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NDFP demands Loida Magpatoc’s release

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Negotiating Panel demanded the release of its peace consultant arrested by the military and the police in Quezon, Bukidnon on Wednesday, September 15.

NDFP Negotiating Panel interim chairperson Julie de Lima said Loida Magpatoc is a member of the NDFP Reciprocal Working Committee on Social and Economic Reform and should be immune from arrest.

“[S]he is a member of the NDFP Negotiating Panel, by virtue of which she is protected by the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines)-NDFP Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).  She should therefore be released,” de Lima told Kodao.

Magpatoc was reported arrested by a composite team of the 88th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, the Quezon Philippine National Police and the military’s intelligence units in Purok 3, Barangay Paitan in Quezon town.

An old warrant issued by Branch 7 of the Bayugan (Agusan del Sur) Regional Trial Court on September 3, 2001, was reportedly used for her arrest.

A Rappler report said the same warrant was used when Magpatoc was first arrested in July 2013.

The same report said the military alleged that Magpatoc is head of the New People’s Army’s Far South Mindanao Committee.

Last May 13, the GRP’s Anti-Terrorism Council named Magpatoc and 18 others as members of the Communist Party of the Philippines’ Central Committee.

Loida Magpatoc (right, wearing a black jacket) during the GRP-NDFP’s 3rd formal round of Negotiations in Rome, Italy in January 2017. (Kodao file photo)

Land reform and rural development expert

Magpatoc was among the NDFP peace consultants released in August 2016 by President Rodrigo Duterte to be able to participate in the resumption of formal peace negotiations between the GRP and the NDFP.

Then government chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III told Kodao they working to release Magpatoc and nine others through the JASIG.

Magpatoc was present during the negotiations’ third formal round in Rome, Italy in January 2017 when both parties agreed on free land distribution for poor farmers, a high point in the negotiations.

De Lima said Magpatoc is an expert on land reform and rural development who helped draft the NDFP’s version of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms with fellow peace consultant Randall Echanis and others.

Echanis was brutally murdered in August 2020 in Quezon City.

De Lima said that in the NDFP Negotiating Panel’s subcommittee on land reform and rural development, Magpatoc and Echanis were most active in advancing peasant rights and welfare.

“We call on the Filipino people to demand her immediate release. We call on all peace loving people’s to campaign for her freedom, together with all political prisoners,” de Lima said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Groups describe as ‘prank’ Duterte’s amnesty offer to Leftists

Political detainees as well as human rights groups and lawyers slammed as “prank” the Rodrigo Duterte government’s offer of amnesty to Leftist political prisoners, designed to prevent future peace negotiations from happening.

In a statement read in a recent online forum, six political prisoners condemned Proclamation 1093 offering amnesty to suspected and convicted Leftist rebels as an instrument of “continuing oppression.”

“Proclamation 1093 will not provide genuine amnesty. This cannot be the means for the release of political prisoners,” detained National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultants Vicente Ladlad, Rey Casambre, Ferdinand Castillo, Frank Fernandez, Reynante Gamara and Adelberto Silva said.

President Duterte signed last February 16 proclamations 1090, 1091, 1092 and 1093 granting amnesty to suspected Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Mangagawa ng Pilipinas/Revolutionary Proletarian Army/Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPMP-RPA-ABB) and “Communist Terrorist Group” members, respectively.

The House of Representatives concurred under its Concurrent Resolution No. 15 approved last May 19, but the Senate has yet to react to the edicts.

In a statement, Kapatid said that while political prisoners are not closing the door to a grant of amnesty, it is “…totally unjust that those foisted with false charges will own up to crimes they did not commit just to be able to leave prison.”

Kapatid said that for the political prisoners, Proclamation 1093 that refers to Leftist rebels is “fake” and a “trap” because:

1. Amnesty will be granted only to “rebels” who had surrendered or those referred to as “rebel returnees;”

2. It will not be granted to most political prisoners who were arrested, detained, charged with or convicted of trumped-up criminal charges since they did not surrender;

3. It will not cover those who have been proscribed and charged and convicted under the Human Security Act of 2007 and the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020;

4. It puts the burden on political prisoners to prove that the crimes they supposedly committed were in furtherance of their political beliefs; and

5. The applicant must admit, in writing and under oath, their guilt on charges they are criminally liable for although the charges are falsified.

Kapatid said the political prisoners also condemned the use of the term “communist terrorist group” to “disparage and degrade the political standing” of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the New People’s Army (NPA) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

The Duterte government has designated the three revolutionary organizations as terrorists in separate proclamations in 2017 and this year.

National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers president Edre Olalia said Proclamation 1093’s intention is suspect for its description of its supposed beneficiaries.

 “[T]he premise, framework, and implication of the use of the term ‘communist terrorist group’ render this kind of amnesty patently objectionable and unacceptable, legally and politically,” Olalia said.

“It is practically an institutionalized self-flagellation and it demeans political prisoners, using the dangle of inchoate freedom and the seduction of material bribery,” the human rights lawyer said.

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate noted that the amnesty being offered to Leftists are unlike those offered to the MILF, MNLF and the RPMP-RPA-ABB that were outcomes of peace agreements.

“[W]e should remember that this regime ended the peace negotiations. The amnesty is in fact based on Executive Order No. 70 – the government order which ended peace negotiations, justified imprisonment of activists, and paved the way for killing human rights defenders,” the legislator noted.

“The government said that it will no longer engage with peace negotiations but they are saying now that localized peace negotiations were held for former rebels to be granted amnesty. This amnesty proclamation is a ploy to totally prevent peace talks from transpiring,” Zarate, also a human rights lawyer, added.

The six detained NDFP peace consultants said they insist on “general, unconditional and omnibus amnesty.”

“General amnesty means it covers all political prisoners and other political offenders according to a pre-screened list. Unconditional amnesty means no preconditions will be imposed on political prisoners before they are set free. Omnibus amnesty means it will cover all court cases of political prisoners,” the detainees said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Reds say Masbate incident will be investigated internally

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines pointed out that the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human rights and International Humanitarian Law established the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) as the principal mechanism to monitor the implementation of its agreement with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines, under which the deaths of footballer Keith and his cousin Nolven in a bomb blast last Sunday should be investigated.

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) rejected calls by Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) agencies to surrender New People’s Army (NPA) fighters suspected to be behind the deaths of two civilians in Masbate City last Sunday.

In a statement, the NDFP said it asserts its duty to investigate the incident under its Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) with the GRP.

“Under the CARHRIHL, in conformity with their respective separate duties and responsibilities, the NDFP has sole jurisdiction over complaints against units and personnel of the (NPA), in the same way that the GRP has the sole jurisdiction over complaints against its own armed units and personnel,” it said.

NDFP’s assertion came after police and military officers dared the NPA to turn those suspected to have perpetrated the killings over to the GRP.

The Commission on Human Rights made the same demand, saying the NPA “should identify all those responsible and surrender them to the lawful authorities to face justice within the court system.”

The NDFP however pointed out that the CARHRIHL established the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) as the principal mechanism to monitor the implementation of the CARHRIHL, under which the deaths of footballer Keith and his cousin Nolven in a bomb blast should be investigated.

At present, the NDFP-nominated section is open and functioning but the GRP-nominated section had been inactive even as both the GRP and the NDFP have agreed in 2016 to reconvene the JMC to start investigating the thousands of complaints of violations filed since opening in 2004.

“The NDFP welcomes the urgings of all concerned for the necessary investigation and wishes to have the full chance to do the investigation and make the report to the GRP-NDFP (JMC) if and when convened to deal with the case,” it said.

Their own legal system

The NDFP however said the investigation of the Masbate incident should be within the NPA command structure and frameworks of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), NDFP and the People’s Democratic Government (PDG) the Communists claim to have established in areas under their control.

“The NDFP will make sure that certain questions are answered by a thoroughgoing investigation,” it said.

The group said it will seek answer to questions, such as:

1) If true, which NPA unit and personnel are involved?

2) Is there no case of the enemy committing the crime and falsely ascribing it to the NPA?, and

3) Is there no local feud involved?

“There should be no rush to judgment, presumption or insinuation to the effect that the entire revolutionary movement and entire revolutionary forces are guilty of a criminal offense, negligence or error for which certain individuals may be liable on the basis of a full and complete investigation,” it said.

Under its responsibility and direction and within PDG’s legal system, the NDFP said the investigation must be started and completed within the NPA command structure.

“[This is] to fully and completely establish the facts and prepare any appropriate charges before any procedure to prosecute and try the case before the military court of the NPA or people’s court,” it explained. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Activist groups challenge NPA to ensure justice for blast victims

They challenged the NPA conduct a thorough investigation and submit its report to the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) signed between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines.

Activist groups condemned the death of two civilians in a botched military operation by the New People’s Army (NPA) in Masbate last Sunday, June 6.

In a statement, progressive group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said the incident was a violation of the International Humanitarian Law that prohibits harm on unarmed civilians in the course of an armed conflict.

“These civilian deaths are condemnable. We extend our sincerest condolences to the families of the two victims,” Bayan said Wednesday.

Human rights group Karapatan likewise criticized the NPA unit responsible for the “deplorable and lamentable incident.”

“We take to task the CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines) and NPA for the woeful and tragic incident and expect them to make sure that it does not happen again. The parties to an armed conflict should always distinguish civilians from combatants and adhere to ‘the principles and rules which limit the use of violence in times of armed conflict,’” Karapatan said.

The group added it expects the group to live up to its promise to ensure prompt investigation and to indemnify the victims through their families.

The Makabayan Bloc of progressive parties at the House of Representatives who, like Bayan and Karapatan, are incessantly accused by government agencies to be “CPP front organizations” and “NPA recruiters and defenders” also condemned the incident.

“We condemn the military action by a unit of the NPA in Masbate City that caused their death and injuries to others for violating international humanitarian law,” Bayan Muna, Gabriela Women’s Party, ACT Teachers’ Party and the Kabataan Youth Party said.

“Mariing kinukundena ng Kabataan Partylist ang naturang aksyong militar ng NPA na humantong sa pagkamatay nina Kieth at Nolven Absalon sa Masbate. Ipinapabatid muli ng Kabataan ang taos-pusong pakikiramay sa kanilang pamilya,” the Kabataan Party in a separate statement said.

(Kabataan Party firmly condemns the NPA military action that led to the deaths of Keith and Nolven Absalon in Masbate. Kabataan sends its heartfelt condolences to their families.)

‘Rules of war violation’

Cousins Keith (21) and Nolven (40) Absalon were killed by a roadside explosion reportedly set off by a NPA unit in the area last June 6 at past six o’clock in the morning while the victims.

Nolven’s son Crisbin Daniel (16) was likewise injured.

Keith was a college football star who played with the Far Eastern University junior and senior football teams, earning most valuable player honors in high school. He was also a member of the under-19 Philippine national team.

Nolven was a chairperson of the Board of Directors of the Masbate Electric Cooperative Employees Union.

As per its practice after each military action, the NPA admitted responsibility for the incident last Tuesday.

The death of two civilians and injury of another however prompted the CPP to speak for the guerilla army it leads.

 “The entire (CPP) and (NPA) express their deep remorse over the untimely and unnecessary deaths of cousins Keith and Nolven Absalon and injury to others,” CPP information officer Marco Valbuena said.

“The entire CPP and NPA take full responsibility for the tragedy. There is no justification for the aggravation this has caused the Absalon family,” Valbuena added.

In another statement issued June 9, Valbuena said the takes cognizance of the grave sentiments and denouncement expressed by concerned quarters.

Valbuena admitted that the botched military operation appears to have violated rules of war as well as the NPA’s own policies.

“Indeed, the unfortunate incident involves a breach of international laws of war and of the internal rules of the NPA which gives the highest priority to the protection of civilians at all times,” Valbuena said.

He explained that the NPA unit and personnel responsible are under the authority of the NPA and the so-called People’s Democratic Government it has established in areas under its control.

Valbuena said that the incident is currently being “fully assessed, with the aim of avoiding such errors in the future.”

In line with the NPA’s rules, Valbuena said those found responsible can be meted out “disciplinary action or punishment” corresponding to their individual responsibilities and conduct during the incident.

‘Proper mechanism’

Bayan and Kabataan however said that while the CPP have promptly owned up to the tragedy and promised indemnification, they challenged the NPA conduct a thorough investigation and submit its report to the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines-Government of the Republic of the Philippines Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).

“There should be accountability in accordance with the mechanisms agreed upon by both parties to the armed conflict…The JMC should be convened as a mechanism for the aggrieved parties who wish to file a complaint against erring armed units,” Bayan said.

Makabayan has urged the Absalon family to file a complaint against those responsible to the JMC.

“Marapat lamang na paganahin ang malinaw na patakaran, tulad ng (JMC) ng CARHRIHL bilang awtoridad sa ganitong mga kaso, para matiyak ang hustisya at pananagutan,” Kabataan for its part said.

(The JMC must be activated as the proper mechanism in addressing such cases. This is to ensure justice and accountability.)

Valbuena said their groups agree to the recommendations.

“Under the CARHRIHL, we are obliged to cooperate with the NDFP Section of the (JMC) if a complaint is filed before it,” he said.

He added that the CPP and the NPA shall likewise consult pertinent provisions of the Geneva Conventions as guides to determining the proper resolutions. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

CPP admits responsibility over death of athlete, cousin

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) admitted a New People’s Army (NPA) unit was responsible for the death of two civilians in Masbate City on June 6.

In a statement, CPP information officer Marco Valbuena said the Party and the NPA express deep remorse for the death of cousins Keith and Nolven Absalon as well as injury to Nolven’s son Crisbin Daniel.

The victims died in a bomb blast early Sunday morning in what Valbuena said was the result of errors in a military action mounted by an NPA unit in Barangay Anas in the said city.

The victims were reportedly cycling when hit by the explosion set off by NPA members.

Keith was 21 while Nolven was 40 years old.

“The entire Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and New People’s Army (NPA) express their deep remorse over the untimely and unnecessary deaths of cousins Keith and Nolven Absalon and injury to others,” Valbuena said.

“The entire CPP and NPA take full responsibility for the tragedy. There is no justification for the aggravation this has caused the Absalon family,” he added.

Keith was University Athletics Association of the Philippines Season 78 juniors football most valuable player and a member of the Far Eastern University seniors football team. He also played for the Malaya Football Club and the Philippine under-19 football team in 2018.

“Our hearts are broken as we bid farewell to a brilliant player of #MalayaFC and FEU men’s football team,” Malaya FC said in a tweet on the loss of one of its players.   

Valbuena said the CPP hopes the Absalon family, relatives and friends as well as the entire people can accept their “profoundest apologies and self-criticism.”

He added that they are willing to extend any appropriate form of indemnification to the family.

Valbuena said the incident should not have happened as the NPA is always reminded to give the highest priority to the protection of civilian lives and property.

“The lessons that will be drawn should guide the NPA to avoid such unfortunate incidents in the future and strengthen its resolve to serve and defend the people,” Valbuena said.

The NPA and the CPP are known to admit offensive actions they undertake against government military and police forces.

The Commission on Human Rights earlier condemned the death of the Absalons as it announced an ongoing investigation on the incident. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘Genuine revolutionary, loving father and patient husband,’ Concha says of slain husband

National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Concha Araneta-Bocala called her late husband Reynaldo a genuine revolutionary who gave five decades of his life serving the masses of Panay Island.

In a loving tribute to her life-long partner and fellow NDFP consultant, Concha said she grieves for Reynaldo and companion Willy “Ka Ramon” Arguelles, killed in what the Philippine National Police (PNP) said was a simple service of arrest warrants that turned bloody.

“I grieve for my comrade and my husband Ka Reynaldo Bocala, more lovingly known as Ka Hans, Ka Bading and Ka Minoy to the masses in the countryside of Panay. I also grieve for Ka Ramon his trusted and reliable companion. We all grieve for them. Unarmed, they were traitorously and brutally murdered by the fascist mercenaries of the tyrant Duterte,” Concha said.

Herself in hiding as among those listed as terrorists by the Rodrigo Duterte government, Concha said she is torn by the killing of her husband of 50 years but she is proud and happy that he had lived to his pledge of serving the people and the Party (Communist Party of the Philippines) “until his last breath.”

Concha credited Reynaldo as a key figure in the consolidation and upsurge of the underground revolutionary movement in Central Panay and in the anti-fascist struggle south of the island related to the downfall of the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship in 1986.

She said Reynaldo also organized the island’s indigenous Tumandok to fight for their right to their ancestral lands.

“Ka Minoy (Reynaldo) gave 50 years of his life in the revolutionary struggle. He was well-loved by the masses for his wit and humor, sharing stories and laughing with them, his down-to-earth style when giving lessons to the masses and practicality in guiding them on how to organize and mobilize their fellow peasants,” she said.

Reynaldo and Willy were killed by a team of police and military operatives in Providence Subdivision, Brgy. Balabag, Pavia, Iloilo City on Tuesday, May 29.

A Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees document of identification, ensuring his protection against surveillance, arrest, detention and assassination, was discovered among his possessions after the incident.

Patient husband, loving father

In her tribute, Concha said her husband was a loving father to their four children.

“[Y]our father, tatay loved you so much, too much. You know that and you can feel that,” she said.

Concha said she and Reynaldo met 50 years ago, got married and had two daughters and two sons.

While her husband failed to see their revolution succeed, Concha said she hopes their children, grandchildren and succeeding generations will see its inevitable victory.

“His life and work as a revolutionary may have taken his time away from you but his work was also for you and for all later generations that you may live decently as hard working people, enjoy genuine freedom and live full and happy lives,” she said.

Concha also revealed Reynaldo had been a patient husband to her, a headstrong woman born of privilege.

“To my comrade and husband, thanks for all the love you showered me even as I’m not easy to deal with, impatient, [lovingly] irritating almost always, and prickly as I may have inadequacies [as lover and wife],” she wrote in Hiligaynon.

“I give you my love admiration and respect,” she ended. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

CPP: Murderers of NDFP consultants must be punished

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) condemned what it called the coordinated murder of two National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) consultants in the Visayas Friday night.

In a statement, CPP information officer Marco Valbuena blamed the Rodrigo Duterte government, particularly the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), for the killing of what it described as senior NDFP consultants.

“The (CPP) condemns in the strongest terms the (PNP) and the (AFP) for the coordinated killings last night of National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultants for the Visayas region,” Valbuena said.

Reynaldo Bocala, a known CPP and New People’s Army leader in Panay Island, and companion Willy Arguelles were killed in Iloilo City by the police while former Roman Catholic Priest and NDFP-Cebu negotiator Rustico Tan was killed in his sleep in Camotes Island, Cebu Province.

Valbuena said the killing of Bocala and Arguelles in Barangay Balabag, Pavia, Iloilo City was a “[t]okhang-style liquidation operation purportedly to serve warrants of arrests.”

The CPP said Bocala and Arguelles were unarmed when the police-military raid happened.

The PNP’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group however said both victims put up a fight as the operatives were serving four warrants of arrest against Bocala for alleged murder.

The police issued the same claims in the killing of other NDFP consultants Julius Giron in Benguet Province, couple Eugenia Magpantay and Agaton Topacio in Rizal Province as well as other suspected elderly and sick New People’s Army fighters throughout the country.

All the killings happened either at night or before dawn.

The killings and arrests of NDFP consultants as well as suspected CPP and NPA members went into overdrive after Duterte cancelled peace negotiations with the underground Left in mid-2017.

“Stories by police and military officials of firearms recovered from the scene are all made-up to make the crime a legitimate police and military operation. This modus operandi, used against the wave of drug killings since 2016, is now being used by the military and police in the series of killings against activists and revolutionaries,” Valbuena said.

The killing of Tan is similar to the assassination of NDFP consultant Randy Felix Malayao who was also asleep when killed by two bullets on his head in Nueva Vizcaya.

Masterminded by Duterte

Valbuena said the CPP holds Duterte and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) as masterminds of the killings of Bocala, Arguelles and Tan.

The massacre of the three was coordinated at a high level with the aim of driving terror into the hearts of the people and their revolutionary forces, Valbuena said.

The CPP spokesperson said the Duterte government perpetrates coordinated killings by the AFP and the PNP against NDFP peace consultants and suspected leaders of the Party and NPA.

“They are being summarily executed in line with Duterte’s the ‘take no prisoners’ fascist policy in the vain hope of making the people and their revolutionary forces surrender to his terrorist regime,” Valbuena said.

“It is an outrage that the fascists are targetting NDFP peace consultants who are in their senior years. Bocala was 75 years old, while Fr. Tan was 80,” he added.

Valbuena said the NPA must do its utmost to punish the perpetrators of the murders, “[i]n line with the (CPP’s) directives.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

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)