Gov’t chief peace negotiator defends Pres. Duterte

MANILA — Government chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III said President Rodrigo Duterte is determined to uphold human rights of political dissenters even as he continues to seek a negotiated political settlement with rebel forces.

This was the response of Bello, who is also labor secretary, to the list of alleged violations of the provisions of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) human rights group Karapatan submitted prior to the opening of the third round of peace talks in Rome, Italy.

As far as the GRP chief negotiator is concerned, there have been no acts committed by the president that would constitute violation of CARHRIHL, which supplemental guidelines were signed yesterday, January 21.

“The track record of President Duterte will speak for itself. He has always upheld the rights of political dissenters and respected their human rights,” Bello said in defending the president.

“Some may find his unconventional approach in addressing peace and order issues in the country but he has always maintained high respect for political dissent,” Bello added.

Nevertheless, Bello assured that the government will look into, and if warranted, investigate the cases submitted by the National Democratic Front and allied rights organizations.

He said the signing of the supplemental agreement put into motion the operationalization of the joint monitoring committee (JMC).

Bello however said the government also submitted pacts committed by rebel forces that violated some provisions of CARHRIHL, among them the torching of buses and heavy equipment by New People’s Army (NPA) rebels.

All these allegations of violations from both sides would be addressed by the JMC which will be immediately constituted by both parties, the GRP panel said.

These also underscore the need to forge a bilateral ceasefire agreement to determine and provide mechanism to monitor and address violations.

“Hopefully, the JMC will expedite the forging of a bilateral ceasefire agreement that will address the alleged issues of government violations and provocative and prohibited acts of NPA rebels,” Bello explained.

The signing of the supplemental guidelines is the first agreement signed by both parties under the Duterte government.

All previous documents signed in the August and October rounds of talks were joint statements and declarations.

“In just five months, we have already scored a victory for the Filipino people,” Bello declared.

The CARHRIHL primarily encourages all victims of violations and abuses of human rights or their surviving families due to the armed conflict to come forward with their complaints and evidence.

He is confident that at the pace the peace negotiations are going, they may be able to sign a final peace agreement within the year to allow the Duterte government time to implement a comprehensive peace agreement.