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Communist leader and wife executed; corpses left in military safe house—CPP

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) abducted, tortured and killed a retired top Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) leader and his wife, the underground group said.

In a belated announcement, CPP information officer Marco Valbuena said the corpses of Antonio Cabanatan, 74, and Florenda Yap, 65, were left in a military safe house in Oton, Iloilo on December 26 last year, the revolutionary group’s 52nd founding anniversary.

The elderly couple were abducted around October 2020, secretly detained, tortured and killed by strangulation, Valbuena said.

Cabanatan, known as Manlimbasog (To Strive) by his comrades, was a member of the CPP Central Committee, served as secretary of its Mindanao Commission and member of its Political Bureau and Executive Committee until his reported retirement due to health problems in 2017.

The entire (CPP) and all revolutionary forces are seething with rage over the incident, Valbuena said.

“We hold the AFP, the Philippine National Police, the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict and other armed agents of the US-Duterte regime responsible for this brutal crime,” he said.

The CPP spokesperson explained that difficulties in lines of communication and vicious military operations by the government belated their confirmation of of the victims’ identities.

Valbuena said that the dimunitive and hunchbacked Cabanatan and Yap, known in the underground movement as Comrade Osang, have already retired from active duties in the Party.

“We cannot begin to imagine the cruelty of the psychological and physical torture that they were made to undergo before they were brutally killed,” he said.

Valbuena added that the couple’s assassination followed the successive brutal murders of Ka Nars (Julius Giron), Ka Fiel (Eugenia Magpantay), Ka Boy (Agaton Topacio) and Ka Randall Echanis in 2020 by Duterte’s blood-thirsty murderers.

NDFP Negotiating Panel peace consultant Randy Malayao was also assassinated in January 2019.

Valbuena said Cabanatan was among the first generation of Filipino communists who helped plant the seeds of the armed revolution across the country.

“He was among the vanguard of the expansion of the New People’s Army in the Visayas and Mindanao,” Valbuena said.

The AFP has yet to reply to the CPP’s allegations. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Joma: It is the NDFP, not the GRP, which upholds CARHRIHL

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) said its forces have always upheld the validity of its Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP).

NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison said, “The NDFP and all the forces and the people that it represents uphold the validity of CARHRIHL and all other basic agreements from The Hague Joint Declaration of 1992 onward.”

Asked to respond to a public comment by a former GRP negotiator Rene Sarmiento, Sison said it is GRP’s political and military agents who have been insisting that the CARHRIHL and other agreements have been invalidated by President Rodrigo Duterte’s termination of the peace negotiations.

Sarmiento alleged in his reply to a question on his Facebook post Tuesday night that the Communist Party of the Philippines, the New People’s Army and the NDFP claimed they are not bound by the Agreement “because they still do not recognize the political authority of the Philippine Government and our constitutional and legal processes.”

Sarmiento’s allegation that the CPP, NPA and NDFP claim they are not bound by the CARHRIHL. He subsequently said this may be “not too precise.” (FB screenshot)

Sarmiento added the CARHRIHL is valid insofar as the Philippine Government is concerned.

“The provisions therein are found in the 1987 Constitution and international human rights instruments,” he said.

‘The reverse is true’

Sison however reminded Sarmiento it was the GRP’s past four administrations that consistently tried to either terminate or “suspend” the peace negotiations.

“But upon willingness of the GRP president to resume peace negotiations, the NDFP has always agreed upon the written reaffirmation of all the existing agreements,” Sison clarified.

“[President Joseph] Estrada was the first to do a termination. [President Gloria Macapagal] Arroyo used the term ‘suspend’. [President Benigno] Aquino practically terminated the peace negotiations but allowed backchannelers to meet the NDFP panel intermittently. Duterte categorically terminated the peace negotiations with Proclamation 360 on November 23, 2017 soon after Trump told him to do so in exchange for military assistance under Operation Pacific Eagle-Philippines without US Congress oversight related to human rights,” he said.

A legal consultant of the Negotiating Panel of the NDFP in the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations also belied Sarmiento’s claim.

“As a matter of fact, the reverse is true. It is the GRP through various pronouncements and issuances of its principal and officials of the security sector that have claimed the CARHRIHL is not binding and effective anymore,” Atty. Edre Olalia said.

“This is contrary to the nature, purpose and character of the CARHRIHL and of its various provisions as a bilateral binding agreement between the Parties that cannot be unilaterally abrogated validly at the sole will of one Party. This is distinct from the respective positions of both Parties that they do not recognize much less are bound by the other Party’s legal and constitutional framework or processes,” he explained.

‘Not to precise’

Asked to cite instances when the NDFP officially and publicly repudiated the CARHRIHL that led him to such a comment, Sarmiento, however, backtracked.

“Let me check the records of our talks on the CARHRIHL and our discussions thereon. [I] may have—because of many, many years after the signing of the Agreement—given a reply (that is) not too precise,” he told Kodao.

Signed in The Hague, The Netherlands under the Fidel Ramos administration of the GRP, the CARHRIHL turns 23 years old next Tuesday, March 16.

GRP President Estrada and NDFP chairperson Mariano Orosa both approved the agreement.

Current GRP President Duterte however ordered the police and military last Friday to “ignore human rights” in the government’s anti-insurgency operations.

Domestic and international critics said Duterte’s orders consequently led to the massacre of nine Southern Tagalog civilians last Sunday, March 7. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDFP reminds the military: “We are not subjects to GRP’s authority”

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Negotiating Panel said it considers it absurd that a “mere government agency,” the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), has filed complaints against its allied organizations before another government agency.

NDFP Negotiating Panel interim chairperson Julieta de Lima said it is absurd and preposterous the AFP filed complaints against the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) with the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) as if the revolutionary organizations have become “subject to the authority of the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) and its agencies.”

De Lima said both the CPP and the NPA belong to the NDFP and the revolutionary movement’s “People’s Democratic Government,” and not to the GRP.

“It is completely stupid and unacceptable for the AFP as mere agency of the GRP to consider the CPP and NPA as mere subjects to the authority of the GRP,” she said.

De Lima pointed out that the CPP and the NPA, as well as 16 other NDFP allied organizations, are at war with the GRP.

“The fact is that there is a civil war between the co-belligerents: the GRP and its agencies on one side; and the People’s Democratic Government, the NDFP, CPP, NPA, other revolutionary forces and the entire Filipino people on the other side,” de Lima said.

Conduct of war

The CHR meanwhile urged both the government and the rebels to respect international humanitarian law (IHL) in the conduct of war as it acknowledged receipt of the cases filed by the AFP on the alleged attacks against civilian properties by the CPP and the NPA since 2010.

“In looking into these cases, the CHR asserts its independent, impartial position in investigating human rights violations, including those committed in the context of armed conflicts. We equally assert our jurisdiction over these cases. International humanitarian law (IHL) covers both State and non-State actors alike,” CHR spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia said.

The CHR said civilians must be protected from atrocities under the IHL

“While CHR stands firm for the liberty of people to believe in specific ideologies, ones freedom to act on these beliefs should be guided by what is lawful and respectful of the rights of others,” de Guia said.

The CHR spokesperson noted that the CPP in a statement has admitted that civilian properties were destroyed or damaged by NPA in the course of several operations.

“[T]he CPP claims that those who have suffered damages were compensated,” de Guia said.

‘The proper venue’

De Lima however said the CHR is not the venue for the filing of such complaints against the NPA as an agreement has been signed between the GRP and the NDFP for exactly such a mechanism.

The GRP and the NDFP signed the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) on March 16, 1998 in The Hague, The Netherlands establishing a Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) to receive and investigate reports of human rights and IHL violations by either party.

De Lima reminded the AFP that if it wants to file complaints against the CPP and NPA, the most appropriate thing it can do is to ask GRP President Rodrigo Duterte as GRP principal to file through his representative complaints against the underground groups to the NDFP Section of the JMC.

“Unlike the GRP under the Duterte regime which engages in fascist crimes of state terrorism, the NDFP strictly adheres directly to the international law on human rights and humanitarian conduct in war as well as through the provisions of CARHRIHL,” de Lima said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Alvin Luque’s journey to immortality

By Raymund B. Villanueva

Alvin Luque’s story was of a red-tagged activist who chose to fight back by joining an armed group to carry on a commitment to serve the people. He eventually perished in a hail of bullets in the dead of night last December 10, International Human Rights Day while on his sickbed. In his death, however, he gained immortality in the eyes of many.

His old friends say they had no inkling of what Alvin would someday become, a prominent Communist guerrilla who drove the military to countless operations to capture and kill one of loudest voices of the New People’s Army (NPA).

‘The student politician with a Brit accent’

Alvin was born of a well off family in Cotabato City who sent a precocious son to the best private schools in the island—a privilege he paid back by being a good student.

Fr. Eliseo Mercado, OMI, former president of Notre Dame University of Cotabato (NDUC), in a radio address said Alvin was among the brightest in his class, a scholar throughout elementary and high school. Among the thousands who had once been students of the school, he clearly remembers Alvin and felt compelled to talk about him on the day his former ward was killed by the military.

It was not only the priest that remembers Alvin as a child. A schoolmate recalled Alvin was a cheerful and friendly child. He greeted and waved at everyone around the campus. “’Alvin The Good Politician’ ang tawag ko sa kanya pag nakikita na namin siya ng mga klasmeyt ko. Solved na ang Algebra problem ko dahil nakakagaan ng pakiramdam ‘pag nakikita namin siya,” Mohida Sali wrote of her old schoolmate.

A classmate who declined to be named said Alvin was a competitive rival for top class honors. He delighted in debating in English to prove who was best. But his desire to be top did not deter from his being a good friend, his classmate said. “Oftentimes we watched Betamax movies at their house, which only a few families could afford in the 80s,” the classmate said. His nickname was Bimbo, “cute, fat, fair-skinned and chinito,” the classmate added. Alvin was also active in religious clubs and school politics. His father was a manager of a big business while his mother was a teacher at NDUC’s girls’ school.

Bai Ka Uy, an artist friend, said Alvin captained their high school’s debate team, one who spoke with a British accent.

Another friend, Amirah Ali Lidasan, surmised that Alvin cultivated his British accent because of his fondness for New Wave music pioneered by English bands in the 1980s. But his absolute favorite artists in his younger days were Rick Astley and Spandau Ballet. The latter’s song “Gold” was Alvin’s karaoke standard, Lidasan revealed. “But he came from a family of Cotabato city educators who probably had the bigger influence in his mastery of the English language,” Lidasan added.

“When he enrolled at the Ateneo de Davao University for an English degree, he was teased for his accent,” Uy recalled.

At the Ateneo, Alvin could not help but shine. As he did in elementary and high school, he dove into campus politics and was department representative to the student council.  Thus began his student activism and his first brushes with the pointed end of the State’s stick.

Uy recalled: “We were restless and full of hope. The country has just been released from the grasp of one demon to another [In 1986]. All 36 of us marching for students’ rights and [against] oil price hikes when we were halted by three police vehicles, [the police] fired shots. Napagkamalan ka pang pari , which saved you from getting floored. A small price to pay for believing that the Filipino youth deserves…better education.”

Uy said the arrested students, including Alvin, were asked to strip for a search and slept in a dirty cell the night of their arrest. “There was drama all around. But we ate barbeque courtesy of our current president (then Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte) who ordered bunches of chicken bbq from Delongtes which was just nearby. This president has gone a long way too, and by all signs has done his own personal [180 degree turnaround],” Uy continued.

In his senior year, Alvin was persuaded to have a go at the top post but lost. He however took his student leadership to the national level and got elected as National Union of Students of the Philippines vice president for Mindanao in the early 1990s.

After college, Alvin became an English teacher at the Assumption School of Davao. But the calling to serve the poor was too strong for Alvin to ignore.

A young Alvin Luque in Davao City. (Supplied photo)

His generation’s best

Alvin became a workers’ organizer while teaching at the exclusive girl’s school in the late 1990s.  

“He lived and fought with the workers. During his stint in the legal mass movement, Alvin showed resoluteness, courage, perseverance, and humility. He had a deep sense of sympathy for the oppressed even though he came from a middle class family,” the Kilusang Mayo Uno-Southern Mindanao Region (KMU-SMR) said in its tribute.

“To many who knew and worked with him, he was fun to be with and loved to exchange ideas with his colleagues. He was brilliant and expressive, and he devoted his talents to advancing the struggles of ordinary people,” the group added.

Former KMU-SMR comrade Omar Bantayan said Alvin became a real activist when he began to identify himself with the marginalized.

“[He] came from a pretty affluent background — eating veggies back then was even a struggle for him,” Bantayan said.

Uy echoed this, revealing that Alvin did not like fish in broth, a staple in Central and Southern Philippines. “Naka-simangot ‘yun, pero ngingiti agad at kakain din naman,” Uy said.

Alvin put his public speaking skills to full use as an activist-leader. “[His] command of linguistics shamed the average politician. The podiums and lecterns [he] stood behind were so honored when [he] delivered [his] fiery speeches,” Bantayan wrote. Alvin also penned the best prose and poetry Bantayan said he ever laid eyes on.

Alvin Luque leading a rally in Davao City. (Davao Today file photo)

It was after his KMU stint and he became Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Southern Mindanao Region (Bayan-SMR) secretary general that Alvin became a problem for the oppressive State.

Red-tagging victim

Alvin was a tireless and creative Bayan-SMR secretary general, Uy recalled, adding that he always asked that cultural presentations be regular parts of rallies he organized and led. His stint as leading regional activist coincided with the successful campaign to oust the Joseph Estrada government.

Alvin’s success as leader went beyond activists’ circles. In the 2001 national and local elections, then re-electionist Duterte included him in his slate for the city council. He narrowly lost, however.

After the elections, the military stepped up its red-tagging of Alvin. In July 2002, the 73rd Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army accused him and other activists of being NPA members. Like what it does today with many activists, the military presented so-called witnesses with fantastic stories of Alvin giving large amounts and mobile phones to NPA guerillas. One military witness also alleged it was Alvin who ordered the burning of a bus, a farm and a government office.

To counter the rebellion charge against Alvin, his lawyers submitted to the Court a photograph showing him and other Assumption faculty members attending a junior-senior prom. The photo was taken at the time he was allegedly at an NPA camp in Davao City’s remote Barangay Marilog on the second week of February 1999.

In another affidavit, Bishop Felixberto Calang of the Philippine Independent Church (PIC) said he saw Luque at the PIC’s Davao City compound along Torres Street practically every night that week. Alvin helped in the preparations for the centennial celebration of the establishment of the Union Obrera Democratica Filipina, the country’s first real labor federation established in 1902.

“It would be physically impossible then for Alvin Luque to have gone to Marilog in the second week of February 1999 and stay there for a week as alleged,” Calang said.

Still, the military and State did not let up. While dropping charges against Alvin’s co-accused, the rebellion charge against him was ordered all the way from Manila. Soon, even the trumped up charges and threats of arrest did not suffice and Alvin had to take his activism elsewhere in Mindanao and even to Metro Manila.

Alvin Luque as candidate for the Davao City Council, here with the late Bayan Muna Representative Joel Virador. (Supplied photo)

The military’s persecution of Alvin continued to worsen, forcing him to confront his accusers directly and publicly. In a public letter to former Task Force Davao commander Col. Eduardo del Rosario in January 2007, Alvin accused the military and the police of “[using] political killings to silence those critical of [the] government” to win the so-called war against alleged enemies of the State and to win medals.

“The AFP’s Bantay Laya (counterinsurgency program during the Gloria Arroyo government) may have set perhaps the most elaborate and the most expensive military campaign to date, but this has not deterred the people’s will to rid the nation of a Marcos-like regime,” Alvin wrote. “The AFP’s use of the Judiciary circuit to immobilize activist leaders has undermined the Courts. It has turned this institution into an apparatus to carry out the regime’s all-out war, a war that is devoid of any sense of justice,” he added.

To arms

Believing he is about to be summarily killed by the military like many of his fellow activists, Alvin made himself scarce. For nearly three years, people wondered where he had gone. Alvin has in fact sought refuge in the guerrilla zones of the NPA in 2007-2008, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) revealed. In 2009, he made his first public appearance as an NPA guerilla.

At the celebration of the CPP’s anniversary that year, Alvin ended all speculation and spoke before journalists somewhere in Surigao del Sur wearing a CPP shirt and an NPA cap.

“Yes, I have chosen to seek refuge under the revolutionary movement, particularly with the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army and the National Democratic Front (NDF). This is the most logical choice on my part because these are the very organizations that can guarantee not only my protection from political killings but also, above all, freedom of the people from the oppressive grip of a reactionary fascist state,” he announced in what became the biggest story of the CPP’s anniversary that year.

“I am still breathing and fighting precisely because of this choice. This has been my personal choice. This does not in any way prove that the organizations I was involved with in the legal arena and the revolutionary forces that I have sought refuge in are one and the same,” he added.

He was henceforth known as Ka (Comrade) Joaquin Jacinto.

Ka Joaquin Jacinto, NDF-Mindanao spokesperson, at the CPP’s 48th anniversary celebrations in Paquibato, Davao City, December 26, 2016. (Kilab Multimedia photo)

For a period, Ka Joaquin was assigned to a local unit of the NPA where he deepened his understanding of the situation of the peasant masses and the necessity of waging armed revolution. He is remembered by the masses and the Red fighters for his almost constant jolly mood, the CPP said.

In several CPP anniversary celebrations in the Caraga and Davao regions, Ka Joaquin was the master of ceremonies. He dropped his British-accented English and spoke flawless Cebuano instead. He presided over the biggest CPP celebrations ever, even a peace summit where Duterte’s Cabinet officials attended and where the President allegedly sent roasted calves.

There was something else different with Ka Joaquin. Gone were the chubby and asthmatic Alvin of Catholic schools and urban areas. What people saw was a lean and muscular Ka Joaquin who looked fit enough to be a real guerilla fighter.

In an interview at a Bukidnon camp, Ka Joaquin said it actually took him long to decide whether to join the NPA or not. “Of course, one question was, would I be able to leave my family, friends and all the things I was accustomed to behind for the NPA. That was easily answered by the greater need to survive,” he said. But his real dilemma for was his health and physical state.

“When I climbed to my first NPA camp, I took 10 steps and stopped to rest and catch my breath. How could they think I was NPA before I actually joined?” he exclaimed.

At the NPA camp in 2012, however, Kodao witnessed Ka Joaquin fetching water from a nearby stream without breaking sweat. He easily carried heavy water jugs on both hands while climbing steep inclines. “My asthma seems cured by our long treks and climbs. I am also eating more vegetables and fresh food,” he said.

The CPP said Ka Joaquin had difficulties adjusting physically to the guerrilla movements of the NPA–night trekking, carrying one’s own load and scaling steep mountains. “He would shed weight and eventually find his ‘fighting form,’” it added.

For several years, Ka Joaquin would join Ka Oris (Jorge Madlos, NPA spokesperson) and help in strengthening the work of NDF-Mindanao. He worked closely with the CPP Information Bureau and served as one of the faces of the Philippine revolution, the CPP said.

Recognizing Ka Joaquin’s keen political sense, he was assigned as NDF-Mindanao spokesperson in 2016.

It was the CPP’s 48th anniversary celebrations in Davao City’s Paquibato District in December 26, 2016 that Ka Joaquin led one of his biggest events. A few months later, Duterte turned his back on formal peace negotiations with the NDF and declared both the CPP and the NPA as terrorist organizations.

Ka Joaquin Jacinto as master of ceremony at the Peace Summit with NDFP peace negotiators. (Kilab Multimedia photo)

By the military’s own admission, they had launched many combat operations specifically to capture or kill Ka Joaquin.

Hors de combat

He was unarmed and was convalescing when a combined military and police raiding team swooped down at a Tandag City resort at one o’clock in the morning supposedly to serve a warrant of arrest on Ka Joaquin.

“He was detached a few months ago from the main office of the NDF-Mindanao to undergo medical checkups and to recuperate from partial paralysis. A few months ago, he was physically debilitated and could not walk after he underwent intense physical struggles amid heavy enemy operations and counter-guerrilla maneuvers,” the CPP said.

On International Human Rights Day, the red-tagged activist, fierce human rights defender and revolutionary leader lay dead on his sick bed, cut down by the military that had long wanted him gone.

A flood of tributes poured out when news of his death spread.

Ang kanyang buhay, kahit naiiba, ay itinatanyag po natin sapagkat iyon ay isang buhay na pag-aalalay para sa kapwa at para po sa bayan…Maraming kabataan ang mai-inspire sa kanyang buhay, katulad din ng maraming kabataan na nag-aalay ng kanyang panahon, treasure, at time para sa bayan. Kaya po pinagpupugayan po natin si Alvin Luque,” Fr. Mercado said.

“The eloquent chubby young boy from Cotabato city was not only a friend but now my hero,” Uy said.

Bantayan wrote, “[He[ loved purely and [he was] loved back by [his] friends, students, and the peasants and workers he served. Alvin, you will always live in our hearts.”

KMU-SMR exclaimed, “Highest honor to Alvin Luque, a workers’ and peoples’ martyr!”

The CPP and all revolutionary forces pay the highest tribute to Ka Joaquin. Together, let us raise our fists and celebrate his innumerable contributions in serving the oppressed and exploited Filipino masses and their revolutionary cause,” the underground party said.

But Alvin himself had long predicted his death: “I have no regrets with the choice I have made…and I will use this life to make my mark, together with other revolutionaries, in liberating the people from a rotten society. And should I die in the course of this fight, it is one death I know that is well worth bearing.” #

Rep. Cullamat pays tribute to martyred daughter; condemns desecration of remains by gov’t soldiers

Bayan Muna Representative Eufemia Cullamat paid tribute to her fallen daughter she described as a martyr for the Lumad’s struggle for self determination and justice.

In a statement, the grieving mother also slammed the Philippine Army for desecrating the remains of 22-year old Jevilyn by taking photos of the New People’s Army medic like a war trophy.

“I love my child who loved the people. I am proud of her. She was a hero of the Lumad and all of the people,” Cullamat said in Filipino.

As a mother, Cullamat said she is heartbroken at the news that Jevelyn perished in a raid by government troopers in Marihatag, Surigao del Sur last Saturday, November 28.

“I strongly condemn the disrespectful acts on the remains of my daughter. She is not a trophy to be used in the military’s propaganda. You did not only disrespect the dead, you also offended my grieving family,” she said.

In subsequently deleted posts, the Philippine Army posted photos of its raiding team delightfully posing before the younger Cullamat’s remains, along with seized guns and paraphernalia.

Violation of the rules of war

International Association of Democratic Lawyers interim president and National Union of People’s Lawyers president Edre Olalia said the government soldiers violated international rules, domestic laws and bilateral agreements on the conduct of war.

In a legal opinion, Olalia cited Article 16 of the 1949 Geneva Convention prescribing protection of corpses against ill treatment.

Article 34 (1) of the 1977 Additional Protocol I on International Armed Conflicts also orders that remains of persons who have died from hostilities shall be respected, he said.

The human rights lawyer also cited Article 4 of the 1977 Additional Protocol II on Non-International Armed Conflicts that prohibits “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment” of all persons who do not take a direct part or who have ceased to take part in hostilities, as was in Jevilyn’s case who already died when the Philippine Army’s trophy photographs were taken and distributed.

Offenses upon the personal dignity of fallen parties constitute a war crime in both international and non-international armed conflicts according to the 1998 Statute of the International Criminal Court, Olalia said as well.

The lawyer said government troops are mandated to observe international instruments on the conduct of was as Republic Act 9851 penalizes crimes against international humanitarian law, genocide and other crimes against humanity.

Olalia also reminded the government of Article 3 of the 1998 of its Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines prohibiting “at any time and in any place” the desecration of the remains of those who have died in the course of the armed conflict and to prevent despoliation and mutilation and to dispose of them with respect.

“On top of these commands under international humanitarian law, at core is basic human decency, respect and civility that is at issue here,” Olalia said.
“There are universal laws that civilized people observe even if, because, or in spite of armed hostilities,” the human rights lawyer added.
Jevilyn Cullamat (supplied photo)

‘Victim of state terrorism’

Cullamat said Jevilyn’s decision to join the armed struggle stemmed from the abuses the Lumad suffer at the hands of the government’s armed forces as well as the indigenous peoples’ extreme poverty.

“She saw with her own two eyes how our leader Dionel Campos, Datu Bello Sinzo, and Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development, Inc executive director Emerito Samarca were massacred in Lianga, Surigao del Sur on September 1, 2015,” the elder Cullamat said.

She said Jevilyn was a kind child who they raised to become nationalistic, brave, principled and with a mind of her own.

“Every Lumad child is raised to become worthy and useful to the community,” Cullamat added.

The Makabayan Bloc member said that Jevilyn’s sacrifice of her life for the people and defense of their ancestral land is worthwhile, “whatever the vultures who surrounded my daughter’s remains say.”

“It is a great honor for me to have a child who became a warrior and martyr…I am undoubtedly proud of Jevilyn because she fought against an unjust system, for us Lumad,” she said.

“No mother would renounce a child who set aside her personal interests to offer her life for the people and for the defense of our ancestral land,” Cullamat added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

PNP arrests ‘ex-NDFP consultant’ and gov’t employee Mapano

The Rodrigo Duterte government’s all-out offensive against National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultants is not sparing even those who have already chosen to live above ground.

In a curious turn of events, the police arrested peace negotiator Alfredo Mapano who newspaper reports describe is an “ex- NDFP consultant” and who currently works as a government employee.

Mapano, known in Northern Mindanao as the legendary New People’s Army leader “Ka Paris”, was arrested by the Bayugan City (Agusan del Sur) police while at work in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental last Friday, November 27.

Bayugan is 200 kilometers away from Tagoloan and under a different Philippine National Police (PNP) Regional Command.

A participant in at least three Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP)-NDFP formal peace negotiations from August 2016 in Oslo, Norway to January 2017 in Rome, Italy, Mapano is currently an employee of the government-owned Phividec Industrial Authority.

The former Red commander reportedly “surrendered” to President Duterte after Rome, brokered by former cabinet secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr. who also recommended his employment as Phividec corporate social responsibility officer and, later, as security officer.

Mapano was allowed to post bail in August 2016 to participate in the first round of formal peace negotiations between the GRP and the NDFP.

Previously, he had been in jail for seven years for various crimes he allegedly committed as NPA leader.

A Kodao source said that Mapano had been “roaming around freely” in Northern Mindanao since his supposed surrender and living a “normal” life.

Surprised

Mapano’s re-arrest surprised everyone, including Mapano’s wife, employer and local police chief, Alternative news outfit Davao Today (DT) reported.

Wife Chona told DT  she is concerned if her husband is indeed under the custody of the Bayugan police.

“Our family is trying to locate him and ensure that he is safe…[The arrest] was unexpected. He is now living a normal life,” Chona said.

DT also reported that Talogoan police chief Captain Mark Dungca said the arresting team only informed him that they will be serving an arrest warrant but did not specify who.

Mapano was arrested two days after his 67th birthday.

Killings, convictions

Mapano’s arrest followed the “mafia-style executions” of fellow NDFP peace consultants Eugenia Magpantay and Agaton Topacio in the early hours of November 25 in Angono, Rizal and the conviction by the Quezon City Regional Trial Court for kidnapping and serious illegal detention of NDFP Negotiating Panel member Benito Tiamzon and peace consultant Wilma Austria, also last November 27.

Earlier this year, NDFP peace consultants Julius Giron and Randall Echanis were brutally killed in Baguio City and Quezon City, respectively.

In January 2019, NDFP peace consultant Randy Malayao was killed in his sleep while on board a bus in Nueva Vizcaya.

A number of other NDFP consultants have been arrested since formal peace negotiations between the NDFP and the GRP broke down in November 2017, all on allegations of possession of firearms and explosives.

The NDFP also reported that some of its peace consultants are missing, abducted by suspected government agents. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDFP protests gov’t court’s conviction of Tiamzon and Austria

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Negotiating Panel protests a government court’s conviction of two of its senior peace negotiators as “baseless” and “an act of persecution.”

Reacting to Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 26’s conviction of NDFP peace panel member Benito Tiamzon and consultant Wilma Austria of kidnapping with serious illegal detention, the NDFP said the decision violated the 1956 Hernandez Political Doctrine.

“This doctrine mandates that all alleged acts in pursuit of one’s political beliefs are absorbed, subsumed or integrated in one political crime of rebellion and cannot be mutated into several common crimes as what they were convicted of,” the NDFP said.

The group added that even if both Tiamzon and Austria, alleged leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army (NPA), had a hand in the capture of then Philippine Army Lt. and now retired Brigadier General Abraham Claro Casis, the act was “legitimate in the laws of war.”

The court should have considered Casis as among “persons deprived of their liberty for reasons related to the armed conflict” or “prisoners of war” in accordance with the 1949 Geneva Conventions and their 1977 Protocols, the NDFP said.

1988 capture

In his decision, Judge Alfonso Ruiz II said he gave “full faith and credit” to Casis’ testimony that, while detained, he saw Tiamzon and Austria in meetings with the NPA.

Casis said they were on their way to Manila on June 1, 1988 when captured by the NPA at the border of Tiaong and Candelaria towns in Quezon Province.

They were released after two months of captivity on August 12 of that year by the late NPA spokesperson Gregorio “Ka Roger” Rosal.

The NDFP however questions the credibility of Casis’ testimony as recalled “with unbelievable magical throwback powers.”

It said the incident happened “a good three decades ago in a case long archived and dismissed against many other accused but just recently politically excavated by the militarist hawks of the (Rodrigo) Duterte regime.”

The NDFP said it found unbelievable that the lone witness “can vividly remember minute details, names, faces, places and events that happened in 1988.”

The group also said the court’s decision suffered from “sweeping and conclusory inferences of conspiracy by mere alleged presence” of the accused.

JASIG-protected

The NDFP said the Tiamzons were also denied due process because of their involuntary inability to personally present their own defense “due to the real and imminent threat on their lives conducted under the baton of no less the GRP Principal, President Rodrigo Duterte.”

It said that as publicly-known NDFP peace negotiators, the Tiamzons should be immune from surveillance, harassment, search, arrest, detention, prosecution and interrogation or any other similar punitive actions under the subsisting 1995 GRP-NDFP Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).

The group said the JASIG remains effective and demandable despite its questionable termination by the GRP and regardless of the status of the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations.

“And this is precisely the raison d’ etre for it (reason for being), i.e. to encourage participation by ensuring subsequent protection,” the NDFP said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Duterte lies on razor blade killing, NPA in Negros says

The New People’s Army (NPA) in Negros Island denied President Rodrigo Duterte’s accusation it killed a soldier using a disposable razor blade, in turn accusing government troops as “consistent violators” of the rules of war.

“It is not true. The four police officers were fired upon by the NPA and were never tortured,” Juanito Magbanua, spokesperson of the Apolinario Gatmaitan Command of the NPA, told Kodao.

Magbanua was referring to the March 3 ambush of four police officers by the NPA at the boundary of Guihulngan City in Negros Oriental and Isabela town in Negros Occidental that injured four soldiers of the 94th Infantry Battalion (94IB) of the Philippine Army.

But Duterte may have been referring to the killing of a paramilitary trooper and two “military informants” last June 13 in Himamaylan City by a partisan unit of the NPA as punishment for their alleged participation in the implementation of the government’s brutal Oplan Sauron counter-insurgency campaign in the island.

The families of those killed said they were killed with guns.

“That razor incident at hostage-taking never happened,” Magbanua added.

Duterte in his recent report on the government’s coronavirus response Monday night again spent a substantial part of his recorded address verbally attacking the NPA and the Communist Party of the Philippines, accusing them of being the country’s biggest terrorist threat.

The president said the NPA had been attacking police officers escorting relief operations by the government.

“Pati nga ‘yung pulis na kasama ng gubyerno na tutulong sa mga tao, pinatay niyo lahat. Tapos, using a Gillette blade (hand moving across throat). Kaya ako galit sa inyo,” Duterte said.

He added that he had no history of maltreating captured NPA fighters in Mindanao.

“There was never a time that we handled an NPA prisoner sa Mindanao na sinaktan namin. We don’t even allow the mosquitoes to bite them. May warning kami sa mga alimatok pati sa mga…ano ba ng alimatok sa Tagalog? Linta. Leech. Na huwag galawin ang mga NPA na bihag dahil baka tayo ang pagbintangan,” he said.

Magbanua however said it is the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that consistently violates International Humanitarian Law through strafing of civilian homes, red-tagging of activists, and physical and mental abuse of detainees.

Marco Valbuena, information officer of the Communist Party of the Philippines, also said that Duterte is, in fact, the country’s biggest terrorist, using the AFP and the entire State machinery to unleash “wanton terror” in his government’s drug war, massacres, extrajudicial killings, the bombardment of communities in his nearly four years in power. # (Raymund B. Villanueva) 

CPP denounces military’s detention of Red Cross convoy carrying wounded rebels

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) denounced the detention of an International Committee of the Red Cross convoy in Lianga, Surigao del Sur last Friday, May 29, saying Philippine Army’s action is an affront on international humanitarian law (IHL).

In a statement, the underground group said the 4th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army (IDPA) also subjected the three-vehicle convoy to search and interrogation.

“The flagging down and inspection of the ICRC convoy, clearly marked with the Red Cross logos, was an unacceptable affront on IHL. As a recognized guardian of IHL, the ICRC medical convoy should have been accorded due respect and allowed to travel unimpeded,” the CPP said.

The CPP said the ICRC convoy was reported to be transporting two wounded fighters identified as Jea Angeles Perez and Noel Dadang it said were both hors de combat. A hors de combat is a person who is no longer participating in hostilities, by choice or circumstance

The group said the convoy was stopped at a checkpoint and were surrounded by the soldiers. It was later “escorted” by military and police vehicles to the Davao Regional Medical Center in Tagum City, Davao del Norte province “with the aim of subjecting the two patients to arrest and detention.”

“The AFP virtually turned the ICRC convoy into a prisoner transport for the AFP in violation of the ICRC’s recognized international role,” the CPP said.

The ICRC, including its vehicles and buildings clearly marked with either the Red Cross or Red Crescent emblems, are declared immune from attack in accordance with the First Geneva Conventions of 1949.

In an Inquirer report, 4th IDPA spokesperson Capt. Al Anthony Pueblas admitted the convoy was “briefly detained” after fetching Perez and Dadang from San Agustin, Surigao del Sur, a known New People’s Army stronghold.

Military and police troopers block ICRC convoy.
(Photo by PNP Surigao del Sur)

Pueblas said the patients were probably wounded in a series of clashes between the NPA and government troops from May 14 to 19.

ICRC communications officer Allison Lopez said the Army and police were informed of the humanitarian evacuation before they transported the two wounded persons.

“This medical evacuation was carried out strictly for humanitarian purposes. As a neutral, impartial and independent humanitarian organization, the ICRC’s mandate is to protect and assist victims of armed conflict. Under the International Humanitarian Law, wounded and sick fighters regardless of which side they are from are entitled to the medical care and treatment required by their condition,” Lopez said.

The CPP said the incident marked a new level of impunity by the military and police, demanding reparation for the incident.

“The Party demands respect for the rights of the detained and calls for their immediate release under IHL,” it said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NPA Southern Tagalog spokesperson arrested inside hospital

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in Southern Tagalog announced that Melito Glor Command-New People’s Army spokesperson Jaime Padilla had been arrested by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) forces at a hospital in Mandaluyong City Monday night, November 25.

In a post on the Communist Party of the Philippines’s official website, Patnubay de Guia, NDFP spokesperson in the region, said Padilla, also known as Ka Diego, was undergoing medical examinations at the Cardinal Santos Medical Center on his heart conditions when arrested.

De Guia said Padilla’s arrest was illegal and violates International Humanitarian Law (IHL).

“Maselan ang kundisyon ni Ka Diego Padilla at kailangan niya ng agarang medikasyon para sa kanyang nararamdamang sakit sa puso,” de Guia said. (Comrade Diego Padilla’s heart condition is serious and he needs immediate medical attention for his ailments.)

The NDFP said it vehemently condemns the arrest as it may further endanger Padilla’s life.

It pointed that that sick persons are given protection under the IHL.

The group demanded Padilla’s release to allow him to continue receiving medical care from doctors of his own choice.

Both the PNP and the AFP are silent on Padilla’s reported arrest. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)