Letter to the Editor: Manila Standard Today
By Fidel V. Agcaoili
Chairperson, NDFP Human Rights Committee
This is regarding the report written by Joyce Pangco Panares titled “Communists now open to talks” (Manila Standard Today, Sept. 27, 2008). We wish to clarify certain issues raised in the news report.
First of all, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) has always been open to the resumption of the formal talks in the peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the NDFP on the basis of the previously signed agreements and upon the immediate removal of the impediments put up by the GRP. This can be verified easily at the website www.philippinerevolution.net from numerous statements of the NDFP.
There was no need therefore for Ms Panares to put a spin to the Press Communiqué issued on the occasion of the fourth consultations between the NDFP-Monitoring Committee and the NDFP-nominated section in the Joint Secretariat (JS) of the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC), to make it appear that the NDFP has been bullied by the empty threat of General Eduardo Ermita to file a case against the CPP and the NPA for alleged use of children as combatants.
The claim of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as repeated by Gen. Ermita that the NPA has allegedly employed 301 child combatants since 1999 up to May 2008 is not only an outright lie but also a cruel and monstrous attempt by the GRP to justify its killings, maiming, abductions, arrest, detention, torture and abuse of children, and its recruitment of child soldiers as reported by the UN Secretary General to the UN Security Council on 24 April 2008.
With little effort, Ms Panares would have known about this fact had she only taken the initiative to look at the website of the United Nations Security Council. She would also come to know of the 30 May 2008 report of the UN Committee of Experts on children in armed conflict which found the GRP guilty of recruiting child combatants into the Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Units (CAFGU) as well as providing military training to students in high school with the Citizens Auxiliary Training or CAT and in college with the Reserve Officers Training Course (ROTC).
These two reports are not exactly partial to the NDFP, for they took into account only the side of the GRP without hearing that of the NDFP as required by fairness and due process. This is understandable because the UN as an institution is biased in favor of the GRP as a member State. Yet, the UN has been forced to acknowledge the fact that the GRP committed more violations against the rights of children in situations of armed conflict than the combined alleged violations of the New People’s Army, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Moro National Liberation Front, and the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf. This is the truth that Gen. Ermita would like to hide in echoing false claims of the AFP on the alleged recruitment of children as combatants by the NPA.
Ms. Panares should also get hold of a copy of the UNICEF-commissioned study on a needs assessment of children and women affected by armed conflict entitled, Uncounted Lives: Children, Women & Conflict in the Philippines. The study concretely shows how the NPA has been implementing the 1988 directive of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) prohibiting the recruitment of children below 18 years old as regular members or armed fighters of combat units of the NPA. This directive was reiterated on 15 October 1999 by the Executive Committee (EC) of the CPP with the corresponding amendment to Point 1 of Principle III of the Basic Rules of the NPA.
As a journalist, Ms. Panares is expected to be enterprising and objective in her news reporting. We hope that she would do better next time.
Thank you very much.
(sgd.) Fidel V. Agcaoili
Chairman, NDFP Human Rights Monitoring Committee