Karapatan sounds alarm over abducted and arrested NDFP peace consultants, urges resumption of peace talks

Photo by Carlo Manalansan/Bulatlat

Human rights watchdog Karapatan called for the surfacing of National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultants Edwin Alcid and Ezequiel Daguman as well as the release of Esteban Manuel Jr. and Ramon Patriarca, as the group called for the resumption of the peace talks between the government and the NDFP amid the recent attacks against NDFP peace consultants.

“We assert the calls to surface Edwin Alcid and Ezequiel Daguman and to free Esteban Manuel Jr. and Ramon Patriarca now! These attacks on peace consultants and advocates must stop! We strongly urge the Philippine government and the NDFP to resume the peace talks as soon as possible for the sake of our people,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay stated.

50-year-old Daguman and his companion have been missing since the afternoon of March 7 while they were en route to a peasant community in one of the banana plantations in New Corella, Davao del Norte to look into the situation of workers and farmers in the area. Meanwhile, Alcid and two farmers were reportedly accosted by military personnel last March 8 in Catubig, Northern Samar. Both peace consultants and their 3 companions have not been located yet by their relatives.

“We call on the Commission on Human Rights to help the families of Daguman, Alcid and their companions to search military camps, police stations and safehouses to ensure that they are alive and are accorded their rights,” Palabay said.

Last February 16, Manuel was also reportedly arrested in Villareal, Samar along with his three companions, but his family was only able to locate him at the headquarters of the Philippine Army’s 8th Infantry Division in Calbayog City on March 11, nearly a month after his arrest. Manuel and his companions, who are still missing, are facing trumped-up charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives and violations of the Commission on Elections gun ban rules.

Patriarca together with youth activists CJ Matarlo and John Michael Tecson were arrested in Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental last March 18. Details on the charges against them have yet to be reported to Karapatan’s National Office as of this writing.

Peace consultants are covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), which states that peace consultants and peace panel members should be immune from arrests, detention, and harassment. Despite the suspension of formal peace talks between the Philippine government and the NDFP, JASIG has not been formally terminated by both parties.

Palabay said that the recent string of abductions and arrests of NDFP peace consultants “signal intensified attacks — and of worst things to come, especially with the Duterte administration’s self-imposed deadline to wipe out the NDFP. We can only expect the arrests, abductions, and even killings of peace consultants and advocates.”

“Our people deserve genuine peace. These attacks not only spoil efforts to advance just peace but instead perpetuates militarism, violence, and injustice. As we assert our calls to surface Edwin Alcid and Ezequiel Daguman and to free Esteban Manuel Jr. and Ramon Patriarca, we also call for the immediate resumption of the peace talks and to stop the attacks on peace consultants,” she ended.