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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)

NDFP names 5 Cabinet officials as worst peace talks foes

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) accused high-ranking government and military officials of opposing efforts to revive peace negotiations and launching actions that violated the recently concluded ceasefire agreement between the Communist Party of the Philippines and the Manila government.

NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison named Duterte’s national security adviser Hermogenes Esperon, national defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana, interior and local government secretary Eduardo Año, presidential adviser on the peace process chairperson Carlito Galvez and new Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff Felimon Santos of opposing efforts to revive the peace process.

“Either Duterte has been pretending to be for peace negotiations all along or he fails as commander-in-chief to put in line his military subordinates for the resumption of the peace negotiations,” Sison said.

Sison said Duterte’s five subordinates made the following declarations to disobey the President’s public declarations on his desire to resume peace negotiations with the NDFP:

1. They can destroy the CPP and NPA before the end of the Duterte regime despite the failure of all previous regimes to destroy the people’s revolutionary movement and the repeated failure of the current Duterte regime to comply with its deadlines for destroying said movement.

2. They oppose peace negotiations in a neutral venue abroad but favor negotiations for the surrender of the CPP, the NPA and entire revolutionary movement in a Philippine venue under the control and manipulation of the regime and its armed minions.

3. They can stage fake localized peace talks despite the glaring fact that all organs of the CPP and commands of the NPA at all levels have publicly rejected and condemned such fakery.

4. They are happy with and enjoy the escalating conditions of oppression and exploitation under the semicolonial and semifeudal ruling system of big compradors, landlords and corrupt bureaucrats who are servile to the imperialist powers, their banks and monopoly firms.

5. They shun social, economic and political reforms to realize full independence, democracy, social justice and all-round development and they are most vehemently against genuine land reform and national industrialization.

“[T]he Filipino people should not be surprised if the GRP-NDFP will not be resumed in the twilight years of the Duterte regime,” Sison said.

Sison said that even before the end of the reciprocal unilateral ceasefire agreement last January 7, Duterte’s military and police subordinates “have been calling for war and blood and have been making offensive deployments against the Filipino people and revolutionary forces throughout the archipelago.”

The NDFP in Negros island, one of three rebel strongholds Duterte ordered to be flooded with military forces last year, reported “unabated military operations” during the two-week holiday truce.

Military movements

In a statement Wednesday, January 8, a day after the ceasefire agreement concluded, Ka Bayani Obrero, NDF-Negros spokesperson, said they received the following reports of AFP combat operations throughout the island from the Apolinario Gatmaitan Command of the New People’s Army (AGC-NPA):

1. December 24, 2019 – 1 military truck full of 62nd Infantry Battalion (IB) troops descended on Brgy. Mansablay, Isabela, Negros Occidental; 

2. December 27, 2019 – 21 soldiers of the 62nd IB descended on Sitio Kuyawyaw, Brgy. Inolingan, Moises Padilla, Negros Occidental; 

3. December 27, 2019 – 21 soldiers of the 62nd IB descended on Sitios Oway-oway and Binataan, Brgy. Quinten Remo, Moises Padilla, Negros Occidental; 

4. December 27, 2019 – 30 soldiers of the 62nd IB descended on Sitio Tibobong, Brgy. Quinten Remo, Moises Padilla, Negros Occidental; 

5. December 28, 2019 – 33 soldiers of the 62nd IB descended on Sitio Tiyos, Brgy. Quinten Remo, Moises Padilla, Negros Occidental; 

6. December 30, 2019 – Undetermined number of 62nd IB soldiers descended on Sitio Saisi, Brgy. Tan-awan, Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental; 

7. December 31, 2019 – 62nd IB soldiers also descended on Sitio Bayi, Sitio Cande-is and Sitio Ulitaw, Brgy. Buenavista, Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental; 

8. December 31, 2019 – 20 soldiers of the 79th IB led by a certain Maj. Tupaz descended on Sitio Tanquinto and Hacienda Amparo, Brgy. Mabini, Escalante City, Negros Occidental; 

9. January 1-3, 2020 – 62nd IB soldiers descended on Sitio Pisok, Brgy. Buenavista, Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental; 

10. January 3, 2020 – 14 soldiers of the 79th IB descended on Sitio Brodjen, Brgy. Malasibog, Escalante City, Negros Occidental, and;

11. January 6, 2020 – 40 soldiers of the 79th IB descended on Brgy. Paitan, Escalante City, Negros Occidental.

The NDF-Negros also reported troop movements and operations by the 11th IB under the 302nd Brigade and the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Brgy. Talalac in Sta. Catalina and other municipalities in the Third Congressional District of Negros Oriental.

 “[These] manifest the dubious sincerity of the Duterte regime regarding peace talks resumptions,” Obrero said.

Obrero said the AFP and the PNP implemented combat operations in peasant communities in the mountainous areas “to persistently spread terror, threats, and harm on the Negrosanons.” 

“This simply shows that Duterte has no control over his bloodthirsty and warmongering dogs in the military and police,” AGC-NPA spokesperson Ka Juanito Magbanua said.

Magbanua said all NPA guerrilla fronts in Negros successfully celebrated the CPP’s 51st founding anniversary last December 26. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Ceasefire ends ‘successfully’, but no extension

The reciprocal unilateral ceasefire agreement between the government and the communist rebels ended without further incident at midnight last night, but Jose Maria Sison thinks there is no reason to extend the truce at this point.

Sison, National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) chief political consultant, expressed disappointment that despite the ceasefire’s success, the Rodrigo Duterte government did not release a single political prisoner in the last two weeks to further bolster chances of resuming formal peace negotiations between the parties.

“There is no reason for the NDFP to recommend to the CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines) the extension of the ceasefire, especially because GRP did not release a single political prisoner who is sickly, elderly or NDFP consultant in the entire period of the ceasefire agreement,” Sison told Kodao in an online interview.

Sison said the holiday truce between the CPP and the government had been successful nationwide “despite some two incidents of self-defense by the New People’s Army (NPA) before the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) submitted its SOMO (Suspension of Military Operations) and SOPO (Suspension of Police Operations) to the NDFP belatedly on December 26.”

Sison was referring to the separate ambuscades undertaken by the NPA in Camarines Norte and Iloilo provinces that killed one police officer and injured several others on the morning of December 23 on the day the ceasefire agreement was supposed to take effect.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) admitted its troops were on combat operations on both occasions but claimed they were in the process of pulling out when waylaid by the communist guerrillas.

On the other hand, government soldiers belonging to the 401st Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army “swarmed” a village in Bacuag, Surigao del Sur last December 30, causing the NPA to cancel its celebration of the CPP’s 51st founding anniversary and mass wedding of its members.

Sison said the troop movement was offensive, provocative to the NPA, disturbing to the community and was, therefore, a violation of the ceasefire.

Despite the general success of the nearly two-week truce, however, Sison revealed there is no further agreement between the two parties to extend the ceasefire agreement.

“Instead, what the NDFP is getting from the GRP side are the warmongering statements of AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and PNP officials announcing offensives and insisting on fake localized peace talks staged by AFP military officers for racketeering,” Sison said.

Sison was referring to the 9th Infantry Division-Philippine Army’s claim that 306 alleged NPA members surrendered last December 26 on the occasion of the CPP’s 51st founding anniversary that immediately backfired when netizens pointed out that photographs released by the Philippine Army purportedly showing the surrenderers were faked.

The AFP later admitted to the fakery.

Sources in the backchannel talks between government representatives and the NDFP said labor secretary Silvestre Bello III is expected in The Netherlands in the third week of the month for another “informal talk” aimed as preparatory to a formal meeting for the resumption of formal peace negotiations. # (Raymund B. Villanueva) 

Fascism and capitalism and the US impending war with Iran

By Prof. Edberto M. Villegas, PhD

(The following article is the conclusion of a two-part opinion piece, the first discussing Trump’s fascistic tendencies and the ambitions of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to become a tin-pot-dictator. The author wrote “Global Finance Capital and the Philippine Financial System” and other political economy books and articles.)

If United States of America President Donald J. Trump were acquitted of his impeachment charges by the US Senate and wins in the election this coming November 2020, he will become more brazen in his fascistic tendencies like discriminating and persecuting non-whites, particularly immigrants, and strengthening the US military industrial complex or American monopoly capitalism supporting him.

In truth, fascism is the hidden face of monopoly capitalism, which aims to dominate the global economy, even at the expense of destroying the world because of its threat of war and the denial of climate change by Trump’s financial backers, a significant part of the world capitalist order. It must be noted that Hitler’s and Mussolini’s fascist parties were also funded by their respective countries’ monopoly capitalists. Like fascism, monopoly capitalism is driven by unbridled greed and ambition. The competitions of monopoly capitalists worldwide may bring down the whole of humanity into economic chaos and nuclear war.

Because of the principle of the balance of powers of the three branches of government, which is more ingrained in the US political system, Trump is having difficulty in attaining unilateral rule as were easily achieved by Hitler and Mussolini since German and Italian democracies were relatively younger than that of the US. If Trump were acquitted by the US Senate with its majority belonging to his Republican Party, he can become more ambitious in his nationalism like Hitler, who after being appointed Chancellor in 1933, forthwith suspended the civil rights provisions of the democratic Weimar constitution, allowing him to incarcerate and murder his opponents and start his conquest of Europe. Trump may also venture into a nuclear war, not primarily because of his belief in the superiority of the Nordic race, but more so to profit economically in his tie-up with the US military industrial complex. The US government grants contracts to American war manufacturers to produce weapons and other means of mass destruction for US imperialist inroads into other countries, The US military industrial complex also sells planes, ships and other war materiel, for instance, to Saudi Arabia and other US clients. Saudi Arabia is the leading buyer of jet planes and other war paraphernalia in the Middle East and is the arch-rival of Iran for political hegemony in this region.

The Iranian government is currently developing international ballistic missiles (IBM) in retaliation to Trump’s threat “to obliterate” their country. It is to be noted that Trump unilaterally decided to pull out the US from the denuclearization treaty with Iran which his predecessor President Barack Obama signed with other European countries. Trump also has imposed extensive economic sanctions on Iran, aiming to starve its population and agitate them to bring down their government, of course, with the goading of US moles in Iran for the Iranian people to hold mass rallies. The US has tried the same tactics in Venezuela, inciting its people to demonstrate, even importing some thugs from neighboring Chile, but to no avail as Venezuelan Socialist President Nicolas Maduro remains securely in power amidst all these machinations of the Trump government, which has also imposed extensive economic blockades on this country.

Trump has branded the Iranian Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organization and directed the US military to assassinate in the airport of Baghdad last Jan. 3 Iran’s top general Qassem Soleimani who was known as the Number Two man in the Iranian government and considered a national hero by his people for his role in defeating ISIS in Iraq and Syria. General Soleimani was killed with 10 other Iranian and Iraqi officials who were with him when their two cars were hit by a US airstrike. Trump with the elimination of Soleimani besides profiting with the US military industrial complex from a new war with Iran, wants to divert the American people’s attention from his pending impeachment trail and win popularity again what with his falling rate of approval as shown in latest US survey polls.

Iran’s oil reserves, which is number five in the world, is another tempting target for the US oil corporations, vital members and which fuel the war planes, tanks and ships of the US military industrial complex. Remember how US oil companies together with its partners from the UK, British Petroleum and France, Total took over the rich oilfields of Iraq and Libya after the US military succeeded in ousting President Saddam Hussein in 2004 and Chairman Moamar Khadafy in 2011 from these two countries, respectively.

With his action of ordering the execution of Soleimani, which was not even approved by the US Congress, Trump and his cabal in the US MIC have placed their countrymen in serious danger of an all-out war with Iran, which has vowed to revenge the death of its revered general. Trump even tries to justify the killing of General Soleimani as a pre-emptive strike to prevent an impending attack by Iran’s paramilitary forces in Iraq against US interest in this country. This explanation has been considered by many US public officials as another big lie of Trump as there was no evidence offered by US intelligence of such an imminent attack. It is similar to President Bush Jr.’s claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction which merited the US bombing of Baghdad in 2003 and later the hanging of Saddam Husssein. Bush Jr.’s rationalization for his war in Iraq was later proven to be false by the UN itself. Trump’s assertion that the execution of Soleimani will de-escalate the potential threat from Iran against US presence in the Middle East defies logic, to say the less.

With this mixture of American imperialist ambitions, the political rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia and US arms sale to the latter in the billions of dollars, the Middle East is a tinder-box for the escalation of the US-Iran conflict into a wider war which may also involve the US allies vis-a-vis Iran’s allies.

Conclusion

Rational Americans (as well as other peoples) should be gravely concerned with the rise to unilateral power of their white bigot of a president if he wins again in the coming election of November this year. Hitler had his “A thousand years rule of the Third Reich”, Mussolini his “the re-emergence of the Roman Empire” and Trump his “Make America Great Again”. Hitler and Mussolini met ignominious ends, the former committing suicide together with his top officials and his mistress in his Berlin bunker, and Mussolini’s dead body was hanged upside down with that of his mistress at Piazzela, Loreto, in Milan to be kicked and spat upon by an enraged and deceived people. Ordinary Americans and other freedom- loving individuals may take comfort in the thought of such inglorious fates of fascistic leaders and their ilk (in the case of the US, Trump and his cabal in the US military industrial complex) in history. #

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)

CPP-GRP ceasefire successful so far, Joma acknowledges

The ongoing ceasefire between the government and the communist rebels had largely been successful, paving the way for more meetings between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) negotiators, Jose Maria Sison acknowledged.

“By and large, the two parties have complied with the ceasefire agreement and allowed it to serve as goodwill and confidence-building measure for enhancing the environment for the resumption of the GRP-NDFP negotiations,” Sison said in a statement two days before the end of the reciprocal unilateral ceasefires on Tuesday, January 7.

Sison added that since December 26, when the GRP had provided the NDFP with copies of suspension of military and police operations by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police, there had been no reported firefights between combatants of both parties.

The NDFP earlier explained that the firefights in Camarines Norte and Iloilo on the morning of December 23 when the holiday truce was scheduled to start happened before the GRP issued its own orders to effectively start the ceasefires.

The PNP on both occasions admitted that they were on combat patrol when waylaid by NPA guerrillas but said they were in the process of pulling out of their operations.

But Sison claimed that 401st Infantry Brigade-Philippine Army’s troop movement that disrupted a Communist Party of the Philippines event in Bacuag, Surigao del Sur last December 30 was offensive in nature and a violation of the ceasefire agreement.

The communist leader, however, seeks to downplay the incidents, saying there had been “no incident in which one side fired at the other side” since December 26.

“The few allegations of ceasefire violations have not disrupted the nationwide implementation of the reciprocal unilateral ceasefire agreement. Such allegations can be threshed out by the GRP and NDFP negotiating panels and the Joint Monitoring Committee under the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law,” Sison explained.

In an earlier online interview with Kodao, Sison said that a successful ceasefire may be extended while meetings to set up a formal round of NDFP-GRP negotiations this month are underway.

“That can be considered by the NDFP negotiating panel if its GRP counterpart proposes,” he said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Activists denounce Beep card fee increase

SAN PABLO, Laguna—Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) denounced the increase in the price of automated fare collection system (AFCS) cards used in Metro Manila trains, buses and jeepneys now costing P30.00 from the previous P20.00. 

Following the new year announcement of the increase, each new card costing P100 automatically charges P30, leaving the consumer with only P70 credit.

“This is an automatic fee increase that did not go through any public hearing. There is also no explanation in the contract why the private concessionaire is entitled to a fee increase,” Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes said.

The fee increase is included in the current contract between the government and the private consortium AF Payments Inc. of the Ayala and Metro Pacific groups. 

“It is simply a profit guarantee for private interests. This is an onerous provision in the contract and goes against public policy,” Reyes said, blaming the previous Department of Transportation and Communication for the deal and the current Department of Transportation (DoTr) for its failure to review this provision of the contract.

Reyes said their alliance of progressive groups will ask the DoTr to say for the record if the private concessionaire has paid the government the P800 million transaction fee that it is supposed to pay. 

He revealed that in the private consortium’s current bid offer, it pays government only P278 million as gross availability payment, instead of a one-time P1 billion concession fee. 

“The private concessionaires will pay government P865 million only when beep card transactional volume reaches 750 million per quarter, a very high standard,” Reyes explained.

The activist leader believes that such a high transaction volume can only be reached towards the ninth or 10th year of the contract. 

“If so, this means that the private concessionaires have been profiting from the Beep card business even without paying the government any concession fee. This is another onerous provision in the contract,” he added.

Right off the AFCS contract’s implementation in October 2015, Reyes questioned its four-year renewal clause, asking “Why are the beep cards for MRT and LRT valid only up to December 2019? Because the AFCS private concessionaire plans to issue more expensive Beep cards by 2020.”

“By 2020, fares would have also gone up. Your P100 minimum card purchase may only be good for two rides,” Reyes claimed then.  

Reyes asks the Rodrigo Duterte government through the Department of Justice to look into the AFCS contract, charging it is lopsided in favor of big businesses and disadvantageous to commuters. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

A new hope: The issues and struggles of 2019

By Renato Reyes Jr.

The year 2019 has got to be one of the most difficult 12 months for the Filipino people. We witnessed an unprecedented escalation of political repression on various fronts. The attacks were vicious and relentless and tested our collective resolve to fight back. The backward economy experienced new challenges with the continuing neo-liberal policies this regime chose to uphold. Under attack this year were human rights, national sovereignty, democracy and the rule of law. Through it all, the struggling Filipino people stood their ground, made significant advances, pushed back against tyranny and scored victories for the people.

Push-back against fascist attacks

The year 2019 saw the worst attacks on human rights including the killings and mass arrests in Negros, the militarization of Eastern Visayas, continuing Martial Law in Mindanao, trumped-up charges and arrests in Manila, extrajudicial killings in the drug war, red-tagging and attacks on academic freedom, the right to organize and freedom of expression. The National Task Force to End Local Armed Conflict repeatedly reared its ugly head and led the crackdown on dissent in the name of “counter-insurgency”. The “whole of nation approach”, which called for the militarization and weaponization of the civilian bureaucracy in the service of counter-insurgency.

The call “Defend Negros” reverberated as human rights defenders showed solidarity with the people of Negros facing extrajudicial killings, mass arrests, harassment and militarization. The courageous people of Negros are standing up to tyranny thanks in part to the nationwide and international solidarity that came after the series of violent attacks in the island. There remain many detained on trumped-up charges and justice remains elusive for those killed like the Sagay 9, Atty, Ben Ramos, Toto Patigas and Atty. Anthony Trinidad, among many others.

The October 31 raid on legal offices of activist groups in Negros and the arrest of as many as 51 individuals including minors, was one of the worst incidents of wholesale political repression against activists in the country in recent history. Majority of those arrested were eventually released for lack of probable cause or after posting bail. There are many however who remain incarcerated because of trumped-up charges and planted evidence. At around the same time in Manila, five activists were arrested based on warrants issued by the same QC judge that issued the Negros search warrants.

In the face of these escalating attacks, the people pushed back, waged mass actions, called nationwide attention to the abuses, built alliances, and amplified the call to defend human rights. The lies of state forces were eventually exposed, including the manufacture of spurious search warrants used to raid offices of legal activists. A solidarity mission was held and the groups arrived in time for the release of many of the arrested individuals.

The September 21 commemoration of Marcos’ Martial Law and the December 10 International Human Rights Day mobilizations bannered the calls against tyranny and dictatorship. Thousands participated nationwide in protest of the worsening human rights situation under the fascist Duterte regime.

The struggle for justice for all human rights victims continues in 2020.

Bato, bato who?

In August, neophyte Senator Bato dela Rosa attempted to conduct his own McCarthyist witch-hunt of youth activists in several universities, citing the alleged “missing of minors” who were recruited to the NPA. Such claims however were belied as there were no “missing minors”. The purpose of the hearing was to actually attack academic freedom and activism in schools by delegitimizing dissent. The efforts of Bato were soon exposed and the students fought back by holding protests and walk-outs across the country.

One week after his tirades on student activists, Bato would find himself at the crosshairs of a senate probe on the early releases of high-profile inmates convicted of heinous crimes. Bato used to be Bucor director and under his watch, anomalous GCTA releases took place.

Atin ang Pinas!

Another banner issue for 2019 was the West Philippine Sea. The campaign to defend our sovereign rights in our Exclusive Economic Zone and protest the puppetry of the regime united a broad range of patriotic forces. The protests against China’s violation of our sovereign rights was sustained: April 9, June 12, the days after the sinking of the MV Gem-Ver, July 12 anniversary of the Hague ruling, and the biggest anti-China protest on the occasion of Duterte’s State of the Nation Address. The pressure from the public forced Duterte to address the issue of the China and the West Philippine Sea during his SONA.

Labor unrest

This year saw several workers’ strikes take place, with almost all being brutally attacked by private goons and state forces. Notable workers’s struggles include the workers of SUMIFRU, Super 8, PEPMACO, NutriAsia in Cabuyao, Laguna, Nissin-Monde and Regent Foods. Most common issues are contractualization, the right to unionize, collective bargaining, and poor working conditions.

Trade union repression has worsened this year with the frequent use of police forces to break up picket lines and arrest striking workers. Some of the worst violations happened with the NutriaAsia workers whose strike was violently attacked and leaders arrested and detained for several months. The same violence was imposed on the striking workers of Regent Foods in Pasig, with union leaders and supporters also arrested. The timely intervention of Pasig Mayor Vico Sotto helped secure the release of the detained workers.

The attacks on striking workers spurred a boycott of products of the companies suppressing workers’ rights. The boycott of PEPMACO, NutriAsia and Regent Food products remain in force to this day.

Electoral struggle

It was a difficult year for the electoral struggle as progressive partylist groups and candidates faced fascist attacks from the entire state machinery. The regime also used considerable resources at is disposal to ensure the election of their candidates. Pera, pananakot at panlilinlang ang ginamit para mailuklok ang mga kandidato ng administrasyon at sagkaan ang oposisyon. Despite the tremendous odds, partylist group Bayan Muna achieved three seats in Congress and placed second in the partylist race. ACT, Gabriela Women’s Parety and Kabataan got one seat each. Anakpawis will definitely do better in the next elections even as attacks continue against the peasant sector.

On May 17, more than a thousand marched to the PICC to protest election fraud under the Duterte regime.

Rice crisis

This year was bleak for millions of Filipino rice farmers reeling from the effects of the rice liberalization and the massive importation of rice. The Philippines gained the distinction as the biggest rice importer in the world as palay prices dipped to P9 per kilo in some parts of the country. More than 50,000 farmers signed a petition for the repeal of the Rice Tariffication Law and public outrage over the state of agriculture was clearly felt. This forced Duterte to order government to purchase more palay from local producers. However, the regime stopped short of actually halting rice importation and repealing the law.

Mass transport crisis

Commuters continued to suffer in 2109 with what Bayan has described as a “mass transport crisis”. Trains continued to break down, a jeepney phaseout was being pushed, and the quality of life of Metro Manila workers and students continued to deteriorate due to the long commute. Not even the commute stunt of Presidential Spokesman Sal Panelo could cover up the reality that mass transport in the country is utterly lacking and problematic. The regime of privatization has failed to address the transportation needs of the public and the problems are expected to continue in 2020.

GCTA and ninja cops

The PNP faced its worst crisis yet with the issue of the “ninja cops”, an offshoot of the probe into the Good Conduct Time Allowance. The supposed release of heinous crime convicts such as Mayor Antonio Sanchez led to the conduct of a senate probe into anomalies in the GCTA. Even Sen. Bato, a former Bucor chief, found himself in the hot seat for the releases under his watch, Like many things in the corrupt bureaucracy, the system could be bought. In the course of the investigation, the issue of “ninja cops”was raised by former CIDG chief and now Baguio Mayor Benjamin Magalong. This led to a new round of investigations that centered on no less than PNP chief Oscar Albayalde. The PNP Chief was implicated in protecting his personnel who were involved in the recycling of illegal drugs. Albayalde was allowed to resign, though disgraced and without fanfare. Until now, Duterte has not appointed a PNP chief. He has ordered DILG Secretary Eduardo Ano to “handle” the PNP until 2022.

The entire drug war has been exposed as a sham. So many families cry out for justice for the thousands of victims of extrajudicial killings brought about by the brutal drug war.

Water crisis and the crisis of privatization

March 7 marked the start of the water crisis in Metro Manila as Manila Water customers suddenly found themselves without water. Long lines were formed in Mandaluyong, Pasig and San Juan as people waited for water supply in the streets. Maynilad will also follow suit with its service interruptions. Water services, which had been privatized since 1997, again failed the the consumers. The private water concessionaires incurred widespread public anger because of their failure to prepare for the El Nino and provide new water sources to keep up with their expansion. Their proposed water rate hike was widely opposed. Eventually, their contracts were scrutinized and exposed as having been onerous and grossly disadvantageous to the public. The statements from Malacanang and the DOJ were a vindication of the Left’s position on water privatization and the onerous contracts entered into by the Ramos regime and extended by the Arroyo regime. Even Duterte grudgingly acknowledged this on December 3, when he discussed the concession agreements: “Itong Left inunahan tayo. Kana si [Sal?] narinig mo si ano? Inunahan — nakaamoy ang mga ulol and they think that they are the savior of the…”

The water service interruptions continue, and are expected to be the “new normal” possibly beyond summer 2020. The public awaits the outcome of the contract reviews. It is time for government to take back water services, not give it to another crony of the regime. This should be on our campaign agenda next year.

The end of Martial Law in Mindanao

After more than two years, Martial Law in Mindanao will end midnight of December 31. The period covered by Martial Law saw many human rights violations and abuses by state security forces. This includes extrajudicial killings of peasants and indigenous peoples, the militarization of communities, closure of Lumad schools, mass arrests and the filing of trumped up charges. Mindanao has borne the brunt of the counter-insurgency operations of the regime. Their heroic resistance continues.

A recent survey indicated that 65% of those polled wanted Martial Law to end this year.

Peace talks ituloy!

A most welcome development at the end of 2019 was the revival of peace efforts between the GRP and the NDFP. Backchannel talks were held, a 15-day reciprocal ceasefire was put in place and confidence-building measures were sought. The peace talks stand to benefit the Filipino people through the forging of substantive agreements that address the root causes of the armed conflict. It also has the effect of countering the fascist attacks of the regime against the people. The news of the revival of the peace talks was welcomed by many, especially peace advocates. Some 130 lawmakers have signed a resolution supporting the peace talks. Despite efforts of peace spoilers and war hawks intent on sabotaging the peace talks, there appears to be positive advances with the reconstitution of the GRP peace panel and the inclusion of Executive Secretary Bingbong Medialdea in the panel.

We need to press for the release of all political prisoners, including NDF peace consultants who will participate in the peace talks.

The peace spoilers are bent on sowing intrigues to sabotage the talks. They also want to banner their so-called achievements in “localized peace talks”. Unfortunately for them, their latest fakery in the supposed “mass surrender” of NPA’s in Masbate was quickly exposed as a sham. The resumption of the peace talks is proof of the failure of the localized talks and the “whole of nation approach”.

A new hope

In the immortal words of Rogue One’s Jyn Erso we subscribe: “Rebellions are built on hope”. The resistance to tyranny and oppression is fueled by the hope that a better world, a more just and human society, is indeed possible. Our hope is likewise fueled by the resilience and tirelessness of the oppressed masses. Time and again, they who are most oppressed and downtrodden have taught us the meaning of courage.

We welcome the new year with a new hope and a firm resolve to fight for our people and for a better future. #

The author is the secretary general of the New Patriotic Alliance/Bagong Alyansang Makabayan.

Joma, Bello welcome Medialdea’s inclusion to GRP’s next peace panel

President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to include Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea to the government’s negotiating panel bodes well for the possible resumption of formal peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), Jose Maria Sison said.

Sison, NDFPs chief political consultant, said Malacañan’s announcement to include Medialdea to its next negotiating panel signifies that Duterte gives importance to the work of his negotiating panel.

“Duterte gives importance to the work of his negotiating panel and possibly indicates that his Executive Secretary will help him act faster on major issues in the peace negotiations,” Sison told Kodao in an online interview.

Sison acknowledged that the executive secretary would be the highest-ranking government official ever to be a Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) Negotiating Panel member.

“The Executive Secretary is considered the little President or his alter ego. He signs presidential issuances under the line, by the authority of the President. Thus, he may be considered the highest-ranking government official ever to be a negotiating panel member,” he said.

He also pointed out that the President’s decision goes against the public pronouncements of “militarists” in Duterte’s own Cabinet.

“The appointment indicates that Duterte is concerned about asserting the principle of civilian supremacy in view of the militarist actuations and actions of his military minions who blatantly oppose his desire for the resumption of peace negotiations,” Sison said.

‘No one closer to Duterte’

Former government chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III echoed Sison’s views, saying Medialdea’s appointment to the GRP panel is a significant gesture by Duterte in his bid to restart the negotiations he himself ordered terminated in 2017.

 “You cannot get closer to an authority from the President than that,” Bello told a gathering of reporters Friday, December 27. 

“The presence of his executive secretary shows the President’s commitment and resolve [to restart the talks],” Bello said.

Both the NDFP and the GRP expect to hold more backchannel meetings next month at about the time the parties’ reciprocal unilateral ceasefire agreement ends on January 7. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Ceasefire finally on; NDFP receives GRP’s truce orders

The Philippine government has finally transmitted its ceasefire orders to the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Negotiating Panel the group said paves the way for the unilateral and reciprocal ceasefires to “proceed effectively.”

In an announcement, NDFP chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili said they received copies of Suspension of Offensive Military Operations (SOMO) and Suspension of Offensive Police Operations (SOPO) from the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) at 8:54 a.m. Thursday, December 26, at their office in The Netherlands. (3:54 p.m., Philippine time.)

“We hope that from hereon the unilateral and reciprocal ceasefires declared by the two Parties shall proceed effectively,” Agcaoili said.

Agcaoili said former GRP chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III sent the documents. 

The NDFP chief negotiator said the SOMO, dated December 24, was issued by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff Noel Clement while the SOPO, dated December 22, was issued by Philippine National Police (PNP) officer in charge Archie Gamboa.

Both documents comply with a memorandum issued by Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) secretary Eduardo Año, Agcaoili added.

Last December 22, Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo announced that GRP President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the AFP, PNP, DILG and the Department of National Defense to issue the government’s truce orders.

On the same day, the Communist Party of the Philippines has issued its truce order, a day ahead of the scheduled start of the ceasefire agreement last December 23, Monday.

Earlier, questions were raised whether government military and police forces would abide by their commander in chief’s directive as combat operations were reported to have been conducted as late as December 23.

Ninth Infantry Division-Philippine Army public affairs chief Major Ricky Aguilar told reporters Monday that a platoon of government soldiers on combat patrol was ambushed by New People’s Army (NPA) fighters in Labo, Camarines Norte.

A government trooper was killed while six others were injured by an improvised explosive device as the soldiers were pulling out from Barangay Paat at about 9:20 a.m., Aguilar said.

Also last Monday, PNP’s Gamboa accused the NPA of staging an ambush against the Iloilo Mobile Force Company that injured two police officers in Tubugan town, Iloilo Province.

NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison said that both incidents were not violations of the ceasefire agreement as the GRP has yet to issue its truce orders at the time.

The ceasefire would be in effect only after both parties have issued their respective truce orders, the December 21 NDFP-GRP Joint Statement signed in Utrecht, The Netherlands reads.

As to GRP’s transmittal of its truce orders, Sison said there is no more problem about continuing the CPP ceasefire order to the NPA.

“The best thing to do is cool down and proceed with the reciprocal ceasefires and let them generate goodwill and confidence in preparation for the resumption of the peace negotiations,” Sison added.

The holiday truce shall be in effect until January 7. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)