DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 28 Sep) – The government (GRP) and the National Democratic Front (NDF) peace negotiating panels will define what “hostile acts” are as they hope to come out with a draft of the bilateral ceasefire document during the second round of peace negotiations in Oslo, Norway next week.
In a media roundtable discussion on “Addressing Marginalization: The Indigenouns Peoples and the Peace Process between Government and theNational Democratic Front,” Wednesday at the Pinnacle Hotel, a GRP peace panel member, lawyer Angela Librado-Trinidad, said the expected output is necessary to be able to appropriately address should there be violations after the signing of a bilateral ceasefire.
She said they will define what acts should be considered as a violation to a set a clear direction for the government law enforces, most especially the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and the New People’s Army, the Communist Party of the Philippines’ (CPP) armed wing.
“The hostile acts have yet to be defined. It will be very beneficial in coming up with a bilateral ceasefire agreement. If there are violations, the parties could not just walk out kasi may bilateral ceasefire that will bind both parties,” she said.
Librado said that they cannot expect that there would be no violations that may happen as both panels work on a Comprehensive Peace Agreement but if the violative acts are clearly defined in the ceasefire agreement, it will not “stop the panels from going back to the peace table.”
She said that a third party monitoring committee will be tapped to join the ceasefire monitoring committee who will make sure that an agreement is implemented and followed by both parties.
The Joint Monitoring Committee has been revitalized to receive complaints, most especially from the Lumads who are considered to be the most vulnerable sector in the armed conflict between the military and the NPA rebels.
“There’s also an institutional mechanism which is already active. Guidelines should be in place because these alleged violations could be discussed in the JMC, and this could be lodged in the proper complaints and mechanisms to find out what would the treatment be,” she said.
Librado added that President Rodrigo Duterte has reiterated his stance on the pullout of the military-backed paramilitary groups such as the Bagani and Alamara in the Lumad communities.
She quoted the President as saying that there should be no paramilitary groups in ancestral domains of the IPs so as to affect the peace process.
“During the meeting that we had last Monday, he reiterated that no paramilitary groups should be present in Lumad communities. If they are not coming from the military side, the paramilitary groups should be disarmed,” he said.
Human rights activists claimed that the Lumad communities have fled their homes due to militarization.
In a position paper, Kerlan D. Fanagel, chairperson of the PASAKA Confederation of Lumad Organizations in South Mindanao Region, has called on Duterte to stop the implementation of the Internal Peace and Security Plan-Oplan Bayanihan and Peace and Development Outreach Program.
He alleged that military operations have caused harassments, forced disappearances, and other forms of human rights violations against the Lumads.
Fanagel renewed calls for the military pull out from their communities so that displaced Lumads can return home.
In his message last September 22 in Cagayan de Oro City, Duterte said that the military should take full control of the paramilitary units.
“But you know, I have noticed from many reports that the government-backed paramilitary units are still operating. I am now ordering the Army to take full control itong mga Bagani command,” he said.
Duterte said the presence of the paramilitary groups would undermine the peace process between the GRP and NDF.
“The paramilitary men operating especially with firearms issued by the government that would undermine the peace process and of course, it would be also a crime if you do that, especially a couple na namatay sa Kitaotao (in Bukidnon). Mahinto na sana ito, because we are really trying our best to come up with a peaceful country,” he said.
Librado said that they will include the plight of Lumads in their discussion on the Comprehensive Agreement on the Socio-economic Reforms in the second round of peace negotiations on October 6 to 10 in Oslo, Norway. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)