SF CHRP (San Francisco Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines) is a San Francisco based human rights advocacy group. Latest news and views on human rights in the Philippines.
Karapatan is calling on the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to comply with a judges ruling that Tirso Alcantara be brought to court in order to hear charges that he was possessing firearms. Alcantara, at the time of his arrest in January of 2011, was a member of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Southern Tagalog and also part of the consulting team for the peace process for the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
The Taguig Regional Trial Court today heard the motion of the counsels of Tirso Alcantara and Alan Jazmines to consolidate the charges of illegal possession of firearms and illegal possession of explosives to rebellion. The counsels again presented arguments for Alcantara’s immediate transfer from military custody to a civilian detention facility citing, among others, the recent decision of the Gumaca RTC ordering the military to transfer Alcantara to the PNP Custodial Center at Camp Crame.
The military failed to present Alcantara during the hearing and the Judge Advocate General Office (JAGO), for the second time, did not attend the court proceedings.
“Even without today’s hearing at the Taguig RTC, Alcantara should now be transferred to a civilian detention facility, specifically at the PNP Custodial Center at Camp Crame, because the Gumaca Regional Trial Court already ordered the military,” said Marie Hilao-Enriquez, Karapatan chairperson.
On July 18, the Gumaca Regional Trial Court, where Alcantara also face charges, ordered the Chief of the Intelligence Security Group or the Commanding Officer of the Intelligence Security Group of the Philippine Army to comply with the May 9, 2012 Order to “commit accused Tirso Alcantara at the PNP Custodial Center at Camp Crame.”
Alcantara, because he was a member of the consulting team for the peace process, is under the protection of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) which was signed between the NDFP and the government of the Philippines. Due to his role in the peace process and because he is protected under law (through JASIG) he should have never been targeted for covert surveillance or have been arrested.
Karapatan renews its call to immediately execute the said Order. “For more than one and a half years now, Tirso Alcantara has been in solitary confinement in a military detention cell. It’s like martial law. The military can simply ignore any court order. We don’t see any reason for the delay of Alcantara’s transfer, yet the military refuses to follow civilian authority,” said Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general.
Alcantara is one example, in a long history of examples since the JASIG was signed by the two sides in this current conflict, of a NDFP peace consulatant member being arrested under the charges of possession of firearms and explosives. One of the most recent NDFP members to be arrested under the charges of murder and possession of firearms was Angie Ipong she was held in prison for nearly six years until all charges against her were finally dropped due to lack of evidence and the fact that (like in many of the cases before her) the AFP were using planted evidence.