Fidel V. Agcaoili
Chairperson, NDFP Negotiating Panel
Press Statement | March 23, 2019
For the information of Gen. Galvez and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, it is not a crime to participate in peace negotiations and to possess a document of identification or safe conduct pass in order to do so.
The Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) mandates the two Parties to issue documents of identification or safe conduct passes to negotiators, consultants, staffers, security and other personnel to enable the Parties to hold peace negotiations and forge comprehensive agreements on human rights and international humanitarian law, social and economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms, and end of hostilities and disposition of forces in order to pave the way for a just and lasting peace in the country.
Except for the negotiators who are appointed by the respective principals of the Parties, the consultants, staffers, security and other personnel in the peace negotiations are chosen for their experience and expertise in the fields of economics, politics, law and human rights – both international and domestic, – military, etc., as well as their capability to consult with concerned communities and organizations on matters pertinent to the peace negotiations to move these forward.
In any legal and judicial system, criminal offenses are defined in law, codified and enriched in jurisprudence. Under the laws of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP), there is no crime attached to participation in peace negotiations or being holders of documents of identification or safe conduct passes.
Mr. Renante Gamara is protected from arrest under the JASIG as a publicly known consultant of the NDFP for political and constitutional reforms. Even under GRP laws, he could not be the subject of arrest because there is no warrant against him and he has an outstanding bail on the case with which he is charged. But his arresting unit resorted to the usual ploy of planting evidence in order to charge him with the trumped up offense of illegal possession of firearms and explosives, as in the cases of NDFP consultants Edilberto Silva, Vic Ladlad and Rey Claro Casambre.
On the other hand, Fr. Art Balagat is a priest who was based abroad for a long time and had recently returned to the Philippines to retire in the Diocese of Imus, Cavite. He is neither a participant nor a holder of document of identification or safe conduct pass in the peace negotiations. But he was during the time of the Marcos dictatorship, the spokesperson of the Justice for Aquino, Justice for All (JAJA) movement. His arrest smacks of the regime’s irrational and unrelenting assault and persecution of church people.
The militarists in the GRP’s security cluster are fond of ignoring and violating their own laws, more so today under an enabling commander-in-chief whose apparent preferred solution to the nation’s problems is to intimidate, terrorize, jail or kill his opponents, suspected drug users from the poor, peasant activists, trade unionists, lawyers and human rights defenders. But there is a limit to his threatening speeches, brutal ways, corrupt practices, and treasonous policies. It will soon be reached. ###