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Supposed ex-NPA member now claims his drug links a ‘gov’t project’

Jeffrey Celiz, the supposed "living proof" of claims of the communist links of progressive organizations, on Tuesday admitted he was on President Rodrigo Duterte's narco-list but claimed this was part of a "government project."

Celiz, who claimed he used to assume the name Eric Almendras, discussed his supposed involvement with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA) at a Senate hearing on "red-tagging." Activists have questioned his claims.

He admitted that he was included in Duterte's list of personalities allegedly involved in the illegal drug trade in 2016. He said he was already out of the communist movement at the time.

"I was included in that list because it was part of a government project para lumansag at lansagin ang sindikato ng droga sa Iloilo City," Celiz said. He said he was revealing this after his cover was blown.

Senator Panfilo Lacson, who led the hearing, asked Celiz which government agency was his "handler." Celiz said it was the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA).

"Why, is NICA involved in drug operations?" Lacson asked.

Celiz also said he was never a drug addict, prompting Lacson to ask "How could you pass off as a drug [personality]?"

Celiz said he personally knew Melvin "Boyet" Odicta, an alleged drug lord who was killed with his wife in 2016.

Jobert Pahilga, a founding member of the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers, said he used to be friends with Celiz when they were both student activists at the West Visayas State University. He said Celiz is "lying through his teeth."

Pahilga surmised that Celiz is "afraid to be a victim of extrajudicial killing under President Duterte's anti-drug war."

"My view is that Mr. Celiz sought the protection of the military in 2017 by lying or 'selling' to them his supposed 'extensive' knowledge of the operation of the left. He lied to the military in exchange for protection because he is a drug personality. And we all know that during this time of Duterte, known drug personalities, one by one, are killed," the lawyer said.

Pahilga countered Celiz's narrative, asking how the latter could have been an NPA member in 1994 to 2004 "when he was an active student and mass leader of legal activists in Iloilo City."

In the following years, Celiz had different jobs, including an English teacher at a Korean school in Tagaytay City and an officer of politicians in Iloilo City, Pahilga claimed.

He said these "destroy" Celiz's allegations.

Government security officials claim that several cause-oriented groups, like Bayan Muna, women's group Gabriela, and labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno, are legal fronts of the CPP-NPA.

Progressive groups object to "red-tagging," saying this endangers their lives. — BM, GMA News