Posts

Activists express incredulity at Casambres’ arrest

The morning after couple Rey and Cora Casambre were arrested by elements of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group of the Philippine National Police, activists trooped to Camp Crame in Quezon City to demand their immediate release.

In their protest rally, the activists expressed incredulity in the brazenness of the police officers in presenting trumped-up charges against Rey as well as their lie that the couple was in possession of a gun and a grenade when arrested in Molino, Bacoor, Cavite early Friday morning.

The activists said that no way did Rey participate in an ambush by the New People’s Army in Davao Oriental last October. # (Video by Carlo Francisco)

 

 

 

Casambre arrest proves Duterte ‘cannot be trusted’

The Rodrigo Duterte government is “ludicrous” in arresting and charging yet another National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant with trumped-up murder and attempted murder cases, various groups said.

The arrest of long-time peace consultant and Philippine Peace Center (PPC) executive director Rey Claro Casambre and spouse Patricia Cora in Bacoor, Cavite early Friday morning as well as the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) claim a calibre .45 gun and a grenade were found in the couple’s car drew quick condemnations from activists who said the incident is yet another canard by “peace spoilers.”

Rey and Cora just came from a wake at the University of the Philippines campus in Quezon City when arrested by members of the PNP’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group.

They were taken to Camp Crame in Quezon City early Friday morning where they were informed of a warrant of arrest against Rey for murder and attempted murder he allegedly committed along with six others in Davao Oriental Province.

The warrant of arrest was issued on November 23 by Judge Emilio Dayanghirang III of Lupon Regional Trial Court Branch 32.

No details of the murder and attempted murder charges have been made public yet.

“As usual, and as predictable as the sun will come out tomorrow, the non-bailable murder charges are trumped-up and sprang out of nowhere. And as tiringly contrived as expected, a roving firearm and a rusty grenade were again routinely planted to make the arrest appear aboveboard for good measure,” NDFP legal consultant Atty. Edre Olalia fumed.

Olalia said nobody would ever believe such false narrative, noting that Casambre is a publicly-known peace consultant who is also covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).

“As such, [Casambre] should not have been [subjected to surveillance], harassed and arrested for an indubitably manufactured case,” Olalia said.

The lawyer said Rey’s spouse Cora is a translator with the PPC where he is executive director for the longest time

“The arrest of the Casambres, treacherous as it is baseless, once again proves that this government cannot be trusted and that it is the number one violator of the most basic rights especially of those seeking genuine and long-lasting solutions to the problems besetting our people and our country,” Olalia said.

Casambre is the fourth NDFP peace consultant after Rafael Baylosis, Adelberto Silva and Vicente Ladlad arrested after Duterte effectively terminated the once-promising peace negotiations in November 2017.

Baylosis was arrested last January, Silva in October and Ladlad in November and were each charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

All four are elderly and suffering from various ailments.

More condemnations

Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Ysagani Zarate said the Casambres’ arrest is the same modus that the police used in arresting Ladlad, Baylosis and Silva.

“They planted guns and explosives and filed trumped up charges,” the progressive solon said.

Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights secretary general Cristina Palabay said only fools would believe the elderly Casambre couple would be carrying weapons inside their vehicle.

“All bear the same signs of fabricated charges,” Palabay said.

Atty. Rachel Pastores, lawyer for the Casambres said the arrest was carried out by “peace spoilers” who betray government’s insincerity in the peace negotiations.

“We now fear for the safety of others involved in the peace talks. Among them, [our] clients Alexander and Winona Birondo who were part of the NDFP delegation and whose cases were recently dismissed by a Quezon City trial court. The Birondo spouse have reported intense surveillance and harassment,” Pastores said.

By harassing and rounding up all peace consultants and unnecessarily demonizing them, the PNP exploits their badges as law enforcers, and aids and abets the scuttling of the peace talks, Pastores said.

Zarate added it is tragic and ironic that Casambre, who is pushing for the resumption of the peace talks and who even attended the Congress hearing for the approval of the resolution for the resumption of the negotiations, is the one behind bars while hawks pushing for war are even promoted by Duterte.

“The Duterte administration is ill-advised if they think that the armed conflict can be solved with this type of modus and a purely military solution without addressing the roots of the armed conflict,” Zarate said.

‘Ludicrous’

The NDFP Negotiating Panel for its part said Casambre’s arrest is unjust and ludicrous that virtually closes the doors to any possibility of resuming the peace negotiations with the Duterte regime.

NDFP’s chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili said the charges against Casambre related to an incident in Lupon, Davao Oriental on September 13 this year involve others who are currently experiencing “intense harassment and surveillance.”

The others have assisted the NDFP Negotiating Panel in various capacities as resource persons, writers, researchers and staff during the peace negotiations, Agcaoili said.

“To ensure the smooth resumption of the formal peace talks, the detained peace consultants should be released immediately,” he added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘Binabantaan ng pag-aresto’

“Ang NDFP ay ginagawa ang lahat ng paraan para buhayin ang usapang pangkapayapaan. Kahit ang mga peace negotiator ang pumupunta dito, pero sila ay binabantaan pa rin ng pag aresto.”–Renato Reyes Jr, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general

(Meme by Carlo Francisco)

Galvez ill-suited as peace adviser—Karapatan

Criticism greeted Malacañan Palace’s announcement of President Rodrigo Duterte’s planned appointment of Carlito Galvez Jr. as Presidential adviser on the peace process, citing the general’s role in the collapse of the peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights in a statement said Duterte’s decision to appoint the retiring Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff as peace adviser is nailing the door to peace shut.

“What will a high-ranking military officer contribute to the advancement of the peace process when the institution [he leads] has been largely behind the derailment and collapse of the negotiations?” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.

Palabay said it is likely that the general will only turn OPAPP into the “Office of the Presidential Adviser on Preventing Peace.”

“War is business, and the military is adept at profiting from violating people’s rights,” Palabay added.

Malacañan said Wednesday the President is set to appoint Galvez as replacement to Presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza who recently resigned “for failing to curb corruption in the agency.”

Duterte publicly fired OPAPP Undersecretary for Support Services Ronald Flores and Assistant Secretary Yeshton Donn Baccay of the agency’s Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) program last November 26.

Before Dureza’s resignation, however, Galvez already announced he was keen on being a peace adviser when he retires from military service this month.

Prior to his appointed as AFP chief, Galvez was chairperson of the government’s Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

He said he used to visit territories controlled by belligerent forces in his 12 years as a military officer in Mindanao.

Karapatan, however, said Galvez is ill-suited to become a peace adviser because he actively and strongly opposed the peace negotiations between the government and the NDFP, along with defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana and national security adviser Hermogenes Esperon.

““The mercenary character of the military prevents them from understanding that peace is not merely the laying down of arms, but a condition that necessitates social justice,” Palabay said.

Palabay also pointed out that Galvez’s appointment will make him the seventh former AFP Chief appointed to key civilian positions in Duterte’s government.

 

Among other former AFP Chiefs-of-Staff appointed by Duterte are Esperon, Año, environment and natural resources secretary Roy Cimatu and social work and development secretary Joselito Bautista.

“Duterte may think he is keeping the military in line by doling out key civilian positions to military men, but he is further endangering the Filipino people. The control of the military over communities will heighten, insidiously using civilian agencies as arsenal against Filipinos themselves,” Palabay warned.

She added that Duterte’s militarization of the bureaucracy undermines civilian supremacy.

“This is how the Duterte regime intends to stay in power amid widespread protest and resistance – fear and repression to be manned by a set of military men kept loyal through the awarding of political favors at our expense,” Palabay concluded. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Military wants to take over OPAPP, Joma says

National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison said the issue of corruption that led to the resignation of Presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza is a mere pretext in order for President Rodrigo Duterte to close all doors to the peace negotiations.

Asked to comment on Dureza’s resignation, Sison said that Duterte also wants to place the billions of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) and its Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) program under corrupt politicians and the military.

“The issue of corruption is a mere pretext because the Office of the President is anyway the stinking center of corruption,” Sison told Kodao.

Sison said the “racket” in PAMANA is also in the invention of fake beneficiaries and in favouring some local politicians.

“The military officers and some mayors have become notorious for pocketing privately E-CLIP (Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program) funds for fake surrenderers. Now, they want to take over the PAMANA under OPAPP,” he said.

Dureza resigned as Presidential peace adviser Tuesday (November 27) for failing to curb corruption at the OPAPP after Duterte publicly fired Undersecretary for Support Services Ronald Flores and Assistant Secretary for PAMANA Yeshton Donn Baccay in a speech in Panglao Island, Bohol Monday.

But Sison said the real issue is the military’s desire to control OPAPP to prevent serious  peace negotiations with the NDFP.

This is made clear by Duterte’s announcement of the formation of death squads with the license to kill just anyone who is suspected of being or still becoming NPA.

“Duterte is absolutely crazy in announcing he is forming death squads with the license to kill any istambay (loiterers), any critic, any activist or just anyone whom the death squads suspect or think of becoming or being NPA,” Sison said.

“He wants Oplan Kapayapaan to compete with Oplan Tokhang in murdering thousands of people,” he added.

Sison added that Duterte is obviously becoming desperate because Oplan Kapayapaan has failed to defeat the NPA in the guerrilla fronts.

“Not a single guerrilla front has been destroyed even in Mindanao where he has concentrated 75 of his total of 98 maneuver battalions under conditions of martial law. Duterte has gone out of his mind,” Sison said.

Sison further echoed Caloocan Catholic Bishop Pablo Virgilio David’s observation that the President is mentally sick.

“He needs psychiatric help and should be removed from his position,” Sison said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Dureza resigns as Presidential peace adviser

Secretary Jesus Dureza resigned Tuesday following President Rodrigo Duterte’s public termination of two senior officials of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) due to corruption.

The former secretary made public his letter to the President apologizing for his failure to curb corruption in the office he twice headed.

“I am sad because despite my efforts to be compliant with your strong advocacy against corruption, I failed,” Dureza wrote.

Duterte last Monday (November 26) announced he terminated OPAPP Undersecretary for Support Services Ronald Flores and Assistant Secretary Yeshton Donn Baccay of the agency’s Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) program.

“I am very sad that I accepted the resignation of Secretary Dureza,” Duterte said Tuesday at the inauguration of the new airport in Panglao Island, Bohol.

Dureza also served as peace adviser to former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

It is the second time in two successive terms the OPAPP was involved in allegations of corruption.

Corruption infested

In 2015, the Commission on Audit (COA) red-flagged OPAPP, then headed by Teresita Deles, for overspending on vehicle rentals by 469 percent.

According to COA, the OPAPP in 2014 spent P45 million on vehicle rentals instead of the appropriated P7.97 million.

Government auditors revealed that OPAPP rented a total of 294 vehicles in 2014, in addition to the 56 vehicles already owned by the agency.

COA reported that the office used funds from other programs to pay for car rentals without prior approval from the Department of Budget and Management.

The terminations and resignation this week revealed that corruption is apparently continuing in the agency.

PAMANA is OPAPP’s complimentary program to its role in the government’s peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The program claims it is aimed at extending development interventions to isolated, hard-to-reach and conflict-affected communities through improved governance, poverty reduction and community empowerment in the hope of addressing issues of conflict.

Duterte and Dureza did not elaborate on the alleged corruption by Flores and Baccay.

“I take full responsibility and apologise for all this,” Dureza said, adding his voluntary resignation is also to make way for needed reorganization that Duterte may wish to undertake at OPAPP.

AFP chief to take over?

Earlier, Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff Carlito Galvez Jr. told reporters that he wishes to become a peace adviser when he retires in December.

Galvez told reporters last November 19 that he conveyed his desire to Dureza and that he “accepted my request.”

Galvez however said he wishes to focus on the government’s peace process with the MILF.

Dureza did not comment on Galvez’s announcement.

The President’s high school classmate remains in government as special envoy to the European countries.

The MILF and the NDFP have yet to comment on Dureza’s resignation. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Families and supporters demand freedom for jailed NDFP consultants

Families and supporters of National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultants Rafael Baylosis, Adelberto Silva and Vicente Ladlad gathered in an activity last Saturday, November 23, at the Immaculate Concepcion Multipurpose Building in Cubao, Quezon City to call for their release .

The Philippine Peace Center (PPC) and Kapayapaan–Campaign for a Just and Lasting Peace also urged the government to resume its stalled peace talks with NDFP to address the roots of armed conflict.

The PPC reminded the government to respect previous agreements such as the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees which protects consultants from any form of arrest, surveillance, harassments and others.

Baylosis, Silva and Ladlad were arrested last March, October and November, respectively, and charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

Atty. Rachel Pastores, managing counsel of Public Interest Law Center said that their clients were subjected to arrest and punishment by simply doing their job as peace consultants.

She added that even if the peace negotiations were formally terminated, the JASIG is still in effect. # (Report and video by Joseph Cuevas)

‘What kind of President does the GRP have?’ Joma asks

President Rodrigo Duterte’s revelation it is the military and the police that will give final approval on a final peace agreement with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) is an admission of his incompetence and lack of political will to pursue the peace negotiations, Jose Maria Sison said.

Reacting to Duterte’s speech in Tanza, Cavite Thursday (November 22) that he will seek military and police approval before he signs a peace agreement with the NDFP, Sison wondered why the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) chief executive is afraid of his subordinates.

“He is supposed to be the supreme political leader and commander-in-chief of the GRP. That is an inadmissible excuse for his repeated termination of the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations,” Sison told Kodao.

“Give me the final draft [of a peace agreement]. If I like it, I will pass it on to the military and the police. I will ask [them], ‘Is this alright with you?’” Duterte said Thursday.

Kasi, kung ‘di naman tanggap ng militar at pulis, I coup d’etat ka naman. Anak ng jueteng!” he explained. (Because, the military and the police will only launch a coup d’etat against me if they are against it. Son of a b****!)

Sison said Duterte is simply joking, stupid or crazy if he thinks the NDFP will agree to submit a draft peace agreement only to be subjected to a final approval by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP).

“He pretends not to know that there is a negotiating process or he is so drugged by fentanyl that he does not really know it,” Sison said.

Fentanyl is a powerful anti-pain drug banned in many countries that Duterte admits he is taking.

Sison reminded Duterte that before the President  terminated the peace negotiations in November last year, both the NDFP and GRP negotiating panels had already made their respective drafts of the comprehensive agreements on social and economic reforms (CASER) and on political and constitutional reforms (CAPCR) and had made substantial progress in reconciling their drafts of CASER.

“Duterte seems to imagine that the NDFP is like China which has enough money to bribe him to let it draft a major document for his consent and approval,” Sison said.

The NDFP’s chief political consultant said that Duterte only further exposes his “inane mind” by admitting that he would still need the ultimate approval of the military and police.

“He acknowledges that he stands in fear of coup d’etat by the military and police and he actually claims that his supposed authority as political leader and commander-in-chief of the GRP and its armed services is inferior to the authority of the military and police,” Sison said.

“What kind of president does the GRP have? A clown, a dolt or a dopehead?” Sison asked.

Sison however said NDFP negotiators will still talk to their GRP counterparts.

“Because of the NDFP’s standing policy to be open to negotiations with the GRP, (NDFP Negotiating Panel chairperson) Fidel Agcaoili will continue to be in touch with his counterpart [Silvestre] Bebot Bello and explore the possibility of resuming the peace negotiations,” Sison said.

“In view of the termination of the peace negotiations and absence of any ceasefire, it is logical for the NPA and other revolutionary forces to do their best in conducting the people’s war while the NDFP focuses on drawing up the draft agreements on social, economic and political reforms to lay the basis for a just and lasting peace,” he added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Duterte: Military, police has final word on peace agreement with NDFP

President Rodrigo Duterte revealed his will not be the last word on whatever peace agreement the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) enters into with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

In a speech in Tanza, Cavite Thursday (November 22) to inaugurate a new barge port, Duterte said he will seek approval from the military and the police before signing a final agreement with the NDFP even if he already approves of it.

“Give me the final draft [of a peace agreement]. If I like it, I will pass it on to the military and the police. I will ask [them], ‘Is this alright with you?’” Duterte said.

Kasi, kung ‘di naman tanggap ng militar at pulis, I coup d’etat ka naman. Anak ng jueteng!” he explained. (Because, the military and the police will only launch a coup d’etat against me if they are against it. Son of a b****!)

Duterte also revealed he decided not to meet NDFP chief peace negotiator Fidel Agcaoili and senior peace adviser Luis Jalandoni.

“And this Agcaoili and Jalandoni would come here and talk to me. I said, ‘Why should I talk to you? You talk to [Presidential peace adviser Jesus] Dureza and [GRP chief negotiator Silvestre] Bello,’” Duterte said.

Duterte, however, has previously met with Agcaoili and Jalandoni after his election and assumption of the presidency, even promising to issue a general amnesty for more than 500 political prisoners.

Agcaoili, Jalandoni and NDFP Negotiating Panel member Coni Ledesma was set to arrive in the Philippines this week to meet with the new Norwegian Ambassador the Philippines and attend meetings as members of the Joint Monitoring Committee of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.

The three negotiators did not push through with their homecoming after being threatened with arrest by interior and local government secretary Eduardo Año. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDFP blames Año’s arrest threat for cancelled trip

YOGJAKARTA, Indonesia—Europe-based National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace negotiators announced they cancelled their planned trip to the Philippines and possible meeting with Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) President Rodrigo Duterte, blaming interior and local government secretary Eduardo Año’s threat to have them arrested.

In a statement today, NDFP Negotiating Panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili said  he and fellow peace negotiator Coni Ledesma and senior adviser Luis Jalandoni have decided to forego their trip to the Philippines after Año said last November 16 that they will be arrested upon arrival.

“On November 16, DILG Sec. Eduardo Año issued a statement that we would be arrested upon our arrival unless the President says otherwise,” Agcaoili said.

“As a consequence, we decided in the following day to forego with the trip of Mr. Jalandoni and Ms. Ledesma whose names are in the so-called proscription case against the CPP and NPA,” he explained.

Agcaoili also clarified that his name was not included in the 600 persons listed by the Department of Justice in its terrorist proscription case against the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army last January.

He added that as far as he knows, there are no outstanding cases against him in any GRP court that could be a basis for his arrest.

Not ready

Agcaoili said that Duterte announced in Papua New Guinea last Friday while attending a summit of the Association of South East Asian Nations that he is not yet prepared to resume talks with the revolutionary movement.

He also revealed that they have been informed by the GRP last Sunday, November 18, that the appointment with the President had been cancelled and that he would only be meeting with presidential spokesperson Salvador  Panelo and presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza.

“[S]uch a meeting might not prove useful without a new perspective. As a consequence, we decided that I also forego with my trip scheduled for that evening for security consideration,” Agcaoili said.

He said that a meeting with Duterte had been scheduled on November 23 while they are in Manila, “considering that more than three months have passed since the GRP postponed the scheduled resumption of formal talks in Oslo, Norway, on June 28, 2018.”

Earlier, Duterte disclosed he is thinking about resuming the peace talks and has consulted the military about the matter.

“I will not keep it a secret. I do not want (it to be) confidential. They will come here. They want to talk to me. Their problem is they might be arrested,” Duterte said.

Other cancelled meetings

Because of the cancellation, Agcaoili said they failed to attend a meeting with the new Royal Norwegian Ambassador to the Philippines scheduled yesterday.

The Royal Norwegian Government is the Third Party Facilitator to the NDFP-GRP peace process.

Agcaoili earlier said their trip was primarily in connection with his and Ledesma’s work as members of the NDFP section in the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.

The JMS’ office is in Cubao, Quezon City. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)