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OUR RESPONSE TO THESE VERY CHALLENGING TIMES – A MESSAGE TO THE PEPP

On the occasion of the recent gathering of ecumenical advocates, Rey Claro Casambre, who has been for one dark year in prison based on trumped up charges, has sent his message following below addressed to the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform.

Message to the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform
OUR RESPONSE TO THESE VERY CHALLENGING TIMES
Rey Claro Casambre
Philippine Peace Center
December 4, 2019

Magandang umaga/hapon po sa inyong lahat!
Thank you for giving me this privilege – and honor – of joining you in this important gathering, and contributing to it, in absentia. You cannot imagine how much I wish I could be physically present.

Before I proceed to my assignment, I would like to seize this opportunity to thank all of you — the Churches, institutions, offices, formations, organizations and individuals — I hope I didn’t miss anybody — for the prompt, strong and continuing support you gave me and Cora since our arrest almost exactly a year ago and through my continuing detention. Thank you also for the support you have extended to all political prisoners and all victims of injustice.

Indeed these are very challenging times, especially for us who value and yearn for peace. Not only for a halt to the gunfire. Not only for the “peace of a cemetery”. When we first gathered in Bacolod twelve years ago in July 2007, we had varied views on how to work for peace, but what bound us together then and even stronger now is that we all wanted a just and lasting peace. This could only come about by working on a consensus and implementing basic reforms that would transform Philippine society into a truly free, democratic and just society.
Those were very challenging times as well. The peace negotiations were stalled; there had been no formal talks since June 2004. Instead, the past three years (2004-2007) were marked by a gruesome, bloody surge in extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances , massacres, illegal arrests and detention and other gross human rights violations against unarmed, aboveground progressives and mass leaders and activists. These were perpetrated with impunity by state security forces in accordance with the National Internal Security Plans (NISP 2001-2006 & NISP 2007-2010) and the AFP’s corresponding implementing campaigns Oplans Bantay Laya 1 & 2.

Still, we could take off on an optimistic note, seeing “a faint glimmer of hope…amidst the seemingly impermeable darkness and uncertainty that shrouded the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations for the past three years…” (Prospects and Challenges for Genuine Peace, paper for NEPP-PEPP Luzon Workshop, RCC/ PPC, 11 October 2017). The panels had held informal talks in June 2007 to discuss the GRP’s proposal for a limited ceasefire, backtracking from its prior precondition of indefinite ceasefire. The NDFP for its part reiterated its 2005 proposal for a “Concise Agreement for an Immediate Just Peace”.
Our first and coming-out public statement then was an audacious call for the resumption of formal talks on the basis of all prior bilateral agreements and for the roots of the armed conflict to be addressed in order to attain a just and lasting peace.

Three weeks after that first meeting, the faint glimmer of hope was violently extinguished, when the Dutch police, treacherously instigated, aided and abetted by the GRP, arrested Prof. Jose Ma Sison and raided the offices and residences of the NDFP panel members and staff in The Netherlands.

The situation turned from bad to worse. Still, we were neither daunted nor deterred. With faith, hope and an incorrigible optimism that would become our mark, we persisted in accompanying and actively participating in the peace process, spread our message nationwide, engaged the panels and brought them to the people; and vise-versa.

The rest, as they say, is history. PEPP’s contribution to the peace process is well-acknowledged by the Parties, though perhaps with varying degrees and quality of appreciation. Now we find ourselves again in “very challenging times”. Is this deja vu? If so, then we would know at once and with confidence what must be done and how.

Unfortunately, the situation now is qualitatively worse than it was twelve years ago. The peace negotiations are not only stalled, they have been unilaterally terminated by the Duterte regime several times over. Proclamation 360 (declaring the termination) and 374 (declaring the CPP & NPA terrorist organizations) are unprecedented obstacles to the resumption of negotiations. So does the continuing martial law in Mindanao and MO 32 declaring state of emergency in Negros, Bicol and Samar. We are all too aware of the killings, disappearances, arrests & detention and other grave HR violations these have spurred especially since EO 70 created the NTF-ELCAC and institutionalized the so-called “whole of nation approach”.

But for us peace advocates the primary significance of EO 70/NTF-ELCAC is its having abandoned the peace negotiations on the national level with finality, purportedly substituting in its place local peace talks, later sliding away further to “local peace engagements” (since not a single local NPA command had heeded the NTF’s call for local peace talks). Junking national-level peace negotiations in effect slammed the door to any possibility of discussing and agreeing on basic social, economic, political & constitutional reforms to attain a just and lasting peace — exactly what I understand you to mean by “transformative peace”. In its place, the Duterte regime through the NTF-ELCAC is attempting to rally the entire nation—the whole government plus the private sector—to work for an “inclusive and sustainable peace” by improving on the delivery of basic services in contested areas, good governance, and a broad information campaign, while persuading the “rebels” and their supporters to lay down their arms and return to a productive and peaceful life. It is the proverbial band-aid solution to a chronic & systemic disease. Those who resist incorrigibly will be isolated, exposed as communist terrorists or supporters obstructing the nation’s march to peace, and shall be dealt with accordingly. The PEPP and our Churches have not been spared from these ridiculous accusations and vicious attacks.

If this looks and feels like deja vu, it is because EO 70 and the whole of nation approach is proudly described by its proponents as an “enhanced version” of the 2007 NISP and Oplan Bantay-Laya 2.

There is reason to believe that the NTF-ELCAC itself knows that its purported “new paradigm” and “whole of nation approach” will not achieve its ambitious declared objective of ending the armed conflict by 2022. To date it has neither produced nor issued the “National Peace Framework” it was tasked to formulate on or before June 4, 2019, for the benefit of the whole nation it supposedly aims to rally and mobilize. It admits that its declared programs are grounded on the assumption that government is efficient and corruption-free. From the outset, it has resorted instead to arm twisting, deceit, red tagging and communist branding as prelude to attacks on unarmed, aboveground activists, and fabricating fake surrenderees to conjure and project an illusion of achievements and gains.

Why then does the Duterte regime persist in this charade? The underlying and paramount goal is to preserve the status quo at all cost. No land reform that would threaten the power and privilege of the landlords. No national industrialization that would break the monopoly and dominance of foreign capital. No political reforms that would prevent warlordism and dissolve the dynasties. No social reforms that would protect the rights and uphold the welfare of the toiling masses, indigenous peoples and other disadvantaged social groups. No constitutional and economic reforms to protect our natural resources and patrimony from plunder. And so on.

Indeed the PEPP and our Churches now face very challenging times, very similar but qualitatively different from the situation and challenges we faced in 2007. It requires a qualitatively different response.

In the past, you have often heard me say each time peace negotiations are stalled, “it only means we have to work harder to build a broader peace constituency and push for the resumption of formal talks.”

We must now think of how we can contribute to removing the obstacles to resuming peace negotiations that would lead to a transformative peace, such as EO 70, MO 32 and Proclamations 360 and 374, to name only the most crucial ones.

We must assert that our staunch and unremitting struggle along with other sectors to realize a free, just and peaceful society is not only legitimate, it is an imperative that arises out of our faith. We must remain unfazed and resist all attempts to brand us as terrorists and coerce us into silence and submission.
It is no longer enough to be a mere peace advocate, however each one of us understands and lives out the title. To meet the challenge of working for transformative peace, we must now transform the PEPP and our Churches to become peace activists. Activism is not a crime. Activism is not terrorism. Activism is our way of working for transformative peace. Activism is our response to these very challenging times.

#FreeReyCasambre
#FreeAllPoliticalPrisoners
#UniteForJustPeace

Duterte regime continues to prevent peace negotiations and wage all-out war against the Filipino people

By Jose Maria Sison, NDFP Chief Political Consultant
11 January 2020

Despite the over-all nationwide success of the reciprocal unilateral ceasefire agreement which occurred from December 23, 2019 to January 7, 2020, the Duterte regime has issued public statements that continue to terminate and prevent peace negotiations and render impossible the resumption of these between the duly-authorized panels of the GRP and NDFP.

Duterte has allowed his highest military statements to publicly oppose the resumption of peace negotiations. He denies the existence of the people’s democratic government and its territory in the guerrilla fronts if only to stress that he condones the violations of the recent ceasefire agreement by his armed minions and that he will continue his all-out war against the armed revolutionary movement of the people.

His highest military subordinates (Esperon, Lorenzana, Año, Galvez and Santos) have made utterances that they oppose the peace negotiations between the duly authorized representatives of the GRP and the NDFP and that they would rather continue the militarization and fascisation of the government and society under Executive Order No. 70.

They say that peace negotiations are not needed because they are already in the process of destroying the NPA before 2022. They boast that they are open only to surrender negotiations in a Philippine venue under their control. They claim to be satisfied with the psywar campaign of fake surrenders, fake encounters and persona nongrata declarations.

They also assert that the semicolonial and semifeudal ruling system does not need any economic, social and political reforms to address the roots of the civil war and in any case the NDFP should not be allowed to share any credit for the adoption and implementation of any reform as a result of peace negotiations.

The Filipino people are supposed to be already living in an industrialized paradise without social injustices, massive unemployment, low incomes and rampant poverty. The treasonous, tyrannical, mass murdering, corrupt and mendacious Duterte regime is supposed to be solving all problems and rendering unnecessary peace negotiations.

In fact the ever worsening crisis of the domestic ruling system and that of the world capitalist system and the escalating conditions of oppression and exploitation are exceedingly favorable for the perseverance and further strengthening of the armed revolutionary movement of the Filipino people in their new democratic revolution for national and social liberation.

The Duterte regime is practically telling the oppressed and exploited masses of the Filipino people and their revolutionary forces (the NDFP, the CPP, the NPA and the local organs of political power ) that peace negotiations are impossible until the end of the regime and that they better be prepared for strategic defensive and tactical offensives against bigger onslaughts by their enemy.

The Filipino people’s armed revolutionary movement has rich experience and has accumulated victories in the course of overcoming the military campaigns of enemy regimes from Marcos to Duterte, including more than three years of the current regime. They can very well take advantage of the worsening crisis of the ruling system and the raging desire of the people for revolutionary change. They have gained strength by pursuing the new democratic revolution through protracted people’s war.###

ON THE RESUMPTION OF THE GRP-NDFP PEACE NEGOTIATIONS

By Jose Maria Sison, NDFP Chief Political Consultant
December 9, 2019

I welcome President Duterte’s publicly expressed desire to resume the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations and his instruction to Secretary Bello to visit me and consult with me in Utrecht in this regard. I am pleased that President Duterte has also acknowledged that he is “running out of time” and that he is determined to achieve peace before the end of his term.

It is timely for the GRP and NDFP to celebrate with the Filipino people the season of Christmas and the New Year and to create the favorable atmosphere for peace negotiations by undertaking such goodwill measures as reciprocal unilateral ceasefires and the release of political prisoners who are elderly and sickly on humanitarian grounds, especially those who shall participate in the peace negotiations.

In my view, the peace negotiations can be resumed in a formal meeting to issue the declaration to reaffirm the agreements that have been forged since 1992, to overcome the presidential issuances and other obstacles that have prevented peace negotiations since 2017 and to set the agenda and schedule for these negotiations and to fullfill political, legal and security requirements.

The GRP and NDFP negotiating panels can pursue further negotiations on the Interim Peace Agreement, with its three components pertaining to coordinated unilateral ceasefires, general amnesty and release of all political prisoners and the sections of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development and National Industrialization and Economic Development.

All the remaining sections of the CASER can be negotiated, completed and mutually approved by the GRP and NDFP in a relatively short period of time. Thereafter, the Comprehensive Agreements on Political and Constitutional Reforms and the End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces shall be negotiated, completed and mutually approved. ###

Peace Consultant: Memo Order 32 should be challenged in court

“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

MESSAGE FROM UNJUSTLY DETAINED PEACE CONSULTANT REY CLARO CASAMBRE

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. ###

SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT ON OUR ABORTED TRIP TO THE PHILIPPINES

Fidel V. Agcaoili
Press Statement
November 20, 2018

 

I wish to set the record straight regarding our aborted trip to the Philippines scheduled last November 18, 2018.

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.###