Posts

‘Lou Tangco, revolutionary doctor and people’s martyr’

By Raymund B. Villanueva

Classmates of the doctor killed in a combined military and police raid in Baguio City last March 13 paid tribute to their colleague whose death they said is a great loss to the country. Members of the University of the Philippines College of Medicine (UPCM) Class of 1977 mourned the death of Dr. Ma. Lourdes “Lou” Dineros Tangco and said that while the light in her eyes had been extinguished and her laughter silenced, they will always remember the late physician’s selflessness.

“The UPCM Class of 1977 knew Lou as a principled and brave doctor committed to her ideals with the strength and tenacity to fight for them, but with the open-mindedness to accept others as they were,” the group said in a tribute.

Tangco was gunned down along with Julius Giron, a stalwart of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), who was ill with acute pancreatitis. The doctor was reportedly providing medical care to the high-ranking rebel. The military alleged that Tangco, Giron and their companion Arvie Alarcon Reyes fought back that led to their deaths.

The CPP however said the three were unarmed and were asleep when the raiding team arrived and were shot at close range. “Claims made by the military and police that they were about to serve an arrest warrant are outright lies. It was a liquidation operation, a massacre, carried out at 3 a.m. with the clear aim of assassinating Giron and eliminating all witnesses,” the CPP said.

A product of an affluent family

Photo courtesy of Dr. Carol Araullo

LouTang, as her classmates fondly called her, came from a family of physicians. She was the daughter of Gorgonia Dineros and the former member of the UP Board of Regents, Dr. Ambrosio Tangco. She was the niece of former UPCM Anatomy professor Dr. Oscar Tangco and cardiologist Dr. Francisco Tangco, the tribute reads. She had a sister who was a graduate of the college while Dr. LouTang’s own son is also an UPCM alumnus.

“Though a product of an affluent family, Lou had always been down to earth and felt that her heart belonged to the needy majority,” the UPCM Class of 1977 said.

Tangco, her classmates said, was a true product of the First Quarter Storm of 1970. But while she was “grim and determined” in practicing her principles, she was not beyond exchanging light banter with classmates.

“She will always be remembered for her loud and infectious laughter. She exuded joyfulness and sincerity, as her circle of relatives, classmates, friends and colleagues will attest,” they said.

Her friend and fellow UPCM alumna, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan chairperson Dr. Carol P. Araullo remembers her fried similarly. “She was easy to get along well, although over-eager (makulit) at times.  She was well liked and could relate well to people from all walks of life,” Araullo told Kodao.

Araullo recalled that Tangco never exhibited any of the trappings of her comfortable, even privileged, upbringing, being a daughter of a well-respected and successful orthopedic surgeon who also served as a member of the UP Board of Regents at one point.  She dressed simply, enjoyed simple pleasures and was easy-going. “She carried a certain self-assured composure that did not come from being an “anak ng Diyos” (child of God) or what we called the scion of doctors who were also professors at the UP College of Medicine-Philippine General Hospital.  She was not one to compare herself with others but she just did her thing whether it was surviving the rigors of medical school and 36 to 48-hour hospital duties at PGH or going full-time into primary health care/community medicine in the far-flung areas of the Cordilleras after graduation,” Araullo said.

A selfless doctor

After graduation, Tangco went to the then single province of Kalinga-Apayao through the Rural Health Physicians Program of the government and served as a parish doctor in a far flung municipality, reachable only after a half day’s hike through mountain trails. Since then, she went on to serve communities in other parts of the Cordillera, and later all over the country, her classmates revealed.

Araullo added that Tangco enthusiastically shared funny, unforgettable stories anecdotes about her life as a doctor to the barrios, a rural physician with the Kalinga people. “She immersed herself in their world: she ate what they ate, slept in their homes, wore their native clothing, learned their language.  She was more than a doctor, she was a teacher, an organizer and a beloved friend,” Araullo said.

For serving the medical needs of underserved areas, Tangco was given the outstanding alumna award by her high school alma mater, Maryknoll College.

In Class 77’s 25th anniversary yearbook, Tangco’s son described her as “somewhat a personification of the Oblation – an offering of one’s self to a higher cause.” The Oblation is a statue in each UP campus symbolizing selfless offering of oneself to the country.

In the same yearbook, Tangco wrote that, even as a child, it bothered her that doctors were leaving the Philippines when it was clear there was a need for more of them in the country. “I said then that when, and if, I become a doctor, I would not leave. I would stay in PGH [to] help improve the way it was run, and be here for my people.”
Along the way, Tangco said she found that staying in PGH was not enough. “There were too many places where health needs are too great to ignore, where basic education is wanting, where food is not enough and water is not always potable. Many do not own the land they are tilling. So, to the provinces I went. Through the Rural Health Physicians Program, I chose to go to Kalinga-Apayao,” she wrote.
She added that it did not take long for her to realize that the traditional doctor’s role would only end up in frustration. “People had to learn that health is not a privilege but a right and a responsibility. They must be equipped to take on this responsibility. However, I knew I could not do this alone. I found other doctors and health workers doing similar work, together we helped each other develop the community-based health programs,” she narrated.
There was a time when Tangco said she saw herself as a surgeon. But somehow all that paled in comparison to the need that stared her in the face. “So there I was, transformed into a literacy/numeracy educator, community organizer, counselor, adviser, health educator, doctor,” she narrated.

Her white coat and the red banner

Photo courtesy of Dr. Carol P. Araullo

Tangco’s transformation became complete when she realized that even with more fellow doctors doing pioneering work in rural communities, they would not be able to defeat the forces that keep people poor and unhealthy. She also saw with her own eyes many social injustices that compel the people to fight back.

“Dr. Tangco witnessed this in the struggle of the tribes of Kalinga and the Mountain Province, against the Chico River Dam Project being imposed on them by the US-Marcos dictatorship in the seventies,” the Mabakayang Samahang Pangkalusugan (MSP)-Cordillera in a statement said. MSP is the underground group of medical workers allied with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. Not long after, the group added, “she heeded the challenge to join the revolutionary struggle.”

MSP said that one of Tangco’s primary tasks when she went underground was the training of NPA medics from peasant, worker, and peti-bourgeoisie class origins, most of whom had never attended medical or nursing school. She trained them to become doctors to the masses,” MSP said. Tangco tempered her revolutionary work and skills in the Cordillera, Cagayan Valley and Mindanao, it added.

“She was forged by simple living and arduous struggle. She gave up the immaculately white coat worn in the hospital and the titles’ Doctor’ and ‘Ma’am’,” the statement said. She was also “active in other aspects of Party (CPP) and NPA work” and became known as “Ka (Kasama/Comrade) Del” and “Ka Morrie”.

“She was often an instructor of various Party courses. She led the Regional Medical Staff as its Secretary. She became a member of the Regional Party Committees, where she was assigned. There was a period when she worked as a trade union organizer,” MSP said.

TRADITIONAL MEDICINE. NPA guerillas are trained to utilize both traditional and modern treatment of illness. Among the basic skills they learn from the medical officers is the use of acupuncture. (Northern Dispatch file photo.)

Not a combatant

UPCM alumnus (Class of 74) and fellow activist Dr. Romeo Quijano told Kodao that Tangco could not have been armed when killed, along with Giron and their aide, however.

Quijano said that Tangco told her she was strict in prohibiting her rebel-patients from bringing along their guns while they were under her medical care. “What I learned was that Dr. Lou brought her patient to Baguio City to be given better medical treatment. It would have been out of character if she violated her own policy that she strictly adhered to,” Quijano said.

Tangco and Quijano remained close friends, even if he was three years ahead of her at UPCM and she had been all over many far-flung communities of the country throughout the decades. But what cemented their friendship further was when Tangco helped him organize the International Conference on Pesticides and the Media in Makilala, North Cotabato in 1997. The event, sponsored by the Pesticide Action Network-Asia Pacific (PANAP), saw Tangco display her full mastery of the people’s right to health and helped convinced journalists from many countries about the dangers posed by pesticides. Quijano revealed that so impressed was PANAP’s officers that they have since supported the farmers’ struggles against pesticide-using corporations that endanger people’s health around their plantations.

“In my view, the event would not have been as successful without Dr. Lou’s help,” Quijano said. He added that Tangco was instrumental in strengthening community and peoples organizations in Mindanao and Luzon as well as workers’ unions.

Always busy with her organizing work, Tangco still found time to attend UPCM alumni events, sometimes with her doctor-son. She even represented her class in association meetings.

Quijano recalled the last time she saw Tangco was during his wife’s birthday in 2018. “She was happy mingling with fellow UPCM alumni and, as always, her infectious laugh rang above the din of the well-attended party. “I regret that we were not able to talk much because of the number of well-wishers who attended,” Quijano said.

Quijano revealed he was shocked when he learned of his friend’s death and incredulous at military and news reports that the three put up a fight. “Who would serve a search warrant at three o’clock in the morning when the subjects were most probably asleep. That’s an old canard by the military,” Quijano said.

Quijano, one of the country’s top toxicologist, revealed it crossed his mind that his friend may die a violent death in the hands of the military because of the dangerous life she lived. He nonetheless demanded justice for his friend.

AFP demeans Tangco with video

HEALTH MONITORING. Medical officers in NPA units are tasked to monitor the health of all fighters, keeping special tabs on those suffering from hypertension and other ailments that require maintenance medicines and regular check-ups. (Northern Dispatch file photo)

Araullo, like Quijano, was equally shocked upon hearing how their friend died. “There is a photo of a bloodied woman lying prone with a gun at her back accompanying the news report attributed to the AFP,” she said. The photos released by the AFP suggest the narrative that the three chose to suicidally exchange fire with the raiders. “Only an independent investigation into the massacre of these three can provide the facts and circumstances that can lead to the truth of their demise,” she said.

Adding insult to injury, the AFP came out with a video of Tangco’s remains being airlifted by the military and turned over to her relatives, Araullo pointed out.  In the video, the military claimed it gave Tangco the chance to peaceably surrender but she refused and instead resisted arrest, thus her untimely demise which the military purports to regret. 

“I happen to know that the family had to resort to asking assistance from the AFP for Lou’s remains to be brought to Manila from Baguio because of the impending lockdown of the National Capital Region on March 15. The family was constrained to accept the AFP’s condition that the ‘Left’ not be allowed to ‘politicize’ her death which I took to mean there should be no memorials or tributes organized by fellow activists during her wake,” Araullo revealed.

She said she finds it not only ironic but the height of opportunism that the AFP produced the video with its propaganda narrative that Tangco was not a victim of human rights violation but someone whom the AFP magnanimously tried to allow to surrender. Or that, even in death, the military again tried to make it appear that it magnanimously accorded Tangco a decent turn over to her family with uniformed men carrying her casket, Araullo fumed.

Araullo said the AFP likely does not realize that the woman they had “summarily executed” was a bona fide doctor with a high standing in the medical community and with influential relations and friends. She could have just been a statistic as far as they are concerned.  “That is why they tried to pre-empt the story line of who she was, how she died and why,” she said.

Araullo also shared with Kodao a tweet from AFP Southern Luzon Commander Maj. Gen. Antonio Parlade boasting about Tangco’s death, alleging the victim was a combatant when she was killed. “Frothing-in-the-mouth anti-communist and rabid member of the NTF-ECLAC (National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict) General Parlade had the gall to tweet: ‘In times of crisis like COVID19, Ma Lourdes Dineros Tangco of the CPP Health Bureau chose to fight it out with government forces than be captured. She should be helping our affected communities. BUT NO her warped ideological belief tells her that her services is exclusive for NPAs.’”  Such trash talk, Araullo said, only gives “fascists” such as Parlade more brownie points for another promotion in the AFP ladder and reveals the true character of the regime and reactionary system that he serves. 

‘Hero to the masses’

Araullo said that the manner with which Tangco was mowed down by six merciless AFP bullets to her body only underscores her heroism and selflessness. “Dr. Lourdes Dineros Tangco will be forever remembered and hailed as a martyr and a hero to the masses that she selflessly and whole heartedly served as a revolutionary doctor,” Araullo said.

Quijano for his part said Tangco deserves to be honored for dedicating her life to the Filipino masses victimized by a rotten system. “She decisively overcame her privileged upbringing to live out the principles she wholeheartedly believed in.  She never allowed herself to be drowned by privilege and opportunities easily available to UPCM graduates. She showed how it was to love the masses by being one of them,” Quijano said. “I consider it an honor to be one of her closest friends,” he added.

Tangco’s classmates are equally proud of their friend.  “The UPCM Class of 1977 mourns the loss of a beloved and active member of the class. She touched the lives of many classmates who dearly love her and are deeply saddened by her untimely demise. Lou will be missed by the many poor and underserved communities she had been serving her entire life, and her passing is a great loss for our country,” they said,

Tangco’s son, in bidding her goodbye composed a poem for his beloved mother:

”She gave all that she could give so that the banner may advance
Though she has fallen, she had the courage to stand up and take her chance
Her blood joins the martyrs’ that water the paddies
So rice may grow golden and in the harvest time dance.”
#

(With reports by Sherwin de Vera/Northern Dispatch)

CPP accuses gov’t of violating own ceasefire order in Rizal clash

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) accused the Rodrigo Duterte government of violating its own unilateral ceasefire declaration following an encounter between the Philippine Army (PA) and the New People’s Army (NPA) in Rodriguez, Rizal last March 28, Saturday.

CPP chief information officer Marco Valbuena said in a statement issued today, March 30, that based on Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) reports themselves, the armed clash broke out when 80th Infantry Battalion troops of the PA’s 2nd Infantry Division carried out patrol operations.

An AFP conflict alert report was sent to Kodao by CPP founding chairperson Jose Maria Sison, purported to be obtained by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines from sources within the military proving it was the aggressor in the incident in Barangay Puray of the said town.

The report said that a team led by one Staff Sargeant Angot conducted community defense patrol at the vicinity of Sitio Malasya Uyungan where they encountered around 30 NPA fighters at around three o’clock in the afternoon.

The report said the clash lasted for about 40 minutes that resulted in the killing of a government trooper and the wounding of two others.

The killed soldier was a corporal while the two injured were a sergeant and a private.

The report claimed one rebel fighter was killed and that the government soldiers recovered an M16 rifle, a rifle grenade, a jungle pack with personal belongings, two empty bandoliers, a NPA flag, documents, medical paraphernalia, and water gallons.

The report added that the team recommended to “move forces to block the possible withdrawal routes of the rebels.”

The unit also requested an helicopter for an immediate evacuation of the casualties.

In a statement, the AFP’s Public Affairs Office said the soldiers were in the vicinity to conduct “community work,” contrary to what the report indicated that its unit conducted the patrol “acting on the information from concerned citizens.”

The NPA for its part did not confirm that it suffered a casualty in its statement.

Valbuena however said the AFP’s claim that the concerned NPA unit was planning an attack was baseless.

He said all NPA units will continue to uphold the CPP’s ceasefire declaration “in order to give full play to efforts to extend public health service to the people amid the Covid-19 (corona virus disease) pandemic.”

The CPP’s Central Committee declared a unilateral ceasefire declaration last March 24 in response to United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ appeal that all warring parties temporarily lay down their arms to focus on the global fight against Covid-19. It is effective until April 15 when the government’s own truce order expires.

The Duterte government declared its unilateral ceasefire order last March 18 effective 00:00 hour of March 19 to 24:00 hours of April 15.

Valbuena clarified that the NPA will not mount armed actions against government military, police, paramilitary and other armed agents but will remain alert against offensive actions launched by AFP units.

“The Party assures AFP soldiers that they will not be attacked during the ceasefire period especially if they are conducting public health activities in relation to efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19,” Valbuena said.

The CPP spokesperson urged AFP units to concentrate on Covid-19 operations and refrain from conducting anti-NPA patrol operations which may result in armed contact with nearby NPA units.

“At this time, the Filipino people need all the help they can get to surmount the threat of Covid-19,” he said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NPA defeating Duterte’s all-out war, CPP says of guerrilla army’s 51st anniversary

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) reported numerous New People’s Army (NPA) victories despite massive military and psychological warfare operations unleashed by the Rodrigo Duterte government throughout 2019.

In a statement marking the guerrilla army’s 51st founding anniversary today, March 29, the CPP said the NPA continues to operate in more than 110 guerrilla fronts in 73 of 81 provinces across the country with “several thousand guerrilla fighters…armed with high-powered weapons and small firearms seized from the enemy, security forces and other sources.”

Belittling the results of the government’s National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) launched in 2018, the CPP Central Committee in its annual statement marking the NPA’s founding anniversary said Duterte and his military officers have failed in their declarations of crushing the guerrilla army.

“[F]irst by end of 2018, then by end of 2019, and later before Duterte’s term ends in 2022. Almost daily, AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) commanders make false public announcements claiming NPA ‘surrenderees,’ typically recycling old firearms in their armory and presenting these as surrendered weapons,” the CPP said.

The underground party cited the manipulated photograph claiming to be that of “surrenderees” in Masbate province late last year as proof of AFP’s lies.

The group also chided Duterte for predicting NPA will be defeated “sooner” as the AFP announced having destroyed or weakened 15 NPA guerrilla fronts.

“All these are empty boasts as the NPA continue to strengthen and wage revolutionary armed struggle alongside the democratic mass struggles of the Filipino people to end the reign of terror of the US-Duterte regime,” the CPP’s statement, released Saturday, March 28, said.

Image from CPP Founding Chairperson Jose Maria Sison’s post.

‘Two battalions killed’

The CPP said units of the guerrilla army operate under 14 regional operations command, which in turn are under the National Operations Command (NOC) of the NPA.

The NPA builds company-sized regional and sub-regional vertical forces, as well as company-sized guerrilla fronts with six to nine platoons, one-third of which are concentrated and two-thirds spread to cover the breadth of guerrilla front territories, the CPP said.

The CPP said that based on NOC reports, the NPA mounted at least 710 military actions of varying scale in 2019 that killed at least 651 government troops and wounded more than 465 others.

The number of killed and wounded is the equivalent of around 30 platoons or two battalions of its enemy troops, the group said.

‘NTF-ELCAC failing’

The CPP said the Duterte government’s NTF-ELCAC mounted all-out military offensives nationwide and formed nine new AFP battalions and deployed these primarily against the NPA.

The AFP is being assisted by the United States military in establishing and training new combat units such as the Light Reaction Regiment, the 1st Brigade Combat Team and the 2nd Brigade Combat Team which are all based in Fort Magsaysay, where the US maintains facilities under the EDCA (Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement), the CPP revealed.

In all, the AFP has 140 maneuver battalions, of which, 35 are deployed in Luzon; 19 in the Visayas; and 83 in Mindanao (19 battalions in Moro areas, and 64 in NPA areas), the group added.

“Thus, close to 85% or 118 battalions are deployed against the NPA,” it said.

The group said that close to 55% of AFP units deployed against the NPA are in Mindanao, mainly in the eastern regions. Combined AFP and PNP troop deployment is highest in Southern Mindanao, followed by Southern Tagalog, Eastern Visayas, North Central Mindanao, Far South Mindanao and Negros.

“The aim of the AFP is to concentrate one battalion of troops for every NPA guerrilla front, in the vain hope of crushing the NPA through intelligence, psywar (psychological warfare) and combat operations, it said.

Despite the additional units, the AFP’s forces are spread thinly, the CPP said, adding that at the national level, there are regions where government troops could not deploy a full battalion against every NPA guerrilla front.

On the ground, AFP combat battalions cannot saturate the territory and population of a guerrilla front, where there are widely spread revolutionary mass organizations, militia units and organs of political power which actively carry out mass campaigns and struggles, leaving large areas open for NPA units to maneuver, recruit, and strengthen themselves, the CPP revealed.

“When AFP brigades or divisions mount focused military operations in one or several guerrilla fronts in border areas, it combines several battalions pulled-out temporarily from their assigned areas of operation, giving the NPA units in other areas leeway to conduct political and military work,” the CPP said.

The CPP said that Duterte’s all-out war tactic against the NPA and its perceived supporters generates armed resistance.

“In putting down the people’s resistance with armed force, he is actually inciting the people to fight back. Like Marcos before, Duterte has become the Number 1 recruiter of the New People’s Army,” the group said.

Part of the NPA’s First Pulang Bagani Battalion in formation in Davao City in 2017. (R. Villanueva/Kodao)

NPA’s response to Covid-19

Marking the NPA’s 51st founding anniversary amid unilateral ceasefire declarations by both the CPP and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the underground party said it is mobilizing its forces in a public health campaign to prevent the spread of the disease and help treat those infected by the virus.

“The Party has directed the NPA, especially its medical units, to carry out a public health campaign together in coordination with village health committees to help prevent the spread of the disease, give special attention to the elderly and pregnant women, help care those who have been infected and promote personal hygiene and community sanitation,” the CPP statement reads.

It also directed its members in the cities to carry out similar mass campaigns, while raising demands for mass testing and other public health measures.

“Beyond the field of public health, the Filipino people must also take action in the arena of political struggle. It is as important to resist the militarist restrictions imposed by the Duterte regime, and raise their call for the ouster of Duterte to make him answer for his criminal sabotage of the public health care system,” it said.

The CPP said the NPA had been conducting such social services to poor Filipinos, earning them the monicker “the people’s army.”

“Its fighters are well known for being courageous and self-sacrificing. They are ever-ready to learn from the people their needs and demands and perform the most difficult and dangerous tasks in serving the people. They are also recognized by the masses as their defenders, cooperators, teachers, doctors, as well singers and artists, always attending to the people’s well-being and needs,” it said.

The CPP said the people always approach the NPA to seek advice or assistance whenever they demand redress from an injustice done, or seek intercession to iron out small conflicts in the communities.

‘Strengthening the NPA’

The CPP directed the NPA to further strengthen itself in order to “frustrate the government’s strategic plan of crushing the armed revolution, and to advance the people’s war in an all-sided manner.”

The group said it directed all its branches to make plans to help strengthen the guerrilla army by recommending its members and activists to join the NPA.

“There must be an active campaign of recruitment of young intellectuals and workers to join the NPA,” it said.

The CPP also directed the NPA to further intensify its tactical offensive operations through a combination of counter-encirclement and counter-offensives of large-scale military and police combat operations as well as raids against “soft-targets” such as military and paramilitary detachments and security forces.

It also ordered “more numerous and extensive harassments, interdictions, arrests, partisan, demolition and sapper operations and other armed actions.”

The CPP said that under its leadership, the NPA is expected to achieve more victories in its armed resistance and achievement of national and social liberation of Filipinos.

“The Filipino people look forward to celebrating more victories of the NPA in the coming years,” the CPP said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Groups urge Covid-19 testing in prisons, release of political detainees

Families of political detainees urged the government to follow World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines and start mass testing in prisons after receiving reports that some prisoners are showing symptoms of the corona virus disease (Covid-19).

The group KAPATID said that mass testing should start immediately as it has received reports that more inmates are getting sick despite denials by prison agencies and the Department of Interior and Local Government of confirmed cases.

Marami nagkakasakit, inuubo at nilalagnat,” KAPATID said, citing a report from relatives of political prisoners at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP), the national penitentiary at Muntinlupa City. (Many are getting sick, coughing and getting fevers.)

The group said three political prisoners are now reportedly ill with fever at the political prisoners’ wing at the Metro Manila District Jail-Annex 4 (MMDJ-4) at Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan, Taguig City.

KAPATID said the three unnamed political detainees are showing common Covid-19 symptoms like fever, headaches, cold, cough and body weakness—the same symptoms for the respiratory disease which has already killed 45 people in the country as of March 25, including nine doctors.

“KAPATID cannot emphasize enough why mass testing is imperative and why it must include the whole prison population comprising both inmates and prison personnel. Reports by other countries such as China and the US indicate that prison guards brought the sickness into prison facilities even with lockdowns in place and stricter health measures, including a forehead thermal scan of persons entering jail premises,” KAPATID spokesperson Fides Lim said in a statement

Lim cited scientific researches that early action through widespread testing has proven effective in controlling the rapid spread of the disease in South Korea and Germany which have managed to keep the Covid-19 death rate relatively low through extensive testing.

“Mass testing of both symptomatic individuals and all those who came into contact with them was crucial in catching the disease, isolating the carriers before they could pass it on, and providing more accurate figures of how many are really affected and how and where to limit contamination,” Lim said.

Free political detainees

Earlier, KAPATID called for the release of political detainees in line with reports that backchannel meetings between Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) representatives and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in The Netherlands have been discussing the matter.

The NDFP urged the GRP to release all political prisoners and a general amnesty be issued “as a matter of justice and necessity.”

The NDFP made the appeal when the Communist Party of the Philippines declared a unilateral ceasefire last Tuesday, March 24, in response to the United Nations appeal for all warring parties to temporarily lay down arms to concentrate on responding to the pandemic.

Kapatid cited the move made by Iran and Egypt to release tens of thousands of prisoners, including political detainees, in a bid to decongest their prisons and prevent Covid-19’s spread through overpopulated jail facilities.

“KAPATID continues to press the humanitarian release of prisoners in line with the new UN (United Nations) call as the most expedient solution to protect and save lives. Tao rin sila,” Lim said. (They are also humans.)

The National Council of Churches of the Philippines (NCCP), the largest group of mainline Protestant churches in the country, also urged the government to release all political detainees following the appeal by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on March 26.

“Let’s take it from the UN. There is an urgent need to address the catastrophic risks in prisons by releasing prisoners, especially now that the country is confronting numerous challenges due to this pandemic,” Bishop Reuel Norman Marigza, NCCP General Secretary, said.

“As the number of positive COVID-19 cases spike up, the most Christian thing to do is to leave no one behind. Don’t forget those in prison, especially human rights defenders facing trumped charges, who have staunchly worked for social justice and human rights. They need compassion, they need justice and they need protection. They should be released under humanitarian grounds,” Marigza said in a statement.

“In many countries, detention facilities are overcrowded, in some cases dangerously so. People are often held in unhygienic conditions and health services are inadequate or even non-existent. Physical distancing and self-isolation in such conditions are practically impossible,” Bachelet said in her appeal for political detainees’ release.

Karapatan poster.

Meanwhile, human rights group Karapatan announced it will lead an online campaign on Facebook and Twitter  to urge the freedom of prisoners with light sentences as well as political detainees on March 31, Tuesday, at seven to eight o’clock in the evening.

Citing the congestion of Philippine jails at 450%, Karapatan said the government must free the elderly, sick, pregnant and nursing women, those who are due for parole or pardon, at least one spouse each of political prisoner-couples, and “accidental victims” of political arrests. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘An example across the world,’ UN says of CPP’s ceasefire order

The United Nations (UN) welcomed the temporary ceasefire order of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), saying the group’s positive response to the call for a global ceasefire in the face of the corona virus disease (Covid-19) pandemic “will serve as an example across the world.”

In a statement, Stephane Dujarric, spokesperson for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, said they welcome the truce order issued by the CPP last Tuesday, March 24, against Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) armed forces.

“The Secretary-General (Guterres) encourages the parties to reach a lasting political solution and end this longstanding conflict,” Dujarric added, referring to the 51-year revolution led by the CPP.

The CPP is the first belligerent force in the world to respond to Guterres’ appeal issued last March 24.

UN’s statement on its website.

NDFP Negotiating Panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili said the revolutionary forces in the Philippines deeply appreciates the UN recognition.

“We deeply appreciate the recognition extended by the UN Secretary General for the initiative of the revolutionary movement and the CPP to respond to his call for a global ceasefire in humanity’s common fight against the Covid-19 pandemic,” Agcaoili told Kodao in an online interview.

The CPP’s unilateral ceasefire order to all units and commands of the New People’s Army and the People’s Militias took effect starting midnight of today, Thursday, March 26 and ends on 23:59 of April 15.

The GRP earlier said NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison’s advise for the CPP and its forces to observe its own ceasefire during the pandemic “is a positive development.”

The GRP earlier declared a unilateral ceasefire against the CPP, the NPA, and the NDFP effective 00:00 hour of March 19 to 24:00 hours of April 15, Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo announced Wednesday evening, March 18. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

CPP orders nationwide ceasefire in response to UN’s appeal

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) issued a unilateral nationwide ceasefire order to all commands and units of the New People’s Army (NPA) as well as the people’s militias Tuesday night, March 24.

The order, published on the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) website, says the ceasefire will take effect from 00:00 of Thursday, March 26 and ends on 23:59 of April 15.

The CPP said the order is upon the recommendation of the NDFP Negotiating Panel by way of direct response to the call of United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres for a global ceasefire between warring parties for the common purpose of fighting the corona virus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

“As advised by the NDFP Chief Political Consultant [Jose Maria Sison] and relayed by the NDFP Negotiating Panel to the NDFP National Council, the broad masses of the people themselves need to refrain from launching tactical offensives to gain more time and opportunity to fight the Covid-19 pandemic and to look after the health and over-all welfare of the people in both urban and rural areas,” the order reads.

The underground party said the purpose of its unilateral ceasefire is to ensure and facilitate necessary, unhampered and immediate medical, health and economic assistance, support and movement of the people brought about by the exigencies of the current Covid-19 worldwide pandemic.

“This ceasefire is also a gesture towards national unity and based on humanitarian principles in the context of the serious public emergency to ensure the health, safety and welfare of all, the CPP said.

“This ceasefire order shall take effect immediately and is not dependent on the issuance of the Suspension of Military Operations (SOMO) and Suspension of Police Operations (SOPO) issued or to be issued by the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP),” the CPP said.

Not a reciprocal truce order

Earlier today, NDFP Negotiating Panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili formally recommended to the NDFP National Council the declaration of a ceasefire, clarifying however that their truce order is not reciprocal to the GRP ceasefire declaration effective March 19 to April 15.

“As in the past, the [Rodrigo] Duterte government cannot be trusted in any mutual or unilateral ceasefire agreements, as the bombings of communities, harassment, abductions and killings perpetrated by its armed forces continue unabated. Thus, even while respecting and following the unilateral ceasefire order, the New People’s Army and the people’s militia must be alert and act in self-defense against any offensive by hostile forces,” Agcaoili said.

Agcaoili’s recommendation followed Sison’s advise that the NDFP Negotiating Panel may ask its principal, the NDFP National Council, to heed Guterres’ call for a global ceasefire.

Malacañan Palace for its part welcomed Sison’s advise for the NDFP forces to observe its own unilateral ceasefire amid the pandemic.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Sison’s advise is “a positive development.”

“It is about time they join the collective efforts of the nation to fight the spread of the coronavirus,” Panelo told reporters.

The CPP however said that long before the GRP’s quarantine declarations and “repressive measures”, NDFP forces have been informing, training and mobilizing the people on how to fight the pandemic.

‘Active defense’

In its ceasefire declaration, the CPP ordered all NPA units and people’s militias to cease and desist from carrying out offensive military operations against the armed units and personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP) and other paramilitary and armed groups attached to the GRP.

“All units of the NPA must be vigilant and be ready to act in self-defense against any tactical offensives or any hostile actions or movements contrary to the ceasefire order launched by any enemy force against the people and revolutionary forces in the guerrilla fronts of the people’s democratic government,” it warned.

The CPP further clarified that “active-defense” operations by the NPA shall be undertaken only in the face of clear and imminent danger and actual armed attack by hostile forces.

“All branches and committees of the CPP, units of the NPA and people’s militias and revolutionary mass organizations should closely monitor any hostile actions being carried out by the armed units and personnel of the GRP or of any act or omission inconsistent with the intent and purpose of this ceasefire. Such information should be reported to the concerned commands of the New People’s Army and leadership of the Communist Party of the Philippines,” it said.

The CPP said that with both the NDFP and the GRP declaring their unilateral ceasefire orders, the situation may potentially contribute “towards a positive atmosphere conducive to the eventual holding of informal talks preparatory to the formal meeting to resume the peace negotiations.”

Backchannel talks between GRP representatives and the NDFP Negotiating Panel have been ongoing since December last year.

The NDFP also urged the GRP to release all political prisoners and a general amnesty be issued “as a matter of justice and necessity.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDFP may respond to UN appeal for ceasefire, Joma advises

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Negotiating Panel may recommend for a unilateral ceasefire declaration in response to the United Nation’s (UN) appeal for a global truce during the corona virus disease (Covid-19) pandemic, Jose Maria Sison said.

Sison said he is advising the NDFP peace panel to recommend to its principal, the NDFP National Council, the issuance of a unilateral ceasefire declaration by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) to the New People’s Army (NPA) in response to UN secretary general Antonio Guterres’ call for a global ceasefire.

“The NDFP and the broad masses of the people themselves need to refrain from launching tactical offensives to gain more time and opportunity to fight the Covid-19 pandemic and to look after the health and over-all welfare of the people in both urban and rural areas,” Sison said.

“The world must know that long before the belated quarantine declarations and repressive measures of the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines), the NDFP and the revolutionary forces have been informing, training and mobilizing the people on how to fight the pandemic,” he added.

Guterres called for an immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world last Monday, March 23, saying it is time for humankind to put armed conflict on lockdown and focus together “on the true fight of our lives.” 

Guterres asked the warring parties to pull back from hostilities, silence the guns, stop the artillery and end the airstrikes. “This is crucial to help create corridors for life-saving aid, open windows for diplomacy and bring hope to places among the most vulnerable to #COVID19,” he said.

Sison said the UN’s appeal is what the revolutionary forces in the Philippines may respond to, instead of the “bogus unilateral ceasefire declaration of the GRP.”

He warned that reciprocating President Rodrigo Duterte’s ceasefire order may appear as “directly condoning and becoming complicit in the criminal culpabilities of the Duterte regime for allowing the Covid-19 to spread nationwide since January, for making no preparations against the pandemic and for making lockdowns on communities and yet failing to provide mass testing and treatment of the sick, food assistance and compensation for those prevented from work.”

The GRP declared a unilateral ceasefire against the CPP, the NPA, and the NDFP effective 00:00 hour of March 19 to 24:00 hours of April 15, Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo announced Wednesday evening, March 18.

Sison further advised that while the NPA can cease and desist from launching tactical offensives, it must be vigilant and be ready to act in self-defense against any tactical offensive launched by GRP military, police and paramilitary forces against its own guerrilla fronts.

He added that the GRP has persisted in launching tactical offensives and bombing of communities in the countryside as well as campaigns of red tagging, abductions and murder in the urban areas against civilians, justifying NDFP’s desistance from reciprocating Duterte’s ceasefire offer.

NDFP Negotiating Panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili told Kodao that they shall submit their recommendation to their National Council soon. # (Raymund Villanueva)

CPP reveals Baguio raid victim was top leader, vows justice

GENEVA, Switzerland—A victim of the Baguio City raid last Friday, March 13, turned out to be a top leader of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), statements by the underground revolutionary movement in the Philippines revealed.

In a statement, the CPP said Julius Giron, one of the victims in the early morning raid, was a stalwart of the Party’s Central Committee, its Political Bureau and Executive Committee member who served the party’s central organs over the past three decades.

The underground group said Giron played a key role in reconstituting the Party’s leadership in 2014 when alleged CPP chairperson Benito Tiamzon and secretary general Wilma Tiamzon were arrested in Cebu province.

It said Giron brought together more than a hundred Party cadres to hold the Party’s Second Congress in 2016 when he was elected to the CPP’s Central Committee, its Political Bureau and as one of the key officers of its Executive Committee.

The government announced Giron’s killing, along with one Lourdes Tan Torres/Ma. Lourdes Dineros Tangco and an unnamed aide in a joint military and police operation at about 3:30 AM in Barangay Queen of Peace in Baguio City last Friday.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) claimed Giron and companions “resisted arrest, prompting authorities to retaliate in a search warrant operation.”

The CPP however said there was no fire fight and the raiding party fired at the victims at close range in an execution-style killing.

“Claims made by the military and police that they were about to serve an arrest warrant are outright lies. It was a liquidation operation, a massacre, carried out at 3 a.m. with the clear aim of assassinating Giron and eliminating all witnesses,” the CPP said.

“The entire Party and all revolutionary forces are enraged over the murder of Ka Nars,” the group added.

Stellar revolutionary career

The CPP said Giron was among the young cadres who pioneered revolutionary work in the Cordilleras and other Northern Luzon regions in the 1970s.

The group said Giron helped forged Igorot unity, and in rousing, organizing and mobilizing the national minority groups in resisting national oppression, defense of their ancestral land, and in their fight for autonomy.

Giron was in the Cordilleras during the people’s epic struggle against the Chico River Dam Project, the CPP revealed.

CPP founding chairperson Jose Maria Sison gave Giron high praises in a statement Tuesday, March 17, revealing the victim, like him, received religious tutelage from his mother and served as a sacristan to the Catholic priests in his grade school days.

Sison said Giron was a bright and sociable person in high school with plenty of friends.

“He was charismatic because he was intelligent and had a talent for singing and dancing. He also excelled at numbers and hoped to become an engineer. He enrolled in the course of Engineering in the University of the Philippines in Baguio but was able to finish only the first two years because of his heavy responsibilities as a leading activist,” Sison wrote.

He added that Giron joined the Kabataang Makabayan (KM) in 1970 and was a product of the First Quarter Storm (FQS) of 1970. Giron led the KM in Baguio City during the FQS.

“He often delighted and inspired the mass protests by reciting Amado Hernandez’s ‘Kung Tuyo Na ang Luha Mo, Aking Bayan’ to the music of ‘Ang Gabing Mapanglaw’. He helped build the Samahan ng mga Anak Pawis (SaAnPa) in Baguio City in 1970. He became an outstanding activist of the national democratic movement as he engaged in organizing workers in the transport, energy, and mining sectors,” Sison recalled.

Sison added that Giron became a member of the CPP in 1971 and assumed major responsibilities, serving with its Trade Union Bureau, participating in the organization of the CPP’s Northern Luzon Regional Party group, being designated a staff member of the Instructor’s Bureau of the CPP under the Education Department, and serving as team leader of an armed propaganda unit in Ifugao province.

Giron then went to Isabela province to instruct Political Officers of the New People’s Army (NPA) for regional and national deployment.

Giron during CPP’S Second National Congress in an undisclosed location in 2016. (CPP photo)

“As Founding Chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines and Chief Political Consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, I honor Comrade Julius Soriano Giron with the Red salute and express the highest respect and commendation for his martyrdom and for his long record as a communist leader and revolutionary fighter in the Filipino people’s struggle for national liberation and democracy,” Sison said.

He also condoled with his late comrade’s family and to all of Giron’s comrades, relatives and friends.

“I share with them profound grief over his demise and at the same the pride and joy for his lifelong and fruitful service to the people in their noble cause and struggle for national and social liberation from foreign monopoly capitalism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism,” Sison said.

“Comrade Julius served the people in the best way that he could and in the most exemplary way, died as a martyr and will therefore live forever in the hearts and minds of the people and in the continuance of the people’s democratic revolution with a socialist perspective. His murder in the hands of the armed minions of the traitorous, tyrannical, genocidal, corrupt and mendacious [Rodrigo] Duterte regime outrages the people and incites them to intensify their revolutionary struggle,” Sison said.

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Peace Negotiating Panel, its consultants, personnel and staff also extended condolences to the comrades, family, relatives and friends of Giron and his two companions.

“While in detention during the years of the Marcos dictatorship, we came to know of Comrade Julius’ artistry.  He was a good painter and headed the painting group inside prison. Indeed, his deep love for the Cordillera people is reflected in his paintings and poetry which are on display in his wake,” NDFP chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili said.

“We render the highest salute to Comrade Julius for his selfless commitment and lifelong dedication to the revolutionary movement of the people for national freedom, democracy, social justice and genuine peace,” Agcaoili said.

Peace consultant

Agcaoili revealed that Giron was one of NDFP’s senior consultants in the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines)-NDFP peace talks on social, economic and political reforms, as well as end of hostilities and disposition of forces and was in fact designated as National Consultant Number 1.

“He was holder of Document of Identification (DI) number 978410 under the name of Arnold Cruz as National Consultant 1, which entitled him to protection and immunity under the JASIG (Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees),” Agcaoili said.

“The martyrdom of Comrade Julius and his companions inspires us even more to firmly pursue the Filipino people’s struggle for national and social liberation and for genuine and lasting peace,” he added.

The CPP said it will exact justice on Giron’s killers.

“Giron was, in fact, murdered in cold blood. The perpetrators and masterminds of the assassination of the Girons are criminals. The Party and revolutionary movement will make sure that they will pay for their crime,” it said.

Giron was convalescing in Baguio due to illnesses brought about by his advanced age, the CPP said. He was 70 years old. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDFP says no need to rush into reciprocating Duterte’s unilateral ceasefire announcement

GENEVA, Switzerland—There is no clear basis for the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) to rush into reciprocating the government’s unilateral declaration of ceasefire, its chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison said.

In a statement, Sison said that while there is ongoing communication between the NDFP and Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) negotiating panels, there is yet no agreement for reciprocal unilateral ceasefires in regard to efforts in containing the corona virus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

In asking for certain “considerations, requirements and modalities” for the NDFP to think about reciprocating GRP’s unilateral ceasefire announcement, Sison said there has to be clarifications.

He added that without such understanding, the ceasefire announcement by Malacañang Palace is “premature, if not insincere and false.”

President Duterte has decided to declare a unilateral ceasefire against the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the New People’s Army (NPA), and the NDFP effective 00:00 hour of March 19 to 24:00 hours of April 15, Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo announced Wednesday evening in Manila.

According to Panelo, the President directed the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP), including the national defense as well as the interior and local government departments, to cease and desist from carrying out operations against the revolutionary forces.

Duterte last Monday publicly asked the underground communist groups for a ceasefire during the Covid-19 pandemic, promising to repay them “with a good heart in the coming days” if they agree.

Sison however said the NDFP is not assured and satisfied that the ceasefire announcement is based on national unity against Covid-19, the appropriate solution of the pandemic as a medical problem and the protection of the most vulnerable sectors of the population, including workers, health workers, those with any serious ailments and the political prisoners.

“Unless it receives sufficient assurances from the GRP, the NDFP will be inclined to think that the GRP unilateral ceasefire declaration is not sincere and is not intended to invite reciprocation by the NDFP but is meant to be a mere psywar (psychological warfare) trick,” Sison warned.

Sison pointed out that according to the people and their own forces in the Philippines, Duterte’s lack of sincerity in seeking a real ceasefire is manifested by the following”

  1. The militarist lockdown on the whole of Luzon is mean not to fight the Covid-19 pandemic but to intimidate the people, suppress democratic rights, commit human rights violations and prevent the working people from going to their workplaces, and immobilize even the health workers and people who wish to be tested and treated for Covid-19 and other serious ailments; and
  2. The AFP and the PNP continue to redtag, abduct and murder social activists, including human rights defenders, in urban areas and to unleash attacks against the people in the guerrilla fronts of the NPA.

The NDFP and the CPP earlier condemned the killing of senior cadre Julius Giron, his physician Lourdes Tan Torres and their aide last March 13 in Baguio City. Human rights activists also blamed the military for the abduction and killing of choreographer and activist Marlon Maldos last Tuesday, March 17, in De la Paz, Cortes in Bohol province.

Sison said that despite all the above, the NDFP continues to hope that Duterte orders the GRP negotiating panel come to clear terms with its counterpart “for the benefit of the people.”

“Promises of Duterte, such as doing a good turn from a good heart, can be believed only as they are realized promptly and according to a definite schedule,” he said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDFP ready to accept ceasefire request amid Covid scare, ‘if Duterte is serious’

UTRECHT, The Netherlands—The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) said it will seriously study the ceasefire request by President Rodrigo Duterte during the time of Corona Virus Disease 2019 (Covid-19) emergency despite doubts that the government’s deployment of military forces in Metro Manila is really to fight the pandemic.

NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison said that if Duterte is really serious with his request, he should make a formal offer through the government’s negotiating panel to their counterparts based in this city.

“The offer will be seriously studied by the NDFP and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). It will be related not only to the common fight against Covid-19 but also to the resumption of the peace negotiations,” Sison said.

Duterte made the ceasefire request in a speech in Malacañang Monday, March 16, asking the New People’s Army’s help in containing the disease by not attacking government soldiers.

“Ceasefire lang. Ceasefire muna tayo. Ako na ang naghihingi. Ceasefire. Kindly give me that…if you want us to be always on talking terms…during this crisis. Kindly cooperate and help. Mas mabuting tumulong na lang muna kayo. I will repay you with a good heart in the coming days,” Duterte said.

Sison said that in studying Duterte’s request, the NDFP will demand that public funds be poured into the effort to fight Covid-19 to ensure that there are adequate health workers, facilities, equipment and medicines.

NDFP Negotiating Panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili for his part said he awaits a formal request from his government counterparts if Duterte is really serious with his ceasefire request and promises.

“Of course we are always ready to accept their formal proposals,” Agcaoili said.

Sison added that “the NDFP will certainly demand that the GRP realign government spending from excessive military spending and from rampant corruption in order to pursue genuine land reform and national industrialization and expand social services, specially public health and education.”

In the meantime, the revolutionary forces and the people themselves have to undertake collective efforts to fight the Covid-19 pandemic while remaining guarded against “continuing military assaults under NTF-ELCAC (National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict) and various operational plans of the Duterte regime,” Sison said.

Sison said that Duterte has admitted in his speech that his redeployment of his military and police to urban areas would leave a vacuum and will allow the NPA to increase its tactical offensives in the countryside. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)