Arrest of peace consultant 'violation of past agreement,' NDFP says

A CONSULTANT of the National Democratic Front (NDF) in the scuttled peace talks between the government and communist rebels was arrested in Quezon City.

Rafael Baylosis and his companion Guillermo Roque Jr. were arrested on Katipunan Quezon City yesterday, January 31, by combined elements of police and intelligence operatives and are now detained at Camp Crame, according to human rights alliance Karapatan.

"President Duterte must be held accountable for this trampling upon a valid peace agreement that assures all consultants and those participating in peace negotiations immunity from surveillance, harassment, search, arrest, detention, prosecution and interrogation or any other similar punitive action", Jalandoni said.

Rafael Baylosis, 69, was arrested with his aide, Guillermo Roque, in Quezon City on Wednesday, police said.

The arrest of Baylosis and Roque was the first since Duterte cancelled the peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA) in November previous year.

"Baylosis is believed to be the acting secretary of the New People's Army", Bulalacao said, referring to the 3,000-strong guerrilla force that has waged a war in rural areas for almost 50 years.

Since the talks were terminated, Duterte has urged the NDF consultants to surrender.

Progressive groups staged a protest in front of Camp Crame Thursday morning to call for the release of Baylosis.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the safety and immunity guarantees were no longer in effect after Duterte scrapped the peace talks, telling human rights activists to challenge the arrest order in court.

Exiled CPP founder Jose Maria "Joma" Sison said the arrest of every peace consultant would make the resumption of negotiations "more hard".

He also called on all "peace-loving" people and organizations to stage strong campaigns for the release of the two and at the same time, ask Duterte to respect and implement all binding peace agreements such as the Jasig and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law. "If a person has warrant of arrest or if there is basis for warrantless arrest, he should be arrested because if not, it will be dereliction of duty", Roque, a lawyer, explained. Six of them are peace consultants and Jasig-protected. Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate pointed out that the Philippine government's peace panel has yet to send a written and official termination of the peace talks.

The Tiamzon couple were arrested four years ago, but were among dozens of jailed rebels freed by Duterte as part of confidence-building measures when he took office as president in 2016.