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The death of my daughter Kerima

I went into denial, even as I reminded myself it would be better to accept what had happened

This article was originally published by The Diarist.PH. It is republished here with permission.

By Pablo Tariman

As I write this, it’s been 14 days since my daughter Kerima died. (Twenty-two days as of this posting.–Ed.)

It was not a peaceful death, as it turned out. An encounter between military and rebel groups at 6 a.m. on Friday, August 20, 2021, left three dead, one soldier and two reported insurgents.

I got a mysterious message saying one of the casualties in the encounter was a “young woman” with her companion. I refused to believe my daughter was that “young woman.”

The next day, Saturday, August 21, a friend from Bacolod told me the military had identified the female casualty as Ka Ella. I asked my friend to send me a picture that appeared in the military FB.

In my Messenger, I saw a picture of a woman left alone on a mountain trail. Her face was blurred. Her arm was almost severed after being riddled with bullets.

I know how my daughter looked like, then and now. After one more hard look at the picture, I realized the dead woman was my daughter Kerima, who turned 42 last May 29.

I had been ready for this years back. I knew it would come to this.

We had some arguments about this. But all this is water under the bridge, so to speak. In the end, I respected her choice.

It is easy to say you are prepared to see the worst happening to your daughter because of her involvement in the movement. But when you see her in the picture, cold and lifeless on a mountain trail, you know you need more courage to accept what has happened to her.

I was looking at her son, Emmanuel, that morning still asleep, when I accepted the news. My next predicament was how to break the news to him.

I knew I couldn’t do it.

The next day, her violent death was all over Facebook. The newspapers also carried news of the encounter. And always, she was identified as Ka Ella, also known by her real name, Kerima Lorena Tariman.

It is the first death in the family. She was the second of my three daughters.

The last time I saw her, she showed up in the city unannounced two years ago. She said it was better that we saw each other in a neutral place, definitely not in our house.

I knew she was preparing me for some big decisions she had made. We had very little conversation. She knew I had no other choice but to accept her decision.

After a few lingering moments, I kissed her on her forehead. Before she walked away, all I could say was, “Ingat, Kima.” Kima was how she was known in the family.

Still, she wanted to see more of her son, in my care since his grade school years. While I was doing my last concert at the Nelly Garden in Iloilo City, I met my grandson at an inn. He said someone would meet him and bring him to his mother.

The meeting was short, just an overnight stay. And he was back in Iloilo while I was preparing to travel with my performing artists after a farewell concert at Nelly Garden. By then, I had an idea why my daughter desperately needed to see her son before she totally disappeared.

And so her death was all over FB. I went into denial, even as I reminded myself it would be better to accept what had happened.

I asked a family friend to come to break the news to my grandson. I didn’t think I could handle it without turning the moment into a scene from a teleserye. And so the family friend arrived, condoled.

Then I asked him to take on the sad task of breaking the news to my grandson. He did it gently, from what I could figure out.

Minutes later, I saw my very composed grandson. No breaking down. No tears. I even saw him break into a wan smile

Emmanuel Tariman Acosta delivering the response after the four-hour tribute to his mother Kerima at Bantayog ng Mga Bayani on Aug. 28, 2021. (Photo from Altermidya)

Minutes later, I saw my very composed grandson. No breaking down. No tears. I even saw him break into a wan smile as if to tell me, “This is not a big deal. I can handle this.”

The sad news transmitted, I let out a sigh of relief. My grandson is made of sterner stuff, and he showed it.

Then he told me he knew something was wrong just by reading my face that early morning, while I was trying to confirm the news.

I told myself we could move on and do what had to be done.

We had to fly to Bacolod to claim the body. We had to subject ourselves to swab tests to be able to board the plane. We had to apply for Silay and Bacolod passes so we could move around.

That was my first swab test. What if I tested positive? Did this mean only my grandson could fly to Bacolod while I had to face isolation?

The swab test results didn’t come on time by email for us to be able to board the Monday 8 a.m. flight. No way could you board the plane without the results of your swab test, the lady at the check-in counter told us.

We had to rebook our tickets for an afternoon flight. The swab test results finally arrived after the plane had left. My grandson and I tested negative!

We were able to rebook an early afternoon direct flight direct to Silay-Bacolod airport. Meanwhile, I had to brace myself for what I would see when I claimed my daughter’s body.

I have never been inside a funeral morgue. I have never been inside a dingy room full of dead bodies. Before the plane landed, I had to let go of my quiet sobbing. After all, this was not my idea of my last reunion with my daughter.

First order of the day upon arrival was a briefing with our lawyer, who happens to be a city councilor.

I needed to present papers to be able to claim my daughter’s body: birth certificate, marriage certificate, my grandson’s valid ID and birth certificate, and my ID and birth certificate.

Next was the moment of truth.

The funeral parlor aide guided us to a room full of dead bodies all covered in white cloth. I looked at my grandson. I wondered how he would react upon seeing his dead mother for the first time.

When I saw my daughter’s lifeless body on that steel stretcher, I let out a long, painful howl of grief. I embraced her and kissed her forehead like the last time we saw each other.

He saw how helpless I was that moment, so I felt my grandson’s hands massaging my shoulder as I cried endlessly. My grandson’s inner strength is unbelievable.

No tears for him. No breakdown like I had.

When I calmed down, I realized I had to attend to more details to be able to claim my daughter’s body.

The plan was to claim the body, bring it to a Bacolod crematorium, and fly home the next day with the urn.

Our lawyer appealed to the Silay city chief of police if we could cremate the body first and attend to the paper requirements later. He nodded to say yes.

But when the body was about to be pulled out from the funeral parlor for cremation, the chief of police said no.

We had to produce all the papers: death certificate, permit to bring the body from the Silay funeral parlor to the Bacolod crematorium, and another permit to transport the remains from Bacolod to Manila.

We had to secure a barangay clearance from the barrio where the incident happened. I was appalled to learn that my daughter actually operated in the shadow of Mt. Silay, where the sugar cane workers lived.

Meanwhile, the cremation had to wait until we were able to meet all the requirements. Our lawyer brought me to the office of the Silay chief of police to secure another requirement, a spot report filed by the local police.

Said he: ‘I can see that she is a very intelligent woman. But no government is perfect. Even people are not perfect’

We noticed the chief cop kept on revising the incident report. He made small talk while we waited for the final version.

Said he: “I can see that she is a very intelligent woman. But no government is perfect. Even people are not perfect.”

We left the chief cop’s office convinced we had a rewritten version of what happened during the bloody encounter at Hacienda Raymunda.

I read a study by my daughter where she detailed studies of the plight of sugar plantation workers at Hacienda Raymunda. The report said workers got as low as P500 a month for backbreaking work.

Ironically, she died in an encounter also at Hacienda Raymunda in Silay City.

I don’t know what to make of my final hours with my daughter.

After we secured all the permits, her body was finally released for cremation.

Our coordinators noticed we were being shadowed by police operatives, taking photos and videos of us everywhere we went.

Meanwhile, I scheduled a video call with my daughters based in Frankfurt and Pasig before the cremation. I saw my daughters weeping as they said goodbye to their rebel sister.

I couldn’t help sobbing as her body was shoved into the big burner. “We can give you the urn in two hours,” said the crematorium staff.

I had to make peace with myself as we flew back to Manila.

There was a tribute for her at the Bantayog ng Mga Bayani where friends, classmates, and supporters from all over the country paid their last respects Saturday, August 28.

They were so many who remembered her, the tribute lasted four hours.

For the first time, I saw a composite picture of my daughter as classmate, poet, warrior, and Red fighter. I didn’t realize she was feared as much as she was respected.

My wife and I recited  poems in her honor. The tribute of her Frankfurt-based sister Karenina drew applause. She recalled how she spent one night in an Isabela jail in 2001 just to be with her sister Kerima, at least for one night of her sister’s month-long detention.

I thought the most poignant recollection during the tribute came from her son, Emmanuel, who closed the tribute.

My grandson recalled: “Bata pa lang ako, tinuruan nya na ako ng iba’t ibang bagay na hindi ko matututunan kung saan man at pinakita niya sa akin yung mundo at naiintindihan ko yung mga desisyon na ginawa nya at ng aking ama. Proud ako sa nanay ko, sa kanyang tapang, sa kanyang talino, hanggang sa huling hininga ay nasa isip niya ang masa at sambayanan. Hindi nagtatapos sa kanyang pagpanaw ang laban at marami pang magpapatuloy: tayong mga naririto. Mabuhay ka, Nanay, at maraming salamat sa lahat!” (Even when I was young, she taught me many things that I would not have learned elsewhere, and showed me the world, and I understand the decisions she and my father made. I am proud of my mother, of her courage, her intelligence, until her last breath the masses and the country were on her mind. The fight does not end with her death, and many will continue it: we who are here. Godspeed, Nanay, and thank you for everything!)

At home, I made a special place for her in the living room.

I cannot imagine her leaving us for good. And so I wrote this poem.

Stay a little longer my child
Keep your father company
As he welcomes another sunrise
Without you.

Stay a little longer my daughter
Keep your son company
He who is proud of you
In your prolonged absence.

Stay a little longer my child
Let’s reminisce days
As we welcomed sunrise
In the black sand of San Roque
And frolicking at the park
In the shadow of Mayon.

Stay a little longer my child
Keep your father warm
Watch over your only son
For a few days more.

Memories come and go
And far too few
I still see us welcoming sunrise
With the perfect cone
Towering over us.

Suddenly you are gone
The little child
Who once romped by the beach
Is suddenly limp and cold
Finished off by bullets
From ruthless strangers.

Stay a little longer my child
Let me just remember
The last hug
The kiss I planted on your forehead
In this room full of dead bodies.

I can’t help it
Letting out a howl of grief
Akin to a whining dog.

Your son remained strong
And unperturbed
As he massaged my shoulders
As I let out
A shrill whimper
Echoing through
The mortuary.

Now
I have to make the most
Out of this last plane ride
With your son and I
Huddled together
As we keep watch
Over your urn
From Silay to Manila.

You are home now
Stay a little longer my child
As we prepare
Your new home
Away from home.

I can see peace
And deliverance
In that small crypt
Just a walk away
From where we live.

Welcome home my child
There is peace and quiet
Waiting for you
In that small door
Leading to the great beyond.

On Aug. 29, 2021, Cecile Licad, the author’s longtime friend, performing Chopin’s ‘Revolutionary Etude’ in the open-air concert in Tivoli, New York, with Kerima Tariman in mind. A music fan wrote the pianist that it was the ‘fiercest’ ‘Revolutionary Etude’ he has heard in his life. (Photo from the file of Cecile Licad)

Groups describe as ‘prank’ Duterte’s amnesty offer to Leftists

Political detainees as well as human rights groups and lawyers slammed as “prank” the Rodrigo Duterte government’s offer of amnesty to Leftist political prisoners, designed to prevent future peace negotiations from happening.

In a statement read in a recent online forum, six political prisoners condemned Proclamation 1093 offering amnesty to suspected and convicted Leftist rebels as an instrument of “continuing oppression.”

“Proclamation 1093 will not provide genuine amnesty. This cannot be the means for the release of political prisoners,” detained National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultants Vicente Ladlad, Rey Casambre, Ferdinand Castillo, Frank Fernandez, Reynante Gamara and Adelberto Silva said.

President Duterte signed last February 16 proclamations 1090, 1091, 1092 and 1093 granting amnesty to suspected Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Mangagawa ng Pilipinas/Revolutionary Proletarian Army/Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPMP-RPA-ABB) and “Communist Terrorist Group” members, respectively.

The House of Representatives concurred under its Concurrent Resolution No. 15 approved last May 19, but the Senate has yet to react to the edicts.

In a statement, Kapatid said that while political prisoners are not closing the door to a grant of amnesty, it is “…totally unjust that those foisted with false charges will own up to crimes they did not commit just to be able to leave prison.”

Kapatid said that for the political prisoners, Proclamation 1093 that refers to Leftist rebels is “fake” and a “trap” because:

1. Amnesty will be granted only to “rebels” who had surrendered or those referred to as “rebel returnees;”

2. It will not be granted to most political prisoners who were arrested, detained, charged with or convicted of trumped-up criminal charges since they did not surrender;

3. It will not cover those who have been proscribed and charged and convicted under the Human Security Act of 2007 and the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020;

4. It puts the burden on political prisoners to prove that the crimes they supposedly committed were in furtherance of their political beliefs; and

5. The applicant must admit, in writing and under oath, their guilt on charges they are criminally liable for although the charges are falsified.

Kapatid said the political prisoners also condemned the use of the term “communist terrorist group” to “disparage and degrade the political standing” of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the New People’s Army (NPA) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

The Duterte government has designated the three revolutionary organizations as terrorists in separate proclamations in 2017 and this year.

National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers president Edre Olalia said Proclamation 1093’s intention is suspect for its description of its supposed beneficiaries.

 “[T]he premise, framework, and implication of the use of the term ‘communist terrorist group’ render this kind of amnesty patently objectionable and unacceptable, legally and politically,” Olalia said.

“It is practically an institutionalized self-flagellation and it demeans political prisoners, using the dangle of inchoate freedom and the seduction of material bribery,” the human rights lawyer said.

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate noted that the amnesty being offered to Leftists are unlike those offered to the MILF, MNLF and the RPMP-RPA-ABB that were outcomes of peace agreements.

“[W]e should remember that this regime ended the peace negotiations. The amnesty is in fact based on Executive Order No. 70 – the government order which ended peace negotiations, justified imprisonment of activists, and paved the way for killing human rights defenders,” the legislator noted.

“The government said that it will no longer engage with peace negotiations but they are saying now that localized peace negotiations were held for former rebels to be granted amnesty. This amnesty proclamation is a ploy to totally prevent peace talks from transpiring,” Zarate, also a human rights lawyer, added.

The six detained NDFP peace consultants said they insist on “general, unconditional and omnibus amnesty.”

“General amnesty means it covers all political prisoners and other political offenders according to a pre-screened list. Unconditional amnesty means no preconditions will be imposed on political prisoners before they are set free. Omnibus amnesty means it will cover all court cases of political prisoners,” the detainees said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Farmers to military: ‘You, not Kerima, are the terrorists’

Farm workers defended Kerima Lorena Tariman from the military who alleged the highly-regarded poet was a “terrorist” and “extortionist.”

Bristling at government troopers’ description of Tariman, the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) said they should instead take a hard look at themselves.

“State armed forces seem confused about what terrorism is. Serving the people—which was what Kerima Lorena Tariman did—is not terrorism,” UMA chairperson Antonio Flores said.

The military said in its announcement of Tariman’s death she was a terrorist involved in extortion as part of her task to allegedly “re-establish the dismantled Northern Negros Front” of the NPA.

Tariman died in a fire fight between the New People’s Army and the Philippine Army last August 20 in Silay City, Negros Occidental. She was 42.

A “Comrade Pabling” perished with Tariman while a Private First Class Christopher Alada of the 79IB later died in a hospital after being wounded in the clash.

UMA said however Tariman never harmed peasants and has only consistently defended them all her life.

Defender of poor farmers

As an activist, Kerima led efforts in Hacienda Luisita for agricultural workers to assert their right to land and secure their access to food, UMA said.

Tariman was once briefly detained by the Tarlac police with 10 others for joining a rally at Hacienda Luisita in September 2013.

In Mindanao, Tariman conducted a research on corporate plantations and the harsh working and living conditions of farm workers, UMA said.

In Negros, Tariman led campaigns to alleviate sugar workers’ plight against extreme poverty and assisted them in asserting their right to social amelioration funds, the group added.

“How can any of that be terrorism?” Flores asked.

Defend Negros image.

‘Abominable slander’

In a separate statement, the group Defend Negros said it is an abomination for Negrenses to have their “heroine” Tariman labeled as a terrorist “by the very forces who sow terror in Negros and the whole country.”

“We vehemently condemn the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ statement against Kerima, a former staff of UMA and a staunch land rights activist,” Defend Negros spokesperson Ariel Casilao said.

“They maliciously maligned and undermined every sacrifice that Kerima made for the benefit of landless farmers and farm worker,” he added.

Casilao revealed that among Tariman’s achievements while living with peasant communities in Negros was a primer on the government’s Social Amelioration Program (SAP) to help sugar workers understand and defend their rights for better wages and benefits.

Tariman also spearheaded the publication of UMA’s newsletter that focused on tiempo muerto (season of death) or off-milling season when seasonal farmhands in Negros have no work and income.

A highly-regarded writer and already a published poet upon graduation from high school, Tariman was managing editor of The Philippine Collegian when first arrested in Isabela province in 2000.

“It is the deep-seated, centuries-long poverty of the peasantry that compelled Kerima to take the path of the revolutionary armed struggle. Fighting until her very last breath to defend the people’s rights to land and living wages is not and must not be tagged as terrorism,” the former Anakpawis Representative said.

 ‘Real terrorists’

UMA said military spokespersons like Maj. Cenon Pancito III, Maj. Gen. Edgardo de Leon and Col. Ramon Zagala should take a hard look in the mirror before accusing Tariman of what they ought to be accusing themselves.

“Occupying civilian communities, conducting aerial bombings over farmlands, gunning down unarmed peasants—routine activities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines—now that’s terrorism,” UMA said.

The group said the police, military and armed goons hired by plantation owners have killed more than 100 activists in Negros Island, most of whom were peasants.

Casilao also said: “It was the military, the police, and other armed goons who had sown terror in Negros Island with their Oplan Sauron operations conducted under Memorandum Order 32, killing more than a hundred peasants and activists.”

Casilao challenged the government, the police and the military to look at the sufferings of the people as Tariman did.

“The regime and its armed forces are deeply intoxicated on the falsehood that being a revolutionary makes you a terrorist…Landlessness, absence of security of tenure, inadequate social services and slave-like wages–these are the causes of unrest in the island,” Casilao said.

UMA said it was in Negros that Tariman most deeply realized the limitations of being an “aboveground activist”, having witnessed firsthand the violence state forces were capable of unleashing on unarmed peasants.

The fact that Negros Island remains the country’s hacienda capital proves that government land reform programs are fakes and anti-peasant, the group added.

“This was what pushed Kerima into the armed struggle of the NPA. For her, there was no more effective means of serving the people, especially the peasantry. She was not involved in terrorism. Rather, it was state terrorism that pushed her into joining the NPA,” UMA said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Joma, peace advocates: ATC move vs. NDFP ‘diabolical’, to worsen armed conflict

National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison described their group’s designation as “terrorist” by the Rodrigo Duterte government as “diabolical”, aimed at not just further closing every possibility of resuming peace negotiations but to kill more of their consultants and resource persons.

READ: GRP designates NDFP as ‘terrorist organization’

Reacting to the Anti-Terrorism Council’s (ATC) June 23 resolution designating the NDFP as a terrorist organization, Sison said the government clearly intends to:

  • Close further every possibility of resuming the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations at least for the duration that Duterte is in power,
  • Harass, silence, arrest or even kill the NDFP consultants and resource persons and others involved in the peace negotiations and target even the broad range of peace advocates, critics and oppositionists,
  • Allow Duterte to control and rig the 2022 elections, stay in power together with (Davao City Mayor) Sara and prevent his (Duterte’s) arrest for crimes against humanity on the prospective warrant that may be issued by the International Criminal Court, and
  • Pave a wider path for the Duterte regime to declare martial law and impose a fascist dictatorship on the people either before the anticipated 2022 elections or after this is rigged in order to preempt the 1986 type of people’s uprising.

“The diabolical purpose of the Duterte regime in designating the NDFP as terrorist cannot be understated because this has been preceded by the murder of NDFP consultants committed so flagrantly by Duterte death squads,” Sison said.

In its Resolution No. 21 (2021) issued last June 23, the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) designated the NDFP as a terrorist organization/association, saying the group is “an integral and inseparable part of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA).”

Sison cited the murder of Randy Malayao, Randall Echanis, couple Agaton Topacio and Eugenia Magpantay, couple Antonio Cabanatan and Florenda Yap, Reynaldo Bocala and Rustico Tan as proof the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) is into killing NDFP consultants.

The victims were killed after Duterte ordered the GRP Negotiating Panel to walk away from the peace negotiations in mid-2017.

Sison also cited the arrest of NDFP consultants Adelberto Silva, Rey Casambre, Vicente Ladlad, Renante Gamara, Ferdinand Castillo  and others who have been arrested and imprisoned on so-called trumped up charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

He added that the designation is “at war” with basic principles of international humanitarian law on the legitimate status, rights and character of national liberation movements such as those by the NDFP.

‘War hawks to blame’

A group of peace advocates blames so-called war hawks in the ATC for NDFP’s designation as terrorist.

The group Pilgrims for Peace (PfP) said GRP’s move bodes ill for human rights, democracy and the quest for peace under the Duterte administration.

“The war hawks are hell-bent on killing peace negotiations and instead pursuing all-out war in the government counterinsurgency program as well as casting a wide net of suppression against all opposition and dissent through state terror as embodied in the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020,” the group in a statement said.

PfP said the designation can only intensify the “nefarious red-baiting/ terrorist-tagging by the National Task Force-End Local Communist Armed Conflict, with dire implications on and further deterioration of the human rights situation and constriction of democratic space in the country.”

The group added the designation directly contravenes a basic tenet of peace advocacy: addressing the roots of the armed conflict through earnest peace negotiations.

“[B]y designating those who have stepped forward to engage in peace negotiations as ‘terrorist,’ the Duterte administration is blatantly acting against the principle and practice of peace building,” PfP said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

GRP designates NDFP as ‘terrorist organization’

The Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) has added the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) to its list of terrorist organizations, dashing what remains of hopes for the resumption of formal peace negotiations between the parties.

In its Resolution No. 21 (2021) issued last June 23, the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) has designated the NDFP as a terrorist organization/association, saying the group is “an integral and inseparable part of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA).”

The designation was signed by ATC chairperson and executive secretary Salvador Medialdea and council vice-chairperson and national security adviser Hermogenes Esperon.

“[The] NDFP is organized, controlled, acting on behalf of or at the direction of, and operated by the (CPP), a designated terrorist organization, association and/or group of persons under ATC Resolution No. 12 (2020),” the ATC said.

The Council said the NDFP is the last of three major components, along with the CPP and the NPA, that provides support to the armed and organizational expansion of the Communist movement in the country.

Founded in April 1973, the NDFP describes itself as “[A] revolutionary united front organization of the Filipino people fighting for national freedom and for the democratic rights of the people.

“The NDFP seeks to develop and coordinate all progressive classes, sectors and forces in the Filipino people’s struggle to end the rule of US imperialism and its local allies of big landlords and compradors, and attain national and social liberation,” its website says.

Aside from the CPP and the NPA, the NDFP has at least 15 other “revolutionary allied organizations” and is present in 70 out of the country’s 81 provinces.

Since 1992, the NDFP has been holding peace talks with the GRP to “address the roots of the armed conflict.”

After two years of fruitful negotiations across four formal rounds in three countries in Europe from 2016 to 2017, President Duterte walked away from the process and has since designated the CPP and NPA as so-called terrorists.

Observers said NDFP’s exclusion from GRP’s list of terrorist organizations provides hope that it is still open to resuming negotiations with the underground group.

NDFP officials have yet to respond to requests for comment on this development. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Itanong Mo Kay Prof: Masbate Incident at CARHRIHL

Panayam kay Prof. Jose Maria Sison ng Kodao Productions, sa pamamagitan ni Prof. Sarah Raymundo, hinggil sa insidente sa Masbate at ang bisa ng CARHRIHL.

IMKP: MASBATE INCIDENT AT CARHRIHL
June 22, 2021

Sarah: Magandang araw sa lahat ng ating mga tagapakinig, nagbabalik ang Itanong Mo Kay Prof, kasama natin ang Chair Emeritus ng International League of Peoples’ Struggle at NDFP Chief Political Consultant na si Prop. Jose Maria Sison. Magandang araw, Prof Sison, at maraming salamat sa pagkakataong makapanayam kayong muli para sa isang napakahalagang usapin na may kinalaman sa kondukta ng pakikibakang armado ng rebolusyonaryong hukbo sa Pilipinas ang NPA, paritukular ang nangyari sa Masbate.

JMS: Maalab na makabayang pagbati sa iyo Prop. Raymundo, sa Kodao at sa lahat ng ating tagapakinig.

Sarah: Sa ngalan ng Itanong Mo Kay Prof, nagpapaabot po ako ng taos-pusong pakikiramay sa pamilya ng mga nasawi nating kababayan at nakikiisa po ang aming programa sa pakikidalamhati sa ating mga kababayan sa trahedyang ito.

Sa panayam na ito, sisikapin nating makuha ang suri at ilang resolusyon ng NDFP batay sa mga naaangkop na mga dokumentong may lokal at internasyonal na saklaw na nakatuon sa mga sirkumstansya ng gerang sibil są mga bansang tulad ng Pilipinas kung saan may pwersang nagsusulong ng rebolusyonaryong pakikibaka para sa pambansang paglaya.

Halina at alamin natin ang kahalagahan ng Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC), ang Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CAHRIHL), ang The Hague Declaration, at ng Ottawa Treaty. At kung bakit Usaping Kapayapaan ang pinanawagan ng mga taong-simbahan at iba pang grupo na nagtatanggol sa karapatang pantao, matapos maisapubliko ng insidente na hindi naman itinanggi kundi agad namang inako ng CPP-NPA. Bilang founding Chair ng CPP, ano kaya ang pagtingin ni Prop. Sison sa isyung ito?


Mga Tanong:

1. Ano ang masasabi nyo Prof Sison sa nangyari sa Masbate na kung saan ay may dalawang sibilyan na namatay dahil sa land mines na ginawa ng mga NPA? Meron na po bang resulta ang imbistigasyon ng CPP/NPA/NDF hinggil dito?

JMS: Isang trahedya na mga sibilyang magpinsan ng pamilyang  Absalon ay nasawi at isa pa ay  nasugatan dahil sa pagkakamaling pinasabog sa kanila ang command-detonated land mines.

Anuman ang klase ng sandata ay maling gamitin laban sa mga sibilyan. Ito ay mahigpit ng patakaran ng CPP, NPA, NDFP at rebolusyonaryong gobyerno ng bayan.

Gumawa na ng kagyat na pagsisiyasat ang partikular na kommand ng NPA sa Masbate na may kinalaman sa partikular na yunit at ilang indibidwal na may pananagutan sa malungkot na pangyayari. Tinanggap ng naturang komand na may pagkakamali.

 Pero gusto pa rin ng pinakamataas na organo ng NDFP na may mas malalim pang imbestigasyon para magkaroon ng batayan para litisin ang mga akusado sa court martial ng NPA o sa hukumang bayan ng rebolusyonaryong gobyerno ng bayan.

2. Maaari nyo po bang maipaliwanag Prof Sison kung meron po bang nilabag ang mga NPA sa land mines na kanilang isinagawa sa Masbate? Ano po ba ang implikasyon nito sa International Humanitarian Law?

JMS: Walang nilabag ng kabuaan ng NPA. Ang lumabag ay partikular na yunit ng NPA o iilang indibidwal na nagpaputok ng land mines. Ang mismong command-detonated land mines ay hindi ipinagbabawal ng Ottawa Treaty. Pero krimen o kamalian ang paggamit ng anumang sandata laban sa mga inosenteng sibilyan.

Sabi ng binanggit kong Masbate command ng NPA na command-detonated na land mines ang ginamit. Sa tamang paggamit ng ganitong land mines sa armadong kaaway ng NPA, hindi ipinagbabawal ng Ottawa Treaty at ng International Humanitarian Law.

Ang maliwanag na ipinagbabawal ng Ottawa Treaty ay yong land mines na sumasabog dahil sa presensya, presyur o kontak ng biktima. Ipinagbabawal ito dahil sa indiscriminate ang nabibiktima.

Sang-ayon at sumusunod ang CPP, NPA, NDFP at rebolusyonayong gobyerno ng bayan sa Ottawa Treaty. Patakaran ng buong kilusang rebolusyonaryo na bawal ang land mines na hindi command-detonated.

3. Hinggil po sa land mines, Prof Sison, maaari nyo po bang maibahagi ano po bang klase ng land mines ang tinatanggap sa International Humanitarian Law (IHL) sa mga lugar na may gera. Pinahihintulutan po ba talaga sa IHL ang pagtatanim ng bomba?

JMS: Sa International Humanitarian Law, ang Ottawa Treaty ang pinaka- partikular na instrumentong legal na nagsasabi kung anong klaseng land mines ang ipinagbabawal.

Ipinagbabawal nang kategorikal at pauli-ulit sa tratadong ito na bawal ang land mines na puputok dahil lamang sa presenya, presyur o kontak ng kahit sinong tao, inosenteng sibilyan o armadong kaaway ng NPA sa kasalukuyang gera sibil sa Pilipinas. Hindi ipinagbabawal ang command-detonated land mines.

4. Ano po ang inyong masasabi sa kahilingan ng gubyerno sa pamamagitan ni DILG Sec Eduardo Año na isurender sa kanila ang mga NPA na nagkasala sa naganap na pagsabog sa Masbate?

JMS: Alinsunod sa International Humanitarian Law at Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, ang NDFP ang may hurisdiksyon sa anumang paratang laban sa NPA at mga yunit nito at ang GRP naman ang may hurisdiksyon sa mga paratang laban sa AFP, PNP, paramilitar at mga yunit nito.

Ang NDFP at GRP ay mga co-belligerents sa isang gera sibil o armed conflict na saklaw ng Geneva Conventions. Hindi pwedeng utusan ng GRP ang NDFP na isurender sa GRP ang yunit ng NPA na gumawa ng pagkakamali sa Masbate.

Ang GRP ay hindi rin puedeng utusan ng NDFP na isurender sa kanya ang mga akusado sa higit ng 6000 paratang laban sa AFP at PNP na sometido sa Joint Monitoring Committee sa ilalim ng CARHRIHL.

Hindi ring pwedeng utusan ng NDFP ang GRP na isurender sa NDFP ang mga armadong tauhan ng GRP na pumaslang ng napakaraming NDFP peace consultant. Tinutukoy ang pagpaslang kina Randy Felix Malayao, Randall Echanis, Julius Giron, mag-asawang Cabanatan, mag-asawang Topacio, Reynaldo Bocala at iba pa.

May kanya-kanyang sistema ng gobyerno at batas ang GRP at NDFP. Sira-ulo ang mga opisyal at ahensya ng reaksyonaryong gobyerno na gustong magmando sa NDFP na isuko sa GRP ang mga akusado sa insidente ng command-detonated land mines sa Masbate.

5. Ang Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law o mas kilala sa tawag na CARHRIHL ay isang kasunduan na pinirmahan ng gubyerno ng Pilipinas at ng National Democratic Front of the Philippines noong 1998. Ayon sa AFP hindi na ito epektibo dahil wala ng negosasyon sa pagitan ng GRP at NDFP, at matagal na ring nilusaw ang Joint Monitoring Committee o JMC. Ano po amg inyong opinyon hinggil dito Prof Sison? May halaga pa po ba ang CARHRIHL sa panahon ngayon?

JMS: Umiiral pa ang CARHRIHIL dahil sa maraming probisyon nito ay hango sa international law sa human rights at humanitarian conduct at nasa balangkas ng international law na tinanggap ng GRP Constitution. Umiiral at bukas din ang opisina ng NDFP-nominated section ng JMC sa Cubao at kinikilala at sinusuportahan pa ng Royal Norwegian Government.

Totoo na ang GRP ay nagsara ng kanyang opisina sa JMC. Pero hindi ibig sabihin nito na malayang gumawa ng mga krimen ang GRP sa mga pwersa at tauhan ng NDFP. Hindi rin ibig sabihin na  nawalan na  ng hurisdiksyon ng NDFP sa mga pwersang nasa panig niya.

Subukan ng GRP na magpadala ng arresting yunit nila sa erya ng NPA sa Masbate at tingnan natin kung ano ang mangyayari. Kung gawin ng GRP ang panghihimasok, hwag magulat kung lalabanan sila ng NPA.

6. Sa panghuli, Prof Sison, ano po ang inyong panawagan sa ating mga kababayan?

JMS: Hanggang ngayon ipinagmamatigas at ipinagmamalaki ni Duterte na tinapos at pinatay na niya ang peace negotiations at gusto niya ang gera total at pakana niyang idahilan ang armadong rebolusyon para magpataw ng pasistang diktadura sa Pilipinas.

Napakalimitado na ang panahon na umasa ang sinuman na magbabago ang patakaran ni Duterte. Nasa huling taon na ang halimaw sa kanyang legal term of office.

Mas mabuting palakasin ang kilusan ng mga mamamayan para patalsikin sa poder ang traidor, berdugo, mandaranbong at maggagantsong rehimen ni Dutere at makipagsundo sa oposisyon na itaguyod ang patakaran na buksan muli ang peace negotiations ng GRP at NDFP para lutasin ang mga problema na ugat ng gera sibil.

Magkakaroon ang makatarungan at matibay na kapayapaan kung may peace negotiations muli at gumawa ng mga komprehensibong kasunduan tungkol sa mga batayang repormang sosyal, ekonomiko at pulitikal sa balangkas ng The Hague Joint Declaration ng GRP at NDFP.

JMS: Sa pagtatapos ng ating panayam, nagpapasalamat ako kay Prop. Raymundo, sa Kodao at sa lahat ng ating tagapakinig.

Sarah: Maraming-maraming salamat po Prof. Sison para sa isang malaman at ubod ng linaw na pagpapaliwanag. Ang mga nabanggit na mga ahensya at pinagkaisahang dokumento na tunog-teknikal sa una, ngayon ay may malinaw nang hugis kaugnay ng trahedya sa Masbate at gayon na rin sa kabuuang kondukta ng armadong tunggalian sa pagitan ng GRP at CPP-NPA.

Itanggi man ng gobyernong Duterte, maging ng mga anti-komunista at iba pang mga grupo na nananawagan ng maka-isang panig na resolusyon sa trahedyang ito, hindi na maikakaila ang bisa ng mga tratado o treaty at dokumentong sumasaklaw sa kondukta ng armadong tunggalian.

Walang silbing i-etsa pwera sa diskusyon ang dual state power sa bansa, o ang realidad na may dalawang gobyerno sa Pilipinas na sangkot sa isang armadong tunggalian. Hindi ito tungkol durugan o paggapi na solusyon ni Duterte. Walang kahihinatnan ang ganyang pusisyon dahil matagal nang nalikha ang mga opsiyal at lehitimong mekanismo para resolbahin ang mga usaping dulot ng tunggaliang ito. Ang mga mekanismong ito ay hindi pumapabor sa isang panig, kundi mga mekanismong nagbubukas upang talakayin, sawatahin, resolbahan ng dalawang panig ang mga umano’y abuso ng bawat panig, mga panukala ng bawat panig upang matugunan ang ugat ng armadong tunggalian. Sa puntong ito ng armadong tunggalian sa pagitan ng GRP at CPP-NPA walang ibang mekanismo ang maaaring makatugon dito kundi ang Usapang Pangkapayapaan o Peace Talks.

Hanggang sa muli, ito po si Sarah Raymundo, guro ng Unibersidad ng Pilipinas at aktibista ng Bagong Alyansang Makabayan. Ibayong pag-iingat at pakikibaka laban sa tiraniya.

-End-

Latest Lianga massacre was 25th under Duterte, Karapatan reports

The deaths of three Lumad-Manobo in Lianga, Surigao del Sur last Tuesday, June 15, is the 25th massacre of civilians in the Rodrigo Duterte government’s counter-insurgency campaign, a human rights group reported.

Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights said the Lianga Massacre on June 15 was the second since 2015 and “a testimony of the [Duterte] regime’s hideous legacy of killings” that continues up to its last year in power.

“We condemn in the strongest terms this latest massacre in Lianga and ask with much rage, ‘How many more will Duterte’s state forces kill and kill?’” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said.

Karapatan’s Caraga regional chapter said in an urgent alert last Wednesday that troops belonging to the 3rd Special Forces Battalion (SFB) of the Philippine Army fired upon a group of six farmers, killing three while the three others ran for safety.  

Killed were farmers Willy Rodriguez, Lenie Rivas and Angel Rivas in Sitio Panukmoan, Brgy. Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur.

All members of the Lumad-Manobo tribe, they were residents of Sitio Manluy-a, Brgy. Diatagon.

Angel Rivas, 12 years old, was a Grade 6 student of the Lumad school Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur (TRIFPSS) while her sister Lenie and cousin Willy Rodriguez were members of Lumad organization Malahutayong Pakigbisog alang sa Sumusunod (MAPASU).

The soldiers brought the lifeless bodies of the three to their brigade headquarters in St. Christine, Lianga and presented the victims as New People’s Army (NPA) members.

Spokespersons of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict were also quick to allege Angel was an NPA “child soldier” killed in a firefight with the government soldiers.

Relatives of the victims however belied the government’s claim and said the victims were simply on their way to Lianga town proper to buy rice after harvesting abaca hemp at their farm.

They even sought permission from a nearby military encampment to visit their abaca farm Tuesday morning, the relatives said.

The military troops of the 3rd SFB led by Captain Aranas and the 48th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army have been encamping in the community of Manluy-a for several months and had established a military detachment in a civilian community called Kilometer 18.

The relatives also bewailed the state of the cadavers when fetched from the funeral parlor, saying Angel’s face is unrecognizable from its numerous bullet wounds.

The cadavers were also haphazardly wrapped in plastic and packaging tape, they added.

“The perpetrators are mad killers, with clearly no respect to life and rights. They look at the Lumad people like hunted prey, lying to their teeth and falsely tagging the victims as members of the New People’s Army (NPA),” Palabay fumed.

June 15’s incident is the second massacre in Barangay Diatagon since Lumad-Manobo leaders Dionel Campos and Datu Juvello Sinzo of MAPASU and Emerito Samarca, executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (Alcadev), were killed by Magahat-Bagani paramilitary men on September 1, 2015.

The paramilitaries were then under the command of the 36th and 75th infantry battalions of the Philippine Army who were also nearby when the first massacre happened.

The earlier massacre set off evacuations from Lumad communities, with 3,000 individuals seeking refuge in Tandag City that lasted months.

No charges were filed against the perpetrators of the first Lianga Massacre, which coincidentally happened on the last year of the previous Benigno Aquino government.

‘Mass killing’

Karapatan said 121 civilians, mostly farmers and indigenous peoples, have been killed in 25 massacres in the five years of the Duterte government:

  1. Sumilao, Bukidnon;
  2. Palayan, Nueva Ecija;
  3. Masbate City, Masbate;
  4. Cawayan, Masbate;
  5. Mobo, Masbate;
  6. Mandaon, Masbate
  7. San Nicolas, Pangasinan;
  8. Silay, Negros Occidental
  9. Gubat, Sorsogon;
  10. Bulan towns, Sorsogon;
  11. Lake Sebu, South Cotabato;
  12. Polomolok, South Cotabato;
  13. Siaton, Negros Oriental;
  14. Bato, Camarines Sur;
  15. Ragay, Camarines Sur;
  16. Matalam, Cotabato;
  17. Antique;
  18. Patikul, Sulu;
  19. Baguio City;
  20. Polomok, South Cotabato;
  21. Kabacan, North Cotabato;
  22. Baras, Rizal;
  23. Capiz;
  24. Sta. Rosa, Laguna; and
  25. Lianga, Surigao del Sur.

“These killings should be met with all the strongest condemnation possible from different sectors. Justice for Angel Rivas, Willy Rodriguez, and Lenie Rivas!” Palabay said.

Meanwhile, indigenous peoples’ rights advocates held an indignation rally in front of the Commission on Human Rights in Quezon City on Thursday evening, June 17, to condemn the latest massacre.# (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Bicol NDF says Masbate ‘clash’ another police canard

The group said the three massacre victims were civilians and not communist guerrillas.

The National Democratic Front in the Bicol Region (NDF-Bikol) denied a clash happened between the New People’s Army (NPA) and government forces in Masbate last June 8 that the Philippine National Police (PNP) claimed resulted in the death of three communist guerrillas.

The three victims were civilians who were abducted and later killed by troops of the 2nd Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (PA) and the provincial police, NDF-Bikol spokesperson Ma. Roja Banua said in statements.

In a June 9 statement, Banua said the government troops indiscriminately fired their guns from four to eight o’clock Tuesday morning and abducted farmers Ramon ‘Boy’ Valenzuela Brioso of Sitio Mabuaya, Matiporon, Milagros; Antonio ‘Tony’ Polegrantes of Barangay Hermosa, Cawayan; and Ailyn ‘Eket’ Bulalacao Gracio of Sitio Bantolinao, Barangay Amutag, Aroroy.

Brioso, 58 years old, was chief cowboy of 7R Ranch while Polegrantes was barangay Hermosa chief tanod, Banua said in another statement today.

PNP-Bicol claimed the three were NPA guerrillas who were part of the group behind the bomb blast that killed footballer Keith Absalon and his cousin Nolven on June 6 in Masbate City.

Bicol regional police spokesperson Maj. Maria Luisa Calubaquib claimed a firefight happened between 30 suspected NPA fighters and a PNP-PA composite team in Barangay Anas, Masbate City at 5:30 a.m. last Tuesday.

The government troopers were reportedly serving an arrest warrant to murder suspect Arnold Rosero the police said may be the leader of the group who detonated the bomb that killed the Absalons.

The police added that the bodies of three dead were found at the clash site after the 15-minute firefight.

The PA for its part claimed guns, ammunition and bomb parts were found near the clash site.

Philippine Army 9th Infantry Division public affairs chief Capt. John Paul Belleza claimed government soldiers found 14 M16 rifles, an M653 rifle, an M14 rifle, bullets, tents and bomb parts in a nipa hut at the boundary of barangays Anas and Bolo.

Banua however denied a clash happened between the NPA’s Jose Rapsing Command and the government troops last Tuesday.

“The police must be drunk from gunpowder-induced illusions when it claimed they confiscated 17 firearms, command-detonated explosives and other war materiel from a made-up clash,” Banua said.

The NDF spokesperson also revealed that the Masbate Provincial Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (PTF-ELCAC) had already repeatedly announced Rosero killed in various clashes in the past years.

The latest claim by the local police was issued to please newly-appointed PNP chief Guillermo Eleazar, Banua said.

“In their haste to take advantage of the NPA’s humble admission of its mistake (in the Absalons’ deaths), they are telling a multitude of lies that are easily disproven. They will also personally benefit from the reward monies they are sure to claim from the national TF-ELCAC,” Banua added.

NDF-Bikol challenged investigating groups to look into how the government’s anti-communist task force is taking advantage of the Absalon family’s grief as well as the death of the three “farmer-civilians.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDFP: AFP blurs distinction between banned and allowable landmines

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) cautioned against claims the New People’s Army (NPA) uses landmines that are banned by the Ottawa Convention as claimed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

In a statement, the NDFP National Executive Committee belied claims by various military spokespersons that the NPA uses landmines that are banned by the 1997 Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines.

“There are the tendentious, misinformed and even maliciously distorted claims of the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) and other entities on the issue of the legitimacy and acceptability of the use of certain types of landmines in warfare in the context of the present armed conflict and in accordance with an accurate reading of international humanitarian law and instruments on the matter,” the NDFP said.

The group said the NPA only uses command-detonated landmines that require a person to be present, observing the landmine emplacement and manually detonating it, usually electrically, upon the approach of a moving target close to the emplacement.

Command-detonated landmines are different from the indiscriminate type of landmines that are triggered by weight, pressure, or tripping of a wire.

“It is the position of the NDFP that the use of land mines and IEDs (improvised explosive devices) – particularly and most especially those that are command-detonated anti-personnel and anti-vehicle types or contact-detonated anti-vehicle types—are legitimate tools of warfare, it said.

The AFP however only generically describes the explosion reported to have killed footballer Keith Absolon and cousin Nolven last June 6 in Masbate City as “anti-personnel mines.”

The military said the NPA is behind a total of 141 incidents of use, stockpiling, transport and production of anti-personnel mines or landmines which have so far caused 224 casualties since 2010.

In its definition of landmines, the Ottawa Convention said that anti-personnel mines are those designed to be exploded by the presence, proximity or contact of a person and that will incapacitate, injure or kill one or more persons.

“Mines designed to be detonated by the presence, proximity or contact of a vehicle as opposed to a person, that are equipped with anti-handling devices, are not considered anti-personnel mines as a result of being so equipped,” it added.

The NDFP said that the Ottawa Convention only bans the use of anti-personnel mines that are detonated by proximity to or contact of a person.

“It neither prohibits the use of command-detonated anti-personnel mines nor both target-detonated and command-detonated anti-tank/vehicle mines,” the NDFP said.

The NPA’s landmines are known to target military and police vehicles bearing government forces.

The NDFP bewailed that their enemies are using the deaths of the Absalons to blur distinctions between banned and allowable landmines.

“This present incident and many others in the past are unfortunately being manipulated to blur the distinction between the allowable command-detonated anti-personnel mines, target/contact-detonated as well as command-detonated anti-tank/vehicle mines, on the one hand, and the generally disfavored target/contact-detonated anti-personnel mines, on the other hand,” it said.

It earlier cautioned the public from immediate condemnation of the NPA pending the result of a thoroughgoing investigation the Communist Party of the Philippines promised to conduct on the incident.

“There should be no rush to judgment, presumption or insinuation to the effect that the entire revolutionary movement and entire revolutionary forces are guilty of a criminal offense, negligence or error for which certain individuals may be liable on the basis of a full and complete investigation,” it said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Activist groups challenge NPA to ensure justice for blast victims

They challenged the NPA conduct a thorough investigation and submit its report to the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) signed between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines.

Activist groups condemned the death of two civilians in a botched military operation by the New People’s Army (NPA) in Masbate last Sunday, June 6.

In a statement, progressive group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said the incident was a violation of the International Humanitarian Law that prohibits harm on unarmed civilians in the course of an armed conflict.

“These civilian deaths are condemnable. We extend our sincerest condolences to the families of the two victims,” Bayan said Wednesday.

Human rights group Karapatan likewise criticized the NPA unit responsible for the “deplorable and lamentable incident.”

“We take to task the CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines) and NPA for the woeful and tragic incident and expect them to make sure that it does not happen again. The parties to an armed conflict should always distinguish civilians from combatants and adhere to ‘the principles and rules which limit the use of violence in times of armed conflict,’” Karapatan said.

The group added it expects the group to live up to its promise to ensure prompt investigation and to indemnify the victims through their families.

The Makabayan Bloc of progressive parties at the House of Representatives who, like Bayan and Karapatan, are incessantly accused by government agencies to be “CPP front organizations” and “NPA recruiters and defenders” also condemned the incident.

“We condemn the military action by a unit of the NPA in Masbate City that caused their death and injuries to others for violating international humanitarian law,” Bayan Muna, Gabriela Women’s Party, ACT Teachers’ Party and the Kabataan Youth Party said.

“Mariing kinukundena ng Kabataan Partylist ang naturang aksyong militar ng NPA na humantong sa pagkamatay nina Kieth at Nolven Absalon sa Masbate. Ipinapabatid muli ng Kabataan ang taos-pusong pakikiramay sa kanilang pamilya,” the Kabataan Party in a separate statement said.

(Kabataan Party firmly condemns the NPA military action that led to the deaths of Keith and Nolven Absalon in Masbate. Kabataan sends its heartfelt condolences to their families.)

‘Rules of war violation’

Cousins Keith (21) and Nolven (40) Absalon were killed by a roadside explosion reportedly set off by a NPA unit in the area last June 6 at past six o’clock in the morning while the victims.

Nolven’s son Crisbin Daniel (16) was likewise injured.

Keith was a college football star who played with the Far Eastern University junior and senior football teams, earning most valuable player honors in high school. He was also a member of the under-19 Philippine national team.

Nolven was a chairperson of the Board of Directors of the Masbate Electric Cooperative Employees Union.

As per its practice after each military action, the NPA admitted responsibility for the incident last Tuesday.

The death of two civilians and injury of another however prompted the CPP to speak for the guerilla army it leads.

 “The entire (CPP) and (NPA) express their deep remorse over the untimely and unnecessary deaths of cousins Keith and Nolven Absalon and injury to others,” CPP information officer Marco Valbuena said.

“The entire CPP and NPA take full responsibility for the tragedy. There is no justification for the aggravation this has caused the Absalon family,” Valbuena added.

In another statement issued June 9, Valbuena said the takes cognizance of the grave sentiments and denouncement expressed by concerned quarters.

Valbuena admitted that the botched military operation appears to have violated rules of war as well as the NPA’s own policies.

“Indeed, the unfortunate incident involves a breach of international laws of war and of the internal rules of the NPA which gives the highest priority to the protection of civilians at all times,” Valbuena said.

He explained that the NPA unit and personnel responsible are under the authority of the NPA and the so-called People’s Democratic Government it has established in areas under its control.

Valbuena said that the incident is currently being “fully assessed, with the aim of avoiding such errors in the future.”

In line with the NPA’s rules, Valbuena said those found responsible can be meted out “disciplinary action or punishment” corresponding to their individual responsibilities and conduct during the incident.

‘Proper mechanism’

Bayan and Kabataan however said that while the CPP have promptly owned up to the tragedy and promised indemnification, they challenged the NPA conduct a thorough investigation and submit its report to the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines-Government of the Republic of the Philippines Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).

“There should be accountability in accordance with the mechanisms agreed upon by both parties to the armed conflict…The JMC should be convened as a mechanism for the aggrieved parties who wish to file a complaint against erring armed units,” Bayan said.

Makabayan has urged the Absalon family to file a complaint against those responsible to the JMC.

“Marapat lamang na paganahin ang malinaw na patakaran, tulad ng (JMC) ng CARHRIHL bilang awtoridad sa ganitong mga kaso, para matiyak ang hustisya at pananagutan,” Kabataan for its part said.

(The JMC must be activated as the proper mechanism in addressing such cases. This is to ensure justice and accountability.)

Valbuena said their groups agree to the recommendations.

“Under the CARHRIHL, we are obliged to cooperate with the NDFP Section of the (JMC) if a complaint is filed before it,” he said.

He added that the CPP and the NPA shall likewise consult pertinent provisions of the Geneva Conventions as guides to determining the proper resolutions. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)