Rights groups condemn the secret transfer of detained peace consultant on the eve of the filing of Petition for Writs of Amparo

KARAPATAN and DESAPARECIDOS condemn in the strongest term the illegal transfer of political prisoner Elizabeth Principe from the custodial center in Camp Crame to Candon, Ilocos Sur. The surreptitious transfer was conducted at 11:45 pm of January 22, last night, the eve of the filing of the writs of Amparo (for Elizabeth’s release and protection for her and daughter Lorena) and habeas corpus to surface husband Leo Velasco, another peace talks consultant, who was abducted and remains missing since February 19, 2007.

The Petition for the Writ of Amparo contains prayers to release Elizabeth Principe; to produce all the documents that contain the criminal cases being charged against her; and to seek protection for her and her daughter, Lorena, who has been seeking justice for her parents, as well as for all the victims of enforced disappearances as an active member of DESAPARACIDOS. The petition also asked for the surfacing of Leo Velasco, Principe’s husband who was abducted and remains missing since February 19, 2007.

The transfer of Elizabeth Principe is highly illegal and suspicious since the authorities did not inform Principe’s lawyers, who visited her earlier yesterday to let her sign the petition. Last night, the PNP said that Principe was being transferred because there is an arraignment today, January 23, for the case of rebellion charged against her in Candon, Ilocos Sur. However, Principe and her lawyers have not been informed of this arraignment nor do they have copies of the supposed charge against her in Candon, Ilocos Sur. Her supposed transfer therefore becomes highly suspicious, especially since it was being made during the night, when no one could have known.

“My mother’s incarceration and my father’s disappearance are already devastating to me; now there seems to be a move to disappear even my mother, raising my fear of altogether losing both of them,” bewailed Aya (Lorena), Principe’s and Velasco’s daughter. “ I am all the more resolved to file a petition for her release and protection,” an angry Lorena added.

Velasco was allegedly abducted by military elements on February 19, 2007 in Cagayan de Oro City. Nine months later, Principe was abducted on November 28, 2007 in Cubao after she went to a diagnostic clinic for a medical examination. Three days later, the Armed Forces of the Philippines admitted custody of Principe and presented her to the media as one of its “rebel captives”. As NDFP consultants to the Peace Process, both Velasco and Principe are protected by the Joint Agreement on Securities and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG). This, according to Atty.Principe is a clear violation of their rights as citizens and in particular, as consultants to the peace process.

The Peace Negotiations between the NDFP and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) has been initiated to resolve the armed conflict in the Philippines. The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) pinned its hope on the Peace Negotiations by calling for its resumption in a press statement released on January 22.

Lorena also told the press that the GRPs sincerity in resolving the armed conflict is severely tainted by the illegal arrest and detention it has imposed upon my parents. “Together with DESAPARACIDOS, our relatives and friends, I shall relentlessly fight this battle for my parents and for all of those whose human rights have been violated by the Macapagal-Arroyo regime,” she said with determination. ###