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CPP orders NPA to shift to ‘offensive posture’ after ceasefire order ends

There is no more ceasefire in effect in the country after the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) announced it has decided against re-extending its truce order that expired midnight Thursday.

“The refusal of the Duterte regime to relent in its attacks against the NPA (New People’s Army), despite calls for a ‘global ceasefire’ has made the further extension of the NPA ceasefire impossible,” the CPP said in a statement.

The CPP’s 36-day ceasefire was first declared last March 24 and was extended when it ended last April 15. The government’s first and only ceasefire declaration under the ongoing coronavirus pandemic started last March 19 and ended on April 15.

In a recorded address aired last Monday, President Rodrigo Duterte said he will never be ready for any round of peace talks with the CPP, accusing the NPA of attacking soldiers in Ma. Aurora Town in Aurora Province who were escorting a relief operation connected with the government’s Luzon-wide lockdown.

The CPP however denied the allegation, saying the AFP was in fact conducting a counter-insurgency operation, as it did throughout the ceasefire periods.

“Since Duterte called for a ceasefire on March 16, AFP counterinsurgency operations remain unabated, deploying its units in at least 396 villages in 148 towns, ceaselessly conducting combat operations, aerial bombardments and artillery shelling, aerial surveillance and ground intelligence operations, arresting civilians, and violating people’s rights with impunity,” the CPP said.

The CPP said that in more than a month since both parties declared their unilateral ceasefire orders, the AFP mounted at least 36 raids against NPA encampments in 23 provinces that resulted in at least 11 armed encounters.

The group claimed the AFP suffered at least 56 casualties, 31 of whom were killed in action.

On the part of the NPA, 18 Red fighters were killed while eight were wounded, the CPP reported.

The military operations happened in Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Antique, Bohol, Bukidnon, Compostela Valley, Davao Oriental, Davao del Norte, Iloilo, Lanao del Sur, Masbate, Negros Occidental, Northern Samar, Quezon, Rizal, Samar, Sorsogon, South Cotabato, Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay, Zamboanga del Norte and Zamboanga del Sur provinces, the group added.

The CPP commended its armed wing for “successfully defending themselves and the masses and thwarting the raids and treacherous attacks mounted by the AFP in their relentless counterinsurgency operations.”

Starting today, Friday, May 1, the CPP has ordered the NPA to shift from “active defense” to an “offensive posture” in anticipation of more attacks against its forces.

‘Offensive posture’

In shifting to an offensive posture, the CPP urged the NPA to be always ready to strike against the AFP, Philippine National Police and the paramilitary forces under the Civilian Auxiliary Force Geographical Unit as well as other armed groups of the government.

“The NPA must mount tactical offensives especially against the most notorious human rights violators and those who have subjected people to abuse. The NPA must target the isolated and weak units and detachments of the AFP and its armed auxiliaries,” the CPP ordered.

While getting ready to meet the AFP’s counter-insurgency operations, the CPP also urged the NPA to continue its anti-COVID health services and information drives in various communities. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

No serious talks since 2017, Reds say of Duterte’s decision against peace negotiations

Who is surprised with President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to no longer hold peace talks with the Left? Not us, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) said.

“We are not surprised with Duterte’s declaration. All-out war had been his policy since 2017,” the CPP said in a statement Tuesday, April 28.

Responding to the President’s latest statement, the CPP said Duterte based his latest decision on complete lies, adding Duterte himself knows that the New People’s Army (NPA) does not steal from the masses.

“The masses give to the NPA (New People’s Army) even without being asked,” the CPP said.

Duterte was known to be among local government officials to have donated to the NPA when he was Davao City mayor, especially during anniversary celebration of the CPP and the guerrilla army.

In his latest public address to report on his government’s coronavirus response, Duterte said there is no more peace talks to talk about.

“I am not and will never be ready for any round of talks because the NPA, the Communist Party of the Philippines, has (sic) no respect either for their spoken word or in their deed of killing soldiers who are on humanitarian missions.

Earlier, Duterte pointed that that the NPA ambushed and killed government soldiers in Maria. Aurora town in Aurora province he claimed were escorting relief aid workers.

The CPP however have repeatedly denied Duterte’s allegation, saying all clashes between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the NPA had been instigated by the state troopers.

The CPP has pointed out that at least three Philippine Army spot reports said state troopers either were conducting “military patrols” when they chanced upon NPA guerrillas or have been alerted by “concerned citizens” of the presence of the Red fighters in the area, prompting them to conduct so-called pursuit operations.

“For example, when the AFP attacked a NPA encampment in Carabalan, Himamaylan, Negros Occidental last April 19, were the soldiers securing the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) that was 10 kilometers away from the clash site?” CPP information officer Marco Valbuena asked.

“The people are already hungry from the lockdown but only war is in Duterte’s mind,” he added.

The CPP added that Duterte’s ceasefire declaration of March 19 to April 15 was a fraud.

“Since March 16, based on our monitoring, the AFP has now deployed troops in more than 400 barangays in 150 towns, with orders to wage total war against NPA units in their areas,” the CPP said.

The CPP said its policy during the corona virus pandemic is to facilitate, not prevent, the entry of relief and assistance for the people.

The underground group said that it is ready to cooperate with the DSWD at local government units, claiming that even social work secretary and retired general Rolando Bautista could not prevent them to partner with the NPA in distributing goods in far-flung areas that only so-called revolutionary governments are in power.

Duterte, on the other hand, is using the “new normal” during the coronavirus lockdown and the NPA as convenient excuses to declare martial law and impose “a fascist dictatorship,” the CPP alleged.

‘Deranged’ Duterte

CPP founding chairperson and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison for his part said that Duterte has never been interested in serious peace negotiations in the first place.

“Duterte is mentally, politically and morally deranged. He needs the peace talks more than the revolutionary movement,” Sison said in a statement.

Sison added that he agrees with the CPP that by declaring he is against peace talks, Duterte is “scapegoating” the Left “to advance his scheme of full-scale Marcos-type fascist dictatorship.”

“Unwittingly, [Duterte] makes it clear that the Filipino people and their revolutionary forces are justified to intensify their struggle for national liberation and democracy through the armed revolution,” Sison said.

Church plea

Meanwhile, a group of religious leaders expressed sadness over Duterte’s decision to close the peace negotiations with the NDFP.

The Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) said that in the very uncertain times brought about by the coronavirus, an escalation of the armed conflict with NPA and the imposition of martial law will be very costly, not only to the warring parties, but for the Filipino people as a whole.

“We are also troubled by the President’s remarks that the military has rejected the results of the backchannel talks that Sec. Silvestre Bello had commenced with his NDFP counterparts last December to restart the peace negotiations. The President and the military appear to be rejecting the peace process with the NDFP,” the PEPP said.

Bello was the former chairperson of the government negotiating panel with the NDFP. He had been asked to represent the government in backchannel talks since last December but his panel has yet to be formally reconstituted and his team officially reappointed.

“We call on the government to focus its efforts and funds for medical and socio-economic solutions to heal the nation rather than imposing martial law and spending for counter-insurgency, and an all-out war. We also call on both parties to declare an extension of their unilateral ceasefires until May 15 and follow these ceasefire declarations to the letter,” the PEPP said.

While the CPP extended its unilateral ceasefire declaration to April 30, Duterte refused to reciprocate when the government’s truce order expired last April 15.

The PEPP statement was signed by PEPP co chairperson and Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, PEPP co-chairperson and Anglican Church Bishop Rex Reyes Jr., Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches National President  and Bishop Noel A. Pantoja, National Council of Churches in the Philippines general secretary and Bishop Reuel Norman Marigza, Office of Women and Gender Commission – Association of Major Religious Superiors Women Sr. Mary John Mananzan, and PEPP head of secretariat and Bishop Emeritus Deogracias Iñiguez Jr. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Church group calls on gov’t to reciprocate CPP’s truce extension

A church-based group asked the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) to heed the Easter call of Pope Francis for “an immediate ceasefire in all corners of the world” by reciprocating the Communist Party of the Philippines’ (CPP) extension of its truce order.

In a statement, the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) also called on the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) to open the doors to resume the stalled peace talks “especially in the face of an uncertain future brought about by this Covid-19 pandemic.”

The PEPP said that despite accusations from both side that each has violated their respective unilateral ceasefire declarations that simultaneously expired last before midnight of Wednesday, April 15, it still believes that the ceasefires may lead to “healing” and can only provide a good environment for the unhampered flow of services to the Filipino people during the lockdown.

A reciprocal declaration of truce orders may also pave the way for both side to again engage in “principled dialogue toward lasting peace,” it added.

The PEPP statement, signed by Roman Catholic Archbishop Antonio Ledesma and Anglican Bishop Rex Reyes, was issued after the CPP announced its order to extend its unilateral ceasefire declaration to April 30.

The PEPP also volunteered to provide custodial guarantee to vulnerable and elderly prisoners, such as several NDFP consultants, it said should be released on humanitarian grounds as reports of contagion and deaths of detainees have hit various prisons.

“PEPP stands by our longstanding offer to enable and facilitate a conducive atmosphere for restarting the peace talks by providing custodial guarantee through the church network of PEPP should the process of Release on Recognizance be followed in relation to the detained consultants of the NDFP,” it said.

“We call on President Rodrigo Duterte to put a heavy premium on peace and the release on humanitarian grounds the vulnerable during this time of crisis. Today, more than ever—as our nation and the whole world prays for healing—is the time to ‘seek peace and pursue it,” PEPP said, quoting the Bible.

AFP offensives continue

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) however said military offensives against the New People’s Army (NPA) have resumed as of April 16.

AFP spokesperson Brigadier General Edgard Arevalo told reporters last Friday, April 17, the military offensives shall continue even as the country grapples with the coronavirus pandemic.

Malacañan Palace’s has yet to react to efforts by Kodao to seek its comment on the CPP’s truce order extension.

NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison on the hand said he highly appreciates PEPP’s appeal to Duterte to reciprocate the unilateral ceasefire order of the CPP to the NPA, to release the political prisoners on recognizance to the church leaders, and to pave the way for the resumption of peace negotiations.

“I hope that Duterte heeds the appeal of the PEPP. The war hawks of the Duterte regime and the military violate Duterte’s own avowal for healing,” Sison said.

He added that the AFP has only shown “their hatred for the people by denying the violations of their own ceasefire and by launching more offensives against the NPA and the people at the time of the Covid-19 contagion. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

CPP extends truce order despite complaints of GRP ceasefire violations

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) extended its unilateral ceasefire until the end of the month to concentrate on its efforts to help contain the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement Thursday, April 16, the CPP said its Central Committee has ordered the extension for 15 more days starting April 15 “prioritize the fight against the pandemic and ensure the safety, health and well-being of everyone.”

The extended ceasefire order is effective until 11:59 p.m. of April 30

“The CPP ordered the units of the NPA (New People’s Army) and the people’s militias to continue to desist and cease from carrying out offensive military actions against the armed units and personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police (PNP) and other paramilitary and armed groups attached to the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP),” its information office said in a statement.

The group said the aim of the ceasefire extension is to ensure quick and unimpeded support to all people requiring urgent medical, health and socioeconomic assistance in the face of the public emergency over the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Party said all its revolutionary forces are ever ready to cooperate with all other forces and elements to achieve this objective.

Meanwhile, the CPP leadership commended all units of the NPA and people’s militias for their discipline in observing the ceasefire order and shifting priority to the anti-Covid-19 campaign.

It said that the Party’s ceasefire order has been observed “despite the difficulties and dangers brought about by the continuing occupation of AFP combat troops of guerrilla zones and base areas, the widespread and intense intelligence and psywar (psychological warfare) operations, and the attacks mounted by the AFP’s strike forces against detected NPA units.”

The CPP Central Committee reminded all NPA units to “maintain strictest secrecy” and not allow themselves to be exposed to AFP attacks.

The recent armed encounters which the AFP misreport as NPA ceasefire violations are all a result of the offensive actions of the AFP, it alleged.

The ceasefire extension order came after the National Democratic Front of the Philippines wrote to United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres complaining of violations by the Rodrigo Duterte administration of the government’s own unilateral ceasefire declaration of March 19 to April 15.

The AFP conducted military operations in 196 villages and 96 towns throughout the Philippines, the NDFP said quoting CPP reports.

In its statement, the CPP also reiterated the call for the “urgent release” and for declaring a general amnesty for all political prisoners.

It also expressed desire for the resumption of the NDFP-GRP peace negotiations.

“During the ceasefire period, all NPA units must strictly limit themselves to active defense operations which shall be carried out only in the face of imminent danger and actual armed attacks by the enemy forces,” the CPP reiterated.

The GRP has yet to comment on whether it would extend its own ceasefire declaration which has expired before midnight Wednesday, April 15. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Reds report to UN on GRP truce violations

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) has reported to the United Nations (UN) the Philippine government’s alleged violations to its unilateral ceasefire declaration committed while much of the country is under a coronavirus lockdown.

As the Duterte government and the Communist Party of the Philippines’ (CPP) respective unilateral ceasefire declarations expired Wednesday night, April 15, the NDFP said in a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that the government’s violations are in defiance of the global body’s request for all warring parties to temporary lay down arms to concentrate on fighting the pandemic.

NDFP Executive Committee and National Council member Luis Jalandoni told Guterres in a letter that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have mounted 13 attacks or assaults against the New People’s Army (NPA) and conducted at least five aerial bombardments and artillery shelling throughout the country between March 19 to April 15.

The attacks happened in 196 villages in 96 towns nationwide, he said.

Jalandoni’s letter quoted a report from the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Information Bureau, alleging that the Duterte government conducted so-called security patrols that targeted “resting units of the NPA in their areas.”

“Despite claims by the AFP of NPA violations of its ceasefire, it is clear from all reports of the AFP that it was their combat units which were on attack mode,” CPP information officer Marco Valbuena said in his report.

The AFP also conducted at least five aerial bombing and artillery shelling operations on March 17, March 24 and March 27-29 in Davao del Norte, Davao de Oro and Bukidnon provinces, all in the southern island of Mindanao, Valbuena added.

“Purportedly conducting Covid-19 related activities, GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) armed troops roam around civilian communities, set up checkpoints, prohibit people from buying food and other necessities, prevent peasants from tending to their crops, enter people’s homes, accuse them of being armed fighters or NPA supporters, and compel them to ‘surrender’ lest they remain in the military’s ‘list,’” Valbuena reported.

There are several incidents of arrests of peasants, including the detention of 11 indigenous farmers in Pantukan town (Davao de Oro province in Mindanao), as well as the arrest of a 71-year old peasant leader Proceso Torralba in Butuan City, accused of being an NPA member, he added.

Jalandoni’s letter to Guterres was dated April 13 and was also furnished to UN Secretary-General spokesperson Stephane Dujarric.

‘NPA compliant with UN’

In his letter, Jalandoni also said that the NPA has complied fully with the unilateral ceasefire order of the CPP in response to the humanitarian appeal of Guterres for parties involved in armed conflicts to declare a global ceasefire in the fight against Covid-19 pandemic.

The health committees and the revolutionary forces of the New People’s Army, the CPP and the entire NDFP continue to carry out programs in all 73 provinces where the NDFP forces operate, Jalandoni said. 

“The NPA refrains from undertaking attacks against the GRP’s armed forces. The NPA is observing an active defense policy to protect the community from the serious violations of the GRP’s armed forces,” Jalandoni said.

Jalandoni added that the NDFP National Council has deeply valued the UN’s appreciation of the unilateral ceasefire issued by the CPP on March 24 in response to Guterres’ call for a global ceasefire among warring parties to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.

Jalandoni added that the NDFP is committed to continuing its programs throughout the country to protect the people against the pandemic as well as the Philippine government’s violations of its unilateral ceasefire in defense of the Filipino people’s fundamental human rights.

He said the NDFP National Council, the CPP and the NPA shall decide on whether to issue another truce order as both the CPP and the GRP’s respective ceasefire declarations simultaneously ended before midnight Thursday, April 16. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

GRP and CPP ceasefire orders unlikely to be extended

The ceasefire orders of both the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) are set to expire before midnight tonight, Wednesday, April 15, but both camps are silent on whether to extend the truce orders or not.

After each declaring unilateral ceasefire orders to focus on their respective anti-coronavirus disease (Covid-19) campaigns, the government and the revolutionary forces are unlikely to extend their separate truce declarations due to reports of violations mainly by GRP forces.

President Rodrigo Duterte has not revealed his plans on the whether to extend his truce order or not during  his third Bayanihan To Heal As One weekly report late Monday evening, April 13.

Defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana has also failed to reply to queries from reporters on whether he would recommend extending the government’s ceasefire order.

The GRP declared the suspension of military and police operations against the New People’s Army (NPA) last March 19 after Duterte said he wants the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) to concentrate in helping the government contain Covid-19’s spread throughout the country.

Heeding the request of United Nations (UN) Secretary General Antonio Guterres for all warring parties to temporary lay down arms to concentrate on fighting the pandemic, the CPP issued its own truce order last March 23.

CPP’s move won praises from both the GRP and the UN.

The CPP information office said it is still awaiting official word from the party’s Central Committee on whether it would extend its unilateral ceasefire declaration or not.

Both ceasefire orders end at 11:59 tonight.

Ceasefire violations in 25 provinces

Both the AFP and the CPP accused each other of violating their own truce orders.

The AFP was first to accuse the NPA of violating the CPP’s ceasefire declaration after an encounter in  Barangay Puray in Rodriguez, Rizal last March 28.

A military spot report however revealed it was the Philippine Army, “acting on the information from concerned citizens,” that initiated the 40-minute clash that resulted in the death of one NPA fighter and a government trooper. Two more Philippine Army soldiers were wounded.

On March 31, another NPA unit in Barangay Mabunga, Gumaca, Quezon was attacked by a unit of the AFP’s 59th Infantry Battalion (IB). Another Philippine Army spot report said the unit acted on tips from concerned citizens in launching the operation.

On April 1, another NPA unit was attacked by the 85th IB in Barangay Ilayang Yuni, Mulanay, Quezon.

On April 2, another NPA encampment in Barangay Balagon, Silay, Zamboanga Sibugay was raided by troops of the 44th IB. The same AFP unit raided another NPA camp in Barangay Peñaranda, Kabasalan in the same province.

The AFP has launched military operations in 25 provinces covering nearly 90 municipalities and more than 150 villages nationwide throughout the duration of the ceasefire declarations, the CPP reported.

The incidents range from attacks on NPA encampments, aerial bombings, shelling, and militarization of civilian communities, the CPP said.

The group said the AFP was in direct contempt of the UN’s request as well as the orders of their commander in chief Rodrigo Duterte.

‘Continuous violations and offensives without let-up’

National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison said the AFP’s and the GRP’s “ceaseless offensives” are making useless and unnecessary the extension by the CPP and the NPA of their ceasefire declaration.

Instead, Sison said the NPA units all over the country need to stay alert “to have freedom of action to counter in every necessary way the offensives being conducted by their merciless enemy.”

Sison added that the NPA may refrain from attacking AFP soldiers only in areas under their full control and where their enemy is not taking any offensive action even without a generalized ceasefire declaration.

“At any rate, it is up to the CPP to decide whether the ceasefire is to be extended, upon the recommendation of the NDFP if any,” Sison said.

He added that the NDFP has already informed the UN secretary general of the Duterte government’s violation of their own ceasefire declaration.

CPP information officer Marco Valbuena for his part told Kodao that all units of the NPA remain on alert and await orders and instructions from the CPP high leadership. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

AFP bombing spree in Mindanao disobeys Duterte’s Covid-19 ceasefire order, Reds report

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is disobeying President Rodrigo Duterte’s ceasefire order, undertaking aerial bombing, cannon firing, and other military operations amid the corona virus disease (Covid-19) emergency, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) reported.

In a statement, the CPP said that based on New People’s Army (NPA) field reports, the AFP  is on a bombing spree and continues to carry out focused military offensives in the Bukidnon-Davao border area in disregard of the ceasefires declared by the Duterte government.

“Philippine Air Force (PAF) units under the AFP’s 4th Infantry Division used an FA-50 fighter jet to indiscriminately drop five 500-pound bombs near two Lumad communities in Barangay Mandahikan, Cabanglasan (Bukidnon province) on March 27,” the CPP said in a statement.

According to the CPP, the fighter jet dropped three bombs around 9 a.m. and two more at 2 p.m, traumatizing children and other community residents.

The bombing damaged the primary source of food and livelihood of the Lumad in the area, the group added.

On March 29, the AFP, using attack helicopters, fired at least 10 rockets in the same barangay at around noontime.

Rounds were also reportedly fired from artillery cannons installed at an adjacent barangay in Loreto, Davao del Norte province.

A Cessna surveillance aircraft flew overhead the whole day after the airstrike, the CPP said.

The military also deployed additional soldiers at Sitio Miyaray to conduct combat operations while two trooper units and three armored fighting vehicles were also deployed at Sitio Tapayanon, Barangay Gupitan, Kapalong, Davao del Norte, the CPP reported.

The bombings and troop deployments followed a fire fight resulting from an operation by the AFP’s 60th and 56th Infantry Battalions against the NPA in the area last March 24.

“The military made it appear that the attack was staged by the NPA although it was clear that they were carrying out offensive combat operations as evidenced by the fact that they have prepositioned artillery units to back up their ground troops,” the CPP said.

The underground group also said that the military raided an NPA encampment in Little Baguio, San Fernando, Bukidnon on March 29 at 2 a.m.

“Residents reported that military troops continue to operate in Barangays Kibongcog and Poblacion, San Fernando; Barangay Concepcion, Valencia; Santa Filomena, Quezon; Barangays Bulonay and Kalabugao, Impasug-ong; Barangays Busdi, Caburacanan, Manalog, Saint Peter and Zamboanguita, Malaybalay City; and Barangay Poblacion, Cabanglasan,” the CPP said.

The AFP also placed two artillery cannons in Sitio Nursery, Barangay Concepcion and another in Sitio Salaysay in Barangay Santa Filomena and have subjected the area to continuous aerial surveillance since the last week of March, reported the CPP.

Philippine Army Commanding General Lt. Gen. Gilbert I. Gapay however has only issued congratulatory messages to his troops engaged in fire fights against the NPA in Zamboanga Sibugay and Quezon provinces, admitting however that the fire fight in Mulanay town happened after his troops responded to reports that NPA rebels were in the area.

In the Zamboanga Sibugay encounter, Gapay said his troops were merely in the vicinity as part of the Philippine Army’s community visitation for Covid-19 information awareness.

The CPP, however, said that the military had been using the Covid-19 pandemic emergency to camouflage its intensified counter-insurgency operations in contempt of the United Nations plea to a global truce and in direct contravention of Duterte’s unilateral ceasefire order effective March 19 to April 13. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

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)