Release of peace consultants not precondition but requisite to formal talks – NDF

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/15 Sept) – The demand for the release of the National Democratic Front’s (NDF) detained peace consultants prior to the resumption of formal talks with the government is not “just any precondition” but an “expressed requisite to peace negotiations as stipulated in The Hague Joint Declaration” both panels agreed to adhere 19 years ago.

This was the reaction of detained NDF consultant Wilfredo “Ka Paris” Mapano to a statement made by government chief negotiator Alexander Padilla reminding “the NDF that it has committed to resume formal talks next month without any preconditions.”

Mapano is currently detained at the Misamis Oriental Provincial Jail in downtown Cagayan de Oro. Combined personnel of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), the National Intelligence Coordination Administration (NICA) and the 4th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army (4ID-PA) captured Mapano in a local apartelle in Barangay Carmen here while he was “on family integration leave” two years ago.

Padilla has chided NDF peace panel spokesperson Fidel Agcaoili for forgetting the commitments made by both panels during their meeting hosted by the Royal Norwegian Government last September 6.

In an emailed statement dated September 9, Agcaoili said that formal talks in Norway will only push through next month if the government release their detained peace consultants, whom he said are protected under the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).

“The release of NDF peace consultants is not precondition to the commitments made by both panels this month. It is a requisite expressly stipulated in The Hague Joint Declaration,” Mapano said.

“The government should first fully implement the joint agreements of both parties that predate the commitments made early this year. How can there be an atmosphere of trust and confidence when government does not adhere even only to the two major agreements?” he said.

Mapano also said that under the JASIG, signed in The Netherlands on February 24, 1995, in cases of disagreement or ambiguity in the interpretation and application of its provisions, both panels agreed to resolve it in “accordance with the letter and spirit of The Hague Joint Declaration.”

Inked on September 1, 1992, The Hague Joint Declaration, in its fifth clause, states that prior to the formal peace negotiations, both parties agreed to take “specific measures of goodwill and confidence-building to create a favorable climate for peace negotiations.”

“How can both parties resume peace talks when the Philippine government refuses to release the peace consultants of the NDF and could not participate in the negotiations?” Mapano asked.

“If the Aquino administration is sincere in resuming the formal talks then it has to pass the ball to the NDF’s court,” he said.

According to the JASIG, “immunity guarantees shall mean that all duly accredited persons are guaranteed immunity from surveillance, harassment, search, arrest, detention, prosecution and interrogation or any other similar punitive actions due to any involvement or participation in the peace negotiations.”

Earlier this year, the Aquino administration released NDF consultants Jovencio Balweg, Angelina Ipong, Glicerio Pernia, Maria Luisa Pucray and Jaime Soledad. The NDF claims there are still 14 peace consultants detained and 340 political detainees.

In an earlier interview, Mapano said he is listed as a peace consultant under his other nom de guerre “Flor Escudo.” (Cong B. Corrales / MindaNews)