Fr. Santiago Salas, spokesperson of the National Democratic Front in Eastern Visayas.
The National Democratic Front in Eastern Visayas (NDF-EV) declares in a statement, dated June 20, that two members of the “Ong Dynasty” in Northern Samar are behind the “widespread illegal drugs trade” in the province.
According to NDF-EV, an investigation conducted by the Rodante Urtal Command of the New People’s Army (NPA) yields information that the newly elected second district congressman, Edwin Ong is “one of the biggest drug lords in the province, with the backing of his uncle, reelected provincial governor Jose Ong.”
In a statement issued last April before the national elections, Fr. Santiago Salas, the NDF-EV spokesperson, has expressed concern over the proliferation of illegal drugs sold to “elementary students and in remote towns” which has “contributed to the rise of drug-related crimes like rape in the province.”
Salas also alleged the Ongs are using the local police force to arrest “drug pushers” not “being run by [their] family.” A warning by the “people’s democratic government in Northern Samar” was made public two months ago against drug pushers involved in illegal drugs trade.
The revolutionary movement in Northern Samar said those involved “could face arrest, trial, and punishment by the people’s court.”
Meanwhile, the pronouncement of incoming President Rodrigo Duterte to curb the illegal drugs trade is “fine and well” for the revolutionary movement. The NDF-EV is urging Duterte to crack down on the “big fish like the Ong dynasty and their police and military protectors,” which, it adds, will help “do away with the small fry.”
Alliance against crime, for people’s welfare
In the same statement, the NDF-EV has urged the people to come out in support of Duterte’s pro-people pronouncement which it said are positive overtures of the incoming administration. In the same weight, Fr. Salas also calls on the people of Eastern Visayas, who are survivors of disasters, to present to Duterte their basic demands and interests.
For NDF-EV, Duterte stirred “great expectations” among progressive forces not only for his tough pronouncements against crime and corruption but also with his inclusion of progressive personalities in his Cabinet, his promise to release political prisoners and his act to resume peace talks with the rebels.
According to reports from human rights defenders Karapatan, the outgoing Aquino government caused the arrest of 26 political prisoners, bringing the total in Eastern Visayas to 36 this year, where 8 are women and 1 is an NDF consultant incarcerated in Ormoc City.
The revolutionary movement in the region also opened itself to an alliance with the Duterte regime on the basis of cooperation for improving people’s welfare, and to allow them “to organize and strengthen the democratic mass movement.”
Last week, top NDF officials engaged in the peace process in Norway see a firmer commitment from the Duterte administration, not seen in the outgoing Aquino regime, to achieve “national unity and just peace.”
The peace process, now on its stage of discussing an agreement on social and economic reforms, is expected to accelerate after a joint statement was signed in Oslo, Norway by the NDF’s and the incoming Philippine government’s peace panels.
Concerns of disaster survivors
Meanwhile, the NDF-EV urged survivors of typhoon Yolanda to strengthen their struggle for justice against criminal neglect of the outgoing Aquino regime. The progressive forces must, according to Salas, call on the incoming progressive Secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Dr. Judy Taguiwalo “to release long overdue assistance that were denied [the survivors] under the [Aquino] administration.”
Also, the designation of former Anakpawis representative Rafael Mariano to the post as Secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) is positively welcomed by peasants in Eastern Visayas. The peasant formations under the Samahan han Gudti nga Parag-uma (SAGUPA) – local chapter of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas – look forward to the review of cases of land grabbing in Leyte and Samar provinces.
Strong movement for a ‘People’s Agenda’
On the same hand, NDF-EV’s Fr. Salas urged the people to expand and strengthen the mass organizations of the peasant, workers, urban poor, youth and students and professionals to “press for as well as defend their basic democratic rights.”
Meanwhile, the New People’s Army will remain steadfast in their cause and continue to consolidate and expand its ranks in the region. The latest Oslo Joint statement has included a recommendation for an interim ceasefire to be instituted once formal peace negotiations started in July.
“Having peace talks with the incoming Duterte regime is not an end in itself, but still a long and arduous journey towards a just and lasting peace,” ends Salas.