Date: Thu, 13 Nov 97 10:34:04 CST
From: Arm The Spirit <>
Subject: Philippines Government Calls Off Peace Talks
Article: 21811

Philippines Government Calls Off Peace Talks

KARAPATAN Press Release, 12 November 1997

Reference: Marie Hilao-Enriquez, Secretary-General

Human Rights Group Upset Over Government Suspension Of Peace Talks

The Ramos government's unilateral suspension of peace talks with the National Democratic Front over the rebels' alleged bad faith drew the ire of the human rights group Karapatan. The group said that as far as the government's own confidence-building measures are concerned, it has not lived up to its promises in the peace negotiations. The rebels' capture of Chief Inspector Rene Francisco in an Oct. 30 raid seems to be a convenient excuse for breaking off the talks, said Marie Hilao-Enriquez, Karapatan secretary-general. Francisco is only one man. Yet 168 political prisoners have been languishing in the government's prisons, some for as many as ten years.

Enriquez belied the claims of Ramos's chief peace negotiator Ambassador Howard Dee that the government has been regularly processing and releasing alleged political offenders. We challenge Amb. Dee to name the political prisoners released because of the peace talks. Although 20 political prisoners are immediately releasable, according to the records of the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines, we are certain none of them have been released this 1997 despite the talks. The 20 political prisoners are immediately releasable for reasons ranging from humanitarian considerations to the lessening of the penalty of illegal possession of firearms. They are: Donato Continente, Juanito Itaas, Rolando Almanza, Modesto Tobias, Julito Tobias, Leo Lian, Freddie Lazo, Henry Galvan, Nilo Galanza, Emerlito Barius, Alfredo Ambat, Dodong Gantiag, Amancio Mesario, Ahmad Adjali, David Ading, Larry Daniel, Joey Benvinuto, Eladio Saragina, Roberto Perez, and Danilo Tanaman.

Enriquez added that the continuing militarization of the Philippine countryside renders Dee's other confidence-building measures laughable. Amb. Dee's other claims are pure drivel, she said. The military is in fact committing more and more human rights violations in counter-insurgency operations, like the continuing harassment of Mangyan communities in Mindoro. Dee also forgets that NDF consultants Sotero Llamas and Danilo Borjal were lengthily detained despite being card-bearing members of the NDF peace panel.

The so-called dismantling of Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Units is not true, and in fact many regions still have CAFGUs, or these groups were simply transformed into paramilitary units under different names. Moreover, Defense Secretary Fortunato Abat is pushing for a new military reserve force patterned after the U.S. National Guard. As to the so-called pursuit of social, economic, and political reforms, everything the government says is hogwash in light of the current financial crisis ignited by the July peso devaluation and a flawed economic policy.

Karapatan urged the government to resume the talks and show its sincerity. Enriquez said that as human rights and peace advocates, we believe that in the peace process, the ball is in the government's court. Nobody is happy that the government side just walks away out of sheer pique.