Author Archives: Philippine Peace Center

Lockdown and the pandemic are not government “passes” for rights violations

NUPL
PRESS STATEMENT
21 APRIL 2020

As Luzon marks its 36th day of lockdown a.k.a. community quarantine, the political and economic rights of the people are also under virulent atack.

Pleas for economic relief for the marginalized households, calls for mass testing, appropriate health-based approach to the pandemic and adequate protection for frontliners, have not been fully, efficiently, timely and properly addressed by the national government.

Worse, the government and some vocal and visible figures of this administration peddle, pass off or tolerate their own fake news and concocted narratives to create an image of being on top of the situation in addressing the pandemic. At the same time, it is tapping on its pawns with rifles and boots on the ground to sow terror and muzzle those who choose to see and expose the grim reality– that the deadly virus continues to claim lives and that the government by and large bungles and baffles through the crisis.

Proof of this and straight from the horse’s mouth is the recent admission that the Duterte administration has yet to draw up concrete, orchestrated and comprehensive plans in addressing the pandemic, after a month’s implementation of the lockdown.

The more than 30-days lockdown has demonstrated just how bound and determined this administration, not in “flattening the curve” of COVID-19 cases, but at committing human rights violations with impunity along the way. It is hell-bent on “flattening” and dismissing criticisms on the glaring “double standards” in the implementation of its own lockdown policies, the real talk of growling stomachs, and the sound proposals of experts to cushion the economic impact of a dominantly militarist approach to the crisis.

We will never forget how the administration, through its combat-ready eager forces in uniform, to many a bigoted bureaucratic minion, to an arrogant local queen, down to an overzealous barangay tanod with a baston, used its iron fists on people with no big names by exposing them under the sun, keeping them in dog cages overnight, hauling them like scampering rats, mocking, humiliating and parading them, and sending them to already overcongested jails.

These, while invoking “compassion and understanding” to the entitled and a bunch of equally non-self-effacing government officials who broke lockdown rules with their posh parties, idiotic photo ops and multiple frontlining at testing with their “VIP” advantage while valuable doctors and nurses die without really confirming what hit them.

We will always be reminded of how the administration’s mouthpieces flaunt its disregard of basic human rights by mass warrantless arrests for allegedly violating lockdown policies and misinforming the public that human rights are no longer honored amid the pandemic. We have noted how the government has mocked and continues to mock freedom of the press and information with their desperate efforts to tweak the number of COVID deaths and of people dying without being tested for the virus, with how medical frontliners go to battle without the prescribed personal protective equipment, with how people fighting the virus and their families shall defray medical expenses with PhilHealth’s limited coverage and the dire situation of our healthcare system overall; and now, their yet another frenzied attempt at besmirching the reputation of independent media outfits and all-time favorite “redtagging” of peoples’ organizations for reporting the real score on the ground and simply sending immediate relief to impoverished communities, as with the case of the Norzagaray 7.

As the narrative shifts at conveniently and erroneously putting all the blame on arguably “hard-headed” poor people for the continued spike in the number of COVID-19 cases, there goes our late-night President Duterte again, with his recent threat of a “martial-law like crackdown” implementation of the lockdown.

While threats of a martial law-like crackdown are certainly legally untenable and open to constitutional challenge and debate, this is something that should never be taken lightly as the administration’s henchmen in uniform have already continued to cause human rights violations, silence critics or send them behind bars through non-use, misuse and abuse of the legal system.

At this point, we should reiterate that the “rule of justice” has never ceased to operate. Basic economic, social, political and civil rights have never been reduced to a mere enumeration of empty do’s and dont’s as what control-obsessed wielders of power, high and low, try to undermine.

The lockdown and the pandemic are not the government’s “passes” to sow a reign of terror, cultivate a climate of fear and blind obeisance, and commit human rights violations with impunity.

For as soon as the dust settles, there will be an accounting and accountability. Every single duck walk, every prolonged exposure to the sun, every carrying of coffins, caging, show trials, nuisance investigations, arbitrary arrests and more importantly, the unacceptable failure to feed and care for the people when they needed a government most are memorialized in different forms and images, ready to be retrieved in a time of reckoning.

In the meantime, despite practical
limitations, we will continue to counter the misinformation, the false narratives, the empty claims, the arrogant threats. the chipping away of our rights and dignity. We will continue to equip the people with legal knowledge, competent advice and as prompt aid as possible to protect and defend their rights.

Asserting and exercising one’s individual and collective rights are not incompatible with preserving life, caring for health and ensuring our welfare which are rights themselves.

When this pandemic is over, our basic rights and dignity should still be with us. #

Reference:

Ephraim B. Cortez
NUPL Secretary General
+639175465798

Josalee S. Deinla
NUPL Spokesperson
+639174316396

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


Kodao Productions
April 14, 2020

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)

Mensahe ng mga Nakapiit na Consultant ng NDFP sa Assembly for Peace

Kapatid – Families and Friends of Political Prisoners
January 17, 2020

Mula sa mga piitan, kaming mga Consultant ng National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) ay nagpapaabot ng mainit na pagbati sa mga namuno sa pagdaraos ng pagtitipong ito: Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform, Pilgrims for Peace, at Kapayapaan Campaign for a Just and Lasting Peace.

Karapat-dapat purihin ang inyong pagsisikap na muling maipagpatuloy ang negosasyong pangkapayapaan sa pagitan ng gobyernong Duterte at NDFP.

Pormal na tinapos ng gobyernong Duterte ang negosasyong pangkapayapaan sa ikalawang pagkakataon noong Nobyembre 2017. Alinsunod sa mga utos ng kanilang pinunong kumander, lalong pinatindi ng Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) at Philippine National Police (PNP) ang mga operasyon nila laban sa Communist Party of the Philippines–New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) sa mga larangang gerilya nito sa kanayunan.

Pinatindi rin nila ang mga pagpatay, pag-aresto at pagpapakulong sa mga pinuno at aktibista ng nga ligal na progresibong organisasyon ng mga manggagawa, magsasaka, guro, kawani, abogado, mamamahayag at maging mga elemento ng taong simbahan na pawang inaakusahang tagapagtaguyod ng CPP-NPA. Noong maagang bahagi ng 2019, alinsunod sa kanyang Executive Order No. 70, itinatag ni Duterte ang National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) sa ambisyosong layunin na tapusin ang CPP-NPA sa pagtatapos ng kanyang panunungkulan.

Hindi iilan ang nagulat nang inanunsyo ni Duterte noong unang linggo ng Disyembre 2019 na pinapunta niya si Sec. Silvestre Bello III sa Netherlands para makipag-usap kay Kasamang Jose Ma. Sison, NDFP Chief Political Consultant, tungkol sa muling pagpapatuloy ng negosasyong pangkapayapaan. Ang ginawang ito ni Duterte ay pag-amin niyang hindi malilipol ang CPP-NPA bago matapos ang kanyang panunungkulan. Naoobliga rin ang rehimeng Duterte na muling ipagpatuloy ang negosasyong pangkapayapaan dahil sa tumitinding krisis sa ekonomiya at pulitika.

Patuloy na sumisidhi ang krisis sa malapiyudal at malakolonyal na lipunan na siyang ugat na dahilan ng armadong tunggalian. Patuloy ring lumalaban ang mamamayan sa kabila ng marahas na panunupil at panlilinlang ng rehimeng Duterte. Bigo ang EO 70 at ang diumano’y “whole of nation approach” nito na pigilin ang pakikibaka para sa tunay na kalayaan, demokrasya at katarungang panlipunan.

Itinataguyod namin ang desisyon ng NDFP na harapin ang gobyernong Duterte sa negosasyong pangkapayapaan sa kabila ng marahas at madugong mga atake ng rehimeng Duterte sa mga rebolusyonaryong pwersa at sa mamamayan.

Kung seryoso ang gobyernong Duterte sa negosasyong pangkapayapaaan, dapat kilanlin at igalang nito ang mga kasunduang napagtibay ng GRP at NDFP, kabilang dito ang The Hague Joint Declaration, Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), at Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). Kung matutupad, makakatulong nang malaki ang mga kasunduang ito sa pagsugpo sa malulubhang paglabag sa mga karapatang pantao ng AFP at PNP.

Kung seryoso ang rehimeng Duterte sa muling pagpapatuloy ng negosasyong pangkapayapaan, kailangang ipagpatuloy ang nasimulan nang pagbalangkas sa mga saligang repormang panlipunan at pang-ekonomiya. Napagkaisahan ding ipamamahagi hindi lamang mga lupaing publiko kundi pati mga asyenda ng mga panginoong maylupa. May mga probisyon ding napagkasunduan tungkol sa suportang pinansyal sa mga pangangailangan sa pagsasaka at pagbabawal sa mga pagbebenta ng lupang ipinamahagi upang mapigilan ang rekonsentrasyon ng mga lupa matapos ang ilang taon.

May mahahalagang napagkaisahan din ukol sa pambansang industrilisasyon at pagpapaunlad sa ekonomiya. Kailangan ang pambansang industrilisasyon upang makamit ang matagalang pagpapaunlad ng ekonomiya at patuloy na dumami ang trabaho.

Mahalagang tukuyin ang malalaking hadlang sa pagpapatuloy ng negosasyong pangkapayapaan. Ang una ay ang mga militarista—mga retiradong heneral na nasa Cabinet at mga kasalukuyang pinuno ng AFP at PNP. Sa simula pa lamang ng pag-uusap ay tinutulan na nila ang unilateral ceasefire at mabigat ang loob na sumunod sa utos ni Duterte. Iginiit nina National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, DND Secretary Delfin Lorenzana at DILG Secretary Eduardo Año ang pagdaraos na lamang ng mga lokal na usapang pangkapayapaan at tinutulan ang tuwirang pakikipag-usap sa NDFP.

Nitong huli, ang Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) ay kinondena ni Gen. Carlito Galvez, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process. Sinabi niyang paso na ang balangkas ng CASER, hindi ito makakatulong sa mamamayan, at ito ay isang kataksilan sa bayan.

Lubos kaming nakikiisa sa tugon ng tagapangulo ng NDFP Reciprocal Working Committee on Social and Economic Reforms laban sa mga atake nina Esperon at Galvez sa usapang pangkapayapaan at sa CASER at balangkas ng The Hague Joint Declaration. Malinaw at mahinahong nagpaliwanag ang NDFP at pinabulaanan ang pambabaluktot, kasinungalingan, at paratang ng mga militarista ni Duterte. Lalo lamang inilantad nina Esperon at Galvez ang kanilang mga luma at pasong kaisipan noong Cold War pa.

Tahimik si Duterte tungkol sa mga pahayag sa publiko ng mga militaristang laban sa muling pagpapatuloy ng negosasyong pangkapayapaan sa NDFP. Subalit paulit-ulit namang iginigiit na kailangang mag-usap muna sila ni Jose Ma. Sison nang harapan dito sa Maynila bago makausad ang negosasyon, nang walang ibang garantiya sa kaligtasan ng una liban sa di-mapagkakatiwalaang salita ng huli.

Wastong tinukoy ni Jose Ma. Sison na ang panukala ni Duterte ay alinman sa isang bitag o di kaya ay gagamiting dahilan para muling tapusin ang negosasyon.
Mahalaga para sa NDFP na igiit ang negosasyong pangkapayapaan ay gawin sa isang neutral third country. Ayaw ng NDFP na maulit ang karanasan nito sa negosasyon noong 1986–1987.

Pinakahuli, hindi dapat mag-alala na kapag hinarap ng NDFP ang gobyernong Duterte sa negosasyong pangkapayapaan ay mapapabango nito ang sarili. Mananatili ang katayuan ng rehimeng Duterte kung magpapatuloy ang mga paglabag sa mga karapatang pantao at hindi nalulutas ang mga saligang suliraning panlipunan at pang ekonomiya.

Matuloy man o hindi ang usapang pangkapayapaan, makakaasa kayong patuloy kaming matatag na makikiisa sa inyo sa pakikibaka para sa isang tunay, makatarungan at matagalang kapayapaan.

Leopoldo Caloza
Rey Casambre
Ferdinand Castillo
Frank Fernandez
Renante Gamara
Vicente Ladlad
Cleofe Lagtapon
Eduardo Sarmiento
Adelberto Silva
Esterlita Suaybaguio
Alex Birondo
Winona Birondo

“Let Peace Serve the Healing” – A Statement on the Ceasefire Declarations of the GRP and the NDFP


Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP)
March 26, 2020

Ref: Archbishop Antonio J. Ledesma, DD,
Tel. # 09177110563
Bishop Rex B. Reyes, Jr.
Tel.# 09956395909

“If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Romans 12:18)

The Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) welcomes the announcement of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) of a unilateral ceasefire starting on March 26 to April 15, 2020. This declaration comes after President Rodrigo Duterte declared a unilateral ceasefire which started last March 19 and will also last till April 15.

The PEPP appreciates the commitment of both parties to halt hostilities, even for just a brief period, in order to address the COVID 19 pandemic. The parties’ separate declarations also address the call of the United Nations for a global ceasefire. Peace, however fragile, is very much needed in these trying times.

We hope that these unilateral ceasefire declarations will be faithfully observed by each party, especially on the ground and let peace serve the healing.

We also call on the government to exercise its magnanimity and release on humanitarian grounds political prisoners especially the sick and the elderly, like Rey Claro Casambre of the Philippine Peace Center, and other NDFP consultants. The sick and elderly prisoners are the most vulnerable to COVID 19.

In this season of Lent, let us reflect and pray that we will overcome this health crisis. We hope that after this predicament, the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations will prosper and peace will be had by all in our country.

Let the healing begin.

Issued and signed on this day 26th day of March 2020

ARCHBISHOP ANTONIO J. LEDESMA, DD.,SJ
Co-chair, PEPP

THE RT.REVD. REX B. REYES, JR.
Co-chair, PEPP

BISHOP NOEL A. PANTOJA
Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches

BISHOP DEOGRACIAS S. INIGUEZ, JR., DD
Ecumenical Bishops Forum

SR. MARY JOHN D. MANANZAN, OSB
Women and Gender Commission, AMRSP

*The PEPP is a platform for 5 church institutions/groups, namely, the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (AMRSP) with organizations of Religious, Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC) and the Ecumenical Bishops’ Forum (EBF), in working for a just and enduring peace by supporting the peace process between the GRP-NDFP.

AN URGENT CALL FOR PEACE

“Unity Statement for Resumption of Peace Talks jointly sponsored by the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform, Kapayapaan Movement for a Just and Lasting Peace, IFI Peacemakers, JPIC-Missionary Benedictine Sisters, Daughters of Charity-JPICC and Pilgrims for Peace.”


Assembly for Peace
JANUARY 17, 2020
Quezon City

ONCE MORE, OUR HOPES FOR A PEACEFUL RESOLUTION OF THE ARMED CONFLICT BETWEEN THE GOVERNMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES (GRP) AND THE NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC FRONT OF THE PHILIPPINES (NDFP) HAS SPRUNG. WITH BOTH PARTIES AGAIN EXPRESSING WILLINGNESS TO RESUME THE STALLED PEACE TALKS.

THE RECENT HOLIDAY TRUCE, WHICH LASTED FROM DECEMBER 23 TO JANUARY 7, WAS A POSITIVE STEP TOWARDS RESTORING TRUST AND CONFIDENCE BETWEEN THE TWO PARTIES. WELCOME PRES. RODRIGO DUTERTE’S APPOINTMENT OF EXECUTIVE SECRETARY SALVADOR MEDALDEA AS GRP PEACE NEGOTIATOR. WE HOPE HE WILL REINSTATE THE GRP PEACE PANEL SOON AND UNDERTAKE THE RELEASE OF POLITICAL PRISONERS AS A CONFIDENCE BUILDING MEASURE.

PREVIOUS ROUNDS OF TALKS HAVE SHOWN THAT BILATERAL AGREEMENTS ON SUBSTANTIVE AGENDA LEADING TO A NEGOTIATED POLITICAL SETTLEMENT CAN BE REACHED BETWEEN THE PARTIES. IN 1999, THE GRP AND NDFP SIGNED THE GROUNDBREAKING COMPREHENSIVE AGREEMENT ON THE RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS AND INTERNATIONAL HUMANITARIAN LAW (CARHRIHL).

IN 2018, AN INTERIM PEACE AGREEMENT (IPA) WAS ALREADY BEING WORKED OUT. IT CONTAINED AN AGREEMENT ON AGRARIAN REFORM AND RURAL DEVELOPMENT (ARRD) AS WELL AS ON NATIONAL INDUSTRIALIZAT1ON AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT (NIED), A GENERAL AMNESTY FOR ALL POLITICAL PRISONERS, AND AN AGREEMENT FOR A MORE STABLE FORM OF CEASEFIRE. THE IPA WAS MEANT TO FACILITATE NEGOTIATIONS FOR THE REMAINING AGENDA ON SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC REFORMS. POLITICAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL REFORMS, AND A PERMANENT CESSATION OF HOSTILITIES AND DISPOSITION OF FORCES.

TODAY, FOR THE SAKE OF OUR PEOPLE, WE CALL ON THE GRP AND THE NDFP TO GO BACK TO THE NEGOTIATING TABLE TO FINISH WHAT THEY STARTED. WE URGE THEM TO PROCEED FROM WHAT HAS BEEN PREVI0USLY ACHIEVED, USING METHODS AND PROCESSES THAT ARE ALREADY IN PLACE AND SHOWN TO BE WORKING. WE REMIND THEM THAT UNREASONABLE DEMANDS AND PRECONDITONS CAN ONLY SERVE TO DERAIL THE RESUMPTION OF THE TALKS.

TO THE PEACE SPOILERS AND SABOTEURS WH0 ARE OPPOSED TO THE GRP-NDFP PEACE NEGOTIATIONS, WE SAY ENOUGH. THE PERSISTENCE OF MASS POVERTY, SOCIAL INJUSTICE AND ECONOMIC UNDERDEVELOPMENT HAS FUELED ARMED CONFLICT FOR DECADES. IT IS TIME FOR THE TWO PARTIES TO SIT DOWN ONCE MORE, FIND WAYS TO COMPROMISE AND COOPERATE IN ADDRESSING THE ROOTS OF THE ARMED CONFLICT, AND ACHIEVE A JUST AND LASTING PEACE FOR OUR PEOPLE.

LASTLY, WE CALL ON OUR PEOPLE TO PERSEVERE IN THE PATH OF PEACE AND JUSTICE. LET US SUPPORT THE RESUMPTION OF THE PEACE TALKS.

IF WE UNITE AND TIRELESSLY WORK TOGETHER FOR IT, # JUST PEACE WILL COME.

MILITARIST HAWKS SABOTAGE PEACE TALKS AND OPPOSE SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC REFORMS


Photo from manilatoday.net

REFERENCE: Julieta de Lima
Chairperson NDFP RWC-SER
January 14, 2020

Statement by the Reciprocal Working Committee on Socio- Economic Reforms, National Democratic Front of the Philippines

National Security Adviser Hermogenes C. Esperon, Jr. and Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito G. Galvez Jr. recently weighed in on the possible resumption of peace talks between the Philippine government (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). In separate statements, they particularly focused on the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) being negotiated when the talks were interrupted.

Their commentaries are at the very least grossly misinformed. Worse, however, the two former chiefs-of-staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) maliciously distort the considerable progress the GRP and NDFP made on the CASER between August 2016 and November 2017.

Technical negotiations were completed on two of the most important sections of CASER with substantially completed drafts on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ARRD) and National Industrialization and Economic Development (NIED). These two sections alone will give vast benefits for tens of millions of Filipinos and the cause of national development.

The crude anti-Left ideological biases and sheer malice of the two former military officials expose their total ignorance about the technical negotiations already undertaken by the respective RWCs of the GRP and the NDFP. They are showing themselves as chronic saboteurs of the peace process and are proving to be among the biggest obstacles to peace in the country.

Real social and economic reforms

The CASER is critically important to the NDFP and the Filipino people. It addresses the social and economic roots of armed conflict and, for this, is considered the meat of the peace talks.

The NDFP and GRP each brought their own draft versions of the CASER to the negotiating table. Both are presumed to be negotiating in good faith with their respective proposals for addressing long-standing Philippine poverty, inequality and underdevelopment. The point of the CASER is to reconcile these distinct versions to produce a mutually agreed program of social and economic reforms.

The NDFP draft version of the CASER contains over 500 provisions consistently upholding the interest and welfare of the majority of Filipinos. It fearlessly confronts the self-serving economic interests that keep Filipinos poor and the economy backward. The original NDFP draft CASER was prepared in 1998. This was widely disseminated and discussed in guerilla zones and public forums with subsequent updates in 2004, 2011 and 2016-17.

The peace talks give the opportunity for the public to better understand CASER. It is understandable that former generals Esperon and Galvez are afraid of wider public knowledge about the NDFP’s proposals. The NDFP’s draft CASER clearly and emphatically shows what the revolutionary forces are fighting for – an economy that genuinely serves the people instead of just foreign and domestic elites.

But the peace talks in 2016 and 2017 have progressed beyond the Parties just having their respective drafts of the CASER. The CASER will be an expansive deal with 11 substantive sections of policy reforms. The four formal rounds of talks abroad and seven meetings in the Philippines produced a common outline for the CASER and common drafts on the sections on ARRD and NIED.

These mutually agreed common drafts were prepared by the bilateral teams for CASER of the NDFP and GRP, received by their respective Reciprocal Working Committees for Social and Economic Reforms (RWCs-SER) in November 2017, and are up for approval by the NDFP and GRP panels upon a resumption of talks.

Contrary to Galvez’s claim that “CASER is a product of a secret backchannel maneuver,” the substantive content of these common drafts were widely taken up by the NDFP not just in guerilla zones but in sectoral consultations nationwide. The content of the NDFP’s CASER is possibly even more widely known than the GRP’s own Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022.

The GRP panel can also confirm its numerous multi-agency meetings on the CASER and the wide participation of various line agencies, Congress, local government officials, Congress and the academe in the formal rounds abroad as well in the bilateral team meetings in the Philippines.

In particular, the common drafts were produced with officials from the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP), Department of Finance (DOF), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Department of Science and Technology (DOST), and others. The GRP also brought in academics from the University of the Philippines (UP), De La Salle University (DLSU), and Ateneo as well as representatives of civil society.

Esperon and Galvez intentionally muddle the NDFP’s unilateral draft version of the CASER with the negotiated and mutually agreed CASER that the peace talks will produce. They maliciously diminish and vilify the progress that the peace talks have made to sabotage this and give way to their narrow-minded hawkish militarism.

Economic progress

Their criticisms of the NDFP draft CASER are moot because there are already mutually agreed common drafts of the ARRD and NIED sections of CASER. The NDFP and GRP shared ideas and sought creative solutions to the country’s social and economic problems.

The common drafts show that it is possible for the Parties to set aside ideological differences and unite on concrete steps for the common cause of real economic progress for the nation.

The most publicized highlight of the ARRD common draft is the proposed immediate free distribution of land including writing-off remaining balances on land already distributed. Agrarian reform is defined to cover plantations and large-scale commercial farms with leasehold, joint venture, and non-land transfer schemes such as the infamous stock distribution option. There are also reforms in fisheries and aquatic resources.

Farmers and fisherfolk will be provided a wide range of support services and benefit from the elimination of exploitative lending and trading practices. ARRD however also includes clear commitments to build rural infrastructure, develop rural industries, and improve domestic science and technology.

The NIED common draft critically affirms the importance of national industrialization for long-term development. It recognizes the need for sound planning and regulation of foreign investment to develop specific industries. The benefits of nationalized public utilities and mining, of Filipino processing of minerals and trading, and of breaking foreign monopoly control of industrial technologies are also well-understood.

Filipino industrial science and technology will be developed. The important role of workers is acknowledged and they will be given a greater role in the running of enterprises. Financing for industrialization will be raised from progressive taxes, luxury and sin taxes, official aid, foreign investment and other sources.

There are still a few details remaining in the ARRD and NIED common drafts for further discussion but these are expected to be easily resolved by the RWCs-SER and panels. Particular attention will be given to making sure that the implementing provisions enable real policy action and development outcomes.

Reaching agreement on the remaining sections of the CASER promises even more benefits for the Filipino people. The NDFP’s extensive proposals span protecting the environment to developing Filipino culture, decent employment to social protection, providing free education and health to affordable housing and utilities, upholding indigenous peoples’ (IP’s) rights to asserting economic sovereignty, and much more.

Disparaging CASER

The criticisms of Esperon and Galvez are at the very least ill-informed. Their poor grasp of economics, global policy trends, and the country’s economic realities makes them believe that so-called neoliberal globalization policies are desirable.

They still mistakenly think that economies have overcome underdevelopment because of free market policies. This is belied by the historical experience of the old industrial capitalist powers, the newly-industrialized countries, and especially the former Socialist economies. But they are also oblivious of the globalization-induced stagnation in the world economy, growing protectionism and trade wars today.

They also still mistakenly think that the Philippines is developing. Yet domestic agriculture and Filipino industry have been in steady neoliberal policy-induced decline for some four decades now. As it is, the economy is just kept afloat by a bloated unproductive service sector, overseas remittances, and debt. The country is more and more reduced to begging for scraps from foreign investment.

Unprecedented levels of joblessness, landlessness, homelessness, low productivity and poverty are disguised by misleading official statistics. Oligarch wealth and a narrow upper middle class divert from how the overwhelming majority of Filipinos struggle with low incomes, irregular work, and decrepit social services. The CASER that the NDFP and GRP are negotiating seek to resolve all these and more.

Other criticisms are perplexing. They criticize the CASER as treasonous, surrendering the national government’s integrity and the State’s sovereignty, and yielding “the country’s laws, norms and other institutional democratic foundations”. It is gross perversity for them to slander national industrialization and genuine land reform in such terms. They glorify the traditional servility to foreign investors and banks as the only path to development.

They also say that “most of” the NDFP’s demands are “almost impossible to implement”. Yet the CASER is precisely an agreement reached by the two Parties containing what each side is agreeable to. Esperon and Galvez bewail a ‘CASER’ that exists only in their paranoid militarist minds.

They criticize the CASER for binding the NDFP and GRP including their successors. It is bizarre that they expect an agreement to be meaningful only if its validity or effectivity holds for the current leadership in peace talks and not for the institutions and organizations they respectively represent.

They claim that CASER takes away the direct participation of IPs in issues such as agrarian reform. There is no such provision in any of the common CASER drafts reached by the NDFP and GRP that are up for approval by their negotiating panels. Indeed, the NDFP’s proposed CASER is much more assertive about IP rights. It explicitly recognizes the range of IP rights, ensures this across every section, and even affirms the national minorities’ right to self-determination. If anything, the NDFP calls for a new law more strongly upholding all these rights.

They claim that CASER confiscates and expropriates assets of foreign monopoly capitalists, big compradors and bureaucrat capitalists. The NDFP is indeed determined to dismantle the structures of economic power that keep the economy backward and the people exploited and poor. But there is no such provision in any of the common CASER drafts reached by the NDFP and GRP that are up for approval by their negotiating panels.

They claim that CASER demobilizes the AFP and says that the Philippine military shall stand down. There is no such provision in any of the common CASER drafts reached by the NDFP and GRP that are up for approval by their negotiating panels.

Agreeing for development

The initial rounds of peace talks under Pres. Rodrigo Duterte accomplished much in a short period of time. The CASER became an agenda of the peace talks in 1998 and, over 18 years, only its preamble and declaration of principles were discussed. Talks on specific substantive proposals only started in August 2016 and, after just one year and three months, basic agreements were reached on ARRD and NIED.

The CASER is an agreement between the NDFP and the GRP so its final contours and content will depend on the outcome of negotiations. What is certain however is that the eventual CASER will prioritize the Filipino people, national development, social justice and just peace. Far beyond merely contributing to ending armed conflict, it will deliver immediate and concrete benefits and lay the basis for the country’s long-term development under conditions of national independence, democracy and just peace..

The misguided, ill-informed and malicious commentaries on the CASER of Esperon and Galvez are most of all intended to sabotage the possible resumption of the peace talks between the NDFP and the GRP. Their narrow-mindedness also blocks the most important mechanism in the country for challenging the inequitable status quo and greatly accelerating development for the overwhelming majority of the people. ###

CPP extends truce order despite complaints of GRP ceasefire violations

Kodao Productions
April 16, 2020

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) extended its unilateral ceasefire until the end of the month to concentrate on its efforts to help contain the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement Thursday, April 16, the CPP said its Central Committee has ordered the extension for 15 more days starting April 15 “prioritize the fight against the pandemic and ensure the safety, health and well-being of everyone.”

The extended ceasefire order is effective until 11:59 p.m. of April 30

“The CPP ordered the units of the NPA (New People’s Army) and the people’s militias to continue to desist and cease from carrying out offensive military actions against the armed units and personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police (PNP) and other paramilitary and armed groups attached to the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP),” its information office said in a statement.

The group said the aim of the ceasefire extension is to ensure quick and unimpeded support to all people requiring urgent medical, health and socioeconomic assistance in the face of the public emergency over the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Party said all its revolutionary forces are ever ready to cooperate with all other forces and elements to achieve this objective.

Meanwhile, the CPP leadership commended all units of the NPA and people’s militias for their discipline in observing the ceasefire order and shifting priority to the anti-Covid-19 campaign.

It said that the Party’s ceasefire order has been observed “despite the difficulties and dangers brought about by the continuing occupation of AFP combat troops of guerrilla zones and base areas, the widespread and intense intelligence and psywar (psychological warfare) operations, and the attacks mounted by the AFP’s strike forces against detected NPA units.”

The CPP Central Committee reminded all NPA units to “maintain strictest secrecy” and not allow themselves to be exposed to AFP attacks.

The recent armed encounters which the AFP misreport as NPA ceasefire violations are all a result of the offensive actions of the AFP, it alleged.

The ceasefire extension order came after the National Democratic Front of the Philippines wrote to United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres complaining of violations by the Rodrigo Duterte administration of the government’s own unilateral ceasefire declaration of March 19 to April 15.

The AFP conducted military operations in 196 villages and 96 towns throughout the Philippines, the NDFP said quoting CPP reports.

In its statement, the CPP also reiterated the call for the “urgent release” and for declaring a general amnesty for all political prisoners.

It also expressed desire for the resumption of the NDFP-GRP peace negotiations.

“During the ceasefire period, all NPA units must strictly limit themselves to active defense operations which shall be carried out only in the face of imminent danger and actual armed attacks by the enemy forces,” the CPP reiterated.

The GRP has yet to comment on whether it would extend its own ceasefire declaration which has expired before midnight Wednesday, April 15. Raymund B. Villanueva/kodao.org