By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – The Communist Party of the Philippines is demanding the release of Tirso “Ka Bart” Alcantara, high-ranking member of the New People’s Army (NPA).
Alcantara was arrested Jan. 4 along with Apolonio Cuarto, in Lucena City.
The CPP said Alcantara is a consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and is thus covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig).
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In a letter to the head of the Government Republic of the Philippines (GRP) negotiating panel Alex Padilla, NDFP chief negotiator Luis Jalandoni said that Alcantara is among the holders of a “Document of Identification” issued by the NDFP to its personnel participating in peace negotiations.
Jalandoni also clarified that as early as 1998, the use of assumed names of most of the NDFP consultants in the documents of identification was agreed upon by both sides as a necessary measure to protect the security of personnel involved in the peace process.
The CPP said the continued detention of Alcantara and other NDFP peace consultants and their staff constitutes a blatant violation of the Jasig. “Every minute that NDFP consultants are detained by the GRP in violation of the Jasig puts into question the compliance of the GRP with past agreements and imperils the future of the peace talks,” added the CPP.
“As somebody who is in the top leadership of the revolutionary movement in his area of responsibility and who has previously taken part in public activities related to the peace talks, including the facilitation of the release of AFP prisoners of war, Ka Bart’s status as a duly accredited representative of the NDFP has long been established,” the CPP said.
In a report, Army spokesman Col. Antonio Parlade Jr. claimed that Alcantara is not involved in the peace process.
Parlade also told the media that they recovered from Alcantara blasting caps and detonating cords allegedly used for landmines.
Glenn Malabanan, secretary general of Karapatan-Southern Tagalog, said that at the time of the arrest, Alcantara had no guns or explosives.
Malabanan, who visited Alcantara a day after the arrest, said the rebel commander told the soldiers that he is protected under the Jasig. Malabanan said five vans were used to capture Alcantara and that Alcantara was fired at. Contrary to claims of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), no gunfight occurred, said Malabanan.
The soldiers took Alcantara’s personal money amounting to P35,000 and his cellphone, Malabanan said.
“He was immediately handcuffed and blindfolded. He was beaten up inside the vehicle. He lost consciousness and woke up inside what he believed to be a hospital,” Malabanan related, adding that Alcantara sustained a gunshot wound on his leg.
On Jan. 5, around 8 a.m., Alcantara was transferred to V. Luna Hospital in Quezon City. He was about to be operated on when military officials presented him to the media without his consent and without the presence of his lawyers.
Malabanan said that when she talked to Alcantara on Jan. 6, the latter complained of headache and body pain.
On Jan. 7, Alcantara was transferred Fort Bonifacio Hospital in Taguig City. Only members of his immediate family, lawyers and a doctor were allowed. Malabanan said she was not allowed to see Alcantara as the soldiers insisted that she and Karapatan members must get clearance first from Camp Aguinaldo.
Alcantara was also handcuffed to his bed. No family member was allowed to stay with him at the hospital. Visitors were asked to present government-issued identification cards and to write down personal information.
Malabanan said security has been tightened as well. Grills were installed on the windows of Alcantara’s room. Two soldiers stay with Alcantara inside his room, three more outside his room and two more at the stairs leading to his room.
The AFP insisted that Alcantara was arrested based on criminal charges, including possession of explosives. “They have filed trumped-up charges against Ka Bart in violation of the JASIG,” the CPP said. “If the AFP insists on pursuing this practice, then the government military and security forces will be free to arrest all other NDFP peace consultants, making a mockery of the Jasig and other agreements entered into by the GRP and making a joke out of the peace talks,” added the CPP.