A blow to confidence-building
The National Union of People’s Lawyers joins the snowballing call for President Duterte not to abandon the peace talks.
The National Democratic Front (NDF) did not abandon the peace talks, even though the New People’s Army had lifted its unilateral ceasefire on the ground, which the military constantly violated by carrying out counterinsurgency operations, including the killing of farmers and the harassment of civilians.
The peace talks must continue especially because the government panel had agreed to some of the NDF proposals on social and economic reforms, including government subsidy for the free distribution of land.
A ceasefire has its pros and cons; it is not decisive in the continuation of peace talks. While it may provide a conducive environment for peace talks, it can be used by militarist elements in government to sabotage the peace process. Continuing the talks is never more important now that the ceasefire has been lifted by both sides.
NUPL asserts that the arrest of NDF consultants is a violation of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees and of their right to bail, and it does not bode well for future peace talks.
As previously agreed by the government and the NDF, the peace talks can only be terminated 30 days after a party has officially informed the other of its decision to terminate. The purpose of this provision is to allow representatives of both parties to disengage and at the same time allow the terminating party an opportunity to change its mind and withdraw its termination.
NDF consultant Ariel Arbitrario was arrested just a day after the government’s announcement of the termination of the talks—in itself a violation of this agreement. This is also a violation of Arbitrario’s right to bail and the power of the judiciary to issue bail.
If it’s about releasing a political prisoner, the law and courts are followed. But if it’s the arrest of an (NDF) consultant, the government ignores the law and the courts.
This violation of previously agreed terms may also endanger future peace talks as the NDF may no longer trust government assurance of the safety of NDF representatives to the peace talks. We ask government to abide by the agreements and pursue the peace talks.
We also call on all peace advocates to continue supporting the peace process. The Filipino people have long yearned for a just and lasting peace. We should continue pushing for it and not allow militarist elements in government to sabotage a process that will free the next generation of Filipinos not only from the ravages of war but also from the injustice and poverty this war generates.
NERI COLMENARES, chair, EPHRAIM B. CORTEZ, secretary general, National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.