Peace talks must be on the national level – opines Karapatan Bicol

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By Felix ‘Boy’ Espineda, Jr.

SORSOGON CITY, 12July2013 (BicolToday.com) – The red alert status of the military and the police in Sorsogon has proved that hostilities between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the CPP-NPA-NDF may escalate again anytime.

It becomes urgency for Sorsogon Governor Raul Lee to initiate a local peace negotiation but it may fell on deaf ears among the warring parties.

This was the view of Vince Casilihan, spokesperson of Karapatan-Bicol in a phone interview, saying that the problems of the armed struggle of the CPP-NPA-NDF is more than four decades old, that until now the national government is hard pressed in finding a solution.

Karapatan is a national human rights group that conducts fact-finding mission, investigate, and documents rights violations committed by protagonists in the internal armed conflict. Its field workers have realistic assessment on the conflict areas and their problems, and have a “feel” on the prevailing condition of the locality.

Casilihan appreciated the efforts of the Sorsogon Governor to call for peace talks, but he reminded local executives that instead of calling for a local peace initiative, they must instead take a concerted effort to bring to the national leadership the concern that the delay in the resumption of the GRP and the NDF peace dialog derails progress and development in the countryside.

Though local government units are in a precarious situation because of the armed conflict, but initiating a peace talk at their level is not advisable.

“The demands will involve other branches of the national government only at the disposal of the President of the Republic,” added Casilihan.

The Karapatan spokesperson said there are laws, conventions and instruments which should be observed by both parties in the conflict, in effect, the observance during encounters must be of importance.

He cited the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) is a case in point. None observance of the provisions of CARHRIHL becomes a human rights issue.

He opined that both parties of the conflict must adhere with The Hague Joint Declaration that carries the four substantive agenda of the Peace Talks. This is not within the scope of a local government to undertake, he added.

In case of peace talks, the agendas will cover CARHRIHL which is already in effect, the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER), Constitutional Reforms and Cessation of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces.

“The countryside until now is the conflict area where lives are lost as in the case of the 8 CPP-NPA members who died in an encounter with army troopers in Upper Calmayon, Juban town recently,” he said.

“It is where poverty is most evident, where violations of human rights become common occurrence. It is also a place where the brightest of our youths are felled by bullets.”  [BicolToday.com]

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