MANILA, Philippines — The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) is looking into the release of detained political consultants of the National Democratic Front (NDF) through the legal process, according to OPAPP spokesperson Polly Michelle Cunanan.
Cunanan made the statement after Karapatan, Bayan Muna, Gabriela, Bayan, Selda, Hustisya, Kilusang Mayo Uno, Kabataan and Desaparecidos held a protest rally outside the OPAPP headquarters in Pasig City on Wednesday.
Cunanan said OPAPP representatives took note of their grievances, got their contact numbers and assured them that their requests will be processed.
“On the matter of the release of political prisoners, OPAPP is conducting an internal review process in accordance with our laws and court processes as this remains a priority,” Cunanan said amid calls of some groups to free detained NDF consultants.
“OPAPP is pursuing different paths to a durable peace, including the peace negotiations and everything that it entails. Besides the informal talks which are happening outside the public view, OPAPP is pursuing socio-economic and development programs in the grassroots, and leading the discussion and actions in government on the release of political detainees,” she said.
The NDF, which is the political arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA), has been pushing the government to free its detained consultants allegedly covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) as a precondition to resume formal talks that have been stalled since February 2011.
JASIG is among the agreements signed by both parties to allow those involved in peace negotiations to freely discuss and move without any threat of being arrested. The NDF insisted that consultants arrested by the government are protected by this agreement, and should be released.
In July 2011, panels of both sides flew to The Netherlands to verify if the NDF’s detained consultants were indeed JASIG-covered. They agreed to open a sealed envelope stored in a safety deposit box kept by the parties eight years ago in a bank. The envelope was supposed to hold the photos and aliases of the NDF’s consultants.
“But when they opened the envelope, it did not contain actual photos of alleged NDF consultants using their aliases, but only diskettes allegedly containing photos, and these could not be decrypted,” Cunanan said.
“As a logical consequence of the NDF’s failure to comply with the terms of the verification mechanism, JASIG has been rendered inoperative,” she said.
Cunanan said that JASIG remains as the biggest challenge in the negotiations with the NDF. “But the government remains committed to the peace process. We will still be the last to leave the peace table.”
Last December 2012, Special Representatives of both parties met in The Netherlands and agreed to observe a 27-day ceasefire and resume talks in early 2013 to continue discussions under the Special Track.
They also agreed to discuss the forging of a Common Declaration of National Unity and Just Peace which will prompt the immediate implementation of a truce.