NDF’s Agcaoili tells gov’t to honor agreement on security, immunity

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/13 Apr) – One of the top negotiators of the National Democratic Front (NDF) said the passports granted to three NDF consultants to join the Oslo talks last February were not “gifts” from the government but a compliance of the previous agreement providing security and immunity guarantee to NDF panel members.

“If you don’t stand by a simple agreement like JASIG, how can we expect you to follow a much bigger agreement like CASER (Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms)?” asked Fidel Agcaoili, vice chair of the NDF panel in the ongoing peace talks with the government. He was referring to the Joint Agreement on Security and Immunity Guarantee, the second agreement signed between the government and the rebel alliance group providing security and immunity guarantee to some of its members.

The government had earlier granted the passports of NDF panel members Randall Echanis, Rafael Baylosis and Elizabeth Prinsipe for the resumption of talks in Oslo, which Ednar Dayanghirang, government peace panel member, mentioned before peace advocates here Tuesday.

“I’d like to clarify that allowing them to join the Oslo talks is not a favor from the government,” Agcaoili said. “They were part of the NDF panel, it’s just right that they’re issued a passport,” he said.

Agcaoili said there are 14 more NDF members covered by JASIG who are still in detention.

He was reacting to statements that the cases of the NDF consultants are still “being studied.” “Freed but still not freed,” he said.

Agcaoili criticized government’s piecemeal implementation of previous agreements like JASIG. “This was an agreement signed between us,” he added.

He said, however, that complaints on the alleged violations against the JASIG and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) are being heard on the side table, parallel to the ongoing discussions on the remaining three substantive agenda to put an end to over four decades of conflict.

“Just because they’re on the side discussions does not mean they’re not important. The NDF attached importance on these issues,” Agcaoili said.

Dayanghirang said both sides are coming up with their drafts on the issues of genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization, which the reciprocal committees will discuss once they meet in June this year.

According to the agreed timetable, both parties want to come up with a comprehensive agreement on social and economic reforms in September this year. “We are coming up with our drafts, although the government calls it ‘asset reform’ instead of ‘genuine agrarian reform,’ and ‘industrial policy’ instead of ‘national industrialization,’” Dayanghirang said.

Both agreed that CASER, which is the most difficult part among the remaining substantive agreements, will address the root cause of the insurgency by ending the perpetual landlessness of farmers and the continued exploitation of workers through genuine land reform and national industrialization.

But Agcaoili admitted doing so would be very difficult because it will drive the nail right in the heart of the landlord and capitalist class that dominates the country’s business and politics. (Germelina A. Lacorte / MindaNews)