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CARHRIHL

Justice is the Heart of the Revolution

in Mainstream
by Pat Gambao

The reactionary government’s rotten justice system has never been so outrageously unmasked as it is now through the Duterte regime’s blatant travesty.

In Duterte’s controversial “war on drugs”, self-confessed and publicly known drug lords get away unscarred while thousands of petty pushers and users, mostly from the poor communities, are summarily executed. In the plunder cases before the Ombudsman involving pork barrel, the regime’s department of justice is plotting to transform the most guilty scammer into a state witness.
Chief Justice Sereno’s impeachment case exemplifies the crude and desperate way of weeding out perceived obstacles to controlling the judiciary, in Duterte’s bid to monopolize power. Twist the laws, disregard the check-and-balance dictum, and get some stupid, ambitious, hopefuls into the plot.

Vilify, force to resign officials (they succeeded with Comelec Chair Andres Bautista) or file a quo warranto case, for good measure. Many retired military officers complicit in human rights violations, such as enforced disappearances, now occupy high positions in the bureaucracy.

The rotten judicial system

Ka Tato, a lawyer from the Lupon ng mga Manananggol para sa Bayan (Lumaban), an affiliate organization of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), described the government’s dispensation of justice as muddled, snail-paced, and biased towards the authorities. “This is not surprising because the court is among the instruments of coercion of the ruling class aimed to perpetuate the status quo,” he explained.

He cited Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, Jr., charged and tried for the kidnapping and disappearance of UP students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan and peasant Manuel Merino, as “so far the highest-ranking military official to be criminally indicted for human rights violations in recent history.” However, Palparan enjoys the privilege of being detained in the headquarters of the Philippine Army, to which he belonged, rather than in a regular jail.

“Kagyat na panagutin sa iba’t ibang larangan ang mga may pananagutan sa taong-bayan at lansagin ang mga salik na nagbubunsod ng kawalang katarungan.”
Liga ng mga Manananggol para sa Bayan (LUMABAN)

The trial of Palparan and his co-accused, Col. Felipe Anotado, M/Sgt. Rizal Hilario and Staff Sergeant Edgardo Osorio, has dragged on for seven years due to various dilatory tactics of their defense lawyers. The crime happened more than a decade ago, but the trial was concluded on February 15, 2018. How long it will it take for the court to promulgate its ruling?

The revolutionary justice system

“The main difference between the justice system of the revolutionary movement and that of the reactionary government lies in each one’s standpoint and viewpoint,” Ka Tato pointed out. The NDFP program, he said, embodies the people’s fundamental rights and freedom and takes into consideration the following: 1) the relations between the broad masses and the exploiting class; 2) the relations among party members; 3) the relations among the masses; and 4) the interests of the sectors. Following are his elaboration on these points:

The People’s Democratic Revolution seeks the social and national liberation of the masses long locked in the yoke of exploitation. Its judicial system thus takes the side of the exploited at all times against the interests of the exploiters.

Friendly relationships among the toiling masses and the progressive forces are ensured by resolving any dispute among them amicably. The interests of every sector are given prime consideration over the interests of the ruling classes.

The revolutionary movement has developed standards for the legal and judicial system at different levels and degrees. These are still being codified according to issues and sectoral interests towards crafting a comprehensive code. The three points of attention and eight basic rules of the New People’s Army (NPA) remain as the standards for military discipline. There are also rules and guidelines for agrarian reform, children’s rights, relationship between sexes, treatment of prisoners of war (POW), rules on the investigation and prosecution of suspected enemy spies, among others.

The revolutionary forces adhered to human rights and the principles of international humanitarian law in the course of the armed conflict even prior to the signing of the 1998 Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), the first substantive agenda in the peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the NDFP. The NDFP also crafted a Unilateral Declaration of Undertaking to Adhere to the Geneva Conventions and Protocol 1.

All these laws, rules and guides are being observed in the guerrilla fronts by the organs of political power, which create committees or entities to implement them. These are aimed to establish order and dispense justice in the interest, protection, and defense of the masses.

Ka Tato cited the following example:

In March 1999 when the NPA released prisoners of war (POW) AFP Brig. Gen. Victor Obillo, Captain Eduardo Montealto, PNP Major Roberto Bernal and AFP Sergeant Alipio Lozada, the NDFP took the high moral ground as basis—humanitarian grounds and grant of clemency on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the NPA. It responded positively to the widespread appeals of well-meaning parties and personages such as Archbishop Fernando R. Capalla, Bishop Wilfredo D. Manlapaz, Msgr. Mario Valle, Atty. Jesus Dureza and Rev. Fr. Pedro Lamata, who composed the Humanitarian Mission; Senator Loren Legarda in a parallel personal initiative; Howard Q. Dee, Chair of the GRP Negotiating Panel; Archbishop Oscar V. Cruz, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines; Mrs. Obillo and Mrs. Montealto.

The NDFP negotiating panel ordered the release of the military officers in accordance with the authority vested on it by the NDFP National Executive Committee and the laws and and processes of the people’s democratic government (PDG), and in compliance with the CARHRIHL and the NDFP Unilateral Declaration of Undertaking to Apply the Geneva Conventions and Protocol 1.

Observing the Guidelines and Procedure for the safe release of POW, the NPA custodial force turned over the captives to their immediate families through the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Humanitarian Mission, Senator Legarda, and in the presence of some government officials, human rights advocates, and church people.
Punishing a ferocious enemy of the people

The execution of Bernabe “Bantito” Abanilla in February 2016 by the Front Operations Command of the NPA in the provinces of Cotabato and Bukidnon was the punishment for his involvement in the killing of Italian priest Fausto “Pops” Tenorio and former student journalist Benjaline Hernandez, as well as many human rights activists and indigenous peoples who resisted militarization in their ancestral domains. Abanilla was a member of the Citizen’s Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) and the “Bagani Force” paramilitary group in Arakan, North Cotabato.

In October 2011, Tentorio was shot several times inside a parish compound in Arakan Valley, Cotabato. Four years later, a Special Investigating Team for Unsolved Cases found circumstantial evidence against the Bagani Group. Meanwhile, eight years after Hernandez was attacked by the CAFGU and military in April 2002, in Sitio Bukatol, Barangay Kinayawan, Arakan, the UN Committee, where a complaint of the killing was filed, found the government guilty for violating Hernandez’s human rights. Despite these findings, Abanilla continued to enjoy a wicked life in liberty until revolutionary justice finally caught up with him.

The revolutionary movement’s people’s court

In the Guide to the Establishment of the People’s Democratic Government, the justice system is envisioned to have a Supreme People’s Court as the highest judicial authority. It may also create special courts if the situation requires. The Hukumang Bayan (people’s court) is created by the people’s government at the provincial, district, municipal and barrio levels. In small and simple cases, the board of judges is composed of three, while in big and complicated cases, especially if death is the imposable penalty, the board is composed of at least nine judges. Judges are chosen based on merit.

The complaints should be detailed and the preliminary investigations thorough before the trial. The people’s court will study the sides of both plaintiff and defendant. Both sides shall be given sufficient time to be heard and can have a lawyer to present witnesses and evidence.

Usually hearings are done in public and any citizen is free to give his/her opinion regarding the case. If necessary, the people’s court will request the help of the concerned organ of the PDG to provide insights on the issues confronting the court.

The decision in every case shall be voted upon by the judges. Each judge shall explain before the board his/her vote. Usually, the decision on the case needs a simple majority vote of the board. However, in the case where death is the sentence, the vote should be a clear 2/3 majority. All the decisions shall be read and explained by the presiding judge.

The decision of the lower people’s court may be appealed to a higher people’s court. However, the people’s court may accept a motion for reconsideration of its decision. In cases where death is the sentence, these will automatically be appealed to the highest political and judicial authority of the region and automatically filed with the People’s Supreme Court or the standing organ responsible for it.

The people’s court on the ground

At this stage of the people’s democratic revolution, people’s courts are established in the guerrilla fronts. They commonly cover petty crimes and domestic concerns. Should the situation permit, hearings are done in public.

Arbitration is done by the NPA with local residents to strike a balance in the evaluation of the case. Members of the people’s court are chosen based on merit. They should be disinterested parties and not related to the defendants. The people’s court is usually composed of nine people. The defense also should undertake careful investigation to ensure that the rights of the defendant are protected. The case undergoes hearings, sentencing, and appeal, as the case may be. The Party section of the NPA is responsible for taking charge of the trial. The Executive Committee of the Regional Committee acts as the review board.

In the case of enemy spies, any tip will be carefully verified before the arrest and trial. Certain political conditions are considered such as the gravity of the offense, the age (minor) and the relationship of the offender with revolutionary forces. Death sentence is the last resort after one is proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt.

Contrary to the claims of its detractors, the NDFP judicial system is no “kangaroo court” because it follows a judicious procedure: investigation, indictment, hearings, sentencing, pardon, and release.

People in the barrios and even the local barangay councils acknowledge that revolutionary justice system is fair, simple, and swift.

Memories of The Hague Joint Declaration

in Mainstream
by Luis Jalandoni
DOWNLOAD:
Special Issue for the 25th Anniversary of The Hague Joint Declaration
NDFP Representative at the 
Signing of The Hague Joint Declaration
September 1, 1992

 

Both delegations of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) were ready to finalize the text of The Hague Joint Declaration. The media were waiting.

Due to the intense discussion on the use of the GRP Constitution as the guide of the peace negotiations and the NDFP insistence that we also had our own Constitution and Program, I proposed to put into the text: NO SURRENDER!

GRP delegate, Col. Cesar Garcia, strongly reacted: NO!

A moment of tension and impasse!

It was Prof. Jose Maria Sison who broke the impasse. He proposed the text: “No precondition that negates the inherent character and purpose of peace negotiations shall be imposed.”

Relief! Both sides accepted the alternative. This meant enshrining of the principle of non-capitulation, the principle of parity and reciprocity. Imposition by one party of its constitution would mea the submission of the other. There would no longer be any peace negotiation.

The Hague Joint Declaration also defined the substantive agenda of the negotiations: respect for human rights and international humanitarian law, social and economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms, and end of hostilities and disposition of forces. This ensured that the peace negotiations must address the roots of the armed conflict.

 

Recognizing the Judicial and Legal System of the Reactionary Government

Two years earlier, in September 1990, the NDFP representatives met with leaders of the Farabundo Marti Liberation Movement (FMLN). We asked the FMLN leaders, “Why did you accept the judicial and legal system of the Salvadoran government?” Their answer: “Because it is de facto.”

Our group led by Prof. Sison responded: “If you accept the judicial and legal system of the reactionary government as de facto, and you do not assert the judicial and legal system of your revolutionary movement as ALSO de facto, you may fall into the danger of capitulation!”

A day after the FMLN signed their peace deal with the Salvadoran government, a former FMLN guerrila fighter later narrated: “The landlords and military forcibly took away all our gains in the agrarian revolution!”

 

The Experience of the Moro National Liberation Front at the Tripoli Agreement of 1976

At Tripoli, Libya in December 1976, Nur Misuari, Chair of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) was put under heavy pressure by the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC). The OIC,  led by Moammar Khadafi, insisted that Nur Misuari agree to put in writing that the GRP Constituion is the guide to the GRP-MNLF Agreement. An eyewitness to that event, Former Philippine Foreign Secretary Pacifico Castro, narrated this to us. It was like a dagger in the heart of Nur Misuari, said Secretary Castro.

 

Attacks against The Hague Joint Declaration by Secretary Deles and Mr. Padilla of the GRP

The principle of non-capitulation, parity and reciprocity was targeted for attack by Secretary Teresita Deles and Alexander Padilla. In February 2011, the GRP Negotiating Panel led by Padilla declared The Hague Joint Declaration as “a document of perpetual division”. This attack on the framework and foundation of the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations was followed by the attack of Secretary Deles and Mr. Padilla on the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) as “inoperative”. Padilla likewise attacked the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) as “an NDFP propaganda document”.

 

Continuing Relevance of The Hague Joint Declaration

Up to now, 25 years after, and in the future, THJD, is very relevant. The principle of non-capitulation, parity and reciprocity must be upheld to effectively oppose the United Nations’ paradigm of DDR, Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration, and other attempts at undermining revolutionary movements striving for national and social liberation, genuine independence and a just and lasting peace.

“If you accept the judicial and legal system of the reactionary government as de facto, and you do not assert the judicial and legal system of your revolutionary movement as ALSO de facto, you may fall on the danger of capitulation!”

NDFP Peace Consultants as Desaparecidos

in Gallery

The reactionary governments, through their state security forces, resort to abduction and enforced disappearance to silence those who openly oppose and criticize their oppressive and repressive policies and pose a threat to their rule.

Among the thousands of victims of enforced disappearance in the Philippines under various regimes were the National Democratic Front peace consultants who were abducted when the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo regime stalled the peace negotiations between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). This was also part of then Arroyo regime’s implementation of Oplan Bantay Laya 1 and 2.

The abduction and disappearance of the NDFP peace consultants violated the GRP-NDFP Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) and the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).

Victims’ relatives filed writ of habeas corpus with the courts and lodged complaints with the Commission on Human Rights but nothing came out of these. Witnesses were afraid or threatened. Nobody was held accountable. Perpetrators were even rewarded with promotions. The culture of impunity persisted.
The GRP has yet to face responsibility for these cases of abduction and enforced disappearances and other human rights violations.

Enforced disappearance is not only ferocious, but also most excruciating for the victims’ relatives. Through the years, they have hoped and waited for their loved ones to surface, although deep inside they knew they were hoping against hope. The loss of their loved ones was difficult to accept. But as their hopes never dim, so does their fortitude to stand up for what their loved ones had fought for. ###

Freeing Political Prisoners: A Matter of Obligation and Justice

in Mainstream

The release of over 400 political prisoners is a key issue in the peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

The NDFP stands on just ground when it calls on the GRP to release all political prisoners in compliance with the agreements previously signed by the two parties, specifically, the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). Both parties reaffirmed the validity of the CARHRIHL and JASIG in a joint statement on Aug. 26, 2016 and also during the third round of talks in Rome, Italy on January 2017. They also completed the supplemental guidelines for the full implementation of the CARHRIHL.

The CARHRIHL, signed and approved in 1998, guarantees the immediate release of prisoners who have been  charged, detained, or convicted with common crimes instead of political offenses like rebellion or sedition. Part III, Article 6 of the CARHRIHL states that the GRP “shall abide by its doctrine laid down in People vs. [Amado V.]Hernandez… and shall forthwith review the cases of all prisoners or detainees who have been charged, detained, or convicted contrary to this doctrine, and shall immediately release them.”

The majority of the more than 400 political detainees has been charged with trumped-up and common non-bailable crimes—a serious violation of the CARHRIHL and the Hernandez “political offense” doctrine, which was upheld by the Supreme Court in many instances. The release of the political prisoners, therefore, is a state obligation and not a favor being handed by the GRP. Hence, this is not a mere matter of confidence building measure for the peace talks.

President Duterte himself agrees that the practice of criminalizing political acts is unjust; a practice that was started under the Corazon C. Aquino government. In a meeting with NDFP leaders and consultants at Malacanang Palace in August 2016, Pres. Duterte promised to stop the practice of criminalizing the actions of political prisoners in pursuance of their beliefs. The practice, however, continues as 30 activists arrested and detained under the Duterte administration are still being charged with the same criminal offenses.

CARHRIHL is intended to correct the injustices done against political prisoners as far back as the Marcos Martial Law Dictatorship, including the nullification of repressive presidential decrees carried over to the succeeding administrations. With the signing of the  Supplemental Guidelines for the full operation of the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) of CARHRIHL, there should no longer be any hindrance in the government’s commitment to adhere and fully implement the CARHRIHL. The JMC is the body tasked to administer the  GPH-NDFP implementation of the CARHRIHL.

The JASIG—which is again operational after the Duterte government unilaterally terminated it in February 2017—also guarantees safety and immunity for the unhampered participation of NDFP personnel involved in the peace negotiations and “to avert any incident that may jeopardize the peace negotiations.”

The two agreements are more than enough legal bases for the Duterte government to release political prisoners and render justice and rectify their unlawful and unjust detention.

And while the prospects for a general amnesty proclamation still hang in the balance, the NDFP and its legal consultants are working for other modes of release of political prisoners, even if temporary such as in the cases of the peace talks consultants.

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