By RAYMUND B. VILLANUEVA
Kodao Productions / Bulatlat.com
The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Negotiating Panel demanded the release of its peace consultant arrested by the military and the police in Quezon, Bukidnon on Wednesday, September 15.
NDFP Negotiating Panel interim chairperson Julie de Lima said Loida Magpatoc is a member of the NDFP Reciprocal Working Committee on Social and Economic Reform and should be immune from arrest.
“[S]he is a member of the NDFP Negotiating Panel, by virtue of which she is protected by the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines)-NDFP Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG). She should therefore be released,” de Lima told Kodao.
Magpatoc was reported arrested by a composite team of the 88th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, the Quezon Philippine National Police and the military’s intelligence units in Purok 3, Barangay Paitan in Quezon town.
An old warrant issued by Branch 7 of the Bayugan (Agusan del Sur) Regional Trial Court on September 3, 2001, was reportedly used for her arrest. A Rappler report said the same warrant was used when Magpatoc was first arrested in July 2013.
The same report said the military alleged that Magpatoc is head of the New People’s Army’s Far South Mindanao Committee.
Last May 13, the GRP’s Anti-Terrorism Council named Magpatoc and 18 others as members of the Communist Party of the Philippines’ Central Committee.
Land reform and rural development expert
Magpatoc was among the NDFP peace consultants released in August 2016 by President Rodrigo Duterte to be able to participate in the resumption of formal peace negotiations between the GRP and the NDFP.
Then government chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III told Kodao they working to release Magpatoc and nine others through the JASIG.
Magpatoc was present during the negotiations’ third formal round in Rome, Italy in January 2017 when both parties agreed on free land distribution for poor farmers, a high point in the negotiations.
De Lima said Magpatoc is an expert on land reform and rural development who helped draft the NDFP’s version of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms with fellow peace consultant Randall Echanis and others.
Echanis was brutally murdered in August 2020 in Quezon City.
De Lima said that in the NDFP Negotiating Panel’s subcommittee on land reform and rural development, Magpatoc and Echanis were most active in advancing peasant rights and welfare.
“We call on the Filipino people to demand her immediate release. We call on all peace loving people’s to campaign for her freedom, together with all political prisoners,” de Lima said.