Lawyers: Tiamzons' arrest illegal

Posted at 03/23/14 5:03 PM

MANILA -- The lawyers of the top leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) insist that their arrest last Saturday was illegal, citing a document that the government said was in a floppy disk and could no longer be decrypted.

A representative of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers said lawyers were only able to talk to couple Benito and Wilma Tiamzon almost 24 hours after they were arrested in Cebu.

“The NUPL was denied access to them. After 24 hours, it was only then that they were able to see their lawyers,” the representative said, adding that they were only able to see the couple for 30 minutes.

They now have to assess the situation before coming out with the next mode of action, noting that they have not even seen the charges lodged against the couple for justifying the arrest.

The lawyer said the Tiamzons are "immune from arrest" because of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), which was signed in 1995 and stipulates that: “The primary purposes of the safety and immunity guarantees hereby adopted are to facilitate the peace negotiations, create a favorable atmosphere conducive to free discussion and free movement during the peace negotiations, and avert any incident that may jeopardize the peace negotiations.”

The government claimed, however, that the National Democratic Front – the political arm of the CPP -- violated the JASIG by placing in floppy discs the alias holders’ photos. The government panel said the floppy discs could not already be decrypted because they have been corrupted over time.

The lawyer insisted, however, that the Tiamzons had documents of their JASIG coverage. “If the government continues to violate the JASIG, what incentive should the [CPP-NDF] use in proceeding with the peace talks?” the lawyer said.

In a separate statement, the government panel handling the peace talks with the communists noted that the NDF and the Philippine government "agreed to a procedure in July 2011 to verify the true identities of several dozen alleged NDF consultants in the list of JASIG-protected individuals carrying aliases.

"But through no fault of government, the NDF failed to open their own files that purportedly contained the photos and true identities of the said NDF consultants,” the statement said, adding that this failure on the part of the NDF rendered the JASIG inoperative, specifically for those using aliases and those not involved in the peace process.

“If indeed Benito Tiamzon was listed under an alias, he is no longer covered by the JASIG,” the panel said.

“Wilma Austria Tiamzon, on the other hand, jumped bail when she escaped from detention on December 26, 1989, when there were no peace talks, and six years before the JASIG came into effect. This makes her ineligible for JASIG protection, even assuming she was identified in the JASIG list by her real name,” the panel added.