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Ampatuan Massacre promulgation of verdict will be broadcast live–SC

The promulgation of judgement on the Ampatuan Massacre trial shall be broadcast live on December 19, the Supreme Court (SC) ruled Tuesday, December 10.

The High Court shall allow two People’s Television (PTV) cameras inside the courtroom which other media outfits could hook into, SC assistant court administrator and public information office chief Brian Keith Hosaka said.

Citing space limitations, the Court also decided it would only allow a limited number of reporters inside the court who would not be allowed to bring their own cameras, smart phones and other video and audio recording equipment inside.

The SC Public Information Office shall prepare a list of “accredited media” to be allowed inside the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology compound in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.

The High Tribunal decided on the petition for live coverage filed last week by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism.

“The live coverage/streaming of the promulgation would allow the families and relatives of the 58 victims who may not be able to attend the promulgation in Metro Manila to hear live the reading of the court’s decision on the killing of their relatives,” the media groups wrote Supreme Court Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta.

Government communication and media offices also asked to be allowed to cover the event.

Before the groups’ petition, the Court, through Hosaka, wrote to PTV requesting for airtime and technical support, including cameras and video footage that would be provided to other media groups, for the live coverage of the verdict set on December 19

“Because of the paramount public interest involved in this case, the Supreme Court, which is overseeing the matter, would like to have live television coverage of the proceedings,” SC Assistant Court Administrator and Public Information Office chief Hosaka told PTV. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Joma urges Duterte to undertake goodwill measures to revive talks

Goodwill measures from President Rodrigo Duterte may be the ticket for the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) to successfully revive formal peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), Jose Maria Sison said.

Invoking the spirit of yuletide, Sison said reciprocal unilateral ceasefires and the release of elderly and sickly political prisoners are good for the creation of a favorable atmosphere for peace negotiations.

“It is timely for the GRP and NDFP to celebrate with the Filipino people the season of Christmas and the New Year and to create the favorable atmosphere for peace negotiations by undertaking such goodwill measures,” Sison said.

Sison added that those who shall participate in the peace negotiations, obviously referring to jailed NDFP peace consultants, may be among those to be released early. 

The NDFP’s chief political consultant said the obstacles that ended the peace talks may be overcome by another reaffirmation of agreements forged between the parties since 1992.

These agreements, including The Hague Joint Declaration and the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees, outline the conduct and conditions of formal peace negotiations between the parties.

Successive GRP administrations, including Duterte’s, have sought to disregard the agreements in a repeated bid to convince NDFP negotiators to agree to hold the talks in the Philippines.

The NDFP, however, has consistently opposed the move as “dangerous”.

Sison said that he welcomes Duterte’s desire to resume the negotiations and instructions to former GRP chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III to visit and consult him in The Netherlands.

He proposes that the NDFP and Bello set the agenda and schedule for the negotiations and to “fulfill political, legal and security requirements.”

He said the GRP and NDFP negotiating panels can pursue further negotiations on the Interim Peace Agreement, with its three components pertaining to coordinated unilateral ceasefires, general amnesty and release of all political prisoners.

The three components had been approved and signed in the presence of Norwegian third-party facilitators after four rounds of backchannel talks in May and June 2018.

Duterte, however, ordered his negotiators to abandon the formal round scheduled for June 28 of that year. 

Sison also urged that the remaining sections of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development and National Industrialization and Economic Development that are still to be tackled be discussed once the talks resume. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Duterte, Esperon preconditions may prevent talks resumption, Sison warns

The resumption of formal peace negotiations between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) may not happen if the Manila government insists it must be held in the Philippines, Jose Maria Sison warned.

Reacting to national security adviser Hermogenes Esperon’s declaration Friday, December 6, that Duterte wants the talks to be held in the country, Sison said the GRP is setting a precondition that is “unacceptable.”

“This precondition is totally unacceptable to the NDFP because it aims to put the NDFP and the entire peace negotiations in the pocket of the Duterte regime and under the control and surveillance of the bloodthirsty military and police who engage in mass murders and other heinous crimes with impunity,” Sison said in a statement Saturday.

Esperon told reporters at Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City that the change in venue is a “minimum requirement.”

“Remember that even before the peace talks ceased, the President already said he wanted the venue of the peace talks to be here. So that is the minimum requirement,” Esperon said.

“There will be a declaration of a bilateral ceasefire that’s got rules, too. The NPA can’t be burning up construction equipment. They can’t be going about,” he added.

Sison slammed Esperon’s statements, however, saying the retired general is being “extremely arrogant and insulting” to the NDFP by declaring that it has no choice but to accept the resumption of peace negotiations in the Philippines.

Sison said Esperon issues such statements because he believes his own lie that the government has defeated the armed revolution led by the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army.

Such declarations are fake news about fake community support projects, fake surrenders and fake encounters, Sison said.

“Esperon should not try to gain from cheap ephemeral psywar and spoil or sabotage the possibility of resuming the peace negotiations in a foreign neutral venue before the mutual approval of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms,” Sison explained.

“The aforementioned issuances of Duterte prevent peace negotiations anywhere in the universe if these are not overcome and repealed in conjunction with the reaffirmation of all agreements mutually approved by the GRP and NDFP since The Hague Joint Declaration of 1992,” he added.

Talks about the possible resumption of the stalled peace negotiations began when Duterte told reporters in Legazpi City last Thursday, December 5, that he is sending former GRP chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III to The Netherlands to talk to Sison.

Bello himself later said that backchannel talks have been ongoing since the GRP walked away from the negotiating table in 2017. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDFP to welcome Bello if Duterte sends him

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) said it would welcome Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) envoys if President Rodrigo Duterte sends them to Europe to try to revive the stalled peace talks between the parties.

Reacting to Duterte’s statement that he is sending labor secretary Silvestre Bello in a “last bid” to resume the negotiations, NDFP leaders said they will welcome Bello when he arrives.

“If Duterte wants to talk and takes the concrete steps about it, the NDFP has to consider seriously what he proposes. The NDFP has to be open to any possibility for the benefit of the Filipino people,” NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison told Kodao.

NDFP Negotiating Panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili for his part told Kodao he welcomes the “desire of the GRP to resume peace negotiations” and that they “await the arrival of Sec. Bello and his team.”

In a situation briefing on the GRP’s response to Typhoon Tisoy in the Bicol Region last Thursday, December 5, Duterte said he is sending Bello to the Netherlands where the NDFP negotiators are based.

“He (Bello) should go there, talk to them. I cannot talk about it. Basta I’m sending him back to Sison and talk to him,” Duterte said.

Another turnaround

Duterte dissolved his government’s peace panel last March 18, firing Bello and fellow negotiators Hernani Braganza, Atty. Angela Librado-Trinidad, Atty. Rene Sarmiento and Atty. Antonio Arellano.

The GRP panel’s dissolution followed the replacement of Atty. Jesus Dureza as presidential peace adviser with retired army general Carlito Galvez and the intense implementation of Duterte’s counter-insurgency policy, highlighted by the successive arrests of NDFP peace consultants.

On November 23, 2017, Duterte signed Proclamation No. 360 declaring the termination of peace negotiations with the NDFP, followed closely by his signing on Dec. 5, 2017 of Proclamation 374 classifying NDFP allied organizations Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army as “terrorist organizations.”

In December 2018, Duterte signed Executive Order No. 70 directing the creation of a national task force to “end local communist armed conflict.”

On Dec. 5, 2017, the Chief Executive signed Proclamation 374, classifying the CPP and NPA as terror organizations because of the crimes they supposedly committed “against the Filipino people, against humanity, and against the law of the nations.”

The NDFP for its part has always blamed Duterte for the termination of formal negotiations, claiming it has always been open to “sincere efforts” to resume negotiations.

Sison clarified that the NDFP has never said that it will never talk to GRP under Duterte even after his termination of the peace talks.

“The NDFP has never said that it will never talk to GRP under Duterte even after his termination of the peace talks,” Sison told Kodao.

‘Last ditch’

Duterte said Thursday his decision to send Bello to Europe is his last ditch attempt to forge a peace deal with the NDFP.

“This is my last card. When I say my last card, my time is running out,” Duterte said.

He added that he is not reopening talks with the NDFP for the sake of the military or the police, “but for everybody.”

“The doors must be open always or there must be at least one channel if everything closes through which you can talk,” he said.

Duterte’s latest turnaround followed a statement made by Sison that he hopes Duterte may soon be “enlightened”.

“May Duterte be hit by lightning, like Saul on his way to Damascus. It could be the lightning of enlightenment,” Sison told Kodao in a recent exclusive interview published Wednesday, December 4. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Families decry move of political prisoners to local jails

by Joseph Cuevas

Families and supporters of political prisoners held a dialogue with Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) National Headquarters officials on the detainees’ forcible transfer from Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan to local jails, mostly outside Metro Manila, December 4.

According to Kapatid, the organization of families and friends of political prisoners, the transfer of political prisoners is part of a bigger scheme “to further restrict the movement and access to much needed medical attention, legal services, visits and support from relatives and friends.”

The group added the planned transfer all the more violates the detainees’ rights as political prisoners, “whose arrest and detention are unjust from the very beginning.”

Kapatid members were alarmed about the “dispersal” of political prisoners from the Metro Manila District Jail Annex 4 after consecutive court motions were filed to move political prisoners to local jails.

They said inmates suffer from severe congestion and worse jail conditions in the local jails where 11 political prisoners are set to be transferred.

The dialogue, held during the 14th International Day of Solidarity for Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War last December 3, was initiated by the office of Bayan Muna Rep. and deputy minority floor leader Carlos Isagani Zarate at the House of Representatives in Quezon City.

Zarate along with Rep. Ferdinand Gaite and Rep. Eufemia Cullamat filed House Resolution 566 in the lower house to investigate the situation of political prisoners.

Government prosecutors have asked to transfer National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace consultants Frank Fernandez, Adelberto Silva and their companion, called the “Sta. Cruz 5”, to the Laguna Provincial Jail; Rey Casambre to Bacoor Jail; and government union organizer Oliver Rosales to Malolos City Jail.

Farmer Maximo Reduta from Southern Quezon was transferred to Gumaca District Jail last week.

Counterinsurgency move

BJMP Chief for Operations Jail Chief Supt. Dennis Rocamora said that the transfer of political prisoners is part of decongestion campaign of jails across the country and several concern of security escort during court hearings.

He said they received complaints from different courts about the delayed or postponement of PDLs (Persons Deprived of Liberty) trials because of distance and security measures set by the bureau.

But Rocamora also admitted that some re-commitment of political prisoners outside Metro Manila is due to the request of the Department of National Defense, invoking Executive Order No. 70.

EO 70 created the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (ELCAC), also known as the government’s resurrected “Whole of Nation Approach” against insurgency.

Rocamora cited the case of Fernandez and his wife Cleofe Lagtapon whom the DND requested through BJMP Chief Supt. Allan Iral for their transfer to Sta. Cruz Jail since July 25, 2019.

A copy of court order transferring Maximo Reduta was also revealed in the dialogue as requested by the Defense Secretary.

Rights group opposes transfer

Human Rights group Karapatan asserted the transfer of political prisoners in jails, particularly in the same area where common offenders or criminals, are detained will endanger their lives.

“These individuals are being persecuted already by a government that brands them as enemies of the State. It is not far-fetched, as in the cases of former Albuera, Leyte mayor Rolando Espinosa and Genesis “Tisoy” Argoncillo, who were both killed in separate incidents while under detention, that the Duterte administration is cooking up plans for assassinations of political prisoners while in detention,” Karapatan said in a statement.

Karapatan also emphasized that political prisoners were victims of trumped-up charges and arbitrary arrests.

“Many of them are in jail because operatives planted evidence in their belongings, are implicated by paid and expert witnesses, arrested by virtue of defective warrants, and were targeted because of their affiliation and vocal criticisms,” the group said.

As of November 2019, there are 629 political prisoners across the country, 382 of whom were arrested under the Duterte government, Karapatan said. #

Human rights defenders press call for Rey Casambre’s freedom

By Sanafe Marcelo

National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Rey Claro Casambre’s scheduled arraignment at Branch 19 of the Bacoor (Cavite) Regional Trial Court (RTC) did not push through Friday, November 29, further infuriating supporters who held a protest action to press for his immediate release.

Casambre was not brought to Bacoor by the Metro Manila District Jail personnel from Taguig after failing to receive a subpoena for the arraignment.

Arrested with his wife Cora in December 2018, Casambre was charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives by the Philippine National Police (PNP).

Charges against Cora were immediately dropped, however, for lack of evidence.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) chairperson Carol Araullo said the couple’s arrest and the filing of criminal charges against Rey is “non-sense.”

“It is hard to believe that senior citizens who just attended a friend’s wake were going around Manila with a grenade and guns [in the dashboard of their car],” Araullo said.

Xandra Casambre, the couple’s daughter, said the charges are trumped-up, including the two counts of attempted murder and a murder case filed against her father in Davao Oriental “where he never been before.”

The arraignment was rescheduled to January 23 next year.

BJMP petition to bring Casambre back to Bacoor jail

Meanwhile, Casambre’s lawyers revealed that the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) petitioned for Casambre’s return to Bacoor City Jail

Public Interest Law Center’s Rachel Pastores said that the judge presented a letter from the BJMP National Office requesting to transfer Casambre place of detention from Taguig to Bacoor.

Pastores said they were given 10 days to comment on the petition.

Xandra said they will oppose the petition, pointing out that harsh conditions at the Bacoor City Jail made his father sick in April

“But [the transfer] is a small matter compared to the fact he is detained because of the trumped-up charges filed against him,” Xandra said.

Xandra said her father’s criminal cases are Rodrigo Duterte government’s way of silencing opposition to “the government anti-people policies.”

“It is wrong that the people who promote social justice and change are being silenced, instead of being heard,” she said. #

Photojournalists appeal ban at SEAG opening

Photojournalists are disallowed from covering the opening ceremony of the 30th Southeast Asian Games at the Philippine Arena tonight, the Photojournalists Center of the Philippines (PCP) said.

In a statement late Friday night, the PCP said they are saddened by the decision and asked Philippine South East Asian Games Organizing Committee (PHISGOC) chairperson Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano to reconsider.

“While we recognize the logistical challenge of having hundreds of photographers covering the event, we appeal to the PHISGOC to reconsider this decision by consulting with representatives of accredited photographers and arriving at an orderly way of ‘pooling’ from accredited members of the local and foreign media, which has always been adopted in similar events like this,” the PCP said.

The 30th edition of the South East Asian Games (SEAG), hosted by the Philippines for the fourth time, formally kicks off tonight at the country’s biggest indoor arena.

In appealing their sudden exclusion, the PCP said photojournalists from all nations have always regarded covering an important event such as this biennial sports meet as part of their job “as recorders of history.”

“All past editions of [this] multinational event in all the host countries in its history, including our own, have always considered the important role of photojournalists in these events,” the group said.

The PCP explained that photojournalists have followed stringent rules to get themselves accredited ahead of time to cover the games.

The group also pointed that the Filipino people are spending for hosting the games and it is their right and duty to record the events.

NUJP joins PCP’s appeal

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) joined their colleagues in calling for the scrapping of the reported plans to disallow photojournalists at the opening ceremonies.

“If the [PHISGOC] is afraid it might be the victim of ‘fake news,’ the best defense is to show the truth, the whole truth, in all its warts and glory, not withdraw behind a veil. And who, if not our photojournalists, can do that without fear or favor?” the NUJP said in a statement.

The group pointed out that restricting what people see to official photos and other efforts to control the flow of information can only bolster suspicions that there are things they need to conceal.

“This would be the greatest betrayal to the spirit of the Games and to the athletes as they aim for glory,” the NUJP said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Don’t blame us for SEA Games woes, journalists tell Phisgoc exec

A journalists’ group urged organizers of the 30th South East Asian Games to stop blaming media for the many woes plaguing the biennial regional tilt.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) in a statement said it is ridiculously unacceptable when the officials responsible for the problems in the country’s hosting of the games to resort to bashing the media “as if the reports on their shortcomings were to blame for the disaster.”

The group was reacting to Philippine South East Asian Games Organizing Committee (PHISGOC) chief operating officer Ramon Suzara who called out media for continuously “negative” reporting.

The PHISGOC officer complained Wednesday that so-called negative news on social media makes their job more complicated, adding that fake news spread like wildfire.

“I am appealing to everyone to put a good note on our hosting. Let us be fair in bringing positive news,” Suzara said at a press conference Wednesday.

The NUJP, however, said it is not in Suzara’s place to ask media to only publish positive reports and project the country in a good light.

“The NUJP wishes to remind Mr. Suzara that the duty of the press has always been to report things as they are, based on verifiable facts, and not to pander to anyone’s perception of what is, or should be,” the NUJP said.

The group said that the officer’s attempt to dictate how the media should report the news has no place in a democracy.

“The truth is, even if media chose to distort the image, this would do nothing to hide the gargantuan mess the whole world already knows about,” the NUJP explained.

If anything, the NUJP added, reporting on the true state of the SEA games preparations can only help the Philippines be spared from being so humiliated in the future.

The NUJP lauded journalists “who have insisted on reporting on what is happening without fear or favor, despite the heavy online harassment and trolling.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDFP expresses support to Pinoy athletes but calls for probes on SEAG mess

Even Liberation Philippines, the official newsletter of the underground revolutionary group National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), expressed support to Filipino athletes who have begun competing in the 30th South East Asian Games.

In a social media card posted on its Facebook page, Liberation encouraged the Filipino people to continue supporting the Filipino athlete amid allegations of corruption in the Philippine hosting of the biennial regional sports spectacle.

The image showed a triumphant looking female athlete holding up a Philippine flag.

Liberation Philippines image posted on the long-standing underground publication’s Facebook page.

“The Filipino people should continue to support the Filipino athlete. Their outrage is directed at the evil Duterte-Cayetano combine,” the long-lasting underground publication said, quoting a statement issued by NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison last November 25.

In one of his several reactions to the controversies surrounding the games’ hosting, Sison expressed disgust at the Philippine government’s “naked and shameless incompetence, waste and plunder of public funds in the mismanagement of the hosting of the 30th Southeast Asian Games.”

‘Cayetano should resign’ 

Sison urged the entire Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (PHISGOC), led by House of Representatives Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, to resign and be replaced by “a Filipino Olympian, a World Record holder or a Former National Athlete, with known administrative skills and with a competent team” who could “quickly assess the situation.”

Sison expressed confidence that the SEA Games can still be saved, adding, however, “it will require Herculean efforts and strong national unity that could only come from a high sense of patriotism and credible new leadership.”

He said Cayetano and his entire committee should all be investigated and prosecuted.

Cayetano for his part has repeatedly apologized for the problems besetting the hosting of the games, including unfinished venues, mismanagement of athletes’ accommodations and food, even allegations of overpriced installations and apparel.

He, however, blamed the Senate for the delay in the approval of the games’ budget, an allegation immediately refuted by his Senate counterpart Vicente Sotto III.

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said President Rodrigo Duterte also expressed anger at the fiascos surrounding the games.

“The blunders could have been avoided. Those are actually easy to address. That’s why the President is angry,” Panelo told reporters at the sidelines of the president’s trip in South Korea Tuesday, November 26. 

‘Plague afflicting Philippine sports’

In light of the government’s blame games, however, Sison said, “it is time to re-examine and finally end the corrupt bureaucrat capitalist rule of reactionary politicians, retired military generals and oligarchs in Philippine sports who thrive on stealing public funds.”

“They are the plague afflicting Philippine sports. Their corruption takes away from athletes the leadership roles, state funding and competent management of their national associations.,” Sison said.

“Left on their own and with adequate state and public support, our athletes can do better in looking after their own development and welfare than the likes of Cayetano,” he added.

Sison said that while it turns out the P50-million cauldron could be the most scandalous problem that arose from the games, investigations to be held may reach up to the highest office in government.

“[I]t should light up the paper trails of corruption, ineptitude and mismanagement that lead to and incriminate the Office of the President and the Office of the House Speaker,” Sison said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NPA Southern Tagalog spokesperson arrested inside hospital

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in Southern Tagalog announced that Melito Glor Command-New People’s Army spokesperson Jaime Padilla had been arrested by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) forces at a hospital in Mandaluyong City Monday night, November 25.

In a post on the Communist Party of the Philippines’s official website, Patnubay de Guia, NDFP spokesperson in the region, said Padilla, also known as Ka Diego, was undergoing medical examinations at the Cardinal Santos Medical Center on his heart conditions when arrested.

De Guia said Padilla’s arrest was illegal and violates International Humanitarian Law (IHL).

“Maselan ang kundisyon ni Ka Diego Padilla at kailangan niya ng agarang medikasyon para sa kanyang nararamdamang sakit sa puso,” de Guia said. (Comrade Diego Padilla’s heart condition is serious and he needs immediate medical attention for his ailments.)

The NDFP said it vehemently condemns the arrest as it may further endanger Padilla’s life.

It pointed that that sick persons are given protection under the IHL.

The group demanded Padilla’s release to allow him to continue receiving medical care from doctors of his own choice.

Both the PNP and the AFP are silent on Padilla’s reported arrest. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)