Court orders NDF peace consultants rearrested, but their lawyer insists peace talks not yet over

January 17, 2018 - 7:20 PM
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Benito Wilma Tiamzon
Benito Tiamzon, with his wife, Wilma, shortly after they were granted provisional liberty to join the peace talks. FILE PHOTO BY MIGUEL DE GUZMAN, PHIL. STAR

MANILA – National Democratic Front (NDF) peace consultants Benito Tiamzon, Wilma Tiamzon and Adelberto Silva have been ordered rearrested by a Manila court, following an announcement by President Rodrigo Duterte that peace talks with the CPP/NPA/NDF (Communist Party of the Philippines/National Democratic Front/New People’s Army) have formally been terminated.

In a decision dated January 11, 2018, Branch 32 of the Regional Trial Court of Manila, through Presiding Judge Thelma Bunyi-Medina, granted the motion for the recommitment and the cancellation of the bail bond of the three.

They were earlier granted provisional liberty on the basis of their attendance and participation in the peace talks.

NDF negotiating panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili said that this was just one of the signs that the Duterte regime “is determined to set up a dictatorship,” and therefore, “the only recourse is to fight.”

“We’ve been through this before. We hope the regime would still see the light and stand down, if it is really interested in reforms and not just power and killings,” he added.

In a press release, NDF negotiating panel legal consultant Atty. Edre Olalia, who is also one of the lawyers of the Tiamzons, said that they still have a legal option in a motion for reconsideration, “even if seemingly a long shot under the present circumstances.”

“We maintain that the peace negotiations have not yet been terminated properly and in accordance with the solemn and binding protocol mutually agreed upon by the parties,” he added. “A unilateral declaration by one side without the proper written notice duly receipted by the other, no matter how categorical yet at the same unjustified, does not make the grade and does not bind the latter.”

He further argued that “this is not fussing over mere procedure but is warranted by fairness, practicality and principle.”

Olalia added: “No one in his right mind will participate in any peace negotiations if the protections and guarantees of safety and immunity for such involvement can easily be brushed aside, even under the colorable legal theater of one party.”

He found this wording in Judge Bunyi-Medina’s order puzzling: “Having judiciously evaluated the contentions of the parties, THEY find that the recommitment and cancellation of the respective bail bonds… are warranted.”

Olalia said, “May we ask, who is really issuing the order here?”