Imprisoned consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) warned that President Rodrigo Duterte’s invitation to exiled Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Ma. Sison to come to Manila to restart peace talks is a “trap” or “setup” intended to finish him off and decapitate the 51-year old nationwide insurgency.
“Why is Duterte mum on the public statements of the militarist bloc against the resumption of peace negotiations but is so insistent on pushing for a one-on-one talk with Joma Sison without any real guarantees for his security except Duterte’s untrustworthy promises?”KAPATID
In a statement read at the “Assembly for Peace,” a forum organized by church groups advocating peace talks, the consultants said it was “correct” for Sison to brand Duterte’s invitation as either a “lethal trap” or an “equally malicious maneuver” to prevent peace negotiations knowing that Sison and the NDFP would reject such offer as an “unacceptable precondition” to reopen the peace process.
The jailed consultants stressed, “It is important that peace negotiations be held in a neutral third country because the NDFP does not want to repeat the experience during the August 1986–January 1987 negotiations.”
The negotiations, which were held in the Philippines, exposed underground forces and organized areas, making them military targets of decimation after the talks broke down following the Mendiola massacre on January 22, 1987, in which 13 farmers were killed.
A “militarist bloc” led by retired generals in the Cabinet was identified as the “biggest obstacle to the resumption of peace negotiations.” They include National Security Adviser Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, DND Secretary Gen. Delfin Lorenzana, DILG Secretary Gen. Eduardo Año, Presidential Peace Adviser Gen. Carlito Galvez as well as current AFP and PNP top generals.
The statement was signed by ten consultants held in various jails: Leopoldo Caloza and Eduardo Sarmiento—New Bilibid Prison, Muntinlupa; Rey Casambre, Ferdinand Castillo, Frank Fernandez, Renante Gamara, Vicente Ladlad, Adelberto Silva—MMDJ-4, Camp Bagong Diwa, Bicutan, Taguig; Cleofe Lagtapon, Women’s Prison, Camp Bagong Diwa; Esterlita Suaybaguio—Camp Karingal, Quezon City; and two NDF staff members, Alex and Winona Birondo, jailed separately at Camp Bagong Diwa.
Nine of them—Silva, Ladlad, Casambre, Gamara, Suaybaguio, and the couples Fernandez and Lagtapon, and the Birondos—were arrested within ten months, October 2018–August 2019, after President Duterte ordered all peace consultants of the NDFP locked up and “permanently terminated” the peace talks under Proclamation 360 on November 23, 2017.
All ten consultants and the two NDF staff, like other political prisoners, were framed up with nonbailable criminal offenses such as illegal possession of explosives that were planted on them to keep them in indefinite detention. #