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Court clears NDFP peace consultant Rafael Baylosis and companion

By Joseph Cuevas

The Regional Trial Court Branch 100 in Quezon City dismissed the cases of illegal possession of firearms and explosives against National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Rafael Baylosis and companion Guillermo Roque.

In a 27-page decision last January 15, Judge Editha Miña-Aguba pointed out the illegality of the police surveillance and arrest.

The judge said evidence must be believable and must come from a credible witness, something the charges against Baylosis and Roque failed to show.

According to Public Interest Law Center (PILC) lawyers, the arrest against Baylosis and Roque January last year was illegal because the police insisted that the accused were roaming through Manila and Quezon City with guns tucked in their waists and toted around a bag of red rice with a grenade inside.

Baylosis’s defense poked holes into their story, pointing out not only lapses but grievous procedural mistakes, and thus exposed concerted, malicious efforts to fabricate the charges, the defense lawyers said.

PILC added that the dismissal of Baylosis case proved not only his innocence but exposes the police illegal actions, undue surveillance, illegal arrest, planting of evidences and filling of trumped up charges against peace consultants and political activists.

NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison said he is glad about the development.

“Mabuting nadismiss ang charges of illegal gun possesion sa kaso ni Raffy dahil napatunayan na planted ang evidence,” Sison told Kodao.

“Dapat ganoon din ang mangyari sa kaso nina Vic Ladlad, Rey Casambre at iba pang plinantahan ng mga baril at explosive,” Sison added.

Lengua De Guzman, daughter of Baylosis and convenor of Free Raffy Baylosis Committee, said they are looking to file counter charges against the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group of the Philippine National Police and the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines as well as all other participants in the fabrication of criminal charges.

The dismissal followed Judge Aguba’s decision granting the demurer to evidence last June 2018 in favor of another peace consultant Ruben Saluta and his companions who were charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives, citing the broken chain of custody and inconsistency of witnesses’ testimonies against Saluta and company.

In November 2015, Judge Aguba also acquitted NDF consultant Eduardo Serrano in a multiple murder case for the failure of prosecution to identify him as “Rogelio Villanueva”.

Serrano, who was imprisoned for 11 years, died in detention last January 2016 due to cardiac arrest.

Baylosis was the first peace consultant arrested last January 2018 after President Duterte unilaterally terminated the peace negotiations and made a crackdown against peace consultants.

Adelberto Silva, Vicente Ladlad and Rey Claro Casambrewere arrested in October, November and December 2018, respectively. #

Joma says no back channel talks with Andal

National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison clarified that he was not informed of any planned backchannel talks with any representative of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Asked to confirm Movie and Television Review and Classification Board member Avelino Andal’s claim he was tapped by Duterte to open backchannel talks with the NDFP, Sison told Kodao that he has yet to talk to Andal.

“He has not approached anyone of us in Utrecht,” Sison said.

Newspapers reported Tuesday that Andal claimed he was ordered by Duterte to talk to Sison to try to revive the peace negotiations between the NDFP and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) .

“Actually, napag-utusan ang inyong lingkod, utos mula sa Presidente kung maari i-resume ang pag-uusap sapagkat ang kanyang pinagdidiinan bilang Presidente, siya ay kaibigan at ‘di kaaway ng sinuman, kabilang na rebelde,” the Philippine Daily Inquirer quoted Andal in its report. (I was ordered by the President if the talks could be resumed because he is resolute that he is a friend, not an enemy, to everyone, including the rebels.)

Andal reportedly claimed he already sent “feelers” to the communist rebels, who were “extremely glad” of the President’s move.

Palace officials were quick to deny Andal’s claim, however.

‘Fake news’

In a Philippine News Agency report yesterday, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana described Andal’s claim as “fake news.”

“The President says he never ordered him to do so,” Lorenzana reportedly said.

Former Presidential aide Christopher Go for his part said Duterte did not order Andal to talk to Sison.

“Look, everybody is talking. So [I have] no instruction on Andal about back channeling,” Go quoted Duterte as saying in a phone interview.

In a Palace briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo neither confirmed nor denied reports that Duterte has ordered Andal to lead the backdoor talks with Sison.

“I do not think so. He (Andal) is not involved in the negotiation process. Members of the panel would be (Labor) Secretary (Silvestre) Bello, he’s one of them,” Panelo said.

‘Only the GRP panel’

Sison said he believes the statements of Duterte and Lorenzana that the President did not order Andal to open back channel talks with him and others in Utrecht.

“Andal himself has admitted that he wished to do back channel talks in his private capacity,” Sison clarified.

He added that he is not sure if he remembers Andal.

Sison said that as far as the NDFP Negotiating Panel is concerned, it continues to recognize as its counterpart the GRP Negotiating Panel under the chairmanship of Silvestre (Bebot) Bello III.

“[The NDFP] has not been informed by the GRP of any change of representation that is different from the panel headed by Bello,” he said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Duterte again says he is open to talks with NDFP

Despite his repeated orders to wipe out the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), President Rodrigo Duterte said he is still open to reviving peace negotiations with the Left.

Duterte again changed tone and told Cabinet members and other officials in Bicol Friday some communication lines are still open for the revival of peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

Duterte said he cannot afford to completely close communication lines with the Left.

“I’d like you to know we are keeping the fire burning and hindi pwedeng sarahan. You cannot afford to lose all channels of communication. Mag-iwan ka talaga maski maliit,” he said.

Duterte’s latest turnaround came after the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its founding chairman Jose Maria Sison announced that the revolutionary movement will prioritize his ouster starting this year.

An increasingly quarrelsome Duterte repeatedly cancelled formal rounds of peace negotiations with the NDFP since middle of 2017 despite successful efforts by both the NDFP and government peace panels to forge social and economic reform as well as ceasefire agreements.

He issued Proclamation No. 360 on November 23, 2017 terminating the peace negotiations and followed it up with Proclamation No. 374 on December 5, 2017 designating the CPP and the New People’s Army (NPA) as ¨terrorist¨ organizations.

Sison said the two proclamations are aimed at putting up permanent walls against peace negotiations.

Two key Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) peace negotiators have since resigned.

Presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza resigned for “failing to curb corruption” at the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process while GRP ceasefire committee chairperson Francisco Lara left over “additional preconditions” for the resumption of formal negotiations that “torpedoed” certain aspects of the peace talks.

Meanwhile, the NDFP has consistently said it is open to any sincere peace negotiations, even with the “tyrant” Duterte.

Welcome Duterte statement

NDFP chief political consultant Sison said he welcomes Duterte’s latest turnaround.

“Enemies need peace negotiations before they can become friends or partners for the sake of the Filipino people who desire social, economic and political reforms as basis for a just and lasting peace,” Sison said in a statement issued a few hours after Duterte’s statement.

“I welcome the statement of Duterte that he is still open to peace negotiations even as there is still an exchange of hostile words in the mass media and exchange of bullets in the battlefield,” he said.

Sison explained it is the consistent policy of the NDFP to be open to peace negotiations with the Duterte regime despite their determination to seek the ouster of his regime.

“It is for the benefit of the people that the peace negotiations resume and stop the Duterte regime from proclaiming martial law nationwide, from calling off or rigging the May 2019 elections and from pursuing the scheme to impose a fascist dictatorship on the Filipino people via charter change for a bogus kind of federalism,” Sison said.

Sison added the NDFP presumes that, when peace negotiations resume, the way is open to the forging of agreements on social, economic and political reforms “desired and needed by the people.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

GRP ceasefire chief’s resignation result of frustration with Duterte, military—Sison

The resignation of the head of the ceasefire committee of the government negotiating panel with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) exposes how President Rodrigo Duterte and the military have made the peace talks impossible, Prof. Jose Maria Sison said.

Responding to Francisco “Pancho” Lara’s announcement of his resignation as chairperson of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) Negotiating Panel ceasefire committee, Sison said he thinks Lara “got fed up” with Duterte and the military.

“I think that Pancho got fed up with Durterte and the military when Duterte practically waste-basketed the draft agreements that had resulted from the hard work in backchannel talks by teams of the GRP and NDFP negotiating panels from March to June 2018,” Sison told Kodao.

The GRP and NDFP peace talks were supposed to resume last June after Duterte terminated the negotiations with his issuance of Proclamation 360 in November 2017 and his subsequent declaration of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) as so-called terrorist organizations in December.

Both parties were ready to formally sign an interim peace agreement in June, a package that included a stand down agreement between the NPA and the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police; Guidelines and Procedures towards an Interim Peace Agreement and the Resumption of Talks and its attached timetable; the Initialed Interim Peace Agreement; and the NDFP Proposed Draft of the Amnesty Proclamation which was given to the GRP and the Third Party Facilitator.

In an interview with ABS-CBN News Friday, Lara said additional preconditions for the resumption of formal negotiations have “torpedoed” certain aspects of the peace talks.

He revealed that localized peace talks and the demand for Sison’s return to the Philippines were additions to the original agenda that included a ceasefire agreement with the NDFP while negotiations are being held.

“I think those additional issues torpedoed the discussions of a ceasefire and the other reforms because, then, the bar had been raised higher,” Lara said.

Lara surmised that his replacement may be someone more trusted by Duterte and the military or the military would like to take on the issue of ceasefire with the NDFP themselves.

Duterte has appointed former AFP chief of staff Carlito Galvez after formal Presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza’s sudden resignation last month due to corruption within the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP).

“I know that based on my discussions with the military that they probably want something else rather than a ceasefire,” Lara told ABS-CBN News.

“I think they want to prosecute the war as it is happening right now,” he said.

Sison seconded Lara’s observation, adding the NDFP learned that Duterte allowed the military officers at the command conference held in Malacañang in June 2018 “to insult the OPAPP and the GRP Negotiating Panel.”

Sison did not give details on how the alleged insult happened.

“I think that Duterte is a captive of his own greed for power and bureaucratic look. He does not want the peace negotiations so that he can scapegoat the CPP, NPA and NDFP as pretext and cause for establishing a full-blown fascist dictatorship through chacha (Charter Change) to a bogus kind of federalism,” Sison said.

The OPAPP website has not published a statement on Lara’s resignation as of this posting. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

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)