MANILA, Philippines — The lawyers of three consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, including alleged communist rebel leaders Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, have asked a Manila trial court not to cancel their bail bonds as requested by the Department of Justice following the collapse of peace talks.
Late last month, following President Rodrigo Duterte ordered negotiations with the NDFP terminated, the DOK filed a motion with Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 32 seeking the cancellation of the bail bonds and the rearrest of the Tiamzons and Adelberto Silva, who are charged with murder over the discovery of a mass grave of alleged victims of a rebel purge in Leyte.
“In view of the cancellation of the peace talks, there is no more legal ground for the continuous provisional liberty of the accused; thus, the immediate recommitment and cancellation of bail of all the accused should logically follow,” the DOJ said.
Aside from scrapping the peace talks, Duterte has also tagged the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Amy as terror organizations. In fact, the communists have been included as the basis for the yearlong extension of martial law in Mindanao that Congress granted Wednesday, December 13, on Duterte’s request.
Also on Wednesday, lawyers from the Public Interest Law Center representing Silva, and the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers representing the Tiamzons, filed their joint comment to the DOJ’s motion for recommitment and cancellation of bail.
They noted that despite Duterte’s termination of the peace talks, the government’s negotiating panel “has yet to serve a written notice of termination to the NDFP,” 30 days after which the talks may be deemed officially ended.
They also pointed out that since August last year, Duterte had already twice announced a “termination” and, while he backtracked on this decision both times, “based on the President’s public statements, the Office of the Solicitor General precipitously filed motions for recommitment in February 2017 and then in August 2017, a position later proven unwise and incorrect.”
In fact, they said, “in October 2017, the negotiating panel of the (government) even was even constrained to filed a Manifestation (Ad Cautelam) in October 2017, clarifying that there was no formal termination of the peace talks yet, to counter motions by the OSG.”
“Thus,” they stressed, “great caution and circumspection in the appreciation and interpretation of the President’s words is more than required now,” citing a December 8 speech in which Duterte said, “Let’s give time for a cooling off with the Communist Party of the Philippines …” and hinted that the government panel could “always resuscitate it at some other time.”
They also quoted chief government negotiator Silvestre Bello III as saying Duterte continues to hope for a “just, inclusive and lasting peace” as his legacy and that, while the termination of the talks was “”one of the big humps in the road to peace … I’m sure (these) humps would someday disappear and we will go back to the road to peace.”
The NDFP consultant’s lawyers also said ordering their rearrest and return to jail “is like a Gordian knot difficult to undo, and will certainly defeat all efforts and expectations by various peace advocates, including the Royal Norwegian Government as third party facilitator, to pursue the peace talks as a venue to address the root cause of the armed conflict.”
Appealing to the court for “prudence and good judgment in these trying times,” they asked that the DOJ’s motion be denied “for lack of a formal written notice of termination” from government or “deferred so as not to render moot and academic the efforts and overwhelming calls toward the resumption of the peace negotiations.”