Archive for the ‘justice’ Category

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

July 19, 2010

By RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat.com

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. (Bulatlat.com)

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

May 26, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Editorial Cartoon: TV Show

April 19, 2009

show

Media milage o pampasira ng screen ng tv? 😀

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.

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)

SC: BSP liable for P18B damage claim of Banco Filipino

January 28, 2009

BY EVANGELINE DE VERA

THE Supreme Court has affirmed a Court of Appeals ruling declaring the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas answerable for the damage claim against its predecessor-in-interest, the Central Bank of the Philippines, for the illegal closure of Banco Filipino in 1985.

In a resolution dated Dec. 8, 2008 that was released only yesterday, the SC’s Third Division denied the petition filed by the Central Bank Board of Liquidators (CBBoL) seeking a reversal of the CA’s ruling which ordered the Makati City regional trial court to proceed with the trial of the damage suits filed by Banco Filipino against CBBoL in connection with the bank’s closure.

The SC ruling paved the way for the Makati RTC to determine the exact amount of damages. Banco Filipino placed the amount at P18.8 billion.

“Considering the allegations, issues and arguments adduced in the petition for review on certiorari, the Court resolves to deny the petition for failure to sufficiently show that the appellate court committed any reversible error in the challenged decision as to warrant the exercise by this Court of its discretionary appellate jurisdiction,” the SC ruled.

The CA, in its assailed ruling, said, “Central Bank continues to exist and has remained a defendant but with a new name – CBBoL — while the BSP is the sole successor-in-interest of the old CB and that the transfer of assets from the CB to the BSP during the pendency of the subject civil cases constitutes the latter as a transferee pendente lite.”

The CA resolution was penned by Associate Justice Josefina Guevara Salonga and concurred in by Associate Justices Fernanda Lampas Peralta and Sesinando E. Villon.

Banco Filipino was ordered padlocked and liquidated in 1985 by Jose “Jobo” Fernandez Jr., Central Bank governor and chairman of the Monetary Board.

In 1991, the Supreme Court declared the closure “arbitrary and with grave abuse of discretion.”

The high court also agreed with the observation of the CA that CBBoL and BSP “had manifested its penchant for methodically filing a string of certiorari cases before this Court and the Supreme Court almost every step of the proceedings” in a deliberate effort to delay

Lawyer Perfecto Yasay Jr., co-chairman of Banco Filipino, said the BSP should “now stop covering for the sins of the Central Bank, otherwise it would be grossly derelict in carrying out its regulatory functions of ensuring that banks operate with safety to its depositors, creditors, and the general public in order to assist in the promotion of a balanced and sustainable economic growth.”(Malaya)

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
ANAKPAWIS PARTYLIST,
Chairperson
BAYAN – Central Visayas


Dutch Lawyers to Arroyo: Prosecute Military involved in Extrajudicial Killings

December 28, 2008

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

BY D. L. MONDELO
Correspondent
Bulatlat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On cue

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

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

HR Day awaits amparo resolution

December 20, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RP to get $500-M loan for food security, judicial reform

December 10, 2008

By Paolo Romero Updated December 10, 2008 12:00 AM

The World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) will extend a $500-million facility for food security projects of the Philippines as well as programs that aim to reform the country’s justice system.

President Arroyo approved the loan proposals yesterday.

Press Secretary Jesus Dureza said the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) board chaired by the President approved a $200-million “Food Crisis Response Development Policy Operation (DPO) Loan” of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development or the World Bank, and the $300-million “Governance in Justice Reform Program” also known as “Governance and Justice Reform Program” of the Asian Development Bank during the Cabinet meeting at the Palace.

According to a brief provided by Dureza, the loan aims to support the government in addressing the challenges of high food prices in the short and medium term, “particularly by supporting measures to strengthen social protection and safety net to protect poor and vulnerable populations.”

“The operation focuses on the government‘s policy and institutional interventions in the area of social protection aimed at mitigating the impact of the price shocks and future shocks to the poor,” the paper said.

The operation also responds to the government’s request for quick disbursing budget support to help finance higher than the programmed expenditures for food-crisis-related expenditures.

Among the measures that will be funded by the loan are lowering and stabilization of domestic food prices in the short term; mitigation of high food and fuel prices on poor households; and improved conditional cash transfer program, it said.

The loan will be released in a single tranche and the Departments of Social Welfare and Development, Agriculture, Education, Interior and Local Government, Health, National Food Authority, and the National Nutrition Council will be the implementing agencies.

The ADB loan will support the government “in its effort to create a just and equitable society and enhance the rule of law in the country,” the document said.

The ADB program aims to support the increase of resources available to the justice sector; and improving access to justice of the poor and other vulnerable groups.

The implementing agencies are the Departments of Justice, Interior and Local Governments, and Budget and Management, and Office of the Solicitor General.

===========================

My Take:

What Judicial Reform?

By appointing news set of justices percieved to be Arroyo allies?  By maintaing Sec Gonzalez as DOJ chief?

By continued lip service on the cases of human rights violations and extra-judicial killings of activists, human rights workers and media persons?

Just asking.

Similarities noted in the enforced disappearance of Jonas and James

October 22, 2008

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


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

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

The Jonas rice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The other missing JB

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

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

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

James was abducted September 17.

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

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

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

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

A thousand cranes for a wish

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writ if amparo

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

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

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

Bilanggong pulitikal nadismaya sa pagpapalaya kay Teehankee

October 21, 2008

MULA sa Camp Crame Custodial Center, inihayag ng bilanggong pulitikal na si Elizabeth Principe ang pagkadismaya sa pagbigay ng executive clemency ni Pangulong Arroyo kay Claudio Teehankee Jr.

“Baligtad talaga ang gobyerno. Ang mga taong inialay ang kanilang buhay sa masa, nabubulok sa piitan habang ang mayayamang kriminal ay pinalalaya,” (This is an upside down government. Those people who offer their lives to the masses are suffering to rot in jail yet the wealthy criminals can walk as free men) ani Principe, konsultant ng NDFP (National Democratic Front of the Philippines).

Hinatulan ng habambuhay na pagkakabilanggo dahil sa pagpatay ng 16-anyos na si Maureen Hultman, nakalaya si Teehankee ngayong linggo matapos lamang ang 14 taon sa National Bilibid Prison.

Hinamon naman ni Donato Continente, tagapagsalita ng Selda (Society of Ex-Detainees against Detention and for Amnesty), si Arroyo na palayain din ang 225 bilanggong pulitikal.

Binilanggo sa ilalim ng gobyernong Arroyo ang 198 sa mga ito.

Siningil din ni Continente si Arroyo sa kabiguan nitong palayain ang mga bilanggong pulitikal sa ilalim ng Second Oslo joint statement na pinirmahan ng gobyerno at ng NDFP noong Abril 3, 2004.

Ayon sa Karapatan, sa 31 bilanggong pulitikal na inaprubahan para palayain, pito lamang ang pinakawalan ng gobyerno sa bisa ng usapang pangkapayapaan sa NDFP.(PinoyWeekly)

Rights group wants farmer slay probed

October 20, 2008

By Nikko Dizon
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 20:14:00 10/20/2008

MANILA, Philippines—The militant human rights group Karapatan has urged the public and the international community to pressure the government and the military to investigate the Army soldiers who allegedly killed a farmer and nearly wounded his eight-year-old son last week in Mulanay, Quezon.

In its “urgent action alert,” the group’s chapter in Southern Tagalog said letters may be sent directly to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in Malacañang to bring to her attention the alleged military attack against Alejo de Luna and his son, Mark Angelo.

“(There should be an) immediate credible investigation of the extra-judicial killing of Alejo De Luna and other violations against the De Luna family, beginning with subjecting the 74th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army to investigation,” Karatapan said in its alert released last Friday.

An urgent action alert is used by human rights groups like Karapatan “to ask the public and the international community for support or help in certain cases that need action, such as asking the people to pressure governments to act favorably for human rights victims,” Ruth Cervantes, Karapatan spokesperson, explained on Monday.

In the alert, Karapatan said soldiers from the battalion’s Bravo company arrived at the De Luna farm at around 6 a.m. last October 13.

De Luna’s wife, Angeline, told the group that she stepped out of the house after preparing coffee when she saw nine soldiers surround her husband who, along with Mark Angelo, their youngest son, was tending their farm near their home in the village of Mabini.

“‘Wag kang tatakbo! (Don’t run!)” a soldier barked at her husband, Angeline recounted.

But their terrified son ran and De Luna, 30, tried to catch up with him.

It was then when Angeline said she heard a series of gunshots from an M-16 rifle.

Angeline said the soldiers then stormed and searched their home, and threatened to bring her to an Army camp.

The soldiers left the De Luna home at 11 am. Why the soldiers stayed at the house for five hours was not explained in the Karapatan alert.

It was only after Angeline sought help from a village official that she learned that her husband had died from two gunshot wounds.

Mark Angelo, on the other hand, was almost hit. The boy had bullet burns on his shorts.

“The family sought the help of Karapatan-Quezon after the incident,” the group said.

Karapatan claimed that not only had the soldiers executed De Luna, they had also violated Mark Anthony’s rights as a child.

The group said the victims should be immediately indemnified.

Karapatan urged the public and the international community to remind the Philippine government that “it is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and that it is also a party to all the major Human Rights instruments, thus it is bound to observe all of these instruments’ provisions.”

SC junks appeal of CA justices in Meralco mess

October 16, 2008

THE Supreme Court yesterday denied with finality the motions for reconsideration filed separately by Court of Appeals justices that it suspended and reprimanded for improprieties on the disposition of the Meralco ownership case.

In a 33-page per curiam resolution, the Court en banc adopted in full its September 9 decision where it declared Associate Justice Vicente Roxas, ponente of the Meralco case, guilty of violating the Code of Judicial Conduct, grave misconduct, dishonesty, undue interest and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.

The high court also suspended for two months CA Associate Justice Jose Sabio Jr. for breaking the shield of confidentiality that covers the disposition of cases.

CA Presiding Justice Conrado Vasquez Jr. was severely reprimanded for his failure to provide leadership expected of him as head of the appellate court, and his admission of lapses in judgment.

Associate Justice Bienvenido Reyes was reprimanded for being discourteous to Vasquez when he signed Roxas’ ponencia despite his July 22, 2008 request-letter to the presiding justice to decide which division of the CA – the Eighth Division with him as chairman or the Special Ninth Division chaired by Justice Sabio – should promulgate the decision on Meralco case.

Associate Justice Myrna Dimaranan-Vidal was admonished for being “too compliant” when she allowed herself to be rushed by Justice Roxas into signing the Meralco decision on July 8, 2008, without reading the parties’ memoranda and without deliberation among members.

In the per curiam resolution, the high court dismissed Roxas’ explanation that the “haste” in which his decision in the Meralco-GSIS case was promulgated was because of his intention to “efficiently” dispose of such, among others.

The Court held that the haste in which the decision was promulgated was taken in context with other suspicious circumstances and improprieties on Roxas’ part which led the three-man investigating panel composed of retired SC justices to believe that he was unduly interested in the Meralco-GSIS case.

Roxas, in his motion for reconsideration, had asked for suspension instead of a dismissal.

“We must emphasize that where the finding of administrative guilt is well supported by the evidence on record, as in this case, this Court must impose the penalty warranted under the law and prevailing jurisprudence,” the Court said.

On Sabio, the SC said he merely set himself up for another insult or assault on his integrity when he still called businessman Francis Roa de Borja even after he was offered the bribe.

“Taking his conversation with his brother and his encounters with Mr. De Borja together, Justice Sabio gives the impression that he is accessible to lobbyists who would unfairly try to manipulate court proceedings,” the Court said.

On Vasquez, the Court said that the former failed “to timely and effectively act in the chairmanship dispute between Justices Sabio and Bienvenido L. Reyes Jr. It stressed that the Presiding Justice should have stepped in to prevent the dispute and enmity between the two from escalating.

On Vidal, the Court clarified that her admonition was not in the nature of a penalty. It held that an admonition “is a warning or reminder, counseling on a fault, error or oversight, an expression of authoritative advice or warning.” – Evangeline de Vera(Malaya)

SC asked to void Teehankee pardon

October 16, 2008

BY EVANGELINE DE VERA

THE Supreme Court was asked yesterday to void President Arroyo’s grant of executive clemency to double-murder convict Claudio Teehankee Jr. early this month.

Lawyer Ernesto Francisco asked the Supreme Court to compel authorities to immediately return Teehankee to the National Bilibid Prison as he said the grant of pardon runs counter to the Constitution and the guidelines of the Board of Pardons and Parole.

Francisco was one of the private prosecutors who represented the families of Teehankee’s victims during the trial.

Teehankee, son of the late former Chief Justice Claudio Teehankee Sr. and brother of former Justice Undersecretary Manuel Teehankee, was granted clemency in a letter dated October 2 sent to the National Bilibid Prison by Malacañang. He sneaked out of the NBP on October 8 amid opposition by a number of sectors to his release.

Teehankee was sentenced to two life terms in 1995 for the 1991 murder of Roland John Chapman and Swedish-Filipino Maureen Hultman during a traffic altercation.

He was also sentenced to 12 to 20 years in prison for the frustrated murder of Jussi Leino, who served as principal witness against Teehankee.

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez said neither Francisco nor the courts could question President Arroyo’s exclusive power to grant clemency to prisoners.

“The SC cannot revoke it because it’s an absolute power of the President. In the same manner, in an analogy, Congress cannot deprive the SC of certain jurisdictions on the courts… He (Francisco) may have grounds as he sees it. He has the privilege of filing the case with reasons ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous,” he said.

Gonzalez said Teehankee’s petition for clemency had been pending for three years when it was acted upon. It was reviewed eight times by the Bureau of Corrections and by the Bureau of Parole and Pardon.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said Malacañang is leaving the matter to Gonzalez and the Supreme Court.

Francisco, in an 84-page petition, said Teehankee’s sentence was imprisonment of a minimum of 36 years and maximum of 69 years and four months. Based on records, his aggregate sentence was previously adjusted to a definite prison term of 40 years in accordance with Article 70 of the Revised Penal Code.

He said respondents Gonzalez in his capacity as chairman of the BPP, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, and the Bureau of Corrections committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in allowing Teehankee’s release.

Francisco said the BPP recommended the grant of executive clemency and commutation of sentence of Teehankee despite the fact that he did not qualify for commutation of sentence.

He further said Gonzalez and the BPP failed to comply with their own amending guidelines for recommending executive clemency in favor of Teehankee. He said there was absolutely nothing to show that the grant of executive clemency to Teehankee was with the objective of “preventing a miscarriage of justice or correcting a manifest injustice.”

He said the respondents failed to give the required notices to the convicting trial judge, the private and/or public prosecuting lawyers and the offended parties.

According to Francisco, the respondents also failed to comply with the required publication in a newspaper of national circulation of the names of prisoners being considered for executive clemency in order to give the public the opportunity to file written objections.

He noted that the executive clemency was granted despite Teehankee’s failure to settle the civil aspect of his sentence with respect to Chapman in the amount of P2.05 million and Leino in the amount of P4.14 million and $55,600.(Malaya)

Palace will not appeal High Court ruling on MOA

October 16, 2008

THE government will not appeal the Supreme Court decision declaring unconstitutional the memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain it drafted with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said yesterday.

He said the government, through the Solicitor General, will instead file a manifestation explaining that the government is already addressing some of the “observations” made by the tribunal in Tuesday’s decision, like the conduct of public consultations.

“A new paradigm shift had been issued and the two important things about the paradigm shift in negotiations with the MILF are focus of the negotiations on dialogue with communities and not only with the armed groups. The negotiation should be undertaken in the context of disarmament, disbandment and reintegration of forces,” he said.

The government announced the new shift in policy in dealing with armed rebel groups late in August after deciding to abandon the MOA.

Ermita shrugged off the statements of MILF officials that they would bring the issue before international bodies.

He said President Arroyo has informed the international community, including the United Nations and the Organization of Islamic Countries, of her government’s decision on the MOA and the shift in paradigm.

The Supreme Court, voting 8-7 Tuesday, said the government peace negotiating panel that crafted the MOA with the MILF violated the Constitution when it initialed the agreement that would have ceded a portion of the country’s territory to the secessionist group.

The agreement proposes the creation of a Muslim homeland in the South to be governed by the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity which can enter into economic agreements and trade relations with other countries.

President Arroyo said the high court’s ruling did not change her government’s decision not to sign the agreement.

She expressed hope no one would take “undue advantage of the verdict that would lead to the deterioration of the situation.”

After the oathtaking of the new officers of the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines in Malacañang, Arroyo thanked Iligan City Mayor Lawrence Cruz and Vice Mayor Henry Lim.

Iligan City questioned the agreement before the Supreme Court together with North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, and Zamboanga del Norte provinces and Zamboanga and Isabela (Basilan) cities.

Parts of these areas, and other areas outside the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, were proposed to be included in the Bangsamoro homeland.

Hermogenes Esperon, presidential adviser on the peace process, belied the Supreme Court’s finding that he committed grave abuse of discretion when he failed to carry out the consultation process, as mandated by law, in areas that would be directly affected by the creation of the Muslim homeland.

“I must say that in our record at the office of the presidential adviser on the peace process from 2005 to 2007, there were 140 consultations with various sectors and organizations, including, if I may add, one that lasted for six hours in Zamboanga City. So there were indeed consultations. But it is different from saying that what the people would air or suggest should be taken hook-line-and-sinker by the panel itself,” he said.

He added: “If ever we could be faulted, it is only because we wanted to achieve, attain for us concrete results which could lead to lasting peace in Mindanao.”

Esperon, along with Rodolfo Garcia, chair of the now disbanded government panel, was supposed to sign the agreement August 5 in Kuala Lumpur.

Esperon said they agreed to the inclusion of at least 700 barangays in the Muslim homeland because the MILF was willing to subject the issue to a plebiscite.

“Processes that would go in the plebiscite itself would call for consultations. First, Congress would be coming out with an enabling law to authorize the plebiscite itself, there would be consultations. In the end when we conduct the plebiscite itself, then that is another form of consultation,” he said.

Secretary Ronaldo Puno said he was “happy” with the tribunal’s ruling “because its central message was on the necessity of consulting local government units, or something which the DILG had already been doing in Mindanao upon the instruction of President Arroyo herself.”

He also said the government was not worried about the MILF’s plan to bring the issue before international bodies because the group has no “legal leg to stand on.”

Sen. Rodolfo Biazon called for the immediate resumption of peace talks but said no foreign country should be allowed to broker the negotiations.

Biazon said choosing or allowing Malaysia to broker the peace talks was a mistake.

“We cannot disregard that there are conflicts of interest between Malaysia and the Philippines in the form of the unresolved Sabah question and the conflict of claims in the Spratlys. If Malaysia continues to be the broker of the peace process, the Philippines will be at a disadvantage on both counts,” he said.

Senate majority leader Francis Pangilinan said Malacañang should declare a ceasefire in Mindanao to ease the tension created by the Supreme Court ruling.

“The government needs to own up to its mistake in entering into that unconstitutional agreement, and to do this, it needs to spare the people in Mindanao from possible repercussions of the SC decision with the MILF. It needs to declare a ceasefire right away,” he said.

Sen. Loren Legarda said the government and all parties in strife-torn Mindanao must continue the search for lasting peace based on social justice by pushing for another round of peace negotiations.

“Just because the Supreme Court had declared the MILF-GRP memorandum of agreement to be unconstitutional doesn’t mean that we now have to close the door on peace initiatives,” she said. – Jocelyn Montemayor, Victor Reyes and Dennis Gadil(Malaya)

CA RULING NorthRail, builder subject to RP laws

October 13, 2008

By Norman Bordadora
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 04:47:00 10/13/2008

MANILA, Philippines—The $500-million NorthRail project and the contractor appointed by the Chinese government to undertake it are subject to Philippine courts and laws, the Court of Appeals (CA) has ruled.

In an 18-page decision dated Sept. 30, the appellate court’s Fifth Division dismissed China National Machinery and Equipment Corporation’s (CNMEC) motion questioning the Makati Regional Trial Court’s jurisdiction over itself and the contract to build a rail system from northern Metro Manila to central Luzon.

The Court of Appeals upheld the Makati RTC’s orders of May 15, 2007, and March 10, 2008, that set hearings to determine whether the NorthRail project by CNMEC should be stopped for being disadvantageous to the government and for displacing residents at project sites.

“Ostensibly, petitioner CNMEC failed to establish that it is an agent of the (People’s Republic of China or PROC) entitled to sovereign immunity from suit and that the assailed agreements exempted from complying with the requirements of the law,” the court said in its decision.

“Ergo, it must submit itself to our jurisdiction and abide by our rules and regulations,” it said.

The CNMEC had argued—in an April 2006 motion to dismiss—that the Makati court had no jurisdiction over it since it was an agent of the sovereign Chinese government.

It also said that court had no jurisdiction over the NorthRail project since it was supposedly an executive agreement between the Philippine and Chinese governments.

The court undermined the Chinese contractor’s arguments.

“The NorthRail project or agreement is not an agreement between states, i.e., PROC and the Philippine governments, but between petitioner CNMEC, a juridical entity and NorthRail,” it said.

“Likewise, a scrutiny of the NorthRail contract and the loan agreement reveals that local laws should apply to them instead of international law,” it added.

The appellate court also said CNMEC wasn’t recognized as an agent of the Chinese government by the Department of Foreign Affairs.

The Fifth Division is made up of chair Associate Justice Remedios Salazar-Fernando and members, Associate Justices Rosalinda Asuncion-Vicente and Ramon Bato Jr.

Lawyers Harry Roque and Joel Butuyan and people’s organizations had filed a case for the annulment of the NorthRail contract against Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, among others, assailing the project as unconstitutional, illegal and immoral.

On March 17, 2006, the Makati RTC set the hearings on Roque’s and the others’ plea to stop the project.

SC affirms Palparan link to abduction

October 13, 2008

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

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

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

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

Raymond did not identify the people who allegedly torched Merino.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Editorial Cartoon: (Teehankee Release) Over Her Dead Body

October 13, 2008

Revolting

Balao Family Files Amparo Petition

October 12, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mystery car inside Bilibid premises

October 11, 2008

By Marlon Ramos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:37:00 10/11/2008

MANILA, Philippines—What was a government vehicle registered to a regional director of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in Mindanao doing inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City on Wednesday night?

The Philippine Daily Inquirer spotted the vehicle—a red Isuzu pickup truck with Plate No. SEW 750—a few meters away from the candle workshop through which Claudio Teehankee Jr. sneaked out to avoid members of the media who had waited for him for two days.

It was parked near a variety store on the dimly lit road leading to the Our Lady of Mercy Church.

Land Transportation Office records show that the truck belongs to the DPWH regional director in Dapitan City, Zamboanga del Norte.

According to an NBP insider, the truck was to have brought Teehankee to the “living-out” quarters of former Zamboanga del Norte Romeo Jalosjos.

The former lawmaker is reportedly occupying a “cozy house” in Katarungan Village some three kilometers from the NBP complex. (In December 2007, then Bureau of Corrections Director Ricardo Dapat was quoted as saying that Katarungan Village was still “considered part of the NBP reservation.”)

Helping his friend

The insider said it was Jalosjos who had sent the vehicle to collect Teehankee.

“It’s easy to understand why that truck was there. Jalosjos ordered his men to help his friend ‘escape,’” the insider said, pointing out that the truck came from the former lawmaker’s legislative district.

The insider, who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity, said a certain Jo, a former NBP inmate, had been using the truck as his service vehicle.

He said Jo was Jalosjos’ “all-around errand boy and contractor” for his construction projects.

But Jalosjos’ men decided not to use the truck when they noticed the Inquirer crew cab passing by, the insider said.

Two witnesses said they saw three men disembark from the truck two hours before Teehankee gave the media the slip a little past 7 p.m.

Instead, a motorcycle driven by Dante Cruz—a prison official assigned at the NBP—brought Teehankee to Jalosjos’ house, the insider said.

PDI Editorial: Heckler in the Cabinet

October 11, 2008

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:44:00 10/11/2008

MANILA, Philippines—Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, who told critics protesting the grant of executive clemency to convicted murderer Claudio Teehankee Jr. to plead their case with Jesus Christ, has issued another piece of advice. And this time it is addressed directly to the family of the murdered Maureen Hultman. “If they can’t accept it, they can jump into the lake,” Gonzalez said Thursday. “Very wide naman ang North Sea.”

Gonzalez was reacting to Anders and Vivian Hultman who protested the “sneaky and hasty” way by which their daughter’s killer had regained his freedom. In 1992, Teehankee, son of the late Chief Justice Claudio Teehankee Sr. and brother of former justice undersecretary and now Ambassador Manuel Teehankee, was convicted for the 1991 double murder of Maureen Hultman, 17, and Roland John Chapman and the near fatal shooting of Jussi Leino. He was sentenced to life imprisonment and another jail term of eight to 14 years for his crimes. But he walked out a free man before midnight on Friday, after President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo granted him executive clemency.

The Hultmans, who have since relocated to Sweden, protested the seeming haste and secrecy of the presidential pardon. They said they were not informed beforehand of Teehankee’s release in violation of established procedures.

Administration officials, however, insisted that the Hultmans knew that a presidential pardon was in the works as early as 1999 when they signed a document accepting settlement of civil damages. But the Hultmans said a pardon for Teehankee was not part of the agreement.

To Gonzalez, that made the Hultmans “hypocrites.”

Tactless, tasteless and totally insensitive — that is the justice secretary for you. This is not the first time he has bared his fishwife’s tongue. In 2005 when actress Susan Roces accused Ms Arroyo of stealing the presidency from her husband, Fernando Poe Jr., Gonzalez dismissed her as a “griping widow” and said she was “too beautiful to be sent to jail.” Soon after former President Corazon Aquino called for Ms Arroyo’s resignation, he told her to “first take care of her daughter” Kris Aquino, who was involved in some messy romantic liaisons.

But for sheer boorishness and insensitivity, his remarks against the Hultmans take the cake. Someone ought to tell Gonzalez to go jump into the filthy Pasig River with his foul mouth.

But who will do it? In a more civil and decent administration such coarse remarks would have cost Gonzalez his job. But apparently the President thinks he is just being cute. Or perhaps she believes she needs a resident heckler in her Cabinet to drown out protests against the miscues and blunders of her administration.(PDI)

20,000 more deserving of pardon—chaplain

October 11, 2008

By Marlon Ramos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:27:00 10/11/2008

MANILA, Philippines—Twenty percent of some 20,000 inmates of the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City are more deserving of executive clemency than convicted murderer Claudio Teehankee Jr., according to the chaplain of the state penitentiary.

But “qualipaid” convicts like Teehankee are given priority over qualified prisoners, Msgr. Robert Olaguer told the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Wednesday.

He defined “qualipaid” convicts as those with sufficient money and connections to have their applications for clemency processed quickly, and said the term was “actually coined by prisoners who had grown tired of waiting for their pardon.”

“Yes. There are at least 4,000 inmates who are more worthy and qualified to be released than Mr. Teehankee,” Olaguer said in reply to a question posed by the Inquirer.

“Sadly, ‘qualipaid’ inmates get more attention than the qualified ones,” he said.

Asked to explain how money could have changed hands to bring about a convict’s freedom, he said: “Only the inmates know about it.”

Olaguer also said that together with volunteers, he and his staff had been sending letters to President Macapagal-Arroyo “almost every day” to remind her of the applications for pardon of poor inmates.

But not one of the letters has merited a reply, he said.

“Maybe we need somebody to remind Malacañang about our requests. That’s when you need the right connections,” he said.

Nothing irregular

Now 62, Teehankee was convicted of the shooting deaths in 1991 of 16-year-old Maureen Hultman and Roland Chapman and the near-fatal shooting of Jussi Leino.

Teehankee was granted executive clemency by Ms Arroyo late last month. He slipped out of the NBP complex on Wednesday night after spending several days in a fully furnished room owned by former Zamboanga del Norte Rep. Romeo Jalosjos, a convicted child rapist who now stays in “living-out” quarters in Katarungan Village.

However, Olaguer pointed out that there was nothing irregular in the President’s decision to grant executive clemency to Teehankee and other influential prisoners.

Olaguer said that like other convicts, Teehankee deserved clemency because he had served more than 12 years—the required minimum prison term for those applying for the privilege.

The chaplain said he and the other convicts were pleased by Teehankee’s release.

“Whenever an inmate is allowed to go, all those inside are happy. But they also ask, ‘What about us?’” he said.

Changed man

Olaguer also said that during Teehankee’s incarceration, he noticed a major change in the convict’s behavior.

From being reserved and aloof, the man became outgoing and learned to get along with poor inmates, the chaplain said. “He focused on playing tennis and ping pong. It helped him a lot to shed his old behavior.”

Olaguer said Teehankee involved himself in helping his fellow convicts through church-based activities and Jalosjos’ Lamb of God Foundation.

He was also a volunteer worker in a feeding program for elderly inmates, and was always present at the Wednesday novena, Olaguer said, adding:

“Now that he’s free, I hope he will use his chance to make himself a productive member of the community. I hope he will really change for the better.”

Even Go

The chaplain also said even Rolito Go, who was convicted of shooting dead 25-year-old Eldon Maguan over a traffic row in 1991, was likewise worthy of clemency.

“That’s the President’s prerogative. I don’t see any abuse of power there. But she had shortcomings with other inmates,” he said. “She failed to give attention to other inmates.”

For instance, Olaguer said, Ms Arroyo has yet to act on the application for pardon of the 13 remaining prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of former Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr. and Rolando Galman.

Prominent recipients of executive clemency

October 10, 2008

THE FOLLOWING IS A LIST OF prominent convicts who received a
presidential pardon or whose sentences were commuted:
Ousted President Joseph Estrada. Convicted by the Sandiganbayan of
plunder on Sept. 12, 2007, and sentenced to up to 40 years in prison.
Pardoned by President Macapagal-Arroyo on Oct. 25, or six weeks later.
Former Caloocan Rep. Luis “Baby” Asistio. Part of the “Big Four,” said
to be the most feared gang on the nightclub strip of Dewey (now Roxas)
Boulevard in the 1960s. Sentenced to death for the 1962 kidnapping of
Chua Pao. Spent 13 years behind bars before sentence was commuted to
life imprisonment. Pardoned by then President Ferdinand Marcos.
Quezon City Rep. Vincent “Bingbong” Crisologo. Jailed in 1972 for
torching the villages of Ora Este, Weste and Centro in Bantay, Ilocos
Sur. Became a Born-Again Christian minister in prison and founded the
Loved Flock Catholic Charismatic Ministry. Released in 1980 by Marcos.
Actor Robin Padilla. Sentenced in 1995 to 17 to 21 years in prison for
illegal possession of firearms. Benefited from the passage of a law
that reduced the prison term for the offense. Granted conditional
pardon in April 1998 by then President Fidel V. Ramos, for whom he
campaigned in 1992.
Pablo Martinez. One of 16 soldiers convicted of the 1983 Aquino-Galman
killings. Sentenced to life imprisonment in 1990, and granted
conditional pardon by Ms Arroyo on Nov. 7, 2007, on grounds of advanced
age and good behavior.
Norberto Manero Jr. Sentenced to a life term in 1987 for the 1985
abduction and murder of Italian priest Tullio Favali in Mindanao.
Sentence commuted to 24 years by Ramos in 1998, and then further
reduced for reported good behavior. Left the New Bilibid Prison on Jan.
25 after a 23-year imprisonment.
Army Capt. Gerardo Gambala, Capt. Milo Maestrecampo and seven other
junior Army officers held for taking part in the 2003 Oakwood mutiny.
Pardoned by Ms Arroyo in May as recommended by then newly retired Armed
Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Hermogenes Esperon. Released on May 16.

Cyril L. Bonabente, Inquirer Research

(Analysis) Why was Teehankee released in secret?

October 10, 2008

By Amando Doronila
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 03:09:00 10/10/2008

MANILA, Philippines—The release of Claudio Teehankee Jr. at close to midnight Friday from the New Bilibid Prison, where he was serving a life sentence for the cold-blooded murder of 16-year-old Maureen Hultman, sparked a public tempest over the apparently clandestine way it was done.

Teehankee, son of the late Chief Justice Claudio Teehankee, was freed from the national penitentiary after serving 14 years for a triple crime, including the gruesome murder of Hultman in 1991, after President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo granted him executive clemency in late September. He was also convicted of the fatal shooting of Hultman’s companion, Roland John Chapman, 21, and the almost fatal shooting of another companion, Jussi Olavi Leino. The killings shocked the nation, and the circumstances surrounding Teehankee’s release generated as much controversy. The release raised issues of special treatment for a member of an influential family, and the fairness of the Philippine judicial system.

Chief Justice Teehankee swore into office President Corazon Aquino after the ouster of President Ferdinand Marcos during the 1986 People Power Revolution. Teehankee Jr. is the elder brother of Ambassador Manuel Teehankee, the Philippine representative to the World Trade Organization in Geneva and a former undersecretary of justice.

The Teehankee release came after the politically controversial absolute pardon granted by President Arroyo to deposed president Joseph Estrada after was convicted of plunder by the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan — an act of executive clemency criticized as a politically motivated decision designed to appease the partisan followers of the highly popular Estrada.

The release of Teehankee shocked the members of the Hultman family who claimed that the administration breached the law and was not transparent when it failed to inform them as the government started processing the application for executive clemency.

Anders Hultman, father of Maureen, who had relocated his family to Stockholm, received the news as he was attending a business meeting in Stockholm. He said, “We are very surprised, shocked and very angry. [The grant of clemency] came from out of the blue, and was completely unexpected.”

Teehankee secretly left the prison complex at 7 p.m. Wednesday, eluding the media. Msgr. Robert Olaguer, the prison chaplain, said Teehankee “escaped” with the help of several unidentified men, who destroyed decorative blocks on the wall of the room where he had been staying.

Administration officials said the grant of clemency was above board and was extended after a mandatory review of the convict’s prison behavior. If it were so, it is hard to explain the deviousness of the release under cover of darkness.

Special Prosecutor Dennis Villa-Ignacio, who prosecuted the plunder case against Estrada and also the Teehankee case, supported the Hultmans’ claim that the government was less than transparent to them when it started considering clemency. He said that the executive failed to inform the victims’ family, the general public and the lead prosecutor about Teehankee’s last application for clemency.

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez maintained that review procedures were followed in considering the petition. He said, “Teehankee is considered to have already served his sentence.”

Gonzalez said the executive clemency commuted Teehankee’s sentence, following two reviews by the Board of Pardons and Parole. New Bilibid Prison Superintendent Ramon Reyes said Teehankee was freed on the basis of his good conduct time allowance. He added that the release of Teehankee underwent “rigorous review” and was signed by Gonzalez.

But justice and social consequence issues of the decision in regard to public safety have been raised.

The Hultman couple disputed the statements made by Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita that they had been informed of the President’s grant of clemency before it was reported in the media. “That’s a complete lie,” they said.

Ermita said that in pardoning Teehankee, the President did not have to inform the family of victims. “There is nothing that should compel the highest authority to inform them that such action has been taken by the President,” he said.

Ermita outlined the events leading to the grant of executive clemency. The review, he said, found that Teehankee had served a total of 17 years, two months and nine days before he was released on Oct. 3. Combined with good conduct time allowance, his term reached 21 years, three months and five days.

Ermita furnished reporters with copies of a document signed on Nov. 12, 1999 by Vivian and Anders Hultman. The document said: “The Hultmans … will not object to nor interpose any opposition to the application for such parole or commutation or shortening for the sentence of … Teehankee.”

On Jan. 13, Ermita said, the Hultmans filed in court “a notice of satisfaction of judgment with respect to the civil aspect.” But Vivian Hultman said, “We signed the papers … for the settlement of civil damages, not because we agreed that he will be pardoned.” She said the P6 million Teehankee paid was the amount the court had ordered him to pay upon finding him guilty of killing Hultman and Chapman.

But if the agreement and the review procedure were all above board, what was the reason for all the deviousness and secrecy in the release of Teehankee? Will the community be safe from this man who is at large again?

Businessmen slam Teehankee pardon

October 10, 2008

By Nikko Dizon, Daxim Lucas
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:34:00 10/10/2008

MANILA, Philippines—The influential Makati Business Club (MBC) Thursday criticized Malacañang’s “mishandling” of the grant of executive clemency to Claudio Teehankee Jr., saying the move was symptomatic of the broader problem of lack of transparency hounding the Arroyo administration.

The MBC also said the arguments of Malacañang officials in support of Teehankee’s release “betrayed a disturbing lack of respect for victims’ rights and the public’s right to information.”

Teehankee, now 62, was convicted of the 1991 killing of Maureen Hultman, 16, and Ronald John Chapman, and the near-fatal attack on Jussi Leino. He drew a life term and two lesser sentences. He was granted clemency by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo late in September and released midnight of Oct. 3.

“While the government may have made the motions to meet the minimum requirements of the law with the notification of the Hultman family—which the Hultmans never received—and the publication of a notice when Teehankee applied for executive clemency, the recent statements of [Executive Secretary Eduardo] Ermita and Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez have demonstrated a dismaying indifference to the plight of the victims’ families, insisting that the government was under no obligation to inform the Hultman family about the presidential pardon,” the MBC said in a press statement.

The umbrella organization of the Philippines’ largest corporations, the MBC has been critical of Malacañang since it called on Ms Arroyo to step down in 2005 in the wake of the “Hello Garci” election fraud scandal.

Correct, but…

The MBC said Ermita was correct in his assertion that the power to commute sentences and grant pardons was a constitutionally enshrined presidential prerogative of the President. But it questioned the use of this argument to parry criticism of Ms Arroyo.

“Why deny the Hultmans, one of the grievously offended parties in this case, the courtesy and the right to be informed and to respond to the government decision?” it said.

The group pointed out that given the sensational nature of the case and the public attention that surrounded it, the lack of transparency in the grant of clemency could “only lead people to question the motives behind the Arroyo administration’s actions.”

It also tied the administration’s actions with the results of recent business surveys showing the Philippines languishing near the bottom of global competitiveness rankings.

The recently released Global Competitiveness Report 2008–2009 of the World Economic Forum indicates that the Philippines has not made headway in improving its competitiveness rankings.

It states that one of the major reasons for this is the poor quality of the Philippines’ public institutions.

“With the Arroyo administration’s mishandling of the Teehankee case, we only see a further erosion in the people’s trust in our public institutions,” the MBC said.

225 political prisoners

Elsewhere, militant groups Karapatan and Selda issued a joint statement saying that with the grant of clemency to Teehankee, the President should also order the release of the remaining political prisoners her government agreed to free under the Oslo Joint Statement of 2004.

According to the human rights group Karapatan, of the 225 political prisoners nationwide, 198 were incarcerated under the Arroyo administration.

“How easy it is for this government to free a child killer while political prisoners continue to languish in jail,” said Donato Continente, spokesperson for Selda (Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detention at para sa Amnestiya).

Continente, himself a former political prisoner, assailed what he called the Arroyo administration’s “practice of giving pardon to heinous crime offenders while sending political activists to jail.”

“Political prisoners should be freed first rather than giving executive clemency to heinous crime offenders such as Teehankee and former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada,” he said.

Continente challenged the administration to “uphold its commitment to peace agreements and free all political prisoners.”

He said it continued to practice “a double standard in our justice system with the release of Teehankee,” and cited Ms Arroyo’s purported propensity to set free “the wealthy and the mighty” while disregarding agreements like the Oslo Joint Statement.

Continente was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of US Col. James Rowe, but the Supreme Court lowered his term to 17 years. He was released in 2005 after having spent 17 years at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City.

Only 7 of 31

Karapatan spokesperson Ruth Cervantes said only seven of the 31 political prisoners who should have been released under the Oslo Joint Statement signed on April 3, 2004, with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines had been freed.

They were Alison Alcantara, Maribel Barcenal, Lucena Lagado, Antonieta Pegoria, Zenaida Llesis, Antonio Violin, and Alfredo Yodico.

Cervantes said Violin was sick and elderly and Yodico had been ill.

She also said Llesis was pregnant when abducted and imprisoned, and that human rights groups had to campaign for her release.

Cervantes said some of the remaining political prisoners had either served their sentence or their cases had been dismissed on merit.

She said one—70-year-old Haj Amad Upao, who was accused of being a member of the bandit group Abu Sayyaf—was killed in the siege of Camp Bagong Diwa in 2005.

Cervantes said nine of the political prisoners included in the Oslo Joint Statement had been approved for release since 2001 but remained in jail—Pedro Madera, Jr., Ricardo Solangon, Basilides Badion, Janeth Montecalvo, Galo Omar, Palili Jammang, Moner Taufic, Abubakar Bimbas and Jonnes Dinaguit.

She said Madera and Solangaon were still at the NBP. Omar, Jammang, Taufic and Bimbas were minors at the time of their arrest, she said, adding that they were detained at Camp Bagong Diwa after being accused of membership in the Abu Sayyaf during “martial law” in Basilan in 2001.

What about us? asks wife of poor inmate

October 9, 2008

By Arlyn dela Cruz
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 07:25:00 10/09/2008

MANILA, Philippines—This mother of two is convinced that justice in the Philippines favors those with connections and influence, like the murder convict Claudio Teehankee Jr. who has been granted executive clemency by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Macquie Ortega said her partner, Ronaldo S. Garcia, had been languishing at the Sablayan Prison and Penal Farm in Occidental Mindoro province for the last 18 years. His crime: theft and robbery and possession of two sticks of marijuana.

Ortega, 36, said that when she was watching the TV reports on Teehankee the other night, she felt “anger and pity—anger at the government system and pity for the poor like us.”

She first sought this reporter through e-mail and then in person to show the documents related to Garcia’s case. She carried a bag full of papers, including one from the Bureau of Corrections showing that Garcia completed his sentence for theft and robbery on June 16, 2002, and for possession of two sticks of marijuana on Nov. 28, 2005.

Escapee

Ortega said she wanted to see Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez at his office to ask him why Teehankee was now a free man and her partner was not. “Bakit ganun?” she said, adding:

“If they will not let me in, I will make a scene just to be able to talk with him.”

Per Ortega’s account, Garcia is still detained because he escaped the first time he was jailed for theft at Sablayan on Dec. 31, 1992.

In 1996, he was rearrested in Pasay City and was found to be carrying two sticks of marijuana. Because of the earlier sentence for theft that he had tried to evade, he was taken back to Sablayan.

But after that, he did everything to serve the penal colony and to put his life in order, according to Ortega.

Based on his prison record, Garcia became an assistant checker, assistant chief petty officer, and “mayor” (leader) of Dormitory 3 for six years. He also became a teacher’s aide, teaching first- and second-grade subjects to his fellow prisoners who had not undergone formal schooling.

Ortega said she was proud of her partner’s record in prison.

“It’s an honor and a victory for an escapee to be given such a high position in the penal colony. It was the first time in the history of Sablayan that an escapee became a ‘mayor,’” she said.
One major problem for Garcia is Section 5 of the 2006 Revised Manual of the Bureau of Pardons and Parole (BPP) which states: “The Board shall not favorably recommend petitions for executive clemency of prisoners convicted of evasion of sentence.”

The BPP has informed Ortega that her partner had to complete the maximum sentence for him to regain his freedom—and that would take place, based on the board’s sentence computation, in 2015.

“He has been serving the penal colony for a long time,” she lamented. “He wants so much to experience living as a free man with his family.”

Childhood sweethearts

Garcia and Ortega were childhood sweethearts.

He was already in prison when she delivered their children, “and they grew up viewing their father, not as an inmate, but as an assistant of the colony officials,” she said.

The children—Jaqueline, 14, and Mark, 8—live and study in Pasay City. With their mother, they visit their father once a month.

Ortega said she had sought help in bringing her partner’s case to the President’s attention.

She said she had visited the Public Attorney’s Office and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), and even sent a letter to the office of Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita.

But in every instance, she said, she was referred back to the same stumbling block—that Garcia escaped prison in 1992.

An IBP officer has advised her to write Ms Arroyo, citing Article VII Section 19 of the 1987 Constitution which states: “Except in cases of impeachment, or as otherwise provided in this Constitution, the President may grant reprieves, commutations, and pardons, and remit fines and forfeitures, after conviction by final judgment.”

‘But how?’

Ortega quoted the IBP officer as saying that the “best way” was for her to speak personally with Ms Arroyo.

Recalled Ortega: “I said, ‘But how? Can I just appear at her office and plead for her mercy? It’s not like she’s in a mall and she’s approachable. Where will I find someone who will let me speak with the President? Who will pay attention to me?’

“I said, ‘You know, Attorney, I wish I were rich so I can pay someone to help me reach the President. But we’re just poor people.’”

(PDI)

Palace defends Teehankee pardon ‘No complaint from Hultmans’–Ermita

October 7, 2008

By Joel Guinto

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE) Malacañang has defended President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s grant of executive clemency to a controversial murder convict, saying this underwent a “very rigorous review.”

Claudio Teehankee Jr.,who was convicted for the 1991 murders of 16-year-old Maureen Hultman and 21-year-old Roland John Chapman was released from the National Bilibid Prisons on Friday evening.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said that as early as 1999, the Hultman family had agreed to a P6-million settlement with the Teehankees. Under the terms of the settlement, the Hultmans would get the Teehankees’ house in San Juan if the convict failed to pay the full amount.

“This was committed [against] the Hultmans, and the Hultmans did not object when asked about the possibility of giving Mr. Teehankee pardon,” Ermita told reporters in Malacañang.

“The Hultmans thought there was remorse on the part of Mr Teehankee. He has served his time, and therefore, they did not object when they were asked during the processing of his paper…That’s a major factor [in the President’s decision],” he added.

Ermita said the grant of executive clemency was Arroyo’s prerogative.

“There really is nothing special about it except for the fact that he is a prominent personality,” he said.

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, for his part, said he was informed that the Hultmans had been advised of the impending release of Teehankee and posed no objection.

“I also assume that he has already paid the civil indemnity to the family of the victim,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez admitted that Teehankee’s brother, Manuel, a former justice undersecretary, dropped by his office one time and asked if Claudio could be released on parole.

Press Secretary Jesus Dureza pointed out that Teehankee was only one of 292 prisoners that were granted executive clemency in an order dated September 28.

Asked about perceptions the clemency order on Teehankee was kept secret, Dureza said: “There is no such thing as secrecy. When we grant clemency it’s publicly announced, although some malicious minds will probably give it that spin.”

Earlier, he told radio station dzMM that the case of Teehankee was “subject to very rigorous review, it was even reviewed twice.”

For good conduct, Dureza said five days was deducted from Teehankee’s sentence for every month he spent in jail in his first two years of imprisonment.

“Ultimately [after] 14 years of being imprisoned, he was therefore entitled to a commutation of sentence,” Dureza said.

Dureza said all convicts who have displayed good behavior in prison were entitled to executive clemency.

Asked if the President was set to pardon another high-profile murder convict, Rolito Go, Dureza said: “Haka-haka lang po iyon [That’s speculation].”

Go was found guilty of murder three years after he shot and killed Eldon Maguan in 1991 following a traffic altercation. He is serving his sentence at the New Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa City.

Tetch Torres, INQUIRER.net

CBCP PRISON CARE EXEC No proof Teehankee reformed ‘Good conduct in jail not same as full rehab’

October 7, 2008

By Dona Pazzibugan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 20:58:00 10/07/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Convicted murderer Claudio Teehankee Jr. may have been jailed for 14 years, but a Catholic church advocacy group for prison reforms doubts whether he has “reformed” since the country’s penal system does not provide any rehabilitation program for inmates.

Rodolfo Diamante, executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Episcopal Commission on Prison Pastoral Care, said having a record of “good conduct” inside a Philippine prison would not be the same as undergoing rehabilitation.
Good conduct only means the inmate did not join any riot or cause any trouble, said Diamante.

“‘The problem in our system is that there is no treatment. If there is no rehabilitation program, then the decision [to free Teehankee] becomes a very political one,” he said.

The CBCP advocates “restorative justice,” which provides for a rehabilitation program that would eventually give convicted criminals who have reformed a chance to return to society.

“Pardon or clemency should not be based on whether time has been served, there should be a program,” Diamante stressed, pointing out that hundreds of other inmates who had applied for clemency since they had served their time were turned down.

“How would you rehabilitate if there is no rehabilitation program? What then is the basis of the release? That’s why the decision [to pardon] would always be questioned since there is no clear basis,” Diamante said. (PDI)

Transparency urged in Arroyo pardons

October 7, 2008

By Thea Alberto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 17:53:00 10/07/2008

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE) While the decision to grant a pardon or executive clemency is a constitutional right, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo should be “fair and transparent” in enforcing them, senators said Tuesday.

Opposition Senator Francisco “Chiz” Escudero said the President failed to be transparent in granting executive clemency to Claudio Teehankee Jr.

Teehankee, son of the late Chief Justice Claudio Teehankee Sr., was released from the National Bilibid Prison over the weekend after serving only 14 years of his double life imprisonment term for the murders of Maureen Hultman and a friend in Makati City in 1991.

“Ang hinihiling lang lagi sa Pangulo ay accountability at
transparency…bakit hindi naipagbigay alam sa publiko [What has always been asked for from the President are accountability and transparency… why was the public not informed]?” asked Escudero, noting that the decision could have been there for months.

Senate Majority Leader Francis Pangilinan described the release of Teehankee as proof of the rotten justice system in the country, where rich and influential criminals could easily avail of executive clemency regardless of the severity of their crime.
“The release of Teehankee is indicative of the state of our system of justice in the country, rotting away due to failed political leadership and governance,” said Pangilinan in a text message.

But Senator Juan Ponce Enrile said Teehankee’s release was the “prerogative of the President,” saying it was an “act of state that prisoners are entitled to seek executive clemency once they have served the minimum required sentence.”

Senator Manuel “Mar” Roxas II agreed with Enrile, but noted that the power of the President to grant pardon or lower a convict’s sentence through executive clemency was a policy that must be “objective” and not discretionary.

“It is just disheartening that applications for clemency and pardon by the rich and influential persons are immediately acted upon by our officials. It is a pity that this is not the same as far as other prisoners, who have grown old in prison, are concerned, and who until now are still awaiting government action on their cases,” Roxas said in Filipino.

“This is wrong. Justice is not being applied equally on the rich and the poor, so the people have lost trust in the country’s justice system,” he said.

Senator Panfilo Lacson urged the government to release an official list of those who benefited from the presidential pardon so that the public could see whether the parole was “fair” to either both rich or poor.

“The DoJ, through the Board of Pardons and Parole, should make public an inventory of convicts in heinous crimes who are pardoned or paroled, with emphasis on their social status. Is everyone getting a fair shake?” said Lacson.

Mincing no words, Lacson accused Arroyo of tipping the scales of injustice in favor of “well-connected, influential and rich convicts” who, he said, “apparently [are] getting priority even in parole.”

Lacson, a former director general of the Philippine National Police, said the list of those who benefited from pardon and parole “may give the public a glimpse into whether the rich and influential are still putting one over the justice system, even after they are convicted for heinous crimes.”

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez’s admission that Teehankee’s brother, Manuel, reminded him about Claudio’s application for clemency was “very revealing,” Lacson said.

The convict’s brother Manuel is presently the Philippine representative to the World Trade Organization in Geneva.

“Secretary Gonzalez’s admission was very revealing. If you don’t have someone in the corridors of power to ‘remind’ the authorities about your case, you will be forgotten. This is no longer a fair fight, especially for the common Filipino,” he said.

Lacson noted that Gonzalez had admitted that Arroyo was the one who had ordered the release of Teehankee.

“While no one can question the prerogative of the President in ordering the release of a convict, no one can blame the aggrieved parties for feeling sore and cheated of justice either,” said the senator.

Senator Loren Legarda said Arroyo was letting loose criminals.

“Are we turning into a country that does not respect the law, that abuses its powers of executive clemency? It is dismaying and disappointing to say the least. Are we turning our country into a country of criminals on the loose?”

Michael Lim Ubac, Philippine Daily Inquirer