WITH the signing of the supplemental guidelines to the Joint Monitoring Committee during the recently held third round of the peace negotiations between the government and the National Democratic Front, a third-party observer is hopeful cases of human rights violations in areas affected by the armed conflict between Communist rebels and state forces can now be given attention.
At the recent formal peace talks held in Rome, Italy, the supplemental guidelines to the JMC of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law was (Carhrihl) signed by representatives from both sides and Bishop Felixberto Calang said this will serve to pressure the government to act on reports of abuses affecting various sectors.
Calang is a ranking leader of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente and main convenor of the ecumenical group Seeds of Peace in Mindanao. He also served as an observer of the third leg of the peace negotiations.
The supplemental guidelines provide added impetus and mechanisms to ensure the meeting of obligations of both parties to the Carhrihl.
Calang said the group welcomes the signing of yet another important agreement reached in the GRP-NDFP peace talks.
“As Mindanaons, this agreement gives hope for the attainment of justice to countless victims of human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law most especially among victims indigenous [people], Moro, farmers, women, and other basic sectors,” said Calang in a statement.
The group has called on both parties to work towards the indemnification of victims and ensuring that perpetrators are made to account for their crimes and it expected that the agreement “will be implemented to the letter under the Duterte administration.”
“The President himself, for instance, had committed to address problems of internal displacement and to rein in indigenous paramilitary groups during previous dialogues with [tribal] leaders,” Calang said.
With the further strengthening of the JMC, the group said they envision a resolution of the perennial problems of “militarization of Lumad communities, attacks on alternative community schools,
harassments and bombings against the Moro people, internal displacement, extrajudicial killings of community and sectoral leaders, filing of trumped-up charges against political dissenters, the reign of terror of AFP-backed paramilitaries, and intermittent displacement of rural communities.”
As incidents have been reported to the peace watchdog, Sowing the Seeds of Peace in Mindanao is urging the JMC to investigate and ensure the attainment of speedy justice for the victims, consistent with these added guidelines.
“It is our hope as a peace movement in Mindanao that both parties endeavor to fulfill the obligations and commitments mandated by the Carhrihl for the benefit of the Filipino people,” Calang said.