Complaints filed with Joint Monitoring Committee signify urgent need to address violations

On the 1st Anniversary of the Opening of the Joint Secretariat of the Joint Monitoring Committee of the CARHRIHL

Chairperson, NDFP Negotiating Panel

One year ago today, the Joint Secretariat (JS) of the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) opened its offices to receive complaints of human rights violations against the forces of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

With the opening and functioning of the offices of the JS, a physical base has been established for the full operation of the JMC, completing the technical and administrative mechanism to help it in its tasks of monitoring the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law or CARHRIHL.

There was hope that the CARHRIHL would help stem the tide of increasing human rights violations by the Arroyo government if not improve the overall human rights situation in the country which remains in an even worse state almost twenty years after the downfall of the Marcos dictatorship. The GRP and the NDFP signified their will to implement and abide by the Agreement and to carry out, separately through their respective Monitoring Committees or jointly in the JMC, fact-finding investigations of complaints of violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.

However, the continuing upsurge and ruthlessness of human rights violations and the wanton disregard of international humanitarian law by the Arroyo regime put in grave doubt its commitment to the CARHRIHL and to human rights and international humanitarian law in general.

Moreover, since initially convening in April, the Joint Monitoring Committee has not met again because of the insistence of the GRP that resumption of formal peace negotiations be a precondition for its regular meeting. The JMC is mandated under the CARHRIHL to meet every three months or more often as the situation warrants to discuss and act on the complaints.

The big number of complaints filed with the JS in a short period of one year not only underscores the worsened state of human rights in the country and the urgent need to address these but also indicates the broad support for the peace negotiations and the strong desire of the people for the ultimate resolution of the root causes of the armed conflict.

As of 4 June 2005, the Joint Secretariat of the JMC has received 365 complaints of violations of human rights and international humanitarian law 358 of these are filed with the GRP and 7 with the NDFP.

These complaints range from disappearances to killings to torture, illegal arrests and detention to criminalization of political offenses. They also include complaints for abuses against women and children. These have been separately processed by the respective sections of the GRP and the NDFP in the Joint Secretariat, and transmitted to their respective Monitoring Committees for information, study, investigation and appropriate action.

The reports and data of the JMC constitute an objective verification mechanism to monitor the observance or compliance by the GRP and the NDFP of CARHRIHL.

As part of its public information activities, the NDFP Section has translated and published the CARHRIHL into Tagalog, Cebuano and Ilokano. The NDFP Sections has also held numerous training sessions, seminars and education series as well as participated in various forums all over the country.

The NDFP is committed to the resolution of the roots of the armed conflict in the Philippines. But it will never be pressured or inveigled into capitulation by the GRP through such means as the murder of legal progressive activists, the terrorizing and wholesale killing of civilians and non-combatants and the unjustified terrorist labeling of the CPP, the NPA and the NDFP chief political consultant Prof. Jose Ma. Sison.

The government of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is hardly in any position to impose preconditions on the NDFP in the peace negotiations. It is vulnerable to being toppled by a popular uprising similar to those that brought down Marcos and Estrada. It has failed to alleviate the people's socio-economic condition while callously increasing their tax burden. Arroyo is no different from her corrupt predecessors in wanting to enrich her own family.

The NDFP calls on the GRP to heed the people's demands for social, economic and political reforms in order to establish a just and lasting peace in the country.