ROME, Italy—The Government of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) signed on Saturday the supplemental guidelines for the full operation of the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) under the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) during the 3rd round-of-talks in Rome, Italy.
The signing of the supplemental guidelines by GROP panel Chair Silvestre Bello III and NDF Chair Fidel Agcaoili, is a significant move under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte after the first draft crafted in 2004 was not signed when the peace negotiations bogged down in 2011.
The supplemental guidelines is a set of mechanisms on how to address complaints of violation by the government forces and the armed wing of the NDF – the New People’s Army (NPA). The supplemental guidelines are issued pursuant to the Operational Guidelines for the JMC issued on 14 February 2004, in Oslo, Norway by the GRP and NDFP peace negotiators.
Bello said the signing of the supplemental guidelines is not only an affirmation to International Human Rights Law of the Duterte administration but also a concrete dividend of the third round-of-talks. Bello said this also bodes well to the possible signing of the bilateral ceasefire set to benefit more the people living in conflict-affected areas.
“This should be taken as an incentive for us to work harder in the remaining days of this round of talks, especially on our efforts to put in place a joint ceasefire agreement – a peace dividend that our people have been waiting for,” he said in his statement.
Bello said the adoption of the guidelines is a realization of CARHRIHL, which is one of the four substantive agenda of the negotiations that will comprise the final peace agreement. The other three remaining substantive agenda are socio-economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms, and end of hostilities and disposition of forces.
According to Bello, the full operation of the JMC with its supplemental guidelines in place, should not be difficult under the government’s legal regime that includes new and bold laws and statutes upholding human rights and international humanitarian laws, 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.
The NDF chair welcomed the signing and thanked the GRP panel as this would advance the ongoing peace negotiations.
Agcaoili said the supplemental guidelines will govern operations of the JMC and the Joint Secretariat.
The supplemental guidelines include provisions on how to file and deal with complaints and details the roles of the receivers of the complaints, the joint secretariat and third party facilitator.
Under the guidelines, complaints for alleged violations of the specific provisions of the CARHRIHL may be filed either in person, through email, website, fax, post or courier to the Nominated Section in the Joint Secretariat, who shall immediately forward the same to the Co-Chairpersons of the JMC for proper disposition.
A complainant could be the victim of the alleged violation of the CARHRIHL, a relative of the victim, a duly-authorized representative, or any person, organization or entity with direct, substantial or sufficient interest in the subject of the complaint such as human rights groups, peace advocacy groups, church members, media or anyone capable of filing the complaint on behalf of the victim or relative of the victim.
The Co-Chairpersons of the respective Monitoring Committees will undertake an inquiry of initial facts for purposes of determining its sufficiency as a complaint that may warrant further action or investigation. The filing, pendency, dismissal, termination or withdrawal of a complaint or other communication before other fora shall not preclude the filing of a similar complaint before the JMC. The complainants will be also be notified of the status and action on their complaints.
The complaints, evidence and supporting documents shall be subject to review and evaluation by the respective Nominated Sections to determine whether the alleged violations are within the coverage of the CARHRIHL and the complaints are valid in form and contain sufficient data or information to allow further investigation either separately or jointly by the respective Monitoring Committees.
If the complaint and other pieces of evidence warrant further investigation, the JMC, by consensus, may decide to conduct a joint fact-finding of a complaint, issue or specific incident with the possible participation of independent international observers.
Incidents or issues of urgent import or significance arising from a complaint, or from submitted documents and information not yet the subject of a complaint, may be brought to the attention of the Co-Chairperson of the concerned Party for corresponding action or immediate response.
The supplemental guidelines also underscore protection for the victims, witnesses and complainants as their safety and security are the primordial consideration in the handling and treatment of cases.
“These Supplemental Guidelines affirm the principles of truth, justice, equity, transparency and accountability in addressing the issues of violations of human rights; and international humanitarian law,” the guideline states.
The identity and other relevant information of victims, witnesses and complainants especially children and minors, will be kept confidential upon their request or whenever necessary to secure their protection.
Meanwhile, the Royal Norwegian Government (RNG) would serve as third Party Facilitator providing advice, opinions and suggestions to the two Monitoring Committees of the JMC, to receive updates on the progress of the work from the JMC, to extend assistance to facilitate the work of the JMC and its Joint Secretariat, to provide support for the work of the JMC and the general implementation of the CARHRIHL.
The members of the GRP monitoring committee composed of Atty. Efren Moncupa, Usec Antonio Kho, Col Facundo Palafox and Hernani Braganza as Panel supervisor while for the NDFP side were Coni Ledesma and Concha Araneta, and Benito Tiamzon as supervising Panel member also signed the supplemental guidelines as witnesses.