DOJ backs arrest of Tiamzon couple

By Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 24 2014 02:37 PM | Updated as of Mar 24 2014 11:33 PM

MANILA - The arrest of two Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) leaders in Cebu on Saturday afternoon is valid, according to Justice Secretary Leila De Lima.

This, despite the insistence of the CPP-NPA that the arrest of Benito Tiamzon and his wife, Wilma, was a violation of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG). The Tiamzons are covered by the JASIG since they are consultants in the peace talks between government and the CPP-NPA, according to the group.

Benito is the chairman of the CPP-NPA, while Wilma is its secretary-general. They were arrested by a composite team from the AFP and PNP in Aloguinsan, Cebu.

De Lima said both were arrested on the basis of two valid arrest warrants.

"There are outstanding warrants of arrest: dalawa, naconfirm ko... [in connection with] the mass grave in Inopacan, Leyte, and there's another case in Northern Samar."

"And therefore, tama lang na in-implement ng PNP-AFP," De Lima said.

The justice chief also said the Tiamzons failed to show proof that they are covered by the JASIG, but stressed that even if covered by the JASIG, the Tiamzons cannot invoke the agreement because there is no ongoing peace talks between government and the CPP-NPA.

"Kini-claim of course ng NDF na covered sila ng JASIG. Yung government panel, there's no validation of that. There was a failed verification. Hhindi talaga naverify yan kung talagang covered sila ng JASIG."

"Even then, assuming arguendo that they are indeed JASIG-covered, hindi yun nila pwedeng invoke yung immunties nila under JASIG. And JASIG... it presupposes the existence of a peace negotiation, and alam naman natin na hindi pa nagresume yung peace negotiations. I don't know kung tuluyan nang naterminate ung peace negotiation or suspended lang."

"In other words, walang peace negotiation, walang peace process na nagaganap between governmen panel and the NDF panel and, therefore, hindi pwede maging operational yung mga guarantees na yan under JASIG," De Lima said.