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PRESS STATEMENT REFERENCE: Marie Hilao-Enriquez
27 February 2004 Secretary General
GRP-NDFP Agreement on the Formation of the Joint Monitoring Committee: A Breakthrough for the Cause of Human Rights
KARAPATAN, the Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights commends both negotiating panels of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) for finally completing the formation of the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) and achieving a breakthrough for the cause of human rights in the Philippines.
In a joint statement issued by both panels, they arrived on a 10-point agreement after the conclusion of the Formal Peace Talks in Oslo, Norway last February 10-14. Among those agreed upon is the formation of the JMC. They have also come out with its operational guidelines.
Members of the JMC for each of the parties are –for the GRP, Rene Sarmiento, Jose Luis Martin Gascon and Major Ferdinand Baraquel. The NDFP confirmed the earlier designation of Fidel Agcaoili, Coni Ledesma and Danilo Borjal as members of the JMC.
KARAPATAN Secretary General Marie Hilao-Enriquez and Iglesia Filipina Independiente Supreme Bishop Tomas Millamena were designated by the NDFP as independent observers in the JMC. For the GRP side, Mercedes Contreras, former Commissioner of the Commission on Human Rights and Aileen Bacalzo were the designated observers in the JMC.
“We can only hope that with the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHR-IHL) through the Joint Monitoring Committee, we can move on forward towards the genuine protection and respect of human rights of the Filipinos and that the long-enjoyed impunity of the perpetrators shall be stopped.” Enriquez said.
Human rights violations cases presented by the NDFP to the GRP in the recent talks included the disappearances of Honorio Ayroso and Johnny Orcino who were abducted on February 9, 2002 in Nueva Ecija, the case of the striking Nestle workers in Cabuyao, Laguna, the killings of human rights workers and Bayan Muna members, the evacuations of communities, the recent slaying of human rights lawyer and vice-mayor Juvy Magsino and Karapatan volunteer Leima Fortu in Mindoro Oriental, the militarization of Mindoro and other provinces. The two parties agreed that these would be referred to the Joint Monitoring Committee to be taken up.
The implementation of CARHRIHL had been on hold since the time the talks collapsed between the NDFP and GRP under the former Estrada Administration. With its implementation, KARAPATAN hopes to see the rest of the agenda between both parties to be discussed in future schedules of the peace negotiations.
Also included in the 10-point agenda is the release of the political prisoners as a continuing confidence-building measure. In January 2001 President Arroyo ordered the release of more than a hundred political prisoners, but 23 of them were not released and remained in detention up to this day. The two parties agreed that they must be released without delay. Further, the Oslo statement states that the GRP will review the cases of detained women, minors, the sick and elderly as well as review the cases of the more than 300 political detainees in the list provided by KARAPATAN. Those found to be detained and whose rights may have been violated under the Hernandez doctrine will be released.
“This is a welcome move in the peace process. We hope to see the immediate release of the three women political prisoners who are nursing mothers and their babies namely, Zenaida Llesis and her daughter Gabriela; Irene Plagtiosa and her two-year old daughter Criselda; and Lucena Lagado and her baby girl. The release of the other eight (8) women political detainees as well as the minors and other political prisoners should follow suit,” Enriquez said.
Karapatan is also happy to note that the Office of the Presidential Adviser for the Peace Process (OPAPP) has facilitated the transfer of Zenaida Llesis and her daughter from the Bukidnon Provincial Hospital to the Philippine Children’s Medical Center in Quezon City so that the baby’s medical evaluation can be done. Baby Gabriela Llesis was born with a hole in her heart and a liver tumor.
“We hope the government will effect the release of the political prisoners before the scheduled next round of talks. Many families will be happy if the releases will be realized,” Enriquez concluded.###
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