Tiamzons tailed anew; other consultants also in danger

NATIONAL Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace negotiators Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria Tiamzon were again tailed by suspected elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) after meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte in Malacañan Palace Tuesday night.

The Tiamzons noticed they were being tailed by two men riding separate motorcycles after meeting with Duterte and decided to go back to the farmers’ camp out on Mendiola Bridge they also visited earlier.

Anakpawis Representative Ariel Casilao, who was with the Tiamzons at Mendiola and Malacañan earlier, were among those who turned around and escorted the couple until they were able to reach safety at about ten in the evening.

“I immediately responded to their call and returned to the camp out. We waited for several minutes to assess the situation and plan how to respond. I communicated to Sec. Bong Go and appraised him of the situation and sought immediate intervention,” Casilao said.

“We managed to safely evade the tailing,” Casilao added.

The Tiamzons faced a similar incident last March 16 when they arrived from The Netherlands to participate in the backchannel talks with the Manila government negotiators that restored formal peace negotiations between the NDFP and the Duterte government.

The car that fetched the Tiamzons was successively tailed by a Toyota Land Cruiser and “two dark-skinned, burly men in civilian clothes riding a motorcycle” that they managed to elude when they took circuitous routes, switched cars and entered an expressway where small-engine motorcycles are prohibited.

The NDFP lodged a formal protest on the first incident with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) during the fourth round of formal negotiations last month at Noordwijk Aan Zee in The Netherlands.

The NDFP said in its protest that the incident was a “provocation” and a serious violation of the 1995 GRP-NDFP Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) as well as the Utrecht Joint Statement of March 11 regarding the safety and liberty of all the NDFP consultants.

It added the surveillance also ran counter to GRP chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III’s written guarantee to the Royal Norwegian Government, Third Party Facilitator to the peace process, dated March 6 “assuring the safe and unhindered departure and arrival of the Tiamzons and NDFP consultant Vicente Ladlad from the special consultations in Utrecht.”

Time to confront Duterte

Former NDFP chief negotiator and current senior adviser Luis Jalandoni however urged stronger action against the AFP for the incident Tuesday night.

Asked to comment, Jalandoni said the NDFP Panel should strongly protest the incident and demand the military units involved are indentified and subjected to discipline.

“The response must be concrete.  It must be brought up because while Duterte says he wants the peace negotiations to continue, he is not putting a stop to (Defense secretary Delfin) Lorenzana’s all-out war declaration and the things that (AFP chief of staff Eduardo) Año are doing,” Jalandoni said.

“If this is not given attention and action commensurate to the dangers (to the Tiamzons) and threats to the peace talks, mayroon pwedeng i-declare yung NDFP panel na mayroong big thing for the peace negotiations,” he added.

Jalandoni also revealed that NDFP consultants Pedro Codaste and Porferio Tuna are in grave danger from the AFP.

Jalandoni said the AFP in North-Central Mindanao has a shoot-to-kill order against Codaste and its Eastern Mindanao Command is aiming to abduct Tuna.

“It is up to the NDFP Panel to consider how this should be addressed, but it has to be very strong already. Hindi pwedeng magbibigay na lang uli ng report,” Jalandoni said.

AFP spokesperson B/Gen. Restituto Padilla has yet to reply to a request for comment. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)