THE government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) have formed a Joint Monitoring Committee on human rights, a move that could help speed up the signing a final peace agreement between the government and communist rebels.
The agreement, signed on Saturday in Rome, contained supplemental guidelines for the full operation of the committee under the two parties’ Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello 3rd, the government peace panel head, said the green light on the joint committee was a concrete manifestation of the Duterte administration’s respect for human rights and international humanitarian law or IHL.
“The signing is a victory for the people and the Duterte government and a major dividend in the peace process,” Bello said in a statement.
The guidelines for committee were first drafted in 2004 but were not signed after peace negotiations between the government and the NDFP hit a snag in 2011 because of the government’s refusal to release scores of NDFP consultants.
“The full operation of the Joint Monitoring Committee, with its supplemental guidelines in place, should not be difficult under our legal regime that includes new and bold laws and statutes upholding human rights and international humanitarian laws such as the law against enforced disappearance, Anti-Torture Act, IHL Act, Human Security Act, Writ of Amparo and the Writ of Kalikasan, among others,” Bello said.
“Hopefully, the [committee]will expedite the forging of a bilateral ceasefire agreement that will address the alleged issues of government violations and provocative and prohibited acts of NPA (New People’s Army) rebels,” he added.
The supplemental guidelines signed by Bello and NDFP panel chief Fidel Agcaoili at Holiday Inn in Rome, Italy, in the presence of the Norwegian government’s special envoy Elisabeth Slattum, are a set of mechanisms on how to address complaints of violations of human rights by government forces and the NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
The CARHRIHL promotes and protects human rights and adherence to international humanitarian law, and provides a venue for victims of violations and abuses of human rights, or their surviving families, to file their complaints and evidence.
The agreement also provides that persons liable for violations and abuses of human rights shall be subject to investigation and, if evidence warrants, to prosecution and trial. The victims or their survivors will then be indemnified, while all necessary measures will be undertaken to remove the conditions for violations and abuses of human rights and to render justice to and indemnify the victims.
It is one of the four substantive agenda items of the negotiations that will comprise the final peace agreement. The other three are: socioeconomic reforms, political and constitutional reforms and end of hostilities and disposition of forces.
President Rodrigo Duterte is determined to uphold the human rights of political dissenters even as he continues to seek a negotiated political settlement with rebel forces, Bello said.
Duterte has not committed acts that constitute a violation of CARHRIHL, the Cabinet official added.
“Some may find his approach in addressing peace and order issues in the country unconventional but he has always maintained high respect for political dissent,” Bello added.