‘First achievement of 3rd round’: Parties sign supplemental guidelines of Joint Monitoring Committee

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ROME, Italy—The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) signed today the supplemental guidelines to the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC).

The JMC is tasked to monitor the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for human rights and international humanitarian law (CARHRIHL), which was signed by the GRP and NDFP in 1998.

Marking the first big achievement of their negotiations in this city, the agreement pushes forward the joint nature of monitoring and upholding human rights in the Philippines, NDFP negotiating panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili said.

According to the NDFP chief negotiator, the draft of the guidelines was signed in 2011  but was withdrawn by the GRP. “We welcome this development. This is definitely an advance to the ongoing peace negotiations,” Agcaoili said. “Together, we were able to forge this agreement and  made the determination to sign the supplemental guidelines that will govern the operation of the JMC as well as its Joint Secretariat,” he added.

GRP negotiating panel chairperson Silvestre Bello III for his part said he is glad that the CARHRIHL can now be fully implemented, the first substantive agreement he negotiated and signed with the NDFP in 1998.

The signing of the guidelines is “a concrete dividend of this round of talks,” Bello said.

“The full operation of the JMC with its supplemental guidelines in place should not be difficult under our legal regime that included new and bold laws and statutes upholding human rights and international humanitarian laws (IHL), such as the law against enforced disappearance, anti-torture act, IHL ACT, human security act, Writ of Amparo and the Writ of Kalikasan, among others,” Bello added.

The newly-signed agreement will cover complaints and information on the parties’ alleged violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, in the context of the armed conflict, as stated under the CARHRIHL.

The JMC was formed and was made operational at the first two rounds of formal peace negotiations between the NDFP and the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration in Oslo, Norway in 2004.

JMC was formed in accordance with the CARHRIHL, which became effective after NDFP chairperson Mariano Orosa and GRP President Joseph Estrada signed the agreement in 1998.

The JMC then opened its Joint Secretariat on 2004 and has since received thousands of reports of human rights violations against both the GRP and the NDFP, with the former getting majority of the complaints.

But the JMC has never conducted joint activities, particularly in investigating complaints of human rights violations received by both parties, as in the murder of the late NDFP consultant Sotero Llamas, said Agcaoili.

The signing of the supplemental guidelines in the ongoing round of talks will launch the JMC into full operation for the joint activities of the parties.

Report by Altermidya/Raymund B. Villanueva

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