Human rights defenders press call for Rey Casambre’s freedom

By Sanafe Marcelo

National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Rey Claro Casambre’s scheduled arraignment at Branch 19 of the Bacoor (Cavite) Regional Trial Court (RTC) did not push through Friday, November 29, further infuriating supporters who held a protest action to press for his immediate release.

Casambre was not brought to Bacoor by the Metro Manila District Jail personnel from Taguig after failing to receive a subpoena for the arraignment.

Arrested with his wife Cora in December 2018, Casambre was charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives by the Philippine National Police (PNP).

Charges against Cora were immediately dropped, however, for lack of evidence.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) chairperson Carol Araullo said the couple’s arrest and the filing of criminal charges against Rey is “non-sense.”

“It is hard to believe that senior citizens who just attended a friend’s wake were going around Manila with a grenade and guns [in the dashboard of their car],” Araullo said.

Xandra Casambre, the couple’s daughter, said the charges are trumped-up, including the two counts of attempted murder and a murder case filed against her father in Davao Oriental “where he never been before.”

The arraignment was rescheduled to January 23 next year.

BJMP petition to bring Casambre back to Bacoor jail

Meanwhile, Casambre’s lawyers revealed that the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) petitioned for Casambre’s return to Bacoor City Jail

Public Interest Law Center’s Rachel Pastores said that the judge presented a letter from the BJMP National Office requesting to transfer Casambre place of detention from Taguig to Bacoor.

Pastores said they were given 10 days to comment on the petition.

Xandra said they will oppose the petition, pointing out that harsh conditions at the Bacoor City Jail made his father sick in April

“But [the transfer] is a small matter compared to the fact he is detained because of the trumped-up charges filed against him,” Xandra said.

Xandra said her father’s criminal cases are Rodrigo Duterte government’s way of silencing opposition to “the government anti-people policies.”

“It is wrong that the people who promote social justice and change are being silenced, instead of being heard,” she said. #

NDFP’s Casambre ‘clandestinely’ transferred to ‘noisy’, ‘hot’ Bacoor jail

The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-National Capital Region (CIDG-NCR) of the Philippine National Police transferred detained National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace consultant Rey Claro Casambre from Camp Crame in Quezon City to the Bacoor City Jail in Cavite province last Wednesday, April 3, without informing his family and lawyers, his family complained.

“Tatay Rey was clandestinely whisked away by the CIDG-NCR Crame police custodian to the dark and cramped Bacoor City Jail without a word, not even to his legal counsels,” Casambre’s daughter Xandra said.

While he slept in a wooden bench inside a cramped jail cell in Camp Crame, Casambre is now jailed in an even more crowded and dark cell with too many fellow inmates, Xandra said.

“He is the 163rd inmate in a ‘dorm’ designed for only 60 people. (It is) Terrible!” she told Kodao.

According to Casambre’s wife Patricia, the Bacoor jail is very noisy and long-time inmates are allowed to sing karaoke in high volume even when it is visiting time.

“People (inmates) just do their thing right then and there,” Patricia reportedly told Xandra in her first visit to her husband’s new jail.

Xandra said Bacoor jail facility is much less accessible to family, lawyers, co-advocates and doctors.

Casambre is known to suffer many ailments connected with advancing age.

The BJMP (Bureau of Jail Management and Penology) administrator reportedly tried to give a positive impression during Casambre’s family’s first visit but Patricia was broken-hearted to note of the “intolerable noise and the oppressive heat that she would not wish on others.”

Casambre’s transfer came after the public prosecutors found probable cause to charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

A hearing on Casambre’s motion for reconsideration is being conducted as of press time. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Rotary peace award honors Rey Claro Casambre and Randy Felix Malayao

The Rotary Club of Fort Bonifacio Global City honored two National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) consultants with peace awards for their dedication and contributions to bringing about just and lasting peace in the country in a ceremony at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City last February 27.

Relatives of detained NDFP consultant Rey Claro Casambre and slain consultant Randy Felix Malayao received the Akap Tanggol Kapayaan and Akap Bayani ng Kapayapaan awards respectively.

Raul Francia, President of the Rotary Club-Fort Bonifacio Global City said that Casambre and Malayao were recognized for their contribution in helping build bridges for peace.

They are advocates and peace warriors in their respective fields, Francia added.

Other awardees included Sowing The Seeds of Peace convenor and Archbishop Fernando Capalla, Mohager Iqbal of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, former OPAPP Secretary Jesus Dureza and government chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III. (Video by Joseph Cuevas/ Kodao)

International club honors NDFP’s Randy Malayao and Rey Casambre with peace awards

Rotary International honored two National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) consultants—one recently martyred, the other in jail—with peace awards in a ceremony at the Philippine International Convention Center Wednesday, February 27.

Felix Randy Malayao, brutally shot to death while asleep inside a bus in Nueva Vizcaya last January 30, and Rey Claro Casambre, arrested while on his way home by police and military agents last December 7,  were given Ang Kapayapaan (Akap) Awards by the club’s International District 3830 based in Fort Bonifacio Global City.

The district’s Akap Awards is given to individuals and groups for their distinct contribution in advancing the cause of peace, the club said.

Rotary International’s Ang Kapayapaan Awards poster.

“This is specifically intended to pay tribute to the advocates of the resolution of the homegrown armed conflict on our soil,” Rotary Club District 3830 president Raul M. Francia said in a letter to Malayao’s family.

The awards is one of Rotary International’s many ways to inspire others to be of greater service to humanity and give modest share to the arduous task of bringing about sustainable peace, he added.  

As NDFP consultants, Malayao and Casambre were NDFP’s most active advocates, attending numerous peace forums in the Philippines and abroad.

Both attended formal peace negotiations in Europe since August 2016 as well as working group meetings in the Philippines.

Relatives of Randy Malayao receive the award in his behalf. (Photo by Joseph Cuevas/Kodao)

The two awardees participated in the crafting of land reform and rural development as well as national industrialization and economic development agreements with the government peace panel.

But Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) President Rodrigo Duterte issued Proclamation No. 360 in November 2017 terminating peace negotiations with the NDFP.

In a bid to restart negotiations, the NDFP and GRP negotiating panels jointly crafted a stand down agreement in June 2018 as well as guidelines and procedures of an interim peace agreement and a draft amnesty proclamation for hundreds of political prisoners.

Duterte again cancelled the negotiations after, however, forcing most other NDFP peace consultants to take safety precautions, preventing them from carrying duties related to the peace negotiations.

NDFP consultants Adelberto Silva and Vicente Ladlad were arrested by government forces in October and November 2018 respectively.

Another consultant, Rafael Baylosis was arrested in January 2018 but was released earlier this year after the Quezon City Regional Trial Court dismissed charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives against him.

Only Malayao and Casambre remained available for numerous speaking engagements mostly organized by church groups and schools until the latter’s arrest and the former’s assassination.

Rey Casambre’s daughter and sister receive the award in his behalf. (Photo by Joseph Cuevas/Kodao)

Last week, Duterte again hinted he is open to restarting the peace negotiations.

Rotary’s other Akap awardees included Government of the Republic of the Philippines chief negotiator Silvestre H. Bello III, resigned Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza, Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s Mohagher Igbal and former Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines and Davao Archbishop Emeritus Fernando Capalla. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Friends and supporters launch Free Rey Casambre Movement

Relatives, friends and supporters gathered at the University of the Philippines College of Science in Diliman January 19 to launch the Free Rey Casambre Movement.

The group is calling for the freedom of NDF peace consultant and director of Philippine Peace Center Rey Casambre.

Among those who attended the activity are Bishop Deogracias Yniguez, Pastor Cobbie Palm of Siliman University, Makabayan President Satur Ocampo and former NAPC lead convenor Liza Maza.

A case update was reported by his lead counsel Atty. Rachel Pastores of Public Interest Law Center.

A solidarity message was read by his wife Cora and a poem was performed by newly-released NDF peace consultant Rafael Baylosis.

His daughter Sandra discussed the objectives and tasks of the movement, this includes sending messages of support, signing the petition, mobilizations of different activities and gather more networks and friends for the freedom of Rey Casambre and all political prisoners. (Video by Joseph Cuevas/Kodao)

Activists express incredulity at Casambres’ arrest

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

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

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




On conspiracy tales vs. the resumption of peace talks

Press Statement
September 25, 2018

A recent interview of AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Carlito Galves and Brig. Gen. Antonio Parlade, Jr. revealed the sad truth that the Armed Forces of the Philippines remains in a quagmire of anti-democratic war-mongering, stale conspiracy peddling, and vicious red-tagging of known peace advocates in the GRP-NDFP peace process.

In dropping the names of Rey Casambre and former congressman Satur Ocampo as being in the center of an imagined, nay, invented conspiracy plot, the AFP has provided concrete evidence that they are indeed war-mongering peace-spoilers. Rey Casambre of the Philippine Peace Center and Satur Ocampo of Pilgrims for Peace are publicly known peace advocates. Their efforts in seeking to move the peace talks forward in addressing the roots of the armed conflict towards the aspiration of a just and enduring peace in the Philippines are well known to peace advocates throughout the country and internationally.

Naming Casambre and Ocampo as central figures in the AFP’s poorly concocted conspiracy theory makes abundantly clear that Duterte’s state forces are prone to fascist machinations and red-tagging which undermine democracy and impinge upon democratic freedoms.

Many peace advocates—both in the Philippines and around the world—will insist that part of peace building is allowing and even encouraging the participation of dissenting and marginalized voices in government and society. In contrast, the blatantly oppressive character of the military was revealed as they repeatedly warned of infiltration by communists in government. Peace advocates applaud the participation of progressive, pro-poor leaders in government, especially as they have been seen to deliver reforms and services that benefit the poor and toiling majority.

The AFP made evident that they wish to blame a faltering economy on the opposition. They even went as far as to accuse the opposition of manipulating the price of rice. This is ridiculous. Meanwhile, they also exposed the lie of their so-called “Whole of Nation” approach where the military seeks to control and manipulate access to basic and social services for their anti-insurgency campaign, while feigning that they are apolitical.

We want peace for the Philippines. The way to move in this direction is to resume GRP-NDFP peace talks intended to address the roots of the armed conflict. The negotiating parties had hammered out meaningful agreements, ready for signature, on much needed Socio-Economic Reforms. These very peace spoilers in the AFP and the security cluster are the ones standing in the way of democracy and peace building.

The public would be wise not to give an iota of credence to the AFP’s conspiracy tales. An open opposition exists. It would be much worse for democracy in the Philippines if it didn’t. And as Duterte’s military henchmen grasp at straws to attempt to tie together these perceived strands of opposition and falsely render them into a tidy conspiracy, they only lay bare their penchant for military rule.

On some level, President Duterte appears to have coalesced with their thinking. We must urge him that it is not too late to recalibrate toward peace talks and addressing historic injustices and root causes of armed conflict in our beloved homeland. People like Rey Casambre of the Philippine Peace Center and Satur Ocampo of Pilgrims for Peace would welcome such developments.

As President Duterte continues to follow the AFP’s war-mongering and martial law, opposition will continue to grow in response to increased oppression and militarization. Not only should we not believe this conspiracy they are peddling, we must encourage the Duterte administration that peace-building and resuming GRP-NDFP peace talks is the better option altogether. #

Bishop Rex RB Reyes, Jr., D.D.
Convenor, Ecumenical Voice for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines (Ecuvoice)