PH Government talks with communists may resume soon – Bello

Robie de Guzman   •   December 11, 2019   •   397

Government’s chief negotiator Secretary Silvestre Bello III (left) and National Democratic Front founding chair Jose Maria Sison (right)

MANILA, Philippines – Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III on Wednesday expressed optimism that the peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front (NDF), the political arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), will resume soon.

Bello said CPP founder Joma Sison and NDF senior adviser Luis Jalandoni agreed to discuss the possibility of returning to the negotiating table when he personally met them in the Netherlands a few days ago.

Bello, who served as the government’s chief peace negotiator, returned to Manila on Monday.

“I cannot give you any detail on the result of our talks. ang importante nag-usap kami. They are willing to resume the talks,” he said.

Bello flew to the Netherlands last December 5 following President Rodrigo Duterte’s order to talk to Sison on the possibility of resuming peace negotiations.

Ties between Duterte and Sison went sour last year after the chief executive accused the rebel group of launching attacks against government forces even while the negotiations are ongoing.

In March 2019, Duterte formally terminated the peace process with the CPP-National Democratic Front of the Philippines-New People’s Army.

Bello said the communist leaders are also open to the president’s conditions to reopen negotiations but details about where, when and how the process will be conducted are yet to be determined.

The labor chief also emphasized that the chief executive did not give up on talking peace with the reds.  

Bello is expected to meet with Duterte later on Wednesday to report about his meeting with Sison. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Dante Amento)

DILG orders manhunt for Tiamzon couple

Robie de Guzman   •   December 1, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Tuesday said it has ordered the Philippine National Police (PNP) to intensify the manhunt for Benito Tiamzon and his wife, Wilma who are allegedly high ranking officials of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).

DILG Secretary Eduardo Año issued the directive several days after the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 216 sentenced the Tiamzon couple to up to 40 years of imprisonment for kidnapping and serious illegal detention charges.

The Tiamzons were also ordered to pay damages and civil indemnity to the complainant amounting to P225,000.

The cases stemmed from the abduction of Army Lt. Abraham Claro Casis with three other soldiers in Candelaria, Quezon Province. The group was allegedly held captive by members of the New People’s Army for 75 days.

“I have instructed the PNP to intensify the manhunt for these communist terrorists so that they can serve the sentence imposed on them by the court,” Año said in a statement.

“The decision of the Regional Trial Court is a great victory for the Filipino people because of their crimes against humanity. As top leaders of the Communist Party and its armed wing, New People’s Army, they kidnapped, killed, and tortured so many people and burned so many equipment,” he added.

The DILG chief believes that the Tiamzons are still in the country based on intelligence reports.

“I exerted a lot of effort in capturing them in 2014. I was then chief of ISAFP (Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines) when they were arrested in March 2014. I spent almost half of my career looking for this couple,” Año said.

The Tiamzon couple was first arrested by government operatives in Barangay Zaragoza, Cebu City in March 2014 after many years of hiding.

But they were released from detention in 2016 to participate as consultants in the peace negotiations between the NDF and the government in Oslo, Norway.

They were ordered re-arrested in August 2018 after the peace talks were subsequently canceled. Both have since failed to appear in court.

“They cannot run and hide forever. Sooner or later, matitimbog din sila ulit at haharapin ang mga kasalanan nila sa ating bayan. I am confident that we will see them behind bars soon,” Año said.

According to the DILG, the couple is also facing multiple murder charges over the Inopacan Massacre where a mass grave was unearthed by soldiers in 2006. The said site was purportedly where suspected military informants within the Communist terrorist groups (CTG) were purged.

CPP founder Jose Maria ‘Joma’ Sison is also a co-accused in the case.

Makabayan Congressmen deny linkages to CPP-NPA as claimed by Duterte

Marje Pelayo   •   December 1, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Makabayan congressmen vehemently deny linkages to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) after President Rodrigo Duterte himself identified the group as such.

Hindi ako miyembro ng Communist Party of the Philippines, maging ng NPA or ng NDF (I am not a member of the Communist Party of the Philippines, or the NPA, or the NDF),” said Bayan Muna Partylist Rep. Carlos Zarate in a press conference on Tuesday (December 1).

Zarate admits being an activist and a human rights lawyer but not a member of any group that targets destabilization of the current administration.

ACT Teachers Partylist Rep. France Castro, meanwhile, accused the Duterte Administration of using the issue to divert the public’s attention from the government’s poor response to the current problems of the country.

“Patuloy na nililink ang mga progresibong organisasyon na talagang nagbubunyag ng kainutilan nitong Duterte administration,” Castro said adding that such a claim is the administration’s scheme to disqualify their group in the 2022 Elections.

The lawmakers claim it is a way to silence them for being critical of the government.

“With the statement of the President they will be further emboldened to intensify their attacks against us including even their objective to remove us from Congress, ipa-disqualify kami (to have us disqualified),” Zarate said.

The opposition group dares their critics who are claiming of having evidence linking them to the communist group to face them in court.

They are also hoping that the House leadership will support them given that House Speaker Allan Velasco once said in October that he will protect any member of the Lower House who is being tagged by Lt Gen Antonio Parlade Jr of the National task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict as members of the communist organization. 

Meanwhile, Malacañang questioned leaf-leaning organizations or militant groups why they cannot renounce the use of arms.

According to Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, it’s questionable that while they consistently deny claims linking them to the communist organization, they do not condemn the NPA’s armed activities.

Roque said it is not criminal to be a member of an organization but to become an advocate of armed struggle against the government is against the law.

“Kung ikaw ay member ng CPP, pwede kang maging legal but you have to renounce the use of arms. Magagaling naman sila sa parliamentary politics. Na-e-elect naman sila. Pinakamarami sila sa party list groups. Bakit hindi pa nila i-renounce ang use of arms,” Roque said.

[If you are a member of the CPP, you can be legal but you have to renounce the use of arms. They are good in parliamentary politics. They are being elected. They have the majority in party list groups. Why couldn’t they renounce the use of arms?]

“Pero habang hindi nila nire-renounce at habang sila po ay nakikibahagi pa sa paggamit ng dahas at sandata laban sa republika, criminal po iyan,” he concluded.

[But while not renouncing and while still supporting the use of arms or armed struggle against the Republic (of the Philippines), that’s criminal.] MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo / Rosalie Coz)

Duterte identifies Makabayan Bloc as communist legal front

Marje Pelayo   •   December 1, 2020

President Rodrigo Duterte

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte straightforwardly called the Makabayan Bloc a legal front of the communist group on Monday (November 30) following the death of Bayan Muna Rep. Eufemia Campos Cullamat’s daughter in an encounter with the military.

The President said they are not red-tagging left-leaning groups but identifying them as one.

Itong mga legal fronts ng komunista, lahat iyan (These communist legal fronts, all of them) – Makabayan, Bayan – they are all legal fronts. Gabriela,” he said.

“We are not red tagging you. We are identifying you as members in a grand conspiracy comprising all the legal fronts that you have organized headed by NDF (National Democratic Front) tapos ang (also the) New People’s Army at (and the) Community Party of the Philippines,” he added.

The President said the incident now supports the claim of the Armed Forces of the Philippines against the members of the Makabayan Bloc.

READ: Lorenzana sees strong link between Makabayan Bloc and CPP-NPA with Jevilyn Cullamat’s death

He questioned the group’s real intention which no longer represents an ideology.

“(This is) communal war ito. There is no longer any ideology. Gusto lang nila umagaw ng gobyerno (All they want is to take over the government,)” President Duterte noted.

Members of the Makabayan Bloc have long been denying any links to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). 

The entire network has a number of member groups including Bayan Muna, ACT Teachers, Anakpawis, Gabriela, Kabataan, Katribu, Migrante, Akap-bata, Courage, Piston, Kalikasan and Aking Bikolnon. MNP (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

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