MANILA, Philippines — Human rights lawyers laughed off as a “false and cheap propaganda stunt” a police claim on Friday, February 2 that they had captured another ranking communist rebel leader, this time in Mindanao, two days after the arrest in Quezon City of National Democratic Front of the Philippines consultant Rafael Baylosis.
News outfits, quoting Superintendent Lemuel Gonda, spokesman of the Northern Mindanao police, broke reports on the supposed arrest of Rommel Durango Salinas, in Barangay Aguada, Ozamiz City on charges of frustrated murder and destructive arson.
The hitch, according to the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, is that Salinas, who the group said is also an NDFP consultant, “was already arrested way back May 11, 2017” and the warrant had been served on him at the time.
Salinas was arrested with Bishop Carlo Morales of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, also known as the Aglipayan church, who also remains detained. Both are facing charges of illegal possession of explosives, which their lawyers and supporters insist are “trumped up,” for a grenade supposedly found in their possession at a checkpoint.
Soon after this, NUPL president Edre Olalia said, police “produced and served” the warrant for frustrated murder and destructive arson.
“The status of this case is still on petitions for bail hearings,” Olalia said.
In a statement, NUPL quoted its secretary general Ephraim Cortez, who represents Salinas and Morales in the illegal explosive possession case, as saying that, after the hearing on Thursday, agents of the police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group “accosted Salinas and tried to ‘serve’ a warrant for frustrated murder and arson.”
“There is one catch though: This fact is mentioned in the Affidavit of Arrest last year,” the group said.
“Hence, the misleading police spot check report and press release going the rounds of media giving the wrong impression that he was only arrested yesterday in a subdivision is false and a cheap propaganda stunt to sow terror and confusion,” it added.