Manila court orders return of Tiamzons to jail

MANILA — The Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) ordered the arrest of communist leaders Benito and Wilma Tiamzon following the termination of peace talks between the government and communist rebels last November.

In a five-page order dated Jan. 11, Manila RTC Branch 32 Judge Thelma Bunyi-Medina granted the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) motion for recommitment and cancellation of the P100,000 bail bonds posted by the Tiamzons and rebel leader Edilberto Silva.

“Having judiciously evaluated the contentions of the parties, they find that the recommitment and the cancellation of the respective bail bonds of accused Benito Tiamzon, Wilma Tiamzon and Silva are warranted under the facts at hand,” the order stated.

“Inarguably, the sole reason for their grant was to enable said accused to participate in the peace process,” it added.

It will be recalled that State Prosecutors Olivia Laroza-Torrevillas and Aristotle Reyes submitted the petition on November 24 before the Manila RTC after President Rodrigo Duterte announced the scrapping of peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).

Benito is the chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA), while his wife Wilma is its secretary-general. Silva is the CPP secretary general and the chief of the National Organization Department.

All three are facing multiple murder charges before the Manila RTC over the alleged 1985 purge in Leyte of communist rebels suspected of being military informants.

The Tiamzons are among the accused in the murder case which stemmed from the discovery of the mass grave in Leyte containing suspected victims of communist rebel purge in the 1980s.

They were released from detention in August 2016 to join the peace negotiations as consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

Sought for comment, lawyer Edre Olalia, counsel for the Tiamzons, said that “A motion for reconsideration, even if seemingly a long shot under the present circumstances, remains a legal option.”

Olalia maintained 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.”

“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 added.

President Duterte signed Proclamation 360 last November 23, declaring the termination of peace talks with the communist rebels due to the latter’s continued attacks on government forces and civilians.

The President also labeled the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army as terror organizations with the DOJ expected to file a petition in the trial court soon to legally declare them as terror groups under the Human Security Act (Republic Act 9372

The Supreme Court, in its resolution in August last year, granted bail to the communist leaders for their participation in the peace talks in Norway under specific conditions. The ruling was adopted by the RTC.

One of the conditions was that once their participation ceases or the peace negotiation was terminated, the bail bonds should be “deemed automatically canceled.”