(Eagle News) — A consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) who was released in 2016 to represent communist rebels in peace talks with the government was arrested on Thursday, November 8, for illegal possession of firearms.
Vicente Ladlad was arrested in Quezon City, along with two other companions.
Police said that a joint operation of the police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines seized from them high-powered firearms and ammunition, grenades and several “subversive documents.”
They were served with a search warrant by authorities past 12 midnight at a subdivision in Barangay San Bartolome in Novaliches, Quezon City.
Militant human rights group, Karapatan, identified the two others who were arrested as Alberto and Virginia Villamor.
Malacanang spokesperson Salvador Panelo justified the arrest saying that the rebellion case against Ladlad was a continuing crime, and that Ladlad and all other NDFP consultants released from jail were not anymore covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) signed by the Philippine government and the NDFP in 1995.
Panelo said that the JASIG is only “operative” if there are ongoing peace talks. He said that since President Rodrigo Duterte has already terminated peace talks with the NDF, the JASIG is no longer in effect.
“Second, the crime of rebellion is a continuing crime and therefore no warrant of arrest is needed for that,” Panelo said in a Malacañang press briefing Thursday.
He said that other NDF consultants can also be arrested because of the failed peace talks between the Philippine government and the communist rebels.
Human rights group Karapatan, earlier, insisted that Ladlad’s arrest violated terms of the peace talks.
Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said that Ladlad and other NDF consultants who had been earlier released to participate in the peace talks are “immune from arrests” citing the JASIG.
“They should be immune from arrests and detention and other harassment and attacks,” Karapatan’s Palabay said.
Another militant group, Bagong Alyansang Makabayanyan, also condemned the arrest, saying that this showed that the government was more interested “in a military solution” to address the communist rebels’ concerns.
“The recent arrests of peace consultants tells us that the Duterte government is more interested in a military solution rather than a political solution to the roots of the armed conflict,” said Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes.
“Serious peace negotiations and existing agreements are being set aside in favor of political persecution and fascist measures,” he added.
Ladlad’s wife, Fides, also earlier accused the police of “planting firearms and explosives” on Ladlad.
But Director Guillermo Eleazar, National Capital Region Police Office chief, dismissed this allegation.