MANILA- (UPDATE) Government chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III denied on Friday allegations of a crackdown on Communist rebels following the arrest of a National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) consultant.
"I don’t think there is such a crackdown," Bello told ANC.
"If you are referring to the arrest of Raffy Baylosis, I don’t think that can be considered as a crackdown. It is just an exercise of police authority," he added.
Police arrested NDFP consultant Rafael Baylosis and another New People's Army member Roque Guillermo after receiving reports of suspicious men with firearms in the border of Manila and Quezon City last Tuesday.
Baylosis was released last 2016 to participate in the peace talks. He is believed to be the first NDFP consultant rearrested after President Rodrigo Duterte called off the peace talks.
Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa also maintained that there was nothing wrong with the arrest of Baylosis.
Speaking to reporters on Friday, Dela Rosa refuted allegations the the firearms and grenade retrieved from Baylosis were planted.
"Ganon talaga 'yan pag may nahuli, counter claim 'yan nila. Para bang pag pusher nahuli, sabihin tinaniman ng shabu. May ebidensiya, harapin na lang nila ang kaso," Dela Rosa said.
The NDFP has condemned the arrest and detention of Baylosis, saying it is "a flagrant violation of the GRP-NDFP Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG, 1995)."
Asked if Baylosis' arrest would further hamper the cancelled peace talks between the government and Communist rebels, Bello said he remains "very hopeful" that negotiations can still resume.
-with a report from Maan Macapagal, ABS-CBN News
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story referred to Baylosis' companion as Guillermo Roque