Archive for the ‘human rights’ 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.


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:

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:

Rights violations victims file urgent motion before new Ombudsman (

July 30, 2011

“However long this takes, we will never give up. What is important is we get justice for what was done to us. We urge newly-appointed Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales to act on the cases we filed that aim to seek justice for victims of human rights violations.”
– Raymond Manalo, victim of torture and arbitrary detention


MANILA – Survivors of torture, their lawyers and supporters are confident that the new Ombudsman will act speedily to resolve the years-long complaints filed against several military officers for rights abuses.

Raymond Manalo and Oscar Leuterio filed today urgent motions to resolve the charges they filed against retired military officers Lt. Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan Jr., Maj. Gen. Juanito Gomez and other officials and personnel of the 24th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army and members of the Citizen’s Armed Forces Geographical Unit (Cafgu). Palparan and others were charged with kidnapping, arbitrary detention, physical injuries, threats, and involuntary servitude, among others.

Both were taken by soldiers in separate incidents and were subjected to various forms of torture. The two are also witnesses to the abduction and torture of University of the Philippines (UP) students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan and farmer Manuel Merino.

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), whose members serve as lawyers of the complainants, noted that SC Justice Carpio-Morales was the one who penned the latest May 2011 decision granting the writ of amparo in favor of Cadapan, Empeño and Merino.

The group said the court found Manalo’s testimony as clear, categorical, consistent and credible. “Thus, with the evidence on hand, Manalo and Leuterio as well as other victims of human rights violations and their kin seek the speedy resolution of the charges against Palparan under the watch of Ombudsman Carpio Morales. “It is only through trying perpetrators and putting them behind bars that we can abate cases of abuse of state forces against innocent civilians,” Edre Olalia, NUPL secretary general, said.

L-R Oscar Leuterio, Erlinda Cadapan and Raymond Manalo are hopeful that the new Ombudsman will act on the cases filed against human rights violators. (Photo by Ronalyn V. Olea /

“We are encouraged as honour and integrity is somehow restored into our justice system. With the appointment of a new Ombudsman, we can now prosecute human rights violators without worrying that the interests of the victims will be compromised by patronage politics,” Olalia said.

Manalo filed the charges on September 12, 2008 and Leuterio filed his complaints on November 16, 2006 at the office of former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.

“However long this takes, we will never give up. What is important is we get justice for what was done to us. We urge newly-appointed Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales to act on the cases we filed that aim to seek justice for victims of human rights violations,” Manalo said.

The NUPL said that as far as the available records at the Ombudsman have shown, the cases have not moved beyond the initial stages of preliminary investigation. “In fact, this gross negligence and deliberate refusal to resolve the charges was one of the grounds that were supposed to be included in the impeachment complaint joined in by NUPL against Gutierrez in August 2010,” Olalia said.

The NUPL said the cases are ripe for resolution as some of the respondents in the Manalo case have already filed their counter affidavits, and position paper, while the other respondents are deemed to have waived the right to file and submit their counter affidavits.

In the case filed by Leuterio, no counter affidavits have been filed by any of the respondents. The NUPL asserted that since the Office of the Ombudsman has not resolved Leuterio’s case despite the fact that the complaint has been filed as early as November 16, 2006, the criminal and administrative complaint should be immediately resolved.

“After our cases were not acted upon by Ombudsman Gutierrez and President Arroyo, we still call for justice years after our ordeal. Nothing will happen if fear overcomes us, while so many victims are seeking justice,” Manalo said.

In an interview, Gerrard Boot, a judge from Amsterdam, the Netherlands who was part of an international fact-finding team that looked into the spate of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines in 2006 and 2008 said that five years of waiting is too long.

“It’s difficult to understand how a court whose duty is to resolve cases would do nothing. That is just wrong,” Boot said, adding that the Melo Commission found Palparan responsible under the principle of command responsibility.

Asked about his perception on the new administration, Boot said: “Aquino said in his State of the Nation Address (Sona) that they take it seriously to look to the past. If indeed terrible things happened in the past, something must be done. I hope they will keep their words and will act accordingly.”

Strong case

Erlinda Cadapan, mother of missing UP student Sherlyn Cadapan, joined the filing of the motions before the Ombudsman this morning.
“We hope that the new Ombudsman will look into the cases. We are only telling the truth,” Mrs. Cadapan told Bulatlat.

“There is a strong case for the complainants Leuterio and Manalo; their personal testimonies with regard to their abduction by the military were found forthright, consistent and credible by no less than the Supreme Court as it served as the basis of the its recent order for the military to immediately release university students Sherlyn Cadapan, Karen Empeño and farmer Manuel Merino,” Olalia said. “The integrity of their testimonies has been unshaken despite malicious aspersions cast by the military,” Olalia added.

Leuterio, together with his three companions, was abducted by military personnel on April 17, 2006 Dona Remedios Trinidad, Bulacan. Leuterio was brought to Camp Tecson, San Miguel, Bulacan and eventually to Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija, where he saw Empeño and Cadapan. He was released by the military after he pretended to cooperate with the military.

Manalo and his brother Reynaldo were abducted in San Ildefonso, Bulacan on February 14, 2006 and were detained in three military camps and two safehouses. Within 18 months of captivity, they suffered from severe torture, endured involuntary servitude and inhumane treatment in the hands of their military captors.

Ephraim Cortez, NUPL assistant secretary general for legal services, noted that the high court, in October 2008, unanimously affirmed the granting of the writ of amparo in favour of Raymond and Reynaldo Manalo, and found that they are in the custody of the military. “By pointing to them as the persons liable for the disappearance of Raymond Manalo, the Court itself gave credence to the charge of arbitrary detention of the Manalo brothers against Palparan et. al. The SC thus effectively submitted ‘probable cause’ in the criminal case against the accused,” Cortez said.

“The wheels of justice appear to be rolling and, finally, it is already catching up with Palparan to smash the arrogance and brazenness engendered by a climate of impunity,“ Olalia said.

Progressive Groups Urge Aquino to Scrap Oplan Bantay Laya and Its Operating Principles

July 19, 2010


Human rights groups and UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Philip Alston have long established that the former Arroyo government’s counterinsurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya is one of the main reasons for the spike in extrajudicial killings because it did not distinguish between “combatants and non-combatants.” However, President Benigno Aquino III refuses to acknowledge this.

In the past two weeks, five activists have already been killed. Fernando Baldomero, 61, a municipal councilor in Lezo, Aklan and Bayan Muna provincial chairperson, was shot dead in front of his son July 5. Pascual Guevarra, 78, was killed by a lone gunman inside his house in Bgy. San Isidro, Laur, Nueva Ecija. His grandson was also wounded. Three days after, on July 9, public school teachers in Masbate, Mark Francisco, 27 and Edgar Fernandez, 44, were gunned down in separate incidents.

After the elections, the killings never stopped. On May 19, Jim Galez, a member of Bayan Muna in Panabo City in Davao was shot dead. On June 2, union leader Edward Panganiban was killed on his way to work in Sta. Cruz, Laguna. On June 14, Karapatan member Benjamin Bayles was also killed in Himaymalayan City, Negros Occidental. On June 22, human rights lawyer Ernesto Salunat was slain.

Except for the case of Bayles, no perpetrators have been identified and arrested.

Human rights group Karapatan criticized President Benigno S. Aquino III for not issuing a categorical statement to the Armed Forced of the Philippines (AFP) to put a stop to the extrajudicial killings.

Aquino recently said that “this is not a policy of our administration but in general, we can’t say that this is an abuse because of a state policy in the past.”

“President Aquino said we do not have a policy on extrajudicial killings, we do not tolerate that—that’s plain and simple,” Edwin Lacierda, palace spokesperson, also said.

“By accepting that evaluation [by the military and police], Aquino practically sanctioned the killings,” Satur Ocampo, president of Makabayan coalition, said in a press conference Thursday.

“By saying that many of the killings are motivated by personal reasons and not by a state policy of the past, Aquino is effectively turning a blind eye to the gross and systematic human rights abuses started by the Arroyo regime and continuing under his watch. Is Aquino now implying that the killings of hundreds of activists are unrelated and merely coincidental since there was and is no state policy?” Renato Reyes, secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said in a separate statement.

Former Gabriela Women’s Rep. and Makabayan vice president Liza Maza said Aquino, without the benefit of any investigation, has already absolved the military of any culpability to the killings.

Counterinsurgency Policy

“It is unthinkable that Aquino is unaware of the military’s policy on extrajudicial killings of activists. The recent killings bore the DNA of Gen. Jovito Palparan’s shock and terror tactics,” Anakpawis party-list Representative Rafael Mariano said.

Palparan, the favorite general of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, has been branded as “The Butcher” for the trail of blood he left behind in areas where he was assigned. Palparan was vocal in maligning leaders and members of people’s organizations and party list groups as “enemies of the state,” a key feature of Arroyo’s counterinsurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL).

Mariano noted that the areas where the recent killings occurred, Panay, Central Luzon, and Bicol, are among OBL’s priority areas.

“All these, coupled by AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Ricardo David’s renewed three-year deadline to end the insurgency are strong indications that Oplan Bantay Laya is still being implemented,” Mariano said. The OBL has 13 priority areas in seven regions.

According to Karapatan, Arroyo’s OBL has taken the lives of 1,205 unarmed individuals, mostly activists and members of progressive people’s organizations, in its bloody campaign to end the insurgency.

“Oplan Bantay Laya is the worst and most brutal of these campaigns as it specifically targets legal organizations and personages resulting to a staggering body count and brazen impunity in nine years of the Arroyo regime and it is still in place,” Marie Hilao-Enriquez, chairperson of the human rights group Karapatan, said.

Ocampo said until Aquino orders a stop to the OBL or the operating principles behind the OBL, the killings would continue. Under the OBL, the state bears no distinction between the armed revolutionary groups and leaders and members of people’s organizations and party list groups. Ocampo noted that Aquino did not issue any categorical statement whether to uphold the OBL or not.

“The way he dismisses the issue,” said the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) in a statement sent through email, “Aquino seems not to have read or comprehend the report prepared by Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings Philip Alston, which clearly points to the military as the perpetrator of the killings in accordance with policies of the ruling state and orders from those in authority.”

Alston, who visited the country in February 2007, identified the counterinsurgency program as the culprit behind the killings. Alston said in his initial report dated April 18, 2008:

“One response has been counter-insurgency operations that result in the extrajudicial execution of leftist activists. In some areas, the leaders of leftist organizations are systematically hunted down by interrogating and torturing those who may know their whereabouts, and they are often killed following a campaign of individual vilification designed to instill fear into the community.”

Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casino said Aquino should first acknowledge that there is a state policy. Casino likened Aquino’s statement to the AFP’s theory of personal grudges and so-called “internal purges” within the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

Alston also dismissed the AFP’s theory. “The military is in a state of denial concerning the numerous extrajudicial executions in which its soldiers are implicated. The military’s insistence that the “purge theory” is correct can only be viewed as a cynical attempt to displace responsibility,” he wrote in 2008.

“Now, Aquino himself is also in denial,” said the CPP.
“It is still the same military in denial mode speaking on the current spate of extrajudicial killings going on in the country,” Enriquez said of AFP spokesman Brigadier General Jose Mabanta’s blanket denial of the AFP’s involvement in the recent cases of extrajudicial killings.

Urgent Recommendations

Mariano urged Aquino to implement Alston’s recommendations, including the elimination of extrajudicial executions from counterinsurgency operations. Alston also said: “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.”

Makabayan coalition called on Aquino to put a stop to the practice of AFP and PNP of tagging and vilifying legal progressive organizations as communist fronts and state enemies; implement administrative measures and sanctions that will enforce command responsibility and ensure the policy of “no harassment, abduction and killings” of activists; stop political persecution, through the filing of fabricated chargers, against leaders and members of legal progressive parties and organizations and instead focus on prosecuting and arresting masterminds and perpetrators of extrajudicial killings of activists including former Defense secretary Norberto Gonzales and former Major Gen. Jovito Palparan; and, strongly support the passage of proposed laws on command responsibility, enforced disappearances, and Marcos and Arroyo human rights victims compensation bills.

The coalition also said that the Truth Commission should include in its investigation human rights violations committed during the previous administration.

But the CPP noted that Aquino, by absolving the military, “is setting the stage for a coverup of grand proportions”, said the CPP. “The fascist masterminds of these killings, including Gloria Arroyo, her top military and security officials, those now in command, and their US advisers, are being let off the hook.” “Aquino is even now showing how dependent and afraid he is of the military forces under his jurisdiction. He worries that if he would seriously pursue the demand for justice for the victims of gross human rights violations, he will be on a collision course with the AFP. He will thus be incapable of pursuing justice for the more than one thousand victims of extrajudicial killings in the past, and the growing number of victims under his rule,” added the CPP.

In a letter to Aquino dated July 12, Civicus (World Alliance for Citizen Participation), called on Aquino to release the 43 health workers or the Morong 43; to investigate the AFP’s conduct in the arrest, detention, interrogation, and general treatment of the 43 health workers; to end impunity for state authorities who commit human rights violations by bringing those guilty of torture and other abuse to justice according to Philippine and international law, among others.

“CIVICUS urges you to heed the warning signs for a perilous future should the state of Philippines’ human rights continue down its current path,” the group told Aquino. “The Philippine people have demanded an end to the corruption and abuses by electing you as their leader and your promises give hope for a brighter future of human rights protections. CIVICUS encourages you to demonstrate your commitment to rule of law and human rights by bringing justice to victims of human rights violations to their families and showing that the new Philippines is no longer a place for such abuses.”

US Role

“If indeed President Noynoy Aquino says that extrajudicial killing is not a policy of his administration, then he must scrap the OBL and desist from embarking on a counter-insurgency program to supposedly defeat the insurgency, as what his predecessors did, only to end up fueling more fire into the problem they vowed to end. I hope he learns his lessons well and heed our calls for him to disallow the penchant for embarking on counter-insurgency programs that only victimize the poorest sections of the Filipino people who need most the government’s protection and nurturing,” Enriquez said.

Enriquez said it is their bitter experience that once counter-insurgency programs are implemented, violations of human rights occur. “Civilians are the ones who bear the brunt of human rights violations,” she said.

Ocampo said the central issue in the spate of killings is the culture of impunity which started during the Marcos dictatorship and carried over by the succeeding administrations.

Enriquez also noted that the Philippine government’s counterinsurgency programs were directly imposed by the US Government since its aggression in the country in the early 1900’s. “All counterinsurgency programs of all administrations are thus recycled programs meant to silence the people’s resistance to break free from poverty resulting from government policies that benefit not the Filipino people but those of foreign, especially American, interests,” Enriquez said.

Enriquez noted that the OBL is anchored on the ‘war on terror’ by the US Bush government. “Thus, the victims of OBL are now labeled as “terrorists or communist-terrorists” or supposed supporters of such.”

Bayan also assailed the continuing US support for the counter-insurgency policy. “What is even alarming is that the AFP, despite its numerous human rights abuses, continues to receive huge military aid from the US government. This is another reason why the counter-insurgency policy remains unchanged. Not only does it have domestic support, it enjoys support from Washington,” Bayan’s Reyes said.

Recently, the Philippine Army received a $8.9 million grant from the US, under the US Excess Defense Articles Program. The Philippines is one of the biggest recipients of US military aid. (

Peasant Leader Killed Inside Nueva Ecija Army Camp

July 12, 2010


MANILA — A 78-year-old peasant leader was shot dead by two motorcycle-riding men inside his house in San Isidro, Laur town, Nueva Ecija, at around 4:45 p.m. Friday, July 9.

Pascual Guevarra is a senior leader of the Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid na Nagkakaisa 3100 (Almana), which has been struggling for land ownership inside the 3,100 hectare Fort Magsaysay. The group is affiliated with Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon (AMGL) and Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP). The victim’s grandson, Ronnel Villoria, was also wounded when he tried to help his grandfather, the KMP said in a statement.

Guevarra is the second victim of extrajudicial killing under the new administration of President Benigno S. Aquino III. On July 5, Fernando Baldomero, a Bayan Muna coordinator in Aklan, was shot dead in front of his house in Lezo town.

Danilo Ramos, KMP secretary general, said he holds accountable the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), particularly the 7th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army assigned at the Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation, for Guevarra’s death.

According to KMP, Guevarra led numerous dialogues with the 7th IDPA, particularly with Col. Hermino Barrios of the Judge Advocate Group’s Office (Jago) representing former AFP Chief Maj. Gen. Ralph Bangit, about the military’s alleged harassment of farmers. “The military could never deny that they had a hand in these as they totally control Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation,” Ramos said.

Guevarra also attended the dialogue at Camp Aguinaldo, with the representatives of the then secretary of Department of National Defense (DND) Gilbert Teodoro on Nov. 17, 2008, and countless dialogues with the Provincial Agrarian Reform Office (PARO), the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Region III office and its central office regarding their struggle for land.

Struggle for Land

Pascual is one of some 6,000 peasants and other residents inside the Fort Magsaysay who should have acquired ownership of the land by virtue of a 1991 Deed of Transfer between the DND and the DAR.

They were awarded Certificate of Land Ownership Award (CLOA) under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

“He was already old but still fighting for his right to land. He walked around with loads of documents from DAR proving their claim. He was harmless and all he wanted was to keep their farm so that his grandchildren would have something,” Ramos said.

In a separate statement, Anakpawis Rep. and KMP chairman Rafael Mariano said that since 2008, the military has been instrumental in denying farmers in Fort Magsaysay their rights to own land. “It was the 7th ID itself who has requested the DAR to cancel the CLOAs given to peasants within the 3,100-hectare contested area,” Mariano said.

“This is very clear that Tatay Pascual’s struggle to land had made him a target of the state fascist forces. The military is obviously accountable as it happened inside their area of responsibility. They are in control of the area, they control whoever gets in or out, thus, it is impossible for the perpetrators to carry on their mission without the military’s knowledge,” Ramos said.

AMGL will lead a the fact-finding mission on Monday.

Concrete Action Urged

The KMP said it will hold a condemnation protest at Mendiola this Monday to push Aquino to immediately act and stop the killings. “He could not afford to be late and slow on the issue of extrajudicial killings in the country,” Ramos added.

“Mr. Aquino should immediately act on Ka Pascual’s killing and stop the military from evicting farmers inside the Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation. It was during his mother’s term when the so-called transfer of the lands to farmers was initiated,” Mariano said.

Mariano is set to file a resolution calling for the immediate investigation on the killing of Guevarra and the Fort Magsaysay agrarian dispute. (

Two Leftist Public School Teachers Killed, Another Survives Attack in Masbate

July 12, 2010


MANILA – Two more activists, this time teachers who were members of the leftist group Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), were killed in just the first 10 days of the administration of President Benigno Aquino III, bringing the number of extrajudicial killings under his watch to four.

Mark Francisco, 27, a teacher of San Isidro Elementary School in Palanan, Masbate province in Bicol, was on his way home with four co-teachers on Friday, July 9, at around 5:00 p.m when two men wearing masks and camouflaged uniforms fired at their group. His body was riddled with bullets from an M-16 rifle. Francisco’s co-teacher managed to escape as the killers tried to pursue him. He reported the incident to the police.

On the same day, Edgar Fernandez, 44, another public school teacher from Barangay central, Masbate City, Masbate, was shot dead by unidentified men on his way home.

“I least expected that this would happen because Edgar seemed to be very happy during the welcome program that we prepared for students that day,” Myrna Laurio said in a telephone interview with Bulatlat. She is the principal of Roco C. Pahis Sr. Central School where Fernandez taught.

Laurio said Fernandez sleeps in the school during weekdays because he lives far from the school. He only goes home on Fridays for the weekend. But on July 9, Fernandez and a co-teacher, both riding a motorcycle, were fired at by an unidentified man. Fernandez died immediately but his co-teacher survived with a bullet wound.

Laurio added that Fernandez’s co-teacher and friend told her recently that the slain teacher had received death threats through text messages. But Fernandez did not take it seriously.

“The whole school is in mourning,” Laurio said. She added that these unidentified gunmen seem to have no respect for the lives of the teachers who were probably educating their children.

Earlier, another ACT member and public school teacher Dexter Legazpi, 36, also of Palanan, Masbate was shot at on July 6. Luckily, he survived. He and his wife were on a motorcycle going to school when five men, also wearing ski masks and military uniforms, shot at them. Legazpi was able to speed away to safety on his motorcycle.

The three public school teachers are members of the Alliance for Concerned Teachers’ local chapter in Masbate. They actively campaigned for its party-list bid during the May 2010 elections. ACT Teachers Party and other progressive party-list groups such as Bayan Muna, Gabriela Women’s Party, Anakpawis, and Kabataan are targets of vilification campaigns by the military, which accuses them of being “front organizations” of the New People’s Army.

“We demand justice for our fellow teachers and party members,” ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio said in a statement. He called on the authorities to conduct a thorough investigation on the brutal murders of Francisco and Fernandez and the attempted murder on Legazpi to ensure that justice would be served. He added that the Department of Education should work with the Philippine National Police and local government authorities to ensure that protection would be given to the teachers who survived the attack and those who may serve as witnesses to the crime.

Benny Almanzor of ACT in Masbate said teachers in Palanas town in Masbate are afraid to go to school now. Classes were suspended in 16 schools in the said town because of the killings. “Teachers and barangay captains are going to the local government office to see what can be done to protect the teachers.”

As for teachers in Roco C. Pahis Sr. Central School, Laurio said they are taking extra precautions.

“The Aquino government must immediately take steps to put an end to the violence faced by teachers in Palanas town,” Tinio said, “The Aquino government’s ability to ensure the well-being and safety of its citizens is being put to the test.”

Tinio said these murders show that extrajudicial killings targeting activists continue even under the newly installed Aquino administration. “It has only been a few days, yet the death toll is already rising. We expect nothing less than an end to impunity from this new government.”

“President Aquino must direct the necessary government resources to ensuring that the perpetrators of these four murders are caught, tried and punished,” Tinio said.

The first victim of extrajudicial killing under Aquino was 61-year old Fernando Baldomero, municipal council and Bayan Muna member, who was shot in front of his son in Kalibo, Aklan. The second victim was 78-year old farmer Pascual Guevarra of Nueva Ecija in Central Luzon. Guevarra’s grandson Ronnel Villoria was also wounded when he tried to help his grandfather. (

Victims of Harassment Suits Express Their Anger, Vow to Pursue the Fight

May 26, 2009


MANILA –“Where is our country headed? Why is it that what is right is being viewed as wrong? What is wrong is made to appear right?”

Rez Cortez, the actor who usually plays the role of villains in local movies, tearfully uttered those words at a forum organized by Pagbabago! People’s Movement for Change on May 21 at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City.

“I have been a villain in films, and this administration is trying to make me appear as a villain in the eyes of my country.”

Cortez is facing charges of serious illegal detention. The charges stemmed from the exposé of the so-called Hello Garci tapes, or the wiretapped conversations between a woman who is believed to be President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and a former elections commissioner, widely believed to be Virgilio Garcillano. Cortez and Sammy Ong, a former agent of the National Bureau of Investigation who recently died of lung cancer, were accused of detaining Sgt. Vidal Doble, an intelligence agent believed to be the source of the tapes, at the San Carlos Seminary in Makati City in 2005.

At a recent forum, actor Rez Cortez (shown in the video above), lawyer Remigio Saladero Jr. and NBN-ZTE scam star witness Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada narrate what they went through in the hands of the Arroyo regime. “What they did to us is terrible,” one of them said. But they vowed never to give up in their quest for truth and justice.

On June 6, 2004, Ong presented to the media the “mother of all tapes” that he said were evidence of systematic electoral fraud by the Arroyo clique. The tapes are allegedly a master copy of those wiretapped conversations.

In 2005, Ong and Cortez were slapped with the illegal detention charges, but these were dismissed by a Makati Regional Trial Court. In April this year, the Court of Appeals reversed the lower court’s decision, reviving the charges against the two. A warrant of arrest has been issued. Cortez’s lawyers filed a petition for the temporary lifting of the warrant.

Cortez broke into tears when he talked about Ong at the UP forum. He visited Ong at the Chinese General Hospital recently, days before Ong died. “I felt said seeing the once proud Sammy Ong, who bravely exposed the truth about the cheating during the 2004 elections, bereft of color, looking like he was already dead. It was a depressing sight to behold. Then I realized that this is what happens to those who muster the courage to fight for the truth,” he said in Filipino.

Pagbabago! forum in UP Diliman. (Photo by Ayi Muallam)

Cortez said the case has affected his work and his family. He admitted that he had thought of giving up the fight. Closely identified with the late Fernando Poe Jr., the closest rival of Arroyo in the 2004 elections, Cortez has been a familiar face in anti-Arroyo protest actions.

He described himself as someone who used to be apolitical, someone who did not care. Since he got involved in the 2004 electoral campaign, Cortez said he realized he had to do something. He thought to himself, “Perhaps it is time that I looked at what is happening in our country…We should all get involved.”

Cortez criticized Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez who, he said, is the one behind the filing of the case against him. He recalled what Gonzalez had told him when they met: “So you are Rez Cortez, one of the destabilizers.”

Cortez said he draws strength from his children. “Dad, continue the fight. We support you. Do not give up,” one of them told him.

Like Cortez, Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada, decried the so-called harassment suits filed against him.

Lozada, the star witness in the bribery and corruption surrounding the $329-million National Broadband Network deal with ZTE of China, was charged with perjury by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s former chief of staff Mike Defensor. Lozada was arrested on April 29 and imprisoned at the Manila City Jail until the Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 26, on May 7, decided to turn him over to the Senate’s custody.

Besides the perjury case, Lozada has been slapped with 15 other charges, including theft, gross negligence and dishonesty.

“It’s good that nuns have been my companions. Otherwise the government might file rape charges against me,” Lozada said, drawing laughter from the crowd.

“It is frightening to think that the whole machinery of the government is being used for political ends,” Lozada said in Filipino. “Today, it is being used freely by the government to pressure those who are against their brand of politics. This is what I observed,” he said. “Your hair would fall just by thinking about it.”

Even if the Arroyo administration has the power, the money and influence, Lozada added, it does not have the truth. “If that is all that we have, that is sufficient for me.”

“I am determined to pursue what we are fighting for. Frankly speaking, I am very angry. But I would channel my anger the right way,” Lozada said as he concluded his speech.

Labor lawyer Remigio Saladero Jr. related his ordeal during his arrest and detention and the continuing threats he and other leaders of people’s organizations in Southern Tagalog are facing.

Remigio Saladero Jr., a labor lawyer and a columnist of Pinoy Weekly, was arrested and detained in October last year based on what he called as “baseless charges,” among them that he had participated in an ambush by communist guerrillas.

In this video, he recalls the harrowing experience.

Saladero was among the 72 activists who were charged with multiple murder and frustrated multiple murder in connection with a raid by the New People’s Army (NPA) in Calapan City, Mindoro Oriental, in March 2006. He was the first to be arrested among the 72 respondents on Oct. 23, 2008. The six other accused were detained at the Calapan City District Jail. Just this February, Judge Manuel C. Luna Jr. of Branch 39 of the Calapan City Regional Trial Court dismissed the case on technical grounds.

Saladero said that among the accused were a polio victim and a diabetic patient who takes insulin twice a day. “How could they bear arms and ambush fully armed elements of the Philippine National Police with their condition?” he asked during the forum.

Barely a week after their release from detention, Saladero said, he was informed by a relative that another murder case had been filed against him and 61 other activists in Southern Tagalog. This time, the case involved the killing in July 2008 of a member of the Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit (Cafgu) in Rizal, allegedly by members of the NPA.

Saladero was also among the 27 Southern Tagalog activists who were charged with arson and destruction of property in connection with the burning of a Globe tower in Lemery, Batangas, on Aug. 2, 2008, allegedly by the NPA. The case was recently dismissed for lack of probable cause.

Saladero said that there had been a subversion of the legal process. The Mindoro case, he said, did not go through the preliminary investigation and the warrants of arrest bore erroneous names and addresses.

“One case after another, the same modus operandi of using aliases in the warrant, writing the wrong address so that we could not assert our rights and defend ourselves in legally,” he said.

In this video, Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada, the whistleblower in the NBN-ZTE scam, narrates the harassment he endured after exposing the scandal.

Worse, Saladero said, the charges of murder, frustrated murder and arson are nonbailable offenses.

“What they did to us is terrible,” he said.

“Pity my clients who are workers and peasants because there were so many pleadings that I was not able to write, many appeals that I was not able to file because of my arrest and detention,” he said. “Others lost hope because, according to them, if even our lawyer was detained, what would happen to us?”

Saladero said that leaders of people’s organizations have been compelled to lay low due to threats of arrest and detention.

The labor lawyer said that forums provide them venues to ventilate their outrage. “These forums are therapeutic. Through these, we could somehow get back at them.”

At the same forum, lawyer Ameh Sato of the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) noted a trend in the way the harassments are carried out. “Apparently, where before the target of trumped-up charges were the Metro Manila-based party-list representatives and prominent national leaders of the progressive mass movement, now the new evil scheme is to put also in jail en masse its regional and provincial leaders and members, with sustained extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances in the countryside through militarization and state terrorism.”

Sato added that “with the elections fast approaching and her administration still haunted with untold controversies, it is easy to understand the agenda behind the filing of trumped-up charges against Arroyo’s critics and perceived enemies: her obsession to perpetuate herself in power beyond 2010.”

“But in the case of those belonging to the progressive legal opposition, the filing of false charges against them is clearly rooted in Oplan Bantay Laya and the US war on terror,” she said.

Oplan Bantay Laya is the government’s counter-insurgency program that has been blamed for the worsening human-rights abuses in the Philippines. (

Filipino-American Activist Freed, Two Companions Remain Missing

May 26, 2009

Roxas has been reunited with her family. The fate of her two companions — Juanito Carabeo and John Edward Handoc – is unknown.

UPDATE: Melissa Roxas Moved to Philippines to Pursue Human-Rights Advocacy

MANILA – A Filipino-American activist abducted five days ago “was surfaced” Monday morning by her captors, according to the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan).

Melissa Roxas, 31, from Los Angeles, California, was freed at 6:30 a.m. Monday, said Bayan’s Renato Reyes Jr., but her two companions — Juanito Carabeo and John Edward Handoc – remain missing.

The three, who worked as health volunteers, were abducted by eight armed and hooded men in a village in Tarlac province on May 19, the latest in a string of so-called enforced disappearances in the Philippines targeting mainly activists.

“We are relieved that she has been freed but we are still worried about her two companions,” Reyes said. “The circumstances of her release are still unknown to us, and there is concern for her safety as well even if she has been released.”

Roxas has been reunited with her family and could not yet make any statements to the press, Reyes said. He added that Roxas’s medical condition, or whether she was harmed by her captors, is not yet known.

Roxas, Carabeo and Handoc were abducted in sitio Bagong Sikat, barangay Kapanikian, La Paz town, in Tarlac, a province just north of Mnaila.

Bayan, in a press statement on Sunday, said Karapatan, the human-rights group, had reported that the three were taken at gunpoint by eight men wearing bonnets over their heads. The men used two motorcycles and a Besta van without license plates – a common modus operandi in several other similar abductions in the Philippines.

Reyes said his group is “outraged that these abductions continue despite repeated condemnation here and abroad.”

This is the first time that a Filipino-American activist has fallen victim to what looks like another case of enforced disappearance, one of the forms of human-rights violations in the Philippines. Roxas is a member of Bayan-USA and the cultural group Habi Arts based in Los Angeles, California.

According to human-rights groups, more than 200 Filipinos have been victims of enforced disappearance since 2001, the year President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo took power. Aside from these abductions, the Arroyo regime and the military have been accused of murdering more than a thousand activists, peasants, workers, human-rights advocates and journalists in a campaign believed to be part of a dirty war against the communist insurgency.

Several investigations, most notably by the United Nations Human Rights Council, have pointed to the military as the main culprit in these atrocities. (

Sister of NPA Leader Parago Murdered

May 26, 2009

Although it is too early to say whether the military is involved in the murder of Evelyn Pitao and her live-in partner, Karapatan said they are looking closely into that possibility, given the history of violence the Pitao family had experienced in the hands of security forces.

MANILA — A sister of one the communist movement’s top leaders has been murdered along with her live-in partner, the human-rights group Karapatan in Southern Mindanao said today.

Evelyn Pitao and her unidentified partner were murdered in their home in Kapalong town, Davao Oriental, around noon on Saturday, May 23. Karapatan-Southern Mindanao secretary-general Kelly Delgado told that they received the news only today and are still investigating.

The murders occurred nearly three months after Rebelyn Pitao, Evelyn’s niece, was abducted on March 4 by suspected military agents in Davao City. Rebelyn’s dead and mutilated body was found the next day dumped in a ditch.

Evelyn is the sister of Leoncio Pitao, also known as Commander Parago, the top NPA leader in Southern Mindanao.

Tragedy had befallen the Pitao family early on, when Parago’s brother Danilo was killed in June 2008. Parago had blamed the death of Danilo and of his daughter on the military.

Although it is too early to say whether the military is involved in Evelyn’s murder, Delgado of Karapatan said they are looking closely into that possibility, given the history of violence the Pitao family had experienced in the hands of security forces.

On May 3, the NPA in Southern Mindanao announced that they had executed Ruben Bitang, the alleged driver of the vehicle used in the kidnapping of Rebelyn.

Bitang was an employee of the City Environment and Natural Resources Office of Panabo City and was the nephew of Sergeant Helvin Bitang of the Military Intelligence Group (MIG). The NPA earlier said that Helvin Bitang was involved in Rebelyn’s murder.

Parago is one of the NPA’s best-known commanders and has proved elusive despite the massive militarization in Southern Mindanao. The military has claimed that they have made inroads in their campaign against the communist movement in Southern Mindanao, blaming the NPA for the supposed lack of development in the region.

The NPA has grown in the Southern Mindanao region – in fact, it is considered one of the strongest areas of the communist movement – largely because of the many issues faced by residents there, mainly poverty and injustice.

The region is home to some of the country’s largest plantations and mining concessions, displacing thousands of residents, particularly indigenous peoples groups or Lumads, from their homes.

Because of this so-called “development aggression” as well as the numerous human-rights abuses perpetrated by state security forces who operate in tandem with the goons and guards of these companies, many of the residents in the region had little choice but to look to the NPA for help.

The military responded to the NPA’s growth in the area by pouring in more troops and militarizing even more the depressed communities. (

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.” (

Editorial Cartoon: Unmasking Duterte

April 21, 2009


So that’s Duterte?

Editorial Cartoon: TV Show

April 19, 2009


Media milage o pampasira ng screen ng tv? 😀

NPA leader: Military behind daughter’s slay

March 9, 2009

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


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

Editorial Cartoon: The Recruit

March 5, 2009


Anakpawis probes CMP

March 5, 2009

BAGUIO CITY — Anakpawis and Organisasyon dagiti Nakurapay nga Umili ti Syudad (Ornus) will conduct a fact-finding mission (FFM) on the implementation of Community Mortgage Program (CMP) in Cypress, Irisan.

Ornus, a Baguio-wide alliance of urban poor communities, its allied organizations and advocates in the national and local level will conduct the said fact-finding mission in an attempt to bring their issues to the attention of the public, and to local and national legislation.

The FFM aims to involve affected residents in various caucuses in Cypress Point Village (CPV) and will reach out to the implementers of the CMP through the Homeowners Associations and dialogs with government offices, agencies and the Baguio City government. The FFM will be on March 5-6.

Complicated history

CMP is a mode of land acquisition defined by Republic Act 7279 commonly known as the Urban Development and Housing Act (UDHA). It is intended to help under priviliged and homeless citizens to own and develop home-lots. In the said program, communities are encouraged to organize associations to acquire the land.

According to the initial data of Ornus, the CMP in Irisan missed its objectives at delivering decent housing to the poor. Ornus alleged that CMP’s implementation is marred with serious allegations of corruption of its mandate to provide low-cost housing, among other needed social services.

According to the primer by Ornus, Cypress is an 18-hectare area in Barangay Irisan with more than 500 households and 2,700 individuals. Its title, OCT No. 56, in the name of CPV was subdivided into 248 lots. The title was among the 211 titles which were declared null and void by the Supreme Court in 1973 but was given consideration by Presidential Decree 1271.

In the 1970’s, the property was occupied by migrants from different places and was densely populated by the 1990s. Earlier occupants were not disturbed by the so-called original claimants or title holders. So that they even processed their claims through the Townsite Sales Application (TSA).

In 1993, a certain Arsenio Menor from the Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor came to Irisan and told the residents that the property was bought by a Mr. Peter Santos of the Asia Pine Hills Development Corporation (APHDC).

He then introduced the CMP to the actual occupants for them to own the lots. But the residents rejected it and instead negotiated to pay P350.00 per square meter. Menor however never went back to Irisan to finalize the negotiation.

During the term of then Councilor Betty Lourdes Tabanda as Chairperson of Committee on Land and Housing, a proposal to continue the plan of Menor pushed through. In 2000, the City Council passed a resolution authorizing then City Mayor Mauricio Domogan to negotiate with Peter Santos. In 2003, a subdivision plan for Cypress was approved by the council.

Three Homeowners Associations collected from the equity of members a total of P17, 335, 011.40 for the total of 77, 876 square meter or 7.8 hectares.

On August of 2003, more than houses were demolished by Baguio City demolition team in Purok 14-B in Cypress. Some residents were forced to stay with their relatives in other places of Baguio and the rest went back to the area and rebuilt their houses.

After barely a year, the person claiming to be Peter S.L. Santos wrote a letter to the different homeowners associations demanding to remit the equity. More or less P17 million was then paid by the residents as their equity to Santos.

As of now, the true identity of Santos who was claiming to be the president of APHDC has yet to be established especially that his signature in the Articles of Incorporation is different from other alleged signatures.

Demands on the CMP

Ornus has asked for an in-depth investigation of the CMP in Irisan as irregularities in its implementation has surfaced implying corruption.

They also further call for an investigation and the suspension on the said equity and amortization without any penalty should push through and the suspension of demolition orders within the CMP affected areas, according to ORNUS.

Moreover, Ornus demands that victims of demolition will be allowed to re-occupy their lots. Ornus also demands the investigation on the real identity of Peter Santos.

The results of the FFM will be released in a public program to be graced by Anakpawis representative Rafael Mariano. Ornus hopes through the FFM, Baguio officials will learn to look seriously into the case and initiate its own investigation and discuss appropriate legislation and action.

Besides Mariano, representatives of the national alliance of urban poor Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay), National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), Tongtongan ti Umili (TTU), Interfaith Gathering for Truth and Accountability. # Aldwin Quitasol

AFP ops disrupt Abra economy

March 5, 2009

BAGUIO CITY — On-going military operations between government troops and revolutionaries has greatly disrupted production and further impoverished the communities in Abra.

The 41st Infantry Battalion under the 503rd Infantry Brigade of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) operations are continuously in pursuit of the revolutionary forces of the New People’s Army (NPA) in the province of Abra.

Basically dependent on farm produce and their small-scale mines for food and cash, people of the barrios of Talampak, Pacoc, Buneg and Guinabang in Lacub raised concern about the prolonged government operations that reportedly destroyed farm crops and disrupted continuing farm production activities.

In February last year, there were aerial bombings in the area of Tubtuba, Tubo where 191 bombshells were reportedly dropped. The bombings have frightened the people in the affected and surrounding communities that many of them have preferred to stay away from their farms, reducing harvest in the first cropping season.

Again, sometime in June to July last year, battalion troop movements through the farms of the above mentioned barrios have trampled and destroyed a substantial area of newly planted rice fields with young seedlings for the second cropping further causing reduction in farm produce.

This year’s beginning of the cropping season has again recently been disrupted by an ensuing firefight between these two contending forces.

Stifling local livelihood

Initial interviews and reports made by the Abra Human Rights Alliance (AHRA) indicate that military war initiative in the area has greatly limited the daily economic activities in the communities.

The soldiers has enforced curfew hours to limit movements and facilitate monitoring of the villagers, preventing them from completing farm production schedules.

They have also prevented and limited the community from traveling out of an imposed perimeter, preventing them from checking on the irrigation water flow and from going to their mine areas.

It is an age-old farm practice to go out at dawn and work till mid-morning then go home for brunch to avoid the tropical mid-day heat, and return to work again when it is cooler at mid afternoon until late night.

Under the military impositions the people just move around the village housing area as their fields and mines are further out of the perimeters imposed.

Under these circumstances and for lack of something to do the people tend to deviate to anti-social activities like drinking and gambling.

In the same initial report, war shock was apparent as was indicated that villagers, especially children, have complained of deafness, hysteria and trauma from the loud and prolonged period of gunfire exchange and shelling. # Kathleen T. Okubo

Manila waits for US move on Cpl Smith DFA: Americans not ready to discuss issue

February 14, 2009

By Tarra Quismundo, Kristine L. Alave
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 03:11:00 02/14/2009

Filed Under: Crime and Law and Justice, Subic rape case, Diplomacy

MANILA, Philippines — A Philippine official on Friday said any new negotiations on custody of Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith would have to wait until the Americans were ready to talk, and indicated Manila was powerless to compel Washington to sit down immediately.

“Right now, the department is very serious in coordinating with the US embassy. But they had to approach first their experts to get their legal opinion,” Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Bayani Mangibin said in a phone interview.

Mangibin said: “We don’t have a policy to wait for them … What can we do if they are not ready?”

Earlier, US diplomats made it clear they were firm in their position to keep custody of the American Marine convicted of raping the Filipino woman “Nicole” until the courts had ruled with finality on Smith’s appeal.

Smith has been confined in the US Embassy compound, according to US and Philippine officials, since December 2006 after he was sentenced by a Makati court up to 40 years in jail for raping Nicole during a one-night encounter at Subic Bay Freeport. He has elevated his case to the Court of Appeals.

A new furor erupted over the custody issue after the Supreme Court last week ruled that the US-Philippine executive agreement that allowed the embassy to keep Smith ran counter to the two countries’ Visiting Forces Agreement. The court ordered the DFA to immediately negotiate with the US the transfer of Smith to a Philippine-controlled facility.

Main concern

Mangibin said the DFA had started the “process of coordination” with the embassy on the issue of custody, based on the Supreme Court ruling. He said the DFA was also consulting the Departments of Justice and Interior and Local Government, and the Solicitor General.

“Our main concern is to look for appropriate arrangements for Daniel Smith,” he said.

The embassy has said it is studying the court decision and referred it to government legal experts in Washington.

Mangibin said formal negotiations could begin after the embassy had received the legal opinion from Washington and that in the meantime, Smith would stay at the embassy compound.

3 scenarios

Interior Undersecretary Marius Corpus said yesterday that after his last check on Smith on Feb. 5—or several days before the high court’s ruling came out—he met with an embassy political officer and discussed three possibilities in anticipation of a court decision.

In that meeting, Corpus saw the embassy’s steadfast position to continue holding on to Smith until the appeals process had been completed. After his December 2006 conviction, Smith was briefly held at a Makati jail before the embassy took custody of him—in the middle of the night—based on the controversial executive agreement.

“We talked about the possible consequences of the Supreme Court decision,” Corpus said. The discussion was not prompted by any advance information on the court’s eventual ruling, Corpus said when asked if there was any leak.

“One, that the Supreme Court would declare the VFA unconstitutional. Two, I said it’s highly probable that the court would affirm the VFA’s constitutionality, including the agreement [to hold Smith at the embassy], and that it would order some provisions of the VFA revised,” Corpus said by phone.

“Third, that everything will be upheld, both the VFA and the transfer (of Smith to the embassy).”

Lobby for Smith

Corpus said when the issue of custodial arrangement was brought up, the US side said: “We’ve already agreed on that. We’d like to continue what was agreed upon.”

Corpus said he heard that a congressman from Smith’s home state of Missouri was “lobbying in the State Department for it to take care of Smith.”

“That’s the reason why they defend Smith so much,” Corpus said, adding however that he had no categorical information about the supposed lobby.

Also discussed at the meeting was Smith’s condition while in detention, particularly his having gained a lot of weight, according to Corpus, who said he had been visiting Smith almost monthly.

“They (the embassy officials) said, ‘We should give him work, with your permission,’ so that he will not deteriorate physically,” Corpus said.

Corpus said he agreed, noting that similar activities were allowed local prisoners. He said he just asked that any chores given to Smith should not compromise the terms of his confinement.

‘He is bored’

“You can see the emotional stress in him,” Corpus said. “Every time I talk to him, I can see that he is emotionally suffering. He is very bored. The condition is even better in detention facilities outside, where [detainees] have some company.”

Corpus assured the Nicole camp that Smith remained inside the embassy compound, contrary to claims by some of the rape victim’s supporters that he had been spirited out of the embassy.

“Even if I visit him every day, they will not believe me,” Corpus said.

Send him to Munti

Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo has joined growing calls for Smith’s immediate transfer to a local prison.

“We demand that the Philippine government immediately effect the transfer of Smith to the New Bilibid Prison,” Ocampo said in a press statement. “We cannot understand why a clear-cut exercise of sovereignty, in this case custody over a convicted foreign felon, should be subject to negotiations.”

Ocampo added: “What the Philippine government should do is simply impose its own laws over a foreigner who violated those laws. It should not negotiate but order the US Embassy to turn over Smith to the proper local authority.”

Indefinite delay

The leftist lawmaker said the high court’s order for the DFA to arrange a detention place acceptable to Washington was just a ruse to “indefinitely delay” Smith’s transfer. With a report from Gil C. Cabacungan Jr.

Japan ignores appeal, sets to deport Filipino family

February 14, 2009

TOKYO: Japan on Friday ordered the parents of a 13-year-old Filipina to prepare to leave within two weeks, giving them a choice to leave their daughter behind or face deportation.

In a case closely followed by human rights activists, Noriko Calderon—who was born in Japan in 1995—has publicly appealed to authorities to let her family stay together.

Her parents entered Japan in the early 1990s with illegal passports and stayed in the country undetected until two years ago when her mother was arrested but later released.

Noriko has grown up speaking only Japanese and attending local schools. Japan, which imposes tight controls on immigration, is likely to allow her to stay to complete her studies.

“I have decided not to grant a special residential permit to the entire family,” Justice Minister Eisuke Mori, who oversees immigration, told reporters.

Friday was the deadline for the family’s temporary residential status.

Shogo Watanabe, a leading human rights lawyer handling the case, said the immigration bureau told the parents to decide by February 27 on the date to fly to the Philippines.

“We accept neither the deportation of the whole family nor sending back only the parents,” said Watanabe, who warned that the immigration authority could detain Noriko’s 36-year-old father if he refused to leave.

Out of options

The parents have refused to leave without their daughter but ran out of legal options when the Supreme Court in September last year rejected their appeal to stay in Japan.

“She is 13 years old,” the father, Arlan Cruz, Calderon told reporters. “She cannot survive or protect herself alone.”

Lawyer Watanabe said he would keep negotiating with the immigration authority to let the family stay at least until the girl graduates from middle or high school.

About 500 families were in the same situation as the Calderons, according to Watanabe, who has accused Japan of not respecting the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Japan, with a falling birth rate and shrinking population, is considering allowing more foreign workers but has long rejected wide-scale immigration.

Activist asks court to call Sen Arroyo

February 11, 2009

Tetch Torres

MANILA, Philippines — An activist who is one of those accused of the alleged 1985 murder of communist rebels suspected of being government spies in Leyte asked Manila Regional Trial Court branch 32 to summon Senator Joker Arroyo to testify on his behalf.

Vicente Ladlad wants Arroyo to testify that he could not have been involved in the alleged murders because he was detained in Camp Guillermo Nakar in Quezon province from 1983 to 1986, when he was released when then president Gorazon Aquino issued a presidential proclamation freeing all political prisoners after the EDSA revolution.

“Based on records we have, Senator Arroyo appeared and argued several times in court as Vic’s lead counsel,” lawyer Ernesto Francisco Jr., Ladlad’s counsel, said. “Senator Arroyo was the chairman of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) during this period, in which capacity he acted as Vic’s lead counsel.”

The cases involved a rebellion case and another criminal case docketed in Calauag and Lucena City.

“Senator Arroyo is also a staunch defender of the President [Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo], thus credible to the government,” added Francisco. “The DoJ [Department of Justice] shouldn’t object to his testimony.”

Ladlad wants the Manila court to dismiss the charges against him, filed after the discovery of human remains in a mass grave on Mt. Sapang Daku in Inopacan, Leyte, on Aug. 26, 2006.

Supreme Court orders US Marine into local custody

February 11, 2009

MANILA — (Updated 5:23 p.m.) The Philippine Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered a US Marine convicted of rape to be moved from the American Embassy into Philippine custody, reopening an emotional case that has become a rallying point for anti-American protests.

The court ruled that a deal allowing Lance Cpl. Daniel Smith to stay at the embassy while appealing his 40-year jail term was contrary to the Visiting Forces Agreement, which governs the conduct of U.S. forces in the country.

The justices instructed Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo to negotiate Smith’s transfer to an appropriate detention facility.

Pending such an agreement, Smith can remain at the embassy, the court said.

It also directed the Court of Appeals to quickly resolve Smith’s appeal.

The US Embassy issued a statement saying it would consult with legal experts in Washington.

The rape case has stirred emotions in the former US colony and became a rallying point for activists demanding an end to US military counterterrorism exercises.

Smith, 23, from St. Louis, Missouri, was detained and put on trial in 2006 after a woman accused him of rape. After sentencing, he was transferred from a local jail to US custody while his case was on appeal.

When a Filipino judge initially ordered that Smith be detained in a suburban Manila jail, the US government temporarily suspended joint, large-scale military exercises in protest. Washingon agreed to proceed with the annual Balikatan war exercises with the Philippines only after Smith had been transferred to the embassy.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo backed the US position and said Smith’s embassy detention was necessary to avoid complications in relations with its key ally.

A provision in the 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement states that any accused US service member shall remain in American custody until all judicial proceedings are exhausted.

But there are differing interpretations of when that is. The Filipino woman’s lawyer, Evalyn Ursua, and the left-wing alliance Bayan claim Smith should be serving his sentence in a Philippine jail, regardless of his appeal.

Smith’s lawyer, Jose Justiniano, said he explained the implications of the decision to his client. He said Smith has no choice but to comply. (AP)(Sunstar)

Ang napapala ng mga ‘subersibo’ posted 27-Jan-2009

February 6, 2009

Jeffrey Ocampo

Ikonikong butones sa kampanya para kay Prop. Raymundo (Kuha ni Rommel Rodriguez)

SA ISANG unibersidad na nakilala sa “liberal” na tradisyon, ang naiuulat na mga kaso ng “panunupil” sa kaguruan at mga mag-aaral nito ay lubhang nakababahala.

Ngunit kung susuriin ang huling mga kaganapan, ang animo’y palaisipan ay malalantad bilang kabalintunaan ng kontemporaryong postura ng Unibersidad ng Pilipinas (UP). Ayon sa mga progresibo sa loob ng pamantasan, tinutungo na nito ang isang “neoliberal” na landasin. Anila, dulot nito’y pagkakait ng edukasyong UP sa mga maralita at pagsisilbi ng pamantasan sa dayuhan at pribadong mga entidad. Tila tuluyan na itong nagbabalik sa orihinal na oryentasyon ng pamantasan nang itaguyod ito ng mga Amerikano sa unang dekada ng 1900.

At ang mga tutunggali sa tunguhing ito – guro, mag-aaral, iba pang bahagi ng komunidad – ay may lohikal na kahihinatnan.

Maaaring sabihin na ang partikular na kaso ng biglaang pagtanggi ng tenure sa katuwang na propesor ng Departamento ng Sosyolohiya ng Kolehiyo ng Agham Panlipunan at Pilosopiya (KAPP) na si Sarah Raymundo ay isang halimbawa nito.

Nobyembre 6 ng nakaraang taon, verbal na ipinaabot ni Dr. Clemen Bautista, tagapangulo ng departamento, ang pasya ng tenured na kaguruan na hindi nito inapruba ang aplikasyon ng propesor para sa tenure. Mahigit isang taon na itong nakabinbin habang mabilis lamang sana itong maipagkakaloob sa isang propesor na nasapatan – o nahigitan pa nga – ang mga rekisito sa pagkakamit nito.

Bukod dito, hindi na raw niya kailangang pasukan ang mga klaseng itinalaga sa kanya pagpasok ng ikalawang semestre. Ibig sabihin, sa Mayo 31 na mawawalan ng bisa ang kontrata sa pamantasan.

Pulitika sa likod ng pasya

Ayon sa mga ulat, hindi man lamang ipinaliwanag ni Dr. Bautista kay Prop. Raymundo ang dahilan ng “pagkakait” sa kanya ng tenure at ng biglaang pagkakatanggal sa kanya sa trabahong pinagbusan niya ng husay at sikhay sa loob ng halos 10 taon.

Kung hihimayin ang rekord ni Prop. Raymundo, makikitang karapat-dapat siyang magawaran ng tenure: tapos ng masterado, nakapaglathala ng maraming sulatin na nakapag-ambag sa pagpapaunlad ng displina at naging tagapagsalita sa lokal at internasyunal na mga kumperensiya. Bukod dito, laging mataas ang gradong kanyang nakukuha sa ebalwasyon ng mga estudyante.

Tahimik magpasahanggang ngayon si Bautista at ang departamento hinggil sa tunay na dahilan ng pagtanggi nila ng tenure kay Prop. Raymundo. Ayon lamang sa departamento, nagkagawa si Prop. Raymundo ng “bridge of professional ethics.” Ngunit batay sa internal na mga diskusyon sa pagitan ng mga propesor ng Sosyolohiya na sumingaw sa publiko, kaugnay daw ito ng pakikisangkot ni Prop. Raymundo sa kampanya para sa dalawang mag-aaral ng UP na dinukot umano ng militar noong 2006 na sina Karen Empeño at Sherlyn Cadapan. Si Empeño, na nag-aral ng Sosyolohiya, ay naging estudyante mismo ni Prop. Raymundo.

Sa pagsusuri All UP Academic Employees Union (AUPAEU), pulitika ang dahilan ng pagkakait ng tenure at pagkakasisante kay Prop. Raymundo. Batay naman sa obserbasyon ng marami, bagama’t biglaan ang pagpapaabot sa propesor, matagal nang binabalak ng ilang propesor sa departamento ang pagtanggal sa kanya dahil sa kanyang mga paninindigang malaki ang kaibhan sa kanila.

Ayon sa AUPAEU, hindi nagpapakulong si Prop. Raymundo sa apat na sulok ng teorya at inilalapat ito sa kongkretong kalagayan na dinudulot ng panlipunang kaayusan.

Manipestasyon umano nito ang masikhay niyang pagkilos sa mga organisasyon para sa kagalingan ng pamantasan at ng buong sambayanan. Siya ang pangkalahatang kalihim ng Congress of Teachers and Educators for Nationalism and Democracy – UP (Contend-UP), isang makabayang samahan ng mga guro sa UP. Bukod dito, siya rin ang pambansang ingat-yaman ng Alliance of Concerned Teachers at kasapi ng AUPAEU. Masipag din siyang mananaliksik ng Karapatan, isang grupong nagsisiyasat sa mga kaso ng paglabag sa karapatang pantao sa bansa.

Ayon sa mga tagasuporta niya, malinaw na walang batayan ang pagsisante kay Prop. Raymundo.

Dahil din sa may pahayag ang departamento na ikokonsulta nila ang kaso sa Legal Office ng pamantasan, may hinala ang marami na may iba pang habla na isasampa laban kay Prop. Raymundo upang pabigatin ang kaso niya.

Magkaganito man, sinasabing tanging akademikong mga rekisito lamang ang dapat sandigan sa pagagawad ng tenure. Ngunit paliwang ng departamento, sila, higit sinuman, ang magpapasya kung gagawaran o hindi ng tenure ang isang propesor sa ilalim nito.

Matapos makapagsumite ng dalawang pormal na liham na inaalam ang dahilan ng pagtanggal sa trabaho, wala pang tugon na natatanggap si Prop Raymundo. Hinala tuloy ng marami, “delaying tactic” ito upang umabot hanggang katapusan ng Mayo ang usapin nang sa gayon ay magkaroon ng katangap-tanggap na dahilan ang mga kaganapan.

Sa isang pahayag, sinabi ng AUPAEU na “nakakagalit na sentenaryong taon ng kagalingan ng serbisyo ng Unibersidad ng Pilipinas, may magaganap na malaking kaso ng pagyurak sa karapatan ng kanyang mahuhusay na guro at iskolar.”


Ayon sa kanyang kapwa-guro na si Prop. Arnold Alamon, sinasalamin ng pangyayari ang “kalagayan ng sosyolohiya” sa pamantasan. Malamang, aniya, na ang “tipo ng sosyolohiya” (kritikal at higit sa lahat ay progresibo) na kanyang itinataguyod at isinasabuhay ang naging dahilan ng kanyang kinahinatnan. Dagdag ng propesor, isang “purge” ang naganap habang tinatalikdan ng departamento ang “mapagpalayang panambitan ng disiplina [ng Sosyolohiya]”.

Inihahalintulad naman ng marami ang kaganapang ito sa McCarthyistang panunugis noong dekada 50 hanggang 60. (Ang McCarthyismo ay isang doktrina sa Estados Unidos na ipinatupad din sa Pilipinas na nagbabawal ng “anumang pagnanais na magpabagsak ng pamahalaan.”) Sa ilalim ng Committee on Un-Filipino Activities (na kalauna’y naging Committee on Anti-Filipino Activities), binansagang “subersibo” at tinugis ang mga progresibo at makabayang mga guro na nagsusulong ng mga radikal na ideya at nakikisangkot sa makabayang kilusan. Ilan sa mga ito sa mga propesor sa UP na pinaratangang subersibo ay sina Leopoldo Yabes, Jose Lansang, Petronilo Daroy at ang noo’y batang guro sa Departamento ng Wikang Ingles na si Prop. Jose Ma. Sison.

Kung babalikan ang kasaysayan, napakarami pang progresibong mga propesor ng UP ang sinupil ng pamahalaan at ng mismong pamantasan. Itinuturing na banta ang talas ng kanilang isip at ang kanilang pagnanais na mabago kung anumang mali sa sistema.


Buo naman ang suporta kay Prop. Raymundo ng kanyang mga estudyante, noon at ngayon, gayundin ang mga guro sa loob ng UP at maging sa Estados Unidos. Binuo ang isang blog upang ikampanya ang “hustisya” para sa propesor. Nakalimbag dito ang mga sulatin ng tunay na mga nakakikilala kay Prop. Raymundo. Mayroon ding petisyon kung saan maaaring pumirma ang mga mag-aaral at kaguruan ng UP.

Sa isang bukas na liham, sinabi ng mga guro mula sa Estados Unidos na “hindi makatarungan at hindi nararapat” ang pasya kaya hinihimok nila ang tagapangulo ng departamento at ang dekano ng KAPP na si Dr. Zozimo Lee na ipagkaloob kay Prop Raymundo ang tenure. Pinuri ng mga ito ang “matalas at kahanga-hanga” na mga sulatin ni Prop. Raymundo na kinikilala rin sa ibang bansa. Kabilang sa mga propesor na ito ay sina Dr. Jonathan Beller ng Pratt Intitute sa New York, Dr. Neferti Tadiar ng Columbia University, at Dr. Francisco Benitez ng University of Washington.

Malaki namang hamon para sa Contend, AUPAEU, sumusuportang kapwa mga guro sa loob at labas ng departmento ng Sosyolohiya at mga estudyanteng naniniwala na walang batayan ang pagkakasisante kay Prop Raymundo na maipagtagumpay ang labang ito. Maaari umanong maging hudyat ito ng panunugis sa mga gurong may progresibong kaisipan kung hindi ito maagapan, mailalantad at matutunggali. Kailangan ding lumantad ang iba pang mga propesor sa departamento na nakaranas din ng mga katulad na panggigipit at panunupil.

Sa kasalukuyan, tuloy sa kanyang pagpasok sa klase si Prop. Raymundo at sa pagtugon sa mga gawain sa makabayang mga organisasyon na kanyang kinaaaniban.

Bagama’t ganito nga ang napapala ng mga “subersibo,” di siya nagpapatinag sa mga tangkang supilin ang gurong makabayan katulad niya.(PinoyWeekly)

Editorial Cartoon: Drug Addict

February 3, 2009


Hehehehehe! Tsungki!

Ninotchka Rosca: Gazing On Gaza

February 3, 2009

The pale moon ruled over my last three nights in Hawaii, laying a magical veneer over an already perfect landscape. As I watched it from the 25th floor lanai (balcony), I wondered if it was refusing to shine over Gaza, so as not to witness a continuing inhumanity of human beings upon human beings.

Years ago, I used to wonder how Israel could do what it was doing to the Palestinians, or even to ally itself with the apartheid government of White South Africa – but since then, I’ve seen the abused take on the persona of the abuser – prisoners doing the guards’ work, women maligning other women – all to align themselves with brute authority. Underlying the repetitive cycle of violence is survival at all costs – and Israel has bluntly used and overused this to justify the most extreme measures taken against a people whose land and patrimony it expropriated in successive acts of violence.

The siege of Gaza underscores the senselessness of what has gone on with the Palestinians: the assault began for no reason, continues with no clear far-reaching objective and ends without any goal reached. Population control, perhaps?

For the last 50 years, Israel has gotten away with this by stoking the guilt feelings of the West by elevating victimhood as the hallmark of its history. The Germans, if for nothing else, owe the Palestinians a great debt of gratitude for having taken their place as villains in Israel’s self-image as victim and for enduring collective punishment for a Holocaust they did not commit.

Deeper still, behind all these surface relationships, lies the Bush administration’s determination to leave as much of a mess as possible for the new political leadership. Make no mistake about it: this was Bush’s last war. Israel would not have embarked on this silly adventure without a go-signal from the US government. It was a last flip of the finger to the people of the US – to the millions who marched against the invasion of Iraq and those who now march against the siege of Gaza.

There are those who leave an office or a residence neat and clean, ready for the next occupant; there are those who improve on what they find and leave behind potential for even greater achievement; and there are those who make sure that they’ve thoroughly messed up the terrain so that it would be impossible to accomplish, much less change, anything. Legacies are determined not simply by accomplishment but what doors have been opened, what new pathways have been created, what possibilities have been made clear… Bush’s legacy is a complicated political terrain that leaves his successor very little maneuverability.

The old leadership refuses to let go while the new hasn’t crystallized a vision for how it will govern. And we are all held hostage at this between the intake of breath and its release.

Does the moon also shine over Gaza?(PinoyPressBlog)

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)

Karapatan claims civilians not rebels killed in Panubigan ‘encounter’

January 30, 2009

By Ranie S. Azue

BACOLOD City — The family of the alleged members of the New People’s Army (NPA) killed and injured on Jan. 25 in an “encounter” in Brgy. Panubigan, Canlaon City insists that the victims were civilians and not members of the rebel movement.

The alleged encounter resulted in the killing of Beverly Pobleo and Felix Remobata while four civilians identified as Porferio Pobleo, husband of Beverly, Jimmy Ugang and Jimmy Calago were injured after elements of the alpha company of the 11th Infantry Battalion (11thIB) strafed the house of the Pobleo family.

In a press conference arranged by militant human rights watchdog KARAPATAN-Negros, ex-army Carlito Canonicato said he knew his brother-in-law very well and insisted that he is an ordinary civilian.

According to Canonicato, Remobata, together with other neighbours from Brgy. Codcod whom he insists are farmers like his brother-in-law, went to the house of Pobleo to have a drinking binge.

The group agreed to stay overnight because it was already very late for them to go home in Brgy. Codcod, Canonicato said.

The next day, he was surprised to hear from his former buddies in the 11thIB that his brother-in-law was killed in an encounter with alleged rebels in Brgy. Panubigan.

Canonicato could not understand why it was the elements of the 11th IB who are based in Brgy. Masulog who conducted the raid on the alleged rebels in Panubigan when there is detachment of army scout rangers in the area.

He also revealed that members of the Canlaon City Police Office conducted a search on the area an hour earlier before the alleged encounter took place after they received reports that an armed group was sighted near the area which yielded negative results.

Fred Caña of KARAPATAN Negros, meanwhile, condemned the brutal strafing of the Pobleo’s house and accused the military of trying to cover-up the indiscriminate firing of a civilian and unarmed house.

Caña stressed that they will write to the national office of the Commission on Human Rights to conduct a deeper probe on the incident.

He added that the house of the Pobleo family is at the back of the gymnasium of Canlaon City which makes it impossible for armed rebels to simply go to the area and engage the army in a firefight./PN

Photos: BAYAN – Panay leads various groups in marking the Mendiola Massacre of 1987

January 28, 2009

BAYAN – Panay leads various groups

in marking the Mendiola Massacre of 1987

Plazoleta Gay, Iloilo City .

January 22, 2009

The multi-sectoral protest commemorated the 22nd anniversary of the Mendiola Massacre. Members of Paghugpong sang Mangunguma sa Panay kag Guimaras (PAMANGGAS) recalled the historic event which happened in 1987, vobisng to continue the struggle of the farmers for land.

The picket also strongly condemned the US-backed Israeli invasion of Gaza which has resulted in the loss of lives of hundreds of civilians. Despite the recently declared temporary ceasefire by the Israeli government, war of aggression will continue in the days to come because of the absence of unconditional declaration of ceasefire. BAYAN believes that the war on Gaza is instigated by the US policy of war on terror.

–  EDGAR PELAYO, Secretary-General, BAYAN – Palnay

(Photos Courtesy of Bayan=Panay)

Arkibong Bayan

Photos: 22 years after the bloody carnage: “All we want is piece of land”, say relatives of Mendiola Massacre victims

January 28, 2009

22 years after the bloody carnage:

“All we want is piece of land”,

say relatives of Mendiola Massacre victims

January 22, 2009

22 years after the bloody carnage:

“All we want is piece of land”, say relatives of Mendiola Massacre victims

Quezon City, Philippines- “All we want is a piece of land that we can till and call our own. But what we got from them the state was bullets.”

Twenty two years after the bloody carnage, relatives of the infamous Mendiola Massacre said they want to move on and continue with what their husbands and relatives pursued two decades ago, but the horrible event kept on visiting them like day-to-day nightmares.

After their 7-day camped out at the Ministry of Agrarian Reform (now Department of Agrarian Reform or DAR), from January 15-21, 1987 on January 22, leaders and members of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), numbering about 15,000 decided to march from the agrarian reform office to Liwasang Bonifacio and then to Mendiola.

In Mendiola, military and police elements open fired and peppered the farmers and their sympathizers with bullets. Thirteen marchers, mostly farmers from Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog regions were killed and identified as Danilo Arjona, Leopoldo Alonzo, Adelfa Aribe, Dionisio Bautista, Roberto Caylao, Vicente Campomanes, Ronilo Dumanico, Dante Evangelio, Angelito Gutierrez, Rodrigo Grampan, Bernabe Laquindanum, Sonny Boy Perez and Roberto Yumul.

Aside from the 13 farmers who were killed by state security forces, reports also said 39 marchers sustained gunshot wounds and 32 sustained minor injuries. “Let me set the record straight. What we want is a parcel of land but what the government gave to us were scores of bullets and in the aftermath of the massacre is a bankrupt, bogus, anti-farmer and pro-landlord agrarian reform program,” the Kilusang Enero 22 or KE 22 said in a press statement.

KE 22, an assembly of relatives of Mendiola Massacre added that the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) passed by Congress during the time of former President Corazon Aquino was a comprehensive failure and merely sustained the 22-year old wounds caused by the Mendiola Massacre.

“How can you have justice with CARP? It is not a social justice program but an instrument for further landgrabbing, further denial of peasant land rights and class exploitation by the landlord few. CARP is part of the long-running injustice committed to the victims of Mendiola Massacre,” KE 22 said. .

Relatives want GARB

KE 22 said it is actively supporting the passage of Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) or House Bill 3059 principally authored by the late Anakpawis party list Rep. Crispin Beltran and co-authored by his successor Anakpawis party list Rep. Rafael Mariano, Bayan Muna party list Reps. Satur Ocampo and Teodoro Casiño and Gabriela party list lawmakers Liza Maza and Luzviminda Ilagan.

“We hope the leadership of House Speaker Prospero Nograles will move on and act with dispatch and resolution in favor of HB 3059. This social justice measure is necessary for the cause of land and justice across-the-country,” relatives of Mendiola Massacre victims added.

GARB which is still pending before the House Committee on Agrarian Reform will cover all agricultural lands and have these lands distributed for free to all landless, land lacking and willing to till farmers all over the country, according to KMP deputy secretary general Willy Marbella, a survivor of Mendiola Massacre.

KMP’s Marbella said lands operated by transnational corporations, including commercial farms ran by big agribusiness groups shall be nationalized in favor of farmworkers and agricultural workers who would be trained to manage and operate these large plantations and commercial agri-business farms.

In the case of sullied lands, or lands acquired through fraud, deception, intimidation, or the use of force and violence, these would be subjected to confiscation, while landlords who acquired their landholdings without any shades of blood debts or crimes against their tenants will receive just compensation and shall be paid by the state based on the average tax assessment on the land for the immediate last three years preceding the effectivity of the act.

The KMP leader said farmer beneficiaries are guaranteed with security of tenure and sustained support systems to make the awarded lands more productive and more responsive to the needs of the farmers and the Filipino public in general.

Success story

Meanwhile in Hacienda Luisita, farmworkers continue to cultivate more than 1,800 hectares of the hotly disputed sugar estate outside the framework of the 20-year old CARP.

“The key to this success story is the determination of Hacienda Luisita farmworkers to challenge and fight the Stock Distribution Option scheme legitimized by the bogus CARP. Now, the farmworkers and poor farmers of Hacienda Luisita are reaping the fruits of their labor,” the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) said in a press statement.

UMA public information officer Rey Calaguing said the hacienda farmworkers and poor farmers are planting various crops in more than 1,800 hectares like rice and vegetables. “We are encouraging more farmers to join and form themselves into cooperation units to be able to cover other hectares for their livelihood. This is peasant class power in full swing,” he said.

UMA said the current “bungkalan” campaign has already benefited 838 families or roughly 1,676 individuals spread in the barangays of Malapacsiao (244.5 hectares), Asturias (209.93 hectares), Bantog (258 hectares), Cut-Cut (275.9 hectares), Balite (153.4 hectares), Mutrico (248 hectares), Pando (163 hectares), Texas (140 hectares), Pasajes (60 hectares) and Parang (51.5 hectares).

Camp-out in HOR, march to Mendiola

The KMP together with the fisherfolk group Pamalakaya, UMA, Amihan peasant federation and farmer groups Kalipunan ng Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK) and Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon (AMGL) will stage a three-day camp-out at the House of Representatives beginning on Monday.

Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said about 1,000 farmers will participate in the camp-out from Jan.19-21 in Batasan Complex. He said farmers and fisherfolk will conduct mass lobbying with congressmen starting Monday and update lawmakers on the current situation of farmers and explain to lawmakers the necessity of passing HB 3059.

“We will seek an audience with House Speaker Prospero Nograles. That is one of the objectives of the three-day peasant camp-out in Batasan. We will not entertain any kind of political snub, that’s for sure,” warned Hicap.

On Jan.22 farmers will march from DAR to Mendiola to officially end the four-day peasant march for land and justice. The Pamalakaya leader said the march to Mendiola will be joined by militant groups under the umbrella alliance of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan.

Hicap said some 1,500 placards bearing the face of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will be slashed and burned in Mendiola to show the peasant’s collective outrage against the brutal and anti-rural regime of President Arroyo and the farmers’ resolve to fight for genuine land reform.#

WILFREDO MARBELLA, KMP Deputy Secretary-General
ROY MORILLA, KMP Public Information Officer (+63-905-421-73-05)

For Immediate Release
January 22, 2008

Vice Chairperson/Media Officer, 09095189340
Chairperson, 09215129678

On the 22nd anniversary of Mendiola Massacre
No justice, No peace for the Filipino peasants, people

“No justice! No peace!” is the message of militant youth led by ANAKBAYAN as they joined the Peasant March to mark the 22nd anniversary of the Mendiola Massacre, where unarmed peasants demonstrating for land reform were gunned down by state security forces.

“The demands of the 13 peasants murdered in 1987 remain the same. Unless social justice is attained thru genuine land reform, the victims of the Mendiola Massacre will not find any peace,” according to ANAKBAYAN National Chairperson Ken Ramos.

Ramos lambasted the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, or CARP, as a ‘cure worse than the disease’. “The amount of land monopolized by landlord families has increased, rather than decreased throughout the two decades of CARP implementation. It contains pro-landlord loopholes, such as retention limits, non-distributive options and land conversions that are being exploited by landlords up to this very day,” Ramos said.

Ramos also condemned ‘pseudo-progressive groups’ that are forcing CARP on the people. “Years of implementation have proven that CARP is already defective, so why are they insisting on its extension? It is simply because CARP funds and foreign financial aid for land reform have been their cash cow for a long time. These groups, together with big landlords and compradors, are the ones who benefited from the fake agrarian reform policy, not the peasants,” Ramos added.

“From Aquino to Arroyo, the demand for land by the peasants has been met with brute force. Thus, there is ‘no peace, no justice’ in the countryside.”

“Because of their unwavering resolve to expose the faulty CARP and push genuine agrarian reform, peasants have been victims of state fascism,” Ramos said.

Ramos pointed out that the peasant sector bore the largest number of casualties committed by AFP death squads under Gloria Arroyo’s Oplan Bantay Laya 1 & 2. He further berated the upcoming Balikatan exercises to be held in the Bicol Region this April as another measure to monitor and repress the peasant movement in the region.

“Giving farmers the piece of land they deserve is a starting point to achieve peace in the countryside,” Ramos said. “Genuine land reform is a start to ending the semi-feudal roots of poverty in the Philippines.” ###

Anakpawis Partylist
National Headquarters
Jan 22, 2009

End slavery: Obama promise remains an elusive dream for Filipino peasants

Exactly twenty two years after the bloody massacre of 13 peasant activists in Mendiola, the calls which were met with bullets by the Aquino administration has become even louder as the issue of landlessness worsen under the Arroyo regime.

Anakpawis members from Southern Tagalog, Central Luzon and Metro Manila converged once more in Mendiola to reiterate their call for justice to the victims of Mendiola Massacre and that the demands of peasant for genuine agrarian reform should be met.

According to Anakpawis Spokesperson Joel Maglunsod, “As we witness the coverage and attention that the inauguration of US Pres. Barack Obama, we can’t help but compare their celebration to the centuries-old struggle of the Filipino people against slavery. The peasants, who have long struggled to own the land they till since the Spanish colonial rule, are still at the mercy of mighty landlords. What’s worse is that peasants are being massacred all over the country and justice was never served.”

In 1987, the same year as the Mendiola massacre, the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) was implemented in response to the demands of farmers at the time. But, according to Maglunsod, the law was not meant to really address the root cause of landlessness which is land monopoly but rather to strengthen the control of big landlords over bigger parcels of land. After all, according to him, instead of distributing land, the implementors of CARP have now expanded the reach of their haciendas.

“It is high time for the enactment of a genuine agrarian reform law not the extension of the pro-landlord CARP.” Maglunsod said that the government cannot deny that peasants remain landless despite having spent P20billion of taxpayers’ money. “The need for justice in the form of equitable distribution of land remains,” he added..

This is the reason why the late Anakpawis Rep. Crispin “Ka Bel” Beltran, the poorest yet most revered congressman of our time, filed House Bill 3059 or Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) in November 2007. This, Maglunsod explained, is a law drafted by the collective struggle of the peasantry against slavery and destitution brought about by landlessness.

Anakpawis however believes that the task of explaining genuine agrarian reform will be extremely difficult noting our kind of government and society. Their representative, Cong. Rafael Mariano, who himself is a landless peasant will have to get the signatures of the landlord-dominated congress. This is why they vow to continue fighting for the peasants’ right to own the land they till in the parliament of the streets and wherever necessary. “Freedom from slavery is never free but is earned through the collective struggle of a people who really wants it,” ended Maglunsod. # #

Peasants shake the lower house, call for the passage of GARB

The militant Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP, Peasant Movement of the Philippines) and the peasants from Katipunan ng mga Samahan ng Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (Kasama-TK) coming from Laguna, Rizal, Cavite, Batangas and Quezon, held ground at the gates of the House of Representatives in Batasan, Quezon City. They are joined by Pamalaya-Pilipinas (fisherfolk), Amihan (peasant women), UMA (agri-workers) and support groups. Their mobilization at the lower house is part of their 4-day campaign to commemorate the 22nd anniversary of the Mendiola Massacre that took place during the Aquino regime on January 22, 1987.

“At Mendiola Massacre, 13 peasants were killed when police and military forces opened fire at my fellow peasant demonstrators who were calling for genuine land reform then. Until now, no justice whatsoever were given to them and their families, thus, we are fighting tirelessly for genuine land reform as our commitment and vow to their martyrdom. At the Hose of Representatives, we are fighting for the passage of House Bill 3059 Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB),” opened Antonio Flores, KMP National Auditor and KMP – Southern Mindanao Region Chair.

“We are going to shake this lawmaking institution, 200 peasants from Laguna, Rizal, Cavite, Batangas and Quezon are going to lobby their district lawmakers to enact GARB on Wednesday. We are also visiting Speaker Nograles’ office to discuss why we want GARB to be passed. We believe this is a first at HOR, hundreds of lobbyist at the same time calling for the passage of a same bill,” added Flores.

Moreover, agri-workers from Hacienda Luisita joined the street forum at the gate and discussed regarding their victories and why GARB would be helfpul to their plight. Anakpawis Rep. and KMP Chair Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano also talked about the role of GARB to the overall struggle for genuine land reform.

“We are vigilant about what’s happening inside the house, we are to block any efforts of landlord lawmakers to revive the dead CARP and invent legislative moves protecting their domination over the country’s vast agricultural lands,” noted Flores.

“As peasants from other provinces arrive, we are to hold an in-depth and point-per-point discussion about GARB. We are going to do a “Read Along GARB,” with audiences from the countrysides and other groups and sectors,” Flores added.

KMP, Kasama-TK, Pamalakaya, Amihan, UMA, Anakpawis leaders and members are to stay at the gates of the lower house until January 21 before they proceed to the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR). The next day they would march from DAR towards Mendiola to call for genuine land reform, justice for the Mendiola Massacre victims and the passage of GARB.#

ANTONIO FLORES, KMP National Auditor / KMP – Southern Mindanao Region Chair
ROY MORILLA, KMP Public Information Officer (+63-905-421-73-05)


January 20, 2009
ANTONIO FLORES, KMP National Auditor / KMP – Southern Mindanao Region Chair
ROY MORILLA, KMP Public Information Officer (63-905-421- 7305)

GARB 101
Farmers gave college students a lecture on new agrarian reform bill

Some 82 college students from different state colleges and universities on Monday night got a crash course on GARB (Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill) 101, according to one of the leaders of the militant peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP).

Those who finished the crash course on GARB 101 were freshmen, sophomore and graduating students who trooped to House of the Representatives in Batasan Complex, and were joined by members of militant youth groups Anakbayan, League of Filipino Students (LFS), Student Christian Movement (SCM), the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) and National Union of Students of the Philippines .

KMP spokesperson Antonio Flores and activist poet and former political detainee Axel Pinpin of Tagaytay 5 served as instructors to students from University of the Philippines- Diliman campus (UP-Diliman) , Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) and University of the East-Recto, who spent over one-hour listening to the inputs of resource persons and took down notes on the lecture about GARB.

“The GARB read along project promotes the reading and discussion of GARB otherwise known as House Bill 3059 to inform the Filipino peasantry and the general public that GARB is a social justice piece of legislation, ” the KMP leader said.

Flores read that the heart and soul of GARB or HB 3059 is free land distribution to all landless, land-lacking and willing-to-till farmers all over the country. He said just compensation will be given to landowners, except those involving sullied landholdings, or land holdings acquired to fraud, deception, intimidation, or the use of force or violence, and landholdings whose landowners employ oppressive and exploitative practices on their tenants, agricultural workers or other farmers tilling the land.

The KMP leader said men and women who are willing to till land and make it productive for the common good of the Filipino people are entitled to become beneficiaries under an agrarian reform program created under GARB or HB 3059.

One of the students asked: “Are gays and lesbians will become beneficiaries too under GARB?” Flores said gays and lesbians are also beneficiaries of a land reform program under GARB provided they will till and make the land awarded to them productive for the benefit of the Filipino people.

Flores added that enlightened landlords will be allowed to maintain five hectares under GARB provided that they will till the land and will not employ and exploit landless farmers or agricultural workers.

For his part, poet Pinpin of Tagaytay 5 said the students could further appreciate GARB by integrating themselves with and learning from farmers. He said the best way to understand HB 3059 is to understand the farmers’ plight, aspiration and struggle for land, food and justice.

“This crash course and read along activity on GARB would help although to many of you this remains an abstract. To fully understand GARB, we encourage you to live with the farmers and learn from the farmers,” Pinpin added.

Pinpin, a graduate of agriculture in UP-Los Baños briefly recalled how his integration with the farmers had help him understand the peasants struggle for land and the need to change society, and how the students integration with farmers would help them not only to understand GARB or HB 3059 but to accept the social reality that century old feudal bondage and long-running problem of landlessness in the country remains a fundamental issue that needs to be addressed and resolved.

GARB, which is backed by KMP, Kasama-TK and staunch allies like Pamalakaya fishers group, the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) and Amihan peasant federation was authored by the late Anakpawis party list Rep. Crispin Beltran, and co-authored by Anakpawis party list Rep. Rafael Mariano, Bayan Muna party list Reps. Satur Ocampo and Teodoro Casiño and Gabriela party list lawmakers Liza Maza and Luzviminda Ilagan. #

At the KMP Website, GARB 101 Farmers gave college students a lecture on new agrarian reform bill .

(Photos Courtesy of Arkibong Bayan)

Photos: KMP-Cebu and BAYAN-Central Visays mark the 22nd anniversary of the Mendiola Massacre

January 28, 2009

KMP-Cebu and BAYAN-Central Visays

mark the 22nd anniversary of the Mendiola Massacre

Cebu City

January 22, 2009

The KMP – Cebu, BAYAN – Central Visayas and progressive partylists held a street protest in Cebu to commemorate 22nd year of Mendiola Massacre. The rallyists went to the Department of Energy – VII to condemn off-shore mining in Cebu Strait particularly, in Sibonga and Argao, Cebu. After which, the progressive groups went to the Department of Agrarian Reform – VII to demand genuine agrarian reform, to junk CARP extension and to immediately pass the House Bill 3059 or (Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill). The militants also demanded justice to the victims of Mendiola Massacre and to stop militarization and political persecution.

— Jaime Paglinawan
Vice President for the Visayas
BAYAN – Central Visayas

Food agency cuts over 1,000 jobs Redundancy, not financial crisis, NFA clarifies

January 26, 2009

By Riza T. Olchondra
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 05:36:00 01/26/2009

Filed Under: Unemployment, Government offices & agencies

MANILA, Philippines—The National Food Authority (NFA) said over the weekend it would abolish 1,242 redundant positions as part of its rationalization plan.

That amounts to a 25-percent reduction in its current 4,983 work force.

NFA spokesperson Rex Estoperez said there was no cause for alarm because the rationalization plan had been in the works since 2003 and affected employees have until March 24 to decide on their options.

He said employees in redundant positions would be given other vacant jobs if they are qualified and willing to undergo retraining.

Estoperez said there were 679 vacant positions.

In cases where job skills and positions don’t match (for example, for redundant laborers who may not be able to meet standards for a clerk position), the NFA has recommended to the Department of Budget and Management that their positions be made “co-terminus” with their stay.

“When they go, their positions will be delisted and we will not get a replacement for that position,” he said.

Estoperez said many NFA employees were nearing retirement age and some were considering leaving the government service to start their own businesses or relocate abroad.

Those wanting to avail of early retirement or severance packages (for non-retirables who want to leave), depending on years of service, have until March 24 to apply, he said.

Not due to meltdown

Estoperez said he still could not say how many employees would opt for early retirement.

“I suppose we will know for sure by March,” he said.

Estoperez clarified that the rationalization plan was not a reaction to the global financial meltdown but a long-standing plan.

“The NFA has been around since 1972 and since times have changed, we also need to make internal changes to become leaner and more efficient,” he said.

Not all positions that were needed before are necessary now, and as the NFA evolves it may need to create new positions not yet on the existing payroll, he said.

“But of course our leaner staff would be no less capable of managing our mandate (to ensure food sufficiency). The rationalization plan has gone through a long approval process and the government would not have approved it if we would be shorthanded later,” Estoperez said.

Executive Order No. 366 or the Government’s Rationalization Plan aims to reduce costs and increase the efficiency of government agencies.


My Take:


How about the many Undersecretaries, Assistant Secretaries and Advisers in Malacanan?

No PDEA post but Palparan was briefed

January 26, 2009

By Christian V. Esguerra
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:36:00 01/26/2009

Filed Under: Illegal drugs

MANILA, Philippines—Although he hasn’t been asked to join the war on drugs, retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan has been briefed on the workings of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency by no less than PDEA chief Dionisio Santiago, himself a retired general.

Santiago said he could make Palparan his deputy for “special concerns” in case the controversial former military officer is appointed to the PDEA by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

“We will discuss with him how best we can utilize him at PDEA,” Santiago told the Philippine Daily Inquirer Sunday in a phone interview.

Santiago said he gave Palparan an overview of what PDEA does during a briefing last week. Afterward, he said, the retired general “seemed to like” the idea of joining the agency.

Prior to the briefing, Santiago said President Arroyo had phoned him to tell him to expect a call from Palparan.

Incoming Press Secretary Cerge Remonde, however, said Sunday Palparan’s appointment to PDEA or the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) was not set in stone.

“It’s not yet sure so to make any conclusions at this point would be speculative,” Remonde said in an interview over Radyo ng Bayan.

Muntinlupa Rep. Ruffy Biazon on Saturday opposed Palparan’s possible appointment to PDEA, saying it would “only draw criticism and dilute whatever public support the government has in the fight against illegal drugs.”

Palparan had been branded a “berdugo” (butcher) by left-leaning groups that accused him of being behind the alleged abduction, torture and execution of their comrades when he was in the military service.

Asked about Palparan’s spotty human rights record, Santiago said he thought the retired general would do well in the fight against illegal drugs.

“You give me people, I’ll utilize them and judge them according to how they will perform,” Santiago said.

He said DDB Chair Vicente “Tito” Sotto III had also expressed interest in getting Palparan on the drugs board representing a non-government organization.

Santiago said Palparan’s network in the communities would benefit the PDEA. He said Palparan could do “advocacy” work and warn the public about the evils of drug abuse.

‘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.

Militant labor center slams AFP’s dirty tactics to red-tag leaders

January 23, 2009

Kilusang Mayo Uno – southern Mindanao region (KMU-SMR) condemns in strongest terms the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for its statement that KMU-SMR vice president Omar Bantayan and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Southern Mindanao secretary general Jeppie Ramada have been seen in the company of the New People’s Army in Compostela Valley Province.

We believe that this is not merely a case of rumor-mongering on the part of Major Medel Aguilar of the 5th Civil Relations Group of the AFP. Such is part of a grand plan under the Oplan Bantay Laya 2 (OBL2) to facilitate whatever devious schemes they have against our leaders and legal political organizations.

Omar Bantayan, who also serves as the vice [resident for Mindanao of the Anakpawis partylist, has been designated to take care of our unions. His presence might not be seen during press conferences and rallies since he has to hop from union to another for both Socsargen and the Davao regions. With these, Bantayan would frequent the offices of the Department of Labor and Employment and its attached agencies in relation with the cases that are being faced by the unions.

Recently, in his capacity as a member of the national executive committee of the KMU, he attended the 1st Industrial Summit upon the invitation of councilor Edgar Ibuyan of Davao City. He was instrumental in the formation of the Davao Workers’ Alliance which was conceived during that summit.

Aside from looking into and helping our unions with their respective Collective Bargaining Negotiations, Certification Elections and other local struggles, ka Omar prepares the campaign and propaganda materials for the labor center. From time to time, he would deal with media personalities and outfits, other advocates and political leaders to explain and articulate issues concerning the workers and the Filipino people.

It is not a surprise to us that both were targeted since they have figured in many protest actions in the past. Both, Bantayan and Ramada, were members of the “Davao 8″, the 8 Davao militant leaders whom the CIDG attempted to charge with rebellion after the declaration of a State of National Emergency in 2006.

Gunmen, believed to be hired killers, also attempted to kill Bantayan in 2006.

We are outraged by this desperate move of the US-Arroyo Regime and its mercenary AFP. They want to salvage what is left of the botched and failed OBL2. Scenarios such as extra-judicial killings and the filing of trumped up charges against Bantayan and Ramada are not far-fetched. The regime employed such dirty tactics in southern Tagalog wherein they accused leaders of legal organizations through fabricated charges.

One of the victims of such machination is Atty. Remigio Saladero Jr., KMU chief legal counsel, who was arrested and now detained somewhere in Mindoro. We caution the public to be vigilant since the fascist machinery of the Arroyo regime in the region has something tucked under its sleeves.

We will not be cowed by such fascist attacks. All the more, we shall intensify our campaign for the advancement of the people’s interests. We shall mount protests for the toiling masses’ livelihood, land, wages, jobs and rights. The Arroyo war machine shall not be able to stop us.#

Group opposes RP-US war games in Bicol

January 22, 2009

By Ephraim Aguilar, Roy Gersalia
Southern Luzon Bureau
First Posted 00:06:00 01/22/2009

Filed Under: Regional authorities

LEGAZPI CITY – The many unsolved cases of sexual abuse of Filipino women by US servicemen should be reason enough to call off planned joint military exercises between Philippine and US forces in Bicol, according to a militant women’s party.

Jenelyn Nagrampa, secretary general of Bikolana Gabriela, said her group filed 97 cases of rape and sexual assault against American soldiers in the former US bases in Clark and Subic.

She said 15 of the victims in these cases were children.

Many of the cases were filed prior to the closure of the US bases.

Nagrampa said when the US military bases were still operating, more than 3,000 cases of abuse of women and children were filed by various sectors and individuals against US servicemen in Clark from 1980 to 1988.

“Sadly, justice was not served to any of the victims. None of the cases has been resolved. Others have not even been reported,” she said.

“The public should be reminded that there was more than just one Nicole,” she added.

Nicole was the victim in the much-publicized Subic rape case in 2005, wherein US Marine Daniel Smith was convicted while three others were acquitted.

The Subic rape case is considered a landmark case, being the first conviction among over 3,000 cases filed against US servicemen in the Philippines.

She said Gabriela would push for a resolution in the House of Representatives urging the government to ban US troops from coming to Bicol.

The annual joint military exercises, which Philippine Army officials said would be composed of humanitarian projects, will be staged in three Bicol provinces – Albay, Masbate and Sorsogon – in April.

She said if Balikatan pushed through in Bicol, it was likely to increase the number of cases of women abuse, prostitution and spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

Earlier, Bishop Lucilo Quiambao of the Diocese of Legazpi expressed opposition to the coming of US troops in Bicol.

Nagrampa said aside from the resolution to be filed in the House, Gabriela will also launch an awareness campaign among women in areas covered by the Balikatan.

Tessa Lopez, spokesperson of Bayan-Bikol (Bagong Alyansang Makabayan), said a massive rally was set on Jan. 22 and expected to coincide with the reported arrival of US Ambassador Kristy Kenney in Bicol.

A Sorsogon-wide group calling itself “Sorsoganon United Movement Against Balikatan at Para sa Kapayapaan” or “Sumaba ka” (Speak out) was launched over the weekend to seek a stop to the planned Balikatan exercises in the Bicol region.

2008: Workers Under Attack, but Gains were Made

January 21, 2009

The year 2008 was for the most part a bad year for Filipino workers, as their rights were under attack. But there were some rays of light.


The labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU or May 1st Movement) suffered a hard blow with the arrest of its chief legal counsel, Remigio Saladero, Jr., at his own home where he has his law office in Antipolo City last Oct. 23.

Saladero – who is also with the Pro-Labor Legal Assistance Center (PLACE) and was traveling to the city almost everyday from his home in the suburbs of Rizal, while juggling most of PLACE’s over 700 cases – had been implicated in the March 3, 2006 ambush by the New People’s Army (NPA) against the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Oriental Mindoro. He is among 72 activists from Southern Tagalog – including a polio victim and a diabetic long confined to a wheelchair – facing multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder charges in connection with the said ambush.

Besides this, Saladero is also among 27 Southern Tagalog activists facing arson charges in relation to the torching of a Globe tower in Lemery, Batangas last Aug. 2.

Saladero’s arrest is clearly part of what the non-government Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) has called the “abuse” of laws, regulations and courts to attack the rights of workers.

CTUHR documented a total of 12 unjust arrests of workers and trade unionists, involving 36 victims, from January to November 2008. Seven of these, CTUHR data further show, took place from October to November alone.

Workers press for P125 across-the-board wage increase.(Photo by Kilusang Mayo Uno)

There were also six recorded cases from January to November last year in which workers and trade unionists were slapped with criminal charges either due to their political beliefs or in connection with labor disputes. These involved 45 victims all in all.

It is not only the “legal offensives” that the labor movement had to put up with in 2008 though: it also had to face killings and attempted killings.

The labor movement lost three people last year: Gerardo Cristobal, former president of the EMI-Yazaki union in Cavite; Maximo Baranda, former chairman of the Compostela Workers Association (CWA) in Davao del Norte; and Rolando Antolihao, a worker of Global Fruits/Lapanday Food Corporation. Their deaths brought to 89 the number of workers and trade unionists killed since President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo assumed power, through a popular uprising, in 2001.

Arnold Cerdo, an organizer of the Cabuyao Workers Alliance (CAWAL) and vice president of the Sensuous Unified Labor Organization-Independent (SULO-Independent) in Cabuyao, Laguna was the victim of an attempted killing.

There were those who, while “fortunate” enough not to have been killed, were abducted and tortured. Among them is Melvin Yares, an organizer of Kahugpungan sa Kabus sa Basak (KAKABAS), an informal workers’ group in Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu. He was forced to claim to being an NPA returnee and to spread black propaganda against the party-list group Anakpawis (Toiling Masses), the urban poor group Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay), and other organizations.

Other assaults on workers’ civil and political rights include union-busting, of which CTUHR documented 11 cases last year; attacks on picket lines (three in 2008); and violent dispersals of workers’ actions (five in 2008, involving 1,025 victims).

The attacks on workers’ civil and political rights took place against a backdrop in which their economic, social and cultural rights are also being violated.

The following table from the government’s National Wages and Productivity Commission (NWPC), which was posted on the agency’s website last Dec. 22, shows that wages have eroded by as much as more than P100 in some regions since 2000, which is used as the base year.

CTUHR, using data from the NWPC, has estimated that workers’ wages are pegged at around only 34 percent of the family living wage for a family of six – the size of the average Filipino family.

CTUHR also recorded a total of 58 cases of inhumane working conditions – a 62-percent increase from the 22 reported in 2007.

Still, not all is lost

But while 2008 for the most part was a bad year for Filipino workers, there were some rays of light. The unions of Bleustar Manufacturing, Inc. and Triumph International won their struggles for just wages and benefits, and against sexual harassment – proving that even at a time when the labor movement is confronting attacks left and right, the old formula of solid unity and organizing can bring substantial gains to the working people. (

UP Students May Lose Representation in Highest Governing Body

January 21, 2009

Additional requirements for the selection of the student representative to the Board of Regents – as stipulated in the new UP Charter- have endangered the representation of students in the highest policy-making body of the country’s premier state university.


Since 1987, a lone student representative sits as an official member of the University of the Philippines’ (UP) Board of Regents (BOR). From that year until 1997, the Katipunan ng mga Sangguniang Mag-aaral sa UP (Kasama sa UP or Association of Student Councils in UP), a system-wide alliance of UP student councils, selects the Student Regent from among themselves. In 1997, the General Assembly of Student Councils (GASC) formulated and approved the Codified Rules for the Student Regent Selection (CRSRS). For more than a decade, the CRSRS was used as a guideline in the selection of the SR.

In April 2008, the Republic Act 9500 or the UP Charter was enacted. Section 12 letter g of the Charter states: “One Student Regent, to serve for a term of one (1) year, chosen by the students from their ranks in accordance with rules and qualifications approved in a referendum by the students.”

The referendum for the approval of the CRSRS has been set from January 26 to 31 of this year.

In an interview with the Philippine Collegian, Theodore Te, UP Vice President for Legal Affairs said that for the referendum to take effect, a voter turnout of 50 percent plus one of all bonafide UP students must be reached.

Logistical nightmare

In an interview with Bulatlat, Student Regent Shahana Abdulwahid said Te did not cite any basis for his proposed 50 percent plus one formula. She said that voter turnout for UP student council elections ranges only from 30 to 40 percent. Thus, she said, reaching the required percentage of voter turnout for a referendum to take effect – even before a Student Regent could be selected – would be very difficult.

Besides, she said, the referendum is a ‘logistical nightmare.’

She said that not all of the 55,00 students in the entire UP system know the existence of the SR. “How would you encourage them to vote in the referendum? They must first understand the relevance of having a student representative in the BOR.”

Abdulwahid said that a failure of the referendum is tantamount to losing the lone student representative to the BOR. “There would be no rules to start with,” she said.

Abdulwahid’s term should have ended in December last year. She has been compelled to hold over until a new SR has been selected.

She said further, “In a way, [the referendum] challenges the present rules [governing the selection of SR).”

Abdulwahid said the referendum places the Office of the Student Regent (OSR) in a disadvantageous position.

Proposed amendments

Abdulwahid related that the proposal for a referendum came from one student leader in UP Manila. She refused to name the proponent. She said that before the enactment of the UP Charter, they opposed the inclusion of that particular provision.

Abdulwahid revealed that ‘pseudo-progressive student organizations’ in UP have been proposing amendments to the CRSRS but were rejected by the General Assembly of Student Councils (GASC). She said the same groups wanted to include their proposed amendments to the questions to be submitted in the referendum. She said that these groups see the referendum as an opportunity to push for their amendments.

Among the proposed amendments include the additional academic requirement for SR; deletion of Kasama sa UP; and some proposed changes in the voting mechanism.

“If their proposed amendments have merit, why are these being rejected? The proponents could not prove that such amendments are needed,” Abdulwahid said.

Abdulwahid said she has been accused of being partisan because of her affiliation with STAND UP, a political party in UP. She said however that only six out of 51 student councils in the entire UP system demanded for the inclusion of the proposed amendments to the final questions. “They are a minority. I would be questioned if I accommodate their demand.”

Historical victory

She said the OSR is a product of the long struggle of students for student representation. “As the biggest constituency in the university, the students need to have a voice in the implementation of policies affecting them.”

In an article, JPaul Manzanilla, former UP Student Regent and former chairperson of the University Student Council (USC) in UP Diliman, said that from 1908 to 1968, university policies are determined without the student population’s full knowledge. It was only in 1969 that a “student observer” had been allowed to observe the proceedings of the BOR. From 1970 until 1972, then President Ferdinand Marcos appointed the student council chairpersons as regular members of the BOR concurrent with their student council tenure.

Manzanilla’s article stated that in the early 80s, the Kasama sa UP campaigned for the reinstatement of the position of the student regent. The alliance rejected Marcos’ hand in the appointment of the student regent and demanded that the SR must be selected by the students themselves.

In 1987, then President Corazon Aquino issued Executive Order No. 204 modifying the composition of the BOR to include one student representative.

In another interview, Alvin Peters, national president of the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP), the biggest alliance of student councils in the country, said the school administration must not intervene in the selection of the SR.

Peters deemed that the requirement for a referendum is an imposition provided for in the UP Charter. He said it is a threat to the student movement.


The NUSP leader said the referendum would have serious implications to the gains of the student movement.

Peters said that other state universities and colleges (SUCs) may also opt for a referendum, thereby undermining the existing rules in the selection of student representatives in highest policy-making bodies of universities. “The UP referendum may be used as a pretext to intervene in the existing mechanism of students to choose their own representatives,” he explained.

Peters said the historical context of student representation in state universities’ highest policy making bodies must be taken into account. “It is a product of a long struggle by progressive student leaders. It is part of the historic struggle of students for democratic reforms.”

Peters challenged the UP students to defend their right to representation. He said the existing rules must be upheld as a reaffirmation of the historic victory of students.(

Photos: Images of Gaza massacre and destruction – Part 2

January 16, 2009

Images of Gaza massacre and destruction – Part 2

January 10, 2009

Gaza’s day of carnage – 40 dead as Israelis bomb two UN schools
• Bloodiest attack of campaign so far
• Obama breaks silence on conflict

Israel’s assault on Gaza has exacted the bloodiest toll of civilian lives yet, when the bombing of UN schools being used as refugee centres and of housing killed more than 50 people, including an entire family of seven young children.

The UN protested at a “complete absence of accountability” for the escalating number of civilian deaths in Gaza, saying “the rule of the gun” had taken over.
Doctors in Gaza said more than 40 people died, including children, in what appears to be the biggest single loss of life of the campaign when Israeli bombs hit al-Fakhora school, in Jabaliya refugee camp, while it was packed with hundreds of people who had fled the fighting.

Most of those killed were in the school playground and in the street, and the dead and injured lay in pools of blood. Pictures on Palestinian TV showed walls heavily marked by shrapnel and bloodstains, and shoes and shredded clothes scattered on the ground. Windows were blown out.

Hours before, three young men who were cousins died when the Israelis bombed Asma elementary school in Gaza City. They were among 400 people who had sought shelter there after fleeing their homes in Beit Lahiya, in northern Gaza.
Abed Sultan, 20, a student, and his cousins, Rawhi and Hussein Sultan, labourers aged 22, died. Abed Sultan’s father, Samir, said the bodies were so mangled that he could not tell his son from the cousins. “We came to the school when the Israelis warned us to leave,” he said. “We hoped it would be safe. We were 20 in one room. We had no electricity, no blankets, no food.

“Suddenly we heard a bomb that shook the school. Windows smashed. Children started to scream. A relative came and told me one of my sons was killed. I found my son’s body with his two cousins. They were cut into pieces by the shell.”

The UN was particularly incensed over targeting of the schools, because Israeli forces knew they were packed with families as they had ordered them to get out of their homes with leaflet drops and loudspeakers. It said it had identified the schools as refugee centres to the Israeli military and provided GPS coordinates.

Israel accused Hamas of using civilians as cover, and said the Islamist group could stop the assault on Gaza by ending its rocket attacks on Israel.

The Palestinian authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, last night delivered an impassioned plea to the UN security council to act immediately to stop the Israeli operation, which he described as a “catastrophe” for his people. Israel has agreed a “humanitarian corridor” to allow Palestinians to get essential goods.

The rising casualty toll, more than 640 Palestinians killed since the assault began 12 days ago, gave fresh impetus to diplomatic efforts. The White House offered its first hint of concern at Israel’s actions by calling on it to avoid civilian deaths. The president-elect, Barack Obama, broke his silence by saying he was “deeply concerned” about civilian casualties on both sides. He said he would have “plenty to say” about the crisis after his swearing in.

Gordon Brown said the Middle East was facing its “darkest moment yet” but hoped a ceasefire could be arranged soon.

Explaining its attack on al-Fahora school, the Israeli military claimed that a mortar was fired from the playground, and it responded with a single shell whichkilled known Hamas fighters; the resulting explosion was compounded because Hamas “booby-trapped the school”. Two Hamas militants were among the dead, both part of a rocket-launching cell.

The head of the UN Palestinian refugee agency, John Ging, said three shells landed at the perimeter of the school. “It was entirely inevitable if artillery shells landed in that area there would be a high number of casualties,” he said.

He said UN staff vetted those Palestinians who sought shelter at the school. “So far we’ve not had violations by militants of our facilities,” he said, though responding to questions he accepted there had been clashes between Hamas and the Israeli army in the area.

Earlier in the day, Ging visited Gaza’s hospital and was shocked at the scale of civilian casualties. “What you have in this hospital is the consequences of political failure and the complete absence of any accountability for actions that are being taken. It’s the rule of the gun now, and it has to stop,” he said.

At least 12 of one family, seven children aged from one to 12, three women and two men, were killed in an air strike on their house in Gaza City. Nine others were believed trapped.

Israel continues to insist most of those killed by its forces are Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters – although its assertion it is going to extraordinary lengths to target only “terrorists” has been undermined by a tank firing on a building used by Israeli troops, killing four of them, on Monday.

Another soldier was killed yesterday as Israeli forces continued their push into Gaza City. Tanks and troops also moved on the southern town of Khan Yunis.

The invasion has yet to achieve what Israel says is its goal of stopping rocket attacks. Hamas fired more than 30 into Israel yesterday, one to within 20 miles of Tel Aviv at Gadera, wounding a baby.

The de facto Hamas prime minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, issued a statement from hiding, saying that the Gazans would defeat Israel. “[Israel] has failed to force the population to surrender,” he said.


UN: Gaza faces ‘alarming’ humanitarian situation
01/01/2009 | 07:20 AM

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UNITED NATIONS — Gaza’s 1.5 million residents are facing an “alarming” humanitarian situation under constant Israeli bombardment, with the main power plant shut down, overcrowded hospitals struggling to cope and very limited food supplies, UN officials said Wednesday.

UN humanitarian chief John Holmes said the power plant shut down Tuesday because Israel has blocked fuel delivery through the main pipeline since Dec. 26. This has forced hospitals to use generators, which have limited fuel supplies, and left many of the 650,000 people in central and northern Gaza with power cuts of 16 hours a day or more, he said.

“On the humanitarian side,” Holmes said, “the situation remains alarming.”

“Hospitals are obviously still struggling very much to cope with the number of casualties. We have continued to get some medical supplies in and to help them cope, but this remains difficult and fragile,” he told reporters at UN headquarters.

Karen Abu Zayd, commissioner of the UN Relief and Works Agency which helps Palestinian refugees, told reporters by video link from Gaza that the agency, known as UNRWA, has not distributed any food for two weeks because of the shortage of supplies and the Israeli bombardment.

“I think that means that 20,000 people a day have been without food that they expect — and probably is the bulk of what they get. … It’s not just the flour, but it’s the protein source, either lentils or tinned meat and the sugar and milk powder and oil,” she said.

“So people are doing pretty badly. Everyone we know is sharing whatever they have, not just with their families but with their neighbors,” Abu Zayd said. “People are not eating what they used to. That’s simply what’s happening.”

“We haven’t seen widespread hunger. We do see for the very first time — I’ve been here for eight years— … people going through the rubbish dumps looking for things, people begging which is quite a new phenomenon as well,” she said.

Holmes said the Kerem Shalom crossing from Israel continues to be open, with 55 trucks of food and medical supplies and five ambulances getting into Gaza on Tuesday, and about 60 trucks on Wednesday. That compares to 125 truckloads a day in October 2008 and 475 truckloads a day in May 2007, just before Hamas took control of Gaza, he said.

Some medical supplies, ambulances and generators also got into Gaza from Egypt through the Rafah border crossing, he said.

A spokesman for President George W. Bush, Gordon Johndroe, told reporters in Texas that American officials are seeing “a good flow” of medical and food supplies into Gaza.

Abu Zayd stressed, however, that UNRWA needs 100 trucks of flour a day to meet the needs of refugees. But she said Israel has closed down the Karni crossing, the main gateway for cargo into Gaza where it is normally delivered, for security reasons.

She said UNRWA was told by the Israeli humanitarian coordinator that all other crossings aren’t open because “there is intelligence about serious preparations for security operations.”

“We wonder if it’s serious enough to really keep things completely closed and to keep people on their edge of subsistence,” she said.

Holmes said “the major needs, apart from medical supplies, remain … grain and wheat flour and fuel — also cash would be very helpful to enable people to buy supplies.”

He said the Israelis have been “cooperative in principle about these supplies but we need to see more results.”

UNRWA launched an emergency appeal on Tuesday for US$34 million for food, medical supplies and other goods, he said, and “there are good indications that the donors will respond generously.”

On the infrastructure side, Holmes said damage has been limited so far, but two major wells have been hit along with schools and some UN facilities. Five mosques identified with Hamas were also hit by Israeli bombs, Abu Zayd said.

Both Holmes and Abu Zayd said the bombing has taken a psychological toll.

Abu Zayd said UN staff members “try to tell their children that the bombing is a wedding and somebody’s celebrating.”

“The children, of course, know that there’s something wrong because they’re not going to school,” she said. “They were supposed to take their exams this week.”

“Everyone is just traumatized by what’s happening each day, and also their worries about the future, because they don’t know what’s going to happen next… they’re just expecting the worst,” Abu Zayd said.- AP


**Stills from the Youtube video at:

Arkibong Bayan

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

Youth forms HR alliance

January 12, 2009

BAGUIO CITY — The young generation of Baguio is ready to face the new year with the resolve to forge a tough group of human rights defenders come 2009.

“Our resolve to provide avenues for the promotion of human rights by the first quarter of 2009 is as ready as our fireworks for this new year,” said Anjo Rey Cerdeña, member of the committee formed to prepare for the first general assembly of Young Defenders.

He says their generation has read, heard and seen so much about the country’s poor human rights record in the past years. “It is a record too dirty to reflect our generation’s history. We thought, it is about time we forge a wide network of young and fresh defenders who would take on the task of countering this bad record,” he said.

Before going home for vacation, the committee had already mapped out preparations for the assembly. These include the release of promotional materials and the first wave of invitations through campus visits early next year.

“Human rights is a matter of life and dignity. It is everybody’s concern and we aim to involve a broad spectrum of the youth sector in this cause,” Cerdeña said. This spectrum, according to him, includes indigenous youth, students, out-of-school youth, civil society, religious youth and much more.

The initiative is a brainchild of the Indigenous Peoples Day Youth Coordinating Committee which gathered different indigenous youth groups in the city to learn about the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in line with the celebration of its first year last August 9. Months later and 60 years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights last December 10, they meet again for the Youth Leadership Training on Human Rights Education and Advocacy. This is where the preparations for a general assembly was formally launched.

“It is amazing to finally have this initiative that will redeem us from the grim record of our country in human rights. With this, we are sure to start the new year with a bang,” Cerdeña claims. # IPDYCC Release

Cordi land issues book off the press

January 12, 2009

BAGUIO CITY — A new book on the Cordillera land question is just off the press.

TI DAGA KET BIAG. The book contains five papers from the first Cordillera Multi-Sectoral Land Congress in March 1983, four papers from the second in July 1994, and four from the third in December 2001. It also features 12 full-color thematic maps of the Cordillera region. Photo by Noel Godinez

The Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) announced on December 20 the publication of Ti Daga Ket Biag (Land is Life), a 232-page compilation of selected papers from three Cordillera multi-sectoral land congresses in 1983, 1994 and 2001.

According to Joanna K. Cariño, CPA Advisory Council member, Ti Daga Ket Biag represents the long-standing “effort being put in by the people’s movement in the Cordillera in trying to clarify and to help in the eventual resolution of various land issues in the region.”

“While the data in many of the early papers may already be outdated, and there has been new research conducted since we decided to publish these in order to put on record and make available to the wider public the CPA’s efforts through the years to study and clarify some of the complicated land issues in the Cordillera,” Cariño said.

With a total of 13 papers from all three land congresses spanning 18 years, the book contains five papers from the first Cordillera Multi-Sectoral Land Congress in March 1983; four papers from the second in July 1994; and four from the third in December 2001.

Said congress papers and proceedings were earlier published in 1984, in the collection Dakami ya Nan Dagami, now out of print.

The book also features 12 full-color 8.5×11” thematic maps of the Cordillera region, which summarizes an immense volume of data such as topography, population density, ethnolinguistic distribution, land classification and natural resources, among others.

Cariño said the book is dedicated “to all the martyrs of the Cordillera peoples’ struggle in the defense of land.” She also said missing CPA leader James Balao had been deeply involved in the past land congresses and that his spirit “pervades this publication.”

A CPA regional officer said Ti Daga Ket Biag is now being distributed to non-governmental organizations and offices, schools, libraries, bookstores and other commercial and non-commercial outlets.

Two formal launch dates for the book are being scheduled for January, one in Baguio City and another in Manila. # Pio Verzola Jr.(NorDis)

A story I will tell the world

January 8, 2009

Ilena Saturay

I AM just one of those faceless two thousand Filipinos who left the country that day, one of the two thousand Filipinos who leave everyday, and just one of the seven million Filipinos who had to work overseas. There wasn’t anything special the morning I left: People went to their everyday work, the masses of the poor were still hungry and burdened of poverty while they worked to make ends meet and the small group of rich people were eating breakfast served by their katulong, their maid/s. Beyond my circle of family and friends, my departure was left unnoticed. But I hope the story behind my departure wouldn’t be unnoticed, because it is the story of so many others.

“It could have been me but instead it was you,” my father often sings the song of Holly Near. “And it may be me dear sisters and brothers before we are through.”

He was invited by Friends of the Earth to give a speaking tour to Indonesia and the Netherlands about mining in Mindoro. By that time, the government had sent more military battalions to Mindoro. A few days before my father left, human rights organizations organized a fact-finding mission to investigate reports of abductions, killings, disappearances and burning of properties by the military. A close friend of his, Eden Marcellana, was one of those who investigated. He asked her if he could come with the fact-finding team. Eden Marcellana told him not to go because it was too dangerous, and to just tell their story to world. So my father went to Indonesia and the Netherlands to speak about the situation in Mindoro.

On the day that he left, he received news that Eden Marcellana and Eddie Gumanoy, who was also with the team, were found dead. The Department of Justice dismissed the charges although there are many witnesses that point to the military as her abductors and killers.

“It could have been me but instead it was you,” my father often sings. “But if you can fight for freedom I can too.”

When he was supposed to go home, back to the Philippines from the Netherlands, a friend called him and told him that it was too dangerous for him to go back. The military is looking for him, too. He should better stay in the Netherlands and tell their story to the world.

He applied for political asylum here in the Netherlands. After three years of being away from us and his home, he received a confirmation that he can stay here as a political refugee. After three years, we, too, had to leave the Philippines. More and more political activists were being killed or abducted. During the Arroyo regime alone, there were at least 900 documented political killings.

Life abroad is not as easy and sweet as a lot of people think. There is no easy money for ordinary people like us. You have to work. And in a place like these where you have to learn the language first, you have to work extra hard.

When we arrived here, we had to stay in an asylum center for a week until our papers and documents were processed and until we were allowed to stay here with our father. That place was like a prison for us. We were not allowed to leave the big room for the whole day. When we had to leave the room to get some things from our bags (which were locked up in another room), we had to be accompanied by guards. We stayed with other political refugees. Some of them were allowed to stay here, and some of them were deported to the place where danger impatiently awaits them. We were clearly not the only one. I often wonder what happened to them. What was happening in the Philippines was clearly not happening only in the Philippines.

Last October 26, we attended a commemoration of the Schiphol fire that happened in 2005. There was a fire in a detention center where they keep migrants who were awaiting deportation, locked up like they were criminals just because they don’t or can’t have the proper paper as evidence that they are worthy to live here. Eleven of them died. During the commemoration, I saw a lot of people like me. Behind their faces were different stories of why and how they came here in the Netherlands, waiting to be told to the world.

We are hoping to come back home. But while we can’t, we will do what we can do to improve the world so that the two thousand Filipinos who leave the country don’t have to leave anymore, so that the people of the other countries just like the Philippines don’t have to leave their own countries anymore because of economical and political reasons. Telling our story to the world would be a good start.

“. . . but if you can fight for freedom I can too,” we often sing.

Ilena Rose Saturay is the 15-year-old daughter of Dr. Glorioso “Jun” Saturay, granddaughter of the venerable anti-martial law veteran Louie Saturay. The article was published recently in Munting Nayon, a Filipino magazine in the Netherlands.

Anti-Mining Activist Gunned Down in ComVal

January 6, 2009

An anti-large scale mining activist was killed by unidentified men yesterday, 23 December 2008, at New Bataan, Compostela Valley Province, environmental activist group Panalipdan-Southern Mindanao Region (SMR) today reported.

At around 7:00 in the evening, an unidentified men brutally killed 39-year old environmental activist leader Fernando “Dodong” Sarmiento, Secretary General of Panalipdan-New Bataan, at Purok 1, Barangay Cabinuangan, New Bataan, Compostela Valley Province, said Panalipdan-SMR spokesperson Francis Morales, citing reports from the field.

“Dodong Sarmiento sustained 5 gun-shot wounds that resulted to his death”, Morales said.

“We condemn in the strongest term the brutal killing of Dodong Sarmiento, who is known for leading the rural folks of New Bataan in calling for the stoppage of the operations of PhilCo Mining Corporation, the planned exploration of other mining corporations and mining-instigated militarization under the command of 10th Infantry Division, citing as reasons for their resistance on the destruction that large-scale mining operations brought on people’s livelihoods and local ecosystems”, Morales stressed.

“The environmental group believes that Sarmiento was killed by military elements due to his advocacies. Last 16 July 2008, Sarmiento was interrogated by the elements of 28th Infantry Batallion, Philippine Army (IBPA) under Lt. Wendel Ariola for his active involvement in environmental campaigns and was accused as rebel supporter. Then on 22 July 2008, the military posted on its website falsely claiming that Sarmiento was a rebel surrenderee”, Morales divulged.

“This is a typical mode of operation of the military in implementing the Oplan Bantay Laya 2 in the rural areas of Compostela Valley wherein activist leaders were maligned and demonized first before being killed”, Morales furthered.

The Panalipdan-SMR leader said that Sarmiento is the first environmental activist in Southern Mindanao killed after the Arroyo administration formed the Investment Defense Force (IDF) and when the 10th ID chief Major General Leo Jogy Fojas declared that New Bataan is the rebel’s center operations which is actually meant to wipe-out all types of opposition against mining aggression.

Under the Arroyo regime, 24 environmental activists have been killed which indicate the rise on human rights violations in relation to opposition to mining projects, based on the documentation of Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment.

The Arroyo administration and the 10th ID should be held accountable the killing of Sarmiento. This is an administration which aggressively promotes plunder of mineral resources and sell-out of our national patrimony to foreign firms at the expense of people’s welfare and fragile ecosystems, Morales said.(PinoyPress)

UP Academic Employees Clinch First CNA; Workers Get their Third

December 31, 2008

Academic employees of the University of the Philippines (UP) were able to clinch their first ever Collective Negotiation Agreement (CNA) with the UP administration just before the University’s Centennial celebration ended.

The All-UP Workers Union also signed their third CNA with the UP administration since 2001.


Academic employees of the University of the Philippines (UP) were able to clinch their first ever Collective Negotiation Agreement (CNA) with the UP administration just before the University’s Centennial celebration ended.

The All-UP Workers Union (AUWU) also signed their third CNA with the UP administration since 2001.

Officers and members of both the All-UP Academic Employees Union (AUAEA) and the AUWU from UP campuses in Diliman, Manila, Los Baños and Baguio witnessed the simultaneous signing of the two Collective Negotiation Agreements (CNA), December 12 at the Quezon Hall in UP Diliman.

Dr. Judy Taguiwalo, head of the AUAEA negotiation panel, national vice chairperson for faculty of the union, and newly-elected faculty regent, said the signing of the first CNA is a victory for the faculty, Research, Extension and Professional Staff (REPS) and other academic personnel of the university.

Dr. Ermelinda Roman, UP president and Dr. Erlinda Castro-Palaganas, national president of the AUAEA, led the signing of the CNA.

Dr. Ermelinda Roman (R) and Dr. Erlinda Castro-Palaganas sign the Collective Negotiation Agreement. (Photo by R. Olea)

Other members of the union’s negotiation panel include Dr. Leticia Tojos, Dr. Melania Lagahit-Abad, Dr. Teodora Mendoza, Prof. Roland Simbulan, Dr. Ramon Guillermo, Ms. Guillermina Panizales and Dr. Simplicio Medina.

The UP administration panel is headed by Prof. Theodore Te, vice president for legal affairs and Dr. Arlene Samaniego. Other members are Dr. Orlino Talens and Dr. Roberto Rañola.


The AUWU signed their 3rd CNA with the UP administration. Arnulfo Anoos, national president of the AUWU and Dr. Roman led the signing of the CNA.

Other members of the union’s negotiation panel include Jossel Ebesate, Alexis Mejia, Benjamin Santos Jr., Florendo Sambrano, Francisca Vera Cruz, Clodualdo Cabrera, Rolando Golondrina and Jesusa Besido.

Anoos thanked the union members for their support. He said, “Sana’y maisabuhay nang buong-buo ang nilalaman ng CNA. Sana’y madagdagan pa [ang mga benepisyo] sa pana-panahong negosasyon.”
(I hope that the CNA will be fully implemented. I also hope that the workers would receive more benefits in the next negotiations.)

Principles, benefits

The new CNA upholds the rights of workers, REPS and faculty members to a living wage, security of tenure, career development, good working conditions, free movement and right to organization, right to strike, right against any form of discrimination and the right to be consulted on matters affecting the rank-and-file workers and academic personnel.

Economic benefits include three sacks of rice per year at P1,500 per sack ($31.178 at the current exchange rate of $1=P48.11); P 1,000 ($20.785) grocery allowance and P10,000 ($207.856) CNA incentive or signing bonus.

Committees were also formed to look into the implementation of the hazard pay and the provision on comprehensive medical insurance.

Rank-and-file faculty, REPS and workers are also entitled to three (3) days sick leave and a maximum of six (6) days of special leave privileges every year. Nursing mothers are also entitled to a two-day leave.


Roman said the signing of the two CNA has made the celebration of the UP Centennial more meaningful and historical.

She said she considers the faculty and staff as the most important assets of the university. “Natutuwa ako, kahit may nagra-rally dito sa Quezon Hall buwan-buwan, tayo naman ay nagkakasundo. Kung nakikita nating dapat lamang, hinahanapan natin ng paraan.” (I am happy that even if there is a rally here at Quezon Hall every month, we manage to arrive at an agreement. If we see that it is right, we find the means to fulfill it.)

Roman and AUWU President Arnulfo Anoos sign the CNA. (Photo by R. Olea)

Militant unionism

Palaganas said it took them one-and-a half years to clinch the CNA with the UP administration. “Napatunayan nating muli na walang hindi maaatim sa sama-samang pagkilos,” (We have proven once again that nothing is impossible to achieve when we are united.) she said.

Anoos said, “Kung hindi sa patuloy na pagkilos, hindi ito magtatagumpay. Nasa kamay ng mga kawani, mga faculty at REPS ang kahihinatnan ng ating CNA.” (If not for our continuous action, we would not have succeeded. What would come out of the CNA is in the hands of the employees, faculty and REPs.)

Meanwhile, Ferdinand Gaite, national president of the Confederation for the Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE) said the CNA of the two UP unions is a success of the sector of government workers.

Gaite said, “The COURAGE is in solidarity with the workers, faculty and REPS of UP and rest assured, we will continue to monitor the implementation of the two CNAs.”

Antonio Tinio, national chairperson of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) also witnessed the signing of the two CNAs. He welcomed the signing of the CNA between the All-UP Academic Employees Union and the UP administration. “For so long, the academic employees have been lagging behind. That has already been corrected. Their CNA can be considered as among the most advanced in the country.”

Tinio added, “Ito ay mahalagang ambag sa pagpapalakas ng unyonismo sa hanay ng akademya sa buong bansa.” (This is a significant contribution to the strengthening of unionism within the ranks of the academe in the whole country.)(

Scarred Souls, Lost Innocence: Stories of Children Victims of Human Rights Violations

December 31, 2008

At first glance, they looked like ordinary children. But deep within them are scarred souls and lost innocence because they are children-victims of human rights violations. On December 9, they went to see the United Nations (UN) Secretary General’s Special Representative for Children in Armed Conflict Radhika Coomaraswamy to tell her their tragic stories.



Seventeen-year old Jerome (not his real name) comes from Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur. On March 23, 2007, at around 9 a.m., Jerome and his five cousins were on their way home from a nearby village when they heard gunfire. They immediately ran for cover.

When the gunfire ceased, they came out from hiding. Jerome said he saw soldiers armed with long rifles, three 6 x 6 military trucks and an armored personnel carrier. The soldiers belong to the 29th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA).

The soldiers asked Jerome and his cousins where their firearms were. All of them said they did not have any gun. The soldiers told them, “Hindi, mga NPA talaga kayo.” (No. You are really members of the New People’s Army.)

Jerome related, “Natatakot ako, umiiyak ako.” (I was so afraid; I was crying.)

He said the soldiers repeatedly asked them questions like: “How long have you been in the service as NPA fighters?” “Who are your companions?” “What are the names of your comrades?”

Jerome said they insisted that they are not members of the NPA. The boy explained to the soldiers that he was just helping his parents in the field.

Jerome quit school after finishing Grade 3 to help in the farm.

Jerome and his cousins, all of whom are minors except one, were brought to the headquarters of the 29th IB and detained there for almost two weeks.

Children join the protest commemorating the International Human Rights Day in Manila. (Photo by Angie de Lara)

The children’s families only learned about their arrest when notified by a tricycle driver. Their parents immediately went to the military camp but the children were not released to them. Jerome said his mother was crying while pleading for his release but the soldiers refused to set him free.

On March 27, five of the children, including Jerome, were presented to members of the local media in Cagayan de Oro City. They were introduced as child soldiers of the NPA. He said the soldiers placed long firearms, materials for making a land mine and medicines on the table in front of them.

Again, Jerome and the children told the media they are not child soldiers and they know nothing about the NPA.

The next day, the children were brought to Manila for a press conference.

Jerome could not identify the exact location but said he saw several policemen and members of the media. They were presented as child soldiers of the NPA who were arrested by the military.

Again, the children said they are not NPA fighters. He related that members of the media and the soldiers just laughed at them because they could not speak fluently in Tagalog.

They were released to their parents only on April 2.

Witnessing a father die

On April 29 this year, at around 10:15 p.m., Junior, 14 years old, his siblings and parents were sleeping when they were awakened by gunfire. Their house at Sitio Kahusayan, Manuel Guiangga, Tugbok District, Davao City was being strafed by bullets.

Junior’s younger sister peeked outside and, through the light generated by sparks of lightning, saw the armed men wearing Task Force Davao armbands. Elements of the Special Civilian Auxiliary Army (SCAA) under the 101st Brigade of the Philippine Army wear such bands.

After the shooting, Junior’s father was found wounded and soaked in his own blood. His mother and two sisters, four years old and eight years old, were also wounded. Junior was unhurt.

Junior said they carried their father, with the help of some neighbors, on the way to town. They walked for three hours. Junior’s father died along the way due to severe loss of blood.

The boy said that before the incident, his father, a leader of the tribal group Bagobo-Klata, refused to sell their piece of land to Apollo Quiboloy who owns the prayer mountain near their place. Junior said the village captain of Tamayong, Greg Canada, was pressuring his father to sell their land to Quiboloy.

After the incident, the villagers left the place and went to a banana plantation at the adjacent village. “Hindi na makapunta sa taniman ang mga tao, kumakain na lang ng saging.” (The people could not go to their farm, they just ate bananas.)

Since then, Junior’s family has been staying at the house of a relative.

He said all he wanted is to attain justice for the death of his father.

A victim of sexual abuse

If Junior lost his father, their home and livelihood, 15-year old Ivy lost her innocence.

Ivy came from Surigao City. On January 14 this year, Ivy went to the house of her classmate to borrow a book. She was in third year high school then.

At around 7 p.m., Ivy passed by the village’s day care center near the military camp of the 30th IBPA

Ivy related, “May humila sa braso ko, mag-uusap lang daw kami…May mahabang baril siya, natakot ako.” (Somebody grabbed my arm, he said we would just talk…He had a long firearm, I got scared.)

Ivy continued, “Dinala niya ako sa loob ng day care center, pinasok sa CR at hinawakan ang maseselang bahagi ng katawan ko.” (He took me inside the day care center, then to the comfort room where he touched my private parts.)

The young girl told the man, “Sir, maawa na po kayo sa akin. Ang bata-bata ko pa.” (Sir, have pity on me. I am still so young.)

Ivy recalled the man saying,“Wag kang mag-alala, pakakasalan kita. Magagawa ko lahat dahil sundalo ako, may baril ako, kayo wala.” (Don’t worry, I will marry you. I can do everything because I am a soldier, I have a gun while you don’t have any.)

After a while, Ivy said the man allowed her to go home. When the man saw many people outside the day care center, he grabbed Ivy again, pushed her against the wall and touched her private parts again.

Ivy went home crying. She could not sleep that night. Then, she received a text message from the soldier. She said the soldier managed to get her number from her friend.

Ivy said the soldier said, “Pumunta ka rito, uulitin natin ginawa natin kanina. Kung di ka pupunta, papatayin ko mga magulang at mga kaibigan mo.” (Come here, let us do it again. If you do not come, I will kill your parents and your friends.)

Out of fear, Ivy went back to the day care center. She was raped.

After the incident, Ivy said she cried, traumatized by what happened to her. She did not immediately tell her mother about the incident because of fear. On January 20, when her mother finally learned about the abuse, they immediately filed a rape case against Private First Class Reynaldo Pagios of the 30th IB.

When they confronted Pagios, Ivy said, the soldier had the gall to tell her, “Eh ikaw ang gumahasa sa akin.” (You were the one who raped me.)

Ivy said Pagios refused to attend the hearings.

The girl said they were also threatened by Pagios through text messages. “Pasasabugin daw bahay namin.” (He said he would bomb our house.)

Ivy said soldiers also told the public that the rape case was just a show orchestrated by the NPA to discredit the military.

Gusto kong makita na nakakulong siya,” (I want to see him behind bars.) said Ivy of Pagios.

Kapag nakakakita ako ng naka-unipormeng sundalo, natatakot ako. Mapagsamantala sila. Porke may mga baril sila, nagagawa nila gusto nila,” (When I see soldiers in uniform, I feel scared. They are opportunists. Just because they have guns, they do whatever they please.) Ivy said.

Being shot at

Janice, 17 years old, was with her mother when they first got caught in the middle of a military operation being conducted by the 17th IBPA on January 21, 2007 in Baggao, Cagayan Valley.

Janice related, “Sunday iyon, 1 p.m., kasama ako ng nanay ko sa taniman ng yellow corn. Hinahawan namin ang mga damo. Bandang 1:30 p.m., may narinig kaming putukan. Nagtakbuhan kami para magtago.”(It was a Sunday, 1 p.m. I was with my mother at the yellow corn plantation. We were clearing the weeds. At around 1:30 p.m., we heard gunfire. We ran for cover.)

Some 23 families in their sub-village went to the two nearby subvillages to seek refuge. After three hours, Janice and ten neighbors went back to their homes, thinking that the soldiers have left.

Janice said,“Umuwi kami para kumuha ng gamit sa school at magpakain ng alagang hayop.” (We went home to get our things for school and to feed the animals.)

While waiting for their companions, Janice said they heard gunfire. Minutes later, she felt her thigh bleeding. Her friend Katrina was also wounded.

She recalled,“Nanginginig na ako, napahandusay sa daan, punong-puno na ng dugo.” (I was shivering, I fell to the ground bleeding profusely.)

She continued, “Dinaan-daanan lang kami ng mga militar.” (The soldiers did not bother to help us.)

It was only at around 5 p.m. when neighbors managed to bring them to the nearest hospital. By 2 a.m., they were transferred to a hospital in Tuguegarao City and were confined there for three days.

Days after the incident, Janice said, she heard soldiers being interviewed over the local radio station, accusing them of being NPA fighters and threatening to file rebellion charges against them.

A community threatened

Fourteen-year old Joy had a different story. Joy comes from Sitio Bermuda, Bgy. Nabuk in Compostela Valley.

On May 2 this year, at around 10 a.m, soldiers from the 28th IBPA arrived at their sub-village. Joy was then manning the cooperative store of their community. The soldiers asked her, “May NPA bang bumibili ng softdrinks dito?” (Do NPA guerrillas buy soft drinks here?)

She replied that the last time they saw NPA fighters was a month ago. The soldiers told her, “Sinungaling ka! Kahapon lang narito sila.” (You’re a liar. They were here yesterday.)

The soldiers then asked for water. Joy replied that she would have to fetch water first. A soldier replied, “’Pag NPA humihingi, bibigyan n’yo agad.” (If the NPA ask for water, you immediately give them water.)

Joy said a resident who just bought rice for the cooperative was held by the military who accused him of giving rice to the NPA. Joy said she also saw a soldier point a gun at her nine-year-old cousin. When the boy’s mother came to get her son, the soldiers said the child is a member of the NPA. The mother asserted her right to get her son.

Joy also said that her uncle was mauled by soldiers. “Nilagyan ng cellophane at ng kaldero and ulo niya.” (The soldiers suffocated him with a plastic bag and a cooking pot.)

On May 12, the soldiers went back to the community. They warned the residents that they would be killed if they saw NPA fighters in the area.

At around 4 p.m., Joy said, they heard gunshots. Upon hearing the shots, some 58 families decided to evacuate from the place immediately.

Joy related,“Bandang 9 p.m., umalis kami sa lugar para pumunta sa Valma, 3 a.m. kami nakarating. Kahit ang mga matanda at bagong panganak, nakapaglakad dahil sa takot.” (We left our place at around 9 p.m. and arrived at Valma by 3 a.m.. Even the old and those who just gave birth were able to walk because of fear.)

They slept by the road. Hours later, they were transferred to the town’s gymnasium and stayed there for three days. Then, they transferred to Davao City, at the Bangkerohan village and stayed there for one month.

It was only by June 17 that they came back to their place. “Wala na ang mga hayop, pati mga tanim. May mga nawawalang gamit sa bahay. Sa coop, ubos ang paninda.” (All our farm animals were gone even our crops. We lost some belongings from our homes. All the items for sale at the cooperative were also gone.)

Children’s rights violations

Jerome, Junior, Ivy, Janice and Joy are but five of the 948 children victims of human rights violations under the Arroyo administration, which were monitored by the Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC).

In its report, the CRC said that from 2001 to 2008, 66 children were killed, 49 were victims of frustrated killing, 50 were tortured, five were raped, four were forcibly disappeared, and 55 were illegally arrested and detained. The NGO also estimated that about two million individuals, including children have been affected by forced displacement due to armed conflict.

The CRC said the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) is the main violator of children’s rights, whether in situations of armed conflict or not.

Injustice, Impunity, Trademarks of Arroyo Regime – Rights Group

December 30, 2008

Injustice and impunity are still trademarks of the Arroyo regime, said a human rights alliance in an annual report released to the media.


Injustice and impunity are still trademarks of the Arroyo regime, said a human rights alliance in a report released to the media.

In its 2008 report released today, Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights) said, “The rights to life, liberty, and security of Filipinos as enshrined in the UDHR [Universal Declaration of Human Rights] and our Constitution, remain a paper promise if state terror and abuse of power are not checked.”

The group released its report on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the UDHR and the tenth year of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

According to Karapatan, 50 members and leaders of people’s organizations and party-list groups have been killed from January to October this year, bringing the total number of killings under the Arroyo administration to 977.


Marie Hilao-Enriquez, Karapatan secretary general, said, “The Arroyo government has still not taken any significant action to arrest this continued spate of killings.”

Marie Hilao-Enriquez, secretary general of Karapatan, presents the group’s 2008 Human Rights Report at a media forum, Dec. 9.(Photo by Bulatlat)

The drop in the number of killings, Karapatan deemed, is only a ‘tactical ploy to appease global public outrage and was never the result of any measure taken by government to arrest, prosecute and convict those allegedly responsible for the atrocities.’

“It is truly saddening to note that no one has been credibly convicted even if we are presented the false illusion that extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances are on the downtrend,” Enriquez said.

Karapatan shared the Amnesty International’s observation that ‘majority of investigations [on killings] do not meet international standards as set forth in the UN Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-Legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions.’

Enriquez said, “Not even the generals and other military officers identified by the 2007 Melo Commission report for probable culpability in the atrocities have been adequately probed. What is worse is that they are coddled by the Arroyo regime.”

In August 2006, Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo by virtue of Administrative Order No. 157, created the Melo Commission to address media and activist killings.

In its findings, the Melo Commission held Gen. Jovito Palparan Jr., and some of his superior officers as responsible for failing to prevent, punish or condemn the killings under the principle of command responsibility.

Karapatan lamented that Palparan has not been sent to court for his alleged role in the killings. The group also criticized the Arroyo government for appointing former Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Hermogenes Esperon as the presidential adviser on the peace process.

Writ of amparo

The group said further, “Whatever little gain or remedy that may have been achieved …through the introduction of the writ of amparo and habeas data, are now being systematically undermined by the very institutions tasked to act judiciously on these incidents [of killings and other rights abuses].”

Adopted by the Supreme Court on September 25, 2007, the writ is a remedy available to any person whose right to life, liberty, and security has been violated or is threatened with violation by an unlawful act or omission of a public official or employee, or of a private individual or entity.

Karapatan expressed frustration over the dismissal of the petition for the writ of amparo and habeas corpus filed by Editha Burgos, mother of missing activist Jonas and the dismissal of the petition for writ of amparo filed by Lourdes Rubrico. Rubrico is an urban poor leader allegedly abducted on April 3, 2007 by armed men who identified themselves as government agents.

The group said that when court orders are favorable to the victims, the orders are ignored, questioned or not followed to the letter by the respondents.

Enriquez cited as an example the habeas corpus petition for missing activists Sherlyn Cadapan, Karen Empeño and Manuel Meriño. She said that despite the court order for the release of the three abducted activists, the military refused to admit having custody of the three. She lamented that the court denied the petition for an inspection of military camps and production of documents.

Other cases

Source: Karapatan

The group also revealed that enforced disappearances continue, claiming seven victims in the same period.

The report also notes the increasing cases of torture, with 53 victims this year and illegal arrests, with 128 victims.

Enriquez said the figure on illegal arrests does not yet include the 72 Southern Tagalog activists who were charged with multiple murder and frustrated multiple murder for allegedly participating in a raid by the New People’s Army in Mindoro Oriental and the 32 individuals charged with arson, conspiracy to commit rebellion and destruction of property. Six of the 72, including labor lawyer Remigio Saladero Jr., have already been arrested and detained at the Calapan City District Jail.

Enriquez said that under the counter-insurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya II (Operation Freedom Watch II), ordinary citizens have also been victimized and have formed part of the broader circle of targets.

For the past ten months, Karapatan has documented 139,000 victims of forcible evacuation and displacement; 2,290 victims of hamletting; 112, 920 victims of indiscriminate firing; and, 5,670 victims of food and other economic blockade. These incidents occurred during heightened military operations in communities.

Hamletting is a form of population control where residents of a community or a group of communities are herded together in an area tightly guarded by the military. The movements of people and goods are constrained to limit the flow of support to rebel groups, but in the process the people are displaced economically and are made vulnerable to harassments and human rights violations from the military.


Amid the gloomy human rights situation, Karapatan noted breakthroughs in human rights advocacy.

Enriquez said that the fact-finding mission in Limay, Bataan led by survivor-witness Raymond Manalo provided ‘solid evidence that indisputably links the military to the murderous brutalities over the last eight years of the Arroyo regime.’

In his affidavit, Manalo said he witnessed the killing of activists in a former military camp. In October this year, after two days of digging, the fact-finding team found burnt human bones believed to be that of Manuel Meriño.

Karapatan also hailed the UN Human Rights Committee’s decision on the case of Eden Marcellana and Eddie Gumanoy. The UN Human Rights Committee found the Philippine government guilty of violating the right to life, liberty and security of the slain activists and the right of the family to judicial remedy.
Enriquez said the case ‘shows hope that justice has not completely turned its back to those who are poor and powerless.’(

Gov’t, Media ‘Fall Short of Responsibility’ in HR Issues – Rights Advocates

December 30, 2008

In the midst of rampant human rights violations in the country allegedly perpetrated by the state’s armed forces and intelligence agencies, human rights groups and advocates lament that the government is not making any move towards resolving them. The media, they say, is likewise falling short of its responsibility of bringing the issue close to the public.


In the forum Solving and Reporting Extrajudicial Killings and Disappearances: Are the Government and Media Doing Enough? held at the College of Mass Communication (CMC) Auditorium at the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman, Quezon City last Dec. 10, various human rights groups and advocates lamented that the government and the media are “falling short of their responsibility” in reporting and resolving the cases of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearance. For the longest time, the cases have remained unsolved and the perpetrators remain unpunished, they said.

Organized by the Philippine Human Rights Reporting Project (PHRRP), the UP Department of Journalism, Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights), Asian Congress for Media and Communication and Mass Communicators’ Organization, the forum was held in commemoration of the 10th year of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and the 60th year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Speakers included Ruth Cervantes of Karapatan and Edita Burgos, mother of missing peasant advocate Jonas Burgos. Jaime Espina of and Joy de los Reyes, the editor-in-chief of Malaya, were invited for the journalist’ response to the issue.

Meanwhile, Justice Undersecretary and head of Task Force 211 (Task Force Against Political Violence and Extra-Legal Killings) Ricardo Blancaflor and Presidential Human Rights Committee director Severo Catura, who were invited to speak in behalf of the government, did not show up.

Cases of human rights violations

Cervantes presented Karapatan’s 2008 Human Rights Report, which included cases of human rights violations within 2008 and the “escalating attacks against human rights defenders since 2001.” A review of the writ of amparo was also included in the presentation.

According to the report, there had been a total of 50 victims of extrajudicial killings and seven victims of enforced disappearances from January to October this year. Meanwhile, from 2001, Karapatan has documented 977 cases of extrajudicial killings and 201 cases of enforced disappearances by alleged military elements. The number of cases of torture (1,010) and illegal arrest (1,464) since 2001 are also appalling.

The report also pointed that under the Arroyo administration, two of the most bloody assaults against legitimate mass actions – the massacres in Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac and in Palo, Leyte – happened and have not yet been resolved.

Meanwhile, the group holds the Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG), which had an initial budget of P50 million ($1,065,870 at the current exchange rate of $1=P46.91), for the recent filing of trumped-up criminal charges against 72 activists from Southern Tagalog, including Kilusang Mayo Uno’s (May 1st Movement) chief legal counsel Remigio Saladero, Jr. According to Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance), to which most of the accused are affiliated as regional or provincial leaders, the series of filing of criminal cases is an effort of the government to “give a legal face to political persecution.”

Karapatan stressed that “injustice and impunity have been the trademarks of the atrocious Arroyo regime.” In lieu of formal declaration of martial rule, the Arroyo government designs and executes its “brazen attack” against its critics under Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL or Operation Freedom Watch) I and II, an internal security plan implemented since 2001, added the group. OBL, Cervantes said, is the strategy behind these human rights violations, which also include burning of progressive organizations’ headquarters, vilification campaign against activists, psychological warfare against alleged supporters of the New People’s Army, and other forms of harassment.

Desensitized media?

That media fall short of its responsibility of reporting cases human rights violations is becoming an issue among its practitioners, human rights advocates and the public. Stories of killings, abductions, illegal arrests and tortures, no matter how frequent they occur, “seldom hit the headlines.” With profit being the “bottomline” of the efforts of the media industry, reportage becomes “events-based,” admitted Espina. That media is “influenced by business interests” is among the realities in media that he himself is ashamed of.

The PHRRP statement read, “Ignorance on the part of reporters on basic human rights is dangerous.” The PHRRP said that some media practitioners reduce extrajudicial killings to “nothing more than police beat stories.”

Meanwhile, Burgos said that perpetrators of human rights violations have become even more fearless. She further said that the government, through its military officials, have been successful in “demonizing” the victims, reducing them into dangerous terrorists who deserved their deaths.

Some media outfits, she said, have been responsible for “obviously slanted” news articles delivering them as though what the authorities say is the truth. A story about the NPA being behind the abduction of her son “because he (Burgos) absconded funds” was written, matter-of-factly, in the news section of a certain newspaper. The writer based the story solely on the account of Lt. Gen. Romeo Tolentino of the Army’s 56th Infantry Division. This, according to PHRRP conveners, is an example of how media “wittingly or unwittingly aid human rights violations through its reportage.”

However, Burgos has not lost her faith in media even if she sees that some of them have become “desensitized” by the forces in the industry that propel it. She is even thankful to them for bringing the story of her son’s abduction into public knowledge.

She then encouraged media practitioners to “add an inch further” and “go beyond” mere dissemination of facts and focus on the accuracy of reports and dig deeper into the motivations behind the events.

Even journalists

The irony, however, is that even journalists and other media practitioners have fallen prey to the rounds of persecution by alleged military agents. Following the forum, the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP), prepared a mass and candle-lighting at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani in Quezon City to pay tribute to slain journalists.

Bayan Muna Representative Satur Ocampo, who was once a journalist himself, was among those who attended. Isagani Yambot, publisher of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, spoke before the gathering of journalists and shared how bothered he is by the cases of killings of journalists

According to NUJP, 98 journalists and media practitioners have bitten the dust while doing their jobs since 1986. Rowena Paraan, NUJP’s treasurer and one of the conveners of PHRRP, tearfully recounted the killing of one of her colleagues, who was shot dead in her dining room, in front of her children. Her colleague’s death signifies a truthful journalist’s continued commitment to informing the public of social realities, said Paraan.

Meanwhile, the Belgium-based International Federation of Journalists tags the country as the most dangerous place for broadcast journalists. This was after Leo Mila Luna was shot dead by an unknown assailant. Mila, known for his criticisms against government officials in his radio program in Radyo Natin was killed last Dec.2 in Northern Samar.

Government responsible?

With the conclusion of United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary and Arbitrary Executions Philip Alston’s investigation that the military, guided by the Arroyo administration’s internal security plan, is responsible for the human rights violations documented from 2001 to the present, the government finds it hard to defend itself against criticisms.

According to Burgos, the government has done nothing at all to resolve the issue.
Karapatan also pointed out that the formation of the Melo Commission and Task Force Usig is a dubious step by the government. Cervantes said that the two formations presented the conclusion that the killings and abductions were results of “purges” within the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and were carried out by the NPA even before they started their investigations.

“The Arroyo has not lived up to the promise of respecting the dignity and fulfilling the human rights of Filipinos… Instead, it unleashed the brutality its armed forces against the very people it has sworn to protect,” said Karapatan in a statement.

Journalists as human rights defenders

According to Rorie Fajardo, the director of the PHRRP, “journalists are of great help” in reporting human rights violations when they use the “tried and tested” craft of journalism infusing balance, accuracy, and sufficient context into their output. The group stressed the need to reaffirm the “fundamental values and beliefs regarding the importance of a professional media and its role in the defense and promotion of human rights.” They encouraged media practitioners to continue despite the economic hardships, and safety and security concerns “that plague Philippine journalism today.” (

Laid off OFWs in Taiwan Duped by Malacañang

December 30, 2008

Retrenched overseas Filipino workers from Taiwan went to Malacañang hoping to receive assistance from the government. Instead, they were used for Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s photo gimmicks, and went home empty handed.


On December 5, Labor Secretary Marianito Roque and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration official Carmelita Dimson accompanied overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who were laid off in Taiwan to Malacañang. They were hopeful that President Arroyo would give them financial assistance and would order the proper agencies to act on their case. But they were terribly disappointed.

In a press conference, Dec. 11, Cristina de Borja, one of the retrenched OFWs related, “We were expecting to meet and talk with the President. But the President only came when the cameras started rolling. While in front of the cameras, President [Gloria] Arroyo herself handed checks to four of our representatives.”

De Borja said that the checks worth P50,000 ($1,055.408 at the current exchange rate of $1=P47.375) were turned over to the Technological Resource Center after the ceremony. The OFWs were told that the funds were for a livelihood program that the OFWs still have to apply for.

De Borja said, “We want President Arroyo to tell us that the Philippine government would do everything in its power to enforce our valid contracts…But she did not speak to us at all. After the photo gimmick, she left without a word…”

De Borja, 30, is from Angono, Rizal. Her contract is supposedly for two years but she was laid off after eight months of work due to the crisis.

De Borja said that their creditors have been running after them after seeing on television that Mrs. Arroyo handed to them P50,000 ($1,055) worth of checks. She said that each of them owe P85,000 to P120,000 ($1,794 to $2,532) and the amount increases due to the interest.

Meanwhile, the so-called ‘assistance package’ given to the OFWs actually contained brochures of the Social Security System (SSS), PhilHealth, flyers from the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and referrals to the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA).

May Ruiz, another OFW from Taiwan lamented, “Dismayado kami sa naabutan namin sa OWWA lalo na sa Malacañang. Ang ine-expect po namin ay immediate action na ibibigay nila sa amin at hindi itong laman ng bayong na puro certificate, kasi pag- uwi po namin sa pamilya namin, hindi po ito magta-transform into cold cash para ipambili namin ng pagkain para sa pamilya namin.” (We are dismayed at what happened to us at the OWWA and especially at Malacañang. What we were expecting is immediate action to help us and not this bag, which is full of certificates. Because when we go home to our families, these could not be converted into cash to buy food for our families.)

Assistance package’ inside “Bayong” given by Press. Arroyo at Malacañang during the visit of Retrenched overseas Filipino workers from Taiwan. (Photo by Angie de Lara)

Ruiz added, “Tinatawag nila kami na bagong bayani, ang katumbas na lang pala ng bagong bayani ay isang bayong ng mga papel.” (They call us modern-day heroes. But apparently modern-day heroes are just worth a bag full of paper.)

Ruiz, 23, was an employee of the Advanced Semiconductor Engineering in Taiwan. She is the breadwinner of the family.

A mother of another retrenched OFW who is sill in Taiwan, Annie Redelicia, 52, said that her daughter Reggie left for Taiwan on October 6 this year and lost her job as an electronics worker on November 20.

Annie said the company has ceased supplying food to her daughter since November 30. She said she does not know if her daughter has something to eat.

Annie also said that the P80,000 ($1,688) debt they had incurred from the agency continues to gain interest. By November, the money they owe has increased to P100,000 ($2,110) because of the interest. “Baka po idemanda na kami ng agency e wala po talaga kaming ibabayad sa kanila, kasi kakaalis lang po ng anak ko tapos nawalan na kaagad ng trabaho,” (The agency might sue as because we really do not have money to pay them. My daughter has just left and she is already out of work.) she said.

Elvira Dungca, 25, another OFW from Taiwan, said they were offered a ‘no work, no pay’ scheme. The company would just call them if their services are needed. She said, “Paano kami habang walang trabaho? Paano kami mabubuhay sa araw-araw?” (How would we survive while we are out of work? How would we survive each day?)

POEA response

After the December 11 press conference, the laid off OFWs, along with some Migrante International officials, went to the POEA and sought a dialogue with POEA officials.

Lawyer Hans Leo Cacdac, deputy administrator for licensing and adjudication, talked with the OFWs.

The OFWs told Cacdac their predicament.

Ruiz said that that she was made to pay P85,000 ($1,794) as placement fee to the recruitment agency but the amount written in the receipt was only P25,000 ($527).

Cacdac said the POEA only allows the charging of a maximum of P55,000 ($1,160) for placement fee.

Ruiz said that some OFWs owed a balance of P7,500 ($158) for their placement fee. When they arrived in Taiwan, the amount was converted to 7,500 NT or P10,771.69 ($227).

She related that when the retrenched OFWs insisted that the company pays the remaining amount stipulated in the contract, the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) replied that they just have to follow their employer and abide by the law in Taiwan.

Borja said MECO told them that the government will talk with the lending agencies. When she arrived home, Borja asked OWWA about the matter and the OWWA referred her to the POEA.

Connie Bragas-Regalado, former chairperson of Migrante who also joined the dialogue asked the POEA to punish the agencies collecting more than P55,000 (($1,160) as placement fee.

Regalado also said that the contracts of the OFWs stipulate that the employer and/or the recruitment agency should pay for the ticket in case of retrenchment or repatriation. The retrenched OFWs said their employer only gave them P1,500 NT; the air ticket costs 5,500 NT.

Regalado said the employer should also pay the whole amount of the contract.

Nimfa D. de Guzman, officer in charge of the POEA Welfare and Employment Office said they could only offer to facilitate conciliation meetings between the recruitment agencies and the OFWs. She said the POEA will act as mediator.

Cacdac said the POEA could give the OFWs referral letters for possible employment in other countries. The OFWs retorted they would be referred to the same recruitment agencies they have been complaining about.

Cacdac said recruitment agencies that collect beyond the maximum amount allowed for placement fee could face cancellation of licenses.


De Borja said, “Ang hinihingi lang naman po naming ay ibigay yung rights naming mga OFWs.” (What are we are asking for is for them to give us what is due to us.)

She said the projects offered by the Arroyo government could not provide an immediate solution to their problems.

Garry Martinez, chairperson of Migrante International said the retrenched OFWs need a financial assistance package.

Martinez said, “Sabi ng gobyerno may inilabas na silang P250 million para sa mga na walan ng trabajong OFWs, saan yon napunta?” (The government said they have released P250 million [$5,277,044] for OFWs who would lose their jobs, where did the amount go?)

Martinez said some of the retrenched OFWs have been charged with estafa by lending agencies.

Retrenched overseas Filipino workers from Taiwan ripped the papers that the government gave them as ‘assistance package’. (Photo by Angie de Lara)

He said that the December 5 incident in Malacañang only shows that the Arroyo government is not ready and not serious in dealing with the crisis. He criticized Malacañang for deceiving the OFWs amid the crisis.

Martinez said the OFWs are demanding for a reimbursement of their plane tickets, financial assistance, payment of the remaining amount of the contract, and the release of the P10 million OWWA ($211,081) funds to help the OFWs.

The Plunderer’s Escape and the Activists’ Arrest

December 28, 2008

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

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.


(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.(

In the Miserable Depths of Poverty

December 28, 2008

As 2008 nears its end, many Filipinos conclude that their dire plight got unbearably worse this year. More and more urban poor families speak with anguish about their impoverished state while adamantly stressing the need for “radical change”.



A new year is commencing. Looking back at the year almost gone by, the urban poor see the bleak path they struggled to travel on. The year 2008 is just the same as the past years, only worse, they say. They have been constantly pushed beyond the margins of humane living, always in danger of losing their homes and livelihood. Politically, they have been further silenced as cases of “repression” among their ranks remain. Neglected by the state, they demand the abolition of the prevailing system.

The urban poor population of the country has now hit 30 million based on data from the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB). A considerable percentage of them reside in the slums of Metro Manila. The number of urban poor families is significant considering that the population of the country is 89 million.

According to the document Lagutin ang Tanikala ng Kahirapan (Break the Chain of Poverty) prepared by the Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay or Mutual Help Association of the Poor), workers and “semi-proletarians” (workers doing seasonal odd jobs) comprise the urban poor population. They “suffer from extreme poverty” caused by the lack of gainful employment. They make a living out of their dismal wages and meager earnings, which fall way too short compared to the soaring cost of living in and outside Metro Manila.

Based on the study of the National Wages and Productivity Commission (NWPC), a family of six (the size of the average Filipino family) needs, at the very least, P858 ($17.96 at the Dec. 12 exchange rate of $1:P47.78) everyday for food and other expenses. In the National Capital Region, an average worker earns only P345.00-P382.00 ($7.22-7.99) while workers in other regions earn less.

Children collect garbage in a slum area in Tondo Manila. (Photo by Aubrey Makilan)

Worse is the case of vendors, drivers of pedicabs, tricycles and other modes of transportation, workers in dumpsites and other semi-proletarians. For instance, scavengers in the dumpsite of Payatas who collect garbage which can still be of use like pet bottles, iron and papers, earn only P150 ($3.14) or less a day after working for nine hours. Aling Julieta, an ambulant vendor along España Street in Sampaloc, Manila, earns the same amount for working from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, schoolchildren in urban poor communities comprise a significant number in the alarming number of drop-outs in primary and secondary schools. Most of them have to stop going to school to work and help their parents augment their meager family income.

While most of the urban poor reside in far-off relocation sites, tenement houses and communities around industrial areas, some end up living in “dangerous areas” like dumpsites, bridges, along railroad tracks and river banks where social services are beyond their reach. Diseases like dengue, hepatitis and tuberculosis are prevalent among the urban poor as health and sanitation conditions in these areas are bad.

They experience extreme hunger and destitution, which drive some of them into committing anti-social activities, from petty to more serious crimes.

Most of them came from different provinces during the latter part of the 1940s. Their farmlands were grabbed and they were forced to evacuate to the cities in search of employment. During the second half of the 1940s, thousands of people from the countryside occupied the shorelines of Tondo, riverside of Pasig and areas of Intramuros.

The urban poor numbered less than 100,000 in 1956, 2.5 million in 1996 and now they number 30 million.

Hunger and destitution

This year, multitudes of Filipinos experienced “extreme hunger” based on the studies of various groups. According to the research conducted by the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR), an alarming number of Filipino families had to skip meals simply because they cannot afford to eat three times a day. Conchita Orande, a resident of Payatas, lamentably confesses that in her lifetime, her family had never skipped a meal until the past few months when they often had to miss dinner because they had no money. Some prolong their sleep and wake up late so they can combine their breakfast and lunch, said the group.

Meanwhile, according to the Third Quarter 2008 Survey of the Social Weather Station (SWS), an estimated 3.3 million families experienced “involuntary hunger” in the period August-October this year.

Likewise, the survey conducted by IBON Foundation last April showed that more and more Filipinos find it difficult to buy food and other basic commodities.

Health is at the bottom of the urban poor’s list of priorities, says Dr. Geneve Rivera of the Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD). Since the purchasing power of the peso is low and inflation is high, they put food and other immediate expenses first on their list. Their nutritional needs are neglected since what their earnings can afford are unhealthy foods like noodles and cheap canned and dried goods, Rivera further said. Some even resort to eating “pagpag” (leftovers recycled though boiling and re-cooking) as is done in the slum areas of Tondo and Payatas.

Diseases that can be easily cured are rampant among the urban poor since they are unable to address their health needs, according to HEAD.

The meager budget that the health sector receives annually makes it difficult for the Department of Health (DoH) and public medical institutions like the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) to extend medical assistance to the urban poor.

Homes and livelihood in danger

Demolitions of homes and areas of livelihood of the urban poor were also rampant throughout 2008.

Kadamay and other local urban poor groups hold the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) responsible for these. With operations deemed as “illegal demolitions”, often involving violence, congressmen have been compelled to question the MMDA’s authority to conduct demolitions. Several congressmen have supported House Resolution No. 487, seeking an inquiry on the legality of demolitions conducted by the MMDA.

HR 708, meanwhile, seeks an investigation on the human rights violations allegedly committed by the MMDA during their operations.

In the past few years, clashes between sidewalk vendors and the MMDA in different areas in Metro Manila have become rather common. In the first half of the year, demolitions at the Philcoa Wet and Dry Market, Culiat Bridge and Balintawak Market in Quezon City, Levi Mariano Avenue in Taguig City, and at the Quinta Market were carried out by the MMDA. The MMDA allegedly carried out these operations without notices of demolition. More demolitions of the urban poor’s areas of livelihood happened throughout the second half of the year.

The urban poor’s homes also face actual demolitions or threats of demolitions throughout the country.

In Cagayan de Oro City, at least 15,000 families will be affected when the plan to turn the Cagayan de Oro River into a tourist attraction is implemented. In Kawit, Cavite, 50 houses of urban poor families were demolished while those in the coastlines of Bacoor, Noveleta and Cavite cities face threats of demolition because of the planned extension of the R-1 Expressway. In Davao City, the city government plans to demolish several structures including homes of the urban poor.

In Metro Manila, there are reported cases of demolition of urban poor homes along the Pasig River and in Project 4 in Quezon City. Threats of demolition in Sitio San Roque, San Isidro, Brgy. Central at Pinyahan District in Quezon City also abound as the implementation of the plan for a Quezon City Central Business District (QC-CBD) progresses. The expansion of University of the Philippines (UP)-Ayala Corporation Techno Hub also threatens the homes in surrounding barangays such as the Old Capitol Site and San Vicente.

Urban militarization

Meanwhile, residents of urban poor communities see urban militarization as a problem rather than a blessing. Elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) reportedly have been seen in different areas of Metro Manila such as Baseco and Delpan in Tondo, Manila, Dagat-Dagatan in Caloocan City, and in Old Balara and Pansol in Quezon City.

The AFP reasons out that the military deployment is meant to lessen the crimes and “maintain peace and order” within these areas. Kadamay, however, argues that this move by the AFP may be a ploy to put community-based progressive organizations, which fight for the rights of the urban poor for shelter and livelihood, under surveillance. This, as seen by the group, is an assault on the democratic right of the urban poor to freely organize themselves.

Worse is the case in the provinces, according to Kadamay, where their members have become victims of “brazen political persecution.” The vice-chaiperson of the group’s chapter in Tacloban City, Charlie Solayao, was shot dead by a masked assassin riding a motorcycle in 2007. Meanwhile, another member of the group in Southern Tagalog was included in the list of 72 activists in the region who were slapped with trumped-up multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder cases last October.

Urban poor shanties in Baseco, Tondo, Manila. (Photo by Dabet Castañeda)

“Radical change”

According to Carmen Deunida, former spokesperson of Kadamay, what the country needs now is “radical change in the time of worsening crisis and hunger among the urban poor.” She further stated that “it is not enough to depend on legal processes to acquire social justice and development (for) the urban poor.”

The group, along with other urban poor organizations in different parts of Metro Manila, people’s organization and progressive partylist groups, held the Lakbayan ng Maralita para sa Radikal na Pagbabago (Caravan of the Poor for Radical Change) last Dec. 1 and 2 to collectively defend their rights and call for the ouster of President Arroyo.

The Arroyo administration, while claiming that the country’s economy is progressing under the “strong republic”, has done nothing to resolve the issue of worsening poverty, they said.

“Radical change” of society, to Kadamay, means “replacing the old system with a new one that would implement national industrialization and genuine agrarian reform.”

Kadamay said that the suffering of the urban poor would continue under the system wherein “a few benefit from the people’s labor.”

The lives of the urban poor worsened in 2008. But they still look forward to better years to come when the impoverished people finally free themselves from the miserable depths of poverty.

‘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.



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.

CHR asked to order army camp closure

December 24, 2008

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:41:00 12/23/2008

Filed Under: Human Rights, rebellion, Armed conflict, Regional authorities

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO – The Commission on Human Rights here has concluded the collation of reports and conduct of dialogues on the requests of the Multi-Sectoral Action Group of Aurora (MSAG) to help order the closure of an Army camp in Baler and the pullout of troops in Dipaculao following alleged human rights violations by soldiers.

CHR Central Luzon director Jasmin Regino said her office was expected to submit its findings and recommendations to CHR Chair Leila de Lima by early January 2009.

Regino said De Lima had sent a team in September and November to look into the concerns of MSAG, an alliance of people’s organizations, nongovernment groups and church associations in the eastern Central Luzon province.

“The mere presence of so many soldiers in full battle gear and military equipment roaming around here is already creating fear among the people,” MSAG acting secretary Alfonso van Zijl told De Lima in an Aug. 23 letter, referring to the 48th Infantry Battalion based in Barangay Calabuanan in the capital town of Baler.

Van Zijl said the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, signed by former President Estrada in 1998, and the Protocol II of the Geneva Conventions to which the Philippines is a signatory since 1987, protect the civilian population from the risks and dangers posed by the presence of military camps.


The battalion commander, Col. Natalio Jayson, did not conform to the closure and pullout of troops.

In a phone interview, he said the establishment of the camp was approved by the barangay residents and council through a resolution issued in October.

The use of the camp by the Army is covered by a memorandum of agreement with the Philippine National Police and the owner of the three-hectare property donated by the Bitong family, he said.

The 14 families relocated within the former police camp following a typhoon in 1994 have not been forced out. He said they have been asked to confine their abode within the 10 X 2 meters space allotted to them by the municipal social welfare office, Jayson said.

The MSAG also called attention to the use by the Army of barangay halls and health centers in at least 16 villages in Dipaculao, saying these disrupted social services in the town.

Jayson said the Army’s use of those public facilities was given clearance by the municipal council. Soldiers, he said, would stay for a maximum of 45 days to conduct census for the Army’s “bayanihan” security program and civil-military operations.

Seeking an end to supposed human rights violations by the military, MSAG also submitted the affidavits of Federico Ruiz, 56, a member of the Justice and Peace Action Group; Antonio Toledo, 59, a teacher; Elmer Dayson, 56, and a leader of the Panlalawigang Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Aurora; Hipolito Baltazar, 32, and a tricycle driver; and Florencio Pascual, 52, a leader of the Aniban ng Kilusang Magbubukid sa Aurora.

Ruiz claimed that a Sgt. Willie Vedonio had inquired about the activities and membership of the JPAG, invited him twice to the camp and took photographs of him without his consent.

Toledo said Cpl. Marvin de Vera branded him and his wife as members of the New People’s Army when they attended a seminar in Angeles City and failed to attend an Army-organized assembly.


Dayson complained of illegal arrest, detention, grave coercion and grave threat by 14 soldiers led by a certain Rivera. The officer, he said, accused him of participating in an ambush on the military in 2005 in San Luis town.

Baltazar admitted killing Cpl. Benjamin Neri when he saw the latter having sex with his wife on Dec. 3 as four soldiers guarded his house.

Pascual claimed that a Corporal Manawis and another soldier repeatedly came to his house to do census, take photographs and accused his daughter Desiresa of replacing Janing Diaz as a leader of the women peasants group Samana.

Jayson said he was verifying these issues.

The MSAG had counted six attacks on human rights in 2006, including the forced disappearance of environmental advocate and radio program host Joey Estriber.

In 2007, it recorded at least four incidents, including the illegal arrest of a Dumagat young man mistaken to be his father, who had long died as an NPA guerilla.