I was arrested four years ago – on Black Valentine’s Day – on the eve of the long-stalled resumption of the formal peace talks between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP/GPH).
The principal agenda in the would-be resumption of the formal peace talks was supposed to center on the second of the four substantive agenda in the NDFP-GRP/GPH peace talks, i.e., on Comprehensive Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER).
The first substantive agenda, that centered on respect for human rights, was already agreed upon in 1998, and had resulted in the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). Aside from the CASER, the other remaining agenda – on Political and Constitutional Reforms (PCR) and on End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces (EHDF) – are supposed to immediately follow after the start of and progress in the second substantive agenda.
On my part, as a regular member of the NDFP Socio-Economic Reforms Committee in the NDFP-GRP/GPH Reciprocal Working Committees on Socio-Economic Reforms, I was supposed to directly participate in the slated NDFP-GRP/GPH talks on the socio-economic reforms agenda, with the objective of coming out a unity on CASER.
85 of us, long-since listed as peace talks participants, consultants and other officers and personnel of the NDFP significantly involved in the peace process with the GRP/GPH, are supposed to be protected by the NDFP-GRP/GPH Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) and not subjected to surveillance, arrest, detention, torture, trumped-up court charges and other antagonistic acts that would deter our effective participation and work in the peace process.
As I was being arrested on Black Valentine’s Day, I invoked, before the head of the arresting forces, my JASIG protection. But the answer was that their higher-ups insist on the arrest – no matter the JASIG.
I also asked to immediately and directly be able to consult with the People’s Interest Law Center (and its head then, Atty. Romeo Capulong) that serves as legal counsel of the NDFP, its peace panel and consultants in the peace process, and to confer with our attorneys on the matter of my arrest, including on the question of its “legality” (especially as there was no warrant of arrest served at the time of my arrest) and its violation of peace agreements. But the only answer was that all these would have to be coursed through the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), which accordingly has been on top of the situation all along. (I was, however, able to confer with my lawyers, only the next day arranged via other channels.)
The formal peace talks between the NDFP and the GRP/GPH were again stalled after a couple of days, because of the latter’s failure to release the victim of the Black Valentine’s Day Arrest and the other earlier arrested and still-detained NDFP peace talks participants and consultants supposedly protected by the JASIG.
While informal talks on the side continue to seek prospects and favorable conditions for the resumption and advance of formal peace talks, many hurdles and setbacks still need to be resolved and overcome, including:
The continuing detention of NDFP peace talks participants and consultants, together with some 500 other political prisoners;
- The continuing failure to account and answer for the subjection to enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings of some NDFP peace talks participants and consultants, their staffs and loved ones;
- The further victimizing of detained NDFP peace talks participants and consultants and other political prisoners by swamping us with trumped-up criminalized charges. in violation of the Hernandez Doctrine, and thus keeping us in jail practically indefinitely;
The overly long hibernation and very slow crawl of justice in our cases, all the more prolonging our detention;
- The utter lack of concern and effort to solve the many problems of prisoners being long-detained, even if they are minors, elderlies, sickly/incapacitated, mistakenly identified, with cases that have been mixed-up, and other discrepancies in the course of justice;
- The very, very poor quality and unhealthy food rations, not even worth half the nominal P50/inmate/day food budget supposedly allotted to us;
- Niggardly limiting our access to sunning and exercise in open air to only one hour a week, at the most. This, even if Philippine law and the United Nations Standards state that at least an hour daily of sunning and exercise in open air should be allowed to prisoners;
- The abusive “greyhound” operations, supposedly to search for “contrabands”, but – since political prisoners do not have “contrabands” – the resorting to cruel and heartless confiscations, wanton spoilings, and even outright theft of harmless, essential necessities for the humane existence of detainees, like vitamins, nail cutters, long toothbrushes, ballpens, blunt scissors and other materials for writing and artwork, cooking stoves, CDs/DVDs (even on human rights) and the absurd justifications for such. (The confiscation, too, of a typewriter sent by the NDFP peace panel so that detained NDFP peace talks participants and consultants may still be able to continue with some – even if minimum – part of their work for the peace process, while still in jail.)
Human rights violations, heavy and unwarranted repressions and restrictions have escalated recently as a result of the jail authorities’ fascist reactions to the fasting and hunger strike, we, political prisoners, waged here at the Special Intensive Care Area 1 (SICA1) Jail in Camp Bagong Diwa, five days prior to the visit of Pope Francis I and during his five days of actual visit to this country, bringing along with him his call for “mercy and compassion.”
Our 10 days of fasting and hunger strike was an act of self-sacrifice to make loud our calls for our freedom, for justice, for real solutions to social ills, for serious efforts towards lasting.peace in our country.
Our calls emphasized our dire situation as political prisoners – imprisoned because of our struggles for political and social changes in the interest of our people; subjected to severe repressions, reprisals, abuses, deprivations, and other fascist acts by state and jail authorities; made to suffer one of the most rotten and slowest crawl of justice in the world; and frustrated with the long lack of progress in the peace process.
But in reaction to our act of self-sacrifice and our calls, the jail authorities resorted to foul and fascist acts. They violated our rights to the extent of disregarding international protocols on respect for human rights, the United Nation’s norms on the treatment of prisoners, as well as the prevailing state’s own laws.
The whole time we went through our act of self-sacrifice – and even afterwards – our doctors were totally barred from visiting us and checking on our medical conditions. There were instances, when even a lawyer of ours and some of our loved ones were also barred. Many, many visitors from human rights organizations, church organizations, other people’s organizations, and many more other supporters and sympathizers were also cruelly barred.
Worse, the jail authorities even machinated and unleashed malicious and vicious schemes to isolate us, political prisoners, and induce, from other inmates under the hands of leaders of a lumpen prison gang and of those accused by the government as terrorists, intensified antagonisms and orchestrated threats of violence against our lives and limbs. This, by also barring the visitors of all other inmates, and casting the blame for such on the “foolish” (“kalokohan”) hunger strike of political prisoners.
While we do still need to effectively fend off attacks by rotten and fascist jail authorities and their trigger-happy pawns, and more so also need to push for the rectification of the rotten, fake and abusive penal system, we maintain our focus on our prime objective – our fight for freedom, for justice, for social and political causes, and for related serious advances towards lasting peace – all in the interest of the mass of the people we were brought here for and continue to sacrifice for.
In the meantime, it has been four years since the Black Valentine’s Day Arrest …
The fight goes on!
NDFP peace consultant
detained at the
Special Intensive Care Area 1
Camp Bagong Diwa,
(February 13, 2015)