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Pagpupugay at pasasalamat kay Rene Saguisag

By Fides Lim, Kapatid – Families and Friends of Political Prisoners

Yesterday (April 30), (former senator) Rene Saguisag, human rights lawyer, nationalist and servant of the people was laid to his final resting place beside his beloved wife Dulce. Our support organization of Kapatid – Families and Friends of Political Prisoners, and my husband Vic Ladlad and I would like to thank Rene with all our hearts for every help that he extended to us and for his legacy of nationalism, honesty, dedication and service. There is no counting his good deeds particularly for victims of human rights violations, which include the political prisoners, from the period of martial law until his last breath.

One indelible memory of Rene was when he would join us during court hearings on the “Case of the Traveling Skeletons” in RTC Branch 32 at the Manila City Hall. That case about corpses that literally sprung out of one grave in 2000 and surfaced in another graveyard in another town in Leyte six years later is straight out of the martial law dictionary of legal hocus-pocus. Vic was a political prisoner in Camp Nakar, Lucena throughout the time period of that case.

“This is martial law all over again,” Rene remarked, similar to what his contemporary Joker Arroyo (who also became a senator) said in open court. Joker, Vic’s chief counsel during his political imprisonment in martial law, was Vic’s principal witness for the Leyte case.

What particularly drew Rene’s attention were Wilma and Benito Tiamzon (reportedly top leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines) during those court hearings he attended in 2016. Both had been arrested and brought to court. Rene was delighted to find out that, like him, the Tiamzons were products of the Rizal High School. I noted that Wilma and Benny were at the top 3 of their graduating batch, which I read in a Bulatlat article. Benito finished salutatorian and Wilma was the first honorable mention.

Rene was most impressed. “Ang galing! Alam mo ba, pinakamalaking high school yan sa buong mundo,” Rene said. Indeed, no mean feat in what the Guinness Book of World Records lists as the “largest secondary school in the world” until 1993 (current population: over 14,000). “Dito rin nag graduate si Uncle Jovy,” Rene proudly told us, referring to former Senator and another fierce martial law opponent whom he considers his “idol,” Jovito Salonga. (Saguisag was related to Salonga.)

Rene had his differences with the Left but he respected and admired them for their bravery and idealism, not unlike his. In one column, he wrote how he and Joker and the human rights lawyers tapped by (President) Cory Aquino to join her Cabinet after the fall of the Marcos dictatorship in February 1986 moved to immediately release ALL political prisoners, overriding military objections. “The Left must have a place under the sun,” he told Vic, who was one of those released from jail.

It must have pained Rene to learn that in August 2022, his co-Rizal High alumni, Wilma and Benito, were arrested by military forces and murdered somewhere in Leyte. Their captors tried to make it appear that they were killed in a boat explosion during a military operation. But according to accounts, they were tortured first and then executed. Their lifeless bodies were dumped on a motorboat which was detonated.

In tribute to Atty. Rene Saguisag, following are statements from Vic Ladlad and from Rene himself for the Kapatid re-founding assembly. Rene’s statement is a mirror of his own life and “purity of commitment.”

Statement of Vicente P. Ladlad, MMDJ-4, Bicutan

I will always remember Rene Saguisag and will forever be grateful to him.

Atty. Saguisag did not know me personally when I was arrested during martial law on February 21, 1983. But he did not hesitate to join Joker Arroyo and Fely Aquino and other lawyers from the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) in filing a petition for habeas corpus at the Supreme Court on my behalf.

It had been more than a week after my arrest (at that time) by the Southern Tagalog Philippine Constabulary, but the authorities flatly refused to even acknowledge that I was in their custody.

Upon order by the Supreme Court, the PC presented me in an en banc session. It was there that I first met Rene.

Attorneys Joker Arroyo and Rene Saguisag argued my case in that Supreme Court hearing. Consequently, my mother and lawyers were able to see me in Camp Nakar, Lucena City.

I was among the many victims of human rights violations who benefited from Rene’s human rights lawyering. Mabuhay ka Atty. Rene Saguisag. Ang iyong huwarang tapang, katapatan at dedikasyon ay ang pinakadakilang pamana mo.

Your exemplary courage, honesty and dedication to the poor and oppressed are your greatest legacy. #

Rene Saguisag to Kapatid

(On the re-founding assembly held at the CHR, June 15, 2019)

It’s tough to lose a loved one, as I did in 2007, but at least there was some kind of closure. Not so in the case of desaparecidos, where one hopes that the next shadow in, or knock on, the door is that of the missing beloved.

In the case of political detainees, I can only admire the purity of their commitment, and the reminder that they continue to be ready to give their all to the Motherland, the physical and psychological torment notwithstanding. They continue to love Her with that kind of passion that whips the blood, and hang the costs and consequences.

Keep going.

As Ted Kennedy said in 1980, “For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream, shall never die.”

Here’s wishing the event every success. #

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About the featured photo:

Former Senator Rene Saguisag (extreme right)shares a light moment with Makabayan President Satur Ocampo and NDFP consultants Wilma Tiamzon, Benito Tiamzon, Adelberto Silva and Vicente Ladlad during a short break at the Manila RTC Branch 32 hearing on Aug. 10, 2016. Ocampo and the NDFP consultants were included in the DOJ’s terror-listing petition. (Photo by Ronalyn V. Olea/Bulatlat)

CPP: All 19 in ATC list ‘courageous, honorable revolutionaries’

The persons recently designated by the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) as terrorists are either poor or have chosen to be poor because of their desire to serve the people, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) said.

In a reaction to the ATC’s designation of 19 of its alleged top leaders as terrorists, the CPP said all those listed are honorable revolutionaries who have served the cause of the Filipino people for national and social liberation all their lives.

“Throughout the past decades, they have courageously stood side by side with the people and struggled against dictators and tyrants. They all have sacrificed personal ambition and selfish interests,” CPP chief information officer Marco Valbuena said in a statement Friday.

Valbuena said those named are now in their sixties and seventies and three of them are in jail even as they are well-known National Democratic Front of the Philippines Negotiating Panel (NDFP) consultants who attended peace negotiations with the Rodrigo Duterte government here and abroad.

The three are Vicente Ladlad, Rey Claro Casambre and Adelberto Silva who have been separately arrested after Duterte cancelled formal peace negotiations and were uniformly charged with the non-bailable offense of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

“Unlike Duterte, these revolutionaries have only the clothes on their back to count as their wealth. They do not accumulate money from the government nor fleece the people with taxes,” Valbuena said.

The CPP spokesperson added the 19 revolutionaries do not hide money in China or elsewhere and have repeatedly proven themselves to be true to the “people’s cause”.

Aside from Ladlad, Casambre and Silva, the ATC designated NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison, New People’s Army (NPA) National Operations Command spokesperson Jorge Madlos, NDFP Negotiating Panel interim chairperson Julietta de Lima, NDFP Negotiating Panel Member Benito Tiamzon and NDFP peace consultants Alan Jazmines, Wilma Tiamzon, Ma. Concepcion Araneta-Bocala, Tirso Alcantara, Pedro Codaste, and Loida Magpatoc as so-called terrorists under the controversial Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.

The list also includes alleged CPP officials Abdias Gaudiana, Dionesio Micabato, Myrna Sularte, Tomas Dominado and Menandro Villanueva.

All 19, except for Sison and Araneta-Bocala, are from lower middle class or poor origins.

Sison was born of a landed and politically-influential family in Ilocos Sur while Araneta-Bocala was of the landlord class in Panay Island.

Both said they rid themselves of their respective families’ economic interests when they joined the revolutionary movement in their youth.

While the 19’s terrorist-designation needs a court order to become official, however, government agencies may freeze their bank accounts and other assets.

Appeal to BSP

Ladlad’s wife Fides Lim said her husband’s only bank account may be frozen by the ATC terrorist listing.

“Vic is a poor man. The only huge deposit or entire property under his name is the compensation he received from the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board in May 2018,” Lim said Friday, May 14.

Lim said Ladlad’s bank account with the government-controlled Land Bank includes the reparation for his sufferings as a political prisoner during martial law and for the disappearance of his first wife Leticia Pascual Ladlad in November 1975.

Ladlad wants to use his money for the treatment of his various illnesses such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease as well as food support in jail, replacement of his hearing aid reportedly stolen when he was arrested and to extend assistance to his mother who died last December while he was already in jail, Lim said.

Lim, also political detainee support group Kapatid spokesperson, revealed that the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and its governor Benjamin Diokno may move to freeze Ladlad’s bank account.

“I came from the Land Bank this morning (Friday) and I know what you are up to as the designated chair of the Anti-Money Laundering Act in relation to implementing orders from the Anti-Terrorism Council regarding my husband,” Lim said.

“This is blood money. Don’t be complicit in the McCarthy witchhunting spree of the Anti-Terrorism Council. Only Vic has the right to his compensation claim,” she added.

Lim reminded Diokno that the arresting team pilfered his Land Bank ATM card and used it to steal money when Ladlad was arrested on November 8, 2018.

Lim said she filed a complaint with the Land Bank and it took over a year before she was able to recover what was stolen.

“I will safeguard every centavo of Vic’s deposit in the Land Bank. To BSP Gov. Benjamin Diokno: This is blood money. Don’t be complicit in the McCarthy witchhunting spree of the Anti-Terrorism Council. Only Vic has the right to his compensation claim,” Lim said.

‘Unconstitutional’

Ladlad protested his inclusion in the ATC terror list as a gross violation of his right to due process.

In a statement, Ladlad said he was never informed by the ATV that he has been charged as a “terrorist” and was never given the opportunity to refute the charge.

“I firmly state that I am not a terrorist. It is the Anti-Terrorism Act in its too vague definition of terrorism and its expansive list of “acts of terrorism” that enabled the authorities to easily brand my political

Baylosis for his part said he vehemently decry and object to the ATC resolution designating alleged CPP Central Committee members as so-called terrorists.

“In my case, the latest ATC order disregards an earlier preceding Manila RTC (Regional Trial Court) decision in the third quarter of 2018 that I was not one of the ‘terrorists’ named in the first GRP proscription suit against the CPP-NPA,” Baylosis said.

Baylosis added that he was also freed from detention in early 2019 based on two Quezon City RTCs final ruling on “false, fabricated non-bailable” charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosive.

Casambre’s family said his inclusion in the list is a desperate move by the government and itself “terroristic” attack.

“Rey Casambre is a teacher and scientist, not a criminal. He is a peace activist, not a terrorist,” his family said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Groups, churches laud success of Oslo talks

CHURCHES, peace and human rights groups lauded the resumption of formal peace talks between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the incoming Duterte administration of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) in July.

Hundreds gathered at the Immaculate Concepcion Cathedral in Quezon City yesterday for a series of activities that also celebrated the release of two political detainees last Wednesday. Read more