NDF peace consultant arrested at military checkpoint

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DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 06 Feb) — A consultant of the National Democratic Front (NDF) peace panel was arrested by authorities along with his liaison officer at the Task Force Davao checkpoint in Barangay Sirawan, Toril district at 9:21 a.m. Monday.

The arrest came barely 15  hours after President Rodrigo Duterte declared in Cagayan de Oro City Sunday night  that the NDF is a “terrorist group” and ordered the arrest of  21 NDF consultants who were temporarily released in August to participate in the peace negotiations.

Lt.Col. Nestor Mondia, the detachment commander of Task Force Sirawan identified the consultant as Ariel Arbitrario alias Marlon, Secretary of Guerilla Front  GF2, Southern Mindanao Regional Command ( SMRC) and Roderick Manuyac alias Caloy,  liaison officer, of the SMRC.

NDF peace panel consultants Ariel Arbitrario (L) and Eduardo Genelsa meet the press at Cafe Demitasse in Davao City on August 18, 2016, a day after they were freed on bail to participate in the peace negotiations in Oslo, Norway. Arbitrario was arrested at a military checkpoint in Davao City on Monday, February 6, 2017, barely 15 hours after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the arrest of the NDF consultants. Photo courtesy of ZEA IO MING C. CAPISTRANO / davaotoday.com

Mondia said Arbitrario whose temporary release is supposed to lapse by February 17, and Manuyac were flagged down while on board a white Chevrolet pick up bearing plate number ADP-5617.

“May natanggap akong instruction from higher headquarters sa 10th ID na ‘may dadaan  na sasakyan ganito ang sakay tapos i-flag down at i-hold niyo’ kaya nang dumating sila gi-hold namin” (I received instructions from higher headquarters that ‘a vehicle of this type will pass by, flag it down and hold them so when the vehicle passed, we held them), Mondia said.

“Hindi ko rin alam kung sila ang sakay at yun pagka hold sa kanila sinabihan ako na darating yung CIDG (Criminal Investigation and Detection Group)  at i-turn over sa kanila” (I didn’t also know who were the passengers of the vehicle but we were just told to hold them. I was told to wait for the CIDG to turn them over), he added.

Out on bail

In its press release, the Joint Task Force Haribon of the Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom) said Arbitrario was arrested “after his bail bond had lapsed.”

The Regional Trial Court Branch 3 in Nabunturan, Compostela Valley ordered the release on bail of Arbirario and Eduardo Genelsa after posting bail.

The order signed by Judge Cresenciana DC. Cruz, said their release is only for the purpose of his attendance and participation in the formal peace negotiations in Oslo, Norway which will start on August 20.

The order also said the temporary release “shall not exceed six months, but may be shortened by the earlier conclusion or termination of the formal peace negotiations.”

The six-month period granted to Arbitrario and Genelsa would have ended on February 17 although the government and NDF peace panels during the third round of formal peace talks last month had agreed to work on the renewal of bail of all those who were temporarily released.

Chief Insp. Joahna Lagundi, chief of operations of the regional Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG). said the suspects were turned over to them by the Task Force personnel.

She said the suspects have standing warrants of arrest for murder, hence their detention.

Manuyac has a pending warrant of arrest for Criminal Case 20502 for Murder issued by Judge Virginia Tehano-Ang of RTC-11 Branch 1 while Arbitrario has a warrant for Criminal Case 7925 for murder with double attempted murder, Criminal Case 10188 for Murder and was apprehended for Case10190 for robbery in band.

“Arrest them”

“Yung lahat nang nasa labas, kayong na-release, umuwi na kayo dito because you are wanted. And upon your arrival, I will arrest you and place you back in prison,” Duterte said, adding those who refuse to return home are to be considered fugitives. “I will cancel your passports and I will inform the international police for an international warrant,” Duterte addressed the NDF Sunday night during a press briefing in Cagayan de Oro, after visiting the wake of three soldiers slain in an ambush by suspected communist rebels on February 1.

Duterte lifted the unilateral ceasefire on February 3, suspended the peace negotiations on February 4 and on February 5 ordered the arrest of the NDF consultants.

Duterte said the locations and movements of the 21 NDF consultants are known by the intelligence agencies of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

“The military has been keeping tab on their activities. But I have issued an alert … sa Immigration na kung magbalik sila, they will be subjected to an arrest,” he said.

NDF peace panel chair Fidel Agcaoili in a statement issued Sunday said 17 of the NDF consultants temporarily released from detention in August 2016  are back in the Philippines “and are not in hiding.”  He said they arrived on January 31 after attending the third round of formal peace talks in Rome.

JASIG-protected

Agcaoili also said those who participated in the third round of formal talks in Rome on January 19 to 25 returned to the country on January 31 and “are all protected from re-arrest in accordance with the JASIG (Joint Agreement on Ssfety and Immunity Guarantees).

The consultants, he added, were released on bail for a six-month period. “They have been required to secure court permission every time they went abroad to participate in the last three rounds of talks. Their bail renewal is due this month and, as reflected in the Rome Joint Statement of 25 January 2017, both their lawyers and the GRP have agreed to cooperate in this regard.”

As of 5 p.m. Monday, the NDF, CPP and NPA had yet to issue a statement on Arbitrario’s arrest.

But the CPP in a statement issued Monday, assailed Duterte’s order to cancel the passports and re-arrest NDF negotiators and consultants without bail. “If carried out, these shall be considered as gross acts of treachery and grave violations of the JASIG  (which) was reaffirmed by the Duterte regime and the NDFP just a few months ago. It guarantees non-reprisal against each other’s peace personnel.”

Arrested last year

On February 17 last year, Ariel  and  his brother Crispolo were arrested at a joint AFP-PNP checkpoint in Barangay Madaum, Tagum City following a warrant of arrest for murder filed at RTC Branch 3 in Nabunturan, Compostela Valley.

Crispolo, according to authorities, is a member of the Special Operations Group of the Sub-Regional Committe 2.

Seized from the brothers were a .45 pistol and .a 38 caliber revolver; one fragmentation grenade; an improvised grenade and a handheld radio.

According to the military, the brothers were involved in atrocities in the areas of Maco, Mabini and Pantukan. They were brought to the Davao Del Norte CIDG office as they faced another case for violation of the Election Gun Ban and RA 10591 or “Illegal possession firearms and explosives.” (MindaNews)

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