Arrest of Reds consultant, priest 'dubious,' says legal counsel

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 21 2019 09:02 PM | Updated as of Mar 21 2019 10:09 PM

MANILA - The arrest of a communist peace panel consultant and a priest on Wednesday are "dubious," a lawyer said Thursday.

National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) consultant Renante Gamara and Fr. Arturo Balagat were arrested in Imus, Cavite for illegal possession of firearms.

The raid by a joint police-military task force yielded 2 grenades, firearms, gadgets, subversive documents, and P90,000 cash.

Authorities said Gamara is wanted for kidnapping with murder and frustrated murder.

Gamara's legal counsel Kristina Conti, however, said her client has "no pending warrant in the courts and his bail subsists in his previous cases." 

"It is grossly ignorant to say that 'Duterte ordered his arrest' because the president is not the proper judicial authority. Second, nor is it proper to cite the alleged termination of the JASIG (Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees) to arrest consultants," Conti said in a statement.

"We stand by the agreement and it's perpetual immunities as still binding. JASIG also does not authorize the arrest of anyone without warrant or color of authority."

The JASIG is a key agreement between the government and the NDFP which guarantees the legal immunity of rebel peace negotiators. 

Conti also denied that Gamara and Balagat own the seized firearm and explosives.

"They have no need for it, as I earlier said, Mr. Gamara is not wanted, not in hiding, and certainly not in possession of any contraband," she said.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday announced the "permanent termination" of peace negotiations between government and communist rebels.

Government has also dismantled its negotiating team, moving instead to create localized peace panels.