The GRP must refrain from misrepresenting the NDFP’s statements

NDFP Media Office
Statement from NDFP Peace Panel Senior Adviser Luis Jalandoni

The NDFP takes exception to the GRP’s latest statement implying the NDFP’s willingness to enter into a bilateral ceasefire agreement cavalierly and abandon its principled stand on the release of political prisoners. In a statement issued today, Secretary Silvestre Bello III welcomed the NDFP’s readiness to work with the GRP peace panel on forging a bilateral ceasefire agreement, but conspicuously omitted the NDFP’s position that any such agreement should take effect 48 hours after the signing, in keeping with the timeframe within which President Rodrigo Duterte said he would order the release of all political prisoners.

The NDFP stands firm in its position that the release of political prisoners is first and foremost an obligation of the GRP under signed agreements, particularly the CARHRIHL and the JASIG, which the GRP has reaffirmed. While it plays a part in building an atmosphere of trust and confidence in the negotiations, the release of political prisoners cannot be reduced to a simple act of goodwill that the GRP can opt to take or not.

Interim ceasefires on the other hand, whether unilateral or bilateral, are among the options that can be taken to build mutual trust and confidence. But they can also contribute to the erosion of goodwill when they are routinely violated, as what has happened to the GRP’s unilateral ceasefire in the last four months.

Since the formal peace talks opened last August, the NDFP has been working hard on preparing its draft on socio-economic reforms, all the while waiting for the GRP to make good on its commitment to release the political prisoners. Meanwhile, reports continued pouring in from the field about relentless AFP and PNP combat and intelligence operations victimizing rural communities. The statistics this December are grim: 18 activists killed extrajudicially, with 20 others surviving attempts on their lives; more than 13,000 civilians victimized by forced evacuation; more than 14,000 cases of schools, clinics, chapels and other civilian infrastructure used as barracks by the AFP, all in violation of the CARHRIHL.

If the AFP’s bogus unilateral ceasefire is anything to go by, all it has achieved is to give the AFP a free hand to encroach on revolutionary territory and violate the people’s rights with impunity. A bilateral ceasefire agreement could therefore prove more disastrous to the people if entered into precipitately by the NDFP and divorced from the larger context of the GRP’s continuing non-compliance with signed agreements.

If the GRP is truly negotiating in good faith, it must release the political prisoners as a matter of commitment. It must order the AFP to be confined to barracks to show genuine reciprocity. And it must refrain from distorting and misrepresenting the NDFP’s statements in a cunning attempt to drive it into a corner.

Failing this, it would be better for the NDFP to negotiate without the strain of having to deal with a deceptive and onerous ceasefire.###

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