Archive for the ‘CEGP’ Category

Tribute to Rachelle Mae Palang (1986-2008), press freedom fighter and nurse for the people

December 22, 2008

After getting her nursing license Mae-Mae immediately volunteered for a three-month medical mission to the hinterlands of Negros.  Mae-Mae barely finished her volunteer work in Negros when her dreams died with her.

Mae-Mae was killed by elements of the AFP on September 18, 2008 in an alleged encounter with New People’s Army rebels. Her face was barely recognizable; she was shot at point-blank range. Her feet and legs were black and bruised, signs of torture evident elsewhere in her beaten body.

— from the CEGP statement

Rachelle Mae Palang

http://www.arkibongbayan.org/2008-11Nov28-Maemae/cegp_small.jpg

September 24, 2008

PRESS STATEMENT

Justice for Rachelle Mae Palang (1986-2008),

press freedom fighter and nurse for the people

The College Editors Guild of the Philippines, in behalf of its National Office, regional formations and chapters, all member publications and affiliate organizations nationwide and across the globe, expresses its most heartfelt condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Rachelle Mae Palang (1986-2008).

Rachelle, or Mae-Mae to her closest friends and colleagues, was beloved to the Guild for her bubbly, tongue-in-cheek demeanor. She graced the Guild’s gatherings with her easy banter and infectious smile, but was always brisk and business-like in her leadership. She has served as a valuable pillar and driving force in all of the conventions and gatherings she has attended and helped organize. To most Guilders, she was not only a colleague but a precious friend and confidante.

Shock for her untimely demise are evident in her Friendster and Multiply accounts, riddled with comments ranging from disbelief, grief, and even anger – all directed at her, as if to attest that even at the time of her death her friends and colleagues still go to her for conciliation.

Such was Mae-Mae’s legacy and brand of leadership. She has always been easy to approach, a rational adviser and generous in her time and efforts.

Mae-Mae was also an outstanding student at the Velez College in Cebu City where she took up and finished her nursing degree. She became editor-in-chief of Vital Signs, the official campus publication. As campus journalist and student leader, she exemplified deep commitment to uphold press freedom, freedom of speech and students’ democratic rights and welfare. She is respected by her fellow campus journalists nationwide for her wit, intelligence and sharp grasp of issues.

She was elected as Vice President for the Visayas during CEGP’s 67th National Student Press Convention and 33rd Biennial Student Press Congress held in Albay, Bicol in 2005.  She served her term for three consecutive years before she finally relinquished her post May of this year. The CEGP will without end be honored and grateful to have had someone as dedicated as Mae-Mae as one of its leading officers.

Mae-Mae worked hard to help re-open closed campus publications, establish student papers in universities who had none, and expose and fight campus press freedom violations as well as other forms of campus repression nationwide.  She led, organized and participated in countless poetry readings, cultural nights, Writers’ Trips, journalist skills workshops and protest actions and activities. Even after her stint as VP for the Visayas, she proved instrumental in gathering and collating cases of campus press freedom violations in the region for CEGP’s quarterly digest.

Mae-Mae had to cut short her attendance in CEGPs’ 68th National Student Press Convention and 34th Biennial Student Press Congress in Davao City for her scheduled nursing licensure exams in May 2008.  She passed with flying colors and eventually became a registered nurse. Even before she left, she announced to the Guild her desire to pursue an alternative medical career, one that she would devote to the less-privileged. Mae-Mae also took and passed the National Medical Admission Test. She dreamt of becoming a doctor.

It therefore did not come as a surprise to the Guild to learn that upon achieving her nursing license Mae-Mae immediately volunteered for a three-month medical mission to the hinterlands of Negros.  Mae-Mae barely finished her volunteer work in Negros when her dreams died with her.

Mae-Mae was killed by elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines on September 18, 2008 in an alleged encounter with New People’s Army rebels. Her face was barely recognizable; she was shot at point-blank range. Her feet and legs were black and bruised, signs of torture evident elsewhere in her beaten body.

Mae-Mae’s untimely demise reminds the Guild all too painfully of the same fate that another CEGP alumna suffered under the hands of the AFP.

In April 2002, Benjaline ‘Beng’ Hernandez, former CEGP Vice-President for Mindanao and a human rights volunteer, was murdered by the military while conducting a fact-finding mission in Cotabato province. Investigations revealed that the AFP, after wounding Beng, raped and shot her at close range. The AFP later on insisted that Beng was an NPA rebel.

Beng, like Mae-Mae, was also only 22 years old when she died.

The CEGP condemns in strongest terms accusations and insinuations by the AFP that Mae-Mae was armed and a combatant. She was in Negros in her capacity as a registered nurse and circumstances surrounding her brutal killing should be independently investigated.

The CEGP, in this regard, welcomes initiatives by the Commission on Human Rights Regional Office to conduct an investigation on Mae-Mae’s case.

The CEGP is also reviled at the AFP’s gall to celebrate Mae-Mae’s death by bestowing incentives and acclaim to her killers. It is an awful and terrible reminder of the state and characteristic of our security forces. They who are supposed to protect civilians are the main enemies of human rights defenders and social workers.

The CEGP also condemns in strongest terms the AFP’s malicious attempts to malign the Guild’s name through red-tagging and nasty insinuations. It is precisely this kind of twisted mentality that gives license to the military to repress, harass, silence and kill with impunity. Journalists are easily treated and branded as rebels simply because they are exposed to the ills of society.

The CEGP calls on all its member publications and fellow journalist organizations nationwide and abroad to collectively wield their pens and raise their voices to denounce Mae-Mae’s killers.

The CEGP regards the likes of Beng and Mae-Mae as heroes of the present generation, young martyrs who have chosen to exchange their lives of comfort for their noble convictions.

Highest tribute to Rachelle Mae Palang!

Justice for Beng and Mae-Mae!

Reference:

Vijae Alquisola, National President, 09162034402

Pamilya ng Desaparecidos para sa Katarungan
2/floor Erythrina bldg., #1 Maaralin cor. Matatag sts. Barangay Central, Quezon City
25 September 2008
Reference: Mary Guy Portajada,
Desaparecidos Spokesperson
Telefax 4342837

Impunity reigns as three disappeared in six days
Suspected military men abduct 2 peasant organizers in Bataan

Suspected military men abducted two peasant organizers in two separate incidents in Bataan province on September 21 and 22, bringing to 199 the number of disappeared under the Arroyo regime.

Nelson Balmaña, 29, a resident of Area H, Sapang Palay, San Jose del Monte, Bulacan was abducted Sept. 21, while Florencia Espiritu, 46, of Brgy. Santisima Trinidad, Malolos, Bulacan was abducted Sept. 22. Both are volunteer-organizers of the Sto. Niño Lubao Farmers’ Association (SLFA). The two victims have been organizing peasants from Lubao, Pampanga an adjacent barangay to Hermosa, Bataan .

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

On September 22, 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 IB PA 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, several people reported that a man fitting Nelson’s description was abducted at 5 PM the day before at the same spot, and was taken by the same getaway vehicle.

On Sept. 17, another victim, James Balao, 47, 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.

“In a span of six days, three victims were disappeared. 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 Mary Guy Portajada, spokesperson of the Families of Desaparecidos for Justice, or DESAPARECIDOS.

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

“We call on the people to be vigilant because this government does not sleep as it commits human rights violations. Impunity reigns as Gloria Arroyo and her military remain unpunished for its crimes,” said Portajada. ###

Rachelle was an intelligent student. She graduated Valedictorian at Mandaue Science High School. While a student she was active in rallies

Photo, rights, shows Rachelle Mae raising her clenched fist at the May 2007 miting de avance of the Kabataan Partylist, Bayan Muna, Anakpawis, and Gabriela in Cebu City

“Fil-Am Youths Pay Tribute to Fellow Youth/Fallen Nurse”

Jersey City, NJ – Last September 18, 2008, Anakbayan NY/NJ, LA and Seattle led Fil-Am and Filipino immigrant youths from coast to coast in the making of a protest video against the ongoing and escalating political repression in the Philippines, particularly those violations against the youth. Members from HabiArts, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE), Sandiwa, Kappa Pi and Pugadlawin, and several supporters including some nurses, and nursing students all coordinated with Anakbayan to make a tribute video for Rachelle Mae Palang who is the most recent victim of the military’s aggressive persecution of student activists and progressive youths in the country.

Rachelle, or Mae-Mae as her friends call her, recently finished her Nursing studies at the Velez College in Cebu and successfully passed the Nursing Licensure Exam in June 2008. Her passion, however, was to become a physician so she can better serve the poor and the oppressed. In pursuit of this dream, she took and successfully passed the National Medical Admissions Test. Sadly, the world will never see a Dr. Rachelle Palang; the Philippines lost one more vessel of hope and righteousness.

In July of this year, Mae-Mae asked her parents’ permission to go to Negros Oriental for a three-month medical mission. Her goal while in the hinterlands was to promote health, treat the sick and to investigate the causes of the people’s demise. Unfortunately, In September 18, 2008 at Dauin town, Negros Oriental, that mission was cut-short. Mae-Mae was shot and killed by elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines during an encounter with the New Peoples Army. She was shot at the back of her head at point-blank range; her face was barely recognizable, the rest of her body bruised as evidence of torture. According to the AFP, Mae-Mae was a member of the NPA, and was said to be carrying and using an M-16 during the fight. This claim however, came as a shock to those who are very close to Mae-Mae.

Her friends unanimously expressed disbelief in the AFP’s report. They said Mae-Mae was outspoken but she would never have thought of using a gun. Her weapon of choice was the pen as evidenced by her commitment as the editor of their school paper in Velez College. In 2005, she was elected as Vice President for the Visayas during the College Editors Guild of the Philippines’ (CEGP) 67th National Student Press Convention and 33rd Biennial Student Press Congress held in Albay, Bicol. She relinquished her position last May after three consecutive years of faithful service. Accordingly, she endeavored to reopen closed college publications and established student publications in schools that have none. Her work focused on student rights violations in campus. Her knowledge of the society was further honed when she participated in a Basic Mass Integration (BMI) program of the CEGP where she experienced the forms of oppression endured by the masses.

“What was once called youth activism and nationalism is now labeled as threat to national security by the government. When a young person like Rachelle wishes to genuinely contribute in uplifting the downtrodden and the oppressed, the fascist government led by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo deal with it as if idealism is a menace,patriotism is a plague and serving the people a high crime,” said Kathleen Dy, member of Anakbayan NY/NJ.

In conformity with this recent surge of repression and oppression, the military has invaded the campuses of politically-involved universities. Military personnels are now a common sight in the country’s most prominent colleges and universities particularly in the University of the Philippines, Diliman (UPD) and Polytechnic University of the Philippines, Sta. Mesa (PUP).

Bea Sabino of Anakbayan NY/NJ and a nursing student expressed her concern as well, “We observed an increase of political harassment lately and one would think that this was a consequence of the newest impeachment complaint filed versus Gloria Arroyo after the one-year ban.” This latest impeachment complaint which was submitted in October 13, 2008 is already the fourth for GMA. Keen observation supports the hypothesis that the increased militarization right before the endorsement of impeachment was not a coincidence but a calculated move by the administration to scare off the opposition. Regrettably, they did not just scare off Rachelle, they killed her.

In their press release, the CEGP asserts that “the act of the military in linking Rachelle with the New Peoples’ Army is a desperate attempt to shadow the real reason why she went to Negros, that is to help the oppressed farmers. We are deeply insulted when the military praised and showered Mae-Mae’s killers with gifts and recognitions. The CEGP admonishes these inhumane and insulting actions of the military, as well as the brutal treatment of her body. We condemn the malicious attempt of the military to mislead the people from the real issue.”

Rachelle was an ordinary person who chose the road less travelled. Yes, she could have chosen a different path and lived to be a hundred but she did not. She chose to become an epitome of a student leader who struggles for genuine freedom and democracy for the people and for that, she will always be remembered.

“In memory of Mae-mae and countless other victims of state terrorism, we, the youth, reaffirm our commitment in the struggle against Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s tyranny and against the oppressive system that continue to burden our people. As long as our brothers and sisters in the Philippines are harassed, repressed, disappeared and killed the powers that be can expect more militant actions from the youth to come,” said Yves Nibungco, deputy secretary general of Anakbayan NY/NJ.

tioInstead of a Eulogy
Posted by: karlo mikhail on: September 24, 2008

One of the things I do very early in the morning when I wake up is to read the local news posted in the Internet. I don’t read everything and most of the times I just end up skimming through the mass of headlines lined up on my screen.

Like any other morning, I also went over all the headlines last Monday morning. One item that caught my attention was the news of an armed encounter between the military and alleged communist insurgents. It was titled “3 killed in Negros Oriental clash.”

http://www.arkibongbayan.org/2008-11Nov30-maemae2/doc/news/from%20misreadings/mutiparty-mitng-de-avanse-041.jpgNot that I felt it was something special, I am after all, like most people in this information-saturated society, desensitized to most accounts of violence. It was the proximity of the said event, the conflict occurring only an island away from Cebu, that “seduced” me to read the article anyway.

When I read the news item, I was surprised. I was shocked for I personally knew one of the names listed as casualties in the encounter.

Happier times.

Happier times: Rachelle Mae Palang in the May 2007 electoral campaign.

The front page of the local paper’s hard copy version even carried a different headline of the same story, “Cebu student killed in clash.” I knew Rachelle Mae Palang from two years ago when I was still chairman of the UP Cebu Student Council and later on with the Kabataan Partylist for the 2007 Elections.

Rachelle Mae was a stout, bubbly, but outspoken nursing student who was editor of Velez College’s school publication, Vital Signs. She was also an officer of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) – a national organization of campus journalists.

Needless to say, reading the news was depressing. After all, we were together in several causes – especially those related to students’ rights and the educational system.

The last time we saw each other was during the opening of the school yearhttp://www.arkibongbayan.org/2008-11Nov30-maemae2/rachelle_small.jpg in 2007 at the Arts and Sciences Lobby of the UP Cebu College. She was returning the book about how to write press releases that I lent her.

I cannot say that the military’s insistence on Rachelle’s brandishing of long arms in Negros is true. After all, it is characteristic for contenders of any armed conflict to ornament the truth for their own ends. The news of her unexpected death makes me sad. She was only twenty one.

[Photo] Rachelle Mae raising her fist during the May 2007 multiparty miting de avance of the Kabataan Partylist, Bayan Muna, Anakpawis, and Gabriela at Colon St. That’s me in the extreme left.

But what if the military is right: what if Rachelle really carried an M-16 rifle? This hypothesis leads us to question what made her forgo a successful career ahead of her to go to the countryside and take up arms against the State. What made some of today’s youth give up on peaceful means for the attainment of social change?

The lamentable state of the nation is such that our youth either, like most, join the diaspora to other lands or, like a few, are led to believe that the only solution is heading for the hills.

AFP at CEGP: Dalawang ‘bukas na liham’

December 15, 2008

MAY dalawang liham na kumalat kamakailan sa internet na tumatalakay sa isyu ng panghihimasok ng mga elemento ng AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) sa mga kampus ng mga pamantansan para siraan ang mga aktibistang organisasyon ng kabataan.

Ang una, isang di-nilagdaang “bukas na liham” diumano ng AFP sa Philippine Collegian, lingguhang pahayagan ng mga mag-aaral sa UP Diliman, at mga mambabasa nito. Ipinamudmod diumano ang naturang liham sa UP Diliman. Kamakailan, lumabas ang ilang bahagi nito sa mga balita sa diyaryo. Kinilala ang awtor ng liham na isang Army Lt. Col. Leopoldo Galon Jr., kumander ng 7th Civil Relations Group ng AFP.

Ang pangalawa, mula sa College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP). Bilang tugon sa liham diumano ni Galon, naglabas ang CEGP ng “bukas na liham” din para sa AFP at “lahat ng kabataan at taumbayang nagmamahal sa demokrasya.”

Narito ang dalawang liham:

Open letter to the Philippine Collegian and its readers

This is a feedback to the Philippine Collegian’s story entitled, ‘Crossing the Line of Duty: Accounts of Militarization in Campuses” dated 08 October 2008. After reading the article, I noticed that there had not been any side of the military presented, not to mention the bad light it has unfairly shed to the military. It is for this purpose that I may impart a perspective other than what the article has presented.

As an Army officer, there were cases where student youths were among those who fired their guns against us in combat up there in the mountains; student youths who have completely abandoned their studies in lieu for the armed struggle. The Philippine Collegian itself, in its website, has the story of “Gemalyn Lacadin @ Gemma” (not her real name) – she started out as an activist, she ended up carrying a gun, and… dead. Based on the article-tribute to her, she has shed off the luxury of her life devoting to her cause. The devotion for the betterment of the people is remarkable, but the cause to resort to armed struggle is not. The fact is, she will no longer be able to distinguish that there would have been other, more peaceful means of caring for the country.

Such was Gema’s story, and there are others equally, if not more heartbreaking. Our concern for the students is not unfounded. As with Gema’s, there have been many cases where promising students whose lives were ended too soon and too tragically because they have crossed the path to the armed struggle, where, however it is romanticized by the insurgent members, is still a portal to a life of suffering, violence, and crime. It is not the road less traveled by, it is a dead end. And to veer away from that path makes all the difference.

But more than feeling sorry for the loss; we, in the military see it as our duty to prevent such violent deaths from happening. Through the years, we have learned of the schemes of the CPP-NPA to access the youth sector – seeping through educational institutions and campus organizations, and targeting students. Their persistent presence and contact in campus communities speaks strongly of their adeptness in appearing inconspicuous but highly influential to students.

Ours is not to dictate, ours is just to inform our youth that activism and membership to some organizations could lead to this violent fate. Our visit to the campuses and our symposia are for this purpose. Students have the right to be informed, they have a mind of their own, so let us allow them to consider these facts, and decide for themselves. What could be prevented from happening, should be.

All of us are activists in our own ways; somehow at some point in our lives we find advocacies to which we devote our lives with. We are not against activism. What we are against is the armed struggle that lured away activists from their activism. We are glad to see our youth filled with confidence, assertiveness, and who truly care for the welfare of the country. Sometimes, we are even inspired by their idealism. That is why, we find the statement of Vijae Alquisola, National President of the College Editorials Guild of the Philippines, saying that our visits in campuses are to silence students and… to send a chilling message to youth and student leaders” rather inaccurate.

We would like to make it clear that rallies, demonstrations, and other protest assemblies are well-acceptable to us. Demonstrators can continue to argue, oppose, or debate over the merits and demerits of policies, decisions, etc – such are the works of democracy. Our premium concern is those who cross and double-cross the thresholds to armed struggle and illegality.

We, in the Armed Forces of the Philippines, do our level best to keep our students aware and vigilant. Wouldn’t it be a greater disservice to know what we know and leave the students badly informed and susceptible? No matter how many eggs are thrown at us, we continue to strive to prevent the youth and the students from entering into the borders of violent armed struggle. We choose not to lose by default.

Meanwhile, the military is accused of tagging certain legitimate organizations as communist fronts. Actually, the tag did not come from the military; the classification came from the mouth of Communist Party of the Philippine Chairman Jose Maria Sison that was video recorded. In that video record, Sison thoroughly explained the nature and purposes of these groups. Sison could be slighted for the incorrect attribution to the military; it is his brainchild in the first place. Sison sees no harm in tagging these groups, including the League of Filipino Students, as communist fronts, so, there is actually no issue here.

May I also clarify the disparagement made on the film “Batang Aktibista”. Contrary to the article’s criticisms, the short film in fact, presented the issues on the tuition free increase and the lack of school facilities as legitimate issues being raised by the students. Issues that are very much relevant to the students; issues that I, myself, as a parent, is very much affected with. The film was not about discounting these issues, but rather, the film is about groups who are using these issues into luring the students first, into activism, then later on into armed struggle.

We see regular NPA cadres agitate students, the kind of which that pushed the students from mere activism into the use of arms. Students are falsely told that they have become military targets, or that they will be harassed. Such is the paranoia sowed among the student activists for them to become allergic even when soldiers are merely helping communities clean their environment, or giving out free medical/dental services, or carrying out a feeding program, or conducting symposia in campuses for dissemination of information.

In speaking of paranoia, this has been the same obsession which shook the CPP-NPA-NDF when the group purged its own members on mere suspicion. A paranoia that is so deep that it claimed thousands of lives of its own members. There are those who lived from this nightmare and share their experiences; an example of such factual account of these sufferings is contained in the book of Bobby Garcia entitled, ‘To Suffer Thy Comrades”. We should not forget that most victims of these purges were student cadres who abandoned their studies and carried out cadre works.

Today’s students are better empowered, can interface and confront adversities with dynamism and composure. Anchored to what is right and steered towards the right path; with the right ideas, the right choice and proper application of thoughts, our students can create a world of difference and make the country proud. We too are parents who may not have all the answers, but who wants the best educational opportunities and experiences for our children sans interference from dubious groups and personalities.

* * *

This is in reply to “Open Letter to the Philippine Collegian and Its Readers” by the Armed Forces of the Philippines

Open letter to the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and all democracy-loving youth and citizens

The Armed Forces of the Philippines is resurrecting martial law in schools, universities and communities through its program of campus and urban militarization.

This move is clearly meant to silence, harass and repress youth and students who are committed in the fight for meaningful social change.

This is the very reason why the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) stands by its position that the entry and intervention of the military in our schools through the launching of fora and symposia under the guise of ‘information dissemination’ is aimed solely to sow intrigue and division among youth and students and to demonize youth organizations critical of anomalies in government. This is the most accurate depiction of the present situation in our schools, universities and communities at present and there is no other way to perceive it.

We are not for a minute swayed by the diplomatic pitch of the AFP’s ‘Open Letter to the Philippine Collegian and Its Readers.’ Its contents and allegations could not be any farther from the truth.

If the AFP really appreciates student activism as a right and freedom, why are they the prime suspects in the forced disappearance of Karen Empeno, Sherlyn Cadapan, Jonas Burgos and James Balao?

If this were true, what explanation could the AFP give for the results of the investigation conducted by United National Special Rapporteur for Human Rights Prof. Philip Alston on rampant extra-judicial killings of activists and journalists? Why did elements of the military and its intelligence personnel have to infiltrate a peaceful protest action at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP)-Sta. Mesa on August 29 to maliciously take photos and harass students who participated in the rally? Was it not the military that shot our colleague and human rights advocate Benjaline “Beng” Hernandez from Ateneo de Davao point-blank in the face in a legitimate fact-finding mission in Arakan Valley last April 5, 2002?

Was it not the military who filed false rebellion charges against the editor-in-chief, student council president and five other students of PUP-Lopez, Quezon who did no crime but to oppose policies affecting their basic rights and freedoms? Since when has student activism, which the AFP claims to accept and appreciate, become an act of rebellion?

Unlike the AFP’s tactics, these incidents are not mere accusations, these are clear and present desperate moves of the military and its “commander-in-chief” to discredit, vilify and malign critical youth and student organizations.

This tactic of the AFP is not new. In 2005, a powerpoint presentation entitled, “Knowing Thy Enemy” released by the military for viewing in campuses and communities named organizations, including our Guild, as “enemies of the state” and baselessly tagged them as “communist fronts.” It is precisely through this twisted interpretation that the AFP seems to gather license to harass, repress, torture and kill with impunity. Where now does the profession to accept activism figure in this scenario?

Because of these, the AFP is sowing an extraordinary “paranoia” – not aimed towards activists but towards any visible AFP element in any area. Kaya’t huwag kayong magtaka kung bakit natatakot ang mga mamamayan sa inyong presensiya; inosente lang ang tanging may karapatang magtaka. And, sadly, the AFP could not convince anyone that it is innocent of the many atrocities hurled at it.

Lastly, we are proud of our activism. We do not and will not apologize for standing up for what is democratic and just. We maintain that it is the AFP, this government and its overly corrupt, militarist and tyrannical ways that are forcing youth and students to take up arms.

The College Editors Guild of the Philippines will never apologize for writing about the real situations in society and for the advancement of the youth and people’s rights. To write is already to choose, and we choose justice, democracy and freedom of expression.

COLLEGE EDITORS GUILD OF THE PHILIPPINES

PinoyWeekly

Justice for Rachelle Mae Palang (1986-2008): Press Freedom Fighter and Nurse of the People

September 28, 2008

BY THE COLLEGE EDITORS GUILD OF THE PHILIPPINES
DEMOCRATIC SPACE
Posted by Bulatlat

The College Editors Guild of the Philippines, in behalf of its National Office, regional formations and chapters, all member publications and affiliate organizations nationwide and across the globe, expresses its most heartfelt condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Rachelle Mae Palang (1986-2008).

Rachelle, or Mae-Mae to her closest friends and colleagues, was beloved to the Guild for her bubbly, tongue-in-cheek demeanor. She graced the Guild’s gatherings with her easy banter and infectious smile, but was always brisk and business-like in her leadership. She has served as a valuable pillar and driving force in all of the conventions and gatherings she has attended and helped organize. To most Guilders, she was not only a colleague but a precious friend and confidante.

Shock about her untimely demise are evident in her Friendster and Multiply accounts, riddled with comments ranging from disbelief, grief, and even anger – all directed at her, as if to attest that even at the time of her death her friends and colleagues still go to her for conciliation.

Such was Mae-Mae’s legacy and brand of leadership. She has always been easy to approach, a rational adviser and generous in her time and efforts.

Mae-Mae was also an outstanding student at the Velez College in Cebu City where she took up and finished her nursing degree. She became editor-in-chief of Vital Signs, the official campus publication. As campus journalist and student leader, she exemplified deep commitment to uphold press freedom, freedom of speech and students’ democratic rights and welfare. She is respected by her fellow campus journalists nationwide for her wit, intelligence and sharp grasp of issues.

She was elected as vice president for the Visayas during CEGP’s 67th National Student Press Convention and 33rd Biennial Student Press Congress held in Albay, Bicol in 2005. She served her term for three consecutive years before she finally relinquished her post in May of this year. The CEGP will without end be honored and grateful to have had someone as dedicated as Mae-Mae as one of its leading officers.

Mae-Mae worked hard to help re-open closed campus publications, establish student papers in universities which had none, and expose and fight campus press freedom violations as well as other forms of campus repression nationwide. She led, organized and participated in countless poetry readings, cultural nights, Writers’ Trips, journalist skills workshops and protest actions and activities. Even after her stint as VP for the Visayas, she proved instrumental in gathering and collating cases of campus press freedom violations in the region for CEGP’s quarterly digest.

Mae-Mae had to cut short her attendance in CEGPs’ 68th National Student Press Convention and 34th Biennial Student Press Congress in Davao City for her scheduled nursing licensure exams in May 2008. She passed with flying colors and eventually became a registered nurse. Even before she left, she announced to the Guild her desire to pursue an alternative medical career, one that she would devote to the less-privileged. Mae-Mae also took and passed the National Medical Admission Test. She dreamt of becoming a doctor.

It therefore did not come as a surprise to the Guild to learn that upon achieving her nursing license Mae-Mae immediately volunteered for a three-month medical mission to the hinterlands of Negros. Mae-Mae barely finished her volunteer work in Negros when her dreams died with her.

Mae-Mae was killed by elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines on Sept. 18 in an alleged encounter with New People’s Army rebels. Her face was barely recognizable; she was shot at point-blank range. Her feet and legs were black and bruised, signs of torture evident elsewhere in her beaten body.

Mae-Mae’s untimely demise reminds the Guild all too painfully of the same fate that another CEGP alumnae suffered under the hands of the AFP.

In April 2002, Benjaline ‘Beng’ Hernandez, former CEGP vice president for Mindanao and a human rights volunteer, was murdered by the military while conducting a fact-finding mission in North Cotabato. Investigations revealed that the AFP shot her at close range. The AFP later on insisted that Beng was an NPA rebel.

Beng, like Mae-Mae, was also only 22 years old when she died.

The CEGP condemns in strongest terms accusations and insinuations by the AFP that Mae-Mae was armed and a combatant. She was in Negros in her capacity as a registered nurse and circumstances surrounding her brutal killing should be independently investigated.

The CEGP, in this regard, welcomes initiatives by the Commission on Human Rights Regional Office to conduct an investigation on Mae-Mae’s case.

The CEGP is also reviled at the AFP’s gall to celebrate Mae-Mae’s death by bestowing incentives and acclaim to her killers. It is an awful and terrible reminder of the state and characteristic of our security forces. They who are supposed to protect civilians are the main enemies of human rights defenders and social workers.

The CEGP also condemns in strongest terms the AFP’s malicious attempts to malign the Guild’s name through red-tagging and nasty insinuations. It is precisely this kind of twisted mentality that gives license to the military to repress, harass, silence and kill with impunity. Journalists are easily treated and branded as rebels simply because they are exposed to the ills of society.

The CEGP calls on all its member publications and fellow journalist organizations nationwide and abroad to collectively wield their pens and raise their voices to denounce Mae-Mae’s killers.

The CEGP regards the likes of Beng and Mae-Mae as heroes of the present generation, young martyrs who have chosen to exchange their lives of comfort for their noble convictions.

Highest tribute to Rachelle Mae Palang!
Justice for Beng and Mae-Mae!

Soldier hurt in NegOr encounter; nurse’s death angers youth groups

September 25, 2008

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ANOTHER clash between soldiers and a group of suspected rebels erupted yesterday morning in Oriental Negros, leaving a Cebuano soldier injured.

The gunfight took place hours before two other civilians who were killed in an encounter in the same province last week were buried.

Major Christopher Tampus, Central Command spokesperson, identified the wounded soldier in the latest incident as Private First Class Recto A. Moboayaen Jr., a resident of Barangay Pandacan, Pinamungahan, Cebu.

Moboayaen is recovering from gunshot wounds in the left knee and left hip.

He was taken to a hospital in the province. He would have been airlifted yesterday to Cebu but the transfer was put on hold upon his doctor’s advice.

Also yesterday, the College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) released an official statement on the death of 21-year-old nurse Rachelle Mae Palang.

When she was killed in an “encounter” between the military and armed rebels last Thursday, she died serving the poor and the deprived, her peers said.

“We shed our tears for Rachelle who was ruthlessly killed by armed goons of cold-blooded and self-serving tyrants. Her only fault, if it is a fault at all, was her love for those who are suffering because of an unjust system. Her only crime, if at all it is called a crime, was to give up her dreams of living a life of comfort in exchange for serving those who need her the most— the poor and the deprived. For this, she paid with her life,” read the CEGP statement.

Tampus said yesterday’s encounter happened around 7 a.m. in Sitio Mansugban-on, Barangay Manlukahoc, Sipalay City, Oriental Negros.

A section of Army troops under 61st Infantry Battalion led by Lt. Mc. Gary Dida traded gunfire with an estimated 17 suspected members of the New People’s Army (NPA).

This occurred about five hours before the burial of Bernardo Villalonga and Jerry Cabungcag.

Villalonga, Cabungcag and Palang died in an alleged encounter between soldiers and rebels in Sitio Langub, Barangay Malungcay Dako, Dauin, Oriental Negros last week.

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) 7 is investigating the reported encounter, following a resolution passed by the Cebu Provincial Board.

Villalonga, who hailed from Sevilla town, Bohol, was buried at noon yesterday at the Carreta Cemetery, Cebu City.

At 2:30 p.m., Cabungcag, who resided in Sitio Lawis, Barangay Pasil, was buried in the same cemetery.

According to a radio DyLA report, the Municipal Council of Consolacion, Cebu, where Palang was a resident, passed a resolution supporting the Provincial Board’s call for the CHR 7 to dig deeper into the incident.

The council also passed a separate resolution extending their sympathy to the family of Palang. Palang’s father Elenito is a former municipal councilor.

In the encounter in Sipalay yesterday, Tampus said the troops led by Lt. Mc. Dida were on patrol when they spotted the 17 suspected rebels.

The gunfight that followed reportedly lasted 30 minutes.

Shortly after the gunfight, three suspected rebels were arrested.

Soldiers also confiscated an M16 Armalite rifle.

Those caught were identified as Meralyn Pedrosa Mahinay, alias Angel, 20; Robelyn Gelacio Aba, alias Geya, 22; and Roseby Fondador Cañete, alias Dyna, 19.

Tampus said the three were turned over to the Sipalay Police Station.

Lt. Gen. Pedro Ike Inserto, Centcom commanding general, sent two Huey helicopters to the area to assist the troops in the operation.

Two Marchetti planes were also put on standby to be deployed if there was a need to provide air cover.

Inserto, however, reportedly told his men to “strictly observe rules of engagement and absolute respect for human rights.”

The CEGP, however, condemned the “malicious” attempt of the military to confuse and mislead the people, and for refusing to see the difference between CEGP as a legitimate alliance of student publications and those organizations calling for armed struggle.

Palang was the CEGP’s vice president for the Visayas while she was still a student of Velez College and editor-in-chief of their publication, Vital Signs.

“We are deeply insulted when the military praised and showered Mae-Mae’s killers with gifts and recognitions. Like barbarians, they celebrate in the death of a peace and freedom-loving person who helped more people than they ever will in their lifetime,” read the statement.

Mark Ray Sison of the Student Christian Movement at the University of San Carlos (USC) said in a press statement that he was dismayed by how the military transported the bodies, which hung from bamboo poles, covered in plastic and cloth.

“It’s as if they (the dead) were animals,” he said.

Chuck de los Santos, chairperson of the USC League of Filipino Students, said he hopes that others would be as principled as Palang was.

“We will continue what Rachelle struggled for. Her death did not create fear in us but rather, made us more militant and courageous in serving the people, whatever the cost may be,” he added. (JTG/EPB)