Tiamzons’ arrest illegal–Bayan Muna
MANILA, Philippines – Militant solons said the arrest of top communist leaders Benito and Wilma Tiamzon and their five companions was illegal, as peace talks between government and the communist group were not formally terminated.
Bayan Muna representatives Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate were reacting to a statement by Justice Secretary Leila De Lima that the arrest was legal and that the couple were not immune from arrest because peace negotiations broke down in 2013.
Tiamzons’ camp claimed the couple were protected under the Joint Agreement of Safety and Immunity Guarantee (Jasig) that grants NDFP members, who are part of the negotiating team, immunity from detention and arrests.
Their lawyer Rachel Pastores claimed the couple, said to be high-ranking leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines, were peace consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
According to the lawmakers, the Tiamzons should still be protected under Jasig because peace talks were “not formally terminated” and that “there are ongoing exploratory talks to break the impasse on the peace negotiation.”
“(De) Lima may have been misinformed that the arrest was legal saying that there are no talks ongoing…The Jasig is also still in effect until both parties have cancelled it,” the solons said in filing House Resolution 991, which seeks to conduct a probe, in aid of legislation, on the arrest.
The solons said the government has so arrested 10 other NDFP consultants even though they are supposed to be protected under Jasig.
“This unfortunate event shows bad faith on the part on President Aquino who declares that he is still interested in pursuing peace negotiations with the NDFP but at the same time gave approval to the military and police’s concerted effort to harass, arrest, detain and even neutralize NDFP peace consultants and personnel,” the resolution read.
Both lawmakers said the lower House should direct the Commission on Human Rights to investigate the arrest.
Presidential peace adviser Teresita Deles maintained there was no violation of the Jasig, citing the NDFP’s failure to follow a July 2011 procedure “to verify the true identities of several dozen alleged NDFP consultants on the list of Jasig-protected individuals carrying aliases.”
The couple were arrested on charges of frustrated murder filed against them in Northern Samar, as well as multiple murder charges, this time involving the discovery of mass grave sites of communist members allegedly purged in the ’80s.
The police also filed charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives against the two, although the police failed to find weapons in the Tiamzons’ safehouse in Cebu.
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