Rearrest order vs top 3 communist execs sought from Manila RTC
State prosecutors have asked a Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) to order the rearrest of three top communist leaders and to cancel the bail bonds and permissions to travel of two others, all of whom were supposed to have participated in the latest round of peace talks in the Netherlands last June.
The prosecutors said that since the talks had been postponed indefinitely, the five alleged leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) “should be recommitted to jail and their bonds automatically canceled.”
In separate motions on June 27 and July 22, the Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutors urged Judge Thelma Bunyi-Medina of Manila RTC Branch 32 to order the rearrest of Benito Tiamzon, the alleged CPP chair, and his deputy, Adelberto Silva, and to cancel their P100,000 bail bonds.
They also asked the judge to revoke the court’s order allowing Vicente Ladlad, Rafael Baylosis and Randall Echanis to travel abroad, and to cancel Baylosis’ P100,000 bond.
The five men, who are consultants for the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in the peace talks, are facing charges of multiple murder in the deaths of 15 people whose remains were found in a mass grave in Inopacan, Leyte province, in 2006. The five have denied the charges.
Not tied to schedule
In their response to the prosecutors’ motions, Tiamzon and the others argued that their temporary release was not tied to any specific schedule for the talks. Rather, they said, it was intended “for the entire duration of the peace negotiations” or until their participation ended.
They cited a clarification of the status of the negotiations made by Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, the head of the government’s peace panel, who said the talks were not terminated, only deferred.
For President’s review
The fifth round of formal negotiations, which were called off by President Duterte last November, were supposed to resume in late June but were again canceled by the government.
The two sides were set to announce a preliminary truce and an interim peace agreement prior to a formal bilateral ceasefire.
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said the postponement of the talks was necessary to give time for the President to review all prior agreements.
The government also wanted to hold public consultations on the peace process to build goodwill and broad support for the talks, he said.
Later, the government set conditions for the resumption of the talks, including holding them in the country, which the CPP and the NDFP, which represents the rebels in the talks, have vehemently rejected for violating a 1995 agreement to conduct negotiations in a neutral country.
Four former left-wing lawmakers who had supported the peace talks and were themselves charged with murder in Nueva Ecija province, have filed a motion for reconsideration and a petition to quash the warrants for their arrest.
Palayan judge inhibits self
Judge Evelyn Turla of the Palayan City RTC, however, inhibited herself from hearing the petition and motion submitted by lawyers for former Representatives Satur Ocampo and Teddy Casiño of Bayan Muna, Liza Maza of Gabriela and Rafael Mariano of Anakpawis.
The four and 13 others were charged with the murder of Jimmy Peralta, who was run over by a car in Bongabon town in December 2003, and Carlito Bayudang, who was shot dead at his home, also in Bongabon, in May 2004. The two were members of Akbayan who were allegedly critical of Bayan Muna.
Ocampo and the others have denied the charges, saying they were fabricated.
Rachel Pastores of the Public Interest Law Center, who represented Ocampo’s group, said their motion was briefly heard on Thursday by Judge Trese Wenceslao, the presiding judge of RTC Branch 28 in Cabanatuan City.
Pastores said defense lawyers would have wanted to hear Turla’s “explanation for her action of finding probable cause” years after she reached a different conclusion.
“But she volunteered to inhibit herself. It’s a welcome decision,” Pastores said.
Cases tossed back
Turla sent the two murder cases back to the prosecutor’s office after concluding that these lacked probable cause. Last year, the Supreme Court ordered her to proceed with the cases and on July 11 she ordered the four arrested.
Ocampo, Casiño, Mariano, who served briefly as President Duterte’s agrarian reform secretary, and Maza, who now serves as head of the National Anti-Poverty Commission, would face the charges but are refusing to surrender for security reasons, Pastores said. —WITH A REPORT FROM ARMAND GALANG
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