By JONAS ALPASAN
MANILA — Human rights group Karapatan is calling for the surfacing of two consultants in the peace talks between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) who are feared to be abducted by soldiers in separate incidents early this March.
In a statement, the group said Ezequiel Daguman, 50, and his companion have been missing since the afternoon of March 7 while they were en route to a peasant community in one of the banana plantations in New Corella, Davao del Norte. Both were supposed to look into the situation of workers and farmers in the area.
Edwin Alcid and his two companions, on the other hand, were reportedly accosted by soldiers on March 8 in Catubig, Northern Samar.
All five have yet to be found, said Karapatan.
“We call on the Commission on Human Rights to help the families of Daguman, Alcid and their companions to search military camps, police stations and safehouses to ensure that they are alive and are accorded their rights,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay.
On Feb. 16, another peace consultant Esteban Manuel Jr. was arrested in Samar. It took his family, through the CHR, nearly a month to locate him. He is currently in solitary confinement in a military camp in Calbayog City facing trumped-up charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives and violations of the Commission on Elections gun ban rules.
Another consultant, Ramon Patriarca, and two youth activists were arrested in Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental on Mar. 18. As of this writing, there are no details of the charges filed against them.
Peace consultants are covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), one of the major agreements signed between the Philippine government and the NDFP that provides their panel members and consultants immunity from attacks. Since President Rodrigo Duterte’s unilateral termination of peace talks in 2017, there has been a series of arrests and killings of peace consultants.
In light of the recent string of abductions and arrests, Palabay said worse things could still happen to peace consultants and advocates as the “the Duterte administration’s self-imposed deadline to wipe out the NDFP” nears.
“These attacks on peace consultants and advocates must stop! We strongly urge the Philippine government and the NDFP to resume the peace talks as soon as possible for the sake of our people,” Palabay said.