Esperon and Lorenzana are hypocrites of the highest order

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National Democratic Front of the Philippines
National Council
Public Information Office

Press Statement | July 28, 2018

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana / Photo: GMANetwork.com

It is sheer hypocrisy for National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to say that the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) is conducting a three-month review of all past agreements entered into by the GRP and NDFP out of fears that such agreements have been disadvantageous to the GRP.

Esperon and Lorenzana refer to such agreements as The Hague Joint Declaration, the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), which were all signed during former GRP Pres. Fidel Ramos’regime.

In the first place, the NDFP and the Filipino people have had little chance to benefit from these agreements because the GRP has consistently been violating them.

It has willfully disregarded the JASIG, which is supposed to exempt peace talks consultants and personnel from harassment, surveillance, arrest and prosecution to create a favorable atmosphere for negotiations.

In no instance have GRP state forces respected the JASIG whenever NDFP consultants and personnel invoke it and present documents to prove their protected status.

The worst violations to date occurred under former GRP president and current House Speaker Gloria Arroyo.

In 2006, NDFP consultant Sotero Llamas was assassinated, even as both the GRP and NDFP panels were preparing for formal negotiations in Oslo.

JASIG-protected persons Leo Velasco; Prudencio Calubid, his wife and relatives; Rogelio Calubad and his son; Nestor Entice and his wife; Leopoldo Ancheta; and Philip Limjoco all became victims of enforced disappearance under Arroyo.

Under Benigno Aquino III’s regime, Eduardo Sarmiento was arrested in 2009, unjustly convicted on a trumped-up criminal case in 2014 and remains incarcerated. Alan Jazmines was arrested on the very eve of the resumption of formal talks in 2011.

Benito and Wilma Tiamzon were arrested in 2014 on a number of manufactured criminal cases. Their release in August 2016 along with 15 other NDFP consultants was not in compliance with the JASIG but because GRP President Rodrigo Duterte had wanted to pursue peace negotiations.

Since then, Duterte has several times ordered the cancellation of the peace talks and directed his subalterns in the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) to order the rearrest of these consultants amid a supposed period of widespread consultations and review of signed agreements.

Meanwhile, five more NDFP consultants—Ferdinand Castillo, Rommel Salinas, Promencio Cortez, Ben Quilloy and Rafael Baylosis—have been illegally arrested by the Duterte regime on bogus criminal charges and are still in jail.

The AFP and PNP, through the Inter-Agency Committee on Legal Action (IACoLA) formed by the Duterte regime last October have been filing trumped-up charges such as multiple murder against consultants of the NDFP. The consultants, including Prof. Jose Ma. Sison have also been included in the proscription case against the CPP and NPA filed by the OSG last February.

On top of this, the GRP has recently demanded that the peace talks be held in the Philippines instead of a foreign neutral venue as called for by the JASIG. This would subject NDFP consultants and personnel to surveillance, harassment and duress, thus poisoning the atmosphere for negotiations.

As for the CARHRIHL, the GRP has been committing wholesale violations of this agreement since it took effect 20 years ago.

Military and police forces have been relentlessly attacking entire communities suspected of being controlled, influenced by, or sympathetic to, the revolutionary movement on the pretext of conducting so-called peace and development projects. Soldiers and their paramilitaries occupy schools, health and day care centers, barangay halls, public plazas and even bus stops and private residences. They have burned down alternative learning institutions catering to the Lumad, subjected the students and teachers to severe harassment and even murdered one of these schools’ executive directors. They conduct illegal searches and interrogations to identify relatives of NPA members as well as supporters and sympathizers of the revolutionary movement to terrorize the people and force them to submit to bogus surrender ceremonies. They impose food blockades and restrictions on the movement of residents, disrupting their economic activities.

The GRP has been violating The Hague Joint Declaration through its numerous attempts to frontload the negotiations by demanding ceasefire and surrender from the NDFP ahead of any agreements addressing the deep-seated social, economic and political roots of the armed conflict. In doing so, it has been making a mockery of its own commitment to adhere to principles of national sovereignty, democracy and social justice under this agreement.

The GRP’s claim that it has been on the losing end in the agreements signed with the NDFP is not only rank hypocrisy. It is a pretext to scuttle the peace talks altogether, and blame this on the NDFP. The Esperon-Lorenzana militarist clique is well aware that the NDFP would never agree to shunt aside the basic, defining documents painstakingly forged over more than 20 years of peace negotiations.

As long as this diabolical clique calls the shots in the peace negotiations, there will be no end to such hypocrisy and truth mangling. ###

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