NDFP condemns abduction and demands immediate release of peace consultant Eduardo Sarmiento

Information Bureau
Communist Party of the Philippines

The National Democratic Front-Eastern Visayas today strongly condemned the abduction and detention by government forces of Eduardo Sarmiento, NDFP consultant in Eastern Visayas in the peace negotiations with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines. The NDF-EV also called on the GRP to immediately release Sarmiento because he is accorded protection and lenient treatment under the terms of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees, as well as the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law. Sarmiento was abducted on Feb. 24 in Manila while he was attending consultations, and the military has said that he will be brought to an undisclosed location in Samar to face trial.

“NDFP peace consultant Eduardo Sarmiento was abducted and detained in violation of the JASIG and the CARHRIHL, by government forces who moreover had no warrants for his arrest and merely planted a grenade and fabricated alleged crimes after he was taken into custody,” said Fr. Santiago Salas, NDF-EV spokesperson. “We have reason to believe that he was also tortured because he was kept hidden for some days before his arrest was announced. He remains incommunicado and denied access to legal counsel, medical check-up and visits by his family. The NDFP peace consultant is also in frail health after decades of self-sacrifice and arduous struggle in service to the people, contrary to malicious statements by the military that he was in Manila for “rest and recreation” in an attempt to equate him with the corrupt generals and officials of the Arroyo government.”

The NDF-EV spokesperson also said that Sarmiento's arrest was an act of treachery by the GRP. “GRP peace adviser Gen. Avelino Razon has been posturing recently about the resumption of peace negotiations between the NDFP and the GRP. But the continuing attacks on the peace consultants of the NDFP such as Sarmiento show that the GRP is not an honorable party to the peace negotiations. This is another addition to the GRP's vicious record of violating human rights and international humanitarian law. While government spokesmen pretend to be for peace, the military and police forces engage in all-out war through Oplan Bantay Laya by brutally attacking civilian comunities and unarmed activists, and torturing and killing NDFP leaders and members, or illegally arresting and misportraying them as common criminals. The prospects for peace are very dim indeed as long as the devious and desperate Arroyo regime remains in power.”

Fr. Salas clarified that the Arroyo government's Oplan Bantay Laya is a complete failure in Region 8, and there is nothing more than arrogant government posturing over the arrest, which the military exploited to also vilify Sarmiento as a common criminal. “Not a single guerrilla front has been dismantled by Oplan Bantay Laya; it remains a complete failure in Eastern Visayas. The Arroyo regime is battered by the global and domestic crises, daily grows more isolated from the people, and is therefore unable to stop the surging revolutionary movement.”

The NDF-EV stressed that the GRP should show sincerity rather than pay lip service to the peace negotiations. “We remind the GRP of its obligations under the JASIG and the CARHRIHL: stop treating Eduardo Sarmiento like a criminal and immediately release him. He should be allowed to see his legal counsel and to receive medical attention and visits from his family. He should not be accused of common crimes and tried as a criminal because these alleged offenses are in the context of the armed conflict between the NDFP and GRP. Eduardo Sarmiento is entitled to immediate release by the GRP as a gesture of of respect for the JASIG and the CARHRIHL, there is no reason to detain him.”

Fr. Salas also said that the GRP will be held responsible if any harm befalls Sarmiento in its custody. “The GRP's unprincipled and dishonorable conduct has worsened the effects of war not only on the participants but on the civilian populace as well. It is high time that the GRP delivers its obligations to show its willingness for peace talks. The obliviousness and arrogance of the GRP under the Arroyo regime only strengthens the people's resolve to do away with it to pave the way for the resumption of the peace process.”