Archive for the ‘State Terrorism’ Category

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

July 19, 2010

By RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Counterinsurgency Policy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Urgent Recommendations

Mariano urged Aquino to implement Alston’s recommendations, including the elimination of extrajudicial executions from counterinsurgency operations. Alston also said: “as commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, the President must take concrete steps to put an end to those aspects of counterinsurgency operations, which have led to the targeting and execution of many individuals working with civil society organizations.”

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

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

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

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

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

US Role

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advertisements

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)

Political Cartoon: Friends

July 15, 2009

AMNESTY

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

May 26, 2009

By RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In this Bulatlat.com video, he recalls the harrowing experience.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Filipino-American Activist Freed, Two Companions Remain Missing

May 26, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sister of NPA Leader Parago Murdered

May 26, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 26, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Editorial Cartoon: Unmasking Duterte

April 21, 2009

unmasking-duterte

So that’s Duterte?

Editorial Cartoon: TV Show

April 19, 2009

show

Media milage o pampasira ng screen ng tv? 😀

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: The Recruit

March 5, 2009

anti-drug-move

Activist asks court to call Sen Arroyo

February 11, 2009

Tetch Torres
INQUIRER.net

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 6, 2009

Jeffrey Ocampo


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pulitika sa likod ng pasya

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Panunugis

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

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

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

Hamon

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

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

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

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

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

Pinoy Weekly Editorial: Si Arroyo at ang kanyang mga guwardiyang berdugo

February 4, 2009

HINDI nakapagtataka kung bakit tinutulan ng marami ang pagtalaga ni Pangulong Arroyo sa kontrobersiyal na retiradong mga heneral sa burukrasya.

Isang bukas na lihim kung bakit sa kabila ng matitinding kritisismo sa pagtalaga niya – pinakahuli sina Ret. Vice Admiral Tirso Danga sa National Printing Office, dating AFP Chief of Staff Hermogenes Esperon bilang hepe ng Presidential Management Staff at posibilidad na pagtalaga kay Ret. Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan sa Dangerous Drugs Board – ay nagkikibit-balikat lamang ang pangulo.

Unang dahilan ang kredibilidad ng naturang mga heneral. Nasangkot si Danga sa eskandalong “Hello Garci” at pandaraya sa eleksiyong 2004. Ngayo’y inilagay siya sa NPO na siyang nag-iimprenta ng mga balota para nalalapit na eleksiyong 2010.

Ang kredensiyal naman ni Esperon ay panggigiyera sa mga Moro at rebeldeng komunista. Bago italaga bilang PMS, ipinuwesto muna siya bilang presidential adviser on the peace process. Nagresulta ito sa lalong pagsiklab ng antigong digmaan sa Mindanao nang dahil sa panukalang Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain.

Samantala, itinuturong sangkot si Palparan sa napakaraming ekstra-hudisyal na pamamaslang sa mga kritiko ni Pangulong Arroyo. Kahit ang Melo Commission na binuo mismo ng gobyerno para imbestigahan ang malaganap na pamamaslang noon, ay nagsabing may pananagutan si Palparan. Pero hindi ito binalak na panagutin ng gobyerno. Sa halip, pinasalamatan pa ito ni Pangulong Arroyo sa isa nitong state of the nation address. At ngayo’y bibigyan pa ng pwesto sa kanyang gabinete.

Sa bilang ng progresibong mga grupo, mahigit 25 dating militar o pulis ang nasa gabinete ng pangulo kabilang na ang Executive Secretary. Idagdag pa ang mga retiradong opisyal na itinalaga naman bilang mga embahador.

Hindi tuloy maiwasang isipin na ang pagtatalagang ito ay dulot ng pagkatakot ni Pangulong Arroyo na mapatalsik o mawala sa puwesto. Dahil sa pagiging di popular na pangulo, mukhang kailangang lagi siyang guwardiyado.

Subalit gaano man yatang kritisismo ang tanggapin ni Pangulong Arroyo ay tatanggapin nito, maitalaga lamang ang matatapat niyang opisyal. Sukdulang lalong sumadsad ang kanyang lupagi nang popularidad.

Ang masama, baka ang buntot ang nagwawagwag sa aso.

Nagbabayad pa ng utang sa kanila ang Pangulo o naghahanda ng militar na pamumuno? Alinman sa dalawa, tiyak ang mga mamamayan ang talo. (SAS)(PinoyWeekly)

Editorial Cartoon: Drug Addict

February 3, 2009

labay-on-drugs

Hehehehehe! Tsungki!

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

No PDEA post but Palparan was briefed

January 26, 2009

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

Filed Under: Illegal drugs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Amparo’ issued for Baguio activist

January 25, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 23, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Group opposes RP-US war games in Bicol

January 22, 2009

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

Filed Under: Regional authorities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SAYS MILITARY Woman seized from hospital was NPA reb

January 12, 2009

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 08:25:00 01/12/2009

Filed Under: Guerrilla activities

LUCENA CITY—The military here clarified Sunday that a wounded woman it had seized from a Manila hospital was in fact a communist New People’s Army (NPA) rebel who was wounded during the ambush of a police patrol car in Rodriguez, Rizal, on Jan. 3.

Military spokesperson First Lt. Celeste Frank Sayson of the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division based in Tanay, Rizal, said the woman guerrilla he identified only as “Ka Hanah” was reunited with her father, Renato de los Santos Anayat, 60, Saturday in a government hospital where the wounded rebel has been recuperating.

“The visit became a tearful reunion of the family,” said Sayson in a statement to the Philippine Daily Inquirer Sunday.

The Anayats belong to the Dumagat tribe in the highlands of Rizal province, the military official said.

Quoting Anayat, Sayson said Ka Hanah left her family nine years ago to escape a forced marriage to one of the tribesmen.

“From then on he heard nothing about his daughter’s whereabouts,” he said.

The Anayats described their daughter as “a quiet and timid person.”

“They were all surprised to learn Ka Hanah was an NPA and had been seriously wounded and abandoned by her comrades at the Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Sta. Mesa, Manila,” Sayson said.

Sayson said Ka Hanah was hit by a bullet during the ambush of a police patrol car in the village of Macabud staged by members of the NPA’s Narciso Antazo Aramil Command.

The NPA had detonated land mines, Sayson said, and a policeman was killed while two others were wounded.

Three other lawmen—Police Insp. Rex Contapay and Police Officers 1 Albert Umali and Arvin Agasen—engaged the rebels in a fierce gun battle. When the policemen ran out of ammunition, they were captured by the rebels and taken “prisoners of war.” Delfin T. Mallari Jr., Inquirer Southern Luzon

RP-US WAR GAMES CPP urges attacks on Balikatan in Bicol

January 12, 2009

By Delfin Mallari Jr.
Southern Luzon Bureau
First Posted 08:29:00 01/12/2009

Filed Under: Guerrilla activities, Military

MANILA, Philippines—The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) has ordered its armed wing, the New People’s Army, to attack Filipino and American military forces that will be conducting joint military exercises in three Bicol provinces—Albay, Masbate and Sorsogon—in April.

“NPA units in Bicol are specifically instructed to launch as many tactical offensives as they can in many areas of the region in mockery of the Balikatan exercises and to prevent the US military from strengthening its foothold in the region,” the CPP said in a statement sent to the Philippine Daily Inquirer Sunday.

The CPP instructed all communist guerrilla units across the country as well to continue to stage tactical offensives against state security forces.

The current NPA strength has been pegged at 5,239 armed men by the military.

40th anniversary

The CPP celebrated its 40th year on Dec. 26 with the unveiling of a five-year plan to step up the insurgency and move closer to its goal of toppling the government to establish a Maoist state.

The communists have been conducting guerrilla warfare the past four decades against the government.

The rebel group urged the Filipino people to expose and protest the deployment of US troops to more areas of the country, including the Bicol region, by using the Balikatan joint exercises as a pretext.

The CPP said the plan to conduct the annual Balikatan joint military exercise not only in Bicol but in other parts of the country signaled heightened US military intervention in the local civil war.

“In doing so, the US seeks to pave the way for the future regular access of troops to guerrilla fronts in the Bicol region where the NPA operates,” the CPP said.

US spy planes

The CPP claimed that in the past three years, there have been several sightings of US spy planes in the vicinity of NPA guerrilla fronts in Central Luzon, southern Tagalog, Bicol, northeastern and southern Mindanao.

“Recently, US troops have become increasingly active and visible in the AFP’s (Armed Forces of the Philippines) combat operations against the NPA in Mindanao,” the CPP said.

Last week, Capt. Kelly Schmader, commander of the 30th Naval Construction Regiment, visited the Bicol region to see to the final stages of surveying and planning for the scheduled Balikatan (meaning shoulder to shoulder), which is now on its 14th year in the country.

Last year’s Balikatan was held in Mindanao.

The Balikatan is part of the mutual defense treaty between the Philippines and the United States. Its primary objective is to improve the “interoperability” of the two countries’ armed forces for mutual defense.

According to Schmader, some 400 American doctors, engineers and nurses, belonging predominantly to the military, will join the month-long exercise to provide humanitarian aid to depressed areas in the three Bicol provinces.

A military report deemed these provinces as hotbeds of the communist insurgency in the Bicol region.

Military officials in the region have assured the public that the aims of the exercises were “peace and development” and there would be no war games with US forces, only humanitarian projects in the form of medical missions and engineering works.

But the CPP dismissed the “no military exercise and only humanitarian works” as “pure hogwash.”

Specific objectives

“The US military does not carry out any operation or mission by any name without specific military objectives. Joint military exercises and humanitarian missions only serve as cover for US troops to gain access to the guerrilla fronts to carry out physical and social terrain mapping, conduct surveillance, recruit local agents and influence the local governments and social infrastructure,” the CPP said.

According to the CPP, retired Gen. Edilberto Adan, head of the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement Commission, had already admitted that in conducting the forthcoming Balikatan exercises in the Bicol region, the US military has a specific objective of familiarizing its forces with guerrilla conditions and learning jungle combat operations in the area.

Editorial Cartoon: Campus Terrorists

January 8, 2009

anti-academic-freedom

Campus Fascism

Anti-Mining Activist Gunned Down in ComVal

January 6, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 31, 2008

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.#

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.

Igorot elders perform rituals to aid search for missing Cordi activist

December 21, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — Elders from different Cordillera provinces participated in a series of rituals condemning the perpetrators of James Balao’s disappearance, in time for the 60th year of the UN declaration of human rights, Wednesday here.


SEARCH RITUAL. Invoking ancient spirits, Igorot elders plead that missing activist James Moy Balao be kept safe and alive as they condemn his abductors. Photo by Cye Reyes

Some elders representing all Cordillera provinces, who joined in the march-rally during the International Human Rights Day commemoration in the city, did a specific ritual just in front of Camp Allen where Balao was reported to have been taken before his alleged transfer to a different safe-house.

Camp Allen houses the headquarters of the Military Intelligence Group (MIG), which is alleged to have abducted Balao.

According to Ama Julio Longan from Kalinga, the prayer they aired was for the abductors, captors and whoever has knowledge of his disappearance, “for them to experience what they have done to Balao.”

Each elder from the different provinces prayed over a chicken before it was sacrificed and buried in a small hole in front of the military camp.

“Nalawag ti kayat a sawen ti inyaramid a ritwal: isubli da a sibibiag ni James iti kabiitan. Nu saan ket marikna ti agtengtengngel kenkuana ti rigat a sinagrap ni James.” (The message of our prayer during the ritual is clear, surface James alive as soon as possible and if they do not do that the same thing would happen to whoever abducted and has him now) said Longan.

Longan also said they even called the spirits of their ancestors and martyrs like Macliing Dulag, Ama Ngayaan and Markus Bangit to help in the search for Balao.

The elders along with some members of the Balao family and the Oclupan clan did another round of rituals separately Wednesday and Thursday, calling on the spirits of their ancestors to help in the search of Balao.

Xavier Akien of the Cordillera Elders Alliance (CEA) said the rituals are based on an Igorot tradition done whenever an grave injustice is done to a member of the community.

“These rituals are usually done in extreme cases and the elders must be really convinced that an injustice has been done to a member of the community before it is cast,” said Akien adding that this tradition has different forms according to the practice of the different tribes among the Igorots but the processes are basically the same.

“These series of rituals were made more powerful compared to other rituals already done before to bother the conscience of the perpetrators and based on the powerful prayers of the elders it would create disturbance to whoever knows any information of his whereabouts,” added Akien.

This is a very traditional way of the Igorots that is very unique to them and cannot be found in any other culture here in the country.

“We are in an emergency situation that needs the help of the spirits for the emergency search, and we are one in doing so to immediately search for James,” said Akien.

The rituals done were part of the Mabtad Kaigorotan call of the Balao family and the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) in the search for James. Mabtad is a call for all communities to participate in the search of someone who is missing. It is a Kankanaey practice and has proven community unity.

The Mabtad Kaigorotan was also launched in Manila Tuesday. # Cye Reyes(NorDis)

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
var sburl7401 = window.location.href; var sbtitle7401 = document.title;var sbtitle7401=encodeURIComponent(“Militant groups are “not legitimate targets” for the miltiary – Colonel”); var sburl7401=decodeURI(“http://www.mindanews.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=5592”); sburl7401=sburl7401.replace(/amp;/g, “”);sburl7401=encodeURIComponent(sburl7401);

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)

2 more robbery suspects gunned down by police

December 9, 2008

By ARIS R. ILAGAN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By ELLALYN B. DE VERA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Faux Democracy: A Report on Conditions in the Philippines

December 4, 2008

The basic point that I want to make, and have previously made as a result of serving in Manila and Mindanao as a member of the Peoples’ International Observers Mission to monitor the May 2007 mid-term elections, is that the country has the trappings of democracy but is, in fact, a faux democracy. Using that façade of democracy, the oppressive regime of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA), following neo-liberal policies and with the support of the Bush gang to which she has given loyal support, has been a disaster for the vast majority of the Filipino people.

BY GILL H BOEHRINGER
Division of Humanities
Macquarie University
Posted by Bulatlat

The basic point that I want to make, and have previously made as a result of serving in Manila and Mindanao as a member of the Peoples’ International Observers Mission to monitor the May 2007 mid-term elections, is that the country has the trappings of democracy but is, in fact, a faux democracy. Using that façade of democracy, the oppressive regime of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA), following neo-liberal policies and with the support of the Bush gang to which she has given loyal support, has been a disaster for the vast majority of the Filipino people.

By a faux democracy I mean that the democratic institutions of the state do not function effectively, either individually or as a system, to provide even the minimal democracy we would expect in a liberal parliamentary country. Basically there is a shadow play – in Filipino a moro-moro – in which a quite extensive array of “democratic” institutions go through the motions of formal democracy, but in general produce no democratic outcome, often after an arbitrary and corrupt process. Nor is there adequate accountability/transparency in the decision-making processes of the state. Thus if a democracy is a country in which decisions should be taken in the public interest, and decision-makers accountable to their fellow citizens, then the Philippines does not qualify as a democracy.
Profits for business, bullets for people

The neo-liberal policies of the Arroyo government (super-charging policies initiated by Pres. Aquino and continued by her successors) has meant, basically, open slather for the exploitation of workers and peasants, and the rape of the environment by national, but especially international, capital. And the political form of faux democracy is also good for business. It presents a form of corporatism. The business sector, from where most of the financial corruption emanates, has close links to the state (often through the military eg the “taipan”/tycoon Lucio Tan’s tobacco group with which the late General Abaya was connected). And of course there is little effective government regulation, accountability or transparency viz a viz business. However, if there is a conflict with the GMA clique, as there has been with the Lopez Group (a continuing pattern given that Marcos also was an enemy of theirs) then there will be a wave of measures taken involving measures such as court cases, challenges to ownership or control, media barrages to de-legitimate the opponent eg claiming that the business is over-pricing and /or sucking in super-profits.

The lack of effective representation/participation in governing processes is such that a deep and understandable cynicism exists amongst the people. There is a long tradition in the country of corruption and repression, especially following Marcos’ ascent, and in particular the period of Martial Law and the years following when he tried to hold onto power. Yet there is a widespread belief that corruption is far worse today: financially, more money is involved, and politically, it is all pervasive. The repression is said to be no less, and perhaps is worse, than ever. The fact that President Arroyo is surrounded by Generals she has appointed (some three dozen serving or retired by my count) indicates not only the extent that corruption in the form of patronage is alive and well, but that policies for meaningful reform are constantly seen through a militarist framework which has for a long time opted for “extra-judicial” killings, disappearances, torture and harassment (legal and illegal) instead of the social welfare measures demanded by the people. It is, too, a sign that Arroyo understands that as the most unpopular President at least since Marcos, and given the military rebellions which, along with mass action by the people, “took out” two of her predecessors, plus a number of attempted coups/mutinies in her own tenure, her longevity depends primarily on keeping the military on her side.

Human rights and wrongs

The human rights record of all Filipino Presidents from Marcos onward has been shocking (surprising to many, this includes Cory Aquino). But the Arroyo regime is setting new records. The Extra-Judicial Killings (EJK) continue to mount almost daily (as I write news has reached me of the murder of a KMP peasant leader in Eastern Mindanao). Extra-Judicial Disappearances (EJD) also continue, as do torture and harassment This has all been documented by Karapatan, by Human Rights Watch, by a number of foreign lawyers groups eg American, Dutch, Japanese. The UN Human Rights Committee has recently condemned the Arroyo government, sheeting home to it responsibility for abductions and the failure to act to investigate, compensate or provide remedies for the victims and/or their survivors. And most notably the UN Special Rapporteur on Extra-Judicial killings, Philip Alston, an Australian Professor of Law has held the government responsible for the massive violations of human rights which, in the main, he attributed to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP).

Who are the people being killed, disappeared, tortured and harassed? ( The latter can be both “legally” eg false charges and detention for long periods, which is currently being stepped up; or a variety of “surveillance’ tactics, as well as invasive techniques eg search and seizure without legal authority. Or a combination of all over time!) A majority of the victims-numbering in the thousands- are peasant and labor leaders. But it also includes anyone who attempts to resist the repression of the masses, or who disagrees with government policies, or who is a social activist, including human rights proponents. Notably, this regime also targets bishops, priests/pastors (mainly Protestant-probably because the regime relies on the support of the Roman Catholic Church, which so far has given it though with some wavering and a few notable exceptions); others are journalists; and judges/ lawyers. With regard to these last three categories, the Philippines is near the top in world rankings as a dangerous country to work in. Much of the repression is done by AFP secret “death squads” or PNP undercover operatives. This savage onslaught on cadres of workers and professionals reminds one of the Phoenix Program in Viet Nam, for which the USA has been rightly condemned. There are also similarities to the work of government “death squads” in many of the formerly fascist Latin American countries during the long dark half century after World War II. (These were, of course supported by the US and the operatives and implementers were in large numbers trained at the notorious School of Americas, at Fort Benning, Georgia, USA.)

Not an honest answer to be had

It is, however, the all pervasive corruption of state institutions (as well as private ones) which I believe is highly significant, and perhaps more deleterious in daily experience than even the fear of violence etc from the military forces. While the violence and other human rights abuses should be condemned, of course, they are the direct result of government policy and could be lowered substantially by an honest, determined, progressive and therefore popular regime. Under pressure from the UN after the Alston report, and a number of countries including even the US (Australia has been largely silent) because of the attention EJKs (nearly a thousand now) have attracted, the Arroyo government shifted somewhat to harassment and intimidation; thus EJKs slowed for a time in late 2007 and early 2008,although they have begun to mount again.

However, the corruption of the state cannot be changed without a reconstruction of Philippine society and thus both state and private institutions. For too long the Filipino culture has been eaten away by cynicism at the corruption which fills-and cruelly distorts-everyday social relations.

I offer a brief example of the way in which corruption operates at the basic levels affecting human existence in the Philippines. Fire is the cause of much tragedy, including the loss of life and, of course, homes and other personal assets. Just this week 6 workers and a child died in a Manila factory fire, caused it seems from the poor electrical wiring which is endemic to structures of all kinds in that country. Wiring is often illegal because in violation of various codes, and often not approved nor inspected by an official paid to ignore them, or approved after a bribe has passed. Note that these deaths were of “sleep-in workers”, probably homeless. It is an illegal phenomenon, but typically unregulated, and certainly the result of the massive poverty and exploitation which is rampant, much of it based on corrupt practices and a lack of enforcement of codes and laws, which allows 14-16 hour working days, six days a week. Many employees are lucky even to get paid regularly!

But my example is of a specific fire which I was able to observe from my unit about 2 kilometers away. Our unit overlooks a mixed semi-industrial, poor working class area of highways, shops and factories, and one of the older Shopping Malls in the city, nestling in the shadow of an elevated Metro line. One early morning not long after dawn, we noticed a wisp of brownish smoke rising from the Puregold Mall. In the next hours the fire raised a pall of smoke over a substantial part of Manila, a sprawling city of about 11 million. For hours there was no response to the fire. Subsequently we could hear sirens as slowly, and at lengthy intervals, fire trucks went to the scene. The smoke continued to pour forth, sometimes sending huge plumes skyward, but at other times nearly disappearing. Many residents were evacuated; shops and factories were closed and the commuter trains were halted. This pattern went on into a third day. Even beyond that there were still smoke plumes. This was one of 4 similar fire episodes during the 3 months I was in Manila. It was said in each case that it was probably not arson, but there could have been problems with the wiring. (Arson, of course, is another area in which corruption exists on a significant scale I was told.)

This story illustrates much that is wrong in the Philippines. First, endemic, pervasive corruption directly affects the lives of the mass of people. There is virtually no social intercourse involving government and business which is not tainted by corruption. International surveys, eg Transparency International, continue to rank the country as one of the most corrupt in the world and the most corrupt in Asia. In the Puregold Mall case, a local government official with experience of dealing with fire stations, explained to me that fire-fighting is often preceded by negotiations: is the owner of the property willing to make a “special payment” to the stationhouse chief (which may or not be split with lower ranks) and if so, how much? Not surprisingly, where such behavior is the norm, property owners tend to pay-up sooner or later. It depends on a “cost-benefit” analysis I learned. As a result of the negotiations, delay occurs and damage is increased. In addition, firefighters who, like other public officials, are poorly paid, will take the opportunity to help themselves to property which is moveable and for which they have use, or can later sell. Again, this is standard practice, a wage supplementation.

Second, there is a lack of proper equipment. I was told by a senior fire official that there was a serious lack of essential equipment ranging from gloves and boots to breathing equipment. This last explains why the smoke which we saw continued for several days. The firefighters were unable to get to the core fire because of the smoke hazard (we saw on TV a fireman who had taken the risk in a fire and was hauled out nearly dead from smoke inhalation). Obviously the delays necessitated by a lack of safety equipment puts at risk large areas surrounding such fires. Not only is firefighting handicapped by lack of funding , in part because Budgets are always white-anted by those who “skim” a % for themselves, but this happens in other departments where lives are directly at stake. Thus the AFP is also under-resourced because of massive corruption in procurement. The same is true of the health sector. Similar problems bedevil education where there is a huge shortage of schoolrooms, texts as well as teachers (30,000 more are needed, the Secretary of Education recently announced); money is literally “disappeared”, and students, teachers and buildings suffer.

Third, state institutions with “oversight” responsibility- supervisory, regulatory, investigative-and those with sanctioning powers, fail to perform effectively to ensure that operational agencies of the state perform their duties properly. And where they do act against corrupt and other illegal practices, there is always another agency, or higher level venue, or a friendly politician who can “speak” to someone. Thus those few culprits who have been successfully pursued for wrongful behavior have a good chance to get the result they want. Often cases brought successfully in one body just disappear for years in another agency. So even though someone dares to make a complaint (often putting their life at risk), corrupt practices are not adequately dealt with even if they are dealt with at all. Thus even though there is an array of such agencies-courts, Ombudsman, Commission on Human Rights etc. to supplement an array of local and national policing agencies, there is a poor record in dealing with corruption and associated illegalities and in fighting human rights abuse.

The recent scandal involving a number of Judges of the national Court of Appeal indicates the heights to which corruption goes. As in previous cases, several judges were found to have been approached to fix an important civil case. It illustrates a number of problems within the state-business nexus. The bribing of Judges or improperly attempting to influence their decisions are well known and common practices, seemingly at all levels. In this important and bitterly fought case, both sides (one a governmental agency, the other the Lopez group’s hugely profitable Manila Electric Co) tried to fix the result. On the Lopez side, a businessman offered a huge amount of money to one of the judges. But note who was involved in improperly approaching another judge, who happened to be his brother. It was the Chair of the Presidential Good Government Commission, an Arroyo appointee. And this illustrates the depth and intractable nature of the problem. The President has power to appoint hundreds of people to positions where they can manipulate results in cases brought before any of these agencies. The process of appointment is itself corrupted. One example: in appointing to the Supreme Court the President has to select from a list which has been prepared by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC). In one instance, when Arroyo got the list her favorite was not on it. In violation of the Constitution, she sent the list back with instructions that the name should be put on the list. It was, and she got the judge she wanted. She can appoint 3 more next year and 4 the year after. There will be almost no one then who has not been appointed by her. This has been a serious problem in the fight against corruption. In several recent cases where hundreds of millions of dollars were alleged to have been involved and corruption by senior members of the government, including the President and her husband, the Supreme Court, in a split decision, protected the suspects by making the concept of “executive privilege” so broad as to allow it to cover corrupt/criminal behavior. The non-Arroyo appointees, including the admirable Chief Justice Reynato Puno, dissented. (It was he who, in the face of government inaction, convened a national “Slays Summit” in 2007, in order to get some action on reducing the rampant human rights violations.)

Fourth, even though there is a lively media, it suffers from several significant limitations, and recently the country has been down-graded in international ranking (by Freedom House) of countries with a free media. First, there is a draconian law of criminal libel. If a publisher publishes defamatory material (eg about a corrupt judge) and cannot prove its truth, they will probably receive a prison sentence of about 5 years, as well as a substantial fine (as happened recently to the publisher of an anti-Arroyo daily, though it is under appeal). In another case, the charges were brought about 9 years after the original publication. Thus there are legal weapons which hang over the heads of media people and organizations, ready to be used when deemed strategically useful. Second, the government may organize harassment of the owners, directly eg as in the Marcos successful seizure of control of the Lopez media empire, or indirectly as in the more recent Arroyo attacks on the Lopez group’s Manila Electric Co. (see above). This was an action which effectively challenged control of the Group’s ownership of Meralco, but it is widely believed it is a campaign indirectly targeted against the Lopez controlled media (newspapers and TV) which is anti-Arroyo. (In the Martial Law period, Marcos wrested control of its media interests from the Lopez Group which was a rich prize for him, and cronies, and was also anti-Marcos by then.)

Third, in 2006, the regime declared an “emergency” and closed down for some weeks the same paper whose publisher was this year sentenced to prison( see above). Under Martial Law, Marcos closed all non-government media.

Fourth, journalists who are critical of the regime can be murdered as 6 have already been this year and over 50 during GMA’s tenure. Many are threatened with murder, and many are tortured, disappeared, and harassed. The Philippines is one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists to work. (So far as I know, unlike Iraq and other countries high on the list, it is only Filipinos who are targeted.)

To sum up, although the country is rich in natural and human resources, the life experience of an over-whelming majority is far from what it would be if those resources were not systematically and corruptly siphoned off by an incredibly predatory elite and, in a minor role, middling business and government opportunists. Across a wide spectrum, state institutions which should provide justice, fairness, security and opportunity do not operate effectively for ordinary people; they do operate arbitrarily in favor of the wealthy and powerful; and they operate abusively or in violation of the law against the working class, and are shielded from effective sanction-or reform. Corruption, of various kinds, operates to favour the top and distort the lives of those below.

Contemporary political issues

Many Filipinos consider the Arroyo regime the most corrupt they have experienced, even more than the Marcos “crony capitalism” of 30 years ago. Increasingly it is being seen as more brutal than its predecessors, including Marcos’ regime. Surveys such as Social Weather Survey (SWS) and Pulse Asia indicate that Filipinos dislike their President, do not think she can be trusted, that she lies, and that her Presidency is illegitimate. She was never properly elected ie she took power in a coup organized with others while she was the Vice-president, and she cheated-demonstrably- to get the Presidency in the 2004 elections. Being in office by fraud is bad enough. But no one has been punished for that flagrant illegality, with one telling exception-the whistleblower on her election fraud, an Army Sgt who revealed incriminating tapes of her arranging the “padding” of her votes with a Commissioner for Elections.

There is a strong feeling in the country that the Arroyo regime must be ended by one means or another, but no later than the elections in 2010. Even sections of the RC Church have begun to express the view, in guarded terms, that she has been a disaster and should be removed. A majority view in the country is that the neo-liberal policies which were originally imposed by Presient Aquino, then super-charged by her successor Fidel Ramos, followed by President Estrada until he was removed, and taken further with relish by Arroyo, have been a nightmare for ordinary Filipinos while a bonanza for the rich and politically powerful. These policies have brought a social crisis which in turn has called forth the repressive policies which have seen about 1000 activists and others killed, hundreds disappeared and widespread torture and harassment. This is the classic combination “free market, strong state” as Andrew Gamble expressed it decades ago. In view of such a crisis and the coming worsening of the economy, some of the rich and powerful are weighing their options!

One option is impeachment. This has been tried three times, but Arroyo’s allies in Congress have blocked it. A current attempt is being discussed in Congress at the moment. My view is that it will not succeed as Arroyo has the numbers and should be able to hold them as she is busy passing out bribes up to 500,000 pesos to ensure survival. This is on top of similar amounts which were passed out to about 150 loyalists last year, seemingly for the same reason. Given that she and her husband have been party to every major scam in recent years, amounting to hundreds of millions of US dollars, it is fair to say she can easily spend her way out of impeachment trouble. It is that blatant. Recently a new name for the country appeared in the press: SCAMDINAVIA

In the past 20 years, military mutinies and People’s Power deposed two Presidents. But a third attempt-against Arroyo’s ascent, failed, as have subsequent “mutinies” by largely junior officers of the AFP. It would seem that there is little chance of such a revolt today. The military repression has been a significant factor in deterring such an action. Leadership cadres have been killed etc and the masses in a sense “de-mobilised”, not least because their struggle for existence is intensifying. And after two successful changes at the top, nothing much has changed except that conditions are worse. The result has been a deep cynicism which I discuss in a later section.

Blunder in Mindanao

The one development which could bring the people back onto the streets, and possibly with military intervention is the anticipated Arroyo coup ie achieving Constitutional Change which would allow her to stay in office beyond her legal limit of 2010. Here I discuss the situation in Mindanao as a way of indicating the high stakes she is willing to play for. In a flank maneuver to achieve her goal of Constitutional Change and thus her term extension, she seemed willing to see part of her country effectively separated. The story takes us to the Morolands of southwestern Mindanao.

Arroyo’s Peace Team (led by two former Generals) negotiated a settlement with the MILF with which it has been fighting,, sporadically, for many years. The Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) provided a very considerable degree of autonomy to the Bangsamoro people, going well beyond that achieved by the Moro National Liberation Front in the mid-90s. Dissatisfaction with the limits imposed in the then newly created Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, caused the MILF to split away and take up armed struggle. They thought they had achieved a great deal with the 2008 MOA. It seemed to be very close to sovereignty, and it could be seen as only a small step away from independence That may not have been their immediate, or even long term goal, but in the current context, it looked extreme to many Filipino commentators when the MOA was leaked to the public just before it was to be signed (in Malaysia with many dignitaries-Filipino and foreign, not surprisingly including the US Ambassador). There was a political firestorm in the rest of the Philippines. The matter was temporarily enjoined by the Supreme Court on issues of possible unconstitutionality. Arroyo’s allies were in disarray, and in view of the outrage the MOA caused even amongst her supporters, she began to back-track. It would not be signed, and the final disposition would have to wait for the Supreme Court’s decision on the broader issues. The MILF , of course, was outraged. The document had been initialed after many months of negotiation. They thought they had been shabbily dealt with. Several of their field commanders went on the attack. War had commenced as the AFP-aided by the Americans- counter-attacked. The result was about a hundred and fifty civilians killed, dozens of soldiers on both sides killed, and about 500,000 civilians displaced at least temporarily.

Arroyo announced that the MILF would no longer be a negotiating partner. There would be a continued hunt for the two MILF Commandants who had started the fighting. She was insisted, to no avail, that the MILF give them up. Twenty million pesos were put on their heads. In future, the government would enter into consultations, presumably leading to negotiations for a new MOA, with community groups and other, non- MILF, leaders. It was made plain that the new MOA would be less generous to the MILF than the one they thought they had in the bag.

What was going on with the MOA process? There are different interpretations. It may have been an elaborate scheme by which the wars in Mindanao could be finally brought to an end, and the Philippine government would try to ensure that the least liberal reading of the final agreement would be imposed, and thus like the previous arrangement with the MNLF, the area would remain in the control of the Republic. The goal was also to try to achieve Charter Change. Others argue that the priority was always an extended term for Arroyo (and Congress, provincial governors, etc.) and that Arroyo and her clique dreamed up a scheme to ensure, in a roundabout (some would say ham-handed and/or deceptive) manner, Constitutional Change. That is, if the MOA was pushed through Congress it would require a change in the political structure of the country (essentially a Federation would emerge) and with that opened up, the Arroyo goal of term extension could easily be rammed through on the numbers. It was a daring, even breath-taking scheme. It was also hare-brained. And proof to many Filipinos that their President was not only illegitimate, but extremely dangerous. She was willing to trade her own interest in remaining in office to further accumulate riches, and probably out of fear of prosecution if she was no longer President, for what to many appeared to be a step toward the dismemberment of the country. Whatever it might have led to, the MOA failure also, importantly, showed what a deceptive and arrogant regime, one lacking in political judgment and any semblance of morality, was in charge of the nation.

Political cynicism and response

With good reason, most Filipinos have become cynical about the game of politics which has been played over many years. It is a game in which powerful families known as dynasties, and other elites vie for power. In that competitive game, they all get richer from their access to funds which are then siphoned off from budgets intended for schools, hospitals and health care, roads and other infrastructure projects.. Their “constituents” have gotten poorer as a result. Indeed, since the traditional politicians or trapos (in Tagalog, trapo means that cloth or rag which you wipe your feet on before entering a house) switch allegiances, parties, alliances with no regard to loyalties, policies or the interests of the people who have followed them or voted for them. There is only self-interest-thus no constituents in the normal sense. The cynicism is fueled by the realization that when previous Presidents were removed having lost the support of some elements in society, the problems of ordinary people did not go away. The main difference in the longer term was that different elite snouts were in a trough full to over-flowing with state monies.

The result of such cynicism differs. Many people are simply not interested in politics and play no role in it. At elections some may vote as there is a very strong culture of participation, abstracted from the reality of the game that is being played out. They are also often paid or intimidated, or even directed to vote (in a certain way). These people just try to get on with their difficult and fraught life.

Others, about 10%, have chosen to go overseas either to get employment (estimates of real unemployment in the Philippines suggest it is 25%, far higher than the government is willing to admit), or to get better pay and conditions. This is a difficult choice for a number of reasons, and many have very bad experiences. Nevertheless, the flood outwards continues. Because the remittances from these Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) at US$17million ranks 3rd in the country’s sources of income, many aspects of government policy militate towards increasing the number of OFWs. Indeed, recently GMA has been bragging about these labor “heroes”. She points with pride to the top world ranking the country has achieved in the diabolic scheme to ease pressure on her regime by effectively forcing people to leave the country, often at great risk and danger to themselves, deprivation of parental relations for their children, and the sorrowing down-grading of their hard earned occupational achievements and qualifications. A majority of OFWs are women. They especially are vulnerable to being exploited terribly, and abused, perhaps because of the domestic work so many obtain. Others fall into criminal and other behavior which can result in severe sanctions, public or private, including death. Some, thinking they are going to ordinary domestic or entertainment jobs, are instead “trafficked” into sexual exploitation.

A third response is, of course, to take advantage of the corrupt environment to make a living, sometimes a very good living, from crime. This can be tax evasion, smuggling, the top two areas where the state leaks revenue, much of it aided by corrupt officials and largely involving businessmen who appear to be law-abiding. Other kinds of rackets include drugs, gambling (especially the numbers game jueteng (which is dominated in many areas by political clans who use the proceeds to stay in power, buying votes etc; this is the game which President Estrada was supposed to have made millions from), and human trafficking. A number of books have been written by investigative reporters dealing with a number of these types of activity and establishing not only the widespread involvement of business and government officials from top to bottom, but the consequential loss of finance for much needed pro-people projects.

There are many other forms of criminal operations which directly effect Filipinos in their everyday life. One particular aspect is widespread criminal activity engaged in by police. This includes a wide range of activity including corrupt relations with criminals, especially gangs. But it also involves a high incidence of police violence, often injuring/killing innocent bystanders. Admittedly some of the violence may be in the process of “law enforcement”, for there are many armed desperadoes willing to shoot it out with the police. However, a very worrying phenomenon is police shootings of what are alleged to have been “suspects”. There are few serious investigations and almost no court cases brought against the police in these cases. That this is so, and that such shootings are almost a daily event in Manila, suggests that the police effectively have carte blanche to “rub-out” members of the “underclass” who may be acting suspiciously or committing a crime. It seems there are a large number of officially sanctioned “Dirty Harrys” cleaning up the streets. This is certainly the accusation which has been leveled at the mayor of Davao in Mindanao, where vigilantes have been at work for a number of years. In recent years there have been some big “rub- outs” in Metro Manila which seem to indicate there is truth in this analysis. In the most recent, after a sensational bank robbery wherein all the bank staff were murdered, the police shortly thereafter raided a working-class area and killed 10 “suspects” in or around their homes. A previous bank robbery case a few years ago involved the killing by police of 12 “suspects” in similar circumstances. There were police claims, as there always are, that the victims fired at them first. Relatives and neighbors deny this. The widespread shooting of “suspects” would seem not only to involve widespread violation of human rights, but also a crude symbolic demonstration of the power, and even more scary its arbitrary use, which the Philippine state is prepared to unleash on anyone-especially working class people- who does not conform. It also suggests that the police, or some elements in it could be prepared to shoot those who they “know” are engaged in criminal-or other-activity. It is easy to go across the line-why wait until the crime is or has been committed. In the past week, five trussed-up bodies have been found dumped in garbage mounds, victims of “executions” which even one police spokesperson indicated may have been the work of police.

An amazing example of the arbitrary, repressive and anti-working class “law and order” mentality in a country where corporate and white collar crooks act with a large degree of immunity, concerns the case of a disabled, poor defendant who was given six years of imprisonment for selling five “sticks” (cigarettes, often sold singly on the streets) containing marijuana.

Fourth, many Filipinos join with others in a very dense civil society, one of the world’s leading examples I should think of the determination to collectively oppose an undemocratic regime and to seek to build a better society. The extent and nature of civil society organization and activity is most impressive. In every sector-labor, peasants and fisherfolk, media, law (e.g. the National Union of People’s Lawyers with which I was particularly concerned), church, education, social welfare and others – there are organizations committed to resisting the neo-liberal policies and the consequent human rights abuses of the current regime (and its predecessors). There is a commitment in most of these groups to educating the masses in a socialist direction and bringing them into participatory activity. Much of this work, perhaps the greatest part, is organized by organizations allied with Bayan and associated groups such as Anakpawis and Gabriela which are legal segments of the National Democratic movement. That movement also includes 1) the semi-legal National Democratic Front (though it is recognized by the Arroyo regime for peace negotiating purposes, its members have been harassed, arrested and disappeared in violation of the agreed peace protocols) , and 2) the illegal Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army. While the Party/Army have continued to operate for nearly 40 years, which indicates it retains residual support from the masses, particularly in rural areas where they operate on many of the islands, it has been labeled “terrorist” and targeted by the regime for elimination by 2010. There is no indication that the military forces of the AFP and PNP have the capacity to achieve such a result, even after 2010. Recent indications are that the NPA is gaining in strength and holding its own, even becoming more aggressive in its operations. The military is really stretched as it carries out a war against three sectors: first, the “ dark war” against civil society which is no longer secret, as it was formerly; second, the war against the NPA; and third, the war against the MILF in Mindanao, which I discuss elsewhere.

Dancing the dictator Cha-Cha

At the present time it appears that this most distrusted and disliked President is seeking, once again, Congressional support for a Constitutional Change (Cha-Cha) which will allow her to stay on as Prime Minister for an indefinite period. With her dominance of Congress and having appointed a substantial majority of the Supreme Court justices who have since been loyal in their decision-making, it appears that Cha-Cha may be on. In that case, we are very likely to see very serious civil society resistance. ( A recent SWS survey indicates that 2/3 of Filipinos oppose an extended term) And, very possibly, military intervention; this has been signaled by Senator/former Lieutenant Trillanes who remains in detention despite receiving 11 million votes in recognition of his leadership role in several “mutinies” in recent years.

Australia’s role

That Australia is the second largest Aid donor to the Philippines, and an increasingly significant military ally, means that Australia has given important support to a corrupt and brutal regime which has plunged its people into a nightmare of grinding poverty (in the midst of luxury for the elite), widespread hunger, homelessness and joblessness etc while using the military forces to suppress opposition. At the same time, the Aid is very likely to be “skimmed” by corrupt bureaucrats, politicians and other elements in the chain of distribution and implementation. For this is a regime in which people have no scruples in diverting funds away from the public interest into private pockets. In most cases, with impunity. And as with its Aid to other countries in the region, Australia runs the risk of getting entangled in conflicts that we ought not to be in, a pattern which of course does not go unnoticed by our neighbors. It is bad enough that the American military and secret forces are there, still intervening in Filipino affairs and supporting Arroyo (which brings suspicion and hostility towards the USA). Our government should not be involved in that way.

It is imperative that Australia’s governmental, NGO and, to the extent possible, business relationships, with the Philippines be reassessed and redirected. Military relations should be halted. Aid programs should be very carefully scrutinized to see that funds are not misdirected on the ground. All Aid should, from now on, be conditional on the cessation of human rights abuse by military forces (and others operating in vigilante style). Even the US has made a few halting steps in this direction by formally linking military Aid to improvement in human rights protection.

Australian progressive organizations must make serious efforts to develop the consciousness of people in this country as to what is being done to the Filipino people under the Arroyo regime eg most children are not in school, while those who are attend in 3 shifts; a substantial and increasing number of Filipinos suffer from hunger; a large majority are poor and this figure is increasing; health is a disaster area for ordinary Filipinos who cannot pay for medical services, who have to bring their own (folding) beds into many hospitals, and who suffer death from dengue, diarrhea and dysentery, cholera, tuberculosis, malaria and other illnesses that can be controlled or eradicated.

Their environment is being destroyed by urban pollution, legal and illegal logging and mining (both of which in turn contribute to pollution and health risks, as well as to the risk of deadly mud/ land slides and flooding). Trying to protect the environment in the Philippines is a very dangerous activity-activists and local people are killed off or in other ways “discouraged” from asserting their rights, often by AFP and PNP squads. It is in this sector where Australian capital is most closely involved with the trauma inflicted on the Filipino people, through the mining which is taking place or is projected, in many parts of the country. Pressure should be brought on these companies in this country to desist from activities the local people see to be destructive of their environment and/or sacred land (much of the mining effects indigenous people).

Finally, civil society sectoral groups should be supported with an array of traditional solidarity relations, and leading alliances such as Bayan, Gabriela and Anakpawis should continue to be supported with even more vigour, especially in the coming campaign to prevent Cha-Cha and what could become Arroyo’s indefinite dictatorship (she and her cronies fear losing office and having to defend criminal charges for corruption and human rights abuse). We are entering a crucial period in the history of the Philippines. Australia, and Australians, should play a positive role in the fight for social justice and against transition from a faux democracy to fascism.

A major constraint on the Arroyo regime is the knowledge that the CPP and the NPA were greatly strengthened by the Marcos turn to dictatorship. They certainly had hoped to be able to destroy them by the time Cha-Cha was implemented and the terms of Arroyo and her cronies extended. The presence of the CPP and the NPA continues to be a major brake on the government’s freedom to choose its course of action. This would explain its recent exploration of opening peace talks with the NDF, in the hope that as with the MILF, it could reach some kind of deal (possibly the offer to seek a de-listing of the organizations from the “terrorist” ranks) which would allow the government to try to defuse the weapon of the people. There is every reason for Australians to support the Filipino people in their continuing struggle – be it by mass action or force of arms- against the illegitimate Arroyo regime. Posted byBulatlat.com

* I was recently in the Philippines for 3 months doing research on several projects. I am writing up what I think is important for outsiders to consider when thinking about the current regime there and the manner in which international solidarity can best be expressed This report is based on my observations in Manila, several provinces of Luzon and (in 2007) Mindanao; extensive coverage of print and TV media; interviews with progressive activists working with many different social movements; conversations with poor and working class Filipinos; attendance at conferences, meetings, lectures dealing with social, political and economic issues of the present period; my reading, historical and contemporary, analyzing Philippine state and society and its neo-colonial location, as well as its present neo-liberal condition.

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)