Archive for the ‘killings’ Category

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

March 12, 2014

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

By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
Bulatlat.com

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

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

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

Mass grave found in Abra province — report
By GMANews Online

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

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

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

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

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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)

Peasant Leader Killed Inside Nueva Ecija Army Camp

July 12, 2010

By RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

Struggle for Land

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

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

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

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

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

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

Concrete Action Urged

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

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

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

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

July 12, 2010

By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
Bulatlat.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sister of NPA Leader Parago Murdered

May 26, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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: Unmasking Duterte

April 21, 2009

unmasking-duterte

So that’s Duterte?

NPA leader: Military behind daughter’s slay

March 9, 2009

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

ka-parago

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Editorial Cartoon: The Recruit

March 5, 2009

anti-drug-move

AFP ops disrupt Abra economy

March 5, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stifling local livelihood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Palparan Appointment ‘Alarming’

February 2, 2009

By Alan Davis
Philippine Human Rights Reporting Project

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

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

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

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

What might this mean?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Karapatan claims civilians not rebels killed in Panubigan ‘encounter’

January 30, 2009

By Ranie S. Azue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 28, 2009

BAYAN – Panay leads various groups

in marking the Mendiola Massacre of 1987

Plazoleta Gay, Iloilo City .

January 22, 2009

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

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

–  EDGAR PELAYO, Secretary-General, BAYAN – Palnay

(Photos Courtesy of Bayan=Panay)

Arkibong Bayan

Photos: 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


No PDEA post but Palparan was briefed

January 26, 2009

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

Filed Under: Illegal drugs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anti-Mining Activist Gunned Down in ComVal

January 6, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dutch Lawyers to Arroyo: Prosecute Military involved in Extrajudicial Killings

December 28, 2008

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

BY D. L. MONDELO
Correspondent
Bulatlat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On cue

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

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

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

December 28, 2008

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

BY RONALYN V. OLEA
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH

(Bulatlat.com)

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Writ of amparo

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

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

Arming civilians

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

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


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

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

Domestic laws

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

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

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

December 22, 2008

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

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

— from the CEGP statement

Rachelle Mae Palang

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

September 24, 2008

PRESS STATEMENT

Justice for Rachelle Mae Palang (1986-2008),

press freedom fighter and nurse for the people

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Highest tribute to Rachelle Mae Palang!

Justice for Beng and Mae-Mae!

Reference:

Vijae Alquisola, National President, 09162034402

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

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

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

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

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

On September 22, Florencia left the house at 10:30 am and was boarding a tricycle, when at least six armed men believed to be elements of the 24th IB PA took her and forced her into a white L300 FB Mitsubishi. Four of the men were armed with .45 caliber pistols, while one carried an armalite.

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

On Sept. 17, another victim, James Balao, 47, of the Cordillera People’s Alliance disappeared in Baguio City . James left his home in Fairview , Baguio City to go to La Trinidad, Benguet at 7am and was not heard of since.

“In a span of six days, three victims were disappeared. The Armed Forces of the Philippines clearly shows that it is untouchable, and continues to carry out enforced disappearances, even after the Court of Appeals had ruled that it is guilty of the disappearance of Sherlyn Cadapan, Karen Empeño and Manuel Meriño,” said Mary Guy Portajada, spokesperson of the Families of Desaparecidos for Justice, or DESAPARECIDOS.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happier times.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Killing Puzzle: The Life and Death of a Radio Commentator

December 13, 2008

By Alan Davis and Ma. Cecilia L. Rodriguez
Philippine Human Rights Reporting Project

GINGOOG CITY, Misamis Oriental — Three days after burying him, the family of Aresio Padrigao were packing up their simple belongings and waiting for the people from the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) witness protection program to take them to the relative safety of Cagayan de Oro, a two-hour drive away.

There they hope to be resettled: there, his three children, Ariston, Arceli and Aries hope to find new schools; and only there is his clearly nervous and distressed widow Teresita prepared to speak in detail to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) which has been ordered in to lead in the hunt for the killers of the local radio block-timer. Padrigao was a heavy critic of the city administration and illegal loggers via his weekly one hour show “Inform the Public.”

“Local police chief Superintendent Leonyroy Ga is working with both the NBI and the DOJ on two possible leads and hopes the case can be solved within the month. Even so, he complains he is heavily reliant on the public coming forward. Ga has only just moved from Iligan City where last year he headed the investigation into another journalist shooting, that of Joe Pantoja, a radioman who survived despite being shot eight times.

Considered by many to be a fair and reliable pair of hands, the police chief was just one week in the job at the time of Padrigao’s killing on November 17. He says there is “a lot of pressure from above” to solve this case.

A 9mm. bullet casing had been retrieved from the scene and so too, somewhat remarkably, the alleged license plate of the motorbike used in the attack.

“We first thought that yes, the plate could simply have been thrown there by the assailants and this could be a false lead to send us on the wrong trail. The bike too may have been stolen, but we have followed it up and it is registered to an owner in Davao,” the police chief told the Philippine Human Rights Reporting Project.

“The plate number will probably have been taken off and held or put in a bag before the shooting. We had witnesses that told us the plate fell out from the killer’s backpack as he was rushing to hide his gun and make a getaway,” he said.

Papers with the name, photograph and address of the bike’s owner were shown to the Project by Ga, who confirmed that while the owner had no known criminal record he remained one of two current suspects. The other, whose name was first given to the Project by another source, is a reported gun-for-hire with two outstanding arrest warrants to his name for murder and attempted murder.

“The problem is we don’t know where he is, but we have the bullet casing and if we can tie that to his gun, then we have a match,” Ga said.

But even if so, while it may prove the case of who pulled the trigger on Padrigao, it will shed no light on the person or people behind his execution.

Recordings of Padrigao’s final four shows have been given to the Project to see if they can help shed any light on his killing – the sixth this year, surpassing last year’s five media killings. He was also the 61st journalist to be killed in the Philippines since 2001 when President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo took over.

In his broadcasts, Padrigao attacked city hall, the local government and too, the local police and the local Department of Environment and Natural Resources office for what he saw was a failure to catch illegal loggers.

“He had sources inside the city hall,” said Gualberto Pahunang, station manager of dxRS Radyo Natin (Our Radio) where the journalist had been broadcasting his show every Friday between 10 and 11 a.m. for the past two years. As a block-timer, Padrigao paid the station PhP 1,000 (USD) 20) a week.

Work-related?

Pahunang believes the killing could well be related to his work at the station.

Padrigao was one of six block-timers at Radyo Natin, a local community affiliate of the Manila Broadcasting Company. A framed certificate from the Philippine Red Cross thanking the station for its humanitarian reporting hangs on the wall.

“We are a public service radio for the people,” says Pahunang. “Some officials criticize us saying why are you doing this? You want to be heroes? You’re just monkeys.”

The station is little more than a simple box measuring six square feet with a computer, transmitter, basic mixing desk, two microphones and a stack of plastic chairs which can also be used in the yard outside.

“He was always reading directly from papers and documents he brought with him. He was very careful about that,” said Pahunang. With little experience in journalism, Padrigao was still considered “a trainee” and had to be coached by his manager on legal issues like libel and slander.

“I gave him a discount because he was poor. He was always trying to help the poor. But he was very poor himself. You can see that from where he lives. If people needed medicine, he would try and help and he would get sponsorship for the show from local people like sari-sari (variety) store owners,” said Pahunang.

He added: “His wife said somebody had been following them for a month and he told me he had threats, but he wouldn’t tell me where they came from.”

“It is very sad what happened,” says Attorney Benjamin Guimong, a respected lawyer in the city, from his office in Rizal Street. “Things are getting bad here in this city. You can hire a gunman here for PhP 1,500 (USD 30). That means nobody is safe.”

There has reportedly been a sudden recent spike in cases of extra judicial killings with the shooting of the administrator of the city market – an employee of city hall – under similar circumstances in August.

Some observers who wished not to be named suggested drugs, illegal gambling and extortion are becoming serious problems in this rural and somewhat isolated city of 120,000 people in North Eastern Mindanao. In the local print media, Gingoog is trying to advertise itself as a potential tourist attraction, but is much better known nationally only as a center for illegal logging.

According to Guimong, Padrigao was intending to publicly accuse those he believed responsible for a raid last month on the city treasury which reportedly netted robbers PhP 1 million (USD 20,408).

“I pleaded with him to be careful and not to talk about that on the radio until he had all the evidence,” Guimong said.

Guimong also spoke of the journalist telling him about threats he had allegedly received in the days before his death. Padrigao again supposedly refused to divulge the exact source of the threats.

When the lawyer said he urged him to vary his routine and take extra care, Padrigao replied that he would be okay. A few days later, on Monday, November 17, Padrigao was shot dead outside the gates of Bukidnon State University.

The campus also serves as the local elementary school. Padrigao was dropping off his youngest daughter at around 7 a.m. when he was ambushed by a gunman and his accomplice riding in tandem on a motorcycle.

A simple wooden cross and stone shrine built by local pupils stands at the spot where he bled to death in front of his daughter.

Witness to a killing

Exactly four weeks earlier on Monday, October 14, Padrigao witnessed a similar extrajudicial style killing on the national highway when Randy Naduma, the son of a barangay (village) captain was shot dead in front of him by two men on a passing bike.

“He witnessed the killing. He knew the killer,” said station manager Pahunang.

Many observers in Gingoog believe the two killings are very much connected and some reports claim Padrigao was overheard talking into his phone following the shooting agreeing not to testify.

“He wanted to keep out of that business. He told them that it was their business, not his,” a source told the Philippine Human Rights Reporting Project.

And according to his family, Padrigao refused to report the incident to the police. One month on, witnesses to his own killing are now similarly wary of speaking out.

Padrigao bled to death directly in front of at least five stall-holders and pedicab drivers. All told these writers that they were too scared to help and did not want to get involved.

Only Fely Brianeza says she is prepared to testify in court if called. Even then, she says she did not see anything that could help catch the killers. “I only looked up when I heard his little girl crying. I didn’t even hear the shot.”

Nobody could describe the gunman, the driver-lookout or the motorbike as it sped off heading south and away from the city. Both wore helmets — a serious traffic violation here which has ironically banned them for public safety reasons. Too many armed robberies have been committed by people in helmets.

Asked if he could remember anything or was prepared to testify, a man who prepared and sold small bags of sliced mangoes said no. “I don’t trust or believe in the system,” he said.

Another stall-holder who sells sweets to the children directly in front of the gates said she didn’t offer to help Padrigao “because it was obvious he was dead. There was a lot of blood.”

A neighbor who was bringing his own children to school saw the body and the crying girl and brought her back home to alert Mrs. Padrigao who says she had to take her husband to the hospital herself.

“Death is not the end. It is just the beginning,” says a simple paper streamer hanging over an unlit candle in the Padrigao family’s two-roomed house in the city’s shanty area. Their home in Barangay 19 is dark and hard to find and the lane down from the national highway and toward the sea is almost impassable.

A black and white banner calling for justice and decorated with a bloodied dagger hangs over a makeshift porch outside and above the heads of two special force police officers who have recently been assigned to keep watch over the family. But there is very little sense that justice for Padrigao and his family will be easily found here on the streets of Gingoog City.

In the days immediately following the killing, Padrigao’s wife publicly complained she was not being offered any support or protection from the authorities. It led to reports that protection instead had been offered by the communist New People’s Army (NPA) which is said to be very active in the surrounding hills.

NPA, agent

Like the city Padrigao lived and died in, his life read like a puzzle book up until the very end.

The lawyer Guimong first came across him 20 years ago when he was called to defend Padrigao from a charge of being a member of the NPA. At the same time, Guimong says, the army stepped in and identified him as being a military intelligence asset – an agent – for them.

Whatever the truth, veteran print and radio journalist Bingo Alcordo and columnist for the Mindanao Gold Star Daily remembers Padrigao as a friend and activist who was constantly working in support of the poor.

“He was former NPA but he was well-known for bringing 20 NPA members down from the hills to reintegrate them into society,” said Alcordo, who is based in Cagayan de Oro City.

And while Radyo Natin’s station manger suggests that Padrigao also nurtured political ambitions and was looking forward to campaigning in “some way” for the 2010 elections, his family confirmed that he had worked for many years as a bodyguard to Gingoog mayor Ruthie Guingona before quitting to manage a lumberyard on behalf of his cousin Roger Edma.

Request to interview the mayor was politely declined.

Broadcast targets

Some targets of Padrigao’s radio broadcasts claim Padrigao was himself involved in illegal logging and that illegal loggers may have killed him.

One of Padrigao’s targets on his weekly show was city administrator Tita Garrido. Says station manager Pahunang: “He was against favoritism and attacked her.”

Garrido confirmed she was the subject of some of his attacks, saying that Padrigao had suspicions her decision to come back out of retirement during a City Hall restructuring was ‘irregular.’ However she insisted she had nothing to hide and had even “offered to speak to Padrigao and open the books on her appointment.”

Garrido added that she never personally listened to his broadcasts and was not angry with him. “There was nothing to get angry about. I never get angry,” she said.

Asked if she thought anybody in City Hall had a serious enough grudge against Padrigao to kill him, she replied no.

“I can’t imagine anybody being involved.”

Instead Garrido suggested Padrigao could have been killed because of his involvement in illegal logging. She said: “There were no big problems with drugs or gambling in Gingoog City, just illegal logging.”

The city administrator went on to say that mayor Guingona has been “aggressively targeting the illegal loggers and went out at nights to catch them,” but in doing so she was attacked by Padrigao in his radio broadcasts.

“I believe that Mr. Padrigao should not have been critical of the mayor since she is the one against illegal logging.”

For their part, family and friends insist that Padrigao’s involvement in the logging business was wholly legitimate: contracts were arranged and won fairly and that their only other interest was in working so called “dry logs” or dead and fallen trees which are deemed unprotected and public property.

Clearly agitated and impatient to leave the city that was once her home, Mrs. Padrigao refused to say who she thought was responsible for her husband’s shooting. She also denied having publicly accused Gingoog vice mayor Marlon Kho for being behind her husband’s killing when he spoke to her by cell phone to offer his condolences at the hospital as Padrigao was being certified dead by doctors.

“I have witnesses that she did,” the vice mayor, a local businessman, told these writers outside his villa. He politely refused to answer any questions except to confirm he had filed a case against Mrs. Padrigao and to deny categorically that he had anything to do with the killing. “I will make a statement in due course,” he said. “But not right now.”

Kho also said he condemned the killing of Padrigao but had “no idea” who might have been responsible. “Right now we have convened the peace and order council of the city and the province, and we are discussing a proposal to give additional funds to the police this coming Wednesday.”

Back at the police station, an entry in the police blotter seen by the Project reports an alleged death threat made to a colleague of Padrigao who has a show Monday mornings in Radyo Natin.

The threat via phone was reportedly made to Manuel Ansiangan, 28, just a few hours after the death of Padrigao was publicly announced. Ansiangan, like other block-timers working there, gives his number out live on air to solicit feedback and stories.

“The caller said he will wipe us all out. He said I was the devil,” said Ansiangan.

The journalist also claims a friend in the intelligence section of Gingoog police force subsequently called him late last week and warned him not to go home after a helmeted man on a black motorbike was spotted waiting outside his boarding house.

Ansiangan says he destroyed the SIM card that would have shown the number of the caller.

Asked whether he is concerned about the future security of his station, manager Pahunang says yes. At the same time, he doesn’t want his block-timers to tone down either their language or their vitriolic campaigns against Gingoog City Hall and the illegal loggers. “I tell them to keep it hot,” he laughs.

For his part, the city’s police chief thinks the threats to Ansiangan are not serious and are unconnected to the killing of Padrigao.

Perhaps only time will tell. As city administrator Garrido said, while the mayor intends investing more funds and energy into “intelligence matters” to help combat a sense of increasing impunity here, “even she cannot promise there will be no more killings”. Philippine Human Rights Reporting Project

(Alan Davis is Project Director of the Philippine Human Rights Reporting Project and Ma. Cecilia L. Rodriguez is a journalist based in Cagayan de Oro City).

Government urged to act vs media killings

December 10, 2008

By Cecille Suerte Felipe Updated December 10, 2008 12:00 AM

The Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalist (FFFJ) called on the government anew to address the unsolved killings of journalists, including the cases of 39 newsmen murdered during the administration of President Arroyo.

The FFFJ made the call in connection with today’s celebration of International Human Rights Day, with the United Nation’s 2008 theme “Dignity and justice for all of us,” which reinforces the vision of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) as a commitment to universal dignity and justice.

Since the declaration was adopted in 1948, it has been the inspiration for national and international efforts to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The FFFJ said the recent killing of broadcaster Leo Luna Mila of Radyo Natin in San Roque, Northern Samar brought to seven the number of journalists killed this year.

“They spoke too soon,” the FFFJ said in a statement. “This year there is an escalation in the number of killings of journalists.”

The FFFJ has been a leading voice speaking out against the continuing peril to press freedom and democracy. It has provided assistance to the survivors of slain journalists as well as witnesses for the prosecution of the killers, engaged the police and justice system to prod them into action, and hired private prosecutors to assist the government prosecutorial service.

FFFJ is a coalition formed to address the killings of journalists with member organizations that include the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), the Center for Community Journalism and Development (CCJD), the Kapisanan ng Broadcaster ng Pilipinas (KBP), Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), the Philippine Press Institute (PPI), and Philippine News.

The FFFJ pointed out that prosecution of journalists’ killers and masterminds is faced with several problems including a conflict-ridden society, weak rule of law, weak judicial system, poor police investigation, lack of witness, inadequate funds and the culture of impunity.

The CMFR recorded a total of 77 journalists killed in the line of duty since 1986.(Pstar)

AFP hurting from allegations of human rights violations

December 10, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UPLM condemns latest threats on vice chair

December 9, 2008

The Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM) strongly condemned the new threats directed against lawyer Emiliano Deleverio, UPLM vice chairperson, amid the still despicable human rights situation of the country.

The renewed threats on Deleverio, a Pagadian City- based human rights lawyer,  was delivered Tuesday through text message on his cellular phone, warning him to take things easy.
“Atorni au au ha ang imo batasan ky ampay ra ba na sa tagabukid. (Attorney, watch your manners, the people up the hills will surely like you),” the clearly veiled threat reads.
Deleverio received the said threats while he was attending a hearing at Camp Crame, Manila, over an administrative case against Pagadian Police Chief Oscar Buenaobra.
UPLM believes that this renewed threat on Atty. Deleverio came from the same elements who consider public interest lawyering as anathema to their anti-democratic activities. In the past, Atty. Deleverio has been at the receiving end of the military’s ire in Western Mindanao because of  his advocacies.   He has been subjected to surveillance and harassments for handling human rights cases, including that of  Angelina Bisuña Ipong, the oldest political detainee in the country today.
Atty. Deleverio co-handled with Atty. Tirsendo Poloyapoy the country’s first successful Writ of Amparo case  on the abduction of  Ruel Muñasque in October 2007.
UPLM is gravely alarmed that  attacks on peoples’ lawyers, especially from its ranks,  is still happening despite the close scrutiny and criticism made by both domestic and international human rights  institutions on the administration of Pres. Arroyo.    The recent international mission of foreign lawyers and judges last November 4 to 6 clearly pointed out that killings and harassment of lawyers and judges carrying out their legal duties are continuing, contrary to the rosy “praise releases”  and  self-serving denials coming from the Arroyo government.
From January 2001 to October 2008,  the Counsels for the Defense of Liberties (CODAL) has recorded 22 lawyers and 15 judges who  were killed, while 41 human rights lawyers have been subjected to various degrees of attacks.

UPLM

20 Nov 2008

For Reference:
Atty. Carlos Isagani Zarate
Secretary General

Militant groups are “not legitimate targets” for the miltiary – Colonel

December 9, 2008

Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews
Saturday, 06 December 2008 05:21
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TAGUM CITY (MindaNews/05 December) – Militant groups like Karapatan and Bayan Muna are “legal fronts” of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) but are “not legitimate targets” for the military because “the legitimate targets for the military are armed groups,” the commander of the 1001st Infantry Brigade said.

“Even if you claim to be NPA but we do not have any warrant (for your arrest) and you do not have arms, we cannot just arrest you,” Col. Allan Luga said in an interview Monday evening.

“You say some legal organization are communist fronts?” asked Bristish reporter Alan Davis of the Institute of War and Peace Reporting, a partner, along with MindaNews, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines and Center for Community Journalism and Developmen, in the Philippine Human Rights Reporting Project.

“Yes. Karapatan and Bayan Muna. But this is not from me. This is what Joema Sison said, that they are legal fronts of the CPP-NPA,” Luga said.
“And so the military believes those in Bayan Muna and Karapan are fronts?” Davis asked.

“Yes. The only thing is they keep on denying it but everyone knows about it,” Luga said.

But when Davis asked if the military sees militants as legitimate targets, Luga quickly replied, “No. They are not. The legitimate targets for the military are armed groups.”

Luga was asked these questions in relation to extrajudicial killings mostly in his area of command, including the November 6 killing of Bayan Muna cluster coordinator Danilo Cualbar and the Nov. 10 killing of Bayan Muna barangay coordinator Rolando Antolijao in Kapalong town.

Joel Virador, Bayan Muna executive vice president, told MindaNews that Sison “never mentioned that Karapatan and Bayan Muna are legal fronts of CPP-NPA-NDF.”

“Until now, the military cannot produce evidences that Joma said it. However, leaders, members and sympathizers of Karapatan, Bayan Muna and other progressive organizations are being victimized by the military as part of its Oplan Bantay Laya 2, a counter-insurgency plan. More than 900 people (have been) killed and more than a hundred missing. Col. Luga is a liar,” Virador said.

He acknowledged Luga’s observation that he has been frequenting Compostela Valley. In Cebuano, he said, “it is true because I always follow-up on the cases of our coordinators there who were killed and make arrangements for their wake and burial.”

In Davao City, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte told reporters earlier this week that he would ask the government intelligence community to determine if government security forces were involved and, if they are, to ask them to stop the killings.

Five leaders of militant groups in the region have been killed since May this year, three of them this month.

Celso Pojas, secretary-general of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas in Southern Mindanao was killed on May 15 in Davao City; Roel Dotarot, Bayan Muna coordinator in Compostela Valley on August 15 in Monkayo , Compostela Valley; Danilo Cualbar, cluster coordinator of Bayan Muna in Compostela, Compostela Valley, on November 6 in Crossing Osmeña, Compostela town; Rolando Antolijao, barangay coordinator of Bayan Muna in Kapalong, on November 10 in the same town; and Vicente Paglinawan, vice president for Mindanao of the Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka on November 22 in Malabog.

Five days before Cualbar was killed, he told his wife Aurelia, that while on his way home riding a motorcycle at around 5:30 p.m., he overheard a soldier ask the Cafgu detachment near their house, “Kana, mao na siya” (That one, is he the one?), the soldier reportedly asked the Cafgu to which the latter replied yes.

Cualbar was killed around 5 p.m. at Purok Ocho, Crossing Osmena, on November 6, while on his way home from the market.

A friend’s son who was riding his motorcycle beside Cualbar’s just before the latter turned left to Crossing Osmena, said he heard someone shout “Dan” before he proceeded towards New Bataan.

Across the murder site, a mother and son saw Cualbar stop his bike, the killer parking his bike and beside him and, facing him, fired shots on his stomach and chest four times. Cualbar breathed his last on the road where he fell. He left behind wife Aurelia and six children.

Compostela Valley police chief Mohammad Ali Dampac was in Manila when Cualbar was killed. He said his investigators reported that there were three witnesses who testified that Cualbar was not a member of Bayan Muna.

Cualbar’s widow said no police personnel visit them at their house to ask them to shed light on her husband’s death. “That’s what the leftist groups are saying,” he said, adding, if they have witnesses, if they have evidence, they should come forward so the case could be solved.

On “winning the hearts and minds” of the people, Luga said they have a “small part” to play and that “most of it should be LGUs and other government agencies. Sometimes we get out of focus (and focus on) war fightinbg only. But the locals, because of the influence of the NPA they can’t see the presence of government,” he said.

He acknowledged that in some parts, the people fear the military.

“That’s because of the NPA influence. They fear the presence of the military because that’s what the NPA said, so we have to do a lot of effort,” he said.

“How do you make them not fear you?” MindaNews asked.

“Well, not do things illegal. We have to Look good and do good. We need the help of other agencies in government; community effort, local public officials – to get their hearts and minds. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

Military hit for death of B’laan hunter

December 9, 2008

Malu Cadelina-Manar/MindaNews
Monday, 08 December 2008 22:32
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Village chair Freddie Avanzado of Palavila in Lutayan town said the killing of Boy Sarino, 40, has sent a “wrong signal” to his constituents.

Sarino died on the spot when members of the 27th Infantry Battalion allegedly fired at him and two companions while they were heading toward a river in Sitio Balnabo, Palavilla, to take their lunch after hunting.

His uncle Atam Sarino, 60, and another lumad identified as Vernie Sulay were seriously injured.

In a statement, Avanzado denied pronouncements made by the military that Sarino and other victims of the attack were members of the New Peoples’ Army (NPA).

The village chair said the victims were only animal hunters and charcoal makers.

Sarino, according to Avanzado, only possessed a ‘dedose’ (12-gauge shotgun), which he used in hunting wild animals.

The village chair also chided the 27th IB for failing to inform them of their military operation.

The Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Monitor in Mindanao (IPRMM), in a statement, condemned the attack and considered it a violation of human rights.

The group also considered the incident a violation of the International Humanitarian Law for endangering the lives of civilians and the community during a military operation. (Malu Cadelina Manar/MindaNews)

2 more robbery suspects gunned down by police

December 9, 2008

By ARIS R. ILAGAN

Police operatives yesterday gunned down two more suspected members of the Waray-Waray bank robbery gang during follow-up operations in Caloocan City in the wake of the bloody firefight between their alleged cohorts and lawmen in Parañaque City last Friday.

In his report to Director General Jesus Verzosa, chief of the Philippine National Police, Director Leopoldo Bataoil of the National Capital Region Police Office said elements of the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group shot it out with gang members along Kalye Libis in Caloocan City around 3 a.m.

Chief Supt. Raul Castañeda, CIDG director, said the killing of the two suspected Waray-Waray members was a follow-up to the bloody gunbattle in Paranaque City that resulted in the killing of 12 other suspects.

The slain suspects in Caloocan remained unidentified as of press time.

Castaneda said the two were part of a five-man gang who were allegedly planning to rob a rice warehouse in Antipolo City which was supposed to take place around 8 p.m. last Sunday. Police did not say why the robbers did not push through with their plans.

Instead, the suspects reportedly proceeded to Kalye Libis in Caloocan City where they were spotted by police agents.

On board a blue Honda Accord, Castaneda said the suspects apparently noticed that they were being tailed by a team from the National Capital Region Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit led by Senior Supt. Isagani Nerez which prompted them to fire shots at the lawmen.

Two of the suspects were killed in the first volley of gunfire while the three others managed to escape by jumping into a deep ravine, police said.

Recovered from the scene were an M-16 baby Armalite, a caliber .45 pistol, several spent shells and the Honda Accord which was believed to have been stolen by the suspects.

Nerez expressed belief that the Waray-Waray group and the Ozamis City gang resorted to swapping of members in conducting robbery operations during the Christmas season.

Child rights group cries for justice in death of De Vera girl

By ELLALYN B. DE VERA

Child rights advocates yesterday called for justice for the seven-year-old girl who was slain in a shootout between police operatives and robbery suspects in Parañaque City last Friday night.

The Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns and its member-organizations led by the Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC) expressed outrage over the killing of Lea Alyanna De Vera and her father Alfredo who were caught in the crossfire between the police and alleged robbers in Sucat, Parañaque City.

Sixteen persons, including a police officer and five civilians, were killed during the incident.

The CRC called for an immediate and impartial investigation to give justice to the innocents killed.

CRC executive director Ma. Esmeralda Macaspac, whose group provides psycho-social help for child victims of human rights violations and their families, said truth is very important for the surviving relatives to cope with the violent death of their loved ones.

“Knowing the truth means one step closer to gaining justice and gaining justice a big leap to healing,” Macaspac said.

Human Rights chairperson Leila De Lima last Saturday ordered the immediate investigation of the killings to check on possible human rights violations during the police operations.

“We extend our condolences with Alyanna’s mother and join her in her call for justice for the death of her loved ones,” Salinlahi spokesperson Alphonse Rivera said.

He said the news is particularly distressing especially since the human rights community will commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights tomorrow, December 10.

“It is indeed alarming to note that our children are not safe from human rights violations. Whether they are in the countryside or in the cities, state forces should always keep in mind the respect for human life, especially children,” Rivera pointed out.

The children’s rights and welfare group expressed confidence that the government will look closely into the incident and not allow it to end up like other cases of children whose rights have been violated.

Likewise, Rivera said the state forces should be held accountable over their actions.

“In many instances, such cases end up with an excuse that it is either a legitimate operation or that the victim is unfortunately part of collateral damage,” Rivera stressed.

“This has always been the military’s excuse even prior to proper investigations which later prove that they should be made accountable. Maybe the PNP will be human enough to admit and accept accountability should investigations show that they are culpable,” he added.

(PDI Editorial) Bandit nation

December 7, 2008

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:09:00 12/06/2008

When Leo Luna Mila was gunned down, he became the first media practitioner in Northern Samar and the second in the Eastern Visayas region to be murdered (the first, Ramon Noblejas, was shot and killed in Tacloban City on Oct. 4, 1987 in a case that remains unsolved); and the eighth journalist to be killed in the country this year. (Prior to Mila’s murder, Radio dxRS commentator Arecio Padrigao was the latest fatality, shot dead on Nov. 17.)

The police seem pretty certain Mila was killed due to his work as a journalist: he had recently discussed allegations of anomalies involving money collected from the parents of students in a local school. The police said they were bringing in two teachers from that school for questioning. But everything is police speculation at this point, since they have no immediate suspects and no witnesses have come forward.

In our nation of damaged institutions—where officialdom is often blind, mute and deaf when it comes to the concerns of the public—media have essentially served as a court of last resort, bringing allegations of official wrongdoing to the bar of public opinion. In the major metropolitan areas of the country, where the public, media and officials generally subscribe to the notion that the give-and-take and push-and-pull of debating public issues in public fora are normal, the chances that media exposés will result in fatalities are slight.

But what is actually more relevant is whether media, officials and the public operate in areas where the free exchange of ideas is a tradition or they operate in areas where a culture of impunity reigns. The reason more media people are murdered outside the major metropolitan areas, particularly outside the National Capital Region, is that out there, the feeling of impunity of those responsible for the murders is well nigh absolute.

We are aware that certain sectors, particularly those protective of embattled officials, insist that there may be more to these crimes than attempts to kill free speech. There is much talk of freedom requiring responsibility, of some murdered journalists being highly accomplished extortionists, and so forth.

However, the remedy for such abuses is to go to the courts, though it is only fair to point out that so long as libel is considered a criminal act, going to court as a remedy invites other abuses of our institutions by those in power. That is why we have called for a review of our obsolete laws on libel, and why we have also questioned the proposed legislation to give those who hold political offices an unreasonable right of reply in the media.

The antidote to lies and slander is the truth. The best protection against media people who abuse their profession is to provide a level of public service that is conspicuous in its integrity and accountability. The public listens and laps up the exposés of journalists because, in the first place, their revelations strike a familiar chord—such as, accusations known to be based on facts, or borne out by widespread experience with official abuses.

There is simply no justifiable reason to resort to killing a journalist—whatever his/her reputation. The murder may silence him/her, but it also makes iron-clad his/her accusations, whether resolved or not: that the journalist had to die means there was no other way to disprove his/her allegation. It suggests that the journalist must have been on to something, and that there was no other defense for the culprits behind the anomaly but to murder him/her.

Media murders underscore the thinking of a significant minority in our society that they live beyond the pale of the law, even if they themselves belong to local or national institutions that supposedly exist for the maintenance of public order and the common good.

At a time when all sorts of proposals are being made by officials themselves—greater autonomy for regions and provinces, increased fiscal control of local funds and projects, and even a shift in the system of our government, among others—the public must ask itself whether the record of these officials merits greater freedoms.

For if they perpetually complain about the abuse of freedom by people armed only with their pens or voices, how about the abuse of authority and utter disregard for the principle of accountability by officials who turn a blind eye to media murders or who have a hand in media murders themselves?

UN Castigates Philippine Gov’t on Marcellana-Gumanoy Case

November 26, 2008

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

BY RONALYN OLEA
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Bulatlat

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

The incident

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UN Views

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

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

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

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

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

Justice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

60TH SINCE 2001 Radioman shot dead in front of daughter

November 18, 2008

By Ma. Cecilia Rodriguez
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:57:00 11/18/2008

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY— They trailed him from home to school. As he got off his motorcycle to drop his 7-year-old daughter at the school gate, one of the men shot him in the jaw in front of the girl, police said.

An avowed opponent of illegal loggers, radio commentator Aristeo Padrigao Monday became the 60th journalist to be killed in the Philippines since President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo took office in 2001.

He was also the sixth member of the local media to die violently this year.

The assassins, two men riding tandem also on a motorcycle, escaped.

Padrigao, a block-time commentator and radio show host of dxRS Radyo Natin, as well as a columnist in the Mindanao Monitor Today, was shot and killed at 7:15 a.m. in Gingoog City.

Uriel Quilingging, a friend of Padrigao, said the killing might have been due to the radio commentator’s exposés about illegal logging activities.

“He was quite vocal about illegal logging operations in Gingoog. Most of the people he was criticizing were big politicians,” Quilingging said.

Remain vigilant

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) urged the media to remain vigilant against efforts to suppress them and said: “If anything, Padrigao’s murder highlights the government’s inability to stop the media killings and put those responsible behind bars.”

Initial police investigation showed that Padrigao, 55, was killed by a 9mm bullet fired into his right jaw.

Based on eyewitness accounts, two motorcycle-riding men wearing black jackets and helmets tailed Padrigao from his home to the school.

Just as Padrigao stopped at the school’s front gate to drop off his daughter, one of the men pointed a gun at Padrigao’s head and fired.

Supt. Leonroy Ga, Gingoog police chief, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by phone his men were investigating reports that Padrigao had received death threats days before he was killed.

“We will talk to his wife and verify the information that they received death threats prior to the incident,” Ga said.

He said investigators had no other leads so far except that the killing was related to Padrigao’s work.

Misamis Oriental Gov. Oscar Moreno condemned the killing and ordered the police to “leave no stone unturned.”

“I condemn the senseless killing in the strongest terms. I call on the police, the National Bureau of Investigation and other related agencies to immediately apprehend the perpetrators and bring them and their cohorts to the bar of justice,” Moreno said.

The NUJP said: “We call on our colleagues not to waver, to continue banding together and remain vigilant against all attempts to suppress us and the independent Philippine media.”

Painful struggle

It added: “The struggle for genuine press freedom in our country has been a long and painful one and will continue to be a long and painful one. But we cannot waver. We must see this struggle through to the end and the inevitable victory that awaits us and our people.”

According to the Media Safety Office of the International Federation of Journalists-NUJP, Padrigao was the 61st journalist to be killed in the Philippines since 2001. A separate Inquirer tally put the number at 60.

In Iloilo City, a local journalist has filed a complaint of grave threats against a scion of the Lopez clan before the prosecutor’s office.

Francis Allan Angelo, executive editor of The Daily Guardian community paper, alleged that Alberto Lopez III threatened him with bodily harm on Oct. 31 while they were at the Flow Bar and Restaurant in Smallville Business and Leisure Complex.

Angelo alleged in his complaint that Lopez, son of former Congressman Albertito Lopez and former Gov. Emily Relucio-Lopez, approached him while he and his companions were having drinks and told him in Tagalog: “Don’t stare at me. I don’t know you. I will kill you.”

Angelo said he was horrified, especially when he saw Lopez’s bodyguards approaching.

Lawyer Joseph Anthony Lutero, one of Angelo’s companions, alleged in his affidavit that he heard Lopez make the threats against Angelo, and that Lopez threatened him, too.

Lopez’s counsel, Rene Sarabia, said he had to consult with his client before he could issue any statement.

Sarabia said he had tried to discuss the matter with Angelo. With the filing of the complaint, Sarabia said he might as well “defend (Lopez in court) and let the truth come out.” With a report from David Israel Sinay, Inquirer Visayas

Buto at ilan pang palatandaan ng malagim na kaganapan sa Limay

October 21, 2008

Raymund B. Villanueva


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

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

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

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

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

Kampo ng kalupitan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Malinaw at kapani-paniwalang testimonya’

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Patutunayan ko sa kanila na tama ako’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gabi sa kampo

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

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

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

‘Breakthrough’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Malakas na ebidensiya

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

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

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

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

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

Natapos ang misyon, nagpapatuloy ang paghahanap sa katarungan

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

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

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

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

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

(Mga larawan ni Raymund Villanueva)

Si Raymund Villanueva ay mamamahayag mula sa Kodao Productions Inc.

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 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)

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

3 farmers tortured, killed by soldiers?

October 7, 2008

By Joey A. Gabieta
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:41:00 10/07/2008

TACLOBAN CITY – A human rights group in Eastern Visayas claimed that soldiers tortured and killed three civilians from a remote village of Borongan City.

Katungod-Sinirangan Bisayas identified the fatalities as Jimmy Anday, Chito and Ronald Catubay who were said to be on their way to their farms in Sitio Bagong Barrio, Barangay Pinanag-an, the farthest village of the city, when the incident took place on Sept. 3.

Katungod secretary general Kathrina Castillo said the three were on their way to their farms when they allegedly met a group of soldiers later identified to belong to the 62nd Infantry Battalion (IB).

Based on their investigation, the three “bore marks that they were tortured” before they were killed, Castillo said.

“Their hands were tied and their stomachs were sliced,” Castillo said in an e-mail.

Aside from killing the three, their houses were also razed, she said.

But Lt. Col. Alberto Desoyo, commanding officer of the 62nd IB based in Quinapondan, Eastern Samar, denied Castillo’s claim.

On the day of the alleged incident, Desoyo said his men were in the area to conduct “legitimate military operations.”

“There were about 20 to 30 New People’s Army (members) in the area which resulted in an encounter with my men. Based on the bloodstains that we have discovered after the firefight, there were injuries and casualties on the side of the enemies,” Desoyo said in a phone interview.

Rebels

“But definitely, all were rebels and not civilians (as alleged by Katungod),” Desoyo added.

He said the encounter also resulted in the injury of one of his men whom Desoyo could not identify.

Desoyo admitted that the military remained aggressive in its anti-insurgency campaign but insisted that civilians were not its targets.

During her recent visit in the region, President Macapagal-Arroyo again directed the military officials in the region, led by Maj. Gen. Arthur Tabaquero, 8th Infantry Division commanding general, to finish the insurgency before the 2010 deadline.

The President said the insurgency problem in Eastern Visayas was one of the reasons the region remained poor.

Tabaquero said they would eradicate the insurgency in the region but would always observe and respect the rights of civilians.(PDI)

The Cruelty of Enforced Disappearances: An Abhorrent Crime Against Humanity

September 27, 2008

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

BY RONALYN V. OLEA
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Bulatlat

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

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

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

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


Bonifacio Ilagan.

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

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

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

Not expecting the worst

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

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

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

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

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

Double whammy

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

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

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

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

No time to grieve

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

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

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

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

Still painful

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Both parents missing

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

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

Looking up the same sky

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

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

Missing their moments together

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Same plight

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

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

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

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

Perpetrators, cowardice

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

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

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

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

Continuing search for their relatives and the pursuit of justice

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

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

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

Doing the same abhorrent acts

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

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

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

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

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

The same monster

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

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

Must not forget

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

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

Torture Survivor Files Charges vs Perpetrators

September 19, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ordeal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Strong case

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Editorial Cartoon: Protector…

September 15, 2008

 

Military welcomes probe on Maguindanao incident

September 10, 2008

ZAMBOANGA CITY — A top military official said Tuesday that they welcome any investigation into allegations that a bomb dropped by government forces in Datu Piang, Maguindanao Monday killed six innocent civilians.

AFP vice chief-of-staff Lieutenant General Cardozo Luna said in a radio interview that the investigation would reveal the truth as to “how these people, how these children got into that situation.”

What’s your take on the Mindanao crisis? Discuss views with other readers

Another official, Eastern Mindanao Command spokesman Major Arman Rico, said the bodies showed bullet wounds from M16 rifles, and these could not have been caused by a bombing run of a military plane.

Initial reports said six people, including three children, were killed Monday when a bomb allegedly dropped by a military aircraft hit a motorized banca loaded with evacuees in a river in Barangay Tee, Datu Piang town.

The report said the victims were on their way to an evacuation site at Datu Piang when the incident happened Monday morning.

In welcoming the probe, Luna said the military is strictly adhering to the rules of engagement while in pursuit of MILF renegade members led by Umbra Kato alias Commander Kato in Central Mindanao and Abdullah Macapaar alias Commander Bravo in Lanao del Norte.

“We avoid collateral damage or civilian casualties as much as possible,” Luna said.

Rico said there was an encounter in Barangay Tee Datu Piang between the Philippine Army and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) under commanders Wahid Tondok and Badrudin Silongan an hour before the death of the civilians.

“Tapos may plane nag-reconnaissance na binaril ng mga MILF na naka pumpboat. Binalikan ito ng eroplano at tinira ng machinegun (The MILF fired at the military plane doing reconnaissance. The plane fired back using machinegun),” Rico said.

Luna added that the rebels withdrew on board motorized bancas and were spotted by military planes in the marshy area of Barangay Tee.

He further said the pilots were forced to fire back using machinegun after the rebels aboard the motorized bancas fired at the military planes.

According to Rico, the military is now investigating how the six civilians were killed. He surmised that they were caught in crossfire and not by the military plane strafing since the injuries of the civilians were believed caused by M16 rifles.

Rico said the military plane uses machinegun and not M16. Army helicopters and planes reportedly attacked rebel positions near a marshland after renegade members of the MILF had fired at military helicopters.

But Musib Uy Tan, a local official, told reporters the civilians were on their way to a temporary shelter area when their boat was hit by rockets fired from helicopter gunships.

“The boat was a total wreck,” Tan said, adding that the bodies of a 53-year-old farmer and his family, including a pregnant 17-year-old girl, had been pulled from the water.

Eid Kabalu, MILF civil military affairs chief, identified the fatalities in the military operation as Daya and Vilma Manunggal; the 18-year-old newlywed and pregnant Aida; Kim, 7; Adtaya, 7; and Faiza, all surnamed Mandi. He said two other civilians, Caharodin, 16; and Bailyn, 13; both surnamed Mandi, were wounded.

Kabalu said they were all killed by bombs from military OV-10 planes.

“There was no fighting in Datu Piang since Sunday. What happened was that the military launched air strikes. There are many soldiers right now in Datu Piang,” Kabalu said in a report.

Troops are pursuing Commanders Kato and Bravo, and government is offering a P20 million reward for anyone who could provide vital information that would lead to their arrest. (BPG/With BOT of Sun.Star Davao/Sunnex)

‘IT’S BULLDOG’

September 5, 2008

Hired killers target four more in Ajuy – Rojas

ILOILO City – Suspect Dennis Cartagena has named Vicente “Bulldog” Espinosa as the one who ordered the assassination of Ajuy, Iloilo Vice Mayor Ramon Rojas Jr., said Sangguniang Panlalawigan member Jett Rojas.

Citing his conversation with Cartagena yesterday, Rojas said assassins have been hired, too, to kill him, Ajuy, Iloilo Mayor Juancho Alvarez and two other Sangguniang Bayan members of the town.

From Butuan City where he had been hiding for almost two onths, Cartagena was shipped back to Iloilo yesterday.

At the press conference at the Iloilo Provincial Capitol, Atty.

     

Edmund Guillen of the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) advised Cartagena not to issue statements for the moment.

But Board member Rojas had a private conversation with Cartagena, a resident of San Enrique, Iloilo. He said the suspect promised to tell everything he knows about the plot against the vice mayor.At the press conference, Board member Rojas appealed to Espinosa. He reminded him that they are cousins and have families, too.

Espinosa could not be reached for comment as of press time. But he had already previously denied having any hand in the death of Vice Mayor Rojas, who was shot to death on May 22, 2008 in Sitio Casamata, Brgy. Central, Ajuy, Iloilo around 5:30 a.m. while doing his daily early morning walking exercise.

Board member Rojas said Cartagena told him that Ajuy Sangguniang Bayan members Pepe Baterna and Pepe Dumayao have been targeted, too.

According to Cartagena, said Rojas, other guns-for-hire were offered the job to have him killed but that these mercenaries backed out; it wasn’t clear why.

“They were offered P50,000 cash and a .45 caliber,” said the Board member.

Rojas said politics may have something to do with the assassination plots.

A 10-man police team led by Iloilo Police Director Senior Supt. Ricardo Dela Paz fetched Cartagena from Butuan City where he had been hiding for almost two months.

Atty. Edeljulio Romero, Espinosa’s legal counsel, said they are “assessing the situation.” He refused to comment further “as long as we do not hear personally (Cartagena) speaking…we have no basis to react.”

Romero said Cartagena may have been “influenced.”

A day after his arrest in Butuan City on August 30, Cartagena was interviewed by DyFM Bombo Radyo. In that interview, he denied his participation in the Rojas slay case. He also denied knowing Espinosa.

Iloilo Police Director Senior Supt. Ricardo Dela Paz said yesterday that the police will be re-filing the murder complaint against Espinosa.

Espinosa was originally included in the murder case filed against Cartagena, Cordero and another suspect, Lindsey Buenavista. But the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office junked the case against him for lack of probable cause.

Before yesterday’s press conference, a young lawyer caused a stir at the Iloilo Provincial Capitol. Atty. Christopher Espera insisted on speaking to Cartagena, whom he said was his client. However, policemen securing Cartagena blocked him.

Cartagena himself rebuffed Espera.

Espera, it was learned, is an associate of Romero.

Espera told reporters yesterday that he personally went to Butuan City and talked to Cartagena allegedly upon the request of a certain relative of the suspect. But Espera claimed policemen spirited Cartagena away./PN – Iloilo

Bravo’s cousin shot dead in Kauswagan

September 5, 2008

Violeta M. Gloria/MindaNews   
Thursday, 04 September 2008 16:54

 

 

ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews/3 Sep) — A cousin of Abdulrahman Macapaar alias Commander Bravo, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) commander who allegedly masterminded the assaults in Lanao del Norte last month, was shot-dead by motorcycle-riding men this afternoon at Kauswagan town, reports said.

Oscar Macalonto, 60, was shot three times in the head by three men on a motorcycle who were believed to be not residents of the town.

 

Christmar Pernia, a staff of Pakigdait, Inc., a group working for interfaith dialogue in Kauswagan, said that Macalonto just came from a meeting of the municipal peace and order council when shot after disembarking at Roxas Street.

 

“Macalonto is a respectable person in Kauswagan, a former commander of the Moro National Liberation Front who now works for the local government,” Pernia said.

 

He said that Macalonto will be buried at Barangay Delabayan in Kauswagan.

 

“Pakigdait’s staff is helping the bereaved family for his burial,” Pernia added.

 

Brig. Gen. Hilario Atendido, commanding officer of Joint Task Force Tabak, confirmed reports of the killing but said “they got no information on the identity of the victim.”

 

Atendido also said that in the ongoing bombardments and armed confrontations in remote municipalities of Lanao del Norte, there have been MILF casualties “but we don’t have their actual body count since they carry and bury with them their combatants.”

 

He said, though, that they recovered one body in the hinterland town of Munai, along with an M16 rifle.

 

“We let the MILF accountable to their men just as we are accountable to our men,” Atendido said.

 

He said that for the past two weeks, two soldiers have died and 26 have been wounded.

 

Atendido believes that Commander Bravo is still in Lanao del Norte and have not crossed to Lanao del Sur yet.

 

“We expect that his withdrawal will be southward because we have troops in all fronts now,” he said.

 

Meanwhile, the civil society is Lanao have complained that soldiers have refused entry of relief goods to hinterland towns.

 

“We still need to dialogue with them and with the provincial officials to assist us and remove the food blockade for the internally displaced communities in hinterland barangays,” said Regina Antequisa, executive director of Ecoweb, Inc. and partner of Mindanao Emergency Response Network (MERN).

 

Antequisa commented that the military’s strategy is apparently meant to intentionally let the MILF-influenced communities to dwell in hunger. “We are just giving two kilos of rice for every ‘bakwit.’ Why deprive the hungry civilians of the two kilos?” she asked.

 

Residents in Poona Piagapo, another hinterland town, have started evacuating despite the Ramadhan, she added.

 

Antequisa opined that they are yet waiting for the commitment of Caritas Australia’s assistance for the internally displaced communities.

 

“The Catholic Relief Services (CRS) have committed P2 million while the Catholic Accompaniment for Overseas Development (CAFOD) have also committed P4 million for disaster management,” she said. (Violeta M. Gloria/MindaNews)

Groups say 9 jailed activists tortured; police deny charges

September 4, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Threats, torture

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crippling peasant groups

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thousand lives will be ‘wasted’ in death penalty revival

September 2, 2008

MANILA, September 2, 2008— Over 1, 000 lives of inmates await to be “wasted” if death penalty in the country will be revived, Catholic Church officials warned Monday.

Tagbilaran Bishop Leonardo Medroso said it’s “very tragic” that some lawmakers are out again calling for the restoration of state executions.

Medroso, Commission on Canon Law chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, said that capital punishment system doesn’t work for victims’ families, and that the state is better off without it.

He argued that the death penalty do nothing to curb the violence that has poised on so many communities in the country.

“Violence must not call for more violence. We are in favor of justice but not call of capital punishment,” said Medroso.

The bishop said he was disappointed upon learning that Manila 6th District Representative, a pastor of the Metropolitan Bible Baptist Church, filed a bill seeking to revoke the law that repealed the death penalty.

“That’s why I’m saddened that they are going to resurrect this kind of bill that would harm again life. Life is always precious,” Medroso said.

“Secondly, life comes from our Creator so we don’t have any right at all to take life,” he added.

Abante’s House Bill 4482 revives Republic Act No. 8177, which imposes death by lethal injection on those found guilty of heinous crimes.

The lawmaker said there has been a rise in the commission of capital offenses after the capital punishment was abolished in 2006—reason why he is pushing for the death penalty’s return.

But Medroso said there are other means of punishing people in the name of justice.

He cited “perpetual imprisonment” as one instance so that inmates will be given a chance to change their lives.

“We don’t lose hope for conversion of people,” said Medroso.

Msgr. Roberto “Bobby” Olaguer, chief chaplain of the New Bilibid Prisons, said there are almost a thousand inmates who were sentenced to death.

Of the figure, he said, around 65 of those convicted criminals already have specific dates for them to be executed.

Olaguer said the Church is against death penalty because all human life has dignity and other means are available to punish heinous criminals.

“We seek to build a culture of life in which our nation will no longer try to teach that killing is wrong by killing those who kill,” he said.

Olaguer said the Church prison ministry is doing all efforts to help inmates turn their lives around. “Let’s give them a chance to get on with their lives,” he said.

“In my experience (as NBP chaplain), there are some who are already in the death row but eventually emerged as leaders in our prison ministry,” he said. (Roy Lagarde)

Atake sa sibilyan sa Mindanao: sino ang may kagagawan?

August 25, 2008

Kenneth Roland A. Guda

Lumikas, nangangamba (Contributed Photo)

Mga sibilyang Moro sa Pikit: Lumikas, nangangamba (Contributed Photo)

NOONG nakaraang buwan pa, pabalik-balik na si Santukan Salikula at ang pamilya niya sa samu’t saring relokasyon. Nangamba sila sa pagdami ng insidente ng misteryosong pag-atake sa mga sibilyang Moro sa Pikit, North Cotabato. Pero noong nakaraang dalawang linggo ang pinakamalupit.

Sa kabila ng balitang pagharang ng Korte Suprema sa paglalagda sa MOA (Memorandum of Agreement) on Ancestral Domain sa pagitan ng gobyerno at ng MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front), napansin nilang dumarami ang nagtitipong sundalo ng Philippine Army sa kanilang lugar. Nagbakwit na siya at ang mga kapitbahay, patungong evacuation center sa Dalingawin sa Pikit. Dito, nagsisiksikan ang halos 30,000 katao – karamiha’y Muslim – mula sa iba’t ibang bahagi ng Pikit.

Agosto 9, nabalitaan nila ang sagupaan sa pagitan ng MILF at Army sa lugar. Agad nilang nilikas ang Dalingawin para pumunta sa isa pang evacuation center sa Batulawan. Nagpatuloy ang mga engkuwentro – ang mga pagsabog, naririnig at nababalitaan nila sa kanilang mga lugar ng ebakwasyon.

Sa lahat ng panahong ito, bakbakan ng MILF at Army ang naganap. “Walang inatake ang MILF sa amin,” sabi ni Santukan.

Pero sa nalalapit na probinsiyang Lanao del Norte, noong Agosto 18, ibang balita ang sumingaw. Matindi na ang sagupaan sa pagitan ng rebelde at puwersa ng Estado nang mabalitaan ang pagpatay sa mga sibilyan sa limang bayan ng probinsiyang ito, pati sa Saranggani. Tinatayang 41 sibilyan ang namatay sa ataking ito – 30 mula sa Kolambugan.

Sa pahayag ni Brig. Gen. Hilario Atendido, hepe ng 102nd Brigade ng Army, kahindik-hindik ang mga detalye. “Pinatay sila na parang mga manok,” paglalarawan ng heneral. Hindi agad nakapasok sa Kauswagan, Kolambugan, Bacolod at Maigo sa Lanao del Norte ang mga tropa ni Atendido. Pero may agad silang paliwanag sa mga pagpaslang: “Mga MILF ang may kagagawan.”

Sila nga ba?

Hindi makapaniwala si Santukan na MILF ang may kagagawan sa mga pagpaslang. “Labag kasi sa Islam ang ganoong pagpatay,” aniya.

Sa lahat ng ulat ng midya sa insidente, pawang Army ang pinagmulan ng impormasyong mga MILF ang pumaslang sa 41 sibilyan. Umani ng matinding pagkondena ang MILF sa naturang insidente. Kinondena ito ng mga pulitiko kapwa mula sa administrasyon at oposisyon. Noong Agosto 21, nagdeklara na ang gobyernong Arroyo na hindi nito lalagdaan ang MOA – at ipinangakong paiigtingin ang atake sa mga kampo ng MILF, hindi lamang sa Lanao del Sur at North Cotabato, kundi sa mga probinsiyang may presensiya ng MILF.

Lahat ng opensibang militar na ito, ayon kay Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, ay may layuning hulihin ang dalawang kumander ng MILF na saklaw mga lugar kung saan naganap ang mga pagpatay. “Magpapatuloy ang mga operasyon natin para mahuli sila at mapasailalim sa saklaw ng batas,” sabi ni Teodoro.

Tinutukoy ni Teodoro sina Ombra Kato at Abdurahman Macapaar, mas kilala bilang Kumander Bravo. Ayon sa gobyerno, si Kato, at lalung laluna si Bravo, ang may pakana ng mga pagpaslang.

Pero itinatanggi ito ng MILF. Sa panayam sa telepono ng isang estasyon sa telebisyon, sinabi ni Bravo na hindi siya ang may kagagawan ng pagpatay, kundi ang isang “probationary” na sundalo ng MILF na si Alvin Canto. Hindi umano Muslim o Kristiyano si Canto. Bagamat saklaw ng responsabilidad ni Bravo, hindi niya inutusan si Canto na atakihin ang mga sibilyan, laluna’t nasa Maguindanao raw siya noong panahong iyon.

“Noong nalaman kong sila ang pumatay sa mga sibilyan, bata at babae, tumakbo sila sa gobyerno ng Pilipinas,” kuwento ni Bravo. Noong Agosto 20, sumuko si Canto sa Army at nagsabing si Bravo umano ang nag-utos sa kanyang patayin ang mga sibilyan.

Patas na imbestigasyon

Sa panayam ng PINOY WEEKLY kay Mohagher Iqbal, punong negosyador pangkapayapaan ng MILF, inamin ni Iqbal na mga kumander ng MILF sina Bravo at Kato. Pero hanggang nang makapanayam siya noong Agosto 22, hindi pa rin umano nila nakakausap si Bravo at naitatanong ang tunay na nangyari.

“Nasa pinakaloob (ng kabundukan) si Bravo at hindi namin agad makausap,” sabi ni Iqbal. Hindi rin umano uubrang makausap siya sa telepono dahil sa matinding paniniktik ng militar ng gobyerno sa kanilang mga negosyador.

Gayunman, may inisyal na pagtingin si Iqbal na hindi kasing-simple ng iniuulat ng Army ang naganap sa Lanao del Norte. May tatlong uri umano ng biktima roon. Una, ang mga sibilyang napatay ng mga grupong paramilitar at militar (Basahin ang kaugnay na artikulo). Pangalawa, ang mga sibilyang nadamay sa putukan sa pagitan ng militar at MILF. Pangatlo, ang sibilyang walang kalaban-labang pinaslang – si Bravo man o si Canto, hindi pa matukoy.

“Kaya naman nananawagan kami ng impartial investigation,” sabi ni Iqbal. Ipinanawagan nilang itigil muna ang pag-atake ng militar ng gobyerno at imbestigahan ng isang niyutral na grupo ng mga imbestigador ang mga insidente. Sa paraang ito, matutukoy ang salarin sa bawat kaso ng 41 pagpatay na aniya’y tila pinagsabay-sabay at ibinibintang lahat sa MILF.

Pabor dito ang Suara Bangsamoro, organisasyong nagtataguyod ng karapatang ng mga Moro. Ayon kay Amirah Ali Lidasan ng Suara, maaaring buuin kapwa ng mga Muslim at Kristiyano ang naturang investigating team. Kung anuman ang mapapag-alaman nila ay dapat tanggapin ng dalawang panig.

Ayon kay Teodoro, nais lamang ng AFP na mapasailalim sa batas ng gobyerno sina Bravo at Kato. Pero sabi ni Iqbal, labag sa ceasefire agreement ng dalawang panig ang pagsuko sa isang miyembro ng isang panig sa kalabang panig. May sarili umano silang sistema ng hustisya na dapat sundin sang-ayon sa ceasefire agreement. Yun nga lang, hindi na nila agad mapatupad nang maayos dahil sa mga opensibang militar ng AFP.

Titindi pa?

Inilinaw ng Malakanyang na hindi naman nila inaabandona ang usapang pangkapayapaan. Sa harap ng matinding pagtutol sa MOA – kahit na masasabing malakas ang suporta para rito sa hanay ng mga Moro – nagdesisyon lamang si Arroyo na huwag lagdaan ang kasunduan.

Pero habang inihahayag ito, tumitindi ang pag-atake sa MILF. Nanawagan na ang maraming opisyal ng gobyerno na armasan ang mga sibilyan. Para kay Lidasan, napaka-mapanganib ng ganitong hakbang. “Titindi ang giyera, at gagamitin pa ng maraming pulitiko para iraos ang pag-atake sa mga kalaban sa pulitika,” aniya. Ipag-aaway umano ang mga Kristiyano at Muslim sa ngalan ng kakarampot na lupa sa ilalim ng MOA, habang namamayani pa rin ang mga ito sa malalaking lupain sa Mindanao.

Nanganganib na hindi agad makabalik sa kanilang mga tahanan ang mga tulad nina Santukan. At kung makakabalik man, kailangan pa niyang problemahin ang napakasamang pagturing sa kanilang mga Moro matapos ang atake sa mga sibilyan noong Agosto 18.(PinoyWeekly)

MILF camp falls; 30 killed

August 23, 2008

Biggest air strike launched in a decade

By Inquirer Mindanao, Tarra Quismundo, Nikko Dizon
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:43:00 08/23/2008

SHARIFF AGUAK, Maguindanao, Philippines — Backed by the biggest aerial bombardment in nearly a decade, government forces Friday drove out Moro rebels from one of their camps in Maguindanao province, and fighting raged on elsewhere in rice fields and marshlands, officials said.

About 30 rebels and one soldier have been killed since Wednesday and more than 70,000 villagers have fled their homes, the officials said.

And Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Commander Ombra Kato is on the run.

Some 30 aircraft, including OV-Bronco bomber planes, MG-520 rocket-firing attack helicopters, a pair of Italian-made S-211 jets from Basa Air Base in Pampanga province, north of Manila, and rescue choppers, have been thrown into the battle, Philippine Air Force chief Lt. Gen. Pedrito Cadungog told the Inquirer.

“We have bigger operations now in terms of assets and area covered than in Abubakar in 2000,” Cadungog said, referring to the all-out military offensive eight years ago that led to the capture of Camp Abubakar in Maguindanao, the biggest base of the MILF.

No space to breathe

“We deemed it smarter this time not to give them space to breathe,” the Air Force chief said. “We were a bit soft at first assuming that it will not escalate. We are ready for any escalation of action.”

An Air Force source said Friday’s air strikes delivered a total of 25 bombs and 12 rockets on six targets around Shariff Aguak. They included a dozen 500-lb bombs, nine 260-pounders and four 110-pounders.

“The results are good based on reports of our ground troops,” Cadungog said. “They are happy that we’ve had direct hits.”

Kato on the run

In Friday’s clashes, soldiers captured a satellite camp of Kato in Datu Piang town.

Kato is one of two most wanted MILF commanders whose surrender has been demanded by the government, blaming them for the killing of dozens of civilians in attacks in the provinces of North Cotabato, Lanao del Norte and Sarangani.

The MILF has refused to hand over Kato and Commander Bravo—each wanted for P5 million—and clashes have continued despite appeals from politicians, and Christian, Muslim and civil society groups for an end to the fighting.

Col. Marlou Salazar, commander of the Philippine Army’s 601st Infantry Brigade, said air strikes had resumed against Kato’s forces and ground troops pressed their advance.

Journalists rescued

Two broadcast journalists and three civilians, including a pregnant woman, who had been trapped since Thursday evening, have been rescued and brought to Cotabato City, the military said.

Radio Mindanao Network station manager Bong Talamba and GMA Network stringer Ferdinand Cabrera were covering a firefight in Datu Piang but MILF snipers fired on them as they were about to leave the area, according to Lt. Col. Julieto Ando, spokesperson of the military’s 6th Infantry Division.

Ando confirmed the situation had worsened and that MILF rebels had been conducting ambuscades.

“They were trying to take control of the highway. The highway was closed to motorists Friday morning but was reopened after having been cleared of rebels,” Ando said.

Dozens wounded

Salazar said the rebel casualties came from air strikes and clashes on the ground. Dozens of other rebels have been wounded since the hostilities broke out on Wednesday in the towns of Guindulungan, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Datu Piang, Mamasapano, Shariff Aguak in Maguindanao and Kabuntalan in nearby Shariff Kabunsuan province.

On Friday alone, 10 rebels were killed, he said.

Salazar said the number of rebel casualties was based on intercepted radio conversations among the guerrillas.

“The group of Commander Kato has abandoned their satellite camp in Datu Piang and our soldiers have taken over,” he said.

More fighting feared

Eleven soldiers were injured when rebels waylaid a military convoy in Guindulungan town on Thursday evening, said Maj. Randolph Cabangbang, deputy spokesperson of the Eastern Mindanao Command.

Cabangbang said the military had met strong resistance and “expected more clashes.”

“Our ground troops are penetrating their main objectives and we will be deploying additional soldiers from Davao City,” he said.

He identified the wounded soldiers as Sgt. Renato Jaime Canuto; Corporals Alfredo Isidro and Edgar Gulerno; Privates First Class Elire Guaro, Jogie Dumon, Ricky Encluna, Bonn Dumaguing, Albert Velasco, Arlan Moanes, Mark Anthony Cabañog, and Pvt. Boni John Tilad.

Salazar said it appeared that Kato’s group was being reinforced by other MILF units.

“We have shelled the rebels’ position since Thursday night until Friday morning. The enemies are getting stronger,” Salazar said.

Brig. Gen. Jorge Segovia, acting chief of the command center of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said the 601st Brigade under Salazar “has been engaging the enemy heavily” in the towns of Shariff Aguak, Mamasapano, Datu Piang, and Crossing Salbo in Maguindanao.

Rice fields and marshlands

Segovia described the battlefield as rice fields and marshlands.

He said artillery and planes had been hitting the MILF’s temporary shelters or satellite camps, which were fortified with foxholes and trenches, and sending the guerrillas “running around in places right now.”

“Some are not so sure where they are going,” Segovia said.

Segovia said that in North Cotabato, the 602nd Brigade under Army Col. Alex Estomo were engaged in “sporadic firefight” with other guerrillas under Abdullah Macapaantar, alias Commander Bravo.

Military targets

Segovia warned other MILF commands not to provide sanctuary to Bravo, Kato and their men.

“Their positions will be military targets,” he said, adding: “Our orders are to crush these groups. This is what the AFP will continue to do. We can’t allow ourselves to be hostaged by their actions.”

Segovia said that since most MILF satellite camps were near populated communities, thousands of residents had evacuated.

Elsewhere, four civilians were rushed to the Cotabato Regional Hospital after they were reportedly hit during the military bombardment.

It was not clear why the civilians were still in their village when most of the people had already evacuated.

Food aid

Based on figures released by the health department of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), more than 70,000 people had fled the besieged areas.

Segovia gave reporters in Manila seemingly different figures. He said that according to the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC), there were a total of 84,669 evacuees from Lanao del Norte and Maguindanao staying in 92 different evacuation centers.

Another report from the NDCC, however, placed the affected/displaced people at nearly 200,000.

The NDCC said that the atrocities in North Cotabato and Lanao del Norte had resulted in 40,138 families or 199,692 people affected.

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said it had agreed with the government to provide an additional 250 metric tons of rice to help feed the thousands of evacuees.

Fireworks banned

In Koronadal City in South Cotabato, Mayor Fernando Miguel has banned fireworks and public gatherings as the Maguindanao situation appeared to be worsening.

“We want to ensure the safety and security of our constituents amid MILF warning of more rebel attacks and destabilization activities in Mindanao,” Miguel said.

In Sarangani province, Gov. Miguel Dominguez ordered the reactivation of the civilian defense force in the villages as a protection against further MILF attacks.

Dominguez said he would rather that the situation be resolved peacefully.

“I’m just hoping that the government and MILF could find a way to stop the armed fighting and resume the peace process,” Dominguez said.

Third party needed

Abhoud Syed Lingga, executive director of the Institute of Bangsamoro Studies based in Cotabato City, said the participation of the Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team (IMT) was badly needed.

“Recent events showed once again the urgency of third party monitors to sustain the ceasefire in order to keep the peace process on track,” Lingga said.

In North Cotabato, education officials said classes had to be conducted in evacuation centers, especially in the town of Pikit, so that children would not miss their lessons.

In Cagayan de Oro City, Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said he had asked Speaker Prospero Nograles to order lawmakers to donate at least P100,000 for the needs of displaced residents of Maguindanao. With reports from Jeoffrey Maitem, Edwin Fernandez, Charlie Señase, Nash Maulana, Aquiles Zonio and Grace Albasin, Inquirer Mindanao, and Agence France-Presse

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

My Take:

1. MILF camp “falling” is not a big news.  MILF is waging now a guerilla war, so, camps, especially the empty ones will easily “fall.”  The reporter must understand this in order for them to present the correct perspective of the news they are presenting.

2. On air strikes.  Air strikes are not the best form of military offensive.  Air strikes are politically weak.  Another point, the most important point, is this, the Philippine government is pushing air strikes inside their own territory, effectively putting innocent civilians (citizens) in harm’s way.

Condemn Executions in Iran!

August 21, 2008

BY THE INTERNATIONAL LEAGUE OF PEOPLES’ STRUGGLES
London, England
DEMOCRATIC SPACE
Posted by Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 28, August 17-23, 2008

News coming from Iran indicates an alarming rise in the number of executions and an intensification of the suppression of the progressive popular movements of workers, students and youth, women, national minorities, journalists, intellectuals and other sections of society.

Coinciding with the 20th anniversary of the massacre of over 18,000 political prisoners in Iran in 1988, on Sunday July 27, 2008 the regime of Islamic republic executed 29 people in the notorious Evin Prison. This is the prison that was built by the Shah and has been the scene of untold crimes and barbarities against the people of Iran that includes systematic torture and execution of thousands of communists, democratic and anti-imperialist militants and progressive elements during the regime of the shah and throughout the 30 years rule of the Islamic republic. Evin prison was a major site for the execution of political prisoners by the reactionary regime of Islamic Republic in 1988.

The regime of Islamic republic throughout its bloody rule has systematically executed revolutionary and progressive political prisoners labeling them as criminals and drug traffickers. Many of those executed on Sunday may have been progressive prisoners detained during protest actions such as the spontaneous fuel uprisings of last year, Mayday protests, students’ actions and others captured during sweeping arrests by the authorities.

The alarming scale of the repression became apparent when the regime announced the transfer of tens of political prisoners including known activists to the section 209 of Evin Prison. There is an imminent danger to the lives of political prisoners including known activists such as journalists, Adnan Hassanpour and Abdolvahed “Hiwa” Bootimar WHO have been condemned to death! Farzad Kamangar, a teacher, journalist and human rights activist from Kamyaran in Kurdistan, accused of membership in PKK has also been sentenced to death by the authorities. There is no doubt that the lives of all political prisoners are in extreme danger. Further, news from Iran indicates that eight women and one man are awaiting death by stoning.

This is not the first time that the reactionary regime of Islamic republic in order to stem the rise of the people’s struggle has resorted to brute force and suppression to overcome its crisis and at the same time has engaged in adventurist policies to divert public attention from its internal crisis.

During the past 30 years of its reactionary existence, the regime of Islamic republic has imposed fascist suppression of the revolutionary movement, systematically attacking people’s just struggles. It has violently attacked workers, students, women and oppressed national and religious minorities.

During the past 30 years the regime of Islamic republic has imposed a reign of terror and intimidation against the people of Iran, assassinating intellectuals, writers and opposition figures at home and abroad. It has filled its prisons and torture chambers several times over and has eliminated tens of thousands of political prisoners.

In the context of the general crisis of capitalism and the current instabilities and crisis of the imperialist system on a world scale, the crisis of the dependent regime of Islamic republic in Iran, has worsened. The current spate of terror and suppression comes under conditions of worsening economic, social and political crisis engulfing the regime and is by far more severe than at any time in the past.  The burgeoning crisis in Iran is foremost due to the reactionary and dependent nature of Islamic republic and its policies that has devastated the agricultural economy, increased dependency on oil exports as the source of state revenue, pilfering and open theft by the regime’s cronies, the heavy burden of military spending and its adventures in neighbouring countries including collaboration with Anglo-US imperialist occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. The inflationary effects of the rise in oil prices on the dependent economy, added to the consequences of large scale privatisation of industries, the existence of large numbers of unemployed particularly amongst the youth and the pauperisation of large sections of the population have dramatically increased the depths of the crisis in Iran fuelling the peoples’ militant, democratic and just struggles against the regime.

During the past three years the numbers of workers strikes across the country have increased three fold, students’ protests are on the rise in all major universities of the country, women’s struggle for their rights has intensified and all national minorities including Azeri, Kurdish, Arab, Balooch and Turkeman have intensified their struggles for their just rights. In suppressing the national minorities, the chauvinist regime of Islamic republic uses it paramilitary forces to brutally terrorise the inhabitants of these regions. It collaborates with the neighbouring reactionary and fascist regimes such as the regime in Turkey, to bomb Kurdish villages and townships.

We call on all democratic, anti-imperialist and progressive forces around the world to join us in condemning the latest rise in executions in Iran by the reactionary regime of Islamic republic!

We demand the release of all political prisoners and the immediate secession of all executions in Iran!

We condemn the collaboration of the Iranian and Turkish regimes against the people of the two countries and in particular their genocidal policies towards the Kurdish people!

FED-BIR, DEVRIMCI HAREKAT (REVOLUTIONARY MOVEMENT), GIKDER, TOHUM CULTURAL CENTRE, KURDISH CULTURAL CENTRE , HUNDRED FLOWERS CULTURAL CENTRE, YASANACAK DUNYA( A WORLD FOR LIVING) MAGAZINE, ATIK COMMITTEE – LONDON, ACTIVISTS OF PEOPLE’S FADAII GUERRILLAS IN LONDON, DEMOCRATIC-ANTI IMPERIALIST ORGANISATION OF IRANIANS IN BRITAIN.

Cop in radioman’s murder vows to defy arrest

August 20, 2008

By Aquiles Zonio, Marlon Ramos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:42:00 08/19/2008

GENERAL SANTOS CITY – The policeman charged with the killing of a broadcaster here said he would defy arrest and was resigning “so police will have no control over me.”

“I won’t allow myself to be brought to Camp Crame. I am innocent and I’m ready to defend myself,” said Senior Insp. Redempto “Boy” Acharon Sr., chief security officer and cousin of Mayor Pedro Acharon Jr.

The National Bureau of Investigation has filed murder charges against Acharon Sr. and two other bodyguards of Mayor Acharon Jr. Tuesday for the fatal shooting on Aug. 4 of Radio Mindanao Network broadcaster Dennis Cuesta.

Acharon Sr. was charged at the Department of Justice (DOJ) with two unidentified security aides of the mayor, according to the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP).

Positive ID

The NUJP said Acharon Sr., assigned to this city’s police station, was identified by a witness as the gunman while the two other suspects acted as lookout and driver of the motorcycle used in the ambush.

Justice Undersecretary Ric Blancaflor said another eyewitness has surfaced to corroborate the statement of a first witness.

He declined to give details of the case and the possible motive of the ambush pending the start of the preliminary investigation.

Asked if the mayor could have had a hand in Cuesta’s killing, Blancaflor said it was still premature to link Acharon Jr.

“We are just relying on what the witnesses tell us. I’m sure the mastermind and the motive will be known eventually,” he told the Inquirer.

Blancaflor, chair of DOJ’s Task Force 211, a special team of prosecutors investigating extrajudicial killings of activists and journalists, said the suspects would be hard put to refute the witnesses’ testimonies.

“The positive identification of the witnesses is a very strong evidence in court. It will be hard for the suspects to look for any alibi to contest that,” he said in an earlier interview.

PNP chief Director General Avelino Razon Jr. immediately ordered the administrative relief of Acharon Sr.

During a meeting with NUJP directors in his office in Camp Crame on Monday, Razon said Acharon Sr. would be brought to the Custodial Detention Center in Camp Crame pending the formal filing of an administrative case against him.

He also instructed Director Jefferson Soriano, chief of the Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management, to look into allegations that the local police tried to whitewash the investigation of the case.

Cuesta died five days after the shooting.

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

My Take:

Innocent?

Give us a break. surrender and let the court decide on your innocence.

Macapagal-Arroyo must go — Pol kill survivor

August 19, 2008

VICTORIA, Canada — “Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo must go,” was the call of Dr. Chandu Claver during his keynote speech on the occasion of the Commemorative Service for his wife, Alice, who was killed in an ambush by suspected government agents in the Philippines two years ago.

The public Forum on Human Rights and the Philippine Situation was held on August 2 at the Selkirk Montessori School in the City of Victoria, Canada. It was sponsored by the Victoria Philippine Solidarity Group and the Stop the Killings in the Philippines Network.

The video presentation entitled “The Philippines: Waging War on the People” was publicly shown for the first time in Victoria. The video indicates how on that fateful day on July 31, 2006, two riflemen hosed down the Claver family car containing the couple and one of their daughters. Alice did not survive her seven gunshot wounds. Dr. Claver and his daughter, though much wounded, survived. Since then, Dr. Claver has linked up with human rights groups in an international campaign called the Stop the Killings Campaign.

Alice Claver was one of 903 Filipinos victims of extra-judicial killings since 2001. Most of the victims were members and leaders of legitimate progressive social organizations working for social changes in the Philippines. Local and international bodies and investigators, notably from the United Nations, have indicated the direct involvement of the Philippine military in these killings. In his talk, Dr. Claver said, “. . . the present Philippine rule is a de facto martial rule, a far cry from the so-called ‘vibrant democracy’ that even the present Canadian government seems to stubbornly think and adhere to.” The killings have been linked to the Philippine Government counter-insurgency program – a program strongly and directly supported by the United States War on Terror.

The Stop the Killings in the Philippines Campaign has spread into numerous countries around the world. This culminated in a process involving the filing of charges against Presidents Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and George W. Bush at the Permanent Peoples Tribunal. The international opinions court found both Arroyo and Bush guilty of crimes against humanity. “International solidarity of peoples across the world has made this possible.” Claver said. But he added, “The number of killings may have noticeably decreased in the last 6 months due to the local and international pressure, but (the killings) definitely have not stopped. . . Getting Arroyo and Bush out of the scene may not be the total answer, but may be a start for better things to come.”

He appeals to Canadians to continue to lobby their government to review Canada’s trade relations with, and military aid to the Philippines. He urged that Canada should find “means of making truly sure that Canadian tax payer’s money is not being used to make the Armed Forces of the Philippines a more efficient killing machine”.

Claver, who together with his three daughters had fled the Philippines due to continued threats and harassments, has been waiting for more than a year for the Immigration and Refugee Board to hear his case for a refugee claim. #(NorthernDispatch)

Human rights lawyer urges MP town ABC prexy’s arrest

August 19, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — A human rights lawyer urges the head of the Philippine National Police Regional Office in the Cordillera (PRO-COR) to cause the immediate arrest and prosecution of an official of Mountain Province identified to be involved in the killing of a human rights worker.

Lawyer Jose Mencio Molintas said that Mateo or Mathew Fanao was charged of a heinous crime 15 years ago and managed to remain at large and at present a public official continuously evading prosecution.

Molintas was recently appointed as member of the Expert Mechanisms on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UN-HRC).

In a letter he sent last week to Cordillera Police Chief Senior Superintendent Eugene Gabriel Martin, Molintas said Fanao is a co-accused in the killing of human rights worker Christopher L. Batan in February 1993 in Betwagan, Sadanga, Mountain Province. A warrant of arrest for Fanao was issued by a Regional Trial Court here but until now it has not been served, according to reliable sources.

Freely roaming around?

“Fanao is reportedly roaming freely at Betwagan, Sadanga and was even elected as Barangay Captain and now president of the Association of Barangay Captains (in Sadanga) sitting as councilor,” added Molintas in his letter which was also sent to Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Ronaldo Puno.

Other sources claimed that Fanao is attending Sangguniang Bayan meetings and draws his salary in the past. Nordis tried to reach both the Sadanga mayor and the vice-mayor through text messaging to verify the allegations but did not get any response.

According to other sources, including those from the DILG-CAR, Fanao was also elected as vice-president of the Mountain Province federation of the Association of Barangay Captains. He has never been arrested by the PNP despite a warrant of arrest issued by a judge from a regional trial court (RTC) here.

Case history

The history of the case shows Batan and two companions went to Betwagan in 1993 to document human rights violation committed under the administration of Pres. Ferdinand Marcos but were sprayed with bullets by five members of the para-military CAFGU.

Only Batan was killed during the said shooting while his two companions survived and became witnesses. The case was transferred to this city when a conflict erupted between the accused Betwagan tribe and the victim’s Lias (Barlig) tribe. Two of the co-accused were arrested and convicted afterwards.

Last year, one co-accused surrendered while Fanao and his remaining companion remain at-large.

Nordis learned from Molintas that a brother of the victim approached the regional director of the DILG to seek assistance for the arrest and prosecution of Fanao but he was orally informed that the said office could not act on the issue and instead recommended the assistance of the PNP.

Chief Senior Superintendent and PNP provincial director Martin said that Fanao could not be located in the area.

“We sent copies of his (Fanao) warrant of arrest to all the stations Cordillera-wide for their appropriate actions,” Martin said when asked of the PNP’s next move in serving the arrest warrant issued for Fanao. # Arthur L. Allad-iw(NorthernDispatch)

26 killed as MILF flee Lanao Norte towns–military

August 18, 2008

Lieutenant colonel slain in fighting

By Joel Guinto, Thea Alberto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 14:22:00 08/18/2008

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE 4) An Army lieutenant colonel was among 26 persons — 23 civilians and three soldiers — killed in fighting triggered by attacks by fighters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Lanao del Norte province on Monday, officials said.

Two other soldiers were wounded.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) said some 7,000 individuals in the province were displaced and are now in various evacuation centers.

Lieutenant Colonel Angel Benitez was shot in the head when his convoy was ambushed by MILF fighters in front of an elementary school in Kolambugan town at 5:45 a.m., said Lieutenant Colonel Agane Adriatico, spokesman of the 1st Infantry Division.

He is the highest-ranked Army official to die in combat with Moro rebels in recent years, said Army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Romeo Brawner Jr.

“We grieve the loss of a very good officer. I know him personally. He is very competent. Nakakapanghinayang [It is a pity] for somebody to die at such an early age,” Army chief Lieutenant General Victor Ibrado said in a phone interview.

Ibrado said there have been no reported skirmishes since the rebels pulled out of Kolambugan town at around noon Monday.

“We can’t say that [the fighting] is over. Our troops are there, ready to secure the towns, and the coastal areas. We have instructions to pursue them,” he said.

The civilian casualties, mostly in Kolambugan town, were shot by the rebels as they retreated, said Brigadier General Hilario Atendido, chief of the counterterrorism unit Task Force Tabak operating in Central Mindanao.

“They [MILF] were using them [civilians] as human shields. They killed them on their way out. The description was they were killed like chickens. That’s the report from the civilians,” Atendido said in a phone interview.

The rebels suffered an undetermined number of casualties, he said.

The MILF has since retreated.

Earlier, Chief Superintendent Nicanor Bartolome, PNP spokesman, said 21 people — 11 of them unidentified civilians, seven of them farmers, two more civilians identified as Ricardo Gil and Ricky Salidad, the rest either soldiers or government militiamen — had been killed in MILF raids in Lanao del Norte and in Saranggani province.

The Moro rebels, under the leadership of Commanders Bravo and Pangalian of the 102nd and 103rd brigade commands respectively, staged ambuscades in several towns in the two provinces, a week after the military flushed out their comrades under the command of Umbra Kato in North Cotabato province.

The MILF attacked five towns in Lanao del Norte province before dawn Monday, and occupied one of the five, Kolambugan.

“As early as 1 a.m. today [Monday], Maasim, Saranggani was attacked by armed elements of MILF followed by ambuscades in Lanao Norte municipalities,” Bartolome said in a press conference at Camp Crame national police headquarters.

The attacks prompted the military to launch offensives to drive back the rebels.

The rebels also killed two bus passengers and Police Officer 1 Dexter Salvacion.

In Kolambugan, the rebels burned a police patrol car and attacked the municipal police station and other government offices there, but were later flushed out during military operations, prompting the rebels to take 25 civilians and use them as human shields.

But Bartolome said that as of posting time, only 10 MILF hostages remained.

“The PNP [and] Armed Forces are doing our best to secure other areas in Lanao as well as other provinces affected by these movements by MILF personnel,” he said.

He said the Moro rebels left Kolambugan about noon, taking with them male hostages.

The rebels released their women and children hostages as they left, said Atendido.

“They left the area, that is the report from our ground troops,” Atendido said in a phone interview.

Asked what prompted the pullout, Atendido said: “They can’t stay there too long. They also felt the pressure from the military.”

Asked if all towns that were attacked by the MILF have been cleared, Atendido said: “As of now wala na [As of now, there’s no more].”

“But clearing operations are still ongoing in Kolambugan because we have received reports that some rebels have disguised themselves as civilians,” he said.

Earlier in the day, MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu said the leadership has ordered its men to pull out from areas that they have occupied in Lanao del Norte, as the military launched offensives against the Muslim rebels, a spokesman for the MILF said.

“The MILF leadership ordered them to pullout, get out of the area,” MILF civil military affairs chief Eid Kabalu said in a phone interview Monday.

“We did not sanction this,” Kabalu said, referring to what he described as an “occupation” of Kolambugan and Kauswagan towns.

The military said the rebels attacked Kolambugan, Kauswagan, Maigo, Linamon, and portions of Iligan City.

Data from the PNP National Operations Center showed some 400 families evacuated to the Kauswagan Central Elementary School; around 1,300 individuals at the Iligan City National High School; at least 1,350 persons at Iligan City Central school; 750 persons in Buroo High School; another 700 people at Fuentes Gym, and 587 at Tunod Central Elementary School, Director Leopoldo Bataoil, PNP director for police community relations, said.

Bataoil said they are coordinating with local governments on caring for the evacuees.

Bartolome said all regional police offices and the Special Action Force in Mindanao will remain on full alert until the situation in the Lanao provinces has stabilized.

The PNP will also asses whether they need upgrade the alert status in other parts of the country.

Kabalu said the attack on the Lanao towns showed the rebels’ frustration over the pace of the peace negotiations.(PDI)

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My Take:

How many more civilians are to be killed before this government realizes that their political games are deadly to us ordinary Filipinos.

The people are getting killed and they stay in power.  They get richer.  They live longer.