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Families, rights groups mark Political Prisoners Day

Relatives and human rights groups led by the Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of Peoples’ Rights marched to Mendiola in Manila, December 3, to commemorate International Solidarity Day for Political Prisoners and call for the release of all political detainees.

Karapatan said that political prisoners  are proof of an unjust system as well as double standards in which “rule of law” inevitably translates to the rule of rulers.

Recent cases of illegal arrests by the police and military’s continued use of planted evidence, twisted ploys, and ridiculous narratives to jail rights activists and progressive leaders of organizations and communities [are rampant},” Karapatan added.

Karapatan said that there are 540 political prisoners all over the country as of November 2018, 203 of whom were arrested under the Duterte regime.

One hundred forty of the detainees are sickly, 40 are elderly and 56 are women, Karapatan said.

Lengua De Guzman, daughter of National Democratic Front (NDF) peace consultant Rafael Baylosis and wife of union organizer Maoj Maga, said that since November 2017 when Duterte implemented a crackdown against activists and peace consultants, fabricated cases and planting of evidences became the usual pattern of the state forces in their operations.

Aside from cases involving her father and husband, similar incidents happened to government employees organizers like Bob Reyes, the couple Oliver and Rowena Rosales, trade union organizer Ireneo Atadero, women advocate Hedda Calderon and peace consultants Adelberto Silva and Vicente Ladlad, de guzman said.

Karapatan reiterated that political prisoners should be immediately released on just and humanitarian grounds and as a matter of justice.

The Duterte government must also resume peace negotiations with the NDFP and stop the track of militarism against the people, the group said. # (Report and video by Joseph Cuevas)

NDFP-Duterte meeting up to the President–Agcaoili

The possible meeting between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) the Government of the Republic of the Philippines is up to President Rodrigo Duterte, the Left’s chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili said.

Agcaoili said they welcome the opportunity to meet with Duterte “unless he does not want to or his military is against it.”

In a speech in Puerto Princesa City in Palawan Saturday, Duterte said he is thinking of meeting with the NDFP negotiators.

“I called for a cluster meeting including the military. ‘So what do you think?’ They said, ‘Maybe. Perhaps maybe.’ It’s not a very big margin there, but ‘maybe,’” Duterte said.

Agcaoli said in a statement that he and fellow NDFP Negotiating Panel member Coni Ledesma have a scheduled trip to the Philippines in connection with their work as members of the NDFP component in the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) under the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.

The NDFP and the GRP has a joint secretariat office in Quezon City where a total of 6,898 human rights violations complaints have been filed since June 2004 to March 2018.

The NDFP said 4,886 complaints have been received against GRP forces while 2,012 have been filed against the NDFP.

Agcaoili however earlier said majority of their complaints against their forces were nuisance complaints manufactured and filed by GRP agencies.

Agcaoili said they would be accompanied by NDFP Negotiating Panel senior adviser Luis Jalandoni.

Their trip would also include a meeting with the new Norwegian Ambassador to the Philippines Bjørn Jahnsen, he added.

Agcaoili gave no dates on their arrival and their possible meeting with Duterte.

Duterte has cancelled the peace negotiations between the GRP and the NDFP since November last year. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

 

Lawyer slams resolution keeping Silva and companions in jail

A lawyer for National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) consultant Adelberto Silva and his four companions slammed the Laguna Prosecutor’s Office’s decision to keep them in jail and charging them with illegal possession of explosives.

Public Interest Law Center managing counsel Rachel Pastores said Laguna chief prosecutor Maria Victoria Dado’s decision to amend the inquest resolution is part of “underhanded tactics and unforgiveable maneuvers” against her clients.

“While charges for illegal possession of firearms were maintained against only two – Silva and driver Julio N. Lusania – the prosecutor amended the inquest resolution and vacated the earlier release order for Hedda L. Calderon, Ireneo O. Atadero, and Edisel R. Legaspi,” Pastores said in a statement.

“The charges against all being non-bailable, none of them may be released,” she added.

Silva and companions were arrested last October 15 after being blocked by a combined police and military team in Sta. Cruz, Laguna while on their way to a peace consultation.

The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group claimed guns, explosives and ammunition were hidden in the car the five rode in.

“Obviously, there are concerted efforts to ensure the five remain behind bars, on fake charges, in wan support of a fake destabilization narrative – all lies and jest,” Pastores said.

Both the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines alleged Silva was part of the so-called “Red October Plot” to oust President Rodrigo Duterte.

Silva denied the allegation.

Silva is vice-chairperson of the NDFP Reciprocal Working Committee on Social and Economic Reforms who actively participated in both formal and back channel peace negotiations with the Duterte government since 2016.

The NDFP Negotiating Panel said Silva should be released as a Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees-protected peace consultant. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Prosecutor drops gun possession charge vs Silva’s companions

Three companions of National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) consultant Adelberto Silva arrested with him last Monday, October 15, were ordered freed Thursday after charges of illegal possession of firearms against them have been dismissed.

Public Interest Law Center (PILC) managing counsel Rachel Pastores said that the temporary release of Hedda Calderon, Ireneo Atadero and Edisel Legaspi is allowed pending further investigation of an additional charge against them.

Pastores said that additional charges of illegal possession of explosives were referred for preliminary investigation by Laguna provincial prosecutor Ma. Victoria Dado.

The three were arrested along with Silva and their driver Julio Lusania by combined elements of the Philippine National Police’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) and the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Sta. Cruz, Laguna.

The CIDG said the two .45 caliber handguns, three hand grenades, a claymore mine-type improvised explosive device and assorted ammunition were seized from the five during their arrest.

Silva, however, told Kodao that the guns and explosives were “planted”.

“PILC expects the CIDG-NCR to implement the release soonest possible, in respect of due process and presumption of innocence of all detained, most especially the wrongfully-accused,” Pastores said.

The CIDG, however, still has to abide by the resolution and release the three.

In an Inquirer report, PILC’s Atty. Kristina Conti denied that Silva is part of any destabilization plot against President Rodrigo Duterte, such as the so-called Red October plot the military described by the military.

“This story is laughable but we are not amused,” Conti said.

Conti said the Calderon, Atadero and Legaspi were consulting with Silva who is a leading member of the NDFP’s Reciprocal Working Committee on Social and Economic Reforms in its peace process with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines.

Facing multiple murder charges for an alleged massacre in Inopacan, Leyte, Silva was released in August 2016 to enable his participation in the first formal talks between the GRP and the NDFP in Oslo, Norway.

His temporary bail was suspended last January, however, after President Duterte cancelled the peace talks. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Inquest proceeding of Adel Silva and company

National Democratic Front of the Philippines consultant and company faced inquest proceedings at Sta Cruz, Laguna Tuesday afternoon following their arrest by police and military personnel Monday afternoon.

According to the Philippine National Police’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, Silva and company had with them two handguns, three grenades, an improvised claymore mine and assorted ammunition when accosted.

Silva, however, denied the charge, saying these were planted by the police.

A leading member of the NDFP’s Reciprocal Working Committee on Social and Economic Reforms, Silva is supposedly immune from surveillance, threats, harassment and arrest under the GRP-NDFP Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity and Safety Guarantees. # (Report by Joseph Cuevas)

Silva says guns and explosives ‘planted’ by police

Detained National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) consultant Adelberto Silva said the guns and explosives the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) allege were seized from them were “planted”.

Charged with illegal possession of firearms in an inquest proceeding in Sta. Cruz, Laguna late Tuesday afternoon, October 16, Silva and companions Edisel Legaspi, Hedda Calderon, Ireneo Atadero and their hired driver said the two .45 caliber handguns, three hand grenades, an improvised claymore mine and bullets presented by the police and military were “suddenly found inside their car” when they were accosted in the afternoon of October 14 in Barangay Pagsawitan in Sta. Cruz.

Silva and the others also refused to sign documents that said the items were seized from them.

Silva’s lawyers from the Public Interest Law Center said Sta. Cruz prosecutor Ma. Victoria Dado ordered the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group to produce today the result of physical and chemical examinations from Camp Crame of the supposed firearms and explosives seized from Silva and company.

According to the PILC lawyers, Silva and his companions were arrested when their car was blocked by five private vehicles at around twelve noon last October 15.

At gunpoint, the five were ordered to alight from their car and lay down on the ground. After several minutes, the police and the military declared they found the guns and explosives inside the car.

Silva said in an interview that his arrest was a clear violation of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees as well as the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the NDFP.

Silva has actively participated in the peace negotiations between the two parties since August 2016.

Silva also denounced the AFP and PNP’s Inter-Agency Committee on Legal Action (IACLA) he said was revived to put a veneer of legality to the government’s intensified attacks and crackdowns against peace negotiators and activists.

Human rights group Karapatan earlier described IACLA as the new version of the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo-era Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG) that UN special rapporteur Philip Alston recommended abolished in 2007. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDFP welcomes House resolution urging Duterte to resume talks

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines welcomed a resolution by a special committee of the House of Representatives urging the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) to resume its peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

In a statement, NDFP chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili said the resolution is a positive move by the committee members that contributes to calls of various other sectors and groups to continue the peace negotiations.

The Special Committee on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity chaired by Tawi-Tawi Representative Ruby Sahali passed the resolution Wednesday, September 12, urging the resumption of the peace talks terminated by Duterte in November 2017.

“It is highly imperative that Congress hears and echoes the Filipino people’s desire for the resumption of the peace negotiations and for the GRP and NDF to forge substantive agreements that will resolve the root causes of the nearly five-decade old armed conflict,” the resolutions reads.

“It is the cause for a just and lasting peace itself that is the very compelling reason to continue the peace negotiations,” the resolution, co-authored by Sahali and Reps. Jesus Nonato Sacdalan, Lourdes Acosta, Leopoldo Bataoil, Deogracias Victor Savellano, Lawrence Fortun, Rodante Marcoleta, adds.

The resolution further states that continuing the peace talks would benefit the Filipino people, most of whom are poor peasants and workers, as the agreement on agrarian reform and national industrialization may address their issues and concerns and help provide relief for their economic hardships.

“We hope this welcome move by the House Special Committee can encourage President Duterte to go back to the negotiating table and work towards a just and lasting peace,” Agcaoili said.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Jesus Dureza for his part thanked the Committee, adding the GRP has not totally terminated the talks.

“We know very well that the President had already cancelled the peace negotiations, but he had said the table for the door for resumption is still wide open. We did not totally shut this,” Dureza was quoted as saying by the House of Representatives Press and Public Affairs Bureau.

Open and without preconditions

In his statement, Agcaoili said the NDFP said it is always open to resumption of peace negotiations but in accordance with all signed agreements with the GRP and without preconditions.

He said the agreements include The Hague Joint Declaration, the Joint Agreement on Security and Immunity Guarantee, and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.

Agcaoili added that when Duterte unilaterally terminated the peace talks, significant advancements in the negotiations have already been made, such as tentative agreements on the sections of agrarian reform and rural development and national industrialization and economic development of the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER), coordinated unilateral ceasefire, and amnesty of all political prisoners listed by the NDFP.

“These agreements had been formulated and initialed by representatives of the GRP and NDFP during the monthly informal or back channel talks from March to June 2018 and were subject to finalization in the aborted fifth round of formal talks [last] June 28,” Agcaoili said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDFP admonishes GRP on arrest of injured NPA leader, preemptive announcements

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) negotiating panel admonished the Rodrigo Duterte government on the arrest of New People’s Army (NPA) leader Elizalde Cañete while still recuperating from an 11-hour brain surgery in Bukidnon Province.

The NDFP said it views with great concern the arrest, saying the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) is under obligations to uphold their Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) under which hors de combat like Cañete should be afforded safeguards as regards to health, among other rights.

READ: Arrest try of injured Red commander humanitarian law violation, NPA says

The group issued a statement following reports that Cañete’s kin as well as human rights paralegals are being barred from visiting him at Don Carlos Memorial Hospital in Kitaotao Town where he is confined.

Human rights group Karapatan-Southern Mindanao Region said Cañete’s relatives were also harassed by military intelligence agents under the 88th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army.

Karapatan SMR also said that hospital nurses and medical attendants were told by high-ranking officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) Cañete has been issued a warrant of arrest and is prevented from receiving relatives unless allowed by military and police authorities.

The group added Cañete’s family and paralegals are uncertain of Cañete’s health status as he is guarded heavily by combined elements of the PNP and AFP.

“We admonish the GRP to honor its commitments under CARHRIHL. Likewise, we warn the GRP that any harm done to Cañete can have adverse consequences to the efforts of both sides to resume the peace negotiations,” NDFP chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili said in a statement.

Agcaoili added AFP and PNP’s disregard of Cañete’s rights can jeopardize the back-channel talks for making preparations for the resumption of the stalled peace talks that have already reached an advanced stage.

Backchannel

Earlier, the Communist Party of the Philippines also admonished the GRP for violating its agreement with the NDFP that unilateral statements will not be issued prior to actual agreements in the ongoing series of backchannel talks.

While saying it is looking forward to positive resolutions, the CPP said officials of the Duterte government should be more circumspect in issuing public statements or comments so as not to preempt the outcome of the informal talks and efforts to revive formal negotiations.

Earlier, The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process said in a statement issued on Tuesday said that “[e]fforts to resume peace negotiations with the CPP/NPA/NDF are underway, with informal back-channel talks now taking place in Europe.”

OPAPP also announced it received positive results from the backchannel talks in Europe, the statement said.

The CPP however urged the media and the public to await official statements on the outcome of informal talks between representatives of the NDFP and the GRP.

NDFP chief political consultant Jose Ma. Sison echoed CPP’s statement, saying any announcement or statement on the ongoing backchannel talks must be co-signed and jointly issued by the GRP and the NDFP.

“The point is to avoid misundertandings and preemption of the outcome by any side at the expense of the other,” Sison told Kodao.

Sison added there is a strong trend towards resumption of formal talks within June, based on the fact that the back channelers are determined to put together a package of agreements on ceasefire, amnesty and release of all political prisoners.

He added that the signing of the Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ARRD) as well as National Industrialization and Economic Development (NIED) sections of the prospective social and economic reform agreement CASER may also constitute an Interim Peace Agreement.

“Bilateral teams are poised to finalize the common drafts of the ARRD and NIED for submission to the Reciprocal Working Committees on Social and Economic Reforms,” Sison said.

Sison added that one more round of back channel talks will wrap up everything for the resumption of formal talks. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Complain through proper channels, NDFP tells Dureza

The chief peace negotiator of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) advised presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza to course any complaints about alleged rebel atrocities through the proper channels instead of using these as a “scapegoat” for difficulties in resuming stalled negotiations.

Dureza on Monday lashed at the New People’s Army for the “senseless destruction” over the weekend of heavy equipment used in infrastructure projects in Davao City, saying these “unnecessarily squanders whatever gains we have been quietly getting lately in our common efforts” with the rebels to return to the negotiating table.

Reacting to Dureza’s statement, NDFP peace panel chairman Fidel Agcaoili said: “What about the continuing killings of NPA fighters, even those unarmed and undergoing medical treatment like Ka Bendoy and his companion, and the continuing arrests, detention, threats and harassment of open legal activists and even UN rapporteurs, and the terror attacks against communities, occupation of schools and public places like health centers that have led to forcible displacements of tens of thousands of residents?”

Ka Bendoy is Bicol rebel leader Alfredo Merilos who was killed along with a civilian, Liz Ocampo, in what the military claimed was a shootout in Naga City, Camarines Sur on March 15.

However, the rebels maintain that Merilos, who was seeking medical treatment, and Ocampo were summarily executed.

As for the complaint raised by Dureza, Agcaoili said “there is a mechanism for addressing the occurrence of such incidents — the Joint Monitoring Committee under the CARHRIHL (Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law).”

“The (government) should bring their alleged complaints there, just as the NDFP does,” Agcaoili said.

He added that Dureza’s “attitude shows a lack of interest and sincerity in searching for the appropriate solutions in order to carry out negotiations that would forge agreements that would bring about basic social, economic and political reforms and lay the foundation for a just and lasting peace in the country.”

Although President Rodrigo Duterte began his term by resuming peace negotiations with the rebels, the talks broke down as both sides accused each other of violating their separately declared ceasefires.

In November last year, he issued Proclamation 360 formally terminating the talks.

Since then, the government has also moved to have the Communist Party of the Philippines and NPA proscribed as terrorist organizations.

However, the Department of Justice petition filed in court triggered controversy by including a list of more than 600 individuals described as “terrorists,” among them UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, a Kankana-ey, and several other indigenous peoples’ and human rights advocates.

Recently, a number of lawmakers also urged government to resume talks with the rebels. #

 

Uphold CARHRIHL: Creating the atmosphere for a just peace

Peace advocates commemorated the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines in a forum at St. Scholastica’s College in Manila last March 10.

The advocates, in the presence of hundreds of SSC students, called on GRP President Rodrigo Duterte to respect the human rights agreement and resume the peace process with the NDFP.

“At this time, when the Duterte administration appears focused on moves like pulling out of the International Criminal Court and declaring more than 600 persons as terrorists under the Human Security Act, we urge President Rodrigo R. Duterte to instead focus the attention of his government on faithful adherence to the principles of human rights and international humanitarian law,” the advocates said in a statement. (Editing by M. Montajes)