By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Amid the impasse in the peace talks between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), another consultant of the NDFP was arrested April 3.
Renante Gamara and companion Santiago Balleta were arrested by armed men in plainclothes in Las Pinas, Metro Manila. The NDFP said the two were not shown any warrant of arrest and were handcuffed and brought to the Philippine National Police (PNP) Custodial Center in Camp Crame.
“Gamara’s illegal arrest and continued detention is a gross violation of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig),” the NDFP said in a statement sent through email.
Jasig guarantees the safety and immunity of consultants and staff of both parties. Under the agreement, consultants and staff may use assumed names for their security.
The Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit of the National Capital Region confiscated Gamara’s belongings including his NDFP Document of Identification No. ND 978236 with assumed name of Siling Perez. Gamara protested his arrest as he is supposed to be protected under Jasig, and showed the arresting forces his JASIG Document of Information card. The arresting forces only took it and said that they will turn it over to the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP).
The arresting team did not include in the list for their official report of the items confiscated from Gamara and his companions, the car used by the two, a large part of the money the two had with them, and other belongings. They also took his antihypertensive maintenance medicine and did not return these to him.
In a separate statement sent from prison, three other NDFP consultants Alan Jazmines, Eduardo Sarmiento and Eduardo Serrano, all detained in Camp Crame, condemned the “improper treatment and virtual isolation of Gamara.” The NDFP said the CIDG produced a post facto “warrant of arrest”, where Gamara’s name was only just recently inserted in the list of those charged under a “trumped up case of kidnapping with murder”, filed against another NDFP peace consultant, Tirso Alcantara, and others before a Mauban Quezon regional trial court.
“Here at the PNP Custodial Center, Gamara’s rights as a NDFP peace consultant and a political prisoner, as well as his human rights and other rights are outrightly disregarded and violated. Under very rigid instructions from the chief of the custodial center himself, Gamara has been confined in a cell separate from the rest of the detainees at the Maximum Security Unit of the custodial center, most especially from his fellow NDF peace consultants as well as other political detainees, and is strictly prohibited to mingle and talk with them,” the three NDFP consultants said.
Many of Gamara’s immediate relatives, including some siblings, were not allowed to visit him.
Fellow NDFP consultants are not allowed to go near him or even inquire from him about his conditions and needs. Those who had some brief opportunities to see him and talk with him were immediately prevented by the guards from doing so.
Human rights workers from Karapatan, who tried to see him to inquire about his conditions and needs, were not allowed to do so, and were only turned away.
“The police and prison authorities’ violations of the JASIG, of the rights of NDF consultants and of political prisoners, and of basic human and even legal rights in Gamara’s case only shows their total disregard and mockery of the peace process. In no way is Gamara being treated in consideration of his being a JASIG-protected peace consultant, who should not have been arrested and detained in the first place,” Jazmines, Serrano and Sarmiento said.
The release of detained NDFP consultants has been a thorny issue in the peace talks between the GPH and NDFP. The GPH continues to refuse to release the remaining 13 consultants. Three have so far been released under the Aquino administration. Gamara is the 14th to be arrested.