Efforts to arrest and detain Alexander and Winona Birondo, who were part of the peace talks between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and Government of the Republic of the Philippines, are ridiculous and harebrained, and an obvious play to penalize their participation in the talks and criminalize peace advocacies.
The couple were arrested yesterday morning in an apartment in Quezon City, and made to believe they had warrants of arrest. They had prior been accused of illegal possession of firearms and explosives, but released in August 2016 for the peace talks. Their case was eventually dismissed on the merits in June 2018.
Even after they argued that the warrant was outdated and showed the dismissal order, they were taken to Camp Caringal where the Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit and the District Special Operations Unit desperately scrambled to add charges.
New and unfounded cases of obstruction of justice and direct assault were filed at the prosecutors’ office. Having verified that there are no standing warrants against the two, the police in an ill-prepared complaint said that they did have one against a third person totally unknown to the Birondo spouses. The police said that the Birondos were harboring that person and allowed him to escape – despite no trace or evidence of a third person in the small studio-type apartment.
This type of contrivance is eerily similar to imaginary “buy-bust” operations. This premise is dangerous; the police concocted the charges on the claims of a confidential informant, who may not be compelled to show up in court and may not exist at all.
The Birondos were staff of the NDFP secretariat in the peace talks. They are the sixth and seventh to be arrested and slapped with trumped-up charges, who participated in the peace talks in 2016.