Lawyers belie police report on NDF consultant's arrest

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 2) — Lawyers on Friday dismissed as propaganda the police report that a high-ranking communist leader was arrested on Thursday.

"NDF (National Democratic Front) consultant Rommel Salinas was already arrested way back May 11, 2017 and is still in detention," said a statement issued by Edre Olalia, NDF legal counsel and president of the National Union of People's Lawyers. NDF is the political arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) that holds talks with the government peace panel.

Olalia said the police report was false and misleading, "a cheap propaganda stunt to sow terror and confusion."

The Northern Mindanao Police earlier reported that 45-year-old Salinas, CPP secretary, was arrested in a joint police-military operation in a subdivision in Ozamis City Thursday morning.

The police said Salinas had a warrant of arrest for frustrated murder.

Olalia, however, said this warrant was served in May 2017. He said the police "tried to serve" the same warrant after Thursday's trial at the Ozamis Regional Trial Court on Salinas' illegal possession of explosives charge.

Police on Wednesday arrested NDF consultant Rafael Baylosis in Quezon City. The NDF said this was illegal, citing their Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees with the government in 1995.

READ: Police arrest NDFP consultant Rafael Baylosis  

Baylosis was granted bail in August 2016, along with other consultants, to attend the peace talks in Norway. Salinas was an NDF consultant as well, but was not released for the talks.

President Rodrigo Duterte terminated peace talks in November 2017 and tagged the CPP and its armed wing, the New People's Army, as terrorists. He then ordered the mass arrest of NDF consultants.

READ: How peace talks with communist rebels failed