Archive for the ‘abduction/enforced disappearances’ Category

ABRA News: Youth activist killed with father, brother in Abra

March 12, 2014

Freddie Ligiw was supposed to meet with human rights groups to narrate how he was forcibly used as a guide by soldiers from the 41st IBPA of the AFP when he went missing. The bodies of Freddie, his brother and father were later found in a shallow grave.

By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — Youth groups condemned the killing of Freddie Ligiw, a member of progressive youth group Anakbayan in Abra, his father Licuben and brother Eddie allegedly by members of the Philippine Army 41st Infantry Battalion last March 2, 2014.
“We condemn in the highest terms the murder of Ligiw and his kin. Not content with depriving him of his liberty previously as a virtual military hostage, the Philippine Army deprived him, his brother, and his father of their very lives,” Einstein Recedes, national chairperson of the Student Christian Movement of the Philippines, said.

– See more at: http://bulatlat.com/main/2014/03/10/youth-activist-killed-with-father-brother-in-abra/#sthash.emCYh1j2.dpuf

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Below is a link of another story that was picked up by GMANews from an army press release apparently.

Mass grave found in Abra province — report
By GMANews Online

Police and soldiers have discovered a mass grave believed to contain remains of communist New People’s Army members in Abra province.

The grave was located in Barangay Duminglay Licuan’s Sitio Sukaw in Ba-ay town, according to a report on Bombo Radyo Saturday night.

The report quoted 1Lt. Rowena Abayon of the Army’s 5th Infantry Division’s public affairs office as saying the grave could have contained the remains of at least three residents previously reported missing.

Read more at: http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/351755/news/regions/mass-grave-found-in-abra-province-report

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Nuns Decry Inclusion of Church Workers in Military’s ‘Order of Battle’

May 26, 2009

An association of 350 Catholic nuns from 40 congregations in Mindanao expressed outrage over the inclusion of Church people to the reported ‘order of battle’ of the 10th Infantry Division of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

In a document titled “JCICC ‘AGILA’ 3rd QTR 2007 OB VALIDATION RESULT,” several Catholic and Protestant groups were listed, including the Archdiocesan Council of Lay Apostolate and Integrated Movement (ACLAIM), Missionaries of Assumption (MA), National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), Promotions of Church
Peoples Response (PCPR), Philippine Independent Church (PIC) and Mindanao Interfaith People Conference (MIPC).

Bishop Felixberto Calang of PIC and Bishop Anacleto Serafica of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), along with Catholic priests and nuns were also named in the document.

In a recent statement released to the media, Lt. Col. Kurt A. Decapia, chief of the 10th ID’s Public Affairs Office, did not deny the existence of such list but criticized Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo for “falsifying” the document.

Ocampo presented the order of battle in a press conference of the International Solidarity Mission in Davao City on May 18.

Decapia said that the words “targeted,” “dominated” and “organized” in the document mean that the individuals and groups on the list are targeted, organized and dominated individuals and groups by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA).

The Sisters’ Association in Mindanao (SAMIN) said in a statement, “It is indeed disturbing to know that such an order exists from the AFP, which labels church people, lawyers, journalists, activists and NGO workers as enemies of the state.”

“It is condemnable that church people who are fulfilling Christ’s mandate to bring the Good News to the poor are subject to this vilification campaign,” said SAMIN executive secretary Sr. Elsa Compuesto MSM.

Compuesto said that the order puts all the individuals and organizations in the list in grave danger, including church people.

The SAMIN recalled the harassment against SR. Stella Matutina OSB and the raids in two sisters’ convents in Butuan City in 2006. “Both cases have shown that even religious can be subject to the attacks of the state,” Compuesto said.

In February this year, Matutina along with her three companions was illegally held against her will by the elements of the 67th Infantry Battalion in Cateel, Davao Oriental after doing advocacy work against large-scale mining.

In November 2006, the convents of the Contemplative Good Shepherds and the Missionary Sisters of Mary were raided by the police on allegations that they are keeping a rebel leader in their convents.

In 2005, the SAMIN was already among those included in the military’s powerpoint presentation “Knowing the Enemy.” Compuesto said that pictures of their members and their activities were downloaded from their old website and inserted in the powerpoint.

“These accusations remind us of the Biblical times, when being Christians meant putting one’s life in danger of being persecuted and killed by the soldiers of the Roman Empire. Today, this persecution continues with the military’s attack on the religious, especially on those who dare to speak God’s message of hope, denouncing the evils of society and taking sides with God’s chosen poor,” Compuesto said.

The association of nuns vowed, “As a new tyranny is in our midst, SAMIN is emboldened to continue with its commitment of fighting the darkness of oppression and corruption, and bringing the light of hope and justice for the poor and Creation.”

The group called on the government authorities to stop the “persecution of church people and the poor.” (Bulatlat.com)

NPA leader: Military behind daughter’s slay

March 9, 2009

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 05:55:00 03/09/2009

ka-parago

DAVAO CITY—If the killers of elementary teacher Rebelyn Pitao wanted to shatter her father, Commander Parago of the communist New People’s Army’s Pulang Bagani Command, they apparently failed.

Parago, whose real name is Leoncio Pitao, said the killing of his daughter might have devastated him but did not weaken his cause—the “revolution of the people who have been suffering from the hands of an oppressive government.”

Pitao granted selected journalists an interview in an upland village known to be an NPA stronghold in southern Mindanao on Sunday—three days after the body of his daughter was found in an irrigation ditch in Carmen town, Davao del Norte province.

Wearing a Mao cap and the NPA’s signature black shirt, Parago appeared calm but his eyes were somber. He exchanged jokes with NPA cadres.

The military has consistently denied involvement in Rebelyn’s abduction and killing.

“What they did to my daughter was painful but we must not stop. I am here not only as a father to her but a father to many other poor daughters and sons of the oppressed. Am I devastated? I am not. I am even inspired by her death to be relentless in fighting for the freedom of the poor,” Parago said.

He added: “I will not abandon the people because of this loss. Instead, I will continue the people’s revolution.”

His oldest son, Ryan, also an NPA cadre, said the death of his sister was unacceptable. But like his father, Ryan said, Rebelyn will now become their source of courage and strength to move forward.

“She is now our inspiration to broaden the democratic people’s revolution. My sister will now always be with all of us as we struggle against a bankrupt government,” said Ryan. He joined his father after surviving an attack of suspected government agents three years ago.

Parago said he had expected the military to target his family as government forces continuously failed to capture him. He claimed that the 10th Infantry Division’s military intelligence group was behind the abduction and killing of Rebelyn.

“No one has the intention, motive and track record of the MIG [military intelligence group]. They did this to my brother. They almost got my son. My other daughter, Rio, was tailed by elements of MIG when she was still studying and this continued even when she was already working. It was the 10th ID who said they wanted to get me … now who has the desire to see me weakened or dead?” Parago said.

But he said the NPA would not retaliate and follow the approach of the military. He, however, said that time will come for those who were behind the killing of Rebelyn to pay for their debts.

Rebelyn, 20, was on her way home on board a tricycle from St. Peter’s College in Toril District when she was snatched by armed men. She was forced into a white van and was overheard by the tricycle driver as screaming for help.

Her body bore torture marks and five stab wounds. Rope marks were also found around her neck, which could mean she was strangled.

The medico legal also found injuries in her genitals, believed to have been caused by a hard object.

The militant women’s group Gabriela took the killing as the government’s gift to them on International Women’s Day.

“She becomes the symbol of the entire Filipino women whose equal footing with men has been undermined by the Arroyo regime,” said Gabriela Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan.

“What made it more outrageous was the fact that Rebelyn Pitao has dedicated her life to teaching, a profession that President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has taken for granted over the years,” Ilagan said.

“Her only fault was being her father’s daughter,” Ilagan said.

In Manila, Anakpawis party-list Rep. Rafael Mariano in a statement blamed the President, specifically her anti-insurgency program, Oplan Bantay-Laya on the murder of Rebelyn. Jeffrey M. Tupas with reports from Germelina Lacorte, Inquirer Mindanao, and Gil Cabacungan Jr. in Manila

Palparan Appointment ‘Alarming’

February 2, 2009

By Alan Davis
Philippine Human Rights Reporting Project

Any casual observer of Philippine society wanting to know if the government is sincerely committed to improving human rights probably need only to wait and see if retired major general Jovito Palparan becomes strategic adviser to the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB).

If it happens, it would suggest, to borrow a phrase from US President Barack Obama’s inauguration address last week, that the Philippine government is sitting ‘on the wrong side of history.’

Without a doubt it would be a backward step. The fact that it is even being seriously discussed says a great deal.

Media reports from late last week have been suggesting the chief reason Malacanang Palace is interested in appointing the general to a strategic position in the DDB is because he can try and apply his ‘experience of counter-insurgency’ against the drug gangs.

What might this mean?

Well, one need only look at the human rights charges leveled against Palparan and what happened in Thailand in 2003 when authorities there similarly declared war on the drug gangs. The military were unleashed and the campaign reportedly resulted in the deaths of an estimated 2,500-3,000 people.

Summary killings were rife and the campaign was roundly and loudly condemned by the international human rights community. Bizarrely, the then government of Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat announced a similar new anti-drugs campaign late last year in Thailand. His government however fell before it got around implementing the policy.

The Philippines is not Thailand – but there are creeping parallels here –one being the insidious power of the military. This increasingly seems to be a civilian government led by ex-generals as a glance around the cabinet table clearly shows.

Drugs are a curse on Philippine society as they are elsewhere. An effective drugs policy needs to be developed –and that is no easy thing. But we expect government policy to be more than popular vigilantism. We don’t need the kind of justice doled out by the likes of Dirty Harry. If the government is really serious about human rights it will tackle the drug problem through the rule of law, not the barrel of the gun.

Given the claims against Palparan –claims to be fair the general denies– the authorities should not be considering his reappointment to a position of power. As a simple indicator on the government’s commitment to human rights, it says it all.

Alan Davis is the director of the Philippine Human Rights Reporting Project and a director of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting special projects(PinoyPress)

‘Amparo’ issued for Baguio activist

January 25, 2009

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:49:00 01/25/2009

Filed Under: Judiciary (system of justice), Missing Persons, Civil unrest

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines—A Benguet judge has issued a writ of amparo for missing activist James Balao, saying government officials, including those from the military and police, are responsible for his abduction last year.

Judge Benigno Galacgac of the Benguet regional trial court, in a Jan. 19 order, asked the government to “disclose where [Balao] is detained or confined [and] release [him] considering his unlawful detention since his abduction.”

The court also asked them to “cease and desist from further inflicting harm upon his person.”

Balao, an activist and founder of Cordillera Peoples Alliance, was abducted by armed men believed to be soldiers in Benguet on Sept. 17 last year.

Balao’s family, in October last year, filed a petition for the issuance of a writ of amparo to compel the military to present the activist.

Galacgac, however, denied the issuance of inspection, production and witness protection order after Balao’s family and the CPA failed to comply with the provisions on the rule on the writ of amparo.

The respondents were President Macapagal-Arroyo, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno, National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales, Armed Forces chief of staff, Gen. Alexander Yano, and Philippine National Police chief, Director General Jesus Verzosa.

Also named as respondents were top military officials with the Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) and police officials in Northern Luzon.

Galacgac said Ms Arroyo should not be bothered by lawsuits but he noted that a petition for the writ of amparo “is not by any stretch of imagination a niggling, vexing or annoying court case that Her Excellency should be shielded from.”

“The duty of the President to faithfully execute the laws of the land places the Chief Executive under the rule of law … Her Excellency should thus be made aware of impediments in the system that threatens or subverts human rights so she could act accordingly to counteract their negative impact on society,” he said.

The court said the police and military “failed in conducting an effective investigation of [Balao’s] abduction.”

Galacgac said the issuance of a writ of amparo “must not be looked upon with disfavor.”

“Instead, it should be a welcome development for Her Excellency’s commitment to enforce the rule of law. It should be seen as a report of wrongdoings of Her Excellency’s subordinates, those who, like spoiled bureaucrats, do not wish to toe Her Excellency’s line of good governance,” he said.

SAYS MILITARY Woman seized from hospital was NPA reb

January 12, 2009

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 08:25:00 01/12/2009

Filed Under: Guerrilla activities

LUCENA CITY—The military here clarified Sunday that a wounded woman it had seized from a Manila hospital was in fact a communist New People’s Army (NPA) rebel who was wounded during the ambush of a police patrol car in Rodriguez, Rizal, on Jan. 3.

Military spokesperson First Lt. Celeste Frank Sayson of the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division based in Tanay, Rizal, said the woman guerrilla he identified only as “Ka Hanah” was reunited with her father, Renato de los Santos Anayat, 60, Saturday in a government hospital where the wounded rebel has been recuperating.

“The visit became a tearful reunion of the family,” said Sayson in a statement to the Philippine Daily Inquirer Sunday.

The Anayats belong to the Dumagat tribe in the highlands of Rizal province, the military official said.

Quoting Anayat, Sayson said Ka Hanah left her family nine years ago to escape a forced marriage to one of the tribesmen.

“From then on he heard nothing about his daughter’s whereabouts,” he said.

The Anayats described their daughter as “a quiet and timid person.”

“They were all surprised to learn Ka Hanah was an NPA and had been seriously wounded and abandoned by her comrades at the Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Sta. Mesa, Manila,” Sayson said.

Sayson said Ka Hanah was hit by a bullet during the ambush of a police patrol car in the village of Macabud staged by members of the NPA’s Narciso Antazo Aramil Command.

The NPA had detonated land mines, Sayson said, and a policeman was killed while two others were wounded.

Three other lawmen—Police Insp. Rex Contapay and Police Officers 1 Albert Umali and Arvin Agasen—engaged the rebels in a fierce gun battle. When the policemen ran out of ammunition, they were captured by the rebels and taken “prisoners of war.” Delfin T. Mallari Jr., Inquirer Southern Luzon

The Plunderer’s Escape and the Activists’ Arrest

December 28, 2008

BY HELEN ASDOLO
Secretary General, Gabriela Southern Tagalog
5th Nominee, Gabriela Women’s Party
Posted by Bulatlat

The junking of the impeachment complaint is a glaring demonstration of injustice in this country. It is proof that big time plunderer and murderers in this country can go scot-free while human rights defenders, advocates and activists like me are being persecuted.

I, along with 71 other leaders of progressive and militant organizations in Southern Tagalog, have been charged with multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder for allegedly participating in the New People’s Army (NPA) raid in Puerto Galera, Mindoro Oriental last March 3, 2006.

What irony, what injustice. While we face threats of arrest and detention for baseless and fabricated charges, Congress simply just refused to hear and consider any evidence on the impeachment charges lodged against Mrs. Arroyo.

We in Southern Tagalog continue to hold Mrs. Arroyo responsible for the countless human rights violations, the slaughter of activists, militant leaders and women as well as the destruction of peasant and indigenous peoples communities and in our region.

That she was made to escape these charges by her allies in Congress, some of whom even came from the Southern Tagalog region, is outraging.

Despite the persecution and the attempts to immobilize and silence our organizations, we shall continue to expose the injustices, the violations, the plunder, poverty and violence that the corrupt and tyrannical Arroyo regime has brought upon our people. Posted byBulatlat.com

Dutch Lawyers to Arroyo: Prosecute Military involved in Extrajudicial Killings

December 28, 2008

A prominent Dutch lawyers’ group based in this city that participated in an international verification and fact-finding mission on attacks on Filipino lawyers and judges last November 4-14, 2008 in the Philippines, echoed their call on the Arroyo government to investigate the killings not only of members of the legal profession but also of other victims of extrajudicial killings.

BY D. L. MONDELO
Correspondent
Bulatlat

(Amsterdam, The Netherlands) – A prominent Dutch lawyers’ group based in this city that participated in an international verification and fact-finding mission on attacks on Filipino lawyers and judges last November 4-14, 2008 in the Philippines, echoed their call on the Arroyo government to investigate the killings not only of members of the legal profession but also of other victims of extrajudicial killings.

The Dutch Lawyers for Lawyers Foundation (L4L) group noted the urgency of conducting an investigation and prosecution because the (Philippine) military is clearly involved. They echoed this call during a forum last December 10, organized by the Netherlands-based Filipino human rights alliance Rice and Rights to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the UN Declaration of Human Rights.

L4L lawyer Adrie van de Streek, explained that their mission last November 4-12, was a follow up to their earlier fact-finding mission conducted in 2006, principally to verify the status of the cases of harassed or killed lawyers and judges investigated by the international fact-finding mission in June 2006.

Sharing their own findings and experiences in 2006 and last November, Van de Streek said the threats on lawyers and judges remain immense, particularly because they help poor farmers and fishermen on their issues. She said because they participated in the fact-finding mission and exposed their findings, they were put in the ‘blacklist’ of the Philippine government and were also labelled ‘communists’ like the victims of extrajudicial killings.

One particular encounter the Dutch lawyers found ’shocking’ and ‘unbelievable’ was during a visit to the Human Rights office of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in Manila, where an officer of said office even boasted to them that he was in favor of torture and of the death penalty.

Van de Streek also noted that although lots of international attention and pressure have been generated by several international fact-finding missions, the Alston Report, the UN HR Review, and similar international condemnation of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, the form of human rights violations merely changed with the method of filing fabricated charges against lawyers and Filipino activists.

She said the mission noted the Arroyo government’s lack of any serious will to investigate the killings, and added that there was a strong consensus among the lawyers and judges who participated in the mission that pursuing the case against retired AFP general Jovito Palparan would restore some trust in the judicial and political system.

Solving the killings, she further stressed, needs the support of all layers of society.

Filipino lawyer Atty. Neri Colmenares, legal counsel of the party-list Bayan Muna and secretary general of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) – one of the Philippine-based lawyers’ group that facilitated the international fact-finding mission (the other group being the Counsels for the Defense of Liberties [CODAL]), said that the Arroyo government keeps on ignoring international treaties and knowing that it is not obliged to implement it anyway, referring to the UN Declaration of Human Rights of which the Philippines is a signatory.

Calling the Arroyo administration a ‘government on the rampage’, Colmenares said the killings are being conducted because of the regime’s obsession to stay in power. He said the Arroyo government is a clear suspect in the killings because of the impunity with which the crimes are being committed, there is lack of interest to investigate, covering up for the perpetrators, and failure to condemn the killings. He decried the fact that despite the abundance of enough witnesses to the killings, the entire judicial system refuses to prosecute any of the perpetrators. Impunity, he said, is knowing you can get away with any crime.

Colmenares also said that though the form of political repression has shifted to the filing of fabricated charges against militants and activists, the machinery for the killings has not been dismantled. The killings could continue, he warned.

Citing the case of Jonas Burgos, son of a prominent newspaper publisher, who was abducted (and remains missing until today) in broad daylight in a busy shopping mall in Quezon City, Colmenares said human rights groups finally had a ‘eureka’ case. A closed-circuit television recording (CCTV) recorded the plate number of the van the men who abducted Burgos used. This, he said, was later traced to an impounded vehicle inside a military camp south of Manila. However, during the court investigation, high AFP officials made an incredible and laughable claim that the plate number was stolen by New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas inside the military camp. Investigation into his case remains at a standstill.

Colmenares joined the call of the L4L in calling for the prosecution of retired AFP general Palparan. His prosecution, if pursued, he said, will send a strong signal not only to the machinery for the killings, but also to the entire Arroyo regime as well.

While explaining that the struggle for human rights in the Philippines is a struggle against exploitation and oppression, Colmenares urged the voices from the Philippines and the international community to combine to raise strong concern on the human rights violations being committed by the Arroyo regime.

On cue

Explaining the status of the recent informal talks between the Government of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines held in Oslo, Norway, Rey Casambre, executive director of the Philippine Peace Center, revealed that the Arroyo government’s supposed new policy on peace negotiations with rebel groups – “disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR)”-unveiled only in the latter part of this year, was actually hatched as early as the first quarter of 2007. Casambre presented the document “Enhanced National Internal Security Plan (ENISP)”, a supposed comprehensive national security plan of the Arroyo government which even encompasses the ‘counter-insurgency plan’ “Oplan Bantay Laya II”. The plan already mentions the ‘DDR’ policy and the recommendation to shift to the filing of false charges against the legal left, while continuing with the physical elimination of what the regime considers “enemies of the state”. The Arroyo government announced this new policy as if on cue, he said, after the failed talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a Muslim rebel group operating in southern Philippines.

The forum in Amsterdam was attended by several other Dutch lawyers, representatives of Dutch political parties, Filipino migrants and refugees, Dutch and Belgian solidarity activists, researchers, and human rights activists.(Bulatlat.com)

‘Philippine Gov’t Lacks Political Will to Solve Human Rights Problems’

December 28, 2008

An independent regional non-government organization said the Philippine government lacks the political will to solve the human rights problems of the country.

BY RONALYN V. OLEA
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH

(Bulatlat.com)

An independent regional non-government organization said the Philippine government lacks the political will to solve the human rights problems of the country.

In its report on the Philippines, the Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) said, “Many of the human rights problems facing the Philippines are well-known. At the heart of the problem is a lack of political will to implement solutions to problems, even though there are many recommendations about how to bring about these solutions.”

The AHRC cited the recommendations by members of the United Nations Human Rights Committee through the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). The Philippines was subjected to the UPR process in April this year. Among the recommendations accepted by the Philippine government are: to carry out investigations and prosecutions on extrajudicial killings and punish those responsible, to strengthen the witness protection program, and to address the root causes of this issue. The government was also urged to take into account the recommendations of United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Prof. Philip Alston.

Alston visited the Philippines in February 2007 to investigate cases of extrajudicial killings. Among his recommendations are: that extrajudicial executions be eliminated from counterinsurgency operations; that the principle of command responsibility be ensured as basis for criminal liability to prosecute military officers; and, that the Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG) be abolished.

The AHRC noted that the UPR’s outcome also reaffirmed the findings of the Melo Commission. The Melo Commission was created by the President in 2007 in response to local and international pressures to put a stop to media and activist killings. The Commission called on the government to investigate complaints of killings against the military.

In 2007, the AHRC described as urgent the recommendations of the Melo Commission and Alston. The group noted, “However, one year later, the lack of progress illustrates the government’s inability and unwillingness to implement them.”


Protesters march to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. (Photo by Ronalyn Olea)

Writ of amparo

While the AHRC welcomed the Supreme Court’s adoption of the writ of amparo and the writ of habeas data, the group noted that there have been strong reservations as to how judges are dealing with petitions. The group said, “…They [judges] are ignoring the fact that these writs are designed to provide urgent relief and not lead to exhaustive and lengthy procedures before decisions are issued. These are tools designed to protect the lives and security of persons.

The AHRC lamented that five petitions for writs have been rejected on the premise that the petitioners have failed to produce clear evidence of apparent or visible threats to their lives in recent times. “The courts’ decisions have run contrary to the writ’s intent as they cast the burden of proof concerning threats on the complainants,” it said.

Arming civilians

The AHRC also expressed alarm over the ‘re-emergence and strengthening of the government’s long-standing policy of arming civilians.’ The group cited the creation of the Police Auxiliaries (PAX) by the Philippine National Police (PNP).

The AHRC said, “The policy to arm civilians has given legitimacy to vigilantism and exposed civilians to greater risk of being caught in the armed conflict.” It said that vigilante groups reign in General Santos and Davao in Mindanao and Cebu in Visayas.


A protesters holds a placard during a rally marking the International Human Rights Day. (Photo by Ronalyn Olea)

The group called on the government to abandon its policy of arming civilians and to disband the Citizens Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU), Civilian Volunteer Organization (CVO) and the Police Auxiliaries (PAX). “The continued existence and operations of these armed militias have already obscured the notion of state responsibility, permitting abuses of authority and rights while enabling impunity,” the AHRC deemed.

Domestic laws

The AHRC also called for the enactment of proposed laws regarding the criminalization of torture and enforced disappearance.

The group also said that no legislation concerning the principle of command responsibility with respect to extrajudicial killings has been enacted. The principle of command responsibility holds the higher ranking government official, military or otherwise, liable if he or she encourages, incites, tolerates or ignores any extrajudicial killing committed by a subordinate.

HR groups cry: ‘Surface Balao’

December 22, 2008

by Harley Palangchao

Surfacing Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) co-founder James Balao is the battle cry of militant groups and their supporters as they marked the 60th year of the United Nation’s adoption of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights last Dec. 10.

“We commemorate Dec. 10 in the midst of the agonizing search for James Balao, a human rights defender and genuine servant of the people. It is now 85 days since Sept. 17 when he was brazenly abducted by heavily armed state security forces,” reads the statement of the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA).

The CHRA believes that Balao’s alleged enforced disappearance is part of the Arroyo government’s implementation of Operation Plan Bantay Laya II.

Oplan Bantay Laya II, CHRA said, equates progressive people’s organizations critical to government policies and practices with the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New Peoples Army.

“This counter-insurgency program makes the members and leaders of these organizations (like the CPA and CHRA) targets of neutralization,” the CHRA statement also reads.

The CHRA also attributed to the program the killings of known progressive and militant leaders in northern Luzon like Romy Sanchez, Jose Manegdeg III, Albert Terredano, Jose Dotyon, Rafael Markus Bangit, Gloria Casuga, and Alyce Omengan-Claver.

“Since 2001, there [have been] 977 victims of extrajudicial killings, 201 victims of enforced disappearances, 1,010 victims of torture, 1, 464 illegal arrests, and 868,096 displaced from their homes and villages because of military operations,” the CHRA statement reads.

The figures are worse than the human rights violations recorded during the Marcos regime.

Militant congressmen Satur Ocampo, Liza Maza, Teodoro Casiño, Luzviminda Ilagan, and Ifugao Rep. Solomon Chungalao co-authored House Bill 869 requesting the Lower House Committee on Human Rights to investigate Balao’s disappearance.

The bill stated that the alleged enforced disappearance of Balao might be because of his work in defense of human rights and pressing issues and concerns besetting indigenous peoples in the Cordillera region.

Balao, CPA reported, was abducted by five men in Tomay, La Trinidad, Benguet at around 8 p.m. on Sept. 17. Supposed witnesses heard the “abductors” calling Balao a drug pusher.

(BaguioMidlandCourier)

No more democracy

December 21, 2008

(Speech of Joni Balao-Strugar at the Holy Mass on the 60th Anniversary of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights Cathedral of our Lady of Atonement on December 9 and at the picket at the Camp Allen gate on December 10.)

I am Joni Balao-Strugar, the youngest sister of James.

My other two siblings are in Manila on December 9 and had a meeting with our comrade Igorots and friends. They have gathered there as we gather here today for the same purpose to tell the whole world that there is no safety anymore in the Philippines. It is all about money and greed. The abduction of James is no doubt connected to money. Money shared with the surveillance team, the abductors and whoever is connected.

The Oplan Bantay Laya is a democracy with a death list. They have an order of battle list, wanted list, classified list and highly classified list of heads they want to abduct. There is no more democracy, that is called fascism. Soon intellectuals, media, journalists, organizers disappear. There is no more democracy. The state has to be open to constructive criticism – to be democratic, to learn from these criticisms, to know the needs the people demand. Without freedom of speech and of opinion, the Philippines turns into a country of fascistic rule.

My family was in Europe for a few years. We came back to the Philippines to have our young children learn about our ancestry and culture. And what do i show them? Aside from a smoke-polluted city? Atrocity? Fear? My brother, their uncle James they played and discussed with, was abducted. Where is the safety that my children can have? Their right to life and protection are in jeopardy in this democratic country. Can I have my family’s safety guaranteed for my parents, my siblings, my friends? The military, the police – meaning peace officer, peace-maker, are there to supposedly keep us safe, but they cannot guaranty our safety from enforced disappearances. Or any connections to such. Are they also safe? One wrong move and they are also dead. Where is democracy in this country?

James is not a terrorist. Why is one already a terrorist when one criticizes State politics.

Should we not be happy he is an organizer of the indigenous peoples in this unorganized country? We should be happy to have him here with us as he is a peace-maker in this discomposed and perturbed country. He devoted his knowledge to protect the indigenous peoples. And to protect the indigenous means to fight for the rights of everybody even that of the military and the police. They too are our comrades, our kailians.

I want to make it clear there are bad military men and good military men. You know who you are, and we too know who you are. Some are our friends and some are extremely evil they do not deserve to walk the earth. Jesus said, “Dear God, please forgive them for they know not what they are doing.” The Tibetans say, “What you do unto others will be done back unto you.” I say, “karma strikes back and when it strikes, you will not even see it. It will just strike so fast.” That is a divine rule too. So, to those bad guys there: Release my brother now!

I quote from Honorable Teodoro Baguilat Jr., provincial governor of Ifugao, “True, we live in a world of conflict, a war of attrition, but Cordillerans have for centuries resolved their conflicts respecting the rule of traditional law and human rights. The casualties of our wars were slain in acts of honor, not with treachery. The battles waged by our forefathers were for freedom, not for fascism.”

Losing my brother is my pain. Equally, it is all our pain. We have done all we could and we will continue to do even more until we see James again. Losing our friend is our pain, we don’t want to feel this pain. We will do whatever we can to embrace our friend, again. Losing our clan president is our pain, James is not yet finished with the Ngalatan and Calis clan family tree books. Our love for him is never ending. We defend him from any harm done towards him. We direly need him back in our lives as soon as possible. Losing our kailian is our pain. Cordillera is demanding the immediate release of James. Isakit mi ti kailian mi nga Igorot. We still have many things to do together so release James now in the name of the Cordillerans. #

Igorot elders perform rituals to aid search for missing Cordi activist

December 21, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — Elders from different Cordillera provinces participated in a series of rituals condemning the perpetrators of James Balao’s disappearance, in time for the 60th year of the UN declaration of human rights, Wednesday here.


SEARCH RITUAL. Invoking ancient spirits, Igorot elders plead that missing activist James Moy Balao be kept safe and alive as they condemn his abductors. Photo by Cye Reyes

Some elders representing all Cordillera provinces, who joined in the march-rally during the International Human Rights Day commemoration in the city, did a specific ritual just in front of Camp Allen where Balao was reported to have been taken before his alleged transfer to a different safe-house.

Camp Allen houses the headquarters of the Military Intelligence Group (MIG), which is alleged to have abducted Balao.

According to Ama Julio Longan from Kalinga, the prayer they aired was for the abductors, captors and whoever has knowledge of his disappearance, “for them to experience what they have done to Balao.”

Each elder from the different provinces prayed over a chicken before it was sacrificed and buried in a small hole in front of the military camp.

“Nalawag ti kayat a sawen ti inyaramid a ritwal: isubli da a sibibiag ni James iti kabiitan. Nu saan ket marikna ti agtengtengngel kenkuana ti rigat a sinagrap ni James.” (The message of our prayer during the ritual is clear, surface James alive as soon as possible and if they do not do that the same thing would happen to whoever abducted and has him now) said Longan.

Longan also said they even called the spirits of their ancestors and martyrs like Macliing Dulag, Ama Ngayaan and Markus Bangit to help in the search for Balao.

The elders along with some members of the Balao family and the Oclupan clan did another round of rituals separately Wednesday and Thursday, calling on the spirits of their ancestors to help in the search of Balao.

Xavier Akien of the Cordillera Elders Alliance (CEA) said the rituals are based on an Igorot tradition done whenever an grave injustice is done to a member of the community.

“These rituals are usually done in extreme cases and the elders must be really convinced that an injustice has been done to a member of the community before it is cast,” said Akien adding that this tradition has different forms according to the practice of the different tribes among the Igorots but the processes are basically the same.

“These series of rituals were made more powerful compared to other rituals already done before to bother the conscience of the perpetrators and based on the powerful prayers of the elders it would create disturbance to whoever knows any information of his whereabouts,” added Akien.

This is a very traditional way of the Igorots that is very unique to them and cannot be found in any other culture here in the country.

“We are in an emergency situation that needs the help of the spirits for the emergency search, and we are one in doing so to immediately search for James,” said Akien.

The rituals done were part of the Mabtad Kaigorotan call of the Balao family and the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) in the search for James. Mabtad is a call for all communities to participate in the search of someone who is missing. It is a Kankanaey practice and has proven community unity.

The Mabtad Kaigorotan was also launched in Manila Tuesday. # Cye Reyes(NorDis)

HR Day awaits amparo resolution

December 20, 2008

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet — The Regional Trial Court (RTC) here Thursday agreed to send the petition for the writ of amparo, filed after the abduction of James Moy Balao, for resolution in 10 days, in time for this year’s Human Rights Day.

Balao, a founding member of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) and president of the Oclupan Clan, was abducted on September 17 here. His family and CPA strongly suspect James was a victim of an enforced disappearance perpetrated by state security forces, as a part of Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL), a state policy which targets legitimate people’s activist organizations as part of counter-insurgency operations.

Balao’s family and CPA filed a petition for the writ of amparo on October 8, asking for a court order to search state security force camps, to produce James and to produce all military and police records referring to him, particularly the military order of battle (OB) .

RTC Branch 63 Judge Benigno Galacgac has already presided over two hearings on the petition. During the first two hearings on October 23 and 30, the Balao family and CPA presented witnesses who attested to the heavy surveillance that CPA and its members have been facing since the implementation of OBL.

Their witnesses also testified to the surveillance Balao was subjected to before his abduction.

At the end of the second hearing the Balaos rested their case and requested the court to bring the case to a quick resolution. The third hearing Thursday was scheduled for the 13 respondents, represented by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), to present witnesses.

“The strategy of the OSG throughout the first two hearings was to delay the resoplution of the case. Insisting on a third hearing to “possibly” present witnesses was just to delay the case resolution,”said Atty. Mary Ann Manja Bayang of the Cordillera Indigenous Peoples Legal Center (Dinteg).

Bayan maintain the petition for the writ of amparo is not a normal case,but rather involving a person’s life, liberty and security. “It is a case that requires proper care and speed. Any attempt to delay it is unprofessional and irresponsible,” she added.

Bayang and Atty. Cheryl Daytec-Yangot, appearing for the Balaos and CPA, filed a motion that waived the right of the petitioners to cross-examine any witness presented by the respondents, accepting their affidavits as their testimony and requested the court to resolve the case,hoping it would make the third hearing unnecessary.

The court, however, chose to push through with the third hearing. Balao lawyers iterated the importance of a speedy trial in this case and the desire to have the case resolved.

In an apparent change in strategy the OSG also asked the court to move for a resolution.

In regular proceedings a judge has 90 days to resolve a case. In a petition for the writ of amparo a judge must present a resolution within 10 days.

Jude Baggo, secretary-general of the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) said, “We need a resolution as soon as possible. We want James out of state custody and out of danger as soon as possible.”

Beverly Longid, CPA chairperson “It is important to remember that the writ of amparo is not accusatory and is not a proceeding on criminal charges. The granting of the writ does not define guilt.” She added it is a proceeding intended to protect Balao from any further harm and to release him from illegal detention,” she said, wondering at the government’s antagonistic response.

As this developed, there is a significant pressure for the immediate surfacing of Jame from national and international indigenous and human rights advocates s.

November 28 marked the International Day of Action to Surface James Moy Balao, when hundreds of groups and individuals who support the Surface James Balao! Campaign simultaneously faxed and emailed the Philippine government to increase the pressure for his immediate release.

At the University of the Philippines Diliman campus, students led by Takder, an organization of Cordilleran students, lit candles symbolic of hope for the surfacing of James. # CHRA Release

AFP hurting from allegations of human rights violations

December 10, 2008

By James Mananghaya Updated December 10, 2008 12:00 AM

The Armed Forces of the Philippines admitted that it is affected by allegations linking the AFP to cases of human rights violations, particularly incidents of enforced disappearances and summary executions.

But although they are hurting from the allegations, the AFP said they would institutionalize efforts to remove the stigma and change the way the public views the military organization.

Lt. Col. Ernesto Torres, AFP public affairs office chief, told The STAR that the newly created Human Rights Office led by Col. Feliciano Loy is part of the military’s efforts to show the public that any infraction committed by its personnel will not be condoned or tolerated.

Torres said that aside from investigating soldiers allegedly involved in cases of human rights violations and receiving complaints, the AFPHR office is also tasked to educate military personnel on human rights.

He said the AFP is affected by these allegations, which somehow hurt those who remain true to their mandate to protect the people.

“A big portion of these allegations is propaganda, being fanned by groups who are continuously trying to weaken the government. These are groups who want to bring down the government and supplant it with their own brand of government,” he said.

Torres also warned that by continuously putting the spotlight on the military and other government security agencies, there is a chance that the real perpetrators of these so-called human rights violations might go scot-free.

“Security forces are convenient scapegoats. This makes the investigations narrower and prolongs the resolution of the cases,” he said.

Torres said that there had been several instances in the past where it was proven through further investigation that the allegations were mere fabrications of groups who want to discredit the government and the AFP, which is an instrument of national policy.

But Torres also admitted that there are some soldiers who might have, on their own, committed some human rights violations, although these cases have already been submitted to the proper courts, civilian and military alike.

“The number of those who have committed these violations would be dwarfed by the number of military personnel who are willing to lay down their lives in the performance of their duties,” he said.

At the same time, Torres belied claims by some groups that the AFP is drumbeating the issue on the recruitment of minors by the New People’s Army just to discredit the rebel movement.

He said documents would show that even the United Nations has recognized the NPA and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as organizations that recruit minors.(PStar)

UN Castigates Philippine Gov’t on Marcellana-Gumanoy Case

November 26, 2008

In February 2007, UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudical, Summary and Arbitrary Killings Philip Alston pointed to the Armed Forces of the Philippines as the culprit behind the spate of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances. Recently, the United National Human Rights Committee concluded that the Philippine government violated the rights of Eden Marcellana, then secretary general of Karapatan-Southern Tagalog, and Eddie Gumanoy, former secretary general of peasant group Kasama-TK, who were victims of extrajudicial killings in 2003.

BY RONALYN OLEA
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Bulatlat

Families of slain activist Eden Marcellana and human rights group Karapatan welcomed the United Nations Human Rights Committee’s (UNHRC) findings on the murder of Marcellana and Eddie Gumanoy. The UNHRC concluded that the Philippine government failed to protect the rights of Marcellana and Gumanoy and provide remedies for redress for the relatives of the victims.

The incident

Based on a fact sheet released by Karapatan immediately after the incident, the two victims, together with three others, were abducted in Maibon, Naujan on April 21, 2003. They were part of an 11-member quick reaction team (QRT) tasked to investigate cases of abduction and killings in Gloria and Pinagmalayan towns in the province.

On their way back to Calapan City, a group of some 20 bonnet clad armed men in a private jeep and motorcycles blocked them. They took Eden Marcellana, Eddie Gumanoy, Virgilio Catoy “King” II, Melvin Jocson and Francisco Saez with them in the jeep.

Marcellana was then the secretary general of Karapatan-Southern Tagalog. Gumanoy was chairperson of the peasant group Kasama-TK.

Jocson and Saez are provincial coordinators of a partylist group Anakpawis, and Catoy is a videographer for audio-visual group ST Exposure and a Cultural Center of the Philippines-awardee.

Catoy, who survived the incident, said the abductors asked who among them was Marcellana. One of their companions was slapped when she denied that Marcellana was with them. Marcellana immediately presented herself, asking that her companions not be hurt. When Marcellana was being taken away, Gumanoy volunteered to come along.

For hours, the men escorted and led the van along a rough and uphill dirt road, said Catoy.

One by one, the three were dropped off leaving only Marcellana and Gumanoy. At one point, Catoy said, he was made to kneel, his back facing his abductors, blindfolded and hogtied. He was told to say his prayers. Then the armed men drove off.
The bodies of Marcellana and Gumanoy were found the next day in Bansud, Mindoro Oriental.

Witnesses point to the “Bonnet Gang,” a paramilitary group linked with the Philippine Army’s 204th Infantry Battalion of which then Col. Jovito Palparan Jr. was the commanding officer.

UN Views

The UN Human Rights Committee is the body monitoring the States parties’ compliance to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

The UNHRC’s investigation on the Marcellana and Gumanoy murders stemmed from a complaint filed on March 9, 2006 by Orly Marcellana, husband of Eden Marcellana and Daniel Gumanoy, son of farmer leader Eddie Gumanoy. Both were represented by Karapatan National Secretary General Marie Hilao-Enriquez. Laywer Edre Olalia, president of the International Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL), assisted the victims’ relatives and Karapatan in filing the said complaint.

The Committee said the facts reveal violations by the Philippine government of the right to life of every person, the right to liberty and security of persons and the rights of violated persons to effective remedies and the State ensuring that such remedies are provided and enforced as stated in the provisions of the ICCPR.

The 12-page UN Human Rights Committee’s decision was released on October 30 during its 94th session held at the UN headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

The official communication tabbed as CCPR/C/94/1560/2007 and dated 11 November 2008 was received by Karapatan November 21.

Justice

In an interview, Helen Mercado-Macalalad, older sister of Marcellana, said, “Sa tinagal-tagal simula nang pinatay siya, nagkakaroon na ng katarungan.” (After a long while since she was killed, justice is slowly being realized.)

Macalalad expressed frustration over the dismissal of the murder charges filed against the perpetrators in local courts. “Naaabala kami sa mga hearings, wala naming naging resulta.” (We religiously attended the hearings and got no results.) “Nakakapanghina ng loob,” (We were losing hope then.) she recalled.

She said that Palparan, the alleged mastermind of the killings, even attended the hearings.

Marie Hilao-Enriquez, Karapatan secretary general said, “Mabuti pa ang UN, nagkaroon na ng desisyon. Dito sa atin, walang remedyo.” (It is good that the UN decided on the case. Here there are no remedies available for the victims and their families.)

Enriquez said Karapatan, together with the families, exhausted all possible remedies. “Remedies available turned out to be ineffective,” she said.

Macalalad said she hopes the perpetrators will receive punishment. She said she believes Palparan has a hand in the killings. “Malakas ang ebidensya [laban kay Palparan.]” (The evidence against Palparan is strong.)

The Committee said that the Philippine government “is under an obligation to provide the authors [complainants] with an effective remedy, including initiation and pursuit of criminal proceedings to establish responsibility for the kidnapping and death of the victims.”

Macalalad said their parents Isidro and Menecia Mercado would welcome the news. She has yet to inform them of the UN findings when she gets back to Quezon province.

She added though, “Hindi rin lubos ang kasiyahan. Kahit bayaran pa kami ng milyon, di na siya [Eden] maibabalik pa.” (Our happiness is not complete. Even if they pay us millions of pesos, they can never bring her back to us alive.)

The Philippine government, said the Committee, must also provide the complainants appropriate compensation.

Twelve-year-old Dana, daughter of Marcellana, said she is happy about the decision. She was only seven when her mother was killed.

But when asked about their reaction when Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo praised Palparan during her State of the Nation Address (SONA) in 2006, Dana said, “Si Palparan daw ang nagbibigay ng kapayapaan samantalang sila ang gumagawa ng mga pagpatay.” (Palparan was said to bring peace while in reality, they are the ones who do the killings.)

Macalalad said Orly Marcellana, husband of Eden, already received the good news. She said he is happy.

The Committee asked the Philippine government to submit, within 180 days, information about the measures taken to give effect to the Committee’s views.

The Committee said the Philippine government should also ‘take measures to ensure that such violations do not recur in the future.’

Enriquez said the UN’s decision is a clear indictment of the Arroyo government. “It’s a shame that the Philippine government is a party to the ICCPR and has been found to be violating it.”

She added, “There is a basis to prosecute the criminals. The government must fulfill its obligations.”

Enriquez also said the UN decision would contribute to the wealth of evidence on human rights violations alleged in the impeachment complaint against Arroyo.”(Bulatlat.com)

AFP denies search in camps

November 18, 2008

Family of missing activist remains hopeful

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet — In the continued search for missing activist James Balao, even in the company of the Commission of Human Rights (CHR), members of the Balao family and officers of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) were denied entry to military camps in Manila, Tuesday.

“The government is putting obstacles to all our efforts to search for James. If they are not guilty, then why are they afraid to open their camps to us?” said Windel Bolinget, secretary general of CPA, who with representatives of the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) were with the family.

The group visited the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) Camp Aguinaldo and Fort Bonifacio.

According to Bolinget, they were not allowed to enter these camps because they did not have a court order to compel them (the AFP) to allow them entry.

The Balao family and CPA have a pending petition for a writ of amparo.

“If the writ is granted by the court, the Balao family and CPA would be allowed to search for James in the military and police camps and facilities,” said Bolinget quoting the military officers.

The CHR, however, needs no court order because their mandate is directly from the Philippine constitution, added Bolinget.

The group also visited Camp Crame of the Philippine National Police (PNP). Only the representatives of the CHR and Winston Balao, a sibling of missing Balao were allowed to enter. They, however, were not allowed to go around the police facility.

Meanwhile, the second hearing for the writ of amparo of Balao has been calendared for the 27th of November as requested by the respondents represented by Atty. Gerik Paderanga of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), here, Thursday.

The petitioners asked for five days for them to submit a formal offer of exhibits and their position paper to the court. Paderanga, however requested for more time to make and file their comments.

Judge Benigno Galacgac initially scheduled the next hearing for the 13th but due to another case, Paderanga got it scheduled for a later date.

Though disappointed by the extended time, the petitioners and aggrieved parties vowed to continue their search for Balao.

“I am really frustrated because the intention of the writ of amparo is to protect James’ life and security, and the longer it takes for it to be granted puts James’ life at greater risk,” said Bolinget.

According to Beverly Longid, CPA chairperson, that in as much as they want the court to act with the utmost urgency, their group does not have any control because there are rules to be followed.

“We just hope that they would look at the merits of the case and not dwell on issues of technicalities and legal standing,” added Longid.

Atty. Rex Lampa, one of the members of the legal team handling Balao’s case said “In cases like the writ of amparo, summary proceedings are adopted and any dilatory pleadings are prohibited because of the urgency to provide protection to the victim.”

Paderanga on the other hand said in an interview, it is not easy for them to do all the court requirements because they have lots of respondents including the president.

The respondents’ answer to the petition, which is required in all cases, was just filed during the second hearing.

The answer includes the request to drop Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo among the respondents of the Balao petition citing that the president has immunity from any kind of suit as long as she is in power.

Balao was abducted by heavily armed men, who identified themselves as policemen, on September 17. The petition for the writ of amparo was filed October 9.

While the hearing was ongoing, CPA members and other militant organizations held two separate programs at the Benguet Capitol steps and La Trinidad public market to appeal to the public to be involved in the call for the immediate surfacing of Balao. The Balao family hails from this municipality. # Cye Reyes(NorDis)

Benguet dads alarmed over the abduction of Balao

November 18, 2008

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet — Benguet police provincial Chief Danilo Pelisco took to the podium on October 27 trying to allay fears among provincial board members that peace in the province has been disturbed by the abduction of activist James Balao.

Pelisco said the enforced disappearance of Balao is an isolated case.

The common sentiment in the board is the possible repercussion of the abduction on the province’s economy, especially that it is preparing to host a throng of tourists during the holding of the Adivay Festival, which kicked off November 3.

The provincial board’s question hour delved on the case of activist James Balao, a victim of enforced disappearance when witnesses saw him taken by some armed men who claimed they were policemen on September 17.

First abduction in Benguet

Alarmed over the first case of enforced disappearance in Benguet, the provincial board summoned both Pelisco and the Commission on Human Rights-Cordillera to appraise them of the case.

Pelisco said Balao has no criminal record, nor any derogatory involvement as far as the provincial police record is concerned,when asked of Balao’s police image.

“He is a founding member of the CPA, which is a front organization of left-wing organizations,” Pelisco told the provincial board. He added Balao is not even in the Order of Battle, which he admitted is an existing list of identified members of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA).

Impact on tourism

Meanwhile, Board Member Ro­gelio Leon expressed his concern that the abduction of Balao may impact on tourism and the peace in the province.

Balao’s enforced disappearance came in the wake of the province’s preparation for this year’s Adivay Festival, which is an annual event that entices both local and foreign tourists into the province. This year’s celebration runs for one month with a battery of activities that draw people’s attention to Benguet’s products, people and culture.

“We are no longer secured in our province,” Board Member Juan Nazarro told Pelisco as he expressed an alarm that Benguet is no longer a peaceful province.

Pelisco, in his report to the board, said a witness has testified seeing Balao being hand-cuffed in the morning of September 17 in Tomay, Barangay Tawang here.

Pelisco said, the witness also saw Balao taken at gunpoint by six armed men and forced into a white Mitsubishi Adventure, a brand of a vehicle, that headed towards Camp Bado Dangwa, a few kilometers away, with the driver telling two motorcycle-riding men to follow suit, saying “Pare sa Camp Dangwa tayo,” (Off to Camp Dangwa).

Not in PNP custody

Pelisco said, however, quoting Police Regional Office Cordillera chief Gen. Eugene Martin, the police did not have Balao in its custody.

Earlier, CPA Chairperson Beverly Longid said in a press conference Balao is in a detention facility of the state security forces. She did not say which branch of service is reportedly holding him.

An entourage that attempted to locate him on October 28 in Fort Bonifacio and Camp Aguinaldo both in Quezon City, however, was denied entry. # Lyn V. Ramo(NorDis)

PRO-COR trades words with CPA on Balao abduction

November 18, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — The head of the Police Regional Office in the Cordillera (PRO-COR) insinuates that the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) is not cooperative on their effort for the investigation on James Balao abduction.

CPA on the other hand claimed they did all the cooperation efforts and in fact facilitated the interview of the abduction witnesses by the PNP Task Force Balao.

In an interview, Gen. Eugene Martin said they asked the CPA to present to them the house mates of Balao as they might help in the resolution of the case but to no avail.

Martin clarified the allegation that they are not doing something on the case, “not all developments and information on the Balao investigation should be divulged publicly.”

He added they expanded the Task Force Balao and “we are going as far as Sagada to get information that would help in solving the Balao case.”

Task Force Balao was created by PRO-COR to investigate the alleged abduction of Balao. Col. Fortunato Albas of the PRO-COR heads the said body.

Martin claimed the PNP should not be immediately linked to the abduction while the investigation is on-going.

“We took the statements of witnesses. There is nothing from their statements that directly identify the PNP and military as involved in taking Balao,” he added.

The witnesses accounted the alleged abductors claimed that Balao has many offenses, like drugs, and they are bringing him to Camp Dangwa, added Martin and asked, “Why announce that you belong to the PNP if you are to involve in such act of abduction?

Martin denied the abduction was the handiwork of the police.

Complete lie

Windell Bolinget, CPA secretary-general, belied that they are not cooperating.

He tagged Martin’s words are complete lie instead.

“We had been fully cooperating to them (PNP). In fact, we are the ones who presented the witnesses of the abduction to them and they (PNP) interviewed them afterwards,” explained Bolinget in an interview.

Bolinget added they went to meet with Col. Albas and Col. Jess Cangbay, head of the R2, intelligence unit of the PRO-COR, for several times for dialog and meetings.

Bolinget claimed it is the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that are not cooperative on the immediate resolution of the abduction.

He cited in the scene of the incident, a PNP living near the area failed to investigate immediately the abduction despite being informed by the residents.

“And we wonder on the slow development of the case despite the incident happened just a few meters from the PNP camp”, Bolinget pointed out.

He also pointed that despite the accounts of the witnesses, the PNP pushes for the angle of land and clan conflict as the reason for Balao’s abduction. # Arthur L. Allad-iw(NorDis)

Buhay si James Balao

November 14, 2008

Cye Reyes / Nordis Weekly

BAGUIO CITY—Nakatanggap ang Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) ng impormasyon mula sa isang source na nagsasabing buhay at nakadetine sa isa sa mga pasilidad ng Estado ang nawawalang aktibistang si James Balao.

Ayon kay Beverly Longid, tagapangulo ng CPA, nagmula sa “mapagkakatiwalaan at kredibleng” impormante na isang ahente mismo ng Estado ang impormasyon.

Sinabi pa ni Longid na kumukuha pa ng karagdagang impormasyon ang CPA kung ano ang eksaktong pasilidad na kulungan na ito para iprayoritisa sa inspeksiyon ng kanilang grupo at ng pamilya Balao.

“Ngayong alam naming buhay si James at nasa kustodiya ng mga ahenteng panseguridad ng estado, kailangang agarang ilabas (ng korte) ang writ of amparo para payagan ang pamilya at ang CPA na masusing inspeksiyunin ang mga kampo ng militar at pulisya kabilang na ang mga safe house na matutukoy namin,” ani Longid.

Natagalan umano ang CPA para iberipika ang katangian ng tip na natanggap nito. Hindi pa rin umano maaaring ihayag kung anong partikular na yunit ang pinagmulan o kung sino ang nasabing impormante.

“Kahit alam na naming ang pagdukot kay James ay kolaborasyon ng iba’t ibang ahenteng panseguridad ng Estado, sa puntong iyo ay hindi namin matukoy ang eksaktong yunit na sangkot. Pero naniniwala kaming ang paniniktik kay James bago siya dinukot ay isinagawa ng Intelligence Service Unit (ISU) ng Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) at konektado sa Philippine Army,” sabi pa ni Longid.

Sa kabila ng magandang balita, muling iginiit ng pamilya Balao at ng CPA ang apela nito sa publiko na ipagpatuloy ang suporta at pagtulong para mailutang si Balao.

“Napakahalaga ng oras ngayon para masalba ang buhay niya,” dagdag ni Longid.

Samantala, pinabulaanan ni Longid ang teorya ng Task Force Balao ng Philippine National Police (PNP) na resulta ng sigalot sa pagitan ng mga tribong Balao at Oclupan o kagagawan ng CPA ang pagkawala ni Balao.

“Hindi lang ito katawa-tawa kundi malinaw na hakbang ng gobyerno para ilayo ang anumang lead na mayroon sila na nagtuturo sa totoong maysala at pagtakpan ang tunay na motibo sa pagkawala ni James,” paliwanag pa ni Longid.

Sinabi pa ng lider ng CPA na may padron na ang kasong ito, dahil kadalasang tinatarget at hinaharas ng mga ahente ng gobyerno ang gma miyembro ng CPA.

Balao is alive, Baguio court told

October 26, 2008

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:49:00 10/26/2008

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines—Missing activist James Balao is still alive and is being detained in a military camp.

This was a tip received by the Cordillera Peoples Alliance on Thursday, after the first hearing on the petition for a writ of amparo for the surfacing of Balao at the regional trial court in La Trinidad, Benguet.

“Our source informed us that James is still alive and is in detention,” Beverly Longid, CPA chair, said in a forum here on Friday.

Asked to comment about the possibility that his son is still alive, Balao’s father Arthur said: “I am happy to learn that my son is still alive but I am still confused because I do not have the information about his whereabouts.”

On Thursday, the family of Balao and militant groups led by the CPA and the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) held a rally in front of the Justice Hall of Benguet to drum up the call to issue the writ.

Witness’ account

During the hearing, representatives of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), which represented the respondents in the petition, tried to have the case dismissed but failed.

A witness, Aniceto Adawing who was cross-examined during the hearing, said he saw five armed men accost Balao in Barangay Lower Tomay in La Trinidad on Sept. 17.

Adawing said the men poked their Armalite rifle and .45 cal. guns at Balao and announced that they were arresting him for suspected illegal drug pushing.

Adawing said he was certain that the men were from the police.

Lawyer Gerik Caesare Paderanga, OSG associate solicitor, said most of the petitions which were filed under the writ had been dismissed due to baseless accusations.

Balao’s family filed the petition to compel the military, James’ suspected abductor, to produce him.

The family asked the court to direct the military to disclose the whereabouts of Balao, a founding member of the CPA.

The family also asked the court to allow its authorized representatives to inspect military or police facilities where Balao was believed detained.

Procedure lapse

The OSG also failed to submit a return during a hearing, which, according to human rights lawyers, was a violation of the procedure.

The return is the answer of the respondents to the issues against them which should be submitted five days after the petition was received.

Paderanga said they failed to submit the return because the process would take long as the respondents involved extraordinary people such as President Macapagal-Arroyo, Cabinet secretaries and police and military officials.

“We understand that the family is suffering but the submission of the return will require a lot of time. We have to be practical,” he said.

Lawyer Mary Ann Bayang, Balao counsel, said the failure of the government to submit its response because they were extraordinary people was a flimsy excuse.

“Saying that the respondents were extraordinary people was not an excuse. Whether they were ordinary or extraordinary people, they should be treated equally before the court. The more that they have to comply because they are public officials,” she said. Desiree Caluza, Inquirer Northern Luzon

Statements: Another Cordillera son missing

October 22, 2008

By TEODORO B. BAGUILAT, JR.
GOVERNOR, PROVINCE OF IFUGAO

Yet another son of the Cordillera, another activist for our rights, has disappeared.

I do not know James Balao personally, but I know his kind. There are only a few of us who have the courage to devote one’s life to pursuing difficult causes. Yet he craves no praise or gratification. Just a desire that the coming generations of Cordillerans will live in a region of genuine peace, sustainable development and self-determination.

Thus, I join all those who have manifested their indignation over his disappearance. I condemn forces of political intolerance and brute force who have sought to silence Balao’s crusades with an act of terror.

For whatever ideology, political belief or religious persuasion that propels our actions, the value of non-violence and human rights must be upheld.

True, we live in a world of conflict, a war of attrition. But Cordillerans have for centuries resolved their conflicts respecting the rule of traditional law and human rights. The casualties of our wars were slain in acts of honor, not with treachery. The battles waged by our forefathers were for freedom, not for fascism.

These were the things James fought for. Despite the fears and the solitude, he struggled. We owe him this much to pray and demand that he be returned to the family and community he so loved. #

Similarities noted in the enforced disappearance of Jonas and James

October 22, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — A forum at the University of the Philippines Baguio Tuesday gathered the family and supporters of two missing JB’s, who took turns telling of harrowing experience searching for their abducted kin.


A THOUSAND CRANES FOR A WISH. Arturo Balao and Editha Burgos add their origami crane to complete the 1,000 cranes to carry the wish for the surface of James and Jonas. Photo by Cye Reyes/NORDIS

In the said forum, the participants and the families talked on similarities in the two cases of enforced disappearance and how they could join forces to end human rights violations.

The Jonas rice

Jonas Burgos’ decision to take up agriculture in the Benguet State University (BSU) in La Trinidad, Benguet was influenced by his family’s decision to go into farming as a way of leading a simple life. Jonas helped the family manage a 12-hectare farm in Bulacan.

According to Editha Burgos, Jonas’ mother, he really loves to be among the farmers. “He makes it a point to help other farmers and expects nothing in return,” said Burgos adding he used to come home with farmers’ produce in exchange for a day’s work.

Burgos proudly said Jonas as an agriculturist developed a rice variety that withstands the strongest of typhoons. It is still being propagated to get more seeds for dispersal to other farmers.

“This is how dedicated Jonas is in terms of sacrifice for the sake of others,” said Burgos.

Jonas is a member of the Alyansa ng Magsasaka sa Bulacan (AMB), an affiliate of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), tagged by the military as an “enemy of the state.”

Jonas was abducted April 28, 2007 while having lunch in Quezon City. Burgos recalled they were able to talk to Jonas the day after the abduction but he was sounding drugged or drunk and was talking non-sense.

According to a fact sheet about Jonas’ abduction, witnesses surfaced after the Burgos family had a press conference two days after the abduction. They recounted Jonas was forcibly taken by four to eight plain-clothed men who forced him into a waiting Toyota Revo. One of the abductors reportedly identified himself as a police officer.

Later the vehicle was reportedly seen at a military camp in Bulacan.

In Burgos’ account, the witnesses also said that while Jonas was being dragged, he kept on shouting, “Aktibista lang po ako,” (I am just an activist).

The other missing JB

James Balao’s activism started when he was still at the University of the Philippines Baguio, where he was the editor-in-chief of the student publication Outcrop. He then wrote several articles criticizing the Marcos dictatorship.

He is one of the founding members of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) in 1984 and worked in its Research and Education Commission, extending his services and expertise in the Cordillera provinces.

CPA, the local chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), is also tagged by the military as an “enemy of the state.”

James was abducted September 17.

According to the October 13 press release of CPA, witnesses came out after they had seen a public announcement on James’ disappearance in a local paper and a tarpaulin along Bokawkan Road.

According to witness’ accounts, at around 8:00 A.M. of September 17 in Lower Tomay, La Trinidad, five unidentified men swooped on James and forcibly took him and put him in what looks like a Mitsubishi Adventure or a Toyota Revo.

While James was cuffed he cried “Saludsuden yo man dagitoy nu ania ti basol ko” (Please ask them what wrong have I done). One of the abductors then shouted at the witnesses, “Pulis kami! Huwag kayong maki-alam! Drug pusher ito” (We are the police! Do not interfere! He is a drug pusher!) and clamped his neck to silence him.

James was subjected to a heavy surveillance since April until his abduction. One of the vehicles on his list of suveillance cars was seen parked at the premises of the Intelligence Security Unit at Navy Base here.

A thousand cranes for a wish

According to a Japanese belief, a thousand folded paper cranes makes a wish come true.

The Balao family and Editha Burgos with the help of friends made a thousand origami cranes and placed them on a giant crane made out from bamboo, in the said forum, with one wish — for James and Jonas to be surfaced alive and well.

“Ang hirap maghanap kung hindi mo alam saan hahanapin,” (It is hard to look for someone when you do not know where to look) lamented Burgos. “We just want our loved ones to be unconditionally surfaced,” she added.

“I can imagine the torture James Balao’s family is undergoing right now, not knowing the whereabouts and condition of their loved one,” said Burgos as she vowed to be one with the Balao family in condemning the abduction of James and in saying that the military is behind all enforced disappearances.

“Mas madaling maghanap kung may kasama ka,” (It is easier to do the search with supporters) said Burgos adding she could not have been strong enough to handle his son’s disappearance without the help and support of others.

Jonilyn Balao-Strugar, the youngest sibling of missing activist James Balao, said the enforced disappearance of her brother has heavily affected the whole Balao clan.

“We have already stopped counting the days. We cannot even look at the calendar anymore,” Strugar said. “So much has been said and done already but my brother is still missing,” she said adding there is still a lot of push needed to find her brother.

She also said if Jonas has been gone missing for more than a year already, she fears it could happen to her brother.

Winston Balao, another sibling of James, said “We can only imagine the stories of the witnesses we have talked to on how our brother was brutally taken by unidentified men.” He also said it is painful to think why people like James and Jonas who help other people are the ones targeted by our own government and subjected to unthinkable torture.

The Burgos case was denied a writ of habeas corpus and was granted a partial writ of amparo.

Writ if amparo

Meanwhile, the Balao case has just filed for a writ of amparo October 9. The first hearing set by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Judge Benigno Galacgac 16th of October was postponed when the judge was hospitalized and the executive judge who is supposed to take over in case of emergencies like this, also reportedly called in sick.

In her experience, Burgos said the hearings for a writ of amparo dragged a very long time. She has expressed hope that it will not be for the Balao family and prays they get a better legal chance in their search for James.

Burgos is one of the signatories of the impeachment case against Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo filed Monday in congress. # Cye Reyes (Nordis)

Ilocos court drops rebellion charges vs peace consultant

October 22, 2008

CANDON CITY — The Ilocos Sur provincial prosecutor’s office  dismissed rebellion charges against National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Peace Consultant Elizabeth Prinsipe as an end result of the preliminary investigation ordered by the court in July.

The three-page resolution signed by Fiscal Redentor Cardenas stated “the participation of the accused Elizabeth Prinsipe was not actual but only presumed. Under the basic tenets of criminal law, any doubt should always be interpreted in favor of the innocence of the accused.”

As an end result of the preliminary investigation ordered by Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 23 Judge Gabino Balbin Jr., the provincial prosecutors office found no probable cause of the crime rebellion. It was resolved that her name be dropped from the rebellion charge in Criminal Case No. 1260 in Candon City, Ilocos Sur RTC Branch 23 and that her case be dismissed.

Principe, through her lawyers in the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) and the Cordillera Indigenous People’s Legal Center (Dinteg) submitted her counter-affidavit August 5, after the court gave her 15 days to submit her statement.

‘Never set foot in Ilocos Sur’

Principe stated in her counter-affidavit she worked as a paramedic in Cagayan Valley until she was arrested in November 28, 2007 by virtue of the case filed in Branch 23 RTC Candon City, Ilocos Sur. She noted the evidence against her was based on hearsay particularly of those witnesses Gaspar Bagsingit, CIC Orlando Maguinsay and SSgt. Victoriano Jallorina who accused her of being a high- ranking officer of the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).

Principe denied such accusations and claimed she never set foot in Ilocos Sur except during her arraignment in January this year, where she was secretly transferred by the PNP on the night of January 22, although during the time of the attack of the house of Jallorina, she was in Cagayan Valley.

Her counter-affidavit concluded nobody was able to prove that she was part or participated in the pursuit of rebellion against the government or any of its instrumentality.

‘Ka Memay’

The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG)-Ilocos Sur however, countered the statement of Prinsipe questioning her profession as a paramedic.

“She had no reason as to why she was in the place of the camps of the rebels and she never gave any reason why she had to render medical services and educate people in the said places as she was never employed by the Government,” the CIDG counter to the counter-affidavit said.

The CIDG also claimed Prinsipe was a member of the CPP-NPA-NDFP and that her nom-de-guerre is Ka Memay. The statement also accused Leo Velasco, Prinsipe’s missing husband, as the CPP-NPA’s highest organ cadre.

Based on the allegations and counter allegations, the resolution noted it went over the pieces of evidence to determine its probable cause. Statements of Maguinsay, Basingit and Jallorina were reviewed to which the resolution stated that it was “presumed” and not “actual” evidence.  Such became the basis of the dismissal of the rebellion charge against Prinsipe.

Prinsipe, 58, a peace process consultant of the NDFP and a paramedic in profession, was abducted last year by military intelligence personnel while on her way to a medical check-up. The military and police also implicated her in the Manila Peninsula stand off last November 2007 and alleged her of multiple charges in Cagayan Valley and Ilocos Region where she was implicated in the strafing of the house of Jallorina in 1991.

Hope for release

Lorena Santos, daughter of Elizabeth Prinsipe and Leo Velasco and currently the spokesperson of Free Elizabeth Principe and Surface Leo Velasco Task Force welcome the decision of the provincial prosecutor’s office.

“I am deeply relieved to know that my mother’s rebellion case in Candon is finally dismissed,” Santos said in a text message.

Santos said this dismissal is a first step for her mother’s release. “This gives my family hope that my mother will be set free and so as other political prisoners,” she said in a text message.

Prinsipe and her lawyers from PILC and Dinteg is set to attend a hearing on October 22 at Candon City. # Rod Tajon(NorDis)

Buto at ilan pang palatandaan ng malagim na kaganapan sa Limay

October 21, 2008

Raymund B. Villanueva


Si Raymond Manalo (kaliwa) sa harap ng tinakpang hukay na posibleng pinaglibingan kay Manuel Merino. (Raymund Villanueva)

NAGHIHINTAY sa dalang pananghalian ng kanyang tatay sa kanilang paaralan sa Subic, Zambales si Shara Hizarsa noong Marso 22, 2007. Pagdating nito magsasalo silang mag-ama sa pagkaing araw-araw niluluto at inihahatid ni Abner. Ito na ang kanilang regular na gawain simula noong tumigil ang kanyang ama sa pagiging kasapi ng kilusang lihim dahil sa sakit.

Pero walang Tatay Abner na dumating para sa pananghalian ng bata noong araw na iyon.

Labingsiyam na buwan na ang nakalipas, wala pa ring tatay na naghahatid ng pananghalian kay Shara.

Noong nakaraang Lunes, Oktubre 13, ginunita ni Shara ang kanyang ika-labindalawang kaarawan. Noong araw na iyon, hindi niya kasama kahit ang kanyang nanay na si Criz. Sumama si Nanay Cris sa mga kamag-anak ng mga dinukot at nawawala sa ilalim ng gobyernong Arroyo sa isang fact-finding mission sa Barangay Bliss, Limay, Bataan.

Kampo ng kalupitan

Sa araw na iyon 50 kasapi ng Karapatan at Desaperacidos, kamag-anak ng mga biktima, kagawad ng Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and mga anthropologist ng Unibersidad ng Pilipinas (sa pangunguna ni Dr Francisco Datar) ay nagsadya sa isang abandonadong kampo ng militar malapit sa makasaysayang monumento ng Bundok Samat.

Naghukay sila ng maraming beses sa pag-asang makakakita sila ng labi ng mga pinatay ng Philippine Army. Pinangunahan sila ni Raymond Manalo, isa sa dalawang magkapatid na nakatakas sa mga kagawad ng 24th Infantry Battalion ng 7th Infantry Division ng Philippine Army. Ayon kay Raymond, dinala sila ng mga sundalo sa naturang kampo noong ika-21 o 22 ng Nubyembre 2006.

Matapos ang isang lingo, nakita nila ang nawawalang mag-aaral ng UP na si Karen Empeño at ang magsasakang si Manuel Merino. Matapos pa ang isang linggo, nakita naman nilang dinala sa kampo si Sherlyn Cadapan, isa pang dinukot na estudyante ng UP. Marami pang ibang biktima ang dinala sa kampo na kung hindi man pinahirapan ay patay na ng dumating.

Pinilit sina Raymond na magtayo ng mga kubo, magluto, maglinis, mag-igib at maglaba para sa mga sundalo sa pangunguna ng isang Major Donald “alyas Allan” Caigas. Nakita rin niya kung paano ibitin ng patiwarik ang mga estudyante sa tig-isang paa lamang samantalang sinasaksak ng kahoy ang maseselang bahagi ng kanilang katawan.

Tuwing pansamantalang matatapos ang pagpapahirap, inutusan si Raymond na linisin ang dugo at dumi ng mga biktima at labhan ang kanilang duguang mga damit. Ayon kay Raymond, maraming beses siyang natutulog na umaalingawngaw ang mga hiyaw at pagmamakaawa ng mga babae sa kanyang tenga.

Sa kanyang sinumpaang salaysay, sinabi ni Raymond na makailang beses silang dinala ng kanyang kapatid na si Reynaldo at Merino ng mga sundalo sa pangangalabaw at pagpatay ng mga magsasaka sa mga kapaligid na barangay. Layon ng mga operasyon na maibintang sa New People’s Army ang mga pagnanakaw at pandarambong at upang magalit ang taumbayan sa mga rebelde. “’Operasyon Lubog’ ang tawag nila rito,” ayon kay Raymond.

Isang madilim na gabi noong Hunyo 2007 kinuha si Merino ng mga sundalo mula sa kanilang selda. Sinabi sa matanda na kakausapin daw siya ni Major General Jovito S Palparan (ngayo’y retirado). Makalipas ang ilang minuto nakita ni Raymond na dinadala ang nakaposas na si Merino sa isang madawag na lugar 50 metro ang layo mula sa bakod ng kampo. Mula sa kanyang kinatatayuan narinig ni Raymond ang isang pagulat na hiyaw, na sinundan ng dalawang putok ng baril.

“Siguro hindi nadale sa saksak, kaya binaril,” ani Raymond. Pagkatapos ay nakita ni Raymond na may sinusunog sa lugar ng ilang oras. Kinaumagahan sinabihan si Raymond na huwag nang hanapin ang matanda dahil pinagsama-sama na silang tatlo nina Cadapan at Empeno. “Pinatay si ‘Tay Manuel dahil sabi ng militar matanda na siya,” ani Raymond.

Sa sumunod na buwan ng Hulyo ang magkapatid ay dinala sa Bolinao, Pangasinan para higit pang alipinin sa bukid na pag-aari ni Caigas. Dito sila nakatakas sa gabi ng Agosto 12.

‘Malinaw at kapani-paniwalang testimonya’

Nagpapalit-palit ang matataas na opisyal at gubyerno sa pagpapasinungaling sa salaysay ni Raymond. Sinabi nilang walang kampo ng militar sa Barangay Bliss, Limay, Bataan. Ayon kay Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro at dating Armed Forces Chief of Staff Hermogenes Esperon Jr. na “walang basehan” ang testimonya ni Raymond.

Sinabi ni Lt. Gen. Isagani Cachuela, kumander ng Northern Luzon Command ng Army na wala siyang nalalaman sa kampo ng military sa Brgy. Bliss. Ito rin ang pahayag ni Maj. Gen Ralph Villanueva, kumander ng 7th ID na siyang mga hurisdiksiyon sa 24th IB. Noong nakaraang Setyembre 20 sinabi ng tagapagsalita ng Army na si Lt Col Romeo Brawner na walang Cadapan, Empeño at Merino ang natagpuan sa anumang kampo ng militar kung saan sila pinaniniwalaang dinala.

Pero nagkakaisa ang mga residente ng Barangay Bliss na dating may kampo nga ng militar sa kanilang lugar. Mismong ang dating bise gobernador ng Bataan na si Rogelio Roque pa ang nagkumpirma sa dating kampo dahil pagmamay-ari niya ang loteng katabi ng kampo.

Nakumbinsi naman ang Court of Appeals (CA) at Korte Suprema na sa kabila ng paulit-ulit na pagtanggi ng militar ay “makatotohanan,” “kahindik-hindik” at “malinaw” ang testimonya ni Raymond.

Noong Oktubre 6 sinangayunan ng Korte ang desisyon ng CA na bigyan ng pribilehiyo ng writ of amparo ang magkapatid na Manalo bilang proteksiyon laban sa mga puwersa ng Estado. Sinang-ayunan din ng Korte ang maaaring pagkakasala ni Palparan sa pagdukot sa magkapatid, gayundin kina Cadapan, Empeno, Merino at iba pa. Ibinasura rin ng Korte ang isinagawang imbestigasyon ng 7th ID na “napakalimitado, minadali at maka-isang panig.”

Sinabi naman ng tagapangulo ng CHR na si Atty. Leila de Lima na “Ang magkapatid na Manalo ang siyang mayroong pinaka-signipikanteng testimonya sa mga pagpatay at pagdukot.”

‘Patutunayan ko sa kanila na tama ako’

Isang linggo matapos ang pagbibigay ng pribilehiyo ng writ of amparo pinangunahan ni Raymond ang fact-finding mission sa kampo ng military sa Barangay Bliss. Bago pa sumikat ang araw naituro na ni Raymond sa mga taga-Karapatan ang eksaktong lugar kung saan dating nakatirik ang mga kubo ng mga sundalo at kung saan maaring ibinaon ang mga biktima.

Ang iba naman ay nagsipagtayo ng mga toldang tutulugan ng mga kasapi ng misyon. Kitang-kitang pinagsumikapang itago ang lahat ng bakas ng kampo. Ang mga semento ay binakbak at itinapon sa kawayanan isang daang metro ang layo sa sentro ng dating kampo. Wala nang hukay ang mga banyo at hinugot na rin ang mga tubo ng tubig. Subalit, sa gitna ng mga ligaw na bulaklak at sa ilalim ng nagtatayugang puno ng mangga, malinaw na naituro ng saksi ang lahat ng istraktura ng kampo.

“Hindi ko aakalaing babalik pa ako rito. Takot ako, nanginginig, giniginaw. Noong una kaming dinala rito, akala namin ay isa-salvage na kami,” ani Raymond.

Pagdating ng mga taga-CHR ng alas-10 ng umaga, handa na ang Karapatan na maghukay at magdokumento ng anumang matatagpuan sa lugar.

Pagkapananghali, dumating si de Lima mula sa Maynila. Naglibot ito sa kampo, gayundin sa mga inakalang hukay ng mga pinatay na biktima. Nag-utos din siya sa mga kawani ng ahensiya na maghanap ng mga dagdag na tagahukay dahil sa nakitang hirap ng mga taga-Karapatan. Mabato at matigas ang lupa lagpas ng isang piye’t kalahati.

Negatibo ang resulta ng unang apat na hukay subalit nagkalat sa lugar ang maliliit na ebidensiyang naiwanan ng tao – mga sunog na mantel, sapatos, kahoy, at iba pa. Ang isang piraso ng damit na nakita ay maaring kay Cadapan, ayon kay Raymond. Kinumpirma naman ng mga eksperto ng UP na naistorbo ng kakaibang aktibidad ng tao ang natural na kaayusan ng lugar.

Sa takipsilim ng unang araw ng misyon, isa pang hukay ang sinubukan ng pangkat. Tinaya ng mga eksperto na ito ay may pag-asa dahil malambot pa ang lupa matapos ang dalawang piye ng paghuhukay. Saka nag-utos ang mga eksperto na ihinto na muna ang paghuhukay dahil madilim na.

Gabi sa kampo

Pagkagat ng dilim, nagsindi ng mga makalumang “petromax.”

Sa ilalim ng mapusyaw na ilaw ng mga ito, naghapunan ang mga tatlumpung natitirang kasapi ng misyon samantalang nagbantay sa gilid ng kampo ang isang iskuwad ng Philippine National Police-Regional Mobile Group. Bago pa man natapos ang hapunan bumuhos ang napakalakas na ulan na nagsalya ng mga tolda at bumasa ng mga damit at kagamitan. Ang ilang kamag-anak ng mga biktima ay bumalik muna sa Maynila para sa kanilang seguridad, gayundin ang ilang mga mamamahayag. Saka lamang dumating ang ipinangakong generator mula sa CHR-Gitnang Luson.

Pagdating ng alas-siyete ng gabi, habang sumisilip ang buwan sa numinipis nang mga ulap, sinubukan nang matulog ng kampo. Paglaon, tanging mga huni na lamang ng mga insekto’t ibon ang maririnig na panaka-nakang binabasag ng hilik ng mga pagod na kasapi ng misyon. Kahit ang mga pulis ay natulog na rin sa kanilang mga tolda at sasakyan.

‘Breakthrough’

Nag-usap muna ang CHR, mga eksperto at ang Karapatan sa pag-uumpisa ng ikalawang araw ng misyon. Nagpahayag ng kumpiyansa si Dr Datar na nagsasabi ng totoo ang saksi. Makakahanap daw sila ng kahit maliliit na buto basta matukoy lamang ang eksaktong pinaglibingan ng mga biktima. “Ito ang mga bagay na magkakanulo sa mga salarin,” ika ni Datar.

Subalit walang nakitang matibay na ebidensiya buong umaga. Inabandona ng misyon ang ikatlong lugar na itinuro ng saksi samantalang nagbukas pa sila ng isa pang posibleng lugar ng pinagbaunan ng mga biktima. Muli’t muling kinokonsulta ni Datar si Raymond sa direksiyon kung saan dinala ang matandang Merino noong gabing sinasabi nitong pinatay ang biktima. Pinalakad-lakad nito ang saksi mula sa gilid ng kampo patungo sa lugar ng hukay.

Dito sinabi ni Raymond na natatandaan niyang suot ni Merino ang luma, kulay-dilaw at tatak na “Beach Walk” nitong tsinelas noong huli niya itong makita. Base sa mga sagot ng saksi inutos ng doktor na lawakan pa ng mga tagahukay ang paghahawan nang lugar.

Samantalang nakatayo sa gilid ng dating kampo nakita ni Raymond ang isang shorts na halos natatabunan na ng putik. Dinampot niya ito at sinabing “Shorts ito ni Caigas. ‘Basic Wear’ and tatak. Siya lang ang mayroon nito. Pantulog niya.” Sinabi rin niyang sigurado siya dahil ipinaglalaba niya rin dati ang mga sundalong dumukot sa kanila.Nabuhayan ng loob ang mga naghuhukay ng eksaktong 12:30 ng hapon. Ang inakala nilang sunog na kahoy lamang ay nagluwal ng isang sunog na buto. Agad na sinabi ni Datar na ito ay buto ng tao, kaiba sa maraming buto ng baka at kambing na nagkalat sa lugar.

Bago pa siya nag-utos na itigil muna ang paghuhukay para sa pananghaliaan labinlima pang piraso ng mga buto ang nakita mula sa hukay.

Mas marami pang buto ang nadiskubre nung nagsimula na uli ang paghuhukay. Pagsapit ng 3:45, nakita ang isang dilaw na lumang tsinelas na may tatak na “Beach Walk.” “’Yan ‘yun! Kay ‘Tay Manuel! ‘Yan ‘yun!” sigaw ni Raymond. “Positibo na tayo,” sabi ni Datar. Makalipas ang ilan pang minuto, nakadiskubre rin ng isang singsing at isang buto ng gulugod.

Natagpuan na ang gilid ng hukay pagsapit ng alas-singko. Batay sa mga ebidensiyang nakalap, sinabi ni Datar na sinunog ang bangkay na nakabalot sa kutson ng kama at inilagay sa ibabaw ng gulong at kahoy. Pagkalipas ng mahaba-habang panahon tinanggal ang mga buto at saka tinakpan ng sariwang lupa ang hukay upang itago ang krimen. “Naka-talungko ang porma ng katawan, kaya maliit lang ang hukay,” paliwanag ng eksperto.

Subalit nilinaw ni Datar na wala nang makukuhang DNA mula sa mga buto, Ang mga buto ay pag-aaralan pa sa UP upang makakuha ng dagdag na impormasyon.

Malakas na ebidensiya

Pinuri ni Datar ang katatagan ni Raymond. “May lakas siya ng loob na sabihin (ang nalalaman),” ani Datar.

“Nabuhayan ako ng loob,” ika naman ni Raymond. “Kung wala tayong nakita e di lalo na nilang (militar) sasabihing sinungaling ako,” dagdag nito.

Kumpiyansa rin ang abugado ni Raymond na si Rex Fernandez sa resulta ng misyon.

“Napatunayan ang mga sinabi ni Raymond hinggil sa pagdukot at pagpatay ngayon. Dagdag pa, sinadyang linisin ang lugar para itago ang krimen. Kung titingnang mabuti, malaki ang kampo. Hindi ito hinimpilan pansamantala kundi sa matagal na panahon. Na may kinalaman dito si Palparan ay napatunayan din sa lahat ng mga kaso. Inaasahan naming susubukan ng militar na balewalain ang resulta nitong misyon subalit kapani-paniwalang testigo si Raymond,” ayon kay Fernandez.

Nais ni Fernandez na ideklarang lugar ng krimen ang lugar para ipagpatuloy ang paghuhukay at imbestigasyon. “Dapat ding tanungin din ang mga taga-rito,” dagdag nito.

Natapos ang misyon, nagpapatuloy ang paghahanap sa katarungan

Bago pa dumilim sa ikalawang araw ng misyon, muling natabunan na ang mga hukay. Naligpit na rin ang mga tolda at kagamitan. Nagtanim ng krus ang mga kamag-anak ng mga biktima yari sa mga sangang galing sa lugar. Namitas sila ng mga ligaw na bulaklak na inalay sa biktima. Nagsindi rin sila ng mga puting kandila sa paligid ng mga batong ginamit upang takpan ang mga hukay.

Nakakalitong lungkot at pag-asa ang naramdaman ng mga kamag-anak ng mga biktima, tulad ni Cris Hizarsa. “Katulad ng ibang mga pamilyang naghahanap, umaasa akong hindi kasama ang asawa ko sa mga pinatay dito. Yun ang pag-asa ko at ng mga anak ko. Sana, yun ang regalong maiuuwi ko sa kaarawan ni Shara.”

Tinungo ni Raymond sa huling pagkakataon ang pinaglibingan ni ‘Tay Manuel. Sinamahan siya ng mga taga-Karapatan at ni Dr Datar. Pinili ng mga taga-CHR na huwag sumama. Pinangunahan ni Fr. Diony Caballes ang pag-aalay ng panalangin na sinundan ng mga sigaw ng “Katarungan!”

Saka umiyak ang lahat. Masaganang luha ang tumulo sa mga mata ni Raymond samantalang nakahukot ang balikat nito sa pisikal at emosyonal na sakit na dinaranas. Kahit ang ekspertong si Datar ay naluha at nakatungo sa nasaksihan.

Habang lumulubog ang araw sa likod ng Bundok Samat naglakad palayo ang mga kasapi ng misyon. Nagmistulang higit na ulila ang libingan, kasalo lamang ang ilang nakasinding kandila sa gitna ng lumulukob na kadiliman. Si Raymond ang huling tumalikod sa puntod upang iwanang mamukadkad ang mga ligaw na bulaklak na saksi sa mga kalupitang ngayon lamang masisilayan ng liwanag.

(Mga larawan ni Raymund Villanueva)

Si Raymund Villanueva ay mamamahayag mula sa Kodao Productions Inc.

(Photos) Signature campaign, candlelighting, writ of Amparo, Sanggunian Bayan resolution for the surfacing of James Balao

October 16, 2008

Signature campaign, candlelighting, writ of Amparo,

Sanggunian Bayan resolution for the surfacing of James Balao

Baguio City

October 10, 2008

Signing petitioons, lighting candles and filing for write of amparo for the surfacing of James Balao. The Benguet Sanggunian Bayan issued a resolution on enforced disappearance and Arhtur, father of James Balao, wrote a letter for his surfacing

JAMES BALAO PROFILE

James M. Balao is a founding member of the Cordillera Peoples’ Alliance (CPA). He was among the members of the Cordillera Consultative Committee who facilitated the establishment of the CPA in June 1984, and serviced the Alliance’s needs in research and documentation, education and information-dissemination, organizing and support-building during its formative years. He made invaluable contributions to elucidating the problem of national oppression, and the rights of indigenous peoples to ancestral land and to self-determination.

James holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of the Philippines, Baguio, where he double-majored in Psychology and Economics, and served as editor-in-chief of the campus paper, Outcrop. Even before graduating in 1983, he had already started working full-time in research and education on Cordillera issues, as part of the implementing staff of the Cordillera Schools Group’s Cordillera Studies Program. In 1986, he served on the staff of the Constitutional Commission, assisting anthropologist Ponciano Bennagen in the work of securing provisions for the rights of indigenous peoples in the 1987 Consitution.

When James returned from Manila, he became the first Head of the CPA’s Education Commission. Except for a brief period of political detention in Banaue, Ifugao in 1988, he has since been assisting the various rural formations of the CPA with their research and education needs. From 1994 to 1997, he worked with the Ifugao Research and Development Center, and focused his studies on the situation of the Ifugao peasantry. He helped establish the Ifugao Peasant Leaders’ Forum.

A native of Benguet and an indigenous person belonging to the Kankanaey-Ibaloi tribes, James is currently the President of the Oclupan Clan Association. Among his numerous responsibilities is the documentation and registration of the clan’s properties.

James is the eldest son of Arthur and Jane Balao of Atok and La Trinidad, Benguet. He was born on the April 19, 1961. #

James is the eldest son of Arthur and Jane Balao of Atok and La Trinidad, Benguet. He was born on the April 19, 1961. Photo above shows James upon graduation from the University of the Philippines Baguio in 1983. James holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of the Philippines, Baguio, where he double-majored in Psychology and Economics, and served as editor-in-chief of the campus paper, Outcrop.(Photo courtesy Balao Family)

James during the 1988 Cordillera Day Celebration in Ifugao. (Archive Photo/ Erik de Castro, Reuters)

An Update in our Efforts to Surface James Balao
October 3, 2008

Dear Friends:

This is to update you on our continuing efforts for the immediate surfacing of James M. Balao. The response to our urgent alert, call for support and missing bulletin is widespread. It is inspiring that the support continues to pour in. Sadly, we have not gathered new information on the whereabouts and state of James and thus, we need to continue and even double our efforts to locate, appeal and call for the immediate release of James from those who keep him in their custody. Each day that passes with no positive development, his life in the hands of his captors, is an unimaginable torture to all of us. Each day, the family and us wait and hope for new information yet at the same time dread that it is of his death. Thus, your continuing support becomes more urgent in saving the life of James.

While we continue with our efforts, we reiterate that the enforced disappearance of James is not an isolated incident. It is an attack on the CPA, on its leaders and members for their assertion of indigenous peoples rights and active involvement on economic, social, and political issues. It has taken a very critical position and/or opposition on government policies of liberalization, privatization, deregulation and militarization.

Let us never forget!: the killings of Ama Daniel Ngayaan, Romy Gardo, Markus Bangit, Albert Terredano, Alyce Omengan-Claver and many more; the continuing harassment and surveillance on our persons and offices; and malicious tagging by the military that we are communist terrorists, thus, enemies of the State.

These attacks including the disappearance of James point to a well-planned, state-instigated campaign to harass, intimidate, terrorize, and ultimately attempt to incapacitate organizations and offices who have been involved in the broad democratic movement, particularly on issues concerning violations of human rights and indigenous peoples’ rights. We are witnesses to a renewed and still unfolding campaign of state terrorism.

Search

Immediately after we posted the missing bulletin, relatives of James and volunteers mounted posters on James’ disappearance at Fairview, Avelino where he was last seen and in public posting areas. Two teams scoured the streets near his apartment to ask his neighbors for any information they might provide on James’ disappearance.

The family and we immediately conducted inquiries with the camps of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP). The Balao family, Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) and the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) visited the AFP Military Intelligence Group (MIG) at Camp Allen, the AFP Intelligence Service Unit (ISU) at Navy Base, Pacdal and PNP Regional Office of the Cordillera Administrative Region (PRO-CAR) in Camp Dangwa. We made calls to PNP Officials in Pangasinan and Cagayan to get their commitment in our search for James.

Just this September 30, two teams of volunteers from the CPA and CHRA accompanied the Balao family, to Abra and Ilocos to inquire with AFP and PNP camps. The teams visited and inquired with the following units: (a) 50th Infantry Battalion Philippine Army (IBPA) at Guimod Norte, San Juan, Ilocos Sur (IS); (b) IS PNP Provincial Office at Bulag, Bantay, IS and the AFP offices within the compound; (c) PNP Ilocos Sur Regional Mobile Group (RMG) in Bio, Tagudin, IS, (d) 503rd Brigade PA (BDE) in Sulvec, Narvacan, IS; (e) 503rd Brigade PA headquarters in Lagangilang, Abra and the (f) PNP Regional Police Office at San Fernando, La Union. All of the units visited denied that they have James in their custody.

Two days after, the Balao family and their clan together with the CPA and the CHRA, went back to Ilocos Sur upon receiving information from reliable sources within the military and the police that the disappearance of James was undertaken by the Military Intelligence Group (MIG) and Intelligence Service Unit (ISU) of Region 1. (Region 1 as an administrative region covers the provinces of La Union, Ilocos Sur, Ilocos Norte and Pangasinan.) The provincial government of Ilocos Sur through Gov. Deogracias Victor “DV” Savellano initiated a dialogue between the family and the military. A certain Lt. Wilfredo Tambio and Sgt. Marcelo Garcia acting under orders of Col. Roy Devesa of the 503rd BDE, met with the family. The said military officers did not give an outright denial that they have James in their custody or participated in his disappearance. Provincial Board member, Atty. Robert Tudayan also assisted the family during this second visit.

Public Information, and Protests

Aside from the inquiries with camps, we also held information dissemination activities, three (3) press conferences, so far (September 23, 29 and 30). The urgent action, letter of concern, and CHRA and CPA press statements were distributed online. A petition calling on the government to surface James is being circulated in schools, communities etc., which is also posted online and has so far gathered close to a thousand signatures.

Activities denouncing the enforced disappearance have been held regularly (Monday, Wednesday and Friday) at the Malcolm Square/People’s Park since September 24. James’ family, relatives, friends, different people’s organizations and institutions have been consistently present during the activities. The number of people who show their solidarity in these activities consistently grows.

Very recently, the ALL UP Academic Union Baguio Chapter and the Interfaith Gathering for Truth and Accountability have issued their statements of concern on the enforced disappearance.

Local Government Support

Baguio City Mayor Peter Rey Bautista with newly-installed Baguio City Police Office Director (BCPO) Wilfredo Franco have stated to the media that they will convene the Task Force Balao (TF) to look into this case. The said TF has yet to coordinate with the family.

The Baguio City Council in its session on September 29 collectively and unanimously approved the following resolution forwarded by councilors Perlita Chan-Rondez, Nicasio Palaganas, Fred Bagbagen, Galo Weygan, Richard Carino, and Nicasio Palaganas, and Vice-Mayor Daniel Farinas: RESOLUTION CONDEMNING THE ENFORCED DISAPPEARANCE OF JAMES M. BALAO, MEMBER OF THE CORDILLERA PEOPLES ALLIANCE (CPA) AND ASSISTING HIS FAMILY, THE CORDILLERA PEOPLES ALLIANCE (CPA) AND THE CORDILLERA HUMAN RIGHTS ALLIANCE (CHRA) IN THE IMMEDIATE SURFACING AND RELEASE OF JAMES M. BALAO BY HIS CAPTORS. We are hoping for similar actions from other local government units.

National Lobby and Support

The family and the CPA have written the concerned desks or committees of the following government agencies: the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP), the GRP-NDFP Joint Monitoring Committee-CARHRIHL.

In an audience with our national alliance KARAPATAN (Alliance for Peoples Rights) on September 22, CHR Commissioner de Lima committed to look into the case of James and put his case as a priority for the Commission.

Through the CHRA, the family and the CPA met with Bayan Muna Representative Teodoro Casino last September 25. The partylist representative committed to bring up the case at the Committee on Human Rights in Congress aside from assisting the family in the search for James.

Recently, the family together with the CPA appealed to the members of the Senate and members of the House of Representatives from the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) for assistance. They also met with some police and military officials.

The office of Senator Francisco ‘Kiko’ Pangilinan issued a press release entitled: “Kiko backs amnesty international’s call for safe return of missing indigenous rights activist; calls on military to be transparent.” This is available in the website of the Philippine Senate. On our end, we circulated this to the media.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was likewise informed about the case and they committed to inquire with the Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM) of the AFP and with the 5th ID in Gamu, Isabela.

International Support

The Amnesty International has issued its own urgent alert on September 26, the New Zealand Human Rights Commission through its Senior Advisor Dr. Jill Chrisp communicated that she shall raise the concern with the Commission on Human Rights-Philippines with whom they have a joint project with. The International Work Group on Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) based in Denmark has submitted their Letter of Concern to the concerned government offices in the Philippines.

The United Nations Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) received and immediately transmitted the complaint filed by the family last September 26 to the Philippine government.

On September 30, Forum Asia submitted a Fact Sheet on the disappearance of James Balao to the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) Regional Office in Bangkok.

The US Embassy in the Philippines is including the case of James Balao in their Human Rights Report for the year 2008.

We also received immediate response from different organizations through the International League of People’s Struggles (ILPS) to which the CPA is affiliated. A lot of organizations, groups, and individuals from different countries in Europe, Asia, and America including the Philippines and members of the CPA Friends Abroad have also responded by signing in the Petition, sending Letters of Concern to Philippine government agencies and circulating the urgent alert. However, despite the foregoing extensive effort, we have done with the family and the international support continuously pouring in, the captors of James have not yet surfaced him. Each day that passes with no positive development, his life in the hands of his captors, your continuing support becomes more urgent in saving the life of James.

We continue to hope that due to our efforts, the captors of James shall surface him and those responsible for his enforced disappearance made duly accountable. In behalf of the Balao family, we are very grateful for your continued support that has made us defiant against state fascism during these trying times.

Respectfully,

BEVERLY L. LONGID
Chairperson
Cordillera Peoples Alliance
#2 P. Guevarra St, Baguio City
e-mail: cpa@cpaphils.org
tel: 074 442-2115

JUDE BAGGO
Secretary General
Cordillera Human Rights Alliance
#10 Rimando Road, Baguio City
e-mail: chra@cpaphils.org
tel: 074 445-2586

Program for the surfacing of James Balao at the Baguio City People’s Park

Benguet Sanggunina Bayan in Session, condemns the enforced disappearance of James Balao

Download: Resolution No. 14, Oct. 6, 2008

Download: Statement of Mountain Province Gov. Maximo Dalog against enforced disappearnces

CPA, Balao Family Laud Baguio City Council Resolution Supporting the Search for James Balao and to Condemn his Involuntary Disappearance

On September 29, 2008, the Baguio City Council unanimously passed a resolution condemning the involuntary disappearance of James M. Balao and extending full support to the Balao family, the CPA and the CHRA in search of James. Balao, an indigenous person belonging to the Kankanaey and Ibaloi of Benguet, is a founding member of the CPA who was missing since September 17, 2008.

In behalf of the Balao family, the CPA extends its sincerest thanks to and lauds the officials of the City of Baguio for this concrete step forward in our search for James. Such move is also a solid action in the recognition and assertion of our basic rights to life and security.

The CPA, its officers and members, have always been under threat by the State and victims of its terrorism, even in regimes before the US-Arroyo’s. We have lost many of our valued colleagues who have done no harm but assert the rights of indigenous peoples, yet they were felled by State Terror which has significantly and gravely aggravated especially under this regime. Under this situation, the Council of Baguio City had stood by its constituents, including the CPA, its members and officers by passing resolutions during trying times when the CPA was under attack: on the unlawful arrest of Jose Cawiding, then secretary general of the Metro Baguio Tribal Elders and Leaders Assembly and former staff of the CPA Education Commission in 2007; and on the extrajudicial killing of CPA Elders Desk Regional Coordinator and Regional Council Member Markus Bangit in 2006.

The attack against CPA is an attack against the people. The city council’s action through a resolution condemning the involuntary disappearance of James demonstrates they have not only stood by CPA but by the people, their constituents. These acts of solidarity and support to the Cordillera peoples’ movement are significant and have inspired us to carry on, even with the intensifying state terror, knowing that they are behind us and recognize the importance of our work.

There is nobody more liable and accountable for James’ disappearance than the State, through the AFP’s military intelligence and security units, and even the PNP. We challenge the AFP and PNP, which have remained mum and indifferent about James’ involuntary disappearance since September 17, to surface James Balao if indeed they truly are champions of people’s rights and democracy.

We hope that other government institutions and more local governments in the Cordillera and all over the country, such as the provincial and municipal levels, would also concretely aid us in this situation that we, the CPA, and the Balao Family are in. Every part of the government should be doing their part because the government exists to serve and protect the people. We continue to appeal to the public and to the officials of Benguet to also urgently extend its support in our search for James Balao. James is the eldest of four children, and is the son of Mr. Arthur and Mrs. Jane Balao of La Trinidad and Atok.

James had unselfishly given himself in service to his fellow Cordillera indigenous peoples through his work as CPA and Clan President of the Oclupan Clan Association. Now is an opportune moment for us to fight for our right to life, our right to survive as humans and as indigenous peoples. Help us find James M. Balao. #

Press conference for the surfacing of James Balao

Download: Letter of Arthur, father of James

Filing of the write of amparo for James Balao

STATEMENT FROM THE INTERFAITH GATHERING FOR TRUTH AND ACCOUNTABILITY ON THE ENFROCED DISAPPEARANCE JAMES BALAO

James Balao, a founding member of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) is missing since September 17. His family, friends and colleagues have searched long-enough to find him. The agony lingers, the emotion heightens.

James Balao is a victim of enforced disappearance, which by definition is state perpetrated. This is based on his long time involvement to the CPA, an organization branded as left-leaning and critical to government. James is the first case of enforced disappearance in the Cordillera. According to a national alliance for human rights KARAPATAN, there are 199 cases of enforced disappearances under the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration. The three recent cases of enforced disappearances in the country happened in a span of less than a week, 2 cases immediately preceded the disappearance of James, in September 20 and 21. The victims are peasant organizers in Bataan.

We are outraged with the waves of enforced disappearances in the country. This alarming reality directly undermines the sanctity and integrity of life. The darkness gripping their victims and the sufferings of their families and loved-ones could not be captured by words. It is brutal with the victims frequently tortured and in constant fear for their lives. Often, the captors of the enforcedly disappeared (desaparacidos) never release them and their fate remains unknown. This must stop!

We hold the present administration accountable for the enforced disappearance of James Balao and to the many victims of human rights violations in the country under an undeclared martial law. Extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, political harassments and persecutions that are widely happening under this regime are glaring evidences of injustices. These acts must be condemned!

It is necessary for us to challenge the state and all its instrumentalities to surface James Balao unconditionally and immediately. We cannot be blind to gross violations of human rights and turn deaf to the people’s cry.

The Interfaith Gathering for Truth and Accountability condemns in strongest terms the state perpetrated disappearance of James Balao. We support the call of his family, friends and colleagues for him to be surfaced immediately. We appeal to the public to be one with us in a sustained effort to fight enforced disappearances alongside with other forms of human rights violations. We demand no less than justice!

Stop Enforced Disappearances! Surface James Balao Now!

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me.
To bring good news to the poor
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind
To let the oppressed go free. To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Luke 4:16-21

INTERFAITH GATHERING FOR TRUTH AND ACCOUNTABILITY
September 29, 2008

Dialogue with the 50th Infantry Battalion

(Arkibong Bayan)

(Photos Courtesy of Cordillera Peoples Alliance)

SC affirms Palparan link to abduction

October 13, 2008

By Norman Bordadora
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:59:00 10/13/2008

MANILA, Philippines—The Supreme Court has upheld the findings of the Court of Appeals linking retired Army Gen. Jovito Palparan to the abduction of two brothers, and said it found “convincing” one of the brothers’ accounts of how they were tortured by their captors.

Brothers Raymond and Reynaldo Manalo, both farmers in Bulacan province, were detained for 18 months on suspicion of being communist New People’s Army (NPA) rebels until they escaped in August last year.

Raymond said in his account that during their captivity in an Army camp in Limay, Bataan, he saw another detainee, Manuel Merino, being “set on fire” (sinisilaban) by their captors and that he later heard Merino’s “screams or moans” (hiyaw o ungol).

Raymond did not identify the people who allegedly torched Merino.

The high court upheld the appellate court’s findings in 2007 that “Palparan’s participation in the abduction [of the brothers] was … established.”

The endorsement of the appellate court’s findings was part of the high tribunal’s ruling released last week, which upheld the latter’s grant of the writ of amparo to the Manalos. The brothers had sought the writ as protection from government harassment.

The high court also supported the appellate court’s ruling linking volunteers of the Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) to the brothers’ abduction.

“We affirm the factual finding of the appellate court largely based on respondent Raymond Manalo’s affidavit and testimony,” read the decision penned by Chief Justice Reynato Puno.

The appellate court had said in its ruling in 2007 that “[Palparan’s] knowledge of the dire situation of the petitioners … bespoke of his indubitable command policy that unavoidably encouraged and not merely tolerated the abduction of civilians without due process of law and without probable cause.”

The Supreme Court dismissed as “very limited, superficial and one-sided” the investigation and testimony of Lt. Col. Ruben Jimenez, the provost marshall of the 7th Infantry Division. It was Jimenez who took the statements of the CAFGU members denying the Manalos’ allegation.

“After careful perusal of the evidence presented, we affirm the findings of the Court of Appeals that respondents were abducted from their houses in … San Ildefonso, Bulacan, on Feb. 14, 2006, and were continuously detained until they escaped on Aug. 13, 2007,” the high court said.

“The abduction, detention, torture and escape of the respondents were narrated by … Raymond Manalo in a clear and convincing manner,” the tribunal added, referring to Raymond’s affidavit detailing their abduction by CAFGU auxiliaries, their detention and torture, and his encounter later with Palparan.

The Supreme Court rejected the claim of Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro and then Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Hermogenes Esperon Jr. that Raymond’s statements were baseless.

“With the secret nature of an enforced disappearance and the torture perpetrated on the victim during detention, it logically holds that much of the information and evidence of the ordeal will come from the victims themselves,” the high court said.

Raymond, in his testimony, said Palparan had told them during their detention in a compound in San Miguel, Bulacan, that in exchange for their lives, they must tell their parents to stop attending rallies and to stop going to the human rights group Karapatan and to the Commission on Human Rights.

Raymond’s testimony also included their encounter with the missing University of the Philippines students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan. He said Merino arrived at the military camp with Empeno.

“His account is dotted with countless candid details of [their] harrowing experience and tenacious will to escape, captured through his different senses and etched in his memory,” the Supreme Court said of Raymond’s testimony.

Balao Family Files Amparo Petition

October 12, 2008

With members of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) and Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA), the family of missing activist James M. Balao, through counsel National Union of Peoples Lawyers (NUPL), filed a petition for a writ of amparo at the Benguet Regional Trial Court.

BY KATHLEEN T. OKUBO
Northern Dispatch
Posted by Bulatlat
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH

BAGUIO CITY (246 kms north of Manila) — With members of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) and Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA), the family of missing activist James M. Balao, through counsel National Union of Peoples Lawyers (NUPL), filed a petition for a writ of amparo at the Benguet Regional Trial Court.

The petition was filed Oct. 8 against President Gloria Macapagal–Arroyo and officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) .

The 29-page petition pleads for the court to issue a writ of amparo ordering the respondents to immediately surface and release James Balao and stop inflicting further harm on him.

The petition also sought the issuance of an inspection order to facilitate the inspection of police and military defense facilities and safe houses where Balao may have been kept in custody.

The petition further pleads for the issuance of a production order directing officials of the PNP, AFP and other concerned agencies to produce documents relevant to the petition particularly the order of battle that includes the name Balao and his dossier in the AFP and PNP offices.

It also seeks for the issuance of a protection order for witnesses to the abduction of Balao.

The writ of amparo is a legal remedy for any person whose right to life, liberty and security is violated or threatened. The Balao family’s pettion is a first filed here in the courts of Benguet. It was raffled to Regional Trial Court Branch 63, the sala of Judge Benigno Galacgac, on Oct. 9.

Respondents included Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, Interior Secretary Ronald Puno, Presidential Chief of Staff Norberto Gonzales, Gen. Alexander Yano, Gen. Jesus Versoza,Brig. Gen Reynaldo Mapagu, Police Dir.. Edgardo Doromal, Maj. Gen. Isagani Cachuela (Commanding Officer of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Intelligence Service Unit based in Baguio City), and Police S/Supt. Eugene Martin.

Balao, 47, a founding member of CPA and president of the Oclupan Clan Association of Benguet, was abducted Sept. 17 by armed men suspected to be soldiers.

Consolidated reports from the CHRA revealed that initial eyewitness accounts confirmed that James was seized and forced into a vehicle by five military-looking men in civilian clothes at approximately 8:00 a.m. while walking in front of the St. Therese Church and School in Lower Tomay, La Trinidad, Benguet.

In the same documentation, witnesses also said that onlookers were told that the men taking Balao were police officers and that the procedure was normal because Balao was a drug pusher.

CHRA Spokesperson Jude Baggo said, “This lie has kept the witnesses from coming forward sooner. It is feared that other witnesses with vital information that could help surface James may not be come forward for the same reason.”

Since his disappearance, Balao’s relatives and friends have been engaged in a search that has brought them to different military camps, installations, jails and detention centers. Instead of being helpful, military and police officers have been “cold and hostile,” they said. This all the more firms up fears that James is a victim of enforced disappearance, they further said.

A growing community concern and outcry against the abduction has fed the search and campaign to surface James. Petitions, resolutions and letters of appeal from local government and non-government organizations, leaders and officials of communities around Luzon, and most especially human rights organizations here and abroad continue to be sent to concerned national government officials and military commands.

Most recent is the Oct. 10 resolution of the regional and national offices of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) “strongly condemning” the enforced disappearance of James Balao, continuing the investigation through the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) Regional office, and requesting the AFP and PNP for assistance. ??In a separate document, CHR Chairperson Leila De Lima issued a memorandum to the regional office of the CHR directing it to investigate Balao’s disappearance and to submit a report to the Office of the Chairperson, copy furnished the Legal and Investigation Office, within 15 days from completion, and to submit a report within five days upon receipt of the memorandum if there is already an ongoing investigation.??Among those who have sent statements and letters of support are a group of Filipino academicians in the US, friends in Germany, Amnesty International, the Uniting Church of Canada, Sen. Kiko Pangilinan, and Mountain Province Gov. Maximo Dalog.

It has been almost a month since and weariness is taking its toll on the family; but with the growing support of friends and concerned groups and individuals, they remain hopeful as they continue to appeal for the safety and return of James, CPA said in its public appeal and statement of gratitude. (Northern Dispatch / Posted by Bulatlat)

Letter of Concern from Filipino Scholars in the US: On the Enforced Disappearance of James Balao

October 12, 2008

Letter of Concern from Filipino Scholars in the US: On the Enforced Disappearance of James Balao (Cordillera People’s Alliance)

We are alarmed and disturbed with the enforced disappearance of Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) member James M. Balao since September 17, 2008. His family has no information regarding his whereabouts up to this moment. We urgently call for the immediate and unconditional surfacing of James, in the spirit of upholding our basic human rights, very basic of which is the right to life and security which must not be denied to anyone.

His enforced disappearance is being attributed to his work with the legal people’s movement advocating indigenous peoples rights, human rights and social justice. Balao has reported that he was being surveilled since June and this heightened until his disappearance last week. The CPA and the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) point to military intelligence agents as the perpetrators of this violation.

Since the Arroyo government implemented its Operation Plan Bantay Laya in 2001, members and leaders of legal and legitimate people’s organizations such as the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) have been targeted for neutralization by agents of the state and are unjustly labeled as communist fronts and terrorist organizations. Innocent lives have already been claimed as a result of this State policy of political and extrajudicial killings, and Balao is the second case of enforced disappearance to a CPA member or officer, since Ama Daniel Ngayaan was abducted in 1987.

We ask the Philippine National Police, the Armed Forces of the Philippines to fully assist the family, the Cordillera Peoples Alliance and the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance in the search for James Balao.
The State policy Oplan Bantay Laya which has labelled legal progressive organizations such as the Cordillera Peoples Alliance as “sectoral fronts” of the Communist Party of the Philippines, National Democratic Front of the Philippines and the New Peoples Army should be immediately terminated.
We call on President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to sincerely implement the recommendations of United Nations Special Rapporteur Philip Alston – “As Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, the President must take concrete steps to put an end to those aspects of counterinsurgency operations which have led to the targeting and execution of many individuals working with civil society organizations”.

We call on the Philippine Government to observe the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) and other international human rights laws and declarations such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

The search for James Balao gets more and more urgent by the minute. He must be immediately and unconditionally surfaced.

Sincerely,

RICK BONUS, Ph.D ?Associate professor

American Ethnic Studies?University of Washington

SARITA SEE, Ph.D.?Associate Professor?University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

CYNTHIA TOLENTINO, Ph.D.?Assistant Professor?Department of English?University of Oregon

RICHARD T. CHU, Ph.D.?Five College Assistant Professor?History Department?University of Massachusetts

SHARON DELMENDO, Ph.D.?Professor of English?St. John Fisher College?Rochester, NY

MARIA HWANG?Doctoral student?Department of American Civilization?Brown University, RI

LUIS H. FRANCIA?Faculty?Asian/Pacific/American Studies Program?New York University

BENITO VERGARA JR., Ph.D.?Anthropologist

DYLAN RODRIGUEZ, Ph.D.?Associate professor?Ethnic Studies?University of California, Riverside

JOI BARRIOS, Ph.D.?Writer?Lecturer for the Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies?University of California Berkeley

PETER CHUA, Ph.D.?Associate Professor of Sociology?San Jose State University

FRANCISCO BENITEZ, Ph.D.?Assistant professor of Comparative Literature?University of Washington

LUCY BURNS, Ph.D.?Assistant professor, Asian American Studies?University of California Los Angeles

ANTONIO TIONGSON JR., Ph.D.?Assistant professor?American Cultural Studies?Colorado College

NERISSA S. BALCE, Ph.D.?Assistant professor?Department of Asian and Asian American Studies?State University of New York at Stony Brook

Military unit main suspect: City council, AI condemn abduction of rights activist

October 9, 2008

By Aileen P. Refuerzo

BAGUIO CITY – Amnesty International reiterated its call to the Philippine government to “surface” James Balao, a member of the Cordillera People’s Alliance who was believed abducted by elements of the Army’s Military Security Unit here since Sept. 17

In a statement, AI also urged anybody who has knowledge of Balao’s disappearance to contact his family, the CPA or AI among others who are searching for him.

This, as the city council Monday approved a resolution “condemning the involuntary disappearance of Balao.” In a resolution, proponent councilors Rocky Thomas Balisong, Betty Lourdes Tabanda, Galo Weygan, Perlita Rondez, Nicasio Aliping Jr., Antonio Tabora Jr., Erdolfo Balajadia, Isabelo Cosalan Jr., Nicasio Palaganas, Richard Carino, Fred Bagbagen, Elaine Sembrano, Joel Alangsab and Gloria Ysabel De Vera said Balao’s disappearance is “a result of the continuing political persecution of activists and civilians critical of the government.”

“This involuntary disappearance is alarming thereby curtailing and threatening democratic rights in the Philippines,” the resolution said.

Balao, an active member of the CPA contributing his research and education skills to advocate people’s issues, was last seen last Sept. 17 somewhere between his residences at Fairview barangay here and in La Trinidad, Benguet.

Before this, he was suspected to be under surveillance by unidentified entities since April this year. Balao was said to have observed white and blue vans tailing him from his residence to his daily chores.

The resolution also sought to give assistance to Balao’s family, the CPA and the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance for the immediate location of Balao and release from his captors if any.

The city council resolution will be furnished to the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, Department of National Defense, Philippine National Police, Dept. of Justice, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Commission on Human Rights, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples and Joint Monitoring Committee on CARHRHIL.

This, as the University of the Philippines Baguio, including representatives from the administration, faculty, union, and students held a press conference Tuesday calling on the government to initiate a speedy, impartial investigation on Balao’s disappearance. — – With a report from AD (NorthernPhilippineTimes)

Human Rights Lexicon: Enforced disappearances

October 5, 2008

The United Nations Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, proclaimed by the General Assembly in its resolution 47/133 of 18 December 1992, defines enforced disappearance.

Following the Declaration is the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. This is an international human rights instrument of the United Nations (UN) and intended to prevent forced disappearance. The UN General Assembly adopted the text on December 20 2006 and opened for signature on February 6 2007. So far, 73 states have signed, and four have ratified. It will come into force when ratified by 20 states-parties.

Part I of the Convention states:

“Article 1
1. No one shall be subjected to enforced disappearance.
2. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification for enforced disappearance.

Article 2
For the purposes of this Convention, “enforced disappearance” is considered to be the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the State or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorization, support or acquiescence of the State, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which place such a person outside the protection of the law.”

Enforced disappearance does not refer to the manner of disappearance or the presence of violence frequently surrounding the disappearance. It is not only involuntary because it is the result of State action and enforcement of policy.

It has the following elements: first, the victim is arrested, detained or abducted against their will or otherwise deprived of their liberty; second, the perpetrator/s are officials of different branches or levels of Government, or by organized groups, or private individuals acting on behalf of, or with the support, direct or indirect, consent or acquiescence of the Government; take note that the perpetrators can be private individuals but acting on behalf of, or with the support, direct or indirect, consent or acquiescence of the Government; and third, it is characterized by a refusal to disclose the fate or whereabouts of the persons concerned or a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of their liberty, which places such persons outside the protection of the law.

This is a doubly difficult form of suffering. The victims frequently tortured by their captors and in constant fear for their lives. Often, the captors of the enforcedly disappeared (desaparacidos) never release them and their fate remains unknown.

Their families and friends may never find out what has happened to them. Emotions alternating between hope and despair, wondering and waiting, sometimes for years, for news that may never come. They too are threatened and may suffer the same fate themselves, and that the search for the truth may expose them to greater danger.

The material loss that usually results from the disappearance compounds the emotional upheaval, made more acute by the costs incurred in the search. In some cases, it may also make it impossible to receive pension or other means of State support in the absence of a death certificate. Economic and social marginalization also frequently results.

If death is not the outcome and the captors eventually releasing the victim, the nightmare does not end, as the victim may suffer from the physical and psychological consequences of this violation, and the brutality and torture that often accompany enforced disappearances.

The victims are well aware that their families do not know what has become of them and that the chances are slim that anyone will come to their aid. The victims not only disappear from society but they are also outside the protective precinct of the law. They are at the mercy of their captors who violate their rights to security, safety and life, dignity as a person, to a fair and speedy trial.”1

The Convention attracted 57 signatures when opened for signature in Paris. The United States refused to sign, saying that “did not meet our expectations.” A number of European countries also refused to become parties. These included the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands, which later signed it on April 29. As of March 2008 only Albania, Argentina, Honduras and Mexico have ratified the Convention. # Beverly Longid

Footnotes
1 Report entitled “Disappeared Technique of Terror”, prepared by the Independent Commission on International Humanitarian Issues, London, 1986
2 . The initial signatories were: France, Albania, Algeria, Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Congo, Croatia, Ghana, Guatemala, Haiti, Japan, Lithuania, Maldives, Moldavia, Morocco, Uganda, Senegal, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Macedonia, Chad, Tunisia, Vanuatu, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Cameroon, Cap Verde, Chile, Comoros, Costa Rica, Cuba, Cyprus, Finland, Grenada, Honduras, India, Kenya, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Niger, Paraguay, Portugal, Samoa, Sweden, Uruguay, Mali, and Azerbaijan. The Republic of Ireland signed the Convention on 29 March 2007. Armenia signed on 10 April 2007, Ecuador on 24 May 2007 and Italy on 3 July 2007. Colombia, Denmark, Gabon, Germany, Liechtenstein, Panama, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Swaziland signed the Convention between September and October 2007. Norway signed on December 21 2007. The Netherlands signed on 29 April 2008. (NorDis)

Support pours in to surface missing activist

October 5, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — Support continue to pour in from all sectors, for the immediate surfacing of James M. Balao, an activist reported missing since September 17.


Photo by Brenda S. Dacpano/NORDIS

Declared by rights groups as a case of enforced disappearance (see side bar for related text), the Balao case is gaining even international attention as his family and friends intensify urgent search efforts.

In a proposed resolution, some Baguio City council members are united in condemning the involuntary disappearance of Balao and are committed to give any assistance to the family for the “immediate surfacing and release of Balao by his captors.” The proposal is up for deliberations during the council’s regular session Monday.

Mayor Reinaldo Bautista Jr., also condemning the abduction of Balao, said Thursday he would issue a directive to the city and regional Philippine National Police (PNP) offices for assistance in locating Balao immediately. He also asked the public to contact his office for any information on Balao’s whereabouts.

Police Regional Office Cordillera (PROCOR) Director Eugene Martin came out with a directive early last week to all provincial offices for any information on the case.

Meanwhile, Commissioner Leila De Lima of the Commission on Human Rights assured the family that their office would treat the case as a priority.

In an on-line petition signing initiated by the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), of which Balao is a member, hundreds have already signed calling for the immediate surfacing of Balao.

“The search for James Balao gets more and more urgent by the minute. He must be immediately and unconditionally surfaced,” said the petition.

Wilma Gacayan Wilson, one of the petitioners commented, “James is a good friend of mine from college 20 plus years ago, in the University of the Philippines Baguio. James is a man of character, morals, ethics, principle. He has always stood up for the poor, the unfortunate and for those whose voice is suppressed. The Philippine government, if it truly believes in basic human rights, needs to expend all the necessary resources to ensure the safe return of James to his family at the soonest possible time.”


CONGRESS LOBBY. The Balao siblings (left) asked Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño some assistance for their brother’s enforced disappearance case. Photo by Cye Reyes/NORDIS

Meanwhile, Balao’s siblings along with the CPA and the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) had a dialog Thursday with Bayan Muna Representative Teddy Casiño who is a member of the Congressional Committee on Human Rights. He was in town for a speaking engagement.

According to Casiño, Bayan Muna would include the case of Balao in a privilege speech Monday, along with the recent disappearance of two peasant organizers in Bataan. He also consoled with the family and assured them of the party’s assistance in the search of their brother.

The United Nations Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearance asked the CHRA to forward a case summary to New York to present it to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who was there to address the UN.

Amnesty International (AI) released an appeal to the public to send letters of concern to pressure the Philippine authorities from PGMA to the secretary of defense and the chief of police to order a prompt and thorough investigation on the Balao case and other cases of enforced disappearance and extra-judicial killing.

Meanwhile, militant organizations held a candle-light protest Wednesday and a noise barrage Friday condemning Balao’s alleged abduction.

According to CPA Chairperson Beverly Longid, Balao’s case is not an isolated incident and is part of a systematic government move against members of legitimate people’s organizations like CPA in its “counter-terrorism and anti-insurgency” campaign.

CPA members Markus Bangit and Alyce Claver were assassinated in June and July 2006, respectively. Both cases are yet to be resolved.

CPA alleged elements of the Intelligence Security Unit (ISU) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as the perpetrators of Balao’s abduction.

Before his disappearance Balao had reported that he was in heavy surveillance since June and had often observed white and blue vans tailing him.

As of press time, no government unit has confirmed nor denied the accusation.

The Balao family continues to appeal for the witnesses to come out and for the public to give any information of Balao’s whereabouts. # Cye Reyes (NorDis)

Pangilinan joins calls for surfacing of Balao

October 3, 2008

By Rimaliza Opiña

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SENATOR Francis Pangilinan backed calls of international rights groups calling for the immediate surfacing of missing activists in the country.

The statement was issued over the recent disappearance of James Balao, an activist affiliated with the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA). He was declared missing since September 17.

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“Have we again reached a point in our history when international groups need to interfere for human rights to be acknowledged? What are the military and police doing? Shouldn’t they be searching for James Balao? Their lack of decisive action on his disappearance further confirms suspicions they are involved in this crime,” Pangilinan said.

The independent human rights group, Karapatan, pegs the number of killed activists and journalists at 800 and 200 cases of enforced disappearance since 2001.

The senator said he will support petitions calling for the surfacing of the missing activist.

“If we need to petition the Supreme Court to command the military to open their camps, that is what we will do,” he said.

Members of the City Council filed a proposed resolution supporting the call for Balao’s surfacing. Several militant organizations did the same. They held rallies and sponsored various forums for the purpose.

Two Peasant Organizers in Bataan Missing

September 28, 2008

BY BULATLAT

Two peasant organizers in Bataan province have been missing, Desaperacidos (Families of Desaparecidos for Justice) disclosed.

The group said suspected military men abducted Nelson Balmaña on Sept. 21 and Florencia Espiritu on Sept. 22. Both are organizers of the Sto. Niño Lubao Farmers’ Association (SLFA). The victims have been organizing peasants from Lubao, Pampanga, an adjacent barangay (village) to Hermosa, Bataan.

Desaperacidos’ account said the two victims were supposed to meet on Sept. 21 at a house in Purok 2, Brgy. Daan Bago, Dinalupihan in Bataan, but Nelson sent a text message to Florencia that he could not make it and would meet her the following day instead.

The next day, Florencia left the house at 10:30 am and was boarding a tricycle, when at least six armed men believed to be elements of the 24th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army took her and forced her into a white L300 FB Mitsubishi.  Four of the men were armed with .45 caliber pistols, while one carried an armalite.

The abductors fled towards the direction of Pampanga-Metro-Manila.  After Florencia’s abduction, witnesses said a man fitting Nelson’s description was abducted at 5 p.m.the day before at the same spot, and was taken by the same getaway vehicle.

Desaperacidos said the recent abductions placed to 199 the number of the disappeared under the Arroyo regime

On Sept. 17, another victim, James Balao of the Cordillera People’s Alliance disappeared in Baguio City.  James left his home in Fairview, Baguio City to go to La Trinidad, Benguet at 7am and was not heard of since.

Mary Guy Portajada, spokesperson of Desaperacidos, revealed that three have been abducted in a just six days.

“The Armed Forces of the Philippines clearly shows that it is untouchable, and continues to carry out enforced disappearances, even after the Court of Appeals had ruled that it is guilty of the disappearance of Sherlyn Cadapan, Karen Empeño and Manuel Meriño,” said Portajada.

Another victim, Elmer dela Cruz was reported missing on August 23 in Hermosa, Bataan.  He is still missing as of this writing.

Meanwhile, in another statement, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) condemned the recent abductions.

Willy Marbella, KMP deputy secretary general for internal affairs, hit the military for ‘wreaking havoc on the peasant movement.’  “After forcibly disappearing our Bulacan leader-organizer Jonas Burgos, our National Council member Nilo Arado, framing up Tagaytay 5 and our deputy secretary general for external affairs Randall Echanis, here they go again, abducting our organizers in Bataan,” said Marbella.

Marbella said the ‘counter-insurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya II (Operation Freedom Watch II) has been targeting the legal democratic movement, particularly, the peasant movement.’

Portajada called on the people to be vigilant, as ‘this government does not sleep as it commits human rights violations.’ “Impunity reigns as Gloria Arroyo and her military remain unpunished for its crimes,” she said. (Bulatlat)

Surface James Balao Now!

September 28, 2008

BY THE ALL UP ACADEMIC EMPLOYEES UNION-BAGUIO CHAPTER
ALL UP ACADEMIC EMPLOYEES UNION NATIONAL
DEMOCRATIC SPACE

2008 is the Centennial Year of the University of the Philippines. Since January, the entire University System has been celebrating. In fact, in UP Baguio, one of the culminating activities is a Grand Alumni Homecoming on December 5, 2008. But Alas! The preparations to turn this activity into a memorable, major celebration is threatened. One of the University of the Philippines Baguio’s harvests of intelligent minds, of true Iskolars ng Bayan who take to task genuine service to the people, is missing.

James Balao graduated in1981 with a degree in B.S. Psychology. As a student, he served as editor-in-chief of the official student paper, Outcrop. After graduation, James involved himself in research and writing projects for both academic and non-government organizations. One of his major research outputs has to do with “The Land Problem of the Cordillera National Minorities.”

No one could just disappear in thin air. James could not disappear voluntarily without informing his family and friends. James loves life. In fact, he has been an advocate of the defense of life and land of the Cordillera peoples, for the protection of his people from oppression and exploitation. James could have only disappeared involuntarily, forcibly.


CONGRESS LOBBY. The Balao siblings (left) asked Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño some assistance for their brother’s enforced disappearance case. (Photo by Cye Reyes/NORDIS)

The UP community appeals to the highest authorities of the Philippines to find the whereabouts of James and send clear signs of the Government’s adherence to justice by surfacing him immediately. If any state agency suspects him of any violations of the laws of the Philippines, James must be allowed to defend himself. The law enforcers must adhere to due process.

We also appeal to all concerned individuals and organizations to sign the on line petition at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/CPAjamesbalao/. You may also forward letters of solidarity to the Balao family through and through the Cordillera Human Rights Association email address (chra@cpaphils.org)

The Cruelty of Enforced Disappearances: An Abhorrent Crime Against Humanity

September 27, 2008

They are victims of the same abhorrent acts, although three decades apart. One has searched for a sister, the other is still looking for his parents. One shared the same belief as his sister, the other could not fully understand his parents’ work. But whether it happened during Martial Law or now that we are supposedly under a democracy, whether the relative is a sister, a brother, or a parent, or whether one is an activist or not, the pain one feels in having his or her relative forcibly disappeared by state security agents is still the same; it does not diminish the cruel effects of the crime.

BY RONALYN V. OLEA
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Bulatlat

Sometime in July 1977, Rizalina Ilagan rendezvoused with nine companions Gerardo Faustino, Jessica Sales, Modesto Sison, Cristina Catalla, Ramon Jasul, Emmanuel Salvacruz, Salvador Panganiban, Virgilio Silva and Erwin de la Torre at the Makati Medical Center. That fateful day, they were abducted by state security agents and were never seen alive again.

Bonifacio Ilagan, Rizalina’s brother, believes that his sister’s abduction was the handiwork of a composite team of state security forces called the Ground Team 205. The team, he said, was comprised by agents from the 2nd Military Intelligence Group, 2nd Constabulary Security Unit and 231st Company of the Philippine Constabulary headed by a certain Col. Gallido.

An informant told Ilagan that there were 24 agents, including civilians, in the team. The team was operating in Southern Tagalog but could also strike anywhere. Rizalina et.al, later called as the Southern Tagalog 10, were forcibly abducted at the Makati Medical Center.

It was the single-biggest case of abduction during martial law.


Bonifacio Ilagan.

Ilagan related that before the incident, Rizalina got in touch with him and insisted on meeting him. Ilagan said he knew it would be dangerous. He knew he was placed under surveillance by the military to trace other activists. Rizalina then was in the underground movement.

A leader of the Kabataang Makabayan (KM), Ilagan was arrested in 1974 and released two years after. In 1977, he was still reporting to Camp Crame on a weekly basis and had re-enrolled at the University of the Philippines (UP).

It was early July of the same year when she met Rizalina. He felt she had something very important to say. Rizalina told him that some of their colleagues have been missing. They needed a halfway house. Ilagan agreed to look for a house and had set a date for their next meeting. Rizalina never came.

Not expecting the worst

Ilagan said an emissary later told him that Rizalina and nine others have been missing.

He said, “All the while, I thought my sister was just arrested… I didn’t expect the worst.”Ilagan said he thought then that Rizalina would be surfaced later, as what happened to him and to other political detainees during that period.

When they received no news about Rizalina, the family went to military camps and to the Ministry of National Defense to look for her. Ilagan said they even tried to look for contacts within the military but to no avail.

A month after the abduction, the family got in touch with someone who had contacts within the intelligence community, said Ilagan. The source promised he would try to help. When the man came back to them, the family was told, “It’s too late.” Ilagan said the man confirmed that Rizalina was in the hands of the military. The custody of Rizalina, they were told, was no longer within the regular procedure. The informant did not say if Rizalina was still alive.

Later, Modesto Sison’s body was found in Lucena City, Quezon province. Two others Virgilio Silva and Salvador Panganiban were found in a ravine in Tagaytay City, Cavite. The rest, including Rizalina, have not been found to this day.

Double whammy

Ilagan said their parents, especially their mother, took his arrest and detention and Rizalina’s abduction as a double whammy.

When he was released, his mother was somehow relieved. His mother would visit him regularly. “After two years, I was released out of her sheer determination,” said Ilagan.He said he was released not through the regular procedure. His mother tried to establish connections with relatives of Gen. Fabian Ver.

Ilagan was among the detainees held in maximum security prisons. From Day 1 until his release, intelligence agents served as their custodians. He was detained at the headquarters of the 5th Police Constabulary Security Unit in Camp Crame.

He said Rizalina’s disappearance had been too much for the family. He said that their parents believed that more harm could be inflicted on their daughter. Rizalina was the youngest daughter and sixth of the seven siblings. Ilagan was fifth. Two of their brothers were also activists during martial law.

No time to grieve

Ilagan said he did not have the time to grieve for they have not found her body.

But he said that after several years, he knew she was gone. “Going by the record of that [military] unit, walang bubuhayin (they will leave no one alive),” said Ilagan.

He said he got the information about the Ground Team 205 from a detainee held for years by the said unit, and was able to escape. They did not kill her but forced her to be an asset. Every time the soldiers would transfer to another safehouse, they would take the woman-detainee with them. Ilagan was able to talk with the woman after she escaped. She knew about the operations against Rizalina and her companions.

Rizalina’s case was included in the class suit filed against Ferdinand Marcos in Hawaii.

Still painful

Ilagan admitted that even today, whenever thoughts of Rizalina come to him, his heart becomes heavy.

“Dahil alam ko kung ano ang pwedeng nangyari sa kanya,” (Because I know what could have been done to her.) he said.

He said Rizalina and the other women with her were raped.

“Sana bigla na lang ang naging pagkamatay niya, hindi dahan-dahan.” (I wish she just had died instantly, not slowly.)

He showed a photo of her sister taken in 1971. During Rizalina’s birthday (June 19), he lights a candle. He named her daughter Dessa Rizalina.

Ilagan described his sister as very pleasant and gentle. Problems could not bring her spirits down, said Ilagan. They also had similar interests. Rizalina joined KM when she was only 15. Ilagan recruited her. He acted as a big brother to her, often taking her to his activities in school. When he joined the Dramatics Club, Rizalina joined, too. When he became active in the KM’s theater group in UP, Rizalina also did the same at the UP Los Baños.

He recalled giving her a copy of the new edition of Philippine Society and Revolution the last time he saw her.

He could also vividly remember the time Rizalina ‘visited’ him in prison.

Rizalina went with their mother one Saturday. She did not go inside the receiving room and just waited outside. Their mother told him Rizalina just wanted to see him. As Ilagan led his mother to the gate, he saw Rizalina. She smiled at him and raised her clenched fist. Ilagan said it was her way of saying goodbye before she took to the hills to join the underground movement. While talking about this particular day, Ilagan broke into tears.

The Southern Tagalog 10 went missing during martial law. Under the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo government, enforced disappearances continue to inflict pain on the relatives of victims.

Both parents missing

Erloreb ‘Nooky’ Mendez’s parents Celina Palma and Prudencio Calubid were abducted by military agents on June 26, 2006 along Maharlika Highway near Sipocot, Camarines Sur.

Calubid was a consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). Mendez said before the incident, he saw Erlinda Cadapan and Connie Empeño on television. “Naawa ako sa mga estudyante,” he said. (I felt sorry for the students.) He was not expecting that both his parents would be missing too.

Looking up the same sky

On the same day, his younger brother Junjun sent him a text message saying that their parents were abducted. At first, he did not want to believe him.

When it dawned on him that what his brother told him about their parents’ abduction was probably true, he looked up the sky. It was late at night then. “Ito ang nakikita nila na nakikita ko rin, ang ulap. Sabi ko ‘Ma, ingat parati.’ (What I am seeing right now, the sky and clouds, are the same sky and clouds they are also seeing right now. I said, ‘Ma, take care always.’)

Missing their moments together

When his birthday (July 6) came, Mendez was hoping his father would call him as he always did. He did not receive any call.

Nooky is the eldest of three siblings. They grew up with their aunt. Their father visited them once a year, usually during Christmas break or summer. Their mother also visited them once in a while. Their parents sometimes took them during their trips.

Mendez recalled, “Tuwing magkikita kami, pinilipilit ni Papa na mag-usap kami as family. Kinukumusta kami isa-isa.” (Every time we were together, Papa would insist that we talk as a family. He would ask each one of us how we were doing.)


This photo of Prudencio Calubid was taken by his son using a cellphone.

Before, he found the habit corny. Now, he missed those times. He said the last time he was with his parents was in December 2005. His father was quite disappointed because the family was not complete. That time, his brother and sister were in another place. That year, too, Mendez was doing his thesis. He was a graduating student taking up Computer Science in a private school in their province.

Recalling how he felt when he learned about their parents’ enforced disappearance, he related, “Di ko alam gagawin ko. Hirap ako, di ko alam kung paano mag-move on. Di ko nga alam kung dapat bang mag-move on kasi di naman sila namatay, nawawala sila.” (I did not know what to do. It was so hard. I did not know how to move on. I did not even know if I have to move on because they did not die, they went missing.)

He could hardly concentrate on his studies. During those years, from 2006 to 2007, Mendez said he and his brother and sister did not talk about their parents. “Ang bigat-bigat.” (We felt heavy-hearted.)

During his graduation, Mendez said he immediately left after the program. “Malungkot naman. Nakita ko magulang ng ibang kaklase ko.” (It was so sad seeing my classmates with their parents.)On his cellphone, he has kept a video of his father taken last April 2, 2005 and a few photographs of his mother and father.

Same plight

In September 2007, he got in touch with Desaperacidos, an organization of families of the disappeared. “Dito ko nalaman na hindi lang pala ako ang nawalan, marami pa pala. Magandang makipag-usap sa mga taong nararamdaman ang nararamdaman mo,” said Mendez. (It was only then that I realized that I am not the only one with missing loved ones, there were several others. It feels good to talk with people who also feel the way you do.)

He said he has started ‘processing’ his emotions. He said they would cry whenever one of them is being interviewed. “Apektado kaming lahat.” (We are all affected.)

They also support each other, said Mendez. They join camp searches, fact-finding missions, filing of cases and other activities for the victims. He said he is also learning a lot from the other victims. He admitted he could not understand fully the nature of his parents’ work.

Mendez recalled that Elizabeth Principe said his father was kind and funny. Principe is also a consultant of the NDFP. She is detained at Camp Crame on trumped-up murder charges.

Perpetrators, cowardice

Asked if he believed the military took his parents, Mendez said yes.

He said a witness said so. Junjun, his younger brother was able to talk to the witness Antonio Lacno. Lacno was with Calubid, Palma and two others when soldiers in uniform on board a red Tamaraw FX and four other Toyota Revo vehicles blocked their vehicle. (See Man Hides for Days, Crosses Rivers to Escape Military Abduction

Junjun told him that Lacno was shaking when the latter was relating what happened, apparently traumatized. Mendez called the abductions as ‘acts of cowardice.’“Bakit nila dudukutin pwede namang sampahan ng kaso?” (Why would they abduct people if they can file cases instead?) asked Mendez.

He added, “Kung may kasalanan, sampahan nila ang kaso hindi iyong pahirapan ang buong pamilya ng mga tao.” (If someone has committed anything wrong, they should file a case and not make the families of victims suffer.)

Continuing search for their relatives and the pursuit of justice

Mendez said that after more than two years, he is still continuing his search for his parents. He admitted, however, it is difficult. “Di alam paano magse-search, safehouses ang pinagdalhan sa kanila.” (I do not know where to search for them, they were brought to safehouses.)

He also expressed disappointment over the dismissal of amparo petitions filed by other victims’ relatives. Their petition for habeas corpus was dismissed last year. “Kay Jonas Burgos, may ebidensya naman. Ano pang aasahan mo? Nadi-dismiss ang mga kaso namin.” (The relatives of Jonas Burgos has evidences linking the military to the abduction. What else can we hope for? The cases we filed are being dismissed.)

For Ilagan, he felt a sense of justice when the New People’s Army killed a certain Col. Sebastian, a member of the Ground Team 205 years after the abduction of the Southern Tagalog 10.

Doing the same abhorrent acts

Ilagan recalled that in December 2002, he and families of the Southern Tagalog 10 sought a dialogue with Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. They had breakfast with Arroyo at the state dining room. Angelo Reyes, then defense secretary and Mercedita Guttierez, then acting justice secretary, also joined them.

They gave a letter to Arroyo stating that the government must take full responsibility for what happened to the Southern Tagalog 10. They also asked the government to make available all documents pertaining to the perpetrators. “Walang pagtutol si Gloria… Nag-volunteer pa na magtayo ng monument sa UPLB at sa Lucena,” said Ilagan. (Gloria did not object…She even volunteered to put up a monument at the UPLB and in Lucena City.)

Years later, nothing came out of the meeting, said Ilagan. “Ginaya niya pa ang mga kasong inirereklamo namin.” (She even did the same acts we are complaining about.)

Ilagan said, “At least Marcos declared martial law before he did all the things he did. GMA [initials of Arroyo], even without declaring martial law, is doing what Marcos did.”

Ilagan also noted that under the Arroyo administration, most of the victims of abductions, extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations are ordinary activists and supporters. During the time of Marcos, he said the targets are usually those who held high positions in the organization.

The same monster

Ilagan said that even when there is no martial law, one thing has remained – the same monster of a military organization.He said the military tasted unlimited power during the Marcos years. After people power in 1986, Corazon Aquino failed to reform the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Under Arroyo, Ilagan said that those with fascist mentality and are very much anti-Left have the upper hand in government. He said that Arroyo, beleaguered with the issue of illegitimacy, clings on to the military for survival. “These are vested interests that have combined to cultivate a culture of impunity,” Ilagan said.

Must not forget

Ilagan said the Filipino people must not forget the dark days of martial law.The government, he said, has been trying to make us forget what happened during martial law. This, plus the relatively short memory of the public, said Ilagan, must be fought.

“There is a need to educate and organize,” he concluded. (Bulatlat)

Activist reported missing

September 26, 2008

BAGUIO CITY ― Alarm spread as a local activist has been reported missing by his family.


James Balao

James Balao, a member of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), was reported missing Wednesday. Knowing he was arriving that day, the family waited and went to check him out when he did not, the CPA said in a statement.

This is the first case of enforced disappearance in the Cordillera under the present administration, the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) noted.

“The family was informed that he had left his residence in Fairview, Baguio City at around 7:00 A.M. on the said date. Since then, he, unusually, has not been in contact with his friends or members of his family; nor can they contact him,” CPA said.

Family members say this is very unlikely of James who is known to be responsible and extremely as to informing them of his whereabouts.

James, 47, is of medium-built, 5’7”-5’9” tall and is chinky-eyed. He was last seen wearing a black jacket, brown pants, visor, black hiking boots and eyeglasses. He was carrying a yellow and blue backpack and red traveling bag.

“He was going to spend the following days at the family residence in La Trinidad,” his younger sister told CPA officers.

His absence is very alarming, as he had reported regular surveillance to his family that started on the week of June and has increasingly heightened until his disappearance, according to Beverly Longid, CPA chair. He has even observed white and blue vans that regularly tail him from his residence to his daily chores, she added.

Vio Hidalgo of the Baguio City Police Office (BCPO) said there have been no reported arrests named Balao since Wednesday.

Family members and friends are urgently calling on the authorities, particularly the Philippine National Police, (PNP) the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the public who know him (former classmates, friends), to kindly aggressively assist the Balao family and in the search for James.

Longid and Atty. Rene Cortes, chairperson of the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) with the Balao family appeal to the public for any information on Balao’s whereabouts.

As this developed, the family enjoins every one to send information to either the Balao family at 09175069404; the offices of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (442-2115); or the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (445-2586 and 09189199007). # KTO(NorDis)

Karaniwang kaganapan sa kanayunan

September 24, 2008

Pons Caudilla (Bikol Xpress)

NASA koprahan sa bundok ang mga magsasakang sina Nelfa Cledera, 44 at Maricel Camacho, 35, bandang alas-10 ng umaga noong ika-3 ng Setyembre, nang may lumapit sa kanilang armadong lalaking nagpakilalang mga miyembro umano ng NPA (New People’s Army).

Ayon sa mga armado, hinahanap daw nila ang kanilang mga kasamahan at isasama sina Nelfa at Maricel sa paghahanap. Tumanggi sina Nelfa at Maricel dahil hindi naman sila mga NPA at hindi nila alam kung ano ang pinagsasabi ng dalawang armado.

Agad-agad, pinuwersang kunin ng mga ito kay Nelfa ang dala-dalang P2,000. Panggastos sa eskuwela ng anak ang perang ito ni Nelfa, kung kaya nagmakaawa siya. Pero matigas ang mga armado.

Pilit na isinama sina Nelfa at Maricel ng dalawa upang magsilbing giya para hanapin ang iba umano nilang mga NPA. Sa kabila ng pagtanggi nila, patuloy pa rin ang pagtatanong ng dalawang armado. Walang nagawa ang dalawang magsasaka kundi sumama.

Dalawang oras na halos silang sapilitang pinaglakad ng mga armado. Nagulat na lamang sila nang makita nila sa lugar na pinagdalhan sa kanila ay maraming militar. Nakilala umano nilang militar ang mga ito dahil sa suot na fatigues.

Lumapit sa kanila ang isa sa mga militar at sapilitan silang pinaamin na mga miyembro ng NPA. Sinabi nito na dati siyang NPA kaya mabuti na ituro na nila ang lugar kung nasaan ang kanila umanong mga kasamahan. Wala namang maisagot ang mga dinukot.

Nagpatuloy silang maglalakad. Isa sa mga militar ang lumapit kay Nelfa at nagbantang kukulatain siya nito ng baril kung hindi magsasabi ng totoo. Nagsisigaw habang umiiyak si Nelfa at nagmamakaawa dahil wala naman daw silang alam at wala naman silang kasalanan.

Pagdating nila sa lugar ng Pasimbugan, sumagi sa isip ni Nelfa na tumakas na sila dahil baka patayin sila ng mga armado. Pero maraming taong sibilyan na makakakita sa kanila kaya hindi na rin nila ito itinuloy. Pinasakay sila sa isang bangkang de-motor kasama ng mga sundalo.

Pagdating sa lugar ng Tamban ay pinagtitingan sila ng mga tao. May lumapit pa nga raw na ilang sibilyan at tinanong sila kung bakit kasama sila ng Army. Ano daw ang ginawa nilang kasalan?

“Wala kaming kasalanan, magkokopra sana kami tapos sapilitan kaming isinama nila, sa takot namin ay sumama kami kahit hindi namin alam kung saan papunta,” tugon ni Nelfa.

Sapilitang pisinakay ang mga dalawa sa isang sasakyang ng militar at dinala sa detatsment ng mga sundalo sa Brgy. Mananao, Tinambac Camarines Sur. Humihingi pa sana sila ng tulong sa mga sibilyan kaso wala namang magawa ang mga ito. Pagdating sa nasabing detatsment, palit-palitang na ininteroga sila at pinaranas ng matinding mental at sikolohikal na pagpapahirap. Binantaan pa sila na pagdumating na ang umaga ay papatayin sila kung hindi magsasabi ng totoo.

Sumunod na araw, mag-aalas-dos ng hapon, pinakawalan ang mga biktima, matapos sapilitang kunan ng litrato at pinapirama ng samut-saring dokumento na hindi naman pinabasa sa kanila, bagkus ay binasa lang ito sa harap nila. Ang sabi ng mga sundalo na ang nilalaman ng mga dokumento umano kusang-loob silang sumama sa mga sundalo at hindi pinilit.

Tulala ng tatlong araw si Nelfa dulot ng hindi makakalimutang pangyayari.

Pinaghihinalaang mga tropa ng 42nd Infantry Battalion ng Army ang dumukot at nagpahirap kina Nelfa at Maricel, ayon sa Karapatan, alyansang pangkarapatang pantao. (PinoyWeekly)

Torture Survivor Files Charges vs Perpetrators

September 19, 2008

Survivor of torture and abduction filed administrative, criminal and civil charges against his captors, including retired Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) officers Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan Jr. and Maj Gen. Juanito Gomez.

BY RONALYN V. OLEA
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 32, September 14-20, 2008

A survivor of torture and abduction filed administrative, criminal and civil charges against his captors, including retired Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) officers Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan Jr. and Maj Gen. Juanito Gomez.

Raymond Manalo, together with his lawyer Rex Fernandez, filed criminal and administrative cases against his military captors September 12 at the Office of the Ombudsman, and a civil case at the Quezon City Regional Trial Court.

The respondents were accused of kidnapping, arbitrary detention, physical injuries, threats, involuntary servitude, torture, among others.

Administrative complaints for gross misconduct, grave abuse of authority, gross oppression and for acts unbecoming of a public official were also filed.

Other respondents were soldiers of the 24th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army and members of the Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU).

Ordeal

In an interview, Raymond said he and his brother Reynaldo were held captive from Feb. 14, 2006 until their escape on Aug. 13, 2007.

In his sworn statement, Raymond said they were abducted in San Ildefonso, Bulacan, and were detained in three military camps and two safehouses. They were first brought to Fort Magsaysay, Laur, Nueva Ecija before being transferred to Camp Tecson in San Miguel, Bulacan and later in a safehouse in Zambales. They were again transferred to the headquarters of the 24th Infantry Battalion in Limay, Bataan and finally, to another safehouse in Pangasinan where the brothers escaped on Aug. 13.

He also said that he personally saw Palparan participate in the torture of activists.

He said he had long been planning to file charges against the perpetrators. “Ngayon lang ako naka-recover sa trauma inabot namin.” (I have just recovered from the trauma we experienced.)

Raymond said they were subjected to various forms of torture: “Nilulublob sa tubig, minamartilyo ang kamay, hinahampas ng dos-por-dos, iba-ibang klase… Nariyang pasuin ng apoy, buhusan ng mainit na tubig, buhusan ng gasolina, paluin sa likod ng barbed wire o kadena.” (Our heads were forcibly submerged in water, our hands were hit with hammers, we were clubbed with wood 2inches wide by 2 inches thick, we had hot water and gasoline poured on us, we were whipped at the back with barbed wire and chains.)

He said the soldiers were forcing them to admit that they are members of the New People’s Army (NPA). The NPA is a revolutionary armed group under the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

Raymond continued, “Hangga’t hindi nagdurugo, hindi nila kami nilulubayan. Ang iba, di na nila nakayanan ang karahasan” (They did not stop until we bled. Others were not able to withstand the violence.)

Raymond witnessed the torture of two University of the Philippines (UP) students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño inside a military camp. He testified during the hearing of the writ of amparo case filed by the mothers of the two UP students before the 11th Division of the Court of Appeals. The two women and their companion Manuel Merino are still missing up to this day.

He said he wants justice not only for himself but also for other victims of human rights violations.

Erlinda Cadapan, mother of Sherlyn, joined Raymond in the filing of cases. She said, “Maraming involved. Isinawalat ng survivor na marami siyang nakitang dinukot, tinotortyur at tinatratong hindi makatao. Sana makatulong ang Ombudsman sa mga kaanak ng biktima.” (Many are involved. The survivor testified that he saw victims of abductions being tortured and treated inhumanely. I hope the Ombudsman will help the families of the victims.)

Strong case

Raymond’s lawyer Fernandez said that the Office of the Ombudsman should act swiftly on the case. He said that the fact that Raymond was granted the writ of amparo means that the evidence is strong.

The Manalo brothers filed a petition for the writ of amparo on October 24, 2007.  The Court of Appeals (CA) granted their prayer for protection.

Marie Hilao-Enriquez, Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of Human Rights) secretary general, said that Raymund deserves all the support. “He is courageous. In spite of all odds, even if his enemies are powerful and even if the Ombudsman has a bad record, Raymond is determined to obtain justice.”

Enriquez explained that previous cases filed by victims of human rights abuses before the Ombudsman have not yet been resolved. She cited the cases filed by Lourdes Rubrico and Oscar Leuterio. Both were abducted by state agents in separate incidents. Leuterio also witnessed the torture of Empeño and Cadapan. He also saw the Manalo brothers inside Fort Magsaysay.

Enriquez also mentioned the cases filed by Hacienda Luisita workers and by the victims of the violent dispersal of a rally in October 2006.

Enriquez said, “I hope they will not deny the existing remedies to the victim.”

Raymond said, “Kahit gaano katagal, hindi kami susuko. Ang mahalaga mabigyan ng katarungan ang nangyari sa amin.” (However long this takes, we will not give up. What is important is that we get justice for what was done to us.)  Bulatlat

OSG Admits Lapses in Due Process in Arrest of UCCP Pastor

September 19, 2008

During a Court of Appeals hearing of the petition for certiorari, prohibition, and mandamus filed by the lawyers of Rev. Berlin Guerrero, representatives from the Office of the Solicitor General admitted that the government committed lapses in due process in the arrest of the pastor from the United Church of Christ of the Philippines. This alone, according to former Sen. Jovito Salonga, one of Guerrero’s lawyers, was enough to convince the appellate court to order his client’s release.

BY BULATLAT
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Vol. VIII, No. 32, September 14-20, 2008

After one year, three months and 15 days in detention, Pastor Berlin Guerrero was happy to be free.

In its resolution, Sept. 11, the Court of Appeals (CA) Third Division ordered his release to the custody of his lawyers former Senator Jovito Salonga and Emilio Capulong Jr.

The CA began hearing the petitions filed by Guerrero’s lawyers after the case was remanded to the appellate court by the Supreme Court.

The court issued a temporary restraining order enjoining Judge Matias Garcia II of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 19, Bacoor, Cavite from conducting further proceedings against Guerrero in criminal case No. B-91-245.

Torture and abduction

Guerrero, a pastor of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) was accused of murdering a certain Noli Yatco. The warrant of arrest for this charge was dated 1998.

The pastor was abducted May 27, 2007 allegedly by elements of the Naval Intelligence Security Forces. In an affidavit, the pastor said he was tortured in a safe house. He said that no one among his captors mentioned the murder case and he was accused of being an officer of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

On the same day, Guerrero was brought to the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) Camp Pantaleon Garcia in Imus, Cavite.

No basis

In an interview after the hearing, Guerrero said that the CA decision proves that the murder charge filed against him has no basis.

Speaking before Guerrero’s supporters and friends, Salonga said, “Sapat na ang admissions na ginawa ng kalaban at statements ng mga abogado ni Pastor para magdesisyon ang korte.” (The admissions made by the prosecution and the statements of Pastor’s lawyers were deemed enough for the court to issue a resolution.)

Guerrero explained that the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) through its representatives admitted that the government violated due process in his arrest and detention. He said that Associate Justice Martin Villarama Jr of the Court of Appeals. saw the lack of probable cause in the murder charge.

Senior State Solicitor General Edgar Sison and State Solicitor II Maricar Prudon-Sison represented the respondents in the petition filed by Guerrero at the Supreme Court.

Guerrero said that during the hearing, the Appellate Court pointed out that the lone witness to the murder charge filed against him was not personally examined by Judge Myrna Lim-Verano of the 5th Municipal Circuit Trial Court of Carmona and Gen Mariano Alvarez, Cavite before she issued the warrant of arrest.

The CA also prohibited the Lower Court from enforcing and implementing the order dated August 2, 2007 issued by Judge Garcia. The said order denied the motion to quash the warrant of arrest and to dismiss the information on the murder charge.

Bishop Solito Toquero, co-chairperson of the Ecumenical Bishops Forum (EBF), said that amid the controversies hounding the CA, hope remains. “Salamat sa Diyos at sa lahat ng tumulong.” (Thank God and all those who have helped.)

Hopes and wishes

Guerrero said he hoped that the court would also hear the details of his abduction. He said that those who abducted and tortured him must be held liable.

Asked what he plans to do, the pastor said he would thank all the supporters, especially from the Church and spend time with his family.
It was the birthday of his youngest son, Jarius Vinces. The pastor said, “My immediate release from prison was his wish.” He said that his daughter Lora Wigbertte also celebrated her birthday last Sept. 9 and also wished for his freedom. Bulatlat

Groups say 9 jailed activists tortured; police deny charges

September 4, 2008

By Niña Catherine Calleja
Southern Luzon Bureau
First Posted 23:24:00 09/03/2008

CALAMBA CITY – A farmers’ group Wednesday assailed the alleged abduction and torture of nine of its organizers who were released from police custody on Tuesday afternoon.

The Kalipunan ng mga Magsasaka sa Kabite (Kamagsasaka-ka or Farmers’ Confederation in Cavite) claimed that members of the Cavite police and the Regional Special Operations Group (RSOG) in Calabarzon seized and tortured its president and members on Sunday.

In a phone interview on Tuesday, Senior Supt. Wilfredo Reyes, head of RSOG-Calabarzon, said he didn’t know of the group’s claim.

“It is never our practice to torture suspects just to get information,” Reyes said.

Axel Pinpin, Kamagsasaka-ka information officer and one of the newly freed Tagaytay 5, said the police officers involved should be held accountable.

Police claimed the nine were arrested at a checkpoint in Barangay Tartaria in Silang, Cavite on Sunday. Firearms were allegedly recovered from them.

The nine were identified as Renato Alvarez, 63; Franco Romeroso, 27; Felipe Nardo, 24; Bernardo Derain, 36; Mario Joson, 55; Jommel Igana, 19; Yolanda Caraig, 48; Neshley Cresino, 27; and Janice Javier, 26.

Threats, torture

They were charged with illegal possession of firearms but were later released after the provincial prosecutor said the police failed to present evidence against them.

The Cavite Ecumenical Movement for Justice and Peace (CEMJP) reported that the nine were abducted, harassed and tortured.

Diane Mariano, coordinator of the CEMJP, said the activists had just left Alvarez’s house and were bound for Tagaytay City when 20 armed men in police uniforms and aboard a van and a car blocked their path and told them to disembark from their vehicle.

The policemen allegedly tied and gagged them, and covered their eyes with packing tape.
The Inquirer tried to contact one of the activists but he refused to talk because of fear.

Mariano, who had interviewed the nine while accompanying them out of Camp Vicente Lim, told the Inquirer that the most frightening thing happened when the nine were inside the camp.

An official allegedly threatened Cresino with rape and ordered her to undress while Javier was asked to climb a concrete post when she refused to respond to police questioning.

“Janice knelt down to plead for her life when an officer pointed a gun at her nape,” Mariano alleged.

The officer later asked Javier if she knew how long a body would burn if it was set on fire, he added.

Electric current was reportedly applied on the heads and sex organs of Derain and Nardo, while they were being forced to say they were members of the communist New People’s Army.

Crippling peasant groups

“Nardo was later asked to dig their graveyard,” she claimed, adding that when she saw Nardo, he had bruises in the legs.

Pinpin said the continuing harassment was part of a plan to sow fear and cripple legitimate peasants’ and other people’s organizations.

The Kamagsasaka-ka and its counterpart, the Samahan ng mga Magsasaka sa Batangas, are protesting land-use conversion cases in Cavite and Batangas.

“It is ironic that while the government is calling for the prioritization and development of agriculture in the country, agriculturists and peasant organizers are being killed, abducted or jailed,” he said.

Pinpin cited the cases of Jonas Burgos, an agriculturist, who remains missing until now; detained Randall Echaniz, deputy secretary general of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, and Eduardo Serrano, a dairy industry agriculturist.

Pinpin and Aristides Sarmiento, also an agriculturist, and three others were jailed on a rebellion charge before they were released on Aug. 28 after a court dismissed the case.

Police admit to holding 9 activists

September 2, 2008

By Niña Catherine Calleja, Delfin Mallari Jr.
Southern Luzon Bureau
First Posted 02:28:00 09/02/2008

CALAMBA CITY, LAGUNA – The Regional Special Operations Group of the Calabarzon police admitted to holding nine activists who were reported missing on Sunday.

Senior Supt. Wilfredo Reyes, head of RSOG-Calabarzon, said the group served as a custodial unit of the nine arrested at a checkpoint in Silang, Cavite, by members of the Cavite police.

Arrested were Renato Alvarez, 63; Yolanda Caraig, 48; Neshley Cresino, 27; Franco Romeroso, 27; Felip Nardo, 24; Bernardo Derain, 36; Janice Javier, 26; Mario Joson, 55; and Jommel Igana, 19.

Cavite police director Senior Supt. Hernando Zafra confirmed that the nine were arrested in a joint operation of Cavite and Calabarzon police.

He told the Inquirer that they were “related” to left-wing groups. He refused to give details as he described the case as “sensitive.”

Reyes, however, said the police had not yet made conclusions that the nine were members of the communist New People’s Army (NPA).

He even said in a phone interview that one of them looked like a “commercial model” and another, a teacher.

The nine were still being investigated as police claimed recovering firearms from them.

No charges

No case has yet been filed in court against them.

Reyes said they would be released if no case was filed. “I know we can be charged with arbitrary detention,” he said.

The RSOG-Calabarzon has been detaining the activists since Sunday at around 3:30 p.m.

In a phone interview on Sunday, Reyes had repeatedly denied to the Inquirer that the RSOG-Calabarzon was holding suspected NPA members.

Aris Sarmiento, one of the “Tagaytay 5” who was just released from prison after their rebellion case was dismissed, said the activists failed to show up for a meeting in Nasugbu, Batangas.

The activists were supposed to be there at 8 a.m. to discuss a campaign plan against land-use conversion in time for Farmers’ Week in October.

According to Sarmiento, Alvarez is the president of the Kalipunan ng mga Magsasaka sa Kabite (Kamagsasaka-Ka or Farmers’ Confederation in Cavite), of which he is a consultant, while four of those arrested were organizers of the group.

According to Kamagsasaka-Ka, the nine who were on board a yellow multicab left the house of Alvarez in Barangay Tartaria in Silang at around 3:30 a.m on Sunday.

Sarmiento said their whereabouts could not be traced and all of their mobile phones had been turned off.

Search

Dianne Mariano of the human rights group Cavite Ecumenical Movement for Justice and Peace said the police did the same thing to “Tagaytay 5” two years ago.

Sarmiento and farmer-activists Axel Pinpin and Riel Custodio, and their drivers Michael Masayes and Rico Ybañez were abducted in early 2006 and held incommunicado for several days. They were later presented by police as alleged NPA members on a terrorist mission in Manila and charged with rebellion.

Relatives call anew for release of missing activists

September 2, 2008

By Nestor P. Burgos Jr.
Visayas Bureau
First Posted 02:29:00 09/02/2008

ILOILO CITY – Families of two Iloilo activists abducted more than a year ago have renewed their appeal for the release of their loved ones.

Daughters of Ma. Luisa Posa-Dominado and the wife of Nilo Arado called on their captors to free them as they marked the 27th year of the commemoration of the International Day of the Disappeared on Saturday.

“Every day, we think of Nanay and Tito Nilo. We worry about their condition and what their abductors might be doing to them,” said Dominado’s daughters, May Wan, 26, and Tamara, 16, in a joint statement.

Rosemarie Arado said she would not stop looking for her husband Nilo. “As long as I have not seen his remains, I will still believe that he is alive,” she said.

Unidentified armed men abducted Dominado and Arado on April 12, 2007, in Barangay Cabanbanan in Oton town, seven kilometers south of Iloilo City. They waylaid the victims’ vehicle, and shot and seriously wounded their companion, human rights worker Jose Ely Garachico.

They left Garachico for dead but he has survived.

The vehicle was found burned in a sugarcane field in Janiuay town, 30 km from where they were attacked.

Dominado, a prominent political detainee during the Marcos dictatorship, was the spokesperson in Panay of the Samahan ng Mga Ex-Detainee Laban sa Detensyon at para sa Amnestiya (Selda), while Arado was chair of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) in Panay.

Their families and colleagues have blamed military agents for the abduction, pointing at the similarity of the manner of the abduction with those of other cases elsewhere in the country.

Military officials have repeatedly denied the allegations.

The Iloilo Regional Trial Court is hearing a petition for a writ of amparo filed by the families of the missing activists against police and military officials.

Lamentations of Families of the Disappeared

September 2, 2008

How does one cope when a loved one was involuntarily disappeared? How does one go on searching for days, weeks, months, years, decades?

BY BULATLAT
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Vol. VIII, No. 30, August 31-September 6, 2008

How does one cope when a loved one was involuntarily disappeared? How does one go on searching for days, weeks, months, years, decades?

In a roundtable discussion organized by the Center for Women’s Resources (CWR), August 29, women who are mothers, wives, daughters and sisters of desaperacidos (disappeared) shared their continuing search for their loved ones and for justice.

beth calubadElizabeth ‘Nanay Beth’ Calubad’s husband and son were abducted June 17, 2006 by suspected state agents in Caluag, Quezon. Nanay Beth described his husband as someone who serves the people. Rogelio is a member of the National Democratic Front (NDF) peace panel.

“Hangad niya na ang magsasaka ay lumaya, makamit ang lupa ng mga magsasaka, iyon ang naging dahilan para siya dukutin ng military” (He worked for peasants to be free, to get their own land, this is the reason why the military abducted him.) said Nanay Beth.

Nanay Beth said that her son Gabriel was not involved in his father’s activities. She said that Rudy was only driving the tricycle when the suspected soldiers blocked their way.

Feeling the effects

Nanay Beth related her ordeal since the disappearance of her husband and her son. “Nawala kami sa lugar namin. Kabuhayan, wala rin. At nagtago rin dito sa Maynila dahil kung hindi baka kami rin ay dukutin.” (We left our place. We have also lost our livelihood. We hid here in Manila because we might be abducted, too.)

“Ngayon, paano kami nabubuhay dito? Unang-unang tumulong sa amin ang Karapatan. Lumapit na kami sa [Commission on] Human Rights, hanggang ngayon pangako lang. Pangakong nakapako,” (Now, how do we survive? Karapatan was the first to help us. We went to the Commission on Human Rights, they promised to help us. Until now, it remains a promise, a broken promise.) she added.

Nanay Beth said she has no job. “Sa edad kong ito, wala nang tatangap sa akin.”
(At my age. no one will hire me.)

Nanay Beth took her youngest son to Bataan and then to Quezon City so that he could continue his studies. She said it is also the poor who help them.

She still has a four-year old grandchild. “Nang mawalan siya ng ama, dadalawang taon pa lang.” (When her father disappeared, she was only two years old.)

For Dee Ayroso whose husband Honor Ayroso was abducted February 9, 2002 in San Jose, Nueva Ecija, the impact was not immediately apparent.

Honor was with Johnny Orcino when six armed men on board an owner-type jeep took them.

Dee said it was the second time that Honor and Johnny were abducted. Both were abducted in separate incidents in 1989. The two were interrogated and tortured in safehouses before they were surfaced and charged in court. Honor was acquitted on charges of illegal possession of firearms and subversion.

Dee continued,“Sa unang pagkakataon na iyon, nilitaw pa sila. Itong pangalawa, hindi na.” (During that time, they were surfaced. This time, they remain missing.)

“Hindi malaking epekto noong umpisa. Ang asawa ko, lagi naman nasa malayo, peasant organizer. Habang tumatagal, doon mo nararamdaman kasi hindi na bumabalik eh,” (At first, the effect was not enormous. My husband was always away, he was a peasant organizer. As time goes by, the effect of his disappearance becomes stronger because he no longer comes home.) said Dee.

The couple has two sons. When Honor disappeared, they were six and almost two. Today, the eldest is already 13 and the youngest, 8.

aya santos, desaperacidosMeanwhile, Lorena Santos whose father Leo Velasco and mother Elizabeth Principe were abducted in separate incidents said she continues to overcome guilt feelings.

Velasco, an NDF consultant, was abducted by government agents on Feb. 19, 2007 in Cagayan de Oro, the city capital of the province of Misamis Oriental, southern Philippines.

Meanwhile, Principe, was presented to the media by Army officials as a high-ranking cadre of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army. Army officials said she was captured on November 28 in Cubao, Quezon City by virtue of standing arrest orders for six criminal charges, including kidnapping, arson, murder and frustrated murder in the provinces of Isabela and Nueva Vizcaya. She is detained at the Camp Crame.

Lorena has been working as a volunteer of Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights). She said, “Bago pa mawala si Tatay, kasama na ako ng mga kaanak ng mga biktima ng sapilitang pagkawala sa paghahanap. Pumapasok kami sa mga kampo ng military. Hindi ko akalain na ako ay maghahanap sa tatay ko.” (Before my father disappeared, I joined the families of the disappeared in searching for their loved ones. We went inside military camps. I didn’t expect that I would also search for my father.)

Inaction

Dee said she went to the Philippine Army, Philippine National Police (PNP) in San Jose, PNP in Cabanatuan City, PNP in San Fernando, and to the CHR. “Wala akong nakuhang tulong.” (I was not given any help.)

Dee said that the CHR in Region III just told her they have no funds.

After two months, Dee said that CHR investigators went to their house. A senator wrote to CHR to appeal for urgent action regarding the case of Honor and Johnny. Dee related, “Iimbestigahan daw nila ang kaso ng asawa ko. Sa akin hinahanap ang wtiness. Nagtago na ang witness, tricycle driver. Siyempre, takot din siya para sa buhay niya.” (They told me they would investigate the case of my husband. They asked me about the witness. The witness, a tricycle driver, already went into hiding. Of course, he fears for his life.)

The only thing that Honor left behind was his belt bag, said Dee. The police showed it to her but refused to give it to her.

Lorena said she also wrote to CHR asking for help. Until now, she has not received any reply.

Helplessness

Dee said that the most difficult to overcome is the feeling of helplessness. “Lahat ng pagtanungan mo, walang alam. PNP, Army, walang alam. Ni hindi kami nakapag-file ng kaso sa korte dahil wala kaming testigo, nagtago na ang testigo namin.” (Every one we asked claimed that they knew nothing. The PNP, the Army said they knew nothing. We could not even file a case in court because we have no witness. Our witness went into hiding.)

Lorena shared the same feeling. “Lahat ng pwedeng gawin, gagawin mo talaga pero bakit wala pa rin sila? Sa lahat ng pwedeng lapitan, sasabihin nila wala sa amin.” (I did everything that could be done but why are they still not here? We went everywhere but they all told us our loved ones were not in their custody.)

Lorena continued, “Sabi ng isang Isfap, hindi naming ginagawa ang mandukot. Ang sarap sabihin, sinungaling kayo.” (An Isafp agent claimed that they do not abduct people. I wanted to tell him, you are liars.) Isafp stands for Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Nanay Beth said, “Nag-file na kami nga habeas corpus, umabot na ng dalawang taon mahigit. Sa Sept. 16, mayroon pa kaming hearing. Ewan ko. Talagang mailap, walang katarungan ang nararamdaman naming mga kaanak.” (We filed a petition for habeas corpus, it’s been more than two years since. On Sept. 16, we would have another hearing. I don’t know anymore. We, relatives of missing, feel that justice is elusive, if not absent.)

Bilet Batralo, youngest sister of Cesar Batralo, NDF consultant who was abducted Dec. 31, 2006, related that Cesar’sbilet batralo, desaperacidos daughter Gabriela who was then only four years old, dreams of becoming Darna (a superhero in Filipino comics) so that she could fly and look for her father. “Dadagitin daw niya ang mga kumuha sa tatay niya.” (She said she would snatch her father from his abductors.)

Bilet said when she started searching for her brother in military camps, she experienced different forms of harassment. “Nakaranas akong kasahan ng baril.” (I already know how it feels when soldiers cock their guns to try to scare you.)

Guilt

Lorena also has to deal with guilt feelings. “Bakit hindi ko nahanap ang tatay ko? Mayroon ba akong hindi nagawa? Hindi pa ba ako maingay? Kailangan ba mas maingay pa ako para mahanap ko siya?” (Why can’t I find my father? Is there anything I failed do? Am I not generating enough noise about his abduction? Should I be more vocal to be able to find him?)

Coping

Jacqueline Ruiz, a psychologist said that the most difficult for those who search for their missing loved ones is the absence of closure.

Dee said, “Parang pakiramdam din ng namatayan eh, na wala na ang tao… kaya lang malupit dahil wala kang mabisitang libingan.” (It’s like that your loved has died, he is already gone…but this is harsh because you don’t have a tomb to visit.)

Ruiz said that they who search continue to hope that they will soon find their loved ones.

She added that relatives of the missing, while continuing their search, have to go on living. “Kailangang maging matatag para sa iba pang kaanak.” (We have to be strong for our other relatives.)

Ruiz said that a support group helps a lot in coping with difficult situations. She said that the knowledge that others are experiencing the same could provide strength.

Lorena said that every time she feels guilty, she talks with relatives of other disappeared persons. “They too did everything to search for their loved ones.”

For now, Lorena said they just have to continue searching and fighting for justice. She said that enforced disappearances would stop only if there would be a change in the societal system.

Lorena said, “Kailangan naming sumama, kumilos para sa pagbabagong ito para hindi mawala ang mga kamag-anak namin. Hindi sila mawawala sa memory, sa history, sa pakikibaka ng mamamayan.” (We need to participate, work for genuine change so that the memory of our loved ones would not fade in the history, the process of the people’s struggle.)

Dee said, “Hindi man makita, narito kami kung ano man ang pinangarap ng mga nawawala, may gingawa kami tungkol doon. Nandito pa rin sila kasi nandito kami.” (We may not be able to find them but we are here to continue what they have been dreaming of. We are doing something for their dream. It’s as if they are still here because we are here.) Bulatlat

Quirante Sisters: A Tale of Continuing Injustice

August 13, 2008

Arrested by the military on false charges of child abuse allegedly for recruiting a minor to the NPA, which has already been dismissed, and rebellion, sisters Emilia and Maricris Quirante have been languishing in jail for more than a year now. Worse, the fact that the city has no fiscal for the past three months has been delaying the hearings.

BY RONALYN V. OLEA
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 27, August 10-16, 2008

GUIHULNGAN CITY – A local peasant woman leader and her sister have been detained at the district jail here for charges of child abuse and rebellion.

Emilia Quirante, municipal chairperson of Kaugmaon, a peasant organization affiliated with the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP of Peasant Movement of the Philippines), her brother Renante, chairperson of the local chapter of Anakpawis partylist and her sister Maricris were arrested on March 24, 2007.

Renante has been released after the case against him has been dismissed.

In an interview, Emilia related that the policemen presented a search warrant, indicating that high-powered rifles were to be found inside their house. She said the police found a dilapidated air gun that their father used for hunting.

Another gun, a 45 caliber pistol, was shown to her, Emilia said. She said that the pistol was planted by the police.

Meanwhile, Maricris just got back from a training funded by the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) when she was arrested. She served as a teacher in a literacy program for children in different rural areas in Mindanao.

Emilia said that the police claimed they also seized “subversive” documents.

Witnesses

Emilia said she found out that the witnesses who testified against her are sons of members of Citizens Armed Force Geographical Unit (Cafgu).

On the charge of child abuse, she was accused of recruiting Renante Magallon, a minor, to the NPA. Emilia denied the accusations saying that she did not even know Magallon.

The witness for the rebellion case Christopher Garde claimed that Emilia told him, “Kung naniwala pa sana sa akin ang tatay mo, di siya mamamatay.” (If only your father continued to believe in me, he would not be killed.)

Emilia said that the NPA admitted killing Garde’s father for alleged cases of murder, physical abuse and theft.

Meanwhile, Emilia’s neighbor named Arnel, 16, wrote in his affidavit that Magallon took him to the military camp. They were with Dakila Reyes, an intelligence agent, said Emilia. Arnel said he saw Emilia’s name in a list with the amount P50,000 written beside it.

Emilia suspected she was ordered killed and the P50,000 could be the reward. She said her neighbors warned her that armed men had been asking about her.

Vilification

Emilia related that before the arrest, the military tagged her as a member of the New People’s Army (NPA).

She said that during that time, the military was campaigning for the Alliance for Nationalism and Democracy (ANAD). Emilia was then campaigning for Anakpawis.

She said, “NPA daw ako kasi marami akong tauhan.” (They said I am an NPA because I have many followers.) Emilia said that the residents refused to go to meetings called for by the military.

Emilia said the military told the local residents that she would ask for money to buy rice and cellphone with camera. “Di naman naniwala ang mga tao.” (The people did not believe them.)

On Dec. 8, 2006, about 36 elements of the army led by 2nd Lt. Dave Angelitod went to their house and told her to surrender to ANAD. Emilia said that Angelitod warned her that if she does not surrender, her family would be implicated.

‘Fight goes on’

The charge of child abuse has already been dismissed for lack of evidence. The rebellion case is up for reinvestigation.

However, the regional trial court of Guihulngan City has no fiscal for three months now. No hearings have been conducted in the past months, Emilia said.

Emilia said that the fight continues. “Wala nang atrasan,” (There’s no turning back.) she said.

She said that intensive military operations affect the livelihood of farmers and the military presence brings no development to the people of Guihulngan. Bulatlat

Army killed Kalinga hunter – Rights group

August 11, 2008

BAGUIO CITY —Another farmer-hunter was killed in cold-blood by the military elements in Kalinga.

According to the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA), Rocky “Ungki” Aboli a village councilman, went to his farm in Mt. Bulos in Upper Uma last July 20 to guard his crops from wild animals.

At around 4:15 P.M., residents heard gunshots and immediately sent some youth to check what is it all about. The military in the area, however, did not allow them to pass through and just said that Aboli was safe with them and was being fed.

The next day, some members of the Uma tribe went to the site of the incident and found Aboli dead on the ground. The AFP troops just said to the community members that Aboli fired a gun to their direction and thus was fired back.  The CHRA identified the troops as belonging t the 21st and 77th Infantry Battalion f the Philippine Army.

The military, in a press statement by the 5th Infantry Division based in Upi, Gamu, Isabela, said Aboli was killed during an encounter between the military and members of the rebel group New People’s Army (NPA).

But according to a July 25 statement sent to the media by the Lejo Cawilan Command of the NPA-Kalinga, the military’s reports are nothing but “brazen lies.”

The NPA command said Aboli was shot to death by troops led by Lt. Jay Alambra, Lt. Aries Apduhan and a certain Major Domingo.

It was not the first time this year that elements of the 21st IB murdered a civilian, the statement added. Two witnesses identified Apduhan as the commanding officer of the troops who killed Rey “Aginawang” Logao in Kalasan, Mabongtot, Lubuagan on April 4.

According to CHRA statistics, at least 13 civilians were already killed by the government’s armed forces in Kalinga since 2002, all of whom were either wrongly accused of being combatants or supporters of the communist armed group.

“We, condemn in the strongest terms these military atrocities, the culture of impunity and the killings of innocent civilians,” the CHRA statement said. # (BarangayRP News Team)

Karapatan files raps vs Army, village officials

August 7, 2008

BACOLOD CITY – In what could be a retaliation for Linan-tuyan villagers declaring them “personae non gratae” and keeping them out, human rights group Karapatan and its allied organizations filed criminal and administrative charges against Linantuyan barangay leaders and police and military officials of Guihulngan, Negros Oriental before the Office of the Ombudsman for allegedly attacking their persons and rights.

Karapatan-Negros secretary general Fred Cana said charges filed against barangay officials led by chairman Elpedio Villar, Lt. Col. Franco Nemesio Gacal, 11th Infantry Battalion commander; 1Lt. Joseph Buencamino and Chief Insp. Petronilo Gracia, Guihulngan police chief were for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Pubic Officials, Rules of Government Officials and Employees, grave coercion, grave threats and libel. He said the accused must be held accountable for their vicious systematic attacks on the person and right of leaders who participate in the investigative mission in the upland areas of Guihulngan.

He claimed the Army’s harassment, intimidations, vilifications and actions are among the first steps in the established pattern of extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearance.

Gacal and Villar said Kara-patan’s move was pure harassment and propaganda. “The principal motive is to intimidate us, to slow down our efforts in exposing their criminal activities,” Gacal said. “If they think we are intimidated, they are wrong.

He said Karapatan is desperate over the criminal charges filed against them by Linantuyan residents – whose officials also barred them from the village – over its alleged role in the kidnapping, serious illegal detention, murder, grave threats and coercion of civilians. – Gilbert Bayoran(Malaya)

Relatives, Supporters of Detained Peasant Leader Slam ‘Mafia-Style’ Transfer to Manila City Jail

August 5, 2008

Relatives and supporters of detained Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP or Peasant Movement of the Philippines) deputy secretary-general for external affairs Randall Echanis Aug. 2 denounced the “Mafia-style and highly irregular transfer” of the peasant leader to the Manila City Jail.

BY GERRY ALBERT CORPUZ
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Contributed to Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 26, August 3-9, 2008

Relatives and supporters of detained Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP or Peasant Movement of the Philippines) deputy secretary-general for external affairs Randall Echanis Aug. 2 denounced the “Mafia-style and highly irregular transfer” of the peasant leader to the Manila City Jail.

KMP secretary-general Danilo Ramos said he received a call from one of their paralegal staff at around 9:30 a.m informing him that Echanis was hurriedly transferred from the Philippine National Police (PNP) Custodial Center in Camp Crame to Manila City Jail in Manila in the morning of Aug. 2.

“Malacañang, the National Security Council (NSC) and the Department of Justice (DoJ) masterminded this highly irregular, Mafia-style and grossly diabolical transfer of Echanis. They have been planning something evil against our colleague,” the KMP leader said in a press statement.

“Let me remind the national security gang in the Presidential Palace headed by Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, her security adviser Norberto Gonzales and the twin evil brother of Norberto, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez that Echanis is a political prisoner, a decent and principled man wrongly accused by this criminal regime of Mrs. Arroyo. He is not a common criminal accused of petty street crimes,” Ramos said.

The KMP also asked whether Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 32 Judge Thelma Bunyi-Medina if she ordered the transfer of the detained KMP leader from Camp Crame to Manila City Jail.

Ramos said prior to this quick transfer, Echanis called his lawyer, Romeo Capulong, to inform him that the PNP has read an order from the judge approving his transfer from the PNP Custodial Center to Manila City Jail.

“Everything was done in a highly questionable manner. Did the PNP file any motion or request for Echanis’s transfer? Did Judge Medina approve the PNP request for Echanis’s transfer? How come the lawyers and relatives of Echanis were not informed about his transfer and of this latest legal twisting escapade of the Arroyo government? Why is everything kept like the best-kept secret of the National Security Council?” the KMP added.

The group maintained that Echanis should be held in the custody of the PNP Custodial Center while his case is being tried as previously ordered by Medina. “Echanis should stay with the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame while his case is being tried, that’s why we repeat, the transfer is highly irregular and absurd and it only revealed the national conspiracy and sinister agenda of Arroyo and her militarist advisers, which is to further persecute and make life more miserable for Echanis,” the KMP said.

Echanis, who was implicated in the case related to the alleged purge within the ranks of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) in Leyte in the 1980s, was transferred Tuesday last week from the Leyte Provincial Jail in Palo to the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame. He was accused, together with Bayan Muna (People First) Rep. Satur Ocampo, of ordering the alleged purge in 1984.

Echanis was in detention at the time he was supposed to have ordered the purge. Government and military records, including court proceedings, showed that Echanis was being held in solitary confinement by the military at the time the alleged purge was supposed to have been ordered.

The Manila RTC had also dismissed all criminal charges filed by the Marcos government in the 1980s against Echanis. In 1992, a case of illegal possession of firearms was again dismissed by the Manila RTC for lack of merit.

On Jan. 28, Echanis was arrested in Bago City, Negros Occidental while attending a national conference called by the Unyon ng Mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA or Union of Workers in Agriculture) regarding the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) or House Bill 3059 authored by the late Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) Rep. Crispin Beltran.

Arroyo, et al to be held liable

Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano said they will hold Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the National Security Council liable if something bad happens to the detained KMP leader.

“We fear for Ka Randy’s security considering his status as a political prisoner. We’re also afraid that he will be subjected to tremendous suffering given the prison conditions and his health,” the militant lawmaker said in a press statement, a copy of which was sent to Bulatlat.

“This politically-motivated case has been on hold since April 2007. The Arroyo government and its state security forces should have desisted from arresting those included in the questionable charge sheet,” Mariano said.

The arrest warrant served on Echanis, was issued a year ago in connection with a charge of multiple murder that Ocampo had questioned before the Supreme Court. In April 2007, the Supreme Court granted Ocampo provisional release on bail while the Court deliberated on his petition for certiorari and prohibition.

Mariano, concurrent KMP chair, described “the trumped-up charge” against Echanis, Ocampo and other leaders of the people’s movement as a “special project of the Palace-created Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG)” headed by the National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales, which includes the military and the justice department as members.

“Gonzales and then AFP chief Hermogenes Esperon’s grave-digging stunt in Inopacan, Leyte is a special project of Ms Arroyo’s IALAG in a desperate bid to immobilize those who strongly oppose her anti-people political and economic policies,” says Mariano.

On March 2007, Ocampo accused the military top brass of lying and of falsifying the charges against him by using recycled skeletons as supposed evidence of a mass grave. Ocampo said five of the 15 skeletons allegedly found in Hilongos, Leyte, as evidence of mass killings had actually been also previously dug up in Barangay (village) Monterico in Albay in 2004.

The Anakpawis lawmaker called for the immediate and unconditional release of Echanis, and the subsequent dropping of all charges filed against him by the corrupt, bankrupt and immoral government of Ms Arroyo.  “The continuing injustice committed by the Arroyo government against Echanis should not be tolerated,” Mariano said.

‘Serve the People’

The farmer lawmaker said in the late 1970, Echanis was among the batches of activists who responded to the Kabataang Makabayan’s (KM or Patriotic Youth) call to “Serve the People.” He went to the countryside and helped in peasant education, propaganda, and organizing work in Cagayan Valley, Cordillera, and Ilocos regions until his arrest in July 1983.  He was arrested without warrant by elements of the then Ministry of National Defense Security Group under Cols. Gregorio Honasan, Red Kapunan, and Rodolfo Aguinaldo.

Rep. Mariano recalled that from 1983 to 1984, Echanis was detained under solitary confinement and held incommunicado in Camp Aguinaldo. Even his close relatives and lawyers were not allowed to visit him. From 1984 to 1986, he was transferred to Camp Adduru, Regional Command 2 Stockade in Tuguegarao, Cagayan until his release in March 1986. For two years, Echanis was under solitary confinement.

The human rights group Selda (Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Para sa Amnestiya) said the detained KMP leader was among the political prisoners released after People Power 1, and became one of the group’s pioneers.

Aside from Selda, Echanis co-founded the left-leaning political party Partido ng Bayan (PnB or People’s Party) and was one of the members of its preparatory organizing committee. In 1987, Echanis went back to peasant organizing until his second arrest in 1990 by combined elements of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP), the Naval Intelligence and Security Force (NISF), and the NCRDC.

Echanis’ wife, Erlinda Lacaba-Echanis, told Bulatlat her husband was held in a safe house for one week and subjected to physical and emotional torture before his transfer to Camp Crame Custodial Center along with their daughter Amanda Echanis, who two-years old then and the youngest political prisoner at that time.

Erlinda recalled his husband was released from detention in 1992 after a case filed against him for violation of Presidential Decree No. 1866 (illegal possession of firearms in furtherance of rebellion) was dismissed by the Manila Regional Trial Court.

“He became active once more with Selda and helped in processing claimants in a class suit against the Marcos dictatorship. He was also instrumental in establishing the human rights group Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights).

“My husband is a dignified, patriotic and pro-masses person, he has been a perpetual victim of state terrorism and government and military persecution,” Echanis wife added.

Echanis was appointed deputy secretary-general for external affairs of the militant peasant organization Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) in its 5th National Congress in 1999.

In the year 2001, he was elected member of the national council of the First Quarter Storm Movement (FQSM) in its First Congress.

Since 2002, Echanis helped in the peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) as a member of the NDFP Reciprocal Working Committee for Social and Economic Reforms.

As KMP deputy secretary general for external affairs, Echanis attended and represented KMP in international peasant assemblies and conferences such as the World Farmers’ Assembly in France, the World Social Forum in Brazil, the World Anti-Imperialist Conference in Indonesia and a delegate to the 1st and 2nd Assembly of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS) in The Netherlands. Contributed to Bulatlat

No Justice, Impunity Prevails

August 5, 2008

Relatives of victims of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances deplore the fact that up to now justice still remains elusive and impunity still prevails even as the Supreme Court promulgated new remedies such as the writ of amparo. Worse, the Court of Appeals has dismissed the cases that they filed thereby providing the conditions for the “re-escalation” of human rights violations.

BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 26, August 3-9, 2008

That victims of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances have yet to receive justice is, their relatives say, could embolden the perpetrators of these crimes to “commit more of the same.” This, for them, shows that impunity still prevails. While the Supreme Court has made available to them new remedies such as the writ of amparo, the Court of Appeals has dismissed several of the cases they have filed, providing the conditions for what a lawyer has described as the “re-escalation” of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances.

Thus, even as the extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances appear to have subsided, the relatives of those who have fallen prey to these find no reason to be happy.

“The relatives of the victims cannot be happy with that, because what is needed is that the killings and disappearances stop altogether,” said Erlinda Cadapan, mother of missing University of the Philippines (UP) student Sherlyn Cadapan, in an interview. “Also, the perpetrators must be punished.”

Lorena Santos, daughter of abducted National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultants Leo Velasco and Elizabeth Principe, expressed a similar view in a separate interview. “The reduction in the numbers does not matter so long as we don’t see our relatives given justice,” she said.

Sherlyn was abducted by soldiers together with fellow UP student Karen Empeño and farmer Manuel Merino on June 26, 2006 in Hagonoy, Bulacan. She was doing youth organizing work in a village there, while Empeño was doing research for her BA Sociology thesis. The two UP students remain missing, while Merino is reported to have been killed by their abductors.

Velasco was in the list of 50 persons charged by the Department of Justice (DoJ) with rebellion in the wake of the alleged “Left-Right conspiracy” to topple the Arroyo government in 2006. He was abducted in Cagayan de Oro City on Feb. 19, 2007 and has not been found since then.

Principe, meanwhile, was “arrested” on Nov. 28, 2007 in Cubao, Quezon City supposedly on the strength of standing arrest orders for six criminal cases. For almost three days after that she went missing, but was eventually presented by Army officials to the media as a high-ranking official of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).

Most of these victims were seized by state security forces in 2006, when extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances were at their peak.

Data from Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights) shows that there have been 910 victims of extrajudicial killings and 193 victims of enforced disappearances from January 2001 – when Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was catapulted to power through a popular uprising – to June 30, 2008.

In the first half of 2008, 20 people fell prey to extrajudicial killings while one was forcibly disappeared.

From 2001 to 2008, the three regions with the most victims of extrajudicial killings are Southern Tagalog with 165, Central Luzon with 137, and the Bicol Region with 128. Most of the victims are peasants (numbering 424) and indigenous people (85). Among political organizations, the party-list group Bayan Muna (People First) and the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP or Peasant Movement of the Philippines) have the highest number of victims, with 132 and 106, respectively.

Meanwhile, the three regions with the victims of enforced disappearances are Central Luzon with 62, Southern Tagalog with 28, and Eastern Visayas with 24.

Southern Tagalog, Central Luzon, the Bicol Region, and Eastern Visayas are all marked as “priority areas” in the government’s counter-insurgency operations dubbed as Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL or Operation Freedom Watch).

United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary and Arbitrary Executions Philip Alston went on a mission to the Philippines in 2007 to investigate the spate of extrajudicial killings and came up with a report specifically pointing to the military’s involvement in these. “In some parts of the country, the armed forces have followed a deliberate strategy of systematically hunting down the leaders of leftist organizations,” Alston, who is also a professor at New York University (NYU), said.

Following are the yearly breakdowns for the numbers of victims of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances:

Victims of Extrajudicial Killings, 2001-June 30, 2008

Year

Total

Organized

Women

2001

99

35

11

2002

118

44

13

2003

123

32

14

2004

83

41

9

2005

187

101

14

2006

210

108

25

2007

70

35

12

2008 (1st half)

20

5

4

Total

910

401

102

Source: Karapatan

Victims of Enforced Disappearances, 2001-June 30, 2008

Year

Total

Organized

Women

2001

7

1

2

2002

9

3

2

2003

11

2

1

2004

26

10

5

2005

28

6

0

2006

78

26

16

2007

33

13

4

2008 (1st half)

1

1

0

Total

193

62

30

Source: Karapatan

In the rates of both extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, there are marked escalations in 2005 and 2006, after which these crimes noticeably slowed down after these caught the attention of the local and international community. The European Union, Finland, the US Senate, US corporations such as Wal Mart, among others expressed concern over the spate of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances.

For relatives of the victims of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, the drop in the rates of these human rights violations is not really something to be happy about.

“One one hand there is success in our campaign to stop the killings and disappearances, since there is a drop in their rates…but still, we are not happy because we haven’t seen our loved ones, and there is still no justice,” Santos said.

Among the legal remedies made available to the likes of Cadapan and Santos is the writ of amparo, the rules for which were approved by the Supreme Court in 2007.

A.M. No. 07-9-12-SC, which took effect on Oct. 24 last year, provides that the writ of amparo shall cover threats or actual cases of “extralegal killings” and enforced disappearances. The writ of amparo, among other things, seeks to provide protection for persons under threat of “extralegal killings” or enforced disappearances, as well as allows access to military and police camps where victims of enforced disappearances are suspected to be kept.

Several relatives of human rights victims, including Cadapan and Santos, have sought to avail of the writ of amparo.

The Court of Appeals, however, has recently dismissed four high-profile amparo petitions one after the other. These are the petitions for Jonas Burgos, Elizabeth Principe, Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño, and the Gumanoy sisters.

Jonas Burgos, a peasant organizer in Bulacan, was abducted by soldiers in a restaurant in Quezon City on April 28, 2007 and remains missing. The plate number of a van used in the abduction was traced to a vehicle impounded by the 56th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army.

Rose Ann and Fatima Gumanoy, daughters of slain peasant leader Eddie Gumanoy, were recently abducted by elements of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) and placed under custody.

National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) secretary-general Neri Javier Colmenares, in a recent legal analysis of which Bulatlat received a copy, criticized this series of decisions. Wrote Colmenares:

“These decisions unfortunately disregard the actual state of human rights in the Philippines today that has prompted the promulgation of the new remedy in the first place. This spate of decisions will only encourage the re-escalation of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances because of the continuing impunity which has unfortunately and unwittingly been judicially engendered further.”

Cadapan and Santos, in their interviews with Bulatlat, expressed similar observations.

“The perpetrators of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances will surely be emboldened to commit more of the same,” Cadapan said. “The rates may have decreased, but because of what has been happening in the Court of Appeals, we can be almost sure that the killings and disappearances will again escalate.”

“Yes, in a way it encourages more human rights violations, especially extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, because it shows the impunity of the perpetrators, because the Court of Appeals shows that the perpetrators need not answer for their crimes,” Santos said. Bulatlat

‘Amparo Dismissals Encourage More Killings’

July 30, 2008

CA SERIAL DISMISSALS OF AMPARO PETITIONS: ENCOURAGING THE ESCALATION OF EXTRAJUDICIAL KILLINGS AND ENFORCED DISAPPEARANCES

The NUPL strongly criticizes the recent spate of decisions by the Court of Appeals dismissing amparo petitions which are indicative of a failure to comprehend the intent and nature of the new judicial remedy that initially brought a ray of hope for the victims, families and human rights defenders. These decisions unfortunately disregards the actual state of human rights in the Philippines today that has prompted the promulgation of the new remedy in the first place. This spate of decisions will only encourage the re-escalation of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances because of the continuing impunity which has unfortunately and unwittingly been judicially engendered further.

Misunderstanding Amparo

The Court of Appeals has recently dismissed amparo petitions for the supposed failure of the victims-petitioners to prove that their rights to life, liberty or security were violated or under threat. In the case of survivor-witness Francis Saez who implicated Gen. Jovito Palparan – the epitome of a vicious and remorseless human rights violator who “got away with it” – to the killing of two human rights workers in Southern Tagalog, the Court of Appeals dismissed the petition because “it appears” to have been precipitated by “fear that something might happen to him, not because of an apparent or visible threats to his life, liberty or security”. The CA also dismissed the amparo petition of Nilo Baculo, a media man who believes he is also under threat. Similar petitions for the writ were also recently dismissed one after the other in the case of activist-farmer Jonas Burgos, peace consultant Elizabeth Principe and – only yesterday – the Gumanoy sisters, daughters of one of the said Southern Tagalog human rights workers.

Firstly, the CA decisions seem to have sorely misunderstood the nature of amparo petitions and the interim relief for a temporary protection order demanded in the Saez and Baculo cases. The rule states under Rule 14 (a) that:

(a) Temporary Protection Order. – The court, justice or judge, upon motion or motu proprio, may order that the petitioner or the aggrieved party and any member of the immediate family be protected in a government agency or by an accredited person or private institution capable of keeping and securing their safety. If the petitioner is an organization, association or institution referred to in Section 3(c) of this Rule, the protection may be extended to the officers involved.

Clearly, the Court may grant a temporary protection order motu proprio or “on its own initiative or discretion” even without a request or motion from the petitioner. Unlike the other interim reliefs, protection orders may be granted without a hearing. The intent of the rule, therefore, is to facilitate these protection orders rather than make it a burden for the petitioners to prove that they are under threat. The Protection Order is precisely a mantle intended to protect the victim should his claim to threats be true. No injury is caused if the Court will grant it and state that “even if the threat has not yet been fully established by direct evidence, the Court grants you protection and warns any person or entity not to violate your right to life, liberty or security”. The writ of amparo is in the nature of an affirmative action wherein the Court should grant the protection order if the respondents fail to prove that they are not threatening the life of the victim. Dismissing a petition on the unsure ground that the threat “appears” to be baseless is surely not the intent of the amparo rule.

Secondly, The CA decisions’ unreasonable standard of asking the victims for “clear evidence” of “apparent or visible” threats to the life of the petitioner could be misplaced. Judicial decisions will have to be in touch with the reality outside the immaculate walls and towers of the courtyards. There have been 900 extra judicial killings, several hundreds of disappearances, and daily accounts of almost routinary torture of the most heinous kinds in the Philippines since 2001 and there has been very little “visible or apparent” evidence gathered by the police to identify the perpetrators. The only time when the victims will have the opportunity to get a “visible or apparent” evidence of the threats is when a gun is already pointed at them and the trigger is about to be pulled. To place that burden on the victims rather than government agencies is clearly a misreading of the amparo rule.

The Supreme Court declared that the writ of amparo is not a criminal action requiring proof beyond reasonable doubt, nor is it a civil or an administrative proceedings, but a prerogative writ intended to protect human rights. In the above cases, it seems that the Court of Appeals did not find the allegations of petitioners “relevant evidence that a reasonable mind might accept to support a conclusion that there is a real and actual threat” to the life, liberty or security of Saez, a survivor-witness himself who implicated a notorious general for the killing of his two fellow human rights workers and who is being asked to “spy” on his own lawyers who are themselves members of NUPL. The decision considers the report of surveillance, and the “tailing” of the victim as nothing more than a mere baseless “fear”. This brings to mind a report to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on September 9, 1985 on the human rights situation of Chile under Gen. Augusto Pinochet:

On March 14, 1980 the teacher Oscar Salazar Jahnsen appeared before the Santiago Appeals Court, and complained of the conspicuous tailing to which he had been subject and expressed his fear of being illegally arrested and requested that he be granted adequate protection. When the respective report was requested from the Minister of the Interior, the Minister replied, “in this Department of State there is no information about this person” (confidential official letter 873 of March 18). x x x Six days later the court rejected the application and on April 28 the teacher Salazar was killed in a “security operation”. Concerning this event the media reported:

according to the versions supplied to the press, the event was the consequence of the tailing of Oscar Salazar for several days. Security officials followed him yesterday from the downtown area and in Lo Cañas Street ordered him to surrender. It was not stated why the arrest had not taken place earlier.

102. The account given indicates that the Judiciary has shown serious negligence in processing the applications submitted to it for safeguarding the personal liberty, the physical integrity, and even the life of many persons opposed to the Government. This attitude has favored, by omission, the condemnable practices of the Government, which have not been investigated with the decisiveness .

The New Template of “Voluntary custody”

In the case of the habeas corpus petition of 17 year old Fatima Gumanoy and the amparo petition of Juvy Ortiz and Jeffry Panganiban, the Court of Appeals dismissed their respective petitions on the ground that the subjects purportedly chose to remain in the custody of the military. This ruling is a far cry from the groundbreaking decision of the Dipolog and Davao RTC which ordered the release from military custody of petitioners Ruil Munasque and Luisito Bustamante both of whom also signed “affidavits of voluntary custody” with the AFP. The courageous Davao and Dipolog RTC judges who, despite Munasque’s and Bustamante’s affidavit professing voluntary custody with the military, released the victims to the custody of their family with an admonition that they can go back to the military’s custody the very next day should they persist on their declaration that they want to remain under the military’s custody. The RTC judges showed a keen perceptiveness of the conditions on the ground, the reality and context of human rights violations and sensitivity to the victims’ plight when they ordered their release.

The basis of the custody of the military must be a legal basis, not upon the whim or request of anyone, even the victim especially since the AFP is not a hotel or a boarding house where anyone can just demand board and lodging. If there is no arrest warrant or commitment order, the Court of Appeals cannot order that a victim remain in the custody of the AFP as in the case of Gumanoy, who is a minor.

Secondly, the Court of Appeals must be conscious or take note of the credible allegations, pervasive public perception and independent findings – both here and abroad – and hundreds of complaints in different national and international fora that the military, police and their agents are involved in human rights violations, abduction and enforced disappearance including torture. This immediately puts a legal responsibility on the courts to frown on claims by subjects that they ‘want’ to be in military custody as testimonies most likely given under duress. A decision dismissing an amparo petition because a subject ‘wants’ to be under the military’s custody, rather than with his family, is based on an unrealistic assessment of the facts and, denies reality and even common human experience. It simply taxes one’s credulity.

In his speech before the Court of Appeals, Chief Justice Reynato Puno reminded the CA justices that amparo is intended to protect human rights and exhorted them to do so when he declared:

The power to interpret law is therefore a power that can make a difference. The power is weak only in the hands of weaklings; the power is puny only to those whose minds no longer dream and dare.

Together with the rulings in Saez, Baculo, Gumanoy, Panganiban and Ortiz and more recently, the rulings in the Jonas Burgos and Elizabeth Principe petitions, it seems that the heralded promise that was amparo is floundering not in any local RTC who might be more in touch with reality but in the ivy towers of the Court of Appeals. After giving the amparo a chance, where else can the victims really go for real justice?

Date : 27 July 2008

Reference : Atty. Neri Javier Colmenares, Secretary General

Fishers’ group scores dismissal of libel raps vs Palparan

July 23, 2008

By Tonette Orejas
Central Luzon Desk
First Posted 07:57pm (Mla time) 07/22/2008

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Philippines — The Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya, National Federation of Fisherfolk Organizations) on Tuesday assailed a public prosecutor for dismissing a P20-million libel case against retired Army general Jovito Palparan Jr.

In her resolution, Quezon City Assistant Prosecutor Corazon Romano cited improper venue for the dismissal of the complaint filed in 2006.

The complaint arose from Palparan’s published statements in a July 2, 2006 story in the Philippine Daily Inquirer (parent company of INQUIRER.net) in which he alleged that Pamalakaya, the party-list group Anakpawis, and the New People’s Army committed wrongful activities in the coastal towns of Bulacan.

At that time, Palparan headed the Army’s 7th Infantry Division, his last tour of duty before retiring in September 2006.

Romano said in her one-page resolution that a “perusal of the complaint and its allegations disclosed the alleged defamatory and libelous statements were committed at the time where the respondent was indeed holding office in Tarlac City.”

The division is based in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija.

Fernando Hicap, Pamalakaya national chair, said the “issue of proper venue or lack of jurisdiction is one absurd legal technicality that is often used to score a perpetual denial of justice against [people seeking] truth and justice.”

“Something is really, really wrong here. The prosecutor should have [gone] beyond the issue of technicality and correctly [addressed] the issue that is a matter of life and death to victims of Palparan’s raging campaign of terror,” Hicap said in a statement, referring to the alleged string of human rights violations when Palparan was still in active military service.

Learning of the dismissal, Palparan said: “That’s okay. Thank you.”

In the July 2, 2006 story, Palparan was sought for reactions to Pamalakaya’s allegations that a “climate of terror had intensified” in Bulacan and that the group and the party-list group Anakpawis were “often singled out and accused of supporting the NPA.”

“We’re only a few there, not 600,” Palparan had said. He also confirmed that Pamalakaya and Anakpawis leaders and members were being singled out because “they were the ones causing problems there.”

He said these groups had been “intimidating civilians, recruiting for the NPA, seizing fishponds or extorting P50,000 monthly from fishpond owners.”

“Dapat lang [It’s necessary to single out those groups],” Palparan then said.

Hicap said Pamalakaya took Palparan’s statement as an open endorsement of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances in the province.

The group accused Palparan of tarnishing its image, stature and reputation as well as “indirectly threatened its officials, organizers and members with ‘grave dangers’ to their lives, security and safety.”