Calida moves for re-arrest of NDF consultants in peace talks

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Solicitor General Jose Calida said on Thursday, July 20, that he will set in motion the re-arrest of  National Democratic Front (NDF) consultants who were temporarily released from detention to participate in the peace talks.

Calida made the announcement on Twitter on Thursday, a day after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered government negotiators not to resume formal talks with communist rebels until their armed units stop attacking government troops in Mindanao, where martial law is in place.

"OSG (Office of the Solicitor General) will ask the courts to cancel all bail bonds of NDF Consultants, order their arrests, and recommit them to their detention facilities," Calida said.

Chief Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza announced that the government was also canceling backchannel talks.

The moves were apparently triggered by a clash on Wednesday between suspected members of the New People's Army (NPA) and the Presidential Security Group (PSG) in Arakan, North Cotabato.

In late May, the government, upon Duterte's orders,  pulled out of the 5th round of talks after the Communist Party of the Philippines directed its armed units to intensify attacks against the military following the proclamation of martial law in Mindanao. He had also threatened to re-arrest the NDF consultants then.

"Another unfortunate knee-jerk hardball reaction that does not solve but aggravates the situation," added Edre Olalia, lawyer for the NDF consultants.

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) thumbed down the move as a "strongman’s act of bad faith."

"It is a strongman’s act of bad faith aimed at bullying the NDFP to bow to his terms of surrender," the CPP said in a statement on Thursday.

It said Calida's move to seek the rearrest of the NDF consultants "is a violation of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) and violates their democratic rights under the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL)."

But Calida, on Twitter, cited a Supreme Court (SC) resolution which says that when peace talks cease, bail bonds are automatically canceled without deference to JASIG.

OSG will ask the courts to cancel all bail bonds of NDF Consultants, order their arrests, and recommit them to their detention facilities. https://t.co/DvFcUyAc6V — SolGen Jose C Calida (@SolGenCalida) July 20, 2017

NDF consultants

Twenty NDF consultants were temporarily released to join the peace talks, led by Benito and Wilma Tiamzon who will mark their first year of temporary liberty on August 19.

In February, in yet another roadblock to the peace talks, Duterte terminated the JASIG prompting the justice department to put the consultants on the immigration watchlist.

They include:

Calida immediately filed a motion before the Supreme Court (SC) to recall the bail grants.

Olalia said Calida's threat last February was "resolved by March backchannel talks which led to the April 4th round."

With no recalls being issued, Calida is doing the same thing now. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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