Uphold JASIG-guaranteed rights of NDFP consultant Esteban Manuel
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) demands the immediate release of Esteban Manuel, peace consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in negotiations with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP).
Ka Esteban was arrested a week ago, February 16, in Villareal town, Samar by the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) Joint Task Force Storm, along with another civilian. Ka Esteban holds official documents of identification under the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG). The JASIG was signed by the GRP and NDFP in 1995 which provides guarantees for negotiators, personnel and consultants of both parties against reprisals, including surveillance and arrests.
We denounce the AFP and the Philippine National Police (PNP) for filing trumped up charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives against Ka Esteban, who is around 70 years old. Claims of the military that a fragmentation grenade and a cal.45 pistol were seized from Esteban are false. All of these are planted evidences to charge him with an unbailable crime and thus prolong his detention.
We call on local and international human rights and humanitarian organizations, as well as peace advocates, to extend assistance to Ka Esteban. He must be immediately afforded legal representation. We enjoin all democratic forces to close ranks and raise the demand for Ka Esteban to be immediately released.
The arrest of Ka Esteban forms part of the Duterte regime’s campaign of terror and suppression against the people of Eastern Visayas. The region has one of the highest incidence of human rights abuses since it was placed under military and police rule with the implementation of Duterte’s Memorandum Order No. 32 in 2018.
Recent months have seen rising cases of aerial bombing and shelling. A growing number of communities have been placed under military occupation and subjected to abuses. From 2020, at least 12 cases of indiscriminate firing have been recorded.
The Filipino people must stand united and demand an immediate stop to this campaign of terror against the region.