DAVAO CITY — A consultant of the National Democratic Front of Philippines (NDFP) and two of his companions are now under the custody of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) after they were held by the Task Force Davao at the Sirawan checkpoint in Toril, Davao City on Monday morning.
Ariel Arbitrario, who sits as NDFP consultant for Ceasefire and the Political and Constitutional Reforms of the NDFP panel, driver Rosario Sinday and another companion Roderick Mamuyac were on board a white Chevrolet heading to Davao del Sur when they were flagged down by TF security force.
Arbitrario holds an identification as JASIG (Joint Agreement on Security and Immunity Guarantees)-protected NDFP consultant after he was granted bail last year and attended the previous round-of-talks in Oslo in August and October.
Anakpawis Party-list Representative Ariel Casilao, a member of the House Committee on Peace and Reconciliation said Arbitrario’s participation in the talks was crucial.
TF Davao chief Col. Bernard Neri in an interview said security forces flagged down the car in response to a text message that criminals with warrant of arrest are on board a white Chevrolet with plate number ADP5617.
He admitted they have no knowledge about the person until Arbitrario presented himself as NDFP consultant.
“Initially, hindi namin alam. Humingi ako ng tulong sa CIDG, NICA (Initially, we did not know so I sought the help of CIDG, NICA),” Neri said .
Except for Sinday and Mamuyac, Neri said someone confirmed to him that Arbitrario has a warrant of arrest.
When representatives from Karapatan came, Neri said that was the time they believed that Arbitrario was NDFP.
But Neri clarified this quick response on any information as he said it was required of them considering that they are on heightened alert for any threat because of the ongoing meetings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
When asked if they have already received formal orders about the NDFP consultants, Neri said there is none so far, but takes the pronouncement of President Rodrigo Duterte. “We toe-the-line,” he said.
TF Davao immediately turned over Arbitrario to the CIDG to deal on his status.
Arbitrario is the first consultant arrested by government authorities following the pronouncement of President Duterte on Saturday and Sunday, abandoning talks with the communists.
It may be recalled that President Duterte ordered members of the NDFP panel and consultants, who were granted bail, to be allowed to participate in the negotiations, to return home and return to jail at their own volition or they will face arrest.
This after the President called off the peace negotiations with the NDFP and responded to the lifting of the unilateral ceasefire.
Duterte said he was not ready to continue with the talks until the Communist Party of the Philippines-NDFP and its armed forces the New People’s Army (NPA) would come into their senses.
The President was dismayed over the announcement of the NPA terminating its unilateral ceasefire and the killing of soldiers.
As this developed, Casilao, who arrived at the CIDG office, said Arbitrario’s arrest has alarmed members of the NDFP panel and consultants. Arbitrario is now being restricted movements and suspects there is some irregularity in his arrest.
Arbitrario claimed his bail still holds and would lapse in March.
Casilao admitted that Mamuyac and Sinday were his former security and driver, respectively, when he campaigned for Anakpawis representative.
Casilao said there is a compelling reason to continue talking. “I hope we can patch up things,” Casilao said.
Earlier, NDFP panel chair Fidel Agcaoili said they are awaiting formal notice from the GRP panel on the termination of the peace negotiations as mandated in JASIG which defines the mode of termination.
Agcaoili clarified that all 17 NDFP consultants released from detention last August 2016 are in the Philippines and are not in hiding.
“Those who took part in the third round of formal talks in Rome, Italy from 19 to 25 January 2017 have returned to the country as of 31 January. They are all protected from re-arrest in accordance with the JASIG,” he said in a statement.
Under JASIG, the protection and immunity are only revoked 30 days after the receipt of notice of termination.
Agcaoili said the consultants have been put under the effective jurisdiction of GRP courts because they were released only on bail and only for a six-month period. They have been required to secure court permission every time they went abroad to participate in the last three rounds of talks.
Their bail renewal is due this month and, as reflected in the Rome Joint Statement of 25 January 2017, both their lawyers and the GRP have agreed to cooperate in this regard, he confirmed.
Given the situation, Agcaoili said the NDFP still stands firm in its commitment to struggle for a just and lasting peace in the country in accordance with the national and democratic aspirations of the Filipino people. Lilian Mellejor/PNA-northboundasia.com