NPA Turns Over Hostages to Baste Duterte, Bong Go in Agusan Del Sur

AGUSAN DEL SUR – On Tuesday, Presidential son Baste Duterte and former Special Assistant to the President (SAP) Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go received eight hostages freed by the communist rebel group, New People’s Army (NPA).

The eight released hostages were among the 12 members of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) and two soldiers the NPA abducted on December 2019 in Barangay New Tubigon, Sibagat, Agusan Del Sur.

“Yung mga hindi pa pinapalaya, ire-release sa amin. Kasama ko si Baste Duterte, pupunta kami doon,” said Go, in an ambush interview before proceeding to the turnover site at Barangay San Juan, Bayugan, Agusan Del Sur.

This past February 14, six of the abducted CAFGUs were released by the NPA through a third-party facilitator and were turned over to the Army’s 401st Brigade, Fourth Infantry Division.

Among the last batch of hostages freed were Private First Class Darlino Carino Jr. and Cpl. Eric Manangan of the Army’s 3rd Special Forces as well as CAFGUs Jimuel Acebedo, Abel Iligan, Rolando Quiao, James Iligan, Gabriel Iligan, and Janjan Iligan.

Baste and Go thereafter accompanied the released NPA captives for their formal turnover to the 402nd Brigade of the Philippine Army based in Bancasi, Butuan City, where the first batch of hostages released by the NPA less than a week ago were waiting for them.

Go revealed that he has been part of the ongoing effort since December of last year to secure the release the remaining NPA hostages. He said that a friend of Baste, who is a relative of one of the hostages, sought help to free the captives.

“Noong nakaraang taon, mayroong kaibigan si Baste na kamag-anak ng sundalong nanawagan sa akin para manghingi ng tulong. Matapos niyang manawagan sa akin, naghanap kaagad kami ng paraan para makatulong,” recalled Go, who took time off from his 2019 senatorial campaign for the turnover of the NPA hostages.

“(Ako naman), nagpunta ako dito para personal na magpasalamat sa inyong lahat na tumulong. Kakilala ko (kasi) eh,” Baste said for his part.

Acting in his private capacity, Go said that immediately after receiving the plea for assistance, he coordinated with Governor Adolph Edward Plaza and other local officials who may be able to help facilitate the release of the NPA captives.

Go reiterated that the release of the NPA hostages just proved that dialogue is a potent tool in resolving differences.

“Ito ang lagi kong sinasabi: mag-usap na lang tayo. Sino ba naman ang Pilipino na gustong magkaroon ng giyera at makipagpatayan sa kapwa Pilipino? Si Presidente Duterte at maging ako ay nasasaktan kapag may sundalo o pulis na namamatay, maging mga rebelde,” Go stressed.

The former SAP thanked the military officials for their cooperation and exercise of restraint that made the negotiations for the release of the hostages possible.

He lauded the NPA for not demanding anything in exchange for the release of their hostages. He added that the gesture of goodwill performed by the NPA group in the area may have made the renewal of peace talks between the government and the communist group a possibility once more.

“Goodwill lang nila itong nangyari ngayong araw. Alam mo naman, siguro gusto na nila muling makipag-usap kay Presidente (Rodrigo Duterte) at sa gobyerno. Bukas naman talaga si Presidente sa peace talks,” Go clarified.

“Isa na ako ngayong private citizen at kandidato, pero alam ko kung ano ang nasa puso ni Pangulong Duterte. Ayaw niyang magkaroon ng giyera sa pagitan ng kapwa Pilipino,” he added.

Baste Duterte also noted that armed violence between the Armed Forces and the NPA is pointless when peace talks can be a non-violent yet viable alternative.

“Para sa akin, walang saysay ang away; pwede namang mag-usap. Basically, ganoon lang kasimple: (kung) pwede naman tayong mag-usap, eh mag-usap na lang tayo kaysa mag-away tayo,” Baste said.

Go had been consistently appealing to the NPA to take advantage of President Rodrigo Duterte’s offer of peace, saying the group would not likely find another President who would be open to negotiate peace with them like the former Davao City Mayor.

According to Go, he and Baste will relay to President Duterte the concerns aired by the NPA.

“Ipaparating daw niya (Baste) sa kanyang tatay yung mga hinaing nila (NPA). At ako naman, kung ano ‘yung narinig ko doon ay ipaparating ko rin sa ating mahal na Pangulo. Hayaan na lang natin ang gobyerno at si Pangulong Duterte kung ano ang magiging desisyon nila, kung magkakaroon ng resumption ng talks,” Go said.

“Sayang ang buhay; sayang ang buhay ng tao (kung mauuwi lang ang lahat sa patayan),” Baste reiterated.

As part of his senatorial bid, Go has prepared a legislative agenda that includes localized peace talks, as he noted that the roots of the communist insurgency in the Philippines are oftentimes anchored on the unique situations in different areas of the country.

“Ako naman po ay pabor sa localized peace talks dahil alam ng gobernador, mayor, at mga opisyales kung ano ang kultura dito sa inyong lugar at kung ano ang makakabuti para sa mga rebelde at sa mga tao dito,” Go explained.

In July 2018, Go had also successfully facilitated the release of Deputy Chief of Police of President Roxas, North Cotabato, Inspector Menardo Cui Sr, who was earlier abducted by the NPA.

Apart from localized peace talks, Go’s legislative agenda includes programs for improved health services, agriculture, anti-illegal drugs and criminality, housing, education, fire protection and prevention, anti-corruption, long-term sports development, creation of a Department of OFW, barangay welfare, and improved benefits for senior citizens.

POWs set to be released today

Several prisoners-of-war of the New People’s Army rebels are set to be released today, February 19, in the hinterlands of Agusan del Sur.

Set to accept the POWs composed of Army personnel and paramilitary personnel are presidential son Sebastian Duterte and former Special Assistant to the President Christopher “Bong” Go.

The POWs will be released anytime today in Barangay San Juan, Bayugan town.

Bong Go sustains strong survey surge; lands in the middle of the Magic 12

Former Special Assistant to the President and 2019 senatorial candidate has sustained his strong showing in the senatorial race at the onset of the formal campaign period, landing middle of the “Magic 12,” with a ranking of 6 -12 in the January 26-31, 2019 Pulse Asia survey.

In the December 14-21, 2018 Pulse Asia survey, Go managed to land in the 14th – 16th place with a voting preference of 29.7%. This rating jumped to 44.7% in the latest survey, making it the biggest increase among candidates.

The recent Pulse Asia survey virtually mirrors the January 23-26, 2019 Social Weather Station (SWS) survey where Go barged his way into the middle of the winning circle with a ranking of 5th to 6th place, compared to his 15th to 16th place showing in the December survey.

“Muli po, maraming salamat sa aking mga supporters na naniniwala sa aking kakayahan at katapatan sa aking hangarin na mag-serbisyo sa Pilipino. Nakakataba po ng puso ang inyong pagtitiwala,” Go said.

Go also thanked President Rodrigo Duterte who had vouched for his integrity during the ruling party PDP-Laban’s proclamation and kickoff rally in Bulacan on Thursday.

“Honest ito. Serbisyo lang talaga ang gusto, kasi gusto magtrabaho,” President Duterte said, referring to the former SAP and his dedication to serve the people.

“Malaking bagay po ang pagtitiwala sa atin ni Pangulong Duterte,” said Go as he noted that majority of the Filipino people continue to trust the President.

“Dahil sa kanilang paniniwala na tama at maganda ang pamamalakad ng gobyernong ito, kusa nilang sinisikap suportahan ang Pangulo at ang mga sinusuportahan ng Pangulo para ipagpatuloy ang tunay na pagbabago na nangyayari ngayon.”

Go said the survey results inspire him to work even harder to present his advocacy to serve the Filipino people.

“Dagdag na inspirasyon po ito para lalo akong magsumikap na maipaabot sa ating mga kababayan ang ating plano na ituloy ang serbisyong tatak-Duterte para sa tuloy-tuloy na pagbabago,” he added.

At the same time, Go reiterated his earlier call for his supporters to follow the election rules and promote fair and honest elections.

“I’m begging you, sumunod po tayo sa mga patakaran ng Comelec. I’m begging you po, huwag na po kayo maglagay ng tarpauline para wala na pong masabing masama ang taumbayan sa akin. Ako na po ang nakikiusap,” Go had said Thursday.

Go made the appeal amid accusations his supporters have violated COMELEC regulations in their efforts to promote his candidacy.

“Lalaban po tayo ng patas at naaayon sa batas,” Go said, noting that clean and honest elections have always been the trademark of Duterte since his stint as Mayor of Davao City.

Go reiterated that he will continue to serve President Duterte and the Filipino people regardless of the outcome of the elections.

“Bisyo ko na po ang magserbisyo. Basta kahit saan ako dalhin ng tadhana, kami ni Pangulong Duterte, wala kaming ibang hangarin kung hindi ang makatulong at magserbisyo sa kapwa naming Pilipino. Lahat naman po ito ay para sa bayan at sa pagpapatuloy ng tunay na pagbabagong nasimulan ni Pangulong Duterte,” he said.

The mystery behind the Duterte fist

Many were asking about the supposed apology of President Rodrigo Duterte to Pantaleon Alvarez for his ouster as House Speaker.

The story, which was hailed by PDP-Laban Alvarez wing as some sort of a vindication to the beleaguered congressman, was even accompanied with a photo showing the Team Alvarez candidates doing the Duterte fist with the President.

To the uninitiated, the picture would say that indeed President Duterte seems to be supportive of the Alvarez Team with all of them doing the iconic Duterte fist.

But to those with the keen eye, you would observe that President Duterte is using his right hand while the others were holding their left.

There is an explanation to this — the difference between a “left Duterte fist” and the “right Duterte fist”.

With two political groups supporting the Duterte administration — PDP-Laban and the Hugpong ng Pagbabago, the HNP headed by Davao City Mayor Sara Z. Duterte made it mandatory for their members to be using the “right Duterte fist”.

The PDP-Laban meanwhile uses the “left Duterte fist”.

Now you know why President Duterte used the “right Duterte fist” in his pictorial with the PDP-Laban Alvarez Team?

Need I say more?

Candidates, beware: Law bans bribery, cash gifts, donations  

UNDER ELECTION laws, they were not yet officially considered to be candidates, and therefore not yet incurring campaign expenditures, until after the official campaign period had started.

 

But under anti-graft and anti-corruption laws, several candidates in the May 2019 elections may be unable to escape legal liability for incurring millions of pesos of pre-campaign ads. 

 

Indeed, incumbents, re-electionists, and those recently resigned from appointive posts may still have to explain how or fromwhere they raised money to buy truckloads of pre-campaign ads. 

 

That is a most important question to ask, especially of those with meager personal wealth or net worth and therefore without the wherewithal to finance their hugely expensive pre-campaign ads.

 

“The fact that the net worth of these candidates could not support the costs of the adspend necessarily gives rise to the presumption either the candidate has hidden wealth or that these were donated to the candidate while in public office,” says former Election Commissioner Christian Robert S. Lim, head of the poll body’s Campaign Finance Unit until 2018.  

 

“Under the Revised Penal Code,” Lim continues, “it is a criminal offense to receive gifts by reason of their office. This is called indirect bribery.”

 

According to Lim, the relevant laws are:

 

Revised Penal Code, Art. 211. Indirect bribery. — The penalties of prision correccional in its medium and maximum periods, and public censure shall be imposed upon any public officer who shall accept gifts offered to him by reason of his office. (As amended by Batas Pambansa Blg. 872, June 10, 1985). 

 

Likewise, under Section 7(d) of Republic Act No. 6713, or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees (SALN Law), government officials are prohibited from accepting gifts:

Section 7. Prohibited Acts and Transactions. – In addition to acts and omissions of public officials and employees now prescribed in the Constitution and existing laws, the following shall constitute prohibited acts and transactions of any public official and employee and are hereby declared to be unlawful: 

(a) Financial and material interest. – Public officials and employees shall not, directly or indirectly, have any financial or material interest in any transaction requiring the approval of their office. 

(b) Outside employment and other activities related thereto. – Public officials and employees during their incumbency shall not: 

(1) Own, control, manage or accept employment as officer, employee, consultant, counsel, broker, agent, trustee or nominee in any private enterprise regulated, supervised or licensed by their office unless expressly allowed by law; 

(2) Engage in the private practice of their profession unless authorized by the Constitution or law, provided, that such practice will not conflict or tend to conflict with their official functions; or 

(3) Recommend any person to any position in a private enterprise which has a regular or pending official transaction with their office.

These prohibitions shall continue to apply for a period of one (1) year after resignation, retirement, or separation from public office, except in the case of subparagraph (b) (2) above, but the professional concerned cannot practice his profession in connection with any matter before the office he used to be with, in which case the one-year prohibition shall likewise apply. 

(c) Disclosure and/or misuse of confidential information. – Public officials and employees shall not use or divulge, confidential or classified information officially known to them by reason of their office and not made available to the public, either: 

(1) To further their private interests, or give undue advantage to anyone; or 

(2) To prejudice the public interest.

(d) Solicitation or acceptance of gifts. – Public officials and employees shall not solicit or accept, directly or indirectly, any gift, gratuity, favor, entertainment, loan or anything of monetary value from any person in the course of their official duties or in connection with any operation being regulated by, or any transaction which may be affected by the functions of their office. 

As to gifts or grants from foreign governments, the Congress consents to: 

(i) The acceptance and retention by a public official or employee of a gift of nominal value tendered and received as a souvenir or mark of courtesy; 

(ii) The acceptance by a public official or employee of a gift in the nature of a scholarship or fellowship grant or medical treatment; or 

(iii) The acceptance by a public official or employee of travel grants or expenses for travel taking place entirely outside the Philippine (such as allowances, transportation, food, and lodging) of more than nominal value if such acceptance is appropriate or consistent with the interests of the Philippines, and permitted by the head of office, branch or agency to which he belongs.

The Ombudsman shall prescribe such regulations as may be necessary to carry out the purpose of this subsection, including pertinent reporting and disclosure requirements.  Malou Mangahas, PCIJ, February 2019