In December 2010, Malacañang announced it will review the cases of more than 200 political prisoners – most of whom were unjustly arrested for opposing the 9 year Arroyo regime – with the end-view of affecting their release.
In February 2011, the government (GPH) peace panel signed the Oslo Joint Statement with its National Democratic Front (NDF) counterparts, committing, among others, to release ‘most, if not all’ detained NDF peace consultants in order to resume in earnest the GPH-NDF formal peace negotiations.
These commitments were a yardstick on the Aquino government’s willingness to actually fulfill GPH obligations made on the negotiating table with the NDF, and consequently, on its readiness to confront the three more difficult substantive agenda of the GPH-NDF formal peace negotiations regarding socio-economic reforms, constitutional and political reforms, and cessation of hostilities/disposition of forces.
Halfway through his 6-year term, there is no doubt that President Aquino has failed miserably to advance the cause for a just and lasting peace in the country.
No review of the court cases of political prisoners was ever conducted. Instead, the illegal arrest, torture and detention of social activists and suspected revolutionaries were intensified, such that the number of political prisoners nationwide has almost doubled now to more than 400.
Detained NDF consultants were not released, and their ranks increased, as the Aquino government pursues its counter-revolutionary Oplan Bayanihan with more vigor. Worse, in imposing the latest termination of the GPH-NDF peace negotiations, Malacañang made it appear that the issue of releasing detained NDF consultants is nothing but a ‘precondition’ capriciously imposed by the NDF, instead of the GPH obligation that it really is.
Political prisoners and human rights advocates are therefore justified in launching various forms of protest, in coordination with other progressive groups, as President Aquino delivers his mid-term State of the Nation Address (SONA) this July 22.
Ramon M. Patriarca
AFP Central Command Headquarters
Camp Lapu-lapu, Lahug, Cebu City