Reds declare unilateral 7-day ceasefire

CPP-NPA ceasefire declaration orders a halt to all offensives but mandates guerrilla units to take “active defense” when faced with hostile actions by state security forces. The ceasefire order also defines “hostile actions.” But it is silent on paramilitary forces known to be trained and supervised by units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

northern samar
New People’s Army rebels in Northern Samar during the 44th anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines. Photo courtesy of

The Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the National Operational Command of the New People’s Army (NPA) has declared a seven-day ceasefire “to celebrate and bolster the resumption of formal GRP-NDFP peace talks.”

The ceasefire will take effect starting 12:01 a.m. of August 21 and will last until 11:59 p.m. of August 27.

The CPP central committee said the NDF negotiating panel to peace talks with President Rodrigo Duterte’s government recommended the ceasefire. It said the ceasefire will take effect with or without reciprocal action from the government.

The directive came after an announcement that the NPA would release prisoners of war. NDF negotiating panel member Fidel Agcaoili said the NDF has six prisoners of war, all in Mindanao. Four are in the Caraga and Surigao regions; two, in the Southern Mindanao region.

The formal talks between the negotiating panels of the NDFP and GRP are scheduled for August 22-26 and will be held in Oslo, Norway.

“This ceasefire declaration is encouraged by the GRP’s facilitation of the release of nearly all NDFP consultants who are set to participate in peace negotiations in the course of the next several months,” said the CPP and NPA.

“With or without reciprocation by the GRP, the NPA must maintain a high-level of alertness against enemy troop movements,” said the CPP. “Even while ready to engage in defensive action, the NPA will exert efforts to carry out early counter-maneuvers to avoid armed encounters during the specified ceasefire period.

When Duterte met with consultants of the NDF in Malacanang last week, he told them to ignore the angry words unleashed in the last few weeks, whether in tit-for-tat exchanges with exiled communist leader Jose Maria Sison or during a round of visits to military camps.

NDF consultants interviewed following their release from prison acknowledged concern at Duterte’s rantings.

But speaking for his comrades, Adelberto Silva said they learned to tune out the President’s words and instead “focus on the actions moving the peace talks forward.”

The consultants seem to have gotten that right.

Active defense

The CPP-NPA ceasefire directive mandates guerrilla units to main ‘active defense’ of their territories.

The ceasefire directive, which was furnished to media, ordered regular guerrilla units and people’s militia to cease offensive military operations against personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP).

But the communist leadership also told rebel units to “remain on defensive mode at both the strategic and tactical levels.”

Local commands, the statement said, should maintain a high degree of militancy and vigilance against any hostile actions or movements by enemy armed forces with the aim of encirclement and suppression.”

It defined hostile actions thus:

“The NPA shall consider as hostile action encroachments on the territory of the people’s democratic government by operating troops of the AFP and its paramilitaries to conduct surveillance, psywar and other offensive operations that are labelled as “peace and development”, “civil-military”, “peace and order” and “law enforcement” operations.

Active-defense operations by the NPA shall be undertaken only in the face of clear and imminent danger and actual armed attack by the enemy forces and only after exhausting counter-maneuvers to avoid armed encounters.”

It ordered local units to report hostile actions, provocations or movements to the concerned NPA commands and CPP leadership.

The ceasefire directive told NPA units not to arrest individual cops and soldiers with “no serious liabilities other than their membership in their armed units”  and allow them to “enter the territory of the people’s democratic government to make personal visits to relatives and friends.”

Silence on paramilitary groups


The ceasefire order was markedly silent on paramilitary groups that abound in Mindanao. While officially not part of the AFP organisational structure, local government officials across Mindanao have exposed the military as the organiser, trainer and supervisor of these armed groups.

Human rights advocates and indigenous people’s organisations across Mindanao say the paramilitary are the AFP’s dirty tricks department. Partly funded by big mining and plantation firms under an executive order signed by former President Benigno Aquino III, these groups have killed dozens of indigenous leaders.

Paramilitary forces have also and stepped up their attacks since the proclamation of Duterte as winner of the 2016 presidential elections.


Consultants released

Wilma Tiamzon and Concha Araneta-Bocala embrace with joy  following their release from separate places of detention.

The CPP information bureau emailed journalists the statement a few hours after the National Democratic Front – Southern Mindanao said it was set to release some prisoners of war as a goodwill measure.

Read: NPA to release POWs as gesture of goodwill

As of press time, Karapatan executive director Christina Palabay said 19 of 22 declared NDF consultants have been freed from detention.

1. Ma. Concepcion Araneta-Bocala
2. Tirso Alcantara
3. Ariel Arbitrario
4. Kennedy Bangibang
5. Alex Birondo
6. Winona Birondo
7. Pedro Codaste
8. Renante Gamara
9. Eddie Genelsa
10. Alan Jazmines
11. Ernesto Lorenzo
12. Alfredo Mapano
13. Ruben Saluta
14. Jaime Soledad
15. Adelberto Silva
16. Loida Magpatoc
17. Benito Tiamzon
18. Wilma Tiamzon
19. Porferio Tuna

Three others have been convicted. Lawyer Edre Olalia, who helps the NDF panel in the peace talks, said they would be moving soon to help facilitate the release of the remaining consultants.

Read: Tears, hugs and NDF consultants walk free

The CPP stated  cited the case of Ka Eduardo Sarmiento,  arrested in February 2009, convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment in December 2013.

The CPP reiterated its “deep appreciation of the determined efforts of GRP President Duterte to push forward and accelerate the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations as a means of addressing the roots of the civil war in the Philippines.”

“We hope that this ceasefire declaration will be reciprocated by the GRP as a show of all-out determination to move forward with peace negotiations,” said the CPP.

Captured cops

NDF peace negotiator Fidel Agcaoili shared the POW release announcement as top underground leaders Benito and Wilma Tiamzon walked out of Camp Crame, the headquarters of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and their place of detention since their capture in June 2015.

The POW release statement mentioned only two by name. One of them was Governor Generoso Police Chief Insp. Arnold Ongachen, captured during an NPA raid on their police station on May 28, before President Rodrigo Duterte’s assumption of power.

Agcaoili said the NPA was ready to release  POWs in Caraga but facilitation was delayed by military operations.

“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.”

Then still mayor of Davao City, Duterte immediately asked rebels to release the police officer. Duterte has accepted turnovers of captured cops and soldiers in the past.

But on June 2, citing a rebel report on the seizure of some drugs from Ongachen’s office, Duterte said he was leaving the cop to the mercy of the NPA and suggested, half in jest, a sentence of 20 years of hard labor.

The PNP and the AFP mounted operations to get the captured police officers and other soldiers captured in Agusan but have failed to make headway so far.

Ceasefire woes

Duterte declared a unilateral ceasefire during his first State of the Nation Address. While rebels welcomed it, they sought clearer details of its implementation.

Three days after, the NPA ambushed a joint paramilitary and AFP team. The action, which the NPA explained as part of its active defense measure, killed some soldiers and wounded others.

An angry Duterte rescinded his ceasefire order amid a series of angry exchanges with senior NDF consultant and CPP founder, Jose Maria Sison.

Later, in several visits to military camps across the country, Duterte would unleash diatribes on the NPA, insisting the use of command-detonated mines is a violation of the Genera Convention. The rebels insist the treaty only covers contact-activated mines.

NDF consultants acknowledged concern at Duterte’s tirades. But speaking for his comrades, Adelberto Silva said they learned to tune out the President’s rants and instead “focus on the actions moving the peace talks forward.”

The CPP statement said rebels will push their call for Duterte to “issue a general amnesty to pave the way for the release of all political prisoners.” Militant party-list groups have filed a measure in the House of Representatives. The President earlier said he will declare amnesty after a final peace agreement.

Rebels said they are also open to discussing a longer ceasefire “upon completion of the release of all political prisoners.”


Life behind bars for NDF consultants: Pets,stolen moments, cramped cells

consultants final raymund
FREE AT LAST, albeit temporarily. The first batch of political prisoners released as part of preparations for the resumption of long-stalled peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front.

Alexander and Winona Birondo have spent the last year gazing and waving at each other through a small opening that allows sightings among residents of different detention blocks in Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City.

For seven months after their March 2015 arrest, the couple managed to share soft-diet weekend breakfast meals in Camp Crame. Once they were transferred to Bagong Diwa, however, court hearings were the only opportunities for the couple to see and briefly touch each other.

“Aldub na aldub ang dating namin,” jokes Alexander, following their release as the Philippine government and Asia’s longest running insurgency prepare to resume stalled peace talks.

ALDUBAlexander and Winona Birondo have spent a year waving and gazing each other across rooftops, with court hearings providing their only opportunity for physical closeness. Photo by Obet de Castro

The Birondos are middle-aged. Both suffer from diabetes and have been released on humanitarian grounds.

Hardly the spry, coy youngsters of the country’s most popular television variety show segment.

But Alexander says he identifies with the young lovers’ frustration at obstacles that stand in their way.

“Nasa magkabilang building lang kami, pero bawal kaming magkita,” he said. “Sa rooftop lang kami nagkikita, kaway, kaway.” (We were assigned to adjoining buildings but refused to let us meet. We could see each other only on the rooftop, waving at each other.)

“Ito yung masasabi mong napakalapit pero malayo,” he adds. “Talagang aldub na aldub ang dating.” (We were so near, yet so far. We could have been the stars of Aldub.)

In his excitement to finally see his wife, Alex’s blood pressure shot up. The reading during the mandatory medical examination required for release was 180/90.

“I had to reassure the doctor that it would easily do down,” said Alex , whose affectionate gestures towards wife draw grins from comrades.

Pet — and food taster

alcantaraMid-afternoon of Wednesday, August 17, Christina Palabay holds up a two-page document filled with dense text that detail the 46 criminal raps filed against Tirso Alcantara.

The secretary general of human rights group Karapatan is checking several mobile phone units for blow by blow updates on efforts to secure the 22 political prisoners who are covered by safety and immunity guarantees.

It is the third, nerve-wrecking day for Palabay and an estimated 100 lawyers and para-legal workers tasked with ensuring the releases. The hard work started on August 5, when the Supreme Court ruled that lower courts had jurisdiction on arrest proceedings.

“They actually camped out in the courts,” jokes Alcantara.

The military calls the 62-year-old detainee the deputy of Gregorio “Ka Roger” Rosal, the late chief of the Southern Tagalog Melito Glor Command of the New People’s Army.

Arrested on Feb. 14, 2011, Alcantara was incarcerated in isolation at the Philippine Army’s maximum security area at Fort Bonifacio.

He was eventually transferred to Bagong Diwa. There, he adopted a cat that once reportedly belonged to Rizal Alih, a leader of a rebellious separatist faction.

.”It’s my child,” says Alcantara. “It’s also my food taster,” he quips with black humor.

But the wisecracking Southern Tagalog rebel leader could not have imagined the coincidence that allowed him to reunite Wednesday with a grand-daughter he hadn’t seen in 12 years.

lolo and grandkidThe last time Alcantara saw Nica, she was a rambunctious four-year-old visitor to the guerrilla front.

The revolution, however, separated him from family. His daughter, based in Palawan, spent eight years in jail. Alcantara lost touch with the child.

Nica grew up with an aunt with very little affinity for politics. She doesn’t even know  about the peace talks. But on the wayto school at dawn, Wednesday, she saw a banner with a familiar name.

“She went up to the speaker. She said, ‘lolo ko yan’.”

It was dusk when Nica saw the tall, sturdy figure of her grandfather alight from a the van.

She charged at him, past alarmed security escorts, hurling herself into his arms with the cThere are some 500 political prisoners nationwide. Membership in the Communist Party of the Philippines is no longer outlawed, but most detainees are charged with common crimes.

SALUTACamp Bagong Diwa hosts the most number of political prisoners.

Ruben Saluta says conditions there are not much different from shocking photos of the Quezon City jail.

“Sometimes it gets so hot that my blood pressures goes up to 170/90,” Saluta noted. “We’re mixed with common criminals in areas that are so congested that we take turns sleeping or resting. If one of us stands up to use bathroom, someone will take our place.”



A black hole for a heart: PH hunger games

Hunger that drives people to madness and despair is tragic. Ignoring needs of hungry folk and answering demands for food with a hail of bullets is criminal. Launching a parade of lies to defend the indefensible is obscene. It strips President Benigno Aquino’s government of legitimacy.

The President is missing in the face of crisis, as usual. His spokespersons and alter egos, and local stooges, swerve and lurch from one falsehood to another.

tudla corn darwin
The Agriculture Secretary claims drought isn’t so bad in North Cotabato. This photo by Tudla productions shows Mrgy Malibatuan, Arakan,  hometown of 22-year old Darwin Sulang, killed in the April 1 dispersal of hungry farmers’ Kidapawan City barricade.

Philippine National Police (PNP) Spokesman Wilben Mayor claimed cops didn’t carry guns. Photos show armed cops were there from the start of the protest.

KILAB MARCH 31 Screen Shot
Kilab Multimedia staff took this photo of the police line in the Kidapawan protests on March 31, the day after cops shot at protesters. Their negotiators says the armed cops, contrary to national officials claim, were stationed very near the rallysts from the first day of the protest. 

Then the PNP said armed cops were sent because of the reported presence of rebels. They got a search warrant against the protesters’ church-owned sanctuary, but came out of the United Methodist Church compound with only one sports cap.

Manila officials cringed when the regional head of the Commission on Human Rights came out to say that cops had fired at kneeling and fleeing protesters.

Still image from Kilab video, “Bullets for Rice” (see below)

It didn’t surprise anyone who’d already seen video footage of the dispersal. The (pleasant) surprise was to find that some government officials remain committed to truth-telling.

Watch: Bullets for Rice by Kilab Multimedia

Suddenly, functionaries who had demanded the public wait for a government probe decided CHR Region 12 Director Erlan Deluvio. was not a person of authority.


The government ignored Deluvio and turned right to focus on a new tack:  communists were to blame for “duping” the farmers.

Farmers didn’t know why they were there, said these spokespersons.

mar-roxas-1Who fed them? demanded Malacanang factotums and lapdogs. There would have been no protest if nobody fed and encouraged these poor farmers, they said.

Liberal party standard bearer Mar Roxas has joined the chorus, as if he didn’t see the outpouring of support for the Lumad he and his patron refused to help.

Filipinos responded to the callous spin with an outpouring of rice donations for the farmers.

Donations roll into the United Methodist Church compound after an embarrassed government ordered the lifting of a food blockade. These 400 sacks of rice from the Kilusang Mayo Uno. Photo by Kilab Multimedia

Officials staged more tantrums. The donations were aimed at embarrassing the government, they said.


Cops barred food from reaching protesters. They also tried to bar lawyers, rights workers and kin from access to the wounded, even to the dead.

National Union of People’s Lawyers Edre Olalia said cops kept arrested protesters in a gym way beyond the legally prescribed time — and then, in the absence of a lawyer, made them sign away their rights.

Every right had to be fought for. In the city of Kidapawan, the Philippines has its first display of urban hamletting — mass illegal detention and denial of the most basic needs.

The government even tried to scare off local businesses. Tudla Productions reported on April 5:

Kidapawan City Councilor Lauro Taynan, Jr. recieved a call from a trader that 300 sacks of rice to be donated to farmers were held up in the warehouse for the police refused that the sacks be taken out. The sacks were purchased by Becky Vidanes, Robin Padilla’s manager.

The persistent outcry and appalled statements from multilateral agencies and international groups and most media outfits prompted an about face that finally allowed the flow of aid today.

But not before the most obscene act opened.

The budget secretary, responding to reports that it had slashed P2-billion off requested El Nino mitigating funds, said agencies had been told to source whatever was needed from the budgets for other programs.

It truly needs people living on a different plane of reality would think it is right to cut an urgent request in half, and then stealing funds from allocated programs to cover up.

That’s a shell game, pure and simple, using people’s money – and you wonder what they’re covering up because they’ve been throwing money left and right to their pet legislators and local government officials.

National government started an outpouring of technocratese to numb the debate. But one of the ruling coalition’s most powerful members decided spice things up by suddenly becoming a security spokesman for the government.

alcalaProspero Alcala, President Aquino’s untouchable agriculture secretary – a slew of graft charges, his congressional slush fund ending up in ghost NGOs that used farmers without ever giving them the benefit of taxpayers’ monies – told media:

Things aren’t so bad; the communists only want it to sound bad, because they wanted a big shebang to celebrate the March 29 anniversary of the New People’s Army. The entire protest, says Alcala, was just a show. There wasn’t much hunger. There was, in fact a bumper crop.

That made for a collective puke heard around the country.

And that’s how you know it’s over, when the government starts botching up even the simplest rules of logic.

Government neglect and inefficiency and hubris were responsible for the Kidapawaan tragedy. Everything else that follows is just proof that this is a government without soul and, thus, without legitimacy. #30

READ Nat’l Food Authority workers say govt neglect led to Kidapawan Massacre







Hospitality and compassion — they’re not mutually exclusive values. At least, they shouldn’t be.

This is about the working public of Metro Manila, both those with cars and the millions who take public transportation. In 2014, the National Statistics Office said 4.7 million worked in Metro Manila.

Social media has been full of posts from commuters — those with smart phones — stranded in monstrous traffic jams.

Most of the commuters are people who need to work. Maybe a few have job descriptions that allow them leeway in work hours. Majority, however, will have to suffer deductions for being late. Some, who had to turn back, will lose a whole day’s work.

A friend who lives in Laguna left her home 5 am. By eight, she was nowhere near Manila. Because she rides a bus to work, she had to get down and walk a long, long stretch back south, until she — and thousands others — could get a ride back home.

A commuter assists a woman with a baby in her arms as they decide to turn back because of the monstrous traffic on the coastal highway. Photo by Michelle Estor
A commuter assists a woman with a baby in her arms as they decide to turn back because of the monstrous traffic on the coastal highway. Photo by Michelle Estor

Lawyer Michelle Estor used up 2.5 hours on a 10-km stretch before deciding to turn back. She snapped a photo of this woman with a child, being assisted by a fellow commuter, on the way back to wherever they came from. Estor also shared a video of a long stream of commuters giving up on the day.

On Twitter, she posted:

10kms & 2.5hrs later, I turned back. Picked up 2 seniors & a companion on the highway. You should, too, under similarly safe circumstances.

Many roads looked like scenes from a movie with a huge cast of extras fleeing whatever it is that hounds them.

Commuters walking along the Coastal Rd. Photo courtesy of Ellen Tordesillas.
Commuters walking along the Coastal Rd. Photo courtesy of Ellen Tordesillas.

Journalist Ellen Tordesillas shared this photo and wrote:

I left Las Pinas 7 a.m for the APEC International Media Center in World Trace center. I had planned to go to Midas Hotel on Roxas Blvd, one of the pick up points for shuttle buses to IMC. Before the toll gate, traffic stopped moving.After more than one hour, our bus, like many other vehicles, decided to go back to Las Pinas. Those who wanted to proceed had to walk. At Kabihasnan, we got a little help from tricycles who ferried passengers up to MIA Rd in Baclaran for P10 each.

We made it to Baclaran at past 10 a.m. Instead of Midas Hotel, I went to Red Planet in Aseana, another pick up point of shuttle buses to IMC.

We made it to Baclaran at past 10 a.m. Instead of Midas Hotel, I went to Red Planet in Aseana, another pick up point of shuttle buses to IMC.

Pwedeng pa lang lakarin ang buong haba ng Coastal Rd sa gitna ng mainit na araw. Kung walang APEC, hindi ko malalaman yan. Kaya may pakinabang din ang APEC.

Another thing, alam ko na kung saan ang Red Planet Hotel. Salamat din sa APEC.

People got out of their cars while stranded on the Skyway (where they have to pay more than a hundred pesos for the privilege of hyperventilating).

Stranded commuters on the Skyway get down from their cars. Photos courtesy of Jhon Cabanlong
Stranded commuters on the Skyway get down from their cars. Photos courtesy of Jhon Cabanlong

Chief Supt Wilben Mayor of the Philippine National Police (PNP) apologised for the traffic. Truth is, the PNP can’t really be blamed for it. They’re implementing orders of our top national officials.

He said the info drive on re-routing schemes was “intensive.” But socmed posts say even in those areas, traffic was hell. Denggai Silorio said many people in Makati were walking.

Besides, how  to get to Metro Manila was the most basic problem.

Then Mayor said this: ABS-CBN News Channel  @ANCALERTS

Mayor: We are expecting heavy traffic. This is why we are advising the public to stay in provinces during #APEC2015 week.

On TVPatrol, Jorge Carino showed an Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) official asking people not to go to Makati if they had no important business. Dude, WORK IS IMPORTANT BUSINESS, unless you’re a trust fund baby.

That is exactly the problem. The government only declared the 18th and 19th as holidays. Only classes and public sector work are suspended on the 17th. READ Calendar of APEC holidays.

If Mayor will shoulder the pay for man-hours lost, am sure everyone will take up his offer.

Only the rich can afford to ignore work and the lost income and head for the provinces or abroad. Majority of Filipinos who work in Metro Manila have to work — unless given holidays by the government. No work, no pay. No pay, nothing for the family to eat.

President Benigno Aquino III and his Cabinet should have thought of that.

What is hospitality if you can’t muster compassion for your own?

By midnight, stranded netizens were still at it. Some had left their offices early. By the morrow, an even worse situation faces them as APEC leaders start coming in. More diversions have been announced and vehicles will be forced out of the South Luzon Expressway as it enters the Makati financial district. READ: Why you should avoid EDSA, SLEx Tuesday 

Filipinos have the perfect phrase for that: “Pakitang tao.” Pretend everything is fine while ignoring the mess you’ve covered with that red carpet.

Strong winds dislodged the APEC welcome arch at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. If fell on a police car, but nobody was hurt. APEC welcome arch sa Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) complex dahil umano sa malakas na ihip ng hangin. Natumbahan ang isang police car pero walang naiulat na nasaktan sa insidente. BMPM photo by Bayan Patroller Alfredo Mamaril III
Strong winds dislodged the APEC welcome arch at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. If fell on a police car, but nobody was hurt. APEC welcome arch sa Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) complex dahil umano sa malakas na ihip ng hangin. Natumbahan ang isang police car pero walang naiulat na nasaktan sa insidente. BMPM photo by Bayan Patroller Alfredo Mamaril III

That fallen arch is perhaps the best emblem for how many of us feel. Or maybe this late night video of tired, frustrated motorists venting their anger.

Of course, Mr. Aquino’s biggest fans will chide us about complaining.

Someone actually said, to give thanks because no one’s shooting at us. No wonder, social media has resurrected one of the President’s most famous lines — “Buhay ka naman, di ba?” Charge that lost income to hospitality. #30

Fans & Missing Heroes 2 #Fallen44

Who’s Joe America? Who cares?

President Benigno Aquino, in his last State of the Nation Address (SONA), singled out a blogger named Joe America. The President loves reading praise prose like most people. The pairing of their identities should launch a thousand memes.

Whatever fantasies involved in the blogger’s foxhole remark are best discussed by the gentlemen in private, maybe while they’re zapping enemies of the state.

I’m really more concerned about those the President left out in the cold.

The wake of the #Fallen44 (graphic courtesy of
The wake of the #Fallen44 (graphic courtesy of

He went out of his way for his stylist. He snubbed the #Fallen44.

He heaped praise on Interior Secretary Mar Roxas. He could not muster a shoutout for retired police Deputy Director-General Leonardo Espina, the man who carried with dignity and grace the burdens of a grieving, shaken Philippine National Police (PNP).

Mr. Aquino boasted of “neutralizing” international terrorist Marwan.  He did not give credit to the men who lost their lives taking him down.

Screenshots of stories on abs-cbnnews #Fallen44 special microsite
Screenshots of stories on abs-cbnnews #Fallen44 special microsite

The President could not mention the#Fallen44 because he could not afford mention of Mamasapano. He called for the passage of his legacy, the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). He was silent on what almost killed the BBL.

He could not utter the word, “Mamasapano” though Malacanang continues with the fiction that the President did no wrong in the Jan. 25 tragedy.  That’s because the bloody trail leads all the way back to the Commander in Chief. The President again sacrificed the #Fallen44 to protect his sorry backside.

Graphic from
Graphic from

Mamasapano happened only because Mr. Aquino insisted on retaining a suspended police chief’s powers to call the shots on a high value and very high-risk operation.

Mamasapano happened only because Mr. Aquino refused to abide by legal guidelines on the suspension of officials being probed for wrongdoing. He allowed — gave his blessings – to the creation of a shadow command outside of the official PNP hierarchy.

He and Purisima and Special Actions Chief Getulio Napeñas kept the PNP officer in charge of and all other important state security agencies in the dark.

The #Fallen44 were promised immediate extraction. It was a promise that was never fulfilled. They could not extract beleaguered cops because they had refused to coordinate with units that could have moved the right equipment and troops into place.

Even when the horrifying news trickled in, these three gentlemen tried to contain the information.

Only when things were really desperate – and too far gone for any lucid solution – did the three men go to those they had left in the dark. Then they demanded others solve the problem for them.

Mr. Aquino could not abide remembrance of the #Fallen44 because it would remind Filipinos that he lied to them on Mamasapano.
READ: Avalanche of Lies Swamp Aquino

Graphic from
Graphic from

Mr. Aquino claimed Purisima was consulted only until the Ombudsman issued the order of suspension. That was a lie.

Mr. Aquino claimed only Napenas was in charge. That was a lie.

Purisima was the only one he deigned to speak to even when reports of a debacle were becoming clear. (He didn’t even bother to say “noted” when Interior Secretary Mar Roxas informed him of text messages.)

The Commander-in-Chief ignored Mamasapano because it would remind military officials that they were left to flounder as politicians shot them down, blaming them for sticking to a policy handed down – and then broken – by the President of the Republic. READ Mamasapano tragedy: AFP officials can’t usurp top-level policy

Mr. Aquino hails Joe America. He was silent on Mamasapano because it would remind Filipinos that Americans were in charge of that tragedy – even to the extent of trying to command Army officers.

He was silent on Mamasapano because it would dredge up memories of how the Americans cared only for their target and didn’t give a fig for the repercussions on the peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

READ: US role in Mamasapano highlights conflicting interests in peace process

Mr. Aquino emphasized his humility during the SONA, saying he doesn’t have to do ribbon cuttings or grace openings of projects. He could not mention Mamasapano – or the #Fallen44 – because he was laughing with Japanese executives at a car plant opening while the slain heroes were being welcomed home by grieving families and peers.

Mr. Aquino could not afford to mention Mamasapano and the #Fallen44 because these betrayed the shallowness of his claim to the straight path.

Alan Purisima wasn’t just dogged by petty charges; he was being investigated for major corruption. Mr. Aquino didn’t care.

The President who touted his righteousness during his last SONA could not even mention the Ombudsman’s dismissal of Purisima as an achievement of his administration.

And that is why on the first day of the rest of this President’s life, the #Fallen44 were once more betrayed.

The pus bubbles over; avalanche of lies swamp Aquino

Malacanang can rage till kingdom come. Sen. Antonio Trillanes can bluster till his skin turns blue and his puppy jowls fall off. And Justice Secretary Leila de Lima can spend hours justifying why the Philippine National Police (PNP) has been orphaned by its Commander in Chief.

Graphic courtesy of Manila Today
Graphic courtesy of Manila Today

The bosses aren’t biting.

For probably the first time in the teflon presidency of Benigno Simeon Aquino III, the bosses are cracking the whip, telling the self-righteous little emperor that he truly has no clothes.

And it’s a sordid sight.

“Tama na, sobra na.”

Who could have imagined this proud son of icons being hoisted by his yellow ribbon, now splattered with the blood of those who fell in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on January 25.

Pulse Asia has released results of an approval and trust survey conducted from March 1 to 7. Results show the President’s approval rating dropping from 59% in November 2014 to only 38% in March 2015, a drop of 21 percentage points — the lowest for Mr. Aquino since he assumed power in 2010.

The report comes just days after Mr. Aquino claimed more Filipinos believe the country is worth dying in his speech at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) graduation rites.

The survey was taken before Mr. Aquino’s surreal, mad-hatter performance before a tame, handpicked audience from a religious sect.

Sen. Grace Poe during the Senate investigation into the Jan 25 Mamasapano operation
Sen. Grace Poe during the Senate investigation into the Jan 25 Mamasapano operation

Since then, the Philippine National Police Board of Inquiry report into the Mamasapano carnage has come out.

Just today, Sen. Grace Poe released a damning report on a probe convened by the Senate commitees on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, Peace, Unification and Reconciliation, and Finance.

The report states that the President knowingly allowed a suspended police chief to continue exercising official functions. It refutes government claims that Americans had no direct involvement in the Mamasapano operation.

americansThe Poe report goes beyond the BOI acknowledgement of the presence of six Americans in Napenas’ command post. It bares details from executive proceedings, including an exchange that had an American ordering the head of the reinforcing military division to rain artillery fire on hostile forces.

Worse, it strongly hints that Mr. Aquino’s over reliance on Purisima even as the Mamasapano tragedy unfolded, may have hampered the search for a solution to save cornered the cornered SAF.

While Filipinos, especially those serving in military and the police, may believe the country is worth dying for, they may be wondering if Mr. Aquino is a commander in chief worth fighting for. The reference to the line made famous by his murdered father, Ninoy Aquino, was unfortunate — uttered by a man who has refused to accept any blame for the deaths of 44 elite. US-trained cops in Mamasapano.

The problem is, Mr. Aquino conflates “country” with himself. That autocratic streak and sense of entitlement that upends everything “People Power” stands for, are at the root of his current woes.

The President campaigned in the 2010 elections, pledging to be the opposite of his predecessor and waving the banner of “tuwid na daan” (straight path).

Mr. Aquino has led the charge against corrupt allies of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who is under hospital arrest as she awaits the outcome of plunder raps. Yet the incumbent Chief Executive and Commander in Chief has shown a persistent refusal to hold friends to the same standards of integrity he demands of the nation.

The latest example is suspended national police chief Alan Purisima, who was allowed to lead a vital, sensitive and highly dangerous mission: capturing the terror suspect Zulkifli Bin Hir, alias Abu Marwan, and his Filipino ally, Basit Usman.

Chain of Command

President Benigno Aquino III and suspended (and now resigned) national police chief Alan Purisima go a long way back.
President Benigno Aquino III and suspended (and now resigned) national police chief Alan Purisima go a long way back.

The BOI pointed out that Mr. Aquino, as Commander in Chief, bypassed the PNP chain of command by entrusting the suspended Purisima with the Mamasapano operation.

The report, of course, also found Purisima and Special Action Forces Director Getulio Napenas guilty of the same. Purisima also usurped authority that was not his to wield.

The BOI rejected de Lima’s claim that the PNP, a civilian organization, does not have a commander in chief and that the break stopped with Purisima and Napenas.

The Justice Secretary reiterated her position following the release of the BOI report. Mr. Aquino’s spokespersons echoed that line. Even the Interior Secretary, who supervises the PNP and publicly mourned for the 44 fallen SAF, said Mr. Aquino holds no blame for the debacle.

The PNP probers have refused to blink and are standing by their report.

The BOI head, CIDG Director Benjamin Magalong said they ignored Mr. Aquino’s speech before his religious friends. This was where he gave a convoluted narrative of his supposed effort to warn Napenas against potential disaster.

The BOI report actually highlighted the President’s conflicting statements as the Mamasapano probe underwent various twists and turns. The Palace’s no-commander-in-chief defense has also been squashed by former president Fidel V. Ramos and former PNP chief and senator, Panfilo Lacson. The latter pointed out that the Constitution clearly states that the President of the Republic is Commander in Chief of its armed forces, to include the PNP.

NO BLAME. Graphic courtesy of Pixel Offensive
NO BLAME. Graphic courtesy of Pixel Offensive

Commander in Chief at his own whim

Mr. Aquino himself caused the greatest damage to the official Malacanang spin. In at least two speeches, he referred to himself as Commander in Chief of the police. The first was during the 2014 graduation rites of the Philippine National Police Academy, where he vowed to come down heavy on corrupt, abusive cops.

The second, more recent one, was his televised address to the nation last February 6. 

“Hindi po madali ang landas tungo sa kapayapaan. Marami nang Pilipino ang nagbuwis ng buhay para labanan ang mga nais magpatuloy ang dahas at hidwaan. Ang pinakaayaw magkaroon ng digmaan ay ang mga pulis at sundalo, dahil sila ang una at pinakamalaki ang sakripisyo kapag nagkagulo. At bilang Pangulo at Commander-in-Chief, pasan ko naman po ang responsibilidad para sa anumang resulta, sa anumang tagumpay, pasakit, o trahedya, na maaari nating matamasa sa paghahangad ng pangmatagalang seguridad at kapayapaan.” **ialics/bold by author

The President’s speech was all about Mamasapano, which was purely a SAF (police) operation since Purisima and Napena failed to coordinate with the military – or only did so with a curious interpretation of “time-on-target” as to mean after the fact.

Mr. Aquino added:

“Ako ang Ama ng Bayan, at 44 sa aking mga anak ang nasawi. Hindi na sila maibabalik; nangyari ang trahedya sa ilalim ng aking panunungkulan; dadalhin ko po hanggang sa huling mga araw ko ang pangyayaring ito. Responsibilidad ko po sila, kasama ang buong puwersa ng SAF sa operasyong ito, pati na ang mga nagligtas sa kanila na nalagay din sa panganib ang buhay.”

This was the speech where he reluctantly, even angrily, accepted the resignation of Purisima as PNP chief, lauding the latter’s history of personal loyalty, including restoring his confidence — via an improved VIP protection program — after an ambush that led to the deaths of three of his aides during the 1987 coup attempt

Mr. Aquino was forced to accept Purisima’s resignation after Napenas exposed Purisima’s order to withhold information from PNP Officer in Charge Leonardo Espina and Interior Secretary Mar Roxas. The President had earlier claimed  that Purisima had merely offered advice on the nuances and intricate points of the admittedly high-value operation.

Damning Report

President Benigno Simeon Aquino tells a gathering of "Christian leaders" that he was fooled by Special Action Forces (SAF) Director Leo Napenas. Photo by ANCAlerts
President Benigno Simeon Aquino tells a gathering of “Christian leaders” that he was fooled by Special Action Forces (SAF) Director Leo Napenas. Photo by ANCAlerts

Even as Mr. Aquino’s aids struggled to undo the damage done by the BOI report,  Poe released her draft report on the chamber’s Mamasapano probe.

“The President must bear responsibility for giving assent to and failing to prevent the unlawful exercise of official functions by PDG Purisima in connection with Oplan Exodus. “

The report cited  a text exchange between Purisima and Mr. Aquino a day before the Jan 9 meeting with Napenas and PNP Intelligence Group Director Fernando Mendez. It shows Purisima arranging for the briefing on Oplan Exodus.

The suspended cop chief then escorted the two police officers to the Jan. 9 meeting, made them wait after the briefing while he had a private chat with Mr. Aquino, and then ordered Napenas to keep the operation from Espina and IRoxas.

“… even before 8 January 2015, Purisima was already “barred from performing the functions” of the Office of the Chief of the PNP. Yet, he personally took charge over the presentation of the updated plan to get Marwan and Usman before the President and accordingly made himself present when Napeñas gave the briefing and mission update on Oplan Exodus to the President at the 9 January 2015 meeting held at the Bahay Pangarap in Malacañang. Being on preventive suspension, Purisima should not have been at this meeting, where a highly classified police operation was being discussed. The President should have excluded Purisima from this meeting. “

Much speculation swirls around the President’s trip to Zamboanga on the day of the tragedy. His cops were dying as he did the rounds of hospitals to convey sympathies for victims of a bomb blast. Reporters waited for hours for a mysterious briefing that never happened. And then he went back to Manila the same night, without any acknowledgement of Mamasapano.

Both the BOI and the Poe reports note that Mr. Aquino — known as a lover of all things that go bang — was involved in tactical details and giving orders like a commander. The Senate report notes that he “gave instructions to PDG Purisima as to the conduct of Oplan Exodus on 25 January 2015, as when the President sent PDG Purisima a text message reading, “Basit should not get away.”

Lid off the kettle of lies. Graphic courtesy of Manila Today
Lid off the kettle of lies. Graphic courtesy of Manila Today

The families of the slain SAF and the surviving members of the assault Seaborne unit have stressed that in their search for justice, they want answers on why no rescue happened till it was too late.

While the Poe report raises the possibility that the military could have done more, it lays the blame squarely on Mr. Aquino.

“Until late in the afternoon of 25 January 2015, it was Purisima who was providing the President with updates on the progress of the operation. While the President was in Zamboanga City for most of 25 January 2015 with the Secretaries of Defense and of Interior and Local Governments, as well as the Chief of Staff of the AFP and the OIC of the Philippine National Police, the President communicated only with Purisima about the operation.”

All of the President’s officers in Zamboanga say he did not consult them. Neither did these officials assert themselves. The report posits that had information been shared during those crucial hours, rescue could have been hastened and lives saved.

As the Commander-in-Chief of all armed forces of the Philippines, the President exercises supreme operational command of the nation’s military forces. The President also controls all the executive departments, bureaus, and offices. He wields the awesome powers of government, and has its vast resources at his disposal. The President’s decision not to use these resources at that instance, must be explained by him. The President is ultimately responsible for the outcome of the mission.

Moro Islamic Liberation Front chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal. Photo by
Moro Islamic Liberation Front chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal. Photo by

The President has described critics as war-mongers and presented himself as the nation’s chief peace maker. The Senate report lauds his efforts to salvage the Bangsamoro Law needed to complete the peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Yet it calls to question the worthiness of the MILF as peace partners and minces no words about the massacre, the deliberate finishing off of wounded and helpless SAF.

The latter is an issue quite apart of Mr. Aquino’s failure, as chief architect of the current peace process, to factor in existing ceasefire mechanisms and agreements between his government and the MILF. The BOI emphasises this point. As a result, military officials — who are sworn to follow protocols imposed on them — were made the fall guys in the failure to rescue the SAF.

Command responsibility. The coddling of a friend facing grave charges of corruption. The wilful refusal to consult other security officials even during a crisis. The green lighting of an operation where the Americans played such a key role that they dared order military rescuers.

As the nation grieved for the fallen cops, the fallen rebels, the slain civilians, Mr. Aquino and his aides tried their best to keep the lid on these ugly truths.

The pus has bubbled over, spreading an ugly yellow stain on hopes for peace in Mindanao. The avalanche of poison from festering wounds threaten to swamp Mr. Aquino. And he has only himself to blame.

NICK BARTOLOME, in his own words

This is NOT my interview. This is a transcript of a press briefing by Philippine National Police DIR. GEN. NICANOR BARTOLOME on Nov. 7, 2012.

PNP Chief Nicanor Bartolome. Pix courtesy of @ANCAlerts

There are many factors that make people squeamish about Malacanang’s move to remove the chief PNP — by assigning him from non-duty status, which effectively strips him of all powers of the position.

The big push started when the President Benigno Aquino III was in Russia for the APEC summit, amplified by aides here (though typically, half of them didn’t seem to be aware of the issue), brought up again during PNOY’s recent Laos trip.

The official line is, that the President wants someone in place early so he/she — thought it most certainly will be a he — doesn’t scramble at the height of the election campaign season, when Bart (as he is called by cops and reporters) retires.

Fair enough. We all want clean and honest elections, and to a large extent that will depend on the performance of the PNP.

But people are pointing out: Surely, PNOY knew of Bart’s retirement schedule when he appointed the man?

More important, people are concerned about the President’s penchant for informing media (and his bosses) first about crucial decisions, without first discussing the issues with concerned officials. Which has made for tragicomedy at the PDEA, where both deputy and, eventually, the chief, learned they’d been fired from breaking news. What’s wrong with a phone call, if you can’t be bothered to slot in a meeting or two?

The decisions are legitimate, legal, within his powers. The process — again, the process — leaves you wondering about the President’s increasing tendency to be imperious. I thought that went out of style with his predecessor. Sigh.

I’m sharing the transcript of Bart’s interview to give free rein to his voice. In a nutshell he says:

  • Yes, he got the news from elsewhere;
  • He understands where the President is coming from;
  • He had reminded the President earlier that his retirement comes in March.

People expecting the theatrics of the PDEA officials will be disappointed. Bart is genial. He is almost always cool and calm — admittedly, too much so, according to critics. Best we get if from him directly. I enjoyed the gentle, subtle commentaries 🙂

(I’d like to thank Anthony Vargas. I’ve done very little editing… just to write words in whole, etc.) Bart’s answer in boldface.

On Noy saying you will be non-duty

I have been very consistent with my answers to queries; that is, I serve at the pleasure of the President. Ang aming serbisyo ay depende sa pangangailangan and latest ‘;m hearing is, that the President might ask me to consider an early retirement or non duty status. So I am open to the idea. I’m open to it. Whatever the President desires I will follow

Have you talked to Noy?

Wala pa kararating nya kahapon reason why im not here yesterday I was in Mindanao working — met with highway patrol group brought with me Gen Subong, head of HPG in Davao and discussed with regional officers of HPG the situation in Mindanao as far as car-napping is concerned

Open to DILG Usec?

Wala yun sa condition for me to either retire early or go on non duty status. Kasi there is I think a shortlist now. Sabi nya may shortlist now. Baka siguro wala ako sa shortlist. Sabi ata nya mga retired and private. Di ako kasama dun. (**Note: PNOY promised the new DILG Secretary Mar Roxas that he could have a freehand in staffing the department.)

Are you demoralized?

Di naman. I work for pleasure of the Prez. I work as member of team of the Command in Chief. Siya leader being commander in chief. Ang isang team member should be flexible.

Service ko di nag umpisa kahapon. I’ve been in service since 1981. Yung few months naman kung kailangan for the entire institution e di naman siguro makakasagabal. (If the entire institution needs those few months, maybe it shouldn’t be a problem.)

Noy did not talk to you again?

Di na uli until yung Laos na natanong. Mag-uusap siguro kami

Did you talk after he said it in Russia?

Just nung dumating sya from Russia. Sabi ko, Sir, marso pa. Sabi nya, Marso? Parang siniguro nyang tama. Narinig nya siguro

.Would you prefer non duty or retirement?

Discuss pa naming ni Presidente. Sabi ni Presidente he will discuss it with me. Basta mahalaga ay kung kailangan ito bakit di ko gagawin, e member lang ako ng team. I am with the team of commander in chief

Successor in mind?

After mag usap kami. Wala kami masasabi


Hintay ako kailan mapapatawag

First time this happened to PNP chief?

Hindi, marami na non duty status is just procedure where kung saan ang official din a nagpeperform ng duty nya dahil naghihintay na lang ng retirement. Si Gen Cacdac nag NDS muna kasi ang kanyang retirement 1 buwan pa —  kundi 3 weeks one month he went on NDS . His retirement orders effective sa kanyang bday Oct 11 but he did not attend normal office work na because nag NDS ata.

Non duty status hindi naman sinasabi floating. Floating is a different term, meaning tinanggal ka dahil meron ka kinasasangkutan investigation. Ang non duty status, hindi. The non duty statsu ginagawa ng opisyal para mag prepare sa kanyang retirement at least meron one month to prepare
his documents.  Hindi naman ito bago may ganyan nang gumawa. General Castaneda went in NDS

For PNP chief?

Si Gen Bacalzo nga when I replaced him, di pa nya bday yun. He left his office Sept 9 when I assumed as chief but retirement order effective
siguro mga 1 week pa

Yours too long?

Marami reason at intervening event na dapat i-consider. I look at it positively. I should not be the worry of the commander in chief . I should not be the problem

Reports say you did not heed his request to DILG?

Baka di tama un. Sabi nya naman I might, even now I might. But ang mahalaga I’m ready. I should not be a problem. I should be part of the solution

Due to Election ban?

Kung wala naman siguro election baka di naman siguro ako magiging kasama sa NDS. Nagkataon may election

Will it matter if you leave pnp months before retirement?

May pangangailangan. Kasi una sa pagpaplano pwede I consider yun at ung maaaring epekto ng sunod-sunod na pag akyat sa pwesto maari pag alis
ako mag aakyatan yan yung isa maari mag move at baka may mag NDS din na director. Di natin alam. Di natin alam

Discussed this with family?

Matagal na natin na-discuss ito. Tinitignan nila, kailan ka ba magreretire? Yan lagi pinag uusapan sa mga pamilya ng nasa service — kailangan ka magreretire, kailan ka papasyal as family ng matagal na hindi nagmamadali — minsan hours lang.

I should not be a problem kung meron. Hypothetical sabi ko, mas gugustohin ko na lang na di ako kasama sa worry nila