Police have arrested two retired National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) consultants, aides, and their driver while queueing up for COVID-19 vaccination in Parañaque City, rights group Karapatan Southern Tagalog reported on Monday (April 11).
The group has identified the persons arrested as retired NDFP consultants Ernesto Lorenzo and Maria Fe Serrano, along with their driver Andrei Medina, their aide Plinky Longhas, and another person.
Karapatan said that Lorenzo, bearing Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) identification number 978299 under the assumed name Lean Martinez, was the NDFP's consultant in Southern Tagalog, and was granted liberty in 2016 to participate in the peace talks between the Philippine government and NDFP in Europe.
“Their whereabouts, and the charges filed against them, are unknown as of press time,” Karapatan added.
JASIG is an agreement signed by the Philippine government and the NDFP in 1995. It essentially guarantees the immunity and safety of individuals involved in the peace talks.
The individuals are entitled to “free and unhindered passage” across the Philippines and also outside the country in relation to their responsibilities in the negotiations. Additionally, they are also immune from “surveillance, harassment, search, arrest, detention, prosecution and interrogation or any other similar punitive actions.”
In 2017, President Rodrigo Duterte announced the termination of negotiations after he canceled the ceasefire with the Communist Party of the Philippines’ armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA).
This is not the first time this year that state forces have arrested NDFP consultants.
Last March 8, NDFP consultant Edwin Alcid, who supported calls to resume peace talks, was abducted by military personnel in Catubig, Northern Samar along with two other farmers. Their whereabouts are still unknown to date.
On March 17, the NDFP reported that Ezequiel ‘Ka Rey’ Cortes Daguman, another consultant, was abducted by members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) while en route to a peasant community in New Corella town in Davao del Norte.
Ten days later, Daguman ended up dead, as troops of the 1001st Infantry Brigade declared on March 27 that they killed Daguman and two of his companions identified as Ruel Baylon and Quirino Remegio.
Pola Rubio is a news writer and photojournalist covering Philippine politics and events. She regularly follows worldwide and local happenings. The views expressed are her own.
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