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De Lima: Tiamzons' arrest not covered by immunity

In this Saturday, March 22, 2014 photos released by the Philippine National Police Public Information Office, suspected communist leaders, Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, have their mugshot taken in Cebu. Officials said Sunday that they would not release the two leaders of a violent rebel group fighting to overthrow the government, whose arrests were a serious blow to one of Asia's longest-running communist insurgencies. AP/Philippine National Police, Public Information Office

MANILA, Philippines — Justice Secretary Leila de Lima belied the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Party's (CPP-NPA) claim that communist leaders Benito and Wilma Tiamzon are covered by a government-approved immunity as part of the peace negotiations.

"According to the government panel and according to OPPAP, Tiamzon has not really been determined or verified to be (Joint Agreement of Safety and Immunity Guarantees or JASIG) covered," she said in a phone interview Monday over ANC.

She also said that there is no proof that the Benito Tiamzon was using an alias when he was listed part of the immunity guarantee.

Related: The communists' power couple

"That list contains the names and the aliases of these JASIG-covered personalities, and Tiamzon was never determined to be JASIG-covered," she said.

She admitted, however, that the diskette containing the list of names and aliases under the document could not be restored after it was recovered from a vault.

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De Lima also explained that even if the couple, who were said to be the leaders of the CPP-NDF, are protected by the JASIG, it still excludes criminal cases and therefore could not make the Saturday arrest illegal.

The Tiamzons were arrested in Aloguinsan, Cebu on March 22 for 15 counts of murder. They are accused of killing 15 civilians in Inopacan in 1985. The bodies were discovered in a mass grave in 2006.

"It has nothing to do with the peace process. These cases are criminal cases and the warrants are issued by the courts concerned," she said.

"JASIG immunities are not meant to undermine the criminal justice system," De Lima added.

She also pointed out that JASIG would not be effective with the halt in negotiations between the government and the community party.

"It presupposes that there is an ongoing peace negotiation and we don't see that ... There has not really been a resumption of the peace talk," the justice official said.

Also read: Palace: AFP ready for NPA retaliation

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