The Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) alleged that arrested National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Negotiating Panel staff members Alexander and Winona Birondo kept guns, ammunition and explosives when they were arrested early Tuesday morning, July 23.
As they did with the five NDFP peace consultants arrested since President Rodrigo Duterte cancelled the peace negotiations in November 2017, the PNP and AFP charged the couple with violations of anti-gun and anti-explosives laws.
The couple were arrested in an apartment building in Barangay Mariblo, San Francisco del Monte, Quezon City despite protesting that the warrant of arrest shown them was from a case that was already dismissed last year.
After the couple were brought and detained at Camp Caringal, headquarters of the Quezon City Police District early yesterday morning, the police and the military conducted a search of their apartment more than 16 hours after their arrest.
“[A]t about 10:00 PM, July 23, 2019, the same personnel from AFP and PNP implemented search warrant No. 5898 (19) and 5899 (19) issued by Hon. Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert for violation of RA (Republic Act) 10591 and RA 9516 at the safe house of the arrested couple after validated information that they are keeping firearms, explosives and ammunition in the said place,” the police and military press release said.
RA 10591 is the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act while RA 9516 is the Unlawful Manufacture, Sales, Acquisition, Disposition, Importation or Possession of an Explosive or Incendiary Device law, violations of which are non-bailable.
The police and the military said they seized a .45 caliber pistol, a magazine with seven live ammunition, a holster, a hand grenade, a 40mm high explosive rifkle grenade, and a roll of detonating cord from the couple’s apartment.
They further alleged that Alexander is a staff of the Communist Party of the Philippines’ (CPP) “National Education Commission” while Winona is the secretary of the CPP-New People’s Army’s “National Propaganda Commission”.
The Birondos were also arrested for obstruction of justice and direct assault after they allegedly blocked police officers from arresting a certain Rolando Caballero, alias Jet, who was reportedly wanted for murder.
This morning, however, the Birondo’s lawyers said the charges against thje couple were contrived “eerily similar to imaginary ‘buy-bust’ operations” of the police.
“Having verified that there are no standing warrants against the two, the police in an ill-prepared complaint, said that they did have one against a third person totally unknown to the Birondo spouses,” Public Interest Law Center managing counsel Rachel Pastores said in a statemet.
Pastores said there was no trace or evidence of a third person in the small studio-type apartment.
“This premise is dangerous; the police concocted the charges on the claims of a confidential informant, who may not be compelled to show up in court and may not exist at all,” Pastores said.
Since January 2018, the police have filed the same charges against NDFP peace consultants Rafael Baylosis, Adelberto Silva, Vicente Ladlad, Rey Claro Casambre and Frank Fernandez.
Baylosis, however, was freed last January after being cleared by the Quezon City Regional Trial Court of the charges.
NDFP Negotiating Panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili demanded the release of the NDFP peace panel consultants and staff members, saying all should be immune from surveillance and arrests under their Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)