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Lawyer: No reason for Duterte to suspend privilege of the writ of habeas corpus

President Rodrigo Duterte’s threat to suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus has no legal basis and is an illogical reaction to criticism and opposition, a human rights lawyer said.

“First of all, there is absolutely no legal, constitutional, and factual basis to suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus,” National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) president Edre Olalia said.

Reacting to Duterte’s speech before prosecutors in Puerto Princesa City Thursday, Olalia said that Duterte only validated accusations of his whimsical and vindictive exercise of power.

“[H]is threat smacks of authoritarian reactions of a leader intolerant of dissenting or divergent opinions,” Olalia said.

Outraged at widespread criticisms of his policies, Duterte said he may arrest all his critics.

Pero ‘pag ako ang pinaabot niyo ng sagad, I will declare a suspension of writ of habeas corpus and I will arrest all of you. Isama ko kayo sa mga rebelde, kriminal, pati durogista,” Duterte said. (If you push me to my limit, I will declare a suspension of writ of habeas corpus and I will arrest all of you. I will put you together with the criminals, rebels, and drug lords.)

Duterte also threatened to declare “revolutionary war.”

Pahirapan mo ako, I will declare a revolutionary war until the end of my term. Pasensiyahan tayo,” he said. (If you make things difficult for me, I will declare a revolutionary war until the end of my term. We test each other’s patience.)

Olalia however the president’s reaction to cautionary criticisms to his policies by the opposition is illogical.

“[H]is threat smacks of authoritarian reactions of a leader intolerant of dissenting or divergent opinions,” Olalia said.

“[T]here is no other appropriate people’s reaction but to fight and fight we must against brute despotism clothed in legal garb,” he added.

Other criticisms

Former solicitor general and candidate for the Senate Florin Hilbay cautioned Duterte, saying the last president who did so was ousted.

“Ser, remind lang kita: nung last time na ginawa ‘yan, may diktador na nasipa sa pwesto,” Hilbay posted on his Facebook wall. (Sir, may I remind you: the last time that was done, a dictator was ousted.)

Fellow senatorial candidate Neri Colmenares for his part called President Rodrigo’s threat “baseless” and “senseless.”

Colmenares, a human rights lawyer, said criticism of the president does not meet the constitutional or legal requirements to suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.

He said Duterte’s “inordinate reaction to so innocuous a statement from Senator Drilon” led him to suspect the president’s anger stemmed from recently released videos accusing him and his son Paolo, who is running for congressman in Davao City, to the illegal drug trade.

“If so, the charges in the videos can only gain traction,” Colmenares said.

“This is the first time I’ve heard a government threatening revolutionary war,” Colmenares said.

National Democratic Front of the Philippines chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison also said Duterte cannot engage in a revolutionary war “because he is a counterrevolutionary agent of foreign monopoly capitalists, big compradors and big landlords.”

“He is a bureaucrat capitalist of the worst kind,” Sison wrote in his quick reaction to Duterte’s speech.

Sison added Duterte “should not misappropriate and besmirch the noble calling of revolutionary.”

“He is a tyrant, traitor, plunderer and mass murderer hell-bent on imposing a fascist dictatorship on the Filipino people through charter change to a bogus kind of federalism,” Sison added.

Sison said Duterte is already engaged in de facto martial law nationwide and in the de facto suspension of the writ of habeas corpus.

Duterte is increasingly engaged in mass intimidation, mass arrests and mass murders, the president’s former political science professor said.

Sison added that if Duterte formally proclaims the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus or even martial law nationwide, he will only succeed in further enraging the people and inciting them to wage all forms of revolutionary resistance.

“The real revolutionary war is against his ongoing counterrevolutionary war,” Sison said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva, with JJ Espina)

Cop killed, 8 wounded in clash with NPA in Mountain Province

By Joseph Gregorio

Clashes again erupted between elements of the Mountain Province police and the Leonardo Pacsi Command (LPC) of the New People’s Army at the boundary of Tadian and Bauko municipalities Tuesday afternoon resulting in the death of a police officer and the wounding of eight others.

At about 3:45 Teusday afternoon, LPC fighters blasted a command-detonated explosive against pursuing Regional Mobile Force Battalion-Philippine National Police (RMFB-PNP) Cordillera troopers.

Police Regional Office Cordillera (PROCor) said Police Corporal Marlon Casil was killed while wounded in the police operation were Patrolman Erwin Calixto, PCpl Marcelo Bayeng, PCpl Ramadick Meloy, PCpl Clifford Gama, PCpl Edwin Keya, PCpl John Calcaligong, PSSgt Salvador Agalatiw, PMSgt Alphedes Alvaro.

Tuesday’s incident was the third time the LPC engaged government troops in a fire fight.

On Monday, the LPC launched a harassment operation against the pursuing police at Tadian’s Mt. Kilakilat two days after a police officer was killed and another was wounded in an encounter between the guerrillas and the police at Mt. Gunggung-o in Barangay Bagnen, Bauko.

Philippine Army 54th Infantry Battalion commander Lt. Col. Narciso Nabulneg Jr. said they have joined the police in the pursuit operations against the communist fighters.

Earlier, the Tadian Municipal government issued an advisory to the residents and visitors to avoid the mountainous parts of Tadian’s Bas-ang area (Barangays Lubon, Masla, Sumadel, Batayan, Bantey, Duagan, Mabalite) and Sitios Pingew, Luwagan, Malupa and Tabeo areas in neighboring Bauko.

The Bauko municipal disaster risk reduction and management office implemented a pre-emptive evacuation at Sitios Cotcot, Sitios Luagan and Malupa in Abatan, Bauko. #

GRP now cracking down on friends and family of detained NDFP consultants — lawyer

The alleged safehouse in Marikina raided by the police Saturday is a family home, a lawyer of detained National Democratic Front of the Philippine (NDFP) peace consultants said.

Public Interest Law Center managing counsel Rachel Pastores said police claims that the house located at 34-A Chrysanthemum St., Loyola Residents, Barangay Barangka was a safehouse where guns grenades were kept is “preposterous”.

“How utterly preposterous. Gamara was found staying above a coffee shop in the sentro of Imus City, with the police station a stone’s throw away. The house in Marikina, which the police claimed was another hideout, is a family home,” Pastores in a statement said.

Earlier, National Capital Region Police Office director P/Maj. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar said the police applied for another search warrant to conduct the raid in Marikina after they recovered a suspected fake identification card on Gamara bearing the address.

Eleazar said that several documents, a seafarer’s identification and a record book, two hand grenades and a 9mm pistol were confiscated during the operation conducted Friday morning.

“We are now looking for the caretaker of the house identified as Ryan Dizon. He was not around when the search warrant was implemented on Friday,” Eleazar said.

Pastores, however, said acquaintances, old friends, and family of peace consultants are now clear targets of police and military, who have come together in a crackdown against peace consultants and advocates.

“Planting firearms and explosives is the police grasping at straws, because there is no legitimate reason to arrest or investigate the persons found therein, nor the peace consultants themselves,” Pastores said.

The lawyer recalled that retired priest Arturo Balagat arrested with Gamara in Imus was later found by the prosecutor general to have no criminal intent and ties with the peace consultant other than graciously giving him shelter and food.

But the police has threatened to have Balagat’s cooperative’s licenses and registration cancelled, Pastores said.

“Both army and police officials must temper their braggadocio, not until their competence and intelligence catch up,” Pastores said.

The lawyer also criticized President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order No. 70 and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict it created for being very busy in picking up “sick, defenseless, and unarmed” NDFP peace consultants.

“When Francisco Fernandez and Cleofe Lagtapon, likewise peace consultants, were arrested in Laguna a week ago, the army claimed to have also found them with pistols and grenades – and then, paradoxically, crowed over how weak and vulnerable they were,” Pastores said.

“Executive Order No. 70 wants to put an end to the roots of the insurgency and reclaim the peace, but why do its implementors spawn more injustice along the way? Long-drawn vendetta, disbalance of power and inequities, as demonstrated in the illegal arrests and detention of peace consultants, only pose more reasons to resist,” she added.

Pastores said they are confident that charges against Gamara, Fernandez, Lagtapon, as well as the others victims of planted evidence and perjured testimonies, will be eventually dismissed and disposed of. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Bauko LGU cancels tourism activities due to police operations vs NPA

Contributed by Joseph Gregorio

Tourists in Bauko, Mountain Province are advised from visiting spots in some areas in the municipality following recent fighting between Leftist guerrillas and the Cordillera police.

The Bauko Municipal Government through its municipal tourism officer Arsenia Addon announced that all booked tourism activities have been cancelled as the Regional Police Safety Battalion (RPSB) of the Cordillera Police are pursuing fighters of the Leonardo Pacsi Command-New People’s Army (LPC-NPA).

“We appreciate your understanding for the inconvenience,” Addon said.

The Cordillera police have reportedly launched operations in the are to “flush out” NPA fighters/

The LPC-NPA in a statement Sunday said it ambushed operating troops of the RPSB at around 1:00 o’clock in the afternoon in Mt. Makilakilat of the adjacent northern barangays of the municipality of Tadian.

The NPA said the ambush frustrated Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) operations in the area following an earlier encounter that killed a police officer and wounded another.

Last Saturday, in time for the NPA’s 50th founding anniversary, the LPC-NPA engaged in a fire fight with an RPSB unit at around 9:45 AM in Mt. Gunggung-o in Barangay Bagnen, Bauko.

LPC spokesperson Magno Udyaw said the fire fight lasted for 15 minutes.

The ongoing police operation in Tadian is a bid to save their face from its loss, Udyaw said.

Cordillera People’s Democratic Front (CDPF) spokesperson Simon “Ka Filiw” Naogsan for his part said the AFP and PNPs claim that the ongoing operations is to simply flush out the NPA in Mountain Province is preposterous.

“In its frantic scramble to claim that they are having the upper hand in their counter-revolutionary campaign, PNP and AFP mouthpieces and spin masters resort to crying in the media and blabbering gibberish in social media to cover up their losses,” Naogsan said.

The NPA said it launched the March 29 attack to punish the RPSB as well as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for protecting plunderous large-scale mines, logging and energy businesses.

Udyaw said numerous cases of human rights violations are being committed such as harassments, indiscriminate pointing and firing of rifles, and confiscation of lumber intended for housing and community use during government troops operations.

He added that corruption is also rampant as DENR and police officials sell or take for personal use whatever they have sequestered from locals. #

14 farmers executed ‘Tokhang-style’ in Negros; Duterte’s MO 32 blamed

President Rodrigo Duterte’s Memorandum Order No. 32 in November 22 deploying more soldiers and police officers in Negros Island has seen its bloodiest result last weekend in the killing of 14 farmers in three locations.

Philippine National Police operatives killed eight peasants in Canlaon City, four in Manjuyod, and two in Sta. Catalina town in separate but near simultaneous operations in Negros Oriental Province Saturday.

The Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights identified the eight Canlaon victims as Edgardo Avelino, 59, farmer and resident of Sitio Carmen, Brgy. Panubigan, Chairperson of Hukom (Hugpong Kusog Mag-uuma sa Canlaon); Ismael Avelino, 53 habal-habal (utility motorcycle) driver a resident of Sitio Carmen, Brgy. Panubigan and a member of Hukom; Melchor Pañares, 67, farmer, a resident of Sitio Tigbahi, Brgy. Bayog; Mario Pañares, 46, farmer (son of Melchor Pañares); Rogelio Ricomuno, 52, farmer, a resident of Sitio Manggata, Brgy. Masulog -1; Ricky Ricomuno, 28, farmer; Gonzalo Rosales, 47, farmer and a resident of Proper Brgy. Pula; and Genes Palmares, 54, farmer, a resident of Proper Brgy. Aquino.

In Sta. Catalina, habal-habal driver and peasant leader Franklen Lariosa and Anoj Enojo Rapada were reportedly killed.

In Manjuyod, among those killed were Velentin Acabal of Brgy. Kandabong and Sonny Palagtiw of Brgy. Pansiao, both barangay captains in their villages; Steve Arapoc and Manulo Martin.

Reports said 15 others were arrested, including local Gabriela leader Corazon Javier, who are now detained at the Canlaon City provincial police headquarters.

Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay cited Duterte’s Memorandum Order No. 32 that placed Negros Island as well as Eastern Visayas and Bicol under a state of emergency for the continuing militarization of communities as well as the Synchronized Enhanced Managing of Police Operations (SEMPO) or Oplan Sauron of the PNP in the region.

Palabay said Oplan Sauron is being implemented alongside the government’s counterinsurgency program.

‘Tokhang-style’

Negros police director P/Col. Raul Tacaca said the victims were suspected communist rebels linked to alleged assassination plots against government soldiers and police officers.

Tacaca claimed those slain fought back against arresting teams from the PNP Regional Public Safety Battalion, the PNP Special Action Force, regular police officers from various stations, and the Philippine Army.

In a press conference in Camp Crame Monday, PNP spokesperson P/Col. Bernard Banac echoed Tacaca’s claims and added the killings started as an implementation of search warrant for possible possession of firearms and explosive materials.

“We are sure that they really tried to shoot it out because our policemen will not use force if there is no threat to their lives,” Banac said.

“These were done by following the rules of engagement, respect on human rights and presumption of regularity,” he added,

But survivors of the police assault in Canlaon said the police arrived at about 2:30 in the morning, knocked once and kicked the doors open.

Victim Ismael Avelino’s wife, Leonora told human rights workers that all six police officers who assaulted their home “wore facemasks and others wore shades to cover their eyes.”

Victims’ survivors also said the nameplates on the police officers’ uniforms were covered.

Leonora said she and their four young children were ordered to lie face down and then later dragged outside of the house.

Next door, Edgardo Avelino’s household members were similarly forced to lie face down and were also dragged outside of the house.

Near simultaneously, they heard gunshots inside both houses. Nearly five hours later, at about seven o’clock in the morning, an ambulance came and Leonora’s husband was brought out of the house in a stretcher.

She found out later at the Canlaon District Hospital that they her husband Ismael was dead.

Edgardo, Hukom chairperson, was shot on his forehead, right cheek and upper torso.

In Manjuyog, survivors of Arupoc told human rights responders that the police planted a .38 caliber revolver beside his cadaver after he was killed by the police officers.

Calls for investigation

Various groups called for an immediate investigation on the incidents.

“This is unconscionable. We strongly demand an immediate and independent investigation on the incident…[W]e join our voices in the call for justice and accountability for these heinous crimes perpetrated by the government,” Karapatan’s Palabay said.

San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza, whose diocese covers the affected towns, also demanded an investigation.

“We demand a quick investigation on this and appeal to our government authorities to restore peace and order,” Alminaza said.

The Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA) for its part said March 30 was a dark day in the country’s history.

“[F]armers who feed the nation have become helpless targets of bullets from the police and military, in tokhang-style operations, forcibly entering the homes and playing the ‘nanlaban’ (fought back) scenario to justify the riddling of bullets to victims,” the group said.

“As the nation grieves, we add our voices to the call for justice for our farmers and all Filipinos who have suffered under the culture of impunity and fascism in our lands,” CPA added.

Members of the Makabayan bloc in Congress also condemned the killings and vowed to seek justice for the victims.

“State forces are on a rampage and activists and critics are in their crosshairs. We will not take this sitting down and we will seek justice for the victims and file charges against the policemen and their superiors who perpetrated this massacre,” Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate said.

Anakpawis Representative Ariel Casilao called for the scrapping of Duterte’s Memorandum No. 32, saying it is a death warrant on civilians.

The Commission on Human Rights said it has already ordered the regional sub-office of CHR-Region VII to investigate the killings. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Alternative media outfits fight back, file complaints vs. cyber-attacks

Alternative media outfits identified two companies where the intense cyber attacks against them since December are coming from.

Bulatlat, Kodao, and Pinoy Weekly, as well as the People’s Alternative Media Network (Altermidya) filed a civil complaint at the Quezon City Regional Trial Court this morning against IP Converge Data Services, Inc. and Suniway Group of Companies they believe are where the cyber-attacks are coming from.

“Through the solid and thorough digital forensic investigation of Sweden-based Qurium Media Foundation over time, it was discovered that the cyber-attacks were coming from companies IP Converge and Suniway,” Altermidya national coordinator Rhea Padilla said.

According to their respective websites, IP Converge Data Services, Inc. is the country’s first cloud services provider while Suniway is an internet services provider.

Exposed IP addresses

Padilla said the digital forensic report revealed that despite hiding behind a Virtual Private Network (VPN), one of the attackers exposed their real IP addresses when they accessed the website without turning on their hidden IPs.

In another instance, one of the attackers also revealed his IP address when he used his Samsung Android phone to check the websites of alternative media groups under attack.

The exposed IP addresses, she added, may easily be traced to IP Converge based on the findings of Qurium.

Meanwhile, Qurium learned that the infrastructure of networks being used to launch the attacks belongs to Suniway, which holds business addresses both in Hong Kong and in the Philippines with two Chinese national listed as among its officers.

“The user agents who conducted the attacks using devices within the premises and under the control and supervision of Defendants IP Converge and Suniway are unidentified at this point,” their complaint said.

First-ever complaint

Padilla said their civil complaint against cyber-attackers is the first ever in the Philippines.

“This is definitely a first and it will serve as a testament that we will neither be cowed nor will we allow these cyber-attacks to continue,” Padilla said.

The complainants were assisted by the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers.

Since December 2018, alternative media sites have been subjected to sustained cyber-attacks in the form of a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks.

DDoS refers to the malicious attempt to overload the server of a website, aimed to shut it down.

Padilla said this kind of attack “denies legitimate readers of access to truthful reports.”

“Plaintiffs have reasonable ground to believe that there are more than one of them, each one targeting a particular organization,” their complaint said.

Padilla added that launching a cyber-attack with this kind of magnitude and immensity is impossible without the knowledge of the companies.

The alternative media outfits maintained that these relentless cyber-attacks are politically-motivated.

They called on the two companies to reveal their real clients.

“We believe these attacks are state-sponsored and are part of the Duterte administration’s attempt to stifle press freedom in the country. It seems cyber censorship is one of the administration’s tactics to make way for an open dictatorial rule,” Padilla said.

The filing of the complaint coincided with the 25th anniversary of the internet in the Philippines.

In March 29, 1994, the first ever internet message were sent between the University of San Carlos in Cebu City and Syracuse University in New York. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NPA turns 50 today; CPP calls for intensified guerrilla warfare

The Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) called on the New People’s Army (NPA) to boldly intensify guerrilla warfare and wage all-out resistance against the Rodrigo Duterte government as the revolutionary army celebrates its 50th founding anniversary today.

Congratulating Red fighters all over the country, the CPP’s top leadership said the NPA continues to advance nationwide and succeeded in surmounting Duterte’s all-out offensives and focused military operations in 2018.

Founded by the CPP in March 29, 1969 in Sta. Rita, Capas, Tarlac, the NPA started with only nine rifles and 26 inferior firearms for 60 Red fighters consisting of veteran guerrillas and new recruits from Manila and Isabela.

CPP founding chairperson Jose Maria Sison and local rebel leader Bernabe Buscayno were among the prominent personalities present in the event.

After five decades of continuous guerrilla warfare, the NPA said it has 110 guerrilla fronts all over the country, majority of which are composed of company-sized formation of full-time Red fighters.

The NPA’s guerrilla war is the longest-running in the world today.

Major victories in 2018

Last year, the CPP said the NPA mounted several hundred tactical offensives across the country, seizing at least 107 high powered rifles from government forces and even from security agencies serving big mining operations.

The underground party said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine National Police and their paramilitary forces suffered at least 600 casualties in 2018 with more than 380 killed in action.

One hundred eighty five AFP soldiers were killed in action across eastern Mindanao, the CPP claimed.

The group added that the numbers of government casualties were more than 40 percent higher than in 2017.

Units of the AFP that suffered the most casualties were those deployed in focused military operations in north central and north eastern Mindanao provinces where NPA units were able to carry out active defense operations against AFP offensives.

The CPP said the AFP’s decision to reduce its troop deployment in Mindanao to as low as 60 percent from a high of 80 percent in previous years is added proof that aims to crush the NPA in eastern Mindanao is failing.

“In the face of the steady nationwide growth of the NPA, Duterte’s security officials have already toned down on their earlier braggadocio of defeating the NPA by middle of 2019. They have instead moved their ‘deadline’ to the end of 2022,” the CPP said.

5-year plan

Even as it successfully frustrating Duterte’s all-out war, the CPP called on the NPA to boldly intensify guerrilla warfare nationwide and wage all-out resistance against the Duterte regime.

The CPP said the call is in accordance with the Central Committee’s five-year program (2017-2021) to continue developing nationwide strength, spread and advance.

“We must strengthen the NPA several times over and raise its capability in annihilating enemy units,” the CPP said.

The program includes the building of more units of people’s militias, self-defense units of mass organizations, partisan units, as well as raising their capability in waging mass guerrilla warfare, the CPP said.

“With its current nationwide strength and spread, the NPA is in a position to carry the people’s war forward to unprecedented levels in the coming years,” the group added.  # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Mindanao Bishops ask Duterte to stop attacks against IFI

The Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) in Mindanao published an open letter to President Rodrigo Duterte asking him to stop ongoing harassment against their clergy in the island.

Gathering in Cagayan de Oro City last March 25 and 26 for a conferential meeting with the Church’s Supreme Bishop, the Most Reverend Rhee M. Timbang, the 14 IFI bishops they have been attacked through red tagging, vilification, surveillance, harassment and intimidation and worse, killings they suspect are the handiwork of government security forces.

“We saw at the highways and even walls of our churches desecrated with graffiti maligning the IFI and its leaders, Bishop Antonio Ablon of Pagadian and Bishop Felixberto Calang of Cagayan de Oro,” their letter said.

The bishops said the most recent attack against their Church happened last February 22 where leaflets or hit list bearing names of the bishops including that of Fr. Chris Ablon, Fr. Rolando Abejo, Fr. Khen Apus and their friends openly identified these people as members of underground revolutionary groups.

“This baseless and malicious accusation strongly believed to be orchestrated by state forces has openly identified these people as members of the CPP-NPA-NDFP (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front of the Philippines).

“We as episcopal leaders of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente in Mindanao are very much alarmed that wanton extra judicial killings may fall on our church leaders. God forbid!” they said.

The bishops blame Duterte’s martial law in Mindanao for causing the “evil acts” as well as the refusal of the police to investigate their complaints.

“Worse, illegal arrest and detention, trump up charges and forced NPA surrenderees of peasants and lumad who are partners of our church in our community work and mission are conveniently presented to the public as prima facie evidence of the IFI’s and bishops’ affiliation to the rebel group,” they said.

The church leaders also complained that several active church lay leaders now fear for their lives and security as they are constantly under surveillance and are possible subject to warrantless arrest.

The bishops asked Duterte to end the attacks against peasant and labor leaders, against lumad and their communities, against defenders of lumad schools, lawyers, media and the Church.

The letter was signed by Timbang, Ablon, Calang, Cabadbaran Bishop Delfin Callao Jr., Davao Bishop Denny Dapitan, Libertad Bishop Rudy Juliada, Surigao Bishop Noel Lorente, Dinagat Bishop Mervin Jose Elimanco, Siargao Bishop Romeo Tagud, Koronadal Bishop Redeemer Yañez, Tubod Bishop Raul Amorcillo, Cortez Bishop Julius Dacera, Ozamiz Bishop Carlo Morales, Oroquieta Bishop Victor Batoy, and Malaybalay Bishop Gil Dinapo. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Lawyer, doctor refused from seeing Frank Fernandez

A lawyer assisting arrested National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Frank Fernandez complained of being repeatedly barred from visiting and consulting with her client at the Philippine Army General Hospital in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.

Atty. Kristina Conti of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers said that she has twice been refused from seeing Fernandez and his fellow detainees at the hospital even if she is allowed by law to do so.

“For the second time at Gate 6 of Fort Bonifacio, I have been denied access by MPBn (Military Police Battalion) chief Capt. Andres B. Ramirez upon instructions of his ‘higher-ups,’” Conti said on her Facebook account late Tuesday night.

Conti said that Captain Ramirez in fact told her she can visit Fernandez, his wife Cleofe Lagtapon and Geann Perez, who are all confined in the said hospital.

“Yesterday (Monday), he denied that a Frank or Francisco Fernandez was confined in the Army General Hospital. Today he reverses, but tells me that I can visit ‘anytime’ but only between 11am-4pm,” Conti said.

The lawyer said the military is violating Republic Act 7438, the Rights of Persons Arrested, Detained or under Custodial Investigation Law.

The law says lawyers, doctors, priests or spiritual adviser cannot be denied access any time, which Conti said Ramirez is disregarding.

“What’s roundly dissonant for me as a lawyer is the police posturing that this was a legitimate law enforcement operation, specifically arrest due to a lawful warrant. Yet, when I asked either Calabarzon Police Regional Director Edward Carranza or Laguna Police Provincial Chief Eleazar Matta for access they defer to the military,” Conti said.

Conti asked the military to be upfront if the three detainees are being treated as prisoners of war and under military custody instead of the police.

If the three are POWs, they should be treated as hors de combat, or out of action due to injury or damage, the lawyer explained.

’Wag nyo na kami paikut-ikutin, literally and figuratively,” she said. (Do not try to fool us and make us run around.)

Conti said she wonders what excuses the military will use the next time she tries to visit her clients.

Kelangan naka-sapatos? Naka-white? May strip search? Walang cellphone? Anong patakaran sa kampo na naman ang mangingibabaw sa civilian law enforcement/judicial orders?” she asked (Do I need to wear shoes? Wear white? Will they conduct a strip-search? What camp policies will they say lords over civilian law enforcement/judicial orders?)

“Martial law ba ulit?” she asked. (Is it Martial Law all over again?)

Doctor also turned away

Conti also revealed that an unnamed doctor sent to check on the three detainees was turned away.

“Earlier we sent a doctor, who came within the time stated by Capt. Ramirez, to check (on) the three. He was rebuffed, even if the inquest prosecutor’s resolution specified that Fr. Frank should see his doctor of choice,” Conti revealed.

Conti said Fernandez reported to the Sta. Cruz, Laguna inquest fiscal Monday evening that he is suffering from incessant interrogation by military agents, depriving him of sleep and affecting his general health.

Fernandez is reported to having heart and lung ailments the lawyer said need special attention.

“His condition, fluctuating BP (blood pressure) and all, is very worrisome. The military even had to pull into Asian Hospital on March 24 while they were taking him to Manila from Laguna because he was slurring his speech a bit,” Conti said.

The lawyer said it is suspected the former Roman Catholic priest and long-time NDFP spokesperson in Negros suffered a mild stroke or heart attack.

 “[Y]et he has not been allowed to choose a doctor or specialist. I am not too sure the Army General Hospital can take care of his needs – and in the first place, if it is in their interest (to do so),” the lawyer said.

Lagtapon is reported to be suffering from frail health while Perez is being treated for Hansen’s Disease.

Conti recalled previous clients who were sick while in prison and eventually died under detention.

“My experience with sick political prisoners is marred by deaths. Diona Andrea Rosal, stillborn, because his mother was under too much stress. Eduardo Serrano, Bernabe Ocasla, Alex Arias who suffered heart attacks in jail. My fervent hope is he does not join this mater dolorosa list,” she said.

She cautioned the military to treat the three detainees humanely.

“I understand the context is war – and two sides are at odds. Pero bawal bang maging makatao ‘pag magkaaway? Kung kaya ng isa, kaya din naman ng kabila, di ba?” she asked. (Isn’t it possible that both sides treat each other humanely? If one side can do it, the other side also can.)

Conti said that killing Fernandez while under government custody would not be killing the Communist Party-led revolution but is actually killing the peace. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Lawyers find Fernandez and companions in Laguna prosecutor’s office

Arrested National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Francisco “Ka Frank” Fernandez and companions was finally allowed to meet their lawyers 38 hours after they were arrested in Liliw, Laguna last Sunday.

After continuous seach throughout Metro Manila and Laguna province Sunday and Monday, lawyers from the Public Interest Law Center were finally able to talk to Fernandez, his wife Cleofe Lagtapon and Geann Perez at the Sta. Cruz provincial prosecutor’s office in the said province at around seven o’clock last night.

“It was already around 7 p.m. when lawyers gained access to their client,” human rights group Karapatan announced on their Facebook page Tuesday afternoon.

Karapatan said that lawyers and paralegals went to the Army General Hospital in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City after receiving information that the three were taken there.

They were denied any information, Karapatan said.

“It was later in the afternoon that police officials revealed that Fernandez et. al. were in Sta. Cruz, Laguna to undergo inquest proceedings. After an entire day of searching, lawyers were finally able to talk to the victims at the Sta. Cruz provincial prosecutor’s office,” the group said.

NDFP peace consultant Frank Fernandez being treated intravenously while undergoing inquest proceedings at the Laguna Provincial Prosecutors’ Office Monday night. (Public Interest Law Center photo)

Yesterday, Karapatan said they visited various military and police camps throughout Sunday and Monday to look for the three.

“Legal counsel and paralegals went to Camp Vicente Lim in Canlubang, Laguna; Camp Paciano Rizal in Sta. Cruz, Laguna; Laguna Provincial Police Office and Municipal Police Office in Sta. Cruz, Laguna; Camp Crame in Quezon City; and Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City. Military and police officers denied having the three in their custody,” Karapatan said in a statement Monday.

“[The] morning of March 25, legal counsels and paralegals went to the ISAFP (Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines) Headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City; NBI National Office in Manila; and Camp Crame, Quezon City. The same answer was given to them,” the group added.

Charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives are set to be filed against the three, on top of murder charges against Fernandez and Lagtapon.

Police said three .45 caliber pistols, 15 rounds of ammunitions and three grenades were found to be in their possession.

Illegal possession of firearms were also charged against five other NDFP peace consultants arrested in succession since President Rodrigo Duterte unilaterally terminated peace negotiations with the NDFP in November 2016.

Fernandez and Gamara were the first two NDFP peace consultants arrested since Duterte dissolved his government’s negotiating panel last March 18.

Frail health

Karapatan noted that Fernandez’s state of health was alarming.

The group said the 71-year old former Roman Catholic priest was wheelchair-bound and was injected intravenously on his arm.

“Per his medical abstract, the Army General Hospital physician confirmed that Fernandez suffers from chronic artery disease, chronic stable angina, hypertension stage 2-uncontrolled, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and hyponatremia, among others,” the group reported.


Lagtapon at the Laguna Provincial Prosecutors’ Office Monday night. (Public Interest Law Center photo)

Lagtapon, 66, will also be monitored due to her frail health while Perez, 20, is reportedly being treated due to Hansen’s Disease.

Karapatan reported that all three will be under hospital arrest.

Perez at the Laguna Provincial Prosecutors’ Office Monday night. (Public Interest Law Center photo)

Their lawyers have reportedly expressed their intention to have Fernandez moved to the Philippine Heart Center for medical treatment.

After the inquest proceedings on the evening of March 25, it was decided that Fernandez, Lagtapon and Perez were to be brought back to the army hospital in Fort Bonifacio, Karapatan said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)