The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) said it has yet to receive verified reports on the death of National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Pedro Codaste in a military operation in Bukidnon last Friday.
“We are still awaiting verification of the reported death of…Pedro Codaste (Ka Gonyong), supposedly in an armed encounter between the AFP and an NPA unit in Impasug-ong, Bukidnon last January 21,” the CPP’s website said.
“We will issue a statement as soon as we receive additional information,” CPP chief information officer Marco Valbuena added.
Codaste, alleged to be a top leader of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Mindanao, was reportedly killed in what the 16th Infantry Battalion said was a 30-minute gunfight in Barangay Kalabugao.
A certain Ka Zandro was killed along with Codaste, the military claimed.
A known NPA stronghold, Impasug-ong was where NPA National Operations Command spokesperson Jorge Madlos (Ka Oris) was killed in an alleged military ambush in October 2021.
Arrested in 2010 and jailed in Bukidnon for alleged murder and attempted murder, Codaste was among the 19 NDFP consultants released at the start of the Rodrigo Duterte government to participate in the resumption of formal peace negotiations in Oslo, Norway in August 2016.
He also attended the second and third formal rounds of negotiations in Oslo and in Rome, Italy in October 2016 and January 2017, respectively, as a member of the NDFP Negotiating Panel’s Reciprocal Working Committee on End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces.
The NPA leader had apparently gone back underground after the Rome round when then Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza notified the NDFP of the government’s bid to cancel the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees that would supposedly protect peace negotiation participants from arrest and harm.
President Duterte thereafter ordered the arrest of all NDFP peace negotiators while the military in Northern Mindanao issued a shoot-to-kill order against Codaste and others.
In May 2021, Codaste and 18 others were included in the government’s Anti-Terrorism Council list of so-called terrorists.
The CPP protested the government’s designation and called the 19, including Codaste, as “honorable revolutionaries who have served the cause of the Filipino people for national and social liberation all their lives.”
“Throughout the past decades, they have courageously stood side by side with the people and struggled against dictators and tyrants. They all have sacrificed personal ambition and selfish interests,” the CPP said.
“Unlike Duterte, these revolutionaries have only the clothes on their back to count as their wealth. They do not accumulate money from the government nor fleece the people with taxes,” the group added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)