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Former GMA reporter among 4 NPA dead in Negros

Spate of clashes reveal NPA remains strong

(UPDATED) A former radio reporter was among the four guerilla fighters killed in Binalbagan, Negros Occidental last July 6 in what the New People’s Army (NPA) said was a massacre, contrary to what the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) claimed was an encounter.

The NPA’s Apolinario Gatmaitan Command (NPA-AGC), its Negros Island Regional Operational Command, said that Nikka Dela Cruz and her three comrades were earlier captured by government troops but were subsequently “slaughtered.”

The four were ailing and their medical condition rendered them incapable to fight, NPA-AGC spokesperson Juanito Magbanua said in a July 8 statement.

“[F]ascist troops…slaughtered four ailing Red fighters in cold blood at Barangay Biao, Binalbagan, Negros Occidental and shamelessly paraded their bodies as casualties of the fake encounter concocted by the AFP’s top commanders as a cover-up for their war crime,” Magbanua said.

“It was a massacre,” he added.

The 94th Infantry Battallion of the Philippine Army said the four were part of a 14-member NPA team who died in a clash with soldiers and police officers at about nine o’clock in the morning in Sitio Amilis, Barangay Santol, Binalbagan.

Lt. Col. Van Donald Almonte, commander of the 94th Infantry Battalion (94IB), said the fatalities belonged to the NPA’s Central Negros 2, Komiteng Rehiyong-Negros Cebu Bohol Siquijor.

Aside from Dela Cruz, also identified as Ka (Comrade) Chai, the NPA said the three other victims were Roel “Ka Jack”Ladera, Alden “Ka Rocky” Rodriguez and Roel “Ka Caloy” Deguit.

Nikka “Ka Chai” Dela Cruz. (Supplied photo)

‘Final militant red salute’

The NPA-AGC said their four fallen comrades were martyrs of the revolution who “surmounted all sacrifices and difficulties to arouse, organize and mobilize the people in the revolution and to fight for their interests and aspirations.”

The four came from different social backgrounds, Magbanua said.

Magbanua revealed that Dela Cruz, 26, was a former reporter of GMA Network’s Cebu City radio station dySS after graduating from the Catholic University of San Jose-Recoletos in the said city with a journalism degree.

A native of Medellin town in Cebu Province, Dela Cruz was the youngest among three siblings of a well-off middle class family whose mother is a medical doctor.

As a student, Dela Cruz was reportedly already active in the struggles of Cebu City’s urban poor, vendors and other people’s advocacies.

“She played a crucial role in the struggle of Carbon Market vendors against the privatization program of the Cebu City local government. After being hunted by [government] intelligence agencies, she went incognito and focused in revolutionary underground work among students and intellectual youths in 2017,” Magbanua said.

Dela Cruz became one of the leaders of her Communist Party of the Philippines unit who went to Negros to gain exposure to the Communists’ people’s war and decided to serve as a full time NPA fighter, Magbanua added.

Ladera, 30, was a NPA squad leader at the time of their death, Magbanua said.

He was a native of Himamaylan City and first experienced brutality in the hands of the military who they were assaulted after winning a basketball game against soldiers, Magbanua said.

The NPA spokesperson added Ladera was active in the anti-mining campaign in Negros before joining the guerilla army in 2016.

Like Ladera, Rodriguez also suffered maltreatment from abusive local officials before enlisting in 2019. The native of Manjuyod, Negros Occidental also hailed from peasant family, the NPA said.

The oldest among the four victims, Deguit was also a victim of trumped-up charges by government prosecutors before joining the NPA. He was also from Himamaylan, Magbanua said.

“Their untimely demise in the hands of the fascists will only arouse more Negrosanons to the revolution as the AFP is further exposed as a terrorist cabal and protector of the ruling class,” he added.

Not over

Meanwhile, the Philippine National Police (PNP) announced the death of a police officer in an encounter with suspected members of the NPA in Samar province on Saturday morning, July 16.

Patrolman Mark Monge of the Eastern Visayas Regional Mobile Force Battalion in a clash with the NPA in the boundary of Barangay San Nicolas of San Jose de Buan town and Barangay Mabuhay of Gandara town in the said province.

PNP officer-in-charge Police Lieutenant General Vicente Danao Jr. on Monday condemned the incident, saying he wants to curse the rebels and wishes to ambush them himself.

Danao cautioned police officers to be extra careful when conducting operations in the field.

Seven soldiers were also wounded in a clash with the NPA in nearby Mapanas town in neighboring Northern Samar province last July 5 while three alleged NPA fighters were killed in another encounter last July 13, the 8th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army reported.

Both the AFP and the PNP repeatedly vowed that the NPA would have been decimated by this month as the Manila government transitions from former President Rodrigo Duterte to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

The clashes, however, reveal that the NPA and its 53-year old insurgency remain strong in various parts of the country. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘Tenacious and determined’ NPA frustrates Duterte’s all-out war

CPP congratulates Red Fighters on 53rd anniversary

The Rodrigo Duterte government has failed to crush the New People’s Army (NPA) despite vowing to do so before its term ends, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) said.

In its message on the NPA’s 53rd anniversary today, the CPP said the revolutionary army has successfully frustrated Duterte and his military generals in their repeated declaration of crushing the people’s armed resistance.

While admitting losses due to the government’s new arsenal of weapons and strategies, the CPP said the NPA has preserved itself and has achieved victories in most guerilla fronts.

“The Red fighters and commanders of the NPA, and the Party cadres leading the NPA, have displayed great tenacity and determination to bear heavy sacrifices, surmount all adversity and limitations, and exert all efforts to defend the people against fascism and state terrorism,” the CPP said.

The underground party also said NPA fighters are willing to shun all desires for comfort and convenience as they shoulder the difficult tasks in waging the people’s war.

“They draw joy, strength and inspiration from the peasant masses who the NPA serves selflessly, and who, in turn, provides for the needs of the NPA,” it added.

The NPA is operating and has preserved its strength in all of the country’s 13 regions, the CPP said.

Bicol NPA twits Duterte

The NPA in Bicol said the Duterte government has failed to crush their armed revolution in the region.

Red fighters of the NPA’s Romulo Jallores Command prepare for a cultural presentation as part of their celebration of the 50th founding anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines. (Raymund B. Villanueva/Kodao)

“The advancement of the people’s war in Bikol, despite its being one of the focus of US(United States)-Duterte regime’s anti-people war, is one of the most undeniable proofs of Duterte’s failure to curb the people’s democratic revolution. The insistent mass surrender campaigns, militarization and civilian killings only pushed the Bikolanos towards revolutionary struggle,” Raymundo Buenfuerza, spokesperson of the NPA’s Romulo Jallores Command said in a statement.

“Where are Duterte’s boasts and strong promises that he can pulverize the revolutionary movement during his term? With barely over two months remaining and despite ceaseless empty declarations of surrenderees after surrenderees, encounters and whatnots, the truth that they failed came straight from none other than the tyrant himself,” Buenfuerza added.

The Bicol NPA further said is reduced to pleading and coercing NPA members into pacification as the President’s “last bid to show some success for his bragging and unrealistic declarations six years ago.”

Buenfuerza said the NPA’s continuing advance in Bicol is one of the most undeniable proofs of Duterte’s failure to curb the “people’s democratic revolution.”

More gov’t troops

The CPP revealed the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has created new combat units to try to crush the NPA, to no avail.

The group claimed that almost 60% of the AFP’s combat troops are concentrated in five of the 13 regions, namely, Southern Tagalog, Eastern Visayas, Southern Mindanao, Bicol and North Central Mindanao.

“There is a marked increase in the deployment of troops in Far South Mindanao, Negros, Southern Mindanao, Eastern Visayas, Cagayan Valley and Southern Tagalog. The AFP aims to conduct large-scale and focused military operations, coordinate its various branches and make full use of the whole range of its arsenal against the guerrilla forces of the NPA,” the CPP said.

Despite repeatedly declaring that the NPA has been weakened and is set to be crushed before the end of Duterte’s term on June 30, the AFP and PNP continues to increase its counter-guerrilla combat forces, the CPP said.

It added that there are presently 166 combat battalions of Army, Air Force, Marines, Scout Rangers, Special Action Forces and other military and police units deployed against the NPA, 21 more than the previous year.

The NPA’s First Pulang Bagani Battalion in formation in Davao City in 2017. (R. Villanueva/Kodao)

“With this number, the AFP can deploy 5 to 6 battalions against their priority or focused guerrilla sub-regional or front areas of the NPA, and deploy two to three in non-priority areas. The AFP and PNP have established joint commands and operations,” the CPP said.

“The push to achieve overwhelming military superiority, however, has the opposite effect of deepening its political inferiority,” it said.

Increased budget for the military

The CPP said the Duterte government has increasingly overspent on the military and police yet failing in its objective in crushing one of the world’s oldest Communist guerilla war.

It said Duterte’s budget for the military further increased to ₱221 billion this year from ₱217 billion last year, in addition to creating and unleashing another brutal anti-insurgency program led by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

The NTF-ELCAC had an increased of ₱17.5 billion in 2021 from ₱4.2 billion in the previous year, ₱10 billion of which was categorized as unallocated.

The AFP has also received a total of $1.14 billion worth of military assistance in the form of Foreign Military Financing, military training programs and others mainly from the United States of America and other foreign countries in the past six years.

The CPP said the Duterte government purchased attack and combat utility helicopters, jet fighters and attack aircraft, cannons and artillery systems, 500-lb and 250-lb bombs, rockets and missiles, drone systems, tanks, armored personnel carrier, electronic surveillance and communication equipment, rifles, bullets and many other new equipment to fight the NPA.

It has deployed GPS tracking systems, button-sized cameras to track guerrilla movement in forested areas, equipment for mobile phone surveillance in a bid to utilize new technology in fighting the guerilla NPA.

The government has also enacted a new anti-terrorism law and let the NTF-ELCAC control civilian government agencies in a “civil-military junta.”

It has also designated the CPP, the NPA as well as the National Democratic Front of the Philippines as so-called terrorist organizations.

Rampant human rights abuses

The CPP said that all the AFP and the PNP succeeded to do however are rampant human rights abuses, both in the cities and rural areas.

“In the cities, military and police agents subject unionists, community organizers, youth and women activists, as well as human rights advocates, progressive religious leaders, teachers and health workers to surveillance, harassments, arbitrary arrests and extrajudicial killings,” it said.

“The situation is even worse in the countryside, although there is gross under-reporting of incidents of military abuses and violations of human rights,” it added.

The CPP said the government enemy has erased all distinction between combatants and civilians in its “arbitrary accusation” of civilians as being communists or communist-supporters using the new anti-terror law to justify gross violations of people’s rights and freedoms.

“It lays siege on communities mobilizing large numbers of troops in night-time or early-morning raids on peasant homes such as in the Oplan Sauron in Negros, the massacre of Tumandok minorities in Capiz and the Bloody Sunday mass killing of activists in Southern Tagalog,” it said.

‘Serious setbacks’

The CPP admitted that the NPA suffered “serious setbacks,” including the loss of NPA national commander Menandro Villanueva and NPA national spokesperson Jorge Madlos in the past year.

It also admitted that some NPA units committed errors, showed internal weaknesses and committed shortcomings that “incapacitated [them] from effectively using guerrilla tactics of concentration, dispersal and shifting.”

“A few of these units have been saddled with various problems including over-concentration and self-constriction, weakness in striking the correct balance in military and political work, leading to their inability to strengthen and expand the mass base and area of operation,” the CPP said.

“Some units have been afflicted with conservatism and passivity or a mountain-stronghold mentality. In some guerrilla fronts, the enemy was able to concentrate its forces on a limited area and apply brutal tactics of suppression against the masses to build blockhouses, compel NPA units to retreat to rough terrain where supply and flow of information is difficult, and force them into a purely military situation,” it revealed.

The CPP urged all NPA units to “self-critically assess their situation, identify and overcome their weaknesses and shortcomings and surmount their limitations, in order to steadily advance from one level to another.”

The NPA in Negros Island. (File photo/Nonoy Espina+)

7 tasks

While showing great resilience and frustrating six years of Duterte’s offensives, the CPP said the NPA must quickly adapt to the tactics and strategy of its and carry forward the “people’s war.”

“We must creatively enhance our tactics in guerrilla warfare in order to wage extensive and intensive guerrilla warfare on an ever widening and deepening mass base. As always, the key is to arouse the broad masses of the Filipino people in order for them to rise up in great numbers against the fascist tyranny,” it said.

It added that the NPA has the following tasks in the coming years:

  1. Strengthen the Party’s leadership of the NPA.
  2. Vigorously wage armed struggle and resist the enemy’s brutal war of suppression.
  3. Strengthen the New People’s Army.
  4. Broaden and deepen the NPA mass base in the guerrilla fronts.
  5. Generate widespread support from the cities for the revolutionary armed struggle in the countryside.
  6. We must systematically proselytize among the enemy’s ranks.
  7. Aggressively generate international support for the New People’s Army and the Philippine revolution.

(Report by Raymund B. Villanueva)

CPP confirms death of NPA national commander

Joma Sison says Villanueva was captured, tortured and executed

[UPDATED] The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) confirmed the death of New People’s Army’s (NPA) national commander Menandro Villanueva but said he and one other were captured alive last Christmas eve and later summarily executed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

CPP founding chairperson Jose Maria Sison in his tribute said Villanueva and one Sandra Reyes were captured alive last December 24-25 but were later declared killed in separate incidents.

“But Ka [Comrade] Sandra (Reyes) would be reported to the press by the reactionary military as killed in action on December 25,” Sison, quoting a report from the CPPs Mindanao Commission, said.

“On January 5, 2020, the reactionary military one-sidedly fired several rounds of Howitzer artillery at Libodon, Mabini and despite no encounter with the NPA subsequently claimed on January 6 that Ka Menandro had been killed in action in the non-encounter of January 5, 2022,” he said.

“Obviously, he was tortured for at least ten days before he was murdered,” Sison added.

Sison’s statement countered the announcement by the Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom) of the AFP on Friday that Villanueva was killed in an encounter with government troops.

EastMinCom commander Lt. Gen. Greg Almerol in a statement said Villanueva was one of the founding members of the NPA in Mindanao during the 1970s.

Almerol said that Villanueva became a member of the Kabataang Makabayan as an Ateneo de Manila University student who went underground when Martial Law was declared.

“Villanueva was the longest-serving secretary of the NPA’s Southern Mindanao Regional Committee (SMRC) and currently the secretary of Komisyong Mindanao (KOMMID), commanding officer of the NPA’s National Operations Command (NOC) and member of the POLITBURO (political bureau) of the (CPP),” the military added.

AFP target

Known in the underground revolutionary movement as Ka (Comrade) Bok, Ka Jude and Ka Gipo, Villanueva was around 70 years old at the time of his death, the CPP said.

The CPP said Villanueva had been a long-standing AFP target because he successfully led the Party and its armed revolution in Southern Mindanao from one level to another.

“It is a testament to the strength, resilience, and guerrilla discipline of the NPA, and extensive and deep support of the broad masses for the people’s army that it took the enemy more than a decade—spending billions of pesos in relentless military operations, aerial bombings, artillery shelling, occupation of communities, and terrorizing the peasants and Lumad masses—before it could finally vanquish Ka Bok,” the CPP said.

“His death is mourned by the Party, the NPA and all revolutionary forces, and by the broad masses of workers and peasants, especially the downtrodden people in the hinterlands of the Davao provinces, whom he dearly served over the past several decades,” the CPP added.

The group acknowledged that Villanueva’s death is “a big loss.”

“But this setback is only temporary and will be surmounted in due time. A number of Party cadres and NPA commanders, veterans in people’s war, as well as young leaders trained by Ka Bok and steeled in military and political work, are primed to take his place and perform his duties,” the CPP said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

CPP celebrates 53rd anniversary today, rallies members to frustrate enemy’s plan to end revolution

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) today called on its members to resist the government military’s declared plan to end the 53-year old armed revolution by the end of the Rodrigo Duterte administration in six months.

In its traditional anniversary statement, the underground group rallied its forces to “resist and frustrate the declared plans of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to carry out a ‘last push’ to end the armed revolution.”

Founded by seven young activists on December 26, 1968 in Pangasinan province, the CPP is a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist party that launched an armed revolution three months later on March 29, 1968 through the New People’s Army (NPA).

The NPA wages the oldest continuing Maoist armed struggle in the world.

The CPP said the “diehard fascists” of the Rodrigo Duterte government are doing their utmost to crush the Party and have resorted to the most vicious means of “defending and preserving their reign of corruption and plunder.”

The group’s leadership said the CPP is “ever determined to lead the people’s democratic revolution, shoulder all the difficult tasks and make all the necessary sacrifices in order to surmount all obstacles to frustrate the enemy’s counterrevolutionary war and carry forward the people’s war to ever greater heights” however.

‘State terror’

The group said the Duterte government has carried out “relentless counter-revolutionary war” against CPP members in the regime’s desperate attempt to preserve the “rotten ruling system” that only intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic.

CPP revealed the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) it described as “the Duterte civil-military junta” serves as the government’s nerve center of state terror that has blurred the line between armed combatants and civilians in its counter-insurgency campaign.

“It (NTF-ELCAC) has subjected leaders and activists of mass organizations and communities to massacres and extrajudicial killings, surveillance, abductions, torture, unlawful arrests and detention, threats and intimidation and other gross violations of human rights,” the CPP said.

The CPP also said the AFP has violated international humanitarian law in employing brutal aerial bombardments that terrorize civilians and forcing “tens of thousands” to evacuate their communities out of terror.

“Mountainous areas, farms and areas adjacent to communities have been targets of 500-lb bombs dropped from fighter aircraft, rockets fired from attack helicopters and artillery shelling. Aerial and artillery bombardment and strafing are inherently indiscriminate and endangers the lives of civilians and destroys their property,” it said.

The Duterte government has taken delivery of multi-purpose jetplanes from South Korea and Black Hawk military helicopters from Europe this year that have already conducted military operations in Iloilo, Bukidnon and Samar provinces.

AFP and PNP commanding generals have also promised to crush the New People’s Army (NPA) before the end of Duterte’s term in six-months’ time.

The CPP however said civilians have become victims of “indiscriminate” airborne attacks against suspected New People’s Army (NPA) strongholds.

“Bombs dropped by the AFP have damaged farms and ravaged forests which also serve as sources of food, water, medicine and livelihood of peasants and minority peoples,” the CPP said.

The CPP said the government’s declarations are in vain even as it admitted that “some NPA units suffer(ed) some losses” in the year, including the death of NPA spokesperson Jorge “Ka Oris” Madlos last October in an operation in Bukidnon.

Growth and strength

The CPP claimed majority of the NPA’s guerilla units are successfully frustrating their enemy’s attacks, even with the military’s use of new bomber aircraft and intensifying ground warfare.

“[T]he great majority of the guerrilla units of the NPA have rendered the enemy’s superiority (in equipment) ineffective and have successfully grown in strength and expanded their base of support,” the CPP said.

“Despite the Duterte regime’s brutal tactics of counterrevolution, the people’s war continues to
move forward and steadily accumulate strength,” it added.

The CPP revealed that despite division-sized military operations against their forces, its Central Committee, Executive Committee and Military Commission, as well as officers of the NPA’s National Operational Command continue to provide leadership to the underground movement.

It added that the NPA’s 14 regional operational commands and their sub-regional and front operational commands remain intact.

The group said NPA units in Cagayan, Ilocos Sur, Quezon, Camarines Norte, Masbate, other Bicol provinces as well as in the islands of Mindoro, Palawan, Samar and Negros have also frustrated military operations during the year.

PRWC photo

Support from the masses

The CPP said the NPA’s masterful use of guerilla tactics of dispersal, shifting and concentration allows the guerilla army to frustrate government military operations that also allows them to continue their “mass work” even in communities hit by calamities and disasters.

“They [the NPA] continue to enjoy the deep support of the peasant masses and Lumad minorities, especially as the AFP’s lies, corruption and collusion with mining companies and plantations are increasingly exposed,” it said

The CPP explained that the even worsening social conditions are inciting the masses to fight back with all forms of resistance.

“By resorting to brazen state terrorist attacks, the Duterte tyrannical regime is rousing more and more people to join the NPA, wage armed struggle and help carry forward the people’s war,” the group explained.

The CPP said more underground Party branches and committees continue to be built in both cities and rural areas that, along with NPA fighters and National Democratic Front of the Philippines allied organizations, “valiantly and boldly” carry their revolution forward.

No ceasefire

Meanwhile, both the Duterte government and the NDFP did not issue their traditional reciprocal ceasefire declarations over the Christmas and New Year holidays for the second straight year following President Duterte’s announcement last year that he would no longer declare a truce with the NPA.

New PNP chief Gen. Dionardo Carlos said police personnel in regional offices and national operating units are on alert today, alleging the NPA launches attacks on December 26 and March 29 on its own founding anniversary.

“The CPP and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), are known to stage armed offensives to drumbeat commemoration of significant dates in the underground communist organization,” Carlos was quoted by news reports as saying.

The NPA are not known to launch military offensives on those dates during the Duterte presidency however.

CPP spokesperson Marco Valbuena for his part confirmed to Kodao that: “There is no declaration of ceasefire in the face of the AFP’s intensified military offensives, indiscriminate aerial bombardment and artillery shelling, and heightened suppression and terrorism in rural communities.”

There are also no announcements of traditional public gatherings of both NPA fighters and their supporters for today.

Valbuena said the CPP and the NPA are instead concentrating on helping communities within their areas of influence that were battered by Typhoon Odette.

“In the areas severely affected by typhoon Odette, NPA units are focused on extending assistance to help peasant communities rebuild their homes and repair their farms. At the same time, they are on high alert against treacherous attacks of AFP units against the NPA’s units involved in rehabilitation work,” Valbuena said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

A visit to Ka Oris’ guerilla camp

A former radio broadcaster recalls her visit to a New People’s Army camp and interview with Jorge Madlos who cultivated warm relations with many journalists for several decades.

By Katniss

It was in June 2004.  I was invited to climb the mountains and trek the forests of Surigao to see Ka Oris.  I was told farmers in Surigao communities as well as the “nice people” there are avid listeners of the radio program I anchored.   The radio station on which my radio program aired, though based in Cebu City, could reach as far as Mindanao, particularly in the provinces of Surigao.  Ka Oris wanted me to share ideas about how our radio programs were produced and he also wanted me to share my experiences and help them in setting up programs in certain regions in Mindanao. 

From the highway, it was two to three hours ride on a habal-habal (a motorcycle kitted with wood planks that take in more passengers and cargo). Then it was more than an hour of walk into the forests and patches of farms before I finally reached a huge guerilla camp. There was a huge stage made of hard wood where cultural activities were being held; a kitchen area; and several makeshift huts and barracks where visitors like me are accommodated serving as our sleeping area. It was still daylight when I reached the place. Everyone was wearing boots because, even if it wasn’t raining, one cannot avoid walking on muddy grounds. I was also told that, since it’s a forest, there were also leeches. At that time and at that age I was not so worried about the leeches then but more so about the difficulty of walking and moving around in those heavy rubber boots. I saw several young guerrilla fighters and was told that they were on military training. There were two other foreign visitors in the camp. They told me they were from BBC, documenting the training and interviewing about the guerilla war in the Philippines. 

After dinner, I overheard one Red Fighter who whispered to one woman in charge of the camp that there is a report of suspicious movements in the peripheries of the camp. The woman instructed the fighter to send a squad to check. 

On my first night, I was not able to sleep while lying in a hammock in the barracks.  I was so bothered with what I’ve heard. What if are attacked? What will I do?  I could not run in those boots.  What if I am hit or arrested? Sleep would not come despite the exhaustion. My mind was preoccupied with “what ifs” I felt paranoid.  At 9 pm, I started having chills. It was either due to the coldness of the night inside the forest or because of the anxiety that I felt. I decided to rise and go to the hut of Ka Oris and his wife.  I told him what I felt and how worried and scared I was. Calmly, he explained something which to this day I can still vividly recall.

He told me: “In this camp, which is in a deep forest, there are more than 100 red fighters. In our surrounding peripheries there are squads on guard while doing their mass work. Beyond the peripheries are mass bases.  All this means that those supposedly unknown movements detected may just be some farmers who are on their way to their farms. If they are really soldiers or enemies, they must be a handful who may have just wandered around. The squads can take care of them. Otherwise, if the enemy has targeted our camp, they could not just send a few troops, knowing our strength. Usually, feeling insecure in battles, their ratio is one NPA red fighter to 10 of their soldiers. With the number of troops that we have here in this camp, they need to send a battalion of soldiers. If they do so, such huge troop movement can already be detected several tens of kilometers away from us.”

So I asked him, “What if they send troops by helicopter?” 

He answered, “Well, in one helicopter there are only less than 10 who can be carried. They could also not land in this forest itself but perhaps in the peripheries where there are patches of farmlands.  And we have the capacity to shoot at helicopters.” Ka Oris went on to tell me about an incident in the 80’s incident when the very camp we were at suffered aerial bombing by government forces.  He said they were able to fight back then and the enemy failed to penetrate the forest.  

Oris calm explanations relaxed me and I was able to finally sleep in my hammock.

I again visited him in his hut the following morning. I started my interview with him regarding the series of press conferences he conducted with journalists from all over, as well as politicians in the guerilla areas. I had long been curious about how were they able to do that despite the risks of being attacked. He again explained their application of strategies and tactics taught by Sun Tzu’s ‘Art of War.’ That interview made up for an entire episode of my radio show.

I was star-struck by him, I admit.  He was gentle, calm and witty.  He also looked like Ho Chi Min. Ka Oris invited me to quiz me on radio production, but it was I who learned so much from them. Their life was difficult, something I could not imagine myself doing nor enduring. City slickers like me who are easily afflicted with fear may find living their life impossible. But Oris and his guerilla army looked like it was a life worth living. How profound, noble, and self-fulfilling it seemed.

I wanted another visit and another opportunity to interview Ka Oris. But I got pregnant in the last quarter of 2005 and got married soon after. 

As a radio personality, I have had my share of death threats in 2005.  I was accused as “a communist masquerading as a journalist.” I was advised to stop being a radio anchor for my safety.

I still keep on monitoring media interviews of Ka Oris by local, national and even international media.  I am still be amazed by his brilliance and commitment to their revolution as well as his persistence in pursuing the humaneness of his communist ideals.  But there remains in me a tinge of guilt for failing in a simple request he asked of me.  When I was leaving their camp in 2004, he gave me a specialty notebook and a nice pen to hand over to his daughter.  I tried but I never get the chance of meeting his daughter. 

I left Cebu in 2015 and I remember that I brought that notebook and pen with me to where I relocated.  After hearing of Ka Oris’ death at the hands of his enemies, I must commit to finding where I placed the notebook and pen. Who knows, one day, I will be able to meet his daughter in the future. 

To Ka Oris, my highest salute.  To his daughter, I still owe you the notebook and pen from your father.   Like the many journalists who admire him, he will always be to me the kind, gentle, heroic icon of the Filipino people’s struggle for social justice and liberation. #

(“Katniss” is a pseudonym.)

Groups slam school’s decision to turn over peace books to military

Groups slammed the reported decision of a state university to turn over copies of Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace negotiation books to the military and the police.

Pilgrims for Peace, ACT for Peace and the Student Christian Movement of the Philippines (SCMP) said the decision by the Kalinga State University (KSU) was a move for the mis-education of students about the peace negotiations between the parties.

In a statement last Saturday, September 11, Pilgrims for Peace said it is deeply concerned about the decision of the KSU Board of Regents (BoR) to withdraw from its Bulanao Campus Library 11 books on the peace negotiations between the Manila government and the NDFP.

The books include the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHIHL) English-Filipino; CARHIHL English-Hiligaynon; CARHIHL English-Visaya; GRP-NDFP Declaration of Understanding; NDFP Declaration and Program of Action for the Rights, Protection, and Welfare of Children; and The GRP NDFP Peace Negotiations: Major Arguments and Joint Statements-September 1, 1980-June 2018.

Also included were The GRP-NDFP Peace Negotiations Major Written Agreements and Outstanding Issues; NDF Adherence to International Humanitarian Law; Letters to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the UN Secretary-General; NDFP Adherence to International Humanitarian Law: On Prisoners of War (POWs); two articles on The People’s Struggles for Just Peace; and The NDFP Reciprocal Worrying Committee (RWC) Respective on Social and Economic Reforms.

The books were published by the NDFP Nominated Section of the Joint Secretariat of the CARHRIHL Joint Monitoring Committee based at the Diocese of Cubao in Quezon City.

“[T]he university administration has practically surrendered its academic freedom to the state security agencies that have constantly undermined our people’s quest for a just and lasting peace,” the group said.

Pilgrims for Peace added KSU’s “dismaying” decision was blind allegiance to the “myopic anti-insurgency campaign” of the Rodrigo Duterte administration.

“As a result, these university officials are now [instruments] in the state’s efforts to vilify not only the NDFP but also those who fight for academic freedom, human rights, and just peace,” the group’s statement said, also signed by ACT for Peace and the SCMP.

The groups added that the school has become complicit in the vicious red-tagging campaigns against by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict that has led to extra-judicial killings, unjust searches and illegal arrests, and a host of other human rights violations.

The Manila Times reported last September 9 that the KSU-BoR has decided to withdraw the books from one of its libraries to “protect students from embracing ‘NDFP ideology.’

The report said the military has lauded the decision.

The peace advocates however urged university officials to rethink their decision and study the books.

The groups noted that CARHRIHL has been hailed by the European Parliament as a “landmark” agreement and an outstanding achievement of the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations, along with the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees.

“These materials are readily available online, with different sites hosting them, including the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the United Nations Peacemaker website,” they added.

“We encourage them to study the peace negotiations between the GRP and the NDFP. Furthermore, study the roots of poverty and political unrest in the country,” the groups said.

Higher Education commissioner and KSU-BoR chairperson Lilian de las Llagas has yet to respond to Kodao’s request for comment.

Commission on Higher Education chairperson Prospero de Vera was involved as GRP Negotiating Panel adviser immediately prior to his appointment to his current position. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

The death of my daughter Kerima

I went into denial, even as I reminded myself it would be better to accept what had happened

This article was originally published by The Diarist.PH. It is republished here with permission.

By Pablo Tariman

As I write this, it’s been 14 days since my daughter Kerima died. (Twenty-two days as of this posting.–Ed.)

It was not a peaceful death, as it turned out. An encounter between military and rebel groups at 6 a.m. on Friday, August 20, 2021, left three dead, one soldier and two reported insurgents.

I got a mysterious message saying one of the casualties in the encounter was a “young woman” with her companion. I refused to believe my daughter was that “young woman.”

The next day, Saturday, August 21, a friend from Bacolod told me the military had identified the female casualty as Ka Ella. I asked my friend to send me a picture that appeared in the military FB.

In my Messenger, I saw a picture of a woman left alone on a mountain trail. Her face was blurred. Her arm was almost severed after being riddled with bullets.

I know how my daughter looked like, then and now. After one more hard look at the picture, I realized the dead woman was my daughter Kerima, who turned 42 last May 29.

I had been ready for this years back. I knew it would come to this.

We had some arguments about this. But all this is water under the bridge, so to speak. In the end, I respected her choice.

It is easy to say you are prepared to see the worst happening to your daughter because of her involvement in the movement. But when you see her in the picture, cold and lifeless on a mountain trail, you know you need more courage to accept what has happened to her.

I was looking at her son, Emmanuel, that morning still asleep, when I accepted the news. My next predicament was how to break the news to him.

I knew I couldn’t do it.

The next day, her violent death was all over Facebook. The newspapers also carried news of the encounter. And always, she was identified as Ka Ella, also known by her real name, Kerima Lorena Tariman.

It is the first death in the family. She was the second of my three daughters.

The last time I saw her, she showed up in the city unannounced two years ago. She said it was better that we saw each other in a neutral place, definitely not in our house.

I knew she was preparing me for some big decisions she had made. We had very little conversation. She knew I had no other choice but to accept her decision.

After a few lingering moments, I kissed her on her forehead. Before she walked away, all I could say was, “Ingat, Kima.” Kima was how she was known in the family.

Still, she wanted to see more of her son, in my care since his grade school years. While I was doing my last concert at the Nelly Garden in Iloilo City, I met my grandson at an inn. He said someone would meet him and bring him to his mother.

The meeting was short, just an overnight stay. And he was back in Iloilo while I was preparing to travel with my performing artists after a farewell concert at Nelly Garden. By then, I had an idea why my daughter desperately needed to see her son before she totally disappeared.

And so her death was all over FB. I went into denial, even as I reminded myself it would be better to accept what had happened.

I asked a family friend to come to break the news to my grandson. I didn’t think I could handle it without turning the moment into a scene from a teleserye. And so the family friend arrived, condoled.

Then I asked him to take on the sad task of breaking the news to my grandson. He did it gently, from what I could figure out.

Minutes later, I saw my very composed grandson. No breaking down. No tears. I even saw him break into a wan smile

Emmanuel Tariman Acosta delivering the response after the four-hour tribute to his mother Kerima at Bantayog ng Mga Bayani on Aug. 28, 2021. (Photo from Altermidya)

Minutes later, I saw my very composed grandson. No breaking down. No tears. I even saw him break into a wan smile as if to tell me, “This is not a big deal. I can handle this.”

The sad news transmitted, I let out a sigh of relief. My grandson is made of sterner stuff, and he showed it.

Then he told me he knew something was wrong just by reading my face that early morning, while I was trying to confirm the news.

I told myself we could move on and do what had to be done.

We had to fly to Bacolod to claim the body. We had to subject ourselves to swab tests to be able to board the plane. We had to apply for Silay and Bacolod passes so we could move around.

That was my first swab test. What if I tested positive? Did this mean only my grandson could fly to Bacolod while I had to face isolation?

The swab test results didn’t come on time by email for us to be able to board the Monday 8 a.m. flight. No way could you board the plane without the results of your swab test, the lady at the check-in counter told us.

We had to rebook our tickets for an afternoon flight. The swab test results finally arrived after the plane had left. My grandson and I tested negative!

We were able to rebook an early afternoon direct flight direct to Silay-Bacolod airport. Meanwhile, I had to brace myself for what I would see when I claimed my daughter’s body.

I have never been inside a funeral morgue. I have never been inside a dingy room full of dead bodies. Before the plane landed, I had to let go of my quiet sobbing. After all, this was not my idea of my last reunion with my daughter.

First order of the day upon arrival was a briefing with our lawyer, who happens to be a city councilor.

I needed to present papers to be able to claim my daughter’s body: birth certificate, marriage certificate, my grandson’s valid ID and birth certificate, and my ID and birth certificate.

Next was the moment of truth.

The funeral parlor aide guided us to a room full of dead bodies all covered in white cloth. I looked at my grandson. I wondered how he would react upon seeing his dead mother for the first time.

When I saw my daughter’s lifeless body on that steel stretcher, I let out a long, painful howl of grief. I embraced her and kissed her forehead like the last time we saw each other.

He saw how helpless I was that moment, so I felt my grandson’s hands massaging my shoulder as I cried endlessly. My grandson’s inner strength is unbelievable.

No tears for him. No breakdown like I had.

When I calmed down, I realized I had to attend to more details to be able to claim my daughter’s body.

The plan was to claim the body, bring it to a Bacolod crematorium, and fly home the next day with the urn.

Our lawyer appealed to the Silay city chief of police if we could cremate the body first and attend to the paper requirements later. He nodded to say yes.

But when the body was about to be pulled out from the funeral parlor for cremation, the chief of police said no.

We had to produce all the papers: death certificate, permit to bring the body from the Silay funeral parlor to the Bacolod crematorium, and another permit to transport the remains from Bacolod to Manila.

We had to secure a barangay clearance from the barrio where the incident happened. I was appalled to learn that my daughter actually operated in the shadow of Mt. Silay, where the sugar cane workers lived.

Meanwhile, the cremation had to wait until we were able to meet all the requirements. Our lawyer brought me to the office of the Silay chief of police to secure another requirement, a spot report filed by the local police.

Said he: ‘I can see that she is a very intelligent woman. But no government is perfect. Even people are not perfect’

We noticed the chief cop kept on revising the incident report. He made small talk while we waited for the final version.

Said he: “I can see that she is a very intelligent woman. But no government is perfect. Even people are not perfect.”

We left the chief cop’s office convinced we had a rewritten version of what happened during the bloody encounter at Hacienda Raymunda.

I read a study by my daughter where she detailed studies of the plight of sugar plantation workers at Hacienda Raymunda. The report said workers got as low as P500 a month for backbreaking work.

Ironically, she died in an encounter also at Hacienda Raymunda in Silay City.

I don’t know what to make of my final hours with my daughter.

After we secured all the permits, her body was finally released for cremation.

Our coordinators noticed we were being shadowed by police operatives, taking photos and videos of us everywhere we went.

Meanwhile, I scheduled a video call with my daughters based in Frankfurt and Pasig before the cremation. I saw my daughters weeping as they said goodbye to their rebel sister.

I couldn’t help sobbing as her body was shoved into the big burner. “We can give you the urn in two hours,” said the crematorium staff.

I had to make peace with myself as we flew back to Manila.

There was a tribute for her at the Bantayog ng Mga Bayani where friends, classmates, and supporters from all over the country paid their last respects Saturday, August 28.

They were so many who remembered her, the tribute lasted four hours.

For the first time, I saw a composite picture of my daughter as classmate, poet, warrior, and Red fighter. I didn’t realize she was feared as much as she was respected.

My wife and I recited  poems in her honor. The tribute of her Frankfurt-based sister Karenina drew applause. She recalled how she spent one night in an Isabela jail in 2001 just to be with her sister Kerima, at least for one night of her sister’s month-long detention.

I thought the most poignant recollection during the tribute came from her son, Emmanuel, who closed the tribute.

My grandson recalled: “Bata pa lang ako, tinuruan nya na ako ng iba’t ibang bagay na hindi ko matututunan kung saan man at pinakita niya sa akin yung mundo at naiintindihan ko yung mga desisyon na ginawa nya at ng aking ama. Proud ako sa nanay ko, sa kanyang tapang, sa kanyang talino, hanggang sa huling hininga ay nasa isip niya ang masa at sambayanan. Hindi nagtatapos sa kanyang pagpanaw ang laban at marami pang magpapatuloy: tayong mga naririto. Mabuhay ka, Nanay, at maraming salamat sa lahat!” (Even when I was young, she taught me many things that I would not have learned elsewhere, and showed me the world, and I understand the decisions she and my father made. I am proud of my mother, of her courage, her intelligence, until her last breath the masses and the country were on her mind. The fight does not end with her death, and many will continue it: we who are here. Godspeed, Nanay, and thank you for everything!)

At home, I made a special place for her in the living room.

I cannot imagine her leaving us for good. And so I wrote this poem.

Stay a little longer my child
Keep your father company
As he welcomes another sunrise
Without you.

Stay a little longer my daughter
Keep your son company
He who is proud of you
In your prolonged absence.

Stay a little longer my child
Let’s reminisce days
As we welcomed sunrise
In the black sand of San Roque
And frolicking at the park
In the shadow of Mayon.

Stay a little longer my child
Keep your father warm
Watch over your only son
For a few days more.

Memories come and go
And far too few
I still see us welcoming sunrise
With the perfect cone
Towering over us.

Suddenly you are gone
The little child
Who once romped by the beach
Is suddenly limp and cold
Finished off by bullets
From ruthless strangers.

Stay a little longer my child
Let me just remember
The last hug
The kiss I planted on your forehead
In this room full of dead bodies.

I can’t help it
Letting out a howl of grief
Akin to a whining dog.

Your son remained strong
And unperturbed
As he massaged my shoulders
As I let out
A shrill whimper
Echoing through
The mortuary.

Now
I have to make the most
Out of this last plane ride
With your son and I
Huddled together
As we keep watch
Over your urn
From Silay to Manila.

You are home now
Stay a little longer my child
As we prepare
Your new home
Away from home.

I can see peace
And deliverance
In that small crypt
Just a walk away
From where we live.

Welcome home my child
There is peace and quiet
Waiting for you
In that small door
Leading to the great beyond.

On Aug. 29, 2021, Cecile Licad, the author’s longtime friend, performing Chopin’s ‘Revolutionary Etude’ in the open-air concert in Tivoli, New York, with Kerima Tariman in mind. A music fan wrote the pianist that it was the ‘fiercest’ ‘Revolutionary Etude’ he has heard in his life. (Photo from the file of Cecile Licad)

’19 MARTYRS’: CPP confirms ‘big loss’ in military aerial strike in E. Samar

AFP’s bombs failed to distinguish the medics and the patients, and other unarmed personnel who were not in a position to battle, the CPP complained

Nineteen New People’s Army (NPA) fighters died in an air strike by the government military in Dolores, Eastern Samar last August 16, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) website announced.

In one of the NPA’s biggest loss in a single incident in years, the CPP said those who perished were part of a 50-man unit who were in the area to conduct political, military, economic, education, cultural and medical work among peasant masses.

The Red fighters were also conducting an investigation into the socioeconomic conditions of the peasant masses in the area with the aim of addressing their needs and problems, the group added.

“They were among the best sons and daughters of the people who dedicated their lives to the cause of national freedom and democracy. Their deaths bear hard upon the hearts of the workers and peasants across the country and all the oppressed peoples in the entire world,” the CPP in a statement said.

The group’s statement came at the heels of several announcements by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that an undetermined number of NPA guerrillas were killed in an early morning air strike, followed by fire fights that lasted the entire day.

Wikipedia map.

The Philippine Army’s 8th Infantry Division in Catbalogan City said no casualty had been reported among its 52nd Infantry Battalion troopers who engaged the guerrillas, aided by the Philippine Air Force.

The state troopers also said they recovered at least 20 assault rifles, a laptop and a handgun at the NPA encampment where the rebels were allegedly manufacturing bombs.

The CPP however said the Red fighters were conducting a continuing campaign to raise the people’s awareness of the Covid-19 pandemic to prevent infections from reaching their hinterland communities where there are no medical facilities.

The group added a team of medics were among the NPA unit to perform a surgery in the camp for a civilian patient suffering from hernia.

‘A big loss’

The CPP admitted that the deaths of the NPA “martyrs” was “without a doubt…a big loss.”

“It is, however, a temporary setback and does not negate the overall forward direction of the people’s war. Indeed, in Eastern Visayas and the rest of the country, the NPA continues to make strides in recruiting new Red fighters, building more units, expanding its areas of operations, building new guerrilla fronts, defending the people against the AFP’s armed suppression and mounting tactical offensives to strike blows against the fascist monsters,” the CPP statement said.

The group expressed confidence that the NPA in the said municipality will be reorganized with new recruits to continue the work of their fallen comrades.

“We may have lost a number of fine people’s warriors, but even greater numbers are sure to emerge to take their place as new Red fighters of the heroic people’s army,” the group said.

‘Indiscriminate bombing’

The CPP meanwhile condemned AFP’s aerial bombing and strafing as well as artillery shelling it said constituted a disproportionate use of force.

In the case of the Dolores bombing, the AFP’s bombs failed to distinguish the medics and the patients, and other unarmed personnel who were not in a position to battle, the CPP complained.

In a Manila Bulletin report, unexploded AFP bombs allegedly hit at least two houses in Brgy. Cabaguan that pierced ceilings and terrorized residents.

“These terrorist weapons should be banned as these cause massive loss of lives among unarmed people, endanger the lives of civilians, traumatize thousands of people, especially children, and damage and ravage the environment and property,” the CPP said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Poet Kerima Tariman dies in Negros fire fight

Poet Kerima Lorena Tariman was killed in a clash between the Roselyn Jean Pelle Command of the New People’s Army (NPA) and the Philippine Army in Silay City, Negros Occidental, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) website announced.

NPA Negros’ regional Apolinario Gatmaitan Command said Tariman was killed along with a Comrade Pabling in a fire fight with the 79th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army at Hacienda Raymunda, Barangay Kapitan Ramon on Friday, August 20, at around six o’clock in the morning.

Cover of Kerima Lorena Tariman’s second book of poems published by High Chair in May 2017.

The group said Tariman was a leading cadre of her NPA unit at the time of her death.“She gave up her life to serve the people and the revolution,” the NPA said.

Tariman hailed from Legazpi City, Albay province and was once managing editor of the University of the Philippines’ The Philippine Collegian.

A highly-regarded poet and artist, Tariman’s second book of poems was published by High Chair in 2017.

A brief Pinoy Weekly review of Tariman’s book “Pag-aaral sa Oras: Mga Lumang Tula Tungkol sa Bago” said her poems are powerful by themselves but were made more powerful as a collection.

Her first book titled “Biyahe” was published in 1996 while she was a graduating Philippine High School for the Arts student.

“She was a renowned poet, writer and revolutionary artist who chose to share the life-and-death struggle of the masses of Negros Island. She gave up her life to serve the people and the revolution,” the NPA said.

“The masses of Negros have Ka Ella and Ka Pabling deep in their hearts. They mourn the death of revolutionary martyrs who fought for their liberation from decades-long feudal exploitation,” the group added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva/Photos from Pinoy Weekly)

Communist leader and wife executed; corpses left in military safe house—CPP

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) abducted, tortured and killed a retired top Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) leader and his wife, the underground group said.

In a belated announcement, CPP information officer Marco Valbuena said the corpses of Antonio Cabanatan, 74, and Florenda Yap, 65, were left in a military safe house in Oton, Iloilo on December 26 last year, the revolutionary group’s 52nd founding anniversary.

The elderly couple were abducted around October 2020, secretly detained, tortured and killed by strangulation, Valbuena said.

Cabanatan, known as Manlimbasog (To Strive) by his comrades, was a member of the CPP Central Committee, served as secretary of its Mindanao Commission and member of its Political Bureau and Executive Committee until his reported retirement due to health problems in 2017.

The entire (CPP) and all revolutionary forces are seething with rage over the incident, Valbuena said.

“We hold the AFP, the Philippine National Police, the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict and other armed agents of the US-Duterte regime responsible for this brutal crime,” he said.

The CPP spokesperson explained that difficulties in lines of communication and vicious military operations by the government belated their confirmation of of the victims’ identities.

Valbuena said that the dimunitive and hunchbacked Cabanatan and Yap, known in the underground movement as Comrade Osang, have already retired from active duties in the Party.

“We cannot begin to imagine the cruelty of the psychological and physical torture that they were made to undergo before they were brutally killed,” he said.

Valbuena added that the couple’s assassination followed the successive brutal murders of Ka Nars (Julius Giron), Ka Fiel (Eugenia Magpantay), Ka Boy (Agaton Topacio) and Ka Randall Echanis in 2020 by Duterte’s blood-thirsty murderers.

NDFP Negotiating Panel peace consultant Randy Malayao was also assassinated in January 2019.

Valbuena said Cabanatan was among the first generation of Filipino communists who helped plant the seeds of the armed revolution across the country.

“He was among the vanguard of the expansion of the New People’s Army in the Visayas and Mindanao,” Valbuena said.

The AFP has yet to reply to the CPP’s allegations. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)