Karapatan protests DND request to transfer peace consultant Frank Fernandez from Taguig to Laguna

In a letter dated July 25, 2019, the Department of National Defense (DND), through Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, requested the transfer of peace consultants Frank Fernandez and his wife Cleofe Lagtapon from the Metro Manila District Jail Annex 4 to the Laguna Provincial Jail. The letter cited security concerns due to a "possible rescue attempt" and the alleged inconvenience of travel to bring both to the court in Laguna.
"The real motive of the DND in requesting for the transfer of Fernandez, 71, and Lagtapon, 66, is to remove them from a supportive environment in the company of other political prisoners in MMDJ 4. In all likelihood, this move is also a reprisal from the government, following the firm stand of Fernandez to reject the localized peace talks repeatedly offered by Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), when he was in the custody of the AFP and was denied access to his lawyers. Both Fernandez and Lagtapon are political prisoners who were charged with trumped-up charges of murder and illegal possession of firearms and explosives," said Karapatan deputy secretary general Roneo Clamor.

Clamor emphasized that both are already senior citizens and Fernandez, with various heart ailments, has already lost consciousness twice. "He was only immediately rushed out for emergency treatment due to the urging of other political prisoners in MMDJ Annex 4. His transfer to the Laguna Provincial Jail will aggravate his already very poor health condition. Moreover, this transfer will jeopardize the physical security of the couple and will further endanger them," he explained, citing that Fernandez suffers from chronic artery disease, chronic stable angina, hypertension stage 2- uncontrolled, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and hyponatremia, among others

Fernandez and Lagtapon were arrested by military and police operatives at a residence they were renting in Laguna on March 24, 2019. The couple was arrested with 20-year-old Ge-ann Perez, a leprosy patient who, along with the two, were in the area to seek medical attention. According to the three, they were interrogated, kept under custodial investigation without counsel while blindfolded and handcuffed, and were deprived of food and sleep.

The Karapatan official insisted that the charges filed against the couple were trumped-up and that the evidence allegedly "found" in their belongings were planted: "From the onset, arresting officers have already been caught with their own lies. Even discrepancy in the time of arrest officially mentioned by the police vis-a-vis the victims is already indicative of the irregularities of this case. The police assert that they arrested the three victims at 5:30a.m., while the victims claim that the arrest was done earlier, around 12:30a.m. A look at the hospital records from the medical facility where the three were taken to, alongside a Facebook video showing Fernandez with authorities, would show that the arresting officers were indeed lying. A motion to suppress evidence has already been filed by the counsel of Fernandez."

"Following this unlawful arrest, the Duterte government, through DND's Lorenzana, is not done inflicting deliberate cruelty against Fernandez. They are now pushing for his transfer despite adverse effects to his health, security, and safety. We reiterate that Fernandez and Lagtapon's involvement as peace consultants of the NDFP should not merit their political persecution. Seemingly disguised and packaged as a logistical issue of distance, the DND harasses the couple with this transfer order primarily because Fernandez refuses to cooperate despite constant military pressure," he explained.

"Instead of such machinations to further place them in a tight and difficult situation, Fernandez and Lagtapon should instead be released on just and humanitarian grounds," Clamor concluded.