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Pandemic preventing GRP-NDFP back-channel talks

The spike in new Coronavirus-19 (Covid-19) cases in Europe late last year frustrated plans for back-channel talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison said a planned trip by GRP emissaries to The Netherlands last December did not push through as many countries in Europe implemented extended lockdowns.

“What (labor secretary) Bebot [Silvestre Bello] said that he and (former Pangasinan Representative and GRP Negotiating Panel member) Nani (Hernani Braganza) planned to come over was true,” Sison said.

Sison confirmed that the planned back-channel talks are with the permission of GRP President Rodrigo Duterte and with the mediation of Royal Norwegian Government Special Envoy to the Philippine Peace Process Idun Tvedt.

During the online Ninth Ecumenical Church Leaders’ Summit on Peace on Thursday Bello revealed that back-channel talks are ongoing between the parties.

Bello said that Duterte is again “very much inclined” to revive the negotiations he scuttled in June 2017.

The former GRP chief negotiator said he is confident formal negotiations can resume within Duterte’s last 16 months in office.

Interim NDFP chief negotiator Juliet de Lima for her part told the online forum that the planned back-channel talks would resume discussions on an interim peace agreement (IPA) that includes agreements on social and economic reforms.

IPA discussions shall also include possible coordinated unilateral ceasefire declarations as well as modes for their implementation, de Lima said.

From lows of 108,000 new daily cases last July, new Covid-19 cases spiked in Europe from November last year to January this year, peaking at upwards of two million new cases daily in mid-November.

European countries have since re-imposed strict lock downs and health protocols.

Sison said no new date has yet been set for Bello and Braganza’s possible trip.

Braganza also told Kodao that until vaccinated, it would be difficult for him and Bello to plan the trip.

Mahirap umalis na walang vaccination. Iba-iba rin ang rules hinggil sa quarantine,” he said. (It is ill-advised without being vaccinated. Rules regarding quarantines are also different.) # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Gov’t ignores appeal for Ladlad’s hospitalization; Alcantara’s son arrested to force father to surrender

The wife of jailed National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Vicente Ladlad appealed to authorities to bring him to the hospital due to “repeated chest tightness.”

Fides Lim, Kapatid spokesperson said Ladlad had been suffering the recurring condition since the morning of Wednesday, December 30, even as he underwent a medical check-up at the Makati Medical Center (MMC) last Monday, December 28.

“I am appealing to Manila RTC (Regional Trial Court) Branch 32 Judge Thelma Bunyi Medina for prompt action now on our motion to bring my husband, political prisoner Vicente Ladlad, to MMC for immediate treatment for repeated chest tightness since 11 AM today,” Lim said on a Facebook post yesterday.

Lim reported that Ladlad’s doctors said the elderly peace consultant may be suffering from “unstable angina” and needs to be hospitalized before a heart attack or stroke occurs.

Ladlad had been a chronic asthmatic since childhood that has degenerated into emphysema in his later years.

Lim said human rights lawyers handling Ladlad’s current illegal possession of firearms case already included a motion for hospitalization but which the court ignored.

“Please. To the government prosecutors in particular. Act on our appeal now and allow Vic to be brought to the MMC hospital before his condition gets worse,” Lim implored.

Pinapayagan niyo yang mga corrupt na politiko, bakit political prisoners tulad ni Vic di pwede? Gawa-gawa lang ang kaso niya!” she added.

(You allow corrupt politicians [to be hospitalized], why not political prisoners like Vic? The charges against him are trumped-up!)

Ladlad was re-arrested midnight of November 8, 2018, a year after the Rodrigo Duterte government walked away from its peace negotiations with the NDFP.

The NDFP maintains its peace consultants should be immune from arrest and persecution as the NDFP-Government of the Republic of the Philippines’ Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees remains in effect even in the absence of formal negotiations between the parties.

Phillip Alcantara (Image by Karapatan-Central Luzon)

Tirso Alcantara’s son arrested

Meanwhile, the son of another NDFP peace consultant was arrested by Malolos police in Guiguinto, Bulacan province Wednesday morning, December 30.

Philip Alcantara, son of Tirso “Ka Bart” Alcantara, was driving his van at around 8:30 AM when three men in civilian clothes flagged him down along a national road in Guiguinto town.

The men then introduced themselves as Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) operatives and told Philip he was being arrested for charges of multiple murder.

According to human rights group Karapatan-Central Luzon, the police officers forcibly boarded Philip’s van and placed a bag beside him containing a gun, grenade, and a PhilHealth ID.

He was brought to the CIDG headquarters in Malolos.

Karapatan-CL said Philip was only shown a photocopy of the first page of the warrant issued by a a court in faraway Infanta, Quezon.

The police said Philip is the “Ka Joshua” named in the warrant.

The human rights group however said Philip is a glass and aluminum works entrepreneur and not a combatant.

Karapatan-CL said Philip was arrested to force his father to surrender to the military.

The elder Alcantara had gone into hiding after his fellow peace consultants had either been assassinated by suspected government agents or were arrested on similar charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

Karapatan-CL noted that Philip’s sister was imprisoned for eight years over trumped-up charges while Ka Bart’s two brothers were killed by state security forces. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDFP reveals CPP-NPA urged to form partisan teams ‘to fight gov’t abuses’

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) revealed that the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (CPP) are being urged to create armed urban partisan teams in response to widespread abuses by State security forces.

The NDFP International Information office said that in an online forum on the 52nd anniversary  of the Communist Party in the Philippines (CPP) in Europe last December 26, participants renewed calls for “punitive justice” by NPA partisans against abusive policemen and government soldiers.

Attended by civilians as well as local and foreign supporters of the underground Communist movement, the forum featured calls to fight “fascist attacks” against unarmed activists and civilians in urban areas by suspected State-sponsored death squads.

The calls came hours before mother and son Sonya and Frank Anthony Gregorio were buried at Paniqui, Tarlac after their cold-blooded murder by Police Senior Staff Sergeant Jonel Nuezca that was caught on camera.

The twin murders reignited complaints of massive human rights violations committed by government security forces that groups say have been consistently encouraged by President Rodrigo Duterte.

‘Up to the CPP’

Forum panelist and NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison acknowledged that calls to create NPA partisan units are widespread and that conditions are ripe for the return of armed partisans to counter the assassinations and impunity by the Manila government.

The CPP founder said he based his observation on the 52nd anniversary statement of the CPP and reports published in the Party’s website.

Sison said there are enough bases for small teams “to conduct armed partisan operations in the cities to mete out revolutionary justice against Duterte’s terrorist forces based in the urban areas.”

He, however, emphasized that the matter is up to the CPP leadership to undertake. “Experience will be the best teacher on how to do it,” he said.

Sison also stressed there is no need for the underground revolutionary movement to shift to “urban insurrectionism” to deal a fatal blow to the Duterte’s regime at the moment.

He encouraged the strengthening and expanding of existing guerrilla fronts to prepare the NPA into achieving an equal balance of forces with the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police.

Sison said that based on CPP reports, the NPA is currently is far stronger than that in 1986 which was only about six thousand regulars.

The rise of younger under 30s red commanders would usher in more daring offensives, he said.

The NPA’s Alex Boncayao Brigade undertook partisan operations from the mid-1980s to the early 1990s.

The CPP leadership dissolved the partisan teams after internal investigations revealed that some Party leaders have abused the practice.

The CPP then undertook a “Second Great Rectification Movement” that expelled several high-ranking leaders from the organization.  # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Church leaders express alarm at ‘reign of unpeace’ during Advent

Church leaders expressed alarm and concern at the deteriorating prospects for peace as shown by the Rodrigo Duterte government’s demonization of human rights.

In a pastoral statement, the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) said that while the Advent season has arrived, “unpeace” reigns as the Rodrigo Duterte government continues to consider human rights as a barrier to peace and order.

“This is evident in the arrests of a journalist and six union organizers on the day when the whole world was commemorating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” the church leaders said.

Several activists have also been arrested or killed in the past few months while numerous lives continue to be claimed under the campaign against illegal drugs, they added.

The statement was signed by Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro Bishop Emeritus and PEPP co-chairperson Antonio Ledesma; Bishop and PEPP co-chairperson Rex B. Reye; Bishop and National Council of Churches in the Philippines general secretary Reuel Norman Marigza; Sr. Mary John Mananzan, OSB of the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines; Justice, Peace and Reconciliation Commission executive director Reverend Dr. Aldrin Penamora; and PEPP head of secretariat Bishop Emeritus Deogracias Iniguez Jr.

The church leaders pointed out that the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) had been relentless in its malicious red-tagging of organizations and individuals critical of the government, including churches and church personalities, by falsely accusing them of being linked to terrorism.

They blamed the harmful rhetoric coming from President Duterte himself.

“This is in sharp contrast with the advent period a year ago when back channel negotiations between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) resulted in a Christmas ceasefire which redounded to a hopeful atmosphere for peace,” the pastoral statement said.

No ceasefire

President Duterte announced last December 7 that there will no longer be ceasefire declarations nor peace negotiations with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), New People’s Army and the NDFP as long as he is president.

His announcement followed the repeated and public announcements by the Armed Forces of the Philippines that it will never recommend the declaration of ceasefire with the Communist groups.

The CPP in turn announced Wednesday, December 16, it is impossible for them to issue the traditional  ceasefire declaration over Christmas and New Year while government troops terrorize civilian communities and conduct intense military operations against their revolutionary forces.

The CPP ordered the NPA to actively defend civilians and their ranks from AFP military operations throughout the holiday season as well as urge its members to secretly observe its 52nd founding anniversary on December 26.

‘Silence guns during season of hope’

While calling on both parties to “silence the guns during this season of hope,” the PEPP pointed out that the Duterte government’s rejection of the results of the back channel talks during this COVID-19 pandemic is what brought about the state of unpeace.

“[It] unilaterally stopped the peace negotiations, and proceeded to heighten its war against the NDFP, the New People’s Army (NPA), and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), and its so-called ‘legal fronts’, the group said.

“Since then, three NDFP consultants – Randal Echanis and Eugenia Magpantay and Agaton Topacio — were killed, while many others like Rey Claro Casambre of the Philippine Peace Center remain in jail. Even former NDFP Consultant Alfredo Mapano, who was already working for the government, was re-arrested,” it added.

The PEPP pointed out that the government is set for an all-out war in 2021 with the passage of the Anti-Terrorism Act while substantial funds were also designated for its counter-insurgency program with P19-billion set aside for the NTF-ELCAC.

The PEPP however said such policies will only further fan the flames of the armed conflict.

“This drive to annihilate the CPP-NPA-NDF without seriously addressing the long-standing issues of poverty, landlessness and inequality in the country, will not bring about a just and enduring peace,” the church leaders said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Army, police kill Alvin Luque in midnight raid

Prominent Davao activist Alvin Luque–who after many threats to his life by suspected State agents joined the New People’s Army (NPA)–was killed by a composite military and police team in a raid at 1AM this morning in Tandag City, Surigao del Sur.

The Philippine Army 4th Infantry Division said Luque, also known by his nom de guerre Joaquin Jacinto, was killed along with a yet unidentified male medic at Hermanias Resort, Purok Milion, Barangay San Agustin by elements of the Philippine Army’s 401st Brigade and the Philippine National Police-Caraga.

The military said they raided Luque’s hideout to serve an arrest warrant but were fired upon.

The ensuing firefight eventually led to the death of the victims, the military press release said.

Luque had at least five pending cases in various courts in Mindanao and a Php6 million bounty for his arrest, the military added.

He was charged with attempted murder, kidnapping and serious illegal detention.

The military also claimed the raiding team recovered a handgun, a grenade, various kinds of ammunition, bomb paraphernalia, an NPA flag and documents at the scene.

Independent Kodao sources confirmed that one of the victims was Luque.

They said that Luque was ailing, unable to walk and a hors de combat (unable to fight), thus the presence of the medic with him.

A frail asthmatic even before joining the NPA, Luque suffered from other ailments that forced him to seek medical care in the Surigao del Sur capital city of Tandag.

Luque and his medic’s killing was reminiscent of the deaths of legendary NPA commander Leoncio “Parago” Pitao and his medic in Davao City in June 2015.

The NPA said Pitao was also being medically attended to when summarily fired upon by government soldiers.

‘Red-tagging victim’

Luque first gained prominence as secretary general of the Southern Mindanao chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan in the late 1990s to early 2000s.

Previously, he was a student activist at the Ateneo de Davao University, a consistent candidate in the school’s student council elections.

In the 2001 national and local elections, Luque was a candidate for a Davao City Council seat with then Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s party. He narrowly lost.

Due to his inclusion in the military’s order of battle lists and red-tagging campaigns by suspected State agents, Luque decided to join the NPA sometime in 2007.

In an essay, Luque wrote, “I have chosen not to submit myself to the processes of the law under the present reactionary government in the interest primarily of self-preservation, and to be effective still in contributing to the people’s struggle for national liberation and democracy.”

READ: Hounded by Military for Years, Ex-Bayan Leader Takes Refuge in NPA

Luque regularly featured in news reports and radio interviews as one of the more eloquent spokespersons of the Communist guerilla army.

He was also the spokesperson of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines in Mindanao.

A Philippine News Agency report said Luque rose to become a member of the executive committee and spokesperson of the Mindanao Commission of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

No ceasefire? No surprise—CPP

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) said it is not surprised with President Rodrigo Duterte’s announcement that he will not declare a ceasefire with the New People’s Army this Christmas and new year season.

Responding to Duterte’s late Monday address, the CPP information officer Marco Valbuena said Duterte’s decision “comes as no surprise,” adding the President’s policies had always been shaped by military generals obsessed with prolonging the civil war in the Philippines.

“They [the generals] are addicted to war because of the profits they pocket from it,” Valbuena said in a statement.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said they are not recommending the declaration of the traditional Yuletide season ceasefire with the NPA this year.

Nor would the military recommend that the government declare ceasefires with the NPA ever again, AFP spokesperson Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said.

Duterte said, “There will be no ceasefire ever again under my term ..For all intents and purposes, that ceasefire is dead. That’s gone. That has been long gone.”

Duterte again devoted a part of his address Monday assailing the Communists and vowing to destroy them.

He said that if he compromised with the Communists, the military and the police may assassinate him for being a traitor to the republic.

“I cannot compromise anything in this government. It’s either I will be impeached or the military and the police will shoot me,” Duterte said.

“And if I give you a power to share in the — a power-sharing, that’s a very, very serious thing. You can get assassinated for it,” he added.

‘Who ingratiated himself with whom?’

In a statement, National Democratic Front of the Philippines chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison belied Duterte’s allegation, saying it was Duterte who kept blabbering about joining a coalition government with the CPP.

Sison said it was Duterte who ingratiated himself with the revolutionary movement as a Davao City mayor and when he was seeking the support of the legal democratic forces when he ran for the presidency.

“At no time has the subject of coalition government ever been taken up with Duterte or any of his predecessors as president in the course of the peace negotiations. The people’s revolutionary government based in the countryside can very well exist and develop without him and his likes,” Sison said.

“Duterte is lying about being offered a place in what he imagines as invitation to a coalition government. He could not even qualify as NDFP consultant when he offered himself to become one,” Sison said.

Duterte applied to become an NDFP consultant but was ordered to withdraw by the Benigno Aquino administration’s interior and local government secretary Jesse Robredo. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

High Court orders transfer of Casambre’s trial

The trial of detained National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Rey Claro Casambre has been transferred to the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (QC-RTC), his family announced.

Casambre’s trial in Lupon, Davao Oriental had been ordered transferred to Quezon City by the Supreme Court in response to his counsels and family’s petition, Casambre’s daughter Xandra Liza Biseno said in a statement.

“[This is] due to the cost, burden and stresses on Rey and his kin, counsels, and friends of seeing the very remote Davao case through. [But the] partial transfer requires Rey to waive his right to physically appear and defend himself should any case proceeding transpire in Davao,” Xandra Liza said.

She added that the QC judge has informed Casambre’s lawyers that whatever transpires in Quezon City will be reported back to Davao.

Casambre’s trial has resumed last Wednesday, December 2, almost two years after his and wife Patricia Cora’s arrest in Bacoor, Cavite near midnight of December 6, 2018.

Casambre and Cora were flagged down by Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group operatives in a deserted stretch of road and were charged with illegal possession of a firearm grenade and a bomb detonator allegedly found at their sub-compact car’s dashboard compartment.

The state prosecutor who conducted the preliminary investigation said the charge was “preposterous” and ordered the couple freed.

The police however refused to release Rey, alleging he participated in a New People’s Army ambush in Lupon on September 13 of that year.

Casambre said he had never been to the remote town, adding he was in fact at the House of Representatives on September 12, 2018, the very day a government soldier claims he saw the elderly peace consultant at a guerilla camp, planning the ambush. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

2 more NDFP peace consultants killed; CPP condemns ‘mafia-style executions’ by police

Two more National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultants died in a pre-dawn police raid last Wednesday, November 25, in Angono, Rizal.

In what the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) said was a “mafia-style execution,” a composite police team killed elderly couple Eugenia Magpantay and Agaton Topacio, former members of its Central Committee.

Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) director, Major Gen. Joel Napoleon M. Coronel, said a raiding team composed of CIDG Regional Field Unit 4-A, Rizal Provincial Police Office and the Angono Municipal Police Station personnel was about to serve search and arrest warrants against the victims when fired upon.

The police said the 3:30 am incident became an “encounter” that resulted in the death of the 69-year old victims.

The PNP also said a Colt M-16 automatic rifle, a caliber .45 Rock Island pistol, a caliber .45 Federal pistol, two MK2 grenades, various gun magazines and several bullets were “recovered” from the sexagenarian couple.

The CPP however said the incident was simply a “cold-blooded murder” similar to the treacherous early morning killings of NDFP peace consultants Julius Giron in Baguio City and Randall Echanis in Quezon City earlier this year as well as Randy Malayao’s execution in Nueva Vizcaya province last year.

“We reject the claims of the police that the couple resisted arrest and were killed in a firefight. In their physical state, the couple would not have been able to manage the sheer number of weapons said to be found in the scene, much less put up a rigorous gun battle,” CPP spokesperson Marco Valbuena said in a statement.

Valbuena said Magpantay suffered from diabetes and severe arthritis and have in fact “recently retired from active service in the revolutionary movement due to infirmities of old age.”

The CPP spokesperson said the raid was carried out when the elderly couple were “surely fast asleep.”

Valbuena said the “police liquidation” of the couple is the most recent in the string of killings and legal persecution against peace consultants of the NDFP in violation of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees.

“We hold Duterte, his National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict and PNP Chief Debold Sinas as the masterminds behind the killing of Magpantay and Topacio,” Valbuena said.

‘Decades of service’

Valbuena said the CPP pays tribute to Magpantay and Topacio “for their decades of service to the revolutionary cause and service to the oppressed and exploited masses.”

Aside from their stint as CPP Central Committee members, Magpantay was also a former member of the CPP Political Bureau, Valbuena said.

Police reports also identified Magpantay as a former Central Luzon Regional Party Group secretary.

Magpantay and Topacio were first arrested and detained at the Bicutan detention facility under President Ferdinand Marcos’ Martial Law between 1977 and 1979.

Since their release, the couple had been the subject of intense manhunt by the police who even mistakenly arrested one Lourdes Quioc and one Reynaldo Ingal in October 1, 2014.

Quioc and Ingal were released after spending 17 months in jail. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDFP protests gov’t court’s conviction of Tiamzon and Austria

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Negotiating Panel protests a government court’s conviction of two of its senior peace negotiators as “baseless” and “an act of persecution.”

Reacting to Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 26’s conviction of NDFP peace panel member Benito Tiamzon and consultant Wilma Austria of kidnapping with serious illegal detention, the NDFP said the decision violated the 1956 Hernandez Political Doctrine.

“This doctrine mandates that all alleged acts in pursuit of one’s political beliefs are absorbed, subsumed or integrated in one political crime of rebellion and cannot be mutated into several common crimes as what they were convicted of,” the NDFP said.

The group added that even if both Tiamzon and Austria, alleged leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army (NPA), had a hand in the capture of then Philippine Army Lt. and now retired Brigadier General Abraham Claro Casis, the act was “legitimate in the laws of war.”

The court should have considered Casis as among “persons deprived of their liberty for reasons related to the armed conflict” or “prisoners of war” in accordance with the 1949 Geneva Conventions and their 1977 Protocols, the NDFP said.

1988 capture

In his decision, Judge Alfonso Ruiz II said he gave “full faith and credit” to Casis’ testimony that, while detained, he saw Tiamzon and Austria in meetings with the NPA.

Casis said they were on their way to Manila on June 1, 1988 when captured by the NPA at the border of Tiaong and Candelaria towns in Quezon Province.

They were released after two months of captivity on August 12 of that year by the late NPA spokesperson Gregorio “Ka Roger” Rosal.

The NDFP however questions the credibility of Casis’ testimony as recalled “with unbelievable magical throwback powers.”

It said the incident happened “a good three decades ago in a case long archived and dismissed against many other accused but just recently politically excavated by the militarist hawks of the (Rodrigo) Duterte regime.”

The NDFP said it found unbelievable that the lone witness “can vividly remember minute details, names, faces, places and events that happened in 1988.”

The group also said the court’s decision suffered from “sweeping and conclusory inferences of conspiracy by mere alleged presence” of the accused.

JASIG-protected

The NDFP said the Tiamzons were also denied due process because of their involuntary inability to personally present their own defense “due to the real and imminent threat on their lives conducted under the baton of no less the GRP Principal, President Rodrigo Duterte.”

It said that as publicly-known NDFP peace negotiators, the Tiamzons should be immune from surveillance, harassment, search, arrest, detention, prosecution and interrogation or any other similar punitive actions under the subsisting 1995 GRP-NDFP Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).

The group said the JASIG remains effective and demandable despite its questionable termination by the GRP and regardless of the status of the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations.

“And this is precisely the raison d’ etre for it (reason for being), i.e. to encourage participation by ensuring subsequent protection,” the NDFP said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Peace advocates slam red-tagging as a ‘work of evil’; call for peace talks resumption

By Joseph Cuevas

Peace advocates held a media briefing last Wednesday, November 11, to condemn red and terror-tagging activities they say undermine efforts to resume peace negotiations between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP).

The group Pilgrims for Peace pointed out that if the GRP still wants to resume negotiations with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and New People’s Army (NPA), it should stop calling the underground groups as terrorists.

It also pointed out that the NDFP is not classified as a terrorist organization even in the government’s own official pronouncements.

The advocates are dismayed that “war and terror-mongering are rearing their ugly heads once again, as a dominant trend in the current conduct by the GRP.”

Fr. Christopher Ablon of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente described the red-tagging activities of government agencies such as the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police and some officials of the government as a “work of evil” that directly hurts peace efforts.

Ablon cited that six out of seven victims of extra-judicial killings of church workers and peace advocates red-tagged.

Not terrorist organizations

Atty. Edre Olalia, legal consultant of the NDFP, said that red-tagging and vilification violates the presumption of innocence and human rights of target, especially the right to association.

The practice of red-tagging, especially by the state forces and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, has no other real purpose but to silence dissent and criticism and repress opposition and counter-narratives against government policies and actions, Olalia explained.

“Red-tagging together with the draconian measures like the newly signed Anti-Terrorism Law turn the state forces and machinery against such unarmed civilians and groups who are exercising their basic rights and fundamental freedoms in a democratic society,” Olalia said.

Olalia pointed-out that the CPP-NPA-NDF possesses a level of legitimacy while their armed resistance abide by standards set by the United Nations resolutions and conventions.

“The CPP and NPA have not been listed as a terrorist organizations by the United Nations and the NDFP has never been [listed as] a terrorist organizations in any country,” Olalia added.

Olalia said that red-tagging conditions the mind of the public to eventually designate legal organizations and individuals as terrorists by the Anti-Terrorism Council.

NDFP peace consultant and long-time activist Rafael Baylosis stressed that CPP-NPA-NDF must not be called terrorist organizations but entities fighting for national liberation and democracy for the people.

Talks resumption

Baylosis said that peace negotiations must be resumed and the Duterte government should rescind its terrorist proclamation of the CPP and the NPA.

He also called on the government to respect previous agreements signed by both parties.

Baylosis recalled the cancelled fifth round of peace talks last 2018 that was set to sign the Interim Peace Agreement that included the common draft on social and economic reforms, the coordinated and unilateral ceasefire, and release of all political prisoners thru general amnesty.

Pilgrims for Peace encouraged the GRP to consider resuming the peace talks anew in order to address the root cause of armed conflict through peace negotiations. #