Karapatan cries foul on arrest of peace consultant

“With the arrest of peace consultant Ariel Arbitario this morning, the Armed Forces of the Philippines is clearly taking advantage of the verbal orders of Pres. Duterte, despite no formal notice of termination of the formal peacetalks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) still in force,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said on the today’s arrest of NDFP peace consultant Ariel Arbitrario.

Peace consultant Illegal Arrest

Arbitrario and his two companions, Jun Sinday and Roderick Mamuyac, were apprehended at a military checkpoint in Toril, Davao City at 10am today. Mamuyac is a labor organizer of Kilusang Mayo-Uno-Southern Mindanao region. The three were brought to the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group XI (CIDG – XI) office in Camp Leonor, San Pedro, Davao City. CIDG personnel will reportedly bring Arbitrario to the Regional Trial Court 11 Branch 1 in Nabunturan, Compostela Valley. Mamuyac was also arrested on trumped up charges of murder using an alias warrant, while Sinday was released. 

Palabay said that the JASIG stipulates that duly accredited persons, including NDFP consultants like Arbitrario, are guaranteed immunity from surveillance, harassment, search, arrest, detention, prosecution and interrogation or any other similar punitive actions due to any involvement or participation in the peace negotiations. These immunity guarantees, according to NDFP legal consultant Atty. Edre Olalia, remain in full force and effect even after the JASIG and peace negotiations are effective precisely because it aims to protect them and encourage their participation or involvement in the peace process. 

“The JASIG, along with all previously-signed agreements by the GRP and NDFP, was reaffirmed during the first round of formal peacetalks by both parties on August 26, 2016. A mere verbal withdrawal from the peacetalks by the President doesn’t abrogate previous agreements,” Palabay said. Arbitrario was even able to attend two rounds of formal peacetalks in Oslo, Norway in August and October 2016.  

Arbitrario, along with his brother Crispulo, an engineer, were illegally arrested on February 16, 2016 under trumped-up charges of murder and attempted murder.  They were detained at the Provincial Rehabilitation Center (PRC) in Compostela Valley before he was granted provisional liberty to participate in the peace talks. Crispulo is still in detention. 

In the same vein, Palabay also criticized the statement of PNP Director General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa this afternoon calling on the arrest of at least thirteen (13) NDFP peace consultants. “The police cannot automatically enforce arrests without due process from the courts. The order for their arrests is baseless and malicious,” she stated. 

Karapatan called on Pres. Duterte to respect previously signed agreements such as the JASIG and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). “We call on Pres. Duterte to pursue the formal peacetalks with the NDFP, to pave the way for the discussions and forging of agreements on socio-economic and political reforms, which are the substantive issues in the peace process,” Palabay concluded.