February 14, this year, is the fifth anniversary of “Black Valentine’s Day”, that showed and continues to show how actually uninterested, heartless — actually spiteful — the ruling Benigno S. Aquino III regime has been in regard to justice and freedom in the case of political prisoners, in regard to peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), and in regard to the advocacies of these for fundamental socio-economic, cultural and political changes in the interest of the country, especially the suffering oppressed and exploited mass of our people.
In practically the full term of the present ruling regime, the environment of the peace talks between the NDFP and the GRP/GPH has been fraught with gross insincerities, treacheries and violations on the part of the ruling regime.
A few hours before the resumption, in February 14, 2011, of the long-stalled peace talks between the NDFP and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines, Malacañang gave the military and police leadership under its command the order for their arrest of an NDFP peace consultant with long-standing and immediate work directly related to comprehensive socio-economic reforms — the already long-delayed next substantive agenda in the peace talks.
The one particularly assigned by Malacañang, as over-all in command over the joint military and police arrest operations to implement the “Black Valentine’s Day” arrest — then Philippine Army Chief, Lt. Gen. Arturo Ortiz — arrogantly declared right after the arrest that they will keep arresting NDFP peace consultants — “No matter the JASIG!” (The JASIG, or Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees, is one of the comprehensive peace agreements, mutually signed way back in February 24, 1995, for the protection of the freedom and rights of negotiators, consultants, staffers, security and other personnel, so that they may be able to effectively participate in their respective work in the peace process.)
The arrest was ordered “No matter … anything”. No matter how open and welcoming the NDFP has been for the resumption of the peace talks. No matter that the NDFP has prepared, worked and hoped for a great many prospects in the talks beforehand. No matter that the one ordered to be immediately arrested has long been among the NDFP peace talks consultants, has continuing and urgent work related to his specific tasks, including the scheduled substantive agenda in the supposedly immediately-to-resume peace talks, and is supposed to be protected from surveillance, arrest, detention and other acts of violence that would deter his effective participation in the peace process. No matter that the resumption of the long-stalled peace talks was to start in a couple of hours in Oslo, Norway, but would be very much frustrated, with the recent and continuing, as well as past, arrests and imprisonments of NDFP peace consultants and staffers supposedly protected from such and other acts of violence.
As the one so arrested, I informed the arresting officer about my being an NDFP peace consultant, about my JASIG protection and about my objection to my arrest as violative of peace agreements, more immediately so as I was supposed to be involved in the then just about to resume peace talks.
I stated that the NDFP leadership and peace panel would definitely vehemently object to my arrest as blatantly violative of the JASIG. I also asked to be able to immediately communicate and consult directly with the NDFP peace panel’s legal counsel, that is also the legal counsel of NDFP peace consultants — 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.
After some two hours of consultations with their higher ups, the arresting officer informed me that they brought up before their higher ups the objections that I have raised against my arrest and their violations of the JASIG and my other rights as an NDFP peace consultant and participant in the about-to-resume peace talks. He simply said that 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 my arrest, the matter of the JASIG and other matters, including my demand to be able to consult with the NDFP peace panel’s legal counsel, would all be taken up with and responded to later by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), and that in the meantime I would be detained.
The hurriedly implemented arrest was also patently illegal — as it was made without a warrant of arrest and I was ill!egally served a “warrant of arrest” only the next day. I was later swamped with trumped-up criminalized charges for “13 counts of murder” — supposedly committed by a certain “Ka Dexter” (who I never was) against government soldiers ambushed by the New People’s Army (NPA) in various places (where I actually have never been to) some 27 years ago (at a time when I was based in Metro Manila and was then working in the open, legal political struggle).
Those trumped-up criminalized charges are also in recalcitrant violation of the landmark Hernandez Doctrine — a historical Philippine jurisprudence that prohibits the criminalization of “political offenses” and requires the consolidation of all “political offenses” under a single bailable case of “rebellion”. (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 deprived of the right to bail, so that they are thus kept practically indefinitely detained, especially as the crawl of justice in the country is one of the slowest, as well as one of the most rotten, in the world.)
The ruling regime and its shadow fascist apparatus have also been dictating on the prosecution — and even the judges — to do what they can to see to it that, as much as possible, the detained NDFP consultants be kept in jail indefinitely. This, if not yet to fast-tract and spuriously cook-up their convictions — as they had done so in the cases of fellow NDFP peace consultants Eduardo Sarmiento, Emeterio Antalan and Leopoldo Caloza. Previously, practically all the trumped-up charges against these NDFP peace consultants have been dismissed, but, under heavy pressure from the ruling regime and its shadow fascist apparatus, the courts hearing the last cases of these imprisoned fellow NDFP peace consultants spuriously cooked-up their convictions, just to prevent them from gaining freedom.
The fifth anniversary of “Black Valentine’s Day” is marked by even more dire prospects as the current Benigno S. Aquino III regime has already hauled into prison more NDFP peace consultants and an additional 300 or so more socio-economic-cultural and political cause advocates, and continues to haul more of these into its jails, has refused to discuss substantive agenda for socio-economic-cultural and political reforms for the strategic upliftment of the oppressed and exploited suffering mass of our people,
in line with the previously agreed upon Hague Declaration, has instead been insisting on putting in the agenda only petty, ephemeral “doables”, and has thus actually been refusing to be open with any seriousness to substantive peace talks with the NDFP.
In the meantime, but for a mere handful who have been able to win their freedom through exceptional court victories that have slipped through reactionary pressures and dirty manueverings, all of us (about a score of detained NDFP peace consultants and staffers, and more than 500 other political prisoners) continue to suffer grave injustice and overly slow and rotten court processes, excessive restrictions and deprivations, poor prison conditions, and numerous other human rights violations. More than half of the present political prisoners have already been detained for about or more than a decade already, with their cases in court hardly moving at all. And some — like our fellow NDFP peace consultant, Eduardo “Ka Eddik” Serrano, who was wrongly charged as a different person and made to suffer more than 11 years of unjust imprisonment — have already died in prison, due to these problems and the utter nonchalance to these of the ruling state and jail authorities.
The ruling regime has shown itself to be totally deaf and blind to calls for justice, respect for human rights, fundamental political and socio-economic changes, and related efforts for the attainment of peace. It continues to refuse to abide by, or even take cognizance of standing peace agreements with the NDFP. Worse, it has even gone much further in violating, and even mocking and spitting at those agreements and related efforts.
In the same way, with its “daang matuwid” (“straight road”) as a mere facade of a slogan without anything real and solid in substance, the ruling regime has only been mocking and spitting at the suffering oppressed and exploited mass of our people.
NDFP peace consultant and member of the NDFP Committee on Socio-Economic Reforms,
detained at the SICA 1 Jail, Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City
14 February 2016