An ecumenical peace group in the Philippines questioned the arrest of a former peace consultant of communist rebels in past talks with the government.
Alfredo Mapano, a.k.a Ka Paris, an alleged leader of the rebel New People’s Army, was arrested by police in Tagoloan town, Misamis Oriental province, on Friday, November 27.
Mapano is a former peace consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines in Northern Mindanao region. He currently works with Phividec, a government-owned and controlled corporation that operates a 3,000-hectare industrial estate straddling Tagoloan and Villanueva towns in Mindanao.
“Is the government program of national reconciliation and rebel reintegration all for a show?” said the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform in a statement released to media.
Authorities served a warrant for the arrest of Mapano issued by a regional court for a case of “robbery in band.”
The peace group said the case of Mapano “casts doubt on the sincerity of the present government call to rebels to lay down their arms and peacefully return to the fold.”
The statement was signed by Archbishop-emeritus Antonio Ledesma of Cagayan de Oro, Bishop Felixberto Calang of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, and Bishop Ligaya San Francisco of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines.
The church leaders said that while finally leading a normal life with his family, Mapano “devoted time and effort working as an active partner in the government program for national reconciliation and rebel returnee as a speaker in different peace and reconciliation fora.”
On several occasions, he quietly facilitated the return of rebels to the fold and assisted those whose lives and freedom were endangered because they were politically persecuted, they said.
The bishops noted at the time of the supposed crime that Mapano had allegedly committed in Agusan del Sur and Bukidnon, in 2017 and 2019, he was already working at Phividec.
“It is mindboggling to think that he could be in these far-away places while working in a government office,” said the bishops.
“We view with alarm and concern that Alfredo Mapano, a former peace negotiator and now a rebel-returnee, government employee and active partner of the government program, who the government’s offer in good faith, has become a victim of the government’s hollow promise.”
“Instead of the promised ‘peaceful return to the fold,’ he is once again subjected to political persecution with these latest trumped-up charges filed against him,” added the bishops.
The church leaders called on the government “to abide by its promise to accept our rebel brothers and sisters who have decided to return to the fold of the law and to offer them a chance to lead a peaceful life and contribute to peace-building.”
“Peace cannot be achieved when even those who have given up violence and have chosen to work for peace are still politically persecuted,” read the statement.
Mapano was detained for at least seven years in the Misamis Oriental provincial jail for various charges as a suspected rebel leader.
He was allowed to post bail in 2016 so he could join the peace panel as a consultant in talks between communist rebels and the government.
Following the collapse of the talks, Mapano sought employment with the government.