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'Jasig has become a bounty list'

MANILA, Philippines – Instead of facilitating the peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig) has become a "bounty list," according to Carol Araullo of the leftist Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan).

Araullo was referring to the government's alleged violation of the Jasig when military and police forces arrested alleged Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) top leaders Benito and Wilma Tiamzon. The two were captured in Cebu on March 22. (READ: Aquino: Tiamzons' arrest a serious blow to rebels)

Araullo said the Jasig, which is supposed to allow members of the NDFP negotiating panel and underground members to safely talk to troops to consult them on the peace process, has turned into a "bounty list" for the government.

Speaking to reporters outside the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame where the Tiamzons are being detained, Araullo repeated the NDFP's stand that the two are consultants, not party leaders. As such, the two should be granted immunity from arrest.

The talks collapsed last year, however. In December 2013, the CPP said they were giving up on the administation of President Benigno Aquino III and stressed "it has no choice but to wait for the next regime to engage in serious negotiations."

The justice department on Monday, March 24, maintained their arrest was legal since the peace negotiation with the communist group ended. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the Jasig can only be "operational" while peace talks are ongoing.

On Monday, the Tiamzons, 5 others and their legal team walked out of the inquest proceedings at Crame, saying it was "highly irregular."

Araullo said placing bounties for the arrest of suspected CPP leaders was not helping the search for peace.

The Tiamzons have standing warrants for crimes against humanity, including murder, multiple murder, and frustrated murder charges. This afternoon, after an inquest proceeding, more charges were slapped against the Tiamzons: illegal possession of firearms, illegal possession of explosives, and harboring criminals. – Rappler.com