SolGen seeks arrest of NDF consultants after scrapped backchannel talks

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 20 2017 01:16 PM | Updated as of Jul 20 2017 07:13 PM

Solicitor General Jose Calida. File photo

MANILA (UPDATE) - Solicitor General Jose Calida said Thursday he would request the cancellation of bail bonds and seek the arrest of National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) consultants earlier released for the peace talks following the scrapping of backchannel talks with communist rebels.

"OSG (Office of the Solicitor General) will ask the courts to cancel all bail bonds of NDF Consultants, order their arrests, and recommit them to their detention facilities," Calida said in a tweet.

"The conditional release granted them by the courts are for the sole purpose of the formal peace negotiations. The conditions are based on the Supreme Court Resolution dated 2 August 2016, and not based on JASIG," said Calida's spokesperson Erik Dy, pertaining to an SC resolution involving some NDF leaders.

Signed by government and communist peace panels in February 1995, JASIG, or the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees, provides safety and immunity for negotiators, consultants, and other individuals taking part in the peace talks.

"The conditions provide that should the formal peace negotiations cease or fail, their bond shall be deemed automatically cancelled," Dy added.

Speaking to ANC on Thursday afternoon, NDFP legal consultant Rachel Pastores said that if Calida will follow through with his words, it would be like taking the communist leaders as "hostages."

"If he (Calida) will pursue that such action will not contribute to the effort of the parties to have an enabling environment for the peace talks to continue," he said. 

"Such action is tantamount to taking the NDFP consultants as hostages, that is they do not behave in the manner the GRP (government) would want them to behave then the consequence is that they will be re-arrested and detained," she added.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier ordered the release of several communist leaders so they can participate in the peace negotiations. However, the talks have been hampered several times due to persistent clashes between government troops and NPA rebels.

Last May, Duterte warned overseas communist leaders of arrest after they criticized the President's decision to place the entire Mindanao under martial law following the terrorist siege in Marawi City.

The government on Wednesday cancelled backchannel negotiations with the Communist Party of the Philippines due to a series of attacks by its armed wing, the New People's Army (NPA)--the most recent of which is an ambush attack on the Presidential Security Group (PSG) in Akaran, North Cotobato which resulted to the death of a militiaman and left 4 others injured.

Pastores on Thursday clarified that only backchannel talks were halted and that they are still waiting for the government on whether formal talks are already cancelled.

"We are still waiting for the official communication from the GRP (government) negotiating panel that indeed the peace negotiations has been terminated so far there is no official communication to that effect," she said.

Presidential Adviser for the Peace Process Jesus Dureza on Thursday downplayed the cancellation of backchannel efforts, calling it a "temporary hitch" that could still be resolved.