NDF consultant Eduardo Sarmiento’s conviction a violation of JASIG—Karapatan

Eduardo Sarmiento

Peace consultant Eduardo Sarmiento was sentenced to 20 to 40 years imprisonment by Judge Myra Bayot Quiambo of the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 203, yesterday, December 11, onthe basis of trumped up criminal charge of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

“Sarmiento’s arrest, detention and subsequent conviction demonstrate the BS Aquino’s outright disregard of the peace negotiations. It shows how the government resort to criminalization of political acts to justify attacks on human rights against those it perceives as its enemy. It highlights the government’s bias against those who uphold the people’s rights and those who plunder the nation’s coffers like Napoles and those who perpetrate rights violations like Gloria Arroyo, and generals Eduardo Ano and Lacson,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay. 

“Sarmiento should have been released as early as 2011, had the Aquino government fulfilled its commitment, contained in the February 2011 Oslo GPH-NDFP Joint Statement, to release ‘most, if not all, political prisoners’. In fact, Sarmiento should have not been arrested at all,” added Palabay.  

As a consultant to the peace process, he is covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) between the GPH and the NDFP, an agreement signed in 1995. Sarmiento has been involved in the peace negotiations between the government and the NDFP since 1986, representing the Eastern Visayas region.  

“Also, Sarmiento’s arrest on February 24, 2009 was faulty because it was warrantless and it is not unusual for the State forces to plant “evidence” to justify arrest. It has always been their SOP, victimizing not just activists,” said Palabay.  

Sarmiento’s arresting officers claimed they had with them two warrants of arrest for arson and for multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder issued by the Catbalogan Regional Trial Court Branch 29 and of the Municipal Trial Court of Paranas, Samar, respectively. Sarmiento was later charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives for allegedly carrying a brown bag with one fragmentation grenade. 

Sarmiento had a Php 2 million bounty on his head which was supposedly awarded to an informant.At the time of his arrest, Sarmiento was in Manila for consultations. He was abducted near a mall in Alabang, Muntinlupa by joint elements of from the army intelligenceand the PNP-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG). He was tortured and held incommunicado for a week before the AFP announced his arrest. 

Sarmiento has been detained for four years at the PNP Custodial Center at Camp Crame in Quezon City. He may be transferred to the National Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa. His legal counsels are due to appeal his case before the RTC.  

“The Aquino government is showing signs that it can no longer defend its acts before the people. The refusal to go back to the negotiating table, the attacks against human rights and human rights defenders, the criminalization of political acts is an admission of desperation, gawain ito ng mga nasusukol na.It’s time the BS Aquino government face his accountability to the people,” ended Palabay.