Arraignment of detained peace consultants, proof of violation of JASIG – Karapatan

Press Statement – http://www.karapatan.org/Arraignment+of+detained+peace+consultants%2C+proof+of+violation+of+JASIG

February 27, 2015

Reference: Cristina “Tinay” Palabay, Secretary General, +63917-3162831

Angge Santos, Media Liaison, +63918-9790580

“Exactly 20 years since the signing of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), at least 13 NDFP peace consultants have been missing and 16 are currently detained for trumped up criminal charges. The Philippine government has only engaged in doubletalk as it continues to disregard and violate the JASIG,” Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general said during the scheduled arraignment of several peace consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) at the Manila Regional Trial Court.

Detained consultants Benito Tiamzon, Wilma Austria-Tiamzon faced the court today for multiple murder charge for the so-called discovery by the AFP of a mass grave in Hilongos, Leyte in 1984. The co-accused in the case are Makabayan chairperson and former Rep. Satur Ocampo and peace consultants Vicente Ladlad, Randall Echanis and Rafael Baylosis. All four are on conditional bail.

Judge Thelma Medina of Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 32 deferred the scheduled arraignment of Tiamzon et al to wait for the Supreme Court resolution on the Certiorari with prayer for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) filed on January 23. The Public Interest Law Center (PILC) and the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), lawyers of the respondents, filed the Certiorari after the Manila RTC twice denied the motion to dismiss the Hilongos “murder” case.

The JASIG

The JASIG is among the significant documents/agreements signed between the GRP/GPH and the NDFP in the course of its peace negotiations. The agreement is meant to protect members and consultants and others involved in the peace negotiations from arrests and detention to be able to perform their duties.

“Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria-Tiamzon and a number of their co-accused in the Hilongos case are all JASIG-protected with Documents of Identification. However, the BS Aquino government could only talk peace for as long as it does not threaten the oppressive, exploitative, and repressive system it represents. It is far from addressing the root causes of the armed conflict,” Palabay said.

“Under the BS Aquino regime, at least 12 NDFP peace consultants were illegally arrested and detained using criminal charges; while completely ignoring the cases of the 16 abducted and missing peace consultants. Last February 19 marked the eighth year of NDFP consultant Leo Velasco’s disappearance but BS Aquino has barely said a word on the status of the many of those who were disappeared during the Arroyo regime,” Palabay noted. “This is not only a blatant violation of the JASIG but also an impediment to the pursuit of just peace.”

“If there is something the BS Aquino government is good at, it is sabotaging peace processes. They have continuously done it with the NDFP, they have recently done it with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) with the Mamasapano incident,” Palabay said. “Noynoy Aquino might as well quit his post and do what he does best – play games. The way to peace is a counter flow to his ‘tuwid na daan’ ” Palabay ended. ###

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KARAPATAN is an alliance of human rights organizations and programs, human rights desks and committees of people’s organizations, and individual advocates committed to the defense and promotion of people’s rights and civil liberties. It monitors and documents cases of human rights violations, assists and defends victims and conducts education, training and campaign.