“Three days after the deadly Memo Order 32 was issued, PPC Exec. Dir. Rey Casambre warned of its dire consequences, including another surge in extrajudicial killings of progressive activists, mass leaders and suspected mass supporters. He pointed out that the government’s thrust after abandoning the peace negotiations was to intensify military operations and weaponize the civilian agencies in the counter-insurgency campaign under the so-called “whole-of-nation approach”. This may be one of the reasons why he was thrown behind bars 10 days after the inteview
Philippine Peace Center
7 January 2019
Message for Jan 19 gathering:
Magandang hapon po sa inyong lahat. Maraming maraming salamat sa pagdalo sa pagtitipong ito. You have all generously chosen to share much of your time, a large chunk of it lost in gruelling Saturday traffic, to be in this gathering. I wish I could pay you back in kind for the time spent and the stress you have had to endure. Ironically, now that my freedom of movement has been curtailed drastically, I have an “unli”supply of free time in exchange. Additionally, I am rendered “stress-free” from commuting and driving through Metro Manila traffic. Unfortunately my free time and stress-free accommodations are non-transferable. And even if they were, I doubt there would be any takers.
Presumably, there is no need to argue my innocence of the crimes the state has charged me with to throw me behind bars and detain me indefinitely. We should rather dwell on why I have been targetted particularly as a “terrorist” and “enemy of the state”. Not so much to focus and elaborate on my plight as a victim of injustice and persecution, as to illustrate and dissect the mindset that builds on blatant lies, twists and misuses the law, and tramples on the norms of decency and justice.
For some reason I have yet to completely fathom, the national security establishment has deliberately portrayed me in their official documents (e.g. court petitions) and on national media these past few months as a ranking “communist terrorist”. They allege me to be the head of the CPP National Education Department, a member of the CPP International Department, member of the NDFP Peace Negotiating Panel, and most recently a Red fighter in an NPA unit operating in Davao Oriental. All at the same time!
The plain and simple truth is that I am not, and never have been, any of the above.
Moreover, you need only have the vaguest idea of what each of those functions might entail to conclude definitely that it is impossible for any mortal human to be all these concurrently.
One may be tempted to say such absurdities are not uncommon in the realm of military intelligence. Or rather the failure, if not the dearth of it. But no, this most recent attack leading to my arrest erases all doubt that these so called guardians of the Republic and the Constitution will sink to any depth to serve their real masters.
My miscalculation was that they could not sink much deeper after the AFP top command singled me out along with Satur Ocampo as orchestrating a fictitious ”Red October” oust-Duterte plot. They peddled this atrocious lie on national TV and social media in an interview by no less than Tina Monzon Palma. It was easy enough to debunk since in the first place I was not even a member of any of the broad array of organizations and alliances supposedly involved in the plot. Nor had I been in, much less presided over any of the meetings leading to the big September 21 protest rally which the AFP command claimed would spark the ouster campaign.
What boggles the mind and strain one’s credulity is this: On September 17, at the crucial homestretch less than a week before the big rally I was allegedly coordinating, an army private swore before a Lupon, Davao Oriental fiscal/prosecutor that he saw and recognized me as one of the NPA fighters shooting and wounding him in a remote Lupon sitio. How remote? Lupon is 1,493.1 kms from Manila as the crow flies. The NPA ambush occurred less than 18 hours after I left the Batasan where I addressed the HOR Special Committee on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity in the presence of OPAPP Sec Dureza, GRP Negotiating Panel Chair Sec Bello and their staffs, and 8 hours after I attended a 7 pm-11 pm dinner-meeting with some lawyers and a politician in Quezon city.
My alleged but improbable participation in that ambush is the basis for the arrest warrants for murder and attempted murder.
This betrays a high-level sinister though crude design to put me behind bars by twisting the law and perjuring the judicial process. In anticipation of the flimsy charges being dismissed eventually, the usual fabrication of illegal possession of firearms and explosives was set up and resorted to. Again I underestimated the cruelty and vileness of these so-called protectors of the people. I had not figured they would plan and effect my arrest such that not only I but my wife Cora, too, would be incarcerated indefinitely.
This mindset of the security establishment is nothing new. “National security” is equated to maintaining the status quo. The vested interests of the powerful few, both domestic and foreign, are misrepresented as “national interest”. This mindset has been around and prevalent even before the Marcos martial law years. What is apparently new is that the civilian agencies and institutions, including the courts, are increasingly, if crudely, weaponized and employed in even more vicious counter-insurgency campaigns invoking “national security” and “national interest”. The military retains its primacy even as it dons a civilian mask.
It is de facto martial law sans a formal declaration. The victims of this mindset are countless. Mostly nameless and faceless they suffer fates more horrendous than many of us have seen or heard of. Certainly much more than what Cora and I experienced. Allow me to add, at this point, what I have personally learned only now from my month in detention. This is the first time for me to share a crowded jail with 21 others, only three (3) of whom are political prisoners. The rest are suspected drug pushers, addicts, thieves, swindlers, wife beaters, etc. Criminal or not, each of the 22 cramped into a 3mx4mx7m space equally has the right to be presumed innocent before the bar of justice. Yet nearly all of us had been set up by overzealous “law enforcers” and charged with illegal possession of firearms on top of the original criminal charges. Aside from other less-than-noble motives, the aim is to ensure or threaten prolonged detention. Those who can would usually post bail to obtain temporary release, if not eventual freedom. Those who cannot are urged, if not compelled, to admit to the fabricated charge to get a lighter sentence. Political prisoners, thus, consist of only a small fraction of the tip of the iceberg of the mass of unjustly charged and incarcerated.
I would like to think that the real reason I am being detained – indefinitely if the kingpins of national security have their way – is that somehow I am contributing my share to the people’s struggle to overhaul this unjust and undemocratic social system. Only diehard reactionaries would condemn this as a criminal act.
A great thinker and teacher once said, it is good to be attacked by your enemy because it shows there is a clear line of demarcation between what you and they are fighting for…and it shows that you are effective and doing your work well.
My fervent wish is that this gathering will somehow, in various ways, in the short, middle and long run, contribute to frustrating the designs of those who wish to perpetuate the status quo, and to the building of a truly free, democratic and just Philippine society. ###
1. On October 10, 2018, Ms. Coni Ledesma and I decided to go to the Philippines in connection with our work as members of the NDFP section in the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). We would be accompanied by Mr. Luis Jalandoni, senior adviser of the NDFP Panel. We scheduled the trip in mid-November and informed Ms. Idun Tvedt, the Special Envoy of the Royal Norwegian Government (RNG) to the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations.
2. On October 19, we received an invitation from the RNG Embassy in Manila to meet with the new RNG Ambassador and his staff. The courtesy call was set on November 20 at 2 pm at the Embassy.
3. On November 7, it was suggested that we meet also with President Rodrigo Roa Duterte while in Manila, considering that more than three months have passed since the GRP postponed the scheduled resumption of formal talks in Oslo, Norway, on June 28, 2018. We welcomed the suggestion and asked a mutual friend to help facilitate the appointment. On November 13, an official appointment with the President was set on November 23 for me and four others.
4. On November 14, I received a message from Presidential Spokesman and Chief Legal Counsel Sec. Salvador Panelo asking for preparatory meetings with us, together with Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Sec. Jesus Dureza, before the appointment with the President on November 23. We agreed to the meetings taking into account our scheduled arrival in the country on the evening of November 19 and our appointment with the Norwegian Ambassador in the afternoon of November 20.
5. On November 16, DILG Sec. Eduardo Ano issued a statement that we would be arrested upon our arrival unless the President says otherwise. At around the same time on the same day, President Duterte said in Papua New Guinea that he was not yet prepared to resume talks with the revolutionary movement. As a consequence, we decided the following day to forego with the trip of Mr. Jalandoni and Ms. Ledesma whose names are in the so-called proscription case against the CPP and NPA.
6. On November 18, I was told that the appointment with the President had been cancelled and that I would only be meeting with Sec. Panelo and Sec. Dureza but that such a meeting might not prove useful without a new perspective. As a consequence, we decided that I also forego with my trip scheduled for that evening for security consideration.
For the record, too, my name and that of Mr. Asterio Palima, as publicly known members of the NDFP Negotiating Panel, are not included in the list of 600 in the above-mentioned proscription case against the CPP and NPA. As far as I know, too, I have no outstanding case in any GRP courts.###
Rey Casambre – Philippine Peace Center
December 29, 2018
AS THE YEAR draws to an end, the militarists, hawks, and peace spoilers are celebrating and congratulating themselves for a string of major victories and accomplishments this past year.
It was in mid-June when they succeeded in aborting the resumption of the 5th round of formal talks between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP)
In the nick of time, they blocked the signing of the Interim Peace Agreement (IPA), a breakthrough and unprecedented deal that would have included a presidential proclamation or general amnesty for political prisoners, an agreement on coordinated unilateral ceasefire, and agreements on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ARRD) and National Industrialization and Economic Development (NIED), the two most crucial sections of the CASER (Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms).
The agreement would have led to the release of the 500+ illegally arrested and unjustly detained political prisoners, as well as an Interim Joint Ceasefire which the GRP had long demanded as an “enabling environment”. Likewise, the IPA would have started the formal talks on political and constitutional reforms.
The two negotiating panels had managed to craft and initial tentative drafts of the IPA and its three components in discreet backchannel talks held from March to June 2018. This by itself was remarkable considering that Pres. Duterte had issued months earlier Proclamation 360 declaring the termination of peace negotiations with the NDFP, and Proclamation 374 declaring the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and New People’s Army (NPA) terrorist organizations in accordance with the Human Security Act.
After postponing and eventually cancelling formal talks, the GRP imposed preconditions for its resumption: the talks should be held in the Philippines with no foreign third party, the NPA should stop its attacks and collection of revolutionary tax, and should be confined to “areas of stay” even without a ceasefire agreement, and there should be no demand for a coalition government. All those preconditions are in violation of the 1992 The Hague Joint Declaration, and were aimed at scuttling the peace negotiations itself.
Pretending to pursue the talks on another track, the GRP used as pretext for postponement the need to “review the drafts and documents”, and “engage the bigger table of stakeholders,” e.g. local communities, LGU’s and CSO’s (civil society organizations). Local peace talks will be prioritized over national talks.
The same pretext was resorted to by the Arroyo government in 2008 and by the Aquino III government in 2014. In 2008, the GRP announced it was shifting to a “new framework” — disarmament, demobilization-reintegration (DDR). In 2014, GRP said it “was no longer willing to return to the regular track,” referring to talks in accordance with The Hague Declaration. In both instances, the GRP suspended and never returned to negotiations on CASER.
The real intent was to terminate the negotiations de facto and revert to the pre-1992 counterinsurgency framework. Military pressure and psywar will be employed to divide and weaken the “rebel” forces and entice them to lay down their arms and surrender.
At this point the peace spoilers and wreckers appear to have dealt the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations a decisive, lethal blow.
With initiative and momentum on their side, they launched in July a renewed and more vicious campaign of demonization and crackdown on the legal democratic movement. A long-discarded and discredited murder case against progressive leaders Satur Ocampo, Liza Masa, Rafael Mariano, and Teddy Casino was revived. All former Party List Representatives, they allegedly ordered the NPA in 2001 to assassinate their political rivals. The case was quickly dismissed after the judge who ordered their arrest inhibited herself amid universal disbelief and outrage. But it served as a stark omen and a grim warning of things to come.
A wider but less publicized net of redtagging had been cost earlier in February. The DOJ filed a petition in court to proscribe the CPP and NPA as terrorist organizations listing 650 plus names of alleged officers and members of the CPP and NPA. Topping the list were the NDFP chief political consultant Prof. Jose Ma. Sison, negotiating panel senior adviser Luis Jalandoni, four members of the negotiating panel, and several consultants directly participating in the negotiations. Thrown in were scores of leaders of people’s organizations and well known progressives including the UN special rapporteur for indigenous peoples and other officers of international agencies. The list was bloated by names of long-dead persons and hundreds of aliases.
The actual crackdown on the legal democratic movement came in September. The red-tagging was escalated to a terrorist-tagging hysteria. The AFP “exposed” an alleged Red October plot to oust Duterte. Prominent peace advocates Satur Ocampo and Rey Casambre were singled out as orchestrating the ouster plot supposedly hatched by the CPP. The AFP fabrication was so ludicrous and baseless that Department of National Defense (DND) Sec Lorenzana’s and Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Albayalde’s initial reactions were that they had no intelligence verification of the alleged plot.
The AFP’s Red October tall tale supposedly involved a broad range of personages (including senators, congressmen and a former Chief Justice), organizations from nearly the entire political spectrum and broad alliances. The common denominator was opposition to the Duterte government’s policies, programs and conduct, especially the rising tyranny and continuing martial law, rampant extrajudicial killings, disappearances, illegal arrest and detention perpetrated with impunity in relation to the anti-drug war and COIN campaigns, etc. But the DND/ AFP and the DILG/PNP focused their red-tagging and terrorist-tagging on the national democratic organizations of workers, peasants, youth, women, indigenous peoples, church people and various professionals, Trade unions, schools and universities. Even churches and hospitals were marked as recruiting ground for the “communist terrorists”.
In the final quarter of the year, the AFP/ PNP went on a rampage arresting NDFP peace consultants and their companions at the time of arrest in flagrant violation of the GRP-NDFP Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG). All arrests were conducted using spurious search and arrest warrants and illegally planting firearms and explosives to serve as evidence of criminal non-bailable offenses.
In November, even NDFP negotiating panel senior adviser Luis Jalandoni and Panel Chairperson Fidel Agcaoili were threatened by DILG Sec Ano with arrest should they arrive in the Philippines for a scheduled meeting with the new Norweigan Ambassador and to attend to NDFP JMC (Joint Monitoring Committee) matters. This despite the fact that there is no standing case against Agcaoili in the Philippine courts.
All these underscore the GRP’s blatant intent to go to all lengths to totally wreck the peace negotiations.
Also in November, the Sagay massacre and Talaingod incident showcased how government agencies such as the DSWD and DOJ are being harnessed to support the counterinsurgency operations including the crackdown and attacks on legal and unarmed personalities, organizations and legitimate protest actions and other activities. Top AFP generals have also routinely been appointed to head civilian agencies upon retirement from military service.
All these are in line with the National Internal Security Plan (NISP) 2018 aiming purportedly to “end the communist insurgency” along the “whole of nation approach” by mid-2019. Part of the plan is to junk the peace negotiations. By their measure, the peace wreckers are on track and right on schedule.
Who are they kidding?
Every top AFP and PNP general, especially the authors of NISP 2018, knows that there is nothing really new in their strategy. They were commissioned as fresh lieutenants when the Marcos dictatorship was at its dying throes. And rose up the ranks implementing one failed counterinsurgency campaign after another.
What they seem not to realize nor comprehend is that every single “victory” they celebrate is bound to backfire on their objectives. Their lies, either out of sheer arrogance or desperation, are so blatant they only ultimately serve to surface and highlight, by contrast, the truth. Every human rights violation raises calls for justice. Each drop of blood spilt by the victims makes fertile the ground for resistance against tyranny and oppression.
Contrary to AFP claims ad nauseam, the NPAs are not “surrendering in droves”. Forced to admit that their reported figure far exceed their own data on NPA strength, the AFP lamely clarified the “surrenderees” were not all NPA fighters but supporters or members of their mass base. Even that claim has been widely exposed as farce, and the AFP perpetrators are the first to know this.
The much-ballyhooed “local peace talks” or talks with local NPA commands on the ground never materialized. Not a single local command heeded the GRP call for talks to “address the roots of the armed conflict on the ground”. On the contrary, several NPA commands issued statements rejecting the GRP call.
As state forces heighten repressive measures with impunity, vested interests are emboldened to ram through more anti-national and anti-people programs. The continuing TRAIN law, Charter Change, martial law extension and the extrajudicial killings are only the most recent examples. All largely unpopular, they undo and reverse hard-fought democratic and patriotic gains achieved through people’s struggles. They push the country’s politics and economy deeper into crises that no amount of suppression can contain nor deception can conceal.
What’s in store for the peace talks in 2019?
Despite the GRP’s abandonment and scuttling of peace negotiations, the crying need for upholding, protecting and defending human rights and international humanitarian law, basic social, economic, political and constitutional reforms to attain a just and lasting peace shall continue to remain high on the national agenda and discourse.
Peace advocates, including the entire legal democratic movement in calling for the resumption of peace talks, honoring all agreements and addressing the roots of the armed conflict. They are undaunted and unfazed by all the red-tagging, terrorist tagging and repressive attacks. They continue to hold the high moral ground and gain more adherents.
The GRP is bound to reconsider as it is incessantly confronted and besieged in all possible arenas of struggle, both armed and unarmed. The negotiating table will increasingly become a palatable and practical option.
The NDFP has repeatedly and consistently declared it remains open to the resumption of talks provided these are in accordance with The Hague Joint Declaration and all other prior agreements and shall seriously negotiate basic reforms.
Peace advocates and all peace-loving people share this confidence, optimism and aspiration for a truly free, democratic, and just Philippine society.
Rey Casambre is the executive director of the Philippine Peace Center and a consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Negotiating Panel for the peace negotiations. He was arrested along with his wife Cora by operatives of the Crime Investigation and Detection Group of the National Capital Region on several trumped-up charges. He is currently detained in Camp Crame.
Jeannette I. Andrade, Marlon Ramos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
05:35 AM December 10, 2018
Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano on Sunday said the Duterte administration’s decision to forgo the possibility of forging a peace agreement with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) was tantamount to “abandonment of duty.”
“The government must never say that they are hopeless about peace. It is an abandonment of duty to resolve social ills that led the insurgents to incite protests,” Alejano said in a statement.
Alejano, a former Marine captain, said the national government should hear the valid concerns of insurgents and deal with these without resorting to violence.
“We should not set aside peace talks because it involved the overall security of the people,” the Magdalo representative said.
After initially accommodating the CPP and members of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, its political wing, President Rodrigo Duterte opted to pull the plug on the peace negotiations between the two groups due to major differences in pursuing the peace process.
The President, who had previously openly praised the CPP, also lambasted its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), for attacks on government troops as he threatened to form his own “Duterte death squad” to kill communist rebels.
As the government remained firm on its rejection of any truce for the holidays, the Philippine National Police on Sunday said the communist rebel leadership was “out of touch with what’s happening” in declaring its own ceasefire.
In a radio interview, Chief Supt. Benigno Durana Jr., PNP spokesperson, maintained that the unilateral ceasefire declared by the CPP central committee is a mere “propaganda” and is another deception by the revolutionary organization.
For his part, Col. Noel Detoyato, Armed Forces of the Philippines public affairs office chief, reiterated that the military would not declare a ceasefire for the holidays.
Delfin T. Mallari Jr.
Philippine Daily Inquirer
07:26 AM December 09, 2018
LUCENA CITY — The arrest of National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Rey Casambre is another nail in the coffin of the peace talks between the government and the communist rebels.
NDFP chair Fidel Agcaoili said on Saturday that Casambre was the fourth NDFP consultant to be arrested this year.
“The Duterte regime’s unjust arrest of Casambre on ludicrous charges virtually closes the doors to any possibility of resuming the peace negotiations,” Agcaoili said in a statement.
Casambre, 67, and his wife Patricia Cora, 72, were arrested in Bacoor, Cavite, on Friday while on board their car on the strength of a warrant for murder and attempted murder issued by a regional trial court in Lupon, Davao Oriental.
He is also the executive director of the nongovernment Philippine Peace Center, and his wife a translator for the group.
Both suffer from diabetes.
Police claimed they recovered from Casambre a .45-caliber pistol, a fragmentation grenade, detonating cord and several bullets.
“As was done to the other arrested NDFP consultants, the arresting team planted firearms, ammunition and explosives in the Casambre’s vehicle to ensure their prolonged and unjust detention,” Agcaoili said.
The crime of murder is ordinarily nonbailable, unless the court finds weak evidence to warrant prosecution.
Illegal possession of firearms, however, is ordinarily bailable under Republic Act No. 10591, but the possession of explosives or any of its parts is nonbailable under Republic Act No. 9516.
Agcaoili said three other NDFP consultants—Vicente Ladlad, Adelberto Silva and Rafael Baylosis—were also arrested on similar charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.
All of them are still detained pending the resolution of their cases.
Silva was arrested with four others in Santa Cruz, Laguna, on Oct. 15, while Baylosis was arrested in Quezon City, on Jan. 31.
Agcaoili said the arrests were part of a bigger plan to harass people who contributed to the peace negotiations.
The Communist Party of the Philippines said the harassment signified President Rodrigo Duterte’s “worsening fascist clampdown and de facto martial law rule” to suppress opposition groups.
Delfin T. Mallari Jr., Maricar Cinco
Philippine Daily Inquirer
07:03 AM December 08, 2018
SAN PEDRO CITY—A group of peace advocates described as a “bleak time for peace” the arrest of Rey Claro Casambre, a consultant of communist rebels in peace talks with the government, and his wife on what the group said were fabricated charges.
Casambre, 67, was the fourth consultant of National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in peace negotiations to be arrested this year.
He is also executive director of nongovernment group Philippine Peace Center (PPC) where his wife, Patricia Cora, a 72-year-old retired math teacher, is a translator.
Both suffer from diabetes.
Bishop Reuel Marigza, of United Church of Christ in the Philippines and also organizer of the group Pilgrims for Peace (P4P), said the only reason he could think of for Casambre’s arrest was “he is being persecuted for his involvement in the peace process by a government that seems no longer interested in peace but only wishes to wage a brutal war against the people.”
“It is a bleak time for peace as a reign of terror is engulfing the whole country with attacks on human rights taking a toll on human rights defenders, community leaders and peace advocates,” he added.
Kristina Conti, of Public Interest Law Center (PILC), said the Casambres were on their way home to Bacoor City, Cavite, when their car was stopped on Molino Boulevard in the village of Niog a little past midnight on Friday.
The couple had come from the wake of geologist Rolando Peña at the University of the Philippines Diliman in Quezon City.
Quoting Casambre, Conti said the couple were, at gunpoint, asked to step out of their car as police searched the vehicle.
A police report said Rey had a warrant for arrest for murder and attempted murder issued by Judge Emilio Dayanghirang III of the Regional Trial Court Branch 32 in Lupon, Davao Oriental.
“Incidental in the service of the warrant of arrest” was the seizure of a .45-caliber gun, a fragmentation grenade, a detonating cord and several bullets, the police report read.
The couple were detained in Camp Crame, the Philippine National Police headquarters.
Conti said the recovered firearms were planted.
The PNP, said PILC managing counsel Rachel Pastores, “aids and abets the scuttling of peace talks” by rounding up NDFP consultants, “harassing those involved in peace negotiations and demonizing them unnecessarily.”
Police had arrested other NDFP consultants Rafael Baylosis, Adelberto Silva and Vicente Ladlad.
Rey Casambre was a political detainee in the early 1990s and had been active in back-channel talks with the Duterte administration for a peace pact.
Bishop Marigza, in a statement on behalf of P4P, said Casambre’s role in peace talks was just to “rally the participation of the primary stakeholders—labor, peasant leaders, activists and human rights defenders in the discourse.”
The statement said the arrest of Casambre and other peace advocates showed an “intent to silence dissent” and “deprive the people of their capacity to resist government policies that are detrimental to their interests and the interest of our nation as a whole.”
The charges against Casambre, the P4P statement said, “defy common sense.”
Edre Olalia, NDFP legal consultant, said in a statement that the arrest was “predictable, baseless and treacherous.”
Olalia said the arrest of the Casambres had again proven that the Duterte administration “cannot be trusted.”
Olalia maintained that Casambre is covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees.
“As contrived as expected, a roving firearm and a rusty grenade were again routinely planted to make the arrest appear aboveboard for good measure,” said Olalia.
“Nobody would ever believe such false narrative,” he said.
“All these would boomerang in the long run,” Olalia added.