Fidel V. Agcaoili NDFP Peace Panel Chairperson Opening Statement

Opening Statement | 6 October 2016
Fidel V. Agcaoili
NDFP Peace Panel Chairperson
Oslo, Norway

Magandang hapon sa ating lahat!

This opening statement will be brief.
As the newly-appointed Chairperson of the NDFP Negotiating Panel, I intend to pursue the policies of the revolutionary movement on the peace negotiations as ably carried out by my predecessor and now Senior Adviser, Chairperson Luis Jalandoni.
Let me tell you frankly that I do not relish this new role. I was content to be an ordinary member of the Panel and, sometimes, be appointed as emissary to the GRP, to then Presidents Cory Aquino and Fidel Ramos and now to President Rodrigo Duterte. But rest assured that I will do my best to accomplish the task that has fallen on my shoulders.

My opening statement focuses on the issue of the release of all political prisoners as a matter of justice and in compliance with the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). The most effective method of release is through an amnesty proclamation as offered by President Rodrigo Duterte himself.

The release of all political prisoners through amnesty was offered by President Duterte during my first meeting with him on 16 May 2016 in connection with the resumption of the peace negotiations. Compared to the various methods that I had recommended, such as archiving, bail, release on recognizance, etc., he stated that granting amnesty would be the most effective mode in releasing the JASIG-protected persons, the sick, elderly, women and long-term detainees for humanitarian reasons, and all the political prisoners.

His offer was made in the presence of a current member of the GRP Panel, a Congressman who is now in our midst in this current round of talks as a member of the delegation from the House of Representatives, and several other persons.

Now, I am mentioning this in order to clarify that the proffered amnesty proclamation pertains to the political prisoners and not to a general amnesty that is mutually extended to the forces of both Parties in the final settlement of an armed conflict.
We should not muddle these two amnesty concepts, lest we be accused of intending to make use of the political prisoners as a leverage or hostage to secure advantage across the negotiating table or to demand capitulation of one side by another.

The continuing detention of the more than 400 political prisoners is manifestly a grave injustice. It does not befit a regime that wants to bring about change by engaging in peace negotiations with the revolutionary movement and the Moro people.
We should bear in mind that their continuing detention is a blatant violation of the CARHRIHL. They are unjustly detained on trumped-up charges of common crimes in violation of the Hernandez political offense doctrine that has been enshrined in the CARHRIHL.

President Duterte himself in his conversation with NDFP lawyers and GRP Panelists on 15 August 2016 in Malacanang Palace, reaffirmed his belief in the correctness and justness of the 1956 Philippine Supreme Court decision on the case against Amado V. Hernandez on rebellion complex with common crimes.

The NDFP stands firm in calling for the release through amnesty of the 432 political prisoners not only as a matter of justice but also in basic compliance of the CARHRIHL.

Their release will undoubtedly serve as an incentive in accelerating the peace negotiations and in forging a more stable ceasefire agreement.

I hope we can resolve these crucial issues so that we can move forward.
Maraming salamat po!

Reference:
NDFP Media Group
Dan Borjal
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