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Braganza: CASER is treasonous? Wow!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arkibong Bayan photo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joma: Militarists making talks resumption impossible

National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison condemned recent statements made by the government’s top security officials, accusing them of trying to prevent the resumption of formal peace negotiations.

In a reaction to statements by presidential peace adviser Carlito Galvez, national security adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) deputy chief of staff for civil-military operations Major General Antonio Parlade, Jr., Sison said President Rodrigo Duterte has allowed his highest military officials to oppose the resumption of the talks.

“Despite the over-all nationwide success of the reciprocal unilateral ceasefire agreement which occurred from December 23, 2019 to January 7, 2020, the Duterte regime has issued public statements that continue to terminate and prevent peace negotiations and render impossible the resumption of these between the duly-authorized panels of the GRP and NDFP,” Sison said in a statement Saturday, January 11.

Sison said that Duterte’s highest military subordinates, including interior and local government secretary Eduardo Año, national defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana and new AFP chief of staff Filemon Santos Jr., made utterances that they oppose peace and prefer to wage all-out war against the Filipino people instead. 

“[T]hey would rather continue the militarization and fascisation of the government and society under Executive Order No. 70,” he said.

Sison said the officials, all retired and active military generals, believe that peace negotiations are not needed because they are already in the process of destroying the New People’s Army (NPA) before 2022. 

“They boast that they are open only to surrender negotiations in a Philippine venue under their control. They claim to be satisfied with the psywar (psychological warfare) campaign of fake surrenders, fake encounters and persona non grata declarations,” Sison said.

Anti-talks pronouncements

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

In a news article published by his office, Galvez said the Filipino people do not need the Comprehensive Agreement on Social (and) Economic Reforms (CASER) and Interim Peace Agreement (IPC) that are the proposed bases for the resumption of formal negotiations between the NDFP and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP).

Galvez described the CASER as an “irrelevant proposition and simply a copycat of the programs of the CPP-NPA-NDF (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-NDFP) as outlined in the plagiarized content of Jose Maria Sison’s publication Philippine Society and Revolution.”

He said that adopting the CASER and the IPC could be likened to committing treason since the communists will implement these programs based on their constitution while the government needs to change its charter to apply the reforms.

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

Galvez said the NDFP draft of the CASER has several questionable provisions, including financing national industrialization from confiscated and expropriated assets of “foreign monopoly capitalists, big compradors and bureaucrat capitalists.”

He said the language in which the provision has been framed may “cast a dark cloud over the nation’s economy” and could lead to “the weakening and eventual decline of the country’s economic standing in global markets.” 

He also said it is worrisome that the proposed CASER orders the demobilization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the establishment of a coalition government with the communist group by setting up “programs for the People’s Democratic Government.”

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

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

Like Galvez, Esperon said the proposed CASER “do not directly reflect the best interest of the nation,” but that of the communist rebels.

“After presenting the objectionable provisions of their proposed CASER, would it be beneficial to the nation that we engage the (communists) in another round of peace talks?” Esperon asked, adding the government is instead pursuing local peace talks.

Last Christmas Day, Parlade also accused the communists of duplicity, particularly CPP founding chairperson Sison and members within the churches.

Parlade said Christmas and its Christian ideals are incompatible with the mindset of communists, accusing them of following the likes of Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin he said were members of a satanic cult.

‘What progress?’

Sison, however, challenged the generals’ claims of economic progress in the Philippines that make economic, social and political reforms through peace negotiations irrelevant.

“The Filipino people are supposed to be already living in an industrialized paradise without social injustices, massive unemployment, low incomes and rampant poverty. The Duterte regime is supposed to be solving all problems and rendering unnecessary peace negotiations,” Sison mocked.

By allowing the officials to openly defy efforts to resume peace negotiations, the Duterte regime is practically telling the Filipino people that peace negotiations are impossible until 2022, he said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Gate-crashing general booed out of forum by his red-baiting victims

A gate-crashing general was booed and shooed away from a forum organized and attended by the very victims of the government’s red-baiting tactics that he spearheads.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Deputy Chief-of-Staff for Civil-Military Operations Brig. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. was escorted out of the Quezon City Sports Club room where members of the Movement Against Tyranny (MAT) were attending the forum entitled “Weaponizing the Law, Criminalizing Dissent.”

The forum, co-organized by the National Union of People’s Lawyers, was aimed at highlighting “the abuses committed against critics of the [Duterte] administration.”

During the open forum, Perlade asked to speak and walked to the front but Bagong Alyansang Makabayan chairperson Dr. Carol Araullo did not allow him.

“This is a forum organized by MAT…Gen. Parlade has every platform that he can get, including mass media to spill his twisted lies. He is not welcome here…If he can be so kind and act like a gentleman and step out of this hall,” Araullo said.

NUPL video of Gen Parlade being asked to leave the event he gate-crashed.

As applause greeted Araullo’s statement, an organizer motioned for Parlade to step out of the room.

The general still tried to speak but was roundly heckled.

Eventually, Araullo and several others, including a visibly incensed elderly nun, escorted Parlade out.

Out in the hallway, Parlade tried to argue but was flatly told he was not welcome.

Parlade has led the red-baiting of activists nationwide and abroad in so-called peace caravans.

Activists said Parlade’s repeated accusations endanger their lives and violate their human rights. 

Last November 9, Karapatan Southern Mindanao Region chapter linked the enforced disappearance of its former secretary-general Honey Mae Suazo to Parlade’s accusations she is associated with the Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army (NPA).

Parlade singled Suazo out after she assisted the family of NPA leader Zaldy Cañete to visit the latter who was hospitalized after suffering near-fatal injuries after an encounter in Bukidnon Province.

The group said Suazo, missing since November 2 after visiting the graves of her departed relatives, was subjected to numerous threats, the most recent of which came from Parlade himself.

In a statement, Bayan said the organizers did not want Parlade to use the forum as his platform.

“He has no place among human rights defenders he has constantly attacked and endangered,” the group said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Rights group links former officer’s disappearance to military

Karapatan Southern Mindanao Region (SMR) said the disappearance of its former secretary general is linked to the intensifying crackdown on activists and the victim’s past experiences of harassment and red-tagging by the military.

In calling for the “surfacing” of human rights defender Honey Mae Suazo who has been missing since November 2, Karapatan SMR raised the possibility of the military’s involvement in what they suspect is a case of abduction.

“Honey May has been with Karapatan for five years. In that period, she was subjected to multiple threats and malicious accusations peddled by the military,” the group’s current secretary general Jay Apiag said in a statement.

“Although, she had left Karapatan, it seems that she still remains a target. If her past experiences of continuous harassment are indicative of anything, it is that Honey May is still facing reprisal for her work as a human rights defender,” he added.

Suazo was Karapatan SMR secretary general from 2011 to 2016. The group said she was subjected to numerous threats, the most recent of which came from Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Deputy Chief of Staff for Civil Military Operations Antonio Parlade.

Karapatan SMR said Brigadier General Parlade accused Suazo of being associated with the Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army (NPA) after she assisted the family of NPA leader Zaldy Cañete to visit the latter who was hospitalized after suffering near-fatal injuries after an encounter in Bukidnon Province.

“As a matter of fact, Honey May Suazo’s photograph and name was viciously appended in the posters hanged in the cities of Butuan and Surigao, April this year, accusing her as a terrorist.” Apiag emphasized.

Apiag said Suazo was merely performing a mandate of a human rights advocacy institution to assist wounded combatants who are accorded protection and right to visitation of families as mandated under the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) of which the Philippine government is a signatory.

“Regardless of what the military is trying to insinuate, assisting families of combatants, including hors de combat, is not illegal or condemnable. They can double check with the IHL provisions or go to the database and briefers provided by the International Committee of the Red Cross if they need a refresher,” Apiag said.

Apiag said that Suazo’s disappearance is with the backdrop of an intensifying crackdown against activists and legitimate people’s organizations.

“With martial law in Mindanao, the repressive machinations led by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, and implementation of counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapanatagan, attacks against activists like Honey May have become more commonplace, justified by false allegations and smear campaigns,” he said.

Initial investigations

Karapatan SMR said it formed and dispatched an investigation team composed of paralegal after hearing of Suazo’s disappearance and submitted the following

– On the morning of November 2, All Soul’s Day, Suazo visited her relatives’ graves with her partner, Anelo Pabuaya;
– Following their visit to the cemetery in Panabo, Suazo and her partner were at a friend’s house in Barangay New Site Gredu. At around 3 in the afternoon, Suazo decided to go ahead of her partner to return to Davao City;
– A few minutes later, Suazo called her partner saying she realized she had no enough money for the bus ride and asked Pabuaya to fetch her at Panabo City Hall;
– After a while, Suazo called Pabuaya again, saying she was being tailed by a white pick-up truck. She asked Pabuaya to immediately come and fetch her. Pabuaya advised her to go to the nearest police station. When Pabuaya went to the station, he did not find Suazo. He tried to contact her mobile phone numbers but all were out of reach.

“Given her background and the widespread targeting of activists, we hold the AFP accountable on Honey May’s disappearance. We demand for the immediate surfacing of Honey May Suazo and to end all attacks of human rights defenders.,” Apiag said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)