SC denies release of CPP leader Tiamzon, 10 others

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SC denies release of CPP leader Tiamzon, 10 others
Go to the lower court for relief, the High Tribunal tells the Office of the Solicitor General

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court denied the Duterte administration’s plea to temporarily release detained Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) chairman Benito Tiamzon and 10 other rebel leaders who have been tapped to join the communist panel in its negotiations with government in Oslo this month.

But in the same order, the High Tribunal confirmed that the bail of 3 other rebel panel consultants – former Bayan Muna Representative Satur Ocampo, Vicente Ladlad, and Randall Echanis – which was granted during the time of the Aquino administration is valid and that they may join the coming Oslo talks on certain conditions.

The justices issued the decision on Tuesday, August 2, after an en banc session that tackled the petition of Solicitor General Jose Calida, who sought the SC’s intervention in facilitating the release of these rebels in time for the scheduled August 20-27 peace negotiations in Oslo.

Calida told the Court that President Rodrigo Duterte had already issued an order allowing the rebels to leave the country for the talks, based on the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) signed by both parties and which grants them safe conduct passes to Oslo.

Duterte has pledged to end the communist rebellion with a peace agreement with the movement behind Asia’s longest running insurgency.

Go to trial courts

But the SC said they have no jurisdiction over the cases of the 11 since they face various criminal charges in the lower courts.

Calida should have gone to the trial courts for their release, the Court added. And the lower courts should act immediately on the release petitions, it said.

The 11 include Tiamzon, his wife Wilma Tiamzon, as well as Rafael Baylosis, Tirso Alcantara, Alex Birondo, Winona Birondo, Maria Concepcion Bocala, Reynante Gamara, Allan Jazmines, Ma. Loida Magpatoc, and Adelberto Silva. Baylosis is not detained but is facing criminal charges in court.

“To grant temporary and conditional liberty to these personalities may have the inadvertent but irremediable effect of pre-empting the trial courts’ own determinations in the exercise of their original jurisdiction to try the cases before them,” the Court declared.

The SC directed the trial courts hearing their cases to immediately act on the release petition – once filed – “in view of the grave importance of peace to the Filipino people.”

“The relevance of the attendance and participation of the other personalities adverted to in the urgent Manifestation and motion to the peace process are matters that must be brought before these courts,” the SC said.

Baylosis’ bail forfeited

In the case of Baylosis, however, the SC  forfeited the  P100,000 cash bond that he posted on February 1, 2012 in connection with the 15 counts of murder charges that were filed against him and 2 others.

Noting that Baylosis failed to appear in his arraignment, the High Tribunal said Baylosis’ cash bond can only be reinstated by the Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branch 32 “upon a justifiable cause.” 

Conditions for Ocampo et al

Three rebel personalities that the SC allowed to travel to Oslo – Ocampo, Ladlad and Echanis – are all out of jail. They were part of the panel of rebel consultants in the botched peace talks between the Aquino government and the communist-led National Democratic Front.

The SC order on them was based on an earlier plea filed by the Aquino administration.

The order said their participation in the Oslo talks is valid up to 6 months or as soon as the talks are terminated.

“Once their participation ceases or the peace negotiations are terminated, their respective bonds shall be deemed automatically canceled,” the SC said.

The SC said their provisional liberty will continue to be secured by the P100,000 cash bond that they posted with the SC’s Clerk of Court.

For the duration of the peace negotiations, the SC said the 3 should report to the Philippine embassy in Norway whenever required. –

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