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Christmas ceasefires possible after ‘friendly’ back channel talks–Sison

Reciprocal unilateral ceasefires can be declared by both National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) forces and the Manila government during the Christmas season following successful “informal” talks between the NDFP and President Rodrigo Duterte’s envoys in The Netherlands last weekend.

NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison told Kodao in an online interview that they have proposed goodwill measures “in the spirit of Christmas and the New Year” during their meeting with labor secretary Silvestre Bello III and Hernani Braganza, Duterte’s envoys, last December 7 and 8.

The goodwill measures include the release on humanitarian grounds of sick and elderly political prisoners and the detained NDFP consultants as well as the declaration and implementation of reciprocal unilateral ceasefires, Sison said.

Sison said Bello promised to present the proposed measures with the President. Bello was supposed to have reported to Duterte Wednesday night.

 Sison added that another informal meeting may soon occur within the month to prepare for the formal meeting to resume the peace negotiations in the second or third week of January 2020 as Bello has earlier announced.

He said that such expectations are reasonable, “especially if the goodwill measures are carried out.”

A holiday truce, however, had been earlier opposed by the GRPs defense chief Delfin Lorenzana.

‘Peace saboteurs’

In a speech last December 9, Lorenzana rejected the idea of declaring a ceasefire with the New People’s Army (NPA) in the coming holidays.

“If there’s a ceasefire, the soldiers go back to their barracks because the operations are stopped. But the NPA are recruiting in the villages to increase their power,” Lorenzana said.

“Let us just not enter into a ceasefire,” Lorenzana said, adding there will be no let up in the conduct of intensified military operations against the NPA.

Sison slammed Lorenzana’s opposition to ceasefire declarations as “hostile and run counter to the wish of the GRP President and commander-in-chief to resume the peace negotiations.”

“The President should assert his political authority to overrule the militarists who wish to spoil or sabotage the efforts to resume the peace negotiations. Otherwise the peace negotiations cannot be resumed,” Sison said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

KODAO ASKS: Dapat bang panagutin si Duterte sa mga paglabag sa karapatang pantao?

Ginunita noong ika-10 ng Disyembre ang ika-71 na Pandaigdigang Araw para sa Karapatang Pantao kung kailan kinondena ang mga paglabag sa karapatang pantao ng gubyernong Rodrigo Duterte.

Tinanong ng Kodao Productions ang ilan sa mga dumalo sa kilos-protesta kung dapat bang managot si Duterte sa mga human rights violation sa ilalim ng kanyang gobyerno. (Bidyo ni Joseph Cueva/Kodao)

Rights defenders vow to fight Duterte

Human rights defenders, led by the Karapatan, vowed to fight Rodrigo Duterte’s fascism as they commemorated International Human Rights Day last December 10 in Manila.

Condemning various cases of human rights violations under Duterte’s three-year old rule, the activists held a program at Liwasang Bonifacio and later marched to Mendiola to burn an effigy of the president. (Video by Jek Alcaraz/Kodao)

Renegotiation of CA not enough without renouncing privatization –WPN

by Water for the People Network

The Water for the People Network (WPN) said that government should renounce water privatization and assert water as a human right whose provision should be under effective public control. This is the most important basis for terminating the concession agreements (CA) between the State and private water firms. The vital public utility should be returned to the public sector, WPN said, and not remain in the hands of profit-seeking water oligarchs.

President Duterte recently ordered the CAs between government and water firms Maynilad Water Systems Inc. and Manila Water Company to be renegotiated. Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Menardo Guevarra said that certain provisions of the water CAs are onerous and disadvantageous to both government and consumers. The DOJ began reviewing the CAs upon the instruction of President Duterte at the height of the water crisis during the first quarter of this year.

The onerous stipulations recorded by the DOJ include prohibition against State interference in rate-setting, indemnification for revenue losses due to this interference, and irregular extension of contracts by 15 years. These are issues that have been raised by water rights advocates, WPN said, in the more than two decades since water in Metro Manila was privatized.

“The WPN has long and repeatedly called for the scrapping of the CAs. The CAs are the very epitome of water privatization, which has failed to deliver promised cheaper, cleaner, and more secure water services,” WPN spokesperson Prof. Reggie Vallejos said. Water utilities have to deliver water as a human right, he stressed, and mere renegotiation of the CAs will not truly ensure public interest objectives over private profits.

“The government has not yet revealed its points for renegotiation but we doubt that these will be enough to uphold the public welfare if they are still within the failed water privatization framework and biased towards profitability for water oligarchs,” Vallejos said.

WPN recalled that water privatization has only resulted in more expensive water, with rates increasing seven-fold for Maynilad and ten-fold for Manila Water from the start of the concession in 1997 to the third quarter of 2019. The CA-directed rate rebasing every five years since privatization allowed firms to make profits by charging consumers increasing tariffs including, among others, for projects that fail to push through. WPN added that the CA gives government a key role in rate-setting (judging whether enumerated expenses were prudent and just in the interest of consumers), but nonetheless allows the companies to sue the State should its regulation affect their profit-making.

The water firms also face Supreme Court-imposed penalties for violating the Clean Water Act, with poor sewerage services performance versus targets as of 2018. Meanwhile, water service interruptions have been hounding Manila Water and Maynilad consumers since March 2019.

These problems bring us back to 1997, WPN said, when the Ramos administration invoked a national water crisis and handed over water sourcing, processing and distribution to the private sector. The huge socially-sensitive water utility was handed over to the Ayalas and Lopezes. The biggest water privatization until then was perfectly in tune with the Ramos government’s grand promotion of globalization policies including deregulating the oil industry and liberalizing Philippine agriculture, said the group.

Public sector water operations should be re-established in Metro Manila and the rest of the country as soon as possible, said Vallejos. “These should be returned to the public sector to ensure that profit-seeking does not get in the way of delivering cheap, clean, and secure water services to the public,” he said.

WPN cited the growing global trend of water remunicipalization reversing water privatization. This has already happened in over 231 cities in some 37 countries around the world for instance in Spain, Germany, Argentina, and even in France, home to water multinationals. The poor experience with water privatization is making governments choose public water sourcing and distribution over private control, the group said.

Government’s continued implementation of water privatization is seeing additional oligarchs taking over public control of water, said WPN. Specifically, these are big business interests close to Duterte, for instance, Manny Villar and Dennis Uy who are also in the water business through Prime Water Infrastructure Corp. and Udenna Water and Integrated Services, respectively. Prime Water has been striking joint venture agreements with local water districts in areas nationwide but undermining water services according to a Commission on Audit report, WPN observed.

Simply renegotiating the CAs to let more oligarchs keep profiting from the water business will not remove the ill effects of privatization on the public and may even make it worse, WPN said. Government must bravely decide to take control of the vital public utility and run it as a service rather than for profit, the group said. #

Activists vow to defeat Duterte’s fascism on human rights day 2019

Led by KARAPATAN, human rights defenders and peace advocates in the Philippines marked International Human Rights Day 2019 with a protest rally at the Liwasang Bonifacio in Manila condemning extra judicial killings and other rights violations.

They marched to Mendiola fronting Malacanang Palace and burned a huge effigy of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte as they called to end tyranny and struggle for a just and lasting peace. (ILPS-Philippines video)

Joma urges Duterte to undertake goodwill measures to revive talks

Goodwill measures from President Rodrigo Duterte may be the ticket for the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) to successfully revive formal peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), Jose Maria Sison said.

Invoking the spirit of yuletide, Sison said reciprocal unilateral ceasefires and the release of elderly and sickly political prisoners are good for the creation of a favorable atmosphere for peace negotiations.

“It is timely for the GRP and NDFP to celebrate with the Filipino people the season of Christmas and the New Year and to create the favorable atmosphere for peace negotiations by undertaking such goodwill measures,” Sison said.

Sison added that those who shall participate in the peace negotiations, obviously referring to jailed NDFP peace consultants, may be among those to be released early. 

The NDFP’s chief political consultant said the obstacles that ended the peace talks may be overcome by another reaffirmation of agreements forged between the parties since 1992.

These agreements, including The Hague Joint Declaration and the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees, outline the conduct and conditions of formal peace negotiations between the parties.

Successive GRP administrations, including Duterte’s, have sought to disregard the agreements in a repeated bid to convince NDFP negotiators to agree to hold the talks in the Philippines.

The NDFP, however, has consistently opposed the move as “dangerous”.

Sison said that he welcomes Duterte’s desire to resume the negotiations and instructions to former GRP chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III to visit and consult him in The Netherlands.

He proposes that the NDFP and Bello set the agenda and schedule for the negotiations and to “fulfill political, legal and security requirements.”

He said the GRP and NDFP negotiating panels can pursue further negotiations on the Interim Peace Agreement, with its three components pertaining to coordinated unilateral ceasefires, general amnesty and release of all political prisoners.

The three components had been approved and signed in the presence of Norwegian third-party facilitators after four rounds of backchannel talks in May and June 2018.

Duterte, however, ordered his negotiators to abandon the formal round scheduled for June 28 of that year. 

Sison also urged that the remaining sections of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development and National Industrialization and Economic Development that are still to be tackled be discussed once the talks resume. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Paglabag sa karapatang pantao sa ngalan ng Memo 32 ni Duterte

Nagtungo sa Kamaynilaan noong nakaraang buwan ang ilang residente ng Samar para ang paglabag sa kanilang karapatang pantao sa ilalim ng Memorandum Order No.32 ni Pangulong Duterte na tinatawag din nilang ‘de facto martial law’.

Narito ang kwento nina nanay Bienvenida Cabe na pinatay ang kanyang anak habang nangangaso sa kagubatan noong Mayo at si nanay Prescila Lebico na ang asawa ay isang barangay captain na pinatay noong Abril.

Panawagan nila ang hustisya at pagbasura sa naturang Memorandum na lalong nagpapatindi ng pang-aatake sa mamamayan hindi lamang sa Samar kundi sa Bicol at isla ng Negros.

Bidyo ni: Joseph Cuevas/ Kodao Waray-Pilipino translation: Frenchiemae Cumpio/ Eastern Vista Background music credit Title: The End Type of music: Chillstep Mood: Sad / Emotional Download: https://soundcloud.com/day7official/

Duterte, Esperon preconditions may prevent talks resumption, Sison warns

The resumption of formal peace negotiations between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) may not happen if the Manila government insists it must be held in the Philippines, Jose Maria Sison warned.

Reacting to national security adviser Hermogenes Esperon’s declaration Friday, December 6, that Duterte wants the talks to be held in the country, Sison said the GRP is setting a precondition that is “unacceptable.”

“This precondition is totally unacceptable to the NDFP because it aims to put the NDFP and the entire peace negotiations in the pocket of the Duterte regime and under the control and surveillance of the bloodthirsty military and police who engage in mass murders and other heinous crimes with impunity,” Sison said in a statement Saturday.

Esperon told reporters at Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City that the change in venue is a “minimum requirement.”

“Remember that even before the peace talks ceased, the President already said he wanted the venue of the peace talks to be here. So that is the minimum requirement,” Esperon said.

“There will be a declaration of a bilateral ceasefire that’s got rules, too. The NPA can’t be burning up construction equipment. They can’t be going about,” he added.

Sison slammed Esperon’s statements, however, saying the retired general is being “extremely arrogant and insulting” to the NDFP by declaring that it has no choice but to accept the resumption of peace negotiations in the Philippines.

Sison said Esperon issues such statements because he believes his own lie that the government has defeated the armed revolution led by the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army.

Such declarations are fake news about fake community support projects, fake surrenders and fake encounters, Sison said.

“Esperon should not try to gain from cheap ephemeral psywar and spoil or sabotage the possibility of resuming the peace negotiations in a foreign neutral venue before the mutual approval of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms,” Sison explained.

“The aforementioned issuances of Duterte prevent peace negotiations anywhere in the universe if these are not overcome and repealed in conjunction with the reaffirmation of all agreements mutually approved by the GRP and NDFP since The Hague Joint Declaration of 1992,” he added.

Talks about the possible resumption of the stalled peace negotiations began when Duterte told reporters in Legazpi City last Thursday, December 5, that he is sending former GRP chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III to The Netherlands to talk to Sison.

Bello himself later said that backchannel talks have been ongoing since the GRP walked away from the negotiating table in 2017. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDFP to welcome Bello if Duterte sends him

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) said it would welcome Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) envoys if President Rodrigo Duterte sends them to Europe to try to revive the stalled peace talks between the parties.

Reacting to Duterte’s statement that he is sending labor secretary Silvestre Bello in a “last bid” to resume the negotiations, NDFP leaders said they will welcome Bello when he arrives.

“If Duterte wants to talk and takes the concrete steps about it, the NDFP has to consider seriously what he proposes. The NDFP has to be open to any possibility for the benefit of the Filipino people,” NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison told Kodao.

NDFP Negotiating Panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili for his part told Kodao he welcomes the “desire of the GRP to resume peace negotiations” and that they “await the arrival of Sec. Bello and his team.”

In a situation briefing on the GRP’s response to Typhoon Tisoy in the Bicol Region last Thursday, December 5, Duterte said he is sending Bello to the Netherlands where the NDFP negotiators are based.

“He (Bello) should go there, talk to them. I cannot talk about it. Basta I’m sending him back to Sison and talk to him,” Duterte said.

Another turnaround

Duterte dissolved his government’s peace panel last March 18, firing Bello and fellow negotiators Hernani Braganza, Atty. Angela Librado-Trinidad, Atty. Rene Sarmiento and Atty. Antonio Arellano.

The GRP panel’s dissolution followed the replacement of Atty. Jesus Dureza as presidential peace adviser with retired army general Carlito Galvez and the intense implementation of Duterte’s counter-insurgency policy, highlighted by the successive arrests of NDFP peace consultants.

On November 23, 2017, Duterte signed Proclamation No. 360 declaring the termination of peace negotiations with the NDFP, followed closely by his signing on Dec. 5, 2017 of Proclamation 374 classifying NDFP allied organizations Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army as “terrorist organizations.”

In December 2018, Duterte signed Executive Order No. 70 directing the creation of a national task force to “end local communist armed conflict.”

On Dec. 5, 2017, the Chief Executive signed Proclamation 374, classifying the CPP and NPA as terror organizations because of the crimes they supposedly committed “against the Filipino people, against humanity, and against the law of the nations.”

The NDFP for its part has always blamed Duterte for the termination of formal negotiations, claiming it has always been open to “sincere efforts” to resume negotiations.

Sison clarified that the NDFP has never said that it will never talk to GRP under Duterte even after his termination of the peace talks.

“The NDFP has never said that it will never talk to GRP under Duterte even after his termination of the peace talks,” Sison told Kodao.

‘Last ditch’

Duterte said Thursday his decision to send Bello to Europe is his last ditch attempt to forge a peace deal with the NDFP.

“This is my last card. When I say my last card, my time is running out,” Duterte said.

He added that he is not reopening talks with the NDFP for the sake of the military or the police, “but for everybody.”

“The doors must be open always or there must be at least one channel if everything closes through which you can talk,” he said.

Duterte’s latest turnaround followed a statement made by Sison that he hopes Duterte may soon be “enlightened”.

“May Duterte be hit by lightning, like Saul on his way to Damascus. It could be the lightning of enlightenment,” Sison told Kodao in a recent exclusive interview published Wednesday, December 4. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Families decry move of political prisoners to local jails

by Joseph Cuevas

Families and supporters of political prisoners held a dialogue with Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) National Headquarters officials on the detainees’ forcible transfer from Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan to local jails, mostly outside Metro Manila, December 4.

According to Kapatid, the organization of families and friends of political prisoners, the transfer of political prisoners is part of a bigger scheme “to further restrict the movement and access to much needed medical attention, legal services, visits and support from relatives and friends.”

The group added the planned transfer all the more violates the detainees’ rights as political prisoners, “whose arrest and detention are unjust from the very beginning.”

Kapatid members were alarmed about the “dispersal” of political prisoners from the Metro Manila District Jail Annex 4 after consecutive court motions were filed to move political prisoners to local jails.

They said inmates suffer from severe congestion and worse jail conditions in the local jails where 11 political prisoners are set to be transferred.

The dialogue, held during the 14th International Day of Solidarity for Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War last December 3, was initiated by the office of Bayan Muna Rep. and deputy minority floor leader Carlos Isagani Zarate at the House of Representatives in Quezon City.

Zarate along with Rep. Ferdinand Gaite and Rep. Eufemia Cullamat filed House Resolution 566 in the lower house to investigate the situation of political prisoners.

Government prosecutors have asked to transfer National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace consultants Frank Fernandez, Adelberto Silva and their companion, called the “Sta. Cruz 5”, to the Laguna Provincial Jail; Rey Casambre to Bacoor Jail; and government union organizer Oliver Rosales to Malolos City Jail.

Farmer Maximo Reduta from Southern Quezon was transferred to Gumaca District Jail last week.

Counterinsurgency move

BJMP Chief for Operations Jail Chief Supt. Dennis Rocamora said that the transfer of political prisoners is part of decongestion campaign of jails across the country and several concern of security escort during court hearings.

He said they received complaints from different courts about the delayed or postponement of PDLs (Persons Deprived of Liberty) trials because of distance and security measures set by the bureau.

But Rocamora also admitted that some re-commitment of political prisoners outside Metro Manila is due to the request of the Department of National Defense, invoking Executive Order No. 70.

EO 70 created the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (ELCAC), also known as the government’s resurrected “Whole of Nation Approach” against insurgency.

Rocamora cited the case of Fernandez and his wife Cleofe Lagtapon whom the DND requested through BJMP Chief Supt. Allan Iral for their transfer to Sta. Cruz Jail since July 25, 2019.

A copy of court order transferring Maximo Reduta was also revealed in the dialogue as requested by the Defense Secretary.

Rights group opposes transfer

Human Rights group Karapatan asserted the transfer of political prisoners in jails, particularly in the same area where common offenders or criminals, are detained will endanger their lives.

“These individuals are being persecuted already by a government that brands them as enemies of the State. It is not far-fetched, as in the cases of former Albuera, Leyte mayor Rolando Espinosa and Genesis “Tisoy” Argoncillo, who were both killed in separate incidents while under detention, that the Duterte administration is cooking up plans for assassinations of political prisoners while in detention,” Karapatan said in a statement.

Karapatan also emphasized that political prisoners were victims of trumped-up charges and arbitrary arrests.

“Many of them are in jail because operatives planted evidence in their belongings, are implicated by paid and expert witnesses, arrested by virtue of defective warrants, and were targeted because of their affiliation and vocal criticisms,” the group said.

As of November 2019, there are 629 political prisoners across the country, 382 of whom were arrested under the Duterte government, Karapatan said. #