MANILA (2nd UPDATE) - The whereabouts of a septuagenarian identified by the Communist Party of the Philippines and Karapatan as a peace consultant of the National Democratic Front, is being sought Wednesday by the groups.
Edwin Alcid was allegedly nabbed last March 8 by a military unit in Catubig, Northern Samar, along with 2 other farmers, the CPP and Karapatan said in separate statements.
The apprehension, according to the communist group, was carried out by the 803rd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army. Two military helicopters arrived in the area around noontime to pick them up, it said.
“We reiterate our demand for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), specifically the 803rd Infantry Brigade under the 8th Infantry Division, to surface and release peace consultant Edwin Alcid (Ka Veejo or Ka Terry),” the CPP said in another statement on March 20.
But Philippine Army 8th ID commander Maj. Gen. Edgardo de Leon told ABS-CBN News that authorities have not taken custody of a person named "Edwin Alcid".
While he confirmed that police and Army personnel picked up two men using a chopper in Hibubulyao in Catubig town on March 8, none of them were identified as "Edwin Alcid".
The CPP on March 11 first disclosed the alleged apprehension of Alcid, who is also known as Ka Veejo, and local residents Siloy Mendez and Antonio Ero in Barangay San Jose (Hibubulyao) in Catubig.
The communist group described Alcid as an elderly retired cadre of the movement, and is “ailing and suffers from diabetes.”
He is an engineering graduate of the University of the Philippines and was among those who designed and built the Cloverleaf interchange in Balintawak, Quezon City, the CPP said.
According to De Leon, the man apprehended by government forces was a certain Leonardo Bernardo, whose identity is supported by an ID card issued by the Office of Senior Citizens Affairs in Ramos, Tarlac.
Bernardo was allegedly being complained by local residents in Hibubulyao because he has been staying there despite not being a native of the place.
The military officer said Bernardo, who purportedly had a pistol at the time of his apprehension, was reportedly brought to the place by New People's Army members.
It was the local resident, identified as Antonio Eros, who was supposedly forced by the NPA to take Bernardo in who sought help from the police, said de Leon.
"Yung Antonio na sinasabi ng CPP na kasama sa mga kinuha, siya yung complainant," the military official said, adding Eros continues to stay at the 803rd Infantry Brigade headquarters in Catarman town out of fear if he returns home.
Hibubulyao remains an NPA-infested area, said de Leon.
Bernardo, meanwhile, has been charged by the police with illegal possession of firearms and grave threat. Inquest proceedings have been held and the complaints are now under preliminary investigation by the prosecutor, according to the Army officer.
De Leon was not certain during the phone interview whether Bernardo is detained at the 803rd IB headquarters or the Catubig police.
"I'm asking Karapatan if they are referring to Leonardo Bernardo," he said.
Karapatan said earlier in the day that it received a letter from the family of Alcid, seeking assistance in tracing the latter’s whereabouts.
“We are currently working with Alcid’s family and friends as well as key institutions to search for Alcid,” Karapatan’s Secretary General Cristina Palabay told ABS-CBN News.
“The arrest of Alcid” is “an outright violation of his rights under the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG)” between the NDFP and the government, the CPP said.
The government’s peace talks with the communist movement was terminated by President Rodrigo Duterte in 2019 amid what it says are continuing armed attacks by rebels against state troops during the negotiations period.
Karapatan said in its statement that despite the suspension of formal peace talks, JASIG has not been formally terminated by both parties.
It said peace consultants are covered by the JASIG, which states that they and peace panel members should be immune from arrests, detention, and harassment.
In demanding the AFP to immediately surface Alcid and his companions, the CPP said the latter should be allowed to “avail of medical and legal services in line with their democratic rights.”
De Leon said CPP's claims and Karapatan's statements "are helping us establish the identity of an offender."
"Honestly, our troops and the policemen have no inkling that the arrested person is an NDFP officer. May I ask the Karapatan and CPP to prove that Mr. Leonardo Bernardo is an NDFP officer?" he added.
Aside from Alcid, another peace consultant, Ezequiel Daguman, 50, who reportedly went missing in New Corella, Davao del Norte, should also be surfaced, Karapatan said.
The rights advocacy group called as well for the release of Esteban Manuel Jr. and Ramon Patriarca, who were reportedly arrested last Feb. 16 in Villareal, Samar, and last March 18 in Negros Occidental, respectively.
“As we assert our calls to surface Edwin Alcid and Ezequiel Daguman and to free Esteban Manuel Jr. and Ramon Patriarca, we also call for the immediate resumption of the peace talks and to stop the attacks on peace consultants,” Karapatan’s Palabay said.
FROM THE ARCHIVES