A day before the formal opening of the third round of peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in Rome, a lawmaker representing the youth said that the success of the ongoing talks lies in the release of over 400 political prisoners and the comprehensive discussion of the socio-economic reforms that the NDFP is laying on the negotiating table.
“In the past weeks, the GRP panel and no less than President Duterte himself has been emphasizing the need to reach a bilateral ceasefire agreement. Yet the Duterte administration is not keen on fulfilling its part of the negotiations, which include the release of political prisoners, thus making the talks stand on shaky ground,” Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Elago said.
“Instead of fulfilling the GRP’s obligation to immediately release political prisoners under the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law CARHRIHL) – agreements which have been reaffirmed in the first round of the renewed talks, the Duterte administration is forcing its way to a bilateral ceasefire, an approach which is perilously similar to those taken by past administrations which ultimately led to the breakdown of past negotiations,” the lawmaker noted.
“As the GRP-NDFP peace talks enter the third round, we thus call on the Duterte administration to honor JASIG and CARHRIHL, and immediately cause the release of all political prisoners. After all, the NDFP has already stated that it is willing to enter a bilateral ceasefire agreement enforceable once the political prisoners are ordered released. Such move will undoubtedly ease the tenuous situation the peace talks is now in,” Elago said.
The issue of the release of political prisoners should be immediately addressed to ensure that the negotiations will push forward to what Elago called the “heart of the matter.”
“The peace negotiations are moving toward the heart of the matter – the discussion on socio-economic reforms that address the roots of the armed struggle waged by the Communist Party of the Philippines. It would be a shame for the Philippine government to cause the breakdown of the talks even as the negotiating panels reach this essential part,” Elago said.
The NDFP negotiating panel is set to submit an 84-page proposed draft of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) during the third round of talks. The draft CASER tackles pernicious socio-economic issues including landlessness, lack of national industries, discussions on economic policy, and other substantial matters necessary to end the armed conflict and develop the country.
“Despite the setbacks posed by the recalcitrant stance of the GRP as regards the release of political prisoners, the youth still hopes and prays for the success of the peace negotiations. May the peace negotiators on both sides be enlightened and iron out differences in this historic third round of negotiations,” Elago ended.###