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Duterte’s attacks vs NPA meant to cover up COVID failure, corruption—Sison

National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison said President Rodrigo Duterte was merely pretending when he asked for a ceasefire with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) to cover up on his failure to stop the coronavirus from entering the country while planning to plunder the anti-pandemic budget.

In his reply to Duterte’s latest tirade against him, the CPP and the New People’s Army (NPA), Sison said Duterte is trying to deflect attention from his “criminal responsibility” for the entry of the coronavirus to the Philippines by allowing the entry of more than half a million Chinese tourists even after the pandemic has broken out in China.

Sison also scored the president’s “lack of preparations and plan for fighting the pandemic” and instead taking the opportunity to advance his “fascist dictatorship” and corruption.

In his latest address to the nation broadcast late Monday night, May 4, Duterte said there is no longer hope in talking to Sison and the NDFP in peace negotiations.

The president also cautioned the police to be careful as NPA rebels are “itching” to grab their rifles, an opportunity that will increase once the president would order the Philippine National Police in conducting contact tracing on coronavirus victims.

“Be careful, you soldiers and police…Do not be too confident about it. Even your stations are being raided. They will kill you and I am telling you, kill them also,” Duterte said.

Sison however said it is convenient for Duterte to scapegoat and attack the NPA to deflect attention to the government’s failures on containing the virus and to deliver food and cash assistance, mass testing and medical treatment to the people.

 “At the same time, he has used Covid-19 as the reason for grabbing emergency powers, the immediate amount of more than 375 billion pesos and the license to realign the 2020 budget,” Sison said.

“[I]t became clear that his overriding malicious objective was to scapegoat the CPP and NPA in order to advance his ambition of realizing a Marcos-type highly-centralized and brutal fascist dictatorship through charter change under the pretext of federalism as well as though the application of Oplan Tokhang methods of extrajudicial killings and mass intimidation against social activists, critics and opponents and the broad masses of the people,” Sison said.

In one of his first addresses on the coronavirus last March 16, it was Duterte who asked for a ceasefire with the NPA he said would give his government, the military and the police the chance to concentrate on containing the spread of the pandemic in the Philippines.

The government then issued a unilateral ceasefire declaration last March 19 that lasted until April 15.

Responding to a global appeal by United Nations Secretary General Antonio Gutteres for all warring parties to temporary lay down arms to focus on fighting the pandemic, the CPP issued its unilateral ceasefire order to the NPA last March 23 to also end on April 15.

The CPP extended its truce order to April 30 despite accusing the military of not abiding by its own ceasefire declaration.

Sison said it had been Duterte’s plan to try to trick the rebels that backfired when more soldiers had been killed in dozens of military operations against the NPA fighters throughout the country.

“After pretending to declare a unilateral ceasefire and plead for reciprocation by the revolutionary movement, he has persisted in launching military offensives against the CPP and NPA and blame them for his own crimes, his ceaseless drive for fascist dictatorship and his failure to deliver sufficient food and cash assistance, mass testing and other necessities under the severe conditions of so-called enhanced quarantine,” Sison said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Church group calls on gov’t to reciprocate CPP’s truce extension

A church-based group asked the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) to heed the Easter call of Pope Francis for “an immediate ceasefire in all corners of the world” by reciprocating the Communist Party of the Philippines’ (CPP) extension of its truce order.

In a statement, the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) also called on the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) to open the doors to resume the stalled peace talks “especially in the face of an uncertain future brought about by this Covid-19 pandemic.”

The PEPP said that despite accusations from both side that each has violated their respective unilateral ceasefire declarations that simultaneously expired last before midnight of Wednesday, April 15, it still believes that the ceasefires may lead to “healing” and can only provide a good environment for the unhampered flow of services to the Filipino people during the lockdown.

A reciprocal declaration of truce orders may also pave the way for both side to again engage in “principled dialogue toward lasting peace,” it added.

The PEPP statement, signed by Roman Catholic Archbishop Antonio Ledesma and Anglican Bishop Rex Reyes, was issued after the CPP announced its order to extend its unilateral ceasefire declaration to April 30.

The PEPP also volunteered to provide custodial guarantee to vulnerable and elderly prisoners, such as several NDFP consultants, it said should be released on humanitarian grounds as reports of contagion and deaths of detainees have hit various prisons.

“PEPP stands by our longstanding offer to enable and facilitate a conducive atmosphere for restarting the peace talks by providing custodial guarantee through the church network of PEPP should the process of Release on Recognizance be followed in relation to the detained consultants of the NDFP,” it said.

“We call on President Rodrigo Duterte to put a heavy premium on peace and the release on humanitarian grounds the vulnerable during this time of crisis. Today, more than ever—as our nation and the whole world prays for healing—is the time to ‘seek peace and pursue it,” PEPP said, quoting the Bible.

AFP offensives continue

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) however said military offensives against the New People’s Army (NPA) have resumed as of April 16.

AFP spokesperson Brigadier General Edgard Arevalo told reporters last Friday, April 17, the military offensives shall continue even as the country grapples with the coronavirus pandemic.

Malacañan Palace’s has yet to react to efforts by Kodao to seek its comment on the CPP’s truce order extension.

NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison on the hand said he highly appreciates PEPP’s appeal to Duterte to reciprocate the unilateral ceasefire order of the CPP to the NPA, to release the political prisoners on recognizance to the church leaders, and to pave the way for the resumption of peace negotiations.

“I hope that Duterte heeds the appeal of the PEPP. The war hawks of the Duterte regime and the military violate Duterte’s own avowal for healing,” Sison said.

He added that the AFP has only shown “their hatred for the people by denying the violations of their own ceasefire and by launching more offensives against the NPA and the people at the time of the Covid-19 contagion. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDFP condoles with Bello for the death of sister due to Covid

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Negotiating Panel condoled with Department of Labor and Employment secretary Silvestre Bello III for the “untimely death” of his younger sister due to the coronavirus disease Saturday, April 18.

In a letter, the NDFP said it shares in the grief of Bello and urged him to stay strong in fulfilling his peace advocacy and mission to help Filipino workers, including overseas workers.

Bello was the chairperson of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) Negotiating Panel from 2016 to 2018. He had been a member of various government negotiating panels since the time of the Fidel Ramos government.

The labor secretary confirmed the death of his “favorite sister” he described as someone who heeds his advice.

“Catharine is my favorite. She listened to me. [She was] the first to die among 10 children,” he said.  

The victim was admitted to the hospital last March 25 and was diagnosed positive of Covid-19.

Bello said they thought Catharine was on her way to recovery and were surprised to learn of her death.

In their letter of condolence to their government counterpart, the NDFP said it is of urgent importance that all forces do their respective utmost to combat the spread of the virus, save lives and to safeguard the rights and welfare of the people as the pandemic runs loose throughout the country.

“The death of your sister shall not be in vain as we exert our common effort, as members of our respective negotiating panels, to help secure the release of all political prisoners from their vulnerable conditions in prison on humanitarian and medical grounds,” the letter reads.

“This is the cry of the times as more and more countries respond to the call of the UN Secretary General and the World Health Organization for the release of prisoners,” it adds.

The letter was signed in behalf of the NDFP Negotiating Panel by its chairperson Fidel Agcaoili, chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison, and senior adviser Luis Jalandoni. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

CPP extends truce order despite complaints of GRP ceasefire violations

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) extended its unilateral ceasefire until the end of the month to concentrate on its efforts to help contain the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement Thursday, April 16, the CPP said its Central Committee has ordered the extension for 15 more days starting April 15 “prioritize the fight against the pandemic and ensure the safety, health and well-being of everyone.”

The extended ceasefire order is effective until 11:59 p.m. of April 30

“The CPP ordered the units of the NPA (New People’s Army) and the people’s militias to continue to desist and cease from carrying out offensive military actions against the armed units and personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police (PNP) and other paramilitary and armed groups attached to the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP),” its information office said in a statement.

The group said the aim of the ceasefire extension is to ensure quick and unimpeded support to all people requiring urgent medical, health and socioeconomic assistance in the face of the public emergency over the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Party said all its revolutionary forces are ever ready to cooperate with all other forces and elements to achieve this objective.

Meanwhile, the CPP leadership commended all units of the NPA and people’s militias for their discipline in observing the ceasefire order and shifting priority to the anti-Covid-19 campaign.

It said that the Party’s ceasefire order has been observed “despite the difficulties and dangers brought about by the continuing occupation of AFP combat troops of guerrilla zones and base areas, the widespread and intense intelligence and psywar (psychological warfare) operations, and the attacks mounted by the AFP’s strike forces against detected NPA units.”

The CPP Central Committee reminded all NPA units to “maintain strictest secrecy” and not allow themselves to be exposed to AFP attacks.

The recent armed encounters which the AFP misreport as NPA ceasefire violations are all a result of the offensive actions of the AFP, it alleged.

The ceasefire extension order came after the National Democratic Front of the Philippines wrote to United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres complaining of violations by the Rodrigo Duterte administration of the government’s own unilateral ceasefire declaration of March 19 to April 15.

The AFP conducted military operations in 196 villages and 96 towns throughout the Philippines, the NDFP said quoting CPP reports.

In its statement, the CPP also reiterated the call for the “urgent release” and for declaring a general amnesty for all political prisoners.

It also expressed desire for the resumption of the NDFP-GRP peace negotiations.

“During the ceasefire period, all NPA units must strictly limit themselves to active defense operations which shall be carried out only in the face of imminent danger and actual armed attacks by the enemy forces,” the CPP reiterated.

The GRP has yet to comment on whether it would extend its own ceasefire declaration which has expired before midnight Wednesday, April 15. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Reds report to UN on GRP truce violations

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) has reported to the United Nations (UN) the Philippine government’s alleged violations to its unilateral ceasefire declaration committed while much of the country is under a coronavirus lockdown.

As the Duterte government and the Communist Party of the Philippines’ (CPP) respective unilateral ceasefire declarations expired Wednesday night, April 15, the NDFP said in a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that the government’s violations are in defiance of the global body’s request for all warring parties to temporary lay down arms to concentrate on fighting the pandemic.

NDFP Executive Committee and National Council member Luis Jalandoni told Guterres in a letter that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have mounted 13 attacks or assaults against the New People’s Army (NPA) and conducted at least five aerial bombardments and artillery shelling throughout the country between March 19 to April 15.

The attacks happened in 196 villages in 96 towns nationwide, he said.

Jalandoni’s letter quoted a report from the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Information Bureau, alleging that the Duterte government conducted so-called security patrols that targeted “resting units of the NPA in their areas.”

“Despite claims by the AFP of NPA violations of its ceasefire, it is clear from all reports of the AFP that it was their combat units which were on attack mode,” CPP information officer Marco Valbuena said in his report.

The AFP also conducted at least five aerial bombing and artillery shelling operations on March 17, March 24 and March 27-29 in Davao del Norte, Davao de Oro and Bukidnon provinces, all in the southern island of Mindanao, Valbuena added.

“Purportedly conducting Covid-19 related activities, GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) armed troops roam around civilian communities, set up checkpoints, prohibit people from buying food and other necessities, prevent peasants from tending to their crops, enter people’s homes, accuse them of being armed fighters or NPA supporters, and compel them to ‘surrender’ lest they remain in the military’s ‘list,’” Valbuena reported.

There are several incidents of arrests of peasants, including the detention of 11 indigenous farmers in Pantukan town (Davao de Oro province in Mindanao), as well as the arrest of a 71-year old peasant leader Proceso Torralba in Butuan City, accused of being an NPA member, he added.

Jalandoni’s letter to Guterres was dated April 13 and was also furnished to UN Secretary-General spokesperson Stephane Dujarric.

‘NPA compliant with UN’

In his letter, Jalandoni also said that the NPA has complied fully with the unilateral ceasefire order of the CPP in response to the humanitarian appeal of Guterres for parties involved in armed conflicts to declare a global ceasefire in the fight against Covid-19 pandemic.

The health committees and the revolutionary forces of the New People’s Army, the CPP and the entire NDFP continue to carry out programs in all 73 provinces where the NDFP forces operate, Jalandoni said. 

“The NPA refrains from undertaking attacks against the GRP’s armed forces. The NPA is observing an active defense policy to protect the community from the serious violations of the GRP’s armed forces,” Jalandoni said.

Jalandoni added that the NDFP National Council has deeply valued the UN’s appreciation of the unilateral ceasefire issued by the CPP on March 24 in response to Guterres’ call for a global ceasefire among warring parties to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.

Jalandoni added that the NDFP is committed to continuing its programs throughout the country to protect the people against the pandemic as well as the Philippine government’s violations of its unilateral ceasefire in defense of the Filipino people’s fundamental human rights.

He said the NDFP National Council, the CPP and the NPA shall decide on whether to issue another truce order as both the CPP and the GRP’s respective ceasefire declarations simultaneously ended before midnight Thursday, April 16. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

GRP and CPP ceasefire orders unlikely to be extended

The ceasefire orders of both the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) are set to expire before midnight tonight, Wednesday, April 15, but both camps are silent on whether to extend the truce orders or not.

After each declaring unilateral ceasefire orders to focus on their respective anti-coronavirus disease (Covid-19) campaigns, the government and the revolutionary forces are unlikely to extend their separate truce declarations due to reports of violations mainly by GRP forces.

President Rodrigo Duterte has not revealed his plans on the whether to extend his truce order or not during  his third Bayanihan To Heal As One weekly report late Monday evening, April 13.

Defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana has also failed to reply to queries from reporters on whether he would recommend extending the government’s ceasefire order.

The GRP declared the suspension of military and police operations against the New People’s Army (NPA) last March 19 after Duterte said he wants the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) to concentrate in helping the government contain Covid-19’s spread throughout the country.

Heeding the request of United Nations (UN) Secretary General Antonio Guterres for all warring parties to temporary lay down arms to concentrate on fighting the pandemic, the CPP issued its own truce order last March 23.

CPP’s move won praises from both the GRP and the UN.

The CPP information office said it is still awaiting official word from the party’s Central Committee on whether it would extend its unilateral ceasefire declaration or not.

Both ceasefire orders end at 11:59 tonight.

Ceasefire violations in 25 provinces

Both the AFP and the CPP accused each other of violating their own truce orders.

The AFP was first to accuse the NPA of violating the CPP’s ceasefire declaration after an encounter in  Barangay Puray in Rodriguez, Rizal last March 28.

A military spot report however revealed it was the Philippine Army, “acting on the information from concerned citizens,” that initiated the 40-minute clash that resulted in the death of one NPA fighter and a government trooper. Two more Philippine Army soldiers were wounded.

On March 31, another NPA unit in Barangay Mabunga, Gumaca, Quezon was attacked by a unit of the AFP’s 59th Infantry Battalion (IB). Another Philippine Army spot report said the unit acted on tips from concerned citizens in launching the operation.

On April 1, another NPA unit was attacked by the 85th IB in Barangay Ilayang Yuni, Mulanay, Quezon.

On April 2, another NPA encampment in Barangay Balagon, Silay, Zamboanga Sibugay was raided by troops of the 44th IB. The same AFP unit raided another NPA camp in Barangay Peñaranda, Kabasalan in the same province.

The AFP has launched military operations in 25 provinces covering nearly 90 municipalities and more than 150 villages nationwide throughout the duration of the ceasefire declarations, the CPP reported.

The incidents range from attacks on NPA encampments, aerial bombings, shelling, and militarization of civilian communities, the CPP said.

The group said the AFP was in direct contempt of the UN’s request as well as the orders of their commander in chief Rodrigo Duterte.

‘Continuous violations and offensives without let-up’

National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison said the AFP’s and the GRP’s “ceaseless offensives” are making useless and unnecessary the extension by the CPP and the NPA of their ceasefire declaration.

Instead, Sison said the NPA units all over the country need to stay alert “to have freedom of action to counter in every necessary way the offensives being conducted by their merciless enemy.”

Sison added that the NPA may refrain from attacking AFP soldiers only in areas under their full control and where their enemy is not taking any offensive action even without a generalized ceasefire declaration.

“At any rate, it is up to the CPP to decide whether the ceasefire is to be extended, upon the recommendation of the NDFP if any,” Sison said.

He added that the NDFP has already informed the UN secretary general of the Duterte government’s violation of their own ceasefire declaration.

CPP information officer Marco Valbuena for his part told Kodao that all units of the NPA remain on alert and await orders and instructions from the CPP high leadership. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Family asks chief justice to free political detainee and other elderly and sickly prisoners

The family of a political detainee has asked Supreme Court Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta for his immediate release along with other sickly, elderly and pregnant prisoners of conscience.

In a letter to Peralta Monday, April 13, the family of National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Rey Claro Casambre asked the country’s chief magistrate for his temporary release amid the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) crisis.

“My father’s freedom will remove him from otherwise high vulnerability to the coronavirus while in prison, and enable us, his family, to better care for him as he struggles through illnesses,” Casambre’s daughter Xandra Biseño said.

Casambre, supposedly immune from arrest as a consultant to the peace talks between the government and the NDFP, was arrested along with his wife Cora on December 7, 2018. Cora was later freed due to a lack of evidence.

Biseño said their family fears for the life and safety of Casambre who is of advanced age and suffering from type 2 diabetes and a heart condition. 

Casambre has an enlarged ventricle, mitral valve prolapse, and aortic valve prolapse with mild regurgitation, his daughter said.

Biseño’s letter, also sent in behalf of by her mother Cora, Casambre’s sister Sr. Mary Aida Casambre, RGS, and other family members and friends, is in support of the petition filed by Kapatid on April 8 seeking the Supreme Court’s “compassionate intervention” and “exercise of equity jurisdiction” for the release of select prisoners, including political detainees.

 The lead petitioners are 22 political prisoners who are mostly elderly and sick, including six women, one of whom has leprosy while another is five-months pregnant.

Biseño said that despite assurances by penal authorities that the country’s jails are “100% safe” during the Covid-19 crisis, they are highly concerned that Casambre and others like him are put at an even greater risk. 

“There is a general lack of jail space and facilities for social distancing, proper nutrition to put up resistance against the virus, prompt testing of prisoners and jail employees with Covid symptoms to enable ample isolation, quarantine, and treatment for the infected and the safety of those who are not,” Biseño’s letter reads.

Prison authorities have admitted that Philippine jails are over 500% congested, and tally about 4-5,000 deaths every year notably at a higher rate among the detained elderly. 

The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology earlier announced the death of an inmate on March 25 at a Quezon City jail prison.

Prisoners’ families deliver nutritious food and supplements regularly to the detainees because prison rations are insufficient to keep the detainees nutritionally fed, Biseño said.

Water supply is irregular due to rationing by the concessionaires, she added. 

“The helplessness and anxiety that the fatal microbe could hit our imprisoned relatives – who have no reason to be in prison at all because they are but falsely charged – is becoming unspeakable, Biseño wrote. 

Her letter said the release of elderly, sickly and pregnant prisoners will also aid government’s objective to arrest the spread of the coronavirus by decongesting prisons and removing highly vulnerable individuals detainees as had been done in Iran, Egypt, Indonesia, Germany, Italy, United States of America and Morocco. 

Biseño’s letter was also sent to Senate President Vicente Sotto, Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights Chair Richard Gordon, House of Representatives Committee on Justice Chair Vicente Veloso, and Makati District 2 Representative Luis Campos.

The Department of Social Work and Development, Department of Justice and the BJMP said they support the decongestion of prisons by giving elderly and vulnerable inmates temporary freedom. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘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)