UTRECHT, The Netherlands — Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison warned President Benigno Aquino III of the serious implications that may result from the government’s supposed violation from previous agreements, the latest of which being the arrest of Benito and Wilma Austria Tiamzon.
The Tiamzons, consultants of the communist-led National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), are protected under the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), according to Sison, referring to an agreement signed in 1995 by the NDFP and government panels.
The agreement provides safety and immunity protection for all participants of the peace negotiations, including panelists, consultants, members and staff of both panels.
“I hope that the President will think hard about what he’s doing. While he might believe that he will benefit more from arresting and imprisoning political consultants, truth is, it is better for the country when peace negotiations continue. Does he want to be known in history as the President who killed the peace negotiations?” Sison, who has been in exile here for years, explained in Filipino.
“The President says he wants to continue with the talks but his actions prove otherwise. While the NDFP does not want to be the one terminating the talks, it is a prerogative that it can take. The arrest of the Tiamzons might be the last straw,” he continued.
NDFP peace panel chairman Luis Jalandoni seconded Sison’s declaration.
“It might come to the point that the NDFP itself will issue a notice of termination. It is a prerogative of the NDFP as it is also a prerogative of the GRP: to declare the termination of the JASIG and the peace negotiations. But right now, we are awaiting recommendations, suggestions, requests from the grassroots. It will have to be a collective decision that will have to be taken very seriously,” he said.
Sison and Jalandoni continued to call for goodwill from Aquino, citing an incident in 1994 when Wilma Austria was first arrested. Being under the protection of JASIG, then-President Fidel V. Ramos visited her in the hospital and released her within two weeks.
“President Fidel Ramos had the statesmanship to recognize the importance of the peace negotiations that would take place the following month, June 1994 and released Wilma Austria. Now, President Aquino of the government of the Philippines appears to be more interested in imprisoning a few leaders of the revolutionary movement than giving priority to the peace negotiations and complying with the solemn agreement, bilateral agreement, the JASIG,” recalled Jalandoni.
He also clarified that it is a mistake for some members of the government panel to say that the JASIG is no longer in operation because the talks are currently on hold.
“Alex Padilla or Secretary [Teresita] Deles cannot declare the JASIG inoperative because it is an agreement signed by the panels and approved by the principals. They refuse to comply with it giving various excuses in effect violating the spirit of the JASIG. This most seriously prejudices the peace negotiations,” said Jalandoni.
Padilla heads the government panel in the peace negotiations with the NDFP, while Deles is the presidential adviser on the peace process.
The NDFP has 87 protected individuals under the JASIG. About 25 of whom have been arrested, imprisoned or assassinated. They all carry identification documents that state their names or pseudonyms, identification numbers and pictures signed by Jalandoni and letters of acknowledgment by then government panel chairman Silvestre Bello. #