Rights advocates slam arrest of peace consultant, wife

Rey Claro Casambre, peace consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and wife Patricia Cora Casambre inside the PNP-CIDG office in Camp Crame. (Photo courtesy of Public Interest Law Center)

MANILA — Peace consultant Rey Casambre, 67, and wife Patricia Cora Casambre, 72, were arrested along Molino Boulevard in Cavite early morning today, Dec. 7.

Human rights group Karapatan said the two were brought to the office of the Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-National Capital Region (PNP CIDG-NCR) in Camp Crame, Quezon City.

Casambre and the six others were charged with murder, according to a copy of a warrant of arrest furnished by Casambre’s lawyer. The warrant, issued on Nov. 23 by Judge Emilio Dayanghirang III of Lupon Regional Trial Court Branch 32, states that Casambre and the six others ” are said to be found to be in barangay Maragatas, Lupon, Davao Oriental.”

The Casambre couple is also charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives. The PNP-CIDG claimed that the following weapons were recovered in the couple’s vehicle: one (1) colt commander caliber 45 pistol; one magazine for cal. 45; seven live ammunition for cal. 45; one bundle electric detonating cord; and one fragmentation grenade.

In a Facebook post, Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general said, “Only fools will believe that elderly couple Rey Casambre, 67 YEARS OLD, and Patricia Cora Casambre, 72 YEARS OLD, has the said weapons in their vehicle…”

In a statement, Edre U. Olalia, legal consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) negotiating panel, said the “non-bailable murder charges are trumped-up and sprang out of nowhere.” Olalia added that the roving firearm and rusty grenade were “routinely planted to make the arrest appear aboveboard for good measure.”

“Nobody would ever believe such false narrative,” he added.

Casambre is a publicly-known peace consultant and executive director of the Philippine Peace Center. He is supposedly covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig), a signed peace pact between the Philippine government and the NDFP that provides immunity against surveillance, arrest, among others for those involved in the peace negotiations.

Olalia added that, “their arrest is another signal that the security forces are playing hard ball and are on a wild goose chase. But all these would boomerang in the long run.”

Casambre is the fourth NDFP consultant to be arrested after Duterte declared an end to the peace talks.

Palabay noted that the arrest of the Casambre couple is no different from the arbitrary arrest of other NDFP consultants Vicente Ladlad and the elderly Villamor couple; Adelberto Silva and his four companions; and, Rafael Baylosis in the past months. “All bear the same signs of fabricated charges.”

“Yet, as human rights defenders and dissenters are arrested, plunderers and murderers remain unpunished and are even released from prison,” Palabay said.

Imelda Marcos, who was convicted of graft, was recently freed after posting bail while former Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla has been acquitted by the Sandiganbayan from plunder cases in relation to the pork barrel scam and Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo, son of former President Gloria Arroyo, has been cleared of tax evasion charges by the Supreme Court, citing “procedural defects and substantive deficiencies.” (https://www.bulatlat.org)

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