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Duterte ouster more likely than CPP’s defeat, Sison says

Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison laughed off President Rodrigo Duterte’s claim that the revolutionary movement would be finished by the middle of next year.

Sison said he thinks Duterte is taking too much of the anti-pain drug Fentanyl, leading him to have “pipe dreams.”

“Duterte is delusional by claiming that he shall have destroyed the CPP-New People’s Army (NPA) and the entire revolutionary movement of the people by the middle of next year,” Sison said after Duterte said in a speech his government is winning the war against the rebels.

In a speech at Camp Melchor dela Cruz, headquarters of the Philippine Army’s 5th Infantry Division, in Gamu, Isabela Tuesday, September 18, Duterte claimed his government is winning the war against the revolutionary movement.

“I think, God willing, this will be over by about the second quarter of next year. Many are surrendering,” Duterte said.

Duterte commended the 5th ID for its active and relentless efforts against threat groups in Cagayan Valley.

But Sison said Duterte forgets that his government’s “campaigns of mass murder, mass intimidation, fake surrenders and fake encounters under Oplan Kapayapaan are angering the people and inciting them to íntensify their resistance.”

Sison added it is Duterte’s bankrupt and weakened government that is ready to be toppled due to corruption as well as soaring prices of basic goods and services that make him the target of the “people’s rising hatred.”

“The people consider Duterte a clown” as they “reject the traitorous, tyrannical, murderous and corrupt character of his regime,” Sison said.

The communist leader said it is more likely that Duterte would be ousted from power than that he could destroy the people´s revolutionary movement by the middle of next year. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Int’l tribunal on Duterte’s ‘gross violations’ underway in Belgium

An international people’s tribunal goes underway in Brussels, Belgium to hear complaints of human rights violations against the Rodrigo Duterte government.

In a statement, the spokespersons for the International Peoples’ Tribunal (IPT) said they take cognizance of the complaints filed by the victims and experts on the various violations of the rights of the allegedly perpetrated by Duterte of the Philippines and even Donald John Trump of the United States of America.

Based on the complaints, the IPT said Presidents Duterte and Trump are being indicted for gross violations of civil and political rights, economic, social and cultural rights, as well as national sovereignty, development, and International Humanitarian Law.

The Tribunal said it has summoned “defendants” Duterte and Trump on September 10, 2018.

“Unfortunately, we have yet to receive any formal response to the summons,” the IPT said through its spokespersons Jeanne Mirer, President of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, and Peter Murphy, Chairperson, Global Council, International Coalition on Human Rights in the Philippines.

In reply, Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque told reporters that the government will not respond to the summons, adding the Tribunal is “a sham proceeding” intended “for propaganda purposes.”

“Because that’s not the official proceeding. That’s a propaganda proceeding of the Left,” Roque said.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general Renato Reyes, an IPT participant, however said charges being raised before the tribunal are “very real.”

“These are not false charges like the ones government uses against its critics. The process is also fair as the Philippine government was duly notified through the US embassy in Washington,” Reyes said.

He explained the the results of the tribunal shall be transmitted to different international bodies including the International Criminal Court, the European Parliament, the United Nations, and others.

“Rather than disparage the Tribunal, the Duterte regime should listen to the charges raised by the victims,” Reyes said.

(A live video of the proceedings may be viewed here.)

Aside from Reyes, victims of human rights violations, their families, as well as leading activists travelled to Belgium to serve as witnesses and complainants.

They include Karapatan’s Cristina Palabay, Piston’s George San Mateo, Sandugo’s Amirah Alih Lidasan, and others.

Other complainants and witnesses, meanwhile, have submitted video depositions because of their inability to travel to Belgium.

Legal experts from the Philippines and abroad also attended the Tribunal to act as prosecutors and facilitators.

They include former Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares and National Union of Peoples’ Lawyer president Edre Olalia, as well as peoples’ lawyers Kathy Panguban and Ephraim Cortez.

People’s tribunals on the state of human rights in the Philippines have been held in Europe and United States of America in the past against the Ferdinand Marcos, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and Benigno Simeon Aquino administrations, all of which found were found guilty.

This year’s IPT is the earliest held against a sitting president, owing mostly to the Duterte government’s two-year drug war that has been reported to have killed more than 20,000 victims.

Although not a formal legal proceeding, people’s tribunal are seen by local and international human rights groups to be important events that highlight grave human rights situations in the Philippines.

The IPT held against Marcos was seen to have contributed to his downfall in 1986 after its informed a great part of the world of his regime’s human rights violations.

The spokespersons said that the IPT panel of Jurors, as in the past, are all “experts and eminent individuals…of proven competence, integrity, probity and objectivity, and experienced on issues on human rights, rights of peoples, and international humanitarian law.”

The IPT said it will hear testimonies and receive evidence from the witnesses for the prosecution and the defense.

“Barring any untoward incident, the Jurors shall deliberate over and deliver the verdict of the Tribunal in the afternoon of September 19, Brussels time (Thursday evening in the Philippines).

“We are well aware of the gravity of the cases and the urgent cry for justice from the victims, survivors and the entire Filipino people. Rest assured that the Tribunal will be fair and just, and will be partial only to the Truth,” the IPT said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Abandoned Mount Samat Military Camp Yields Bones, Evidence; Quest for Justice Continues

This article is republished in light of the conviction of retired Philippine Army Major General Jovito S. Palparan by the Branch 15 of the Malolos Regional Trial Court yesterday for the kidnapping and serious illegal detention of missing University of the Philippines students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno. The testimony of prosecution witness Raymond Manalo contained in this article was given due consideration and weight by the court that finally convicted Palparan, long-known as “The Butcher” by his victims and the human rights community.

This report was originally published by Bulatlat.com on October 18, 2008.

= = = =

By Raymund B. Villanueva

On March 22, 2007, Shara Hizarsa was waiting for her father Abner to bring lunch to school she would later share with him. He had cooked and brought food for her without fail since he left the underground revolutionary movement due to frail health.

But no one arrived for the girl’s lunch that day.

It had been 19 months since. There is still no father to cook and bring food for Shara.

Last October 13, Shara commemorated her 12th birthday. Even her mother Cris cannot be with her on her special day because she had to join dozens of relatives of the forcibly disappeared under the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo regime in a fact-finding mission in Barangay Bliss, Limay, Bataan.

Horror camp

In an abandoned military camp near the World War II monument in Mount Samat, about 50 human rights workers under Karapatan and Desaperacidos, the victims’ relatives, officials and staff of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and University of the Philippines (UP) anthropologists led by Dr. Francisco Datar dug holes on the ground, hoping to find remains of summary execution victims. They were led to the site by Raymond Manalo, one of two brothers who escaped from the custody of the 24th Infantry Battalion of the 7th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army.

Manalo said that he and his brother Reynaldo were taken to the camp on November 21 or 22, 2006. A week later, he saw missing UP student Karen Empeño and farmer Manuel Merino. They were later joined by Sherlyn Cadapan, another abducted UP student.

Inside the camp, Raymond was ordered to help build the barracks, cook and clean house for the soldiers, led by a certain Maj. Donald “Allan” Caigas. He witnessed how the two students were hung upside down on one foot with sticks repeatedly rammed into their private parts. After each torture session on the women, Raymond was ordered to clean the room of the victims’ blood and faeces and even wash their underwear. He recalled of many nights he went to sleep with blood-curdling screams ringing in his ears.

Raymond also recounted in his affidavit that he, his brother Reynaldo and Merino were taken to “cattle-rustling and harassment missions” by the soldiers led by Caigas. He witnessed the execution and abduction of farmers in outlying villages.

One night in June 2007, soldiers took Merino from their holding room, saying then Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan wanted to talk to him. Several minutes later, he saw Merino being marched to a grassy field 50 meters away from the camp’s barbed-wire perimeter. Standing by a window, Manalo heard screams and moans, like someone who was startled (“Parang nagulat.”), followed by two gunshots. “Siguro hindi nadale sa saksak, kaya binaril,” he said. (“They probably failed to kill him by stabbing so they shot him.”) Then he saw what looked like a bonfire that lasted late into the night. The next morning, he was told not to look for Merino as he has already “joined” Cadapan and Empeño. “Pinatay si ‘Tay Manuel dahil sabi ng militar matanda na siya,” Raymond added. (“Manuel was killed because the military said he was already old.”)

A diorama exhibited at the House of Representatives based on Raymond Manalo’s description of the military camp. (Diorama by Ron Magbuhos Papag)

In July 2007, the Manalo brothers were taken to Caigas’ farm in Bolinao, Pangasinan to work as laborers where they escaped on the night of August 12, 2007.

Clear and convincing’ testimony

The government and army’s top officials took turns belying Raymond’s testimony by denying the existence of the camp. Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro and retired Armed Forces Chief of Staff Hermogenes Esperon said that Manalo’s testimony was “baseless.” Lt. Gen. Isagani Cachuela, PA Northern Luzon commanding general, said that he would not know about the existence of the camp in Barangay Bliss. Maj. Gen. Ralph Villanueva, 7th ID commander, which has jurisdiction over the 24th IB, echoed Cachuela’s statement saying he “still has to find out.”

Last September 20, PA spokesperson Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner also issued a statement saying Cadapan, Empeno and Merino were nowhere to be found in any army camp where their relatives and supporters claimed they were detained.

But residents of Barangay Bliss are one in saying that there indeed was a military camp in their village. The Philippine Daily Inquirer also reported that former Bataan vice governor Rogelio Roque confirmed that the military used to occupy the area, which is adjacent to his property.

Despite the military’s denials, Raymond’s testimony was considered by the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court (SC) as “factual,” “harrowing” as well as “clear and convincing.” Last October 6, the SC affirmed the Appellate Court’s decision to grant the privilege of the Writ of Amparo to the Manalo brothers, providing them protection from State forces. The order also affirmed the possible culpability of Palparan in their abduction and torture, as well as that of Cadapan, Empeño, Merino and others. The SC also rejected the 7th ID’s investigation as “very limited, superficial and one-sided.”

CHR chair Leila de Lima, for her part said, “The Manalo brothers, for me, have the most significant testimony in the extralegal killings and enforced disappearances.”

‘I will prove to them I am right’

A week after being granted the privilege of the Writ of Amparo, Raymond led the fact-finding mission to the military camp. Before the sun rose, Raymond had already identified the camp layout while other mission members set up tents and cordoned areas where the possible grave sites were.

According to their observations, there was painstaking effort to erase the camp’s footprint in the area. The concrete hut floors, the basketball court, the flag pole as well as the Marian grotto were broken up and thrown in a clump of bamboo trees about 100 meters away. All the holes were backfilled and the water pipes removed. Still, amid the shrubbery and the wildflowers that overrun the abandoned camp and under the sprawling shades of the dozen huge mango trees that blanketed the area, Raymond managed to identify the spot of every structure that stood in the military camp.

Raymond Manalo describing the camp layout.

Hindi ko aakalaing babalik pa ako rito. Takot ako, nanginginig, giniginaw. ‘Nung una kaming dinala rito, akala namin ay isa-salvage na kami,” Raymond said. (“I never thought I would come back here. I am afraid, shaking, and I feel cold. When we were first taken here, we thought we would already be summarily executed.”)

By the time the CHR team arrived by mid-morning, the mission was ready to dig and document whatever could be found in the area.

At noontime, De Lima arrived from Manila and conducted an ocular inspection of the possible gravesites. She also ordered additional diggers to complement the Karapatan team who found the stony soil difficult to penetrate beyond a foot and a half.

The first four holes in three possible gravesites produced negative results. But there were signs of unusual human activity such as burnt tarpaulins, tabletop covers, shoes, among others. Raymond identified one shirt that might have belonged to Cadapan. The anthropologists also confirmed that some of the spots pinpointed by Raymond bore “disturbances” by human activity.

As dusk neared on the mission’s first day, a fifth hole was dug which the experts said was “promising” as the soil was still soft and comparatively loose past two feet. It was then that the experts ordered a halt to the diggings on account of the approaching darkness.

Night falls on the mission camp

Under the pale light thrown by old-fashioned “petromax” lamps, the remaining 30 or so human rights workers ate dinner while a squad of Philippine National Police-Regional Mobile Group troopers kept a somewhat loose perimeter security. Before dinner was over heavy rains fell on the camp, overturning tents and soaking both mission members and their clothing and equipment. The victims’ relatives bussed back to Manila due to security considerations, along with some Manila-based journalists. Only then did the CHR-sourced generator arrive from the town proper to provide electricity.

By 7 pm, when the rain stopped, the mission members slept with their wet clothes and soaked sleeping provisions. The generator was turned off an hour later and the last mobile phone calls and text messages were sent. Even the police retreated inside their tents and vehicles.

Breakthrough

The mission’s second day started with a briefing between the CHR, UP and Karapatan teams. Datar expressed confidence that if Raymond was telling the truth, they would find human remains such as small bones of the hand and feet. “These are the things that betray the perpetrators of the crime,” he said.

But that morning provided more disappointments. Site Three was abandoned after it produced no convincing evidence. A new site was opened in the hope of more positive results. Datar interviewed Raymond several times and asked him to walk from the camp’s edge to where he thought Merino was taken at least four times. Raymond also informed the expert that he remembers Merino was wearing an old pair of yellow “Beach Walk” flip-flops. Assured that Raymond was certain about his coordinates and facts, Datar ordered the widening of Site One.

While standing on the edge of the camp Raymond found clothing on the ground, nearly covered with soil. When he picked it up, he identified it to have belonged to Caigas. “Shorts ito ni Caigas. ‘Basic Wear’ ang tatak. Siya lang ang meron nito—pantulog niya,” he said. (These are Caigas’ ‘Basic Wear’ brand short pants. Only he had them—as sleepwear.”) He said he was certain because he washed the soldiers’ dirty laundry.

At exactly 12:30 pm, anticipation gripped team members on Site One. What was thought to be just a layer of burnt wood close to the surface yielded a four-centimeter splinter, which Datar immediately identified as a human bone. He then ordered a wider surface scraping of the site. Before the team decided to take a delayed lunch break the hole already produced 15 more bone pieces.

Dr. Datar shows what kind of bone fragment was found on the site.

When digging resumed more bones were found on the burnt-out hole. At 3:45 pm, Datar’s graduate assistant struck another vital piece of evidence—an overturned slipper found on the edge of the small cavity with yellow straps and bearing the brand name “Beach Walk.” When Raymond saw the article, he exclaimed “’Yan ‘yun! Kay ‘Tay Manuel! ‘Yan ‘yun!” (That’s it! That’s old man Manuel’s. That’s it!) Datar then said, “Positive na tayo.” (“We are already positive about this grave site.”) A few minutes later a simple ring band was also found as well as a human vertebra.

At 5 pm, the digging and scraping has reached the hole’s edge. Datar said that, based on the materials gathered and examined by the UP, CHR and Karapatan experts on the site, firewood and rubber tires were placed at the hole’s bottom before the victim was placed in a fetal position wrapped in a mattress. “These foreign objects and the victim’s position explain why the hole is relatively small,” he said. Datar added that the gravesite was covered with un-burnt soil in the perpetrators’ efforts to conceal the spot.

Datar however hastened to add that it would be impossible to extract DNA from the “carbonized” bones. He also said that he still has to study the specimens in the laboratory to ascertain which parts of the body the bones came from.

Strong proof

Still, Datar commended Raymond’s fortitude. “May lakas siya ng loob na sabihin (ang nalalaman),” he said. (“He was courageous to speak out.”). “It was clear there were human activities in the areas he pointed out,” Datar added.

Nabuhayan ako ng loob,” Raymond said. “Kung wala tayong nakita e di lalo na nilang sasabihing sinungaling ako,” he added. (“I had a morale boost. If we found nothing here, the military will say I lied all the more.”)

Raymond’s legal counsel Rex JMA Fernandez is optimistic about the results of the fact-finding mission. “What Raymond said (about their abduction and killings) was proven today. Moreover, there was deliberate purpose to sanitize the burial place. If you take a closer look, the camp was big. It was not cursory but a protracted occupation of the place (by the military). That Palparan was involved in the tortures would be validated by these findings. Even if the military would try to undermine the results of this mission, Raymond is a very credible witness,” the lawyer explained.

Fernandez added that he wants the area declared a crime site. “I think they should continue digging and investigating. They should also interview the locals,” he said.

The mission ends, the quest for justice continues

Cris Hizarsa summed it up for the relatives.  “Katulad ng ibang mga pamilyang naghahanap, umaasa akong hindi kasama ang asawa ko sa mga pinatay dito.  Yun ang pag-asa ko at ng mga anak ko.  Sana, yun ang regalong maiuuwi ko sa kaarawan ni Shara.” (“Like the other relatives of the victims, my family and I hope my husband was not one of those killed here.  I hope that is the news I bring home to my daughter Shara for her birthday.”)

Manalo breaks down at the spot where Manuel Merino was murdered by Philippine Army soldiers under the command of Gen. Palparan.

Before dusk of the second day, all the holes were backfilled as the mission camp was being dismantled. Raymond Manalo then walked one last time to the gravesite, accompanied by the Karapatan team and Dr Datar.  The CHR team chose not to join them.  Fr. Dionito Cabillas led the prayers while the mission members joined hands around the makeshift grave.  After the prayers, shouts of “Justice!” rang several times.

Then everyone broke down.  Copious tears flowed on Raymond’s scarred face, his shoulders askew in physical and emotional pain.  The chests of relatives of the forcibly disappeared heaved in grief while Datar’s own eyes were moist and red.

As the sun was setting behind Mt Samat the mission members walked away from the grave now looking more desolate with the weak flicker of candles amid the creeping darkness.  Finally, Raymond turned his back on the site where Manuel Merino was killed, leaving the wild flowers to bloom in a land that has seen such horror finally coming to light. (More photos of the fact-finding mission here.)

 

 

 

GUILTY!: ‘Butcher’ Palparan, 2 others face reclusion perpetua

Retired Army Major General Jovito Palparan faces 20 to 40 years imprisonment after being found guilty of kidnapping and serious illegal detention for the 2006 disappearance of University of the Philippines UP students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño.

In today’s long-awaited promulgation, Branch 15 of the Malolos Regional Trial Court found the notorious Philippine Army officer guilty of the crime, along with co-accused Lieutenant Colonel Felipe Anotado and Sgt. Edgardo Osorio.

Judge Alexander Tamayo also ordered the three to each pay P100,000 in civil indemnity and P200,000 for moral damages to the families of the victims.

Called “The Butcher” by activists and human rights workers, Palparan is believed to responsible for numerous other human rights violations throughout the Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog, Eastern Visayas and Southern Mindanao regions where he was assigned by the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo government.

Empeño and Cadapan, however, remain missing.

Photo by Jinky Mendoza / Kodao

Elated

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), private prosecutors to the case, immediately expressed elation over the verdict.

“We are extremely elated that justice has finally caught up with the coward Butcher. The law and evidence is not only on our side this time around but we are on the side of truth and justice,” the group said.

The lawyers added that despite tremendous odds and difficulties, the suffering mothers of Sherlyn and Karen as well as their supporters and lawyers have “overcome what seemed to be a wild shot at a rare chance to make Gen. Palparan and his likes accountable.”

“[May] his conviction be a signal to all other human rights violators especially of the worst kinds that rightful retribution will come in time,” the NUPL said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Sr Pat to contest non-renewal of missionary visa

Lawyers of Australian missionary Sr Patricia Ann Fox, NDS said they will ask the Bureau of Immigration (BI) to reconsider its denial to renew or extend the nun’s visa.

Attys. Jobert Pahilga and Ma Sol Taule said that BI is mistaken in deciding Fox’s missionary visa has long expired, explaining the 10-year extension and renewal rule should only apply to her case on the day the BI converted her tourist visa on September 5, 2014.

“[When] the BI approved the conversion of Sister Fox’s tourist visa into a missionary visa, she was given a new or a fresh period of 10 years from the said date or until 2024 to stay in the country,” the lawyers said in a statement.

In an order dated September 13, the BI denied Fox’s application to renew or extend her missionary visa, saying her current visa has long expired.

The BI cited its the Memorandum of Agreement with the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines dated November 10, 1997 which restricts missionary visa holders for up to 10 years in the country.

The BI also said it has already issued a deportation order against the nun for her alleged violations of the conditions of her missionary visa and “undesirability”.

The BI’s orders are widely seen to have stemmed after President Rodrigo Duterte’s repeated verbal attacks as well as accusations that the missionary has participated in rallies against his government.

Fox’s lawyers however said that the deportation order against Fox is not yet final and executory as it is under appeal with the Department of Justice.

“The decision to grant or deny the application for extension or renewal of her missionary visa should not be based and hinge on the order of deportation. And even Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said that the decision of the BI whether to extend her missionary visa will be ‘without prejudice to the resolution of her appeal,’” the lawyers said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Moro group blames Duterte for the massacre of Tausug evacuees

National minority group Suara Bangsamoro blamed President Rodrigo Duterte for the massacre of seven Tausug civilians Friday in Patikul, Sulu by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

“President Duterte’s all-out war policy is killing more and more of our Moro brothers and sisters. We are enraged that, to appease his Filipino soldiers, he would sacrifice the lives of Moro people by exonerating the perpetrators of the massacre and branding the victims as terrorists,” Suara Bangsamoro national chairperson Jerome Succor Aladdin Aba said in a statement.

“We hold President Rodrigo Duterte responsible for the various human rights violations committed by the military against the Moro people in his all-out war directives against ‘terrorists’that uses massive ammunitions including aerial bombardment that target and punishes the community as a whole, and does not discriminate from the real bandits from the civilians,” Aba added.

According to the group, the victims were identified as “husbands of Pantawid Pamilya beneficiaries in Patikul who were shot by elements of Scout Rangers while harvesting mangosteen fruits in the area.”

Suara Bangsamoro said the victims were residents of Barangay Tambang and were aged 18 to 32.

The victims evacuated to Barangay Igasan in Patikul due to ongoing military operations in the area against the bandit group Abu Sayyaf.

According to their families, the victims were allowed by the military’s 55th Infantry Battalion to go to Sitio Tubig Bato, Barangay Kabuntakas to harvest mangosteen.

While they were in Kabuntakas, a firefight between the AFP and the Abu Sayaff and Philippine Army’s 32nd Infantry Battalion happened.

The military mistook the seven as Abu Sayyaf members and were captured alive at about noontime Friday, Suara Bangsamoro said.

At five o’clock, however, their cadavers were taken by the AFP to the local police station.

In its press release Friday, the Western Mindanao Command of the AFP claimed the seven were part of a group of 100 Abu Sayyaf fighters who fired at its Task Group Panther and Scout Rangers troopers operating in the area.

Suara Bangsamoro called on the Commission on Human Rights to investigate the incident as well as other human rights violations against Moro communities.

“The AFP should be held accountable for this crime. This is not the first time that the AFP committed an atrocity against civilians while parading the victims as Abu Sayyaf bandits,” Aba said.

Suara Bangsamoro said it blames AFP’s anti-terror operations and Duterte’s martial law in Mindanao for the attacks against civilians. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NPA to carry out rescue, relief and rehab after ‘Ompong’

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) announced Saturday, September 15, that New People’s Army (NPA) units are ready to conduct humanitarian activities for victims of Typhoon “Ompong”.

“The NPA and all revolutionary forces in North and Central Luzon, as well as in Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon, are geared to carry out rescue, relief and rehabilitation work for millions of people whose homes and livelihood were ravaged by strong winds and rains brought about by typhoon Ompong,” the CPP said in a statement.

The CPP said that while remaining vigilant over “relentless” offensive operations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, local NPA commands shall primarily concentrate in civic action amid the disaster in the next few days.

The CPP announcement was issued even as tropical cyclone “Ompong” (International name: Mangkhut) is still barrelling across extreme northern Luzon, packing sustained winds of around 205 kilometers per hours (kph) and gusts of up to 285 kph.

“Ompong” made landfall at 1:40 am at the rice-producing town of Baggao in Cagayan Province and moved west-northwest at a speed of 25 kph after hitting the Sierra Madre mountain range.

Billions of pesos in damages to crops are expected as rice and corn, both major crops  in Cagayan, Isabela, Apayao, Abra and Ilocos Sur, have yet to be harvested before “Ompong” ravaged the area.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council has yet to announce any casualty from the typhoon.

As of 1 pm Saturday, the typhoon has weakened and its center was located off the coast of Laoag City in Ilocos Norte.

The typhoon’s path closely followed the trajectory of Supertyphoon “Lawin” which hit the same area in late 2016, killing eight victims and causing an estimated P60 billion in damages to crops and properties.

Typhoon Ompong’s aftermath in Cabagan, Isabela.

Extending all help

In light of the widespread destruction, the CPP urged the Filipino people and international humanitarian agencies “to unite and extend all possible help to address the welfare of the people. “

“[The CPP] urges all democratic sectors to establish Serve the People brigades to help collect and distribute relief assistance. The broad masses of workers, peasants, minority people, fisherfolk and other basic sectors suffer the most from the damage wrought by typhoon Ompong,” the CPP said.

The revolutionary group added there is urgent need to mobilize peoples and groups to facilitate the entry and equitable distribution of all financial and material assistance.

The CPP warned that rampant corruption and inefficiencies by the government may hijack relief operations, as when Supertyphoons Pablo, Sendong, Yolanda and Lawin devastated large parts of the country in recent years.

The group also urged the Rodrigo Duterte government to implement wage increases, land distribution, cancellation of debt, agricultural subsidies, free irrigation and livelihood assistance and economic relief to help the victims. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDFP welcomes House resolution urging Duterte to resume talks

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines welcomed a resolution by a special committee of the House of Representatives urging the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) to resume its peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

In a statement, NDFP chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili said the resolution is a positive move by the committee members that contributes to calls of various other sectors and groups to continue the peace negotiations.

The Special Committee on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity chaired by Tawi-Tawi Representative Ruby Sahali passed the resolution Wednesday, September 12, urging the resumption of the peace talks terminated by Duterte in November 2017.

“It is highly imperative that Congress hears and echoes the Filipino people’s desire for the resumption of the peace negotiations and for the GRP and NDF to forge substantive agreements that will resolve the root causes of the nearly five-decade old armed conflict,” the resolutions reads.

“It is the cause for a just and lasting peace itself that is the very compelling reason to continue the peace negotiations,” the resolution, co-authored by Sahali and Reps. Jesus Nonato Sacdalan, Lourdes Acosta, Leopoldo Bataoil, Deogracias Victor Savellano, Lawrence Fortun, Rodante Marcoleta, adds.

The resolution further states that continuing the peace talks would benefit the Filipino people, most of whom are poor peasants and workers, as the agreement on agrarian reform and national industrialization may address their issues and concerns and help provide relief for their economic hardships.

“We hope this welcome move by the House Special Committee can encourage President Duterte to go back to the negotiating table and work towards a just and lasting peace,” Agcaoili said.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Jesus Dureza for his part thanked the Committee, adding the GRP has not totally terminated the talks.

“We know very well that the President had already cancelled the peace negotiations, but he had said the table for the door for resumption is still wide open. We did not totally shut this,” Dureza was quoted as saying by the House of Representatives Press and Public Affairs Bureau.

Open and without preconditions

In his statement, Agcaoili said the NDFP said it is always open to resumption of peace negotiations but in accordance with all signed agreements with the GRP and without preconditions.

He said the agreements include The Hague Joint Declaration, the Joint Agreement on Security and Immunity Guarantee, and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.

Agcaoili added that when Duterte unilaterally terminated the peace talks, significant advancements in the negotiations have already been made, such as tentative agreements on the sections of agrarian reform and rural development and national industrialization and economic development of the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER), coordinated unilateral ceasefire, and amnesty of all political prisoners listed by the NDFP.

“These agreements had been formulated and initialed by representatives of the GRP and NDFP during the monthly informal or back channel talks from March to June 2018 and were subject to finalization in the aborted fifth round of formal talks [last] June 28,” Agcaoili said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

1.9M Filipinos to be affected by ‘Ompong’

Nearly two million Filipinos are expected to be severely affected by the oncoming “superthyphoon” Ompong (Mangkhut) when it hits Northern Luzon on Saturday, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) said.

As many as 1.9 million residents live within the 200 kilometer radius of Typhoon Ompong’s projected track near Batanes, Cagayan, Ilocos Norte and Apayao on September 15, UN OCHA said.

The agency added that 429,012 houses are also expected to be battered by the typhoon.

Currently packing 200kph strong winds and gusts of up to 245kph, Ompong is expected to cause damage within its 200 kilometers radius with at least 100kph winds.

Basco, Batanes to the north and Tuguegarao City to the south of the storm’s path are expected to be severely affected.

In an information graphic released Wednesday night, the agency revealed that the eye of the storm is not expected to hit land but would barrel through between the Batanes Islands and Cagayan Province on Saturday.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) in its severe weather bulletin of September 13, however, said Ompong is expected to make landfall near Sta. Ana, Cagayan early morning of Saturday.

Ompong is expected to be the strongest weather system to hit the country this year.

Supertyphoon Lawin (Haima) also hit Cagayan Province in 2016 with 250kph winds, causing 19 deaths and an estimated Php60 billion in damages to livelihood and properties. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

 

Sison, Magdalo: No conspiracy; Duterte ousting himself

Prof. Jose Maria Sison dared Rodrigo Duterte to publicly present what the President claimed to be recorded conversations given to him by a “sympathetic foreign country.”

“Duterte is lying and bluffing by claiming that there are recorded conversations provided by a foreign government,” Sison said in a statement.

In a quick riposte to Duterte’s televised interview Tuesday with his legal adviser Salvador Panelo, Sison said he knew his former student long enough as “a congenital liar and an incorrigible political swindler.”

In his televised conversation with Panelo, Duterte claimed that Trillanes’ Magdalo Party, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and his other political opponents are conspiring to oust him.

Sison, Magdalo, pati iyong mga ayaw sa akin. ‘Yung talagang ayaw tumanggap sa akin ever since the election – they have combined,” adding he has evidence of the plot given him by a foreign country. (Sison, Magdalo, including those who don’t want me. Those who never really accepted me ever since the election – they have combined.)

Sison and leaders of the Magdalo Party have readily denied Duterte’s accusation.

Sison said that while the broad united front promoted by the CPP against the Duterte government is open to all patriotic forces, he said that as far as he knew, there had been no talks between the CPP and [Senator Antonio] Trillanes group or the Liberal Party.

“The experts will easily expose the fakery if he dares to present anything. This could be something like his invented foreign bank accounts of Trillanes,” Sison added.

Magdalo Party Rep. Gary Alejano also denied Duterte’s accusation in a statement Tuesday night, saying “I categorically deny that the Magdalo is involved in any oust plot against the President.”

“This is only meant to divert the attention of the people from the present economic woes they themselves have failed to address. If there is someone destabilizing the present government, they should not look beyond themselves for they are ones destabilizing it,” the statement added.

Sison added Duterte has shown he is worried to death and desperate as to imagine that he would be ousted next month.

“But it might take a little more time to build up the broad united front and the mass movement and prepare the way for the key military and police officers to withdraw support from Duterte,” Sison said.

“At any rate, Duterte will be lucky if he survives 2018 and even luckier if he survives middle of 2019,” he added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)