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Itanong Mo Kay Prof: Masbate Incident at CARHRIHL

Panayam kay Prof. Jose Maria Sison ng Kodao Productions, sa pamamagitan ni Prof. Sarah Raymundo, hinggil sa insidente sa Masbate at ang bisa ng CARHRIHL.

IMKP: MASBATE INCIDENT AT CARHRIHL
June 22, 2021

Sarah: Magandang araw sa lahat ng ating mga tagapakinig, nagbabalik ang Itanong Mo Kay Prof, kasama natin ang Chair Emeritus ng International League of Peoples’ Struggle at NDFP Chief Political Consultant na si Prop. Jose Maria Sison. Magandang araw, Prof Sison, at maraming salamat sa pagkakataong makapanayam kayong muli para sa isang napakahalagang usapin na may kinalaman sa kondukta ng pakikibakang armado ng rebolusyonaryong hukbo sa Pilipinas ang NPA, paritukular ang nangyari sa Masbate.

JMS: Maalab na makabayang pagbati sa iyo Prop. Raymundo, sa Kodao at sa lahat ng ating tagapakinig.

Sarah: Sa ngalan ng Itanong Mo Kay Prof, nagpapaabot po ako ng taos-pusong pakikiramay sa pamilya ng mga nasawi nating kababayan at nakikiisa po ang aming programa sa pakikidalamhati sa ating mga kababayan sa trahedyang ito.

Sa panayam na ito, sisikapin nating makuha ang suri at ilang resolusyon ng NDFP batay sa mga naaangkop na mga dokumentong may lokal at internasyonal na saklaw na nakatuon sa mga sirkumstansya ng gerang sibil są mga bansang tulad ng Pilipinas kung saan may pwersang nagsusulong ng rebolusyonaryong pakikibaka para sa pambansang paglaya.

Halina at alamin natin ang kahalagahan ng Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC), ang Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CAHRIHL), ang The Hague Declaration, at ng Ottawa Treaty. At kung bakit Usaping Kapayapaan ang pinanawagan ng mga taong-simbahan at iba pang grupo na nagtatanggol sa karapatang pantao, matapos maisapubliko ng insidente na hindi naman itinanggi kundi agad namang inako ng CPP-NPA. Bilang founding Chair ng CPP, ano kaya ang pagtingin ni Prop. Sison sa isyung ito?


Mga Tanong:

1. Ano ang masasabi nyo Prof Sison sa nangyari sa Masbate na kung saan ay may dalawang sibilyan na namatay dahil sa land mines na ginawa ng mga NPA? Meron na po bang resulta ang imbistigasyon ng CPP/NPA/NDF hinggil dito?

JMS: Isang trahedya na mga sibilyang magpinsan ng pamilyang  Absalon ay nasawi at isa pa ay  nasugatan dahil sa pagkakamaling pinasabog sa kanila ang command-detonated land mines.

Anuman ang klase ng sandata ay maling gamitin laban sa mga sibilyan. Ito ay mahigpit ng patakaran ng CPP, NPA, NDFP at rebolusyonaryong gobyerno ng bayan.

Gumawa na ng kagyat na pagsisiyasat ang partikular na kommand ng NPA sa Masbate na may kinalaman sa partikular na yunit at ilang indibidwal na may pananagutan sa malungkot na pangyayari. Tinanggap ng naturang komand na may pagkakamali.

 Pero gusto pa rin ng pinakamataas na organo ng NDFP na may mas malalim pang imbestigasyon para magkaroon ng batayan para litisin ang mga akusado sa court martial ng NPA o sa hukumang bayan ng rebolusyonaryong gobyerno ng bayan.

2. Maaari nyo po bang maipaliwanag Prof Sison kung meron po bang nilabag ang mga NPA sa land mines na kanilang isinagawa sa Masbate? Ano po ba ang implikasyon nito sa International Humanitarian Law?

JMS: Walang nilabag ng kabuaan ng NPA. Ang lumabag ay partikular na yunit ng NPA o iilang indibidwal na nagpaputok ng land mines. Ang mismong command-detonated land mines ay hindi ipinagbabawal ng Ottawa Treaty. Pero krimen o kamalian ang paggamit ng anumang sandata laban sa mga inosenteng sibilyan.

Sabi ng binanggit kong Masbate command ng NPA na command-detonated na land mines ang ginamit. Sa tamang paggamit ng ganitong land mines sa armadong kaaway ng NPA, hindi ipinagbabawal ng Ottawa Treaty at ng International Humanitarian Law.

Ang maliwanag na ipinagbabawal ng Ottawa Treaty ay yong land mines na sumasabog dahil sa presensya, presyur o kontak ng biktima. Ipinagbabawal ito dahil sa indiscriminate ang nabibiktima.

Sang-ayon at sumusunod ang CPP, NPA, NDFP at rebolusyonayong gobyerno ng bayan sa Ottawa Treaty. Patakaran ng buong kilusang rebolusyonaryo na bawal ang land mines na hindi command-detonated.

3. Hinggil po sa land mines, Prof Sison, maaari nyo po bang maibahagi ano po bang klase ng land mines ang tinatanggap sa International Humanitarian Law (IHL) sa mga lugar na may gera. Pinahihintulutan po ba talaga sa IHL ang pagtatanim ng bomba?

JMS: Sa International Humanitarian Law, ang Ottawa Treaty ang pinaka- partikular na instrumentong legal na nagsasabi kung anong klaseng land mines ang ipinagbabawal.

Ipinagbabawal nang kategorikal at pauli-ulit sa tratadong ito na bawal ang land mines na puputok dahil lamang sa presenya, presyur o kontak ng kahit sinong tao, inosenteng sibilyan o armadong kaaway ng NPA sa kasalukuyang gera sibil sa Pilipinas. Hindi ipinagbabawal ang command-detonated land mines.

4. Ano po ang inyong masasabi sa kahilingan ng gubyerno sa pamamagitan ni DILG Sec Eduardo Año na isurender sa kanila ang mga NPA na nagkasala sa naganap na pagsabog sa Masbate?

JMS: Alinsunod sa International Humanitarian Law at Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, ang NDFP ang may hurisdiksyon sa anumang paratang laban sa NPA at mga yunit nito at ang GRP naman ang may hurisdiksyon sa mga paratang laban sa AFP, PNP, paramilitar at mga yunit nito.

Ang NDFP at GRP ay mga co-belligerents sa isang gera sibil o armed conflict na saklaw ng Geneva Conventions. Hindi pwedeng utusan ng GRP ang NDFP na isurender sa GRP ang yunit ng NPA na gumawa ng pagkakamali sa Masbate.

Ang GRP ay hindi rin puedeng utusan ng NDFP na isurender sa kanya ang mga akusado sa higit ng 6000 paratang laban sa AFP at PNP na sometido sa Joint Monitoring Committee sa ilalim ng CARHRIHL.

Hindi ring pwedeng utusan ng NDFP ang GRP na isurender sa NDFP ang mga armadong tauhan ng GRP na pumaslang ng napakaraming NDFP peace consultant. Tinutukoy ang pagpaslang kina Randy Felix Malayao, Randall Echanis, Julius Giron, mag-asawang Cabanatan, mag-asawang Topacio, Reynaldo Bocala at iba pa.

May kanya-kanyang sistema ng gobyerno at batas ang GRP at NDFP. Sira-ulo ang mga opisyal at ahensya ng reaksyonaryong gobyerno na gustong magmando sa NDFP na isuko sa GRP ang mga akusado sa insidente ng command-detonated land mines sa Masbate.

5. Ang Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law o mas kilala sa tawag na CARHRIHL ay isang kasunduan na pinirmahan ng gubyerno ng Pilipinas at ng National Democratic Front of the Philippines noong 1998. Ayon sa AFP hindi na ito epektibo dahil wala ng negosasyon sa pagitan ng GRP at NDFP, at matagal na ring nilusaw ang Joint Monitoring Committee o JMC. Ano po amg inyong opinyon hinggil dito Prof Sison? May halaga pa po ba ang CARHRIHL sa panahon ngayon?

JMS: Umiiral pa ang CARHRIHIL dahil sa maraming probisyon nito ay hango sa international law sa human rights at humanitarian conduct at nasa balangkas ng international law na tinanggap ng GRP Constitution. Umiiral at bukas din ang opisina ng NDFP-nominated section ng JMC sa Cubao at kinikilala at sinusuportahan pa ng Royal Norwegian Government.

Totoo na ang GRP ay nagsara ng kanyang opisina sa JMC. Pero hindi ibig sabihin nito na malayang gumawa ng mga krimen ang GRP sa mga pwersa at tauhan ng NDFP. Hindi rin ibig sabihin na  nawalan na  ng hurisdiksyon ng NDFP sa mga pwersang nasa panig niya.

Subukan ng GRP na magpadala ng arresting yunit nila sa erya ng NPA sa Masbate at tingnan natin kung ano ang mangyayari. Kung gawin ng GRP ang panghihimasok, hwag magulat kung lalabanan sila ng NPA.

6. Sa panghuli, Prof Sison, ano po ang inyong panawagan sa ating mga kababayan?

JMS: Hanggang ngayon ipinagmamatigas at ipinagmamalaki ni Duterte na tinapos at pinatay na niya ang peace negotiations at gusto niya ang gera total at pakana niyang idahilan ang armadong rebolusyon para magpataw ng pasistang diktadura sa Pilipinas.

Napakalimitado na ang panahon na umasa ang sinuman na magbabago ang patakaran ni Duterte. Nasa huling taon na ang halimaw sa kanyang legal term of office.

Mas mabuting palakasin ang kilusan ng mga mamamayan para patalsikin sa poder ang traidor, berdugo, mandaranbong at maggagantsong rehimen ni Dutere at makipagsundo sa oposisyon na itaguyod ang patakaran na buksan muli ang peace negotiations ng GRP at NDFP para lutasin ang mga problema na ugat ng gera sibil.

Magkakaroon ang makatarungan at matibay na kapayapaan kung may peace negotiations muli at gumawa ng mga komprehensibong kasunduan tungkol sa mga batayang repormang sosyal, ekonomiko at pulitikal sa balangkas ng The Hague Joint Declaration ng GRP at NDFP.

JMS: Sa pagtatapos ng ating panayam, nagpapasalamat ako kay Prop. Raymundo, sa Kodao at sa lahat ng ating tagapakinig.

Sarah: Maraming-maraming salamat po Prof. Sison para sa isang malaman at ubod ng linaw na pagpapaliwanag. Ang mga nabanggit na mga ahensya at pinagkaisahang dokumento na tunog-teknikal sa una, ngayon ay may malinaw nang hugis kaugnay ng trahedya sa Masbate at gayon na rin sa kabuuang kondukta ng armadong tunggalian sa pagitan ng GRP at CPP-NPA.

Itanggi man ng gobyernong Duterte, maging ng mga anti-komunista at iba pang mga grupo na nananawagan ng maka-isang panig na resolusyon sa trahedyang ito, hindi na maikakaila ang bisa ng mga tratado o treaty at dokumentong sumasaklaw sa kondukta ng armadong tunggalian.

Walang silbing i-etsa pwera sa diskusyon ang dual state power sa bansa, o ang realidad na may dalawang gobyerno sa Pilipinas na sangkot sa isang armadong tunggalian. Hindi ito tungkol durugan o paggapi na solusyon ni Duterte. Walang kahihinatnan ang ganyang pusisyon dahil matagal nang nalikha ang mga opsiyal at lehitimong mekanismo para resolbahin ang mga usaping dulot ng tunggaliang ito. Ang mga mekanismong ito ay hindi pumapabor sa isang panig, kundi mga mekanismong nagbubukas upang talakayin, sawatahin, resolbahan ng dalawang panig ang mga umano’y abuso ng bawat panig, mga panukala ng bawat panig upang matugunan ang ugat ng armadong tunggalian. Sa puntong ito ng armadong tunggalian sa pagitan ng GRP at CPP-NPA walang ibang mekanismo ang maaaring makatugon dito kundi ang Usapang Pangkapayapaan o Peace Talks.

Hanggang sa muli, ito po si Sarah Raymundo, guro ng Unibersidad ng Pilipinas at aktibista ng Bagong Alyansang Makabayan. Ibayong pag-iingat at pakikibaka laban sa tiraniya.

-End-

Reds say Masbate incident will be investigated internally

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines pointed out that the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human rights and International Humanitarian Law established the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) as the principal mechanism to monitor the implementation of its agreement with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines, under which the deaths of footballer Keith and his cousin Nolven in a bomb blast last Sunday should be investigated.

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) rejected calls by Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) agencies to surrender New People’s Army (NPA) fighters suspected to be behind the deaths of two civilians in Masbate City last Sunday.

In a statement, the NDFP said it asserts its duty to investigate the incident under its Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) with the GRP.

“Under the CARHRIHL, in conformity with their respective separate duties and responsibilities, the NDFP has sole jurisdiction over complaints against units and personnel of the (NPA), in the same way that the GRP has the sole jurisdiction over complaints against its own armed units and personnel,” it said.

NDFP’s assertion came after police and military officers dared the NPA to turn those suspected to have perpetrated the killings over to the GRP.

The Commission on Human Rights made the same demand, saying the NPA “should identify all those responsible and surrender them to the lawful authorities to face justice within the court system.”

The NDFP however pointed out that the CARHRIHL established the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) as the principal mechanism to monitor the implementation of the CARHRIHL, under which the deaths of footballer Keith and his cousin Nolven in a bomb blast should be investigated.

At present, the NDFP-nominated section is open and functioning but the GRP-nominated section had been inactive even as both the GRP and the NDFP have agreed in 2016 to reconvene the JMC to start investigating the thousands of complaints of violations filed since opening in 2004.

“The NDFP welcomes the urgings of all concerned for the necessary investigation and wishes to have the full chance to do the investigation and make the report to the GRP-NDFP (JMC) if and when convened to deal with the case,” it said.

Their own legal system

The NDFP however said the investigation of the Masbate incident should be within the NPA command structure and frameworks of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), NDFP and the People’s Democratic Government (PDG) the Communists claim to have established in areas under their control.

“The NDFP will make sure that certain questions are answered by a thoroughgoing investigation,” it said.

The group said it will seek answer to questions, such as:

1) If true, which NPA unit and personnel are involved?

2) Is there no case of the enemy committing the crime and falsely ascribing it to the NPA?, and

3) Is there no local feud involved?

“There should be no rush to judgment, presumption or insinuation to the effect that the entire revolutionary movement and entire revolutionary forces are guilty of a criminal offense, negligence or error for which certain individuals may be liable on the basis of a full and complete investigation,” it said.

Under its responsibility and direction and within PDG’s legal system, the NDFP said the investigation must be started and completed within the NPA command structure.

“[This is] to fully and completely establish the facts and prepare any appropriate charges before any procedure to prosecute and try the case before the military court of the NPA or people’s court,” it explained. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Activist groups challenge NPA to ensure justice for blast victims

They challenged the NPA conduct a thorough investigation and submit its report to the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) signed between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines.

Activist groups condemned the death of two civilians in a botched military operation by the New People’s Army (NPA) in Masbate last Sunday, June 6.

In a statement, progressive group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said the incident was a violation of the International Humanitarian Law that prohibits harm on unarmed civilians in the course of an armed conflict.

“These civilian deaths are condemnable. We extend our sincerest condolences to the families of the two victims,” Bayan said Wednesday.

Human rights group Karapatan likewise criticized the NPA unit responsible for the “deplorable and lamentable incident.”

“We take to task the CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines) and NPA for the woeful and tragic incident and expect them to make sure that it does not happen again. The parties to an armed conflict should always distinguish civilians from combatants and adhere to ‘the principles and rules which limit the use of violence in times of armed conflict,’” Karapatan said.

The group added it expects the group to live up to its promise to ensure prompt investigation and to indemnify the victims through their families.

The Makabayan Bloc of progressive parties at the House of Representatives who, like Bayan and Karapatan, are incessantly accused by government agencies to be “CPP front organizations” and “NPA recruiters and defenders” also condemned the incident.

“We condemn the military action by a unit of the NPA in Masbate City that caused their death and injuries to others for violating international humanitarian law,” Bayan Muna, Gabriela Women’s Party, ACT Teachers’ Party and the Kabataan Youth Party said.

“Mariing kinukundena ng Kabataan Partylist ang naturang aksyong militar ng NPA na humantong sa pagkamatay nina Kieth at Nolven Absalon sa Masbate. Ipinapabatid muli ng Kabataan ang taos-pusong pakikiramay sa kanilang pamilya,” the Kabataan Party in a separate statement said.

(Kabataan Party firmly condemns the NPA military action that led to the deaths of Keith and Nolven Absalon in Masbate. Kabataan sends its heartfelt condolences to their families.)

‘Rules of war violation’

Cousins Keith (21) and Nolven (40) Absalon were killed by a roadside explosion reportedly set off by a NPA unit in the area last June 6 at past six o’clock in the morning while the victims.

Nolven’s son Crisbin Daniel (16) was likewise injured.

Keith was a college football star who played with the Far Eastern University junior and senior football teams, earning most valuable player honors in high school. He was also a member of the under-19 Philippine national team.

Nolven was a chairperson of the Board of Directors of the Masbate Electric Cooperative Employees Union.

As per its practice after each military action, the NPA admitted responsibility for the incident last Tuesday.

The death of two civilians and injury of another however prompted the CPP to speak for the guerilla army it leads.

 “The entire (CPP) and (NPA) express their deep remorse over the untimely and unnecessary deaths of cousins Keith and Nolven Absalon and injury to others,” CPP information officer Marco Valbuena said.

“The entire CPP and NPA take full responsibility for the tragedy. There is no justification for the aggravation this has caused the Absalon family,” Valbuena added.

In another statement issued June 9, Valbuena said the takes cognizance of the grave sentiments and denouncement expressed by concerned quarters.

Valbuena admitted that the botched military operation appears to have violated rules of war as well as the NPA’s own policies.

“Indeed, the unfortunate incident involves a breach of international laws of war and of the internal rules of the NPA which gives the highest priority to the protection of civilians at all times,” Valbuena said.

He explained that the NPA unit and personnel responsible are under the authority of the NPA and the so-called People’s Democratic Government it has established in areas under its control.

Valbuena said that the incident is currently being “fully assessed, with the aim of avoiding such errors in the future.”

In line with the NPA’s rules, Valbuena said those found responsible can be meted out “disciplinary action or punishment” corresponding to their individual responsibilities and conduct during the incident.

‘Proper mechanism’

Bayan and Kabataan however said that while the CPP have promptly owned up to the tragedy and promised indemnification, they challenged the NPA conduct a thorough investigation and submit its report to the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines-Government of the Republic of the Philippines Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).

“There should be accountability in accordance with the mechanisms agreed upon by both parties to the armed conflict…The JMC should be convened as a mechanism for the aggrieved parties who wish to file a complaint against erring armed units,” Bayan said.

Makabayan has urged the Absalon family to file a complaint against those responsible to the JMC.

“Marapat lamang na paganahin ang malinaw na patakaran, tulad ng (JMC) ng CARHRIHL bilang awtoridad sa ganitong mga kaso, para matiyak ang hustisya at pananagutan,” Kabataan for its part said.

(The JMC must be activated as the proper mechanism in addressing such cases. This is to ensure justice and accountability.)

Valbuena said their groups agree to the recommendations.

“Under the CARHRIHL, we are obliged to cooperate with the NDFP Section of the (JMC) if a complaint is filed before it,” he said.

He added that the CPP and the NPA shall likewise consult pertinent provisions of the Geneva Conventions as guides to determining the proper resolutions. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Joma: It is the NDFP, not the GRP, which upholds CARHRIHL

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) said its forces have always upheld the validity of its Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP).

NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison said, “The NDFP and all the forces and the people that it represents uphold the validity of CARHRIHL and all other basic agreements from The Hague Joint Declaration of 1992 onward.”

Asked to respond to a public comment by a former GRP negotiator Rene Sarmiento, Sison said it is GRP’s political and military agents who have been insisting that the CARHRIHL and other agreements have been invalidated by President Rodrigo Duterte’s termination of the peace negotiations.

Sarmiento alleged in his reply to a question on his Facebook post Tuesday night that the Communist Party of the Philippines, the New People’s Army and the NDFP claimed they are not bound by the Agreement “because they still do not recognize the political authority of the Philippine Government and our constitutional and legal processes.”

Sarmiento’s allegation that the CPP, NPA and NDFP claim they are not bound by the CARHRIHL. He subsequently said this may be “not too precise.” (FB screenshot)

Sarmiento added the CARHRIHL is valid insofar as the Philippine Government is concerned.

“The provisions therein are found in the 1987 Constitution and international human rights instruments,” he said.

‘The reverse is true’

Sison however reminded Sarmiento it was the GRP’s past four administrations that consistently tried to either terminate or “suspend” the peace negotiations.

“But upon willingness of the GRP president to resume peace negotiations, the NDFP has always agreed upon the written reaffirmation of all the existing agreements,” Sison clarified.

“[President Joseph] Estrada was the first to do a termination. [President Gloria Macapagal] Arroyo used the term ‘suspend’. [President Benigno] Aquino practically terminated the peace negotiations but allowed backchannelers to meet the NDFP panel intermittently. Duterte categorically terminated the peace negotiations with Proclamation 360 on November 23, 2017 soon after Trump told him to do so in exchange for military assistance under Operation Pacific Eagle-Philippines without US Congress oversight related to human rights,” he said.

A legal consultant of the Negotiating Panel of the NDFP in the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations also belied Sarmiento’s claim.

“As a matter of fact, the reverse is true. It is the GRP through various pronouncements and issuances of its principal and officials of the security sector that have claimed the CARHRIHL is not binding and effective anymore,” Atty. Edre Olalia said.

“This is contrary to the nature, purpose and character of the CARHRIHL and of its various provisions as a bilateral binding agreement between the Parties that cannot be unilaterally abrogated validly at the sole will of one Party. This is distinct from the respective positions of both Parties that they do not recognize much less are bound by the other Party’s legal and constitutional framework or processes,” he explained.

‘Not to precise’

Asked to cite instances when the NDFP officially and publicly repudiated the CARHRIHL that led him to such a comment, Sarmiento, however, backtracked.

“Let me check the records of our talks on the CARHRIHL and our discussions thereon. [I] may have—because of many, many years after the signing of the Agreement—given a reply (that is) not too precise,” he told Kodao.

Signed in The Hague, The Netherlands under the Fidel Ramos administration of the GRP, the CARHRIHL turns 23 years old next Tuesday, March 16.

GRP President Estrada and NDFP chairperson Mariano Orosa both approved the agreement.

Current GRP President Duterte however ordered the police and military last Friday to “ignore human rights” in the government’s anti-insurgency operations.

Domestic and international critics said Duterte’s orders consequently led to the massacre of nine Southern Tagalog civilians last Sunday, March 7. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDFP: After successful ceasefire, time to release peace consultants

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) seeks the release of its detained peace consultants and staff as a goodwill measure to boost chances of peace talks resumption this month. 

Along with the success of the ongoing ceasefire between the Rodrigo Duterte administration and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison said it is widely expected that the government ought to release consultants who are under detention.

“The release of the political prisoners on humanitarian grounds will ensure the success of the formal meeting to resume the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations within January,” Sison said.

He said the consultants are being detained in violation of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees that prohibits harassment, arrest and detention against personnel of both the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the NDFP negotiating panels.

Long-time NDFP peace consultants Vicente Ladlad, Adelberto Silva, Renante Gamara, Rey Claro Casambre, Frank Fernandez, Cleofe Lagtapon, Esterlita Suaybaguio, and Leopoldo Caloza as well as NDFP panel staff Alex and Winona Birondo were arrested in succession after negotiations broke down in November 2017. 

All had been similarly charged with illegal possession of firearms, ammunition, and explosives.

Consultant Rafael Baylosis was the first to be arrested in January 2018 but was released by the Quezon City Regional Trial Court a year later due to lack of evidence.

Consultants Eduardo Sarmiento and Ferdinand Castillo were arrested by previous administrations.

NDFP consultant Lora T. Manipis has been reported missing since February 24, 2018, last seen with her husband Jeruel B. Domingo in Kidapawan City.

Manipis joined other missing NDFP consultants believed abducted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, such as Leo Velasco, Rogelio Calubad, Prudencio Calubid, NDFP staff members Philip Limjoco, Leopoldo Ancheta, and Federico Intise. 

Meanwhile, youngest NDFP consultant Randy Felix P. Malayao was assassinated in Aritao, Nueva Vizcaya by still unidentified gunmen in January 2019. Another peace consultant, Sotero Llamas was killed in Tabaco, Albay in May 2006. 

Sison said Duterte should also immediately release sick and elderly political prisoners on humanitarian grounds.

“As regards the rest of the political prisoners, they can look forward to the general amnesty that is already slated for proclamation upon the approval of the Interim Peace Agreement (IPA),” Sison said.

Reaffirming past agreements

Sison said the formal meeting to resume the peace negotiations has the task of reaffirming all previous joint agreements since The Hague Joint Declaration of 1992 and setting the agenda for negotiating and approving the Interim Peace Agreement 

The IPA has three components: 1. the general amnesty and release of all political prisoners; 2. approval of the articles of CASER (Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms) on land reform and national industrialization; and 3. coordinated unilateral ceasefires, Sison said.

“The CASER will benefit the entire Filipino people, including families of adherents to the GRP and NDFP, through land reform and the generation of jobs under the program of national industrialization. These provide the economic and social substance for a just peace,” Sison said.

He added that a resumption of formal negotiations shall effectively supersede all Duterte issuance that terminated and prevented peace negotiations since November 2017. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDFP expects Bello to remain as GRP chief negotiator

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) expects labor secretary Silvestre Bello III to continue his role as chief government negotiator if ongoing efforts to resume formal talks succeed.

Owing to his “experience” and “competence”, NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison said they expect Bello to remain as chief negotiator once President Rodrigo Duterte formally reconstitutes the Government of the Philippines (GRP) Negotiating Panel.

“I expect Secretary Bello to remain the head of the GRP panel because of his accumulated experience in negotiating with the NDFP and his well-known success in forging the CARHRIHL (Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law) with the NDFP,” Sison told Kodao in an online interview.

The most veteran of all government negotiators with the NDFP, Bello served in various capacities in six GRP administrations, both in official and during backchannel and “unofficial” meetings.

Bello was the chairperson of the GRP Reciprocal Working Committee on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law that crafted with its NDFP counterpart the CARHRIHL. It was signed in March 16, 1998 in The Hague, The Netherlands.

“He has the legal expertise and high sense of diplomacy. He is competent at standing for the GRP and at the same time knows how to come to terms with the NDFP because he understands the patriotic and progressive viewpoint of the NDFP, unlike the militarists who merely wish to destroy or make the revolutionary movement capitulate,” Sison added.

Most recently, Bello and other government emissaries successfully negotiated a reciprocal unilateral ceasefire with the NDFP that took effect last December 26 as a goodwill measure for the possible resumption of peace talks between the two parties this month.

The last GRP panel, composed of Bello, former agrarian reform secretary Hernani Braganza and lawyers Angela Libraro-Trinidad, Antonio Arellano and Rene Sarmiento, was dissolved last March 18.

Duterte, however, ordered the government panel’s reconstitution and named executive secretary Salvador Medialdea as a new member, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo announced last December 22.

Bello told reporters in a gathering last December 27 that he expects to continue his role as GRP panel chairperson.

Siguro naman,” he said. (It is probable.)

Bello revealed that he is scheduled to fly back to The Netherlands next week to meet with NDFP representatives.

“We will meet on January 6 for a possible schedule to agree on an interim peace agreement,” Bello said. 

A draft interim peace agreement, initialed by both parties and witnessed by the Royal Norwegian Government as Third Party Facilitator, included agrarian reform and national industrialization components of the prospective social and economic reforms agreement, amnesty proclamation for all NDFP-listed political prisoners, and coordinated unilateral ceasefires. 

The next scheduled meeting is an “informal talk” aimed as preparatory to a formal meeting for the resumption of formal peace negotiations based on the draft interim peace agreement, sources to the negotiations said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva) 

GRP, NDFP propose reciprocal unilateral ceasefires over the holidays

SAN VICENTE, Palawan–National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) representatives in Utrecht, The Netherlands have agreed to recommend the issuance of reciprocal unilateral ceasefires over the holidays.

A joint statement sent to Kodao by NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison says the proposed ceasefire declarations, if approved by NDFP Chairperson Mariano Orosa and GRP President Rodrigo Duterte, would be effective from midnight of December 23 to January 7.

“The ceasefires are intended to generate a positive environment conducive to the holding of informal talks preparatory to the formal meeting to resume the peace negotiations,” the statement, signed last Saturday, December 21, reads.

“These shall be measures of goodwill and confidence building during the traditional celebrations of Christmas and New Year holidays,” it added.

Sison also posted photos of the informal talks in The Netherlands, the second since Duterte announced last December 5 that he has sent labor Secretary Silvestre Bello to Europe to try to reopen the stalled formal peace negotiations with the NDFP.

Only former agrarian reform secretary Hernani Braganza and his assistant Rhoda Ignacio were present in the December 21 meeting for the GRP however.

Saturday’s joint statement appears to be initialed in behalf of Bello and signed by Braganza in behalf of the GRP while negotiating panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili and senior adviser Luis Jalandoni signed in behalf of the NDFP.

Royal Norwegian Government’s Kristina Lie Revheim witnessed the document in her capacity as Third Party Facilitator.

The document adds that the parties shall separately issue the corresponding ceasefire orders.

“During the ceasefire period, the respective armed units and personnel of the Parties shall cease and desist from carrying out offensive military operations against the other,” the statement explains. # (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)

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)