Retired NDFP consultant ‘abducted’ in Parañaque

A “retired” National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant was “abducted” with four others in Parañaque City, human rights group Karapatan’s Southern Tagalog office reported.

In an alert, Karapatan-Southern Tagalog said retired NDFP peace consultant Ernesto Lorenzo, along with Maria Fe Serrano, their driver Andrei Medina, their aide Plinky Longhas and another unidentified person, were “abducted” by the police while queuing up for COVID-19 vaccines at the Nayong Pilipino mega-vaccination site.

Ernesto Lorenzo attending a rally by Filipino migrant workers in Rome, Italy during a break in the third formal round of peace negotiations between the GRP and the NDFP in January 2017. (Photo by Jola Diones-Mamangun/Kodao)

Lorenzo, the group said, is a Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) protected peace negotiator with identification number 978299 under the assumed name of Lean Martinez.

The JASIG, signed by the NDFP and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) in February 24, 1995, supposedly guarantees that negotiators, personnel and consultants of both the NDFP and the Manila government are immune against reprisals, including surveillance and arrests.

Lorenzo was consultant for Southern Tagalog and attended formal peace negotiations between the NDFP and the Rodrigo Duterte GRP up to January 2017.

He was a member of the NDFP Negotiating Panel’s Reciprocal Working Group on End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces.

Lorenzo was earlier arrested in July 2015 on charges of destructive arson but was released along with several other jailed NDFP consultants to participate in formal negotiations in Europe.

President Duterte terminated negotiations with the NDFP in 2017 and has since repeatedly vowed to arrest all NDFP consultants who were released for the talks.

Serrano is the widow of former NDFP peace consultant for Mindoro Eduardo Serrano who died in prison in January 2016.

Karapatan-Southern Tagalog said the five’s whereabouts are unknown as of the issuance of its alert.

Davao consultant ‘tortured and murdered’

Meanwhile, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) complained that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) tortured and subsequently murdered NDFP peace consultant for Southern Mindanao Ezequiel Daguman.

CPP chief information officer Marco Valbuena said Daguman was the 20th known revolutionary and peace consultant murdered by the GRP under Duterte.

Valbuena, in an April 2 statement, said Daguman was killed while in the custody of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) after he was abducted last March 7 in New Corella, Davao del Norte.

The AFP announced on March 28 that Daguman was killed in a supposed encounter on March 27 in Maragusan, Davao de Oro.

The CPP said that Daguman was assigned as the peace consultant representing the provinces of Davao del Norte and Davao de Oro whose JASIG identification was signed by the Manila government and the NDFP in 1995.

Valbuena added that Daguman’s death in the hands of government soldiers is proof that he “remained true to the revolutionary cause.”

“The AFP has repeatedly used fake encounters to justify and cover-up the most atrocious crimes against non-combatants and civilians,” Valbuena said, pointing to how NPA spokesperson Jorge Madlos and national commander Menandro Villanueva were also killed by military forces after being arrested.

Both Madlos and Villanueva were reportedly seeking medical care at the time the AFP claimed they died in firefights with government soldiers.

Valbuena added that NDFP peace consultant Edwin Alcid, together with two others, remains at the hands of the AFP and his whereabouts are still unknown since his arrest last March 7 in Barangay San Jose, Catubig, Northern Samar.

“We will hold the officers of the AFP directly responsible for any harm that may befall Alcid and his companions,” Valbuena said.

Valbuena also revealed that they have received information that NDFP peace consultant Esteban Manuel is being kept in solitary confinement in a military camp in Samar after his arrest last February. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Family asks, ‘Where is NDFP consultant Esteban Manuel?’

The family of arrested activist Esteban Manuel Jr. has asked the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to help look for the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant reportedly arrested last February 16.

The elderly peace worker is now believed missing as his family could not locate his real location 16 days after his reported arrest in Samar 17 days ago.

“[H]is family is seeking the help of the [CHR] and human rights organizations to locate him with the ‘utmost urgency’ while appealing to his captors to ‘keep him safe and alive,’” political prisoner support organization Kapatid said in an alert.

Manuel’s son Albert wrote to the CHR seeking help to find his father and to know if he is receiving proper care.

“My father is 73 years old and of fragile health. He has hypertension and needs medicines. But we have not received replies to our queries to locate him,” Albert wrote.

“We appeal to his captors to keep him safe and alive,” Albert added.

Kapatid said there have been conflicting press releases from the military and police on the reported arrest of the elder Manuel in Villareal town, Samar.

Kapatid said the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police has called Manuel under different names when they reported the arrest.

The military and the police also could not agree on the number of firearms allegedly seized from Manuel.

Kapatid said the government’s information immediately raised concerns about the possibility of the firearms being “planted” it said is a well-established method by the police and military to keep activists in indefinite detention.

Albert said they heard conflicting information that his father was either detained in a military camp in Calbiga or at the police station in Villareal town.

Kapatid also said they are also reaching out to the International Committee of the Red Cross to help ensure humanitarian protection and assistance for the elder Manuel in line with its mission to protect the lives and dignity of victims of armed conflict and promote respect for international law.

READ: Elderly NDFP peace consultant arrested in Samar

Bright student

Kapatid said Esteban was a native of Laoag, Ilocos Norte whose father, Esteban Manuel Sr., was a veteran of the infamous Bataan Death March in World War II.

A birght student, Esteban graduated valedictorian from the Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo High School in Quezon City.

He went on to study engineering at the University of the Philippines where he joined the Kabataang Makabayan (KM).

Esteban went underground when the dictator Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in 1972 and KM became an underground organization.

Esteban’s father was arrested when the military came looking for him and his brother Napoleon it believed also became activist.

Manuel Sr. was detained for over 50 days without any charges. He was posthumously awarded a human rights compensation claim. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Elderly NDFP peace consultant arrested in Samar

Another National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant has been arrested and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) has demanded his immediate release.

The CPP said Esteban Manuel was arrested last February 16 in Villareal town, Samar by the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) Joint Task Force Storm, along with another civilian.

“Ka Esteban holds official documents of identification under the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG),” the CPP said.

The agreement, signed between the GRP and the NDFP in 1995, provides guarantees for negotiators, personnel and consultants of both parties against reprisals, including surveillance and arrests.

“We denounce the AFP and the Philippine National Police (PNP) for filing trumped up charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives against Ka Esteban, who is around 70 years old,” the CPP said.

The CPP said claims of the military that a fragmentation grenade and a cal.45 pistol were seized from Esteban are false.

“All of these are planted evidences to charge him with an non-bailable crime and thus prolong his detention,” it added.

Manuel is the latest in a string of arrests of consultants and staff since GRP President Rodrigo Duterte abandoned its once fruitful peace negotiations with the NDFP in June 2017.

Vicente Ladlad, Rey Claro Casambre, Alfredo Mapano, Loida Magpatoc, and Adelberto Silva and Renante Gamara have been re-arrested since then.

Ferdinand Castillo had been arrested on Febuary 12, 2017 while the talks were still ongoing.

NDFP peace consultants Rafael Baylosis and Esterlita Suaybaguio were also separately arrested after the termination of the talks but were freed by trial courts due to lack of evidence on charges of illegal possession of guns and explosives.

Meanwhile, Randy Malayao, Randall Echanis, Eugenia Magpantay, Agaton Topacio, Julius Giron, Pedro Codaste, Antonio Cabanatan, Florenda Yap, Reynaldo Bocala and Rustico Tan were killed or have died in various military operations since talks broke down.

The CPP called on local and international human rights and humanitarian organizations, as well as peace advocates, to extend assistance to Manuel.

“He must be immediately afforded legal representation. We enjoin all democratic forces to close ranks and raise the demand for Ka Esteban to be immediately released,” it said.

The group added that Manuel’s arrest forms part of the Duterte regime’s campaign of terror and suppression against the people of Eastern Visayas it said has one of the highest number of human rights abuses since it was placed under military and police rule with the implementation of Duterte’s Memorandum Order No. 32 in 2018.

The CPP said cases of aerial bombing and shelling have risen in Eastern Visayas, including a growing number of communities that have been placed under military occupation and subjected to abuses.

“From 2020, at least 12 cases of indiscriminate firing have been recorded. The Filipino people must stand united and demand an immediate stop to this campaign of terror against the region,” the CPP said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)