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A visit to Ka Oris’ guerilla camp

A former radio broadcaster recalls her visit to a New People’s Army camp and interview with Jorge Madlos who cultivated warm relations with many journalists for several decades.

By Katniss

It was in June 2004.  I was invited to climb the mountains and trek the forests of Surigao to see Ka Oris.  I was told farmers in Surigao communities as well as the “nice people” there are avid listeners of the radio program I anchored.   The radio station on which my radio program aired, though based in Cebu City, could reach as far as Mindanao, particularly in the provinces of Surigao.  Ka Oris wanted me to share ideas about how our radio programs were produced and he also wanted me to share my experiences and help them in setting up programs in certain regions in Mindanao. 

From the highway, it was two to three hours ride on a habal-habal (a motorcycle kitted with wood planks that take in more passengers and cargo). Then it was more than an hour of walk into the forests and patches of farms before I finally reached a huge guerilla camp. There was a huge stage made of hard wood where cultural activities were being held; a kitchen area; and several makeshift huts and barracks where visitors like me are accommodated serving as our sleeping area. It was still daylight when I reached the place. Everyone was wearing boots because, even if it wasn’t raining, one cannot avoid walking on muddy grounds. I was also told that, since it’s a forest, there were also leeches. At that time and at that age I was not so worried about the leeches then but more so about the difficulty of walking and moving around in those heavy rubber boots. I saw several young guerrilla fighters and was told that they were on military training. There were two other foreign visitors in the camp. They told me they were from BBC, documenting the training and interviewing about the guerilla war in the Philippines. 

After dinner, I overheard one Red Fighter who whispered to one woman in charge of the camp that there is a report of suspicious movements in the peripheries of the camp. The woman instructed the fighter to send a squad to check. 

On my first night, I was not able to sleep while lying in a hammock in the barracks.  I was so bothered with what I’ve heard. What if are attacked? What will I do?  I could not run in those boots.  What if I am hit or arrested? Sleep would not come despite the exhaustion. My mind was preoccupied with “what ifs” I felt paranoid.  At 9 pm, I started having chills. It was either due to the coldness of the night inside the forest or because of the anxiety that I felt. I decided to rise and go to the hut of Ka Oris and his wife.  I told him what I felt and how worried and scared I was. Calmly, he explained something which to this day I can still vividly recall.

He told me: “In this camp, which is in a deep forest, there are more than 100 red fighters. In our surrounding peripheries there are squads on guard while doing their mass work. Beyond the peripheries are mass bases.  All this means that those supposedly unknown movements detected may just be some farmers who are on their way to their farms. If they are really soldiers or enemies, they must be a handful who may have just wandered around. The squads can take care of them. Otherwise, if the enemy has targeted our camp, they could not just send a few troops, knowing our strength. Usually, feeling insecure in battles, their ratio is one NPA red fighter to 10 of their soldiers. With the number of troops that we have here in this camp, they need to send a battalion of soldiers. If they do so, such huge troop movement can already be detected several tens of kilometers away from us.”

So I asked him, “What if they send troops by helicopter?” 

He answered, “Well, in one helicopter there are only less than 10 who can be carried. They could also not land in this forest itself but perhaps in the peripheries where there are patches of farmlands.  And we have the capacity to shoot at helicopters.” Ka Oris went on to tell me about an incident in the 80’s incident when the very camp we were at suffered aerial bombing by government forces.  He said they were able to fight back then and the enemy failed to penetrate the forest.  

Oris calm explanations relaxed me and I was able to finally sleep in my hammock.

I again visited him in his hut the following morning. I started my interview with him regarding the series of press conferences he conducted with journalists from all over, as well as politicians in the guerilla areas. I had long been curious about how were they able to do that despite the risks of being attacked. He again explained their application of strategies and tactics taught by Sun Tzu’s ‘Art of War.’ That interview made up for an entire episode of my radio show.

I was star-struck by him, I admit.  He was gentle, calm and witty.  He also looked like Ho Chi Min. Ka Oris invited me to quiz me on radio production, but it was I who learned so much from them. Their life was difficult, something I could not imagine myself doing nor enduring. City slickers like me who are easily afflicted with fear may find living their life impossible. But Oris and his guerilla army looked like it was a life worth living. How profound, noble, and self-fulfilling it seemed.

I wanted another visit and another opportunity to interview Ka Oris. But I got pregnant in the last quarter of 2005 and got married soon after. 

As a radio personality, I have had my share of death threats in 2005.  I was accused as “a communist masquerading as a journalist.” I was advised to stop being a radio anchor for my safety.

I still keep on monitoring media interviews of Ka Oris by local, national and even international media.  I am still be amazed by his brilliance and commitment to their revolution as well as his persistence in pursuing the humaneness of his communist ideals.  But there remains in me a tinge of guilt for failing in a simple request he asked of me.  When I was leaving their camp in 2004, he gave me a specialty notebook and a nice pen to hand over to his daughter.  I tried but I never get the chance of meeting his daughter. 

I left Cebu in 2015 and I remember that I brought that notebook and pen with me to where I relocated.  After hearing of Ka Oris’ death at the hands of his enemies, I must commit to finding where I placed the notebook and pen. Who knows, one day, I will be able to meet his daughter in the future. 

To Ka Oris, my highest salute.  To his daughter, I still owe you the notebook and pen from your father.   Like the many journalists who admire him, he will always be to me the kind, gentle, heroic icon of the Filipino people’s struggle for social justice and liberation. #

(“Katniss” is a pseudonym.)

‘The police are merely iterating their nanlaban narrative’

“There is simply no way that the elderly couple was even able to put up a resistance, let alone an armed one, against dozens of policemen armed with high-powered guns and artillery. Instead, as the narrative appears before us, the police are merely iterating their ‘nanlaban’ narrative to justify the tokhang-style murder of an elderly and sickly couple.”Atty. VJ Topacio, son of the slain NDFP peace consultants Eugenia Magpantay and Agaton Topacio

NPA Southern Tagalog spokesperson arrested inside hospital

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fernandez urges NPA in Negros to defend farmers from rights violations

National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Frank Fernandez urged revolutionary forces in Negros Island to intensify their campaigns against human rights violations, noting that “things have gotten much worse” under the Rodrigo Duterte government.

“The revolutionary forces must bring the struggle to a higher stage as the systematic campaign against the peasants and the activists have become much worse since I was last there,” Fernandez said.

Speaking from his hospital bed at the Philippine Heart Center (PHC), Fernandez said it is a testament to the strength of the revolutionary forces in the island that Duterte has ordered the deployment of more Philippine Army infantry brigades in the island since November.

Duterte issued Executive Order 32 in November 2018 ordering more troop deployment in Negros, Bicol and Samar in a bid to crush New People’s Army (NPA) units in the said regions.

Increased Armed Forces of the Philippines presence in Negros, however, has led to numerous human rights violations, Fernandez said.

Frank Fernandez in his hospital room.

Complete turnaround

Fernandez said the NPA in Negros has fully recovered from near decimation in the early 1990s.

“There was almost no NPA left in Negros in 1994,” Fernandez said.

He credited the NPA’s grasp of the correct political and ideological lines that allowed its forces to recover and overcome the schism with former comrades that broke away to form the so-called Revolutionary Proletarian Army and the Alex Boncayao Brigade.

Fernandez said that the poor masses helped in their recovery.

“The poor but struggling masses of Negros did not allow us to give up and encouraged us to rebuild,” Fernandez said.

The incarcerated NDFP peace consultant said it is time to repay the masses by defending them against the government and the landlords’ widespread human rights violations in the island.

Human rights violations

Intensifying agrarian reform struggles across the Negros Island has resulted to two massacres, assassinations of a human rights lawyer and a municipal councilor as well as killings and arrests of several farmers and human rights defenders.

Just yesterday, another human rights defender who was an active member of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente was murdered in his hometown of Manjuyod, Negros Oriental.

An urgent alert by the group Defend Negros said Salvador “Bador” Romano, 42, an adviser of the YIFI (Youth of the IFI) and former Negros Oriental coordinator of the human rights group Karapatan, was shot dead by motorcycle-riding gunmen around 12:30 p.m.

Last March 30, 10 peasants and church workers were killed in one night in Canlaon City and Sta. Rita, Negros Occidental.

Nine sugarcane farmers, including four women and two children, were also killed last October 20 in Sagay City. The bodies of three of the victims were also burned by their killers.

Human rights lawyer Benjamin Ramos and Escalante City councilor Bernardino Patigas Sr., both described as martyrs of the sugar cane workers’ struggles, were killed on November 7 and April 22, respectively.

After Patigas’ murder, opposition Senator Leila de Lima denounced the murders, blaming the Duterte administration for “the snowballing record of human rights defenders killed in Negros Island.”

De Lima said Patigas’ murder raises suspicions that there is a death squad targeting rights advocates in the province because his killing “hews closely” to the type of killings regularly happening recently.

The senator said Patigas’ murder was the 48th in Negros under Duterte.

Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Carlos also condemned the killings and called on the Duterte government to respect human rights.

“In sadness, we all are crying out: End the Killings! These barbaric and calculated assassinations must end! We should not tolerate this kind of crime,” the bishop said in a statement last April.

Fernandez, for his part, urged for the resumption of the abandoned peace talks between the NDFP and the Duterte government in order for the human rights situation in Negros to be addressed by the negotiating panels.

“It would be favorable for the masses, as well as for jailed peace consultants like myself, if the peace talks would be revived,” he said.

Heart problems

Fernandez was taken to the PHC last Friday to undergo laboratory examinations.

“I am suffering from heart ailments, spinal column problems, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, arthritis, and hypertension. There may be more,” he told Kodao.

Fernandez said he left Negros more than a year ago to seek medical treatment in Manila when nabbed by military and police operatives in Liliw, Laguna last March 24.

“Doctors of the Philippine Army General Hospital in Fort Bonifacio discovered I also have hardening of the arteries close to my heart,” he said.

Fernandez has since been incarcerated at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City where his state of health has gotten worse.

“They often feed us porridge that are either so unpalatable or are so sweet when made into champorado (chocolate porridge).  For lunch and dinner, they feed us papaya soup with sardines or miswa noodles with sardines,” he said.

The Sta. Cruz Regional Trial Court in Laguna ordered the 71-year old Fernandez to be taken to the PHC for medical check up. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDF Bicol vows justice for 2 slain rights workers

The National Democratic Front (NDF) in the Bicol Region vowed justice for the two human rights workers killed in Sorsogon Province Saturday morning.

“We assure the families of (Nelly) Bagasala, (Ryan) Hubilla and all other victims of violence of the reactionary State of the revolutionary movement’s nonstop efforts until justice is given them,” Nel del Mundo, Bicol NDF spokesperson, said in Filipino.

Bagasala and Hubilla were killed by two gunmen on a motorcycle at Phase 2, Seabreeze Homes, Brgy. Cabid-an, Sorsogon City at eight o’clock in the morning of Saturday April 15 while alighting from a tricycle.

Alternative media outfits Baretang Bikolnon and Bicol Today said Hubilla was paying for their fare while Bagasala was still inside the sidecar when gunned down.

Their companion Isabel (not her real name) and the tricycle driver escaped.

Bagasala was a member of Sorsogon Peoples’ Organization (SPO), a member organization of the Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights.

Hubilla, on the other hand was a Karapatan Sorsogon staff member and a member of the League of Filipino Students. He was a Grade 12 student.

Baretang Bikolnon reported that the three human rights workers reported being tailed by suspected military or police personnel when they were assisting “high profile” political prisoners being released Friday.

Hubilla took videos of two unidentified men on motorcycle who were tailing them and peeking inside their van, the report said.

Screengrab from victim Hubilla’s video of the two suspects tailing them Friday. (Baretang Bikolnon image)

The report added that the van driver who drove the victims during the release was threatened with a gun by unidentified men at around 9:30 Friday evening at Sorsogon City’s van terminal.

The victims were on their way to look for the van driver, reportedly a resident of Seabreeze Homes, to ask him about the incident when gunned down.

Karapatan national secretary general Cristina Palabay revealed in a Facebook post that Hubilla was in fact being mulled to act as witness for the organization’s petitions for relief with the higher courts last April.

“We were mulling to have him as a witness in our Court of Appeals hearings on the petition of writ of amparo and habeas data because of a recent incident of harassment and surveillance of suspected state agents involving Ryan and three other Karapatan human rights workers in Sorsogon last April when they were assisting political prisoners,” Palabay wrote.

Palabay said that the victims were most diligent in assisting the detainees and ensuring that their needs in jail are being addressed.

“Just yesterday, they provided assistance for three political prisoners who have been released. But now, Ryan won’t be able to testify, he will not be able to execute his affidavit. He is dead,” Palabay added.

The Filipino people are revolted with the unceasing crimes and brutal killings under the United States-Rodrigo Duterte regime. These violence and exploitation only drive the people to resist and join the armed struggle,” del Mundo said.

Other groups condemned the killing of the human rights workers, blaming the government’s counter-insurgency program Oplan Kapanatagan, as well as Duterte’s Memorandum Order 32 and Executive Order 70 for the “de facto martial law” in the entire country.

“Why is it that those helping the masses are the ones being killed?” Guillermo Abraham, Karapatan – Sorsogon spokesperson asked. # (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)

Youngest NDFP consultant talks about Luis Jalandoni’s contributions to the peace process

Watch and listen to NDFP Negotiating Panel’s Felix Randy Malayao, the youngest among its peace consultants, talk about recently resigned chief peace negotiator Luis Jalandoni’s most important contributions to the peace process in his more than 20 years on the negotiating table. Read more

Veteran negotiator to lead Duterte’s peace panel with Reds

(Photo by Bulatlat.com)

(Photo by Bulatlat.com)

Former justice secretary Silvestre Bello III is “greatly honored” to again be the Philippine government’s chief negotiator with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

While clarifying that he still needs to be formally notified by Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, Bello said that he is keen on accepting the challenge again to talk peace with the NDFP.

Bello said that the congratulatory messages that he has been receiving since Duterte made the announcement in Davao City this afternoon are still premature.

“I still have to ask our future president the extent of power he will grant the new government negotiating panel,” Bello said.

Critical of the Benigno Aquino government’s peace negotiations style with the NDFP, Bello said he will push for honoring signed agreements between the Manila government and the rebel groups.

“Who would seriously negotiate with us if we fail to honor our commitments?” Bello asked.

Aquino’s peace adviser Teresita Deles called The Hague Joint Declaration (THJD) that laid the parameters of the peace negotiations between the NDFP and the Manila government as a “document of perpetual division.”

Deles also taunted the NDFP whenever the latter demanded the release of its peace consultants under the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees or Jasig.

Both THJD and Jasig were milestone agreements hammered with Bello as key member of the government panels under former President Fidel Ramos.

“I think President Aquino was only interested in negotiating with Moro Islamic Liberation Front.  He did not have the same vigor in dealing with the NDFP,” Bello said.

Bello also said that he will push for the release of NDFP peace consultants.

“If it can be established that they are involved in the negotiations either as consultants, staff or security personnel, they should be released under the Jasig,” Bello said.

Bello said he is thinking of asking former Commission on Elections commissioner Rene Sarmiento, former Alaminos mayor Hernani Braganza and Atty Sedfrey Candelaria of the Ateneo de Manila University to join him as negotiating panel members.

NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison welcomed Duterte’s reappointment of Bello as chief negotiator.

“I think that Bebot Bello is an excellent choice of the (incoming) President as chief negotiator with the NDFP,” Sison said.

“We know him because we worked with him in producing major agreements, especially the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (Carhrihl),” Sison added.

Sison said that the NDFP welcomes Bello’s statement that all the existing agreements must be respected and the possible release of all the 562 political prisoners who have been imprisoned on false charges of common crimes.

The rebel leader also commended Bello in seeking from the president (Duterte) the widest latitude for the success of the peace negotiations.

Asked to comment on possible panel members Bello mentioned, Sison said that it is up to him to compose his panel.

“He has mentioned highly qualified prospects,” Sison said of Sarmiento, Braganza and Candelaria.

Bello said that he hopes that the root causes of the armed conflict will again be addressed in the negotiations.

“Being able to sign agreements with the NDFP is one thing, but real success would come only when our people’s extreme poverty and the perception that our government is corrupt are eliminated,” Bello said. (Raymund B Villanueva)

 

 

 

 

 

Revolutionary women’s organization celebrate NPA’s anniversary

Members of the underground revolutionary group Makabayang Kilusan ng Bagong Kababaihan (Makibaka) held a “lightning rally” last March 17 in downtown Manila to mark the coming 47th founding anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines’ New People’s Army (NPA).

Makibaka said it is right for women to join the revolution to emancipate themselves from poverty and other abuses as well as help in liberating Philippine society.

Members of the Philippine National Police were surprised as the women revolutionaries gathered and marched on the narrow streets of Manila’s Binondo area.

The NPA was founded in Tarlac Province in March 29, 1969 and has since been waging one of the world’s longest-running Maoist guerilla war.

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VIDEO: Northeastern Mindanao celebrates CPP 47th founding anniversary

Despite checkpoints by the Philippine Army and threats by a paramilitary group that it will kill attendees, thousands of members, supporters and invited guests attended the grand Communist Party of the Philippines 47th founding anniversary celebrations in Northeastern Mindanao last December 26.

Here is a video of the singing of the communist hymn “Ang Internasyunal” led by a company  of New People’s Army fighters.