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Fernandez urges NPA in Negros to defend farmers from rights violations

National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Frank Fernandez urged revolutionary forces in Negros Island to intensify their campaigns against human rights violations, noting that “things have gotten much worse” under the Rodrigo Duterte government.

“The revolutionary forces must bring the struggle to a higher stage as the systematic campaign against the peasants and the activists have become much worse since I was last there,” Fernandez said.

Speaking from his hospital bed at the Philippine Heart Center (PHC), Fernandez said it is a testament to the strength of the revolutionary forces in the island that Duterte has ordered the deployment of more Philippine Army infantry brigades in the island since November.

Duterte issued Executive Order 32 in November 2018 ordering more troop deployment in Negros, Bicol and Samar in a bid to crush New People’s Army (NPA) units in the said regions.

Increased Armed Forces of the Philippines presence in Negros, however, has led to numerous human rights violations, Fernandez said.

Frank Fernandez in his hospital room.

Complete turnaround

Fernandez said the NPA in Negros has fully recovered from near decimation in the early 1990s.

“There was almost no NPA left in Negros in 1994,” Fernandez said.

He credited the NPA’s grasp of the correct political and ideological lines that allowed its forces to recover and overcome the schism with former comrades that broke away to form the so-called Revolutionary Proletarian Army and the Alex Boncayao Brigade.

Fernandez said that the poor masses helped in their recovery.

“The poor but struggling masses of Negros did not allow us to give up and encouraged us to rebuild,” Fernandez said.

The incarcerated NDFP peace consultant said it is time to repay the masses by defending them against the government and the landlords’ widespread human rights violations in the island.

Human rights violations

Intensifying agrarian reform struggles across the Negros Island has resulted to two massacres, assassinations of a human rights lawyer and a municipal councilor as well as killings and arrests of several farmers and human rights defenders.

Just yesterday, another human rights defender who was an active member of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente was murdered in his hometown of Manjuyod, Negros Oriental.

An urgent alert by the group Defend Negros said Salvador “Bador” Romano, 42, an adviser of the YIFI (Youth of the IFI) and former Negros Oriental coordinator of the human rights group Karapatan, was shot dead by motorcycle-riding gunmen around 12:30 p.m.

Last March 30, 10 peasants and church workers were killed in one night in Canlaon City and Sta. Rita, Negros Occidental.

Nine sugarcane farmers, including four women and two children, were also killed last October 20 in Sagay City. The bodies of three of the victims were also burned by their killers.

Human rights lawyer Benjamin Ramos and Escalante City councilor Bernardino Patigas Sr., both described as martyrs of the sugar cane workers’ struggles, were killed on November 7 and April 22, respectively.

After Patigas’ murder, opposition Senator Leila de Lima denounced the murders, blaming the Duterte administration for “the snowballing record of human rights defenders killed in Negros Island.”

De Lima said Patigas’ murder raises suspicions that there is a death squad targeting rights advocates in the province because his killing “hews closely” to the type of killings regularly happening recently.

The senator said Patigas’ murder was the 48th in Negros under Duterte.

Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Carlos also condemned the killings and called on the Duterte government to respect human rights.

“In sadness, we all are crying out: End the Killings! These barbaric and calculated assassinations must end! We should not tolerate this kind of crime,” the bishop said in a statement last April.

Fernandez, for his part, urged for the resumption of the abandoned peace talks between the NDFP and the Duterte government in order for the human rights situation in Negros to be addressed by the negotiating panels.

“It would be favorable for the masses, as well as for jailed peace consultants like myself, if the peace talks would be revived,” he said.

Heart problems

Fernandez was taken to the PHC last Friday to undergo laboratory examinations.

“I am suffering from heart ailments, spinal column problems, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, arthritis, and hypertension. There may be more,” he told Kodao.

Fernandez said he left Negros more than a year ago to seek medical treatment in Manila when nabbed by military and police operatives in Liliw, Laguna last March 24.

“Doctors of the Philippine Army General Hospital in Fort Bonifacio discovered I also have hardening of the arteries close to my heart,” he said.

Fernandez has since been incarcerated at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City where his state of health has gotten worse.

“They often feed us porridge that are either so unpalatable or are so sweet when made into champorado (chocolate porridge).  For lunch and dinner, they feed us papaya soup with sardines or miswa noodles with sardines,” he said.

The Sta. Cruz Regional Trial Court in Laguna ordered the 71-year old Fernandez to be taken to the PHC for medical check up. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Frank Fernandez and company transferred to civilian jail

Arrested National Democratic Front of the Philippines consultant Frank Fernandez, wife Cleofe Lagtapon and companion Ge-ann Perez have finally been transferred to a civilian jail facility Monday despite efforts by the Philippine Army to keep them incommunicado inside Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City.

Following their scheduled arraignment for alleged illegal possession of firearms and explosives before the Sta. Cruz (Laguna) Regional Trial Court Monday, April 22, the three were finally committed to the Laguna Provincial Jail.

Their arraignment, however, did not push through because of their limited and ineffective access to counsel.

The three were captured by government forces in Laguna on March 24.

The 71-year old Fernandez, a former priest, was the spokesman of the NDFP in Negros, although sources in the underground hinted that he was no longer as active as before because of his age and health issues.

In an announcement, the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) said Fernandez and company were kept inside the Army General Hospital (AGH) since March 25 without communication to the outside world save for a few visits.

PILC also told Kodao that aside from its repeated refusal to allow PILC lawyers to visit the three, the Philippine Army also deliberately ignored an April 3 Commitment Order by the Branch 33 of the Sta. Cruz Court to transfer Fernandez, Lagtapon and Perez to a civilian jail facility.

“No less than Lt. Gen. Macairog Alberto, Army commanding general, denied the written request of Public Interest Law Center managing counsel Rachel Pastores to enter Fort Bonifacio on April 16, 2019, saying that only one counsel [PILC’s Maria Kristina Conti] was recognized by the court,” PILC said.

Aside from Conti, however, Fernandez and company have formally engaged PILC’s Pastores, Amilyn Sato and Carlos Montemayor as lawyers during their inquest proceedings in Sta. Cruz last March 25.

‘No visits from lawyers and doctors’

According to an Omnibus Motion to the Court filed through their lawyers last April 17, Fernandez and company complained of being denied visits from their lawyers and doctors.

Efforts by PILC and National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers counsels to gain access to their clients were denied.

Doctors who also sought ways to check up on the three were turned away by the Philippine Army.

Fernandez and Lagtapon asked the Court to require the Philippine Army to respect their right to counsel and to provide them unhindered access to them for adequate and effective preparation for their defense.

Fernandez also asked for a hospital checkup and confinement, complaining that the AGH does not appear to be fully-equipped to treat his coronary artery disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and hyponatremia (low sodium concentration in the blood) as diagnosed by Philippine Army doctors themselves.

Casambre now in Bicutan

Earlier this month, Fernandez’s fellow NDFP peace consultant Rey Claro Casambre had been transferred to Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City after spending weeks at the “noisy, hot and cramped” Bacoor City Jail.

Casambre was clandestinely transferred from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-National Capital Region detention facility in Camp Crame to Bacoor last April 3 without his family and lawyers being informed of the move.

Aside from Casambre and Fernandez, Reynante Gamara, Vicente Ladlad, Rafael Baylosis and Adelberto Silva had been arrested in succession since President Rodrigo Duterte ended the peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the NDFP in November 2017.

All had been charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives, which they deny.

Baylosis, however, was ordered released by the Quezon City Regional Trial Court in January after pieces of evidence presented against him were found insufficient. 

Arrested National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) consultant Frank Fernandez, wife Cleofe Lagtapon and companion Ge-ann Perez have finally been transferred to a civilian jail facility Monday despite efforts by the Philippine Army to keep them incommunicado inside Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City.

Following their scheduled arraignment for alleged illegal possession of firearms and explosives before the Sta. Cruz (Laguna) Regional Trial Court Monday, April 22, the three were finally committed to the Laguna Provincial Jail.

Their arraignment, however, did not push through because of their limited and ineffective access to counsel.

In an announcement, the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) said Fernandez and company were kept inside the Army General Hospital (AGH) since March 25 without communication to the outside world save for a few visits.

PILC also told Kodao that aside from its repeated refusal to allow PILC lawyers to visit the three, the Philippine Army also deliberately ignored an April 3 Commitment Order by the Branch 33 of the Sta. Cruz Court to transfer Fernandez, Lagtapon and Perez to a civilian jail facility.

“No less than Lt. Gen. Macairog Alberto, Army commanding general, denied the written request of Public Interest Law Center managing counsel Rachel Pastores to enter Fort Bonifacio on April 16, 2019, saying that only one counsel [PILC’s Maria Kristina Conti] was recognized by the court,” PILC said.

Aside from Conti, however, Fernandez and company have formally engaged PILC’s Pastores, Amilyn Sato and Carlos Montemayor as lawyers during their inquest proceedings in Sta. Cruz last March 25.

‘No visits from lawyers and doctors’

According to an Omnibus Motion to the Court filed through their lawyers last April 17, Fernandez and company complained of being denied visits from their lawyers and doctors.

Efforts by PILC and National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers counsels to gain access to their clients were  denied.

Doctors who also sought ways to check up on the three were turned away by the Philippine Army.

Fernandez and Lagtapon asked the Court to require the Philippine Army to respect their right to counsel and to provide them unhindered access to them for adequate and effective preparation for their defense.

Fernandez also asked for a hospital check up and confinement, complaining that the AGH does not appear to be fully-equipped to treat his coronary artery disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and hyponatremia (low sodium concentration in the blood) as diagnosed by Philippine Army doctors themselves.

Casambre now in Bicutan

Earlier this month, Fernandez’s fellow NDFP peace consultant Rey Claro Casambre had been transferred to Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City after spending weeks at the “noisy, hot and cramped” Bacoor City Jail.

Casambre was clandestinely trasferred from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-National Capital Region detention facility in Camp Crame to Bacoor last April 3 without his family and lawyers being informed of the move.

Aside from Casambre and Fernandez, Reynante Gamara, Vicente Ladlad, Rafael Baylosis and Adelberto Silva had been arrested in succession since President rodrigo Duterte ended the peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the NDFP in November 2017.

All had been charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives, which they deny.

Baylosis, however, was ordered released by the Quezon City Regional Trial Court in January after pieces of evidence presented against him were found insufficient. # (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)

Lawyers find Fernandez and companions in Laguna prosecutor’s office

Arrested National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Francisco “Ka Frank” Fernandez and companions was finally allowed to meet their lawyers 38 hours after they were arrested in Liliw, Laguna last Sunday.

After continuous seach throughout Metro Manila and Laguna province Sunday and Monday, lawyers from the Public Interest Law Center were finally able to talk to Fernandez, his wife Cleofe Lagtapon and Geann Perez at the Sta. Cruz provincial prosecutor’s office in the said province at around seven o’clock last night.

“It was already around 7 p.m. when lawyers gained access to their client,” human rights group Karapatan announced on their Facebook page Tuesday afternoon.

Karapatan said that lawyers and paralegals went to the Army General Hospital in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City after receiving information that the three were taken there.

They were denied any information, Karapatan said.

“It was later in the afternoon that police officials revealed that Fernandez et. al. were in Sta. Cruz, Laguna to undergo inquest proceedings. After an entire day of searching, lawyers were finally able to talk to the victims at the Sta. Cruz provincial prosecutor’s office,” the group said.

NDFP peace consultant Frank Fernandez being treated intravenously while undergoing inquest proceedings at the Laguna Provincial Prosecutors’ Office Monday night. (Public Interest Law Center photo)

Yesterday, Karapatan said they visited various military and police camps throughout Sunday and Monday to look for the three.

“Legal counsel and paralegals went to Camp Vicente Lim in Canlubang, Laguna; Camp Paciano Rizal in Sta. Cruz, Laguna; Laguna Provincial Police Office and Municipal Police Office in Sta. Cruz, Laguna; Camp Crame in Quezon City; and Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City. Military and police officers denied having the three in their custody,” Karapatan said in a statement Monday.

“[The] morning of March 25, legal counsels and paralegals went to the ISAFP (Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines) Headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City; NBI National Office in Manila; and Camp Crame, Quezon City. The same answer was given to them,” the group added.

Charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives are set to be filed against the three, on top of murder charges against Fernandez and Lagtapon.

Police said three .45 caliber pistols, 15 rounds of ammunitions and three grenades were found to be in their possession.

Illegal possession of firearms were also charged against five other NDFP peace consultants arrested in succession since President Rodrigo Duterte unilaterally terminated peace negotiations with the NDFP in November 2016.

Fernandez and Gamara were the first two NDFP peace consultants arrested since Duterte dissolved his government’s negotiating panel last March 18.

Frail health

Karapatan noted that Fernandez’s state of health was alarming.

The group said the 71-year old former Roman Catholic priest was wheelchair-bound and was injected intravenously on his arm.

“Per his medical abstract, the Army General Hospital physician confirmed that Fernandez suffers from chronic artery disease, chronic stable angina, hypertension stage 2-uncontrolled, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and hyponatremia, among others,” the group reported.


Lagtapon at the Laguna Provincial Prosecutors’ Office Monday night. (Public Interest Law Center photo)

Lagtapon, 66, will also be monitored due to her frail health while Perez, 20, is reportedly being treated due to Hansen’s Disease.

Karapatan reported that all three will be under hospital arrest.

Perez at the Laguna Provincial Prosecutors’ Office Monday night. (Public Interest Law Center photo)

Their lawyers have reportedly expressed their intention to have Fernandez moved to the Philippine Heart Center for medical treatment.

After the inquest proceedings on the evening of March 25, it was decided that Fernandez, Lagtapon and Perez were to be brought back to the army hospital in Fort Bonifacio, Karapatan said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Philippine Army holding Frank Fernandez incommunicado

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) strongly condemned what it calls the unjust arrest of another of its peace consultants and his companions last Sunday in Laguna Province.

In a statement, NDFP Negotiating Panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili demanded that the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) immediately release Francisco “Ka Frank” Fernandez and his companions “as a matter of principle, justice and humanity.”

“Frank Fernandez is a publicly known consultant of the NDFP in the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations as NDFP spokesperson in Negros,” Agcaoili said.

Agcaoili said 71-year old Fernandez has been ill for some time had to come down from Negros for medical treatment, accompanied by his wife Cleofe Lagtapon and Gee-Ann Perez.

Where are they?

The NDFP said details of where Fernandez and companions are incarcerated are still unclear.

“This poses grave danger to their health and lives. It is incumbent upon their custodial units to forthwith present Frank Fernandez and his companions to their relatives and lawyers in order for him to receive his medicines and assure that their rights and well-being are respected,” Agcaoili said.

Philippine National Police Region IV-A director Chief Superintendent Ted Carranza told reporters Monday that Fernandez was taken to the Philippine Army Hospital in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City after the arrest.

“Well, alam niyo kasi itong si Fr. Frank Fernandez ay matanda na. I just talked with an officer from the Philippine Army, nag-complain siya (Fernandez) ng chest pain after his arrest. So he was sent to the army hospital for treatment,” Carranza said.

It was not known whether Fernandez is still confined at the said hospital as human rights defenders and public interest lawyers are still being prevented from seeing the detainees.

In his press conference at Camp Crame yesterday, PNP chief Oscar Albayalde said Fernandez and his companions are under the custody of the Philippine Army’s Military Intelligence Group of Calabarzon reportedly based in Camp Eldridge in Los Baños, Laguna.

“With his unjust arrest, the Duterte regime runs the risk of adding another detainee to the list of three political prisoners who died in prison from June 2016, in violation of international humanitarian law and the minimum prison standards recognized by civilized nations,” Agcaoili said.

JASIG-protected

Agcaoili said Fernandez, a former Roman Catholic priest in the Diocese of Bacolod before becoming a rebel leader in Negros, holds Document of Identification Number PP 978544 as provided for in the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) between the GRP and the NDFP.

Agcaoili also dismissed Presidential peace adviser Carlito Galvez Junior’s claim that the JASIG is already inoperable in accordance with GRP President Rodrigo Duterte’s termination of the peace talks in November 2017.

Agcaoili said JASIG’s termination requires a protocol, a move the NDFP said Duterte failed to follow with his unilateral termination of the peace talks through Proclamation No. 360.

The NDFP Negotiating Panel earlier said the GRP has not formally given them a letter of termination through the Third Party Facilitator, the Royal Norwegian Government, rendering Duterte’s Proclamation No. 360 moot and the JASIG still operable.

“So, no matter how many times President Rodrigo Duterte unilaterally flip-flops from resuming and then terminating the peace talks, the JASIG remains in full force and effect unless otherwise terminated according to the terms of the agreement,” Agcaoili said.

“In fact the immunity guarantees of Frank Fernandez extend even after the actual termination of the peace talks,” he explained. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

PNP surfaces NDFP’s Frank Fernandez

The Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Philippine Army finally surfaced National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Francisco “Ka Frank” Fernandez after arresting him early Sunday morning and denying he was in their custody to human rights responders.

In a press conference at Camp Crame this morning, PNP chief Oscar Albayalde said Fernandez was arrested in Barangay Calumpang, Liliw, Laguna at 5:15 a.m. Sunday morning and, like five fellow NDFP consultants earlier arrested, was allegedly found to be in possession of firearms, ammunition and grenades.

Fernandez was arrested with his wife Cleofe Lagtapon and Gee-Ann Perez and are facing charges of violation of Commission on Election (Comelec) Resolution 10429 in relation to the Omnibus Election Code as well as violation of Republic Act 10591 (Illegal possession of firearms) and violation of Republic Act 9516 (Illegal possession of explosives), the PNP said.

Three caliber .45 pistols, three magazines with 15 live bullets and three grenades were allegedly found in their possession.

Fernandez also has four standing murder arrest warrants while his wife was included in one of the arrest warrants, the PNP said.

The three are under the custody of the Military Intelligence Group of Calabarzon and are set to face illegal firearms and explosives possession charges, the police added.

Fernandez, a former Roman Catholic priest, was a long-time NDFP spokesperson in Negros Island.

‘Hide and seek’

Human rights group Karapatan, however, slammed the PNP for withholding the three’s whereabouts for more than a day despite asking various police and military camps in Region IV-A and the National Capital Region.

“Legal counsel and paralegals went to Camp Vicente Lim in Canlubang, Laguna; Camp Paciano Rizal in Sta. Cruz, Laguna; Laguna Provincial Police Office and Municipal Police Office in Sta. Cruz, Laguna; Camp Crame in Quezon City; and Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City. Military and police officers denied having the three in their custody,” Karapatan said in a statement.

“This morning of March 25, legals counsels and paralegals went to the ISAFP Headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City; NBI National Office in Manila; and Camp Crame, Quezon City. The same answer was given to them,” the group added.

Karapatan said it was only after further prodding that unidentified officials revealed that the three arrested persons were in the Army General Hospital in Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City.

Karapatan said that lawyers and paralegals should have access to those arrested, particularly the elderly couple Fernandez and Lagtapon, aged 71 and 66, respectively.

Fernandez and his wife are reportedly in Laguna to seek medical treatment.

Karapatan raised the possibility that the three might be subjected to physical and psychological torture, a reported practice of state forces during arrests.

“Access of lawyers to the victims on time and ascertaining the responsible units and officers are a deterrent to the ill-treatment of arrested persons,” Karapatan said.

The group said the police and the military deliberately played a game of hide and seek, instead of directly giving the whereabouts of the detainees to their legal counsels, as mandated by Republic Act 7438 or the rights of persons arrested, detained or under custodial investigation law.

‘Ordered by Duterte’

NDFP’s chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison, for his part, condemned yet another allegation by the police that its latest arrested peace consultant and companions were in possession of guns and ammunition at the time of their arrest.

“Following the orders publicly given by their master (President Rodrigo) Duterte, the criminals in uniform always plant firearms and frame up NDFP consultants,” Sison told Kodao.

Sison said that planting such false evidence is the police’s way of violating the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) between the NDFP and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines.

Sison said that when there are no witnesses, so-called “criminals in authority” kill NDFP consultants as in the case of Randy Felix Malayao.

Malayao was killed in his sleep inside a bus in Aritao, Nueva Vizcaya last January 30.

Sison said the planting of firearms is meant to justify also the arrest of people or witnesses who are in the company of the NDFP consultant.

NDFP peace consultants Rafael Baylosis, Adelberto Silva, Vicente Ladlad, Rey Claro Casambre and Reynante Gamarahave been arrested in succession from January 2018 and all were charged with illegal possession of firearms along with their respective companions.

“In the first place, they are even supposed not to surveil NDFP consultants under JASIG,” Sison explained.

New presidential adviser on the peace process Carlito Galvez Jr., however, said last Wednesday the JASIG is no longer operable since Duterte terminated the talks in November 2017.

“[T]he formal negotiation was terminated along with Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) through Proclamation 360 by President Rodrigo Duterte on November 2017,” Galvez said in a statement.

The NDFP, however, said the JASIG is still in effect.

“The safety and immunity guarantees for NDFP consultants are continuing even in case of breakdown or termination of the peace negotiations,” Sison said.

Baylosis was released last January 18 after the Quezon City Regional Trial Court dismissed charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives against him. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDFP-Negros identifies Sagay massacre gunmen

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in Negros Island identified four suspects in the massacre of nine farmers in Sagay City last October 20.

In a statement, NDFP-Negros spokesperson Frank Fernandez said the killers behind the massacre were Vito Lotrago, Eduardo Linugon, Rexi Robles and a certain Rako, former members of the Revolutionary Proletarian Army (RPA) and active members of the Special Civilian Active Auxiliary (SCAA).

Fernandez said the Roselyn Pelle Command of the New People’s Army (NPA)-Northern Negros Front conducted an exhaustive investigation into the incident and identified the four as the perpetrators.

The NDFP official said the gunmen are under the employ of local politicians, such as the Marañons, specifically Negros Occidental governor Alfredo Jr. and Sagay City mayor Alfredo III.

“It is common knowledge that for decades the Marañon family and their kin (the Tolentinos, Sumbincos, Lumaynos, Zarosas, Javelosas, Jaojocos and Cuevas) have maintained and expanded their land holdings in Sagay City and neighboring towns and cities using violence and brutality by conniving with the AFP/PNP (Armed Forces of the Philippines/Philippine National Police) and employing armed mercenaries like the RPA and SCAA,” Fernandez said.

“I know for a fact that, for the right price, P2,000 or thereabouts, SCAA elements are willing to kill anyone,” he added.

Fernandez, a former priest, is a long-time leader of the revolutionary groups in the island.

Fernandez said the elder Marañon is the “kingpin of big despotic landlords in the province” who colludes with the AFP [and] PNP and other government agencies to downplay the Sagay massacre.

“Marañon continues his vain attempts to divert the public from the real issues of land monopoly, tyranny and exploitation,” he said.

The Marañons and the PNP have yet to reply to Fernandez’s statement.

Earlier, the local police filed multiple murder charges against two National Federation of Sugar Workers officials, alleging Rene Manlangit and Rogelio Arquillo recruited the victims into their organization and later killed them as part of the destabilization plot to oust President Rodrigo Duterte.

Fernandez said the police “script” stinks of deceit and ill motives that is “evidently demented.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

THE NPA ON NEGROS | Fully recovered and growing

by Roy Magsilang for Kodao Productions

 

CENTRAL NEGROS — If there was any region most affected by the split within the revolutionary movement in the early 1990s, it would have to be Negros.

In 1993, the then Negros Island Regional Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines declared its “autonomy” and rejection of the Second Great Rectification Movement and, just like that, one of the strongest bastions of the revolution was decimated, losing 80 percent of its strength.

Of the New People’s Army, which was known to mount company-sized operations and could easily muster a battalion on short notice, all that was left was a lone platoon operating within only three villages.

It was to this that former priest Frank Fernandez, who had not too long before left Negros after being given greater responsibilities in the movement, returned, his mission to oversee the recovery – rebirth would probably be a more apt term – of the revolutionary movement on the island.

Fast forward to December 22, 2016, as Juanito Magbanua, commander of the NPA-Negros’ Apolinario Gatmaitan Command, gestures to the thickly forested peaks, above which hawks occasionally soar, that stand like sentries around the village deep in the Central Negros highlands where the rebels are hosting a grassroots peace forum that has gathered easily more than 3,000 people by mid-morning with even more streaming in as the day progresses.

It is the largest event the rebels say they have ever hosted.

“We have a few platoons stationed around us to guard the occasion,” he tells a journalist who has just passed an NPA checkpoint manned by one of the platoons at the road leading to the village.

And in the grounds of the school where the forum was being held, there were easily two or three more platoons, one detailed to render military honors during the singing of the communist anthem “Internationale,” the others involved in preparing and performing in a cultural program, feeding the multitude, entertaining the guests, including children, and the host of other tasks involved in such a huge event.

For all the cynicism with which the so-called millennial generation is often looked at, they were an overwhelming presence among the Negros NPA. Just as they were at the protests that followed the burial of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

It was, indeed, a far cry from 1993 when the NPA platoon that remained after the split celebrated the founding anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines, its 25th but the first in Negros in the time of rectification.

Held in a small forest hollow in the dead of night with only some 30 or so of the masa, the songs, speeches and militant chants reduced to whispers because just that afternoon they had gone on high alert after a military patrol was spotted in the vicinity.

Speaking later to journalists at a press conference together with Fernandez, who allowed the media to show his face publicly for the first time in three decades, Magbanua said Negros is currently divided into four guerrilla fronts, each covering the rough equivalent of one congressional district: the Roselyn Pelle Command of the Northern Front, the Leonardo Panaligan Command of the Central Front, the Armando Sumayang Jr. Command of the Southwest Front, and the Rachelle Mae Palang Command of the Southeast Front.

“And we are currently busy developing even more guerrilla fronts,” Magbanua said, laughing off claims of Brigadier General Jon Aying, commander of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division and former chief of the Negros-based 303rd Infantry Brigade, “that only around 200 NPA fighters remain” on the island.

“Just look around you and judge for yourself if what he claims is true,” Magbanua said.

In fact, he said, given that the NPA is now spread through 120 guerrilla fronts throughout the country, “the government does not have the capacity to defeat, much less, crush us.”

He noted that during the term of former President Benigno Aquino III, “he wanted to deploy one battalion to each NPA front. His problem was, there are only more than 80 infantry battalions.”

And even if it could be managed, the NPA of Negros have proven time and again that a battalion or even two are not enough to defeat a much smaller, but highly mobile and disciplined, guerrilla force.

For example, that lone platoon in 1993 survived the next few years with nary a scratch despite major offensives involving one or more Army battalions before it deployed small teams to undertake recovery and expansion work.

Militarily, Magbanua explained, “the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) can mount full-scale operations in only 10 guerrilla fronts and only for up to six months at most, giving the other 110 fronts the opportunity time to rest, strengthen themselves, and mount their own operations.”

“Really, the future is bright for the revolution,” he said, “which is why the government has been forced to enter into peace talks with us.” #

 

GRP harassment of civilians preventing bilateral ceasefire agreement–NDFP Negros

COMMUNISTS on Negros Island said they are not ready for a bilateral ceasefire agreement between the Rodrigo Duterte government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) until President Rodrigo Duterte orders the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to stop targeting activists for assassination.

Speaking to journalists at a grassroots peace forum last December 22, National Democratic Front of the Philippines-Negros spokesperson Frank Fernandez said the AFP is “using the war on drugs as a justification” for targeting 16 activists all over the country, including an indigenous people’s leader.

The former Roman Catholic priest said that instead of respecting Duterte’s unilateral ceasefire declaration in effect since August, the AFP is using the anti-narcotics campaign as a cover for counterinsurgency operations.

“This is why we cannot agree right away to a bilateral ceasefire with government because we have to secure the people in the areas where we operate against abuses like this,” Fernandez said.

Duterte had been exerting pressure on the NDFP to sign a bilateral ceasefire agreement with his government, repeatedly threatening them that there will be no further releases of political prisoners unless he receives a signed declaration.

Fernandez for his part slammed the government’s anti-drug campaign and said Duterte’s approach “can never solve the problem.”

Anti-poor anti-drug campaign

Speaking in the same forum, New People’s Army (NPA) commander Juanito Magbanua said they initially appreciated Duterte’s efforts to solve the drug problems “but quickly saw something was wrong because most of those who have died are the poor.”

“Drugs reach the streets from above, from the drug lords and large distributors. Why not go after them first instead of killing only the poor, who are as much victims of the drug trade?” Magbanua asked.

The guerrilla commander said even the street pushers belong to the suffering poor.

“We are not saying they (pushers) are right but most of them were pushed to the trade by poverty,” he stressed.

Magbanua said that long before Duterte started going after drug addicts and pushers in Davao City, the NPA already had an anti-drug program in the guerrilla zones.

But while they share Duterte’s goal of eradicating illegal narcotics in the country, Magbanua said they “cannot agree to the extrajudicial executions whose targets are largely the masses.”

Both communist leaders said they are still waiting for Duterte to prove himself to the people, noting that in his first six months as president, “wala sang benepisyo sa masa (there have been no benefits for the masses).”

More than a hundred NPA guerrilla fronts are set to celebrate the Communist Party of the Philippines’ 48th founding anniversary tomorrow, December 26. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)