Posts

Fernandez urges NPA in Negros to defend farmers from rights violations

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

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

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

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

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

Frank Fernandez in his hospital room.

Complete turnaround

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

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

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

Fernandez said that the poor masses helped in their recovery.

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

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

Human rights violations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heart problems

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Death threat vs activists sent to Bayan-Negros leader after Patigas murder

By Visayas Today

The secretary general of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Negros received a death threat directed against him and other activist leaders just hours after Escalante City Councilor Bernardino “Toto” Patigas was murdered.

Mike dela Concepcion said a series of text messages was sent to his phone from the number +639999019988 just before 8 p.m.

Patigas, a survivor of the September 20, 1985 Escalante massacre who went into human rights work and sustained his advocacy even after entering politics, was shot dead by two unidentified gunmen as he returned from campaigning around 4:30 p.m. Monday, April 22.

The message to Dela Concepcion began with “Condolences,” then went on to say, “Nagsugod kmi sang priority, ikaw, si Clarissa, Roque, Nolie, Rey, Aldren, Patigas, Cristian, Dolly kg alyas Tatay Ogie nga ara makaita sa Silay kag Liberted. Ini tanan amo prioridad nga tapuson sa sini nga tuig.”

(We have begun our priority, you, Clarissa, Roque, Nolie, Rey, Aldren, Patigas, Cristian, Dolly and alias Tatay Ogie who can be found in Silay and Libertad. All these are priorities we have to finish this year.)

Clarissa refers to Clarissa Singson, secretary general of Karapatan-Negros; Roque to Rolando Rillo, chairman of the National Federation of Sugar Workers; Nolie to Noli Rosales, secretary general of the Kilusang Mayo Uno-Negros; Aldren to NFSW regional vice chairman Aldrin Aloquina; Cristian is apparently NFSW regional secretary general Christian Tuayon; Rey Alburo of the North Negros Alliance of Human Rights Advocates, of which Patigas was formerly secretary general; Dolly Celedonio of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas-Negros; and Hernani “Tay Ogie” Barros of the NFSW.

All the names mentioned in the text messages have been openly accused of being supporters or members of the communist rebel movement. Some of them have had charges filed against them for their supposed involvement with the rebels.

In a related development, Cristina Palabay, national secretary general of Karapatan, said she also received the same text message from the same number roughly around the time Dela Concepcion did. #

Escalante City councilor murdered

By Visayas Today

Escalante City Councilor Bernardino “Toto” Patigas was murdered Monday afternoon, April 22, by still unidentified gunmen.

A worker of the North Negros Alliance of Human Rights Advocates, with which Patigas had long been associated with, confirmed the murder, saying the councilor died of a gunshot to the forehead.

Reports said Patigas, 72, had been campaigning with other candidates in the May 13 elections but decided to return to the city center ahead of his companions, driving his motorcycle.

Bernardino “Toto” Patigas. (Photo from Visayas Today)

As he passed by the Escalante National High School at around 4:30 p.m., two men waved at him.

When Patigas slowed down, they opened fire, hitting him in the leg and, as he fell, finished him off with the headshot.

Patigas was a survivor of the September 20, 1985 Escalante massacre, when government forces opened fire on protesters staging a protest against the Marcos dictatorship. Twenty protesters were killed.

For years, he was an active human rights advocate and continued to support the advocacy even after he joined politics.

Human rights group Karapatan, of which NNAHRA is an affiliate, called Patigas “the 48th Karapatan worker killed in the course of his human rights advocacy.”

Bayan Muna said he had also been its coordinator in Escalante City since 2010.

Despite the constant vilification as well as a number of trumped up cases filed against him, Patigas remained a respected and popular figure in Escalante.

In April 2018, Patigas’ name and picture was included among some 60 individuals in a poster of alleged rebels that was hung in a central Negros town. Also on that poster was human rights lawyer Benjamin Ramos, who would be murdered in Kabankalan City on November 6. #

14 farmers executed ‘Tokhang-style’ in Negros; Duterte’s MO 32 blamed

President Rodrigo Duterte’s Memorandum Order No. 32 in November 22 deploying more soldiers and police officers in Negros Island has seen its bloodiest result last weekend in the killing of 14 farmers in three locations.

Philippine National Police operatives killed eight peasants in Canlaon City, four in Manjuyod, and two in Sta. Catalina town in separate but near simultaneous operations in Negros Oriental Province Saturday.

The Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights identified the eight Canlaon victims as Edgardo Avelino, 59, farmer and resident of Sitio Carmen, Brgy. Panubigan, Chairperson of Hukom (Hugpong Kusog Mag-uuma sa Canlaon); Ismael Avelino, 53 habal-habal (utility motorcycle) driver a resident of Sitio Carmen, Brgy. Panubigan and a member of Hukom; Melchor Pañares, 67, farmer, a resident of Sitio Tigbahi, Brgy. Bayog; Mario Pañares, 46, farmer (son of Melchor Pañares); Rogelio Ricomuno, 52, farmer, a resident of Sitio Manggata, Brgy. Masulog -1; Ricky Ricomuno, 28, farmer; Gonzalo Rosales, 47, farmer and a resident of Proper Brgy. Pula; and Genes Palmares, 54, farmer, a resident of Proper Brgy. Aquino.

In Sta. Catalina, habal-habal driver and peasant leader Franklen Lariosa and Anoj Enojo Rapada were reportedly killed.

In Manjuyod, among those killed were Velentin Acabal of Brgy. Kandabong and Sonny Palagtiw of Brgy. Pansiao, both barangay captains in their villages; Steve Arapoc and Manulo Martin.

Reports said 15 others were arrested, including local Gabriela leader Corazon Javier, who are now detained at the Canlaon City provincial police headquarters.

Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay cited Duterte’s Memorandum Order No. 32 that placed Negros Island as well as Eastern Visayas and Bicol under a state of emergency for the continuing militarization of communities as well as the Synchronized Enhanced Managing of Police Operations (SEMPO) or Oplan Sauron of the PNP in the region.

Palabay said Oplan Sauron is being implemented alongside the government’s counterinsurgency program.

‘Tokhang-style’

Negros police director P/Col. Raul Tacaca said the victims were suspected communist rebels linked to alleged assassination plots against government soldiers and police officers.

Tacaca claimed those slain fought back against arresting teams from the PNP Regional Public Safety Battalion, the PNP Special Action Force, regular police officers from various stations, and the Philippine Army.

In a press conference in Camp Crame Monday, PNP spokesperson P/Col. Bernard Banac echoed Tacaca’s claims and added the killings started as an implementation of search warrant for possible possession of firearms and explosive materials.

“We are sure that they really tried to shoot it out because our policemen will not use force if there is no threat to their lives,” Banac said.

“These were done by following the rules of engagement, respect on human rights and presumption of regularity,” he added,

But survivors of the police assault in Canlaon said the police arrived at about 2:30 in the morning, knocked once and kicked the doors open.

Victim Ismael Avelino’s wife, Leonora told human rights workers that all six police officers who assaulted their home “wore facemasks and others wore shades to cover their eyes.”

Victims’ survivors also said the nameplates on the police officers’ uniforms were covered.

Leonora said she and their four young children were ordered to lie face down and then later dragged outside of the house.

Next door, Edgardo Avelino’s household members were similarly forced to lie face down and were also dragged outside of the house.

Near simultaneously, they heard gunshots inside both houses. Nearly five hours later, at about seven o’clock in the morning, an ambulance came and Leonora’s husband was brought out of the house in a stretcher.

She found out later at the Canlaon District Hospital that they her husband Ismael was dead.

Edgardo, Hukom chairperson, was shot on his forehead, right cheek and upper torso.

In Manjuyog, survivors of Arupoc told human rights responders that the police planted a .38 caliber revolver beside his cadaver after he was killed by the police officers.

Calls for investigation

Various groups called for an immediate investigation on the incidents.

“This is unconscionable. We strongly demand an immediate and independent investigation on the incident…[W]e join our voices in the call for justice and accountability for these heinous crimes perpetrated by the government,” Karapatan’s Palabay said.

San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza, whose diocese covers the affected towns, also demanded an investigation.

“We demand a quick investigation on this and appeal to our government authorities to restore peace and order,” Alminaza said.

The Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA) for its part said March 30 was a dark day in the country’s history.

“[F]armers who feed the nation have become helpless targets of bullets from the police and military, in tokhang-style operations, forcibly entering the homes and playing the ‘nanlaban’ (fought back) scenario to justify the riddling of bullets to victims,” the group said.

“As the nation grieves, we add our voices to the call for justice for our farmers and all Filipinos who have suffered under the culture of impunity and fascism in our lands,” CPA added.

Members of the Makabayan bloc in Congress also condemned the killings and vowed to seek justice for the victims.

“State forces are on a rampage and activists and critics are in their crosshairs. We will not take this sitting down and we will seek justice for the victims and file charges against the policemen and their superiors who perpetrated this massacre,” Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate said.

Anakpawis Representative Ariel Casilao called for the scrapping of Duterte’s Memorandum No. 32, saying it is a death warrant on civilians.

The Commission on Human Rights said it has already ordered the regional sub-office of CHR-Region VII to investigate the killings. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

PNP surfaces NDFP’s Frank Fernandez

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Hide and seek’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Ordered by Duterte’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Groups launch “Justice for Sagay Massacre” campaign

A network calling for justice for Sagay massacre victims was formed in Quezon City Wednesday (December 5) nearly two months after the incident.

Various groups led by the Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura and the National Federation of Sugar Workers spearheaded the network that also include Karapatan, Promotion of Church for Peoples Response, Gabriela Womens Party and Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas.

The network is part of the peasant sector’s #StopKillingFarmers campaign that calls for an independent investigation on the massacre.

Nine farm workers and land reform advocates were killed in Sagay City last October 20 when attacked by suspected members of the local Special Civilian Active Auxiliary (SCAA) armed group under the control and direction of local politicians.

The victims were conducting a farm tilling activity when attacked.

The network said it will disseminate results of impartial inquiries and fact-finding missions.

Local and international education campaigns on the plight of sugar workers in Hacienda Nene and other victims of peasant killings in Negros Island and other parts of the country shall also be disseminated, the network said. # (Joseph Cuevas)

Magsasaka sa Negros, itinuro ang militar sa mga pagpatay

Ni Jo Maline D. Mamangun

Lungsod ng Bacolod—Nagharap ang mga magsasaka at mga lokal na opisyal ng Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental noong Miyerkules, July 18, kaugnay sa mga pagpatay sa naturang bayan mula pa noong Oktubre 2010.

Bilang bahagi ng isinasagawang International Solidarity Mission hinggil sa mga paglabag sa karapatang pantao sa  ilalim ng gubyerno ni Rodrigo Duterte, nag-usap ang grupo ng mga magsasaka na KAUGMA-ON  (Kapunongan alang sa Ugma sa Gagmay nga Mag-uuma sa Oriental Negros) at  Guihulngan City Mayor Carlo Reyes sa tanggapan ng huli.

Inireklamo rin ng mga magsasaka ang malalakihang  operasyong militar sa kanilang mga pamayanan sa ilalim ng “Oplan Kapayapaan” ng pamahalaan na anila’y nagdudulot ng takot sa mga mamamayan.

Ayon sa kanila, walang tigil ang militar sa pang-uupat (harassment), pagsasampa ng gawa-gawang kaso at mga extra-judicial killings sa mga lider at miyembro ng nasabing organisasyon.

Ayon sa KAUGMA-ON, may 23 kaso ng extra-judicial killing sa kanilang lugar simula noong 2016.

Chief of Police Baquiran (left) and Mayor Reyes (right). (Photo by JoMaline Diones-Mamangun)

Subalit itinanggi ni Reyes na may nalalaman siya sa mga pagpatay.

“You’re talking about killings in Guihulngan. Wala akong alam diyan. Only the PNP can answer your question,” ani Reyes sa mga magsasaka.

Dagdag ng alkalde na, ayon sa mga naririnig daw niya, ang mga namamaril ay pawang naka-bonet o naka-helmetkung kaya mahirap makapagtukoy ng pinaghihinalaan ang pulisya.

Ayon naman kay Guihulngan Police officer-in-charge Mario Baquiran na 44 na araw pa lamang siya sa kanyang destino at inaaral niya pa lamang ang mga naitalang pagpatay.

“It’s very hard for us in conducting these investigations because we could not just identify them,” ani ng hepe.

Ngunit ayon sa Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), tanging ang militar ang nagkakainteres na dahasin ang mga magsasaka dahil sa kanilang paglaban na magkaroon ng sariling lupa.

Ikinwento ni John Milton Lozande, Secretary General ng UMA, ang kaso ng brutal na pagpatay kina Endric and Rosalie Calago noong Mayo 2015 na namatay matapos pagbabarilin ang kanilang bahay ng mga pinaghihinalaang sundalo ng 11th Infantry Battalion.

“Merong mga circumstances, circumstantial happenings na nagtuturo sa militar sa pagpatay sa biktimang ito,” ani Lozande.

(Photo by JoMaline Diones-Mamangun)

Dagdag ng lider-magsasaka, mahihirapan ngang mag-imbestiga ang pulisya kung ang militar ang nasa likod ng mga pagpatay.

Siniguro ni Baquiran na ipakukulong niya maging ang mga sundalo kung mapatunayang ang mga ito ang naghahasik ng takot sa mamamayan ng Guihulngan/

Nagkasundo ang mga magsasaka at ang mga opisyal ng lokal na pamahalaan na magsasagawa ng ibayong dayalogo upang maisiwalat ang iba pang kaso ng paglabag sa karapatang pantao sa naturang bayan.

Kasali ang mga magsasaka, taong-simbahan, misya at iba pang sektong sa naturang ISM na may panawagang “Save Life, Save Guihulngan.” #

CHRIST IS DEAD, THE SACADA ARE RISEN

By Nonoy Espina

Philippine Catholic tradition holds that Black Saturday, when Jesus Christ lies in the grave, is devoted to prayer and reflection. But these sacada, seasonal migrant laborers shipped to Negros from Panay, rise at daybreak to resume harvesting sugarcane in a hacienda in Bacolod City.

THE NPA ON NEGROS | Fully recovered and growing

by Roy Magsilang for Kodao Productions

 

CENTRAL NEGROS — If there was any region most affected by the split within the revolutionary movement in the early 1990s, it would have to be Negros.

In 1993, the then Negros Island Regional Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines declared its “autonomy” and rejection of the Second Great Rectification Movement and, just like that, one of the strongest bastions of the revolution was decimated, losing 80 percent of its strength.

Of the New People’s Army, which was known to mount company-sized operations and could easily muster a battalion on short notice, all that was left was a lone platoon operating within only three villages.

It was to this that former priest Frank Fernandez, who had not too long before left Negros after being given greater responsibilities in the movement, returned, his mission to oversee the recovery – rebirth would probably be a more apt term – of the revolutionary movement on the island.

Fast forward to December 22, 2016, as Juanito Magbanua, commander of the NPA-Negros’ Apolinario Gatmaitan Command, gestures to the thickly forested peaks, above which hawks occasionally soar, that stand like sentries around the village deep in the Central Negros highlands where the rebels are hosting a grassroots peace forum that has gathered easily more than 3,000 people by mid-morning with even more streaming in as the day progresses.

It is the largest event the rebels say they have ever hosted.

“We have a few platoons stationed around us to guard the occasion,” he tells a journalist who has just passed an NPA checkpoint manned by one of the platoons at the road leading to the village.

And in the grounds of the school where the forum was being held, there were easily two or three more platoons, one detailed to render military honors during the singing of the communist anthem “Internationale,” the others involved in preparing and performing in a cultural program, feeding the multitude, entertaining the guests, including children, and the host of other tasks involved in such a huge event.

For all the cynicism with which the so-called millennial generation is often looked at, they were an overwhelming presence among the Negros NPA. Just as they were at the protests that followed the burial of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

It was, indeed, a far cry from 1993 when the NPA platoon that remained after the split celebrated the founding anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines, its 25th but the first in Negros in the time of rectification.

Held in a small forest hollow in the dead of night with only some 30 or so of the masa, the songs, speeches and militant chants reduced to whispers because just that afternoon they had gone on high alert after a military patrol was spotted in the vicinity.

Speaking later to journalists at a press conference together with Fernandez, who allowed the media to show his face publicly for the first time in three decades, Magbanua said Negros is currently divided into four guerrilla fronts, each covering the rough equivalent of one congressional district: the Roselyn Pelle Command of the Northern Front, the Leonardo Panaligan Command of the Central Front, the Armando Sumayang Jr. Command of the Southwest Front, and the Rachelle Mae Palang Command of the Southeast Front.

“And we are currently busy developing even more guerrilla fronts,” Magbanua said, laughing off claims of Brigadier General Jon Aying, commander of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division and former chief of the Negros-based 303rd Infantry Brigade, “that only around 200 NPA fighters remain” on the island.

“Just look around you and judge for yourself if what he claims is true,” Magbanua said.

In fact, he said, given that the NPA is now spread through 120 guerrilla fronts throughout the country, “the government does not have the capacity to defeat, much less, crush us.”

He noted that during the term of former President Benigno Aquino III, “he wanted to deploy one battalion to each NPA front. His problem was, there are only more than 80 infantry battalions.”

And even if it could be managed, the NPA of Negros have proven time and again that a battalion or even two are not enough to defeat a much smaller, but highly mobile and disciplined, guerrilla force.

For example, that lone platoon in 1993 survived the next few years with nary a scratch despite major offensives involving one or more Army battalions before it deployed small teams to undertake recovery and expansion work.

Militarily, Magbanua explained, “the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) can mount full-scale operations in only 10 guerrilla fronts and only for up to six months at most, giving the other 110 fronts the opportunity time to rest, strengthen themselves, and mount their own operations.”

“Really, the future is bright for the revolution,” he said, “which is why the government has been forced to enter into peace talks with us.” #

 

GRP harassment of civilians preventing bilateral ceasefire agreement–NDFP Negros

COMMUNISTS on Negros Island said they are not ready for a bilateral ceasefire agreement between the Rodrigo Duterte government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) until President Rodrigo Duterte orders the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to stop targeting activists for assassination.

Speaking to journalists at a grassroots peace forum last December 22, National Democratic Front of the Philippines-Negros spokesperson Frank Fernandez said the AFP is “using the war on drugs as a justification” for targeting 16 activists all over the country, including an indigenous people’s leader.

The former Roman Catholic priest said that instead of respecting Duterte’s unilateral ceasefire declaration in effect since August, the AFP is using the anti-narcotics campaign as a cover for counterinsurgency operations.

“This is why we cannot agree right away to a bilateral ceasefire with government because we have to secure the people in the areas where we operate against abuses like this,” Fernandez said.

Duterte had been exerting pressure on the NDFP to sign a bilateral ceasefire agreement with his government, repeatedly threatening them that there will be no further releases of political prisoners unless he receives a signed declaration.

Fernandez for his part slammed the government’s anti-drug campaign and said Duterte’s approach “can never solve the problem.”

Anti-poor anti-drug campaign

Speaking in the same forum, New People’s Army (NPA) commander Juanito Magbanua said they initially appreciated Duterte’s efforts to solve the drug problems “but quickly saw something was wrong because most of those who have died are the poor.”

“Drugs reach the streets from above, from the drug lords and large distributors. Why not go after them first instead of killing only the poor, who are as much victims of the drug trade?” Magbanua asked.

The guerrilla commander said even the street pushers belong to the suffering poor.

“We are not saying they (pushers) are right but most of them were pushed to the trade by poverty,” he stressed.

Magbanua said that long before Duterte started going after drug addicts and pushers in Davao City, the NPA already had an anti-drug program in the guerrilla zones.

But while they share Duterte’s goal of eradicating illegal narcotics in the country, Magbanua said they “cannot agree to the extrajudicial executions whose targets are largely the masses.”

Both communist leaders said they are still waiting for Duterte to prove himself to the people, noting that in his first six months as president, “wala sang benepisyo sa masa (there have been no benefits for the masses).”

More than a hundred NPA guerrilla fronts are set to celebrate the Communist Party of the Philippines’ 48th founding anniversary tomorrow, December 26. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)