Human rights group Karapatan has tallied 561 political prisoners across the Philippine islands. 18 of them are peace consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) who are supposedly guaranteed immunity from surveillance, harassment, search, arrest, detention, prosecution and interrogation as enclosed in the Joint Agreement and Immunity Guarantees or JASIG — the 1995 signed agreement between the Government Republic of the Philippines (GPH) and the NDFP.
One of the politically detained NDFP peace consultants, Eduardo Serrano, passed away this January 8 after his 11 years in prison. He was arrested with the allegation of being the New People’s Army (NPA) leader Rogelio Villanueva and incriminated with 5 criminal charges. In due course, the court has ruled in Serrano’s favour: that he is not Villanueva. But on his brink of freedom, he died of cardiac arrest and health deterioration.
“If only the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) honored JASIG, did not block the release of NDFP consultants, and pursued peace negotiations, Serrano would still be alive and enjoying his much deserved freedom,” said Kaparatan Secretary General, Cristina Palabay, in a statement.
The OPAPP is also linked to Aquino’s Oplan Bayanihan for which the Karapatan states as the main reason for the swell number of human rights violations under the current administration.
“OPAPP does not stand for peace. In fact, it is now exposed as the conduit for funding and implementation of the bloody counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan,” said Palabay.
Yesterday, human rights and youth groups picketed in front of OPAPP to protest the hampering of peace talks with the NDFP; to give justice to Eduardo Serrano; and to demand the release of all political prisoners.