FIRST PERSON - Alex Magno (The Philippine Star) - June 10, 2021 - 12:00am

There is no other more precise way to describe this. The killing of young athlete Keith Absalon and his cousin Nolven Absalon was pure murder. It was premeditated and it was brutal.

Keith and Nolven, along with Nolven’s teenage son, were out biking in Masbate. There was no other way to interpret their outing. Yet NPA guerrillas set off an improvised explosive device (IED) as they passed by. The death certificates show the cousins were shot after being injured by the detonation.

The CPP-NPA has claimed full responsibility for the killings, expressing “remorse” and saying “there was no justification” for the event. The communists even offered the Absalon family indemnification. But they did not offer to surrender the guerrillas responsible for this ambush. Nor did they renounce the use of IEDs in their campaign of terror.

Therefore, the expression of “remorse” is an empty one. This is not the first time their fetishism with explosives and their romance with violence took the lives of noncombatants. This will not be the last.

IEDs are the cheapest – although most cowardly – method for “scoring” casualties. Judging from the number of IEDs captured by state forces in raids across the archipelago, it is clear the use of such despicable weapons is CPP-NPA policy.

This is not an isolated case. It simply adds to the body count of a pointless insurgency that has taken tens of thousands of Filipino lives over the decades.

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR), almost routinely and without hint of outrage, “strongly condemns” the killing of the Absalons. Commissioner Jacqueline de Guia reminds all “the use of anti-personnel landmine is a violation of the International Humanitarian Law” that binds even non-state actors like the NPA.

But de Guia fails to note that the use of IEDs is a policy of the Maoist insurgents. It is a policy that by definition defies International Humanitarian Law.

In addition to the wide use of IEDs, the NPA has announced the formation of hit squads. These death squads target not only men in uniform but also a wide variety of individuals, including those who had left the fold of the insurgency to lead a peaceful life.

The increased use of IEDs and the deployment of death squads appear to be methods chosen by the NPA to compensate for the thinning of their ranks. The CHR does not give us an evaluation about whether this makes the NPA a terrorist group.

The CHR staunchly opposes the Anti-Terror Law, bringing it shoulder-to-shoulder with fellow travelers of what remains of the Maoist guerrillas.


If there is fraud to be uncovered here, its discovery will certainly be accidental.

When the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) decided not to renew the management contract of the Calapan Labor Services Development Cooperative (CALSEDECO), about 11,000 workers faced termination. The Cooperative handles cargo and RORO services at the Port of Calapan City.

The two congressmen from Mindoro and all the municipal leaders in the province appealed the PPA’s decision, considering the injury this would cause the port workers on the island. Both provincial councils of Mindoro Oriental and Mindoro Occidental likewise appealed for the renewal of CALSEDECO’s contract. The PPA was unmoved.

The two congressmen, the provincial and municipal councils and other civic leaders on the islands brought the matter up to President Rodrigo Duterte. They are still awaiting a response.

In the course of resisting the award of the port management contract to “Big Boys from Manila,” the two Mindoro congressmen looked deeper into the matter. They found out that apart from the Calapan port contract, the PPA also cancelled existing management contracts for the ports of Puerto Princesa, Ormoc, Tabaco and Legazpi.

The legislators noticed most of the new awards for management contracts in these ports went to the same “Big Boys” company. More than that, the lucky company tended to offer the lowest bid for the contracts, resulting in a loss of well over a billion in potential revenues for government.

Having reviewed the bidding documents, the two Mindoro legislators decided there was something seriously amiss in the PPA’s “untimely conduct” of biddings for port services in the ports mentioned above. The biddings were conducted under the new terminal leasing and management regulations issued by the PPA.

Sensing fraud in the biddings, Oriental Mindoro’s 2nd district Rep. Alfonso Umali Jr. asked the House of Representatives to conduct a public hearing on these questionable biddings. He claims the bidding exercises were “marred by corruption” and were “grossly disadvantageous to government.”

As provided for by House Resolution No. 1822, the committee on good governance and the committee on transportation would jointly conduct the hearings. No date has been set for this inquiry.

Citing the case of the Calapan port contract, Rep. Umali complained that provincial port operators and their workers have been denied “fair opportunity” to fully participate in the biddings conducted by the PPA. They are only barely informed of these biddings and have inferior contacts with the decision-makers at the national agency.

Furthermore, the conduct of biddings in the midst of a pandemic, where health and safety are primary concerns, seem intentionally designed to marginalize the provincial service providers and favor what the congressmen describe as the “chosen few.” They note that of the eight biddings conducted by the PPA, five were won by the same apparently well-connected bidder who, incidentally, offered government very low leases for the ports.

This is not the first time provincial service providers complain big city players elbowed them out of their businesses.

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