Updated Nov 8, 2018, 11:54:29 PM
Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 8) — Authorities on Thursday arrested a consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), which represents communist rebels in peace talks with the government.
Vicente Ladlad, along with two companions, are now at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig to face charges of illegal possession of firearms, police said.
A joint operation of the police and the Armed Forces seized high-powered firearms and ammunition, grenades and "subversive documents" from the suspects, according to the Quezon City police. Authorities served the search warrant past 12 midnight at Doña Tomasa Subdivision, Barangay San Bartolome in Novaliches, Quezon City.
NDFP legal counsel Edre Olalia gave the media a copy of the November 6 search warrant issued by the Quezon City Regional Trial Court. Police said they requested for one following reports of "suspicious" individuals in the neighborhood.
Ladlad was among the NDFP consultants released in 2016 to participate in peace negotiations. He was jailed for the supposed mass murder of 15 members of a communist faction in an alleged bid to purge their own ranks of military informers.
Violation of JASIG?
Despite an impasse in the peace talks, Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria Sison stressed that Ladlad could not be arrested since he is protected by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG). That document, signed in 1995, provides safety guarantees to all participants in the peace talks.
"There is no valid warrant of arrest against him. But in the Duterte scheme, he is likely to be framed-up as a combatant with firearms and explosives planted despite his serious health condition," Sison said in a Facebook post.
But Malacañang justified Ladlad's arrest, saying JASIG is not in effect now that the peace talks have been terminated through President Rodrigo Duterte's November 2017 proclamation.
"The crime of rebellion is a continuing crime and therefore no warrant of arrest is needed for that," Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a Malacañang press briefing.
When asked if other consultants freed for the peace talks can be rearrested amid the botched peace talks, Panelo said yes.
The police earlier rearrested NDFP consultants Rafel Baylosis and Adelberto Silva for illegal possession of firearms and explosives.
Duterte ordered the NDFP consultants' arrest as early as February 2017, following his first withdrawal from the peace talks.
In June 2018, the Manila Regional Trial Court allowed Ladlad and other NDFP consultants to travel to participate in talks with the government in the Netherlands. Duterte postponed the negotiations, which have not resumed until now as the government pushes localized peace talks instead.
Ladlad's wife, Fides Lim earlier took to Facebook to ask for help in finding her "missing" husband, whom she said was abducted.
Sison quoted Lim's post accusing members of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group of tailing her last week.
"And to those who abducted him, he is a chronic asthmatic which has degenerated into emphysema, he needs his medicines badly," she said.
"And don't plant any firearms or explosives on him," she added.
Olalia also accused the police of planting or fabricating evidence to justify the detention of Ladlad and other NDFP consultants - a claim denied by authorities.
"These serial arrests on peace consultants and activists complicate even further the prospects and status of the peace negotiations," Olalia said in a statement.