NPA to release POWs as goodwill measure (Breaking news)


 

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Wilma Tiamzon ( far left) and Benito Tiamzon (right) thank supporters after being released from their detention centre in Camp Crame. Photo by Obet de Castro

The New People’s Army will release some prisoners of war as a goodwill gesture for the resumption of peace talks between the Philippine government and Asia’s longest-running insurgency.

National Democratic Front peace negotiator Fidel Agcaoili told ABS-CBNNews in an email exchange that the NPA Command in Aguusan is now working out “the safe and orderly release of four POWs captured during rebel raids and ambuscades.

He also said the government negotiating panel had wanted to be present for the release.

Agcaoili has clarified there are a total of six prisoners of war across Mindanao.

The two officers named in the NDF statement below are in the Southern Mindanao area; the rest are in the Caraga and Surigao area and the subject of Agcaoili’s remarks.

Agcaoili bared the news as the Timazons dropped by to thank peace advocates holding a rally in front of Camp Crame, their detention centre.

But even as Agcaoili was sharing the POW release news, the Rural Missionaries of thePhilippines reported the arrest today (August 19), around noon, of 64-year old Amelia pond, the order’s regional coordinator for Southern Mindanao.

“Gusto sana ng GRP Panel sila ang tatanggap pero nandito sila for the talks. Possibleng sa ibang officials na lang. Actually matagal na dapat na-release pero inabutan ng malaking mil operations. Kahit GRP Panel nagsabi matindi ang labanan dun, ayaw nilang pumasok,” Agcaoili added. (The GRP panel wanted to be at the turnover but as they’re here, maybe other officials can do it. Actually, those four were to have been released earlier but the big AFP operations delayed the release. Even the GRP panel said there was very heavy fighting and so they did not want to enter the area that time.)

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A few minutes later, Agcaoili sent a press statement by the NDFP-southern mindanao region.

Read Full Statement:

NDFP-SMR orders release of POWs as goodwill for peace talks

“The National Democratic Front of the Philippines in Southern Mindanao Region today ordered the release of the two Prisoners of War currently in separate custody of the units under the NPA ComVal Davao Gulf Sub-Regional Command as goodwill measure for the formal resumption of the peace negotiations on August 22,” the statement said.

Earlier today, the GRP released NDFP consultants Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria Tiamzon, who were leading members of the CPP and key consultants of the NDFP when they were arrested in March 2014.

Custodial units of POW Arnold S. Ongachen and POW Michael B. Grande have reported the good state of health and lenient treatment of the two prisoners despite persistent attacks of AFP troops in Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley. They have likewise assured that an orderly and safe turn-over of the prisoners of war may be conducted pending a GPH undertaking of suspension of military and police offensives.

The People’s Democratic Government’s judicial proceedings and investigations into POW Ongachen and POW Grande’s possible war crimes and violation of people’s rights have been effectively suspended in deference to appeals of their families and peace advocates. POW Ongachen and POW Grande have apologized for their violations against the people.

The NDFP-SMR likewise acknowledges GPH Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s efforts that resulted to the on-going process of release of the 22 NDFP peace consultants. This is definitely a positive development in the long-sought justice for these political prisoners and a welcome deviation from the previous reactionary regimes’ militarist approach and despicable contravention of the Comprehensive Agreement for Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) and the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).

While the CPP, NPA and the NDFP have consistently adhered to international conventions and mutually-agreed upon accords between the GPH and the NDFP, the AFP and the PNP continue to file trumped-up charges to ensure that political prisoners such as NDFP consultants, Red fighters, even civilians and legal activists languish in jail for common crimes they did not commit. Some were even tortured, raped or summarily executed. This is a far cry from the lenient policy of the NPA towards Prisoners of War and are later released in recognition of appeals of families and well-meaning parties.

The NDFP-SMR expects the immediate release of the remaining 540 political prisoners in compliance of the Duterte government to the CARHRIHL and the JASIG. The success of the talks en route to a viable peace accord between the two governments in the Philippines rests in the main on GPH’s—especially the AFP, PNP and their paramilitaries’—adherence to previous agreements and the serious deliberation of the roots of the civil war. In these objectives, the NDFP and the entire revolutionary movement have been and continue to be firmly resolute.

Rubi del mundo
Spokesperson
National Democratic Front of the Philippines
Southern Mindanao Region

Even as peace talks poised to resume, attacks on legal activists heighten


(First of five parts)

amelia pond  Even as National Democratic Front (NDF) consultants Wilma and Benito Tiamzon finally walked out of detention from Camp Crame today, reports from regions indicate that state security agencies are stepping up attacks against legal activists.

The Rural Missionaries of thePhilippines reported the arrest today (August 19), around noon, of 64-year old Amelia pond, the order’s regional coordinator for Southern Mindanao.

Pond is also the research and documentation officer for the Salugpungan School Network in Mindanao, which remain the only available opportunities for education of indigenous children.

The attack happened as peace panels of the government and the NDF were preparing for the resumption of long-stalled peace talks in Oslo, Norway.

Read: Tears, hugs as NDF consultants walk free

Pond was accosted by members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) criminal instigation and detection group (CIDG) after a three day RMP assembly at the Living the Gospel Renewal Center on Archbishop Reyes Avenue, in Cebu City’s Lahug district.

Her arrest came as activists and peace advocates were hailing the release of the Tiamzon couple, which brought the number of freed National Democratic Front (NDF) political prisoners to 17.

 

 

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Wilma Tiamzon (left) and husband, Benito (right) talk to supporters and peace advocates following their release from detention. They are flying  with 12 other consultants to join the National Democratic Front (NDF) peace panel in Oslo, Norway, where peace talks are set to resume on August 22. Photo by Obet de Castro

“They will join 15 others so far released in peace talks in Oslo on August 22 and for consultations with the NDF Negotiating Panel,” lawyer Edre Olalia said. Two of the released consultants are not joining the Oslo talks as they need urgent medical care, NDF sources said.

Planted evidence?

The RMP report said Pond was in a taxi with three other people when CIDG cops blocked them. They forced her out of the vehicle.

“The female CIDG held her by the arm and asked her with different names but she denied. This was followed by more questions showed photographs, and a supposed warrant of arrest, but they did not make her read the warrant,” the report said.

“One of Amy’s companion insisted that she should read the warrant for her to know what her case is but despite Amy and her companion’s insistence they failed to let Amy read the warrant. Amy vehemently resisted this illegal arrest.”

The witnesses said one of the CIDG men went near Amy and inserted two ID’s in her bag.

“Then they asked her to alight the car. She refused to go with them but they forced her. In this instance, Sr. Francis Anover and Sr. Marisol Garduno who were also in the center immediately went to her rescue.”

Pond was brought to Camp Sotero in Cebu City. and charged with double murder and frustrated murder in Compostela Valley under the name of Adelfa Toledo.

Increasing attacks

pajallaBefore Pond’s arrest, Quezon province cops nabbed a peasant leader identified with the military party-list group, Anakpawis.

Karapatan-Quezon spokesperson Alex Pacalda told Bulatlat.com that the arrest of Antonio Pajalla was illegal as, “the rebellion charge against him was long extinguished when he was granted amnesty under former President Fidel Ramos.”

Bulatlat quoted Pacalda as saying the peasant leader held with him his copy of the certificate from the National Amnesty Commission when he was arrested at around 9 a.m. Aug. 12. He was on a jeepney en route to the Anakpawis Partylist’s office in Catanauan town.

The rebellion charge against Pajalla, which is the ground for his arrest, was first filed in 1995. But Pajalla was granted amnesty by President Ramos in 1997, said Pacalda.

Karapatan and other rights groups  have warned that the continuing presence of paramilitary troops — trained and supervised by the military — represents a major threat to the peace process.

“We must watch out for saboteurs,” said Catholic Bishop (Caloocan City)  Deogracias Yñiguez on the eve of the Tiamzons’ release. He said church workers and civil society and people’s organizations must remain vigilant on human rights violations and other abuses, which could wreak havoc on the peace process.

The Ecumenical Bishops Forum and the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform, Yñiguez said, worked hard with other groups “to find many ways to ensure that the crucial peace process resumes.”

Lumad victims

Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Judy M. Taguiwalo confirmed that paramilitary troops strafed a lumad community on July 30 during holding a wedding in  San Fernando, Bukidnon, killing a pregnant woman and wounding seven other people, including five children.

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Maytas Gauyran, chieftain of the Tigwahanon tribe, grieves at the coffin of his daughter, Marikit Gayoran, who was pregnant when shot dead during a community wedding. Photo courtesy of Kilab multimedia

A DSWD report said  a paramilitary group associated with the 8th Infantry Batallion of the Philippine Army. Taguiwalo said all victims beneficiaries of the DSWD’s 4Ps and Modified Conditional Cash Transfer Program (MCCT).

Taguiwalo also ordered an investigation into the provision of projects for suspected mastermind ‘Alde Salusad’ or ‘Butsoy’ despite a warrant of arrest for a previous killing of a lumad datu, Jimmy Liguyon, in front of his small children.

 

 

 

Vulnerable communities

The Save Our Schools  (SOS) network said attacks on indigenous schools in Mindanao have increased following then assumption of Duterte. The tough talking leader has close links to restive indigenous groups fighting against the entry of big mining firms and plantations into their ancestral lands.

In the areas around Duterte’s home city of Davao, teachers were forced to close down some schools because of death threats, according to SOS executive director Rius Valle.

He said paramilitary forces trained and supervised by military officials were hunting the teachers in the Pacquibato district of Davao City.

“They documented attempts to kill them,” Valle said in an interview.”The two teachers had to close down the school and seek sanctuary in Davao City.”

After the Paquibato incident, which happened just before Duterte’s  first State of the Nation Address (Sona), paramilitary troops also killed the leader of a parents’ association in a lumad school on the outskirts of Davao City. The community in the area have a long running feud with religious leader Apollo Quiboloy of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, a known supporter and friend of Duterte.

lumad444On August 13, six men, riding in tandem on three motorcycles, also strafed a group of lumad in Barangay Zillovia, Talacogon, Agusan del Sur. A woman, shot in the chest, had to be placed under intensive care.

The victims are indigenous claimants to land now covered by an forestry agreement granted to  Provident Tree Farms, INc.
The RMP said the incident is connected to an earlier series of attacks, including the murder of  Datu Mansulbadan, the former supreme datu of the Manobo community in the area.

Four other Manobo — including a 13-year old boy — who were the apparent target of the gunmen suffered less serious injuries. The attack also prompted an evacuation of residents.