Journal 4: Blast from the Past

From my e-mail, I received this letter from Bobby Garcia, friend of my former comrade Earl Parreno, who is now a journalist and book author. This one tackled the exhumation of the remains of three suspected deep penetration agents killed during a purge in the hinterlands of Cebu. Garcia is the chairperson of the Peace Advocates for Truth, Justice and Healing (PATH). I am not a member of the group and does not want to be one (I want to maintain a normal life as possible with my wife and kid). But there are some stories that need to be locked up for safekeeping. Excerpts of PATH people’s e-mails:

[] PATH’s efforts to unearth the truth of the CPP-NPA-NDF anti-infiltration campaigns in the ’80s have reached a breakthrough. While finding the victims’ remains is not exactly a cause to celebrate, we nevertheless share whatever sense of relief or closure their families feel.

Last November 4-6, the search and recovery team, which included forensics experts, members of PATH, FIND, and other volunteers exhumed the remains of three victims-–a couple, Jessie Libre and Nida Cabrera-Libre; and Ben-Art Valmoria-–who disappeared in Cebu in 1985. The Libres were trade union cadres and Valmoria was a full-time youth organizer in Mindanao.

Weng Libre, the couple’s son, was with us. He brought his parents’ remains to their hometown for burial on November 11.Ben-Art’s remains are in safekeeping, ready to be claimed by his family.

[] The foremost challenge we face at PATH is to find the remains: have them returned to their families and accord the proper respects due them, if long overdue. The bodies are just out there, scattered in unmarked graves all
over the country. It is all a matter of mustering the will, finding the right persons who can accurately point to the gravesites, doing appropriate legal, technical, and security preparations, and literally doing spadework…

[] At this point, we focus on one case: that of Weng Libre, the child whose revolutionary parents were both killed in 1985. He was left in the care of an aunt who did not treat him well. A young adult now, all his life he was made to believe that a local warlord politician killed his parents, and so he grew up harboring hatred and a vengeful heart against the politician’s family. It is only now that Willy got to know the truth…

[] On November 2, we started hiking in the mountains of Cebu , with our shovels, picks, and sundry search-and-dig equipment. After one week in the boondocks, we
went back…

[] We dug roughly five sites in the vicinity, and I have already prepared the following statement in the event we came home empty-handed: “It’s fine. We need not be disheartened nor lose hope, but all the more be challenged. To search further, dig harder, probe deeper…”

Well, you can ignore that statement for now. Yes your lordships, we found the bodies, all three of them: the remains of Jessie and Nida Libre, and third victim, Ben-art Balmoria: all killed two decades back by people they
called, with fondness and with love, “comrades.” Weng Libre, with his tear ducts and all 200 pounds of his iron-pumping flesh, will now be able to carry his beloved parents back to where they rightfully belong.

[] Here’s the story by PAUL M. GUTIERREZ of People’s Tonight on the presscon held by PATH members:

THE families of victims of alleged atrocities committed by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) among its members in 1988 are seeking justice and the help of Congress.

In a press conference yesterday in Quezon City, Roberto ‘Ka Fidel’ Garcia, Rogel ‘Ka Paolo/Pamboy’ Navarro and Jess Marlowe Libre, also made public the result of their latest exhumation of three bodies in Cebu province who were victimized during the “Kampanyang Ahos” and the “Operation Missing Link” (OPML) campaigns allegedly initiated by the mainstream communist group from February 1988 to January 1989.

Garcia and Navarro were survivors of the OPML in Southern Tagalog while Libre was the surviving son of Jess and Nida Libre, whose bodies were among those exhumed in Sitio Bocaue, Bgy. Pamutan, Cebu City last Nov. 4 after six month of investigation and documentation.

The other body was identified as that of Ben Valmoria.

The victims were members of the “Cebu 13” who disappeared at the height of the anti-infiltration campaign in 1988, many of them assigned to organize the workers of Atlas Mining.

Garcia, who now chairs the Peace Advocates for Truth, Justice and Healing (PATH), is seeking the help of Congress to start an investigation and fund PATH’s work in identifying other victims and seeking justice for them “in order for this matter to have a proper closure.”

After being freed, Garcia stayed on for the next four months before deciding to come down from the hills. He then wrote a book, “To Suffer Thy Comrades,” in 2001, describing his experience.

For his part, Navarro said he stayed for one and a half year more before deciding to return to the fold of the law.

Marlowe, meanwhile, said all along he was made to believe that his parents were abducted then killed by the military for their active role in the mass movement. “Twenty years nawala ang mga magulang. Nakita ko sila buto na at namatay sa kamay ng mga kasama,” he bewailed.

“We want a formal investigation that is why we decided to name names in order for the investigation to have a starting point,” Garcia stressed.
Purges

The purges were allegedly ordered by the top leadership of the CPP and its military arm, the New People’s Army (NPA), after almost all members of their military commission were nabbed by the military in 1987.

Garcia said they “conservatively” placed the victims nationwide at “around 2,000” of the CPP’s leading cadres, political activists and NPA fighters…

Sought for comment, CPP spokesman Gregorio “Ka Roger” Rosal acknowledged knowing Garcia and Navarro and some of those they accused of torture.

Rosal added the horrors of the Kampanyang Ahos and the OPML have been “totally repudiated” during the 10th CPP Plennum in 1992 as a “crime against humanity.”

“All those involved, including the principals, have been meted punishment in accordance with the CPP Constitution. I myself was meted punishment,” Rosal said.

“While we recognize their (PATH) quest for justice, it is lamentable that they now end up seeking to punish and destroy the whole revolutionary movement and not just the individuals responsible for the excesses,” he added.

He said it was the condemnation of the campaign and the individuals behind it that added to the reasons behind the split of the CPP between the “reaffrimist” faction and the “rejectionist” bloc in 1991.

Prior to the split, Rosal said the persons behind OPML and Kampanyang Ahos — Romulo Kintanar, Ricardo Reyes, Arturo Tabbara, Miel Laurenario, among others — started sowing intrigues within the CPP to avoid being held responsible for the catastrophe.

“Instead of admitting to their mistakes, these people even tried to divide the party and tried to turn it against itself for their own ends. That is why they were removed from positions of authority and eventually expelled,” Rosal explained.

5 Responses to Journal 4: Blast from the Past

  1. Earl Parreno says:

    Hi Bong,

    I came upon your blog. It’s very informative and interesting. Keep on! Naa na pud nadugang nga blog nga exciting i-access regularly. Ayo-ayo

  2. cebuano says:

    Earl,

    Maayo kay nasaag ka. But I am still finding it difficult to come up with regular updates. Lack of time.
    Anyway, I hope to add a running commentary on my views re: revolutionary movement.
    By the way, I lost my cell phone and your number months ago. If you want to contact me, use Sun.Star phone.

    Bong/Dodo

  3. Ben says:

    These Leftist Groups have 2 faces, and also the Church Activists etc in the Philippines. Before, they always rally against the US Military presence in the Philippines. Also Anti US rally in US Embassy shouting US Murderer and Imperialist. Now they are crying to the UN and the US to help in the extrajudicial killings. How about the innocent civilians that were executed by the New Peoples Army? for many many years since 1980;s? How they are not being investigated by the United Nations? or the International HUman Rights Group?
    I know people personally that were killed by the NPAs.

    Mindanao Dude

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