Arrested top leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) Benito and Wilma Tiamzon yesterday refused to enter their plea on charges of two counts of kidnapping and serious illegal detention during their arraignment before a Quezon City court.
The Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 81 entered a not guilty plea on behalf of the Tiamzon couple.
Benito is allegedly the chairman of the CPP-NPA and his wife Wilma is the secretary-general.
The Tiamzon couple was arrested by members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Barangay Zaragoza Aloguinsan, Cebu on March 22.
After the arraignment, the Tiamzons were immediately taken back to their detention cell in Camp Crame.
The Tiamzons are being accused of abducting four military officers at a checkpoint.
Meanwhile, militant groups held a series of protests condemning their detention.
They claimed the couple’s arrest jeopardized the peace talks between the government and the communist movement.
Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes said the arrest of the Tiamzons has sent a wrong signal to the peace talk negotiations and claimed that trumped-up charges are being filed against the consultants of the National Democratic Front (NDF).
The Tiamzons, who were arrested in Cebu last March 22, are also facing charges for violating Republic Act 10591 or the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act, and Republic Act 9516 or the Illegal Possession of Explosives Law.
They are charged with murder, multiple murder and frustrated murder before the regional trial court in Northern Samar. The charges are in relation to the alleged involvement of the Tiamzons in the killing of civilians in Inopacan, Leyte, whose bodies were supposedly discovered in a mass grave in 2006.
The NDF insisted that the Tiamzons should be released because they are covered by Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).
However, the government said that while Benito used an alias, the NDF’s failure to prove his identity voided the agreement.
On the other hand, Wilma jumped bail in December 1989 before the JASIG came into effect making her ineligible for protection.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima also noted that the JASIG is only effective if there are ongoing peace talks, which is not the case. De Lima said the couple’s criminal cases have nothing to do with the peace process.