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Peace talks resumption possible if Duterte abandons ‘fascist dictatorship’—Sison, CPP

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) said that 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) remain doubtful due to the lack of “conducive conditions.”

The CPP said that while public clamor for the resumption of the talks remains strong, peace talks cannot be resumed as long as President Rodrigo Duterte’s 2017 proclamation terminating peace negotiations remains in place.

In November 23, 2017, Duterte issued Proclamation 360 terminating the peace negotations and creating a task force to end insurgency, reintroducing the whole-of-nation approach employed by previous administrations.

The CPP said the situation created by the GRP’s intensified anti-insurgency program is made worse by widespread killings by Duterte’s agents in Negros and across the country, “continuing incarceration of leading NDFP consultants as well as the recent arrest and detention of two members of the NDFP peace staff.”

In his speech in Malacañan Thursday, August 8, Duterte claimed the NDFP asked him to resume the peace negotiations.

“They are insisting on resuming the talks. And the others, I will not mention the name, want to come home to talk,” Duterte said during the oath-taking of newly promoted star-rank police officers.

“Two of them. As a matter of fact, sabihin ko na, si (Luis) Jalandoni pati si (Fidel) Agcaoili,” he said.

NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison, however, said Duterte is completely wrong in presuming and implying that the revolutionary Left will negotiate with his regime under his unilateral terms.

Sison said that Duterte is mistaken in saying that NDFP Negotiating Panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili and senior adviser Luis Jalandoni want to talk with him in Manila despite the president’s termination of the talks as well as his Proclamation 374 designating the CPP and the New People’s Army (NPA) as so-called terrorist organizations.

Sison also cited Duterte’s Executive Order No. 70 ordering intensified military operations against NPA strongholds in Bicol, Samar and Negros, as well as “so many other despotic issuances and actions that are obstacles to GRP-NDFP peace negotiations.”

“There is yet no sign whatsoever that he is abandoning his scheme of fascist dictatorship, which is quite overreaching, especially because of his deteriorating health and the rapidly approaching end of his rule either by ouster or end of his legal term in less than three years,” Sison said in a statement.

“GRP-NDFP peace negotiations and the Manila visit of Agcaoili and Jalandoni are impossible so long as Duterte is in power and does not remove the aforesaid obstacles that he himself is responsible for,” Sison revealed.

Sison added that Duterte “underestimates the revolutionary integrity, long experience and intelligence of the NDFP by presuming that Agcaoili and Jalandoni will walk into his trap and slaughterhouse in Manila.”

Both Sison and the CPP said the NDFP maintains the policy of keeping its doors always open to peace negotiations, heedful of the clamor of various sectors for the resumption of peace negotiations amid Duterte’s all-out war.

Sison, however, pointed out that GRP-NDFP peace negotiations are only possible if Duterte does away with the “obstacles” he has made and mends his ways.

Sison added that the The Hague Joint Declaration and further peace agreements must be reaffirmed if the negotiations are to be resumed. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Despite orders, PNP refuses to free NDFP peace talks staff

National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace talks staff Alex and Winona Birondo have yet to be freed by the Philippine National Police from detention despite orders by Quezon City Prosecutor’s Office (QCPO) for their release from detention, their lawyers reported.

In a press statement, the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) said the couple were due for release last Friday, August 2, after charges against them by policemen failed to prosper in court.

Two sets of charges against the Birondos have been referred from inquest to preliminary investigation by the prosecutors allowing their release from detention, the PILC said through its managing counsel Atty Rachel Pastores.

“In separate orders, prosecutors were hard put to find probable cause against the Birondos who were accused first of obstruction of justice and direct assault and later of illegal possession of firearms and explosives,” Pastores said.

“Significantly, there is no evidence on record which shows that respondents were ever found of seen living in or were ever inside the searched premises where the items were found,” Assistant City Prosecutor Eviess JSA Acorda said in her resolution obtained by Kodao.

The prosecutor was referring to the firearms, ammunition and explosives the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) claimed they found in the Barangay Mariblo apartment were the Birondos were arrested last July 23.

On the charges that the Birondos assaulted police officers who raided their apartment, the QCPO in another resolution said the police did not only fail to mention if they identified themselves as PNP members during the incident but they also failed to fully explain how the couple were able to block the four officers.

“We take note of the fact that there were four arresting officers vis a vis the two respondents. Considering the disparity in numbers, there should be an explanation as to how the respondents actually blocked their way,” the second resolution, signed by Assistant City Prosecutor Arceli Bagsac, said.

Both resolutions directed the QCPD to release the elderly and ailing Birondos.

The PILC condemned the police’s refusal to follow the legal orders, saying that while the police have been quick to the draw with the arrest, but slow pokes when it comes to releases.

“Despite the clear orders, the Birondos remain in detention at Camp Caringal, with the police citing procedural requirements,” Pastores said.

“The police have been caught up in their own yarn of lies, which were starkly exposed under legal scrutiny,” she added.

Pastores said the police face significant counter-suits for violation of administrative procedures and criminal laws.

She also called on the government to stop the filing of trumped-up charges against those involved in the peace talks. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

GRP arrests NDFP staff Alex and Nona Birondo

Two National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Negotiating Panel staff members were arrested early Tuesday morning, July 23, human rights lawyers of the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) announced today.

Couple Alexander and Winona Birondo were arrested by combined elements of the District Special Operations Unit and the Criminal Investigation Detection Unit of the Quezon City Police District of the Philippine National Police at an apartment building in Barangay Mariblo, San Francisco del Monte, Quezon City at around 5:30 in the morning.

Alex and Nona served as members of the NDFP’s peace talks secretariat from the second round of formal talks in 2016 up to the time the Rodrigo Duterte walked away from the negotiations in 2018.

They were supposed to join the NDFP delegation as early as August 2016 but the Department of Foreign Affairs failed to provide them new passports in time for the resumption of the negotiations in Oslo, Norway.

Before their arrest Tuesday, the couple were charged illegal possession of firearms and explosives, but released in August 2016 for the peace talks. Their case was eventually dismissed in June 2018.

The police made the couple believe they had warrants of arrest and brought them to Camp Caringal, the PILC said.

Winona Birondo at Camp Caringal. (PILC photo)

“Even after they argued that the warrant was outdated and showed the dismissal order, they were taken to Camp Caringal where the Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit and the District Special Operations Unit desperately scrambled to add charges,” PILC managing counsel Rachel Pastores said in a statement.

Pastores said that new and unfounded cases of obstruction of justice and direct assault were filed against the Birondos at the Quezon City Prosecutors’ Office.

“Having verified that there are no standing warrants against the two, the police in an ill-prepared complaint, said that they did have one against a third person totally unknown to the Birondo spouses,” Pastores said.

The police said that the Birondos were harboring a fugitive in their apartment and allowed him to escape when the police were about to arrive.

Pastores said there was no trace or evidence of a third person in the small studio-type apartment.

“This type of contrivance is eerily similar to imaginary ‘buy-bust’ operations. This premise is dangerous; the police concocted the charges on the claims of a confidential informant, who may not be compelled to show up in court and may not exist at all,” Pastores said.

Alex Birondo preparing his medicines at Camp Caringal yesterday. (PILC photo)

The Birondos are the sixth and seventh who participated in the peace talks in 2016 to be arrested and charged by the Duterte government.

NDFP Negotiating Panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili condemned the latest arrests, saying the couple should be immune from surveillance and arrests under the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).

“Alex and Nona acquired JASIG protection because of their stint as NDFP staff in the peace talks,” Agcaoili told Kodao.

“We condemn the government’s arrest of persons without warrants and whose cases have been dropped, as in the case of the Birondos,” he added.

Both in their 60s, the Birondos are known to be suffering from illnesses. Alex takes insulin shots for his severe diabetes. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Political detainee dies in Batangas, 4th under Duterte

A political prisoner died at the Batangas Provincial Jail last Friday, April 19, the fourth to die under the Rodrigo Duterte government.

Franco “Pangkoy” Romeroso, 38, suffered a stroke and died while he was confined in a hospital in Batangas City, human rights group Karapatan said.

Romeroso was being treated for his tuberculosis and diabetes mellitus when he died, the group added.

Romeroso, a father of a baby girl, was first arrested in 2010 as among the healthworkers known as the Morong 43.

Arrested, tortured and detained for 10 months, the health workers were released due to the strong international and national campaign on their case.

Romeroso was again arrested in Ternate, Cavite on March 27, 2015 on murder, multiple murder, attempted murder, and robbery with violence and intimidation charges Karapatan said were all trumped up.

Lawyers of the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) condoled with the family of Romeroso they described as a victim of “vicious state repression.”

“He (Romeroso) faced several ridiculous cases in Nasugbu, some of which had been already dismissed. He had been awaiting his next hearing in June 2019 for possible dismissal of the rest, for failure to prosecute,” the PILC said.

The law center described Romeroso as “diminutive and soft-spoken.”

“[He] had beaten other false charges before (in 2010 as part of the Morong 43) but could not escape the military’s hounding and perennial red-tagging. He left us on Good Friday after being stricken with tuberculosis while managing his diabetes; his hospital confinement upon court order being the last we could do for him,” PILC said.

“May by his passion and death remind us of continuing injustice, and strengthen our spirits in the struggle,” the group added.

Karapatan lists 548 political prisoners in the country as of March 30, at least 225 of whom were arrested under Duterte.

In 2016, Duterte promised to release all political prisoners through a general amnesty as part of confidence-building measures for the resumption of formal peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

Duterte subsequently ordered to prioritize the release of sickly and old political prisoners but failed to deliver beyond the 19 NDFP peace consultants who participated in the negotiations in Europe.

Duterte terminated the peace process with the NDFP in November 2017.

Six NDFP consultants have since been arrested, including, Rafael Baylosis, Vicente Ladlad, Rey Claro Casambre and Frank Fernandez who were not among those allowed to post bail to join the talks. # (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)

GRP now cracking down on friends and family of detained NDFP consultants — lawyer

The alleged safehouse in Marikina raided by the police Saturday is a family home, a lawyer of detained National Democratic Front of the Philippine (NDFP) peace consultants said.

Public Interest Law Center managing counsel Rachel Pastores said police claims that the house located at 34-A Chrysanthemum St., Loyola Residents, Barangay Barangka was a safehouse where guns grenades were kept is “preposterous”.

“How utterly preposterous. Gamara was found staying above a coffee shop in the sentro of Imus City, with the police station a stone’s throw away. The house in Marikina, which the police claimed was another hideout, is a family home,” Pastores in a statement said.

Earlier, National Capital Region Police Office director P/Maj. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar said the police applied for another search warrant to conduct the raid in Marikina after they recovered a suspected fake identification card on Gamara bearing the address.

Eleazar said that several documents, a seafarer’s identification and a record book, two hand grenades and a 9mm pistol were confiscated during the operation conducted Friday morning.

“We are now looking for the caretaker of the house identified as Ryan Dizon. He was not around when the search warrant was implemented on Friday,” Eleazar said.

Pastores, however, said acquaintances, old friends, and family of peace consultants are now clear targets of police and military, who have come together in a crackdown against peace consultants and advocates.

“Planting firearms and explosives is the police grasping at straws, because there is no legitimate reason to arrest or investigate the persons found therein, nor the peace consultants themselves,” Pastores said.

The lawyer recalled that retired priest Arturo Balagat arrested with Gamara in Imus was later found by the prosecutor general to have no criminal intent and ties with the peace consultant other than graciously giving him shelter and food.

But the police has threatened to have Balagat’s cooperative’s licenses and registration cancelled, Pastores said.

“Both army and police officials must temper their braggadocio, not until their competence and intelligence catch up,” Pastores said.

The lawyer also criticized President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order No. 70 and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict it created for being very busy in picking up “sick, defenseless, and unarmed” NDFP peace consultants.

“When Francisco Fernandez and Cleofe Lagtapon, likewise peace consultants, were arrested in Laguna a week ago, the army claimed to have also found them with pistols and grenades – and then, paradoxically, crowed over how weak and vulnerable they were,” Pastores said.

“Executive Order No. 70 wants to put an end to the roots of the insurgency and reclaim the peace, but why do its implementors spawn more injustice along the way? Long-drawn vendetta, disbalance of power and inequities, as demonstrated in the illegal arrests and detention of peace consultants, only pose more reasons to resist,” she added.

Pastores said they are confident that charges against Gamara, Fernandez, Lagtapon, as well as the others victims of planted evidence and perjured testimonies, will be eventually dismissed and disposed of. # (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)

Where is Frank Fernandez? NDFP asks former priest’s captors

The whereabouts of National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NFFP) peace consultant Frank Fernandez reportedly nabbed by the police and military in Nagcarlan, Laguna early Sunday morning have yet to be known more than 24 hours after his arrest.

NDFP Negotiating Panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili said Fernandez, long-time NDFP spokesperson in Negros Island, must be surfaced and released by his captors as soon as possible as he known to be ailing and undergoing treatment.

“The NDFP strongly condemns the unjust arrest of Frank Fernandez and his partner. Frank is a publicly known consultant in the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines)-NDFP peace negotiations as NDF spokesperson for Negros,” Agcaoili told Kodao.

“He is also known to be ill and requires medical treatment,” Agcaoili added.

In an Inquirer report, Fernandez was arrested at 5:16 a.m. in Barangay Calumpang, in a joint operation of the Philippine Army and Laguna police.

The report added the arrest was confirmed to the Inquirer by three police officials and was undertaken by virtue of an arrest warrant.

Fernandez was the sixth NDFP peace consultant arrested since President Rodrigo Duterte terminated peace negotiations with the Left in November 2017.

Earlier, Rafael Baylosis, Adelberto Silva, Vicente Ladlad and Rey Claro Casambre were arrested in succession late last year after repeated attempts to revive the stalled peace talks failed.

Renante Gamara, NDFP peace consultant for the National Capital Region, was arrested last Wednesday in Imus City, Cavite.

Baylosis was first arrested in January 2018 but was eventually released last January 18 after the Quezon City Regional Trial Court threw out trumped-up charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives against him.

Twelve days later, NDFP peace consultant Randy Felix Malayao was killed inside a bus in Aritao, Nueva Vizcaya last January 30.

Last Monday, March 18, Duterte dissolved the GRP Negotiating Panel and fired all its members.

Fernandez, a former Catholic priest, was last seen in public in central Negros Island in December 2016 where he attended a press conference and talked about the peace process and Duterte’s drug war, among other things.

He was reportedly tagged by the military as the most wanted rebel leader in Negros with a P7.8 million bounty on his head. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Another guns and explosives possession charge against newly-arrested NDFP consultant

Guess what charges were filed against arrested National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Renante Gamara.

Like the complaints filed against four NDFP consultants it arrested in succession in 2018, the Philippine National Police (PNP) charged Gamara and his companion, retired priest Arturo Balagat, with illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

Gamara and Balagat were arrested Wednesday afternoon in Poblacion II-A, Imus, Cavite  and are being held at present at the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) of the PNP in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City yesterday.

Like his fellow NDFP consultants Rafael Baylosis, Adelberto Silva, Vicente Ladlad and Rey Claro Casambre, Gamara is facing charges of violations of RA 10591, the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act.

The PNP said a .9 mm caliber pistol and two hand grenades were recovered from the detainees when arrested.

Gamara’s arrest brings to five the number of NDFP peace consultants arrested since President Rodrigo Duterte terminated peace talks with the Left in November 2017.

The youngest NDFP peace consultant, Randy Felix Malayao, 59, was killed inside a bus in Nueva Vizcaya last January 30.

Baylosis was released last January, however, after the Quezon city Regional Trial court dismissed the charges against him.

Duterte again announced his termination of the peace talks with the NDFP Thursday, three days after dissolving his negotiating panel led by labor secretary Silvestre Bello III.

Condemnations

Human rights group Karapatan condemned Gamara and Balagat’s arrest and accused the police of filing yet another illegal firearms and explosives possession against the consultant.

“This is not only a time of unpeace where there is prevalence of human rights violations and impunity, it is also a period of targeted persecution and intimidation against those who continue to clamor for peace,” said Karapatan deputy secretary general Roneo Clamor. 

“The government has again zeroed in on the persecution of peace consultants, instead of working to resolve the root causes of the armed conflict by way of pursuing peace negotiations,” Clamor added.

Karapatan revealed that the search warrant presented by the police in arresting Gamara was issued by the same Laguna court that ordered the arrest of Silva and four others in October 2018.

The Search Warrant was granted by Executive Judge Cynthia Marino-Ricablanca of RTC Branch 27 of the 4th Judicial Region of Sta. Cruz, Laguna. 

Karapatan, however, said Gamara, 62, took part in the peace negotiations
after posting bail on August 2016 as a consultant to the reciprocal working group on political and constitutional reforms.

“He is supposedly covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), an agreement that seeks to provide protection and “free and unhindered” passage for individuals involved in the peace negotiations,” Clamor explained

‘A spectacle’

Human rights lawyer Kristina Conti, the first to come to Gamara’s aid in Taguig said the grounds presented by the police in arresting Gamara and Balagat are all dubious as the two have no pending warrant in the courts.

Conti told Kodao that the bail Gamara posted in August 2016 when he was first released to enable his participation in formal peace negotiations throughout Europe applies to his previous cases.

Conti added it is grossly ignorant for the PNP to say that “Duterte ordered his arrest” because the president is not a proper judicial authority.

She added that the JASIG is still binding and it does not authorize the arrest of anyone without warrant or color of authority.

She also said that the firearms and explosives presented by the police were not owned by the detainees.

“They have no need for it…Mr Gamara is not wanted, not in hiding, and certainly not in possession of any contraband,” the lawyer told Kodao.

Conti also hit the the Regional Special Operations Unit of the NCRPO’s haste in calling for a press conference rather than ensuring the detainees’ right to due process.

“[T]o show that this was a political spectacle, RSOU prioritized the press con over preparing for the inquest,” Conti said.

NDFP chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili for his part called Gamara and Balagat’s arrest as illegal and condemnible.

“[T]he NDFP condemns in the strongest terms possible the illegal arrest of NDFP consultant Renante Gamara. As NDFP consultant in political and constitutional reforms, he is entitled to JASIG protection and guarantees,” Agcaoili told Kodao.

“The NDFP also protests the arrest of retired priest Fr. Art Balagat as another sign of the continuing persecution against churchpeople by the Duterte regime,” he added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘Unli’ termination, Joma says of Duterte’s latest ending of talks

Like an old broken record, Jose Maria Sison said of President Rodrigo Duterte’s latest announcement of termination of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) peace negotiations.

“Duterte is like an old broken record repeating ad nauseam his termination of the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations,” Sison, NDFP chief political consultant, said.

Duterte again announced Thursday at the 122nd Philippine Army Founding Anniversary at Fort Bonifacio in Manila that he has permanently ended peace negotiations with the Left.

“I am officially announcing the permanent termination of our talks between the government panel and the Communist Party of the Philippines,” Duterte said.

“You can maybe talk to the next President of this Republic one day,” he said.

Duterte’s announcement came three days after he dissolved his government’s negotiating panel and terminated its members led by Labor secretary Silvestre H. Bello III.

‘As early as November 2017’

But Sison said that Duterte’s latest announcement means nothing as the GRP leader already ended the peace negotiations in November 2017 and has since refused to return to the negotiating table.

“As far as the NDFP is concerned, Duterte formally killed the peace negotiations on November 23, 2017 with his Proclamation 360 terminating them,” Sison said.

Duterte’s repeated announcement of peace talks termination since then is merely driving more nails into the coffin of the negotiations under his regime, he added.

Sison said Duterte only wants the armed conflict to continue as an excuse to impose a de facto martial law nationwide and eventually a full-blown fascist dictatorship.

Duterte also wants to push through his charter change in order to impose his “bogus kind of federalism,” Sison said.

‘Waiting for a new GRP’

Sison agreed with Duterte that it may be best to wait for a new GRP administration to revive the stalled peace negotiations.

“As far as the NDFP is concerned, the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations can be resurrected in the future by a new GRP administration,” Sison said.

Sison said the Duterte regime may even be finished earlier than 2022.

“The Duterte regime is not eternal. It can be finished with the success of the oust movement, with the end of his term in 2022 or with his certain overthrow as he forces his way to a fascist dictatorship,” Sison said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)