Activist groups slam arrest of NDFP consultant

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
Activist groups slam arrest of NDFP consultant
Protesters picket near Camp Karingal in Quezon City to denounce the arrest of NDF peace consultant Victor Ladlad and two others.
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — Activist groups on Thursday denounced the arrest of a Vicente Ladlad, a National Democratic Front of the Philippines consultant whom the authorities have nabbed for alleged illegal possession of firearms.

Ladlad was arrested with couple Alberto and Virginia Villamor by members of the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Novaliches, Quezon City early Thursday morning.

Ladlad's wife claims the high-powered firearms recovered from her husband were all planted.

But Director Guillermo Eleazar, National Capital Region Police Office chief, dismissed the allegation of Ladlad’s wife. He said reports from concerned citizens prompted the NDFP consultant's arrest.

Arrest 'dims hope' of return to peace talks 

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary-general Renato Reyes said the arrest of Ladlad “[dims] any hope” for the resumption of peace talks between the Philippine government and the communist rebels.

He also noted that the arrest of Ladlad was similar to the arrests of other peace consultants such as Rafael Baylosos and Adel Silva.

“The recent arrests of peace consultants tells us that the Duterte government is more interested in a military solution rather than a political solution to the roots of the armed conflict,” Reyes said.

He added: “Serious peace negotiations and existing agreements are being set aside in favor of political persecution and fascist measures.”

‘Violation of JASIG’

Local rights group Karapatan said the arrests of Ladlad and other NDFP consultants violate the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees, the agreement signed by the Philippine government and the NDFP in 1995.

“They should be immune from arrests and detention and other harassment and attacks,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo claimed that JASIG cannot be invoked because Duterte has scrapped the peace talks with the communist insurgents.

“JASIG is operative only when the peace talk is ongoing but that has been terminated by the proclamation of the president last November 2017,” Panelo said.

Director General Oscar Albayalde, PNP chief, also said that JASIG cannot be used because Ladlad has been accused of violating Republic 10591, or the Philippine Firearms Law.

“This is a simple, blatant violation of law,” he said.

According to JASIG, “duly accredited persons are guaranteed immunity from surveillance, harassment, search, arrest, detention, prosecution and interrogation or any other similar punitive actions due to any involvement or participation in the peace negotiations.”

It adds: “All immunities acquired by virtue of this Joint Agreement shall remain in full force and effect even after the termination of this Joint Agreement, provided said immunities shall not cover acts which are contrary to the purposes of the peace negotiations and outside and beyond involvement or participation in the peace negotiations.”

Peace talks with the communist rebels during the Aquino administration also bogged down and were eventually abandoned in 2013 over disagreements on the implementation of JASIG.

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