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NDFP to welcome Bello if Duterte sends him

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) said it would welcome Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) envoys if President Rodrigo Duterte sends them to Europe to try to revive the stalled peace talks between the parties.

Reacting to Duterte’s statement that he is sending labor secretary Silvestre Bello in a “last bid” to resume the negotiations, NDFP leaders said they will welcome Bello when he arrives.

“If Duterte wants to talk and takes the concrete steps about it, the NDFP has to consider seriously what he proposes. The NDFP has to be open to any possibility for the benefit of the Filipino people,” NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison told Kodao.

NDFP Negotiating Panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili for his part told Kodao he welcomes the “desire of the GRP to resume peace negotiations” and that they “await the arrival of Sec. Bello and his team.”

In a situation briefing on the GRP’s response to Typhoon Tisoy in the Bicol Region last Thursday, December 5, Duterte said he is sending Bello to the Netherlands where the NDFP negotiators are based.

“He (Bello) should go there, talk to them. I cannot talk about it. Basta I’m sending him back to Sison and talk to him,” Duterte said.

Another turnaround

Duterte dissolved his government’s peace panel last March 18, firing Bello and fellow negotiators Hernani Braganza, Atty. Angela Librado-Trinidad, Atty. Rene Sarmiento and Atty. Antonio Arellano.

The GRP panel’s dissolution followed the replacement of Atty. Jesus Dureza as presidential peace adviser with retired army general Carlito Galvez and the intense implementation of Duterte’s counter-insurgency policy, highlighted by the successive arrests of NDFP peace consultants.

On November 23, 2017, Duterte signed Proclamation No. 360 declaring the termination of peace negotiations with the NDFP, followed closely by his signing on Dec. 5, 2017 of Proclamation 374 classifying NDFP allied organizations Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army as “terrorist organizations.”

In December 2018, Duterte signed Executive Order No. 70 directing the creation of a national task force to “end local communist armed conflict.”

On Dec. 5, 2017, the Chief Executive signed Proclamation 374, classifying the CPP and NPA as terror organizations because of the crimes they supposedly committed “against the Filipino people, against humanity, and against the law of the nations.”

The NDFP for its part has always blamed Duterte for the termination of formal negotiations, claiming it has always been open to “sincere efforts” to resume negotiations.

Sison clarified that the NDFP has never said that it will never talk to GRP under Duterte even after his termination of the peace talks.

“The NDFP has never said that it will never talk to GRP under Duterte even after his termination of the peace talks,” Sison told Kodao.

‘Last ditch’

Duterte said Thursday his decision to send Bello to Europe is his last ditch attempt to forge a peace deal with the NDFP.

“This is my last card. When I say my last card, my time is running out,” Duterte said.

He added that he is not reopening talks with the NDFP for the sake of the military or the police, “but for everybody.”

“The doors must be open always or there must be at least one channel if everything closes through which you can talk,” he said.

Duterte’s latest turnaround followed a statement made by Sison that he hopes Duterte may soon be “enlightened”.

“May Duterte be hit by lightning, like Saul on his way to Damascus. It could be the lightning of enlightenment,” Sison told Kodao in a recent exclusive interview published Wednesday, December 4. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Joma says NDFP still open to talks

National Democratic Front of the Philippines chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison said their group is still open to peace negotiations with the Rodrigo Duterte government.

In this exclusive interview, Sison said that despite all that the Government of the Republic of the Philippines did to the negotiations, he said he hopes Duterte may soon be “enlightened”.

“May Duterte be hit by lightning, like Saul on his way to Damascus. It could be the lightning of enlightenment,” Sison said. (Contributed by Urbano Guevarra)

Suaybaguio’s arrest another obstacle to peace talks resumption–NDFP

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) condemned the arrest of another of its peace consultant Monday, calling it “another obstacle to peace.”

“The Duterte regime remains on a fascist rampage that adds more and more obstacles to the resumption of the peace negotiations with the NDFP,” its negotiating panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili said.

In a statement, Agcaoili said Esterlita Suaybaguio, arrested by police operatives in an apartment building in Quezon City Monday, August 26, is covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) with Document of Identification (DI) Number ND 978447 as second consultant for Mindanao.

Under JASIG, peace consultants and staff from both the NDFP and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) enjoy “immunity from surveillance, harassment, search, arrest, detention, prosecution and interrogation or any other similar punitive actions due to any involvement and participation in the peace negotiations.”

“A copy of her DI is deposited in the safety deposit box under the name of Archbishop Joris A.O.L. Vercammen,” Agcaoili said. Vercammen belongs to The Old Catholic Church of The Netherlands.

In July 12, 2017, former government peace negotiators Hernani Braganza and Angela L. Trinidad and Philippine Ambassador to The Netherlands Jamie Ledda witnessed the consignment of the NDFP list with Vercammen.

In July 2017, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process said that then GRP chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III issued Letters of Authority (LA) to the JASIG-covered rebel consultants they could present to police authorities and military in case they are held or arrested.

The Philippine National Police said they confiscated a handgun, bullets and grenade from Suaybaguio’s apartment, an offense it charged all other arrested NDFP peace consultants and staff with since the GRP walked away from the peace negotiations in June 2017.

“Instead of promoting just peace, the Duterte regime and its military even send psywar (psychological warfare) and spy teams in schools and communities and even abroad to muddle the facts about the peace talks, sow disinformation on activist organizations and NGOs, and hide the widespread extrajudicial killings and rampant human rights violations in the country,” Agcaoili said.

“The NDFP Negotiating Panel calls for the immediate release of Suaybaguio and the dropping of false charges against her, as well as the scores of other detained NDFP consultants and personnel,” Agcaoili added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDFP peace consultant arrested, charged with possession of firearms and grenade

Philippine National Police (PNP) operatives arrested a National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant at 1:50 AM Monday, August  26, in an apartment building in Cubao, Quezon City.

Esterlita Suaybaguio is currently being held at Camp Karingal, headquarters of the Quezon City Police District.

An Abante report said the raid was by virtue of a search warrant issued by QC Regional Trial Court Branch 89 Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert against Suaybaguio for alleged violations of the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act and the Unlawful Manufacture, Sales, Acquisition, Disposition, Importation or Possession of an Explosive or Incendiary Device Act.

The same charges have been filed against arrested NDFP peace consultants and staff, including  Rafael Baylosis, Vicente Ladlad, Adelberto Silva, Renante Gamara, Rey Claro Casambre, Frank Fernandez and Alexander and Winona Birondo.

Persons arrested with the said peace consultants and staff were also similarly charged.

Abante reported the police confiscated a 9mm handgun, a magazine with seven bullets, a hand grenade and so-called subversive documents from Suaybaguio.

Kodao sources said Suaybaguio is in possession of a Document of Identification as NDFP peace consultant.

As a peace consultant, Suaybaguio is supposedly exempt from surveillance and arrest under the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) between the NDFP and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines.

Her arrest happened on the third anniversary of the end of the first round of formal talks between the NDFP and the Rodrigo Duterte government when all previously signed agreements were reaffirmed by both parties, including the JASIG. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

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

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) said that the resumption of formal peace negotiations between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) remain doubtful due to the lack of “conducive conditions.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Despite orders, PNP refuses to free NDFP peace talks staff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GRP arrests NDFP staff Alex and Nona Birondo

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

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

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

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

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

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

Winona Birondo at Camp Caringal. (PILC photo)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Political detainee dies in Batangas, 4th under Duterte

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Frank Fernandez and company transferred to civilian jail

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘No visits from lawyers and doctors’

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

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

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

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

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

Casambre now in Bicutan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘No visits from lawyers and doctors’

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

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

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

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

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

Casambre now in Bicutan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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