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NPA defeating Duterte’s all-out war, CPP says of guerrilla army’s 51st anniversary

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) reported numerous New People’s Army (NPA) victories despite massive military and psychological warfare operations unleashed by the Rodrigo Duterte government throughout 2019.

In a statement marking the guerrilla army’s 51st founding anniversary today, March 29, the CPP said the NPA continues to operate in more than 110 guerrilla fronts in 73 of 81 provinces across the country with “several thousand guerrilla fighters…armed with high-powered weapons and small firearms seized from the enemy, security forces and other sources.”

Belittling the results of the government’s National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) launched in 2018, the CPP Central Committee in its annual statement marking the NPA’s founding anniversary said Duterte and his military officers have failed in their declarations of crushing the guerrilla army.

“[F]irst by end of 2018, then by end of 2019, and later before Duterte’s term ends in 2022. Almost daily, AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) commanders make false public announcements claiming NPA ‘surrenderees,’ typically recycling old firearms in their armory and presenting these as surrendered weapons,” the CPP said.

The underground party cited the manipulated photograph claiming to be that of “surrenderees” in Masbate province late last year as proof of AFP’s lies.

The group also chided Duterte for predicting NPA will be defeated “sooner” as the AFP announced having destroyed or weakened 15 NPA guerrilla fronts.

“All these are empty boasts as the NPA continue to strengthen and wage revolutionary armed struggle alongside the democratic mass struggles of the Filipino people to end the reign of terror of the US-Duterte regime,” the CPP’s statement, released Saturday, March 28, said.

Image from CPP Founding Chairperson Jose Maria Sison’s post.

‘Two battalions killed’

The CPP said units of the guerrilla army operate under 14 regional operations command, which in turn are under the National Operations Command (NOC) of the NPA.

The NPA builds company-sized regional and sub-regional vertical forces, as well as company-sized guerrilla fronts with six to nine platoons, one-third of which are concentrated and two-thirds spread to cover the breadth of guerrilla front territories, the CPP said.

The CPP said that based on NOC reports, the NPA mounted at least 710 military actions of varying scale in 2019 that killed at least 651 government troops and wounded more than 465 others.

The number of killed and wounded is the equivalent of around 30 platoons or two battalions of its enemy troops, the group said.

‘NTF-ELCAC failing’

The CPP said the Duterte government’s NTF-ELCAC mounted all-out military offensives nationwide and formed nine new AFP battalions and deployed these primarily against the NPA.

The AFP is being assisted by the United States military in establishing and training new combat units such as the Light Reaction Regiment, the 1st Brigade Combat Team and the 2nd Brigade Combat Team which are all based in Fort Magsaysay, where the US maintains facilities under the EDCA (Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement), the CPP revealed.

In all, the AFP has 140 maneuver battalions, of which, 35 are deployed in Luzon; 19 in the Visayas; and 83 in Mindanao (19 battalions in Moro areas, and 64 in NPA areas), the group added.

“Thus, close to 85% or 118 battalions are deployed against the NPA,” it said.

The group said that close to 55% of AFP units deployed against the NPA are in Mindanao, mainly in the eastern regions. Combined AFP and PNP troop deployment is highest in Southern Mindanao, followed by Southern Tagalog, Eastern Visayas, North Central Mindanao, Far South Mindanao and Negros.

“The aim of the AFP is to concentrate one battalion of troops for every NPA guerrilla front, in the vain hope of crushing the NPA through intelligence, psywar (psychological warfare) and combat operations, it said.

Despite the additional units, the AFP’s forces are spread thinly, the CPP said, adding that at the national level, there are regions where government troops could not deploy a full battalion against every NPA guerrilla front.

On the ground, AFP combat battalions cannot saturate the territory and population of a guerrilla front, where there are widely spread revolutionary mass organizations, militia units and organs of political power which actively carry out mass campaigns and struggles, leaving large areas open for NPA units to maneuver, recruit, and strengthen themselves, the CPP revealed.

“When AFP brigades or divisions mount focused military operations in one or several guerrilla fronts in border areas, it combines several battalions pulled-out temporarily from their assigned areas of operation, giving the NPA units in other areas leeway to conduct political and military work,” the CPP said.

The CPP said that Duterte’s all-out war tactic against the NPA and its perceived supporters generates armed resistance.

“In putting down the people’s resistance with armed force, he is actually inciting the people to fight back. Like Marcos before, Duterte has become the Number 1 recruiter of the New People’s Army,” the group said.

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

NPA’s response to Covid-19

Marking the NPA’s 51st founding anniversary amid unilateral ceasefire declarations by both the CPP and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the underground party said it is mobilizing its forces in a public health campaign to prevent the spread of the disease and help treat those infected by the virus.

“The Party has directed the NPA, especially its medical units, to carry out a public health campaign together in coordination with village health committees to help prevent the spread of the disease, give special attention to the elderly and pregnant women, help care those who have been infected and promote personal hygiene and community sanitation,” the CPP statement reads.

It also directed its members in the cities to carry out similar mass campaigns, while raising demands for mass testing and other public health measures.

“Beyond the field of public health, the Filipino people must also take action in the arena of political struggle. It is as important to resist the militarist restrictions imposed by the Duterte regime, and raise their call for the ouster of Duterte to make him answer for his criminal sabotage of the public health care system,” it said.

The CPP said the NPA had been conducting such social services to poor Filipinos, earning them the monicker “the people’s army.”

“Its fighters are well known for being courageous and self-sacrificing. They are ever-ready to learn from the people their needs and demands and perform the most difficult and dangerous tasks in serving the people. They are also recognized by the masses as their defenders, cooperators, teachers, doctors, as well singers and artists, always attending to the people’s well-being and needs,” it said.

The CPP said the people always approach the NPA to seek advice or assistance whenever they demand redress from an injustice done, or seek intercession to iron out small conflicts in the communities.

‘Strengthening the NPA’

The CPP directed the NPA to further strengthen itself in order to “frustrate the government’s strategic plan of crushing the armed revolution, and to advance the people’s war in an all-sided manner.”

The group said it directed all its branches to make plans to help strengthen the guerrilla army by recommending its members and activists to join the NPA.

“There must be an active campaign of recruitment of young intellectuals and workers to join the NPA,” it said.

The CPP also directed the NPA to further intensify its tactical offensive operations through a combination of counter-encirclement and counter-offensives of large-scale military and police combat operations as well as raids against “soft-targets” such as military and paramilitary detachments and security forces.

It also ordered “more numerous and extensive harassments, interdictions, arrests, partisan, demolition and sapper operations and other armed actions.”

The CPP said that under its leadership, the NPA is expected to achieve more victories in its armed resistance and achievement of national and social liberation of Filipinos.

“The Filipino people look forward to celebrating more victories of the NPA in the coming years,” the CPP said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Joma: ‘Duterte is best NPA recruiter’

National Democratic Front of the Philippines chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison said President Rodrigo Duterte is “the best recruiter” for revolutionary movement, such as the New People’s Army (NPA).

In this interview, Sison replies to statements made by Armed Forces of the Philippines officers that the NPA is a spent force. (Contributed video by Urbano Guevarra)

‘Mount tactical offensives,’ CPP tells NPA in wake of mass arrest

By Visayas Today

Communist guerrillas have been ordered to “exert all effort to mount tactical offensives” against government forces, “especially those behind fascist crimes,” in the wake of the recent arrests of scores of activists in Negros and Manila.

At the same time, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), in a statement dated November 2, denied that the more than 50 persons arrested during simultaneous raids in Bacolod City on October 31 are members of the New People’s Army (NPA), calling the claim a “brazen lie” intended to “conceal the martial law crackdown on mass-based organizations.”

Among those nabbed in Bacolod were officers of progressive organizations, including the National Federation of Sugar Workers, Kilusang Mayo Uno and Karapatan, all of which the government and state security forces openly accuse of being “legal fronts” of the rebel movement.

Also arrested as Anne Krueger of the alternative media outfit Paghimutad.

Aside from the Bacolod raids, joint police and Army teams also made arrests in Escalante City and, in Manila, nabbed the chair of women’s group Gabriela and her husband, Kadamay-Metro Manila spokesperson Michael Tan Bartolome.

Authorities claimed to have found weapons, ammunition and explosives at the office of progressive groups. However, the targets of the raids insist these were “planted.”

The CPP said the mass arrest “marks a heightening of the Duterte regime’s fascist drive against all democratic forces” and called it “a brazen display of force and abuse of state powers” intended to “terrorize people” and “silence the broad masses against worsening oppression.”

It was also “a dress rehearsal for a nationwide crackdown,” the CPP added.

However, the statement predicted that the suppression would only lead encourage people “to join the New People’s Army or seek its protection.” #

ALIPATO (Kay Ka Gelas)

By Rene Boy Abiva

“And wild bears never daunt the brave/ Plum blossoms welcome the whirling snow/ Small wonder flies freeze and perish.”— Mao Tse Tung, Winter Clouds

Larawan mula sa pamilya ni Gelas Guillermo

Dinuyan, inakay, at tinangay ka ng hangin

matapos ang pag-aaklas na gaya sa isang kaingin,

at nakiisa’t inihatid ka ng mga nagluluksang alitaptap

na sindami ng buhangin

sa ibaba ng kulay abong alapaap,

at bago ka bumagsak sa lupang kayumanggi

at ika’y tuluyang lamunin sa huling sandali

ay napagtagumpayan mong iginuhit sa dilim

ang sunod subalit huli’t kaabang-abang na pangitain.

Gamit ang natitira mong anag-ag

winika mo’y mahuhubaran, magagasgas, mabibitak,

babagsak, at sasabog ang agimat

gayundin ang imperyo’t templo ng iilang yayamanin.

Winika mo pa’y aalagwa, aaklas, at makikipagpatayan

sa mapangahas na alindog ng dugong sing-itim

ng sunog na asukal at sing-alat ng asin,

na sinlapot ng lusaw na bato’t tingga,

na sing-init ng pugon

na pinapaypayan ng matatalim at maninipis na elesi,

na mainit, mabigat, at masakit sa baga

ang hininga’t samyo ng bunganga

ng dambuhalang pigsa

sa loob at labas ng Maynila-

ang mga daantaong bihag ng mala-tisa sa puti,

at mala-marmol at pormika sa kinis at dulas na salamin-

na bininyagan, inensensuhan, pinabanguha’t hinilamusan

ng ‘di-mabilang na kwarta, kamanyang, mira, at ‘Ama Namin’.

Pipitik-pitik ang iyong liwanag

nang dahan-dahan, marahang-marahan

hanggang sa ang tibok ng iyong puso’y ‘di na napakingan

pito,

anim,

lima,

tatlo,

isa,

wala,

wala

hanggang sa tuluyan kang ‘di na naaninag

maliban sa naaalala ka tuwing sinasabog

ng bukang-liwayway ang kanyang liwanag

o kapag nagsisisayaw sa alon ang telon

ng Dakilang

Aurora Borealis. 

-Enero 18, 2019

Lungsod Quezon, Maynila

Mabining Mandirigma: A hero’s reminder of what we fought against

Text and photos by Sanafe Marcelo

I was transported back in time as I sat mesmerized in the darkened theater, melodic voices enveloping my body, stirring my soul. I did not want to miss every single line by Nicanor Tiongson in this Chris Mallado-directed musical. Veteran stage actor and activist Monique Wilson enthralling me and the rest of the audience as Apolinario Mabini.

Scenes narrated the political intrigues in the time of Mabini, the main protagonist and one of the most important figures in Philippine history. As the “brains of the revolution against Spain,” the play showed how Mabini struggled to uphold the revolution and defend our Inang Bayan (nation).

Mabining Mandrigma means “The Gentle Warrior.”  The play is a precise presentation of who Mabini was, a gentle, revolutionary warrior despite his disability.

Monique Wilson is remarkable in her portrayal of the hero. Her heart and sincerity reverberates throughout the play, cloaking the audience like a thick fog in the early morn. What is exceptional is, she portrays a male character and ably carries it off. Such is her versatility, no doubt infused with the same fervor for national liberation as the hero she portrays. Her powerful voice rises among her co-actors, entertaining, teaching, imploring, as Mabini did during the years when a reasoned voice was most needed. 

The play’s anachronistic costumes were brilliantly designed by James Reyes, powerful messages in themselves. The cog wheels and the big classic clock as vital parts of the stage design help audience visualize the past’s connection with the present. The play also reminds the enthralled audience that young men and women answered the clarion sounded, a reminder so apt these days when young activists are vilified by their elders who, it seems, have forgotten this.

The songs marked the play’s progression. Their line evoked deep meaning, such that when the closing song begged, ‘Mahalin mo ang Pilipinas nang higit sa iyong sarili,’ there could have been no one that did not fight back tears. Indeed, some gave in and cried at Mabini’s tragedy, our history’s failure, our nation’s sorrow.

The play reminds us that history does repeat itself. What Mabini confronted in his day confronts us in ours. It begs the question, “Whatever our heroes sacrificed their lives for when, more than a hundred years after their mortal bodies have rejoined their beloved soil, we are still battling the very same demons?”

Mabining Mandirigma, an award-winning musical by the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ (CCP) resident theater group Tanghalang Pilipino, is being staged for the fourth time at the CCP. It runs until September 1. #

Fernandez urges NPA in Negros to defend farmers from rights violations

National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Frank Fernandez urged revolutionary forces in Negros Island to intensify their campaigns against human rights violations, noting that “things have gotten much worse” under the Rodrigo Duterte government.

“The revolutionary forces must bring the struggle to a higher stage as the systematic campaign against the peasants and the activists have become much worse since I was last there,” Fernandez said.

Speaking from his hospital bed at the Philippine Heart Center (PHC), Fernandez said it is a testament to the strength of the revolutionary forces in the island that Duterte has ordered the deployment of more Philippine Army infantry brigades in the island since November.

Duterte issued Executive Order 32 in November 2018 ordering more troop deployment in Negros, Bicol and Samar in a bid to crush New People’s Army (NPA) units in the said regions.

Increased Armed Forces of the Philippines presence in Negros, however, has led to numerous human rights violations, Fernandez said.

Frank Fernandez in his hospital room.

Complete turnaround

Fernandez said the NPA in Negros has fully recovered from near decimation in the early 1990s.

“There was almost no NPA left in Negros in 1994,” Fernandez said.

He credited the NPA’s grasp of the correct political and ideological lines that allowed its forces to recover and overcome the schism with former comrades that broke away to form the so-called Revolutionary Proletarian Army and the Alex Boncayao Brigade.

Fernandez said that the poor masses helped in their recovery.

“The poor but struggling masses of Negros did not allow us to give up and encouraged us to rebuild,” Fernandez said.

The incarcerated NDFP peace consultant said it is time to repay the masses by defending them against the government and the landlords’ widespread human rights violations in the island.

Human rights violations

Intensifying agrarian reform struggles across the Negros Island has resulted to two massacres, assassinations of a human rights lawyer and a municipal councilor as well as killings and arrests of several farmers and human rights defenders.

Just yesterday, another human rights defender who was an active member of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente was murdered in his hometown of Manjuyod, Negros Oriental.

An urgent alert by the group Defend Negros said Salvador “Bador” Romano, 42, an adviser of the YIFI (Youth of the IFI) and former Negros Oriental coordinator of the human rights group Karapatan, was shot dead by motorcycle-riding gunmen around 12:30 p.m.

Last March 30, 10 peasants and church workers were killed in one night in Canlaon City and Sta. Rita, Negros Occidental.

Nine sugarcane farmers, including four women and two children, were also killed last October 20 in Sagay City. The bodies of three of the victims were also burned by their killers.

Human rights lawyer Benjamin Ramos and Escalante City councilor Bernardino Patigas Sr., both described as martyrs of the sugar cane workers’ struggles, were killed on November 7 and April 22, respectively.

After Patigas’ murder, opposition Senator Leila de Lima denounced the murders, blaming the Duterte administration for “the snowballing record of human rights defenders killed in Negros Island.”

De Lima said Patigas’ murder raises suspicions that there is a death squad targeting rights advocates in the province because his killing “hews closely” to the type of killings regularly happening recently.

The senator said Patigas’ murder was the 48th in Negros under Duterte.

Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Carlos also condemned the killings and called on the Duterte government to respect human rights.

“In sadness, we all are crying out: End the Killings! These barbaric and calculated assassinations must end! We should not tolerate this kind of crime,” the bishop said in a statement last April.

Fernandez, for his part, urged for the resumption of the abandoned peace talks between the NDFP and the Duterte government in order for the human rights situation in Negros to be addressed by the negotiating panels.

“It would be favorable for the masses, as well as for jailed peace consultants like myself, if the peace talks would be revived,” he said.

Heart problems

Fernandez was taken to the PHC last Friday to undergo laboratory examinations.

“I am suffering from heart ailments, spinal column problems, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, arthritis, and hypertension. There may be more,” he told Kodao.

Fernandez said he left Negros more than a year ago to seek medical treatment in Manila when nabbed by military and police operatives in Liliw, Laguna last March 24.

“Doctors of the Philippine Army General Hospital in Fort Bonifacio discovered I also have hardening of the arteries close to my heart,” he said.

Fernandez has since been incarcerated at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City where his state of health has gotten worse.

“They often feed us porridge that are either so unpalatable or are so sweet when made into champorado (chocolate porridge).  For lunch and dinner, they feed us papaya soup with sardines or miswa noodles with sardines,” he said.

The Sta. Cruz Regional Trial Court in Laguna ordered the 71-year old Fernandez to be taken to the PHC for medical check up. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Lawyer: No reason for Duterte to suspend privilege of the writ of habeas corpus

President Rodrigo Duterte’s threat to suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus has no legal basis and is an illogical reaction to criticism and opposition, a human rights lawyer said.

“First of all, there is absolutely no legal, constitutional, and factual basis to suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus,” National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) president Edre Olalia said.

Reacting to Duterte’s speech before prosecutors in Puerto Princesa City Thursday, Olalia said that Duterte only validated accusations of his whimsical and vindictive exercise of power.

“[H]is threat smacks of authoritarian reactions of a leader intolerant of dissenting or divergent opinions,” Olalia said.

Outraged at widespread criticisms of his policies, Duterte said he may arrest all his critics.

Pero ‘pag ako ang pinaabot niyo ng sagad, I will declare a suspension of writ of habeas corpus and I will arrest all of you. Isama ko kayo sa mga rebelde, kriminal, pati durogista,” Duterte said. (If you push me to my limit, I will declare a suspension of writ of habeas corpus and I will arrest all of you. I will put you together with the criminals, rebels, and drug lords.)

Duterte also threatened to declare “revolutionary war.”

Pahirapan mo ako, I will declare a revolutionary war until the end of my term. Pasensiyahan tayo,” he said. (If you make things difficult for me, I will declare a revolutionary war until the end of my term. We test each other’s patience.)

Olalia however the president’s reaction to cautionary criticisms to his policies by the opposition is illogical.

“[H]is threat smacks of authoritarian reactions of a leader intolerant of dissenting or divergent opinions,” Olalia said.

“[T]here is no other appropriate people’s reaction but to fight and fight we must against brute despotism clothed in legal garb,” he added.

Other criticisms

Former solicitor general and candidate for the Senate Florin Hilbay cautioned Duterte, saying the last president who did so was ousted.

“Ser, remind lang kita: nung last time na ginawa ‘yan, may diktador na nasipa sa pwesto,” Hilbay posted on his Facebook wall. (Sir, may I remind you: the last time that was done, a dictator was ousted.)

Fellow senatorial candidate Neri Colmenares for his part called President Rodrigo’s threat “baseless” and “senseless.”

Colmenares, a human rights lawyer, said criticism of the president does not meet the constitutional or legal requirements to suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.

He said Duterte’s “inordinate reaction to so innocuous a statement from Senator Drilon” led him to suspect the president’s anger stemmed from recently released videos accusing him and his son Paolo, who is running for congressman in Davao City, to the illegal drug trade.

“If so, the charges in the videos can only gain traction,” Colmenares said.

“This is the first time I’ve heard a government threatening revolutionary war,” Colmenares said.

National Democratic Front of the Philippines chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison also said Duterte cannot engage in a revolutionary war “because he is a counterrevolutionary agent of foreign monopoly capitalists, big compradors and big landlords.”

“He is a bureaucrat capitalist of the worst kind,” Sison wrote in his quick reaction to Duterte’s speech.

Sison added Duterte “should not misappropriate and besmirch the noble calling of revolutionary.”

“He is a tyrant, traitor, plunderer and mass murderer hell-bent on imposing a fascist dictatorship on the Filipino people through charter change to a bogus kind of federalism,” Sison added.

Sison said Duterte is already engaged in de facto martial law nationwide and in the de facto suspension of the writ of habeas corpus.

Duterte is increasingly engaged in mass intimidation, mass arrests and mass murders, the president’s former political science professor said.

Sison added that if Duterte formally proclaims the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus or even martial law nationwide, he will only succeed in further enraging the people and inciting them to wage all forms of revolutionary resistance.

“The real revolutionary war is against his ongoing counterrevolutionary war,” Sison said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva, with JJ Espina)

NPA turns 50 today; CPP calls for intensified guerrilla warfare

The Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) called on the New People’s Army (NPA) to boldly intensify guerrilla warfare and wage all-out resistance against the Rodrigo Duterte government as the revolutionary army celebrates its 50th founding anniversary today.

Congratulating Red fighters all over the country, the CPP’s top leadership said the NPA continues to advance nationwide and succeeded in surmounting Duterte’s all-out offensives and focused military operations in 2018.

Founded by the CPP in March 29, 1969 in Sta. Rita, Capas, Tarlac, the NPA started with only nine rifles and 26 inferior firearms for 60 Red fighters consisting of veteran guerrillas and new recruits from Manila and Isabela.

CPP founding chairperson Jose Maria Sison and local rebel leader Bernabe Buscayno were among the prominent personalities present in the event.

After five decades of continuous guerrilla warfare, the NPA said it has 110 guerrilla fronts all over the country, majority of which are composed of company-sized formation of full-time Red fighters.

The NPA’s guerrilla war is the longest-running in the world today.

Major victories in 2018

Last year, the CPP said the NPA mounted several hundred tactical offensives across the country, seizing at least 107 high powered rifles from government forces and even from security agencies serving big mining operations.

The underground party said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine National Police and their paramilitary forces suffered at least 600 casualties in 2018 with more than 380 killed in action.

One hundred eighty five AFP soldiers were killed in action across eastern Mindanao, the CPP claimed.

The group added that the numbers of government casualties were more than 40 percent higher than in 2017.

Units of the AFP that suffered the most casualties were those deployed in focused military operations in north central and north eastern Mindanao provinces where NPA units were able to carry out active defense operations against AFP offensives.

The CPP said the AFP’s decision to reduce its troop deployment in Mindanao to as low as 60 percent from a high of 80 percent in previous years is added proof that aims to crush the NPA in eastern Mindanao is failing.

“In the face of the steady nationwide growth of the NPA, Duterte’s security officials have already toned down on their earlier braggadocio of defeating the NPA by middle of 2019. They have instead moved their ‘deadline’ to the end of 2022,” the CPP said.

5-year plan

Even as it successfully frustrating Duterte’s all-out war, the CPP called on the NPA to boldly intensify guerrilla warfare nationwide and wage all-out resistance against the Duterte regime.

The CPP said the call is in accordance with the Central Committee’s five-year program (2017-2021) to continue developing nationwide strength, spread and advance.

“We must strengthen the NPA several times over and raise its capability in annihilating enemy units,” the CPP said.

The program includes the building of more units of people’s militias, self-defense units of mass organizations, partisan units, as well as raising their capability in waging mass guerrilla warfare, the CPP said.

“With its current nationwide strength and spread, the NPA is in a position to carry the people’s war forward to unprecedented levels in the coming years,” the group added.  # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Petition amendment proves terrorist proscription vs CPP-NPA arbitrary–lawyer

The Rodrigo Duterte government’s amendment to its petition to proscribe revolutionary groups as terrorists is proof that it has a weak case against the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA), a human rights lawyer said.

In a statement, National Union of People’s Lawyer president Edre Olalia said the government’s original petition filed in February 2018 is weak and is merely a move to railroad the legal process.

“[The] amended petition by the government to proscribe the CPP-NPA is proof that the original one was sloppy, shotgun and arbitrary against hundreds of individuals and was designed to harass and threaten them,” Olalia said.

Last January 3, the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed the amended petition before Branch 19 of the Regional Trial Court in Manila.

Six hundred individuals listed as “terrorists” in the original petition have been taken off  but retained CPP founding chairperson Jose Maria Sison; NPA national operations command spokesperson Jorge Madlos; NPA’s Melito Glor Command spokesperson Jaime Padilla, National Democratic Front of the Philippines-Negros spokesperson Francisco Fernandez; alleged CPP-Visayas deputy secretary Cleofe Lagtapon; alleged CPP Mindanao Commission secretary Antonio Cabanatan; alleged NPA-Mindanao leader; and alleged NPA-Mindanao operations chief Myrna Sularte.

The amended petition no longer includes United Nations Environment Programme 2018 Champion of the Earth awardee Joan Carling and five Baguio activists like Jeanette Ribaya-Cawiding.

Cawiding, former chair of the Tongtongan ti Umili and coordinator of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), said the new petition removes them from immediate danger posed by being labelled as terrorists, but said government spying on non-government organizations remains as a threat to free speech and human rights.

“This is a partial victory, but we cannot let our guard down,” Cawiding said.

She points to the latest red-tagging of ACT and harassment of teachers who are ACT members as proof that the threat against activists and government critics will continue.

“Harassment has been continuous against progressive organizations, like ACT, the delisting of the individuals named in the DOJ proscription does not guarantee the protection of our rights and our safety because the Philippine National Police and Malacañang are justifying their witch hunt in the context of [Duterte’s] Executive Order 70,” Cawiding said.

EO 70, signed last December, directs the creation of a national task force headed by the President and vice-chaired by the National Security Adviser to end local communist armed conflict and pushed for localized peace talks.

The court earlier directed the DOJ to remove the names of Vicky Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur for Indigenous Peoples Concerns and former Baguio councilor Jose Molintas.

Molintas was also a former member of the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP).

Corpuz, Carling, Longid and Molintas are former leaders of the militant Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA), which Cariño helped establish as an indigenous peoples’ rights group that opposed the Marcos regime.

Current CPA chair Windell Bolinget said strong protests pushed the DOJ to amend its proscription petition.

But he said the threat does not end.

“They wanted the proscription of the CPP and NPA as terrorists by focusing on few names. Once they are proscribed as terrorists, people they suspect, vilify and attack as fronts and supporters will be linked and later considered terrorists. This is the danger,” Bolinget said.

Still dangerous

Olalia said that even with the amendment, the petition remains dangerous to those earlier named.

“[The] present petition remains to be without legal and factual basis and repackaged the old one in order to railroad the legal process. This will in turn violate a slew of individual and collective rights not only for those who remain in the list but many others who are maliciously identified, associated, suspected or labelled,” Olalia said.

IFI Bishop Vermilon Tagalog, chair of the regional coordinating committee of the Ilocos Network for the Environment welcomed the amended DOJ petition but said “the removal of names does not guarantee their safety”.

“The mere existence of the DOJ petition remains a clear threat especially with the insistent communist-tagging of Duterte’s administration of activists and progressive organizations,” Tagalog added.

Tagalog said that the Human Security Act of 2007, the DOJ’s basis for the filing of the proscription petition is not just directed against “terrorists” but also to critics of the government.

“We call on all environmental defenders to remain vigilant and steadfast in the fight against efforts of the administration to impose its tyrannical rule and clamped-down on our democratic rights.” #(Raymund B. Villanueva/ Kodao and Kimberlie Olmaya Ngabit-Quitasol/Northern Dispatch)

NPA in Bicol celebrates CPP’s 50th anniversary

The Romulo Jallores Command of the New People’s Army invited journalists of select local and international media groups to a press conference in a guerilla camp deep in the Bicol Region.

The event was part of the nationwide celebration of the 50th anniversary of the reestablishment of the Communist Party of the Philippines.