Church group alarmed by arrest of former NDF peace consultant

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 29 Nov) —  “Is the government’s program of national reconciliation and rebel reintegration all for a show?” the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) asked in a statement Sunday as it viewed with alarm the arrest Friday of former National Democratic Front (NDF) peace consultant Alfredo Mapano.

The PEPP,  in a statement signed by Cagayan de Oro Archbishop-Emeritus Antonio Ledesma, SJ,   Bishop Felixberto Calang of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente also in Cagayan de Oro and Bishop Ligaya San Francisco of the United Church of Christ of the Philippines Northwestern Mindanao District, said the arrest of Mapano “casts doubt on the sincerity of the present government call to rebels to lay down their arms and peacefully  return to the fold.”

The 65-year old Mapano, former consultant of the NDF peace panel in the talks with the Duterte administration  and presently a security officer of the state-run Phividec Industrial Estate in Misamis Oriental, was arrested in his quarters there  morning of November 27.

Archbishop Antonio Ledesma listens as detained NDFP-Northern Mindanao official Wildredo Mapano shares his views on the peace process during a PEPP conference in Cagayan de Oro City on June 28, 2013. MindaNews file photo by H. MARCOS C. MORDENO

Mapano was freed on bail in 2016 after a seven-year detention, to participate in the peace negotiations in Norway.  Duterte, however, ordered the arrest of all  released NDF peace consultants in February 2017 and called off the talks by November 2017.  The PEPP said Mapano surrendered in October 2018 to President Duterte.

“We urge the government to  abide by its promise to accept our rebel brothers and sisters who have decided to return to the fold of the law and to offer them a chance to lead a peaceful life and contribute to peacebuilding,” the PEPP said, adding peace cannot be achieved “when even those who have given up violence and have chosen to work for peace are still politically persecuted.”

Brig. Gen. Romeo Caramat, Caraga regional police chief chief, said Mapano alias “Ka Paris” was arrested in his quarters at the Headquarters Estate Security Staff Enforcement Unit building in Phividec estate in Barangay Casinglot, Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental, on the basis of warrants from the Regional Trial Court Branch 7 in Bayugan City for alleged robbery in band and the Regional Trail Court Branch 10 in Malaybalay City for alleged carnapping.

Caramat said Mapano, who was brought to the police station in Bayugan, Agusan del Sur,  can post bail at 100,000 pesos for each of the criminal cases.

He  said  Mapano was the former Secretary of the North Central Mindanao Regional Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines and carried a P6.5 million reward for his capture.

Mapano’s wife, Chona, told Mindanews her husband chose not to go back to the rebels after the peace talks failed.

She said Mapano had been working with Phividec estate since then and “has the daily time record with the Phividec to prove that he was working at the time those crimes were allegedly committed.”

Mapano was arrested on the same day that a court in Quezon City convicted alleged NPA leaders Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria for kidnapping and illegal detention.

30 years

Mapano, according to the PEPP statement, was a former Ateneo de Davao student leader during Martial Law who went underground after he  was arrested and tortured while in detention, joined the armed struggle for 30 years,  was arrested while visiting his family in 2009, imprisoned for seven years in the Misamis Oriental Provincial Jail and freed on bail along with 21 other NDF peace consultants in August 2016 .

At Phividec, Mapano initially worked as corporate social responsibility officer and later as security officer.

While finally leading a normal life with his family,  PEPP said Mapano “also devoted  time  and effort working as an active  partner in the government program for national reconciliation and rebel returnee as a speaker  in different peace and reconciliation fora” and reached out to many former rebels and their families,  “facilitated their organization to gain legal personality and  helped these groups link with  government agencies for the improvement of their economic well-being and welfare through livelihood and technical assistance.”

On several occasions, the PEPP said, Mapano  “quietly facilitated the return of  rebels to the fold and assisted those whose lives and freedom were endangered because they were politically persecuted.”

The PEPP urged the government to abide by its promise to offer rebel returnees
a chance to lead a peaceful life and contribute to peacebuilding.

“Peace cannot be achieved by a purely militaristic solution of jailing people indiscriminately or murdering them, like what happened to other  NDF consultants Randy Malayao and Randall Echanis. The sad thing that happened to Alfredo Mapano may lend credence to the claim of the Left about the falsehood of the national reconciliation call of  President Rodrigo Duterte,” the PEPP said.

The PEPP urged  government to ”show its sincerity of giving those who give up violence a chance to  lead a peaceful life and contribute to nation building — particularly during these days of our observance of the Mindanao Week of Peace from Nov. 26 to Dec. 2, 2020,” the PEPP said.  (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)