Court allows NDF consultants to go to Netherlands for June peace talks

MANILA, Philippines – The Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) granted the request of National Democratic Front (NDF) consultants and other leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) to travel to the Netherlands this June for the peace talks.

Manila RTC Branch 32 Judge Thelma Bunyi-Medina allowed Benito Tiamzon, Adelberto Silva, Rafael Baylosis, Randall Echanis, and Vicente Ladlad to attend the peace talks in Utrecht, the Netherlands from June 22 to 30.

The court order gives a clearer picture of the government's plans to resume peace negotiations with the communists. President Rodrigo Duterte hinted at the possibility on Thursday, June 7.

Medina issued the order on Friday, June 8, saying: "The provisional liberty to be granted to the accused-movants shall be solely for the purpose of their attendance in the scheduled informal talks in the Netherlands on June 22-26 and formal talks on June 27-30."

Government chief peace adviser Jesus Dureza said on Friday that he will wait for specific orders from the President before he could confirm the resumption. Duterte is set to meet his Cabinet on Monday, June 11. (READ: The end of the affair? Duterte's romance with the Reds)

Wording of the order

There are standing warrants of arrest against Tiamzon and Silva which have been issued by the court since Duterte canceled the peace negotiations in 2017.

Baylosis is in jail after he was arrested for illegal gun possession. He was the first communist to be rearrested after the cancelation of peace talks in 2017.

Although Tiamzon and Silva specifically requested for their warrants of arrest to be lifted, Judge Medina's order did not mention this.

Apart from the condition that the "provisional liberty shall be solely for the purpose" of the June talks, Medina said in her order that "once the peace negotiations are terminated, the respective bonds of the NDFP accused-movants shall be deemed automatically canceled."

Medina also required the communist leaders to "personally appear and report to the Court immediately after their return."

The question is: If and when they present themselves to the court, can warrants be served against them?

The National Union of Peoples' Lawyers (NUPL), members of which serve as the communist leaders' counsels, has always maintained that for the peace talks to be considered "terminated," it should be in accordance with protocols. The NUPL also earlier asserted protection by virtue of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees or JASIG.

JASIG is an agreement signed by the Philippine government and the NDF in 1995 which essentially guarantees the immunity and safety of individuals involved in the peace talks.

Medina's order reveals that the government did not object to the travel request of the communist leaders, all of whom are part of the list of names of people who the Department of Justice wants the court to declare as "terrorists."

"[The government] manifests for the record that the peace negotiations between the GRP and the CPP/NPA/NDF is set to be resumed in 60 days as soon as an enabling environment for such resumption are met and satisfied," the prosecutors said, according to the court order.

The conditions set by Medina are the conditions imposed by the government prosecution. 

Tiamzon and Silva were required to post another bond of P100,000 ($1,890.65)*. – 

*US$1 = P52.89

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 or tweet @lianbuan.