“I vow to continue my advocacies, defend human rights and promote a just and lasting peace. I will still work for the national and social liberation of the Filipino people.” – Randy Malayao, recently-released NDFP consultant
By RAYMUND B. VILLANUEVA
MANILA — Randy Malayao, political prisoner and consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in the peace process with the Government of the Philippines (GPH), was released on bail by the Ilagan (Isabela) Regional Trial Court Branch 17 last Thursday at two o’clock in the afternoon.
Malayao walked free after posting a P100,000 ($2,380) bail for a unified direct assault with multiple murder and attempted murder charge against him stemming from a New People’s Army ambush that killed three government soldiers and wounded four others in San Mariano, Isabela in 2005.
Welcomed by family and friends after his release, Malayao admitted to feeling chills down his spine after realizing he is a free man once again. “It felt like I was doused with cold water,” he said in Filipino.
He also admitted to feeling sad about leaving fellow inmates who have come to depend on him so much for maintaining good relations among each other and for his free legal, medical, literacy and sports clinics inside the Ilagan District Jail.
“When I bade them goodbye, they all cried,” Malayao added.
Malayao was unanimously elected prison governor by inmates in the Ilagan district jail, as well as the Tuguegarao district jail where he was first incarcerated in 2008.
‘Disrespectful of signed agreements’
Without missing a beat, however, Malayao slammed the Aquino government for not respecting the signed agreements that should have paved the way for his release in February 2010.
In an interview with Bombo Radyo-Cauayan City, Malayao said “This government does not respect the agreements it signed.”
In a signed Joint Statement in Oslo, Norway, both the GPH and NDFP agreed to release most, if not all, NDFP peace consultants as a confidence-building measure and in compliance with the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees.
In a statement released in May 18, 2008—three days after Malayao was reported abducted by the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) in Cainta, Rizal—the NDFP acknowledged Malayao as one of its consultants to the peace process.
As such, he was supposed to be protected by the GPH-NDFP Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) making him immune from arrest and detention.
His name was also submitted by the NDFP to the GPH in February 2010 in Oslo, Norway as due for release under the Joint Statement and the JASIG.
GPH’s refusal to acknowledge the NDFP list without further verification led to the collapse of the talks between the two parties. The NDFP said that its decryption software was damaged when the Dutch police raided its international office in Utrecht, The Netherlands in 2007 and confiscated its files. The NDFP said the raid was at the behest of the United States government and with the complicity of the Philippine government.
The NDFP has since offered to reconstitute its list of JASIG-protected persons but the GPH said it refuses to acknowledge any other list but the original under the safekeeping of a Bishop in Switzerland.
Forcible abduction, torture
The ISAFP abducted Malayao on May 15, 2008 in Cainta, Rizal after he alighted from a commuter bus. He suffered many forms of physical and psychological torture for five days and four nights.
He suspected that he was taken to both Fort Bonifacio, the Philippine Army’s national headquarters, and Camp Crame, the Philippine National Police’s national headquarters, before he was transferred to Camp Melchor Adduru, headquarters of the 5th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army, in Gamu, Isabela.
Malayao was then taken to the Tuguegarao district jail in Cagayan Province and charged with the murder of notorious human rights violator and former Cagayan congressman and governor Rodolfo Aguinaldo.
In July 2008, the AFP petitioned the court to have Malayao transferred to Camp Crame and his trial be conducted in Metro Manila under Supreme Court Circular 68-2005.
Malayao opposed the motion, saying it was another “attempt to curtail (his) civil and socio-political rights as (it) is de facto Military Custodianship.”
“I rigorously oppose(d) this transfer as this would be a convenient excuse for them to employ possible physical and mental harm…uncontrolled tactical interrogation and confinement in harsh stockade conditions the way they did during my detention in a military camp,” Malayao wrote at the time.
In June 25, 2010 Randy was found innocent of the Aguinaldo murder charge by the Tuguegarao Regional Trial Branch 5.
Upon acquittal, Malayao berated the military and the prosecutors for being charged with Aguinaldo’s killing.
“There was no direct, sufficient, or prima facie evidence to link me to the killings,” he said.
“The prosecution tried to paint me as the prosecutor, judge and executioner of Aguinaldo, to no avail. The statements given by their ‘star’ witnesses are bereft of logic, uncorroborated, utterly contradictory, concocted and pure illusory,” Malayao added.
On July 22, he was hurriedly transferred to the Ilagan district jail to face the current charges against him.
Despite his temporary liberty, however, Malayao’s current court trial would proceed. His lawyers decided against submitting a demurer, saying it might jeopardize his chances of being cleared of the murder and attempted murder charges against him. The prosecution has rested and Malayao’s lawyers are set to present character witnesses in his defense this month.
As expected, the NDFP was enthusiastic about Malayao’s release.
“The NDFP Negotiating Panel and, for sure, the revolutionary forces represented by the NDFP warmly congratulate Ka (Comrade) Randy Malayao, his family, his lawyers and friends for their persistent efforts to secure his release,” NDFP negotiating panel chairman Luis Jalandoni said.
“Ka Randy and those who helped him, including former Justice Secretary and chairperson of the GRP Negotiating Panel Silvestre H. Bello III, have achieved an important victory,” Jalandoni added.
NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison, for his part, said he is very pleased with the development.
“I am very happy about the release of Randy Malayao. I share the happiness of his family and friends,” Sison said.
Human rights group Karapatan likewise expressed elation over Malayao’s temporary liberty.
“It is with joy that we welcome the release of political prisoner Randy Malayao, even though his release from prison is due to the granting of the bail petition filed by his lawyer,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.
“His family and friends, like the Filipino people, are surely excited in welcoming Randy’s release from prison,” she added.
Karapatan, along with Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detention at Aresto (Selda), and the Ecumenical Movement for Justice and Peace accompanied Malayao’s family and friends in looking for him after he was abducted in 2008.
They also campaigned for his release as a political prisoner under the Gloria M. Arroyo and Benigno C. Aquino III governments.
Delayed release from prison
Jalandoni, Sison and Karapatan however slammed what they described as delays in Malayao’s release from jail.
“The refusal of the current Aquino regime and its negotiating panel to recognize and implement his release and that of other NDFP Consultants in accordance with the Joint Statement of 21 February 2011 is condemnable,” Jalandoni said.
“It shows the lack of political will of the Aquino regime to resume the GRP/GPH-NDFP peace negotiations and to respect and comply with the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) and other binding bilateral agreements,” he added.
“It is a shame that the OPAPP [Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process] and the current GPH negotiating panel did not cause his release under JASIG, despite the earnest efforts of the NDFP negotiating for his release and despite endorsement of former GRP negotiating panel chairman (Silvestre) Bebot Bello,” Sison said.
“Randy has unnecessarily stayed long in prison on trumped up charges and with the disrespect of the Arroyo and Aquino regimes for the JASIG,” he added.
“The trumped up charges of murder and attempted murder clearly do not stand against Malayao, as all other fabricated charges stand against all political prisoners in the country who have suffered illegal arrests, torture and long years of incarceration because of baseless charges,” Karapatan’s Palabay, for her part, said.
“We decry the continuing violations of the Aquino government in promoting and prolonging the injustice committed against the 384 political prisoners. The government likewise continues to violate all agreements forged in the past years during the peace negotiations between the GPH and the NDFP, and, up to this day, Malayao is witness to such violations,” she added.
Bowing to judicial authority
Asked for comment, GPH negotiating panel chair Alexander Padilla said they could do nothing about Malayao’s release.
“It was the decision of the judicial authority and we respect its decision,” Padilla said.
Padilla however refused to acknowledge Malayao as a NDFP consultant to the peace process.
“I do not know if he is one of the consultants; he is one of those listed (by the NDFP),” he said.
“We are not handling the day-to-day cases. If there had been a problem [regarding Malayao’s release], the DOJ [Department of Justice] would do something about it,” Padilla added.
Padilla also said that Malayao’s release would have no effect on the status of the peace negotiations between the GPH and the NDFP.
Padilla’s comments drew more criticisms from NDFP’s Jalandoni.
“Alex Padilla shows no concern for the rights of Randy Malayao as a NDFP Consultant covered by the protection of JASIG,” Jalandoni said.
“His answer that they (Alex Padilla, et. al.) respect the judicial authority is not true in the case of NDFP Consultant Tirso “Ka Bart” Alcantara. The Gumaca (Quezon) Court already ordered, in May and July, Tirso Alcantara’s transfer to a civilian facility. But the Intelligence and Security Group (ISG) of the Philippine Army in Fort Bonifacio has been defying that court order,” he added.
Jalandoni, Sison and Karapatan said Malayao’s freedom augurs well for the attainment of peace for the people.
“He (Malayao), as a highly valued NDFP consultant, can play an important role in helping the NDFP Negotiating Panel in matters related to the peace negotiations and other important NDFP matters,” Jalandoni said.
“Now, Randy can fully perform his functions as NDFP consultant in the peace negotiations,” Sison said.
“Our warm embrace for Randy as we know that he will continue in his work in promoting lasting peace and justice in the country,” Palabay added.
Malayao, for his part, said he would not cease from performing his duties as a peace advocate.