Statement of JustPeacePH: Release all political prisoners, end US-designed Oplan Bayanihan

Release all political prisoners, end US-designed Oplan Bayanihan!
17 November 2016


As a global peace platform in support of peace talks for just and lasting peace in the Philippines, the JustPeacePH reiterates its call for the release of all political prisoners and an end to the National Internal Security Plan dubbed “Oplan Bayanihan”.

We are concerned of continuing cases of rights violations in the country and, very recently, Pres. Duterte’s pronouncement that he may suspend the writ of habeas corpus.

According to the National Union of People’s Lawyers, the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus is a legal remedy ordering that a person deprived of liberty (usually arrest) must be physically produced in court and the custodian must justify or prove that the deprivation has legal basis. If the legal basis is not established, he is set free at once. If the privilege is suspended, this legal remedy becomes unavailable.

The incarceration of political prisoners based on trumped-up and fabricated charges is bad enough. Its systematic implementation as an integral part of Oplan Bayanihan, patterned after the United States Counter-Insurgency (COIN) Guide, made it worse. A baseless suspension of habeas corpus will definitely make it even worse.

Of the more than 500 political prisoners in the country, 307 were arrested under Oplan Bayanihan. Further, hundreds were killed, scores disappeared and thousands displaced. Victims of various human right violations and their kin rightfully demand delivery of justice long due them.

The release of all political prisoners was agreed upon by both the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and expressed in the Oslo Joint Statement of August 26, 2016. Pres. Duterte himself, as early as May 2016, promised to release them through a declaration of General Amnesty.

We are, however, becoming wary of broken promises. The GRP declared a unilateral ceasefire but continues its militarization of communities and schools. Reports from the ground reveal cases of rights violations from Northern Luzon to Southern Mindanao.

The release of political prisoners is now being tied by the GRP’s Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) to a “joint bilateral ceasefire”.

To complicate matters, some other groups are intervening, presenting themselves as “experts” in conflict prevention and resolution issues, promoting the laying down of arms and demobilization of the revolutionary army as preconditions to peace, contrary to the process and agenda as clearly laid down in the Hague Joint Declaration of 1992.

What the militarists in government, spoilers of genuine change in the country and this type of “peace” NGOs want is practically the same:  the capitulation of revolutionary forces to the government. This is unacceptable for real peace-building.

We reiterate our belief that peace is not simply the absence of war and that it can only be attained if there is justice and the roots of the conflict are duly addressed and resolved.

The GRP-NDFP peace negotiations are seeking to address the roots of the armed conflict. That is why both panels agreed to accelerate the substantive agenda of social and economic reforms and political and constitutional reforms. That is why the release of political prisoners, on legitimate, legal and moral grounds, and justice for all victims of human rights violations are imperative.

As long as the social ills afflicting the Filipino people remain, peace advocates all over the world will continue to inform, organize and mobilize support for just and lasting peace in the Philippines.

Free all political prisoners
End US-designed Oplan Bayanihan!