“With the recent offer of the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) to be guarantors for the release of political detainees who are covered by the Joint Agreement for the Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), we see no reason why the Aquino government should further delay the release of the 12 NDFP consultants and immediately resume the peace talks,” said Marie Hilao-Enriquez, chairperson of Karapatan.
In a statement released on February 8 through Bp. Deogracias Iniguez, Jr., D.D., Head of Secretariat, the PEPP called on the Aquino government to “release in recognizance under the collective custodial guarantee of the member churches of the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform, the NDFP consultants who are willing to be under the sanctuary of churches.”
The PEPP is composed of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (AMRSP), Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC) and the Ecumenical Bishops’ Forum (EBF).
Karapatan views the Bishops’ move as a positive step for the GPH and the NDFP to sit again on the negotiating table and finally discuss the next substantive agenda of the talks, the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER). Hilao-Enriquez said that the discussion of the CASER is vital for the resolution of the on-going armed conflict in the country. “Human rights violations happen when those who fight for their rights to land, just wages, decent housing are considered enemies of the State and are met with military might. An agreement on the social and economic reforms that would address the roots of the armed conflict would definitely lessen the rights violations,” added Hilao-Enriquez.
Karapatan, along with SELDA and other people’s organizations have called on P-Noy to release the 347 (as of 31 December 2011) political prisoners through a general, unconditional and omnibus amnesty. “But as in the dark year of martial law, the P-Noy government only denied the existence political prisoners, contradicting its own commitment to release “most if not all” political detainees as part of the peace talks,” declared Hilao-Enriquez.
Hilao-Enriquez added that “the P-Noy government has yet to show its sincerity on the peace talks. So far, it has only used its so-called peace initiatives to cover up the terror of Oplan Bayanihan that has victimized hundreds of innocent civilians and activists and perpetuate impunity in this country.”