Sec. Avisado: focus on objective of peace process

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/14 March) – An official from the Office of Vice President Jejomar Binay appealed to the public not to be swayed by emotions over the spate of attacks staged by the communist New People’s Army (NPA) against security forces amid the resumption of talks between the rebel group and the Philippine government.

Assistant Secretary Wendel Avisado said that “we should not lose sight of the over-all objective of the peace process.”

Avisado was responding to questions asked by reporters related to the ambush by the NPAs on Sunday in the outskirts of the city that killed four police officers and a civilian employee of the PNP crime laboratory in Bukidnon.

He said that clashes between the NPA and government forces should all the more encourage the public to support the peace process.

“Basically, because of this armed conflict, we have the peace process and the peace policy of the Aquino administration,” the secretary said.

After years of being stalled, the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and National Democratic Front (NDF) resumed peace talks in Oslo, Norway last month.

The two parties have agreed to work for the signing of a Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-economic Reform by 2012.

Some sectors in government had insisted on a ceasefire while the talks are ongoing.

But the NDF, the alliance of communist underground groups, rejected such call and said they would only talk about the disposition of forces after all the items in the substantive agenda of the peace process contained in The Hague Declaration are concluded.

So far, the peace process between the GPH and NDF which started in 1986 has only produced the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), which was signed in 1998.

The implementation of the CARHRIHL, which aims to protect the rights of civilians or noncombatants during armed conflict, has been problematic with both parties accusing each other of violating it.

The Joint Hague Declaration between the GPH (then referred to as GRP) and NDF signed on Sept. 1, 1992 provides for the framework of the peace process and spells out the substantive agenda, namely, Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, Socio-Economic Reforms, Political and Constitutional Reforms and finally the End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces.

Meanwhile, the 4th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army had honored a fallen soldier Private First Class Rodulfo Escalicas of the 36th Infantry Battalion who died in combat against the NPA in Tago town in Surigao del Norte on Friday.

Major General Victor A. Felix, Commanding General of the 4th Infantry Division said that the death of Escalicas and other soldiers had earned the respect and admiration of their comrades.

“Young as Pfc Escalicas was, he displayed courage that is distinct to the men in uniform, and made each one of us proud.  He fought till his last breath so that others will be safe”, Felix said. (BenCyrus G. Ellorin/MindaNews)