NDFP Human Rights mission to UN takes up disappearances, peace talks

NDFP International Information Bureau

An official mission from the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Human Rights Committee (HRC) recently met with various officials of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, concerning the enforced disappearances of peace advocates and political activists in the Philippines and the status of the peace negotiations between the Manila government and the NDFP. This was learned yesterday from officials of the NDFP based in Utrecht, The Netherlands.

NDFP International Information Bureau

[Utrecht, 03 December] An official mission from the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Human Rights Committee (HRC) recently met with various officials of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, concerning the enforced disappearances of peace advocates and political activists in the Philippines and the status of the peace negotiations between the Manila government and the NDFP. This was learned yesterday from officials of the NDFP based in Utrecht, The Netherlands.

Danilo Borjal, member of the NDFP-HRC, headed the official mission to the United Nations. He presented his report to the NDFP Negotiating Panel on 30 November, saying that they held substantial discussions with the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) and with various officers of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights about the enforced disappearance of NDFP consultants, staff and their companions, the deteriorating human rights situation in the Philippines and the peace negotiations between the NDFP and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP).

While in Geneva, the mission also had fruitful discussions with Dr. Syméon Antoulas, Diplomatic Adviser of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Edith Baeriswyl, ICRC head of operations for East Asia, Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

Borjal said that they had a meeting on 21 November with UN WGEID Chairperson Santiago Corcuera of Mexico, and members Joel Adebayo Adekanye of Nigeria, Saied Rajaie Khorasani of the Islamic Republic of Iran and Darko Göttlicher of Croatia, to follow up on the numerous cases of involuntary disappearances of NDFP personnel and their companions. Taken up during the discussions were the cases of NDFP Consultants Leo Velasco, Cesar Batralo, Rogelio Calubad and Prudencio Calubid, NDFP staff members Federico Intise, Leopoldo Ancheta, Celina Palma and Philip Limjoco, and their companions who were also abducted and have since been disappeared, Gabriel Calubad, Nelly Intise, Gloria Soco and Ariel Beloy.

Citing Mr. Corcuera, Borjal said that the cases would be taken up during the 83rd session of the UN WGEID. Any response made by the GRP about these cases, according to Mr. Corcuera, would be included in that session's report. Borjal said that the NDFP shall receive a copy of the UN WGEID's 83rd session report.

The NDFP-HRC mission also brought the UN officials up-to-date on the ongoing peace negotiations between the NDFP and the GRP and the people’s movement in the Philippines for national and social liberation. Borjal said they turned over documents to Mr. Corcuera, including the NDFP's Declaration of Undertaking on its Adherence to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and Protocol I, which has been deposited with the Swiss Federal Council in July 1996.

“Our mission to Geneva was very productive,” Borjal said. “The various UN officials we met were sympathetic to the issues we raised.” They also met with Mr. Safir Syed of the Office of the Special Rapporteur on Torture Dr. Manfred Nowak, and brought up the torture and continued detention for almost three years of 63-year-old NDFP Consultant Ms. Angelina Ipong. Mr. Syed said they are aware of her case and are following it up. They also met with an assistsant of Martin Scheinin, the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights while Countering Terrorism, who has sharply criticized the Arroyo regime’s Anti-Terrorism Act, euphemistically named “Human Security Act of 2007”, for gross violations of international human rights standards.

Borjal said they also followed-up on requests for the Special Rapporteurs to investigate human rights violations in the Philippines. Citing a UN human rights officer, he said that “the GRP has not given the approval for the UN Special Rapporteur's visit. The Arroyo government has been trying to give some pretext to postpone the visit”.

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