By RAYMUND B. VILLANUEVA
Arrested National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) consultant Frank Fernandez, wife Cleofe Lagtapon and companion Ge-ann Perez have finally been transferred to a civilian jail facility Monday despite efforts by the Philippine Army to keep them incommunicado inside Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City.
Following their scheduled arraignment for alleged illegal possession of firearms and explosives before the Sta. Cruz (Laguna) Regional Trial Court Monday, April 22, the three were finally committed to the Laguna Provincial Jail.
Their arraignment, however, did not push through because of their limited and ineffective access to counsel.
In an announcement, the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) said Fernandez and company were kept inside the Army General Hospital (AGH) since March 25 without communication to the outside world save for a few visits.
PILC also told Kodao that aside from its repeated refusal to allow PILC lawyers to visit the three, the Philippine Army also deliberately ignored an April 3 Commitment Order by the Branch 33 of the Sta. Cruz Court to transfer Fernandez, Lagtapon and Perez to a civilian jail facility.
“No less than Lt. Gen. Macairog Alberto, Army commanding general, denied the written request of Public Interest Law Center managing counsel Rachel Pastores to enter Fort Bonifacio on April 16, 2019, saying that only one counsel [PILC’s Maria Kristina Conti] was recognized by the court,” PILC said.
Aside from Conti, however, Fernandez and company have formally engaged PILC’s Pastores, Amilyn Sato and Carlos Montemayor as lawyers during their inquest proceedings in Sta. Cruz last March 25.
‘No visits from lawyers and doctors’
According to an Omnibus Motion to the Court filed through their lawyers last April 17, Fernandez and company complained of being denied visits from their lawyers and doctors.
Efforts by PILC and National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers counsels to gain access to their clients were denied.
Doctors who also sought ways to check up on the three were turned away by the Philippine Army.
Fernandez and Lagtapon asked the Court to require the Philippine Army to respect their right to counsel and to provide them unhindered access to them for adequate and effective preparation for their defense.
Fernandez also asked for a hospital check up and confinement, complaining that the AGH does not appear to be fully-equipped to treat his coronary artery disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and hyponatremia (low sodium concentration in the blood) as diagnosed by Philippine Army doctors themselves.
Casambre now in Bicutan
Earlier this month, Fernandez’s fellow NDFP peace consultant Rey Claro Casambre had been transferred to Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City after spending weeks at the “noisy, hot and cramped” Bacoor City Jail.
Casambre was clandestinely trasferred from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-National Capital Region detention facility in Camp Crame to Bacoor last April 3 without his family and lawyers being informed of the move.
Aside from Casambre and Fernandez, Reynante Gamara, Vicente Ladlad, Rafael Baylosis and Adelberto Silva had been arrested in succession since President rodrigo Duterte ended the peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the NDFP in November 2017.
All had been charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives, which they deny.