By Jennifer P. Rendon
After getting the heat for issuing “unsubstantiated” statements, embattled Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Southern Luzon Command chief, Maj. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., on Wednesday presented what appears to be one of his aces: a certain Eric “Ka Eric” Almendras.
This certain Ka Eric surfaced after various quarters challenged Parlade Jr., who is also the spokesperson of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, to show proof that Gabriela Partylist and other cause-oriented groups have links to the underground rebel movement
In a telephone interview with MBC’s dzRH, Ka Eric issued several sweeping statements against cause-oriented groups
These include confirming that Ella Colmenares, sister of actress Angel Locsin, and members of the Makabayan Bloc are indeed members of the Community Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).
But in the course of the interview, some listeners were quick to point the similarity in the voices of Eric and Jeffrey Celiz, a former chairperson of Makabagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN)-Panay, in early 2000.
Some netizens did not mince words in rebuking Eric for allegedly hiding his true identity when his voice and his manner of speaking were dead giveaways.
In his interview, Ka Eric claimed that he was a member of the CPP-NPA-NDF (National Democratic Front) for 27 years. He started with the College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines in March 1988 and formally joined the CPP movement in December of the same year.
He said he severed ties with the group in 2015.
Eric first identified himself to be a long-time cadre of the NPA’s National Operational Command. He even named former party-list congressman Teddy Casiño as among his contemporaries.
He said he didn’t know that the group he joined had alleged ties with the NPA until after three months that he joined rallies against military bases, the University of the Philippines’ Socialized Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP), the tuition fee increase, and even the oil price hike.
When asked where he studied, Eric pointed to UP Diliman.
This is probably where Eric and Celiz differ because the latter went to West Visayas State University – Main Campus in La Paz, Iloilo City.
As he was actively joining protest actions, he was allegedly invited by former members to join the movement.
“Hindi ko po alam na sila po ay cadre ng NPA. I was recruited through Kabataang Makabayan in 1988,” Ka Eric said.
When he formally joined the NPA later, he said he was sent to UP Visayas, which has campuses in Iloilo City and Miag-ao town in Iloilo, and other universities in Iloilo and other regions in the Visayas like Negros where he allegedly organized students under CEGP or College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines.
Unknown to these students, they were being drawn into the movement in the guise of seminars for writers.
Later on, Eric said he was deployed with the NPA’s NUSP or National Union of Students of the Philippines, where they organized communities in Region 6.
In 2001, Eric proudly said they led the Erap Resign Movement.
At around the same time, Celiz was Bayan chairman in Panay Island.
“Kami nagpatalsik kay Pangulong Estrada,” he said claiming that the congressmen, senators and “Manong Chavit” (Singson) they had on talks with had no idea that they were active with the CPP-NPA.
‘PARLADE NOT MAKING UP STORIES’
When asked why he spilled the beans on his former comrades, Ka Eric said he wants to prove that Parlade is not making up stories.
He claimed to have seen Colmenares sometime in 2004 to 2005 in Polilio Island while plotting the attack on the town’s police station.
“She (Colmenares) started out just like me,” he said, claiming that Angel Locsin’s sister is known as Isay and Tina in the rebel movement.
Eric said there are other cadres who could validate his claims.
“We are living testaments that the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) is not red-tagging,” he said.
Parlade is the spokesperson of NTF-ELCAC.
Eric went on to say that Angel Locsin knew about her sister’s alliance with NPA.
In 2006 when Colmenares laid low, they contacted him. They saw that Locsin allegedly withdrew P20,000 from a BPI ATM in Timog, Quezon City.
He said that he will stand by his statement when called by the Senate and Congress for inquiries.
Eric went on that it was “romanticism and idealism that armed revolution will make a change” led him to join the movement.
In fact, he was the one who also recruited his wife to the organization who later on become an organizer of the Gabriela Women’s Party, another organization tagged to be an NPA ally.
But he had a change of heart when he almost died in an encounter in Masbate.
He said he needed to get out of the organization for his family, especially his children. He saw the opportunity with the AFP.
“Hindi mamamatay ang AFP. Ang papatay sa ‘yo ay mga dati mong kasama,” he said.
Eric then pointed that the NPA was behind the killing of Arturo Tabara and Romulo Kintanar.
Tabara, chairman of the Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa-Pilipinas/Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade, was gunned down by NPA assassins at Fair View, Quezon City, on Sept. 26, 2004 while Kintanar was killed in 2003.
Colmenares and Angel Locsin had slammed the AFP for linking them to the rebel movement, calling the move as red-tagging.
BUGGED BY CONSCIENCE
Eric also admitted that he took part in incidents that killed both government forces and his comrades.
“Hindi maiiwasan. Pero bumabalik pa rin sa akin kahit ako’y tulog,” he said.
Eric said he is still haunted by his conscience.
“This is my redemption,” he said referring to his “coming out.” “Ito ay pagbabago ng sarili at pagbabagong buhay ko.”
By doing so, “gusto kong bawiin ang kasalanan ko sa taong bayan lalo na sa mga mamamayan na pinahirapan namin sa CPP-NPA,” he claimed.
Eric dubbed what the NPA is doing as “digmaang walang katuturan.”
“Panaginip ng pagbabago pero bangungot ng kamatayan ang dulot namin sa kabataan at sa mga mamamayan,” he said citing that several youths that he recruited ended up dead.
During his 27 years in the rebel movement, he claimed to have recruited more than 200 young persons and participated to around 15 offensive and five combat operations.
He also claimed that 90 percent of those operating above ground are in the urban or white areas.
On the other hand, the certain Jeffrey Celiz some Ilonggos are alluding to as Ka Eric went out of the limelight around 2005 but resurfaced in 2010. This time around, he aligned himself with former Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog.
When President Rodrigo Duterte was sworn into office, Celiz’s name was linked into the illegal drug trade.
But it wasn’t clear what his involvement was.
Daily Guardian is still trying to get Celiz’s side as of this writing.
NPA LEGAL FRONTS
In the dzRH interview, Ka Eric accused groups such as Bayan, Anakpawis, Gabriela, Kabataan, and ACT teachers group as members of the NPA.
“Opo. That is a direct declaration and I’m willing to confront them pag nagpatawag ng executive session,” he said.
Eric said that the military and government seemed weakened by the continued recruitment because of the scrapping of the Republic Act 1700 or the Anti-Subversion Act, which was passed in June 1957 during the presidency of Carlos P. Garcia. It declared the CPP illegal as an organized conspiracy to overthrow the government for the purpose of establishing in the Philippines a totalitarian regime.
“It’s hard to prosecute them and provide evidences. That’s why, we are given no choice but to come out now,” he said.
He also accused Makabayan lawmakers as belonging to the national committee of the CPP-NPA.
These include Carlos Isagani “Kaloi” Tabora Zarate of Bayan Muna and Arlene Brosas of Gabriela.
For these lawmakers to prove that they are not NPAs, he called them to publicly condemn the NPA and support the government in its fight against insurgency.