Archive for the ‘militarization’ 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)

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: Southern Campaign

April 17, 2009

kampanya-daw

Abu Sayaff is now a Political Endorser.  A puppet political endorser.

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: Cabinet

March 6, 2009

general-cabinet

Yeah right!

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

‘Amparo’ issued for Baguio activist

January 25, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 23, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Group opposes RP-US war games in Bicol

January 22, 2009

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

Filed Under: Regional authorities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 31, 2008

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

BY RONALYN V. OLEA
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH

(Bulatlat.com)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They were released to their parents only on April 2.

Witnessing a father die

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A victim of sexual abuse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ivy said Pagios refused to attend the hearings.

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

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

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

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

Being shot at

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A community threatened

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Children’s rights violations

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

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

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

Injustice, Impunity, Trademarks of Arroyo Regime – Rights Group

December 30, 2008

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

BY RONALYN V. OLEA
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Bulatlat

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

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

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

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

Impunity

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writ of amparo

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

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

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

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

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

Other cases


Source: Karapatan

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

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

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

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

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

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

Breakthroughs

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

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

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

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

The Plunderer’s Escape and the Activists’ Arrest

December 28, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dutch Lawyers to Arroyo: Prosecute Military involved in Extrajudicial Killings

December 28, 2008

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

BY D. L. MONDELO
Correspondent
Bulatlat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On cue

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

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

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

December 28, 2008

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

BY RONALYN V. OLEA
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH

(Bulatlat.com)

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Writ of amparo

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

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

Arming civilians

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

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


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

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

Domestic laws

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

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

CHR asked to order army camp closure

December 24, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Agreement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Complaints

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

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

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

Jayson said he was verifying these issues.

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

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

HR groups cry: ‘Surface Balao’

December 22, 2008

by Harley Palangchao

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(BaguioMidlandCourier)

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.

Cordi mine areas militarized, multiple human rights violations documented

December 21, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — Heightened militarization in the boundaries of Kalinga, Mountain Province, Abra and Ilocos Sur led to various human rights violations of the collective rights of the residents in these areas, reported a human rights watchdog in the Cordillera region.

Exactly 49.92% or 55,140 hectares of the total 1,111,995 hectares mining applications registered at the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) is in the tri-boundaries of the said provinces. The Cordillera’s total land area is 1.8 million hectares.

The Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) claimed in its 2008 report that government troops’ bombings and shelling, cannons stationed and fired within communities, illegal searches of houses, and the military use of schools, medical, religious and other public places and private residences are the notable violations committed in the said areas.

Nineteen cases of illegal search and seizures affecting at least 108 persons were documented by the CHRA while three cases of bombing and shelling were documented with the same number of persons affected.

CHRA reported there are eight cases where military used of schools, medical, religious and other public places and private residences where at least 9,102 persons were affected.

It identified the 50th Infantry Batallion of the 503rd Brigade as involved in the said cases.

CHRA said that the headquarters of the 503rd Brigade was transferred from Narvacan, Ilocos Sur to Lagangilang, Abra “marking shift of military attention from Ilocos Region to the Cordillera.

Mine protector?

Some residents of villages in the boundaries of the four provinces claimed earlier that the military deployment is due to mining applications.

In the MGB mining tenement statistic report to MGB National Director Horacio Ramos, there were six applications for Financial or Technical Agreement in the boundaries of the four provinces which total to 480,492.775 hectares; five Exploration Permit Application (EXPA) which cover 65,657 hectares; and two Applications for Production Sharing Agreement (APSA) which cover 8,991 hectares.

All of these applications total to 555,140.775 hectares where 15 % of the area is found in Ilocos Sur while 85 % in Kalinga, Abra and Mountain province.

However, AFTA 3 by Newcrest Explorations that covers Abra and Kalinga, which was converted to EXPA, has no indicated area in hectares in the MGB document. Also AFTA 25 by Shipside, alleged subsidiary of Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company (Lepanto) covers 80,684.8712 hectares in the provinces of Ifugao, Mountain Province and Nueva Vizcaya.

Violating right to life

CHRA also reported four cases of extra-judicial killings which involved four persons.

The victims were all farmer/hunters from Abra and Kalinga and the incidents took place one quarter apart from its other, stated the CHRA report which was released on December 10, the 60th commemoration of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.

CHRA also reported a sole case of enforced disappearance. Its report stated that Cordillera Peoples Alliance founding member James Moy Balao was forcibly taken by alleged military intelligence forces on September 17 near Camp Bado Dangwa in Tomay, La Trinidad, Benguet. The family and the CPA filed a petition for a Writ of Amparo in a Benguet Court but no decision has been issued by the court yet.

CHRA also reported that four cases of restriction or violent dispersal of mass action had happened in the city which covered at least 1,495 persons.

CHRA report pointed out that people worldwide are commemorating the 60th adoption of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, human rights situation in the Philippines remains deplorable as the rights to life, liberty, security, self-determination and development are far from being fully realized.

It also demanded the demilitarization of the country sides. # Arthur L. Allad-iw(NorDis)

Cordillerans get used to human rights violations

December 20, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — “Nairuam kamin iti giyera. Saan kamin nga agbuteng iti bomba. Anya pay ngay aramiden mi? Buybuyaen mi laengen, ah,” (We are used to the war. We are no longer afraid of bombs. What else do we do, but watch?)

A community elder from the tri-boundary of Abra, Ilocos Sur and Mountain Province told Nordis in a jest during the 4th General Assembly of the Mankayan-Quirino-Tadian-Cervantes Dangayan a Gunglo (Maquitacdg) on November 30 in Mankayan, Benguet.

“Today is a Sunday and it is Bonifacio Day!” former Lamag Barangay Captain Felix Dengaley, one of the masters of ceremonies, declared as he led the gathering to remember Andres Bonofacio’s heroism in the Philippine Revolution.

As speakers reported, their situation speak of a people amid war.

War against poverty and want is evident in the report of farmers along the Abra River, which have been rendered unproductive by mine tailings that incessantly flow through the river system from Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company’s operations here.

Farmers in remote villages such as Barangay Lamag in Quirino, Ilocos Sur and Tubtuba in Tubo, Abra, could not tend to their farms, neither could they harvest their crops in times of military operations. This year alone, they witnessed two full-blown military campaigns which terrorized Pananuman and its surrounding communities in the Dilong Valley. One such bombing resulted from an encounter between elements of the 5th Infantry Brigade and members of New People’s Army in March, followed by another in October.

Workers are also experiencing the hunger, despite jobs that they hold on to. Lepanto workers now subjected to a reduced work-day scheme, scamper for more jobs elsewhere while they are on “enforced vacation from the mines.”

Urban poor leader Ignacio Pangket, chair of the Organisasyon ti Nakurapay nga Umili iti Syudad (Ornus) said city dwellers have long been deprived of their right to food and decent shelter, as well as decent jobs. Pangket was one of the presenters in a press conference here Thursday.

The Maquitacdg elder said, they could do nothing else but watch. He said it in jest but there is more to it than meets the eye. More than the war against poverty and hunger, his community has been victimized by the military’s anti-insurgency campaign .

During the first bombing, residents in the Dilong Valley were subjected to various types of human rights violations as documented by the human rights watchdog Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) in its annual report.

“The triboundary of Abra, Mountain Province and Ilocos Sur isthe most militarized in the region,” the CHRA report claimed. It is the priority or “win” area as defined by the Operation Bantay Laya, the government anti-insurgency scheme.

The Cordillera has been identified as the base of the Ilocos-Cordillera Region of the communist New People’s Army, according to Col. Pompeo Limbo of the Philippine Army’s 5th Infantry Division in his report to the Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) at the Benguet provincial capitol Friday.

Pompeo said the rebels have targeted the boundary area because it would be easier for them to expand to other provinces while staying in one place.

Aside from atrocities in the Dilong Valley, CHRA also noted human rights abuses in Baay-Licuan, Abra; Natonin, Mountain Province; Tanglag and Lubuagan, Kalinga; and even in urban centers like Baguio City and Conner in Apayao.

“Where there are mining applications, expect human rights violations as a result of militarization,” noted Santos Mero, Deputy Secretary-general of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance. Mero is also with Defend Patrimony, a national aggrupation of anti-mining advocates.

He said the Cordillera is the subject of several mining applications covering more than two-thirds of the region’s 1.8 million hectare land area.

Jude Baggo, CHRA secretary-general said the challenges for 2009 is greater with the State bent on achieving the goals of OBL II, Charter change and the presidential elections in 2010.

“We must gather our strength to end state terrorism and fascism and to hold the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo government accountable for all human rights violations,” said Baggo.

CHRA noted four extra-judicial killings, one case of attempted rape, once case of enforced disappearance, three cases of bombings and strafings two cases of hamletting; one case of food restriction; and 19 counts of illegal searches among many other human rights violations in the Cordillera from January to November 20, 2008. # Lyn V. Ramo(NorDis)

Kalinga people demand immediate AFP pullout

December 20, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — Indigenous peoples of Tanglag, Lubuagan, Kalinga demand the immediate pullout of Alpha Company of the 21st Infantry Battalion under the 501st Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army of the Armed Forces of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) from their community and a stop on the terrorist acts of soldiers.

In a dialog on November 20, residents asserted that the soldiers should leave their community at once stating that their presence endangers the lives of the people.

The residents also demanded that soldiers stop conducting a census, and other forms of intimidation and harassment. They also demanded for the lists of the order of battle, the allege NPA supporters and contachs, that the AFP claim are people from the community.

Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) Secretary-general Jude Baggo stressed, “this is not an isolated case other communities in Kalinga, Mountain Province and Abra have experienced the same ordeal or even worse.”

He riterated that all these are part of the counter-insurgency program under Oplan Bantay Laya II (OBL).

Residents said that on October 10, soldiers led by a certain Lt. Camaganakan arrived in Tanglag and encamped at the Barangay Day Care Center despite the resident’s opposition. The soldiers said they would stay for just a few days but to date, they are still in the area. With the day care center occupied by the soldiers, the children are now using the church for their classroom.

The Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) provides that civilians have the right to be protected against the risks and dangers posed by the presence of military camps in urban centers and populated areas. The encampment and prolonged presence of the AFP in the area is a violation of this agreement.

Census?

On October 11, the government troops called a community meeting, where they announced that they would be conducting a medical mission and that they would get the names of the residents in the community to determine their medical needs. The government troops then conducted a census of the barangay but did not ask anything about medical needs instead asked infrastructure the residents think the community needs, and personal information on members of the family.

The military has not held a medical mission in the area. The medical checkup conducted on October 16 was a regular mission of the municipal government of Lubuagan, Kalinga.

A few days later, the soldiers came up with a list of names allegedly taken from an encounter with the NPA, after some residents refused to cooperate with the census they were conducting. They came up with an Order of Battle list where more names of community members were included. They announced the names of local residents supposedly found on the lists in community meetings and told them to personally report to the military to clear their names. Soldiers continue to harass those whose names supposedly appear on the list to clear their names.

United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Philip Alston noted in his report that the military conduct meetings or census and individual interviews in target communities to identify NPA fighters and members of organizations labelled as front organizations. He added that attempts are generally made to get identified persons to “surrender.”

“The vilification and intimidation of persons who do not surrender too often escalates into extra-judicial executions; however, these do not appear fundamental to the strategy,” the report read.

Other violations

On November 13, Sgt. Caronan illegally searched the sack of rice Venicio Nagoy was carrying. In another incident, the soldiers intimidated the local youth while playing basketball with them. One soldier said they might even be playing with members of the NPA.

Army troopers also attempted to convince residents to become military assets.

The continuing harassment and threats on the life, liberty and security of the community especially the accusations they are members of the NPA prompted them to seek legal advice.

The residents informed the military they would seek legal advice on what to do. The military allowed them to do so, but continued pushing residents to “clear their names.”

Army officers Lt. Faura, Lt. Francis Agustin, Banza, Canlas and Ventura (first names not supplied) attended the dialog with the community members and their lawyers on November 20.

Faura confirmed they are conducting an outreach program which required the conduct of a census. He iterated the list of names read to the residents was recovered from an alleged encounter with the NPA in Uma, another barangay of Lubuagan.

Soldiers admitted that Tanglag is marked red in their records and “therefore it should be cleaned.” They also insisted they could not show the OB because it is a confidential document.

They promised to stop the census and inquiries and agreed to leave the community during the said dialog, explaining, however, they could not remove the names of the residents from the OB , because only higher offices could do so.

The residents resolved after the dialog to make a written petition stating all their demands and furnish all concerned government officials.

As of press time the soldiers are still encamped in Tanglag. They claimed they had to stay in the community until they see the barangay petition.

Military pull out now!

“We laud the indigenous peoples of Tanglag for asserting their rights despite the terrorist acts and continuing threat the presence of state forces poses against their lives and security. At the same time we condemn the military for continuously wreaking havoc in the countryside,” Baggo said.

He encouraged other communities to follow the example of Tanglag, to firmly defend their rights against abusive military forces. # Kim Quitasol and Jimmy Suwagon(NorDis)

HR Day awaits amparo resolution

December 20, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AFP at CEGP: Dalawang ‘bukas na liham’

December 15, 2008

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

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

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

Narito ang dalawang liham:

Open letter to the Philippine Collegian and its readers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

COLLEGE EDITORS GUILD OF THE PHILIPPINES

PinoyWeekly

Nang magbalikwas ang bata

December 15, 2008

Kenneth Roland A. Guda


Sa harap ng matinding pandarahas, di-nangingimi at kusang lumalahok sa panlipunang pagbabago ang mga bata. (KR Guda)

PAYAT pero makisig si Jerome (di tunay na pangalan) para sa isang 17 anyos na bata. Palibhasa’y tulad ng napakaraming kabataan, maaga siyang nagtrabaho sa bukid. Mga magsasaka sa Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur ang kanyang pamilya.

Karaniwang araw lang sana para sa kanila ang Marso 23, 2007 nang maganap ang di-makalimutang pangyayari. “Galing kami sa kabilang baryo (nagsaka), pauwi,” sabi ni Jerome.

Kasama niya ang mga pinsang pawang mga menor-de-edad, at ilang kabaryong nagtrabaho noon sa bukid. Habang naglalakad, nagulat sila sa malakas na putukan. Napadapa si Jerome at ang iba pa. Tantiya nila, may naganap na engkuwentro sa pagitan ng rebeldeng New People’s Army (NPA) at mga sundalo.

Nakalublob pa sila sa mga damuhan nang, tamang tama, dumaan ang mga sundalo ng 29th Infantry Battalion ng Philippine Army. Ikinagulat ng mga magsasaka ang mga sundalo. Sino ba naman ang hindi: tatlong 6×6 na trak at isang armored personnel carrier ang sumalubong sa kanila.

Nakalublob sila sa mga damuhan – sapat na itong pruweba para sa mga sundalo na mga NPA sina Jerome. Sa kabila ng mga pagtanggi, pinaratangan sila ng mga sundalo bilang mga miyembro ng NPA. “Tinadyakan sa tagiliran ‘yung pinsan ko,” sabi niya. Isinakay sila sa APC, at dinala sa kampo ng naturang yunit ng militar.

Apat na araw na ikinulong ng mga sundalo si Jerome, ang mga pinsan niya at mga kasamahan. Di pinayagan ang mga kaanak nila na makita sina Jerome. Sa ikaapat na araw, laking gulat na lamang nila nang iprisinta sila sa isang press conference ng midya. Ayon sa militar, mga NPA daw sila. Mga batang-batang rebelde. Mga “child soldier“.

Naulit ito kinabukasan. Dinala ng mga sundalo sina Jerome sa Maynila, at sa isang presscon, muling pinakilala bilang batang mga rekrut ng mga rebelde – patunay raw sa kalupitan ng NPA sa mga bata.

Paris Principles

Tunay ngang pinagmalupitan si Jerome. Pero sa pagkakataong iyon, hindi mga rebelde kundi mga militar ang nagmalupit.

Kung isasaalang-alang ang tinaguriang Paris Principles na nilagdaan ng 58 miyembro ng United Nations (UN) noong Pebrero 2007 na siyang nagsisilbing international guidelines para sa paglahok sa mga bata (edad 17 anyos pababa) sa armadong tunggalian, maaaring maituring ngang “child soldier” o batang sundalo si Jerome. Kung nga sumusuporta ang komunidad niya sa Agusan del Sur sa mga rebelde, maituturing ngang batang sundalo na siya sa ilalim ng Paris Principles.

Ang Paris Principles ang tinutuntungang pamantayan ngayon sa daigdig hinggil sa mga bata ng armadong tunggalian. Nakabatay sa pag-aaral ni Graca Macel noong 1996, nakasaad sa mga prinsipyong ito na maituturing na batang sundalo hindi lamang iyong mga batang direktang inarmasan at kalahok sa armadong pakikipaglaban, kundi pati iyong di-armado pero may tungkulin sa kabuuang armadong kilusan. Sa deklarasyong “Cape Town Principles” ni Macel, pinakahulugan ang terminong “child soldier” bilang indibidwal na “may edad na mababa sa 18 anyos na bahagi sa regular o iregular na armadong puwersa o armadong grupo sa kanyang kapasidad bilang, pero di nakalimita sa pagiging, cook, porter, tagadala ng mensahe at sinumang sumasama sa mga grupong ito maliban sa mga miyembro ng pamilya.”

Sa pagsusuri ni Prop. Judy Taguiwalo at ng mga iskolar ng Congress of Teachers and Educators for Nationalism and Democracy (Contend), napag-alamang halos buung-buong nakabatay ang Cape Town Principles pati na ang Paris Principles sa maraming karanasan ng batang sundalo sa Africa.

Sa pag-aaral na itong pinamagatang “Uncounted Lives Once More: The Paris Documents and Children of Communities in Struggle,” binatikos ng Contend ang Paris Principles na tinataguyod ngayon ng UN. Anila, masyadong simplistiko ang naturang dokumento dahil nakabatay lamang ito sa karanasan ng isang lugar kung saan maraming armadong grupo na namumuwersang magrekluta ng mga batang sundalo. Sinabi ng Contend na hindi aplikable ang dokumentong ito sa mga lugar tulad ng Pilipinas kung saan “boluntaryong sumusuporta ang mga bata sa isang konteksto ng insurhensiyang nakabase sa komunidad” tulad ng NPA.

Dahil hindi napag-iba ng Paris Documents ang karanasan ng Africa sa karanasan ng mga bansang tulad ng Pilipinas, lalong inilalagay nito sa peligro ang mga bata. Una, kapag nabansagang “child soldier” ang batang di-armado pero sumusuporta sa NPA (sa mga pamamaraang maliban sa pag-aarmas), maaari na itong matarget ng Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) bilang kaaway nito sa giyera. Halimbawa nito ang kaso ng siyam-na-taong si Grecil Buya noong 2007 na matapos mapaslang ng Philippine Army sa Timog Mindanao ay ipinalabas ng Army na isang 12-taong-gulang na batang sundalo ng NPA.

Nabaril na, pinagbintangan pa

Sa Baggao, Cagayan noong Enero 2007, naging matindi ang operasyong militar ng 17th Infantry Battalion ng Army laban sa NPA. Nagsilikas ang sibilyang mga residente. Pero sa pagitan ng mga operasyon, pinilit na bumalik ng ilan. Kasama na dito ang 16-anyos na si Janice, at ilang kaibigan niyang kaeskuwela at dalawang nakatatanda.

Pero naabutan sila sa kalsada ng militar. Walang warning shot, agad silang pinaulanan ng bala. Agad na tinamaan si Janice at ang kaibigan sa binti. “Tumatakbo ako, pero hindi ko agad namalayan na may sugat ako,” kuwento ni Janice sa Pinoy Weekly. “Pagtingin ko sa binti ko, puno na ng dugo. Nanghina na ako.”

Tinakbo sila sa ospital na malayo sa kanilang baryo. Kinabukasan, habang nagpapagaling sa ospital, nabalitaan na lamang nilang itinuring na silang “sugatang mga rebelde” ng Army sa ulat nito sa radyo.

Sa pagbibintang sa kanila bilang mga rebelde, ayon sa Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC), pinalalabas ng militar na lehitimong nabaril sina Janice. Ito mismo anila ang mapanganib sa Paris Principles: sa pamamagitan ng pagpapalawak ng kahulugan ng “child soldier”, lumalawak din ang saklaw ng mga “lehitimong” target ng ginagamitan ng armadong puwersa ng gobyerno.

Bukod dito – at pinakamalubha, ayon sa pagsusuri ng Contend – ay ang pagtanggi ng Paris Principles sa karapatan ng mga bata na lumahok sa makabuluhang pagbabago ng kanilang mga kalagayan sa komunidad at lipunan. Sa maraming pagkakataon, boluntaryong aktibong lumalahok ang mga bata sa rebolusyonaryong kilusan dahil nakikita nila, kahit sa murang edad, na makatarungan ang labang nilalahukan.

Nasa preambulo mismo ng 1948 United Nations Declaration of Human Rights ang karapatan ng mga mamamayan na bumalikwas laban sa tiraniya,” ayon sa Contend. “Lumalabas na kumbinyenteng binabalewala ng Paris Documents ang karapatan ng taumbayan na palayain ang sarili laban sa panunupil – isang legal na prinsipyong kiniklala sa daigidig para sa mga kilusan para sa pambansang kalayaan.”

Maging si Graca Machel, ayon sa Contend, ay kumilala sa karapatan ng mga bata na lumahok sa panlipunang pagbabago. Sinipi nito ang sinulat ni Machel: “Sa kabilang banda, mahalagang sabihin na maaari ring yakapin at lumaban para sa panlipunang mga tunguhin, relihiyosong ekspresyon, pagpapasya sa sarili o pambansang kalayaan ang mga bata. Tulad ng nangyari sa South Africa at iba pang okupadong teritoryo, maaari silang lumahok sa pakikibaka para sa pampulitikang kalayaan.”

Kuwestiyon sa Paris Principles

Sa pakikipagdiyalogo kamakailan ng Pilipinong mga grupong tagapagtaguyod ng karapatan ng mga bata tulad ng CRC sa pecial representative of the UN Secretary General for children and armed conflict na si Radhika Coomaraswamy, lumalabas na tali ang UN sa implementasyon ng Paris Principles. Kung kaya, inaasahang sisingilin nito ang dalawang rebolusyonaryong kilusan sa bansa – ang Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) at ang Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) – sa di pagtupad sa istriktong istandard ng Paris Principles.

Ilang beses nang tumugon ang NDF sa akusasyong pilit na nagrerekluta ito ng mga bata para sa NPA. Anila, taong 1988 pa nang unang idineklara ng NDF sa mga puwersa nito na kailangang 18 anyos pataas ang lahat ng maaarmasan sa ilalim ng NPA. Sa bahagi naman ng MILF, mariing itinatanggi ni Atty. Musib Buat, abogado ng grupo, ang akusasyon ng Armed Forces of the Philippines na may mga batang mujahideen sa kanilang hanay.

Ang ibig sabihin kasi ng ‘kampo’ sa amin ay komunidad. Halimbawa, ang Kampo Abubakar (kampo ng NILF noong panahon ng gobyernong Estrada) ay isang komunidad. Kaya may mga bata riyan,” sabi ni Buat.

Sa mga komunidad na saklaw ng NDF at MILF, pasok sa kategorya ng mga “di aktibong lahok sa armadong digmaan pero tumutulong sa armadong mga grupo” ang mga bata rito. Pero kapwa nila idinidiin na hindi “batang sundalo” ang mga ito hangga’t hindi nag-aarmas.

Sa kabilang panig, inakusahan ng CRC ang gobyernong Arroyo at AFP na pangunahing tagapaglabag ng karapatan ng mga bata. Sa nasabing diyalogo kay Coomaraswamy, inihapag ng CRC ang kaso nina Jerome at Janice bilang patunay ng malay na pagtarget ng AFP sa mga bata sa giyera nito kontra insurhensiya.

Kabilang pa sa iprinisinta ang mga kaso nina: (1) Junior, 13 anyos, miyembro ng tribong Bagobo Klata sa Davao del Sur, na nawalan ng ama matapos paulanan ng bala ng militar ang kanilang bahay; (2) Ivy, 14-anyos sa Compostela Valley, na kabilang sa pinagbantaan at inakusahan ng mga militar na tagsuporta ng NPA kung kaya lumikas kasama ang mga kabaryo; at (3) Joy, 15-anyos na tatlong beses na hinalay ng isang sundalong nagbanta sa kanyang pamilya at nagsabing “wala kang magagawa dahil sundalo kami at may baril kami.”

Sa mga kasong ito, malinaw ang pagkabiktima ng mga bata sa kamay ng mga sundalo ng gobyernong Arroyo. Pinagmalupitan sila ng mga puwersang dapat sanang mangangalaga sa kanilang mga karapatan. Sa mga kalagayang ito, hindi na marahil nakakapagtaka ang kagustuhan maging ng mga bata na lumahok sa rebolusyonaryong mga kilusan – sa pamamagitan ng pagtulong dito kahit na hindi pa sila puwedeng humawak ng armas.

PinoyWeekly

Hindi biro ang mag-Cha-Cha

December 13, 2008

Ilang-Ilang D. Quijano

Mahigit 77% ng taumbayan ang di pabor sa pag-aamyenda ng saligang batas, ayon sa sarbey (Ilang-Ilang Quijano)

Ekspresyon ng pagtutol sa Charter Change: Mahigit 77% ng taumbayan ang di pabor sa pag-aamyenda ng saligang batas, ayon sa sarbey (Ilang-Ilang Quijano)

NAKAKATAWA na nakakatakot ang isang bidyo na kumakalat ngayon sa Internet. Ginampanan ng nagpapakilalang Juana Change ang mahigit limang-minutong komedya hinggil sa ngayo’y mainit muling isyu hinggil sa Charter change (Cha-Cha). “Isang araw, magugulat ka na lang. Matanda ka na pala, kami nandito pa,” sabi ng kontrabida bago humalakhak at i-laser gun ng kanyang sidekick ang isang mananayaw na umaalma sa pambababoy diumano ng gobyerno sa kanyang paboritong sayaw.

Malinaw na tinutukoy ng bidyo si Gloria Arroyo, ang Pangulong pinakamatagal nang nakaupo sa puwesto sunod sa diktador na si Ferdinand Marcos.

Pinaniniwalaang nagmumula pa rin kay Arroyo ang panibagong tulak sa Mababang Kapulungan ng Kongreso na amyendahan ang 1987 Konstitusyon.

Simpatetikong Korte Suprema?

Halos kasabay ng pagbabasura ng Kamara sa ika-apat na reklamong impeachment laban kay Arroyo, sinimulan muli ng House Committee on Constitutional Amendments ang mga pagdinig hinggil sa Cha-Cha. Tinalakay ang House Resolution 737 ni Espiker Prospero Nograles ng Kamara. Pinababago ng HR 737 ang Seksiyon 2 at 3, Artikulo XII ng 1987 Konstitusyon para payagan ang mga dayuhang pagmamay-ari ng mga lupain sa bansa.

Katuwiran ni Nograles, kailangang isalba ang ekonomiya ng bansa sa gitna ng krisis pandaigdig.

Pero agad na sumingaw ang mas kaduda-dudang motibo sa Cha-Cha sa HR 550 ni Batangas Rep. Hermilando Mandanas. Pinahahaba nito ang termino ng Pangulo hanggang Hunyo 30, 2011.

Sa kabila ng iskandalong nilikha ng HR 550 na agad namang ibinasura ng komite, nagpursige sa Cha-Cha ang mga kaalyado ni Arroyo sa partidong Kampi (Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino). Itinutulak nila ang pagbubuo ng Kongreso sa isang Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass).

May 167 kongresista na ang pumirma sa ihahaing resolusyon ni Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Villafuerte, presidente ng Kampi. Balak ng Kampi, mangalap ng 197 pirma sa Kamara na kakatawan sa ¾ ng kabuuang miyembro ng Kongreso o 238 kongresista at 24 senador. Pupuwersahin nitong resolbahin ng Korte Suprema, sa wakas, ang isyung bumabara sa pagbubuo ng Con-Ass.

Ayon sa 1987 Konstitusyon, maaaring amyendahan ang Konstitusyon kung boboto ang ¾ ng mga miyembro ng dalawang kapulungan ng Kongreso. Pero hindi malinaw dito kung boboto nang hiwalay o iisa ang Mababa at Mataas na Kapulungan.

Di tulad noong 2006 na ibinasura ng Korte Suprema ang people’s initiative, naunang tangka ng administrasyon para itulak ang Cha-Cha, paborable para kay Arroyo kung magdedesisyon sa susunod na taon ang korte hinggil sa Con-Ass. Pitong hurado ang magreretiro. Pawang mga appointees ng Pangulo ang matitira. Siya rin ang magtatalaga sa bagong mga hurado.

Mismong si dating Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban, kinatatakutan ang isang “Korte Suprema ni Arroyo.” Umano’y baka mabahiran ng impluwensiya ng Pangulo ang tanging sangay ng gobyerno—sa ilalim ng pamumuno ni Chief Justice Reynato Puno—na may imaheng relatibong independiyente mula sa ehekutibo.

Paliwanag ni Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay, presidente ng United Opposition, “Malakas ang loob ng mga nagtutulak ng Cha-cha sa Kamara na magiging simpatetiko ang Korte Suprema at aalisin nito ang legal na mga balakid sa Konstitusyon hinggil sa term limits ni Arroyo.”

Term extension: ‘Di mapipigilan’

Sa isang birthday party sa tahanan ni Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez noong Nobyembre 15, napabalitang dumalo sina Pangulong Gloria at kabiyak na si Mike Arroyo para basbasan ang Con-Ass. Ngayon, kasama ni Villafuerte sina Romualdez at Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo, anak ng Pangulo, sa pangangalap ng pirma para dito.

Itinatanggi ni Villafuerte na ang lahat ng ito ay para maisalba ang Pangulo, na posibleng kumaharap sa iba’t ibang kasong kriminal kapag natanggalan ng immunity from suit sa 2010. Umano’y walang kinalaman ang Con-Ass sa pagharang sa darating na halalan. Dapat lang umanong resolbahin ang moda ng pagbabago ng 1987 Konstitusyon.

Pero marami ang naniniwala na kapag nabuo na ang Con-Ass, hindi mapipigilan ang pagpasok ng probisyon sa pagpapahaba ng termino.

Isa na rito si Sen. Francis Pangilinan. “Kung may humirit at sabihing ayaw ko ng economic provisions lamang, walang magagawa ang sinumang senador o kongresista. Dahil hindi puwedeng ilimita…Oras na magkaroon ng objection, at magkaroon ng proposal, puwedeng pagbotohan iyon. At kung ang pagbobotohan ay term extension, baka matuwa ‘yung napakarami at sabihing, ‘sama-sama na tayong pabor,’” aniya.

Hindi sang-ayon ang mga senador, maging ang kilalang mga kaalyado ni Arroyo na sina Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago at bagong-halal na Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, sa Cha-Cha bago ang 2010 halalan.

Para kontrahin ang Con-Ass, naghain ng resolusyon si Sen. Mar Roxas na nagpapatawag ng isang Constitutional Convention (Con-Con) pagkatapos ng 2010 halalan. Ang mga delegado sa Con-Con na siyang magpapanukala ng mga pagbabago sa Konstitusyon, ihahalal kasama ng iba pang mga opisyal ng gobyerno.

Ayon kay Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr., na nagtutulak ng pagbabago tungo sa parlamentaryong porma ng gobyerno, “makukulapulan ng partisanong pamumulitika” ang paghalal ng mga delegado sa Con-Con.

Pero dahil tila mahihirapan ang Kamara na ilusot ang Con-Ass nang walang kaparis sa resolusyon mula sa Senado, bukas sa Con-Con si Nograles—dahilan para umugong ang balitang patatalsikin siya ng mga taga-Kampi mula sa pamunuan ng Kamara—gayundin si Majority Floor Leader Arthur Defensor ng partidong Lakas.

Walang kinalaman?

Samantala, iginigiit ni Press Secretary Jesus Dureza na walang kinalaman ang Palasyo sa hakbang ng kanyang mga kapartido. Hindi rin umano ito makikialam sa isang kapantay na sangay ng gobyerno.

Gayunpaman, dinedma nito ang hamon ng ilang mga obispo na pumirma ang Pangulo ng isang dokumentong nangangakong hindi siya mananatili sa puwesto lampas sa 2010. “Ipagpapatuloy lamang niya ang dapat gawin bilang Presidente—ang pamumuno (governance),” ani Dureza.

Pero ayon kay Sen. Pia Cayetano, ang pananahimik ni Arroyo at kabiguan nitong sawatahin ang Con-Ass ay nangangahulugang pabor siya rito. “Kung talagang sinsero siyang hindi pahabain ang kanyang termino, bakit hindi niya ihayag ang oposisyon sa mga hakbang ng sarili niyang mga kaanak sa Kamara?”

Nagkakaisa rin ang mga lider-simbahan at ang mga negosyante na anupaman ang moda o ipinapalitaw na dahilan, hindi dapat amyendahan ang 1987 Konstitusyon sa ilalim ng gobyernong Arroyo.

Self-serving” o pakikinabangan lamang ito ng mga nagtutulak ng Cha-Cha, ayon kay Alberto Lim, presidente ng Makati Business Club. Maging si Edgardo Lacson, presidente ng kadikit ng administrasyon na Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, sinabing magdudulot lamang ng “political turmoil” o kaguluhang pampulitika ang Cha-Cha ngayon.

Ayon pa kay Arsobispo Gaudencio Rosales, na kilala ring tagasuporta ni Arroyo, hindi dapat ipagkatiwala ang Cha-Cha sa mga nasa kapangyarihan dahil sa kanila umanong “vested interests” o itinatagong pansariling mga interes.

Kahit ang taumbayan, lumalabas na hindi pabor sa Cha-Cha.

Sa pambansang sarbey noong nakaraang buwan ng Ibon Foundation, mayorya o 77.4% ng mga rumesponde ang nagsabing tutol sila sa pag-aamyenda ng Konstitusyon. Tumaas pa ang rating na ito kumpara sa sarbey noong Abril kung saan 68% ng mga rumesponde nang negatibo sa Cha-Cha.

Laging may duda

Bukod sa posibleng pagpapahaba ng termino ni Arroyo, tinututulan ng progresibong mga kinatawan ng party-list at ng Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) ang iba pang inihahaing mga pagbabago sa Konstitusyon. Pangunahin dito ang pagtanggal sa mga restriksiyon sa dayuhang pag-aari ng lupa, pampublikong yutilidad, mass media, paaralan, at advertising firms.

“Magreresulta ang 100% pagmamay-ari ng dayuhan sa mga lupain ng pinatinding pangangamkam ng lupa mula sa mga magsasaka at pagdambong sa kalikasan,” sabi ni Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano.

Binabantayan din ng Bayan ang pag-aamyenda sa Bill of Rights na nagsisiguro ng batayang mga karapatang pantao, at pag-alis ng mga safeguard o panlaban sa pagdedeklara ng Batas Militar.

Dagdag pa ng grupo, tututulan nila ang pagpapababa sa kinakailangang mga boto sa Kongreso para ratipikahin ang internasyunal na mga tratado na maaaring nasa disbentahe ng taumbayan, gayundin ang mga probisyong magpapabalik ng dayuhang mga tropa at baseng militar sa bansa.

“Sa ilalim ng kasalukuyang sirkunstansiya…laging pagdududahan ang mga hakbang para baguhin ang Konstitusyon. Sa panahong hindi dominante sa gobyerno ang interes ng mga mardyinalisado at inaapi, laging makikinabang sa Cha-Cha ang mga naghahari sa ekonomiya at pulitika, kapwa lokal at dayuhan,” sabi ng Bayan.

Panahon ng oposisyon

Kung paniniwalaan ang mga grupo at indibidwal na nag-oorganisa ng malaking kilos-protesta sa Disyembre 12, “papuntang Ayala Ave. ang lahat ng daan.” Umano’y panahon nang magpakitang-gilas ang mga tumututol sa Cha-Cha at pananatili sa puwesto ni Arroyo.

Kinabibilangan ito ng mga taong-simbahan, negosyante, estudyante, dating nakakataas na opisyal ng gobyerno, at progresibong mga grupong sektoral na kumakatawan sa mga manggagawa, magsasaka, maralitang lungsod, empleyado ng gobyerno, kababaihan, at iba pa.

“Talagang naghahanap ng venue ang taumbayan para maipahayag ang kanilang galit sa Cha-Cha,” sabi ni Renato Reyes, pangkalahatang kalihim ng Bayan.

Kung pagbabatayan ang sentimyento ng ordinaryong mga mamamayan gaya ni Juana Change, magiging makulay at pursigido ang muling pagbuhay ng protesta laban sa hindi birong banta na matapatan o mahigitan pa ni Arroyo si Marcos sa bilang ng mga taon na nakaupo sa puwesto.

http://www.pinoyweekly.org

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
var sburl2381 = window.location.href; var sbtitle2381 = document.title;var sbtitle2381=encodeURIComponent(“Military hit for death of B’laan hunter”); var sburl2381=decodeURI(“http://www.mindanews.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=5603”); sburl2381=sburl2381.replace(/amp;/g, “”);sburl2381=encodeURIComponent(sburl2381); KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews/08 December) — Village officials in a town in Sultan Kudarat have criticized the military for allegedly telling lies about the death on December 1 of a B’laan native.

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)

UN Castigates Philippine Gov’t on Marcellana-Gumanoy Case

November 26, 2008

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

BY RONALYN OLEA
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Bulatlat

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

The incident

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UN Views

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

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

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

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

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

Justice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AFP denies search in camps

November 18, 2008

Family of missing activist remains hopeful

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Benguet dads alarmed over the abduction of Balao

November 18, 2008

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

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

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

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

First abduction in Benguet

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

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

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

Impact on tourism

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

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

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

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

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

Not in PNP custody

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

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

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

Lawyers,media hit arrest of labor lawyer

November 18, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — Lawyers and media groups condemned the arrest of labor lawyer and columnist Remigio Saladero Jr. and tagged it the worst attack against a human rights defender and an advocate of press freedom.

They added Saladero’s arrest and continuing detention is the manifestation of the gravity of Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s human rights violation records.

“That is (Saladero’s case) the worst form of attack against human rights defenders, filing trump up cases to silence him on his human rights work and advocacy,” said Atty. Jose Mencio Molintas, appointed member of the indigenous rights experts of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UN-HRC).

Saladero is a labor lawyer who also writes “Husgahan Natin,” a column discussing labor issues and human rights on the Pinoy Weekly, a web-based news outfit. He is currently detained at Calapan City Provincial Jail in Mindoro Oriental where he was brought after his arrest last October 23 in his home in Antipolo, Batangas on multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder charges arising from the Philippine National Police (PNP) claim that he is a member of the New People’s Army (NPA).

Molintas, who is also the vice-president for Luzon of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), added he knew Saladero as dedicated to his human rights work by rendering free legal services to the workers and the poor and oppressed.

Another lawyer, Cheryll Daytec-Yangot condemned the arrest as an assault on basic human rights and a manifestation of the gravity of GMA’ s disregard on basic rights.

“If they can concoct a case against a lawyer and violate his human rights, they can do that to anyone just to stifle dissent on a regime whose record is unprecedented,” added Daytec-Yangot, a human rights lawyer here.

She added Marcos’ human rights record pales in comparison with that of Arroyo.

Press freedom advocate

Media groups on the other hand viewed the arrest and continuing detention of Saldero as a concern on press freedom.

Desiree Caluza, Secretary-general of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) Baguio-Benguet and a member of the NUJP National Directorate, pointed the press is enraged by how the state continues to perpetrate abuses against writers and journalists who exercise their right to freedom of expression.

“Saladero was arrested not because he was being suspected as an NPA but because he wrote criticisms on government’s inability to address the issues of the labor sector,” Caluza pointed out adding, “The government should stop thinking that the arrest of Saladero will stop those who would write and express the issues of the marginalized sectors. The will to express and write about the marginalized sector cannot be curtailed as long as the exploitation and oppression continues.”

Meanwhile, NUJP in a statement said Saladero is known as a defender of press freedom, having argued before courts against the Arroyo government’s implementation of the Presidential Proclamation No. 1017, which resulted in the raid of a national broadsheet, threats of closure of broadcast stations and arrest of journalists.

“We urge the court in Calapan City to speedily act on the case. We likewise ask the members of the PNP in Calapan City to exert restraint and to refrain from further violating his rights,” appealed NUJP.

Pinoy Weekly staff refuted the PNP claim that Saladero is an NPA member. “He could not have been writing his weekly column “Husgahan Natin” and working as a high-profile labor lawyer in Manila if he was in the hinterlands as a rebel,” a staff-writer said.

NUJP appreciates Saladero’s contributions to the cause of press freedom and advancement of rights of media practitioners and workers. “We are concerned that his prosecution may be linked to his high-profile work as a human rights lawyer, government critic and columnist,” the statement said. # Arthur L. Allad-iw(NorDis)

PRO-COR trades words with CPA on Balao abduction

November 18, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Martin denied the abduction was the handiwork of the police.

Complete lie

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

He tagged Martin’s words are complete lie instead.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another union leader nabbed in Laguna

November 15, 2008

By Maricar Cinco
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 03:43:00 11/15/2008

SAN PEDRO, LAGUNA – A labor leader was arrested Thursday noon in front of the Calamba City hall in Laguna, a labor group reported.

Herme Marasigan, of the Organized Labor Association in Line Industries and Agriculture (Olalia) Federation, identified the labor leader as Emmanuel Dioneda, 42, executive director of the Labor Education Advocacy Development Response Services (Leaders), an institution working for labor rights.

Dioneda was arrested with his girlfriend Sailani Catindig at around 12:30 p.m., Marasigan said.

He said the last contact with Dioneda was at around 10 a.m., before joint forces from the Calamba City Police Office (CCPO) and the regional intelligence arrested the two.

“They took his wallet and cell phone,” Marasigan added.

He said the two were first taken to the Canlubang jail for interrogation and were later detained at Camp Vicente Lim at around 4:43 p.m.

Catindig was released at about 5 p.m.

Marasigan described Dioneda’s left leg as smaller than the other due to polio and therefore, was unlikely to participate in an ambush as charged against him.

Dioneda is the sixth among the 72 activists facing multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder charges, wherein three policemen were killed in an alleged New People’s Army ambush in Calapan City in Oriental Mindoro.

A press release sent by the Laguna Provincial Police Office said Dioneda was arrested by virtue of a warrant of arrest issued by Judge Tomas C. Leynes of the Regional Trial Court Branch XC (40) in Calapan City for multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder with no bail recommended.

Supt. Christopher Tambungan, chief of the CCPO, confirmed the arrest in a brief phone interview with the Inquirer (parent company of INQUIRER.net).

“There is an arrest warrant issued for multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder,” he said.

Tambungan said Dioneda would be transferred to the Calapan provincial jail, where the warrant originated.

At around 7 a.m. Friday, members of the police and the regional intelligence left Camp Vicente Lim to take Dioneda to Calapan City, said Marasigan.

=========

My Take:

Why is it that it is easy for them to catch a union leader, and not the drug lords, the corrupt public officials, the gambling lords and even the perpetrators of extra-judicil killings?

Journalists hit media ‘profiling’ by AFP

November 15, 2008

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 03:45:00 11/15/2008

ZAMBOANGA CITY – Several media groups have slammed the military’s attempt at media profiling here.

The Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) has earlier asked journalists to fill up bio-data forms so they could be accredited.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) called on local and national journalists to reject the imposition and for the military to withdraw such requirement.

“We, the NUJP, are incensed at the sudden requirement imposed by Maj. Eugene Batara, spokesperson of the Western Mindanao Command, for journalists to fill up (a) bio-data form before they can be accredited for coverage,” said the statement.

NUJP secretary general Sonny Fernandez said the NUJP considers it not only an invasion of privacy but also “a subtle repression of press freedom.”

“It would give the Westmincom information office blanket authority to decide on who it will or will not consider a journalist, an authority it does not have the competence or legal right to possess,” Fernandez said.

Marlon Simbajon, regional coordinator of the Peace and Conflict Journalism Network (Pecojon) in Western Mindanao, said the Westmincom’s move was uncalled for.

“It must be properly evaluated before it is imposed. A dialogue with the media is helpful to resolve this matter,” he said.

However, Simbajon said he believed that Westmincom’s purpose was only to have “basis/reference in identifying the journalists covering the military beat and issue them an identification card from the command.”

But Fernandez said the information that journalists were required to write down in the form include facts that have nothing to do with their profession.

Among these are hair color, color of eyes, moles or markings and social security and income tax numbers.

Darwin Wee, chairperson of the NUJP in the Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi areas, said there was no need for them to fill up an information sheet anymore.

“Our press cards are enough. We don’t need press cards from the military to cover their activities,” he said.

Al Jacinto, editor in chief of the Mindanao Examiner, said five years ago, the former Southern Command also required journalists to fill up data sheets, that asked for details such as their bank account numbers.

Batara said the new requirement was meant to update the Westmincom’s defense corps.

“We saw the need to update the DPC records by calling on all active members to fill up an updated bio-data. It was also noted that some have changed outfits and others were no longer active or assigned to different beats or areas,” he said.

In Davao City, an official of the Philippine Information Agency called the WestMincom’s move as “stupid.”

“It’s a stupid idea of accrediting private media because there is no need (for it),” Efren Elbanbuena, PIA director for Southern Mindanao, said.

He said if Westmincom was interested in knowing who the legitimate journalists were in its area of jurisdiction, it could have simply coordinated with the PIA office in Western Mindanao. Julie Alipala with a report from Joselle R. Badilla, Inquirer Mindanao

Buhay si James Balao

November 14, 2008

Cye Reyes / Nordis Weekly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sa selda ng inuusig na tagapagtanggol

November 14, 2008

Beth Pagtalunan

ALA-UNA ng madaling-araw nang marating namin ang pantalan ng Calapan, Oriental Mindoro. Ilang kilometro ang layo bago makarating sa Calapan Provincial Jail kung saan dinala si Atty. Remigio Saladero Jr., abogadong maka-manggagawa at maka-karapatang pantao at kolumnista ng Pinoy Weekly.

Alas-otso rin ng umagang iyon, pinuntahan namin ng kanyang asawa na si Maricel ang kulungang pinagdalhan sa kanya. Escort ng isang jailguard, lumapit sa kinauupuan namin ang pawisang si Atty. Saladero. Kinamayan at kinumusta namin ang kanyang kalagayan sa loob ng selda.

Bakas sa kanyang mga mata ang lungkot at pagod. Parang hindi siya nakakatulog, ang sagot niya sa aming pagtatanong. Tulad ng inaasahan, nahihiga siya sa malamig na semento, walang anumang kagamitan sa pagtulog. May nagmagandang-loob lamang na nagbigay ng banig para isapin sa kanyang hinihigaan. Mainit ang kuwarto dahil kulang sa bentilasyon at marahil sa dami na rin ng detainee na kasama nyang umookupa sa Selda 1.

P21 ang badyet sa pagkain para sa isang preso bawat araw. Mula sa gripo ang kanilang inumin. Pinapa-iskuwat sila pag umaga pero di siya makasabay dahil mahina na ang katawan bukod pa sa sakit na diabetes at high blood kaya medyo hirap at di makasunod.

Sa narinig na pahayag ng asawang nakakulong, nakita namin ang pamumuo ng luha sa mata ni Maricel. Nag-alala siya sa kasalukuyang kalagayan ng asawa na nagmamantini pa ng gamot para sa karamdaman nito.

Sa manggagawang katulad ko, iilan lamang marahil ang di nakakakilala kay Atty. Saladero. “Sa dami ng taong lumapit at natulungan ng asawa ko na walang pambayad upang kumuha ng abogado wala siyang hiningi o hinintay na kapalit,” sabi ng asawa niyang si Maricel.

Kung ang isip at talino ay ginamit sa pansariling interes, marahil isa na si Atty. Saladero sa mayamang abogado. Pero pinili niyang pumanig at tulungan ang mga manggagawa.

Nakakalungkot makita na ang isang magaling, respetado, tagapagtanggol ng karapatang-pantao at maka-manggagawang abogado ay ikulong at akusahan ng gobyernong ito ng gawa-gawang kaso.

Sa sandaling nag-uusap si Atty. Saladero at ang kanyang asawa, nagkaroon kami ng pagkakataon na makausap ang iba pang detainee na nasa aming likuran. Ikinuwento nila sa amin ang pagdating doon ni Atty. Saladero. Nakaposas ito habang nakapalibot at todo bantay ng anim na PNP na armado ng armalite rifle. Sa unang tingin, di sila makapaniwala na kayang gawin ng taong ito ang multiple murder at multiple frustrated murder na ibinibintang at ikinaso sa abugado. Sa ilang araw na nakasama nila ito sa kulungan, nakilala nila bilang tahimik,walang kibo, magalang makitungo at makipag-usap ang abogado.

Marami nga raw at halos tuwing umaga nakapila sila para ikonsulta at humingi ng legal advice sa kanya. Nagbiro pa nga kami na bawat konsulta magpabayad siya ng P10 para makadagdag sa pambili niya ng pagkain kasi nga di lahat ng rasyon ay puwede niyang kainin.

Dahil diabetic, madalas na hindi siya gaano makakain. Pero simpleng ngiti ang isinagot niya sa amin at sinabing di siya naghihintay ng anumang kapalit ng tulong na nagagawa para sa mga preso at masaya na sa simpleng paraan ay nakakatulong siya.

Philippines Accused of ‘Persecuting’ Human Rights Advocates Through ‘Legal Offensives’

November 12, 2008

Desperate Arroyo administration resume persecution of human rights defenders through renewed legal offensives

The human rights alliance Karapatan is outraged by the recent legal offensive of the Macapagal-Arroyo administration against the legal democratic organizations particularly in Southern Tagalog, including two of its officials namely Karapatan-Southern Tagalog Secretary General Doris Cuario and Karapatan-Batangas Coordinator Dina Capetillo among those falsely accused.

“The blanket charge of multiple murder and frustrated murder against known human rights defenders in Southern Tagalog is a desperate move of this bankrupt government to silence its critics,” decried Marie Hilao Enriquez, Secretary General of Karapatan.

As the GMA administration has to respond to the national and international clamor to address the worst human rights record after martial law it was forced to slow down on its killing and abduction rampage. It has however, through the Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG), continued to fabricate criminal cases against its most vocal opponents.

On August 12, 2008, volunteers of Karapatan-Batangas discovered a complaint filed by a certain Marlo Timbreza in behalf on Globe Telecom Inc., against 27 leaders and members of progressive organizations in the region in relation to the August 2 bombing and burning of a Globe cell site in Lemery, Batangas.

On October 23, 2008, Atty. Remigio Saladero, KMU legal counsel was illegally arrested by virtue of a defective warrant of arrest on another trumped-up case of multiple murder and frustrated murder filed against 72 individuals involving an alleged NPA ambush in Puerto Galera, Mindoro Oriental. Most of the personalities implicated in the Batangas case were also included in this case.

Enriquez condemned the blatant violation of the victims’ right to due process when in the court hearing of Atty. Saladero, the provincial prosecutor Josephine Caranzo-Olivar admitted that there was no preliminary investigation conducted as well as when the names of the 71 accused were included in the amended information.

Orly Marcellana and Arman Albarillo, whose loved ones were killed by state security forces in Mindoro under the command of Gen. Palparan, are also being charged along with the eight from the Tartaria 9, peasant activists who were abducted and tortured on August 31 in Brgy. Tartaria, Silang, Cavite.

“Under the Arroyo regime, the distorted priority of the criminal justice system is evident in its moves to prosecute human rights defenders rather than killers like Esperon and Palparan and thieves such as the ‘Euro generals’,” Enriquez said.

Karapatan likewise called the public’s attention to the recommendations made by the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions Philip Alston to abolish the Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG) that is orchestrating the fabrication of criminal charges against activists and critics of the Arroyo regime.

The human rights group also called on the management of Globe Telecom not to allow itself to be used by IALAG and Malacañang in the bid to criminalise human rights defenders. It should now be clear to them that those they have charged are the wrong persons and they should waste no time in withdrawing their complaints.#

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In the Philippines, Prosecution as Tool for Persecution

November 12, 2008

Political activists in the Philippines do not only have to contend with the seemingly never-ending assassinations of their colleagues. Lately, according to them, the Arroyo regime has resorted to filing criminal charges left and right against activists, in some cases bringing those arrested to areas in the country where political activism is weak or nonexistent, such as Oriental Mindoro, apparently so that they are deprived of crucial support from their family and colleagues.

According to Bayan, the country’s largest leftist group, 30 activists from the Southern Tagalog region alone already have warrants of arrests. They are specifically targeted because the regime considers the region a hotbed of the Communist insurgency.

Condemnations have been expressed (here, here, here, here and here) against what the activists consider as an intensification of the regime’s campaign against political dissent. (pinoypress.net)

Body of Lies

November 12, 2008

By Carlos H. Conde

Ever since the United States sent its troops to the Philippines in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks, the Filipino people have been fed the line that the Americans are here either to help the people of Mindanao through humanitarian projects or to help train the Philippine military combat terrorism. The US troops have stayed in the country for so long now that not only have we lost count of exactly how many of them have remained – for all practical purposes, the Americans have set up camps in Mindanao. We know so little else about what they do here except some morsels of information contained in the occasional press release from the US embassy about medical missions and such.

Meanwhile, Filipino officials, particularly those belonging to the political opposition, have either lost interest in knowing exactly what the Americans are up to down south or they, too, had bought the line that all those undetermined number of troops, all those millions of dollars spent since 2002, are so the people of Basilan and Sulu can enjoy potable water or have their cleft lip fixed.

There had been assertions, of course, that there’s more to the presence of the US troops in Mindanao than meets the eye. Focus on the Global South, an international NGO, maintained, for instance, that the Americans have been engaged in an “offensive war” in Mindanao. Leftist groups, naturally, have been calling for the US troops’ pullout, particularly after the Americans suddenly sprouted everywhere — from Basilan, they moved to Sulu then to the Lanao provinces and God knows where else. And the usual line was, of course, they were on humanitarian or medical missions.

Perhaps the first real glimpse of the true nature of the US military’s presence in the south was the mission in 2002 that led to the rescue of Gracia Burnham, the American missionary, who, together with her husband Martin and several others, was kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf in 2001. The group has been linked to al Qaeda.

And today, The New York Times reported that the US military has used, since 2004, a “broad, secret authority to carry out nearly a dozen previously undisclosed attacks against Al Qaeda and other militants in Syria, Pakistan and elsewhere.”

“These military raids typically carried out by Special Operations forces, were authorized by a classified order that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld signed in the spring of 2004 with the approval of President Bush, the officials said. The secret order gave the military new authority to attack the Qaeda terrorist network anywhere in the world, and a more sweeping mandate to conduct operations in countries not at war with the United States.”

The paper also reported about operations that reminded me of Body of Lies, the movie starring Russell Crowe and Leonardo diCaprio that was shown here recently. “In 2006, for example, a Navy Seal team raided a suspected militants’ compound in the Bajaur region of Pakistan, according to a former top official of the Central Intelligence Agency. Officials watched the entire mission — captured by the video camera of a remotely piloted Predator aircraft — in real time in the C.I.A.’s Counterterrorist Center at the agency’s headquarters in Virginia 7,000 miles away.”

The New York Times report tells us not to believe whatever the US and the Philippine governments have been telling us since this “war on terror” began. Although the Philippines was not mentioned in the report, it is not difficult to imagine that we are one of the “other countries” where the US had launched these secret attacks.

If anything, this should give politicians a reason to ascertain exactly what the US is doing in Mindanao. As this report indicates, a strong argument can be made that this American presence may have violated Philippine laws.

If the US military can have its way in countries that are less friendly to Washington – Pakistan, for instance – how much more in the Philippines where Americans are given far greater access, whose people bestow on them a tremendous amount of trust that they probably will not find elsewhere?

Carlos H. Conde is a journalist based in Manila.

Militants reel from gov’t lawsuits

November 12, 2008

By Nikko Dizon
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 06:56:00 11/11/2008

MANILA, Philippines—Militant organizations are reeling from the legal offensive allegedly employed by the Arroyo administration in place of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances of political activists.

Lawyer Rachel Pastores, managing counsel of the Public Interest Law Center (PILC), said Monday that 72 activists and sectoral leaders were charged with the March 2006 ambush by the New People’s Army (NPA) of policemen in Oriental Mindoro.

Of the 72 accused, 35 were charged with murder and frustrated murder, Pastores said.

They include Remigio Saladero Jr., the chief legal counsel of the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) and a member of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), a voluntary organization of human rights lawyers in the country.

Saladero and four other political activists are detained at the Calapan City Jail and will be arraigned Wednesday.

Motions

Pastores said the PILC will file a Motion to Cancel Arraignment and Motion to Quash/Recall Warrants of Arrest and Motion to Dismiss the cases.

In addition to the 72, the human rights group Karapatan said 27 leaders and members of various progressive organizations in the Southern Tagalog region were implicated in the Aug. 2 bombing and burning of a cell site in Lemery, Batangas.

Two of the group’s officials, Southern Tagalog secretary general Doris Cuario and Batangas coordinator Dina Capetillo, were among the accused.

In a statement, Karapatan said it was “outraged by the recent legal offensive of the Arroyo administration against the legal democratic organizations particularly in Southern Tagalog.”

Blame

Karapatan blamed the government’s Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG), headed by National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales, for the alleged fabricated charges.

Ironically, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions Philip Alston has recommended the abolition of the IALAG, Karapatan said.

Karapatan secretary general Marie Hilao-Enriquez told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in a recent interview that the bombardment of cases against militant organizations was aimed at crippling the groups.

Enriquez said having scores of militant leaders in jail is in effect “demobilizing” their organizations.

She said she has asked the Commission on Human Rights to look into the matter.

Cost of war: 550 students drop out of school in NorthCot

November 11, 2008

Malu Cadelina-Manar/MIndaNews
Sunday, 09 November 2008 06:50
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st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews/8 Nov) – Some 550 students in North Cotabato have dropped out of school since hostilities between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) resumed in early August, police said.


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Chief Supt. Felicisimo Khu, head of the Task Force Palma-Pikit, said most of the dropouts are high school students, numbering 448; the rest are in elementary. Most affected is a public high school in the town of Carmen, where 33 students, all males and all Maguindanaons, stopped reporting back to school.

The principal of Takepan National High School in Pikit town earlier said that 15 of her students failed to return to school when classes resumed.

The police also noted student dropouts in Aleosan, Banisilan, Pikit, Carmen, Tulunan, M’lang, Midsayap, Alamada, Kabacan, and Matalam.

Khu said that based on their initial findings, the students left school mainly because of fear that fighting might erupt again. He added that poverty also prevented the others from going back to school.

“But we do not discount the possibility that some of these students might have been recruited by an armed group operating in North Cotabato,” said Khu, adding that they did receive “disturbing” reports of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s (MILF) Commander Umbra Kato training children for warfare.

Khu stressed that recruiting minors for war is a violation of local and international laws.

The MILF, however, denied the reports, saying it was part of a government propaganda to discredit the rebel group.

“Everybody is using Kato in whatever way possible. I don’t think some of these students who dropped out from school have gone training at one of our camps,” said Eid Kabalu, chief of civil-military relations of the MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces. (Malu Cadeliña Manar / MindaNews)

300 families flee Bumbaran as soldiers and MILF clash

November 11, 2008

MindaNews
Tuesday, 11 November 2008 06:45
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CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/10 November) – At least 300 families from Bumbaran in Lanao del Sur fled to neighboring Wao town Monday morning following skirmishes between government forces and what the military spokesperson referred to as “a lawless faction” of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

OV-10 planes dropped bombs on areas where the MILF forces were reportedly seen. Two MG-520 choppers were also sent to provide support to the soldiers, Major Mitchel Anayron, public information officer of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division said.

Anayron added that 105 mm howitzers were also fired at rebel positions in Barangay Sumogot, Bumbaran, near the village where 21 farmers were massacred by unidentified persons in 2000.

He said the Army’s 23rd Infantry Battalion and 43rd division reconnaissance company are pursuing the rebels who are believed to be responsible for bombing the power line of the National Transmission Corporation in Maramag, Bukidnon last month. (MindaNews)

4 suspected NPA members freed

November 11, 2008

Malu Cadelina-Manar/MindaNews
Tuesday, 11 November 2008 06:48
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st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews/10 Nov) The Army released over the weekend four suspected rebels whom they reportedly arrested and detained in a camp in Tulunan, North Cotabato.

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“The villagers were turned over without any trace that they underwent torture or physical harm while they were under the custody of my men in Tulunan,“ Col. Milfredo Meligrito, commander of the 57th Infantry Battalion, said in a radio interview.

Meligrito also denied reports his men abducted the villagers.

“They were not forcibly taken by my men. They offered themselves to join the soldiers as they exited the area on Nov 3. What can we get if we kidnap or abduct them?  Nothing,” he said.

He alleged Bacung residents were recruited into the NPA. “In fact, they were scheduled to undergo training last Saturday. They decided, however, to withdraw.”

The official issued the statement almost a week after a local radio station and newspapers came out with news on the reported abduction.

Earlier, 57th IB executive officer Maj. Leo Diaz vehemently denied they were keeping in their custody the four suspected NPA members.

But a village councilor in Barangay Bacung, Tulunan told reporters here that she was certain the four had been detained in an Army camp in Tulunan since Nov 3.

The suspects, identified as Reyno Odi, Albert Imba, and Moca brothers Alex, 18, and Richard, 15, were turned over last Saturday to Barangay Bacung chair Rogelio Gante. (Malu Cadelina-Manar/MindaNews)