Duterte orders arrest of NDF consultants; NDF says they are protected under JASIG

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/ 05 February) — President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the arrest and detention of the consultants of the National Democratic Front (NDF) who were temporarily released in August to participate in the peace talks, and the cancellation of the passports of those who refuse to return to the country.

“Iyong lahat ng 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,” he said.

Soldiers President Rodrigo Duterte console with Gricel, wife of slain Army Corporal Nino Christopher Talabor in Camp Evangelista, Cagayan de Oro on Sunday Feb. 5, 2017. Communist rebels killed Talabor and two other soldiers in Malaybalay City last Feb. 1, hours after the rebels terminated their unilateral ceasefire.. Photo by Froilan Gallardo

Duterte said the locations and movements of the 23 NDF consultants are known by the intelligence agencies of the  Armed Forces of the Philippines.

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

But 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.

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 rearrest in accordance with the JASIG (Joint Agreement on Ssfety and Immunity Guarantees).

“These consultants have been put under the effective jurisdiction of GRP courts because they were released only on bail and only 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,” Agcaoili added.

Duterte’s order is the latest tit-for-tat reaction against the CPP-NPA which announced on February 1 its termination of the unilateral ceasefire by 11:59 p.m. on February 10.  NPA spokesperson Jorge Madlos accused the government of delaying the release of nearly 400 political prisoners and alleged that government troops occupied some 500 villages controlled by the communist rebels.

The President accused the NPA of treachery when they ambushed government troops on the day the rebels hours after announcing the termination of the ceasefire by 11:59 p.m. on February 10.

Gricel, wife of Army Corporal Nino Christopher Talabor 
(right) and Alma Lou, wife of Army Sergeant Owen Yee, prepare for the arrival of President Rodrigo Duterte at the chapel of the 4th Infantry Division in Camp Evangelista, Cagayan de Oro on  Sunday Feb. 5, 2017. Communist rebels killed Talabor, Yee and Cpl, Pat Non, in Malaybalay City last Feb. 1, hours after the rebels announced they were lifting their unilateral ceasefire by 11:59 p.m. on February 10. Mindanews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

Duterte personally expressed his condolences to the families of Army Sgt. Owen Yee; Corporal Nino Christopher Talabor  and  Corporal Pat Non at the chapel of the 4th Infantry Division in Camp Evangelista.

He spoke with the families of slain soldiers around a small circle inside the chapel,  promising swift retribution.

Duterte said he now considers the rebels as terrorists and will not be accorded the protection of the Geneva Conventions.

He explained to reporters that as terrorists, the NPA cannot enjoy the protection of the Geneva Conventions which provide specific rules to safeguard combatants, or members of the armed forces, who are wounded, sick or shipwrecked, prisoners of war, and civilians as well as medical personnel, military chaplains, and civilian support workers of the military.

Duterte said it is easy to declare the NPA as terrorist organization since it is still on the US State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs).

Duterte said “law enforcement” operations will be conducted against the NPA across the country. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)