MANILA – Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, the top leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA), are demanding that the government release them because they are protected by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).
In a March 24 statement, Wilma, CPP-NPA's secretary-general, said she and her husband Benito had been recognized by former President Fidel Ramos and former government panel negotiator Silvestre Bello as National Democratic Front consultants.
Wilma said Benito had been given a Document of Identification/safe conduct pass but this was confiscated by soldiers and police during their arrest in Cebu last Saturday.
"Kung hindi kikilalanin ang beripikasyong ito ay wala pong integridad at dignidad/balasubas makipag-usap ang reaksyunaryong gubyerno," Wilma said.
The NDF has asserted that the Tiamzons should be released because they are covered by JASIG.
Malacañang, however, said that while Benito used an alias, the NDF failed to prove his identity thus voiding the agreement.
Wilma, on the other hand, jumped bail in December 1989 before the JASIG came into effect, making her ineligible for protection.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima also noted that JASIG is only effective if there are ongoing peace talks, which is not the case.
De Lima also said the couple's criminal cases have nothing to do with the peace process.
The Tiamzon couple is facing cases of murder, multiple murder and frustrated murder before the regional trial court in Northern Samar. These charges have been described by the NPA leaders' lawyer as trumped-up.
Wilma said NDF consultants are vital parts of the peace process, and it is natural for them to go "underground" after being released from prison.
"Likas na katangian ng NDF consultants na katawanin ang interes ng rebolusyonaryong kilusan at gumampan ng importanteng papel sa pakikibaka. Habang humuhusay ang paggampan sa papel ng pakikibaka lalong huhusay ang kondisyon para pabilisin ang usapang pangkapayapaan," she said.
"Para epektibong magampanan ng mga consultants ang kanilang papel sa prosesong pangkapayapaan kailangang lagi silang may malapit na ugnay at nasa piling ng malaking pwersang kanilang kinakatawan kahit nasa proseso ng pag-uusap. Ito ay katiyakan na laging napapanahon at mahigpit na naitataguyod at ang kanilang tunay na interes sa proseso ng usapang pangkapayapaan."
Wilma said she and Benito are still willing to participate in the peace process, as long the "real and basic" problems of the Filipinos will be addressed.