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Anti-dam activist’s abductors wanted him to turn gov’t spy

Tauli’s colleagues said kidnappers were state security forces

The abductors of anti-dam campaigner Stephen “Steve” Tauli wanted him to turn government spy and tried to force him to confirm fellow activists’ alleged links with underground revolutionary groups.

The Cordillera Peoples’ Alliance (CPA) and the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) on Monday, August 29, said the Kankanaey Igorot activist was also forced to sign a sworn statement admitting he was a leader of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA).

“The whole time, Steve was blindfolded and handcuffed, while being threatened that they could kill him anytime if he would not cooperate,” the groups said.

Tauli, CPA regional council member, was assaulted and abducted by five men at a store near the CPA office in Barangay Appas in Tabuk City, Kalinga province at around 6:45 in the evening.

“As he was leaving, five men suddenly grabbed him, blindfolded and handcuffed him, then mauled him and forced him into a black van while he was desperately struggling and screaming for help,” the groups’ joint statement said.

–cORDILLERA PEOPLES’ ALLIANCE AND CORDILLERA HUMAN RIGHTS ALLIANCE

While inside a black van he was forced into, Tauli was blindfolded, handcuffed and mauled while he desperately struggled and screamed for help, the two organizations reported.

The victim immediately and repeatedly demanded for his captors to identify themselves and their units as well as to bring to either a police station or a military camp, instead of an unknown location. Tauli also told his abductors to file charges against him in court if they thought he had committed a crime, the CPA and the CHRA narrated.

“Here, the men started to lecture Steve about the NTF-ELCAC (National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, the government anti-insurgency program) and its objective of stopping the insurgency problem in the country. They interrogated him about his work and some people he allegedly has links with,” their statement said.

‘Under duress’

After an hour of interrogation, the van drove for another two hours, stopping on what Tauli reportedly thought was a secluded area and where the interrogation continued for several more hours.

“They said that he could help them by neutralizing certain persons they identified as leaders of the CPP-NPA in the Cordillera region,” the groups’ statement said.

–cORDILLERA PEOPLES’ ALLIANCE AND CORDILLERA HUMAN RIGHTS ALLIANCE

The CPA and CHRA said Tauli feared for his life, knowing what had happened to his friend and fellow activist James Balao who was abducted in Baguio City in 2008 and was never surfaced.

After repeated threats to his life and thoughts of distress to his family for suddenly going missing, Tauli agreed to sign a prepared sworn statement. His kidnappers then removed his blindfold to sign the document and read it while being recorded on video.

 “They then threatened him not to report what had happened and to comply with what he had signed, otherwise they would harm him, his family, and his colleagues,” the CPA and CHRA narrated.

Tauli reportedly told the groups his wearing masks the entire time.

Tauli was released by his kidnappers the next evening, August 21, near where he was abducted and was made to walk to the CPA-Kalinga office. His colleagues, who were about to continue to search for him that night, found the victim dazed and in shock, the organizations said.

Red-tagged anti-dam activist

The groups said that Tauli, like fellow CPA leaders and members, were subject to red-tagging, surveillance and harassment before the incident.

Tauli’s abduction came at a time while CPA-Kalinga launched a campaign against the Saltan Dam and right after his group filed a petition for a Writ of Amparo at the Court of Appeals because of the continuing red-tagging and attacks against human rights defenders.

Saltan River as seen from below a Balbalan, Kalinga Bridge. (R. Villanueva)

Saltan River in upper Kalinga province is considered one of the country’s cleanest inland waterway. It is a major tributary of the Chico River system and passes through the famed Balbalasang Balbalan National Park, “the green heart of the Cordillera.”

The Saltan D River Hydroelectric Power Project is listed to be on its pre-development stage and awarded by the government to a company called the JBD Management and Consulting Services, Inc.

“We are of the firm belief that the swift response of family, colleagues and the wider community to immediately search for him, government officials who stood by their mandate to protect their constituents, and the public outcry forced his abductors to release Steve Tauli,” the CPA and CHRA said.

“His was a near-death experience in the hands of his abductors who clearly were part of the State security forces,” they added.

The groups said Tauli and his family are still reeling from the deep trauma caused by his abduction and threats to his life are still continuing. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

KWF bans publication-distribution of 5 new books

Commission succumbed to red-tagging?

The Komisyon ng Wikang Filipino (KWF) stopped the publication and distribution of five books by well-known writers and academicians, including a book on National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera.

In a memoramdum dated Thursday, August 9, KWF Commissioner for Programs and Projects Carmelita Abdurahman and Commissioner for Operations and Finance Benjamin Mendillo said the following books contain subversive and anti-government themes:

  1. Teatro Politikal Dos by Malou Jacob;
  2. Kalatas: Mga Kwentong Bayan at Kwentong Buhay by Rommel B. Rodriguez;
  3. Tawid-diwa sa Pananagisag ni Bienvenido Lumbera: Ang Bayan, ang Manunulat, at ang Magasing Sagisag sa Imahinatibong Yugto ng Batas Militar 1975-1979 by Dexter B. Cayanes;
  4. May Hadlang ang Umaga by Don Pagusara; and
  5. Labas: Mga Palabas sa Labas ng Sentro by Reuel M. Aguila.

The KWF also ordered its officer-in-charge director general to explain to mass media entities, libraries and schools given copies of said books that the commission wishes not to be charged under the Anti-Terrorism Law – Republic Act 11479 – particularly its Section 9 on inciting to commit terrorism.

‘Are they literary critics now?’

Kalatas author and University of the Philippines faculty member Rodriguez denounced the withdrawal of his book’s publication by the KWF and called on fellow writers and artists to defend the arts.

The Komisyon ng Wikang Filipino memorandum banning the publication and distribution of the five new books. (Supplied images)

The academic blamed former communications undersecretary Lorraine Badoy and fellow Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI) presenters Jeffry Celis and a certain Frank he said are connected with the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) for KWF’s decision.

“Let us not allow this cabal to dictate on how we create art! They have no place in free speech! They have no right to prevent our right to create free art!” Rodriguez wrote.

The trio had alleged on their SMNI program “Laban Kasama ang Bayan” last August 9 that the books were instigated by the Communist Party of the Philippines which the KWF, an attached agency of the Office of the President, inadvertently allowed print.

The University of the Philippines Department of Filipino and Philippine Literature also condemned Badoy for red-tagging two of its faculty members who are “highly-regarded writers.”

The Department said that SMNI and the NTF-ELCAC had no right censuring the new books whatever are their themes, coming as it did this month, the country’s Buwan ng Wika – Month of Language. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

The UP Departamento ng Filipino at Panitikang Pilipino statement. (Supplied image)

Bayan Muna: ‘We are victims of massive electronic vote shaving’

International mission says elections neither free nor fair

Bayan Muna said “massive electronic vote shaving” was the main reason why it lost in the May 9, 2022 national elections, accounting for as much as 80% drop in the number of votes compared to 2019.

A winner in the last seven elections, even the topnotcher when it first ran in 2001, the party said its drop of votes from 1.117 million to just around 219,000 is “simply unbelievable and unacceptable.”

The last time Bayan Muna votes registered such a significant decrease was in the 2016 elections. From more than 946,000 in 2013, its counted votes was only 606,000 in 2016–good for a seat in Congress.

“Even at the height of red tagging, black propaganda, harassment and dirty operation against the progressive partylists by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) and the Duterte regime in 2019, Bayan Muna still managed to double its votes from 606,000 to 1.117 M,” it pointed out.

Bayan Muna said it seems they was targeted since the 2019 elections by the NTF-ELCAC and the Duterte administration to “unjustly stifle the effective and progressive voice of the marginalized sectors in Congress.”

The group said it will continue to protest what it believes was a “massive fraud and terrorism” in the 2022 elections as well as continue to investigate and uncover various fraud including massive electronic cheating.

Bayan Muna mentioned massive media ads and vote buying by dynastic and rich party list candidates as other forms of cheating in the last elections.

Massive vote buying

Meanwhile, an international observers’ mission (IOM) reported that the last elections were neither free nor fair and “marred by a higher level of failure of the electronic voting system.”

Members of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) said it began its monitoring of the elections in February and its members have been in Central Luzon, the National Capital Region, Southern Luzon, Central Visayas, Western Visayas and Mindanao since the first week of April to see firsthand how the campaign and elections were held.

In its report presented last Thursday, the IOM said it also witnessed rampant vote-buying, disturbing levels of state and military orchestrated red-tagging of candidates and parties, including numerous incidents of deadly violence.

It noted that main opposition candidate Leni Robredo was strenuously  red-tagged while another presidential candidate, labor leader Leody De Guzman, was the victim of a strafing attack in Mindanao.

“Many campaign activists were arrested on false charges. Large numbers of voters were unable to cast their ballots.  Vote-buying was widespread. Many found their names were no longer on the voter roll, and many had to trust that election officials would later put their marked ballot paper through a Vote Counting Machine (VCM) because of the breakdown of the voting machines,” the group reported.

The IOM also reported election-related violations of human rights from March 15, noting the first political killings related to the elections took place in Sorsogon, Bicol Region, on January 15.

“The elections took place in the most repressive atmosphere seen since the time of dictator Ferdinand Marcos. The Duterte government has orchestrated state terror, marshalling the entire machinery of the state, including the judiciary, the military and police, the departments of education, social welfare and local government, in a war on dissent which continued through the entirety of the election campaign,” it said.

”The election is both a tragedy and farce of epic Shakespearean proportions, a farce in that the electoral charade was based on a sea of disinformation, disenfranchisement and intimidation of large swathes of the voting public,” the IOM added. # (Raymund B Villanueva)

Mothers of disappeared students protest Badoy-Palparan interview as ‘cheap and desperate work of thieves’

“A travesty of justice,” mothers of disappeared University of the Philippines (UP) students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan called yesterday’s interview by National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) spokesperson Lorraine Badoy of convicted kidnapper Jovito Palparan.

Reacting to an online interview last Wednesday of the retired general found guilty of kidnapping the students, the mothers said the caper was “a cheap, desperate attempt to vindicate criminals and rights violators.”

“It is nauseating, to say the least, to see Palparan and this Badoy trying so hard to salvage the face of the butcher for two hours, when Palparan is now a convicted criminal. The courts have convicted him, with overwhelming evidence and witness testimonies, for taking away our daughters. What a travesty of justice!” Concepcion Empeño, mother of Karen, said.

During the interview, aired over SMNI Network owned by controversial Rodrigo Duterte ally Apollo Quiboloy, himself charged in the United States of America for sex trafficking of minors and cash smuggling, Badoy said the show was done to “vindicate” Palparan.

Empeño also questioned why the interview was allowed in the first place by the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) authorities.

“They gave the convicted Palparan all the freedom to speak to the public. How about our daughters, did he give them a chance to speak and defend themselves? No! They remain missing to this day, for 15 years, while Palparan is alive and well,” Empeño exclaimed.

Erlinda Cadapan, Sherlyn’s mother, for her part said the interview is a cheap, desperate work of thieves such as Palparan and Badoy.

“They stole our daughters, and those who continue to employ abduction and enforced disappearances should be held accountable for the rest of their lives, like what they did to us, as we remain searching for our missing loved ones,” Cadapan said.

Cadapan said they are calling for NTF-ELCAC’s abolition as it perpetuates government’s systematic red-tagging of activists and persons resulting in real life harm on them.

“We call on whoever will be elected president to abolish the NTF-ELCAC, to help the victims of killings, enforced disappearances and other rights violations, and to see to it that the likes of Palparan, Badoy, red-taggers, human rights violators and ‘butchers’ will see their day in court,” Cadapan said.

Meanwhile, secretary Menardo Guevarra said the Department of Justice did not know of any request submitted by Badoy to be allowed to interview Palparan.

Guevarra added he is not aware of permission granted by the Malolos City Court for the interview either.

“Undersecretary Deo Marco will conduct an investigation tomorrow. Let’s wait,” Guevarra said on Thursday night.

Marco is the supervising undersecretary for the Bureau of Corrections that oversees the NBP. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Rights group hails Doc Naty’s release

Court said her arrest was ‘offensive’ and ‘repugnant’ to due process

Human rights group Karapatan welcomed the release of Dr. Natividad “Naty” Castro after an Agusan del Sur Regional Trial Court (RTC) junked the kidnapping charge against the red-tagged community doctor.

The doctor’s family announced she walked out of detention on Wednesday and has reunited with her siblings.

“We in Karapatan welcome the release of Dr. Natividad Castro based on the court’s decision on her motion to dismiss,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said in a statement.

Castro was arrested at their home in San Juan City last February 18 in a commando-style raid by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group of the Philippine National Police.

Karapatan said Castro was denied due process and her arrest and imprisonment were arbitrary.

Branch 7 of the Bayugan City RTC in a March 25 resolution said it found no probable cause against Castro and ordered her release from the Agusan del Sur provincial jail.

“Without probable cause, the court did not acquire jurisdiction over the accused, which warrants the dismissal of this case,” Presiding Judge Fernando Fudalan Jr. said.

Judge Fudalan ruled that Castro was not properly identified in the warrant the police presented to her family during the raid, which only listed a certain “Dra. Maria Natividad.”

 “A preliminary investigation without a subpoena being issued to the respondent is offensive to due process. Either intentional or a product of omission, the same produces a serious effect repugnant to respondent’s right to liberty,” Judge Fudalan said.

Karapatan said the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict’s (NTF-ELCAC) “malicious and baseless statements” against the red-tagged community doctor are all lies.

“We extend our hugs of solidarity to Doc Naty and her family, as we enjoin her to continue doing her work as a community health and human rights worker and to exact justice and accountability from those who violated her rights,” Karapatan said.

Castro’s arrest drew widespread condemnation from the medical community that demanded her immediate release.

Castro spent 40 days in jail. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

JOINT STATEMENT: Stop the cyber attacks!

AlterMidya

Over the past few months, several news sites have been subjected to cyber attacks.

According to a February 7 article in the Manila Bulletin, the websites of CNN Philippines, Rappler and Philstar.com have been attacked, purportedly by a group calling itself Pinoy Vendetta, a group that the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict has praised and has encouraged to take down more websites.

The websites of Altermidya and Bulatlat have also been targeted for three consecutive days.

In the same week, the websites of Inquirer.net and of One News have also briefly gone offline. Inquirer has yet to confirm that it was attacked but One News reports that some of its content is no longer available.

Last year, forensic investigation by Sweden-based Qurium Media Foundation shows that the distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks on alternative media websites have been linked to the Philippine Army, using the infrastructure of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

No less than the Department of Information and Communication Technology (DICT) confirmed that the IP address used for the unauthorized vulnerability scan was assigned to the Philippine Army.

While the recent cases of DDoS against a number of corporate media outfits have not been investigated yet, the timing and frequency raise our suspicion that the cyber attacks are orchestrated, systematic, and politically motivated.

What is clear by now is that the ones behind these are so afraid of the truth that they try to put down the websites of news organizations.

Cyber censorship has no place in a democracy. It is deplorable that a publicly funded task force supports and promotes cyber attacks on news sites.

We call on the DICT and the National Bureau of Investigation Cybercrime Division to look into these incidents, stop the cyber attacks, identify and hold the perpetrators accountable.

We want to continue doing our duty to inform the citizenry; knowing that by doing so we aid them in their decision-making.

SIGNATORIES:

NUJP

NUJP Philstar chapter

NUJP NCR

Altermidya

Bulatlat

Kodao

Rappler

Joma: ‘I am alive and healthy’

National Democratic Front of the Philippines chief political consultant denied rumors of his death, saying he is healthy despite suffering from arthritis.

Replying to social media posts about his alleged death, Sison on Tuesday said, “I am still alive. And I am celebrating my birthday today.”

The Communist Party of the Philippines founder turned 83 on Tuesday, February 8.

Sison said those spreading the rumors that he is dead are liars.

Presidential communications undersecretary and National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) spokesperson Lorraine Badoy was among those who said Sison has died in a public Facebook post.

Badoy celebrated Sison’s supposed death, revealing it is a NTF-ELCAC wish for such to happen during the Rodrigo Duterte presidency.

Biro n’yo, na-deds si Joma bago matapos ang termino ni PRRD. Eh si PRRD kaya ang chair ng NTF ELCAC. Ang laki naming kunsumisyon kay Joma,” Badoy wrote.

(Isn’t that something, Joma has died before PRRD’s [President Rodrigo Roa Duterte] term ends. Joma had been a big thorn on our side.)

Badoy added they have a strategy to cause Joma’s death.

Strategy namin para ikamatay nya. LOL [laugh out loud]!” she said, without giving details.

Sison said in his statement however he remains healthy and is in fact preparing to deliver online lectures on fascism before and after World War II and the May 2022 elections in the Philippines.

He added that he is also set to introduce a film by Spanish filmmaker Paloma Polo’s El Barro de la Revolucion about the people’s war in the Philippines.

“I have no life-threatening illness, only some inflammations on the legs due to rheumatoid arthritis the other day and yesterday. These go away in only 2 to 4 days after medication,” Sison said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDFP: Esperon, Parlade in Europe to set up death squads

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) expressed fears high ranking Rodrigo Duterte government officials are in Europe to hatch terrorist plots and set up assassination groups against Filipino activist groups.

In a statement, the NDFP Information Office in Utrecht, The Netherlands said National Security Council chairperson Hermogenes Esperon and his newly-appointed vice-chairperson Antonio Parlade Jr. in Milan, conducting meetings with former government soldiers and police officers who have resided in Italy.

“This is not the first time that Parlade came to Europe to undertake terrorist activities against progressive forces based in Europe. Last year, the Duterte regime through its NTF-ELCAC (National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict) traveled to several countries in Europe purportedly to set-up cells of the NTF-ELCAC,” the NDFP said.

The NDFP said these cells are aimed at undertaking surveillance and red-tagging activities against progressive compatriot organizations, foreign solidarity friends and entities, anti-Duterte individuals and personalities, especially open leaders of the NDFP and its peace panel.

Those who will be subjected to surveillance are possibly targets for assassination, the group added.

NDFP-supplied photo of newly-appointed National Security Council vice chairperson Antonio Parlade partying with OFWs in Milan, Italy. A check on the Facebook accounts of the persons identified in the screenshot did not show the photos or may have been already deleted.

Independent sources confirmed the two officials were in Milan and have partied with known Rodrigo Duterte supporters among Filipino migrant workers in the Northern Italian city where tens of thousands of Filipinos reside.

Parlade and Esperon’s trip was unannounced in the Philippines. The government’s top security officials have yet to respond to the NDFP’s allegations

Not the first time

The NDFP recalled at least two earlier circumstances when such plots were hatched and launched by the Philippine government against Europe-based revolutionaries and activists.

“Years ago, according to NDFP sources, the NDFP leaders based in Europe got hold of information that an assassination team has been formed in Milan and was ready to travel to the Netherlands to assassinate NDFP leaders,” the group said.

During the Joseph Estrada regime, a member of an assassination team the regime organized and sent to kill NDFP chief political consultant Prof. Jose Ma. Sison, came forward to expose the plan after it failed, and after the Dutch police confirmed the plan’s existence, it added.

The NDFP also alleged a similar plan to assassinate Prof. Sison came to the attention of the NDFP leaders last year and was similarly confirmed by the Dutch police.

The Dutch police Sison to take precautions, it said.

Compatriots, the NDFP member organization for migrant Filipinos, said the Philippine government’s newest attempts to set up death squads in Europe are likely to fail.

“Like earlier attempts of Parlade and Esperon to recruit OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) to the NTF-ELCAC and possibly set-up a death squad or assassination team in Europe, their terrorist and fascist plan is sure to fail and will be foiled by freedom and democracy-loving overseas Filipinos and European friends,” Compatriots said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Groups slam school’s decision to turn over peace books to military

Groups slammed the reported decision of a state university to turn over copies of Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace negotiation books to the military and the police.

Pilgrims for Peace, ACT for Peace and the Student Christian Movement of the Philippines (SCMP) said the decision by the Kalinga State University (KSU) was a move for the mis-education of students about the peace negotiations between the parties.

In a statement last Saturday, September 11, Pilgrims for Peace said it is deeply concerned about the decision of the KSU Board of Regents (BoR) to withdraw from its Bulanao Campus Library 11 books on the peace negotiations between the Manila government and the NDFP.

The books include the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHIHL) English-Filipino; CARHIHL English-Hiligaynon; CARHIHL English-Visaya; GRP-NDFP Declaration of Understanding; NDFP Declaration and Program of Action for the Rights, Protection, and Welfare of Children; and The GRP NDFP Peace Negotiations: Major Arguments and Joint Statements-September 1, 1980-June 2018.

Also included were The GRP-NDFP Peace Negotiations Major Written Agreements and Outstanding Issues; NDF Adherence to International Humanitarian Law; Letters to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the UN Secretary-General; NDFP Adherence to International Humanitarian Law: On Prisoners of War (POWs); two articles on The People’s Struggles for Just Peace; and The NDFP Reciprocal Worrying Committee (RWC) Respective on Social and Economic Reforms.

The books were published by the NDFP Nominated Section of the Joint Secretariat of the CARHRIHL Joint Monitoring Committee based at the Diocese of Cubao in Quezon City.

“[T]he university administration has practically surrendered its academic freedom to the state security agencies that have constantly undermined our people’s quest for a just and lasting peace,” the group said.

Pilgrims for Peace added KSU’s “dismaying” decision was blind allegiance to the “myopic anti-insurgency campaign” of the Rodrigo Duterte administration.

“As a result, these university officials are now [instruments] in the state’s efforts to vilify not only the NDFP but also those who fight for academic freedom, human rights, and just peace,” the group’s statement said, also signed by ACT for Peace and the SCMP.

The groups added that the school has become complicit in the vicious red-tagging campaigns against by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict that has led to extra-judicial killings, unjust searches and illegal arrests, and a host of other human rights violations.

The Manila Times reported last September 9 that the KSU-BoR has decided to withdraw the books from one of its libraries to “protect students from embracing ‘NDFP ideology.’

The report said the military has lauded the decision.

The peace advocates however urged university officials to rethink their decision and study the books.

The groups noted that CARHRIHL has been hailed by the European Parliament as a “landmark” agreement and an outstanding achievement of the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations, along with the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees.

“These materials are readily available online, with different sites hosting them, including the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the United Nations Peacemaker website,” they added.

“We encourage them to study the peace negotiations between the GRP and the NDFP. Furthermore, study the roots of poverty and political unrest in the country,” the groups said.

Higher Education commissioner and KSU-BoR chairperson Lilian de las Llagas has yet to respond to Kodao’s request for comment.

Commission on Higher Education chairperson Prospero de Vera was involved as GRP Negotiating Panel adviser immediately prior to his appointment to his current position. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

KMP: Gov’t anti-insurgency drive targets farmers, people’s organizations

The Rodrigo Duterte government targets and forces farmers to pose as surrenderers and be counted as trophies in its anti-insurgency campaign, an investigation by a farmers’ group revealed.

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said a nationwide profiling campaign is ongoing against farmers, many of whom are later listed and presented as surrendered New People’s Army (NPA) members or supporters by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). 

The KMP said the attacks on the peasant sector was affirmed by its series of online fact-finding activities with campaign group Tanggol Magsasaka on farmers, leaders, and other residents in 11 provinces nationwide from July to August.

More than 70 victims gave their testimonies and affidavits on over a hundred cases of human rights abuses perpetrated by state forces, KMP said.

The groups’ first ever online fact-finding activity was aimed to “expose the Duterte regime’s dirty and brutal war targeting farmers, to silence their collective struggle for land, economic reforms, and social justice. “

The fact-finding mission was held just as President Duterte bragged in his last State of the Nation Address last July 26 that about 17,000 NPA members have already surrendered to government forces.

“More than 17,000 former communist rebels have surrendered to the government. They have returned to the fold of the law and are happily reintegrating to the community,” Duterte said.

The President added his administration’s projects such as farm-to-market roads, livelihood, education and sanitation were able to destroy 15 NPA fronts, which he did not identify.

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) however laughed at the President’s claim, pointing out past military claims the NPA has no more than 4,000 fighters left.

“”Fifteen guerrilla fronts dismantled? Dream on, Duterte. Si Gen. Hermogenes Esperon ng NTF-ELCAC nagsabi, mahigit daw 4,000 noong June ang NPA mula 3,700 noong December,” CPP information officer Marco Valbuena said.

Civilians

The KMP said many of those claimed by NTF-ELCAC’s to be surrenderers were civilians, including farmers, farm workers, peasant leaders, rural women and youth, and fisher folk.

“[T]he majority of these so-called surrenderers are civilians — ordinary farmers who were either coerced, forced, or duped into ‘surrendering’ to the government,” the KMP said.

The group said that based on initial findings of its online investigation, red-tagging, threat, harassment, and intimidation are the most common forms of abuse by state forces.

Other instances of abuses include:

* Home and farm “intimidation visits” by police, military, and intelligence agents;

* “Forced presentation” of peasant leaders, farmers, and civilians to village authorities and Philippine Army camps to have their names “cleared”; and

* Forced attendance in village meetings organized by the military to be “lectured” on counterinsurgency. 

KMP said that individuals targeted for forced surrender were intimidated to sign document denouncing local organization and the CPP-NPA-NDFP alleged as “Communist Terrorist Groups.”  

The group’s accusations mirror the December 2019 Philippine Army admission it manipulated a photo to show a group of so-called NPA surrenderers in Masbate province.

The Philippine Army photo it released to the media that it also later admitted was manipulated.

Automatic NPA supporters

The KMP revealed government forces automatically accuse local peasant organizations and associations supporters of the NPA or have links and relations to the CPP, NPA and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). 

“Farmers and rural populations in localities are often red-tagged as members of the so-called Milisyang Bayan and Sangay ng Partido sa Lokalidad. Legitimate peasant organizations engaged in farm campaigns, campaigns for land reform, against land-grabbing, against high land rent, and other forms of feudal exploitation are always and automatically red-tagged and vilified by state forces,” KMP said.

The group added its affiliates as well as those of other peasant organizations have been red-tagged, including Danggayan, Dagami, Kaguimungan, UMA-Isabela, AMIHAN-Ambi, PIGLAS and CLAIM in Quezon, AMB in Bulacan, KMB, BCPAI, and LAMBAT in Bicol, and local organizations of farmers in Cavite, Camarines Sur, Albay, Iloilo, and Capiz. 

“In the course of the comprehensive and sustained forced surrender campaigns, state forces, and authorities use varied forms ranging from persuasion, deception, fraud, subterfuge, suppression, coercion, and outright use of force and violence,” the KMP said.

It added the government’s counter-insurgency campaign takes full advantage to enforce more restrictions in peasant communities, making peasant communities and villages virtual military garrisons. 

The group said its fact-finding mission will continue in the coming weeks to further probe the situation in other regions and provinces. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)