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High Court orders transfer of Casambre’s trial

The trial of detained National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Rey Claro Casambre has been transferred to the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (QC-RTC), his family announced.

Casambre’s trial in Lupon, Davao Oriental had been ordered transferred to Quezon City by the Supreme Court in response to his counsels and family’s petition, Casambre’s daughter Xandra Liza Biseno said in a statement.

“[This is] due to the cost, burden and stresses on Rey and his kin, counsels, and friends of seeing the very remote Davao case through. [But the] partial transfer requires Rey to waive his right to physically appear and defend himself should any case proceeding transpire in Davao,” Xandra Liza said.

She added that the QC judge has informed Casambre’s lawyers that whatever transpires in Quezon City will be reported back to Davao.

Casambre’s trial has resumed last Wednesday, December 2, almost two years after his and wife Patricia Cora’s arrest in Bacoor, Cavite near midnight of December 6, 2018.

Casambre and Cora were flagged down by Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group operatives in a deserted stretch of road and were charged with illegal possession of a firearm grenade and a bomb detonator allegedly found at their sub-compact car’s dashboard compartment.

The state prosecutor who conducted the preliminary investigation said the charge was “preposterous” and ordered the couple freed.

The police however refused to release Rey, alleging he participated in a New People’s Army ambush in Lupon on September 13 of that year.

Casambre said he had never been to the remote town, adding he was in fact at the House of Representatives on September 12, 2018, the very day a government soldier claims he saw the elderly peace consultant at a guerilla camp, planning the ambush. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

PNP arrests ‘ex-NDFP consultant’ and gov’t employee Mapano

The Rodrigo Duterte government’s all-out offensive against National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultants is not sparing even those who have already chosen to live above ground.

In a curious turn of events, the police arrested peace negotiator Alfredo Mapano who newspaper reports describe is an “ex- NDFP consultant” and who currently works as a government employee.

Mapano, known in Northern Mindanao as the legendary New People’s Army leader “Ka Paris”, was arrested by the Bayugan City (Agusan del Sur) police while at work in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental last Friday, November 27.

Bayugan is 200 kilometers away from Tagoloan and under a different Philippine National Police (PNP) Regional Command.

A participant in at least three Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP)-NDFP formal peace negotiations from August 2016 in Oslo, Norway to January 2017 in Rome, Italy, Mapano is currently an employee of the government-owned Phividec Industrial Authority.

The former Red commander reportedly “surrendered” to President Duterte after Rome, brokered by former cabinet secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr. who also recommended his employment as Phividec corporate social responsibility officer and, later, as security officer.

Mapano was allowed to post bail in August 2016 to participate in the first round of formal peace negotiations between the GRP and the NDFP.

Previously, he had been in jail for seven years for various crimes he allegedly committed as NPA leader.

A Kodao source said that Mapano had been “roaming around freely” in Northern Mindanao since his supposed surrender and living a “normal” life.

Surprised

Mapano’s re-arrest surprised everyone, including Mapano’s wife, employer and local police chief, Alternative news outfit Davao Today (DT) reported.

Wife Chona told DT  she is concerned if her husband is indeed under the custody of the Bayugan police.

“Our family is trying to locate him and ensure that he is safe…[The arrest] was unexpected. He is now living a normal life,” Chona said.

DT also reported that Talogoan police chief Captain Mark Dungca said the arresting team only informed him that they will be serving an arrest warrant but did not specify who.

Mapano was arrested two days after his 67th birthday.

Killings, convictions

Mapano’s arrest followed the “mafia-style executions” of fellow NDFP peace consultants Eugenia Magpantay and Agaton Topacio in the early hours of November 25 in Angono, Rizal and the conviction by the Quezon City Regional Trial Court for kidnapping and serious illegal detention of NDFP Negotiating Panel member Benito Tiamzon and peace consultant Wilma Austria, also last November 27.

Earlier this year, NDFP peace consultants Julius Giron and Randall Echanis were brutally killed in Baguio City and Quezon City, respectively.

In January 2019, NDFP peace consultant Randy Malayao was killed in his sleep while on board a bus in Nueva Vizcaya.

A number of other NDFP consultants have been arrested since formal peace negotiations between the NDFP and the GRP broke down in November 2017, all on allegations of possession of firearms and explosives.

The NDFP also reported that some of its peace consultants are missing, abducted by suspected government agents. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDFP protests gov’t court’s conviction of Tiamzon and Austria

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.

1988 capture

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.

JASIG-protected

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)

Suaybaguio’s arrest another obstacle to peace talks resumption–NDFP

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) condemned the arrest of another of its peace consultant Monday, calling it “another obstacle to peace.”

“The Duterte regime remains on a fascist rampage that adds more and more obstacles to the resumption of the peace negotiations with the NDFP,” its negotiating panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili said.

In a statement, Agcaoili said Esterlita Suaybaguio, arrested by police operatives in an apartment building in Quezon City Monday, August 26, is covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) with Document of Identification (DI) Number ND 978447 as second consultant for Mindanao.

Under JASIG, peace consultants and staff from both the NDFP and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) enjoy “immunity from surveillance, harassment, search, arrest, detention, prosecution and interrogation or any other similar punitive actions due to any involvement and participation in the peace negotiations.”

“A copy of her DI is deposited in the safety deposit box under the name of Archbishop Joris A.O.L. Vercammen,” Agcaoili said. Vercammen belongs to The Old Catholic Church of The Netherlands.

In July 12, 2017, former government peace negotiators Hernani Braganza and Angela L. Trinidad and Philippine Ambassador to The Netherlands Jamie Ledda witnessed the consignment of the NDFP list with Vercammen.

In July 2017, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process said that then GRP chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III issued Letters of Authority (LA) to the JASIG-covered rebel consultants they could present to police authorities and military in case they are held or arrested.

The Philippine National Police said they confiscated a handgun, bullets and grenade from Suaybaguio’s apartment, an offense it charged all other arrested NDFP peace consultants and staff with since the GRP walked away from the peace negotiations in June 2017.

“Instead of promoting just peace, the Duterte regime and its military even send psywar (psychological warfare) and spy teams in schools and communities and even abroad to muddle the facts about the peace talks, sow disinformation on activist organizations and NGOs, and hide the widespread extrajudicial killings and rampant human rights violations in the country,” Agcaoili said.

“The NDFP Negotiating Panel calls for the immediate release of Suaybaguio and the dropping of false charges against her, as well as the scores of other detained NDFP consultants and personnel,” Agcaoili added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDFP peace consultant arrested, charged with possession of firearms and grenade

Philippine National Police (PNP) operatives arrested a National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant at 1:50 AM Monday, August  26, in an apartment building in Cubao, Quezon City.

Esterlita Suaybaguio is currently being held at Camp Karingal, headquarters of the Quezon City Police District.

An Abante report said the raid was by virtue of a search warrant issued by QC Regional Trial Court Branch 89 Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert against Suaybaguio for alleged violations of the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act and the Unlawful Manufacture, Sales, Acquisition, Disposition, Importation or Possession of an Explosive or Incendiary Device Act.

The same charges have been filed against arrested NDFP peace consultants and staff, including  Rafael Baylosis, Vicente Ladlad, Adelberto Silva, Renante Gamara, Rey Claro Casambre, Frank Fernandez and Alexander and Winona Birondo.

Persons arrested with the said peace consultants and staff were also similarly charged.

Abante reported the police confiscated a 9mm handgun, a magazine with seven bullets, a hand grenade and so-called subversive documents from Suaybaguio.

Kodao sources said Suaybaguio is in possession of a Document of Identification as NDFP peace consultant.

As a peace consultant, Suaybaguio is supposedly exempt from surveillance and arrest under the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) between the NDFP and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines.

Her arrest happened on the third anniversary of the end of the first round of formal talks between the NDFP and the Rodrigo Duterte government when all previously signed agreements were reaffirmed by both parties, including the JASIG. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Despite orders, PNP refuses to free NDFP peace talks staff

National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace talks staff Alex and Winona Birondo have yet to be freed by the Philippine National Police from detention despite orders by Quezon City Prosecutor’s Office (QCPO) for their release from detention, their lawyers reported.

In a press statement, the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) said the couple were due for release last Friday, August 2, after charges against them by policemen failed to prosper in court.

Two sets of charges against the Birondos have been referred from inquest to preliminary investigation by the prosecutors allowing their release from detention, the PILC said through its managing counsel Atty Rachel Pastores.

“In separate orders, prosecutors were hard put to find probable cause against the Birondos who were accused first of obstruction of justice and direct assault and later of illegal possession of firearms and explosives,” Pastores said.

“Significantly, there is no evidence on record which shows that respondents were ever found of seen living in or were ever inside the searched premises where the items were found,” Assistant City Prosecutor Eviess JSA Acorda said in her resolution obtained by Kodao.

The prosecutor was referring to the firearms, ammunition and explosives the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) claimed they found in the Barangay Mariblo apartment were the Birondos were arrested last July 23.

On the charges that the Birondos assaulted police officers who raided their apartment, the QCPO in another resolution said the police did not only fail to mention if they identified themselves as PNP members during the incident but they also failed to fully explain how the couple were able to block the four officers.

“We take note of the fact that there were four arresting officers vis a vis the two respondents. Considering the disparity in numbers, there should be an explanation as to how the respondents actually blocked their way,” the second resolution, signed by Assistant City Prosecutor Arceli Bagsac, said.

Both resolutions directed the QCPD to release the elderly and ailing Birondos.

The PILC condemned the police’s refusal to follow the legal orders, saying that while the police have been quick to the draw with the arrest, but slow pokes when it comes to releases.

“Despite the clear orders, the Birondos remain in detention at Camp Caringal, with the police citing procedural requirements,” Pastores said.

“The police have been caught up in their own yarn of lies, which were starkly exposed under legal scrutiny,” she added.

Pastores said the police face significant counter-suits for violation of administrative procedures and criminal laws.

She also called on the government to stop the filing of trumped-up charges against those involved in the peace talks. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Again, possession of guns and explosives charges vs NDFP peace panel staff members

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)

GRP arrests NDFP staff Alex and Nona Birondo

Two National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Negotiating Panel staff members were arrested early Tuesday morning, July 23, human rights lawyers of the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) announced today.

Couple Alexander and Winona Birondo were arrested by combined elements of the District Special Operations Unit and the Criminal Investigation Detection Unit of the Quezon City Police District of the Philippine National Police at an apartment building in Barangay Mariblo, San Francisco del Monte, Quezon City at around 5:30 in the morning.

Alex and Nona served as members of the NDFP’s peace talks secretariat from the second round of formal talks in 2016 up to the time the Rodrigo Duterte walked away from the negotiations in 2018.

They were supposed to join the NDFP delegation as early as August 2016 but the Department of Foreign Affairs failed to provide them new passports in time for the resumption of the negotiations in Oslo, Norway.

Before their arrest Tuesday, the couple were charged illegal possession of firearms and explosives, but released in August 2016 for the peace talks. Their case was eventually dismissed in June 2018.

The police made the couple believe they had warrants of arrest and brought them to Camp Caringal, the PILC said.

Winona Birondo at Camp Caringal. (PILC photo)

“Even after they argued that the warrant was outdated and showed the dismissal order, they were taken to Camp Caringal where the Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit and the District Special Operations Unit desperately scrambled to add charges,” PILC managing counsel Rachel Pastores said in a statement.

Pastores said that new and unfounded cases of obstruction of justice and direct assault were filed against the Birondos at the Quezon City Prosecutors’ Office.

“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,” Pastores said.

The police said that the Birondos were harboring a fugitive in their apartment and allowed him to escape when the police were about to arrive.

Pastores said there was no trace or evidence of a third person in the small studio-type apartment.

“This type of contrivance is eerily similar to imaginary ‘buy-bust’ operations. 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.

Alex Birondo preparing his medicines at Camp Caringal yesterday. (PILC photo)

The Birondos are the sixth and seventh who participated in the peace talks in 2016 to be arrested and charged by the Duterte government.

NDFP Negotiating Panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili condemned the latest arrests, saying the couple should be immune from surveillance and arrests under the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).

“Alex and Nona acquired JASIG protection because of their stint as NDFP staff in the peace talks,” Agcaoili told Kodao.

“We condemn the government’s arrest of persons without warrants and whose cases have been dropped, as in the case of the Birondos,” he added.

Both in their 60s, the Birondos are known to be suffering from illnesses. Alex takes insulin shots for his severe diabetes. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Lawyer, doctor refused from seeing Frank Fernandez

A lawyer assisting arrested National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Frank Fernandez complained of being repeatedly barred from visiting and consulting with her client at the Philippine Army General Hospital in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.

Atty. Kristina Conti of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers said that she has twice been refused from seeing Fernandez and his fellow detainees at the hospital even if she is allowed by law to do so.

“For the second time at Gate 6 of Fort Bonifacio, I have been denied access by MPBn (Military Police Battalion) chief Capt. Andres B. Ramirez upon instructions of his ‘higher-ups,’” Conti said on her Facebook account late Tuesday night.

Conti said that Captain Ramirez in fact told her she can visit Fernandez, his wife Cleofe Lagtapon and Geann Perez, who are all confined in the said hospital.

“Yesterday (Monday), he denied that a Frank or Francisco Fernandez was confined in the Army General Hospital. Today he reverses, but tells me that I can visit ‘anytime’ but only between 11am-4pm,” Conti said.

The lawyer said the military is violating Republic Act 7438, the Rights of Persons Arrested, Detained or under Custodial Investigation Law.

The law says lawyers, doctors, priests or spiritual adviser cannot be denied access any time, which Conti said Ramirez is disregarding.

“What’s roundly dissonant for me as a lawyer is the police posturing that this was a legitimate law enforcement operation, specifically arrest due to a lawful warrant. Yet, when I asked either Calabarzon Police Regional Director Edward Carranza or Laguna Police Provincial Chief Eleazar Matta for access they defer to the military,” Conti said.

Conti asked the military to be upfront if the three detainees are being treated as prisoners of war and under military custody instead of the police.

If the three are POWs, they should be treated as hors de combat, or out of action due to injury or damage, the lawyer explained.

’Wag nyo na kami paikut-ikutin, literally and figuratively,” she said. (Do not try to fool us and make us run around.)

Conti said she wonders what excuses the military will use the next time she tries to visit her clients.

Kelangan naka-sapatos? Naka-white? May strip search? Walang cellphone? Anong patakaran sa kampo na naman ang mangingibabaw sa civilian law enforcement/judicial orders?” she asked (Do I need to wear shoes? Wear white? Will they conduct a strip-search? What camp policies will they say lords over civilian law enforcement/judicial orders?)

“Martial law ba ulit?” she asked. (Is it Martial Law all over again?)

Doctor also turned away

Conti also revealed that an unnamed doctor sent to check on the three detainees was turned away.

“Earlier we sent a doctor, who came within the time stated by Capt. Ramirez, to check (on) the three. He was rebuffed, even if the inquest prosecutor’s resolution specified that Fr. Frank should see his doctor of choice,” Conti revealed.

Conti said Fernandez reported to the Sta. Cruz, Laguna inquest fiscal Monday evening that he is suffering from incessant interrogation by military agents, depriving him of sleep and affecting his general health.

Fernandez is reported to having heart and lung ailments the lawyer said need special attention.

“His condition, fluctuating BP (blood pressure) and all, is very worrisome. The military even had to pull into Asian Hospital on March 24 while they were taking him to Manila from Laguna because he was slurring his speech a bit,” Conti said.

The lawyer said it is suspected the former Roman Catholic priest and long-time NDFP spokesperson in Negros suffered a mild stroke or heart attack.

 “[Y]et he has not been allowed to choose a doctor or specialist. I am not too sure the Army General Hospital can take care of his needs – and in the first place, if it is in their interest (to do so),” the lawyer said.

Lagtapon is reported to be suffering from frail health while Perez is being treated for Hansen’s Disease.

Conti recalled previous clients who were sick while in prison and eventually died under detention.

“My experience with sick political prisoners is marred by deaths. Diona Andrea Rosal, stillborn, because his mother was under too much stress. Eduardo Serrano, Bernabe Ocasla, Alex Arias who suffered heart attacks in jail. My fervent hope is he does not join this mater dolorosa list,” she said.

She cautioned the military to treat the three detainees humanely.

“I understand the context is war – and two sides are at odds. Pero bawal bang maging makatao ‘pag magkaaway? Kung kaya ng isa, kaya din naman ng kabila, di ba?” she asked. (Isn’t it possible that both sides treat each other humanely? If one side can do it, the other side also can.)

Conti said that killing Fernandez while under government custody would not be killing the Communist Party-led revolution but is actually killing the peace. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Philippine Army holding Frank Fernandez incommunicado

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) strongly condemned what it calls the unjust arrest of another of its peace consultants and his companions last Sunday in Laguna Province.

In a statement, NDFP Negotiating Panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili demanded that the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) immediately release Francisco “Ka Frank” Fernandez and his companions “as a matter of principle, justice and humanity.”

“Frank Fernandez is a publicly known consultant of the NDFP in the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations as NDFP spokesperson in Negros,” Agcaoili said.

Agcaoili said 71-year old Fernandez has been ill for some time had to come down from Negros for medical treatment, accompanied by his wife Cleofe Lagtapon and Gee-Ann Perez.

Where are they?

The NDFP said details of where Fernandez and companions are incarcerated are still unclear.

“This poses grave danger to their health and lives. It is incumbent upon their custodial units to forthwith present Frank Fernandez and his companions to their relatives and lawyers in order for him to receive his medicines and assure that their rights and well-being are respected,” Agcaoili said.

Philippine National Police Region IV-A director Chief Superintendent Ted Carranza told reporters Monday that Fernandez was taken to the Philippine Army Hospital in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City after the arrest.

“Well, alam niyo kasi itong si Fr. Frank Fernandez ay matanda na. I just talked with an officer from the Philippine Army, nag-complain siya (Fernandez) ng chest pain after his arrest. So he was sent to the army hospital for treatment,” Carranza said.

It was not known whether Fernandez is still confined at the said hospital as human rights defenders and public interest lawyers are still being prevented from seeing the detainees.

In his press conference at Camp Crame yesterday, PNP chief Oscar Albayalde said Fernandez and his companions are under the custody of the Philippine Army’s Military Intelligence Group of Calabarzon reportedly based in Camp Eldridge in Los Baños, Laguna.

“With his unjust arrest, the Duterte regime runs the risk of adding another detainee to the list of three political prisoners who died in prison from June 2016, in violation of international humanitarian law and the minimum prison standards recognized by civilized nations,” Agcaoili said.

JASIG-protected

Agcaoili said Fernandez, a former Roman Catholic priest in the Diocese of Bacolod before becoming a rebel leader in Negros, holds Document of Identification Number PP 978544 as provided for in the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) between the GRP and the NDFP.

Agcaoili also dismissed Presidential peace adviser Carlito Galvez Junior’s claim that the JASIG is already inoperable in accordance with GRP President Rodrigo Duterte’s termination of the peace talks in November 2017.

Agcaoili said JASIG’s termination requires a protocol, a move the NDFP said Duterte failed to follow with his unilateral termination of the peace talks through Proclamation No. 360.

The NDFP Negotiating Panel earlier said the GRP has not formally given them a letter of termination through the Third Party Facilitator, the Royal Norwegian Government, rendering Duterte’s Proclamation No. 360 moot and the JASIG still operable.

“So, no matter how many times President Rodrigo Duterte unilaterally flip-flops from resuming and then terminating the peace talks, the JASIG remains in full force and effect unless otherwise terminated according to the terms of the agreement,” Agcaoili said.

“In fact the immunity guarantees of Frank Fernandez extend even after the actual termination of the peace talks,” he explained. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)