Arrested National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Francisco “Ka Frank” Fernandez and companions was finally allowed to meet their lawyers 38 hours after they were arrested in Liliw, Laguna last Sunday.
After continuous seach throughout Metro Manila and Laguna province Sunday and Monday, lawyers from the Public Interest Law Center were finally able to talk to Fernandez, his wife Cleofe Lagtapon and Geann Perez at the Sta. Cruz provincial prosecutor’s office in the said province at around seven o’clock last night.
“It was already around 7 p.m. when lawyers gained access to their client,” human rights group Karapatan announced on their Facebook page Tuesday afternoon.
Karapatan said that lawyers and paralegals went to the Army General Hospital in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City after receiving information that the three were taken there.
They were denied any information, Karapatan said.
“It was later in the afternoon that police officials revealed that Fernandez et. al. were in Sta. Cruz, Laguna to undergo inquest proceedings. After an entire day of searching, lawyers were finally able to talk to the victims at the Sta. Cruz provincial prosecutor’s office,” the group said.
Yesterday, Karapatan said they visited various military and police camps throughout Sunday and Monday to look for the three.
“Legal counsel and paralegals went to Camp Vicente Lim in Canlubang, Laguna; Camp Paciano Rizal in Sta. Cruz, Laguna; Laguna Provincial Police Office and Municipal Police Office in Sta. Cruz, Laguna; Camp Crame in Quezon City; and Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City. Military and police officers denied having the three in their custody,” Karapatan said in a statement Monday.
“[The] morning of March 25, legal counsels and paralegals went to the ISAFP (Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines) Headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City; NBI National Office in Manila; and Camp Crame, Quezon City. The same answer was given to them,” the group added.
Charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives are set to be filed against the three, on top of murder charges against Fernandez and Lagtapon.
Police said three .45 caliber pistols, 15 rounds of ammunitions and three grenades were found to be in their possession.
Illegal possession of firearms were also charged against five other NDFP peace consultants arrested in succession since President Rodrigo Duterte unilaterally terminated peace negotiations with the NDFP in November 2016.
Fernandez and Gamara were the first two NDFP peace consultants arrested since Duterte dissolved his government’s negotiating panel last March 18.
Karapatan noted that Fernandez’s state of health was alarming.
The group said the 71-year old former Roman Catholic priest was wheelchair-bound and was injected intravenously on his arm.
“Per his medical abstract, the Army General Hospital physician confirmed that Fernandez suffers from chronic artery disease, chronic stable angina, hypertension stage 2-uncontrolled, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and hyponatremia, among others,” the group reported.
Lagtapon, 66, will also be monitored due to her frail health while Perez, 20, is reportedly being treated due to Hansen’s Disease.
Karapatan reported that all three will be under hospital arrest.
Their lawyers have reportedly expressed their intention to have Fernandez moved to the Philippine Heart Center for medical treatment.
After the inquest proceedings on the evening of March 25, it was decided that Fernandez, Lagtapon and Perez were to be brought back to the army hospital in Fort Bonifacio, Karapatan said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)