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Humanizing the War: GRP, NDFP form body to monitor HR agreement

The Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) will receive complaints relating to
violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by forces
of both the GRP and NDFP and all relevant information, and to initiate
recommendations or requests for the implementation of the CARHRIHL.

By Alexander Martin Remollino

Bulatlat.com

The formation of the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) by the Government
of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic
Front of the Philippines (NDFP), following the recently-concluded round
of formal peace talks between the two parties in Oslo, Norway, has been
hailed by humans rights groups and peace advocates as a welcome
development.

The formation of the JMC, which is tasked with monitoring the
implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human
Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) is provided for by
Part V of the said agreement, which was signed by the GRP and the NDFP
in 1998. (The JMC formation is appended to the comprehensive agreement.)

The implementation of the CARHRIHL had been on hold since 1999, however,
when the peace talks between the GRP (then under the Estrada
administration) and the NDFP collapsed following the ratification of the
Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the U.S.,
which grants extraterritorial and extrajudicial rights to U.S.
military personnel visiting the Philippines for military exercises.

The JMC is mandated to receive complaints relating to violations of
human rights and international humanitarian law by forces of both the
GRP and NDFP and all relevant information, and to initiate
recommendations or requests for the implementation of the CARHRIHL. Upon
approval by consensus, which the operational guidelines of the JMC
define as the express consent or approval of all members from both
parties in the Committee, investigations of complaints by either party
may be requested and appropriate recommendations made.

Under CARHRIHL, the JMC shall meet every three months and as often as
deemed necessary by the co-chairpersons based on urgent issues or
complaints. The meetings shall be held in the Philippines or any other
venue that the parties may agree upon.

Part V, Article 2 of the CARHRIHL provides that: The Committee shall be
composed of three members to be chosen by the GRP panel and three
members chosen by the NDFP Panel. Each Party shall nominate two
representatives of human rights organizations to sit in the committee as
observers and to do so at the pleasure of the nominating Party. The
Committee shall have co-chairpersons who shall serve as chief
representatives of the Parties and shall act as moderators of meetings.

Designated as members of the JMC this year were: lawyer Rene Sarmiento,
Jose Luis Martin Gascon and Maj. Ferdinand Baraquel for the GRP; and
Fidel V. Agcaoili, Coni Ledesma and Danilo Borjal for the NDFP.
Appointed as observers of the JMC were: Mercy Contreras, former
commissioner of the Commission of Human Rights, and Aileen Bacalzo for
the GRP; and Marie Hilao-Enriquez, secretary-general of the human rights
group Karapatan, and Obispo Maximo Tomas Millamena of the Iglesia
Filipina Independiente for the NDFP.

Said Enriquez about the formation of the JMC: We can only hope that
with the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for
Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law through the Joint
Monitoring Committee, we can move ontoward the genuine protection of
and respect for human rights of the Filipinos and that the long impunity
of the perpetrators (of human rights violations) shall somehow be
stopped.

This is definitely good news, Enriquez also said. Our significant
additional task now is to continue our work unhampered in monitoring
human rights violations through this alternative mechanism and give our
people a chance to live peacefully based on true justice.

Apprehensions

There are fears, however, that the JMC formation and other positive
developments will come to naught following the rise of new tension
between the two parties.

Upon her arrival in the Philippines last Feb. 15, Teresita Quintos-Deles,
presidential adviser on the peace process, said: We continue to
maintain that the inclusion of the CPP, NPA and Prof. Jose Ma. Sison in
foreign terror lists were sovereign acts of these states, independent of
the GRP disposition regarding these matters.

The GRP and NDFP panels had in late 2002 agreed to take measures toward
the resolution of the terrorist listing of the Communist Party of the
Philippines-New Peoples Army (CPP-NPA) and Sison, NDFP chief political
consultant. Both panels had committed to jointly and separately, call
upon the Government of the United States, the Council of the European
Union and other concerned foreign states and governments, to support the
efforts of the parties in resolving the outstanding issue of the terrorist
listing of the CPP/NPA and the NDFP Chief Political Consultant in order
to advance and promote the peace negotiations and address the root
causes of the armed conflict.

In a related development, Defense Secretary Eduardo Ermita and Armed
Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Lt. Col. Daniel Lucero both
registered opposition to the removal of the CPP-NPA and Professor Sison
from the list of foreign terrorist organizations.

They still continue (their) terroristic activities, said Ermita.

Definitely it will have an effect in our counter-insurgency drive,
said Lucero. We will be making our counter-proposals to this because we
believe that this will greatly hamper our mandate to cleanse our
countryside of NPA atrocities and influence.

This prompted a rebuke from CPP spokesperson Gregorio Ka Roger Rosal,
who said that the AFP does not intend to let the peace talks succeed and
is interested only in pursuing its fascist agenda and serving as a
puppet army.

Said Jalandoni: The Macapagal-Arroyo regime is utterly treacherous for
running counter to its obligations under the Oslo Joint Statement
immediately after signing this solemn document. It is reprehensible for
continuing to insist that the US government has the sovereign
prerogative to violate the national sovereignty of the Filipino people
and the territorial integrity of the Philippines by usurping
jurisdiction over revolutionary entities and events in the Philippines.

The Macapagal-Arroyo regime shamelessly takes pride in being a puppet
of the U.S. It continues to accept and applaud the baseless and
malicious terrorist listing of the CPP, NPA and the NDFP chief
political consultant, Prof. Jose Maria Sison, he said.

Meanwhile, Jalandoni warned on behalf of the NDFP panel that if the GRP-NDFP
agreement on the terror delisting of the CPP-NPA and Professor Sison
proved to be ineffective, there would be no basis for pushing through
with the peace talks.

The Macapagal-Arroyo regime must not engage in deception, Jalandoni
said. It must cease to insist so arrogantly that the delisting would
happen only after the capitulation of the revolutionary forces. In this
regard, it should not act like the yelping dog of the U.S.

The agreement regarding the terror tag on the CPP-NPA and Professor
Sison was one of the items in the joint statement issued by the GRP and
the NDFP last Feb. 14, following a number of agreements arrived at in
the recent round of formal talks held in Oslo, Norway. The Oslo Joint
Statement was signed by former Justice Secretary Silvestre Bello III for
the GRP panel and Jalandoni for the NDFP panel.

Other items

Other items agreed upon in the Oslo Joint Statement were: the release of
political prisoners as a confidence-building measure; the
indemnification of human rights victims under the Marcos regime; and the
work of the Reciprocal Working Committees on Social and Economic
Reforms (RWC-SER).

The release of political prisoners, aside from being considered as a
confidence-building measure, is also provided for by the CARHRIHL. The
GRP committed to review the cases of more than 300 political prisoners
in a list submitted by the human rights group Karapatan and immediately
release all those found to have been charged with common crimes in
violation of the Hernandez doctrine (as per the Supreme Court decision
in People of the Philippines vs. Amado V. Hernandez, 99 Phil. 515, July
18, 1956) regarding the criminalization of political offenses. It also
committed to review the cases of women, children, sick, and elderly
prisoners enumerated in a list submitted by Karapatan and determine
whether they may be released on humanitarian grounds as mandated by the
CARHRIHL.

As regards the indemnification of human rights victims under the Marcos
regime, the GRP committed to set aside some PhP8 billion (about U.S.$150
million) from the U.S.$684-million ill-gotten Marcos wealth solely for
the purpose of indemnifying the martial-law victims of human rights
violations.

SER

The next agenda in the peace negotiations will be on social and economic
reforms (SER). The GRP and NDFP panels are expected to tackle the draft
Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER)
submitted by the NDFP to the GRP in 1998.

The draft CASER deals with the issues of national sovereignty and
patrimony, national industrialization and economic development, economic
planning, monetary and fiscal policies, foreign and economic relations,
agrarian reform and agricultural development, rights of the working
people, and livelihood and social services. Bulatlat.com