Posts

Gov’t freeze of Casambre bank accounts ‘pathetic’

[UPDATED] The government’s freeze order of a National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant’s bank accounts is a pathetic move that failed to touch his real treasures, his family said.

Xandra Liza Bisenio, daughter of jailed NDFP consultant Rey Claro Casambre, said their family’s real assets and their most valued possessions cannot be found in her father’s modest bank accounts the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) and the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) recently ordered frozen.

“Freezing my father’s and others’ almost negligible accounts purportedly to cripple the communist movement is pathetic. Instead, it has deprived my elderly parents of their funds for essential needs, magnified the crisis of the pandemic, and is bringing anxiety to our family and friends,” Bisenio said in a forum marking the first anniversary of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 last July 3.

Bisenio said they managed to get copies of official bank documents last June 16 that confirmed Casambre’s bank accounts have been frozen in accordance with ATC Resolution 17 and AMLC Resolution TF-40 (2021).

“We had felt the adverse impact of this action a month earlier, even before the announcement of the designation (of Casambre and others as so-called terrorists). We attempted, as was usual, to withdraw cash from Mr. Casambre’s ATM account to pay for some groceries, and got the message: ‘The account does not exist,’” Bisenio said.

She added that Casambre’s bank accounts are modest and do not deserve suspicion and subsequent closure.

Bisenio said Casambre’s bank deposits are no more than accumulated savings from allowances as executive director of the Philippine Peace Center and wife Cora’s income as researcher-translator.

She however said her parents’ modest monetary assets are not their family’s source of joy, security and peace of mind.

“They lie in our lifetime commitment to serve the common good, in solidarity with the downtrodden who are the real giants and heroes in this world. Intangible yet real and vibrant, these treasures are inextricably embedded in our minds, beyond the reach of any state entity, and silently but fiercely ablaze in our hearts, which no statute can ever freeze,” she said.

Rey Claro and Cora were arrested while on their way home to Cavite in December 2018 and were charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives, a standard case slapped against arrested activists by the police and military.

The prosecutor however found the charges “preposterous” that paved the way for Cora’s early release but Rey Claro remains in jail for separate murder and attempted murder charges of allegedly participating in a New People’s Army ambush in Lupon, Davao Oriental in September 2018.

Casambre’s bank accounts have been frozen after fellow NDFP consultant Vicente Ladlad’s two Landbank accounts have been closed in May this year. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

[ERRATUM: The original version of this report erroneously said the Casambre family publicly asked for the unfreezing of their bank accounts. They made no such claim in their statement, hence this corrected version. The reporter apologizes.]

CPP: All 19 in ATC list ‘courageous, honorable revolutionaries’

The persons recently designated by the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) as terrorists are either poor or have chosen to be poor because of their desire to serve the people, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) said.

In a reaction to the ATC’s designation of 19 of its alleged top leaders as terrorists, the CPP said all those listed are honorable revolutionaries who have served the cause of the Filipino people for national and social liberation all their lives.

“Throughout the past decades, they have courageously stood side by side with the people and struggled against dictators and tyrants. They all have sacrificed personal ambition and selfish interests,” CPP chief information officer Marco Valbuena said in a statement Friday.

Valbuena said those named are now in their sixties and seventies and three of them are in jail even as they are well-known National Democratic Front of the Philippines Negotiating Panel (NDFP) consultants who attended peace negotiations with the Rodrigo Duterte government here and abroad.

The three are Vicente Ladlad, Rey Claro Casambre and Adelberto Silva who have been separately arrested after Duterte cancelled formal peace negotiations and were uniformly charged with the non-bailable offense of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

“Unlike Duterte, these revolutionaries have only the clothes on their back to count as their wealth. They do not accumulate money from the government nor fleece the people with taxes,” Valbuena said.

The CPP spokesperson added the 19 revolutionaries do not hide money in China or elsewhere and have repeatedly proven themselves to be true to the “people’s cause”.

Aside from Ladlad, Casambre and Silva, the ATC designated NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison, New People’s Army (NPA) National Operations Command spokesperson Jorge Madlos, NDFP Negotiating Panel interim chairperson Julietta de Lima, NDFP Negotiating Panel Member Benito Tiamzon and NDFP peace consultants Alan Jazmines, Wilma Tiamzon, Ma. Concepcion Araneta-Bocala, Tirso Alcantara, Pedro Codaste, and Loida Magpatoc as so-called terrorists under the controversial Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.

The list also includes alleged CPP officials Abdias Gaudiana, Dionesio Micabato, Myrna Sularte, Tomas Dominado and Menandro Villanueva.

All 19, except for Sison and Araneta-Bocala, are from lower middle class or poor origins.

Sison was born of a landed and politically-influential family in Ilocos Sur while Araneta-Bocala was of the landlord class in Panay Island.

Both said they rid themselves of their respective families’ economic interests when they joined the revolutionary movement in their youth.

While the 19’s terrorist-designation needs a court order to become official, however, government agencies may freeze their bank accounts and other assets.

Appeal to BSP

Ladlad’s wife Fides Lim said her husband’s only bank account may be frozen by the ATC terrorist listing.

“Vic is a poor man. The only huge deposit or entire property under his name is the compensation he received from the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board in May 2018,” Lim said Friday, May 14.

Lim said Ladlad’s bank account with the government-controlled Land Bank includes the reparation for his sufferings as a political prisoner during martial law and for the disappearance of his first wife Leticia Pascual Ladlad in November 1975.

Ladlad wants to use his money for the treatment of his various illnesses such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease as well as food support in jail, replacement of his hearing aid reportedly stolen when he was arrested and to extend assistance to his mother who died last December while he was already in jail, Lim said.

Lim, also political detainee support group Kapatid spokesperson, revealed that the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and its governor Benjamin Diokno may move to freeze Ladlad’s bank account.

“I came from the Land Bank this morning (Friday) and I know what you are up to as the designated chair of the Anti-Money Laundering Act in relation to implementing orders from the Anti-Terrorism Council regarding my husband,” Lim said.

“This is blood money. Don’t be complicit in the McCarthy witchhunting spree of the Anti-Terrorism Council. Only Vic has the right to his compensation claim,” she added.

Lim reminded Diokno that the arresting team pilfered his Land Bank ATM card and used it to steal money when Ladlad was arrested on November 8, 2018.

Lim said she filed a complaint with the Land Bank and it took over a year before she was able to recover what was stolen.

“I will safeguard every centavo of Vic’s deposit in the Land Bank. To BSP Gov. Benjamin Diokno: This is blood money. Don’t be complicit in the McCarthy witchhunting spree of the Anti-Terrorism Council. Only Vic has the right to his compensation claim,” Lim said.

‘Unconstitutional’

Ladlad protested his inclusion in the ATC terror list as a gross violation of his right to due process.

In a statement, Ladlad said he was never informed by the ATV that he has been charged as a “terrorist” and was never given the opportunity to refute the charge.

“I firmly state that I am not a terrorist. It is the Anti-Terrorism Act in its too vague definition of terrorism and its expansive list of “acts of terrorism” that enabled the authorities to easily brand my political

Baylosis for his part said he vehemently decry and object to the ATC resolution designating alleged CPP Central Committee members as so-called terrorists.

“In my case, the latest ATC order disregards an earlier preceding Manila RTC (Regional Trial Court) decision in the third quarter of 2018 that I was not one of the ‘terrorists’ named in the first GRP proscription suit against the CPP-NPA,” Baylosis said.

Baylosis added that he was also freed from detention in early 2019 based on two Quezon City RTCs final ruling on “false, fabricated non-bailable” charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosive.

Casambre’s family said his inclusion in the list is a desperate move by the government and itself “terroristic” attack.

“Rey Casambre is a teacher and scientist, not a criminal. He is a peace activist, not a terrorist,” his family said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

High Court orders transfer of Casambre’s trial

The trial of detained National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Rey Claro Casambre has been transferred to the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (QC-RTC), his family announced.

Casambre’s trial in Lupon, Davao Oriental had been ordered transferred to Quezon City by the Supreme Court in response to his counsels and family’s petition, Casambre’s daughter Xandra Liza Biseno said in a statement.

“[This is] due to the cost, burden and stresses on Rey and his kin, counsels, and friends of seeing the very remote Davao case through. [But the] partial transfer requires Rey to waive his right to physically appear and defend himself should any case proceeding transpire in Davao,” Xandra Liza said.

She added that the QC judge has informed Casambre’s lawyers that whatever transpires in Quezon City will be reported back to Davao.

Casambre’s trial has resumed last Wednesday, December 2, almost two years after his and wife Patricia Cora’s arrest in Bacoor, Cavite near midnight of December 6, 2018.

Casambre and Cora were flagged down by Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group operatives in a deserted stretch of road and were charged with illegal possession of a firearm grenade and a bomb detonator allegedly found at their sub-compact car’s dashboard compartment.

The state prosecutor who conducted the preliminary investigation said the charge was “preposterous” and ordered the couple freed.

The police however refused to release Rey, alleging he participated in a New People’s Army ambush in Lupon on September 13 of that year.

Casambre said he had never been to the remote town, adding he was in fact at the House of Representatives on September 12, 2018, the very day a government soldier claims he saw the elderly peace consultant at a guerilla camp, planning the ambush. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Family asks chief justice to free political detainee and other elderly and sickly prisoners

The family of a political detainee has asked Supreme Court Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta for his immediate release along with other sickly, elderly and pregnant prisoners of conscience.

In a letter to Peralta Monday, April 13, the family of National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Rey Claro Casambre asked the country’s chief magistrate for his temporary release amid the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) crisis.

“My father’s freedom will remove him from otherwise high vulnerability to the coronavirus while in prison, and enable us, his family, to better care for him as he struggles through illnesses,” Casambre’s daughter Xandra Biseño said.

Casambre, supposedly immune from arrest as a consultant to the peace talks between the government and the NDFP, was arrested along with his wife Cora on December 7, 2018. Cora was later freed due to a lack of evidence.

Biseño said their family fears for the life and safety of Casambre who is of advanced age and suffering from type 2 diabetes and a heart condition. 

Casambre has an enlarged ventricle, mitral valve prolapse, and aortic valve prolapse with mild regurgitation, his daughter said.

Biseño’s letter, also sent in behalf of by her mother Cora, Casambre’s sister Sr. Mary Aida Casambre, RGS, and other family members and friends, is in support of the petition filed by Kapatid on April 8 seeking the Supreme Court’s “compassionate intervention” and “exercise of equity jurisdiction” for the release of select prisoners, including political detainees.

 The lead petitioners are 22 political prisoners who are mostly elderly and sick, including six women, one of whom has leprosy while another is five-months pregnant.

Biseño said that despite assurances by penal authorities that the country’s jails are “100% safe” during the Covid-19 crisis, they are highly concerned that Casambre and others like him are put at an even greater risk. 

“There is a general lack of jail space and facilities for social distancing, proper nutrition to put up resistance against the virus, prompt testing of prisoners and jail employees with Covid symptoms to enable ample isolation, quarantine, and treatment for the infected and the safety of those who are not,” Biseño’s letter reads.

Prison authorities have admitted that Philippine jails are over 500% congested, and tally about 4-5,000 deaths every year notably at a higher rate among the detained elderly. 

The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology earlier announced the death of an inmate on March 25 at a Quezon City jail prison.

Prisoners’ families deliver nutritious food and supplements regularly to the detainees because prison rations are insufficient to keep the detainees nutritionally fed, Biseño said.

Water supply is irregular due to rationing by the concessionaires, she added. 

“The helplessness and anxiety that the fatal microbe could hit our imprisoned relatives – who have no reason to be in prison at all because they are but falsely charged – is becoming unspeakable, Biseño wrote. 

Her letter said the release of elderly, sickly and pregnant prisoners will also aid government’s objective to arrest the spread of the coronavirus by decongesting prisons and removing highly vulnerable individuals detainees as had been done in Iran, Egypt, Indonesia, Germany, Italy, United States of America and Morocco. 

Biseño’s letter was also sent to Senate President Vicente Sotto, Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights Chair Richard Gordon, House of Representatives Committee on Justice Chair Vicente Veloso, and Makati District 2 Representative Luis Campos.

The Department of Social Work and Development, Department of Justice and the BJMP said they support the decongestion of prisons by giving elderly and vulnerable inmates temporary freedom. # (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)

Casambre arrest proves Duterte ‘cannot be trusted’

The Rodrigo Duterte government is “ludicrous” in arresting and charging yet another National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant with trumped-up murder and attempted murder cases, various groups said.

The arrest of long-time peace consultant and Philippine Peace Center (PPC) executive director Rey Claro Casambre and spouse Patricia Cora in Bacoor, Cavite early Friday morning as well as the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) claim a calibre .45 gun and a grenade were found in the couple’s car drew quick condemnations from activists who said the incident is yet another canard by “peace spoilers.”

Rey and Cora just came from a wake at the University of the Philippines campus in Quezon City when arrested by members of the PNP’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group.

They were taken to Camp Crame in Quezon City early Friday morning where they were informed of a warrant of arrest against Rey for murder and attempted murder he allegedly committed along with six others in Davao Oriental Province.

The warrant of arrest was issued on November 23 by Judge Emilio Dayanghirang III of Lupon Regional Trial Court Branch 32.

No details of the murder and attempted murder charges have been made public yet.

“As usual, and as predictable as the sun will come out tomorrow, the non-bailable murder charges are trumped-up and sprang out of nowhere. And as tiringly contrived as expected, a roving firearm and a rusty grenade were again routinely planted to make the arrest appear aboveboard for good measure,” NDFP legal consultant Atty. Edre Olalia fumed.

Olalia said nobody would ever believe such false narrative, noting that Casambre is a publicly-known peace consultant who is also covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).

“As such, [Casambre] should not have been [subjected to surveillance], harassed and arrested for an indubitably manufactured case,” Olalia said.

The lawyer said Rey’s spouse Cora is a translator with the PPC where he is executive director for the longest time

“The arrest of the Casambres, treacherous as it is baseless, once again proves that this government cannot be trusted and that it is the number one violator of the most basic rights especially of those seeking genuine and long-lasting solutions to the problems besetting our people and our country,” Olalia said.

Casambre is the fourth NDFP peace consultant after Rafael Baylosis, Adelberto Silva and Vicente Ladlad arrested after Duterte effectively terminated the once-promising peace negotiations in November 2017.

Baylosis was arrested last January, Silva in October and Ladlad in November and were each charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

All four are elderly and suffering from various ailments.

More condemnations

Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Ysagani Zarate said the Casambres’ arrest is the same modus that the police used in arresting Ladlad, Baylosis and Silva.

“They planted guns and explosives and filed trumped up charges,” the progressive solon said.

Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights secretary general Cristina Palabay said only fools would believe the elderly Casambre couple would be carrying weapons inside their vehicle.

“All bear the same signs of fabricated charges,” Palabay said.

Atty. Rachel Pastores, lawyer for the Casambres said the arrest was carried out by “peace spoilers” who betray government’s insincerity in the peace negotiations.

“We now fear for the safety of others involved in the peace talks. Among them, [our] clients Alexander and Winona Birondo who were part of the NDFP delegation and whose cases were recently dismissed by a Quezon City trial court. The Birondo spouse have reported intense surveillance and harassment,” Pastores said.

By harassing and rounding up all peace consultants and unnecessarily demonizing them, the PNP exploits their badges as law enforcers, and aids and abets the scuttling of the peace talks, Pastores said.

Zarate added it is tragic and ironic that Casambre, who is pushing for the resumption of the peace talks and who even attended the Congress hearing for the approval of the resolution for the resumption of the negotiations, is the one behind bars while hawks pushing for war are even promoted by Duterte.

“The Duterte administration is ill-advised if they think that the armed conflict can be solved with this type of modus and a purely military solution without addressing the roots of the armed conflict,” Zarate said.

‘Ludicrous’

The NDFP Negotiating Panel for its part said Casambre’s arrest is unjust and ludicrous that virtually closes the doors to any possibility of resuming the peace negotiations with the Duterte regime.

NDFP’s chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili said the charges against Casambre related to an incident in Lupon, Davao Oriental on September 13 this year involve others who are currently experiencing “intense harassment and surveillance.”

The others have assisted the NDFP Negotiating Panel in various capacities as resource persons, writers, researchers and staff during the peace negotiations, Agcaoili said.

“To ensure the smooth resumption of the formal peace talks, the detained peace consultants should be released immediately,” he added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)