The Rodrigo Duterte government is “ludicrous” in arresting and charging yet another National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant with trumped-up murder and attempted murder cases, various groups said.
The arrest of long-time peace consultant and Philippine Peace Center (PPC) executive director Rey Claro Casambre and spouse Patricia Cora in Bacoor, Cavite early Friday morning as well as the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) claim a calibre .45 gun and a grenade were found in the couple’s car drew quick condemnations from activists who said the incident is yet another canard by “peace spoilers.”
Rey and Cora just came from a wake at the University of the Philippines campus in Quezon City when arrested by members of the PNP’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group.
They were taken to Camp Crame in Quezon City early Friday morning where they were informed of a warrant of arrest against Rey for murder and attempted murder he allegedly committed along with six others in Davao Oriental Province.
The warrant of arrest was issued on November 23 by Judge Emilio Dayanghirang III of Lupon Regional Trial Court Branch 32.
No details of the murder and attempted murder charges have been made public yet.
“As usual, and as predictable as the sun will come out tomorrow, the non-bailable murder charges are trumped-up and sprang out of nowhere. And as tiringly contrived as expected, a roving firearm and a rusty grenade were again routinely planted to make the arrest appear aboveboard for good measure,” NDFP legal consultant Atty. Edre Olalia fumed.
Olalia said nobody would ever believe such false narrative, noting that Casambre is a publicly-known peace consultant who is also covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).
“As such, [Casambre] should not have been [subjected to surveillance], harassed and arrested for an indubitably manufactured case,” Olalia said.
The lawyer said Rey’s spouse Cora is a translator with the PPC where he is executive director for the longest time
“The arrest of the Casambres, treacherous as it is baseless, once again proves that this government cannot be trusted and that it is the number one violator of the most basic rights especially of those seeking genuine and long-lasting solutions to the problems besetting our people and our country,” Olalia said.
Casambre is the fourth NDFP peace consultant after Rafael Baylosis, Adelberto Silva and Vicente Ladlad arrested after Duterte effectively terminated the once-promising peace negotiations in November 2017.
Baylosis was arrested last January, Silva in October and Ladlad in November and were each charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives.
All four are elderly and suffering from various ailments.
Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Ysagani Zarate said the Casambres’ arrest is the same modus that the police used in arresting Ladlad, Baylosis and Silva.
“They planted guns and explosives and filed trumped up charges,” the progressive solon said.
Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights secretary general Cristina Palabay said only fools would believe the elderly Casambre couple would be carrying weapons inside their vehicle.
“All bear the same signs of fabricated charges,” Palabay said.
Atty. Rachel Pastores, lawyer for the Casambres said the arrest was carried out by “peace spoilers” who betray government’s insincerity in the peace negotiations.
“We now fear for the safety of others involved in the peace talks. Among them, [our] clients Alexander and Winona Birondo who were part of the NDFP delegation and whose cases were recently dismissed by a Quezon City trial court. The Birondo spouse have reported intense surveillance and harassment,” Pastores said.
By harassing and rounding up all peace consultants and unnecessarily demonizing them, the PNP exploits their badges as law enforcers, and aids and abets the scuttling of the peace talks, Pastores said.
Zarate added it is tragic and ironic that Casambre, who is pushing for the resumption of the peace talks and who even attended the Congress hearing for the approval of the resolution for the resumption of the negotiations, is the one behind bars while hawks pushing for war are even promoted by Duterte.
“The Duterte administration is ill-advised if they think that the armed conflict can be solved with this type of modus and a purely military solution without addressing the roots of the armed conflict,” Zarate said.
The NDFP Negotiating Panel for its part said Casambre’s arrest is unjust and ludicrous that virtually closes the doors to any possibility of resuming the peace negotiations with the Duterte regime.
NDFP’s chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili said the charges against Casambre related to an incident in Lupon, Davao Oriental on September 13 this year involve others who are currently experiencing “intense harassment and surveillance.”
The others have assisted the NDFP Negotiating Panel in various capacities as resource persons, writers, researchers and staff during the peace negotiations, Agcaoili said.
“To ensure the smooth resumption of the formal peace talks, the detained peace consultants should be released immediately,” he added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)