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NDFP to welcome Bello if Duterte sends him

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) said it would welcome Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) envoys if President Rodrigo Duterte sends them to Europe to try to revive the stalled peace talks between the parties.

Reacting to Duterte’s statement that he is sending labor secretary Silvestre Bello in a “last bid” to resume the negotiations, NDFP leaders said they will welcome Bello when he arrives.

“If Duterte wants to talk and takes the concrete steps about it, the NDFP has to consider seriously what he proposes. The NDFP has to be open to any possibility for the benefit of the Filipino people,” NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison told Kodao.

NDFP Negotiating Panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili for his part told Kodao he welcomes the “desire of the GRP to resume peace negotiations” and that they “await the arrival of Sec. Bello and his team.”

In a situation briefing on the GRP’s response to Typhoon Tisoy in the Bicol Region last Thursday, December 5, Duterte said he is sending Bello to the Netherlands where the NDFP negotiators are based.

“He (Bello) should go there, talk to them. I cannot talk about it. Basta I’m sending him back to Sison and talk to him,” Duterte said.

Another turnaround

Duterte dissolved his government’s peace panel last March 18, firing Bello and fellow negotiators Hernani Braganza, Atty. Angela Librado-Trinidad, Atty. Rene Sarmiento and Atty. Antonio Arellano.

The GRP panel’s dissolution followed the replacement of Atty. Jesus Dureza as presidential peace adviser with retired army general Carlito Galvez and the intense implementation of Duterte’s counter-insurgency policy, highlighted by the successive arrests of NDFP peace consultants.

On November 23, 2017, Duterte signed Proclamation No. 360 declaring the termination of peace negotiations with the NDFP, followed closely by his signing on Dec. 5, 2017 of Proclamation 374 classifying NDFP allied organizations Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army as “terrorist organizations.”

In December 2018, Duterte signed Executive Order No. 70 directing the creation of a national task force to “end local communist armed conflict.”

On Dec. 5, 2017, the Chief Executive signed Proclamation 374, classifying the CPP and NPA as terror organizations because of the crimes they supposedly committed “against the Filipino people, against humanity, and against the law of the nations.”

The NDFP for its part has always blamed Duterte for the termination of formal negotiations, claiming it has always been open to “sincere efforts” to resume negotiations.

Sison clarified that the NDFP has never said that it will never talk to GRP under Duterte even after his termination of the peace talks.

“The NDFP has never said that it will never talk to GRP under Duterte even after his termination of the peace talks,” Sison told Kodao.

‘Last ditch’

Duterte said Thursday his decision to send Bello to Europe is his last ditch attempt to forge a peace deal with the NDFP.

“This is my last card. When I say my last card, my time is running out,” Duterte said.

He added that he is not reopening talks with the NDFP for the sake of the military or the police, “but for everybody.”

“The doors must be open always or there must be at least one channel if everything closes through which you can talk,” he said.

Duterte’s latest turnaround followed a statement made by Sison that he hopes Duterte may soon be “enlightened”.

“May Duterte be hit by lightning, like Saul on his way to Damascus. It could be the lightning of enlightenment,” Sison told Kodao in a recent exclusive interview published Wednesday, December 4. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Joma says NDFP still open to talks

National Democratic Front of the Philippines chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison said their group is still open to peace negotiations with the Rodrigo Duterte government.

In this exclusive interview, Sison said that despite all that the Government of the Republic of the Philippines did to the negotiations, he said he hopes Duterte may soon be “enlightened”.

“May Duterte be hit by lightning, like Saul on his way to Damascus. It could be the lightning of enlightenment,” Sison said. (Contributed by Urbano Guevarra)

Human rights defenders press call for Rey Casambre’s freedom

By Sanafe Marcelo

National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Rey Claro Casambre’s scheduled arraignment at Branch 19 of the Bacoor (Cavite) Regional Trial Court (RTC) did not push through Friday, November 29, further infuriating supporters who held a protest action to press for his immediate release.

Casambre was not brought to Bacoor by the Metro Manila District Jail personnel from Taguig after failing to receive a subpoena for the arraignment.

Arrested with his wife Cora in December 2018, Casambre was charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives by the Philippine National Police (PNP).

Charges against Cora were immediately dropped, however, for lack of evidence.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) chairperson Carol Araullo said the couple’s arrest and the filing of criminal charges against Rey is “non-sense.”

“It is hard to believe that senior citizens who just attended a friend’s wake were going around Manila with a grenade and guns [in the dashboard of their car],” Araullo said.

Xandra Casambre, the couple’s daughter, said the charges are trumped-up, including the two counts of attempted murder and a murder case filed against her father in Davao Oriental “where he never been before.”

The arraignment was rescheduled to January 23 next year.

BJMP petition to bring Casambre back to Bacoor jail

Meanwhile, Casambre’s lawyers revealed that the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) petitioned for Casambre’s return to Bacoor City Jail

Public Interest Law Center’s Rachel Pastores said that the judge presented a letter from the BJMP National Office requesting to transfer Casambre place of detention from Taguig to Bacoor.

Pastores said they were given 10 days to comment on the petition.

Xandra said they will oppose the petition, pointing out that harsh conditions at the Bacoor City Jail made his father sick in April

“But [the transfer] is a small matter compared to the fact he is detained because of the trumped-up charges filed against him,” Xandra said.

Xandra said her father’s criminal cases are Rodrigo Duterte government’s way of silencing opposition to “the government anti-people policies.”

“It is wrong that the people who promote social justice and change are being silenced, instead of being heard,” she said. #

COURAGE condemns arrest of former official

The country’s biggest public sector union confederation condemned the arrest of its former officer accused by the police as a high-ranking officer of the underground communist movement.

The Confederation for the Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE) said Dizon’s arrest is illegal and is a direct attack on the essence of public sector unionism.

“Dizon was illegally arrested based on trumped up charges like murder in Bayugan, Agusan Del Sur and linking her to the CPP-NPA (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army) by planting files such as ‘communist’ paraphernalia, flash drives and the like…[A]lso caught in her supposed possession are gun and explosives which are pure desperate moves by the state forces,” COURAGE president Santiago Dasmariñas said in a statement.

Dizon was arrested by the San Pedro Police Department at her home in San Pedro, Laguna at 3 A.M. today on the basis of a warrant of arrest for murder issued by Branch 7 of the Bayugan City Regional Trial Court,

COURAGE said Dizon is currently detained at the San Pedro police precinct.

“[T]he state has been aggressive in witch-hunting its critics primarily in the government sector,” Santiago said, adding many of their leaders, who are government workers, have been receiving threats and intimidation and even given trumped-up charges as well as suspension from their work only because of their assertion of their rights for a national minimum wage and ending contractualization in civil service.

Santiago revealed that Dizon were among those who petition the Supreme Court for a Writ of Amparo and Writ of Habeas Data following the several incidents of tailing she suffered from suspected military intelligence operatives in 2015.

In July 11 of that year, Dizon sought refuge and spent the night at the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) in Ortigas, Mandaluyong City for fear of being abducted or assassinated by the men who she said had been tailing her.

“Progressive organizations, individuals, and leaders said they have been receiving threats and forms of harassment from the military agents for their affiliation and organizing work, and the case of Dizon is not new as the state has been relentlessly silencing them for their tireless contribution in advancing people’s rights,” Santiago said.

Laguna police director Eleazar Matta also reportedly alleged that Dizon currently acts as secretary of the Communist Party of the Philippines’ National Organizing Department, replacing National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace consultants Rafael Baylosis and Adelberto Silva.

Santiago, however, said the red-tagging of progressive individuals and organizations is no different as during former dictator Marcos’s martial rule. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Police arrest red-baited public union organizer

Police operatives arrested a public sector unionizing advocate in Laguna early Wednesday, September 18, accusing her of being the replacement of arrested National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultants.

Antonietta Setias Dizon was arrested in her house in Barangay Rosario, San Pedro City on the basis of a warrant of arrest issued by Branch 7 of the Bayugan City Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Agusan del Sur.

News reports said that a .38 caliber revolver, ammunition and blasting caps were found in Dizon’s possession at the time of her arrest.

Laguna police director Eleazar Matta also reportedly alleged that Dizon currently acts as secretary of the Communist Party of the Philippines’ National Organizing Department, replacing NDFP consultants Rafael Baylosis and Adelberto Silva.

Baylosis and Silva were separately arrested in 2018 and were also charged with murder and illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

Baylosis however was freed early this year after the Quezon City RTC said there was insufficient evidence to prosecute him.

A former deputy secretary general of the Confederation for the Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE), Dizon earlier complained of being tailed by military operatives, forcing her to temporarily seek sanctuary inside the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) offices in Pasig City last July 14, 2015.

It resulted in a 10-hour standoff between Dizon and her pursuers that only ended when lawyers and progressive lawmakers fetched her from the building.

Dizon’s photo of the vehicle that repeatedly tailed her in July 2015.

Prior to the standoff, Dizon told Pinoy Weekly that she had been tailed in succession on July 6, 10 and 11 by a Toyota Innova vehicle that was later traced by an IBP official to one Norberto delos Reyes, of Room 83, Condo B, Camp Crame, general headquarters of the Philippine National Police.

Public servant, public sector unionizing advocate

Before being elected as a COURAGE officer, Dizon was an official of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).

“I came into government, ironically, because of Cory Aquino,” she told Pinoy Weekly in 2016. It was Cory, Dizon said, who first inspired her to enter public service in 1986.

“I even recruited my fellow members of UPSCA (University of the Philippines Student Catholic Action, the university’s largest Catholic organization) in UP Manila to join me in OWWA,” Dizon said.

“As part of OWWA, I was able to travel all over the world to meet migrant Filipinos in need,” she said. “That is how I began developing a deeper understanding of their plight.”

Later, Dizon was appointed as executive director of one of DOLE’s staff agencies, the Bureau of Rural Workers, where she was exposed to the plight of rural-based workers and peasants.

Barely a year into public service, Dizon recounted that she realized the need to organize government employees and unite them to fight for their rights and contribute to social change.

Dizon said she came to understand the connections between public-sector workers’ struggles and the overall people’s struggle for democratic rights. She even began organizing fellow middle managers.

 “We became involved in the campaign against the privatization of Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS). We picketed Malacañan as well as the Senate in 1989,” she said.

 “I availed of early retirement in 2003. I no longer wanted to be tied up with government as I criticized its policies,” she added.

Since her retirement, Dizon told Pinoy Weekly that she devoted much of her time advocating for public-sector organizing. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘Return Vic’s hearing aid,’ wife demands from police

Fides Lim, wife of detained National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace consultant Vicente Ladlad, again demanded the return of her husband’s hearing aid she said was taken by the police arresting team.

“[T]hat Oticon pair cost me a lot, we’re still waiting for the police team to return these. It’s fitted just for Vic’s ear canal, what use is it to you?” Lim wrote on her Facebook account following the first hearing on the illegal possession of firearms and explosives case against Ladlad and companions Alberto and Virginia Villamor at the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Thursday, September 12.

Lim was actually commenting on Police Major Raleigh Herbert Ampuan’s testimony that medical examinations on Ladlad and the Villamors were duly performed and that their arrest was lawful.

Ampuan is a Philippine National Police (PNP) Crime Laboratory personnel at Camp Crame.

Lim said Ampuan should have noted in his report that Ladlad had difficulty of hearing he wasn’t wearing his hearing aid during their arrest.

Doctor doctoran,” (playing doctor) Lim said of the police doctor who testified he was limited to looking for just physical injuries on the three “as he was not in a hospital.”

‘Irregular’

In his testimony, Ampuan admitted those arrested last November 8 should have been brought to the nearest government hospital.

“I asked them why did they not bring those arrested to the nearest government hospital. They insisted that I should be the one to examine the three,” Ampuan said during the cross examination.

Ampuan explained it was the command of the Chief of PNP [Police Director General Oscar Albayalde].

Ampuan also admitted there was no written request for the PNP Crime Laboratory to do the physical examination.

“When I asked them [QCPD] for the request, they just told me they would give it later,” he explained.

In his medico-legal reports, Ampuan noted that the three had the same blood pressure of 140/90. He also said he did not note of any “external findings [injuries].”

‘Lies’

Lim, however, said “Ampuan’s testimony was “sapped/zapped by a miasma of untruths,” insisting that no physical examination were conducted on the arrested persons.

She pointed out that while that Ampuan’s medical report was time-stamped “7:11 AM”, the “Request for Physical Examination” by the QCPD superintendent, based on the “Received” stamp marks of the PC Crime Laboratory, indicate the times of “8:30 AM” and “8:35 AM.”

“Why would a police doctor do something without first awaiting the order of his superior?” Lim asked.

Lim also pointed out that the blood pressure of all three was a uniform “140/90” on the three exam sheets she said is an unlikely occurrence.

She added that Virginia told her that no medical examination was performed on them.

“More peculiar is, why didn’t the doctor note down that Virginia had difficulty standing up and that walking was even more excruciatingly difficult? Wasn’t he supposed to have done a ‘physical examination’ to determine the presence of superficial injuries?” Lim asked.

Virginia’s hip and leg injuries were aggravated when the arresting officers forcibly forced her to lie face down on the floor during the arrest, Lim explained.

“It’s symptomatic of the entirety of this Case of Planted Firearms vs. Vic Ladlad and the Villamors – TRUMPED UP as with other fabricated cases against other activists and critics of the Duterte government,” Lim said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDF accuses AFP officers of profiteering from ‘fake NPA surrenderees’

The National Democratic Front (NDF) in North East Mindanao accused top officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) of earning millions of pesos from fake New People’s Army (NPA) surrenders.

Reacting to AFP’s announcement of re-focusing its E-CLIP (Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program) on some barrios in the four provinces of Caraga, the NDF said that the move will yet be a new source of corruption of millions of pesos of public funds.

“Moreover, it is also a capital for the promotion of AFP officials and their impossible dream of demonizing the (NPA) and revolutionary movement through the parading of fake-forced-to-surrenders,” NDF North Eat Mindanao spokesperson Maria Malaya said in a statement.

The NDF said that based on reports it received from various barangays and communities in the region, those impelled to surrender were promised Php65,000 each. Some of the “surrenderees”, however, only received Php5,000 while majority were left empty-handed.

“In other cases, the Php5,000 was paid in the form of ‘down payment’ for a motorcycle, and the ‘surrenderee’ is then obliged to pay in installment the total amount of Php65,000 for said motorcycle,” Malaya revealed.

Malaya accused the AFP officials of cunningly doubling their kickbacks from the E-CLIP budget and from commissions by acting as sales agents for the motorcycle companies.

Since the collapse of the formal peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Negotiating Panel in November 2017, the Rodrigo Duterte government had been active in parading “NPA surrenderees” and promising them financial enticements through the E-CLIP.

 ‘Jobs, houses’

Duterte himself met with hundreds of the so-called surrenderees since he ordered the termination of his government’s peace talks with the NDFP through Proclamation No. 360 in November 23, 2017.

“Look, I am addressing myself to all the soldiers of the New People’s Army. Surrender now and lay down your arms. There are jobs waiting for you and I am building, all throughout the country, almost 5,000 [houses] with at the National Housing Authority,” Duterte said in November 2017.

Shortly after, in December 2017, the government proscribed the Communist Party of the Philippines and the NPA as terrorist groups through Duterte‘s Proclamation No. 374.

From January to May 2018, AFP claimed that a total of 7,194 NPA members and supporters have surrendered.

Former AFP chief of staff Rey Guerrero, however, clarified in February 2018, that at least 80 percent of the so-called surrenderees are non-combatants.

“Out of about a thousand, 980 are surrenderees. About 800 of them are not regular combatants. They are part of the underground organization, the political structures,” Guerrero said.

In the same period, Duterte welcomed batches of so-called surrenderees in Malacañan and reportedly gave them food packs and smart phones.

Last July 30 to early August, 88 so-called former NPA members enjoyed an all-expense-paid tour of Hong Kong in fulfilment of Duterte’s promise in December 21, 2017 that he would let the former rebels experience life in a developed country.

Duterte also promised to make rebel returnees members of the AFP and even allowed them to keep their firearms.

Forced enlistment

But not all so-called surrenderees are willing conscripts and have become regular troopers of the AFP, the NDF said.

Malaya said there are cases of fake or forced surrenderees who were compelled to enlist and undergo Citizens Auxiliary Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU) training and were promised bigger amounts of cash after they have been presented to the media in the cities or in Malacañang.

“Only a handful was able to receive a small amount of cash. Most of them only got some kilos of rice, noodles and sardines. In short, none of them were able to receive the actual amount promised,” Malaya said.

In the case of the 96 “surrenderees” presented by the AFP’s 401st and 402nd Infantry Brigade in Surigao del Sur in November 10, 2018, AFP officers pocketed Php5.8 million, the rebel spokesperson revealed.

Malaya said that a total of Php480 million had been pocketed by AFP, police and Office of the Presidential Peace Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) from the supposed 8,000 NPA surrenders since 2018.

 “This modus by the military is hardly new, and has long been exposed as a scheme for deception and corruption by AFP officials through the E-CLIP,” she added.

Former Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza resigned in November 27, 2018 for reportedly failing to curb corruption at his agency following Duterte public sacking of OPAPP officials who allegedly pocketed funds for the E-CLIP and the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) program. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘Stop the killings!’

“Hinding-hindi malulutas ng militarisasyon at pagpaslang sa mamamayan ang sigalot ngayon na nangyayari sa kanayunan. Stop the killings! Defend Negros! Resume peace talks!”—Prof. Judy Taguiwalo, University of the Philippines-Diliman

Suaybaguio’s arrest another obstacle to peace talks resumption–NDFP

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) condemned the arrest of another of its peace consultant Monday, calling it “another obstacle to peace.”

“The Duterte regime remains on a fascist rampage that adds more and more obstacles to the resumption of the peace negotiations with the NDFP,” its negotiating panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili said.

In a statement, Agcaoili said Esterlita Suaybaguio, arrested by police operatives in an apartment building in Quezon City Monday, August 26, is covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) with Document of Identification (DI) Number ND 978447 as second consultant for Mindanao.

Under JASIG, peace consultants and staff from both the NDFP and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) enjoy “immunity from surveillance, harassment, search, arrest, detention, prosecution and interrogation or any other similar punitive actions due to any involvement and participation in the peace negotiations.”

“A copy of her DI is deposited in the safety deposit box under the name of Archbishop Joris A.O.L. Vercammen,” Agcaoili said. Vercammen belongs to The Old Catholic Church of The Netherlands.

In July 12, 2017, former government peace negotiators Hernani Braganza and Angela L. Trinidad and Philippine Ambassador to The Netherlands Jamie Ledda witnessed the consignment of the NDFP list with Vercammen.

In July 2017, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process said that then GRP chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III issued Letters of Authority (LA) to the JASIG-covered rebel consultants they could present to police authorities and military in case they are held or arrested.

The Philippine National Police said they confiscated a handgun, bullets and grenade from Suaybaguio’s apartment, an offense it charged all other arrested NDFP peace consultants and staff with since the GRP walked away from the peace negotiations in June 2017.

“Instead of promoting just peace, the Duterte regime and its military even send psywar (psychological warfare) and spy teams in schools and communities and even abroad to muddle the facts about the peace talks, sow disinformation on activist organizations and NGOs, and hide the widespread extrajudicial killings and rampant human rights violations in the country,” Agcaoili said.

“The NDFP Negotiating Panel calls for the immediate release of Suaybaguio and the dropping of false charges against her, as well as the scores of other detained NDFP consultants and personnel,” Agcaoili added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDFP peace consultant arrested, charged with possession of firearms and grenade

Philippine National Police (PNP) operatives arrested a National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant at 1:50 AM Monday, August  26, in an apartment building in Cubao, Quezon City.

Esterlita Suaybaguio is currently being held at Camp Karingal, headquarters of the Quezon City Police District.

An Abante report said the raid was by virtue of a search warrant issued by QC Regional Trial Court Branch 89 Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert against Suaybaguio for alleged violations of the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act and the Unlawful Manufacture, Sales, Acquisition, Disposition, Importation or Possession of an Explosive or Incendiary Device Act.

The same charges have been filed against arrested NDFP peace consultants and staff, including  Rafael Baylosis, Vicente Ladlad, Adelberto Silva, Renante Gamara, Rey Claro Casambre, Frank Fernandez and Alexander and Winona Birondo.

Persons arrested with the said peace consultants and staff were also similarly charged.

Abante reported the police confiscated a 9mm handgun, a magazine with seven bullets, a hand grenade and so-called subversive documents from Suaybaguio.

Kodao sources said Suaybaguio is in possession of a Document of Identification as NDFP peace consultant.

As a peace consultant, Suaybaguio is supposedly exempt from surveillance and arrest under the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) between the NDFP and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines.

Her arrest happened on the third anniversary of the end of the first round of formal talks between the NDFP and the Rodrigo Duterte government when all previously signed agreements were reaffirmed by both parties, including the JASIG. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)