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Groups urge Covid-19 testing in prisons, release of political detainees

Families of political detainees urged the government to follow World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines and start mass testing in prisons after receiving reports that some prisoners are showing symptoms of the corona virus disease (Covid-19).

The group KAPATID said that mass testing should start immediately as it has received reports that more inmates are getting sick despite denials by prison agencies and the Department of Interior and Local Government of confirmed cases.

Marami nagkakasakit, inuubo at nilalagnat,” KAPATID said, citing a report from relatives of political prisoners at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP), the national penitentiary at Muntinlupa City. (Many are getting sick, coughing and getting fevers.)

The group said three political prisoners are now reportedly ill with fever at the political prisoners’ wing at the Metro Manila District Jail-Annex 4 (MMDJ-4) at Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan, Taguig City.

KAPATID said the three unnamed political detainees are showing common Covid-19 symptoms like fever, headaches, cold, cough and body weakness—the same symptoms for the respiratory disease which has already killed 45 people in the country as of March 25, including nine doctors.

“KAPATID cannot emphasize enough why mass testing is imperative and why it must include the whole prison population comprising both inmates and prison personnel. Reports by other countries such as China and the US indicate that prison guards brought the sickness into prison facilities even with lockdowns in place and stricter health measures, including a forehead thermal scan of persons entering jail premises,” KAPATID spokesperson Fides Lim said in a statement

Lim cited scientific researches that early action through widespread testing has proven effective in controlling the rapid spread of the disease in South Korea and Germany which have managed to keep the Covid-19 death rate relatively low through extensive testing.

“Mass testing of both symptomatic individuals and all those who came into contact with them was crucial in catching the disease, isolating the carriers before they could pass it on, and providing more accurate figures of how many are really affected and how and where to limit contamination,” Lim said.

Free political detainees

Earlier, KAPATID called for the release of political detainees in line with reports that backchannel meetings between Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) representatives and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in The Netherlands have been discussing the matter.

The NDFP urged the GRP to release all political prisoners and a general amnesty be issued “as a matter of justice and necessity.”

The NDFP made the appeal when the Communist Party of the Philippines declared a unilateral ceasefire last Tuesday, March 24, in response to the United Nations appeal for all warring parties to temporarily lay down arms to concentrate on responding to the pandemic.

Kapatid cited the move made by Iran and Egypt to release tens of thousands of prisoners, including political detainees, in a bid to decongest their prisons and prevent Covid-19’s spread through overpopulated jail facilities.

“KAPATID continues to press the humanitarian release of prisoners in line with the new UN (United Nations) call as the most expedient solution to protect and save lives. Tao rin sila,” Lim said. (They are also humans.)

The National Council of Churches of the Philippines (NCCP), the largest group of mainline Protestant churches in the country, also urged the government to release all political detainees following the appeal by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on March 26.

“Let’s take it from the UN. There is an urgent need to address the catastrophic risks in prisons by releasing prisoners, especially now that the country is confronting numerous challenges due to this pandemic,” Bishop Reuel Norman Marigza, NCCP General Secretary, said.

“As the number of positive COVID-19 cases spike up, the most Christian thing to do is to leave no one behind. Don’t forget those in prison, especially human rights defenders facing trumped charges, who have staunchly worked for social justice and human rights. They need compassion, they need justice and they need protection. They should be released under humanitarian grounds,” Marigza said in a statement.

“In many countries, detention facilities are overcrowded, in some cases dangerously so. People are often held in unhygienic conditions and health services are inadequate or even non-existent. Physical distancing and self-isolation in such conditions are practically impossible,” Bachelet said in her appeal for political detainees’ release.

Karapatan poster.

Meanwhile, human rights group Karapatan announced it will lead an online campaign on Facebook and Twitter  to urge the freedom of prisoners with light sentences as well as political detainees on March 31, Tuesday, at seven to eight o’clock in the evening.

Citing the congestion of Philippine jails at 450%, Karapatan said the government must free the elderly, sick, pregnant and nursing women, those who are due for parole or pardon, at least one spouse each of political prisoner-couples, and “accidental victims” of political arrests. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘An example across the world,’ UN says of CPP’s ceasefire order

The United Nations (UN) welcomed the temporary ceasefire order of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), saying the group’s positive response to the call for a global ceasefire in the face of the corona virus disease (Covid-19) pandemic “will serve as an example across the world.”

In a statement, Stephane Dujarric, spokesperson for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, said they welcome the truce order issued by the CPP last Tuesday, March 24, against Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) armed forces.

“The Secretary-General (Guterres) encourages the parties to reach a lasting political solution and end this longstanding conflict,” Dujarric added, referring to the 51-year revolution led by the CPP.

The CPP is the first belligerent force in the world to respond to Guterres’ appeal issued last March 24.

UN’s statement on its website.

NDFP Negotiating Panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili said the revolutionary forces in the Philippines deeply appreciates the UN recognition.

“We deeply appreciate the recognition extended by the UN Secretary General for the initiative of the revolutionary movement and the CPP to respond to his call for a global ceasefire in humanity’s common fight against the Covid-19 pandemic,” Agcaoili told Kodao in an online interview.

The CPP’s unilateral ceasefire order to all units and commands of the New People’s Army and the People’s Militias took effect starting midnight of today, Thursday, March 26 and ends on 23:59 of April 15.

The GRP earlier said NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison’s advise for the CPP and its forces to observe its own ceasefire during the pandemic “is a positive development.”

The GRP earlier declared a unilateral ceasefire against the CPP, the NPA, and the NDFP effective 00:00 hour of March 19 to 24:00 hours of April 15, Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo announced Wednesday evening, March 18. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDFP may respond to UN appeal for ceasefire, Joma advises

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Negotiating Panel may recommend for a unilateral ceasefire declaration in response to the United Nation’s (UN) appeal for a global truce during the corona virus disease (Covid-19) pandemic, Jose Maria Sison said.

Sison said he is advising the NDFP peace panel to recommend to its principal, the NDFP National Council, the issuance of a unilateral ceasefire declaration by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) to the New People’s Army (NPA) in response to UN secretary general Antonio Guterres’ call for a global ceasefire.

“The NDFP and the broad masses of the people themselves need to refrain from launching tactical offensives to gain more time and opportunity to fight the Covid-19 pandemic and to look after the health and over-all welfare of the people in both urban and rural areas,” Sison said.

“The world must know that long before the belated quarantine declarations and repressive measures of the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines), the NDFP and the revolutionary forces have been informing, training and mobilizing the people on how to fight the pandemic,” he added.

Guterres called for an immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world last Monday, March 23, saying it is time for humankind to put armed conflict on lockdown and focus together “on the true fight of our lives.” 

Guterres asked the warring parties to pull back from hostilities, silence the guns, stop the artillery and end the airstrikes. “This is crucial to help create corridors for life-saving aid, open windows for diplomacy and bring hope to places among the most vulnerable to #COVID19,” he said.

Sison said the UN’s appeal is what the revolutionary forces in the Philippines may respond to, instead of the “bogus unilateral ceasefire declaration of the GRP.”

He warned that reciprocating President Rodrigo Duterte’s ceasefire order may appear as “directly condoning and becoming complicit in the criminal culpabilities of the Duterte regime for allowing the Covid-19 to spread nationwide since January, for making no preparations against the pandemic and for making lockdowns on communities and yet failing to provide mass testing and treatment of the sick, food assistance and compensation for those prevented from work.”

The GRP declared a unilateral ceasefire against the CPP, the NPA, and the NDFP effective 00:00 hour of March 19 to 24:00 hours of April 15, Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo announced Wednesday evening, March 18.

Sison further advised that while the NPA can cease and desist from launching tactical offensives, it must be vigilant and be ready to act in self-defense against any tactical offensive launched by GRP military, police and paramilitary forces against its own guerrilla fronts.

He added that the GRP has persisted in launching tactical offensives and bombing of communities in the countryside as well as campaigns of red tagging, abductions and murder in the urban areas against civilians, justifying NDFP’s desistance from reciprocating Duterte’s ceasefire offer.

NDFP Negotiating Panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili told Kodao that they shall submit their recommendation to their National Council soon. # (Raymund Villanueva)

NDFP says no need to rush into reciprocating Duterte’s unilateral ceasefire announcement

GENEVA, Switzerland—There is no clear basis for the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) to rush into reciprocating the government’s unilateral declaration of ceasefire, its chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison said.

In a statement, Sison said that while there is ongoing communication between the NDFP and Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) negotiating panels, there is yet no agreement for reciprocal unilateral ceasefires in regard to efforts in containing the corona virus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

In asking for certain “considerations, requirements and modalities” for the NDFP to think about reciprocating GRP’s unilateral ceasefire announcement, Sison said there has to be clarifications.

He added that without such understanding, the ceasefire announcement by Malacañang Palace is “premature, if not insincere and false.”

President Duterte has decided to declare a unilateral ceasefire against the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the New People’s Army (NPA), and the NDFP effective 00:00 hour of March 19 to 24:00 hours of April 15, Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo announced Wednesday evening in Manila.

According to Panelo, the President directed the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP), including the national defense as well as the interior and local government departments, to cease and desist from carrying out operations against the revolutionary forces.

Duterte last Monday publicly asked the underground communist groups for a ceasefire during the Covid-19 pandemic, promising to repay them “with a good heart in the coming days” if they agree.

Sison however said the NDFP is not assured and satisfied that the ceasefire announcement is based on national unity against Covid-19, the appropriate solution of the pandemic as a medical problem and the protection of the most vulnerable sectors of the population, including workers, health workers, those with any serious ailments and the political prisoners.

“Unless it receives sufficient assurances from the GRP, the NDFP will be inclined to think that the GRP unilateral ceasefire declaration is not sincere and is not intended to invite reciprocation by the NDFP but is meant to be a mere psywar (psychological warfare) trick,” Sison warned.

Sison pointed out that according to the people and their own forces in the Philippines, Duterte’s lack of sincerity in seeking a real ceasefire is manifested by the following”

  1. The militarist lockdown on the whole of Luzon is mean not to fight the Covid-19 pandemic but to intimidate the people, suppress democratic rights, commit human rights violations and prevent the working people from going to their workplaces, and immobilize even the health workers and people who wish to be tested and treated for Covid-19 and other serious ailments; and
  2. The AFP and the PNP continue to redtag, abduct and murder social activists, including human rights defenders, in urban areas and to unleash attacks against the people in the guerrilla fronts of the NPA.

The NDFP and the CPP earlier condemned the killing of senior cadre Julius Giron, his physician Lourdes Tan Torres and their aide last March 13 in Baguio City. Human rights activists also blamed the military for the abduction and killing of choreographer and activist Marlon Maldos last Tuesday, March 17, in De la Paz, Cortes in Bohol province.

Sison said that despite all the above, the NDFP continues to hope that Duterte orders the GRP negotiating panel come to clear terms with its counterpart “for the benefit of the people.”

“Promises of Duterte, such as doing a good turn from a good heart, can be believed only as they are realized promptly and according to a definite schedule,” he said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDFP ready to accept ceasefire request amid Covid scare, ‘if Duterte is serious’

UTRECHT, The Netherlands—The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) said it will seriously study the ceasefire request by President Rodrigo Duterte during the time of Corona Virus Disease 2019 (Covid-19) emergency despite doubts that the government’s deployment of military forces in Metro Manila is really to fight the pandemic.

NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison said that if Duterte is really serious with his request, he should make a formal offer through the government’s negotiating panel to their counterparts based in this city.

“The offer will be seriously studied by the NDFP and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). It will be related not only to the common fight against Covid-19 but also to the resumption of the peace negotiations,” Sison said.

Duterte made the ceasefire request in a speech in Malacañang Monday, March 16, asking the New People’s Army’s help in containing the disease by not attacking government soldiers.

“Ceasefire lang. Ceasefire muna tayo. Ako na ang naghihingi. Ceasefire. Kindly give me that…if you want us to be always on talking terms…during this crisis. Kindly cooperate and help. Mas mabuting tumulong na lang muna kayo. I will repay you with a good heart in the coming days,” Duterte said.

Sison said that in studying Duterte’s request, the NDFP will demand that public funds be poured into the effort to fight Covid-19 to ensure that there are adequate health workers, facilities, equipment and medicines.

NDFP Negotiating Panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili for his part said he awaits a formal request from his government counterparts if Duterte is really serious with his ceasefire request and promises.

“Of course we are always ready to accept their formal proposals,” Agcaoili said.

Sison added that “the NDFP will certainly demand that the GRP realign government spending from excessive military spending and from rampant corruption in order to pursue genuine land reform and national industrialization and expand social services, specially public health and education.”

In the meantime, the revolutionary forces and the people themselves have to undertake collective efforts to fight the Covid-19 pandemic while remaining guarded against “continuing military assaults under NTF-ELCAC (National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict) and various operational plans of the Duterte regime,” Sison said.

Sison said that Duterte has admitted in his speech that his redeployment of his military and police to urban areas would leave a vacuum and will allow the NPA to increase its tactical offensives in the countryside. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDFP: OPAPP irrelevant and anti-peace under Galvez

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) has betrayed its mandate to push for peace and had been irrelevant for a long time, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) said.

“Instead of promoting peace negotiations, OPAPP has been demonizing the revolutionary forces, as well as the Chief Political Consultant of the NDF, Prof. Jose Maria Sison, with worn out lies long debunked by fact and evidence, NDFP Negotiating Panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili in a statement, Thursday, February 6, said.

Agcaoili added OPAPP is acting against the interest of the Filipino people who have been clamoring for the resumption of peace negotiations between the NDFP and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP).

The NDFP blames presidential peace adviser and retired Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff Carlito Galvez Jr. for turning OPAPP into the military’ psychological warfare machinery.

It said the OPAPP now denies the existence of the armed conflict between GRP and NDFP forces, particularly the New People’s Army (NPA).

In an article published on the OPAPP website Saturday, February 1, Galvez alleged Sison and company are working overtime to sabotage the GRP’s anti-communist insurgency programs for fear of becoming irrelevant.

“The armed struggle has no legitimacy in a civilized society. Armed violence is an anathema of peace and development, and the CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines)-NPA should be disbanded,” Galvez said.

The NDFP retorted that all Galvez had been consistently doing is attacking peace process and all signed agreements between the GRP and NDFP.

The group added Galvez even terminated the appointment of the members of the government’s negotiating panel and the services of its Joint Secretariat in the Joint Monitoring Committee, the office tasked to oversee the implementation of thr GRP-NDFP Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.

“Just as the call for the resumption of the peace negotiations is gathering strength and the Duterte regime appears prodded back to the negotiating table, OPAPP seems hell bent on derailing every effort to resume the peace talks,” the NDFP said.

“OPAPP has long lost all credibility as it is exposed to be sinister, corrupt and a saboteur of the Filipino people’s aspiration for a just and lasting peace. It has indeed become irrelevant,” the group added.

The NDFP also slammed OPAPP’s latest press release proclaiming the so-called successes of President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order 70 creating the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

State terrorism and corruption

The NDFP said NTF-ELCAC is an integral part of the government’s counter-insurgency program Operation Plan Kapanatagan that has been “terrorizing and wreaking havoc on communities through sustained military operations.”

The group said EO 70’s other human rights violations include indiscriminate aerial and artillery bombardments of villages, assasination of civilians, illegal arrests, detention and torture of suspected NPA sympathizers, and with hunting or red-tagging of churches and organizations as well as their leaders.

But aside from unleashing state terrorism on the people, the NDFP said the NTF-ELCAC is rife with corruption.

“With a P21 billion budget, the NTF-ELCAC, under the rubric of localized peace talks and the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP), has been devising all sorts of money-making schemes to line the pockets of military and police commanders and local bureaucrats,” the NDFP said.

According to the NDFP, implementers of the task force also commit the following:

1. Buying off (with kickbacks) city and municipal councils into declaring the NPA persona-non-grata in their areas;

2. Manufacturing fake surrenderees to obtain the reward and integration monies (as recently exposed in the photoshopped picture of previous surrenderees and the alleged surrender if Alde Salusa, a military agent who killed anti-mining activist Datu Jimmy Liguyon);

3. Appointing paramilitaries Alamara and New Indigenous People’s Army to local councils that extend permit fees to mining and logging companies as well as multinational agribusiness corporations for the exploitation of ancetral lands; and

4. Renegotiating a bigger amount of “settlement” with the previously surrendered and paid Rebolusyonaryong Partidong Manggagawa ng Pilipinas/Revolutionary Proletarian Army/Alex Boncayao Brigade-Tabara Paduano Group in a new agreement called Clarificatory Implementing Document. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Activists press for justice on Malayao’s 1st death anniv

Activists commemorated the first death anniversary of Randy Felix Malayao in Isabela province, calling for justice for the slain National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant.

In a rally in front of Camp Melchor de la Cruz in Gamu town, headquarters of the 5th Infantry Division (5th ID) of the Philippine Army, various groups under the Makabayan bloc and the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan condemned the lack of justice for Malayao.

The soldiers however violently dispersed the rally, hurting protesters holding streamers and forcing them to continue their program in a nearby park.

“The Philippine Army parked a pick-up truck in front and an ambulance behind the rally with horns and sirens blaring to disrupt the program,” a source told Kodao.

Earlier, the activists celebrated a Mass at Malayao’s tomb in a private cemetery in San Pablo, his hometown.

Activists salute Malayao with raised fists at his tomb in San Pablo, Isabela.

As artists were painting a mural calling for justice for Malayao’s assassination at the wall of the adjacent public cemetery, however, San Pablo mayor Jojo Miro arrived and ordered the activists to stop.

The local government had the mural painted over as soon as the activists left, Makabayan said.

Malayao was killed in his sleep inside a bus in Aritao, Nueva Vizcaya province last January 30, 2019.

The Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), in a statement Wednesday, January 29, condemned the lack of justice for Malayao, accusing the government of inaction.

UMA pointed out that facial sketches of the gunman and the driver of the getaway vehicle had been released by the Cagayan Valley police as well as another person of interest caught on CCTV taking a photo of Malayao’s bus at a terminal in Quezon City.

“It seems the police and, for that matter, the Philippine government has no more interest in pursuing justice for the killing of Randy. Especially this time, when militarists in the Duterte administration are again spoiling the possible resumption of peace talks between the government and the NDFP,” UMA vice-chairperson Ariel Casilao said.

In a statement last year, Makabayan said it holds the Duterte administration and all his local cohorts along with the 5th ID of the Armed Forces of the Philippines accountable for the death of Malayao.

“When the President declared his open command to his army to eliminate activists, so-called legal fronts of Duterte’s protagonists, the CPP-NPA (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army) and alleged NPAs in the city, Duterte signed Malayao’s death order. Immediately after Duterte’s pronouncements of “death wishes” several malicious posters and leaflets branding Malayao as NPA leader in the city together with other known activists were displayed all over the region,” the group said.

Aside from being an NDFP consultant and Negotiating Panel spokesperson, Malayao was Bayan Muna Cagayan Valley regional coordinator at the time of his death. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Ika-33 anibersaryo ng masaker sa Mendiola, ginunita

Nagtipon sa tulay ng Mendiola sa Maynila ang mga progresibong grupo sa pangunguna ng Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas upang gunitain ang masaker na pumatay sa 13 magsasaka noong 1987.

Kasabay ng panawagan ng hustisya para sa mga martir ng Mendiola ay ang pagpapatuloy ng usapang pangkapayapaan sa pagitan ng National Democratic Front of the Philippines at Government of the Republic of the Philippines na ang susunod na adyenda ay ang Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms kabilang na ang tunay na reporma sa lupa para sa mga magsasaka. (Bidyo ni Joseph Cuevas/ Kodao)

Kodao Asks: Bakit kailangang ipagpatuloy ang usapang pangkapayapaan sa pagitan ng NDFP at GRP?

Isang Assembly for Peace ang isinagawa noong Enero 17, 2020 sa Quezon City Sports Club kung saan dumalo ang mga nagtataguyod ng usapang pangkapayapaan sa pagitan ng National Democratic Front of the Philippines at Government of the Republic of the Philippines.

Kinapanayam ng Kodao Productions ang ilan sa mga dumalo at narito ang kanilang saloobin. # (Bidyo ni Joseph Cuevas)

Braganza: CASER is treasonous? Wow!

A government negotiator took strong exceptions to allegations made by several cabinet members that talks on social and economic reforms with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) may be likened to treason and surrender of Philippine sovereignty.

Hernani Braganza, veteran Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) negotiator and former agrarian reform secretary, also denied that past government negotiating panels did not consult with the military during formal and informal negotiations.

“There are allegations that CASER (Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms) [negotiations] was treasonous. Wow!” Braganza told hundreds of participants of the Assembly for Peace organized by the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform at the Quezon City Sports Club last Friday, January 7.

Braganza denied that the military was never consulted in negotiations on social and economic reforms, adding there are several military officers in the GRP negotiating team in the four formal rounds and at least seven reciprocal working committees meetings held both in Europe and the Philippines.

Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) chairperson Carlito Galvez last week dismissed further negotiations on social and economic reforms with the NDFP, likening the prospective approval of the main agenda of the peace talks to an act of “treason”.

“It is a formula for the surrender of the national government’s integrity as well as the state’s sovereignty,” Galvez said.

“CASER is a product of a secret backchannel maneuver by the communist insurgents. There was zero consultation with the government’s economic team, security forces, local agencies, and local government units, and most importantly, the Filipino people,” Galvez further alleged.

“That is not true. I made the rounds of military camps and I explained it [CASER] to them,” Braganza said, revealing further that a University of the Philippines team led by its former president Alfredo Pascual actually crafted the GRP draft of the CASER.

He also said many of the GRP’s line agencies were present in the negotiations.

Aside from Galvez, national security adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. also questioned further CASER discussions while defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana, interior and local government secretary Eduardo Año, Armed Forces of the Philippines deputy chief of staff for civil-military operations Major General Antonio Parlade, Jr. took turns opposing President Rodrigo Duterte’s plans to resume formal negotiations with the NDFP.

But Braganza revealed that CASER’s ultimate approval by the GRP does not end with its negotiators or even with President Duterte himself.

“Ultimately, this will be brought before Congress,” he said.

Arkibong Bayan photo

Braganza also belied Galvez’s accusations that peace agreements with the NDFP would result in a surrender of Philippine sovereignty.

“For the record and in fairness to the NDFP, after all that has been done to and said of them, they never asked for their own territory. Kahit isang paso.” Braganza said. (Not even a handful of soil.)

“In all the common documents (between the GRP and the NDFP), there is no mention of a coalition government. Hindi ko alam kung bakit paulit-ulit (sila),” he added. (I do not know why they keep on repeating this.) 

Braganza said the CASER is a way of addressing inequality, especially in the countryside where job creation and adding value to agricultural products are needed.

“I should know these. I was once mayor, congressman and agrarian reform secretary,” he said.

Braganza said the programs in the common GRP-NDFP draft of the CASER are all in the Philippine Constitution.

Braganza added he and labor secretary Silvestre Bello III were officially authorized by Malacañan Palace to talk to NDFP negotiators even after they were fired last year.

He challenged peace talks critics in the Duterte Cabinet to take their opposition to the process with Duterte himself.

“If you are after our seats on the (negotiating) panel, it is all yours. I did not apply for it. But do not malign our names,” Braganza said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)