Revolutionary groups press for Tiamzons’ release, refute gov’t claims
March 25, 2014
Members of a revolutionary women’s group marched in downtown Manila to press for the release of Wilma Austria-Tiamzon and Benito Tiamzon, alleged leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and peace consultants for the underground umbrella group National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
Their faces covered in masks, members of Makabayang Kilusan ng Bagong Kababaihan (Makibaka), an allied organization of NDFP, carried CPP and New People’s Army (NPA) flags and placards condemning the arrest of Austria and Tiamzon, who along with five others, were captured by combined military and police elements in Carcar City, Cebu on Saturday, March 22.
The lightning rally was also conducted a few days before NPA’s 45th anniversary on March 29.
Malaya Libertad, Makibaka spokesperson, described Austria as an epitome of a revolutionary woman. “She should be exalted and not be incarcerated like an ordinary criminal,” Libertad said. “She should be released immediately especially that her health is failing.”
She added that unlike President Aquino, the Tiamzons personally oversaw relief and rehabilitation efforts for victims of typhoon Yolanda in Eastern Visayas. Austria, Libertad said, was in the forefront of rehabilitation efforts specifically for women and children.
In her letter obtained by Pinoy Weekly, Wilma Austria said that at the time of their arrest, they were carrying identification cards and safe conduct passes issued through the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig).
Austria said the arresting officers did not give recognition to it and instead confiscated the documents.
Military and government officials insist that the arrest of the couple and their companions were within legal bounds and denied that the Tiamzons are protected from arrest under Jasig. Alex Padilla, chief negotiator for the Government of the Philippines (GPH), said that the Tiamzons have never been in any peace negotiation.
“We had not seen even their shadows,” Padilla said. He also added that NDFP consultants who were released by virtue of Jasig returned to the underground movement and continued fulfilling tasks to overthrow the government. He insisted that that Jasig is inoperational due to the stalled peace negotiations.
But the NDFP reiterated that the Jasig is still operational even when negotiations are stalled.
“Alex Padilla should not use the issue of (NDFP) consultants who returned in the underground after their release,” Austria said. She said it is imperative for NDFP consultants to be with their constituents. “This is to assure that we strictly follow their genuine interest in the process of peace talks,” Austria explained in her letter.
Even former government negotiating panel chairman Silvestre H. Bello III urged the government to honor the Jasig. In a Davao Today report, Bello said, “The JASIG took effect upon signing by the parties and will be in effect until it is terminated by either party through a written notice.” He added that the NDFP has two lists–one bearing real names and the other bearing assumed names or aliases.
So far, there has been no official termination of the peace negotiations between GPH and NDFP.
The CPP has dismissed as “hallucination” claims by the military and some personalities that the arrest of Austria and Tiamzon will “doom” the revolutionary movement.
It described as “self-delusional” Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief-of-Staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista’s calls for NPA members to surrender. The CPP said that Aquino has failed to address the root causes of the armed conflict. Majority of Filipinos, it said, still suffers from widespread unemployment, low wages, high prices, land grabbing and landlessness.
Widespread human rights abuses have also been committed by the AFP, especially in the countryside.
The CPP also said that it has a system of “orderly succession” in case its leaders fall in the hands of their enemy.
Prof. Jose Maria Sison, CPP founding chairman and currently NDFP’s chief political consultant, meanwhile, dismissed government officials’ claims that the Tiamzons are at odds with him regarding the peace process.
“The Tiamzon couple are in support of the peace negotiations. That’s why they are consultants in the peace negotiations. The claims of high officials and military officers of the reactionary government that the Tiamzon couple are at odds with the CPP founding chairman and the NDFP Negotiating Panel is a malicious intrigue,” Sison said.