Solgen jumping the gun, ‘tying Duterte’s hands’ in seeking re-arrest of NDFP consultants – lawyer

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NDFP peace panel legal consultant Edre Olalia (left) and Solicitor General Jose Calida.

MANILA, Philippines — Solicitor General Jose Calida’s request for courts to order consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines returned to jail “is premature and precipitate” and “ties the hands” of President Rodrigo Duterte should he decide to resume peace talks with communist rebels, a lawyer said.

Calida on Friday filed a “Manifestation for the Issuance of Recommitment Orders of the NDF Consultants” that cited the “eventual termination of the peace negotiations in Oslo, Norway and the cancellation of the backchannel talks in the Netherlands” and also asked for the cancellation of the bail bonds of the 21 consultants granted conditional release.

He also invoked Supreme Court resolutions that set conditions for the provisional release of NDFP consultants Satur Ocampo, Randall Echanis and Vicente Ladlad, among which was, “once the peace negotiations are terminated, their bonds are deemed automatically cancelled.”

Calida interpreted Duterte’s declaration of the communist revolutionary movement as an “enemy statement” to mean that “any peace negotiations with them have been rendered inutile and therefore must officially end.”

But Edre Olalia, legal consultant of the NDFP peace panel and president of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, scoffed at Calida’s move, citing five reasons why it was wrong:

  1. It is premature and precipitate. There is yet no written formal notice of termination properly addressed to the NDFP as mandatorily required by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) which is a solemn bilateral agreement that protects negotiators, consultants, staffers, security and other personnel of both Parties involved in the peace negotiations.
  2. The OSG move appears not in concert with the standing pronouncements of the GRP Panel and OPAPP — the official and authorized representatives of the GRP in the peace negotiations — that (a) the talks are not yet officially terminated despite the verbal pronouncements of the President as GRP Principal as there is yet no such written notice and (b) the JASIG still remains in full force and effect.
  3. Neither is there any clear indication up to date that the Department of Justice –the principal and lead arm of the GRP prosecuting the assailed cases against the NDFP consultants — is moving for such cancellation of the bail bonds much less joining or concurring in the OSG unilateral move.
  4. Moving for the rearrest of peace consultants by invoking GRP legal and judicial system is a circumvention and even violation of a solemn binding bilateral agreement (JASIG) entered into by the GRP.
  5. It ties the hands of the President and preempts his flexibility and prerogative to eventually and ultimately resume talks or peace negotiations anyway, notwithstanding the current circumstances, especially after sobriety has prevailed in order to save the peace process and go back to the reasons why it must be pursued despite periodic challenges along the way.