Taguig Court convicts NDFP’s Frank Fernandez, wife Cleofe Lagtapon of illegal gun possession

National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Frank Fernandez and wife Cleofe Lagtapon were convicted of illegal possession of firearms by Branch 266 of the Taguig City Regional Trial Court (RTC), human rights group Karapatan reported.

Karapatan said that while the couple were acquitted from additional charges of illegal possession of explosives and violation of the elections gun ban at the time of their arrest, they were found guilty of what they asserted was the first of three “trumped-up charges.”

Their companion Ge-ann Perez, arrested and charged along with the elderly couple, is acquitted of all charges by the court.

The three were arrested in Barangay Calumpang, Liliw, Laguna on March 24 2019 and, like other NDFP peace consultants and companions arrested before and after, were reportedly found to be in possession of firearms, ammunition and grenades.

READ: PNP surfaces NDFP’s Frank Fernandez

At the time of their arrest, then Philippine National Police chief Oscar Albayalde claimed they found three caliber .45 pistols, three magazines with 15 live bullets and three grenades were in the couple’s possession.

They were then charged with violation of Commission on Election (Comelec) Resolution 10429 in relation to the Omnibus Election Code as well as violation of Republic Act 10591 (Illegal possession of firearms) and violation of Republic Act 9516 (Illegal possession of explosives), the PNP said.

A Roman Catholic priest, Fernandez took leave from his church in the 1970s, went underground and became a long-time NDFP spokesperson in Negros Island prior to their arrest.

The NDFP said Fernandez should not have been arrested as he is protected by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees between them and the Manila government with Document of Identification Number PP 978544.

Karapatan condemned the Fernandez and Lagtapon’s conviction, adding it supports the couple’s assertion that the trove of grenades and guns used against them were planted by arresting authorities.

The group said it was absurd that two elderly and sick individuals had the items in their possession.

Fernandez’ medical abstract by the Philippine Army General Hospital immediately after their arrest said he suffers from chronic artery disease, chronic stable angina, hypertension stage 2- uncontrolled, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and hyponatremia, among other illnesses.

Fernandez is 75 years old while Lagtapon is 65.

READ: Philippine Army holding Frank Fernandez incommunicado

“The inconsistencies in the details of their arrest based on the accounts of the arresting authorities further reveal this glaring travesty of justice,” Karapatan said.

“We reiterate the call for the immediate release of the Fernandez, Lagtapon and Perez, and all political prisoners subjected to these forms of political persecution,” Karapatan added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Groups call for release of NDFP consultant, wife and companion on humanitarian grounds

By Nuel M. Bacarra

Human rights organization Health Action for Human Rights (HAHR) called for the immediate release of National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Frank Fernandez, wife Cleofe Lagtapon and their caregiver Ge-ann Perez on humanitarian grounds.

HAHR said the 75 year-old former priest is suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), hyponatraemia, hypertension, atherosclerotic heart disease, and hyperplasia of prostate with obstruction, among other ailments that his continued imprisonment only worsens.

Cleofe, 70, on the other hand, is pre-diabetic who also suffers from COPD while 24-year old Perez suffers from Hansen’s Disease.

HAHR said all three need constant medical attention their continued imprisonment also worsens.

The three were arrested on March 24, 2019 in a house in Barangay Calumpang, Liliw, Laguna and held incommunicado for several days.

They complained of being interrogated without the presence of a legal counsel and deprived of food and sleep.

They were charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives.


While the promulgation for their cases was set last Tuesday, March 28, Lagtapon and Perez however are facing other murder and robbery cases in Cadiz City, Negros Occidental.

“Their questionable and irregular arrest, their age and their health conditions are more than enough bases for their release. They were among the many sick and elderly political prisoners whose release on humanitarian grounds was sought by families of political prisoners in a petition before the Supreme Court in April 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The petition, however, was denied,” the HAHR said in their statement.

San Carlos Bishop and Pilgrims for Peace Gerardo Alminaza meanwhile called for the resumption of peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the NDFP and the release of political prisoners including Fernandez.

In Lenten statement issued last February 21, Alminaza said, “If we allow political prisoners like Frank Fernandez to be treated unjustly, it reinforces the drivers of social unrest. However, if we instead demonstrate righteousness and work together to address the roots of armed conflict through GRP-NDFP Peace Talks, perhaps we can breathe some fresh air in this country. We know that the situation isn’t easy, but couldn’t we work for peace?”

Fernandez was a long-time spokesperson of the NDFP in Negros before his arrest. #

Lawyers find Fernandez and companions in Laguna prosecutor’s office

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.

NDFP peace consultant Frank Fernandez being treated intravenously while undergoing inquest proceedings at the Laguna Provincial Prosecutors’ Office Monday night. (Public Interest Law Center photo)

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.

Frail health

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 at the Laguna Provincial Prosecutors’ Office Monday night. (Public Interest Law Center photo)

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.

Perez at the Laguna Provincial Prosecutors’ Office Monday night. (Public Interest Law Center photo)

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)