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Frank Fernandez and company transferred to civilian jail

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘No visits from lawyers and doctors’

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

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

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

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

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

Casambre now in Bicutan

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

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

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

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

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

No more talks with ‘deranged Duterte’–Sison

National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison said there may no longer be peace negotiations with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) under Rodrigo Duterte, accusing both the president and the military of making the process impossible.

Responding to yet another Duterte declaration that he is still open to resuming the negotiations, Sison said the revolutionary forces may spend their time better by concentrating on intensifying their “people’s war.”

In a campaign sortie in Tuguegarao City Tuesday, Duterte again appeared to have changed his mind and said he is still open to peace negotiations with the NDFP.

“Kayong mga NPA (New People’s Army), kung gusto talaga ninyo ng usapang matino, [you declare] immediate ceasefire. Walang magdala ng armas sa kampo ninyo o sa labas, walang taxation, walang pangsunog,” Duterte said. (You, NPA, if you really want to seriously talk, declare an immediate ceasefire. Do not bring arms within and outside your camps, do not impose taxation and do not go around burning.)

He also again invited Sison to come home from The Netherlands to resume peace negotiations.

“Umuwi ka dito, Sison. Ako ang bahala sa iyo. Hindi ako traydor na tao. I give you my honor, word of honor. Mag-usap tayo,” Duterte said, adding however that he could not talk about a coalition government with the Left. (You come home. I will take care of you. I am not a traitor. We will talk.)

“Pero nothing about coalition government. You can never have even an iota of a sovereign powers of the Republic of the Philippines. I am not allowed to do that. Kaya itong mga sundalo mag-coup d’etat ito. Ako pa ang mamatay,” Duterte said. (These soldiers might stage a coup d’etat and kill me.)

But Sison said a resumption of the talks may be impossible at present, saying Duterte military have rendered negotiations impossible by doing the following:

  1. Duterte has formally terminated the peace negotiations with the NDFP with Proclamation 360.
  2. He has designated the CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines) and the NPA as terrorist.
  3. He has rejected the substantive agenda of the peace negotiations stipulated by The Hague Joint Declaration and the Joint Agreement on the Sequence, Formation and Operationalization of the Reciprocal Working Committees.
  4. He has wantonly violated the safety and immunity guarantees under the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) by ordering the arrest of NDFP consultants and their murder if there are no witnesses, as in the case of Randy Malayao.
  5. He has unilaterally scrapped the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law and has dismantled the GRP section of the Joint Monitoring Committee.
  6. He has unleashed his military and police dogs to red-tag, frame up and kill at will social activists and suspected revolutionaries in his all-out war and pursuit of fascist dictatorship.

Sison added the military also actively interfered to stop the peace negotiations for the following reasons:

  1. The GRP negotiating panel cannot obtain the surrender of the armed revolutionary movement of the people through a protracted and indefinite ceasefire and
  2. the NDFP negotiating panel is gaining credit for pushing social, economic and political reforms to address the roots of the armed conflict.

Sison recalled that since The Hague Joint Declaration of September 1, 1992, the most “reactionary diehards in the military” have always acted to shorten the peace negotiations under every GRP administration.

“Under the pressure of the military, Duterte has terminated and practically killed the peace negotiations since he issued Proclamation 360 on November 23, 2017,” Sison said, adding the president has proceeded to drive more nails into the coffin of the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations.

Sison also dismissed GRP’s localized peace negotiations scheme as patently false, saying no revolutionary would ever fall for its trap.

He added that it is actually favorable for the revolutionary forces to fight an openly tyrannical Duterte regime as in the time of the deposed dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Sison also dismissed Duterte’s invitation for him to come home, saying his time is better spent on research, writing and publishing “without being distracted by back channel talks and flip-flops by the mentally, politically and morally deranged Duterte.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Sison warns against Duterte’s ‘war panel’

National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison warned that President Rodrigo Duterte’s plans to constitute a new government negotiating panel with at least three military officers as members is for “militarist purposes.”

“[The NDFP] and the Filipino people should be alert to Duterte’s militarist purposes in announcing that he wishes to reopen the peace talks with the use of a militarized negotiating panel under the militarized office of the presidential adviser, General [Carlito] Galvez,” Sison said.

Sison was reacting to Duterte’s speech at the PDP-Laban campaign sortie in Bukidnon Saturday, when the president talked about looking for members for a new peace panel, most of whom would come from the military.

“I’ll look for a new one, new methods, new people to talk to. Maybe one, two, three of them are from the military. Maybe around five. Two civilian members, three from the military,” Duterte said.

The president said he dissolved the previous peace panel last March 20 because it took them too long to negotiate with the NDFP.

“It took too long. Nothing happened in three years,” he claimed.

The previous Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) negotiating panel was composed of labor secretary Silvestre H. Bello III as chairperson and members Hernani Braganza, Angela Librado-Trinidad, Rene Sarmiento and Antonio Arellano.

‘Willing and committed GRP panel’

Records, however, show that Duterte’s first negotiating panel produced groundbreaking draft agreements with the NDFP on substantive agenda as well as the longest bilateral ceasefire between both parties that lasted five months.

In June 2018, the GRP-NDFP panels and reciprocal working committees and groups drafted the following:

  1.  Stand Down Agreement,
  2. Guidelines and Procedures towards an Interim Peace Agreement and the Resumption of Talks and its attached timetable,
  3. The Initialled Interim Peace Agreement, and
  4. The NDFP Proposed Draft of the Amnesty Proclamation which was given to the GRP and the Third Party Facilitator.

The documents were ready for Duterte’s approval when he again cancelled the formal round in Oslo, Norway scheduled a week after the both panels initialled the documents.

Earlier, both panels have already approved land reform and rural development as well as national industrialization and economic development subsections of the substantive social and economic reforms substantive agenda the parties mutually described as the “meat of the negotiations.”

NDFP chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili in fact acknowledged that the Bello-led GRP panel were willing and committed negotiators upon learning their counterparts were fired last March 14.

“The GRP should be wise enough to choose those who are willing or committed to address the roots of the armed conflict in order to attain a just and lasting peace as Sec. Bello has shown in the long years that he has been a consultant, member and then chairperson of the GRP panel since 1994,” Agcaoili said. 

Duterte, however, brushed aside the results of two years of hard work by both panels when he cancelled for at least the third time last June 2018 the formal round after meeting with his Cabinet’s security cluster.

“That the suspension comes after a command conference with the Armed Forces of the Philippines shows the power that warmongers wield over the civilian branch of this government,” the group Kapayapaan Campaign for a Just and Lasting Peace said at the time.

Presidential peace adviser Galvez, former Armed Forces chief of staff explained that the dissolution of the first GRP peace panel last month was aimed for the creation of a new panel that will focus on the so-called localized peace engagements.

Galvez added they will reconstitute the panel that will implement the government’s whole-of-nation approach.

‘War panel’

Sison, however, said the NDFP does not want to be baited into accepting a war panel of the Duterte regime, “whose purpose is merely to seek the impossible, such as the surrender of the revolutionary forces, especially the New People’s Army.”

“The NDFP must remind Duterte that he cannot dictate the terms of whatever kind of negotiations he seeks from the revolutionary movement of the people,” Sison said.

He added that Duterte must also explain why he terminated the peace negotiations and annul all agreements painstakingly made since the The Hague Joint Declaration of 1992.

Sison also asked why Duterte terminated and dismantles the GRP section of the Joint Monitoring Committee formed under the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Humans Rights and International Humanitarian Law tasked to receive and investigate complaints of human rights violations allegedly committed by either party.

“By all indications, Duterte is merely play-acting in the name of peace while carrying out an all-out war and scheming to rig the May 2019 elections in order to pave the way for a fascist dictatorship through charter change to a bogus federalism,” Sison said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDFP’s Casambre ‘clandestinely’ transferred to ‘noisy’, ‘hot’ Bacoor jail

The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-National Capital Region (CIDG-NCR) of the Philippine National Police transferred detained National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace consultant Rey Claro Casambre from Camp Crame in Quezon City to the Bacoor City Jail in Cavite province last Wednesday, April 3, without informing his family and lawyers, his family complained.

“Tatay Rey was clandestinely whisked away by the CIDG-NCR Crame police custodian to the dark and cramped Bacoor City Jail without a word, not even to his legal counsels,” Casambre’s daughter Xandra said.

While he slept in a wooden bench inside a cramped jail cell in Camp Crame, Casambre is now jailed in an even more crowded and dark cell with too many fellow inmates, Xandra said.

“He is the 163rd inmate in a ‘dorm’ designed for only 60 people. (It is) Terrible!” she told Kodao.

According to Casambre’s wife Patricia, the Bacoor jail is very noisy and long-time inmates are allowed to sing karaoke in high volume even when it is visiting time.

“People (inmates) just do their thing right then and there,” Patricia reportedly told Xandra in her first visit to her husband’s new jail.

Xandra said Bacoor jail facility is much less accessible to family, lawyers, co-advocates and doctors.

Casambre is known to suffer many ailments connected with advancing age.

The BJMP (Bureau of Jail Management and Penology) administrator reportedly tried to give a positive impression during Casambre’s family’s first visit but Patricia was broken-hearted to note of the “intolerable noise and the oppressive heat that she would not wish on others.”

Casambre’s transfer came after the public prosecutors found probable cause to charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

A hearing on Casambre’s motion for reconsideration is being conducted as of press time. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Philippine Army holding Frank Fernandez incommunicado

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) strongly condemned what it calls the unjust arrest of another of its peace consultants and his companions last Sunday in Laguna Province.

In a statement, NDFP Negotiating Panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili demanded that the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) immediately release Francisco “Ka Frank” Fernandez and his companions “as a matter of principle, justice and humanity.”

“Frank Fernandez is a publicly known consultant of the NDFP in the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations as NDFP spokesperson in Negros,” Agcaoili said.

Agcaoili said 71-year old Fernandez has been ill for some time had to come down from Negros for medical treatment, accompanied by his wife Cleofe Lagtapon and Gee-Ann Perez.

Where are they?

The NDFP said details of where Fernandez and companions are incarcerated are still unclear.

“This poses grave danger to their health and lives. It is incumbent upon their custodial units to forthwith present Frank Fernandez and his companions to their relatives and lawyers in order for him to receive his medicines and assure that their rights and well-being are respected,” Agcaoili said.

Philippine National Police Region IV-A director Chief Superintendent Ted Carranza told reporters Monday that Fernandez was taken to the Philippine Army Hospital in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City after the arrest.

“Well, alam niyo kasi itong si Fr. Frank Fernandez ay matanda na. I just talked with an officer from the Philippine Army, nag-complain siya (Fernandez) ng chest pain after his arrest. So he was sent to the army hospital for treatment,” Carranza said.

It was not known whether Fernandez is still confined at the said hospital as human rights defenders and public interest lawyers are still being prevented from seeing the detainees.

In his press conference at Camp Crame yesterday, PNP chief Oscar Albayalde said Fernandez and his companions are under the custody of the Philippine Army’s Military Intelligence Group of Calabarzon reportedly based in Camp Eldridge in Los Baños, Laguna.

“With his unjust arrest, the Duterte regime runs the risk of adding another detainee to the list of three political prisoners who died in prison from June 2016, in violation of international humanitarian law and the minimum prison standards recognized by civilized nations,” Agcaoili said.

JASIG-protected

Agcaoili said Fernandez, a former Roman Catholic priest in the Diocese of Bacolod before becoming a rebel leader in Negros, holds Document of Identification Number PP 978544 as provided for in the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) between the GRP and the NDFP.

Agcaoili also dismissed Presidential peace adviser Carlito Galvez Junior’s claim that the JASIG is already inoperable in accordance with GRP President Rodrigo Duterte’s termination of the peace talks in November 2017.

Agcaoili said JASIG’s termination requires a protocol, a move the NDFP said Duterte failed to follow with his unilateral termination of the peace talks through Proclamation No. 360.

The NDFP Negotiating Panel earlier said the GRP has not formally given them a letter of termination through the Third Party Facilitator, the Royal Norwegian Government, rendering Duterte’s Proclamation No. 360 moot and the JASIG still operable.

“So, no matter how many times President Rodrigo Duterte unilaterally flip-flops from resuming and then terminating the peace talks, the JASIG remains in full force and effect unless otherwise terminated according to the terms of the agreement,” Agcaoili said.

“In fact the immunity guarantees of Frank Fernandez extend even after the actual termination of the peace talks,” he explained. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

PNP surfaces NDFP’s Frank Fernandez

The Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Philippine Army finally surfaced National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Francisco “Ka Frank” Fernandez after arresting him early Sunday morning and denying he was in their custody to human rights responders.

In a press conference at Camp Crame this morning, PNP chief Oscar Albayalde said Fernandez was arrested in Barangay Calumpang, Liliw, Laguna at 5:15 a.m. Sunday morning and, like five fellow NDFP consultants earlier arrested, was allegedly found to be in possession of firearms, ammunition and grenades.

Fernandez was arrested with his wife Cleofe Lagtapon and Gee-Ann Perez and are facing charges of violation of Commission on Election (Comelec) Resolution 10429 in relation to the Omnibus Election Code as well as violation of Republic Act 10591 (Illegal possession of firearms) and violation of Republic Act 9516 (Illegal possession of explosives), the PNP said.

Three caliber .45 pistols, three magazines with 15 live bullets and three grenades were allegedly found in their possession.

Fernandez also has four standing murder arrest warrants while his wife was included in one of the arrest warrants, the PNP said.

The three are under the custody of the Military Intelligence Group of Calabarzon and are set to face illegal firearms and explosives possession charges, the police added.

Fernandez, a former Roman Catholic priest, was a long-time NDFP spokesperson in Negros Island.

‘Hide and seek’

Human rights group Karapatan, however, slammed the PNP for withholding the three’s whereabouts for more than a day despite asking various police and military camps in Region IV-A and the National Capital Region.

“Legal counsel and paralegals went to Camp Vicente Lim in Canlubang, Laguna; Camp Paciano Rizal in Sta. Cruz, Laguna; Laguna Provincial Police Office and Municipal Police Office in Sta. Cruz, Laguna; Camp Crame in Quezon City; and Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City. Military and police officers denied having the three in their custody,” Karapatan said in a statement.

“This morning of March 25, legals counsels and paralegals went to the ISAFP Headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City; NBI National Office in Manila; and Camp Crame, Quezon City. The same answer was given to them,” the group added.

Karapatan said it was only after further prodding that unidentified officials revealed that the three arrested persons were in the Army General Hospital in Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City.

Karapatan said that lawyers and paralegals should have access to those arrested, particularly the elderly couple Fernandez and Lagtapon, aged 71 and 66, respectively.

Fernandez and his wife are reportedly in Laguna to seek medical treatment.

Karapatan raised the possibility that the three might be subjected to physical and psychological torture, a reported practice of state forces during arrests.

“Access of lawyers to the victims on time and ascertaining the responsible units and officers are a deterrent to the ill-treatment of arrested persons,” Karapatan said.

The group said the police and the military deliberately played a game of hide and seek, instead of directly giving the whereabouts of the detainees to their legal counsels, as mandated by Republic Act 7438 or the rights of persons arrested, detained or under custodial investigation law.

‘Ordered by Duterte’

NDFP’s chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison, for his part, condemned yet another allegation by the police that its latest arrested peace consultant and companions were in possession of guns and ammunition at the time of their arrest.

“Following the orders publicly given by their master (President Rodrigo) Duterte, the criminals in uniform always plant firearms and frame up NDFP consultants,” Sison told Kodao.

Sison said that planting such false evidence is the police’s way of violating the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) between the NDFP and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines.

Sison said that when there are no witnesses, so-called “criminals in authority” kill NDFP consultants as in the case of Randy Felix Malayao.

Malayao was killed in his sleep inside a bus in Aritao, Nueva Vizcaya last January 30.

Sison said the planting of firearms is meant to justify also the arrest of people or witnesses who are in the company of the NDFP consultant.

NDFP peace consultants Rafael Baylosis, Adelberto Silva, Vicente Ladlad, Rey Claro Casambre and Reynante Gamarahave been arrested in succession from January 2018 and all were charged with illegal possession of firearms along with their respective companions.

“In the first place, they are even supposed not to surveil NDFP consultants under JASIG,” Sison explained.

New presidential adviser on the peace process Carlito Galvez Jr., however, said last Wednesday the JASIG is no longer operable since Duterte terminated the talks in November 2017.

“[T]he formal negotiation was terminated along with Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) through Proclamation 360 by President Rodrigo Duterte on November 2017,” Galvez said in a statement.

The NDFP, however, said the JASIG is still in effect.

“The safety and immunity guarantees for NDFP consultants are continuing even in case of breakdown or termination of the peace negotiations,” Sison said.

Baylosis was released last January 18 after the Quezon City Regional Trial Court dismissed charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives against him. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Where is Frank Fernandez? NDFP asks former priest’s captors

The whereabouts of National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NFFP) peace consultant Frank Fernandez reportedly nabbed by the police and military in Nagcarlan, Laguna early Sunday morning have yet to be known more than 24 hours after his arrest.

NDFP Negotiating Panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili said Fernandez, long-time NDFP spokesperson in Negros Island, must be surfaced and released by his captors as soon as possible as he known to be ailing and undergoing treatment.

“The NDFP strongly condemns the unjust arrest of Frank Fernandez and his partner. Frank is a publicly known consultant in the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines)-NDFP peace negotiations as NDF spokesperson for Negros,” Agcaoili told Kodao.

“He is also known to be ill and requires medical treatment,” Agcaoili added.

In an Inquirer report, Fernandez was arrested at 5:16 a.m. in Barangay Calumpang, in a joint operation of the Philippine Army and Laguna police.

The report added the arrest was confirmed to the Inquirer by three police officials and was undertaken by virtue of an arrest warrant.

Fernandez was the sixth NDFP peace consultant arrested since President Rodrigo Duterte terminated peace negotiations with the Left in November 2017.

Earlier, Rafael Baylosis, Adelberto Silva, Vicente Ladlad and Rey Claro Casambre were arrested in succession late last year after repeated attempts to revive the stalled peace talks failed.

Renante Gamara, NDFP peace consultant for the National Capital Region, was arrested last Wednesday in Imus City, Cavite.

Baylosis was first arrested in January 2018 but was eventually released last January 18 after the Quezon City Regional Trial Court threw out trumped-up charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives against him.

Twelve days later, NDFP peace consultant Randy Felix Malayao was killed inside a bus in Aritao, Nueva Vizcaya last January 30.

Last Monday, March 18, Duterte dissolved the GRP Negotiating Panel and fired all its members.

Fernandez, a former Catholic priest, was last seen in public in central Negros Island in December 2016 where he attended a press conference and talked about the peace process and Duterte’s drug war, among other things.

He was reportedly tagged by the military as the most wanted rebel leader in Negros with a P7.8 million bounty on his head. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Another guns and explosives possession charge against newly-arrested NDFP consultant

Guess what charges were filed against arrested National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Renante Gamara.

Like the complaints filed against four NDFP consultants it arrested in succession in 2018, the Philippine National Police (PNP) charged Gamara and his companion, retired priest Arturo Balagat, with illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

Gamara and Balagat were arrested Wednesday afternoon in Poblacion II-A, Imus, Cavite  and are being held at present at the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) of the PNP in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City yesterday.

Like his fellow NDFP consultants Rafael Baylosis, Adelberto Silva, Vicente Ladlad and Rey Claro Casambre, Gamara is facing charges of violations of RA 10591, the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act.

The PNP said a .9 mm caliber pistol and two hand grenades were recovered from the detainees when arrested.

Gamara’s arrest brings to five the number of NDFP peace consultants arrested since President Rodrigo Duterte terminated peace talks with the Left in November 2017.

The youngest NDFP peace consultant, Randy Felix Malayao, 59, was killed inside a bus in Nueva Vizcaya last January 30.

Baylosis was released last January, however, after the Quezon city Regional Trial court dismissed the charges against him.

Duterte again announced his termination of the peace talks with the NDFP Thursday, three days after dissolving his negotiating panel led by labor secretary Silvestre Bello III.

Condemnations

Human rights group Karapatan condemned Gamara and Balagat’s arrest and accused the police of filing yet another illegal firearms and explosives possession against the consultant.

“This is not only a time of unpeace where there is prevalence of human rights violations and impunity, it is also a period of targeted persecution and intimidation against those who continue to clamor for peace,” said Karapatan deputy secretary general Roneo Clamor. 

“The government has again zeroed in on the persecution of peace consultants, instead of working to resolve the root causes of the armed conflict by way of pursuing peace negotiations,” Clamor added.

Karapatan revealed that the search warrant presented by the police in arresting Gamara was issued by the same Laguna court that ordered the arrest of Silva and four others in October 2018.

The Search Warrant was granted by Executive Judge Cynthia Marino-Ricablanca of RTC Branch 27 of the 4th Judicial Region of Sta. Cruz, Laguna. 

Karapatan, however, said Gamara, 62, took part in the peace negotiations
after posting bail on August 2016 as a consultant to the reciprocal working group on political and constitutional reforms.

“He is supposedly covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), an agreement that seeks to provide protection and “free and unhindered” passage for individuals involved in the peace negotiations,” Clamor explained

‘A spectacle’

Human rights lawyer Kristina Conti, the first to come to Gamara’s aid in Taguig said the grounds presented by the police in arresting Gamara and Balagat are all dubious as the two have no pending warrant in the courts.

Conti told Kodao that the bail Gamara posted in August 2016 when he was first released to enable his participation in formal peace negotiations throughout Europe applies to his previous cases.

Conti added it is grossly ignorant for the PNP to say that “Duterte ordered his arrest” because the president is not a proper judicial authority.

She added that the JASIG is still binding and it does not authorize the arrest of anyone without warrant or color of authority.

She also said that the firearms and explosives presented by the police were not owned by the detainees.

“They have no need for it…Mr Gamara is not wanted, not in hiding, and certainly not in possession of any contraband,” the lawyer told Kodao.

Conti also hit the the Regional Special Operations Unit of the NCRPO’s haste in calling for a press conference rather than ensuring the detainees’ right to due process.

“[T]o show that this was a political spectacle, RSOU prioritized the press con over preparing for the inquest,” Conti said.

NDFP chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili for his part called Gamara and Balagat’s arrest as illegal and condemnible.

“[T]he NDFP condemns in the strongest terms possible the illegal arrest of NDFP consultant Renante Gamara. As NDFP consultant in political and constitutional reforms, he is entitled to JASIG protection and guarantees,” Agcaoili told Kodao.

“The NDFP also protests the arrest of retired priest Fr. Art Balagat as another sign of the continuing persecution against churchpeople by the Duterte regime,” he added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘Unli’ termination, Joma says of Duterte’s latest ending of talks

Like an old broken record, Jose Maria Sison said of President Rodrigo Duterte’s latest announcement of termination of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) peace negotiations.

“Duterte is like an old broken record repeating ad nauseam his termination of the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations,” Sison, NDFP chief political consultant, said.

Duterte again announced Thursday at the 122nd Philippine Army Founding Anniversary at Fort Bonifacio in Manila that he has permanently ended peace negotiations with the Left.

“I am officially announcing the permanent termination of our talks between the government panel and the Communist Party of the Philippines,” Duterte said.

“You can maybe talk to the next President of this Republic one day,” he said.

Duterte’s announcement came three days after he dissolved his government’s negotiating panel and terminated its members led by Labor secretary Silvestre H. Bello III.

‘As early as November 2017’

But Sison said that Duterte’s latest announcement means nothing as the GRP leader already ended the peace negotiations in November 2017 and has since refused to return to the negotiating table.

“As far as the NDFP is concerned, Duterte formally killed the peace negotiations on November 23, 2017 with his Proclamation 360 terminating them,” Sison said.

Duterte’s repeated announcement of peace talks termination since then is merely driving more nails into the coffin of the negotiations under his regime, he added.

Sison said Duterte only wants the armed conflict to continue as an excuse to impose a de facto martial law nationwide and eventually a full-blown fascist dictatorship.

Duterte also wants to push through his charter change in order to impose his “bogus kind of federalism,” Sison said.

‘Waiting for a new GRP’

Sison agreed with Duterte that it may be best to wait for a new GRP administration to revive the stalled peace negotiations.

“As far as the NDFP is concerned, the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations can be resurrected in the future by a new GRP administration,” Sison said.

Sison said the Duterte regime may even be finished earlier than 2022.

“The Duterte regime is not eternal. It can be finished with the success of the oust movement, with the end of his term in 2022 or with his certain overthrow as he forces his way to a fascist dictatorship,” Sison said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)