NDFP panel chair Fidel Agcaoili slammed the illegal arrest of NDFP consultant Rommel Salinas as another clear violation of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees.
MANILA – Soldiers from the Philippine Army accosted and arrested at a checkpoint last Thursday evening, May 11, Rommel Salinas, a consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) who was protected under the Joint Agreement of Safety and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig). Salinas was reportedly described by the accosting soldiers as “a high-profile person.” Although he told the soldiers he was traveling to campaign for the 5th round of the formal talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and NDFP and showed the soldiers his ID as an NDFP consultant and JASIG holder, the soldiers still handcuffed and brought him and his three travel companions to the police station in Ozamis City.
“Arrested” with Salinas were Bishop Carlo Morales of the Iglesia Filipino Independiente, his wife and public school teacher Ma. Teofilina Morales, and driver Isadome Dalid.
On the way to the police station, Salinas was parted from his personal belongings, which the police placed in another car, human rights group Karapatan said. When the four and the soldiers got to the police station around 6:41 p.m., the accosting officers then also handcuffed the other three whom they alleged as “accomplices to a high-value target and harboring a criminal.”
Karapatan reported that the police did not allow Morales’ legal counsel from the Union of Peoples Lawyers in Mindanao to talk to him in private. It reported also that the police had inventoried their “confiscated items” without representation from any of the four “arrested.” To the surprise of the four, the police took out explosives from a sack bag. Karapatan said the four vehemently denied having carried those explosives or firearms. But they were immediately hauled to the detention cell.
By late afternoon the next day, May 12, Karapatan said a prosecutor Noel Boter conducted inquest proceedings and charged Salinas and Bishop Morales with trumped-up cases of illegal possession of firearms and/explosives (Republic Act 9516). Ma. Teofilina Morales and Isadome Dalid were released but Bishop Morales and Salinas remain in jail at the Ozamiz City Police Station.
The arrest did not sit well with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.
NDFP panel chair Fidel Agcaoili slammed the illegal arrest of NDFP consultant Rommel Salinas as another clear violation of JASIG. Salinas, he said, is the holder of Document of Identification Number ND 978453 under the name of Hermie Abella.
Aside from the “illegal arrest” of Salinas, there are more reports of surveillance, harassment, and threats on other NDFP peace consultants.
The NDFP condemned these as “flagrant violations” of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig). Signed in 1995, the Jasig provides all duly accredited NDFP consultants immunity from surveillance, harassment, search, arrest, detention, prosecution and interrogation and “any other similar punitive actions due to any involvement or participation in the peace negotiations.” The guarantees extend to persons who assist them in the performance of their work in the peace talks.
NDFP consultants report being harassed by soldiers
On Tuesday night, May 9, NDFP peace panel member Benito Tiamzon and NDFP political consultant Wilma Tiamzon were tailed by suspected military agents after they the Lapanday farm workers who were then camped out at Mendiola.
Two men riding an RS motorcycle with partial license plate number 2419 tailed the Tiamzons forcing the couple to return to the Mendiola camp out. From there, their friends and comrades tried to help them lose their pursuers. The Tiamzons said the back rider was on his cell phone the whole time they were tailing them.
At the campout, some witnesses said the motorcycle riders tried to mingle with the crowd. They observed that at least two other teams consisting of two men each were also monitoring the Tiamzon couple’s movements.
That Tuesday they were tailed by two men, as far as they knew, Tiamzons had had an audience with President Rodrigo Duterte at Malacañang.
The latest tailing was already the third JASIG violation reported by the Tiamzons. Last March men also tailed them when they returned home from backchannel talks in The Netherlands. Earlier, some supporters reported to them that suspected military agents had interrogated the driver of a rented car they used upon arriving last January from the third round of peace negotiations with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP).
Other NDFP consultants who have also complained of surveillance include Ruben Saluta, Concha Araneta, Tirso Alcantara, Ernesto Lorenzo and Kennedy Bangibang.
In the recent Cordillera Day commemoration held in Kalinga from April 22 to 24, soldiers stationed themselves at various points on the highway leading to the site of the gathering in the town of Balbalan. In military checkpoints, they specifically looked for Kennedy Bangibang among the traveling delegates.
NDFP panel chair Fidel Agcaoili was also concerned about reports that the military in Northern Mindanao had issued shoot-to-kill orders against NDFP consultant Pedro Codaste, and that the AFP Eastern Mindanao Command was planning to abduct Porferio Tuna, another Mindanao-based consultant. He urged the GRP to look seriously into these incidents and take whatever measures are necessary, saying these may have severe repercussions on the ongoing peace negotiations.