The Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees with the NPA is no more
Last Sunday, February 5, 2017, the president announced that he considers the New People’s Army rebels as terrorist, along with this, he also expressed that prisoners who were released last year to serve as consultants to the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) should be put back in jail.
He told media: “La-landing talaga sila sa Muntinlupa. Tangina, la-landing, doon sila papunta lahat” [They (consultants) will definitely end up in Muntinlupa (the New Bilibid Prison). Son of a bitch, they’ll land there, they’ll all end up there.”]
President Duterte wanted those released to return to the Philippines calling them “wanted,” threatening to arrest the said consultants. If they refused; their passports would be cancelled and the international police will be informed for international arrest warrants to be issued.
On the same day, NDFP chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili said that all 17 NDFP consultants released from detention were back in the Philippines and are not hiding, these included those who attended the recently concluded third round of peace talks in Rome, Italy.
Agcaoili also said that the consultants cannot be put back in prison as they are protected by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG). The JASIG grants certain privileges and protection to NDFP consultants in light of the peace talks. It was an agreement signed by the Philippines and the NDFP back in 1995.
But that changed. The Duterte administration terminated the JASIG as it would clear the path for the arrest of temporarily released NDFP consultants to participate in the peace negotiations.
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza relayed the said termination in a letter dated 7 February 2017, addressed to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison and chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili.
In his letter Dureza said: “Following the President’s announcement of the cancellation of the peace talks with the CPP/NPA/NDF and per his instructions, the government is hereby serving this notice of the termination of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees.”
The NDFP confirmed receiving said letter, they will acknowledge receipt on the same date of the letter to allow the 30-day grace period to run before effectivity.
Agcaoli found the notice strange as it terminates the JASIG only and not the peace negotiations, but it has the same effect, he said: “Dureza’s notice will do in effectively terminating the peace negotiations.” It will be recalled that last Monday, the communists had rejected the termination of the peace talks absent a formal withdrawal, as they are willing to explore ways to reopen negotiations.
The president had expressed his disillusionment regarding peace negotiations but was willing to change his mind if there is a “compelling reason.” We all hope that said reason comes soon.
In the meantime, time will tell what the repercussions of the JASIG termination will bring. With thirty days or so till effectivity and with the Philippine peace panels on CPP-NPA-NDFP negotiations tied down, the turnout of the negotiations is still in the air.