By NDFP International Information Office
(Utrecht, 15 November 2011) A newly-formed group of international legal experts yesterday pressed the Philippines’ Benigno Aquino government to comply with past agreements forged with the revolutionary National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), as the only way forward to peacefully resolve the country’s 40-year old armed conflict.
In a public meeting organized by the NDFP Negotiating Panel in Utrecht, the Netherlands, under the auspices of the University of Utrecht’s Center for Conflict Studies, members of the newly-formed International Legal Advisory Team tackled issues and questions on the armed conflict and peace negotiations in the Philippines. The legal experts discussed the role of international law in advancing the stalled talks between the NDFP and the Aquino government.
Jan Fermon, professor of law at the University of Maastricht, explained that the NDFP and the government of the Republic of the Philippines have already inked 12 important agreements since peace negotiations resumed in 1992. “International law has always played a role in these agreements… international laws are useful instruments in resolving conflicts,” he argued.
Fermon cited the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CAHRIHL) as one important agreement signed in 1998, and which bounds both parties in the armed conflict to abide by human rights conventions and international humanitarian laws.
The GRP however, according to Fermon, has not respected its own commitment to abide by the agreements its has signed. “The only way forward,” he declared, “is to respect and comply with these agreements.”
A large group of university students, lawyers, social activists, and Filipino migrants attended the discussion in Utrecht’s historic city center. In the panel were international legal luminaries Fermon and Jo Dereymaeker of Belgium, Richard Harvey and Ann Morris of the UK, and Edre U. Olalia of the Philippines. Also in the panel were Luis G. Jalandoni, Chairperson of the NDFP Negotiating Panel, and NDFP Chief Political Consultant Prof. Jose Maria Sison.
The International Legal Advisory Team, currently composed of 13 legal experts from the US, Europe, Latin America, Africa, South Asia and the Philippines, was formed earlier this year to advise and assist the NDFP peace panel on the peace negotiations, international human rights and humanitarian laws.
During the meeting, the Dutch-Philippines Solidarity Movement presented a petition calling on both parties to resume the peace talks. Theo Droog, the group’s chairperson, asked those present to sign the petition: “We support serious and sincere discussions of basic reforms, to lay the ground for peace,”
Jalandoni, asked if there is a possibility of reaching an end to hostilities with the peace negotiations, explained that “an end game could be reached following the regular track and sequence of the negotiations… That is, conclude the remaining items in the agenda on social and economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms, and the end of hostilities and the disposition of forces.”
He averred, however, that there is a shortcut if the current Philippine government agrees to an NDFP offer of a truce and alliance on the basis of a general declaration of common intent. [NDFP-IIO]