NDFP demands release of arrested rebel leader
DAVAO CITY — The ranking communist leader arrested in Ozamiz City on Thursday was covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig) and should be immediately released from police custody, along with his companions, National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili said on Saturday.
“He and his companions, including [Aglipayan Bishop Carlo] and Mrs. [Teofilina] Morales, should be released immediately in accordance with the Jasig,” Agcaoili said.
Rommel Salinas was arrested with the Moraleses and the bishop’s driver, Isadome Dalid, at a checkpoint manned by a police and Army team on Thursday in Barangay Gango.
They were taken on account of the alleged recovery of a grenade from Salinas’ bag, along with cash.
Agcaoili said Salinas, described by the military as the secretary of the Communist Party of the Philippines’ Section Committee Sendong in Misamis Occidental, was a “duly accredited person” under the Jasig and was issued ID No. ND978453 under the name of Hermie Abella.
Agcaoili said Salinas was performing his duties for the peace process at the time of his arrest.
During his arrest, Salinas said his bag’s cash content of P80,700 was provided by the NDFP for consultation activities.
“It is obvious that Mr. Salinas has been conducting consultations with stakeholders when he was arrested,” Agcaoili said.
He said as far as he can recall, the Jasig—which was signed in 1995—was still in effect and both parties were required to observe it, unless otherwise terminated by either of the parties through a written notice.
In February, President Duterte had said he was terminating the Jasig but later restored it as government and NDFP negotiators prepared to talk in the Netherlands.
Under the agreement, listed consultants from both sides and their companions were protected from threats, surveillance and arrest.
Iglesia Filipina Independiente also called for the release of Morales and his wife, who was a teacher, and the prelate’s driver.
Rev. Dave Bitos said Morales should be released so that “he could return to his work of tending to his flock.”
Bitos also explained that as a religious personality, Morales “definitely does not have the intention of bringing [a grenade] inside his official car.” —KARLOS MANLUPIG AND JIGGER JERUSALEM
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