Among the successful outcomes of the Government of Philippines (GRP) – National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace negotiations is the Comprehensive Agreement for the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), and it is in this context that the peace talks has been and is always one of the venues by which respect, promotion and protection of human and people’s rights is pursued.
The CARHRIHL binds both Parties, especially the GRP whose security forces are notorious for atrocities against the people, to obligations, responsibilities and rights, which are very important as the civil war continues and as long as root causes of the armed conflict remain unresolved.
The creation of the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) on the CARHRIHL as a venue of redress for victims of rights violations and as a body that has the obligation to ensure the implementation of the agreement is an important step in the observance of human rights principles, especially during armed conflict.
The JMC has been the main mechanism mandated to receive reports and complaints of violations of CARHRIHL. However, the operationalization of the GRP section of the JMC has always been problematic due to 1) previous regimes, in violation of CARHRIHL and corresponding agreements in relation to the JMC, have made the GRP section inutile or not functional in fulfilling its mandate 2) it has not acted on the thousands of complaints filed against GRP state forces.
The CARHRIHL has sections addressing concerns on the perpetuation of human rights violations. However, the GRP continues to disregard compliance to majority of these sections.
As far as we know, the GRP has not done moved to exact accountability of perpetrators in all the complaints filed against GRP forces. As far as we know also, the NDFP section has been diligent in addressing complaints of CARHRIHL violations filed before them.
Aside from the CARHRIHL, other key documents, laws, agreements should be referred to in terms of human rights compliance: the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and Geneva Protocols, the Algiers Declaration. Locally, there are the Philippine Bill of Rights under the 1987 Constitution and all domestic laws pertaining to civil, political, economic and socio-cultural rights. These are the measures and lengths that promotion and defense of human rights has achieved, still the problem is in the adherence of sitting governments.
Prior to CARHRIHL, the Hague Joint Declaration was a key agreement in the peace talks that enabled the conduct of the peace negotiations and the sequence of the substantive agenda in the peace talks. This was and is very important in ensuring that even prior to the end of hostilities and disposition of forces, fundamental rights are respected, both of combatants and non-combatants/civilians.
The peace process has been an additional venue for human rights defenders to seek redress of grievances and for advocacy of human rights issues and concerns. It has also provided human rights defenders a tool for exacting state accountability and for human rights education.
Of course, it is too bad that the Duterte regime has gone to great lengths to sabotage the peace talks resulting in the disruption of discussions and forging of the agreements on social and economic reforms and the political and constitutional reforms which both strike at the heart of the roots of the armed conflict.