff under threat of surveillance, harrassment, arrest, detention, torture and enforced disappearance with criminal charges based on fabricated evidence thrown on them with impunity by the GPH. 

 

Thus, Padilla is merely paying lip service to the resumption of formal talks when he says the GPH wants to proceed with the negotiations on the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) and that formal panel talks can be held when these are completed.   In declaring the JASIG inoperative and saying no one can claim to be protected by JASIG until the documents of identification are reconstructed, Padilla and the GPH are effectively  shutting the doors to further peace talks. 

 

In falsely arguing that it is the NDFP's fault that the JASIG has been rendered inoperative even as it insists that the detained consultants should be released, Padilla and the GPH are straining to show that the NDFP is to blame should the talks fail to resume or if the peace negotiations fall into another impasse.  

 

The Philippine Peace Center calls on all  peace advocates to condemn this blatant violation by the GPH in again unilaterally  declaring the JASIG  inoperative, thereby putting the NDFP negotiators, consultants and staff in grave danger and threatening to put an end to the peace negotiations. The quest for a just and enduring peace through negotiations that address the roots of the armed conflict can only proceed if both parties honor their own signatures and comply with their bilateral agreements. ###

 

 

Reference:  Rey Claro Casambre, Executive Director;  cp# 09192502345


 

BUSINESS WORLD  Online

 

http://www.bworld.com.ph/content.php?section=Nation&title=Gov%E2%80%99t-nixes-safety-guarantee-pact-with-rebels&id=37328

 

 

Posted on August 28, 2011 10:23:12 PM

 

Gov’t nixes safety guarantee pact with rebels

 

THE GOVERNMENT is no longer honoring a safety guarantee pact for rebels engaged in peace talks for failure on their part to comply with the requirements, the top negotiator said last week.

A FILE PICTURE of MILF members disembarking from their boat after a patrol. -- AFP

"The JASIG (Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees) right now is inoperative. They [rebels] cannot cite JASIG now," said Alexander A Padilla in an interview on Thursday, referring to the pact signed 16 years ago.

The rebels have not complied with the requirement of the JASIG, he noted, particularly on the submission of names of negotiators matched with hard copies of their photographs that must be kept in a safety deposit box in a bank in Utrecht, Netherlands.

"We agreed to their request to recompose their list, but until then, having no verification means that we cannot ascertain the identities of those who are supposed to be JASIG-protected, and therefore there is no basis to say anyone is actually JASIG-protected," said Mr. Padilla.

The JASIG, which was signed on Feb. 24, 1995 and became binding on May 2 that same year, provides for the safety and immunity guarantees to protect those who participate in the talks.

A member of the secretariat of the government panel went to Utrecht in July to verify the JASIG list and found that the safety deposit box only contained encrypted diskettes. Communist leaders have been in self-exile in the Netherlands.

The National Democratic Front (NDF), the negotiating arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), said it could no longer retrieve any data in the old diskettes and have asked that they be allowed to recompose the list, said Mr. Padilla.

However, while Mr. Padilla admitted that a resumption of talks "might bring about renegotiated political settlements," he said in a text message at the weekend that the priority will be "CASER first as per our agreement and timetable."

The CASER (Comprehensive Agreement on Socioeconomic Reforms), which is one of the three key agreements that the government and the NDF agreed to complete within 18 months to three years, was supposed to have been settled by working committees of both parties in bilateral meetings in June and August.

Mr. Padilla again accused the rebel panel of stalling on the CASER in favor of pushing for the release of its comrades.

"It was only June, but they cut off [talks]. And now, in their latest proposal, [they’re saying] let’s continue the formal talks, but these formal talks,
 ang una nating pag-usapan ang [we will first discuss] JASIG," said Mr. Padilla. 

"They want to reconstitute [JASIG]. It is in the realm of possibility, but let’s talk about that when we finish CASER… If we talk about releases again, we will probably reach three years.… The CASER will not move… We can’t put JASIG before the CASER," said Mr. Padilla, reminding that in February it was agreed upon that the JASIG merely be a "side-table mechanism."

Further, he said that as a confidence-building measure, the administration had released five commanders of the New People’s Army (NPA) turned peace consultants, namely, Angelina Bisuna Ipong on Feb. 17; Jovencio Balweg and Maria Luisa Purcray on July 22; Jaime Soledad on July 25; and Glicerio Pernia on Aug. 3.

The CPP-NDF responded by insisting that all rebel leaders be freed first before CASER is discussed, said Mr. Padilla.

NPA ATROCITIES

Meanwhile, the NPA, the CPP’s military unit still has in custody four officials of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology who were given prisoners of war status, and abducted Lingig, Surigao del Sur Mayor Henry Dano, reportedly to be tried at a people’s court.

In addition, isolated police stations continue to be attacked by rebel forces, the latest in Medina, Misamis Oriental on Aug. 25.

As a result, Mr. Padilla said there will likely be no further releases of rebels until the communists show sincerity by starting substantive talks, in particular on CASER.

"You release them, they’re supposed to work for peace; suddenly the first item on their agenda is to go underground. What does that make of the other political prisoners? Do we release them, maybe the same thing will happen," he noted. --
 J. P. D. Poblete

 

 

 

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