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Groups urge Covid-19 testing in prisons, release of political detainees

Families of political detainees urged the government to follow World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines and start mass testing in prisons after receiving reports that some prisoners are showing symptoms of the corona virus disease (Covid-19).

The group KAPATID said that mass testing should start immediately as it has received reports that more inmates are getting sick despite denials by prison agencies and the Department of Interior and Local Government of confirmed cases.

Marami nagkakasakit, inuubo at nilalagnat,” KAPATID said, citing a report from relatives of political prisoners at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP), the national penitentiary at Muntinlupa City. (Many are getting sick, coughing and getting fevers.)

The group said three political prisoners are now reportedly ill with fever at the political prisoners’ wing at the Metro Manila District Jail-Annex 4 (MMDJ-4) at Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan, Taguig City.

KAPATID said the three unnamed political detainees are showing common Covid-19 symptoms like fever, headaches, cold, cough and body weakness—the same symptoms for the respiratory disease which has already killed 45 people in the country as of March 25, including nine doctors.

“KAPATID cannot emphasize enough why mass testing is imperative and why it must include the whole prison population comprising both inmates and prison personnel. Reports by other countries such as China and the US indicate that prison guards brought the sickness into prison facilities even with lockdowns in place and stricter health measures, including a forehead thermal scan of persons entering jail premises,” KAPATID spokesperson Fides Lim said in a statement

Lim cited scientific researches that early action through widespread testing has proven effective in controlling the rapid spread of the disease in South Korea and Germany which have managed to keep the Covid-19 death rate relatively low through extensive testing.

“Mass testing of both symptomatic individuals and all those who came into contact with them was crucial in catching the disease, isolating the carriers before they could pass it on, and providing more accurate figures of how many are really affected and how and where to limit contamination,” Lim said.

Free political detainees

Earlier, KAPATID called for the release of political detainees in line with reports that backchannel meetings between Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) representatives and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in The Netherlands have been discussing the matter.

The NDFP urged the GRP to release all political prisoners and a general amnesty be issued “as a matter of justice and necessity.”

The NDFP made the appeal when the Communist Party of the Philippines declared a unilateral ceasefire last Tuesday, March 24, in response to the United Nations appeal for all warring parties to temporarily lay down arms to concentrate on responding to the pandemic.

Kapatid cited the move made by Iran and Egypt to release tens of thousands of prisoners, including political detainees, in a bid to decongest their prisons and prevent Covid-19’s spread through overpopulated jail facilities.

“KAPATID continues to press the humanitarian release of prisoners in line with the new UN (United Nations) call as the most expedient solution to protect and save lives. Tao rin sila,” Lim said. (They are also humans.)

The National Council of Churches of the Philippines (NCCP), the largest group of mainline Protestant churches in the country, also urged the government to release all political detainees following the appeal by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on March 26.

“Let’s take it from the UN. There is an urgent need to address the catastrophic risks in prisons by releasing prisoners, especially now that the country is confronting numerous challenges due to this pandemic,” Bishop Reuel Norman Marigza, NCCP General Secretary, said.

“As the number of positive COVID-19 cases spike up, the most Christian thing to do is to leave no one behind. Don’t forget those in prison, especially human rights defenders facing trumped charges, who have staunchly worked for social justice and human rights. They need compassion, they need justice and they need protection. They should be released under humanitarian grounds,” Marigza said in a statement.

“In many countries, detention facilities are overcrowded, in some cases dangerously so. People are often held in unhygienic conditions and health services are inadequate or even non-existent. Physical distancing and self-isolation in such conditions are practically impossible,” Bachelet said in her appeal for political detainees’ release.

Karapatan poster.

Meanwhile, human rights group Karapatan announced it will lead an online campaign on Facebook and Twitter  to urge the freedom of prisoners with light sentences as well as political detainees on March 31, Tuesday, at seven to eight o’clock in the evening.

Citing the congestion of Philippine jails at 450%, Karapatan said the government must free the elderly, sick, pregnant and nursing women, those who are due for parole or pardon, at least one spouse each of political prisoner-couples, and “accidental victims” of political arrests. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘An example across the world,’ UN says of CPP’s ceasefire order

The United Nations (UN) welcomed the temporary ceasefire order of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), saying the group’s positive response to the call for a global ceasefire in the face of the corona virus disease (Covid-19) pandemic “will serve as an example across the world.”

In a statement, Stephane Dujarric, spokesperson for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, said they welcome the truce order issued by the CPP last Tuesday, March 24, against Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) armed forces.

“The Secretary-General (Guterres) encourages the parties to reach a lasting political solution and end this longstanding conflict,” Dujarric added, referring to the 51-year revolution led by the CPP.

The CPP is the first belligerent force in the world to respond to Guterres’ appeal issued last March 24.

UN’s statement on its website.

NDFP Negotiating Panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili said the revolutionary forces in the Philippines deeply appreciates the UN recognition.

“We deeply appreciate the recognition extended by the UN Secretary General for the initiative of the revolutionary movement and the CPP to respond to his call for a global ceasefire in humanity’s common fight against the Covid-19 pandemic,” Agcaoili told Kodao in an online interview.

The CPP’s unilateral ceasefire order to all units and commands of the New People’s Army and the People’s Militias took effect starting midnight of today, Thursday, March 26 and ends on 23:59 of April 15.

The GRP earlier said NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison’s advise for the CPP and its forces to observe its own ceasefire during the pandemic “is a positive development.”

The GRP earlier declared a unilateral ceasefire against the CPP, the NPA, and the NDFP effective 00:00 hour of March 19 to 24:00 hours of April 15, Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo announced Wednesday evening, March 18. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

CPP orders nationwide ceasefire in response to UN’s appeal

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) issued a unilateral nationwide ceasefire order to all commands and units of the New People’s Army (NPA) as well as the people’s militias Tuesday night, March 24.

The order, published on the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) website, says the ceasefire will take effect from 00:00 of Thursday, March 26 and ends on 23:59 of April 15.

The CPP said the order is upon the recommendation of the NDFP Negotiating Panel by way of direct response to the call of United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres for a global ceasefire between warring parties for the common purpose of fighting the corona virus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

“As advised by the NDFP Chief Political Consultant [Jose Maria Sison] and relayed by the NDFP Negotiating Panel to the NDFP National Council, the broad masses of the people themselves need to refrain from launching tactical offensives to gain more time and opportunity to fight the Covid-19 pandemic and to look after the health and over-all welfare of the people in both urban and rural areas,” the order reads.

The underground party said the purpose of its unilateral ceasefire is to ensure and facilitate necessary, unhampered and immediate medical, health and economic assistance, support and movement of the people brought about by the exigencies of the current Covid-19 worldwide pandemic.

“This ceasefire is also a gesture towards national unity and based on humanitarian principles in the context of the serious public emergency to ensure the health, safety and welfare of all, the CPP said.

“This ceasefire order shall take effect immediately and is not dependent on the issuance of the Suspension of Military Operations (SOMO) and Suspension of Police Operations (SOPO) issued or to be issued by the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP),” the CPP said.

Not a reciprocal truce order

Earlier today, NDFP Negotiating Panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili formally recommended to the NDFP National Council the declaration of a ceasefire, clarifying however that their truce order is not reciprocal to the GRP ceasefire declaration effective March 19 to April 15.

“As in the past, the [Rodrigo] Duterte government cannot be trusted in any mutual or unilateral ceasefire agreements, as the bombings of communities, harassment, abductions and killings perpetrated by its armed forces continue unabated. Thus, even while respecting and following the unilateral ceasefire order, the New People’s Army and the people’s militia must be alert and act in self-defense against any offensive by hostile forces,” Agcaoili said.

Agcaoili’s recommendation followed Sison’s advise that the NDFP Negotiating Panel may ask its principal, the NDFP National Council, to heed Guterres’ call for a global ceasefire.

Malacañan Palace for its part welcomed Sison’s advise for the NDFP forces to observe its own unilateral ceasefire amid the pandemic.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Sison’s advise is “a positive development.”

“It is about time they join the collective efforts of the nation to fight the spread of the coronavirus,” Panelo told reporters.

The CPP however said that long before the GRP’s quarantine declarations and “repressive measures”, NDFP forces have been informing, training and mobilizing the people on how to fight the pandemic.

‘Active defense’

In its ceasefire declaration, the CPP ordered all NPA units and people’s militias to cease and desist from carrying out offensive military operations against the armed units and personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP) and other paramilitary and armed groups attached to the GRP.

“All units of the NPA must be vigilant and be ready to act in self-defense against any tactical offensives or any hostile actions or movements contrary to the ceasefire order launched by any enemy force against the people and revolutionary forces in the guerrilla fronts of the people’s democratic government,” it warned.

The CPP further clarified that “active-defense” operations by the NPA shall be undertaken only in the face of clear and imminent danger and actual armed attack by hostile forces.

“All branches and committees of the CPP, units of the NPA and people’s militias and revolutionary mass organizations should closely monitor any hostile actions being carried out by the armed units and personnel of the GRP or of any act or omission inconsistent with the intent and purpose of this ceasefire. Such information should be reported to the concerned commands of the New People’s Army and leadership of the Communist Party of the Philippines,” it said.

The CPP said that with both the NDFP and the GRP declaring their unilateral ceasefire orders, the situation may potentially contribute “towards a positive atmosphere conducive to the eventual holding of informal talks preparatory to the formal meeting to resume the peace negotiations.”

Backchannel talks between GRP representatives and the NDFP Negotiating Panel have been ongoing since December last year.

The NDFP also urged the GRP to release all political prisoners and a general amnesty be issued “as a matter of justice and necessity.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDFP may respond to UN appeal for ceasefire, Joma advises

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Negotiating Panel may recommend for a unilateral ceasefire declaration in response to the United Nation’s (UN) appeal for a global truce during the corona virus disease (Covid-19) pandemic, Jose Maria Sison said.

Sison said he is advising the NDFP peace panel to recommend to its principal, the NDFP National Council, the issuance of a unilateral ceasefire declaration by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) to the New People’s Army (NPA) in response to UN secretary general Antonio Guterres’ call for a global ceasefire.

“The NDFP and the broad masses of the people themselves need to refrain from launching tactical offensives to gain more time and opportunity to fight the Covid-19 pandemic and to look after the health and over-all welfare of the people in both urban and rural areas,” Sison said.

“The world must know that long before the belated quarantine declarations and repressive measures of the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines), the NDFP and the revolutionary forces have been informing, training and mobilizing the people on how to fight the pandemic,” he added.

Guterres called for an immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world last Monday, March 23, saying it is time for humankind to put armed conflict on lockdown and focus together “on the true fight of our lives.” 

Guterres asked the warring parties to pull back from hostilities, silence the guns, stop the artillery and end the airstrikes. “This is crucial to help create corridors for life-saving aid, open windows for diplomacy and bring hope to places among the most vulnerable to #COVID19,” he said.

Sison said the UN’s appeal is what the revolutionary forces in the Philippines may respond to, instead of the “bogus unilateral ceasefire declaration of the GRP.”

He warned that reciprocating President Rodrigo Duterte’s ceasefire order may appear as “directly condoning and becoming complicit in the criminal culpabilities of the Duterte regime for allowing the Covid-19 to spread nationwide since January, for making no preparations against the pandemic and for making lockdowns on communities and yet failing to provide mass testing and treatment of the sick, food assistance and compensation for those prevented from work.”

The GRP declared a unilateral ceasefire against the CPP, the NPA, and the NDFP effective 00:00 hour of March 19 to 24:00 hours of April 15, Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo announced Wednesday evening, March 18.

Sison further advised that while the NPA can cease and desist from launching tactical offensives, it must be vigilant and be ready to act in self-defense against any tactical offensive launched by GRP military, police and paramilitary forces against its own guerrilla fronts.

He added that the GRP has persisted in launching tactical offensives and bombing of communities in the countryside as well as campaigns of red tagging, abductions and murder in the urban areas against civilians, justifying NDFP’s desistance from reciprocating Duterte’s ceasefire offer.

NDFP Negotiating Panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili told Kodao that they shall submit their recommendation to their National Council soon. # (Raymund Villanueva)

NDFP: OPAPP irrelevant and anti-peace under Galvez

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) has betrayed its mandate to push for peace and had been irrelevant for a long time, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) said.

“Instead of promoting peace negotiations, OPAPP has been demonizing the revolutionary forces, as well as the Chief Political Consultant of the NDF, Prof. Jose Maria Sison, with worn out lies long debunked by fact and evidence, NDFP Negotiating Panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili in a statement, Thursday, February 6, said.

Agcaoili added OPAPP is acting against the interest of the Filipino people who have been clamoring for the resumption of peace negotiations between the NDFP and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP).

The NDFP blames presidential peace adviser and retired Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff Carlito Galvez Jr. for turning OPAPP into the military’ psychological warfare machinery.

It said the OPAPP now denies the existence of the armed conflict between GRP and NDFP forces, particularly the New People’s Army (NPA).

In an article published on the OPAPP website Saturday, February 1, Galvez alleged Sison and company are working overtime to sabotage the GRP’s anti-communist insurgency programs for fear of becoming irrelevant.

“The armed struggle has no legitimacy in a civilized society. Armed violence is an anathema of peace and development, and the CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines)-NPA should be disbanded,” Galvez said.

The NDFP retorted that all Galvez had been consistently doing is attacking peace process and all signed agreements between the GRP and NDFP.

The group added Galvez even terminated the appointment of the members of the government’s negotiating panel and the services of its Joint Secretariat in the Joint Monitoring Committee, the office tasked to oversee the implementation of thr GRP-NDFP Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.

“Just as the call for the resumption of the peace negotiations is gathering strength and the Duterte regime appears prodded back to the negotiating table, OPAPP seems hell bent on derailing every effort to resume the peace talks,” the NDFP said.

“OPAPP has long lost all credibility as it is exposed to be sinister, corrupt and a saboteur of the Filipino people’s aspiration for a just and lasting peace. It has indeed become irrelevant,” the group added.

The NDFP also slammed OPAPP’s latest press release proclaiming the so-called successes of President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order 70 creating the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

State terrorism and corruption

The NDFP said NTF-ELCAC is an integral part of the government’s counter-insurgency program Operation Plan Kapanatagan that has been “terrorizing and wreaking havoc on communities through sustained military operations.”

The group said EO 70’s other human rights violations include indiscriminate aerial and artillery bombardments of villages, assasination of civilians, illegal arrests, detention and torture of suspected NPA sympathizers, and with hunting or red-tagging of churches and organizations as well as their leaders.

But aside from unleashing state terrorism on the people, the NDFP said the NTF-ELCAC is rife with corruption.

“With a P21 billion budget, the NTF-ELCAC, under the rubric of localized peace talks and the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP), has been devising all sorts of money-making schemes to line the pockets of military and police commanders and local bureaucrats,” the NDFP said.

According to the NDFP, implementers of the task force also commit the following:

1. Buying off (with kickbacks) city and municipal councils into declaring the NPA persona-non-grata in their areas;

2. Manufacturing fake surrenderees to obtain the reward and integration monies (as recently exposed in the photoshopped picture of previous surrenderees and the alleged surrender if Alde Salusa, a military agent who killed anti-mining activist Datu Jimmy Liguyon);

3. Appointing paramilitaries Alamara and New Indigenous People’s Army to local councils that extend permit fees to mining and logging companies as well as multinational agribusiness corporations for the exploitation of ancetral lands; and

4. Renegotiating a bigger amount of “settlement” with the previously surrendered and paid Rebolusyonaryong Partidong Manggagawa ng Pilipinas/Revolutionary Proletarian Army/Alex Boncayao Brigade-Tabara Paduano Group in a new agreement called Clarificatory Implementing Document. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Ika-33 anibersaryo ng masaker sa Mendiola, ginunita

Nagtipon sa tulay ng Mendiola sa Maynila ang mga progresibong grupo sa pangunguna ng Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas upang gunitain ang masaker na pumatay sa 13 magsasaka noong 1987.

Kasabay ng panawagan ng hustisya para sa mga martir ng Mendiola ay ang pagpapatuloy ng usapang pangkapayapaan sa pagitan ng National Democratic Front of the Philippines at Government of the Republic of the Philippines na ang susunod na adyenda ay ang Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms kabilang na ang tunay na reporma sa lupa para sa mga magsasaka. (Bidyo ni Joseph Cuevas/ Kodao)

Kodao Asks: Bakit kailangang ipagpatuloy ang usapang pangkapayapaan sa pagitan ng NDFP at GRP?

Isang Assembly for Peace ang isinagawa noong Enero 17, 2020 sa Quezon City Sports Club kung saan dumalo ang mga nagtataguyod ng usapang pangkapayapaan sa pagitan ng National Democratic Front of the Philippines at Government of the Republic of the Philippines.

Kinapanayam ng Kodao Productions ang ilan sa mga dumalo at narito ang kanilang saloobin. # (Bidyo ni Joseph Cuevas)

Braganza: CASER is treasonous? Wow!

A government negotiator took strong exceptions to allegations made by several cabinet members that talks on social and economic reforms with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) may be likened to treason and surrender of Philippine sovereignty.

Hernani Braganza, veteran Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) negotiator and former agrarian reform secretary, also denied that past government negotiating panels did not consult with the military during formal and informal negotiations.

“There are allegations that CASER (Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms) [negotiations] was treasonous. Wow!” Braganza told hundreds of participants of the Assembly for Peace organized by the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform at the Quezon City Sports Club last Friday, January 7.

Braganza denied that the military was never consulted in negotiations on social and economic reforms, adding there are several military officers in the GRP negotiating team in the four formal rounds and at least seven reciprocal working committees meetings held both in Europe and the Philippines.

Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) chairperson Carlito Galvez last week dismissed further negotiations on social and economic reforms with the NDFP, likening the prospective approval of the main agenda of the peace talks to an act of “treason”.

“It is a formula for the surrender of the national government’s integrity as well as the state’s sovereignty,” Galvez said.

“CASER is a product of a secret backchannel maneuver by the communist insurgents. There was zero consultation with the government’s economic team, security forces, local agencies, and local government units, and most importantly, the Filipino people,” Galvez further alleged.

“That is not true. I made the rounds of military camps and I explained it [CASER] to them,” Braganza said, revealing further that a University of the Philippines team led by its former president Alfredo Pascual actually crafted the GRP draft of the CASER.

He also said many of the GRP’s line agencies were present in the negotiations.

Aside from Galvez, national security adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. also questioned further CASER discussions while defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana, interior and local government secretary Eduardo Año, Armed Forces of the Philippines deputy chief of staff for civil-military operations Major General Antonio Parlade, Jr. took turns opposing President Rodrigo Duterte’s plans to resume formal negotiations with the NDFP.

But Braganza revealed that CASER’s ultimate approval by the GRP does not end with its negotiators or even with President Duterte himself.

“Ultimately, this will be brought before Congress,” he said.

Arkibong Bayan photo

Braganza also belied Galvez’s accusations that peace agreements with the NDFP would result in a surrender of Philippine sovereignty.

“For the record and in fairness to the NDFP, after all that has been done to and said of them, they never asked for their own territory. Kahit isang paso.” Braganza said. (Not even a handful of soil.)

“In all the common documents (between the GRP and the NDFP), there is no mention of a coalition government. Hindi ko alam kung bakit paulit-ulit (sila),” he added. (I do not know why they keep on repeating this.) 

Braganza said the CASER is a way of addressing inequality, especially in the countryside where job creation and adding value to agricultural products are needed.

“I should know these. I was once mayor, congressman and agrarian reform secretary,” he said.

Braganza said the programs in the common GRP-NDFP draft of the CASER are all in the Philippine Constitution.

Braganza added he and labor secretary Silvestre Bello III were officially authorized by Malacañan Palace to talk to NDFP negotiators even after they were fired last year.

He challenged peace talks critics in the Duterte Cabinet to take their opposition to the process with Duterte himself.

“If you are after our seats on the (negotiating) panel, it is all yours. I did not apply for it. But do not malign our names,” Braganza said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDFP: Esperon and Galvez out to sabotage talks by attacking CASER

National security adviser Hermogenes C. Esperon, Jr. and presidential peace adviser Carlito G. Galvez Jr. are ignorant in their statements against the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER), National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) negotiators said.

In a statement Tuesday, the NDFP Reciprocal Working Committee on Socio-Economic Reforms (RWC-SER) said the two former Armed Forces of the Philippines chiefs of staff aim to “malicioudly distort” the “considerable progress” made by the negotiating panels of both the NDFP and the Government of the Republic of the Philipines (GRP).

“They are showing themselves as chronic saboteurs of the peace process and are proving to be among the biggest obstacles to peace in the country,” the NDFP’s RWC-SER said.

Esperon and Galvez came out with statements last week discouraging the Rodrigo Duterte government from resuming peace negotiations with the NDFP, alleging the CASER is “treasonous”.

“CASER is based on an obsolete framework and is no longer relevant since it is largely based on the pre-industrialization and pre-globalization era. It is a formula for the surrender of the national government’s integrity as well as the state’s sovereignty,” Galvez also said.

Esperon for his part expressed opposition to the planned revival of peace talks with the NDFP, accusing the CASER of reflecting the NDFP’s “duplicitous character and self-interest.” 

The NDFP however said the CASER offers real social and economic reforms and is critically important to the Filipino people as it addresses the roots of armed conflict such as poverty, inequality and underdevelopment.

Free land distribution and long-term development

The NDFP said the the Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ARRD) section of the approved common draft between itself and the GRP includes free land distribution and the writing-off of farmers’ debts under the government’s land reform programs.

Agrarian reform shall cover plantations and large-scale commercial farms with leasehold, joint venture, and non-land transfer schemes such as the infamous stock distribution option. There are also reforms in fisheries and aquatic resources, the NDFP said.

It explained that farmers and fisherfolk will also be provided a wide range of support services and benefit from the elimination of exploitative lending and trading practices in the countryside.

ARRD also includes clear commitments to build rural infrastructure, develop rural industries, and improve domestic science and technology, it said.

The approved common draft on National Industrialization and Economic Development (NIED) critically affirms the importance of national industrialization for long-term development, the NDFP said.

It recognizes the need for sound planning and regulation of foreign investment to develop specific industries. The benefits of nationalized public utilities and mining, of Filipino processing of minerals and trading, and of breaking foreign monopoly control of industrial technologies are also well-understood, the group revealed.

The NDFP also said the NIED aims to develop Filipino industrial science and technology, the important role of workers is acknowledged and they will be given a greater role in the running of enterprises.

Financing for industrialization will be raised from progressive taxes, luxury and sin taxes, official aid, foreign investment and other sources, the group explained.

The NDFP said that remaining issues on CASER such as environment protection, Filipino culture deveopment, decent employment, social protection, free education and health, affordable housing and utilities, upholding indigenous peoples’ (IP’s) rights and asserting economic sovereignty may be easier to reach once formal negotiations resume.

Esperon and Galvez’s criticisms of the NDFP draft CASER are moot because both the GRP and the NDFP have already mutually agreed on common drafts of the ARRD and NIED, the group pointed out.

“The NDFP and GRP shared ideas and sought creative solutions to the country’s social and economic problems. The common drafts show that it is possible for the Parties to set aside ideological differences and unite on concrete steps for the common cause of real economic progress for the nation,” the NDFP said.

No backchannel maneuvers

NDFP RWC-SER Chairperson Julieta de Lima addressing their GRP counterpart during the 3rd round of peace talks held in Rome, Italy in January 2017 / Photo: JBustamante

Contrary to Galvez’s claim that CASER is a product of a secret backchannel maneuver, the common drafts were widely taken in public consultations nationwide, including New People’s Army guerilla zones, the NDFP said.

The NDFP and the GRP each presented their own draft versions of the CASER to the negotiating table and were negotiated in good faith to produce a mutually agreed program of social and economic reforms, it added.

The GRP panel for its part also reported numerous multi-agency meetings on the CASER attented by its own line agencies, Congress, local government officials, and the academe in the formal rounds abroad as well in the bilateral team meetings in the Philippines.

The NDFP pointed out that the common drafts were produced with officials from the National Economic and Development Authority, Department of Agrarian Reform, Department of Agriculture, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, Land Bank of the Philippines, Department of Finance, Department of Trade and Industry, and Department of Science and Technology with inputs from academics of the University of the Philippines, De La Salle University, and Ateneo de Manila University.

Members of the Peace, Reconciliation and Unity Committee of the House of Representatives were also present from the second to the fourth rounds of formal talks in Norway, Italy and The Netherlands from 2016 to 2017.

The common outline for the CASER and common drafts on the sections on ARRD and NIED were crafted after four formal rounds of talks abroad and seven meetings in the Philippines by both the GRP and the NDFP RWCs.

“These mutually agreed common drafts were prepared by the bilateral teams for CASER of the NDFP and GRP, received by their respective Reciprocal Working Committees for Social and Economic Reforms (RWCs-SER) in November 2017, and are up for approval by the NDFP and GRP panels upon a resumption of talks,” the NDFP said.

It added that the CASER will be an expansive deal with 11 substantive sections of policy reforms.

Esperon and Galvez intentionally muddle the NDFP’s unilateral draft version of the CASER with the negotiated and mutually agreed CASER that the peace talks will produce. They maliciously diminish and vilify the progress that the peace talks have made to sabotage this and give way to their narrow-minded hawkish militarism, the NDFP said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Joma: Militarists making talks resumption impossible

National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison condemned recent statements made by the government’s top security officials, accusing them of trying to prevent the resumption of formal peace negotiations.

In a reaction to statements by presidential peace adviser Carlito Galvez, national security adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) deputy chief of staff for civil-military operations Major General Antonio Parlade, Jr., Sison said President Rodrigo Duterte has allowed his highest military officials to oppose the resumption of the talks.

“Despite the over-all nationwide success of the reciprocal unilateral ceasefire agreement which occurred from December 23, 2019 to January 7, 2020, the Duterte regime has issued public statements that continue to terminate and prevent peace negotiations and render impossible the resumption of these between the duly-authorized panels of the GRP and NDFP,” Sison said in a statement Saturday, January 11.

Sison said that Duterte’s highest military subordinates, including interior and local government secretary Eduardo Año, national defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana and new AFP chief of staff Filemon Santos Jr., made utterances that they oppose peace and prefer to wage all-out war against the Filipino people instead. 

“[T]hey would rather continue the militarization and fascisation of the government and society under Executive Order No. 70,” he said.

Sison said the officials, all retired and active military generals, believe that peace negotiations are not needed because they are already in the process of destroying the New People’s Army (NPA) before 2022. 

“They boast that they are open only to surrender negotiations in a Philippine venue under their control. They claim to be satisfied with the psywar (psychological warfare) campaign of fake surrenders, fake encounters and persona non grata declarations,” Sison said.

Anti-talks pronouncements

Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) chairperson Carlito Galvez dismissed last Friday further negotiations on social and economic reforms with the NDFP, likening the prospective approval of the main agenda of the peace talks to an act of “treason”.

In a news article published by his office, Galvez said the Filipino people do not need the Comprehensive Agreement on Social (and) Economic Reforms (CASER) and Interim Peace Agreement (IPC) that are the proposed bases for the resumption of formal negotiations between the NDFP and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP).

Galvez described the CASER as an “irrelevant proposition and simply a copycat of the programs of the CPP-NPA-NDF (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-NDFP) as outlined in the plagiarized content of Jose Maria Sison’s publication Philippine Society and Revolution.”

He said that adopting the CASER and the IPC could be likened to committing treason since the communists will implement these programs based on their constitution while the government needs to change its charter to apply the reforms.

“CASER is based on an obsolete framework and is no longer relevant since it is largely based on the pre-industrialization and pre-globalization era. It is a formula for the surrender of the national government’s integrity as well as the state’s sovereignty,” he said.

Galvez said the NDFP draft of the CASER has several questionable provisions, including financing national industrialization from confiscated and expropriated assets of “foreign monopoly capitalists, big compradors and bureaucrat capitalists.”

He said the language in which the provision has been framed may “cast a dark cloud over the nation’s economy” and could lead to “the weakening and eventual decline of the country’s economic standing in global markets.” 

He also said it is worrisome that the proposed CASER orders the demobilization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the establishment of a coalition government with the communist group by setting up “programs for the People’s Democratic Government.”

“CASER is a product of a secret backchannel maneuver by the communist insurgents. There was zero consultation with the government’s economic team, security forces, local agencies, and local government units, and most importantly, the Filipino people,” Galvez alleged.

Esperon Jr. for his part expressed opposition to the planned revival of peace talks with the NDFP last Tuesday, accusing the CASER of reflecting the NDFP’s “duplicitous character and self-interest.” 

Like Galvez, Esperon said the proposed CASER “do not directly reflect the best interest of the nation,” but that of the communist rebels.

“After presenting the objectionable provisions of their proposed CASER, would it be beneficial to the nation that we engage the (communists) in another round of peace talks?” Esperon asked, adding the government is instead pursuing local peace talks.

Last Christmas Day, Parlade also accused the communists of duplicity, particularly CPP founding chairperson Sison and members within the churches.

Parlade said Christmas and its Christian ideals are incompatible with the mindset of communists, accusing them of following the likes of Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin he said were members of a satanic cult.

‘What progress?’

Sison, however, challenged the generals’ claims of economic progress in the Philippines that make economic, social and political reforms through peace negotiations irrelevant.

“The Filipino people are supposed to be already living in an industrialized paradise without social injustices, massive unemployment, low incomes and rampant poverty. The Duterte regime is supposed to be solving all problems and rendering unnecessary peace negotiations,” Sison mocked.

By allowing the officials to openly defy efforts to resume peace negotiations, the Duterte regime is practically telling the Filipino people that peace negotiations are impossible until 2022, he said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)