February 14 this year is the third anniversary of “Black Valentine’s Day”, when the long-stalled formal peace talks between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH) were resumed and were supposed to proceed, but actually proceeded nowhere and were again stalled.
No matter how open and eager the NDFP was with the resumption of the peace talks and had hoped, prepared and worked for a great many prospects for the talks beforehand, the talks were unfortunately bound to fail as they were fraught with treacheries and violations on the part of the Benigno S. Aquino III regime and its peace panel.
An immediate one of such treacheries and violations was my arrest at about 6 p.m. of February 14, Manila time, just before the resumption of the peace talks in Oslo, Norway.
The arrest was in arrogant mockery and violation of the NDFP-GPH Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), as I have long been (since the 1990s) a peace consultant of the NDFP and was actually involved — even if by long-distance — in the about-to-resume NDFP-GPH peace talks, especially in regard to the next immediate agenda, i.e., socio-economic reforms, and thus needed to be protected from surveillance, arrest, detention, court charges and other antagonistic acts that would only serve to deter our effective participation and work as negotiators, consultants and other involvements in the peace process.
In fact, the arrest, the scheming and execution of it, including the intensified surveillance just about a week before the resumption of the peace talks, all of which the government’s top military, peace process and overall leadership had previous and up-to-date intimate knowledge, decisive say and final go-signal, were all made from the very start to arrogantly mock the peace process and to tie the hands of those at the opposite end of the negotiation table.
As I was being booked right after my arrest, I expressed to the arresting officer my objection to the arrest, since I am a JASIG-protected peace consultant and a participantin the NDFP-GPH peace talks that were to start shortly. I said that the NDFP leadership and peace panel would definitely object to my arrest and the violation of the JASIG. I also asked for my right to immediately communicate and consult directly with my legal counsel — which is also the legal counsel of the NDFP peace panel — the People’s Interest Law Center (PILC) and its head then, Atty. Romeo Capulong — even as I knew, and the arresting officer also confirmed, that they then were already in Oslo, Norway to participate in the peace talks.
The arresting officer thereupon left. He returned after some two hours to inform me that they brought up before their higher ups my insistence that I should not have been arrested since I am JASIG-protected and have work related to the about-to-resume peace talks. He said that, after deliberations their higher ups insisted on the arrest — no matter the JASIG, and no matter the peace talks. The arresting officer added that my objections to the arrest, the matter of the JASIG and other matters, including my demand to consult with my legal counsel, would all be taken up with and responded to by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP).
In arrogant reaction to criticisms about my arrest and the arrest of other NDFP peace consultants and staff involved in the peace process, then Philippine Army Chief, Lt. Gen. Arturo Ortiz, who was the one assigned by their higher-ups as over-all in command over the joint military and police arrest operations, declared that they will keep arresting NDFP peace consultants — “And to hell with the JASIG!”
My arrest was also in violation of the ruling state’s own laws, as there was no warrant of arrest produced and legally served by the arresting forces at the time of arrest. It was only the next day when an illegal after-the-fact “warrant of arrest” (for “rebellion”) was produced by the arresting forces, and only then were they able to turn me over to a regular detention center (i.e., the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame).
I was later swamped with trumped-up criminalized charges for “murder” — attributed to a certain “Ka Dexter” (who I never was) and supposedly committed some 25 years ago against government soldiers ambushed by the New People’s Army (NPA) in various places (where I have never been to) in Southern Quezon.
Those trumped-up charges are in recalcitrant violations of the landmark Hernandez Doctrine — a historical Philippine jurisprudence that prohibits the criminalization of “political offenses“. (Actually, the main purpose of the swamping of political prisoners with numerous trumped-up criminalized charges — most especially with non-bailable charges, at that – no matter the utter falsity of the charges, is to ensure that political prisoners are as much as possible bogged down with court cases and thus kept practically indefinitely detained, especially as the crawl of justice in the country is one of the slowest, as well as the most rotten, in the world.)
Our legal counsel filed with the Supreme Court and the local courts objections to the swamping against us of separate trumped-up criminalized charges outside of “rebellion”, as violative of the Hernandez Doctrine.
A local court (in Taguig City) has, however, just recently (this January 8) denied the motion,submitted by our legal counsel more than two years ago, for the consolidation under “rebellion” of the “murder” charges against me and my co-accused. The court’s denial was based on a naïve comment that the burden of proving that the NPA ambush mentioned in the case — that we were presumed to have participated in and that resulted inthe death of government soldiers — was actually made in furtherance of rebellion “falls on the defense.”
In the cases of other NDFP peace consultants as well, the ruling regime has obviously also been dictating on the prosecution and even the judges to do what they can to see to it that the detained NDFP consultants continue to be kept in jail. The latest has been Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Judge Myra Quiambao’s spurious verdict of “guilty” with a 20-40 years sentence rendered last December 11 against fellow NDFP peace consultant Eduardo Sarmiento for supposed ‘illegal possession of explosives” — although clearly based on planted evidences (which also went through questionable changes of custody). The said verdict was a last resort to keep Sarmiento in jail, as all the other trumped-up charges against him had earlier already been dismissed for having no real basis.
The years of our unjust, arbitrary and illegal imprisonment, that have taken place and continue to take place, have been full of prison struggles against injustice, undue restrictions, cruelties, human rights violations and whatever reprisals that the ruling state and jail authorities could wield against me and my fellow detained NDFP peace consultants and political prisoners.
Among such reprisals were the several efforts to force my transfer from the already restrictive PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame to the even more restrictive jail here at the “Special Intensive Care Area” (SICA) in Camp Bagong Diwa. The fourth move which they finally succeeded in forcing through in June 29, 2012 (after three failed attempts due to our strong resistance and support) was in immediate fierce reprisal — under direct orders all the way from Malacañang — for the exposé that came out a week earlier in the mass media, based on the study, documentation and critique tha twe, political prisoners in Camp Crame, made about the gross injustice, undue restrictions and many human rights violations that were being committed against us, political prisoners in Camp Crame, most especially the intensive intrusions persistently being done by U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (U.S. FBI) operatives in the cases of political prisoners there right inside the detention area (in a secret U.S. FBI room) and the imprisonment there — Guantanamo-style — of foreign victims of U.S. rendition smuggled into the country, jailed and charged with trumped-up cases as “Filipinos”.
More intensive reprisals, including threats of isolation and even threats to life, have on and off often been wielded by jail authorities against me and other detained NDFP peace consultants and other political prisoners, in continuing efforts to subdue and silence us, especially everytime we make serious complaints against undue restrictions and abuses and wage militant struggles for freedom, justice and human rights.
But we are not deterred by those threats. Further threats even goad us all the more to raise our voices and wield struggles against continuing and further deprivation of freedom, justice and human rights in our cases.
In the meantime, except for a very few who have managed to win their freedom through court victories, all of us (more than a dozen detained NDFP peace consultants and some 450 other political prisoners) continue to suffer grave injustice and overly slow and rotten court processes, poor prison conditions, excessive restrictions and deprivations, and numerous human rights violations. About half of the present political prisoners have already been detained for about or even more than a decade already, with their cases in court hardly moving at all. A number have become very sickly because of the poor prison conditions — and some have already died in prison due to lack of medical attention and support and the utter indifference of ruling state and jail authorities.
A big problem with the present Aquino regime is its stubborn refusal to abide by standing agreements in the NDFP-GPH peace talks, that at least previous post-martial law regimes acknowledged, even if only formally, and did their part in implementing, even if major failings still continued.
These agreements include the Hague Declaration (which contains the very framework, agenda and sequence of the agenda in the peace talks), the JASIG and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), which includes cognizance and implementation of the Hernandez Doctrine.
The previous Gloria Arroyo regime was one of the worst as it indefinitely suspended the JASIG, in line with its all-out war against the revolutionary movement and had a number of NDFP peace consultants, including their staffs and families, victimized by involuntary disappearances and extrajudicial killings.
At any rate, it still had earlier agreed with the NDFP to review the cases of all political prisoners then (there were about 300 of them then, as documented by KARAPATAN), and to immediately release all those found to have been arrested, detained, charged or even convicted of what were made to appear as common crimes, even as they were in fact waging political battles in line with their socio-economic-political advocacies, and thus their imprisonment had been in violation of the Hernandez Doctrine. There was also a special agreement to even more immediately release 32 specifically identified political prisoners, consisting of women, minors, the sick and the elderlies.
While the actual implementation of such agreements had not actually been implemented by the Arroyo regime, still the GPH (including the successor Benigno S. Aquino II regime) remains obliged to implement those agreements.
Instead, however, the current Aquino regime has shown itself to be totally deaf and blind,and continues to refuse to abide by, or even take cognizance of, standing NDFP-GPH agreements. Worse, it has even gone much further in violating, and even mocking and spitting at those agreements.
Given such stubborn arrogance and absence of real interest of the current Aquino regime as far as the peace process is concerned, although we still maintainan iota of hope,in reality there really seems practically nothing left to hope for in terms of any further prospect and progress in the NDFP-GPH peace talks under the current Aquino regime.
The third anniversary of “Black Valentine’s Day” is marked by even more dire prospects as the current Aquino regime has hauled into prison more NDFP peace consultants and an additional 150 or so more political and socio-economic-cultural cause advocates into jail, has been continuing to refuse to discuss substantive agenda for socio-economic-cultural and political reforms in line with the Hague Declaration, and in sum has been refusing to take with any seriousness the peace talks with the NDFP.
NDFP Peace Consultant
and Member of the
NDFP Commitee on
detained at the SICA,
Camp Bagong Diwa
14 February 2014