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Casambre arrest proves Duterte ‘cannot be trusted’

The Rodrigo Duterte government is “ludicrous” in arresting and charging yet another National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant with trumped-up murder and attempted murder cases, various groups said.

The arrest of long-time peace consultant and Philippine Peace Center (PPC) executive director Rey Claro Casambre and spouse Patricia Cora in Bacoor, Cavite early Friday morning as well as the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) claim a calibre .45 gun and a grenade were found in the couple’s car drew quick condemnations from activists who said the incident is yet another canard by “peace spoilers.”

Rey and Cora just came from a wake at the University of the Philippines campus in Quezon City when arrested by members of the PNP’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group.

They were taken to Camp Crame in Quezon City early Friday morning where they were informed of a warrant of arrest against Rey for murder and attempted murder he allegedly committed along with six others in Davao Oriental Province.

The warrant of arrest was issued on November 23 by Judge Emilio Dayanghirang III of Lupon Regional Trial Court Branch 32.

No details of the murder and attempted murder charges have been made public yet.

“As usual, and as predictable as the sun will come out tomorrow, the non-bailable murder charges are trumped-up and sprang out of nowhere. And as tiringly contrived as expected, a roving firearm and a rusty grenade were again routinely planted to make the arrest appear aboveboard for good measure,” NDFP legal consultant Atty. Edre Olalia fumed.

Olalia said nobody would ever believe such false narrative, noting that Casambre is a publicly-known peace consultant who is also covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).

“As such, [Casambre] should not have been [subjected to surveillance], harassed and arrested for an indubitably manufactured case,” Olalia said.

The lawyer said Rey’s spouse Cora is a translator with the PPC where he is executive director for the longest time

“The arrest of the Casambres, treacherous as it is baseless, once again proves that this government cannot be trusted and that it is the number one violator of the most basic rights especially of those seeking genuine and long-lasting solutions to the problems besetting our people and our country,” Olalia said.

Casambre is the fourth NDFP peace consultant after Rafael Baylosis, Adelberto Silva and Vicente Ladlad arrested after Duterte effectively terminated the once-promising peace negotiations in November 2017.

Baylosis was arrested last January, Silva in October and Ladlad in November and were each charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

All four are elderly and suffering from various ailments.

More condemnations

Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Ysagani Zarate said the Casambres’ arrest is the same modus that the police used in arresting Ladlad, Baylosis and Silva.

“They planted guns and explosives and filed trumped up charges,” the progressive solon said.

Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights secretary general Cristina Palabay said only fools would believe the elderly Casambre couple would be carrying weapons inside their vehicle.

“All bear the same signs of fabricated charges,” Palabay said.

Atty. Rachel Pastores, lawyer for the Casambres said the arrest was carried out by “peace spoilers” who betray government’s insincerity in the peace negotiations.

“We now fear for the safety of others involved in the peace talks. Among them, [our] clients Alexander and Winona Birondo who were part of the NDFP delegation and whose cases were recently dismissed by a Quezon City trial court. The Birondo spouse have reported intense surveillance and harassment,” Pastores said.

By harassing and rounding up all peace consultants and unnecessarily demonizing them, the PNP exploits their badges as law enforcers, and aids and abets the scuttling of the peace talks, Pastores said.

Zarate added it is tragic and ironic that Casambre, who is pushing for the resumption of the peace talks and who even attended the Congress hearing for the approval of the resolution for the resumption of the negotiations, is the one behind bars while hawks pushing for war are even promoted by Duterte.

“The Duterte administration is ill-advised if they think that the armed conflict can be solved with this type of modus and a purely military solution without addressing the roots of the armed conflict,” Zarate said.

‘Ludicrous’

The NDFP Negotiating Panel for its part said Casambre’s arrest is unjust and ludicrous that virtually closes the doors to any possibility of resuming the peace negotiations with the Duterte regime.

NDFP’s chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili said the charges against Casambre related to an incident in Lupon, Davao Oriental on September 13 this year involve others who are currently experiencing “intense harassment and surveillance.”

The others have assisted the NDFP Negotiating Panel in various capacities as resource persons, writers, researchers and staff during the peace negotiations, Agcaoili said.

“To ensure the smooth resumption of the formal peace talks, the detained peace consultants should be released immediately,” he added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘Binabantaan ng pag-aresto’

“Ang NDFP ay ginagawa ang lahat ng paraan para buhayin ang usapang pangkapayapaan. Kahit ang mga peace negotiator ang pumupunta dito, pero sila ay binabantaan pa rin ng pag aresto.”–Renato Reyes Jr, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general

(Meme by Carlo Francisco)

Dureza resigns as Presidential peace adviser

Secretary Jesus Dureza resigned Tuesday following President Rodrigo Duterte’s public termination of two senior officials of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) due to corruption.

The former secretary made public his letter to the President apologizing for his failure to curb corruption in the office he twice headed.

“I am sad because despite my efforts to be compliant with your strong advocacy against corruption, I failed,” Dureza wrote.

Duterte last Monday (November 26) announced he terminated OPAPP Undersecretary for Support Services Ronald Flores and Assistant Secretary Yeshton Donn Baccay of the agency’s Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) program.

“I am very sad that I accepted the resignation of Secretary Dureza,” Duterte said Tuesday at the inauguration of the new airport in Panglao Island, Bohol.

Dureza also served as peace adviser to former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

It is the second time in two successive terms the OPAPP was involved in allegations of corruption.

Corruption infested

In 2015, the Commission on Audit (COA) red-flagged OPAPP, then headed by Teresita Deles, for overspending on vehicle rentals by 469 percent.

According to COA, the OPAPP in 2014 spent P45 million on vehicle rentals instead of the appropriated P7.97 million.

Government auditors revealed that OPAPP rented a total of 294 vehicles in 2014, in addition to the 56 vehicles already owned by the agency.

COA reported that the office used funds from other programs to pay for car rentals without prior approval from the Department of Budget and Management.

The terminations and resignation this week revealed that corruption is apparently continuing in the agency.

PAMANA is OPAPP’s complimentary program to its role in the government’s peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The program claims it is aimed at extending development interventions to isolated, hard-to-reach and conflict-affected communities through improved governance, poverty reduction and community empowerment in the hope of addressing issues of conflict.

Duterte and Dureza did not elaborate on the alleged corruption by Flores and Baccay.

“I take full responsibility and apologise for all this,” Dureza said, adding his voluntary resignation is also to make way for needed reorganization that Duterte may wish to undertake at OPAPP.

AFP chief to take over?

Earlier, Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff Carlito Galvez Jr. told reporters that he wishes to become a peace adviser when he retires in December.

Galvez told reporters last November 19 that he conveyed his desire to Dureza and that he “accepted my request.”

Galvez however said he wishes to focus on the government’s peace process with the MILF.

Dureza did not comment on Galvez’s announcement.

The President’s high school classmate remains in government as special envoy to the European countries.

The MILF and the NDFP have yet to comment on Dureza’s resignation. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Families and supporters demand freedom for jailed NDFP consultants

Families and supporters of National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultants Rafael Baylosis, Adelberto Silva and Vicente Ladlad gathered in an activity last Saturday, November 23, at the Immaculate Concepcion Multipurpose Building in Cubao, Quezon City to call for their release .

The Philippine Peace Center (PPC) and Kapayapaan–Campaign for a Just and Lasting Peace also urged the government to resume its stalled peace talks with NDFP to address the roots of armed conflict.

The PPC reminded the government to respect previous agreements such as the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees which protects consultants from any form of arrest, surveillance, harassments and others.

Baylosis, Silva and Ladlad were arrested last March, October and November, respectively, and charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

Atty. Rachel Pastores, managing counsel of Public Interest Law Center said that their clients were subjected to arrest and punishment by simply doing their job as peace consultants.

She added that even if the peace negotiations were formally terminated, the JASIG is still in effect. # (Report and video by Joseph Cuevas)

‘What kind of President does the GRP have?’ Joma asks

President Rodrigo Duterte’s revelation it is the military and the police that will give final approval on a final peace agreement with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) is an admission of his incompetence and lack of political will to pursue the peace negotiations, Jose Maria Sison said.

Reacting to Duterte’s speech in Tanza, Cavite Thursday (November 22) that he will seek military and police approval before he signs a peace agreement with the NDFP, Sison wondered why the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) chief executive is afraid of his subordinates.

“He is supposed to be the supreme political leader and commander-in-chief of the GRP. That is an inadmissible excuse for his repeated termination of the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations,” Sison told Kodao.

“Give me the final draft [of a peace agreement]. If I like it, I will pass it on to the military and the police. I will ask [them], ‘Is this alright with you?’” Duterte said Thursday.

Kasi, kung ‘di naman tanggap ng militar at pulis, I coup d’etat ka naman. Anak ng jueteng!” he explained. (Because, the military and the police will only launch a coup d’etat against me if they are against it. Son of a b****!)

Sison said Duterte is simply joking, stupid or crazy if he thinks the NDFP will agree to submit a draft peace agreement only to be subjected to a final approval by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP).

“He pretends not to know that there is a negotiating process or he is so drugged by fentanyl that he does not really know it,” Sison said.

Fentanyl is a powerful anti-pain drug banned in many countries that Duterte admits he is taking.

Sison reminded Duterte that before the President  terminated the peace negotiations in November last year, both the NDFP and GRP negotiating panels had already made their respective drafts of the comprehensive agreements on social and economic reforms (CASER) and on political and constitutional reforms (CAPCR) and had made substantial progress in reconciling their drafts of CASER.

“Duterte seems to imagine that the NDFP is like China which has enough money to bribe him to let it draft a major document for his consent and approval,” Sison said.

The NDFP’s chief political consultant said that Duterte only further exposes his “inane mind” by admitting that he would still need the ultimate approval of the military and police.

“He acknowledges that he stands in fear of coup d’etat by the military and police and he actually claims that his supposed authority as political leader and commander-in-chief of the GRP and its armed services is inferior to the authority of the military and police,” Sison said.

“What kind of president does the GRP have? A clown, a dolt or a dopehead?” Sison asked.

Sison however said NDFP negotiators will still talk to their GRP counterparts.

“Because of the NDFP’s standing policy to be open to negotiations with the GRP, (NDFP Negotiating Panel chairperson) Fidel Agcaoili will continue to be in touch with his counterpart [Silvestre] Bebot Bello and explore the possibility of resuming the peace negotiations,” Sison said.

“In view of the termination of the peace negotiations and absence of any ceasefire, it is logical for the NPA and other revolutionary forces to do their best in conducting the people’s war while the NDFP focuses on drawing up the draft agreements on social, economic and political reforms to lay the basis for a just and lasting peace,” he added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Duterte: Military, police has final word on peace agreement with NDFP

President Rodrigo Duterte revealed his will not be the last word on whatever peace agreement the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) enters into with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

In a speech in Tanza, Cavite Thursday (November 22) to inaugurate a new barge port, Duterte said he will seek approval from the military and the police before signing a final agreement with the NDFP even if he already approves of it.

“Give me the final draft [of a peace agreement]. If I like it, I will pass it on to the military and the police. I will ask [them], ‘Is this alright with you?’” Duterte said.

Kasi, kung ‘di naman tanggap ng militar at pulis, I coup d’etat ka naman. Anak ng jueteng!” he explained. (Because, the military and the police will only launch a coup d’etat against me if they are against it. Son of a b****!)

Duterte also revealed he decided not to meet NDFP chief peace negotiator Fidel Agcaoili and senior peace adviser Luis Jalandoni.

“And this Agcaoili and Jalandoni would come here and talk to me. I said, ‘Why should I talk to you? You talk to [Presidential peace adviser Jesus] Dureza and [GRP chief negotiator Silvestre] Bello,’” Duterte said.

Duterte, however, has previously met with Agcaoili and Jalandoni after his election and assumption of the presidency, even promising to issue a general amnesty for more than 500 political prisoners.

Agcaoili, Jalandoni and NDFP Negotiating Panel member Coni Ledesma was set to arrive in the Philippines this week to meet with the new Norwegian Ambassador the Philippines and attend meetings as members of the Joint Monitoring Committee of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.

The three negotiators did not push through with their homecoming after being threatened with arrest by interior and local government secretary Eduardo Año. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDFP blames Año’s arrest threat for cancelled trip

YOGJAKARTA, Indonesia—Europe-based National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace negotiators announced they cancelled their planned trip to the Philippines and possible meeting with Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) President Rodrigo Duterte, blaming interior and local government secretary Eduardo Año’s threat to have them arrested.

In a statement today, NDFP Negotiating Panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili said  he and fellow peace negotiator Coni Ledesma and senior adviser Luis Jalandoni have decided to forego their trip to the Philippines after Año said last November 16 that they will be arrested upon arrival.

“On November 16, DILG Sec. Eduardo Año issued a statement that we would be arrested upon our arrival unless the President says otherwise,” Agcaoili said.

“As a consequence, we decided in the following day to forego with the trip of Mr. Jalandoni and Ms. Ledesma whose names are in the so-called proscription case against the CPP and NPA,” he explained.

Agcaoili also clarified that his name was not included in the 600 persons listed by the Department of Justice in its terrorist proscription case against the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army last January.

He added that as far as he knows, there are no outstanding cases against him in any GRP court that could be a basis for his arrest.

Not ready

Agcaoili said that Duterte announced in Papua New Guinea last Friday while attending a summit of the Association of South East Asian Nations that he is not yet prepared to resume talks with the revolutionary movement.

He also revealed that they have been informed by the GRP last Sunday, November 18, that the appointment with the President had been cancelled and that he would only be meeting with presidential spokesperson Salvador  Panelo and presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza.

“[S]uch a meeting might not prove useful without a new perspective. As a consequence, we decided that I also forego with my trip scheduled for that evening for security consideration,” Agcaoili said.

He said that a meeting with Duterte had been scheduled on November 23 while they are in Manila, “considering that more than three months have passed since the GRP postponed the scheduled resumption of formal talks in Oslo, Norway, on June 28, 2018.”

Earlier, Duterte disclosed he is thinking about resuming the peace talks and has consulted the military about the matter.

“I will not keep it a secret. I do not want (it to be) confidential. They will come here. They want to talk to me. Their problem is they might be arrested,” Duterte said.

Other cancelled meetings

Because of the cancellation, Agcaoili said they failed to attend a meeting with the new Royal Norwegian Ambassador to the Philippines scheduled yesterday.

The Royal Norwegian Government is the Third Party Facilitator to the NDFP-GRP peace process.

Agcaoili earlier said their trip was primarily in connection with his and Ledesma’s work as members of the NDFP section in the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.

The JMS’ office is in Cubao, Quezon City. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Ladlad, Villamors suffering from maltreatment

National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace consultant Vicente Ladlad and companions are suffering from maltreatment in Camp Karingal, his wife complained in an “emergency bulletin.”

Ladlad’s wife Fides Lim announced on her Facebook account that Ladlad and his companion Alberto Villamor were “suddenly ordered transferred to a small, congested prison cell for detainees accused of common crimes at the Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit (CIDU), Quezon City police headquarters.”

Prior to the transfer, Ladlad and Villamor were detained in separate headquarters from common crime offenders after their arrest last November 8.

Ladlad, 69, suffers from acute and chronic asthma that has degenerated to emphysema in addition to a heart condition, Lim said.

Lim said there are 38 male detainees in Ladlad and Villamor’s current prison cell, measuring around 20 square meters.

“The room is so overcrowded that inmates have to take turns sleeping on the floor. Only around 20 prisoners can lie down at a time. They have to sleep on their side to fit in more sleeping bodies into that cramped floor space,” Lim said.

In between them, others have to stand up or sit down. To relieve the congestion during nighttime, sometimes ten prisoners are allowed to sleep at the office area outside the prison cell, she added.

She also complained that cramped as the area is, the “main” floor area of the prison cell is reserved as sleeping space primarily for those who personally contribute for weekly food expenses since there are no food rations for the prisoners.

“Despite the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners requiring access to fresh air and sunning, for two whole days now, Vic and Alberto have not been allowed to go out of their congested cell,” Lim said.

‘World’s most crowded’

Philippine jails have been reported to be the world’s most crowded.

“A humanitarian crisis is facing the Philippine corrections. The Philippine National Police (PNP) detention centers, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) and provincial jails, and the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) prisons are not only full to the brim, they are teeming with emaciated and disease-carrying bodies,” a Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism article reported last July.

“On June 30, 2016, upon assumption of Rodrigo Duterte as President of the country, the BJMP population stood at 96,000 inmates or Persons Deprived of Liberties (PDLs). Now, two years and three State of the Nation Addresses (SONA) after, the BJMP population stands at 160,000 PDLs. That is a staggering growth of 64 percent in two years,” the article, written by Dr. Raymund Narag, a professor at the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice of the Southern Illinois University said.

“We are now officially the most overcrowded correctional facilities in the whole world: our 605-percent congestion rate is far ahead of Haiti’s 320 percent, the second most crowded,” the article added.

The situation has worsened Ladlad’s health condition, Lim said.

“He has been having palpitations and compelled to take his ‘emergency’ medicines to avoid getting sicker,” she explained.

Lim also said that the Villamors are also suffering from their prison condition.

Panic attacks

“[Alberto] is diabetic requiring insulin and is just recovering from his second stroke that occurred last April 2018,” Lim said.

Virginia Villamor, wife of Alberto who was arrested along with the two is also suffering from trauma resulting from the raid and arrest, Lim added.

“She is given to uncontrollable trembling at night and cries and cries whenever she remembers how the arresting team forced her to lie face down on the floor,” Lim said.

She added that Virginia’s pelvic fracture, which occurred when she was bumped by a tricycle, was aggravated when the police pushed her down to the floor during the raid.

“The injury now makes it difficult for her to stand up,” Lim said.

Lim said that when the three were kept in one room, Virginia constantly called on husband Alberto to talk to her so she can sleep.

“Her transfer to the women’s prison cell and consequent separation from Alberto have worsened her emotional state. She is on the verge of a nervous breakdown,” Lim said.

Lim demanded that the CIDU stop reprisal actions being committed against Ladlad and the Villamors as well as proper medical attention and treatment for the three.

She added that human rights lawyers have filed a motion before the Quezon City Office of the City Prosecutor and Manila RTC Branch 32 to immediately transfer the three to the Metro Manila District Jail 4 (formerly known as SICA-1) in Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig, where other political prisoners are being held. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDFP-Duterte meeting up to the President–Agcaoili

The possible meeting between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) the Government of the Republic of the Philippines is up to President Rodrigo Duterte, the Left’s chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili said.

Agcaoili said they welcome the opportunity to meet with Duterte “unless he does not want to or his military is against it.”

In a speech in Puerto Princesa City in Palawan Saturday, Duterte said he is thinking of meeting with the NDFP negotiators.

“I called for a cluster meeting including the military. ‘So what do you think?’ They said, ‘Maybe. Perhaps maybe.’ It’s not a very big margin there, but ‘maybe,’” Duterte said.

Agcaoli said in a statement that he and fellow NDFP Negotiating Panel member Coni Ledesma have a scheduled trip to the Philippines in connection with their work as members of the NDFP component in the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) under the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.

The NDFP and the GRP has a joint secretariat office in Quezon City where a total of 6,898 human rights violations complaints have been filed since June 2004 to March 2018.

The NDFP said 4,886 complaints have been received against GRP forces while 2,012 have been filed against the NDFP.

Agcaoili however earlier said majority of their complaints against their forces were nuisance complaints manufactured and filed by GRP agencies.

Agcaoili said they would be accompanied by NDFP Negotiating Panel senior adviser Luis Jalandoni.

Their trip would also include a meeting with the new Norwegian Ambassador to the Philippines Bjørn Jahnsen, he added.

Agcaoili gave no dates on their arrival and their possible meeting with Duterte.

Duterte has cancelled the peace negotiations between the GRP and the NDFP since November last year. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

 

NDFP’s Vic Ladlad talks about their arrest last Thursday

“Paglabag sa mga provision ng Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) ang pag-aresto sa akin at pagkukulong. Ang provision ng JASIG sa safety and immunity ay perpetual.

“Planted, itinanim, ang mga firearm at explosives na, diumano, ay nakuha sa bahay na tinatirahan namin.  Nakita naming nang ipasok ng mga operatiba ng Quezon City Police District ang isang bag na naglalaman ng ‘baby’ M-16. Maikli ang bag na kinalalagyan nito at nakalabas ang kanyon at bahagi ng katawan ng riple.  Nakalagay sa isang mahaba pero narrow na case ang isang riple na ang rifle butt at makikita sa likuran ng case. Nakita rin ng isa sa amin na inilagay ng operatiba ng QCPD ang isang pistol.”