Friday, October 21, 2016

Bello says release of political detainees, prisoners to improve peace negotiations

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 21): Bello says release of political detainees, prisoners to improve peace negotiations

Philippine Government chief negotiator and Labor chief Silvestre Bello III said the release of political detainees and prisoners will improve the trust between the two parties to agree on a joint and permanent ceasefire.

But he clarified that the issue on the amnesty for detained rebels is separate from discussions on the declaration of a bilateral ceasefire and that the release is not a precondition to move forward the peace negotiations with the communist insurgents.

“We don't tie up the release with the ceasefire because there is a commitment from the president that he will release the political detainees and prisoners so we will do our best to obtain those releases,” Bello stressed.

“[The] ceasefire is a separate issue although [the] releases can be taken as a confidence building measure which would motivate the other party to finally not only go into signing but upgrading the level of ceasefire from unilateral, indefinite to joint and permanent ceasefire,” he added.

Bello also cleared that the releases of the political prisoners will continue even before the joint permanent ceasefire is signed and that a process is being followed for the amnesty.

"If possible, from the commitment of our president, we’ll have the political detainees and prisoners released at the same time but we have to understand that the nature of their situation is not the same),” the labor secretary explained.

Bello also maintained that the commitment of the president and the efforts to obtain the releases is to show to the National Democratic Front that there is sincerity in addressing their concern about the remaining 400 imprisoned communist rebels.

The GRP chief negotiator said that the signing of a joint and permanent ceasefire between the government and the insurgents is expected to happen by the end of November or the first week of December.

“[Both parties] agreed that we will consider and hopefully agree on the signing of a joint, permanent ceasefire within the period of 60 days from the time of August 27, so you count it from there, it should be October 26 [in which] we will be signing [the] joint, permanent ceasefire,” Bello said.

“[The problem is] Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Jesus Dureza will be with the President in Japan, so will I, and I don’t want to miss [the] historic signing. We are the ones who should sign so we asked for a resetting of the signing either towards the end of November or first week of December,”he added.

In the 30-year history of the peace negotiations between the GRP and the NDF, the talks have been disrupted for at least 15 times mainly due to two issues: the release of detained NDF consultants; and the declaration of ceasefire. Both issues were addressed by the Duterte government before the formal resumption of peace talks last August 22-28 in Oslo.

The first in the last five years, the talks last August yielded positive results with the reaffirmation of all previously signed agreements between the GRP and the NDF including the Hague Joint Declaration in 1992; the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) in 1996; and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) in 1998.

Last Sept. 22, GRP-NDF peace panel members met anew in Manila to discuss the possibility of a bilateral ceasefire agreement between the two parties and the revitalization of their monitoring mechanism for human rights and international humanitarian law.

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