By Martin Sadongdong
Various cause-oriented groups staged a protest in front of the Philippine National Police (PNP) headquarters in Camp Crame, Quezon City Saturday to call for the release of National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Rey Casambre and his wife, Patricia.
The Casambre couple was apprehended by joint police and military forces on Friday in Bacoor, Cavite.
Police said the arrest was made after the implementation of an arrest warrant against Rey for the crime of murder and two counts of attempted murder issued by the Regional Trial Court Branch 32 in Lupon, Davao Oriental.
Police said an unlicensed caliber .45 pistol, a fragmentation grenade, an electric detonating cord and various ammunition were seized from the couple.
However, Sarah Elago, Kabataan Party-list representative, said the seized gun, grenade and ammunition from the peace advocates were just planted so that the police could file trumped-up charges against them.
She also said the arrest of the couple and other peace advocates in the past months could be seen as “death” of the long-been sought peace and justice in the country.
“Ang implikasyon niyan ay para na ring kamatayan sa usapang pangkapayapaan dahil sila [PNP, AFP] mismo ang pangunahing spoiler ng peace talks. Unahin na pag-usapan ang mga sosyo-ekonomikong reporma katulad na tunay na reporma sa lupa at pambansang industrialisasyon bilang batayan ng pagtugon sa matagal ng panawagan ng mga nagrerebeldeng grupo. Hindi lang ito sa grupo ng NDFP kundi lahat ng grupong nagsusulong ng mga pagtigil ng kahirapan,” Elago said.
(The implication of this [arrest] could be seen as a death of the peace talks because they [PNP, Armed Forces of the Philippines] are the main spoilers of the peace talks. Let us prioritize talking about socio-economic reforms like true land reform and national industrialization which could serve as basis to find solutions to the demands of the rebel groups. It’s not only for the NDFP but for all of the groups pushing for an end of poverty.)
Meanwhile, Karapatan-Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights, criticized President Duterte for the Casambre couple’s arrest saying he turned his back on the peace negotiations and betrayed the oppressed people.
“Duterte has made a 180-degree turn around regarding his attitude on the peace negotiations, influenced by militarists and warmongers in his Cabinet. This is indicative of the Duterte regime’s choice for a militarist, fascist response,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay in a statement.
According to Palabay, Rey is the fourth NDFP peace consultant arrested under the Duterte administration.
Aside from Rey, police also arrested Vicente Ladlad, Adelberto Silva and Rafael Baylosis this year.
In total, at least 540 political prisoners have already been detained in the country, Palabay claimed.
The Karapatan executive also said the Casambre couple’s arrest is a violation of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) which prohibits the arrest of individuals who are taking part in the peace talks between the Philippine government and the communist groups.
The PNP, for its part, earlier said JASIG could no longer be used as an argument by the communist groups since Duterte already terminated the peace talks.
Duterte earlier initiated the peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-NDFP but terminated it in November 2017 because of the rebels’ continued attacks against state troops.
In March 2017, Duterte said he was again willing to give peace talks a chance if it would be done in the Philippines, a condition denied by Jose Maria Sison, the founder of the CPP-NPA.
Since then, the government opted to pursue localized peace talks.