As a multimedia group, Kodao publishes news stories, opinion essays, cartoons, photos and others here.

Senate reveals more questionable Pharmally deals

Controversial medical equipment supplier Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. bagged more questionable contracts from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), the ongoing investigation by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee revealed.

At the investigation’s sixth hearing last Monday, September 13, Senator Panfilo Lacson observed that Pharmally may have actually won contracts worth around P12 billion despite having no established record in the business and having only P625,000 in paid up capital when it incorporated in 2019.

Lacson made the observation after Senator Franklin Drilon bared additional P4 billion in test kits contracts were awarded to Pharmally that were not included in the Commission on Audit’s 2020 report flagging questionable transactions between the corporation and the DBM procurement service.

In addition to earlier revelations that Pharmally has bagged more than P8 billion in contracts, Drilon said the following purchase orders were awarded to the company:

  • P300 million worth of KN95 masks at P100 per piece issued on April 23, 2020;
  • P2.88 billion for 41,400 test kits at P69,500 per kit on June 9, 2020;
  • P245.85 million for 312 test kits at P787,968 each on June 10, 2020; and
  • P774.35 million for 17,000 test kits at P45,550 each (no date cited).

“This is not in the COA report. What happened to this?” Drilon asked former DBM undersecretary Christopher Lao who was its procurement service head at the time of the transactions.

While acknowledging that Drilon’s documents may be official DBM records, Lao denied having any idea about the contracts.

Drilon however said Lao himself signed at least two of the contracts.

The Blue Ribbon Committee investigation was triggered by state auditors who revealed “deficiencies” in government spending in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Duterte gov’ts corruption

In his summary of Monday’s hearing, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said Pharmally still has to explain its incredible fortune with the Rodrigo Duterte government.

“Pharmally still could not explain where it got money to pay its Chinese suppliers. The ‘buy now, pay later’ explanation is hard to believe at a time when the demand was highest,” Reyes said.

Reyes rued that former Duterte economic adviser Michael Yang again chose to skip the Senate hearing to explain his role as go-between between Pharmally and the DBM while possibly being the company’s funder.

“One can’t help but ask, is Pharmally, which was underfunded and incapable of manufacturing medical supplies, just Yang’s dummy?” Reyes asked.

Reyes also noted questionable procedures revealed at the Senate hearing, such as “same day deliveries” of overpriced face masks despite the absence of purchase orders.

“DBM-PS was still asking for quotations and here was Pharmally delivering half-a-million face masks within three hours. It looked like a deal was already in the bag,” he said.

Reyes said that instead of spearheading the defense of Yang, the scale of his administration’s corruption during the pandemic should already be obvious to Duterte. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Teachers denounce ‘state abandonment’ as school year opens

School teachers greeted the new school year with protest actions against what they call an “indifferent” Rodrigo Duterte administration that has abandoned the education sector amid a raging coronavirus crisis.

Teachers spent the last weekend before the new school year sorting distance learning modules, complaining they hardly had time to catch their breath from last school year. (ACT photo)

In a “sunrise protest” before the first day of classes this year, members of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) trooped to Mendiola Bridge in Manila to denounce “government neglect and utter disregard of teachers and students’ welfare.”

“Today, we will be forced into another school year of underfunded and ill-equipped distance learning, with no plans from the government on how it can safely re-open our school nor on how it will address the grave issues hounding DepEd’s (Department of Education) learning continuity plan,” the group said in a statement.

The teachers said the government failed to address for the second consecutive year their demand for the safe re-opening of schools and bigger state support for distance learning needs.

ACT secretary general Raymond Basilio said teachers bore the brunt of the shift to remote learning when the pandemic hit last year, forcing them to remain “overworked, underpaid, and under-supported.”

Basilo added the DepEd continue to ignore their demands for overtime pay and service credits, Php1,500 monthly internet allowance, Php3,000 inflation adjustment allowance, hazard pay, and their overdue upgrading to salary grade 15 and other benefits to offset the additional hardships they endured because of the shift to online teaching mode.

In earlier “laptop protests,” teachers posted their photos collating printed modules for distribution to parents and students today they said should have been the responsibility of DepEd Central had it adequately prepared for the new school year.

The teachers also complained they themselves have to spend from their own pockets to enough teaching materials for the projected 20 million students to be enrolled this year.

“As state abandonment peaks, we have no one else to turn to but each other. The future of our youth and their right to accessible quality education now lies on the collective resolve of teachers, parents, and students to say ‘no more’ and demand better,” Basilio said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Teachers spent the last weekend before the new school year sorting distance learning modules, complaining they hardly had time to catch their breath from last school year. (ACT photo)

Groups slam school’s decision to turn over peace books to military

Groups slammed the reported decision of a state university to turn over copies of Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace negotiation books to the military and the police.

Pilgrims for Peace, ACT for Peace and the Student Christian Movement of the Philippines (SCMP) said the decision by the Kalinga State University (KSU) was a move for the mis-education of students about the peace negotiations between the parties.

In a statement last Saturday, September 11, Pilgrims for Peace said it is deeply concerned about the decision of the KSU Board of Regents (BoR) to withdraw from its Bulanao Campus Library 11 books on the peace negotiations between the Manila government and the NDFP.

The books include the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHIHL) English-Filipino; CARHIHL English-Hiligaynon; CARHIHL English-Visaya; GRP-NDFP Declaration of Understanding; NDFP Declaration and Program of Action for the Rights, Protection, and Welfare of Children; and The GRP NDFP Peace Negotiations: Major Arguments and Joint Statements-September 1, 1980-June 2018.

Also included were The GRP-NDFP Peace Negotiations Major Written Agreements and Outstanding Issues; NDF Adherence to International Humanitarian Law; Letters to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the UN Secretary-General; NDFP Adherence to International Humanitarian Law: On Prisoners of War (POWs); two articles on The People’s Struggles for Just Peace; and The NDFP Reciprocal Worrying Committee (RWC) Respective on Social and Economic Reforms.

The books were published by the NDFP Nominated Section of the Joint Secretariat of the CARHRIHL Joint Monitoring Committee based at the Diocese of Cubao in Quezon City.

“[T]he university administration has practically surrendered its academic freedom to the state security agencies that have constantly undermined our people’s quest for a just and lasting peace,” the group said.

Pilgrims for Peace added KSU’s “dismaying” decision was blind allegiance to the “myopic anti-insurgency campaign” of the Rodrigo Duterte administration.

“As a result, these university officials are now [instruments] in the state’s efforts to vilify not only the NDFP but also those who fight for academic freedom, human rights, and just peace,” the group’s statement said, also signed by ACT for Peace and the SCMP.

The groups added that the school has become complicit in the vicious red-tagging campaigns against by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict that has led to extra-judicial killings, unjust searches and illegal arrests, and a host of other human rights violations.

The Manila Times reported last September 9 that the KSU-BoR has decided to withdraw the books from one of its libraries to “protect students from embracing ‘NDFP ideology.’

The report said the military has lauded the decision.

The peace advocates however urged university officials to rethink their decision and study the books.

The groups noted that CARHRIHL has been hailed by the European Parliament as a “landmark” agreement and an outstanding achievement of the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations, along with the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees.

“These materials are readily available online, with different sites hosting them, including the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the United Nations Peacemaker website,” they added.

“We encourage them to study the peace negotiations between the GRP and the NDFP. Furthermore, study the roots of poverty and political unrest in the country,” the groups said.

Higher Education commissioner and KSU-BoR chairperson Lilian de las Llagas has yet to respond to Kodao’s request for comment.

Commission on Higher Education chairperson Prospero de Vera was involved as GRP Negotiating Panel adviser immediately prior to his appointment to his current position. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Farmers demand food production aid under 2022 nat’l budget

Hit hard by government’s greater dependence on food importation during the coronavirus pandemic, farmers have demanded P15,000 production subsidy in next year’s national budget.

Reacting to Department of Agriculture (DA) statements at its ongoing budget deliberations at the House of Representatives, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) also said it opposes secretary William Dar’s admission there will be no cash aid for farmers under their Php91 billion 2022 budget proposal.

Gutom po ang mga Pilipino lalo na ngayong pandemya. Kailangan palakasin ang lokal na produksyon ng pagkain. Paano magagawa ito kung walang ayuda sa mga magsasaka at hindi nagagamit ng tama ang pondo sa agrikultura ayon sa pangangailan ng mga magbubukid? KMP chairperson Danilo Ramos in a statement said. 

(There are more hungry Filipinos during this pandemic. Local food production must be strengthened. How can this be achieved without cash aid to farmers and funds are not used properly to benefit farmers?)

Ramos said that they support a higher budget for DA, their group is not keen on the department’s fiscal directions as well as greater emphasis on import liberalization and private and foreign investments on agriculture.

Ramos said such policies have only primarily benefited local and foreign business interests and have further marginalized poor farmers.

“The perfect storm in agriculture is not only due to the african swine flu (ASF), climatic events, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Decades of neo-liberal policies have only worsened the state of agriculture and Filipino farmers,” Ramos said.  

The KMP revealed that DA’s “Matibay na Seguridad sa Pagkain, Maunlad at Masaganang Buhay ng mga Magsasaka at Mangingisda” program is in fact decreasing the budget for corn production, organic agriculture as well as the production of high-value crops.

“The P207M o 1.33% increase in the National Rice Program budget is also very meager to support rice production,” it added.

KMP said DA’s market and business-driven and profit-oriented programs remains its focus while failing to address the slump in pork production due to the ASF.

“The DA is already discussing technology and modernization under Digital Agriculture 4.0, while the dominant domestic farming perennially relies on carabao and manual plow. There is a significant disconnect between DA’s policies and the realities of poor Filipino farmers,” Ramos revealed.

The KMP said Dar must realize the actual condition of farmers and get out of his “alternate reality.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Groups describe as ‘prank’ Duterte’s amnesty offer to Leftists

Political detainees as well as human rights groups and lawyers slammed as “prank” the Rodrigo Duterte government’s offer of amnesty to Leftist political prisoners, designed to prevent future peace negotiations from happening.

In a statement read in a recent online forum, six political prisoners condemned Proclamation 1093 offering amnesty to suspected and convicted Leftist rebels as an instrument of “continuing oppression.”

“Proclamation 1093 will not provide genuine amnesty. This cannot be the means for the release of political prisoners,” detained National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultants Vicente Ladlad, Rey Casambre, Ferdinand Castillo, Frank Fernandez, Reynante Gamara and Adelberto Silva said.

President Duterte signed last February 16 proclamations 1090, 1091, 1092 and 1093 granting amnesty to suspected Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Mangagawa ng Pilipinas/Revolutionary Proletarian Army/Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPMP-RPA-ABB) and “Communist Terrorist Group” members, respectively.

The House of Representatives concurred under its Concurrent Resolution No. 15 approved last May 19, but the Senate has yet to react to the edicts.

In a statement, Kapatid said that while political prisoners are not closing the door to a grant of amnesty, it is “…totally unjust that those foisted with false charges will own up to crimes they did not commit just to be able to leave prison.”

Kapatid said that for the political prisoners, Proclamation 1093 that refers to Leftist rebels is “fake” and a “trap” because:

1. Amnesty will be granted only to “rebels” who had surrendered or those referred to as “rebel returnees;”

2. It will not be granted to most political prisoners who were arrested, detained, charged with or convicted of trumped-up criminal charges since they did not surrender;

3. It will not cover those who have been proscribed and charged and convicted under the Human Security Act of 2007 and the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020;

4. It puts the burden on political prisoners to prove that the crimes they supposedly committed were in furtherance of their political beliefs; and

5. The applicant must admit, in writing and under oath, their guilt on charges they are criminally liable for although the charges are falsified.

Kapatid said the political prisoners also condemned the use of the term “communist terrorist group” to “disparage and degrade the political standing” of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the New People’s Army (NPA) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

The Duterte government has designated the three revolutionary organizations as terrorists in separate proclamations in 2017 and this year.

National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers president Edre Olalia said Proclamation 1093’s intention is suspect for its description of its supposed beneficiaries.

 “[T]he premise, framework, and implication of the use of the term ‘communist terrorist group’ render this kind of amnesty patently objectionable and unacceptable, legally and politically,” Olalia said.

“It is practically an institutionalized self-flagellation and it demeans political prisoners, using the dangle of inchoate freedom and the seduction of material bribery,” the human rights lawyer said.

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate noted that the amnesty being offered to Leftists are unlike those offered to the MILF, MNLF and the RPMP-RPA-ABB that were outcomes of peace agreements.

“[W]e should remember that this regime ended the peace negotiations. The amnesty is in fact based on Executive Order No. 70 – the government order which ended peace negotiations, justified imprisonment of activists, and paved the way for killing human rights defenders,” the legislator noted.

“The government said that it will no longer engage with peace negotiations but they are saying now that localized peace negotiations were held for former rebels to be granted amnesty. This amnesty proclamation is a ploy to totally prevent peace talks from transpiring,” Zarate, also a human rights lawyer, added.

The six detained NDFP peace consultants said they insist on “general, unconditional and omnibus amnesty.”

“General amnesty means it covers all political prisoners and other political offenders according to a pre-screened list. Unconditional amnesty means no preconditions will be imposed on political prisoners before they are set free. Omnibus amnesty means it will cover all court cases of political prisoners,” the detainees said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

PNU’s invitation of Duterte offends teachers, students

The invitation of President Rodrigo Duterte to address a state university’s anniversary celebrations was an affront to the school’s tradition of excellence and service, a teachers’ group said.

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) said it was ironic for the Philippine Normal University (PNU) to have invited someone who has neglected the education sector to address its 120th anniversary celebrations last Wednesday, September 1.

“Irony of ironies: The President who let education down speaks before [the] teachers’ university,” ACT added.

The group also criticized Duterte, saying: “We don’t know where Duterte found the gall to speak before teachers and future teachers whom he has consistently failed to protect in all his years as President.”

ACT pointed out that the Philippines currently suffers one of the longest school closures in the world as a result of Duterte’s failed coronavirus pandemic response.

Other proofs of Duterte’s dismal track record in education include the country’s gravest learning loss during his presidency as well as worsening hardships of education workers, the activist group added.

“He is also responsible for the grim state of teachers as overworked, underpaid, and under-supported. He betrayed teachers with his sham promise of a substantial pay hike, then attacked those of us who are fighting to hold him accountable. The deep impacts of his legacy of neglect and attacks on education will be suffered by generations to come,” ACT secretary general Raymond Basilio said.

ACT said PNU’s students, professors and alumni protested Duterte’s inclusion in yesterday’s program through a petition shortly after school authorities made the announcement late Tuesday.

About 200 PNU professors, students and alumni have signed the petition as Duterte’S pre-recorded message was streamed online yesterday, ACT said.

“The President who has continuously neglected the people and the education sector should not be invited as a guest,” ACT Education Students-PNU said in a separate statement.

PNU’s live streaming of the event was also peppered with laughter emojis and comments critical of Duterte.

A real time comment even made fun of the President’s speech, saying, “DO NOT READ FROM YOUR NOTES!”

Duterte’s brief message during the online celebration launch indicated however the school’s invitation was mere formality, paid in equal measure by the President’s perfunctory delivery. The President read 30 seconds worth of prepared notes and an even shorter ad lib saying his late mother was a PNU alumna. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Group demands investigation on death of farmers’ rights advocate

A farmers’ support group called on law enforcement agencies to conduct a thorough investigation on the death of its former program coordinator who was surfaced more than a year after her abduction.

The Central Visayas Farmers’ Development Center (FARDEC) said Elena Tijamo ironically turned up dead on International Day of Victims of Enforced Disappearances, August 30.

The victim was abducted by armed men at her home in Bantayan Island in Cebu province last June 13, 2020.

Tijamo’s captors contacted her Luzon-based relatives last Saturday, August 28, saying she was recuperating at a Mandaluyong hospital after an operation to remove her goiter.

The relatives however were later informed that she had died after the operation and that her remains were already brought to St. Peters’s funeral home in Quezon City.

Elena Tijamo. (FARDEC image)

Curiously, Tijamo’s hospital bills were already paid for by yet unidentified parties and were brought to the funeral home by a stranger who identified himself to St. Peter’s personnel as her nephew named Neil Reyes.

Tijamo’s family said they do not know anyone of that name.

The victim’s relatives have yet to take possession of Tijamo’s remains as she was registered under the name Ava Perez Reyes.

She was however positively identified by relatives based on photos provided by the funeral home.

Red-tagging victim

FARDEC said Tijamo joined the organization as their sustainable agriculture program coordinator in 2005 that had been the target of “incessant red-tagging by elements of the state.”

Red-tagging is the practice, mostly by government personnel or institutions, of publicly accusing individuals or groups as members or supporters of underground Communist groups.

In 2008, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions Phillip Alston urged the Philippine military to stop the practice.

FARDEC said Tijamo’s abduction came after both the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Department of National Defence “baselessly” alleged FARDEC and 17 other church and non-government organizations as “communist terrorist groups” in a November 2019 Congressional briefing.

The group said they are a legal and legitimate, non-stock and non-profit organization founded in 1989 by religious and laypersons as a regional support mechanism for Cebu, Bohol and Negros Oriental farmers.

Prior to her abduction and enforced disappearance, Tijamo was actively involved in the establishment of a community radio station in Bantayan Island that was forced to suspend its trial broadcasts after several visits from local police.

Tijamo is one of 18 victims of enforced disappearances under the Rodrigo Duterte government, human rights group Karapatan said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

’19 MARTYRS’: CPP confirms ‘big loss’ in military aerial strike in E. Samar

AFP’s bombs failed to distinguish the medics and the patients, and other unarmed personnel who were not in a position to battle, the CPP complained

Nineteen New People’s Army (NPA) fighters died in an air strike by the government military in Dolores, Eastern Samar last August 16, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) website announced.

In one of the NPA’s biggest loss in a single incident in years, the CPP said those who perished were part of a 50-man unit who were in the area to conduct political, military, economic, education, cultural and medical work among peasant masses.

The Red fighters were also conducting an investigation into the socioeconomic conditions of the peasant masses in the area with the aim of addressing their needs and problems, the group added.

“They were among the best sons and daughters of the people who dedicated their lives to the cause of national freedom and democracy. Their deaths bear hard upon the hearts of the workers and peasants across the country and all the oppressed peoples in the entire world,” the CPP in a statement said.

The group’s statement came at the heels of several announcements by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that an undetermined number of NPA guerrillas were killed in an early morning air strike, followed by fire fights that lasted the entire day.

Wikipedia map.

The Philippine Army’s 8th Infantry Division in Catbalogan City said no casualty had been reported among its 52nd Infantry Battalion troopers who engaged the guerrillas, aided by the Philippine Air Force.

The state troopers also said they recovered at least 20 assault rifles, a laptop and a handgun at the NPA encampment where the rebels were allegedly manufacturing bombs.

The CPP however said the Red fighters were conducting a continuing campaign to raise the people’s awareness of the Covid-19 pandemic to prevent infections from reaching their hinterland communities where there are no medical facilities.

The group added a team of medics were among the NPA unit to perform a surgery in the camp for a civilian patient suffering from hernia.

‘A big loss’

The CPP admitted that the deaths of the NPA “martyrs” was “without a doubt…a big loss.”

“It is, however, a temporary setback and does not negate the overall forward direction of the people’s war. Indeed, in Eastern Visayas and the rest of the country, the NPA continues to make strides in recruiting new Red fighters, building more units, expanding its areas of operations, building new guerrilla fronts, defending the people against the AFP’s armed suppression and mounting tactical offensives to strike blows against the fascist monsters,” the CPP statement said.

The group expressed confidence that the NPA in the said municipality will be reorganized with new recruits to continue the work of their fallen comrades.

“We may have lost a number of fine people’s warriors, but even greater numbers are sure to emerge to take their place as new Red fighters of the heroic people’s army,” the group said.

‘Indiscriminate bombing’

The CPP meanwhile condemned AFP’s aerial bombing and strafing as well as artillery shelling it said constituted a disproportionate use of force.

In the case of the Dolores bombing, the AFP’s bombs failed to distinguish the medics and the patients, and other unarmed personnel who were not in a position to battle, the CPP complained.

In a Manila Bulletin report, unexploded AFP bombs allegedly hit at least two houses in Brgy. Cabaguan that pierced ceilings and terrorized residents.

“These terrorist weapons should be banned as these cause massive loss of lives among unarmed people, endanger the lives of civilians, traumatize thousands of people, especially children, and damage and ravage the environment and property,” the CPP said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Farmers to military: ‘You, not Kerima, are the terrorists’

Farm workers defended Kerima Lorena Tariman from the military who alleged the highly-regarded poet was a “terrorist” and “extortionist.”

Bristling at government troopers’ description of Tariman, the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) said they should instead take a hard look at themselves.

“State armed forces seem confused about what terrorism is. Serving the people—which was what Kerima Lorena Tariman did—is not terrorism,” UMA chairperson Antonio Flores said.

The military said in its announcement of Tariman’s death she was a terrorist involved in extortion as part of her task to allegedly “re-establish the dismantled Northern Negros Front” of the NPA.

Tariman died in a fire fight between the New People’s Army and the Philippine Army last August 20 in Silay City, Negros Occidental. She was 42.

A “Comrade Pabling” perished with Tariman while a Private First Class Christopher Alada of the 79IB later died in a hospital after being wounded in the clash.

UMA said however Tariman never harmed peasants and has only consistently defended them all her life.

Defender of poor farmers

As an activist, Kerima led efforts in Hacienda Luisita for agricultural workers to assert their right to land and secure their access to food, UMA said.

Tariman was once briefly detained by the Tarlac police with 10 others for joining a rally at Hacienda Luisita in September 2013.

In Mindanao, Tariman conducted a research on corporate plantations and the harsh working and living conditions of farm workers, UMA said.

In Negros, Tariman led campaigns to alleviate sugar workers’ plight against extreme poverty and assisted them in asserting their right to social amelioration funds, the group added.

“How can any of that be terrorism?” Flores asked.

Defend Negros image.

‘Abominable slander’

In a separate statement, the group Defend Negros said it is an abomination for Negrenses to have their “heroine” Tariman labeled as a terrorist “by the very forces who sow terror in Negros and the whole country.”

“We vehemently condemn the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ statement against Kerima, a former staff of UMA and a staunch land rights activist,” Defend Negros spokesperson Ariel Casilao said.

“They maliciously maligned and undermined every sacrifice that Kerima made for the benefit of landless farmers and farm worker,” he added.

Casilao revealed that among Tariman’s achievements while living with peasant communities in Negros was a primer on the government’s Social Amelioration Program (SAP) to help sugar workers understand and defend their rights for better wages and benefits.

Tariman also spearheaded the publication of UMA’s newsletter that focused on tiempo muerto (season of death) or off-milling season when seasonal farmhands in Negros have no work and income.

A highly-regarded writer and already a published poet upon graduation from high school, Tariman was managing editor of The Philippine Collegian when first arrested in Isabela province in 2000.

“It is the deep-seated, centuries-long poverty of the peasantry that compelled Kerima to take the path of the revolutionary armed struggle. Fighting until her very last breath to defend the people’s rights to land and living wages is not and must not be tagged as terrorism,” the former Anakpawis Representative said.

 ‘Real terrorists’

UMA said military spokespersons like Maj. Cenon Pancito III, Maj. Gen. Edgardo de Leon and Col. Ramon Zagala should take a hard look in the mirror before accusing Tariman of what they ought to be accusing themselves.

“Occupying civilian communities, conducting aerial bombings over farmlands, gunning down unarmed peasants—routine activities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines—now that’s terrorism,” UMA said.

The group said the police, military and armed goons hired by plantation owners have killed more than 100 activists in Negros Island, most of whom were peasants.

Casilao also said: “It was the military, the police, and other armed goons who had sown terror in Negros Island with their Oplan Sauron operations conducted under Memorandum Order 32, killing more than a hundred peasants and activists.”

Casilao challenged the government, the police and the military to look at the sufferings of the people as Tariman did.

“The regime and its armed forces are deeply intoxicated on the falsehood that being a revolutionary makes you a terrorist…Landlessness, absence of security of tenure, inadequate social services and slave-like wages–these are the causes of unrest in the island,” Casilao said.

UMA said it was in Negros that Tariman most deeply realized the limitations of being an “aboveground activist”, having witnessed firsthand the violence state forces were capable of unleashing on unarmed peasants.

The fact that Negros Island remains the country’s hacienda capital proves that government land reform programs are fakes and anti-peasant, the group added.

“This was what pushed Kerima into the armed struggle of the NPA. For her, there was no more effective means of serving the people, especially the peasantry. She was not involved in terrorism. Rather, it was state terrorism that pushed her into joining the NPA,” UMA said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Poet Kerima Tariman dies in Negros fire fight

Poet Kerima Lorena Tariman was killed in a clash between the Roselyn Jean Pelle Command of the New People’s Army (NPA) and the Philippine Army in Silay City, Negros Occidental, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) website announced.

NPA Negros’ regional Apolinario Gatmaitan Command said Tariman was killed along with a Comrade Pabling in a fire fight with the 79th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army at Hacienda Raymunda, Barangay Kapitan Ramon on Friday, August 20, at around six o’clock in the morning.

Cover of Kerima Lorena Tariman’s second book of poems published by High Chair in May 2017.

The group said Tariman was a leading cadre of her NPA unit at the time of her death.“She gave up her life to serve the people and the revolution,” the NPA said.

Tariman hailed from Legazpi City, Albay province and was once managing editor of the University of the Philippines’ The Philippine Collegian.

A highly-regarded poet and artist, Tariman’s second book of poems was published by High Chair in 2017.

A brief Pinoy Weekly review of Tariman’s book “Pag-aaral sa Oras: Mga Lumang Tula Tungkol sa Bago” said her poems are powerful by themselves but were made more powerful as a collection.

Her first book titled “Biyahe” was published in 1996 while she was a graduating Philippine High School for the Arts student.

“She was a renowned poet, writer and revolutionary artist who chose to share the life-and-death struggle of the masses of Negros Island. She gave up her life to serve the people and the revolution,” the NPA said.

“The masses of Negros have Ka Ella and Ka Pabling deep in their hearts. They mourn the death of revolutionary martyrs who fought for their liberation from decades-long feudal exploitation,” the group added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva/Photos from Pinoy Weekly)