Regardless of the cancellation of the 5th round of formal talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), both parties have clarified that the peace negotiations are ongoing.
The said talks that was supposed to start on May 27 in Noordwijk aan Zee, The Netherlands was disrupted when the GRP announced that they will no longer participate in the 5th round of formal talks. The GRP maintained that there is no “clear indications that an enabling environment conducive to achieving just and sustainable peace, ”while the NDFP said that it is not clear to them what the GRP meant with that, giving the responsibility of talks cancellation to the GRP.
In a statement, the NDFP said that “all the bilateral agreements that lay down the framework, processes and conditions for the entire peace negotiations, including the JASIG, remain binding, operational and in effect.”
The JASIG (Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees) is an agreement signed by the GRP and NDFP that gives both parties’ consultants “guaranteed immunity from surveillance, harassment, search, arrest, detention, prosecution and interrogation or any other similar punitive actions due to any involvement or participation in the peace negotiations.”
“We deem it necessary to underscore the continuing effectivity of the JASIG in order to prevent any misreading or misinterpretation that would lead prosecutors to move for, and for the courts to cancel, the bail bonds of NDFP consultants still facing charges and for the police and military to arrest NDFP consultants who are set to return to the Philippines following the GRP’s cancellation of the fifth round of formal talks,” emphasized the NDFP.
A few weeks before the scheduled 5th round of formal talks, NDFP peace consultants Benito and Wilma Tiamzon were reportedly tailed by motorcycle-riding men on May 9 when they left the camp-out in Mendiola, Manila of protesting agrarian reform beneficiaries from Tagum City. Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association, Inc’s (MARBAI) camp-out was visited by President Rodrigo Duterte himself on the same day, a few hours before the Tiamzon couple arrived.
Meanwhile, three more NDFP peace consultants and JASIG protected persons were arrested on trumped-up charges under the Duterte’s administration. The NDFP consultants arrested are Ferdinand Castillo, Promencio Cortes and Rommel Salinas.
On the other hand, four more NDFP consultants who are already convicted remain incarcerated despite the promise of the GRP to expedite their release for them to be able to participate in the peace process.