ROME, Italy -- The Duterte government is determined to uphold the rights of political dissenters and has not violated its Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) with communist rebels, chief peace negotiator and Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello insisted Sunday.
"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 a statement.
"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," he added.
The National Democratic Front (NDF) earlier protested alleged violations of the CARHRIHL, including delays in the release of political detainees and alleged military invasion of rebel-held areas.
Bello assured that the government will look into this and, if warranted, investigate the complaints that NDF and its allied rights organizations submitted prior to opening of the third round of peace talks in Rome.
But he also noted that the government has submitted complaints on CARHRIHL violations allegedly committed by the NDF's armed wing, including the torching of buses and heavy equipment.
The reported violations from both sides, Bello said, will be tackled by the joint monitoring committee (JMC) that was activated by the supplemental CARHRIHL guidelines signed Saturday by state and NDF negotiators.
"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 CARHRIHL primarily encourages all victims of violations and abuses of human rights related to armed conflict to come forward with their complaints and evidence.
CARHRIHL's supplemental guidelines constitute the first agreement signed by NDF and government under the Duterte administration.
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.
Bello is confident that the government may forge a final peace agreement with NDF within 2017.
He is set to meet leaders of the Filipino community in Rome to brief them on the status of peace process. -- Report from Danny Buenafe, ABS-CBN News