GPH panel’s committee on socio-economic reforms: “we’re ready”

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/16 July) — A member of the  government’s Reciprocal Working Committee on Socio Economic Reforms (RWC-SER),  has assured they are on track, contrary to fears from “certain sectors” that they could not present their final draft when peace negotiations between government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) resume early next month.

Fr. Albert Alejo, SJ, a member of the RWG-SER of the GPH (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) peace panel  said their committee and the GPH peace panel are relatively new. “Remember we are talking about a 42-year old insurgency—the longest armed struggle in Asia—and the peace negotiations have been on and off for the last 24 years, witnessed by four Presidents. This peace panel is the fifth while the NDFP’s negotiation panel has been the same
through those years,” he said.

He said the current RWC-SER has adopted the preamble and declaration of principles drafted by the committee’s predecessor in 2004.

“Wala pa lang na finalize ang strategic interventions because we want our draft to be relevant to the changes since the last committee,” he said.

Alejo explained that NDFP’s unilateral postponement included both peace panels’ SER committees meetings hence they were not able to submit their draft.

“We will be ready when both committees exchange drafts sometime in the second week of August,” he said.

In an earlier interview on April 28, this year in Bukidnon province, NDFP RWC-SER chair Randall Echanis lamented that the Philippine government’s RWC-SER seemed to be dragging its feet in coming out with its own draft on the substantive agenda slated mid-September this

“We come to the table ready. In fact, our draft on socio-economic reforms has been ready before the impasse on the peace negotiations in 2004 during the presidency of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo,” Echanis said.

GPH peace panel member Jurgette Honculada presented GPH’s framework of the draft saved the actual SER draft last April 28 in Bukidnon during a GPH-NDFP peace talks forum spearheaded
by Sowing the Seeds of Peace—an ecumenical coalition of church, people’s organizations and civil society groups in the island. (Cong Corrales/MindaNews)



Abu Sayyaf frees kidnap victim


ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanews/15 July) – One of the three members of a fishing boat crew kidnapped over three months ago off Sulu was released after the captive’s family paid ransom to the Abu Sayyaf, Director Felicisimo Khu, Directorate for Integrated Police Operations (DIPO)-West, said.


Khu said the victim, Jonald Ocsimar, was freed around 8 p.m. Wednesday in Barangay Buhanginan, Patikul, Sulu.


Ocsimar, the quarter master of the Mega 8 Light Boat, was kidnapped March 19 along with boat captain Renato Panisales and assistant engineer Wennie Ferrer.


The victims, who were working for a Zamboanga City-based fishing firm, were fishing near Menes Island in Panglima Tahil municipality when they were kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf led by Nasir Timbang.


Khu disclosed that Timbang’s group freed Ocsimar after his family reportedly paid P300,000 to the kidnappers.


He said they learned that some relatives of Ocsimar went last Tuesday to Barangay Kaunayan, Patikul and negotiated with the group of Timbang.


Khu’s office received reports that Timbang and his followers were seen bringing with them a hostage, who turned out to be Ocsimar, to Barangay Buhanginan, Patikul, a day after the negotiations took place.


Khu said a follow-up report received by his office disclosed that Ocsimar was reunited with his family Wednesday night.


Khu said they have no information concerning the fate of the two other crew members who are still in captivity. (MindaNews)