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Court frees 4 Reds ahead of peace gab

A MANILA court has granted bail to communist leaders Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, Rafael Baylosis, and Adelberto Silva just ahead of peace talks in Oslo, Norway this month.

Judge Thelma Bunyi-Medina, of the Manila RTC Branch 32, granted the motion for the release of the communist leaders on bail, and allowed them to travel with Satur Ocampo and Randal Echaniz to Oslo for the talks, lawyer Edre Olalia said.

The Tiamzons, Ocampo and their co-accused face multiple murder charges for the killing of 15 civilians discovered in a mass grave in 2006 in Inopacan, Leyte. The military says the bodies belong to communist rebels who were killed in a purge because they were believed to be government spies. 

The military arrested the Tiamzons, along with five others, in 2014 based on a warrant issued by  the regional trial court in Leyte.

The Tiamzons, however, cannot be released yet because the courts handling their other cases have yet to approve their motion for bail.

The two also face charges of kidnapping with serious illegal detention before the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 216, murder and frustrated murder in Laoang, Northern Samar and illegal possession of explosives in Toledo City, Cebu.

“We’re still waiting for feedback from these courts,” Olalia said.

The National Democratic Front  considers the Tiamzons and Silva consultants in the peace talks that will resume on Aug. 22.

The court set different bail amounts—P100,000 to P150,000—for each of the detainees.

The court granted the request for bail after prosecutors for the Justice Department did not oppose their motion.

Baylosis is among the 22 consultants identified by the NDF, the political wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, who have key roles in the peace talks.

“He [Baylosis] surfaced because he was encouraged by the coming resumption of the peace negotiations and he wanted to perform his role fully as a consultant. He failed to attend his arraignment on July 30, 2015 due to intense surveillance and reports of threats to him and his family,” Olalia said.

Earlier, the government asked the Supreme Court to order the temporary release of 10 NDF leaders to enable them to join the peace talks in Oslo.

In an urgent motion filed by the Office of the Solicitor General this week, the government sought the release of Tirso Alcantara, Alex Birondo, Winona Birondo, Maria Concepcion Bocala, Reynante Gamara, Alan Jazmines, Ma. Loida Magpatoc, Adelberto Silva, and the Tiamzons.

The OSG also included in its pleading Baylosis, who already posted bail in a criminal case but forfeited it by failing to appear in hearings.

Government lawyers led by Solicitor General Jose Calida told the high court that the NDF leaders would have a crucial role in the peace talks where they are supposed to serve as consultants.

In seeking temporary release of the NDF leaders, the OSG proposed several conditions to the Supreme Court.

The OSG said the accused would be released Òonly for the purpose of their attendance and participationÓ in the formal peace negotiations in Oslo, Norway starting Aug. 20, 2016.

The period of their temporary release, it added, would not exceed six months.

The OSG also proposed that a cash bond of P100,000 each be posted, and that the NDF leaders must provide complete contact information both in the Philippines and Norway, and would return to the Philippines after the peace talks.

Presidential Peace Process Adviser Jesus Dureza earlier explained the talks were moved from July to August to ensure that the CPP-NPA-NDF would be well represented. 

Also on Friday, a Quezon City court granted a motion for the release on bail of another NDF negotiator, Ernesto Lorenzo.

Topics: Judge Thelma Bunyi-Medina , Manila RTC Branch 32 , Communist leaders , Satur Ocampo , Randal Echaniz , Adviser Jesus Dureza , CPP-NPA-NDF

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