The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Negotiating Panel protests a government court’s conviction of two of its senior peace negotiators as “baseless” and “an act of persecution.”
Reacting to Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 26’s conviction of NDFP peace panel member Benito Tiamzon and consultant Wilma Austria of kidnapping with serious illegal detention, the NDFP said the decision violated the 1956 Hernandez Political Doctrine.
“This doctrine mandates that all alleged acts in pursuit of one’s political beliefs are absorbed, subsumed or integrated in one political crime of rebellion and cannot be mutated into several common crimes as what they were convicted of,” the NDFP said.
The group added that even if both Tiamzon and Austria, alleged leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army (NPA), had a hand in the capture of then Philippine Army Lt. and now retired Brigadier General Abraham Claro Casis, the act was “legitimate in the laws of war.”
The court should have considered Casis as among “persons deprived of their liberty for reasons related to the armed conflict” or “prisoners of war” in accordance with the 1949 Geneva Conventions and their 1977 Protocols, the NDFP said.
In his decision, Judge Alfonso Ruiz II said he gave “full faith and credit” to Casis’ testimony that, while detained, he saw Tiamzon and Austria in meetings with the NPA.
Casis said they were on their way to Manila on June 1, 1988 when captured by the NPA at the border of Tiaong and Candelaria towns in Quezon Province.
They were released after two months of captivity on August 12 of that year by the late NPA spokesperson Gregorio “Ka Roger” Rosal.
The NDFP however questions the credibility of Casis’ testimony as recalled “with unbelievable magical throwback powers.”
It said the incident happened “a good three decades ago in a case long archived and dismissed against many other accused but just recently politically excavated by the militarist hawks of the (Rodrigo) Duterte regime.”
The NDFP said it found unbelievable that the lone witness “can vividly remember minute details, names, faces, places and events that happened in 1988.”
The group also said the court’s decision suffered from “sweeping and conclusory inferences of conspiracy by mere alleged presence” of the accused.
The NDFP said the Tiamzons were also denied due process because of their involuntary inability to personally present their own defense “due to the real and imminent threat on their lives conducted under the baton of no less the GRP Principal, President Rodrigo Duterte.”
It said that as publicly-known NDFP peace negotiators, the Tiamzons should be immune from surveillance, harassment, search, arrest, detention, prosecution and interrogation or any other similar punitive actions under the subsisting 1995 GRP-NDFP Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).
The group said the JASIG remains effective and demandable despite its questionable termination by the GRP and regardless of the status of the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations.
“And this is precisely the raison d’ etre for it (reason for being), i.e. to encourage participation by ensuring subsequent protection,” the NDFP said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)