MANILA — Malacanang on Monday assured the safety of the government’s peace panel following reports that the New People’s Army (NPA) may retaliate in response to the arrest of National Democratic Front (NDF) consultant Rafael Baylosis and compatriot Guillermo Roque.
“The President (Rodrigo Duterte) is committed to ensuring the safety of the government’s peace panel, and our security forces are ready to perform their mandate at all times,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a Palace briefing.
Roque said the arrest of government negotiators as warned by Anakpawis Representative Ariel Casilao is a violation of the International Human Law (IHL) which assures protection to non-combatants.
“The NPA has absolutely no legal basis to arrest members of the government peace panel. It is criminal. It is a war crime,” Roque said.
He explained Baylosis’ arrest was lawful in connection with the NDF consultant’s murder raps over the 1985 Inopacan, Leyte massacre.
“We’d like to underscore first that the arrest of Mr. Baylosis was pursuant to a lawful arrest order. Now as such, we should allow the legal process to proceed so that our justice system can take its due course,” Roque said.
Roque said Baylosis can no longer use the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) as protection against arrest since peace talks have already been terminated by the government.
“JASIG does not have any binding effect now that the government has decided to terminate with the peace talks,” Roque said.
Roque questioned Casilao’s authority to talk about the NPAs’ warning against the government peace negotiators.
“Curiously, it appears that Congressman Casilao appears to be privy to information from inside the NPA. And to me, he sounded like he was speaking on behalf of the NPA,” he said.
Meanwhile, Roque said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will not be affected by another warning from Communist Party of the Philippines (CCP) founder Jose Maria Sison who said the NPA could kill one soldier per region in one day.
“Go ahead, make all the threats he want,” Roque said.
He said the government will just not give way to the demands of Sison whose combatants violated the ceasefire when the NPA launched series attacks against military at the height of the cancelled peace talks.
“Bakit kami luluhod, ano ba ang akala niya sa Hukbong Sandataan, hindi natin sila kaya? Manuod siya, ayaw ng Presidente sana na dumanak ng dugo, pero wag niyang tatakutin iyong gobyerno na parang kontrolado nila ang teritoryo ng Pilipinas, (Why we should bow to him? What does he think of the Armed Forces, that we cannot beat them? He should watch. The President does not want bloodshed but he (Sison) should not scare the government as if he has the control of the Philippine territory)” Roque said.
Despite threats from CPP/NPA leaders, Roque has reiterated the government’s call to the NPA fighters to lay down their arms and return to the fold of the law.