DAVAO CITY, Philippines— As far as the Office of the Solicitor General is concerned, the mutually agreed Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees was already a defunct agreement.
Solicitor General Jose Calida, a former Justice assistant secretary, said a Supreme Court decision “should prevail over the Jasig as basis on the order to rearrest the National Democratic Front of the Philippines who were granted temporary liberty last year to join the peace negotiations.
“Jasig is a defunct 1995 agreement. It has served its purpose already,” he said.
Jasig is the agreement signed between the government and the NDFP on February 24, 1995 which “adopts safety and immunity guarantees to protect the rights of negotiators, consultants, staffers, security and other personnel who participate in the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations.”
The purpose of the agreement is to “facilitate the peace negotiations, create a favorable atmosphere conducive to free discussion and the free movement during the peace negotiations, and avert any incident that may jeopardize the peace negotiations.”
On August 2, 2016, the Supreme Court issued a resolution granting provisional liberty to NDFP consultants who joined the peace talks last year.
But Calida said the SC imposed a condition that the provisional liberty is only for the purpose of attendance to the peace negotiations.
“The provisional liberty shall only be for the purpose of attendance in the formal peace negotiations in Oslo, Norway, commencing in August 2016 up to six months thereafter or as soon as the peace negotiations concluded or terminated whichever is earlier. Once their participation ceases or the peace negotiations are terminated their respective bonds shall be deemed automatically cancelled,” Calida said citing the SC resolution.
The Office of the Solicitor General filed a motion for the issuance of a “recommitment order for the NDF consultants” because of the SC resolution.
Calida said when President Duterte terminated the peace negotiations last week, the provisional liberty through the respective bonds of the NDFP consultants were “automatically canceled.”
“What is the effect of that? There is no more provisional liberty and therefore they should be recommitted to facilities because if they are not placed in their detention cells, they are considered fugitives from justice,” he said.
He said the argument that the Jasig provisions should be complied with is not applicable “because the Law of the land says, as far as the Supreme Court decision is concerned, once the peace negotiations is terminated, the bonds are automatically cancelled period.”
However, NDFP legal counsel Atty. Edre Olalia said immunity guarantees granted for those who participate in the peace negotiations are “perpetual.”
He said the “immunity guarantees” stand even if the JASIG is terminated and thus, still grant NDF negotiators and staff protection from surveillance, harassment, search, arrest, detention, prosecution and interrogation because of their involvement in the peace negotiations.
“It’s permanent, it does not go with the termination of JASIG. This is called perpetual immunity,” he said in a phone interview.
“You want to encourage the people to join, come out of the peace negotiations and in exchange you give them immunity that should not be taken from them once the Jasig is terminated,” he said.
Olalia said if it is the case no one will join the peace negotiations.
“Who will be encouraged to join the peace negotiations as a consultant or adviser even from the academe or religious organization if there is a threat that you can be harassed or arrested any time because of your involvement in the peace process?” he said.
A portion of the Jasig on Immunity Guarantees said: “All immunities acquired by virtue of this Joint Agreement shall remain in full force and effect even after the termination of this Join Agreement, provided sa i d immunities shall not cover acts which are contrary to the purposes of the peace negotiations and outside and beyond involvement or participation in the peace negotiations.”
No formal notice
Olalia added that the president’s termination of the peace negotiations was only verbal.
“There was no written notice,” Olalia said.
Under the agreement’s general provisions, the agreement shall be deemed terminated “30 days” after a party served a written notice to the other.
Olalia argued that the immunity of the NDFP consultants is still effective even if there was a written notice of termination because of the 30-day period.(davaotoday.com)