Re: Frozen Peace Talks, Impunity for Rights Abusers Defining Aquino Legacy
29 March 2014
We, the New Zealand members of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) are dismayed over latest developments defining the 3-D Aquino legacy: “Disappointing, Disastrous and Deadly Human Rights Record.”
When Pres. Benigno Simeon Aquino III visited New Zealand in October 2012, he declared in media interviews that the Philippines’ human rights situation improved under his administration. But in fact, the local human rights group Karapatan documented 169 victims of extra-judicial killings, from July 2010 to December 2013, and 19 victims for this year. The latest victims are Romeo Capalla, brother of retired Archbishop Fernando Capalla and William Bugatti, an Ifugao indigenous human rights worker. It is always disturbing to hear of another human rights defender brutally killed or detained while those in power continue to evade accountability over high crimes of Marcos-style corruption, plunder and human rights abuses.
We are dismayed at the continuing impunity and frozen peace talks between the Aquino government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). As two more NDFP consultants Benito Tiamzon and wife Wilma were illegally arrested based on trumped-up charges, we ask Philippine authorities to give importance to what the lawyers argue:
“Arresting the Tiamzon spouses constitutes bad faith on the part of the Philippine government in complying with its obligations under binding bilateral agreements. The Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) was crafted precisely to facilitate the peace negotiations, to create a favourable atmosphere conducive to free discussion and free movement during the peace negotiation, and avert incidents that may jeopardize the peace negotiations. It actually benefits the panelists, consultants, staff and security of both Parties with safety and immunity guarantees.”
We join the international community in urging the Aquino government to do the right thing: Take the initiative to resume formal peace talks, uphold previously signed agreements and immediately release the Tiamzons and all unjustly detained NDFP staff and consultants in the peace negotiations.