Lumad schools face harassments as new school year opens

Salugpongan Ta ‘Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center (STTICLC) in Talangingod, Davao del Norte said at least five of their campuses have either been occupied or are being harassed by government as the new school year opened today.

“Military troops have occupied our schools and conducted roving operations that hamper our members’ [work for] the start of our preparation since early last week,” Lumad school teacher Joan Esperancilla in a statement said.

At STTICLC’s Tibucag campus in Barangay Dagohoy, about 20 soldiers of the Army’s 51st Infantry Battalion camped inside the school since May 29.

In Sitio KM 30, Barangay Dagohoy, about 25 soldiers in full battle gear had been conducting patrols around the STTICLC school while occupying six houses in the community, Lumad teachers reported.

In Sitio KM 17 also in Barangay Dagohoy, about 23 soldiers camped at the Lumad school but eventually left when confronted by the teacher.

In Sitio Laslasakan, Barangay Palma Gil, more than 40 soldiers had set camp inside the Lumad school campus.

On June 3 in Sitio Nasilaban, also in Barangay Palma Gil, armed soldiers entered the campus and interrupted the students and teachers cleaning the school and asked for the whereabouts of other teachers.

Throughout the week, soldiers put up checkpoints along roads going to the communities targeting Lumad school teachers, STTICLC said.

During the Sitio Nasilaban school’s flag ceremony Monday morning, students noticed a flying machine they suspect is a military drone hovering above them.

Soldiers then arrived and ordered the students to harvest vegetables and bring the produce directly to the nearby military camp, STTILCI said.

STTILCI said the incidents have affected 241 students and 11 teachers in five campuses.

“STTILCI condemns the intimidation of the military and paramilitary forces against our teachers, students and community members in Talaingod, Davao del Norte at the opening of this school year,” the group said.

AFP soldiers occupying a Lumad school. (SOS photo)

New school year, old problems

The Save our Schools (SOS) Network said it is not only the Lumad Schools in Talaingod that face the same old problems.

At the “Bakwit School” in Haran, Davao City, Lumad students from Barangay Gupitan, Kapalong, Davao del Norte started another school year away from their community.

Lumad schoolteacher Ricky Balilid said they had been teaching the students at the evacuation center since 2015 as the threats from the paramilitary Alamara continue to hound them.

“The Alamara have looked at our school with suspicion that this is a New People’s Army school. And they have intimidated teachers, parents and even students from attending this school,” Balilid said.

Many Lumad schools set up and ran by religious groups or non-government organizations all over Mindanao suffer the same situation, SOS said.

In all, 56 schools have been forcibly closed and 18 others destroyed last school year from military and paramilitary attacks, forcing 2,000 children to stop their schooling.

There had also been 2,300 students and teachers harassed by the paramilitary and soldiers, including incidents of being forced to be included in the fake list of NPA surrenderees, the group said.

“It is sad that, while Lumad schools are helping the government and Department of Education (DepEd) in providing education opportunities for the Lumad children, they are not getting help. Instead, they are getting attacked for helping the Lumads,” SOS spokesperson Rius Valle said.

The SOS said Lumad schools have been partners with the DepEd in implementing Indigenous People’s Education Program (IPED) for the past years.

This is proof that Lumad schools are legitimate and carry DepEd programs that serve to combat illiteracy, Valle said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)


GRP forces take ‘hors de combat’ from hospital ICU

[UPDATED] The Philippine National Police (PNP) arrested a badly-injured New People’s Army (NPA) leader from the intensive care unit (ICU) of a local hospital despite protests from paralegals and human rights workers.

In an urgent alert, human rights groups Karapatan-Southern Mindanao Region and the Exodus for Justice and Peace said a combined force of PNP officers and military intelligence agents in civilian clothing have taken NPA’s 1st Pulang Bagani Company leader Elizalde Cañete to the Don Carlos Police Station at about 8:30 Monday evening.

“Zaldy Cañete, an hors de combat, who suffered traumatic head injury and presently recuperating at Don Carlos Doctors Hospital (DCDH) was taken by military and police elements around 6:48 tonight,” Karapatan-SMR’s alert said.

“PO3 Rico Manuel along with several military intelligence and police elements appeared and served an outdated warrant of arrest [against Cañete],” Karapatan added.

Cañete, identified by President Rodrigo Duterte himself as the successor of famed Southern Mindanao NPA leader Leoncio “Kumander Parago” Pitao, was injured in a battallion-sized military operation in Kitaotao, Bukidnon Province last month.

He suffered a bullet wound to the head that needed an 11-hour brain surgery and was still at the hospital’s ICU at the time of his arrest.

Cañete is reported to be suffering from memory loss and loss of speech resulting from his injuries.

“We contest this arrest, as Cañete is an hors de combat, a wounded combatant that should be tended first for his critical medical condition as stipulated under the CARHRIHL (Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law) signed by the government and the NDF (National Democratic Front of the Philippines),” the EJP for its part said.

The EJP is a Church-based peace advocacy group that regularly serves as third party facilitator to the release of NPA prisoners of war.

Photos released by Karapatan SMR showed an obviously weak Cañete on a wheelchair surrounded by police officers in full battle gear inside the hospital.

Canete inside the Don Carlos (Bukidnon) jail facility. (Karapatan-SMR photo)

The group later posted photos of Cañete inside a jail facility and said he has been complaining of head pains since last night.

No doctor or health professional has been asked to check on Cañete’s condition since his arrest, Karaparan-SMR added,

Karapatan-SMR secretary general Jay Apiag said the PNP in Don Carlos along with the military under the Philippine Army’s 3rd Infantry Battalion must be held liable should something untoward happen to Cañete under their custody.

Earlier, the NDFP called on the Duterte government to respect Cañete’s hors de combat status and release him as the NPA releases its POWs. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDFP admonishes GRP on arrest of injured NPA leader, preemptive announcements

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) negotiating panel admonished the Rodrigo Duterte government on the arrest of New People’s Army (NPA) leader Elizalde Cañete while still recuperating from an 11-hour brain surgery in Bukidnon Province.

The NDFP said it views with great concern the arrest, saying the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) is under obligations to uphold their Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) under which hors de combat like Cañete should be afforded safeguards as regards to health, among other rights.

READ: Arrest try of injured Red commander humanitarian law violation, NPA says

The group issued a statement following reports that Cañete’s kin as well as human rights paralegals are being barred from visiting him at Don Carlos Memorial Hospital in Kitaotao Town where he is confined.

Human rights group Karapatan-Southern Mindanao Region said Cañete’s relatives were also harassed by military intelligence agents under the 88th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army.

Karapatan SMR also said that hospital nurses and medical attendants were told by high-ranking officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) Cañete has been issued a warrant of arrest and is prevented from receiving relatives unless allowed by military and police authorities.

The group added Cañete’s family and paralegals are uncertain of Cañete’s health status as he is guarded heavily by combined elements of the PNP and AFP.

“We admonish the GRP to honor its commitments under CARHRIHL. Likewise, we warn the GRP that any harm done to Cañete can have adverse consequences to the efforts of both sides to resume the peace negotiations,” NDFP chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili said in a statement.

Agcaoili added AFP and PNP’s disregard of Cañete’s rights can jeopardize the back-channel talks for making preparations for the resumption of the stalled peace talks that have already reached an advanced stage.


Earlier, the Communist Party of the Philippines also admonished the GRP for violating its agreement with the NDFP that unilateral statements will not be issued prior to actual agreements in the ongoing series of backchannel talks.

While saying it is looking forward to positive resolutions, the CPP said officials of the Duterte government should be more circumspect in issuing public statements or comments so as not to preempt the outcome of the informal talks and efforts to revive formal negotiations.

Earlier, The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process said in a statement issued on Tuesday said that “[e]fforts to resume peace negotiations with the CPP/NPA/NDF are underway, with informal back-channel talks now taking place in Europe.”

OPAPP also announced it received positive results from the backchannel talks in Europe, the statement said.

The CPP however urged the media and the public to await official statements on the outcome of informal talks between representatives of the NDFP and the GRP.

NDFP chief political consultant Jose Ma. Sison echoed CPP’s statement, saying any announcement or statement on the ongoing backchannel talks must be co-signed and jointly issued by the GRP and the NDFP.

“The point is to avoid misundertandings and preemption of the outcome by any side at the expense of the other,” Sison told Kodao.

Sison added there is a strong trend towards resumption of formal talks within June, based on the fact that the back channelers are determined to put together a package of agreements on ceasefire, amnesty and release of all political prisoners.

He added that the signing of the Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ARRD) as well as National Industrialization and Economic Development (NIED) sections of the prospective social and economic reform agreement CASER may also constitute an Interim Peace Agreement.

“Bilateral teams are poised to finalize the common drafts of the ARRD and NIED for submission to the Reciprocal Working Committees on Social and Economic Reforms,” Sison said.

Sison added that one more round of back channel talks will wrap up everything for the resumption of formal talks. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Arrest try of injured Red commander humanitarian law violation, NPA says

The New People’s Army (NPA) in Southern Mindanao Region condemned the attempted arrest by combined military and police troopers of its commander recuperating from a major operation in a Bukidnon hospital.

The NPA said Zaldy Cañete, injured in a fierce gun battle in Barangay Kipilas, Kitaotao, Bukidnon Thursday, is obviously an hors de combat and must be given protection, respect and humanitarian medical treatment and recovery in accordance with civilized rules of warfare.

“The GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) and the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) should not subject Cañete to further punitive action by virtue of his condition as an hors de combat,” Rigoberto Sanchez, the NPA Southern Mindanao Regional Operations Command spokesperson, in a statement said.

An hors de combat is a person who is “outside of the fight” after injury or surrender.

On May 10, 2018, the Philippine Army’s 3rd Infantry Battalion attacked Cañete’s 1st Pulang Bagani Company, resulting in a two-hour fire fight that involved aerial and ground bombing by the GRP troops.

Cañete sustained head and body injuries, including a bullet wound on his lower left ear that exited on his right frontal skull.

The NPA said eight government troopers were in turn killed.

Cañete was turned over to his relatives in the area who took him to the nearby Don Carlos District Hospital where he underwent an 11-hour brain surgery.

The injured Red fighter is suffering memory loss and loss of speech as a result of his injuries and is confined at the hospital’s intensive care unit, the NPA said.

A few hours after his operation, however, AFP, PNP and intelligence operatives arrived and attempted to serve multiple warrants of arrest against Cañete, the NPA said.

“The GRP’s hasty attempted arrest and detention of Cañete is treacherous and violates the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), the Geneva Conventions and other generally accepted principles and standards of international humanitarian law which clearly protect injured persons of the Parties in armed conflict,” the NPA said.

“In the same manner that the NPA has treated leniently any captured personnel of the military, police and paramilitary forces as prisoners of war in faithful allegiance to the international customary law pertaining to humanitarian principles, norms and rules in armed conflicts, the GRP has no recourse but to afford Cañete the same rights and non-discriminatory protection,” it added.

Human rights group Exodus for Justice and Peace (EJP) echoed the NPA’s call, saying the attempted arrest of an hors de combat is an international humanitarian law violation.

“Any action taken by the AFP on Cañete would constitute a serious breach and will dampen the spirit of reopening the [peace] talks,” EJP said in a statement.

“[The] EJP observes that the AFP continues to ignore the efforts of the GPH panel and the people’s clamor for peace as it continues its operations and propaganda. Clearly this does not help the peace talks,” their statement added.

The EJP periodically acts as a third party facilitator to the release of GRP troops who were taken as prisoners of war by the NPA.

The EJP appeals to the government to release Cañete on humanitarian grounds and as part of an enabling environment for the resumption of the talks.

NDFP and GRP peace negotiators are reportedly engaged in a series of backchannel talks in accordance with GRP President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive to try to revive the peace negotiations he cancelled in November last year. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)


Uphold CARHRIHL: Creating the atmosphere for a just peace

Peace advocates commemorated the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines in a forum at St. Scholastica’s College in Manila last March 10.

The advocates, in the presence of hundreds of SSC students, called on GRP President Rodrigo Duterte to respect the human rights agreement and resume the peace process with the NDFP.

“At this time, when the Duterte administration appears focused on moves like pulling out of the International Criminal Court and declaring more than 600 persons as terrorists under the Human Security Act, we urge President Rodrigo R. Duterte to instead focus the attention of his government on faithful adherence to the principles of human rights and international humanitarian law,” the advocates said in a statement. (Editing by M. Montajes)

Thousands of complaints since CARHRIHL signing, NDFP says

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) said nearly seven thousand complaints of human rights and international humanitarian law violations have been received by its Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP).

At a forum marking the 20th anniversarry of the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) at St. Scholastica’s College in Manila Friday, the NDFP said a total of 6,898 complaints have since been lodged at the JMC from its establishment in June 2004 to March 14, 2018, nearly six years after the signing of the agreement.

The NDFP said 4,886 complaints have been received by the GRP section while 2,012 have been received by the NDFP section of the JMC.

The NDFP said it is incumbent upon the parties to avail of the monitoring mechanism for the submission of complaints, instead of resorting to drastic means such as terminating the formal talks every time an armed incident happens.

President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly blamed the New People’s Army (NPA) whenever he cancelled formal talks with the NDFP.

After Duterte again cancelled talks last November, his government has since asked the courts to proscribe the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the NPA as terrorist organizations.

The CPP and NPA are allied organizations of the NDFP.

Peace advocates and St. Scholastica’s College-Manila students who attended the event marking the 20th anniversary of the signing of the CARHRIHL Friday morning.

Peace advocates who attended the CARHRIHL anniversary event, however, called on Duterte to respect the human rights agreement and resume the peace process with the NDFP.

“At this time,  when the Duterte administration appears focused on moves like pulling out of the International Criminal Court and declaring more than 600 persons as terrorists under the Human Security Act, we urge President Rodrigo R. Duterte to instead focus the attention of his government on faithful adherence to the principles of human rights and international humanitarian law,” the advocates said in a statement.

The group added that CARHRIHL’s full implementation not only provides additional protection for the people amid armed conflict, it will also propel both the GRP and the NDFP to resume peace negotiations.

The statement was signed by Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez of the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform, Bishop Reuel Marigza of Pilgrims for Peace, Kaye Limpado of Sulong CARHRIHL, Saharon Cabusao of Kapayapaan Campaign for Just and Lasting Peace, Benjie Valbuena of ACT for Peace and Rey Casambre of the Philippine Peace Center.

Iñiguez in his own speech called on both the GRP and the NDFP to convene the JMC to discuss the complaints it received.

“Convene the JMC. Confront the many complaints from the people. According to Article 1 of the Final Provisions of the CARHRIHL, the JMC is still operative and it has to regularly convene until it is formally dissolved,” Iñiguez said.

“The sincerity of both parties can only be measured by how faithfully they implement their agreements. We call on the GRP and the NDFP, ‘Respect and vigorously implement all agreements!’” the prelate added.

Since the Gloria Arroyo administration, however, the GRP has repeatedly refused or caused the cancellation of JMC meetings to discuss the complaints.

The Benigno Aquino administration of the GRP has even asked the royal Norwegian Government, Third Party Facilitator to the peace process, to stop funding the committee’s operations.

The current GRP administration, for its part, has convened the JMC with the NDFP during and in between its four fomal rounds of negotiations with the NDFP, but no actual complaints have been tabled before Duterte cancelled all meetings and negotiations last year. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDFP to GRP: Stop AFP-PNP if you want ‘lowering levels of violence’

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Negotiating Panel said the Rodrigo Duterte government should look at its own forces if it wants to see “lowering levels of violence” in the country.

In a statement, NDFP chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili said it is the Armed Forces of the Philippines -Philippine National Police (AFP-PNP) that sows violence in the country.

“Sec. Bello should look at their own troops and police before making such outrageous demands on the revolutionary movement,” Agcaoili told Kodao.

Agcaoili was reacting to Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III’s statement Monday that formal peace negotiations could be resumed if the New People’s Army decreases its attacks against the military.

BusinessMirror reported Monday that the government panel is closely monitoring the situation in the countryside to evaluate if the environment is conducive for peace negotiations.

“We are still waiting for better developments, [a] lowering level of violence,” Bello said.

But Agcaoili said Bello should address his call to the AFP-PNP.

“Since in the month of September alone, the AFP and PNP have conducted three aerial bombardments against communities in Batangas, Agusan del Norte and North Cotabato and killed Lumad and civilians in Davao Sur, Negros Occidental and Sultan Kudarat,” Agcaoili said.

“(The military also) have claimed to have killed nine Red fighters in Nueva Ecija, four in Pangasinan, two each in Zamboanga and North Cotabato, one each in Batangas and Ilocos Sur, and have arrested alleged NPA fighters in the above-mentioned provinces as well as in Palawan, Catanduanes, Mindoro, among others,” Agcaoili added.

GRP President Rodrigo Duterte cancelled the fifth round of formal in The Netherlands last May after failing to force the NDFP to sign a bilateral ceasefire agreement.

Duterte however said he is not averse to the resumption of the talks after the NPA released a prisoner of war (POW) September 15 in accordance with the GRP-NDFP’s Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).

The NDFP chief negotiator said the NPA’s release of former POW Senior Police Officer 2 George Rupinta in Compostela Valley Province proves it follows humanitarian laws in its conduct of war.

“The NPA is waging a just war of national and social liberation in accordance with its own humane rules of engagement with utmost respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law and in accordance with its circumstances,” Agcaoili said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

4 POWs, 23 political prisoners to be released soon—NDFP, GRP

NOORDWIJK, The Netherlands—The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) held a press conference this morning (local time) to reiterate their respective commitments to expedite the release of New People’s Army (NPA) prisoners of war (POWs) on one hand and political prisoners in the other.

“The NDFP today reiterates and confirms the February 19, 2017 statement of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) directing the concerned NPA units to expedite the release of the six captured POWs still in their custody as a ‘positive gesture’ for the ongoing fourth round of the peace talks,” the NDFP said.

Last March 25, however, two POWs, paramilitary members Rene Doller and Mark Nocus, captured in Lupon, Davao Oriental on February 14, were already released by their NPA custodial force to the members of the Third Party Facilitators and Independent Humanitarian Mission (TPFIHM) in Mati City, Davao Oriental.

The GRP said its security forces are amenable to suspending military and police operations for 10 days to allow the NPA to affect the POW releases to TPFIHM members.

The four (4) remaining POWs are PFC Edwin Salan (captured in Alegria, Surigao del Norte on January 29); Sgt. Solaiman Calucop (captured in Columbio, Sultan Kudarat on February 2); PFC Samuel Garay (also captured in Columbio, Sultan Kudarat on February 2); and PO2 Jerome Natividad, captured in Talakag, Bukidnon on February 9.

The GRP for its part said it will soon release 23 NDFP-listed political prisoners held in various jails across the Philippines.

The GRP said most of the political prisoners to be released on humanitarian grounds are sick and elderly.

Four of the 23 political prisoners were convicted, including three NDFP consultants, who will be released through presidential pardon.

The NDFP and GRP said the agreement to expedite the releases of POWs and political prisoners are part of the successes of the ongoing round of talks. # (Video by Jola Diones-Mamangun / Text by Raymund B. Villanueva / Featured photo by Jon Bustamante)