“The first step in attaining just peace will start with President Duterte’s recognition of the roots of the armed conflict while upholding of the previously signed agreements.”
This is the statement of League of Filipino Students (LFS) National Spokesperson JP Rosos on Wednesday as they march towards to Mendiola Peace Arch hours before the Third Round of Peace Talks between the Government of the Philippines (GRP) and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
The student group slammed Duterte’s rejection of releasing all the political prisoners. Worse, according to Rosos, even the promised release of 130 political prisoners is taking too much time and as slow as a snail.
“By denying the freedom of almost 400 political prisoners, President Duterte effectively narrows down the path for change and just peace. We are reminding the Duterte government that the release of all political prisoners is an obligation as stipulated in the previously signed agreements between GRP and NDFP.
Rosos pointed out that the unconditional release of political prisoners is consistent with the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Laws (CARHRIHL). The youth leader noted that the Duterte regime should comply with this obligation as they have signed upon such agreement.
Rosos also recalled that Duterte was expected to declare a general amnesty to immediately free all political prisoners as agreed upon during the first round of peace talks last August.
“It is unacceptable that only two political prisoners have been released since the start of the formal talks between GPH and NDFP. This is injustice at its finest. The prolonged detention of political prisoners due to charges with unbailable criminal offenses such as murder and illegal possession of firearms and explosives contravenes the Hernandez political offense doctrine”, said Rosos.
“President Duterte’s adamant rejection to free all the political prisoners is a clear violation of CARHRIHL and other previously-agreed upon pacts. His volatile stance in this issue makes us question the seriousness and commitment of the Duterte regime to attain a just peace,” Rosos added.
Rosos added that the prolonged detention of political prisoners due to charges with unbailable criminal offenses such as murder and illegal possession of firearms and explosives also violates the Hernandez political offense doctrine.
“We demand the unconditional release of all political prisoners. As part of its obligations under previously-signed agreements, the Duterte government is in no position to impose pre-conditions and requirements before freeing all the political prisoners,” Rosos said.
Addressing the Roots of the Armed Conflict
Rosos also urged the Duterte government to agree with the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms to address the roots of the armed conflict.
“The armed conflict and civil war in the country is rooted in the socio-economic struggles of the people. The core of the issue lies in the need for genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization that will address the rampant landlessness, growing number of uneducated and unemployed Filipinos, rampant contractualization and low wages, widespread poverty and hunger, and other socio-economic concerns of the Filipino people,” said Rosos.
Rosos added that the recognition of the socio-economic basis for armed struggle should also translate by ending the regime’s counter-insurgency program and violations of its own ceasefire declaration.
“The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and its para-military troops continue to spread terror in different communities of peasants and indigenous people in the countryside. The fascist Oplan Kapayapaan allows the state forces to continue their military operations including surveillance, harassments, arrests, and shooting against activists. It has not only violated its own ceasefire vis-a-vis the peace talks process but has also placed the lives of the Filipino people in danger,” Rosos added.
“By truly addressing the roots of the armed conflict, Duterte should not focus in the cessation of arms. He must be open to the legitimate concerns of the rebels and the people,” Rosos ended. ###