Benito and Wilma Tiamzon
Gov’t open to resumption of talks
MANILA - Malacanang assured the public that the government is ready to protect them in case the New People’s Army (NPA) retaliates after two of its leaders were arrested by security forces on Saturday.
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said “the government forces are ready to defend the population.”
Nonetheless, the government is open to resuming the stalled peace talks with the NPA.
Couple Wilma and Benito Tiamzon, top leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), were arrested Saturday afternoon in Cebu. They were nabbed by elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Barangay Zaragosa, Aluginsan in Carcar, Cebu.
In a statement, the government peace panel said the couple’s arrest highlights anew the issue of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), which the National Democratic Front (NDF) has several times used to question the arrest of officials.
The NDF is the political wing of the CPP, while the NPA is its armed wing.
The JASIG, signed in 1995, stipulates that: “The primary purposes of the safety and immunity guarantees hereby adopted are to facilitate the peace negotiations, create a favorable atmosphere conducive to free discussion and free movement during the peace negotiations, and avert any incident that may jeopardize the peace negotiations.”
The government panel dismissed NDF chairperson Luis Jalandoni’s claims that the arrest is illegal since the Tiamzons are covered by the JASIG.
“You will recall that both the NDF and the GPH agreed to a procedure in July 2011 to verify the true identities of several dozen alleged NDF consultants in the list of JASIG-protected individuals carrying aliases. But through no fault of government, the NDF failed to open their own files that purportedly contained the photos and true identities of the said NDF consultants,” the government panel said.
It said this failure on the part of the NDF rendered the JASIG inoperative, specifically for those using aliases and those not involved in the peace process.
“If indeed Benito Tiamzon was listed under an alias, he is no longer covered by the JASIG,” the panel said.
“Wilma Austria Tiamzon, on the other hand, jumped bail when she escaped from detention on December 26, 1989, when there were no peace talks, and six years before the JASIG came into effect. This makes her ineligible for JASIG protection, even assuming she was identified in the JASIG list by her real name,” the panel added.
“The CPP/NPA is well aware of the effects of the failed verification. But they only have themselves to blame for rendering the JASIG inoperative for most of their alleged consultants,” the government panel added.
The panel insists the NDF’s claim for continuous protection from the JASIG is ridiculous, noting that the NPA can always wage war and then claim JASIG protection later on.
“It is even more outrageous considering that the peace negotiations have not moved for over a year now,” the government panel added, adding that the government is always open to resuming the stalled peace talks.
It noted, however, that “CPP called for the overthrow of the Aquino government, saying they will just wait for a new administration before they go back to the table.”
Asked if this is the high-profile arrest mentioned by President Aquino days ago, Lacierda said it is best to ask the president about it.