On the withdrawal of the GRP unilateral SOMO and SOPO

NDFP Media Office
Press Statement by NDFP Panel chair Fidel Agcaoili
03 February 2017

(Photo: JonB/Altermidya)

It is the prerogative of the GRP to lift its unilaterally issued Suspension of Offensive Military Operations (SOMO) and Suspension of Offensive Police Operations (SOPO) effective “Friday night, February 3” and “to ask the soldiers: go back to camp, clean your rifles, and be ready to fight,” in response to the announcement by the CPP and NPA to terminate their unilateral interim ceasefire effective 11:59 pm on 10 February 2017.

In the time that the SOMO and SOPO were supposedly effective, these were honored in the breach by the AFP, PNP and paramilitary forces as they encroached on communities and occupied schools, day-care centers and other public places such as plazas, basketball courts and bus stops, and even private residences, conducted harassment and random interrogation of residents suspected of having relatives in the NPA or suspected of supporting the revolutionary movement, imposed food blockades, and generally sowed fear and terror among the people. The extrajudicial killings of leaders and members of peasant groups and indigenous peoples have also gone on unabated with four being killed in January alone and another one just today.

On the other hand, the NPA has maintained strictly its own unilateral ceasefire, taking extraordinary measures to avoid encounters with AFP troops while remaining on active defense. Over the past months, NPA units have maneuvered to evade AFP offensive operations, but armed skirmishes were bound to erupt in the face of the relentless AFP offensives and the NPA’s efforts to actively defend itself and the people’s interests, especially after the 21 January 2017 Makilala, North Cotabato, incident when an NPA encampment was attacked by combined elements of the AFP and PNP special action force.

On the release and amnesty of political prisoners, the NDFP maintains that this is a matter of justice and obligation under the CARHRIHL. The political prisoners have been slapped with multiple trumped-up charges of common crimes, in violation of Philippine jurisprudence on the Hernandez political offense doctrine to which President Rodrigo Duterte had been known to adhere during his time as a public prosecutor in Davao City.

Some of these political prisoners have languished in jail for more than ten years without conviction, in violation of the right to speedy trial as provided for in the GRP constitution. Already, fourteen of them have died in prison, 13 under the time of Benigno Aquino III and one under Duterte. Some well-meaning military and police officers have acknowledged in informal conversations that they know many of these political prisoners are innocent civilians who were just in the vicinity of armed encounters or ordinary activists who were used as scapegoats to compensate for failed military and police missions.

The NDFP has already proposed as early as October 2016 that the release and amnesty of all political prisoners can come after the signing of the CASER without prejudice to the early release of those who are sick, elderly, long-term detainees, women and innocent civilians on humanitarian grounds. It behooves the GRP to require its prosecutors not to allow the AFP and PNP to dictate the charges to be filed with their planted evidence and false witnesses against alleged or suspected political offenders.

Nevertheless, the NDFP remains hopeful that the peace talks will proceed on track and that the comprehensive agreements on socio-economic, political and constitutional reforms currently being negotiated will be deemed ready for approval by both Panels by end-2017, and soon after by the principals. We continue to hope that efforts on both sides will lead to the co-founding by the NDFP and the GRP of the Federal Republic of the Philippines and the achievement of just and lasting peace for our people.

Dan Borjal
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