‘Order to arrest NDFP consultants no legal basis’ – lawyer

“Only the courts which granted NDFP consultants temporary liberty by virtue of cash bail can act or order whether or not they can be validly rearrested, if at all, and not by the unilateral action of the PNP nor the AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines, much less even by the mere instructions of the GRP President.”

By RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat

MANILA — Taking cue from President Rodrigo Duterte’s verbal order to arrest peace consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), police arrested Feb. 6 one consultant in Davao City and ordered the manhunt for 13 others.

On Sunday, Duterte declared he is calling off the peace talks with the NDFP and threatened that the NDFP consultants would be arrested and sent back to prison. He also tagged the CPP-NPA-NDFP [Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army] as a “terrorist group.”

A day after Duterte’s pronouncement, soldiers arrested NDFP consultant Ariel Arbitrario and his two companions Jun Sinday and Roderick Mamuyac at a military checkpoint in Toril, Davao City. According to human rights alliance Karapatan, the three were brought to the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group XI (CIDG – XI) office in Camp Leonor, San Pedro. CIDG personnel brought Arbitrario to the Regional Trial Court 11 Branch 1 in Nabunturan, Compostela Valley. Sinday was eventually released.

On the same day, Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Ronald dela Rosa ordered the arrest of the following NDFP consultants:

Benito Tiamzon
Wilma Tiamzon
Vic Ladlad
Edelberto Silva (Adelberto Silva)
Alfonso Jasmines
Alfredo Mapano
Loida Magpatoc
Pedro Cudaste (Pedro Codaste)
Ruben Saluta
Ernesto Lorenzo
Porferio Tuna
Renante Gamara
Tirso Alcantara

Edre Olalia, NDFP peace panel legal consultant, said there is no legal basis for dela Rosa’s order. “Only the courts which granted NDFP consultants temporary liberty by virtue of cash bail can act or order whether or not they can be validly rearrested, if at all, and not by the unilateral action of the PNP nor the AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines, much less even by the mere instructions of the GRP President.”

Olalia explained that under the Joint Agreement on Safety & Immunity Guarantees (Jasig), the safety and immunity guarantees, and the peace negotiations itself, can only be terminated by written notice given by one party to the other and which would take effect only after 30 days from its receipt.

Olalia further said that since the peace negotiations are not “properly terminated,” Jasig is still in effect and the the NDFP consultants as such are “guaranteed free and unhindered passage in all areas in the Philippines, and in traveling to and from the Philippines in connection with the performance of their duties in the peace negotiations.”

Such immunity guarantees, he said, extend to immunity from surveillance, harassment, search, arrest, detention, prosecution, interrogation, or any other similar punitive actions.

In a statement sent to Bulatlat, Rubi del Mundo, spokesperson of NDFP-Southern Mindanao, revealed that for months, Arbitrario, and two other NDFP consultants from the region Porferio Tuna, Jr. and Eduardo Genelsa and their respective staff, have been subjected to surveillance and monitoring by the military.

Olalia pointed out that the Joint Statement issued by both parties during the third round of talks held in Rome last month explicitly states that the bail of NDFP consultants will be extended and will remain effective for the duration of the peace negotiations.

Nineteen NDFP consultants were released on bail in August last year so they can participate in the peace talks. Olalia said they continue to face “trumped-up criminal charges,” which violates the Hernandez political doctrine and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).

Both Jasig and CARHRIHL, along with other previous agreements, were reaffirmed by both parties during the resumption of peace talks in August last year.

NDFP peace panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili called on the GRP to effect the immediate release of Arbitrario and his companions from detention and to prevent similar arrests.

“The escalation of attacks against the formal aspect of the peace negotiations, including their participants, goes against current efforts to maintain the schedules related to the next round of informal and formal talks in February and April 2017 and the momentum to accelerate the peace negotiations and arrive at agreements that would pave the way for social, economic and political reforms towards a just and lasting peace for the Filipino people and the country,” Agcaoili said.

In a statement, the CPP said that Duterte, in declaring his intention to pull out from the GRP-NDFP negotiations, echoed the exaggerated anger of the AFP over the outbreak of armed skirmishes between the NPA and the AFP.

The CPP said it was Duterte and the AFP hierarchy that have ordered the forward deployment of armed troops in the guerrilla zones and bases of the NPA to occupy barrios despite the then existing reciprocal declarations of unilateral ceasefire. The CPP said the forward deployed armed troops of the AFP were bound to be struck by NPA active defense actions.

On Feb. 1, the CPP and the NPA announced the lifting of unilateral ceasefire due to continuous military offensives and the non-release of political prisoners.

Two days later, Duterte terminated the GRP’s unilateral ceasefire.

The CPP said the NDFP shall remain open to continue to explore the possibility of reopening peace negotiations with the Duterte government, both on socioeconomic reforms as well as on the matter of a bilateral ceasefire simultaneous with release of political prisoners.

Bulatlat tried to get the side of Office of Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (Opapp) but got no response yet as of press time. ()

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