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NDFP: OPAPP irrelevant and anti-peace under Galvez

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) has betrayed its mandate to push for peace and had been irrelevant for a long time, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) said.

“Instead of promoting peace negotiations, OPAPP has been demonizing the revolutionary forces, as well as the Chief Political Consultant of the NDF, Prof. Jose Maria Sison, with worn out lies long debunked by fact and evidence, NDFP Negotiating Panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili in a statement, Thursday, February 6, said.

Agcaoili added OPAPP is acting against the interest of the Filipino people who have been clamoring for the resumption of peace negotiations between the NDFP and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP).

The NDFP blames presidential peace adviser and retired Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff Carlito Galvez Jr. for turning OPAPP into the military’ psychological warfare machinery.

It said the OPAPP now denies the existence of the armed conflict between GRP and NDFP forces, particularly the New People’s Army (NPA).

In an article published on the OPAPP website Saturday, February 1, Galvez alleged Sison and company are working overtime to sabotage the GRP’s anti-communist insurgency programs for fear of becoming irrelevant.

“The armed struggle has no legitimacy in a civilized society. Armed violence is an anathema of peace and development, and the CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines)-NPA should be disbanded,” Galvez said.

The NDFP retorted that all Galvez had been consistently doing is attacking peace process and all signed agreements between the GRP and NDFP.

The group added Galvez even terminated the appointment of the members of the government’s negotiating panel and the services of its Joint Secretariat in the Joint Monitoring Committee, the office tasked to oversee the implementation of thr GRP-NDFP Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.

“Just as the call for the resumption of the peace negotiations is gathering strength and the Duterte regime appears prodded back to the negotiating table, OPAPP seems hell bent on derailing every effort to resume the peace talks,” the NDFP said.

“OPAPP has long lost all credibility as it is exposed to be sinister, corrupt and a saboteur of the Filipino people’s aspiration for a just and lasting peace. It has indeed become irrelevant,” the group added.

The NDFP also slammed OPAPP’s latest press release proclaiming the so-called successes of President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order 70 creating the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

State terrorism and corruption

The NDFP said NTF-ELCAC is an integral part of the government’s counter-insurgency program Operation Plan Kapanatagan that has been “terrorizing and wreaking havoc on communities through sustained military operations.”

The group said EO 70’s other human rights violations include indiscriminate aerial and artillery bombardments of villages, assasination of civilians, illegal arrests, detention and torture of suspected NPA sympathizers, and with hunting or red-tagging of churches and organizations as well as their leaders.

But aside from unleashing state terrorism on the people, the NDFP said the NTF-ELCAC is rife with corruption.

“With a P21 billion budget, the NTF-ELCAC, under the rubric of localized peace talks and the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP), has been devising all sorts of money-making schemes to line the pockets of military and police commanders and local bureaucrats,” the NDFP said.

According to the NDFP, implementers of the task force also commit the following:

1. Buying off (with kickbacks) city and municipal councils into declaring the NPA persona-non-grata in their areas;

2. Manufacturing fake surrenderees to obtain the reward and integration monies (as recently exposed in the photoshopped picture of previous surrenderees and the alleged surrender if Alde Salusa, a military agent who killed anti-mining activist Datu Jimmy Liguyon);

3. Appointing paramilitaries Alamara and New Indigenous People’s Army to local councils that extend permit fees to mining and logging companies as well as multinational agribusiness corporations for the exploitation of ancetral lands; and

4. Renegotiating a bigger amount of “settlement” with the previously surrendered and paid Rebolusyonaryong Partidong Manggagawa ng Pilipinas/Revolutionary Proletarian Army/Alex Boncayao Brigade-Tabara Paduano Group in a new agreement called Clarificatory Implementing Document. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Bayan: Problems are Duterte’s real legacy

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) contradicted attempts by the Palace communications team to picture Rodrigo Duterte to be a succesful president, painting his administration to be very problematic for the Filipino people instead.

Reacting to the ongoing #DuterteLegacy campaign launched by the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO), Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said 12 major problems may already be listed as the president’s real legacy halfway through Duterte’s government.

Reyes wrote, “We are past the halfway mark of the Duterte regime and Palace propagandists are now trumpeting the president’s so called ‘legacy’. This early on, we can safely say what the legacy of this regime is.”

Duterte’s real legacy, according to Reyes, are the following:

  1. Mass murder. Thousands have been killed in the so-called war on drugs, yet the drug problem persists, the police exposed as corrupt, thus rendering the drug war an abject failure;
  2. Destruction of agriculture. Philippine agriculture has been ruined because of the liberalization of rice importation. The Philippines, an agricultural country, is now the world’s biggest importer or rice;
  3. Surrender of sovereignty. Our sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea continue to be violated by China with the failure of the regime to uphold the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the West Philippine Sea to counter China’s illegal activities;
  4. Normalization of Martial Law. For more than two years, Martial Law was imposed in the entire Mindanao, resulting in widespread human rights violations especially in rural communities. Despite Martial Law, Marawi remains in ruins since no real rehabilitation has taken place;
  5. Militarized bureaucracy. The civilian bureaucracy has been militarized and geared towards counter-insurgency, again resulting in massive human rights violations. Duterte’s Executive Order 70 (ordering heightened counter-insurgency operations nationwide) has given way to de facto Martial Law;
  6. Weaponization of the law. The law has been weaponized to target critics of the administration. Trumped-up charges against activists, media, church leaders, the Opposition, lawyers, and other critics have become so rampant. Mass arrests have recently taken place.
  7. ENDO pa rin. Contractualization remains rampant despite the promise of the President to end it. He also vetoed a watered-down version of a security of tenure law. Labor export remains the principal safety valve of the economy;
  8. More taxes. The TRAIN (Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion) law and its regime of new taxes that burden the poor is part of Duterte’s anti-people legacy;
  9. Economic slowdown. The slowest GDP (Gross Domestic Product) growth rate in eight years was registered under the Duterte regime. The much-touted “Build Build Build” program proved to be a dud. The slowdown of domestic agriculture proved to be the disastrous result of neoliberal policies;
  10. Worsening corruption. Bureaucratic corruption remains and even State security forces have been exposed as being the most corrupt. Transparency International gave the Philippines its lowest rating since 2012, ranking the Philippines as 113th out of 180 countries. Duterte cronies like Dennis Uy have been favored to get strategic industries and utilities;
  11. Marcos restoration. A hero’s burial for the dictator Marcos and a clear pathway for their return to Malacañang; and
  12. Tyranny. Undermining checks and balance in government. Like a true dictator, Duterte controlled Congress, removed a sitting Chief Justice, and concentrated power with the Executive. Things can take a turn for the worse if Charter change pushes through.

Aside from an agressive social media campaign, PCOO spokespersons have appeared in television and radio programs popularizing the #DuterteLegacy campaign.

It hit a snag however when PCOO undersecretary Lorraine Badoy was reprimanded by hosts of the TV5 program “The Chiefs” for taking the occassion to Red-bait an economic analyst instead, unleashing a flood of criticisms online. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Organizations submit human rights reports to United Nations

Human rights organizations, churches and sectoral organizations announced their submission of written reports to United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights (UNCHR) Michelle Bachelet in Geneva, Switzerland Friday, January 31, detailing various forms of violations by the Rodrigo Duterte government.

At least sixteen organizations under the Ecumenical Voice for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines (EcuVoice) also urged the United Nations Human Rights Committee to pass a resolution to investigate further the killings and threats of activists, churchpeople, teachers, indigenous peoples, lawyers, the political opposition, journalists, environment defenders and other sectors.

The submissions is in accordance the Iceland-led resolution on the Philippines adopted by the UN Human Rights Council in July 2019.

In a press conference in Quezon City, EcuVoice convenor Edita Burgos said that the reports they submitted depict the worsening human rights crisis besetting the Filipino people.

“The extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary or illegal arrests and detention and other civil and political rights violations exacerbate the landlessness, lack of job security, and gross inequalities faced by poor Filipinos. Such is the situation under the administration of President Duterte,” Burgos said.

The EcuVoice network mobilised for the submission of reports of the National Council of Churches of the Philippines, National Union of People’s Lawyers, Karapatan, Rise Up for Life and for Rights, Save Our Schools Movement, Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas, Kusog sa Katawhang Lumad sa Mindanao (KALUMARAN), Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA), Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA), Philippine Task Force for Indigenous Peoples (TFIP), SANDUGO Kilusan ng mga Moro at Katutubong Mamamayan para sa Sariling Pagpapasya (Movement of Moro and Indigenous Peoples for Self-determination), Makabayan, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, Kalikasan People’s Network, Alliance of Concerned Teachers, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, Migrante, Kilusang Mayo Uno, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and Ibon Foundation.

EcuVoice members also provided key inputs in the submissions by the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, World Council of Churches of the Philippines, the Center for Human Rights of the City University of New York and International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines.

Several of the submissions outlined socio-economic and political situations of the Filipino people they say are marked by intensified poverty, violations on security of employment, high prices of basic commodities and services, and the continuing plunder of land and resources including that of ancestral domains in their submissions.

Organizations also focused on the Duterte government’s “war on drugs,” as well as “further shrinking of civil and democratic spaces,” including violations on the right to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and to form and join associations.

“The Duterte administration’s anti-narcotics campaign, its counter-insurgency program through Oplan Kapanatagan and its ‘whole of nation attacks’ under Executive Order No. 70, and its rampage against critics and political dissenters have immensely contributed to the hyper state of impunity,” Burgos said.

EcuVoice said that this year, aside from this process at the UN HRC, the Duterte administration is set to be reviewed before the treaty body UN Human Rights Committee.

The Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court is likewise set to release results of its preliminary examination on complaints regarding crimes against humanity, the group said.

“We reiterate our call to the international community to help us make the Duterte administration accountable for its rights violations,” Burgos said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Activists press for justice on Malayao’s 1st death anniv

Activists commemorated the first death anniversary of Randy Felix Malayao in Isabela province, calling for justice for the slain National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant.

In a rally in front of Camp Melchor de la Cruz in Gamu town, headquarters of the 5th Infantry Division (5th ID) of the Philippine Army, various groups under the Makabayan bloc and the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan condemned the lack of justice for Malayao.

The soldiers however violently dispersed the rally, hurting protesters holding streamers and forcing them to continue their program in a nearby park.

“The Philippine Army parked a pick-up truck in front and an ambulance behind the rally with horns and sirens blaring to disrupt the program,” a source told Kodao.

Earlier, the activists celebrated a Mass at Malayao’s tomb in a private cemetery in San Pablo, his hometown.

Activists salute Malayao with raised fists at his tomb in San Pablo, Isabela.

As artists were painting a mural calling for justice for Malayao’s assassination at the wall of the adjacent public cemetery, however, San Pablo mayor Jojo Miro arrived and ordered the activists to stop.

The local government had the mural painted over as soon as the activists left, Makabayan said.

Malayao was killed in his sleep inside a bus in Aritao, Nueva Vizcaya province last January 30, 2019.

The Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), in a statement Wednesday, January 29, condemned the lack of justice for Malayao, accusing the government of inaction.

UMA pointed out that facial sketches of the gunman and the driver of the getaway vehicle had been released by the Cagayan Valley police as well as another person of interest caught on CCTV taking a photo of Malayao’s bus at a terminal in Quezon City.

“It seems the police and, for that matter, the Philippine government has no more interest in pursuing justice for the killing of Randy. Especially this time, when militarists in the Duterte administration are again spoiling the possible resumption of peace talks between the government and the NDFP,” UMA vice-chairperson Ariel Casilao said.

In a statement last year, Makabayan said it holds the Duterte administration and all his local cohorts along with the 5th ID of the Armed Forces of the Philippines accountable for the death of Malayao.

“When the President declared his open command to his army to eliminate activists, so-called legal fronts of Duterte’s protagonists, the CPP-NPA (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army) and alleged NPAs in the city, Duterte signed Malayao’s death order. Immediately after Duterte’s pronouncements of “death wishes” several malicious posters and leaflets branding Malayao as NPA leader in the city together with other known activists were displayed all over the region,” the group said.

Aside from being an NDFP consultant and Negotiating Panel spokesperson, Malayao was Bayan Muna Cagayan Valley regional coordinator at the time of his death. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Alamara lays siege on Lumad sanctuary

Armed paramilitary forces laid siege to a church compound housing indigenous peoples refugees in President Rodrigo Duterte’s home turf of Davao City Sunday morning, January 26, terrorizing Lumad children in their sanctuary.

Around 50 members of the paramilitary Alamara descended at the Haran compound of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) at nine o’clock in the morning, brandishing bolos and threatening the terrified refugees inside.

The bandits carried placards alleging that the UCCP brainwashed the Manobo refugees to resist ongoing mining activities in their ancestral lands in the Pantaron Mountain Range.

Manobo refugees prepare to evacuate the sanctuary area as Alamara bandits surround their compound. (Kilab Multimedia photo)

Some of the Alamara bandits wielded bolos and wire cutters and managed to enter the compound, forcing the refugees staying at the sanctuary area to seek refuge inside the UCCP office building.

Manobo leaders faced off with the Alamara and prevented them from overwhelming the compound.

UCCP Southeast Mindanao Jurisdictional Area Bishop Hamuel Tequis arrived at 10 a.m. to confront the Alamara as police officers also arrive to help ease the tension.

The police however refused to arrest the Alamara members who broke into UCCP compound. It also prevented members of the local media to enter the compound to cover the refugees’ press conference.

Davao city vice mayor Sebastian Duterte later arrived to broker a dialogue between the bishop, the refugees and the Alamara.

The Alamara attackers reportedly wanted to haul the refugees back to their communities in Kapalong and Talaingod, Davao del Norte.

UCCP Bishop Tequis and Davao City vice mayor Sebastian Duterte inside the besieged church compound and Lumad sanctuary.

Bishop Tequis said his church continues to stand firm on their commitment to serve the indigenous peoples in Davao region.

“By doing our duty to act as shepherds of the poor and the deprived we manifest our unwavering commitment to defend the rights of those who are deprived of their civil liberties,” Tequis said in a statement.

The bishop said the continuing harassment and possible filing of charges against UCCP Haran Mission Center is “a threat against the commitment of the church to do Christ’s mission of ministering to the oppressed and the marginalized.”

UCCP Haran had been serving as a sanctuary for Lumad forcibly displaced by violence and attacks by paramilitary and military groups in the region since the early 1990s. Earlier, it has been attacked by bandits, including an attempt to burn down the temporary Lumad school put up for its young refugees numbering around 200.

The Manobo refugees at the UCCP Haran office building. (Kilab Multimedia photo)

“[UCCP Haran had] served as a home for victims of oppression and injustice. It has become a place of healing among them who have been distressed by intermittent harassment and violence committed against them. But more than these, UCCP Haran is a sanctuary of peace in keeping with God’s own purpose,” Tequis said.

The bishop urged the government not to intervene in the church’s “constructive and beneficial affairs” for the oppressed and downtrodden even as he condemned what he calls the vilification and crucifixion of the UCCP for simply “shepherding the Lumad.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

KMU: Police in industrial zones violate labor rights

Labor federation Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) condemned the creation of police offices in Central Luzon industrial zones, saying the move violates the Constitutionally-guaranteed right to form and join organizations.

The KMU blasted Philippine National Police (PNP) in Region III and the Rodrigo Duterte government’s National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) as the agencies announced the creation of the Joint Industrial Peace and Concern Office (JIPCO) to prevent militant labor groups from organizing unions in the region.

“The creation of the JIPCO is a direct attack on workers’ basic right to form unions –our legitimate means to collectively fight for our basic interests and welfare as workers. The JIPCO is meant to stifle not the so-called ‘radical labor infiltration’ but the workers’ very right to exercise self-organization and union work,” KMU Chairperson Elmer “Ka Bong” Labog said.

PNP Central Luzon director Police General Rhodel Sermonia last Wednesday, January 22, led JIPCO’s launch at the Clark Freeport Zone in Zambales Province “to act as the first line of defense from radical labor infiltration of the labor force and the industrial zones in support of ELCAC (End Local Communist Armed Conflict).”

With Sermonia as guests of honor and speakers were presidential adviser on the peace process Secretary Carlito Galvez, newly installed Philippine National Police (PNP) Direcor General Archie Francisco Gamboa, and Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) Director Charito Plaza. 

The KMU however said there can be no peace anywhere in the Philippines if the PNP, known for criminal and deadly practices such as “ninja cops” and “Oplan Tokhang”, are tasked to prevent unionism in factories and workplaces.

The group also noted that both the PNP and Philippine Army have repeatedly accused militant labor unions of being supporters of the underground communist movement in the Philippines. The creation of a JIPCO is precisely aimed to prevent organizing of unions which will affect the entire labor sector, it added.

“The [NTF-ELCAC] has been weaponized to the extent of violating fundamental rights of workers to form unions, which are clearly provided in the Bill of Rights of the Philippine Constitution, as well as International Conventions. The JIPCO in effect bans the existence of any union and all unions in Central Luzon,” said KMU’s Labog.

The militant labor group charged that the JIPCO is a project of the National Task Force- End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), which was created through Executive Order No. 70.

“That the JIPCO is a mechanism to defend industrial zones from radical labor in support of the ELCAC is all rhetoric for crushing legitimate people’s organizations carrying legitimate demands, such as unions calling for higher wages, regular work and implementation of labor standards, especially in Economic Zones which are not regulated by the Labor Department,” Labog said.

The labor leader also added that “only the few big capitalists stand to benefit from the eradication of unions in the economic zones.”

The KMU Chairman asked workers and the people to launch actions and engage all institutions to stop JIPCO even as it looks for possible legal actions against the PNP and PEZA. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NUJP presses for justice on Gerry Ortega’s 9th death anniv

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) renewed its call for justice for broadcaster Gerry Ortega in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan on the ninth anniversary of his killing.

In a statement, the NUJP said it calls on the courts to resume trials against alleged masterminds in Ortega’s murders after the Court of Appeals (CA) reversed a 2018 ruling clearing former Palawan governor Joel Reyes, the primary suspect.

The group said the CA  ordered the Regional Trial Court in Puerto Princesa to “issue a warrant of arrest against the petitioner (Reyes) and to conduct proceedings in criminal case No. 26839 with purposeful dispatch” last November.

“Today, as we remember Doc Gerry, we call on the courts to let the wheels of justice finally turn, but not turn slowly,” the group said.

Hopes that the alleged brains behind Ortega’s murder would be held accountable had been dashed when co-accused former Coron, Palawan mayor Mario Reyes was granted bail in 2016 and his brother Joel was cleared of the murder charge and freed by the Court of Appeals in January 2018.

The former governor was back behind bars however after he was convicted of graft by the Sandiganbayan three weeks later.

The NUJP expressed optimism in a conviction as the gunman and all the members of the hit team were arrested, prosecuted, and convicted.

“In a rare instance, the hired killers named the alleged masterminds, who fled the country in 2012 soon after arrest warrants were issued against them but were captured in Thailand three years after and brought back to stand trial,” the NUJP said.

Ortega—also an environmentalist, public servant, good governance advocate and civic leader—had just finished hosting his program on radio station DWAR when shot dead.

The NUJP also noted that the victim’s family never wavered in their struggle for justice, adding it can do no less.

The NUJP is set to light candles for Ortega at the Sgt. Esguerra gate of ABS-CBN tonight, January 24, as it also calls for the renewal of the media company’s legislative franchise President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to block at the House of Representatives. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Kadamay starts urban poor campout at CHR

Urban poor group Kadamay launched a campout to protest attacks on their communities and members at the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Thursday, January 23.

“Mapanganib ang buhay ng mahihirap sa ilalim ni Duterte, kami’y sinasabing mga terorista pero kinakatwiran lamang ito ng mga awtoridad para itulak ang mga atake at demolisyon sa maraming komunidad sa buong bansa,” Kadamay chairperson Gloria “Ka Bea” Arellano said.

CHR chairperson Chito Gascon welcomed members of the group Kadamay and joined them in a boodle fight.

Commission on Human Rights chairperson Chito Gascon welcomes Kadamay members and supporters.

Kadamay said that widespread demolitions and displacement due to the government’s aggressive infrastructure campaign “Build Build Build” is one of the reasons for attacks against the civil liberties of the poor.

The camp, supported by the CHR and the University of the Philippines, is intended to serve as a sanctuary for urban poor Filipinos whose lives are in danger for opposing the unjust policies of the regime.

Kadamay decried the harassment, assaults, fake charges, wrongful arrests, violence and extortion of fake surrenderees by law enforcement.

Other attacks have been tallied in communities across the nation. In Navotas, Kadamay said its members are routinely hounded by personnel of the Philippine Navy. Leaders and members are also charged with bogus criminal cases.

In Bulacan, Kadamay said two of urban poor organizers are detained on fabricated charges. They have also masterminded the creation of alternate groups dubbed “pro-government’ to combat Kadamay and spread violence in Pandi, Bulacan.

“Palibhasa sa taong 2019 at lalo sa 2020, malawakang ipapatupad ang maraming demolisyon para sa BBB. Hindi naman nireresolba ang matinding kawalan ng tahanan sa ating bayan, pararamihin pa ang homeless, inaatake pa sila ng mga pulis at sundalo. Kaya kami naglunsad ng kampuhan upang isiwalat ang katotohanang ito sa mamamayan. Hindi kaunlaran ang dulot ng BBB, ibayong kahirapan at homelessness ang epekto,” explained Arellano.

Around 506, 495 will be displaced from 15 (out of 100) of the flagship projects under the BBB, Kadamay said.

Gascon joins Kadamay in a boodle fight.

The group also disputed the fact that the government will be able to provide relocation for all the displaced. In the last five years, only 58% of whole target of homes for Yolanda victims was made. In addition, the housing budget has plummeted under Duterte, with a 76% reduction.

Kadamay called to resolve the homeless crisis, not aggravate it. “Karapatan ang paninirahan, ibig sabihin, dapat responsibilidad ng pamahalaan na harapin at resolbahin ito.”

Ang kailangan ng maralita at homeless, disente, abot-kaya at pangmasang pabahay. Lilikha ito ng trabaho, paninirahan at ganansya para sa buong ekonomiya. At imbes na gibain ang mga komunidad, paunlarin. Tanging mga malalaking negosyante at mga kapitalista ng China ang makikinabang sa mga proyekto ng BBB,” said Arellano. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Braganza: CASER is treasonous? Wow!

A government negotiator took strong exceptions to allegations made by several cabinet members that talks on social and economic reforms with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) may be likened to treason and surrender of Philippine sovereignty.

Hernani Braganza, veteran Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) negotiator and former agrarian reform secretary, also denied that past government negotiating panels did not consult with the military during formal and informal negotiations.

“There are allegations that CASER (Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms) [negotiations] was treasonous. Wow!” Braganza told hundreds of participants of the Assembly for Peace organized by the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform at the Quezon City Sports Club last Friday, January 7.

Braganza denied that the military was never consulted in negotiations on social and economic reforms, adding there are several military officers in the GRP negotiating team in the four formal rounds and at least seven reciprocal working committees meetings held both in Europe and the Philippines.

Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) chairperson Carlito Galvez last week dismissed further negotiations on social and economic reforms with the NDFP, likening the prospective approval of the main agenda of the peace talks to an act of “treason”.

“It is a formula for the surrender of the national government’s integrity as well as the state’s sovereignty,” Galvez said.

“CASER is a product of a secret backchannel maneuver by the communist insurgents. There was zero consultation with the government’s economic team, security forces, local agencies, and local government units, and most importantly, the Filipino people,” Galvez further alleged.

“That is not true. I made the rounds of military camps and I explained it [CASER] to them,” Braganza said, revealing further that a University of the Philippines team led by its former president Alfredo Pascual actually crafted the GRP draft of the CASER.

He also said many of the GRP’s line agencies were present in the negotiations.

Aside from Galvez, national security adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. also questioned further CASER discussions while defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana, interior and local government secretary Eduardo Año, Armed Forces of the Philippines deputy chief of staff for civil-military operations Major General Antonio Parlade, Jr. took turns opposing President Rodrigo Duterte’s plans to resume formal negotiations with the NDFP.

But Braganza revealed that CASER’s ultimate approval by the GRP does not end with its negotiators or even with President Duterte himself.

“Ultimately, this will be brought before Congress,” he said.

Arkibong Bayan photo

Braganza also belied Galvez’s accusations that peace agreements with the NDFP would result in a surrender of Philippine sovereignty.

“For the record and in fairness to the NDFP, after all that has been done to and said of them, they never asked for their own territory. Kahit isang paso.” Braganza said. (Not even a handful of soil.)

“In all the common documents (between the GRP and the NDFP), there is no mention of a coalition government. Hindi ko alam kung bakit paulit-ulit (sila),” he added. (I do not know why they keep on repeating this.) 

Braganza said the CASER is a way of addressing inequality, especially in the countryside where job creation and adding value to agricultural products are needed.

“I should know these. I was once mayor, congressman and agrarian reform secretary,” he said.

Braganza said the programs in the common GRP-NDFP draft of the CASER are all in the Philippine Constitution.

Braganza added he and labor secretary Silvestre Bello III were officially authorized by Malacañan Palace to talk to NDFP negotiators even after they were fired last year.

He challenged peace talks critics in the Duterte Cabinet to take their opposition to the process with Duterte himself.

“If you are after our seats on the (negotiating) panel, it is all yours. I did not apply for it. But do not malign our names,” Braganza said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDFP: Esperon and Galvez out to sabotage talks by attacking CASER

National security adviser Hermogenes C. Esperon, Jr. and presidential peace adviser Carlito G. Galvez Jr. are ignorant in their statements against the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER), National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) negotiators said.

In a statement Tuesday, the NDFP Reciprocal Working Committee on Socio-Economic Reforms (RWC-SER) said the two former Armed Forces of the Philippines chiefs of staff aim to “malicioudly distort” the “considerable progress” made by the negotiating panels of both the NDFP and the Government of the Republic of the Philipines (GRP).

“They are showing themselves as chronic saboteurs of the peace process and are proving to be among the biggest obstacles to peace in the country,” the NDFP’s RWC-SER said.

Esperon and Galvez came out with statements last week discouraging the Rodrigo Duterte government from resuming peace negotiations with the NDFP, alleging the CASER is “treasonous”.

“CASER is based on an obsolete framework and is no longer relevant since it is largely based on the pre-industrialization and pre-globalization era. It is a formula for the surrender of the national government’s integrity as well as the state’s sovereignty,” Galvez also said.

Esperon for his part expressed opposition to the planned revival of peace talks with the NDFP, accusing the CASER of reflecting the NDFP’s “duplicitous character and self-interest.” 

The NDFP however said the CASER offers real social and economic reforms and is critically important to the Filipino people as it addresses the roots of armed conflict such as poverty, inequality and underdevelopment.

Free land distribution and long-term development

The NDFP said the the Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ARRD) section of the approved common draft between itself and the GRP includes free land distribution and the writing-off of farmers’ debts under the government’s land reform programs.

Agrarian reform shall cover plantations and large-scale commercial farms with leasehold, joint venture, and non-land transfer schemes such as the infamous stock distribution option. There are also reforms in fisheries and aquatic resources, the NDFP said.

It explained that farmers and fisherfolk will also be provided a wide range of support services and benefit from the elimination of exploitative lending and trading practices in the countryside.

ARRD also includes clear commitments to build rural infrastructure, develop rural industries, and improve domestic science and technology, it said.

The approved common draft on National Industrialization and Economic Development (NIED) critically affirms the importance of national industrialization for long-term development, the NDFP said.

It recognizes the need for sound planning and regulation of foreign investment to develop specific industries. The benefits of nationalized public utilities and mining, of Filipino processing of minerals and trading, and of breaking foreign monopoly control of industrial technologies are also well-understood, the group revealed.

The NDFP also said the NIED aims to develop Filipino industrial science and technology, the important role of workers is acknowledged and they will be given a greater role in the running of enterprises.

Financing for industrialization will be raised from progressive taxes, luxury and sin taxes, official aid, foreign investment and other sources, the group explained.

The NDFP said that remaining issues on CASER such as environment protection, Filipino culture deveopment, decent employment, social protection, free education and health, affordable housing and utilities, upholding indigenous peoples’ (IP’s) rights and asserting economic sovereignty may be easier to reach once formal negotiations resume.

Esperon and Galvez’s criticisms of the NDFP draft CASER are moot because both the GRP and the NDFP have already mutually agreed on common drafts of the ARRD and NIED, the group pointed out.

“The NDFP and GRP shared ideas and sought creative solutions to the country’s social and economic problems. The common drafts show that it is possible for the Parties to set aside ideological differences and unite on concrete steps for the common cause of real economic progress for the nation,” the NDFP said.

No backchannel maneuvers

NDFP RWC-SER Chairperson Julieta de Lima addressing their GRP counterpart during the 3rd round of peace talks held in Rome, Italy in January 2017 / Photo: JBustamante

Contrary to Galvez’s claim that CASER is a product of a secret backchannel maneuver, the common drafts were widely taken in public consultations nationwide, including New People’s Army guerilla zones, the NDFP said.

The NDFP and the GRP each presented their own draft versions of the CASER to the negotiating table and were negotiated in good faith to produce a mutually agreed program of social and economic reforms, it added.

The GRP panel for its part also reported numerous multi-agency meetings on the CASER attented by its own line agencies, Congress, local government officials, and the academe in the formal rounds abroad as well in the bilateral team meetings in the Philippines.

The NDFP pointed out that the common drafts were produced with officials from the National Economic and Development Authority, Department of Agrarian Reform, Department of Agriculture, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, Land Bank of the Philippines, Department of Finance, Department of Trade and Industry, and Department of Science and Technology with inputs from academics of the University of the Philippines, De La Salle University, and Ateneo de Manila University.

Members of the Peace, Reconciliation and Unity Committee of the House of Representatives were also present from the second to the fourth rounds of formal talks in Norway, Italy and The Netherlands from 2016 to 2017.

The common outline for the CASER and common drafts on the sections on ARRD and NIED were crafted after four formal rounds of talks abroad and seven meetings in the Philippines by both the GRP and the NDFP RWCs.

“These mutually agreed common drafts were prepared by the bilateral teams for CASER of the NDFP and GRP, received by their respective Reciprocal Working Committees for Social and Economic Reforms (RWCs-SER) in November 2017, and are up for approval by the NDFP and GRP panels upon a resumption of talks,” the NDFP said.

It added that the CASER will be an expansive deal with 11 substantive sections of policy reforms.

Esperon and Galvez intentionally muddle the NDFP’s unilateral draft version of the CASER with the negotiated and mutually agreed CASER that the peace talks will produce. They maliciously diminish and vilify the progress that the peace talks have made to sabotage this and give way to their narrow-minded hawkish militarism, the NDFP said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)