Juridical persecution of peace consultants undercuts 25-yr-old framework deal – legal consultants

September 3, 2017 - 9:49 AM
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NDFP peace consultant Wilma Austria and her husband, Benito Tiamzon, member of the rebel peace panel, are seen in this Kodao Productions file photo.

MANILA – The recent and impending juridical moves and orders by the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) to cancel the bail bonds and recommit to jail the political consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) “make a travesty of solemn and binding agreements entered into by the Parties,” the rebels’ legal consultants said at the weekend.

“Not only are these persecutory, they are tantamount to blackmail and smack of strong-arm negotiating tactics because they are designed to compel one party to unilaterally submit to the other’s position by imposing one’s legal and judicial process on the other,” lawyers Edre Olalia and Rachel Pastores in a statement to media.

The two, who are also officials of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, said “the precipitate issuance or threats of issuance of warrants of arrest for failure to comply with unilateral coercive conditions also make a mockery of the fact that the peace negotiations have not yet been terminated officially, definitely and properly since there is up to date still no written formal notice of termination properly addressed to the NDFP which is mandatory and cannot be set aside.”

Such moves and orders by the Duterte government, they added, “disregard the overarching 1995 Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) that should respect and protect the rights, safety and security of individuals of both parties involved or participating in the peace negotiations.”

Describing them as “hardline moves,” Olalia and Pastores said the government’s acts violate the 1998 Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), which prohibit political persecution and trumped-up charges.

“More fundamentally,” they said, “they insult the seminal Hague Joint Declaration solemnly entered into by the Parties 25 years ago.” The landmark document mandates there should be no precondition tending to negate the inherent character and purpose of the peace negotiations, they stressed.

“To penalize and punish individuals involved in the peace negotiations by draconian legal justifications and use them as trump cards or quid pro quo for capitulation (e.g. a premature indefinite ceasefire without agreeing to substantive reforms to address the roots of the armed conflict) frontally puts this Declaration and its rationale to continuing peril,” NUPL added.

Moreover, they “set a bad precedent for future negotiations – if and when they would still resume – and legally straitjackets anyone who want to earnestly contribute or work in good faith for a truly just and lasting peace through the platform of peace talks.”