NDF submits 141 names for safe conduct passes

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 24 August) – The National Democratic Front (NDF) has submitted a list of 141 names of consultants and other participants in the peace negotiations with the Philippine government (GPH) who will be given safe conduct passes in accordance with the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), GPH peace panel chair Silvestre Bello III said.

The GPH-NDF peace panels on Day 2 of the talks in Oslo, Norway on August 23, 2016. Photo by Edwin Espejo / OPAPP

“They gave a new list of 141 names, 54 of which are real identities and 87 are assumed names,” Bello said in reply to MindaNews’ query.

Bello said he will “give them letters of acknowledgement which will entitle them safety and immunity guarantees as provided by the JASIG.”

The submission of the new list is a major step in the negotiations that both parties hope to finish in one year.

Signed on February 24, 1995, the JASIG provides for safety guarantees for “all duly accredited persons … in possession of documents of identification or safe conduct passes” who shall be “guaranteed free and unhindered passage in all areas in the Philippines, and in travelling to and from the Philippines in connection with the performance of their duties in the negotiations.”

According to the JASIG, the documents of identification shall contain the official seal of the issuing party, the bearer’s photograph, name, sex, date and place of birth, height, color of hair and eyes, distinguishing physical features, the assigned number, designation or duty in the peace negotiations, and the period of validity.

Eighteen of 22 detained NDF consultants were temporarily freed last week and are now participating in the Oslo talks. Twelve of the 18 arrived in Oslo before August 22, for the first round of formal peace talks under the Duterte administration while six arrived Tuesday.

The JASIG defines “immunity guarantees” to 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.”

Five years ago

The NDF’s submission of a new list came five years after verification of JASIG-protected members of the NDF peace panel posed a problem to the peace process.

Then GPH peace panel chair Alexander Padilla said that due to the failure of both panels to verify the identities of the persons using aliases in the NDF’s list of alleged JASIG-protected persons, there was no way to verify the NDF’s claim that the 13 personalities it wanted released were indeed on the JASIG list.

“With no verification, there can be no JASIG protection,” Padilla said in a press release issued by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) on August 31, 2011. He said all that the government holds is a list of aliases, with no real names to match.

“The JASIG remains operative for the persons whose real names are listed as JASIG-protected,” Padilla said, adding that “if we had rendered the JASIG inoperative, Louie Jalandoni and Coni Ledesma would not be able to go freely around the country as they are doing now.”

An attempt to verify on July 2, 2011 in Utrecht, The Netherlands failed when the safety deposit box where the NDF stored in 2003 the photos and matching aliases of their alleged JASIG-covered consultants was opened.

“The photos were encrypted in diskettes and could not be read, even with the use of their own decrypting software. It became necessary for both sides to verify the NDF’s claims when the NDF refused to hold bilateral or formal negotiations unless government released most if not all of the persons in its list of alleged JASIG-protected consultants,” the OPAPP press release said.

“In the first place, they should have not used encrypted diskettes to store the pictures since the JASIG called for individual photographs,” Padilla said. “Then their diskettes could not be opened. The failure of the verification process was entirely the fault of the NDF,” Padilla said.

In a press statement on February 13, 2012, Jalandoni said the NDF had “dutifully complied with the JASIG by faithfully respecting the safety and immunity guarantees of all those involved (negotiators, consultants, staffers, security and other personnel) in the peace negotiations on the side of the GRP/GPH” and that it was the latter that had “persistently violated the JASIG with the arrests, torture, killing and disappearance of those involved on the NDFP side, from the arrest and killing of Sotero Llamas, the continuing detention of Alan Jazmines and others, and the abduction and disappearance of Leo Velasco, Prudencio Calubid and Rogelio Calubad, among others.”

“If the GRP/GPH cannot be trusted to comply with the JASIG, how can it be trusted to comply with substantial agreements on social, economic and political reforms? As we have said earlier, palabra de honor or good faith is a key question in any negotiation,” Jalandoni added.

The two panels signed in February 2011 a Joint Statement to accelerate the timetable for the remaining substantive agenda of the talks on socio-economic reforms (SER), political and constitutional reforms (PCR) and end of hostilities and disposition of forces (EOH-DOF).

Oslo 2016

The GPH and NDF peace panels are back in Oslo for their August 22 to 26 talks on the five-point agenda earlier agreed upon: reaffirmation of previous peace agreements; reconstitution of the list of personnel covered by the JASIG; acceleration of peace talks on SER, PCR and EOH-DOF; amnesty declaration for the release of all detained political prisoners subject to concurrence of Congress; and the mode of interim ceasefire.

The panels are meeting at the Scandic Holmenkollen Park in Oslo. The third and fourth days – August 24 and 25 –are crucial as these are the days when the Reciprocal Working Groups (RWG) hold simultaneous meetings “to agree on the agenda, mechanics and schedule of joint meetings” of the RWG-SER, RWG-PCR, RWG-EOH,DOF and the RWGs on Ceasefire and JASIG/releases. The working groups will continue meeting morning of August 25 and in the afternoon will report to the panels. Closing ceremonies are scheduled for August 26.

Tuesday’s 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. session was “a frank and honest discussion among friends,” the OPAPP press release quoted Bello as saying.

“We are candid with each other, knowing that we share the common agenda of peace,” he said, adding there were “heated discussions, at times, which are normal during negotiations. In fact, we have to call a break on several occasions to cool off. But the general atmosphere was cordial as the session was punctuated by laughter and light banter.”

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said of Day 2: “more banter across the table kaya three items done morning.”

Among the agreements re-affirmed are The Hague Joint Declaration of 1992, Breukelen Joint Statement of 1994, the JASIG of 1994 and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law or CARHRIHL of 1998.

Bello’s panel members are former Agrarian Reform Secretary Hernani Braganza, former Elections Commissioner and OIC Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Rene Sarmiento, and lawyers Angela Librado-Trinidad and Antonio Arellano.

Jalandoni’s panel members are Fidel Agcaoili, Coni Ledesma, Asterio Palima and Juliet de Lima-Sison.

Braganza is assigned to supervise the SER committee for the GPH, Sarmiento for PCR and Arellano and Librado for EOH-DOF. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)