Peace talks: Political prisoners?

Undue haste

I personally feel very strongly about what appears to me to be the undue haste with which the incoming government is willing to concede this particular “confidence building measure,” because I was assigned to Aparri, Cagayan, at the height of NPA activity in that part of the province. I was a witness to the grief, consternation and helpless anguish of families roused in the dead of night while armed men, NPA cadres, tied the man of the house, dragged him from his house, took him into the woods, or across the river, never to be seen alive again! Sometimes, only his bloodstained clothes would be sent back through some unknown courier. Many families did not even have the consolation of burying the remains of their loved ones – because there were none to be found.  

Is the pain of those who lost loved ones, often in a manner so cruel and despicable, now to be forgotten or traded for the prospect of “peace"?

I am for peace, and I am for peace negotiations, but both sides must want it and want it so badly that no side sets preconditions for truly thoughtful and just negotiations.  

As for Joma Sison and Luis Jalandoni, do these people who have safely ensconced themselves in the Netherlands all these years really command every band, detachment or unit in the hills, hinterlands and mountain ranges where the NPAs roam? Does every NPA commander or group leader heed orders from the Netherlands? Are we even sure that there is some semblance of a chain of command?  

Dean Sed Candelaria of the Ateneo Law School tells me that when he was a member of the peace panel and news arrived in the Netherlands that Governor Rodolfo Aguinaldo of Cagayan had been gunned down by NPA hitmen, it apparently came as a surprise to JoMa and Jalandoni – who, only later, issued a “congratulatory message” to the assassins to keep the semblance that they were in command!

My take on this is simple: Let those presently incarcerated and detained be tried by our courts, as expeditiously as possible, so that it may be determined whether they have been held only for their political beliefs or because they have in fact transgressed our penal laws. –


The author is Dean, Graduate School of Law, San Beda College