“Their memory, knowledge and influence is valuable.”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – The government peace panel called on the local courts to grant the motions filed for the temporary release of 22 detained consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
Appearing before the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 32 yesterday, Aug. 10, Rene Sarmiento, GRP panel member, appealed to Judge Theresa Bunyi-Medina to prioritize the urgent motions filed by the lawyers of NDFP consultants.
Sarmiento invoked the Aug. 5 Supreme Court resolution calling on local courts to give appropriate priority to cases involving NDFP consultants. In its en banc resolution, the high court said “the peace negotiations shall resume in the higher interest of peace and national security.”
The GRP and NDFP peace panels agreed to resume formal talks from Aug. 20 to Aug. 27 in Oslo, Norway.
Sarmiento said the participation of Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Tiamzon in the peace talks is important. “Their memory, knowledge and influence is valuable,” Sarmiento said.
Without any objection to the motions filed at the Manila RTC Branch 32, Medina deemed the motions submitted for resolution.
Present during the hearing were the Tiamzon couple, other NDFP consultants Vicente Ladlad and Adelberto Silva, Makabayan President Satur Ocampo and other peasants charged in the Arroyo-era Leyte mass grave case.
The same motions were filed with several courts by lawyers of the 22 detained NDFP consultants and political prisoners.
Sarmiento said the charges against NDFP consultants would not be dismissed. After the peace talks, Sarmiento said NDFP consultants need to face the charges in court.
Asked by Bulatlat if the GRP reaffirms previous agreements such as the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig), Sarmiento said “yes.” Asked further if the NDFP consultants could be released in accordance with Jasig, Sarmiento said the NDFP consultants shall be released on bail.
“Jasig is for immunity from arrest for the duration of peace talks,” Sarmiento told Bulatlat.
Signed by both parties in 1995, Jasig provides immunity and safety guarantees to all participants in the peace negotiations. The NDFP maintained Jasig has never been inoperative and the arrest and detention of its consultants violate Jasig.
Prosecutor Lourdes Zapanta who represented the Department of Justice (DOJ) in yesterday’s hearing said there are certain conditions for the release of NDFP consultants.
Zapanta said the temporary liberty of NDFP consultants is only for the duration of the peace talks.
Other conditions include returning to the Philippines after the formal peace negotiations in Oslo, Norway and reporting to the Embassy of the Republic of the Philippines in Norway whenever required. The GRP panel also maintained that once the participation of the NDFP consultants ceases or the peace negotiations are terminated, their respective bonds shall be automatically canceled.
During a short break, former Senator Rene Saguisag arrived and greeted the Tiamzons.
Saguisag said he and the Tiamzons went to the same school, the Rizal High School in Pasig City. He said the Tiamzons, both honor students, should be the country’s senators or Cabinet members.
“They went to the hills to fight the dictatorship,” he said. “Marcos destroyed the evolution of our country’s leaders.”
Saguisag expressed hopes for the resumption of peace talks. “I hope we succeed in trying to help government solve a problem that’s been with us for decades.”