Bilateral ceasefire talks may proceed, NPA to release POWs–CPP

THE Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) said talks for a bilateral ceasefire agreement with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) may proceed as scheduled on February 22 to 27 if President Rodrigo Durterte decides to send his negotiating panel and emissaries to The Netherlands.

In a statement, the CPP and the New People’s Army (NPA)  said they reiterate their support to forge a bilateral ceasefire agreement.

“The revolutionary forces are encouraged by the previous statements of GRP President Duterte that all political prisoners will be released within 48 hours once the bilateral ceasefire agreement is signed,” it said.

“However difficult, the revolutionary forces are willing to work with the GRP negotiators to hammer out a bilateral ceasefire agreement that will be mutually acceptable and enforceable,” the CPP added.

The underground party however said it anticipates that negotiations concerning the terms of reference of a bilateral ceasefire agreement will be most difficult.

“The revolutionary forces are bound by principle to assert the withdrawal of the AFP’s operating troops from areas under the sway of the revolutionary government,” it said.

POW releases

 As a positive gesture for the holding of the talks, the CPP said it will call on all concerned NPA  units to expedite the release of the six prisoners of war (POWs) captured over the past days.

 The CPP said various NPA custodial units are holding as prisoners of war the following AFP personnel:

  1. PFC Edwin Salan, captured in Alegria, Surigao del Norte on January 29;
  2. Sgt. Solaiman Calucop, and
  3. Pfc Samuel Garay, captured in Columbio, Sultan Kudarat on February 2;
  4. PO2 Jerome Natividad, captured in Talakag, Bukidnon on February 9;
  5. Paramilitary Rene Doller, and
  6. Paramilitary Carl Mark, captured in Lupon, Davao Oriental on February 14.

WATCH: POW asks Duterte to expedite his release.

The underground party said the NPA commands in charge of the custodial units can work closely with third party facilitators, usually the Philippine National Red Cross, churches and human rights organizations.

While mayor of Davao City, Duterte was known for facilitating the release of NPA POWs in various parts of Mindanao.

“The AFP can cooperate by withdrawing all troops in and around the area where the POWs will be released to pave the way for their safe and orderly release,” the CPP said.

“Assuming the cooperation of local AFP commands, all POWs can return to their families before or during the scheduled negotiations in The Netherlands,” it added.

Thorny issue

Plans for bilateral ceasefire agreement negotiations were approved immediately after the GRP Negotiating Panel submitted a formal proposal last January 24 during the third round of formal peace talks between the GRP and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in Rome, Italy.

GRP chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III said he was encouraged by the NDFP’s reception to their proposal, one of the government’s major objectives in the last round of talks.

“I find their (NDFP) response reasonable,” Bello  said.

The peace process hit a snag, however, after the AFP attacked an NPA encampment in Makilala, North Cotabato last January 21 while the formal peace talks were ongoing in Rome.

The CPP and the NPA then terminated their unilateral ceasefire declaration last February 1 due to various other military combat operation in CPP-controlled territories.

The Duterte government responded by terminating its own ceasefire declaration, suspending the formal negotiations  with the NDFP and declaring an all-out war against the NPA, effectively shelving plans for bilateral ceasefire negotiations later this month.

Previously, Duterte repeatedly announced his desire for a bilateral ceasefire agreement with the underground Left, vowing to make good on his earlier promises to release all NDFP-listed political prisoners within 48 hours once signed and delivered to him.

Duterte subsequently revealed that top officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and some members of his Cabinet are against the mass release of political prisoners, prompting him to backtrack on earlier pronouncements.

The CPP however asked Duterte “to heed the people’s clamor and reverse his earlier pronouncements terminating  the  peace negotiations.”

“The CPP earnestly encourages him to do so. He would surely not want to set aside the achievements attained during the first three rounds of GRP-NDFP peace talks and waste the opportunity to leave a legacy of peace,” it said. (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDFP and GRP negotiators ask youth to demand peace talks resumption

By Mikhaela Dimpas, UP College of Mass Communications / Kodao Productions

THE peace process can still prosper even without a ceasefire agreement, National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Randy Malayao said at a forum at the University of the Philippines-Diliman, Thursday.

Malayao recalled the productivity of the talks during the administration of former President Fidel Ramos despite the lack of ceasefire between the NDFP and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP).

The talks during the Ramos Administration succeeded in approving The Hague Joint Declaration, the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) and the Comprehensive Agreement to Respect Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL),among other major agreements.

“Kahit patuloy yung labanan ay pwede pa rin na ipagpatuloy ang pag-uusap dahil yung pinaka-productive na panahon ay yung panahon ni (Fidel) Ramos na nakapag-produce ng 10 major agreements,” Malayao said.

Ceasefire terminations

 The Reds terminated from their unilateral ceasefire declaration last February 1, closely followed by the GRP’s own termination of its ceasefire declaration, President Duterte’s suspension of formal peace negotiations and declaration of total war against the New People’s Army.

Malayao said that the continued militarization of civilian communities and human rights violations by GRP troops were the main causes of the NPA’s termination of their ceasefire and not the “failed promise” to release political prisoners.

GRP chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III for his part expressed dismay with the Reds’ decision and its effects on the peace negotiations.

“Like any other agreement, may mga imperfections dyan. Pero, for me, there was no justification for any party to withdraw their separately declared unilateral ceasefires,” Bello said.

Glaring reasons

Shari Oliquino, a student reactor from the UP Beta Sigma Ladies Corps, said that the reasons for the ceasefire termination were “glaring.”

“Sa aming mga kabataang estudyante ay nagiging malinaw kung bakit kailangan putulin ng NPA ang kanilang unilateral ceasefire. Kahit ongoing ang peace talks ay pinapatay pa rin ang mga lider pesante sa kanayunan, hina-harass pa rin ang mga lider aktibista, at maging mga sibilyan ay inaaresto pa rin,” Oliquino said.

Bello said that both the GRP and NDFP exchanged documents on alleged ceasefire violations of their troops during the third round of talks in Rome.

He also said that the accusations had “no basis” because the unilateral ceasefire was “not defined and had no parameters.”

Lost opportunities

 The lack of definition and parameters on what constitute ceasefire violations are added reasons for the continuation of the formal peace talks, countered Malayao.

The resumption of talks will give chance to review the alleged ceasefire violations and the possibility of a bilateral ceasefire agreement, he said.

Malayao added that the supposed fourth round of talks will also discuss the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER), the mutually acknowledged “heart and soul” of the peace negotiations.

Former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo for his part said that removing injustices and alleviating poverty are the most “compelling reasons” to resume the peace process.

“I will assert that the compelling reasons that he used in his campaign and when he took office still remain: that he will address issues of poverty and the social problems underlying the armed conflict,” Ocampo said.

Bello agreed that the roots of the armed conflict – poverty, injustice, and corruption – will finally be addressed in the CASER.

Bakit ba tayo nag-away-away? Dahil sa paningin ng taong bayan ang ating gobyerno ay walang kakayahan, o kung may kakayahan, ay walang planong magbigay ng hustisya,” Bello said.

 “Sa ating bansa ngayon, justice is only for the rich and the powerful,” he said.

Resume the talks

 The speakers reminded that the people will benefit the most from the peace negotiations and urged the youth to call for the resumption of the talks.

“This is a matter of justice. Naniniwala tayo na ang pag-abandona (sa peace talks) ay lalong maglalagay sa mga mamamayan natin sa peligro at mawawala ang mga nakamit sa loob ng anim na buwan o kahit pa in the last 30 years,” Malayao said.

Bello, on the other hand, said “whatever happens to the talks, kayo (youth) dapat ang mag-advocate ng peace process towards its logical conclusion.” #

AFP report of relief convoy ‘ambush’ dubious–CPP

THE Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) denied its New People’s Army (NPA) fired upon a relief convoy in Barangay Linunggaman, San Francisco, Surigao del Norte last February 15.

In a statement today, the CPP affirmed the NPA’s earlier denial that a Philippine Army-escorted convoy, which included relief personnel of ABS-CBN’s Lingkod Kapamilya Foundation, was attacked by its guerrillas. Read more

NPA reports 5 gov’t troopers killed, 2 captured in Southern Mindanao

THE New People’s Army (NPA) in Southern Mindanao announced it has killed five Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) soldiers and captured two auxiliary troopers in three separate incidents last February 14.

Rigoberto Sanchez, NPA-Southern Mindanao Regional Operations Command spokesperson, said a company of Red fighters of their Compostela Valley–Davao Gulf Sub-Regional Operations Command fended off an attack of a scout platoon of the 28th Infantry Battallion-Philippine Army (IBPA) in Brgy. New Visayas, Lupon, Davao Oriental province.

“Five AFP troopers were confirmed killed while several others were wounded,” Sanchez said. Read more

Gov’t troops kill two, wound seven miners–NPA

THE New People’s Army (NPA) in North Eastern Mindanao has accused the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) of killing two, including a minor, and injuring seven small scale miners in Sarog, Barangay San Isidro, Santiago, Agusan del Norte last Saturday.

NPA Front 16 spokesperson Ka Oto said at around 4:30 in the morning of February 11, masked armed men in the company of the 29th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) and the Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police (SAF-PNP) fired upon the small miners in the mountains of Sarog.

Oto said the victims begged and shouted that they were civilians but were still fired upon by the armed men.

Killed were Jerson Beto , 17 years old, and Pepito Tiambong, 40 years old, residents of Brgy. Guinoyoran, Santiago, Agusan del Norte, the NPA said.

Seven more were wounded, including Samuel Jaum, 40 years old; Orly Cuyo, 38 years old; and Oca Sandag, 40 years old.  Oto said the names of the other four victims are still being determined.

The NPA spokesperson also belied an earlier statement by the military regarding the incident.

“The NPA Front 16 strongly renounces the statements made by Lt. Col. Glenn Joy, commanding officer of the 29th IBPA and its spokesperson Capt. Angelo Gomez, that they encountered and were fired upon by Red fighters of Front 16 in the mountain area of Sarog, Barangay San Isidro, Santiago, Agusan del Norte last February 11, 2017,” Oto said.

“There was no encounter between the NPA and 29th IBPA troops of the AFP because no member of the NPA in North Eastern Mindanao Region (NEMR) was in Sarog during that time,” he added.

In the area were armed paramilitaries controlled by the 29th IB such as Alan Lagangga and those they can no longer control who are former CAFGU (Civilian Armed Force Geographical Unit) and LUPACA members who have mining tunnels, Oto said.

The NPA said the armed paramilitaries are assets of, accompany 29th IBPA and PNP (in military operations), and plotted with them in ransacking mine tunnels of high grade gold.

“Friendly fire”

The NPA spokesperson also said the casualties government troops suffered were victims of a “friendly fire.”

“Killed and wounded in the crossfire were M/Sgt. Marlon Balais who was with one column of the 29th IBPA, and another who was in the other column manoeuvring at the upper portion of the mountain,” Oto said.

Also wounded were portal guards Oka Sandag, a CAFGU of Brgy. Pangaylan, Santiago and two member of the CVO (Civilian Volunteer Organization) in Purok 5, Brgy. San Isidro, of Santiago, Agusan del Norte, the NPA reported.

Oto said a day before the massacre, 29th IBPA intelligence assets Danny Muñoz, Mat Manlapas, Jun Perez and Tata Villegas, attempted to enter the tunnels. The miners reportedly refused and the four left after threatening the miners they will return.

Before the shooting happened, 29th IBPA troops also detained two small scale miners nearby, he said.

“To conceal their killing of civilians and because a soldier, CAFGU and CVO members were also killed, Lt. Col. Glenn Joy and Capt. Angelo Gomez of the 29th IBPA immediately proclaimed that their troops were fired upon by NPA members even though there were civilians nearby,” Oto said.

“Notorius 29th IBPA”

The NPA said the people know the truth about the Philippine Army unit and have listed a number of alleged victims in Santiago, Agusan del Norte:

  • Ambushed and killed Kalatinga chiettain Datu Arnel in May 2016;
  • Shot and killed Jun-jun Hudyawon near a tunner in Manhopaw in July 2016;
  • Shot and killed Ricardo Tuazon, a farmer of Brgy. Pianing in November 2015;
  • Killed and half buried Jerry Sagsag, a Lumad from Kotom, Alegria in November 2015;
  • Arrested and mauled five farmers from Henimbangan in November 2015, of which a Jerry Banao, a resident of Dahon-dahonan, remains in prison; and
  • Fired upon the Sarmiento family while they were walking in Kamingawan, killing Rusen L. Sarmiento in April 27, 2014;

“They are notorious for committing brutal crimes and lying to cover their deplorable actions,” Oto said.

The NPA called on the Rodrigo Duterte government, the provincial and local government units of Agusan Del Norte and the municipality of Santiago, to investigate the killings to prove what have been committed and to give justice to the victims.

Meanwhile, NPA Guerilla Front 16 also denied it was their fighters who fired at an earthquake relief convoy of the 30th IBPA, which included an ABS-CBN Lingkod Kapamilya Foundation’s Operation Sagip team last February 14.

Oto said they investigated but none of their units have confirmed the allegation.

He said the attack may have been staged and blamed on the NPA to put them in a bad light.

The 30th IBPA countered they have no reason to sabotage their own relief operation.

No one was hurt in the incident. (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Philippine Army forces evacuation of peasants in Quirino Province

Civilians are suffering the negative impacts of the Duterte administration’s Oplan Kapayapaan and all-out war against the New People’s Army (NPA), a local farmer’ organization said.

Danggayan Dagiti Mannalon ti Cagayan Valley (Danggayan) reported 50 residents of rural communities in Maddela, Quirino have been harrassed and forced to evacuate due to military operations of the 86th Infantry Batallion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) last February 13.

The operations were allegedly carried out by to 86th IBPA to hunt down New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas in the area.

The group said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) purposely spread false information about combat breaking out in the nearby town of San Agustin, Isabela to justify their entry into the barrios of San Martin, Villa Gracia and Villa Ylanan.

According to reports, the soldiers descended on the communities on board two helicopters and several trucks and forced the people to evacuate.

Barangay San Martin chairperson Paulino Lunag led the people to the town center for temporary shelter, the report said.

Maddela Mayor Renato Ylanan also reportedly expressed dismay at the situation of the evacuees.

The residents are forced out of their homes and away from their crops and livelihood, the group said.

Danggayan condemned the 86th IBPA, saying that the intrusive military operation and subsequent forced evacuation were direct violations of the residents’ human rights, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.

Lorena Santos of the human rights group Karapatan said that the recent attacks on different communities were disturbing, as the government’s all-out war hurts civilians the most.

“Civilians bear the brunt of the government’s all-out war,” she said.

“The AFP’s attacks against the people have continued and intensified since President Rodrigo Duterte suspended its peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines,” Santos added.

Danggayan called for an end to military operations in the communities and for the resumption of the peace negotiations to effectively end the armed conflict.

“The government must end its all-out war and Oplan Kapayapaan. It has been proven that fascism will not stop people from taking up arms and revolting,” Santos added. (Abril Layad B. Ayroso)

Rampage, human rights group says of arrests of consultants and civilians after talks suspension

Human rights group Karapatan said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) have gone berserk in arresting as many as 19 peace consultants, activists and other civilians after the suspension of formal peace negotiations between the Rodrigo Duterte government and the Left.

Karapatan said those nabbed from February 3 to 12 are civilians and activists arrested on “trumped-up criminal charges.” Read more

AFP-PNP arrest and torture activist

AN activist from Metro Manila was arrested and tortured by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) over what human rights group Karapatan said are false charges.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan)-Metro Manila campaign officer Ferdinand Castillo, 57, was arrested last February 12 in Sta. Quiteria, Caloocan by elements of Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), the Intelligence Service Group of the Philippine and the Intelligence Service of the AFP (ISAFP) for charges of murder and attempted murder. Read more

Various sectors vow support for peace talks continuation

Various sectors converged at the Palma Hall of the University of the Philippines last February 10 to urge President Rodrigo Duterte to let formal peace negotiations between his government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines continue.

Bayan Muna Karlos Ysagani Zarate said it would be a waste to terminate the peace talks given the many gains achieved in the last three rounds of the negotiations.

Here’s another video of the event. Read more

Northeast Mindanao NPA declares ceasefire due to quake; 7th IDPA launches ‘focused military ops’ in CL and Ilocos

THE North-Eastern Mindanao Regional Command of the New People’s Army (NPA) declared a unilateral ceasefire in the Province of Surigao del Norte and some municipalities of Agusan del Norte following a 6.7 earthquake in the area last Friday.

In a statement, Ka Ariel Montero, spokesperson of the Regional Operational Command of the NPA, said the ceasefire are in areas covered by their Front 16 and is effective from February 11 to 11:55 in the evening of February 20. Read more