From Radio Australia
Presenter: SEN LAM
Speaker: LUIS G. JALANDONI, Chairperson, NDFP Negotiating Panel
Reports from Manila say the military last month detained the chairman of the Communist party of the Philippines, Benito Tiamzon, and his wife Wilma Tiamzon, who’s party secretary-general.
Luis Jalandoni is chief negotiator with the communists’ National Democratic Front of the Philippines, NDFP. Speaking to me from the Netherlands, he said the arrests contravened the terms of the peace process.
JALANDONI: Definitely, because these recent arrests and the arrest of more than a dozen other NDF consultants who are involved in the peace negotiations, these arrests are a gross violation of a peace agreement between the two parties, between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. I refer especially to the agreement on safety and immunity guarantees (JASIG) that was signed in 1995 and approved by the principals of both parties. So this violation of this peace agreement, as well as the agreement on human rights and international humanitarian law (CARHRIHL) which forbids the filing of trumped up, common crimes against political prisoners.
LAM: What can you tell us about the arrest of the Communist Party’s chair, Benito Tiamzon and his wife, the Party Secretary General. Have they been charged?
JALANDONI: They have been charged with common crimes. The lawyers of Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria declared that these are trumped up charges of illegal possession of firearms and other common crimes. They say that when Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria were arrested, there was an inventory made by the police in Cebu, and there was no mention of any firearms taken from them. In the charges filed a few days later, the charge was illegal possession of firearms and also other criminal charges filed against them.
LAM: But isn’t the Communist Party of the Philippines a banned organisation?
JALANDONI: Well, it is a banned organisation by the Manila government, although it’s respected and supported by many people in the rural areas, especially the peasants, workers, the indigenous peoples, fisherfolk…
LAM: Well, you say it that it has local support, but we’ve heard reports that local villages were complaining that innocent people were being killed and wounded by landmines and bomb blasts and there were also reports of extortion by communist rebels. So are you losing the hearts and minds of the locals in Mindanao?
JALANDONI: We have very strong information that the people in Mindanao, especially the indigenous people, the peasants, and workers, are giving very strong support to the New People’s Army, the Communist Party of the Philippines and the mass organisations that they are leading, because they are carrying out programs of land reform, health, education, literacy and numeracy and other programs that then benefit the people.
The Communist Party of the Philippines, the New People’s Army and mass organisations in the rural areas of workers, peasants, women and youth, and also cultural activists, the fact that the New People’s Army and the Communist Party of the Philippines and the mass organisations have grown to now operating in substantial portions in 71 provinces out of a total of 81 provinces.
LAM: And yet we’ve received reports that the communist rebels were extorting some of the local communities?
JALANDONI: Well first of all, those reports you have received, you had better check them, because reports coming from the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the police are often seen as not reliable reports. And second, the Communist Party has absolute leadership on the New People’s Army, so that the policies of the party are very strictly followed by the New People’s Army, taking care and supporting and defending the civilian populations and communities is a very strict principle and policy of the Communist Party and the New People’s Army.