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Arrest of Tiamzon and Austria, a blow to peace negotiations – Karapatan

March 23, 2014

QUEZON CITY – “A kick in the bucket of peace,” said Karapatan on the illegal arrest of Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria, consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) to the peace negotiations with the Government of the Philippines.

“This is another case of the government’s deceit in dealing with the counterparts in the peace negotiations. The GPH completely ignored previously signed agreements with the NDFP, especially the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees or JASIG. This is not the first time. In fact, there are 12 NDF peace consultants who are in jail because of trumped up criminal charges. Also, there are 10 NDF consultants who are victims of enforced disappearance,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay.

Palabay added, “The GPH resorts to criminalization of political acts to cover up arrests conducted illegally, especially of those people who have clear ideological and political beliefs.”

Meanwhile, Karapatan chairperson Marie Hilao-Enriquez said the illegal arrest of Tiamzon and Austria “would not solve the root causes of rebellion in the country”. “Brandishing the illegal arrest of Tiamson and Austria like a trophy is insubstantial. Pursuing the peace negotiations would be more acceptable to the people who are clamouring for genuine reforms, especially on social-economic spheres. That would be justice.” Hilao-Enriquez is an independent observer in the peace negotiation between the GPH and the NDFP.

In a press statement, the NDFP said Wilma Austria is a holder of NDFP Document of Identification ND978226 under her real name; while Benito Tiamzon is the holder of NDFP Document of Identification ND978227 under the assumed name "Crising Banaag." The JASIG provides peace consultants ‘safe conduct and free passage for the duration of the peace negotiations’.