Archive for the ‘State Terrorism’ Category

Asian lawyers urge Philippine government to surface James Balao

November 20, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — Lawyers from various countries of Asia added their voice at urging the government to surface James Balao in a recent conference held at the Club John Hay here.

“We strongly urge the Philippine Government to make public his (Balao) present legal status, if he is in the custody of the state security forces, as indicated by some reliable sources,” said the Asian Network of Indigenous Lawyers (ANIL) in a statement.

Participated by 25 lawyers, the conference, which ended Tuesday, was sponsored by Tebtebba Fopundation, an indigenous peoples international center for policy research and education based in this city.

Balao, who belongs to the Benguet Ibaloi tribe, was abducted by alleged policemen on September 17 in Tomay, La Trinidad, Benguet. His whereabout is not yet determined until now despite a petition for writ of amparo his family filed in a court in Benguet Province.

Bringing case to UN

A lawyer from India, Babloo Loitongbam, a member of ANIL, said that they will utilize international venues for the case of Balao.

“We will submit our statement to the United Nations Working Group on Enforce Disappearances,” Babloo added. He explained this UN mechanism started in the 1980s in cases of enforced disappearances in Latin America.

Babloo said, “The mechanism had been proven effective in bringing the issues to the attention of the concerned governments after deliberation by the said working group.” Babloo has been lawyering in India defending human rights cases in his country since 1992.

Diplomatic “appeal”

Another ANIL member added they will bring Balao’s disappearance case through a diplomatic “appeal” to the Philippine Embassy Consulate Kathmandu, Nepal.

“We will communicate to the Philippine Embassy for them to act on the case of Balao’s disappearance,” pointed out Shankar Limbu, a Nepalese lawyer for eight years, in an interview.

This is their act of solidarity with human rights advocacy outside their country, added Limbu, who is the secretary of the Lawyers’ Association for Human Rights of Nepalese IndigenousPeoples (LAHURNIP).

Lawyer Chyt Daytec-Yangot, a Baguio-based human rights lawyer, said ANIL’s statement asking the Philippine government to surface Balao is part of the organization’s human rights advocacy.

She added ANIL is composed of indigenous lawyers in the Asia region rendering free legal services to indigenous peoples.

ANIL claimed in its statement there is a reasonable ground to believe that the enforced disappearance of Balao is linked to his non-violent resistance to the Arroyo administration’s program of aggressively harnessing the natural resources in the indigenous cultural communities’ ancestral domains under its mining revitalization program.

It also urged the government to become a party to the UN Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearances. # Arthur L. Allad-iw(NorDis)

Advertisements

AFP denies search in camps

November 18, 2008

Family of missing activist remains hopeful

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Benguet dads alarmed over the abduction of Balao

November 18, 2008

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

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

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

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

First abduction in Benguet

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

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

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

Impact on tourism

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

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

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

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

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

Not in PNP custody

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

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

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

Lawyers,media hit arrest of labor lawyer

November 18, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Press freedom advocate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PRO-COR trades words with CPA on Balao abduction

November 18, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Martin denied the abduction was the handiwork of the police.

Complete lie

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

He tagged Martin’s words are complete lie instead.

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Editorial Cartoon) Human Rights: Witch Hunt

November 16, 2008

new-state-terrorism-for-blog

Killing Them Slowly.

Bishops hit for encouraging revolt

November 16, 2008

By Jeannette Andrade
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 19:11:00 11/16/2008

MANILA — Some 50 youngsters, clad in black shirts, marched from the Manila Cathedral to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ office in Intramuros, Manila on Sunday, to denounce what they considered as calls by some bishops for a revolt against the Arroyo government.

In black shirts and veils, the protesters, who said they belonged to the Coalition against Destabilization, portrayed CBCP president and Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, Lingayan-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz and Bishops Joel Baylon, Socrates Villegas and Jose Sorra as devils.

They likened the prelates to the four horsemen of the apocalypse for allegedly encouraging a bloody revolt against the government.

The young protesters dared the bishops to leave the safe confines of the pulpit before meddling in the affairs of government and calling for a revolt.

Earlier, the bishops issued a joint statement calling on the people to prepare for the setting up of a new government now, saying the Arroyo government was hopelessly corrupt.

===========

My Take:

Historically, the church has launched some witchhunt campaign against individuals who profess progressive ideas.  Some of them victims were literally burned to ashes.

Now, the Philippine Catholic Church leaders are the ones under attack.  And the perpetrators are using youngsters now to advnce their devilish act.

It’s sad to note however that corrupt church leaders and lay members is too many for the five good bishops.  They are now being isolated by the modern Fray Botods of the Philippines.

Another union leader nabbed in Laguna

November 15, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Catindig was released at about 5 p.m.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

=========

My Take:

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

Journalists hit media ‘profiling’ by AFP

November 15, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buhay si James Balao

November 14, 2008

Cye Reyes / Nordis Weekly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sa selda ng inuusig na tagapagtanggol

November 14, 2008

Beth Pagtalunan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Larga Vista) Pagdakip at pagpapahirap sa akin

November 13, 2008

Elizabeth Principe

HAYAAN muna ninyong pasalamatan ko ang Karapatan-Ilocos at Dinteg sa Baguio City sa suporta nila sa kaso kong rebelyon sa Condon City. Na-dismiss ang kaso ko doon noong ika-22 ng Oktubre 2008. Sa katunayan, nagulat akong nalaman na may kaso ako sa Condon City – Hindi pa nga ako nakatuntong ng Ilocos bago ang arraignment.

Nakagaan sa akin ang dismissal, nabawasan ang apat kong kaso. Natitira pa ang dalawang (2) kaso ng robbery with murder at isa pang rebellion. Binuntunan ako ng kriminal na mga kaso para hindi makapagpiyansa.

Nagsimula ang kalbaryo ko noong ika-28 ng Nobyembre, sa pagdukot sa akin ng Intelligence Security Group (ISG) sa ibaba ng Fern Laboratory sa Cubao, Quezon City. Katatapos ko lamang magpa-x-ray at magpa-ECG sa Fern Lab kung saan mura. Mga mula sa mababang uri at saray ang nakasabay ko sa check-up.

Mabuti nga na may kolum ako rito sa PW, para mailinaw na di sa Ali Mall ako dinukot. Galing sa AFP ang balitang nagmo-malling ako nang madukot. Paninira nila sa kilusan na ang mga kasapi nito ay sa mall o sa sabungan nadarakip gayung naghihirap ang mga mamamayang Pilipino.

Sumigaw muna ng “Pulis kami” saka pilit na isinakay ng dalawang matitipunong lalaki sa nakabara-sa-daan na van na may sakay pang mga lalaki. Piniringan, pinosasan ako kaagad; inagaw at kinalkal ang bag ko. Nang tinanong ko bakit ginawa nila iyon sa akin, tape sa bibig ko ang sagot nila. Hindi nila kilala si Miranda, manapa’y nilampaso si Miranda at ang kanyang mga karapatan.

Unang araw pa lamang, walong (8) beses akong ininteroga. Tuluy-tuloy ang piring, posas at pasak sa tainga nang 72 oras.

Sa interogasyon, napako kami sa pangalan pa lamang. Hindi ko inamin ang tunay kong pangalan sa dami ng nakasampang kasong kriminal at mabibigat sa nagngangalang Elizabeth Principe. Baka nga kapag nalaman nila na ako si EP ay tabunan nila ako ng isang trak ng basura o isimento nila sa dram saka ihulog sa dagat o ipasok sa loob ng patumpatong na goma saka sunugin. Di nga ba ang daming missing, pati ang mahal kong asawa, si Leo Velasco.

Modelo ko sa bahagi ng interogasyon ang isang kakilala ko na dalawang taong nakulong ngunit di inamin sa lahat ng interogasyon niya ang tunay niyang pangalan. Ayaw niyang ipaalam na ikalawang beses na niyang pagkadakip iyon. Tumimo sa akin nang husto ang tibay niyang pinanindigan ang pangalang Marcial, hindi ko na tuloy maalala ang tunay niyang pangalan.

Sa unang sandali pa lamang na naisakay ako sa van, alam ko nang nadukot ako at tinanggap ko ang kamatayan. Hindi ako natatakot mamatay, o tumagal at mabulok sa bilangguan, sinabi ko ito sa mga interogador. Sa dami ba naman ng na-missing at na-extra-judicial killing, hindi ko iniisip na maiiba ang aking istorya.

Ang mga tula ni Jose Ma. Sison sa loob ng bilangguan ang nagbigay ng lakas-loob sa akin. “Mas mahirap ang naging kalagayan niya pero nakaya niya, dapat ko ring kayanin ito,” kako. Dagdag pa ang kuwento ng may karanasan sa mga hulihan – na ang hindi natakot sa kamatayan at tortyur ang hindi bumigay sa interogasyon at hindi naipagkanulo ang mga mamamayan. Sa kabilang panig, kapag pinangangalagaan ang buhay, lalo itong nawawala pati ang dignidad.

Sa mga gabi, problema ko kung paano matulog sa kalagayang walang humpay ang tunog ng nakapasok sa aking tainga na MP3. Binabago ko ang posisyon ng pasak para mapahina ang tunog pero agad nalalaman ng aking dalawang 24-oras na guwardiya. Dito ko natantiyang may kamerang nakatutok sa akin. Iniangal ko sa guwardiya na tortyur ang walang tigil na tunog na nagpapasakit sa ulo ko. Mag-enjoy na lang kaya ako sa tunog, kako. Pumuwede rin ng ilang oras.

Minsan napagalit ko ang guwardiya nang binago ko ang puwesto ng earplug, lubha niyang hinigpitan ang piring ko. Maliban dito, hindi ako pisikal na sinaktan. Soft approach at pananakot ang ginamit sa akin ng militar.

Ikinakaila nila sa akin ang totoong oras. Ibinibigay ang gamot na panggabi kahit tanghali pa lamang. Sinabing tatlong araw na akong naroon gayung isang araw pa lamang. Buti na lamang may alaga silang tandang na manok, salamat sa tilaok nito. Nagbilang ako ng pagdaan ng mga eroplano sa bawat araw para maging alerto at aktibo ang isip ko.

Ika-1 ng Disyembre nang inakay ako ng mga guwardiya na maligo. Nagtaka ako dahil dati-rati’y ako ang nagsasabi kung anong oras ako maliligo. Pagkaligo, inalis ang tsinelas ko, ipinalit ang sandals ko. Isinakay ako sa kotseng mabango, may aircon at malambot ang upuan. Isip ko, kung ihuhukay o susunugin na ako, dapat karag-karag na lang na sasakyan at di na ako pinaligo. Wala pang limang minuto, huminto na kami at naghintay nang matagal. Tinantiya ko na ipiprisinta ako sa midya, narinig ko kasi sa radyo ng kotse ang pahayag ng opisyal-militar na nadakip na nila si EP. Pinag-isipan ko na kung ano ang isisigaw ko pagharap sa midya. Taranta naman ang dalawang babaing pulis kung paano nila tatakpan ang maraming pasa sa aking kamay at bibig.

Bakit ako inilitaw? Tantiya ko’y inilabas ako para ma-divert ang isyu at makaalpas ang AFP at PNP sa sangkaterba na puna ng mga mamamayan, lalo ng midya sa magaspang na pagresolba sa naganap sa Manila Peninsula noong Nobyembre 29. At kapwa siraan ang grupo ni Sen. Trillanes-Lim at ang CPP-NPA-NDF sa paratang na nagsabwatan ito sa naganap sa Manila Pen. Sinampal ako ng paratang na kasama raw ako sa nagplano. Ngi! Hindi ko nga alam na naganap iyon at hindi ko pa nakita sa buong buhay ko si Sen. Trillanes at mga kasamahan niya.

Matapos akong iprisinta sa midya, balik piring, posas at pasak sa tainga; at balik pinanggalingan. Waring gustong iparinig sa akin, may nagsabing “5th ID pala ang nakahuli.” Nais akong linlangin ng mga ito, sabi ko sa sarili. Ang isa nama’y ibinulong sa aking ang “Kung makatakas ka o makalaya, ako ang papatay sa iyo.” Sinagot ko siya kaagad ng “Bakit ka nananakot?” Itong panakot na ito ang isang batayan ng pagsasampa ng petisyon para sa writ of amparo, na dinismis naman ng Special 8th Division ng Court of Appeals (hep-hep, fast forward na ito).

Alas-dos ng hapon, inilipat ako sa CIDG. Doon ko nakita ang mahal kong mga anak, mga miyembro ng Karapatan, Desaparecidos, EMJP, mga galing ng Cagayan Valley, at mga biktima at kamag-anak ng mga biktima ng karahasang militar. Pinagpiyano ako, saka ibinalik ang handbag ko na kinumpiska ng mga dumukot sa akin. Nawalan ng P12,000 ang pera ko, nagdagdagan ng planted na Ang Bayan. Ipina-nota ko sa CIDG ang nawala at planted.

Ipina-medical ako – doon nanota ng doktor ang marami kong pasa sa dalawang kamay at bisig. Sa daan pa-medical, na-interbyu ako ng ABS-CBN pero hindi naman lumabas sa TV. Maraming pa noong kaso na nai-interbyu ako at mga anak ko noong may hearing sa Court of Appeals pero di lumalabas sa TV.

Sunod, inilagak na ako sa Custodial Center kung saan ako ikinulong. Kinuha lahat ng pulis doon ang mga gamot ko, baka ko raw inumin nang sabay-sabay. Hihingi raw ako sa kanila sa bawat pag-inom ko.

Isang linggo akong padlock, di puwedeng lumabas ng selda. Abogado lamang ang puwedeng bumisita, di puwede kahit kamag-anak. Kahit nga si Cong. Satur Ocampo ay di pinayagang makadalaw sa akin (Dami pa naman niyang dalang pagkain).

Binilinan ng mga opisyal ng Custodial na huwag makipag-usap sa akin ang ibang detainee, baka raw bigla ko lang karatehin sila at pilipilitin ang leeg. Isang buwan na wala akong kasama sa selda na ayon sa kuwento ay may multo; itinoka ako sa higaan ng taong nagpakamatay. Makaraan ang ilang panahon, tinanong ako ng ibang detainee kung bakit hindi ako natatakot sa mga multo at walang nagpakitang multo sa akin. Sagot ko’y “Mga kakosa ko kasi ang mga pinatay dito.”

Nagtataka ang mga naunang detainee bakit hindi ako umiyak noong mga unang araw ko at waring magaan pa ang dating ko sa kanila. Sabi ko’y “Ang isang paa ko’y nasa hukay nitong nakaraang ilang araw, pasalamat ako’t inalis doon at di naisama sa bilang ng mga nangawala at napatay.”

Nakatulong sa aking ang pag-iisip ng positibo para di lubhang ma-depress sa bagong mundo ko. Mula sa ekta-ektaryang luntian ang pinagpipiyestahan ng mga mata ko, naging 2-by-3 metro kuwadrado na lamang ang pinagtitiyagaan ng mata ko. Pero ang isip ko’y milya-milya, daan-daang milya, libu-libo, milyun-milyong milya sa ilang daang taon ang inilalarawan. Ang isip ko’t diwa ay di naikulong.

Bagong taktika ng ‘panunupil’

November 13, 2008

Jeffrey Ocampo

Protesta ng mga aktibista ng Timog Katagalugan sa harap ng Department of Justice noong Nob. 5 laban sa umano'y panibagong bugso ng pampulitikang panunupil. (King Catoy)

Protesta ng mga aktibista ng Timog Katagalugan sa harap ng Department of Justice noong Nob. 5 laban sa umano’y panibagong bugso ng pampulitikang panunupil. (King Catoy)
TILA nagbabago na ng taktika ang gobyernong Arroyo sa pagsupil nito sa binabansagan nitong kaaway, ayon sa Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan).

Samu’t saring kasong kriminal ang ngayo’y nakasampa laban sa mga lider-aktibista sa Timog Katagalugan. Sa kabuuan, 72 na indibiwal ang humaharap sa kasong multiple murder at multiple frutrated murder dahil umano sa ambush na naganap sa Mindoro Oriental. Higit sa 30 mula sa bilang na ito ay prominenteng mga lider ng makabayang mga organisasyon kagaya ng Bayan at mga samahan ng manggagawa at magsasaka sa Timog Katagalugan.

Liban dito, kinasuhan ng isang telecommunications company ng arson at iba pang mga kaso ang 27 na indibidwal (kabilang ang 17 na kasama na sa 72) dahil sa pagsabog ng cell site nito sa Batangas.

Ambush?

Ibinibintang sa 72 na mga taga-Timog Katagalugan ang ambush na di umano’y naganap sa Puerto Gallera, Mindoro Oriental noong Marso 3, 2006. Ang ipinagtataka ng sangkot na mga organisasyon ay kung bakit 72 ang sinampahan ng kaso samantalang sa salaysay ng saksi na iniharap ng Philippine National Police ay 15 lamang ang umatake.

Dahil sa sinasabing ambush, hinaharap ngayon ng mga respondent ang mga kasong frustrated murder at multiple frustrated murder. Sa mga arrest warrant ng mga akusado, malinaw na nakasulat na hindi maaaring piyansahan ang kanilang mga kaso. Kasalukuyang dinidinig sa Regional Trial Court ng lunsod ng Calapan ang mga kasong ito sa sala ni Atty. Tomas Leynes.

Nagsampa naman ng kasong arson, destruction of property at conspiracy to commit rebellion ang Globe Telecom sa pamamagitan ng kanilang security officer na si Marlo Timbreza kasama ang PNP. Kaugnay diumano ito sa pagpapasabog ng isang cell site ng nasabing telecommunications company sa Lemery, Batangas noong August 2, ngayong taon. Umabot ng 27 ang sinampahan ng kaso.

Sunud-sunod ang naganap na pag-aresto sa mga sinampahan ng mga kaso. Una na dito noong Oktubre 23 si Atty. Remigio Saldero, chief legal counsel ng Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) at kolumnista ng Pinoy Weekly na parehong dinadawit sa mga kaso sa Mindoro at Batangas.

Inaresto naman sa sumunod na araw sina Nestor San Jose ng Anakpawis at Crispin Zapanta ng Bayan Muna, mga residente ng Rizal. Inaresto rin noong Nobyembre 5 si Rogelio Galit ng Katipunan ng mga Magsasaka sa Kabite (Kamagsasa-Ka) na noo’y nakaratay na dahil sa sakit na diabetes. Pinakahuling inaresto si Arnaldo Seminiano ng Ilaw at Buklod ng Manggagawa-KMU noong Nobyembre 6.

Pero ito ang maanomalya sa mga pag-aresto: Inamin mismo ng provincial prosecutor ng Calapan RTC na si Josephine Caranzo-Olivar na walang preliminary investigation na naganap bago inilabas ang mga mandamyento de aresto.

Ibig sabihin, ang mga pag-aresto ay hindi produkto ng masusing imbestigasyon. Ano, kung gayon, ang motibo ng mga ito?

Dati nang ginagawa

Marami nang naganap na katulad na mga kaso ang nangyayari sa Timog Katagalugan, ayon kay Carol Araullo, pambansang tagapangulo ng Bayan.

Noong 2007, inaresto na at ibinilanggo ang limang lider-pesante na tinaguriang “Tagaytay 5” sa Cavite. Ganito rin ang estilo sa pagkawala at pagsampa ng kasong murder kay Pastor Berlin Guerrero ng United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP). Binanggit din ni Araullo ang nauna nang naganap na katulad na mga kaso sa Davao at Negros.

Ang pinagkaiba lamang ngayon ay ang “wholesale” na katangian ng pagsasampa ng mga aso.

Ayon sa Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), ang nasa likod ng atake sa Mindoro at Batangas, gayundin sa iba pang mga insidente, ang NPA (New People’s Army). Ibig sabihin, pinagbibintangan ng gobyerno ang mga militanteng sinampahan ng kaso bilang mga miyembro rin ng NPA.

Pero higit sa 30 mula sa kabuuang bilang ng mga akusado sa Mindoro ay lider ng makabayang mga organisasyon gaya nina Orly Marcellana ng Bayan, Helen Asdolo ng Gabriela at Pedro Santos Jr. ng Anakbayan.

Marami ring lider ng pangrehiyong mga organisasyon ng manggagawa at magsasaka ng Timog Katagalugan ang kasama sa listahan gaya nina Renato Alvarez ng Kamagsasa-Ka, Leng Jucutan ng Kongreso ng mga Magsasaka para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo (Kopra)-Quezon at Agaton Bautista ng Samahan ng mga Magbubukid sa Batangas (Sambat).

Matagal na silang nakikita ng publiko sa iba’t ibang aktibidad, pagtitipon at kilos-protesta.

Sa mga sinapahan ng kaso na ngayo’y tinatawag na Southern Tagalog 72 at 27, lima na ang nauna nang inaresto at ngayo’y nakabilanggo habang ang iba naman ay patuloy na tinutugis ng pulis at militar.

Ibang taktika ng panunupil

Sa pagsusuri ng Bayan, piniplit ng pamahalaang Arroyo na kamtin ang layunin nitong “niyutralisahin ang Makaliwa at Komunistang mga grupo” gamit ang ibang taktika. Pagkatapos mamalas ng pamahalaan ang kabi-kabila at mariing mga batikos dahil sa mga kaso ng pamamaslang at pagdukot sa mga aktibista, nangailangan itong mag-isip ng bagong paraan upang likidahin ang kanyang masusugid na mga kritiko sa hanay ng makabayang mga organisasyon.

Ayon sa tala ng Karapatan, isang alyansang nagtataguyod ng karapatang pantao, aabot na sa 901 ang biktima ng pamamaslang na maiuugnay sa mga operasyon ng militar at may ayuda ng pamahalaang Arroyo. Dahil sa mga ito, hindi lamang sa loob ng bansa umani ng kritiko ang pamahalaan kundi pati na rin sa pandaigdigang komunidad.

Sa ulat ni Propesor Philip Alston, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extra-judicial, Summary or Arbitrary executions, sinasabing kailangang managot ang pamahalaan at militar sa paglabag sa mga karapatang pantao sa bansa.

Ang “maramihang pagsasampa ng mga kaso” at “pagkrikriminalisa” sa mga kasapi, lalung higit sa mga lider, ng mga makabayang mga organisasyon ay naglalayong paralisahin ang pagkilos ng mga ito, ayon sa Bayan. Ito ang taktika na ginagamit ngayon ng pamahalaan.

“Ang hindi nagawa ng gubyernong Arroyo sa pamamagitan ng pagpaslang sa mga aktibista ay gagawin nila sa pamamagitan ng taktikang ito,” sabi ng Karapatan.

Kasangkapan dito ng pamahalaan ang Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (Ialag) na pinamumunuan ni National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales at ang Kalihim ng Department of Justice na si Raul Gonzalez. Binuo ang Ialag noon pang 2006 sa pamamagitan ng Executive Order 493. Ialag din ang responsable sa pagsampa ng kasong murder laban kay Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo at iba pang progresibong mga mambabatas.

Layunin ng Ialag na gamitin ang batas upang tuluyang ipagkait sa makabayang mga organisasyon at progresibong mga party-list ang “demokratikong espasyo” na mayroon kahit papaano sa kasalukuyang sistema. Katanuyan, ayon sa tala ng Bayan, ang pagbanggit mismo ni Gonzalez sa isang pulong ng Inter-Parliamentary Union na nagtagal ng siyam na buwan bago nila nabuo ang kaso laban kay Rep. Satur Ocampo at sa iba pa.

Mga elemento ng DOJ, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Bureau of Immigration and Deportation (BID) at Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) ang napapatakbo sa Ialag.

Gayundin, ayon kay Gonzales, ang “legal na opensiba”, na pangunahing gawain ng Ialag, ay ang “magbibigay-wakas” sa insurhensiya na isinusulong ng Komunistang kilusan sa Pilipinas na “kinakatuwang” ang legal at makabayang mga organisasyon.

Mga ‘tagumpay’ ng Ialag

Ayon pa rin sa Bayan, itinuturing ng Ialag ang opisyal na pagtataguri sa Communist Part of the Philippnes-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) bilang mga teroristang mga organisasyon ang pinakaunang nagtagumpay sa mga tinakdang layunin ng ahensiya.

Kasunod nito ang kontra-insuhirensiyang kampanya laban sa “prenteng mga organisasyon” nito.

Tagumpay din nilang tinuturing ang mga pagsasampa ng mga kaso sa mga representante ng progresibong mga party-list. Matatandaang naging saksi ang mga nakaraang taon sa pagharap ng mga ito sa kabi-kabilang kasong kriminal.

Noong Pebrero 2006, inaresto si Anakpawis Rep. Crispin Beltran dahil sa salang rebelyon. Parehong buwan ng sumunod na taon, sinampahan naman ng kasong multiple murder si Ocampo at inaresto matapos ang isang buwan. Samantala, Mayo ng nakaraan ding taon, kinasuhan naman si Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño ng obstruction of justice dahil umano sa pagpigil nito sa pag-aresto sa pinaghihinalaang kasapi ng NPA na si Vincent Borja.

Hinala rin ng progresibong mga party-list na ang Ialag ang nasa likod ng disqualification case laban sa kanila noong Enero 2007.

Sa isang banda, tagumpay ang pamahalaan sa tangka nitong paralisahin ang pagkilos ng mga lider ng makabayang mga organisasyon sa Timog Katagalugan.

Ngunit ayon kay Axel Pinpin, information officer ng Kamagsasaka-Ka, hindi permanente ang pagpaparalisang ito. Lalo lamang umanong paiigtingin nito ang galit ng mga mamamayan dahil sa kawalang-katwiran at dahas ng “larong pulitiko-militar” ng pamahalaan, ayon naman sa Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) na may mga kasapi ring sinampahan ng kaso.

Noong Pebrero 2007, inirekomenda ni Alston sa gobyernong Arroyo na buwagin ang ialag. Mungkahi ng naturang eksperto ng UN na ituon ng sistemang hustisya ng bansa sa pag-resolba sa mga kaso ng pagpatay at pagdukot sa mga aktibista at pagpapanagot sa nasa likod ng mga ito.

Sa balangkas ng Oplan Bantay Laya 2

Ayon kay Noriel Rocafort, pangkalahatang kalihim ng Bayan-Batangas, ang pagsasampa ng mga kaso, gayundin ang sunud-sunod na pag-aresto, ay “hudyat ng panibagong bugso ng pampulitikang panunupil at panunugis sa mga militanteng organisasyon sa rehiyon.”

Matatandaang ang Timog Katagalugan ay isa sa mga sinalanta ng kasagsagan ng anti-komunistang kampanya ng pamahalaang Arroyo dahil sa sigla ng legal at makabayang kilusan dito. Mismong ang nag-retirong heneral na si Jovito Palparan, na kilalang “berdugo” ng pangulo, ay tinalaga sa rehiyon upang paigtingin ang nasabing kampanya.

Ang Timog Katagalugan ay nagsisilbi ngayong “laboratoryo ng panibagong bugso ng panunupil” na naayon sa internal security plan ng pamahalaan na Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL) 2, dagdag ni Rocafort.

Batay sa mga dokumentong nakalap ng Karapatan, natapos na noong 2006 ang OBL na unang pinanatupad noong 2002. Kabilang sa mga taktika nito ang pamamaslang at pagdukot sa aktibistang pinagbibintangang mga komunista. Dahil hindi nagtagumpay ang OBL sa layunin nitong “lipulin” ang CPP-NPA-NDF, simulan muli ito bilang OBL 2.

Sa pagkakataong ito, hindi umano muli patatakot ang mga militante.

Nakahanda raw sila, sa pangunguna ng Bayan, at ang mga samahan ng manggagawa at magsasaka sa Timog Katagalugan na magsagawa ng iba’t ibang kilos-protesta upang kondenahin ang pampulitikang panunupil sa kanilang kasapian.

Diin ni Araullo, “Walang makahihigit sa pagiging mapagbantay ng nagkakaisang hanay ng mamamayan.”

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

November 12, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMPORTANT NOTICE: INBOX is an archive of press releases, statements, announcements, letters to the editors, and manifestos sent to PinoyPress for publication. Please email your materials to pinoypress @ gmail.com. PinoyPress is not responsible for the content of these materials. The opinion expessed in these items does not reflect those of PinoyPress and its staff. Please refer to our terms of use/disclaimer.

In the Philippines, Prosecution as Tool for Persecution

November 12, 2008

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

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

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

Body of Lies

November 12, 2008

By Carlos H. Conde

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carlos H. Conde is a journalist based in Manila.

Militants reel from gov’t lawsuits

November 12, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

Motions

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

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

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

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

Blame

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

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

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

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

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

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

November 11, 2008

Malu Cadelina-Manar/MIndaNews
Sunday, 09 November 2008 06:50
var sburl4125 = window.location.href; var sbtitle4125 = document.title;var sbtitle4125=encodeURIComponent(“Cost of war: 550 students drop out of school in NorthCot”); var sburl4125=decodeURI(“http://www.mindanews.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=5434”); sburl4125=sburl4125.replace(/amp;/g, “”);sburl4125=encodeURIComponent(sburl4125);

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


st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) }

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

300 families flee Bumbaran as soldiers and MILF clash

November 11, 2008

MindaNews
Tuesday, 11 November 2008 06:45
var sburl2163 = window.location.href; var sbtitle2163 = document.title;var sbtitle2163=encodeURIComponent(“300 families flee Bumbaran as soldiers and MILF clash”); var sburl2163=decodeURI(“http://www.mindanews.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=5446”); sburl2163=sburl2163.replace(/amp;/g, “”);sburl2163=encodeURIComponent(sburl2163);

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

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

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

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

4 suspected NPA members freed

November 11, 2008

Malu Cadelina-Manar/MindaNews
Tuesday, 11 November 2008 06:48
var sburl6952 = window.location.href; var sbtitle6952 = document.title;var sbtitle6952=encodeURIComponent(“4 suspected NPA members freed”); var sburl6952=decodeURI(“http://www.mindanews.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=5447”); sburl6952=sburl6952.replace(/amp;/g, “”);sburl6952=encodeURIComponent(sburl6952);

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

st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) }

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

Meligrito also denied reports his men abducted the villagers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

12 armed men raid St. Scholastica

November 1, 2008

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 03:30:00 11/01/2008

MANILA, Philippines – Twelve men wearing Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) uniforms raided before dawn Friday a college in Malate, Manila and grabbed guns and communications equipment from stunned security guards.

The men, clad in camouflage pants and armed with high-powered guns, entered at around 1:25 a.m. the St. Scholastica’s College campus at the corner of P. Ocampo and Leon Guinto Streets.

Reports by the Manila Police District Mobile Patrol Unit (MPD-MPU) revealed that the raiders were aboard two vehicles: a black Toyota Revo (XKL-257) and another vehicle that was not identified.

Elvis Condez, security officer in charge, told police investigators they were surprised by the arrival of the “SWAT men” who quickly disarmed the guards on duty.

Condez said the men took two caliber .9 mm pistols, two caliber .38 revolvers, four cellular phones and a handheld radio, then left through Gate 4 on Estrada Street, headed in the direction of South Superhighway.

A ranking official of the MPD who requested anonymity told Inquirer (parent company of INQUIRER.net) that the group simply intended to take the firearms.

“The group could be stocking up on firearms for a future heist,” the official said. He said they could have targeted the school because they had anticipated little resistance from the security guards.

Members of the MPD are conducting follow-up operations and have alerted other police units to intercept the Toyota Revo.

The Inquirer tried to get the side of the school on the heist but calls made to St. Scholastica’s College were unanswered, except for a recorded voice message saying all line operators were busy. A television evening news report, however, said the school would make a statement after an investigation.

MPD Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit (CIDU) head Chief Insp. Dominador Arevalo told Inquirer that his men at the theft and robbery section of Station 9 were not allowed to enter the school initially because of an ongoing meeting of officials.

Arevalo said theft and robbery section head Chief Insp. Benigno Macalindong went to the school to look into the robbery but was among those who were prevented from entering the building.

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

My Take:

I see another scenario-making here.

1. Dry run to copy NPA “agaw-armas actions” and label it in the future as the NPA’s handiwork.

2. Pure harassment-terrorism — Jun Lozada is being supported and shielded by the Nuns of St. Scholastica.  St. Scholastica Nuns are popularly known to be socially aware and is unhesitant to stand up for the good of the poor.

3. Maybe a future reference to any militarist plan to augment its forces in Metro Manila.

I hope Im wrong.

Why Soldiers Rape: Culture of Misogyny, Illegal Occupation Fuel Sexual Violence in Military

November 1, 2008

The view of women as sexual prey has always been present in military culture. Indeed, civilian women have been seen as sexual booty for conquering soldiers since the beginning of human history. So, it should come as no surprise that the sexual persecution of female soldiers has been going on in the armed forces for decades.

BY HELEN BENEDICT
In These Times http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/3848/
INTERNATIONAL
Posted by Bulatlat

An alarming number of women soldiers are being sexually abused by their comrades-in-arms, both at war and at home. This fact has received a fair amount of attention lately from researchers and the press – and deservedly so.

But the attention always focuses on the women: where they were when assaulted, their relations with the assailant, the effects on their mental health and careers, whether they are being adequately helped, and so on. That discussion, as valuable as it is, misses a fundamental point. To understand military sexual assault, let alone know how to stop it, we must focus on the perpetrators. We need to ask: Why do soldiers rape?

Rape in civilian life is already unacceptably common. One in six women is raped or sexually assaulted in her lifetime, according to the National Institute of Justice, a number so high it should be considered an epidemic.

In the military, however, the situation is even worse. Rape is almost twice as frequent as it is among civilians, especially in wartime. Soldiers are taught to regard one another as family, so military rape resembles incest. And most of the soldiers who rape are older and of higher rank than their victims, so are taking advantage of their authority to attack the very people they are supposed to protect.

Department of Defense reports show that nearly 90 percent of rape victims in the Army are junior-ranking women, whose average age is 21, while most of the assailants are non-commissioned officers or junior men, whose average age is 28.

This sexual violence persists in spite of strict laws against rape in the military and a concerted Pentagon effort in 2005 to reform procedures for reporting the crime. Unfortunately, neither the press nor the many teams of psychologists and sociologists who study veterans ever seem to ask why.

The answer appears to lie in a confluence of military culture, the psychology of the assailants and the nature of war.

Two seminal studies have examined military culture and its attitudes toward women: one by Duke University Law Professor Madeline Morris in 1996, which was presented in the paper ‘By Force of Arms: Rape, War, and Military Culture’ and published in Duke Law Journal; and the other by University of California professor and folklorist Carol Burke in 2004 and explained in her book, Camp All-American, Hanoi Jane and the High-And- Tight: Gender, Folklore and Changing Military Culture (Beacon Press). Both authors found that military culture is more misogynistic than even many critics of the military would suspect. Sometimes this misogyny stems from competition and sometimes from resentment, but it lies at the root of why soldiers rape.

One recent Iraq War veteran reflected this misogyny when he described his Marine Corp training for a collection of soldiers’ works called Warrior Writers, published by Iraq Veterans Against the War in 2008:

The [Drill Instructor’s] nightly homiletic speeches, full of an unabashed hatred of women, were part of the second phase of boot camp: the process of rebuilding recruits into Marines.

Morris and Burke both show that military language reveals this ‘unabashed hatred of women’ all the time. Even with a force that is now 14 percent female, and with rules that prohibit drill instructors from using racial epithets and curses, those same instructors still routinely denigrate recruits by calling them ‘pussy,’ ‘girl,’ ‘bitch,’ ‘lady’ and ‘dyke.’ The everyday speech of soldiers is still riddled with sexist insults.

Soldiers still openly peruse pornography that humiliates women. (Pornography is officially banned in the military, but is easily available to soldiers through the mail and from civilian sources, and there is a significant correlation between pornography circulation and rape rates, according to Duke’s Morris.) And military men still sing the misogynist rhymes that have been around for decades. For example, Burke’s book cites this Naval Academy chant:

Who can take a chainsaw
Cut the bitch in two
Fuck the bottom half
And give the upper half to you?

The message in all these insults is that women have no business trying to be soldiers. In 2007, Sgt. Sarah Scully of the Army’s 8th Military Police Brigade wrote to me in an e-mail from Kuwait, where she was serving:

‘In the Army, any sign that you are a woman means you are automatically ridiculed and treated as inferior.’

Army Spc. Mickiela Montoya, who was in Iraq for 11 months from 2005-2006, put it another way:

‘There are only three things the guys let you be if you’re a girl in the military: a bitch, a hoor a dyke. One guy told me he thinks the military sends women over to give the guys eye candy to keep them sane. He told me in Vietnam they had prostitutes, but they don’t have those in
Iraq, so they have women soldiers instead.’

The view of women as sexual prey has always been present in military culture. Indeed, civilian women have been seen as sexual booty for conquering soldiers since the beginning of human history. So, it should come as no surprise that the sexual persecution of female soldiers has been going on in the armed forces for decades.

* A 2004 study of veterans from Vietnam and all wars since, conducted by psychotherapist Maureen Murdoch and published in the journal Military Medicine, found that 71 percent of the women said they were sexually assaulted or raped while serving.

* In 2003, a survey of female veterans from Vietnam through the first Gulf War by psychologist Anne Sadler and her colleagues, published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, found that 30 percent said they were raped in the military.

* And a 1995 study of female veterans of the Gulf and earlier wars, also conducted by Murdoch and published in Archives of Family Medicine, reported that 90 percent had been sexually harassed, which means anything from being pressured for sex to being relentlessly teased and stared at.

* A 2007 survey by the Department of Veterans Affairs found that homelessness among female veterans is rapidly increasing as women soldiers come back from Iraq and Afghanistan. Forty percent of these homeless female veterans say they were sexually abused while in the service.

Defense Department numbers are much lower. In Fiscal Year 2007, the Pentagon reported 2,085 sexual assaults among military women, which given that there are about 200,000 active-duty women in the armed forces, is a mere fraction of what the veterans studies indicate.

The discrepancy can be explained by the fact that the Pentagon counts only those rapes that soldiers have officially reported.

Having the courage to report a rape is hard enough for civilians, where unsympathetic police, victim-blaming myths, and the fear of reprisal prevent some 60 percent of rapes from being brought to light, according to a 2005 Department of Justice study.

But within the military, reporting is much riskier. Platoons are enclosed, hierarchical societies, riddled with gossip, so any woman who reports a sexual assault has little chance of remaining anonymous. She will probably have to face her assailant day after day and put up with resentment and blame from other soldiers who see her as a snitch. She risks being persecuted by her assailant if he is her superior, and punished by commanders who consider her a troublemaker. And because military culture demands that all soldiers keep their pain and distress to themselves, reporting an assault will make her look weak and cowardly.

For all these reasons, some 80 percent of military rapes are never reported, as the Pentagon itself acknowledges.

This widespread misogyny in the military actively encourages a rape culture. It sends the message to men that, no matter how they feel about women, they won’t fit in as soldiers unless they prove themselves a ‘brother’ by demeaning and persecuting women at every opportunity. So even though most soldiers are not rapists, and most men do not hate women, in the military even the nicest guys succumb to the pressure to act as if they do.

Of the 40 or so female veterans I have interviewed over the past two years, all but two said they were constantly sexually harassed by their comrades while they were serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, and many told me that the men were worse in groups than they were individually.

Air Force Sgt. Marti Ribeiro, for example, told me that she was relentlessly harassed for all eight years of her service, both in training and during her deployments in 2003 and 2006.

I ended up waging my own war against an enemy dressed in the same uniform as mine. I had a senior non- commissioned officer harass me on a regular basis. He would constantly quiz me about my sex life, show up at the barracks at odd hours of the night and ask personal questions that no supervisor has a right to ask. I had a colonel sexually harass me in ways I’m too embarrassed to explain. Once my sergeant sat with me at lunch in the chow hall, and he said, ‘I feel like I’m in a fish bowl, the way all the men’s eyes are boring into your back.’ I told him, ‘That’s what my life is like.’

Misogyny has always been at the root of sexual violence in the military, but two other factors contribute to it, as well: the type of man who chooses to enter the all-volunteer force and the nature of the Iraq War.

The economic reasons behind enlistment are well understood. The military is the primary path out of poverty and dead-end jobs for many of the poor in America. What is less discussed is that many soldiers enlist as teenagers to escape troubled or violent homes.

Two studies of Army and Marine recruits, one conducted in 1996 by psychologists L.N. Rosen and L. Martin, and the other in 2005 by Jessica Wolfe and her colleagues of the Boston Veterans Affairs Health Center, both of which were published in the journal Military Medicine, found that half the male enlistees had been physically abused in childhood, one-sixth had been sexually abused, and 11 percent had experienced both. This is significant because, as psychologists have long known, childhood abuse often turns men into abusers.

In the ’70s, when the women’s movement brought general awareness of rape to a peak, three men – criminologist Menachim Amir and psychologists Nicholas Groth and Gene Abel – conducted separate but groundbreaking studies of imprisoned rapists. They found that rapists are not motivated by out-of-control lust, as is widely thought, but by a mix of anger, sexual sadism and the need to dominate – urges that are usually formed in childhood. Therefore, the best way to understand a rapist is to think of him as a torturer who uses sex as a weapon to degrade and destroy his victims. This is just as true of a soldier rapist as it is of a civilian who rapes.

Nobody has yet proven that abusive men like this seek out the military – attracted by its violent culture – but several scholars suspect that this is so, including the aforementioned Morris and Rutgers University law professor Elizabeth L. Hillman, author of a forthcoming
paper on sexual violence in the military. Hillman writes, ‘There is the possibility that the
demographics of the all-volunteer force draw more rape- prone men into uniform as compared to civil society.’

Worse, according to the Defense Department’s own reports, the military has been exacerbating the problem by granting an increasing number of ‘moral waivers’ to its recruits since 9/11, which means enlisting men with records of domestic and sexual violence.

Furthermore, the military has an abysmal record when it comes to catching, prosecuting and punishing its rapists. The Pentagon’s 2007 Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military found that 47 percent of the reported sexual assaults in 2007 were dismissed as unworthy of investigation, and only about eight percent of the cases went to court-martial, reflecting the difficulty female soldiers have in making themselves heard or believed when they report sexual assault within the military. The majority of assailants were given what the Pentagon calls ‘nonjudicial punishments, administrative actions and discharges.’ By contrast, in civilian life, 40 percent of those accused of sex crimes are prosecuted.

Which brings us to the question: Do the reasons soldiers rape have anything to do with the nature of the wars we are waging today, particularly in Iraq?

Robert Jay Lifton, a professor of psychiatry who studies war crimes, theorizes that soldiers are particularly prone to commit atrocities in a war of brutal occupation, where the enemy is civilian resistance, the command sanctions torture, and the war is justified by distorted reasoning and obvious lies.

Thus, many American troops in Iraq have deliberately shot children, raped civilian women and teenagers, tortured prisoners of war, and abused their own comrades because they see no moral justification for the war, and are reduced to nothing but self-loathing, anger, fear and hatred.

Although these explanations for why soldiers rape are dispiriting, they do at least suggest that the military could institute the following reforms:

* Promote and honor more women soldiers. The more respect women are shown by the command, the less abuse they will get from their comrades.

* Teach officers and enlistees that rape is torture and a war crime.

* Expel men from the military who attack their female comrades.

* Ban the consumption of pornography.

* Prohibit the use of sexist language by drill instructors.

* Educate officers to insist that women be treated with respect.

* Train military counselors to help male and female soldiers not only with war trauma, but also with childhood abuse and sexual assault.

* Cease admitting soldiers with backgrounds of domestic or sexual violence.

And last – but far from least – end the war in Iraq.

[Editor’s note: This article is adapted from The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq, to be published by Beacon Press in April 2009.]

Helen Benedict, a professor of journalism at Columbia University, is author of several books concerning social justice and women. Her writings on women soldiers won the James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism in 2008.

Interfaith Mission Deplores All-out War, Humanitarian Crisis in N. Cotabato, Maguindanao

October 28, 2008

Even as the Arroyo government publicly declares it is for peace in Mindanao, a National Interfaith Humanitarian Mission conducted in North Cotabato and Maguindanao from Oct. 22-24, 2008 concluded that: “The military offensives in North Cotabato and Maguindanao are carried out under the pretext of pursuit operations against Kato and his group, but these in reality fall within the context of an all-out war.” Even evacuation centers are not spared from the military offensives, the mission said, resulting in the deterioration of the situation reaching the proportion of a humanitarian crisis.

BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Bulatlat

Even as the Arroyo government publicly declares that it is for peace in Mindanao, a National Interfaith Humanitarian Mission conducted in North Cotabato and Maguindanao from Oct. 21-24, 2008 concluded that the military offensives purportedly meant to merely pursue Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) commander Ameril Ombra Kato and his group appear to be part of an all-out war.

The two provinces are among the foci of renewed fighting between government troops and the MILF.

“The situation in these provinces is deteriorating continuously, and it has now reached the proportions of a humanitarian crisis,” said Joel Virador, national vice chairman and former representative of Bayan Muna (People First).

The NIHM*, spearheaded by Kalinaw Mindanao, went to Pikit, North Cotabato and Datu Piang, Maguindanao.

The two municipalities have become hosts to persons displaced by the armed conflict in the two provinces. Based on Oct. 2 data from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), in Datu Piang alone there are 9,800 family heads with 50,012 dependents.

Skirmishes

There had been encounters between government troops and the MILF as early as June 30 in Sitio (sub-village) Maligaya, Barangay (village) Malamote in Kabacan, North Cotabato.

The next day, another skirmish took place in Sitio Tubak, Brgy. Pagangan in Aleosan, North Cotabato. The MILF fighters who figured in this firefight were identified as belonging to the 105th Brigade, led by Commander Ameril Ombra Kato.

The weeks before these incidents saw massive military deployment to North Cotabato, supposedly to secure the province for the Aug. 11 elections in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

These encounters drove community residents to evacuate to Brgy. Bagolibas in Aleosan and Brgys. Bual and Nalapaan in Pikit.

Later that same month, armed men burned some houses in Brgy. Bual and stole a number of farm animals in Brgy. Bagolibas.

On Aug. 2, some 84 houses in Aleosan were razed to the ground. The government claimed that these burnings were perpetrated by MILF fighters led by Kato.

On Aug. 8, four days after the Supreme Court’s issuance of a temporary restraining order on the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MoA-AD) between the government and the MILF, the military implemented Oplan Ultimatum and additional troops were positioned in Pikit, Aleosan, and Midsayap. This, and the dissolution of the government panel in the peace negotiations with the MILF, served as prelude to the intensification of the fighting in North Cotabato.

While clashes continue in North Cotabato, the fighting has also spread to nearby Maguindanao.

Military operations have led residents of affected areas to flee to evacuation centers.

Humanitarian mission

In a statement released to the media in an Oct. 24 press conference in Cotabato City, the NIHM participants described the evacuees’ situation thus:

In the evacuation centers, the displaced persons suffer from inadequate facilities. Most of them have set up tents in whatever public place available. With heavy rains and flooding now common at this time of year, many child evacuees are sick with cough, cold, fever, and diarrhea. A number of evacuees have died of disease. There is also the trauma experienced by the evacuees, particularly the children.

Composed of human rights groups, relief workers, church-based groups, doctors, nurses, students, business groups, human rights advocates, peace advocates and various cause-oriented groups, the NIHM conducted human rights documentation, psycho-social and medical treatment, and relief operations for evacuees in Pikit and Datu Piang.

The NIHM documented various human rights abuses by the military in the two provinces. Violations included a raid in an evacuation center in Aleosan, North Cotabato. Evacuees interviewed by the NIHM in Pikit and Datu Piang narrated accounts of deaths due to strafing and aerial bombing, as well as threats and intimidation, torture, abductions, illegal searches and arrests, as well as divestment and destruction of property.

Among the prominent human rights violations documented by the NIHM was an Oct. 15 raid on a house, which had served as an evacuation center in Aleosan. The occupants were beaten up by the raiders, who were identified as elements of the Philippine Army’s 40th Infantry Battalion. Two of the occupants, Rakman Suleik and his son Samsudin, were taken away and brought to the Aleosan Municipal Police Office, where Rakman learned that there was a case against him. Samsudin, who delivered a testimony before the entire NIHM on Oct. 23, insisted that the soldiers who took his father did not show any warrant of arrest. Rakman is still in detention and there is no clear information on whether or not he has been charged with any offense.

“They had already evacuated (to escape the military’s atrocities), but even the evacuation center was not spared,” said Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights) secretary-general Marie Hilao-Enriquez.

Meanwhile, the NIHM also assigned teams to conduct psycho-social treatment for the child evacuees. The psycho-social teams served a total of 214 children, and found manifestations of trauma in them, including restlessness and disruption of sleeping patterns. In the psycho-social activities, the children were asked to relate their experience regarding the conflict through sharing, drawings, and role-playing. The psycho-social teams noted that in their sessions, the children commonly expressed either fear or hatred of soldiers. Their drawings usually showed fighter planes dropping bombs on houses, the psycho-social teams disclosed.

The medical teams, who served a total of 192 patients, for its part noted that many of the patients were complaining of ailments that could be attributed to the conditions in the evacuation centers, such as ever, dizziness, headaches, skin and respiratory infections, and diarrhea.

The NIHM also conducted relief operations on Oct. 22, benefiting some 766 evacuees in Brgy. Batulawan, Pikit and Brgys. Tee and Poblacion in Datu Piang.

“All-out war”

The NIHM participants compared the situation in North Cotabato and Maguindanao to what happened during the all-out wars declared by the Estrada and Arroyo governments in 2000 and 2003, respectively. Said the participants in their statement:

The military offensives in North Cotabato and Maguindanao are carried out under the pretext of pursuit operations against Kato and his group, but these in reality fall within the context of an all-out war. The policy of “disarmament, demobilization and rehabilitation” (DDR) which is now being carried out by the government shuts the door to peace and leaves all-out war as the main option. The so-called pursuit operations and “surgical operations” being conducted in North Cotabato and Maguindanao are characterized by the excessive use of firepower mainly against the civilian populace.

No military personnel have been called to account for the atrocities against human rights. The military’s tactic has invariably been to divert the blame for atrocities onto other groups.

The situation in the two provinces continues to deteriorate and has reached the proportions of a humanitarian crisis. As yet, there appears to be no end in sight to the miseries of those who have borne the brunt of the fighting.

The interfaith mission recommended the cessation of military operations in the two provinces. “This is the easiest way by which the evacuees could return to their homes and rebuild their lives,” said Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance) secretary-general Renato Reyes, Jr.

Aside from this, the mssion also recommended that the issues related to the conflict be addressed in the proper forum, particularly the Coordinating Committee for the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH), a joint ceasefire monitoring body composed of representatives from both the government and the MILF. They also called for an independent investigation into human rights abuses perpetrated since the renewed fighting broke out, indemnification and rehabilitation assistance for the victims of the war, and the resumption of peace negotiations between the government and the MILF. (Bulatlat)

*The organizations that participated in the NIHM are Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, Bayan Muna, Gabriela Women’s Party, GABRIELA, Karapatan, Kawagib-Moro Human Rights Organization, Suara Bangsamoro, Liga ng Kabataang Moro, Initiatives for Peace in Mindanao, Kalumaran, Health Action for Human Rights, Bangsamoro Medical Society, Ecumenical Mission for Peace and Development, National Council of Churches in the Philippines, Southeast Mindanao Ecumenical Council, Cotabato Regional Ecumenical Council, Children’s Rehabilitation Center-Southern Mindanao, Kabiba Alliance for Children’s Concern, Center for Women’s Resource, AlphaSigma Phi-CCSPC (Cotabato City State Polytechnic College) Chapter, The Torch Publication-CCSPC, Moro Youth Religious Organization, Assumption College of Davao-Social Work Students, Notre Dame University Peace Center, Notre Dame University College of Nursing, Notre Dame School of Dulawan, United Youth for Peace and Development, Lay Forum Philippines, United Methodist Church-Mindanao Philippines Annual Conference, Episcopal Diocese for Southern Philippines, United Church of Christ in the Philippines-Southern Mindanao District Conference, and Holy Cross of Davao College-Social Work Students.

Balao is alive, Baguio court told

October 26, 2008

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:49:00 10/26/2008

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines—Missing activist James Balao is still alive and is being detained in a military camp.

This was a tip received by the Cordillera Peoples Alliance on Thursday, after the first hearing on the petition for a writ of amparo for the surfacing of Balao at the regional trial court in La Trinidad, Benguet.

“Our source informed us that James is still alive and is in detention,” Beverly Longid, CPA chair, said in a forum here on Friday.

Asked to comment about the possibility that his son is still alive, Balao’s father Arthur said: “I am happy to learn that my son is still alive but I am still confused because I do not have the information about his whereabouts.”

On Thursday, the family of Balao and militant groups led by the CPA and the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) held a rally in front of the Justice Hall of Benguet to drum up the call to issue the writ.

Witness’ account

During the hearing, representatives of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), which represented the respondents in the petition, tried to have the case dismissed but failed.

A witness, Aniceto Adawing who was cross-examined during the hearing, said he saw five armed men accost Balao in Barangay Lower Tomay in La Trinidad on Sept. 17.

Adawing said the men poked their Armalite rifle and .45 cal. guns at Balao and announced that they were arresting him for suspected illegal drug pushing.

Adawing said he was certain that the men were from the police.

Lawyer Gerik Caesare Paderanga, OSG associate solicitor, said most of the petitions which were filed under the writ had been dismissed due to baseless accusations.

Balao’s family filed the petition to compel the military, James’ suspected abductor, to produce him.

The family asked the court to direct the military to disclose the whereabouts of Balao, a founding member of the CPA.

The family also asked the court to allow its authorized representatives to inspect military or police facilities where Balao was believed detained.

Procedure lapse

The OSG also failed to submit a return during a hearing, which, according to human rights lawyers, was a violation of the procedure.

The return is the answer of the respondents to the issues against them which should be submitted five days after the petition was received.

Paderanga said they failed to submit the return because the process would take long as the respondents involved extraordinary people such as President Macapagal-Arroyo, Cabinet secretaries and police and military officials.

“We understand that the family is suffering but the submission of the return will require a lot of time. We have to be practical,” he said.

Lawyer Mary Ann Bayang, Balao counsel, said the failure of the government to submit its response because they were extraordinary people was a flimsy excuse.

“Saying that the respondents were extraordinary people was not an excuse. Whether they were ordinary or extraordinary people, they should be treated equally before the court. The more that they have to comply because they are public officials,” she said. Desiree Caluza, Inquirer Northern Luzon

Mercy mission claims harassment

October 26, 2008

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:42:00 10/26/2008

COTABATO CITY, Philippines—Members of an inter-faith humanitarian mission, composed of legislators and representatives of non-government organizations, on Saturday charged the military of trying to stop them from visiting conflict-affected communities in Mindanao.

The military denied the charge, saying the group was only routinely questioned at a checkpoint and warned that they were entering a risk area.

But Amirah Lidasan, national chair of Suara Bangsamoro and Kalinaw Mindanao, said soldiers belonging to the 64th Infantry Battalion pointed their guns at them and tried to intimidate them at a checkpoint in Barangay Pagatin in Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao.

Lidasan said her group, which included Gabriela Rep. Luz Ilagan and former Bayan Muna Rep. Joel Virador, were visiting civilians displaced by military operations against Moro rebel leader Ameril Ombra Kato in Maguindanao and North Cotabato from Oct. 21 to 24.

“We were treated like the enemy,” she said in a radio interview on Saturday.

“They were trigger-ready, some pointed their guns at us and they were disrespectful,” Lidasan said.

She said that when they told the soldiers that they were members of NGOs who wanted to see the situation of the refugees and abandoned communities, “they did not want us to proceed.”

Lidasan also said the soldiers wanted to confiscate their video and still cameras.

Ilagan said they were later allowed to visit some areas.

When asked for a response, Col. Marlou Salazar, chief of the Army’s 601st Infantry Brigade, said the soldiers did not bar the humanitarian mission from entering Datu Piang and Datu Saudi Ampatuan towns.

He said it was standard procedure for the military to check those entering conflict areas.

“First, they did not coordinate with us,” said Salazar.

“When we asked them to wait while we were checking road security, it did not mean we prevented them from visiting the areas,” Salazar added. Edwin O. Fernandez, Inquirer Mindanao

SAYS PALACE ‘Press freedom alive in RP’

October 26, 2008

By TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 21:56:00 10/25/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Secretary Cerge Remonde on Saturday played down the drop of the Philippines in the worldwide press freedom index of an international media watchdog, saying it was a matter of perception.

Nonetheless, Remonde, chief of the Presidential Management Staff, said he was “saddened” by the drop in ranking, and added that the government would take steps to “improve our ranking.”

“But if you think hard about it, this is more perception than reality,” he said over the government-run Radyo ng Bayan.

If the watchdog were closely monitoring the TV and radio networks and newspapers, it would discover that the Philippine press was “very lively, aggressive and free,” Remonde said.

“Not a day goes by without the media bashing the government. It’s being criticized rightfully or wrongfully here in the Philippines,” he said.

The Philippines dropped several notches in the Reporters Without Borders’ Annual Worldwide Press Freedom Index for 2008. From 128th last year, the country plummeted to 142nd this year in the index of press freedom in 173 countries.

The index measures the state of press freedom in the world. It shows the degree of freedom that journalists and news organizations enjoy in a country, and the actions taken by the authorities to respect this freedom, the group said.

The watchdog blamed corruption as among the main reasons for the poor ranking of countries, saying this “eats away at democracies.”

Iceland, Luxembourg, and Norway topped the list, all tying for first place. Turkmenistan (171st), North Korea (172nd), and Eritrea (173rd), on the other hand, were at the bottom.

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

My Take:

A classic example of a liar who believes his own lies and sees it as the absolute truth.  He even failed to mention the number of killings of journalists in the country.  Tsk.

Bangsamoro state eyed under federacy

October 26, 2008

By Vincent Cabreza
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:56:00 10/26/2008

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines — Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. on Friday said the autonomous governments mandated by the 1987 Constitution for indigenous Filipinos of the Cordillera and Muslim Mindanao would not be touched by charter amendments seeking to create a federal government in the Philippines.

Pimentel said the existence of the autonomous governments, particularly the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, would repair the damage caused by a failed government attempt to sign a deal creating a Bangsamoro Juridical Entity with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

In August, a peace panel organized by President Macapagal-Arroyo and its counterpart in the MILF drafted a memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain creating the BJE.

The talks eventually collapsed after the Supreme Court stopped the scheduled signing of the memorandum of agreement in August. On October 14, the Supreme Court declared MOA-AD unconstitutional.

Pimentel presented the 63-page Joint Resolution No. 10, which outlines the creation of 11 Philippine federal states under an amended Constitution, before 500 north Luzon officials who attended a Charter change consultation here on Friday.

Baguio Representative Mauricio Domogan, a member of the House committee on constitutional amendments, organized the forum.

Pimentel said a Bangsamoro federal state would take the place of ARMM in a new bureaucracy to avoid antagonizing former Moro rebels.

But unlike previous political organizations designed for a Muslim community, the proposed Charter reforms would allow a Bangsamoro government to be administered by sharia (Islamic legal system).

Giving the region its own sharia-supervised state means the government is finally acknowledging the Muslim Filipino identity, he said.

The discussion pacified many of the Cordillera delegates, who are trying to revive Cordillera autonomy before legislators push for federalism, Domogan said.

The Cordillera drafted the country’s first law creating an autonomous region but the bid failed to win support during a 1990 plebiscite. A second law was also not ratified in a plebiscite held in 1998.

Some of the delegates, who discussed Charter reforms with Pimentel, were worried that the constitutional amendments would make Cordillera autonomy obsolete.

ARMM remains the only active autonomous region in the country, Pimentel said, but it has its flaws.

“There is a critical element missing [from ARMM] to address the problems of the Moro people…Pinag-aralan ko ito nang mabuti (I studied this thoroughly). That problem is our lack of recognition of their cultural identity,” he said.

“What is the basis of this identity? That element is the absence of the sharia… Without their laws, they could not truly say they are being allowed to live their lives as Muslims,” Pimentel said.

Egyptian, Indonesian and Malaysian legislators have already assured the Philippines that sharia can still be bound to Philippine laws that forbid extreme punishment such as beheading and stoning, Pimentel said.

He said the government has been attacking the Muslim secessionist problem with war when all it needed to do was accept their religion.

==========

My Take:

With the MOA-ADs failure, the MILF will surely be smarter enough not to take Pimentel’s hook, line and sinker.

Senate report: Euro generals ‘guilty’ Graft, money laundering cited

October 26, 2008

By Juliet Labog-Javellana
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:47:00 10/26/2008

MANILA, Philippines—The Senate committee on foreign relations has found the entire Philippine National Police delegation to the 77th Interpol General Assembly in Russia guilty.

In a draft report signed by its chair Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, the committee recommended the criminal prosecution of the eight-man PNP delegation for graft, malversation of public funds, and violation of the anti-money laundering law and banking rules.

In what was perhaps the fastest legislative investigation conducted in the Senate, the committee also recommended that PNP Director General Jesus Verzosa and Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno be subjected to preliminary investigation for violating government travel restrictions.

The report is being circulated for the signature of the committee vice chair, Sen. Mar Roxas, and its members.

The committee opened on Thursday an inquiry into the P6.9 million brought to Russia early this month by then PNP Director and comptroller Eliseo de la Paz, who has since retired.

Santiago gave the Philippine Daily Inquirer a copy of the eight-page report on Friday, a day before she flew to New York for the Nov. 6 elections of the International Court of Justice. The senator is vying for an Asian seat in the court.

She said she issued her report after the committee ended its Thursday hearing, where De la Paz was a no-show.

But she said the inquiry could be reopened when De la Paz is brought before the committee.

Antonette Aristoza, the committee secretary, told the Inquirer that as of Saturday, there were “no instructions for further hearings.”

Criminal liability

The committee’s first recommendation was for the Department of Justice and the Ombudsman to conduct a preliminary investigation on the PNP delegates to the Interpol assembly.

The report said it “appears that some or all of them might be criminally liable” for the following offenses—malversation, under Article 17 of the Penal Code; technical malversation of public funds under Article 220; violations of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001 and the New Central Bank Act.

The PNP delegates were De la Paz, Deputy Directors General Emmanuel Carta and Ismael Rafanan, Directors Romeo Ricardo, Silverio Alarcio and Silverio Doria, Chief Supt. Jaime Caringal, and Supt. Elmer Pelobello, the designated aide of the group.

The wives of De la Paz, Caringal, Carta and PNP chief Verzosa also joined the trip, but both the police and Puno have maintained that the women paid their own way.

The report said the delegation violated the travel ban under Administrative Order No. 103 issued by President Macapagal-Arroyo in 2004. AO 103 suspends foreign travels except for ministerial meetings and scholarship or training that are of no expense to the government.

The same ban, on account of austerity measures, was reiterated in Executive Order No. 459 issued in 2005, and PNP Circular No. 202-017 issued in 2002, which provides that foreign travels shall not involve government or PNP funds.

The report said the delegation also violated the law on allowable travel expenses stated under EO 298, which provides for a daily subsistence allowance of $229, or about P11,450. The report noted that the per diem of the PNP delegation amounted to P21,418, or almost double the amount allowed by law.

The PNP delegation also violated the law against the travel of officials who are about to retire, the report said.

It said all but one of the officials who went to Russia were more or less 55 years old, near the retirement age of 56.

Puno

“Such preliminary investigation should include the [interior] secretary,” the report said.

It held Puno liable for violating Malacañang’s rules on travel, after noting that the grant of travel authority to some officials and employees were delegated to department secretaries like himself under EO 459.

“Under the doctrine in administrative law that liability follows duty, the [interior] secretary should be held liable for violating the travel ban under [AO] 103 issued in 2004,” the report said.

During the Thursday hearing, which served as a scolding session for Puno, Verzosa and the other PNP officials, Santiago assailed the interior secretary for allowing the trip to Russia despite the existing austerity measures of the President.

She also questioned Puno and Verzosa for allowing the retiring police officials to travel in violation of government rules.

The report asked that Verzosa be subjected as well to preliminary investigation for ignoring the travel ban.

“At the hearing, the PNP chief admitted that he was informed of a so-called contingency fund in the amount of some P7 million, but all he did was to order an investigation after the event,” it said.

De la Paz

The report also recommended that De la Paz be arrested and detained in the Senate.

But up to Saturday, the Senate has not issued the arrest warrant for De la Paz, who made himself scarce after arriving from Russia on Tuesday.

The report noted the ex-comptroller’s statement that he would appeal his arrest before the Supreme Court.

“Even so, unless the Supreme Court orders otherwise, De la Paz should remain in detention under Senate custody, until he purges himself of the contempt,” it said.

The committee cited De la Paz in contempt when he failed to show up at the inquiry. Santiago then ordered his arrest, but the warrant needed to be signed by Senate President Manuel Villar, who arrived from abroad only on Saturday.

The report also pinned down De la Paz for several violations, saying his claim that he was carrying contingency funds had no basis in law.

“While the authorized travel expenses amounted to some P2.3 million, the alleged ‘contingency fund’ amounted to P6.9 million. Thus, the contingency fund carried by De la Paz could not possibly be placed in the category of ‘incidental expenses,’” the report said.

It said his claim was also contrary to law because contingency funds should not be given in advance.

The report likewise defended the committee’s jurisdiction over the case and the contempt citation for De la Paz.

It said the majority needed to issue the arrest warrant referred only to a majority of all the members present, and not of the whole committee.

PNP probe

The PNP is expected to release the results of its own investigation on Monday.

On Friday, Verzosa faced the media but still shed little light on the questioned release of the travel fund for the PNP delegation to Russia.

Verzosa stood pat on his testimony before the Senate committee on foreign relations that he had no hand in the release of any cash advance for the PNP delegation.

He said he had also limited the authority of Senior Supt. Tomas Rentoy III, budget division chief of the PNP Directorate for Comptrollership, while Camp Crame continued its inquiry into the latter’s alleged transaction with De la Paz in withdrawing the P6.9 million from the PNP coffers.

“[Rentoy] is under investigation by the Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management,” Verzosa said. “The penal actions [and] administrative actions against him will be put up and recommended upon termination of investigation.”

Rentoy is still on active duty but “we’ve advised him not to undertake disbursements,” Verzosa said. With a report from Tarra Quismundo

========

My Take:

Maybe Jun Lozada can help shed light as to the whereabout of General De la Paz.

DOJ CHIEF ON BRAVO INTERVIEW ‘ABS-CBN violated broadcast code’ Network: ‘It was a legitimate story’

October 22, 2008

By Tetch Torres
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 19:11:00 10/22/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez is considering a complaint against broadcast network ABS-CBN for airing on television an interview with wanted Moro rebel commander Abdullah Macapaar, alias Commander Bravo.

Gonzalez accused the network of violating provisions of the Broadcast of the Philippines, particularly Sections 2 and 4, which state that “criminals shall not be glorified” and that “crime should always be condemned.”

However, reacting to the justice chief’s charges, the network, in a statement from news and current affairs head Maria Ressa, said the interview with Macapaar was “a legitimate story, and our interview with him aired October 20 and 21 adhere to ethical standards of journalism.”

Gonzalez said he might file the complaint against ABS-CBN before the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP, Association of Broadcaster of the Philippines).

He also accused ABS-CBN reporter Jorge Cariño of asking “loaded” questions and claimed that it was not enough for the network to get the side of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

“The interview created an impact that he [Macapaar] is greater than life with his followers cheering at his back,” Gonzalez said.

He also claimed the interview terrorized people by the impression that MILF might launch attacks.

Gonzalez said ABS-CBN should have coordinated with authorities to help catch Macapaar instead of allegedly allowing itself to be used for the Moro rebel leaders’ propaganda.

However, Ressa said it was ABS-CBN’s “responsibility as journalists to report on people and events that affect public interest.”

She also stressed that “the public has the right to know” about Macapaar, who “is one of the country’s most wanted men, a key figure in the collapse of the peace process in Mindanao.”

Ressa pointed out that ABS-CBN has been covering Macapaar “for many years now — even during peacetime. We will continue to report on what he says and does with the same zeal and professionalism that we would use when covering his arrest — if and when that happens.”

==========

My Take:

Now, now.

Is the DOJ chief aware that Commander Bravo is not yet being tried and found guilty by a legitimate court?  If so, then he can never call Bravo  criminal at this point of time.

But if he would insist, then we might as well call the DOJ chief an anti-press freedom advocate.

Just thinking…

Statements: Another Cordillera son missing

October 22, 2008

By TEODORO B. BAGUILAT, JR.
GOVERNOR, PROVINCE OF IFUGAO

Yet another son of the Cordillera, another activist for our rights, has disappeared.

I do not know James Balao personally, but I know his kind. There are only a few of us who have the courage to devote one’s life to pursuing difficult causes. Yet he craves no praise or gratification. Just a desire that the coming generations of Cordillerans will live in a region of genuine peace, sustainable development and self-determination.

Thus, I join all those who have manifested their indignation over his disappearance. I condemn forces of political intolerance and brute force who have sought to silence Balao’s crusades with an act of terror.

For whatever ideology, political belief or religious persuasion that propels our actions, the value of non-violence and human rights must be upheld.

True, we live in a world of conflict, a war of attrition. But Cordillerans have for centuries resolved their conflicts respecting the rule of traditional law and human rights. The casualties of our wars were slain in acts of honor, not with treachery. The battles waged by our forefathers were for freedom, not for fascism.

These were the things James fought for. Despite the fears and the solitude, he struggled. We owe him this much to pray and demand that he be returned to the family and community he so loved. #

From Under This Hat: It has been 32 days

October 22, 2008

By KATHLEEN T. OKUBO

It has been 32 days now since James M. Balao fell victim of enforced diasappearance.

Last Friday in a rally organized by colleagues, family and friends a mabtad was re-echoed. It is fetad against enforced disappearances.

One speaker in the rally from central Bontoc who found it in her heart to pitch in her much valued help, seemed scared to be among angry militant organizations and their red banners. Apparently her rage at the violent abduction and more so that it can only be an enforced disappearance made her speak strongly against the act and the enforcers.

She made it clear that she was no member of any of the organizations in the rally but nevertheless she called on her townmates and fellow Cordillerans to cooperate, help find and surface James for it is the right thing to do.

She believed this abduction could not be done by a Cordilleran (“saan tayo nga aramid dayta”), she expressed this taboo was respected by the people of these mountains. She illustrated this as she narrated a community mobilization in Bontoc she had participated in to express her vehement condemnation of what was done to James.

She said, there was one time when the New People’s Army had captured seven soldiers of the Philippine military in the Mt. Province, the elders of the community with her among them called a mabtad to bring these soldiers back safe and alive.

For a few emotionally tensed and fired-up days, they negotiated, stood vigil through the night and pleaded for their release. The “prisoners of war” were safely handed over to them. They even had to make sure the military command will not maltreat them or count them as casualties when the community handed them over to the local command.

The people’s concern and value for life was very high and clearly expressed in this community action. The people together, in the face of a vengeful military and the NPA revolutionaries, showed no fear just the overwhelming concern for the lives and safety of the prisoners.

She strongly pleaded publicly to those who took James to surface him. And, as other speakers also expressed “for the abductors to find courage in themselves to surface him and if he had committed any crime together let us deal with it in the proper and legal process.”

  • * * * * *

Milestones: My family, colleagues and I would like to express through this column our deepest sympathies to the family of the late Bishop Richard Abellon Sr. who passed away October 16.

The grandfather, father, mentor, Bishop and my, along with others, refuge when my young son and I were abducted by the military some sixteen years ago. May his lifework be an inspiration to all of us whose lives he has, in one way or many other ways, touched. To his children and grand children, his good service and life experience is the weight of the Cordillera on our shoulders that we can generously share among others to continue guiding us thru strife and peace. #

Rights violations continue despite CHR — Coun. Cariño

October 22, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — Joining advocates on their call to surface Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) founding member James Balao, a city councilor here noted that present human rights violations have not changed from records of past administrations.

Councilor Richard Cariño pointed out that despite the existence of the constitutionally-created Commission on Human Rights (CHR), human rights violations continue as the incidents (HRVs) have not declined.

In a show of their condemnation to enforced disappearances, Cariño and members of the city council passed a resolution that condemns enforced disappearances, regardless of who the victims are.

“Our position against enforced disappearances is institutionalized under such resolution,” he said in an interview, after his talk in the gathering at the People’s Park here Friday, October 17, where participants urged the GMA administration and its security troops to surface Balao.

Balao was abducted by suspected elements of the intelligence units of the military and police on September 17 in Lower Tomay, La Trinidad, a few meters away from the PNP regional office of Camp Dangwa, the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance said.

Remembering abduction

Carino is reminded him of his clients known as Baguio 14 because of the abduction of Balao.

In 1988, 14 peasant leaders from Nueva Ecija were having a meeting at the Legarda Road here when they were abducted by military.

Together with human rights advocates, they went searching military camps but failed to locate the 14 peasants.

They learned afterwards that the 14 were at the Camp Allen, a military camp, in front the city hall.

Since the military were holding them without legal basis, they (military) under the leadership of a certain Major Garcia of the Philippine Army turned over the 14 to the Baguio City jail but after they were charged of subversion and illegal possession of firearms by their captors, said Cariño, who was an active member of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) during that period.

The cases filed against the then known Baguio 14 were dismissed, after six years that they had been jailed.

Meanwhile, elders from Bontoc, Mountain Province joined the gathering at the People’s Park.

Petra Macliing urged the people to unite and join the search for missing Balao. Her call is a support for CPA’s Mabtad Kaigorotan or campaign to search James Balao.

A veteran against the Chico dam project and anti-mining in their home village of Mainit, Macliing famous line for the military is to turn their gun into productive plow where they can produce food for the people.

Evelyn Miranda of the Am-Amung di Ifontok (Gathering of the Ifontok tribe) pointed out among the participants that the case of Balao is a case of a resident abducted in his own land.

She condemned the military for the abduction and urged residents to search for Balao as “he is our own blood.” The mother of James Balao has ascendants from Bontoc, pointed Miranda, who is also a council member of the Cordillera Elders Assembly, an alliance of elders groups from various tribes of the Cordillera.

Today is already the 30th day since James was abducted, CHRA said. # Arthur L. Allad-iw(NorDis)

Human rights group sneers at TF 211

October 22, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — The Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) sneered at the sincerity of the government efforts in investigating cases of extra-judicial killings under Task Force 211, a task force against political violence.

According to Jude Baggo, CHRA secretary general, the creation of this task force is just a scheme of the government to whitewash results of the investigations on extra-judicial killings and to make Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo seem to be doing something about human rights violations in the country.

“The fact that there are still killings all over the country and cases of enforced disappearances like that of James Balao, only shows how inutile the state is in prosecuting and putting the perpetrators to justice,” said Baggo.

TF 211 was formed November of 2007 through Administrative Order No. 211. Its mandate is to investigate political violence with focus on killings of militants, media practitioners and members of the trade unions.

At present, the task force is handling 251 cases with 12 resolved cases and 12 dismissals due to lack of sufficient evidence.

Department of Justice (DOJ) Under-secretary Ricardo Blancaflor, head of TF 211, said in a forum here Monday, cases of extra-judicial killings decreased 82-84% since the formation of the task force.

“The decrease is due to higher level of awareness of the people on the situation and the influence and pressure from all sectors,” said Blancaflor.

Blancaflor also cleared the involvement of the military in the killings saying that the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) should be the one investigated.

“More likely the killings are done by CPP-NPA and blamed on the military or police forces,” said Blancaflor referring to the alleged killings in Mindanao due to communist purges.

Human rights advocates attribute human rights violations to state forces since these are mandated to protect the citizens. Killings by other forces than those in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) or the Philippine National Police (PNP) fall under the category of criminal offense such as murder or kidnapping, according to the CHRA and its umbrella organization, Karapatan.

“Although we still welcome the creation of TF 211, we continue to challenge the administration to genuinely investigate the cases especially those cases involving high military officials like Gen. Jovito Palparan,” ended Baggo. # Cye Reyes (NorDis)

Similarities noted in the enforced disappearance of Jonas and James

October 22, 2008

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


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

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

The Jonas rice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The other missing JB

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

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

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

James was abducted September 17.

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

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

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

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

A thousand cranes for a wish

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writ if amparo

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

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

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

Ilocos court drops rebellion charges vs peace consultant

October 22, 2008

CANDON CITY — The Ilocos Sur provincial prosecutor’s office  dismissed rebellion charges against National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Peace Consultant Elizabeth Prinsipe as an end result of the preliminary investigation ordered by the court in July.

The three-page resolution signed by Fiscal Redentor Cardenas stated “the participation of the accused Elizabeth Prinsipe was not actual but only presumed. Under the basic tenets of criminal law, any doubt should always be interpreted in favor of the innocence of the accused.”

As an end result of the preliminary investigation ordered by Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 23 Judge Gabino Balbin Jr., the provincial prosecutors office found no probable cause of the crime rebellion. It was resolved that her name be dropped from the rebellion charge in Criminal Case No. 1260 in Candon City, Ilocos Sur RTC Branch 23 and that her case be dismissed.

Principe, through her lawyers in the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) and the Cordillera Indigenous People’s Legal Center (Dinteg) submitted her counter-affidavit August 5, after the court gave her 15 days to submit her statement.

‘Never set foot in Ilocos Sur’

Principe stated in her counter-affidavit she worked as a paramedic in Cagayan Valley until she was arrested in November 28, 2007 by virtue of the case filed in Branch 23 RTC Candon City, Ilocos Sur. She noted the evidence against her was based on hearsay particularly of those witnesses Gaspar Bagsingit, CIC Orlando Maguinsay and SSgt. Victoriano Jallorina who accused her of being a high- ranking officer of the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).

Principe denied such accusations and claimed she never set foot in Ilocos Sur except during her arraignment in January this year, where she was secretly transferred by the PNP on the night of January 22, although during the time of the attack of the house of Jallorina, she was in Cagayan Valley.

Her counter-affidavit concluded nobody was able to prove that she was part or participated in the pursuit of rebellion against the government or any of its instrumentality.

‘Ka Memay’

The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG)-Ilocos Sur however, countered the statement of Prinsipe questioning her profession as a paramedic.

“She had no reason as to why she was in the place of the camps of the rebels and she never gave any reason why she had to render medical services and educate people in the said places as she was never employed by the Government,” the CIDG counter to the counter-affidavit said.

The CIDG also claimed Prinsipe was a member of the CPP-NPA-NDFP and that her nom-de-guerre is Ka Memay. The statement also accused Leo Velasco, Prinsipe’s missing husband, as the CPP-NPA’s highest organ cadre.

Based on the allegations and counter allegations, the resolution noted it went over the pieces of evidence to determine its probable cause. Statements of Maguinsay, Basingit and Jallorina were reviewed to which the resolution stated that it was “presumed” and not “actual” evidence.  Such became the basis of the dismissal of the rebellion charge against Prinsipe.

Prinsipe, 58, a peace process consultant of the NDFP and a paramedic in profession, was abducted last year by military intelligence personnel while on her way to a medical check-up. The military and police also implicated her in the Manila Peninsula stand off last November 2007 and alleged her of multiple charges in Cagayan Valley and Ilocos Region where she was implicated in the strafing of the house of Jallorina in 1991.

Hope for release

Lorena Santos, daughter of Elizabeth Prinsipe and Leo Velasco and currently the spokesperson of Free Elizabeth Principe and Surface Leo Velasco Task Force welcome the decision of the provincial prosecutor’s office.

“I am deeply relieved to know that my mother’s rebellion case in Candon is finally dismissed,” Santos said in a text message.

Santos said this dismissal is a first step for her mother’s release. “This gives my family hope that my mother will be set free and so as other political prisoners,” she said in a text message.

Prinsipe and her lawyers from PILC and Dinteg is set to attend a hearing on October 22 at Candon City. # Rod Tajon(NorDis)

2 mamamahayag sa Davao binabantaan

October 21, 2008

BINABANTAAN ang dalawang mamamahayag sa Davao na nagsiwalat ng katiwalian sa lokal na gobyerno, ulat ng NUJP (National Union of Journalists of the Philippines).

Isang linggo matapos isiwalat ni Erin Lumosbog, anchor ng “Radyo Ronda”, isang programa ng RPN-9-dxKT ang umano’y tangkang pangingikil ng P1.2 Milyon ng anim na konsehal sa isang negosyante para bigyan ng permit sa quarrying, nakatanggap siya ng death threats sa text.

Nang ibatikos din ni James Pala ng “Radyo Rapido” ang nasabing mga konsehal, nakatanggap din siya ng tatlong death threats, ayon sa NUJP.

Umano’y inimbitahan ng mga mamamahayag ang mga konsehal na ibigay ang kanilang panig sa istorya pero tumanggi ang mga ito.

“Ipinapakita ng panghaharas sa dalawang mamamahayag ng Davao ang kultura ng karahasan at korupsiyon, at ang kawalang respeto sa balanse at matapat na mamamahayag, na mamamayagpag sa corridors of power ng bansa,” ayon sa NUJP.

Pinapurihan ng grupo sina Lumosbog at Pala para sa kanilang paninindigan sa kabila ng mga pagbabanta.(PinoyWeekly)

Imposibleng paratang sa kilusang paggawa

October 21, 2008

Ilang-Ilang D. Quijano

Atty. Remigio Saladero, batikang labor lawyer na kinasuhan ng arson at conspiracy to commit rebellion

HALOS 700 kaso ang hinahawakan ngayon ng Pro-Labor Legal Assistance Center o Place, opisina ng beteranong labor lawyer na si Atty. Remigio Saladero Jr. Para matugunan ang pangangailangan ng mga kliyenteng manggagawa, araw-araw dumadalo ang 50-anyos na abogado sa mga pagdinig sa korte at gabi-gabing gumagawa ng pleadings. Laking gulat na lamang niya nang biglang mapabilang sa 27 na akusado sa umano’y pambobomba ng NPA (New People’s Army) sa isang cell site ng Globe Telecom sa Lemery, Batangas noong Agosto 2.

Ayon sa testigong si Arvin Leviste, nagpakilalang Deep Penetration Agent ng Philippine Air Force, kabilang si Saladero sa mga nagbantay sa labas ng bakod ng cell site habang nagtatanim ng dinamita at nagsasaboy ng gasolina ang kanyang mga kasamahan. Sinalaysay ni Leviste ang pinagbatayan ng kasong arson at conspiracy to commit rebellion na isinampa sa Batangas City ng Globe Telecom noong Agosto 12.

Nagkakaisa ang progresibong mga grupo sa Timog Katagalugan na ang mga lider ay dinadawit sa nasabing akto ng rebelyon, bahagi ang kaso ng panghaharas ng gobyernong Arroyo sa mga aktibista sa ilalim ng programang kontra-insurhensiyang Oplan Bantay Laya. (Basahin ang balita rito)

Kung NPA ako…

“Kung NPA ako, dapat kumander ako at hindi simpleng tagabantay,” ani Saladero. Gradweyt ng abogasya sa San Beda College noong 1983, ika-17 siya sa mga pumasa sa bar exams sa sumunod na taon. Nagtapos din siya ng master’s degree sa Industrial Relations at Public Administration sa University of the Philippines Diliman. Miyembro rin siya ng Free Legal Assistance Group o FLAG mula noong 1990.

Noong nakabase pa siya sa Rizal, humawak si Saladero ng maraming kaso ng mga sibilyan, karamiha’y magsasaka, na pinagsususpetsiyahan ng militar na NPA. Kabilang dito ang lider-Dumagat na si Nicanor de los Santos, na binaril noong 2001 ng pinaghihinalaang mga miyembro ng Task Force Panther ng 2nd Infantry Division ng PA (Philippine Army). Ayon kay Saladero, ang pagtatanggol niya sa mga biktima ng mga paglabag sa karapatang pantao marahil ang dahilan kung bakit nagsimula siyang pag-initan ng militar. Bilang dating tagapangulo ng Bayan Muna-Rizal, aktibo rin ang abogado sa mga kilos-protesta na bitbit ang iba’t ibang isyu ng mga mamamayan.

Mula 1992 hanggang 1997, nagturo si Saladero ng Political Science, Business Law, at Labor Law sa Dominican College of San Juan at Lyceum College of Law. Kabilang siya sa mga nagtatag noong 2007 ng National Union of People’s Lawyers, pambansang alyansa ng progresibong mga abogado. Kasalukuyang legal consultant siya ng KMU (Kilusang Mayo Uno), militanteng sentro ng paggawa. Regular din siyang nagsusulat sa Pinoy Weekly ng kolum na pinamagatang “Husgahan Natin,” hinggil sa mga isyung legal sa paggawa.

Bukod sa marami niyang mga komitment, may sakit na diabetes at hypertension si Saladero. Umiinom siya ng anim na klase ng gamot araw-araw. Kabilang ito sa mga dahilan, aniya, kung bakit “imposibleng” maging kasapi siya sa pangkat ng NPA na nagpasabog sa cell site ng Globe Telecom.

Simula 2006, tiniktikan at hinaharas na ng pinaghihinalaang mga ahente ng militar si Saladero at iba pang abogado ng Place, ayon sa Center for Trade Union and Human Rights o CTUHR. Oktubre ng taong iyon, inamin ni Pfc. Rommel Felipe Santiago, nahuli ng pulisya matapos habulin ang mga unyonista ng Food Terminal Inc. sa Taguig City, na nagkokondukta sila ng surveillance sa Place. Noong Oktubre 2007, napansin ng mga istap ng Place na may di-kilalang kalalakihan na nagkokondukta ng 24 oras na pagbabantay sa opisina. Ito ay matapos hawakan ng law office ang kasong isinampa ng KMU sa Korte Suprema laban sa Human Security Act. Tumagal ang paniniktik nang ilang buwan.

Atake at paninira

Ayon kay Saladero, nakababahala ang lumalalang panliligalig ng Estado sa kilusang paggawa: “Pati abogado ng manggagawa hinaharas na. Para siguro wala nang magtanggol sa mga manggagawa at humina ang kilusang paggawa sa bansa. Kaliwa’t kanan pa naman ngayon ang mga atake at paninira rito.”

Noong Oktubre 7 bandang alas-tres ng umaga, isang di-nakilalang kalalakihan ang nagtangkang akyatin ang bakod ng Balai Obrero, opisina ng KMU sa Narra St., Project 3, Quezon City. Ayon sa isang saksi, may hawak itong kutsilyo. Nang sitahin ay bumaba ito at sumakay sa isang traysikel na lulan ang tatlo pa niyang kasamahan.

“Kung sila ay magnanakaw lamang, alam dapat nila na kami ay isang people’s organization na laging naghahanap ng rekurso…Marahil ang totoong motibo ay tiktikan kami, mag-iwan ng surveillance equipment, o magtanim ng ebidensiya na kami ay rebelde gaya ng iniimbento ng gobyernong Arroyo,” sabi ni Joselito Ustarez, executive vice-president ng KMU.

Naunang natuklasan ng KMU na inilista sila bilang “rebeldeng grupo” sa isang libro na inindorso ng Department of Education para sa mga estudyante ng hayskul. Sa pahina 27 ng librong Filipino I: Wika at Panitikan sa Makabagong Henerasyon, isinama ang KMU sa listahan ng mga rebeldeng grupo gaya ng Moro Islamic Liberation Front at NPA. Itinakdang aralin sa mga estudyante na magsaliksik hinggil sa mga “prinsipyong kanilang pinaniniwalaan” at magbigay ng mga paraan para makumbinsi silang “mapabalik sa pamahalaan.”

Binansagan ding “destabilisador” at “terorista” ang 30 opisyal ng Anita’s Home Bakehop Workers Union ng manedsment ng nagsusuplay ng tinapay para sa McDonald’s sa rehiyon ng Visayas. Iniulat pa ng mga manggagawa na binibisita sila ng mga pulis ng Mobolo, Cebu City habang sila ay nasa night shift para alamin ang kanilang mga aktibidad at kumbinsihin na huwag sumali sa unyon.

Samantala, ang mga unyonista ng International Wiring System sa Special Export Processing Zone ng Hacienda Luisita, diumano’y binibisita sa bahay, iniinteroga, at tinatakot ng mga miyembro ng 71st Infantry Batallion ng Northern Luzon Command at 7th Infantry Division ng PA. Pinadadalo ng militar ang mga manggagawa sa mga porum kung saan hinihikayat silang huwag makibahagi sa paggigiit ng mga hiling sa Collective Bargaining Agreement. Inaakusahan ding binibigyan ng unyon ng pondo ang Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA.

Kailangang organisado

Sa tugon ng gobyerno sa Petition to Review the Generalized System of Preferences Program Status na inihain ng International Labor Rights Fund, may binitiwang kontrobersiyal na mga salita si Arturo Brion, dating kalihim ng Department of Labor and Employment at ngayo’y Associate Justice ng Korte Suprema. “Ang kasalukuyang giyera laban sa mga rebeldeng komunista ay inilulunsad sa maraming mga prente. Sa kilusang paggawa ang pinakaprominente rito dahil naka-ugat ang kilusang komunista sa kilusang paggawa,” aniya.

Kinukumpirma nito na “sistematiko” ang tangka ng Estado na durugin ang militanteng kilusang paggawa sa pamamagitan ng malisyosong pag-uugnay nito sa kilusang komunista, ayon sa CTUHR.

Para kay Ustarez, nanganganib ang trabaho at buhay ng kanilang mga miyembro dahil maaaring gamitin ng manedsment ng iba’t ibang mga kompanya ang “rebelde” o “teroristang” bansag sa KMU para iharas at sibakin sila. Tangka rin umano itong pahinain ang lehitimong mga laban ng grupo para sa tunay na interes ng mga mangagawa gaya ng pagsasabatas sa P125 dagdag-na sahod at pagtatayo ng mga unyon.

Iginigiit ng KMU na ngayon higit kailanman, kailangan ng mga manggagawang Pilipino ang malakas at militanteng kilusang paggawa. May pitong porsiyento lamang (o 2.4 milyon ng 33.5 milyong manggagawa) ng buong puwersang paggawa ang organisado. Malayung-malayo pa ang minimum na sahod sa kinakailangan ng pamilyang Pilipino para mabuhay—34 porsiyento lamang ito ng Family Living Wage, ayon sa National Wages and Productivity Commission.

“Masamang pangitain ang mga pangyayari,” sabi ni Saladero. Gayunpaman, nangako siyang patuloy na ipagtatanggol ang karapatan ng mga manggagawa na ipinagkaloob ng batas pero niyuyurak naman mismo ng Estado.(PinoyWeekly)

Buto at ilan pang palatandaan ng malagim na kaganapan sa Limay

October 21, 2008

Raymund B. Villanueva


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

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

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

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

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

Kampo ng kalupitan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Malinaw at kapani-paniwalang testimonya’

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Patutunayan ko sa kanila na tama ako’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gabi sa kampo

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

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

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

‘Breakthrough’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Malakas na ebidensiya

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

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

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

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

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

Natapos ang misyon, nagpapatuloy ang paghahanap sa katarungan

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

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

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

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

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

(Mga larawan ni Raymund Villanueva)

Si Raymund Villanueva ay mamamahayag mula sa Kodao Productions Inc.

LAWYER ASKS SC: Declare ‘torture’ camp a crime scene

October 20, 2008

By Norman Bordadora
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 03:49:00 10/20/2008

MANILA, Philippines—A lawyer for the families of two missing University of the Philippines activists has asked the Supreme Court to declare a former military encampment in Bataan—where anthropologists had found burned human bones—“a crime scene,” and to protect evidence of crime in the area from being tampered with.

In an urgent motion, lawyer Rex Fernandez cited what he said were attempts by unidentified people to break into the now abandoned area.

Fernandez filed the motion last week after a fact-finding team of human rights advocates visited Barangay Bliss in Limay, Bataan, and dug up what anthropologists in the group said were fragments of human bones and personal articles, like a yellow slipper, a shirt and a mattress.

He acted on behalf of the mothers Erlinda Cadapan and Concepcion Empeño, who have been searching for the past two years for their missing daughters, UP students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño. Their daughters’ companion, Manuel Meriño, has also been missing.

The lawyer asked the court to order the local government and the police of Limay to protect any evidence of crime in the area from “contamination, suppression and concealment.”

Merino’s slippers

He also asked the high tribunal to allow the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), the Senate committee on justice and human rights, and the human rights group Karapatan to continue with their investigation and with their search for other “burial sites” in the area.

The fact-finding group made diggings in the area on Monday and Tuesday last week. They were directed to the place by former detainee Raymond Manalo, who said a detachment of the Philippine Army’s 24th Infantry Battalion used to be located there.

Manalo has said it was in the same place where he and his brother Reynaldo were held by their military captors and where Sherlyn, Karen and Meriño were also detained and tortured. He said it was also there where Meriño was allegedly “burned.”

The brothers escaped in 2007 after 18 months in captivity. Manalo said Meriño was wearing a pair of yellow rubber slip-ons when he last saw him.

Camp ‘erased’

Fernandez said police escorts who were with the fact-finding group “reported that there were attempts by unidentified persons to intrude into the area on the night of Oct. 13.” He asked the tribunal to place the area under custodia legis, or court supervision.

He said “the whole camp” pointed to by Raymond Manalo also showed evidence of “acts to conceal the area and to make the area unnoticeable as a military camp.”

“All visible signs of military encampment [were] erased,” Fernandez said.

The lawyer, who was with the fact-finding team, said concrete slabs in what used to be a camp had been broken and the pieces thrown around.

Evidence might be removed

He said Manalo had also pointed to where military structures used to stand and where foxholes had been dug. People in the community had also confirmed that there used to be a military camp in the area, he said.

He said there was danger “that the area might be entered into again and attempts will be made to take out evidence and clean the place further.”

Fernandez said the two-day CHR inspection gave the group just enough time to undertake one digging and that Manalo had pointed to the group eight other possible burial sites.

The Manalo brothers have been granted a writ of amparo by the Court of Appeals. The writ is aimed at protecting people from harassment by security forces and also compels the military to help locate missing people.

In supporting the appellate court’s action in the Manalo case, the high court also upheld its findings linking members of the military—including retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan—to the abduction of the Manalo brothers.

Rights group wants farmer slay probed

October 20, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The group said the victims should be immediately indemnified.

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

Aeta Recounts Nightmarish Encounter with the Philippines’s Anti-Terrorism Law

October 20, 2008

MANILA — On March 21, 2008 ,at 8 am, Edgar de la Cruz Candule, a 23-year-old man who belongs to an indigenous tribe Aeta, was at the house of his friend, Patricio Domino, taking breakfast in barangay (village) Carael, Botolan, Zambales, when the policemen arrived.

About 20 policemen, all of whom are attached to the Botolan Municipal Police of the Philippine National Police (PNP), were carrying long firearms and wearing full battle uniforms when they entered Patricio’s house, where they declared a raid shortly after. Edgar’s friends, who were frightened by the police arrival, had to run in different directions leaving him behind.

Edgar, who is a resident in a resettlement area of Aetas in Baguilat of the same municipality, was caught by surprise. He was not able to move as he was in a state of shock when the police came. While some of the policemen pursued his friends who were running away, the other policemen were also searching the whole house and premises.

About three to five policemen collared him and handcuffed him while two others were punching him on the chest one after the other. He was forced to admit he is a member of the New People’s Army (NPA), an illegal armed group.

Edgar was teary-eyed as he recounts his ordeal while in police custody when he was interviewed in the days following his arrest. After his arrest, Edgar was first taken to Municipal Police of Botolan before he was transferred to the Camp Conrado S. Yap in Iba, Zambales where he was held for three days.

While Edgar was in the police camp, the persons taking him in custody, who did not introduce their names and identity, had him subjected to questioning without the presence of his legal counsel.

He was placed in a room where he was punched twice on the chest. They electrocuted his abdomen and forced him to admit that he owns a caliber .45 pistol, a magazine assembly for a caliber .45 and several live ammunitions they had seized from the house from where he was taken.

Those questioning him also threatened to kill Edgar should he deny his membership with the New People’s Amy (NPA), despite also claiming that Edgar and his group had already been under surveillance for a long period of time, over their supposed terrorist activities in the area.

It was only on March 24 that Edgar was transferred to Provincial Jail in Iba, Zambales. It is learned later that he had already been charged for illegal possession of firearms, for supposedly possessing the firearms which the policemen had recovered from the house; the same firearms that the persons questioning him had forced him to admit he had owned before the prosecutor’s office

However, on 1 April prosecutor Esteban Mulon Jr., had the charge against him amended from illegal possession of firearms into violation of Section 3 (b) Article 134 for Rebellion or Insurrection and Section 6 for Accessory of the Human Security Act of 2007 (Republic Act 9372). The original charge has likewise been absorbed into the amended information.

In amending the charge against Edgar, the prosecutor handling the case, Esteban A. Mulon, Jr. resolves that;

“On 21 March 2008, said accused conspiring with persons whose identities are unknown, did then and there, willfully and openly professing himself as a member of the New People’s Army (NPA) and advocating the overthrow of the legitimate government by force of arms using unlicensed firearms and ammunitions and by inciting others to commit acts of rebellion thereby sowing and creating a condition of widespread and extraordinary fear and panic among the populace in order to coerce the government to give in to their demands”

Edgar has been arraigned sometime in June of this year. The charges on him are presently being heard before Judge Consuelo Amog-Bocar of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 71 in Iba, Zambales.

Edgar’s case illustrates how obscure the interpretation of and the application of the Human Security Act of 2007 are. Criminal liability for an act of terrorism should only exist once it is substantially proven, under Section 3 of the law: “thereby sowing and creating a condition of widespread extraordinary fear and panic among the populace, in order to coerce the government to give in to an unlawful demand”.

However, in Edgar’s case there exists neither widespread panic nor fear, having been sown, nor was there an unlawful demand that he and his group made during the incident, where they supposedly committed the crime. When the police came into the house where he and his friends were staying they were caught by surprise and it even resulted in Edgar standing still, he was in such a state of shock during the incident.

Also, the supposed recovery of firearms from the house where the victim was at the time staying, is highly questionable. There were no information on whether or not the policemen had presented to the occupants proper court documents to allow them to conduct searches inside the house; they did not properly introduce themselves to the occupants of the house; and failed to inform the victim of his rights during arrest and while in custody of the police.

In 28 November 2007, Martin Scheinin, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, expressed concern in his report, A/HRC/6/17/Add.1 p20 to 28, to several provisions of the RA 9372. Scheinin viewed the law as “not in accordance with the international human rights standards”.

Special Rapporteur Scheinin wrote that Section 3, to which Edgar is being charged: “the criminal liability (should have been) limited to clear and precise provisions in the law, so as to respect the principle of certainty of the law and ensure that it is not subject to which would broaden the scope of the proscribed conduct”. However, in Edgar’s case, the prosecutor resolved to consider his supposed admission of being a member of a rebel group and to have constituted an act of terror already.

Also, the amended information to which prosecutor Mulon has written (as underlined above) itself was a verbatim text to the provision of section 3 of the RA 9372 which the victim has supposedly violated. It has not been able to substantially proven though, as it is written in the amended information, that the victim committed the offense of terrorism.

(This story is part of the letter campaign launched by the Asian Human Rights Commission, based in Hongkong. The commission urges the public to write letters to the authorities urging for their immediate intervention in the victim’s case. Should it be established that the victim should have not been held accountable to an offense charged on him, it must be dropped and he must be released without further delay. The victim’s allegation of torture while in police custody should also be thoroughly investigated.

To support this appeal, please click here.)

(pinoypress.net)

(Photos) Signature campaign, candlelighting, writ of Amparo, Sanggunian Bayan resolution for the surfacing of James Balao

October 16, 2008

Signature campaign, candlelighting, writ of Amparo,

Sanggunian Bayan resolution for the surfacing of James Balao

Baguio City

October 10, 2008

Signing petitioons, lighting candles and filing for write of amparo for the surfacing of James Balao. The Benguet Sanggunian Bayan issued a resolution on enforced disappearance and Arhtur, father of James Balao, wrote a letter for his surfacing

JAMES BALAO PROFILE

James M. Balao is a founding member of the Cordillera Peoples’ Alliance (CPA). He was among the members of the Cordillera Consultative Committee who facilitated the establishment of the CPA in June 1984, and serviced the Alliance’s needs in research and documentation, education and information-dissemination, organizing and support-building during its formative years. He made invaluable contributions to elucidating the problem of national oppression, and the rights of indigenous peoples to ancestral land and to self-determination.

James holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of the Philippines, Baguio, where he double-majored in Psychology and Economics, and served as editor-in-chief of the campus paper, Outcrop. Even before graduating in 1983, he had already started working full-time in research and education on Cordillera issues, as part of the implementing staff of the Cordillera Schools Group’s Cordillera Studies Program. In 1986, he served on the staff of the Constitutional Commission, assisting anthropologist Ponciano Bennagen in the work of securing provisions for the rights of indigenous peoples in the 1987 Consitution.

When James returned from Manila, he became the first Head of the CPA’s Education Commission. Except for a brief period of political detention in Banaue, Ifugao in 1988, he has since been assisting the various rural formations of the CPA with their research and education needs. From 1994 to 1997, he worked with the Ifugao Research and Development Center, and focused his studies on the situation of the Ifugao peasantry. He helped establish the Ifugao Peasant Leaders’ Forum.

A native of Benguet and an indigenous person belonging to the Kankanaey-Ibaloi tribes, James is currently the President of the Oclupan Clan Association. Among his numerous responsibilities is the documentation and registration of the clan’s properties.

James is the eldest son of Arthur and Jane Balao of Atok and La Trinidad, Benguet. He was born on the April 19, 1961. #

James is the eldest son of Arthur and Jane Balao of Atok and La Trinidad, Benguet. He was born on the April 19, 1961. Photo above shows James upon graduation from the University of the Philippines Baguio in 1983. James holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of the Philippines, Baguio, where he double-majored in Psychology and Economics, and served as editor-in-chief of the campus paper, Outcrop.(Photo courtesy Balao Family)

James during the 1988 Cordillera Day Celebration in Ifugao. (Archive Photo/ Erik de Castro, Reuters)

An Update in our Efforts to Surface James Balao
October 3, 2008

Dear Friends:

This is to update you on our continuing efforts for the immediate surfacing of James M. Balao. The response to our urgent alert, call for support and missing bulletin is widespread. It is inspiring that the support continues to pour in. Sadly, we have not gathered new information on the whereabouts and state of James and thus, we need to continue and even double our efforts to locate, appeal and call for the immediate release of James from those who keep him in their custody. Each day that passes with no positive development, his life in the hands of his captors, is an unimaginable torture to all of us. Each day, the family and us wait and hope for new information yet at the same time dread that it is of his death. Thus, your continuing support becomes more urgent in saving the life of James.

While we continue with our efforts, we reiterate that the enforced disappearance of James is not an isolated incident. It is an attack on the CPA, on its leaders and members for their assertion of indigenous peoples rights and active involvement on economic, social, and political issues. It has taken a very critical position and/or opposition on government policies of liberalization, privatization, deregulation and militarization.

Let us never forget!: the killings of Ama Daniel Ngayaan, Romy Gardo, Markus Bangit, Albert Terredano, Alyce Omengan-Claver and many more; the continuing harassment and surveillance on our persons and offices; and malicious tagging by the military that we are communist terrorists, thus, enemies of the State.

These attacks including the disappearance of James point to a well-planned, state-instigated campaign to harass, intimidate, terrorize, and ultimately attempt to incapacitate organizations and offices who have been involved in the broad democratic movement, particularly on issues concerning violations of human rights and indigenous peoples’ rights. We are witnesses to a renewed and still unfolding campaign of state terrorism.

Search

Immediately after we posted the missing bulletin, relatives of James and volunteers mounted posters on James’ disappearance at Fairview, Avelino where he was last seen and in public posting areas. Two teams scoured the streets near his apartment to ask his neighbors for any information they might provide on James’ disappearance.

The family and we immediately conducted inquiries with the camps of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP). The Balao family, Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) and the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) visited the AFP Military Intelligence Group (MIG) at Camp Allen, the AFP Intelligence Service Unit (ISU) at Navy Base, Pacdal and PNP Regional Office of the Cordillera Administrative Region (PRO-CAR) in Camp Dangwa. We made calls to PNP Officials in Pangasinan and Cagayan to get their commitment in our search for James.

Just this September 30, two teams of volunteers from the CPA and CHRA accompanied the Balao family, to Abra and Ilocos to inquire with AFP and PNP camps. The teams visited and inquired with the following units: (a) 50th Infantry Battalion Philippine Army (IBPA) at Guimod Norte, San Juan, Ilocos Sur (IS); (b) IS PNP Provincial Office at Bulag, Bantay, IS and the AFP offices within the compound; (c) PNP Ilocos Sur Regional Mobile Group (RMG) in Bio, Tagudin, IS, (d) 503rd Brigade PA (BDE) in Sulvec, Narvacan, IS; (e) 503rd Brigade PA headquarters in Lagangilang, Abra and the (f) PNP Regional Police Office at San Fernando, La Union. All of the units visited denied that they have James in their custody.

Two days after, the Balao family and their clan together with the CPA and the CHRA, went back to Ilocos Sur upon receiving information from reliable sources within the military and the police that the disappearance of James was undertaken by the Military Intelligence Group (MIG) and Intelligence Service Unit (ISU) of Region 1. (Region 1 as an administrative region covers the provinces of La Union, Ilocos Sur, Ilocos Norte and Pangasinan.) The provincial government of Ilocos Sur through Gov. Deogracias Victor “DV” Savellano initiated a dialogue between the family and the military. A certain Lt. Wilfredo Tambio and Sgt. Marcelo Garcia acting under orders of Col. Roy Devesa of the 503rd BDE, met with the family. The said military officers did not give an outright denial that they have James in their custody or participated in his disappearance. Provincial Board member, Atty. Robert Tudayan also assisted the family during this second visit.

Public Information, and Protests

Aside from the inquiries with camps, we also held information dissemination activities, three (3) press conferences, so far (September 23, 29 and 30). The urgent action, letter of concern, and CHRA and CPA press statements were distributed online. A petition calling on the government to surface James is being circulated in schools, communities etc., which is also posted online and has so far gathered close to a thousand signatures.

Activities denouncing the enforced disappearance have been held regularly (Monday, Wednesday and Friday) at the Malcolm Square/People’s Park since September 24. James’ family, relatives, friends, different people’s organizations and institutions have been consistently present during the activities. The number of people who show their solidarity in these activities consistently grows.

Very recently, the ALL UP Academic Union Baguio Chapter and the Interfaith Gathering for Truth and Accountability have issued their statements of concern on the enforced disappearance.

Local Government Support

Baguio City Mayor Peter Rey Bautista with newly-installed Baguio City Police Office Director (BCPO) Wilfredo Franco have stated to the media that they will convene the Task Force Balao (TF) to look into this case. The said TF has yet to coordinate with the family.

The Baguio City Council in its session on September 29 collectively and unanimously approved the following resolution forwarded by councilors Perlita Chan-Rondez, Nicasio Palaganas, Fred Bagbagen, Galo Weygan, Richard Carino, and Nicasio Palaganas, and Vice-Mayor Daniel Farinas: RESOLUTION CONDEMNING THE ENFORCED DISAPPEARANCE OF JAMES M. BALAO, MEMBER OF THE CORDILLERA PEOPLES ALLIANCE (CPA) AND ASSISTING HIS FAMILY, THE CORDILLERA PEOPLES ALLIANCE (CPA) AND THE CORDILLERA HUMAN RIGHTS ALLIANCE (CHRA) IN THE IMMEDIATE SURFACING AND RELEASE OF JAMES M. BALAO BY HIS CAPTORS. We are hoping for similar actions from other local government units.

National Lobby and Support

The family and the CPA have written the concerned desks or committees of the following government agencies: the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP), the GRP-NDFP Joint Monitoring Committee-CARHRIHL.

In an audience with our national alliance KARAPATAN (Alliance for Peoples Rights) on September 22, CHR Commissioner de Lima committed to look into the case of James and put his case as a priority for the Commission.

Through the CHRA, the family and the CPA met with Bayan Muna Representative Teodoro Casino last September 25. The partylist representative committed to bring up the case at the Committee on Human Rights in Congress aside from assisting the family in the search for James.

Recently, the family together with the CPA appealed to the members of the Senate and members of the House of Representatives from the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) for assistance. They also met with some police and military officials.

The office of Senator Francisco ‘Kiko’ Pangilinan issued a press release entitled: “Kiko backs amnesty international’s call for safe return of missing indigenous rights activist; calls on military to be transparent.” This is available in the website of the Philippine Senate. On our end, we circulated this to the media.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was likewise informed about the case and they committed to inquire with the Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM) of the AFP and with the 5th ID in Gamu, Isabela.

International Support

The Amnesty International has issued its own urgent alert on September 26, the New Zealand Human Rights Commission through its Senior Advisor Dr. Jill Chrisp communicated that she shall raise the concern with the Commission on Human Rights-Philippines with whom they have a joint project with. The International Work Group on Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA) based in Denmark has submitted their Letter of Concern to the concerned government offices in the Philippines.

The United Nations Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) received and immediately transmitted the complaint filed by the family last September 26 to the Philippine government.

On September 30, Forum Asia submitted a Fact Sheet on the disappearance of James Balao to the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) Regional Office in Bangkok.

The US Embassy in the Philippines is including the case of James Balao in their Human Rights Report for the year 2008.

We also received immediate response from different organizations through the International League of People’s Struggles (ILPS) to which the CPA is affiliated. A lot of organizations, groups, and individuals from different countries in Europe, Asia, and America including the Philippines and members of the CPA Friends Abroad have also responded by signing in the Petition, sending Letters of Concern to Philippine government agencies and circulating the urgent alert. However, despite the foregoing extensive effort, we have done with the family and the international support continuously pouring in, the captors of James have not yet surfaced him. Each day that passes with no positive development, his life in the hands of his captors, your continuing support becomes more urgent in saving the life of James.

We continue to hope that due to our efforts, the captors of James shall surface him and those responsible for his enforced disappearance made duly accountable. In behalf of the Balao family, we are very grateful for your continued support that has made us defiant against state fascism during these trying times.

Respectfully,

BEVERLY L. LONGID
Chairperson
Cordillera Peoples Alliance
#2 P. Guevarra St, Baguio City
e-mail: cpa@cpaphils.org
tel: 074 442-2115

JUDE BAGGO
Secretary General
Cordillera Human Rights Alliance
#10 Rimando Road, Baguio City
e-mail: chra@cpaphils.org
tel: 074 445-2586

Program for the surfacing of James Balao at the Baguio City People’s Park

Benguet Sanggunina Bayan in Session, condemns the enforced disappearance of James Balao

Download: Resolution No. 14, Oct. 6, 2008

Download: Statement of Mountain Province Gov. Maximo Dalog against enforced disappearnces

CPA, Balao Family Laud Baguio City Council Resolution Supporting the Search for James Balao and to Condemn his Involuntary Disappearance

On September 29, 2008, the Baguio City Council unanimously passed a resolution condemning the involuntary disappearance of James M. Balao and extending full support to the Balao family, the CPA and the CHRA in search of James. Balao, an indigenous person belonging to the Kankanaey and Ibaloi of Benguet, is a founding member of the CPA who was missing since September 17, 2008.

In behalf of the Balao family, the CPA extends its sincerest thanks to and lauds the officials of the City of Baguio for this concrete step forward in our search for James. Such move is also a solid action in the recognition and assertion of our basic rights to life and security.

The CPA, its officers and members, have always been under threat by the State and victims of its terrorism, even in regimes before the US-Arroyo’s. We have lost many of our valued colleagues who have done no harm but assert the rights of indigenous peoples, yet they were felled by State Terror which has significantly and gravely aggravated especially under this regime. Under this situation, the Council of Baguio City had stood by its constituents, including the CPA, its members and officers by passing resolutions during trying times when the CPA was under attack: on the unlawful arrest of Jose Cawiding, then secretary general of the Metro Baguio Tribal Elders and Leaders Assembly and former staff of the CPA Education Commission in 2007; and on the extrajudicial killing of CPA Elders Desk Regional Coordinator and Regional Council Member Markus Bangit in 2006.

The attack against CPA is an attack against the people. The city council’s action through a resolution condemning the involuntary disappearance of James demonstrates they have not only stood by CPA but by the people, their constituents. These acts of solidarity and support to the Cordillera peoples’ movement are significant and have inspired us to carry on, even with the intensifying state terror, knowing that they are behind us and recognize the importance of our work.

There is nobody more liable and accountable for James’ disappearance than the State, through the AFP’s military intelligence and security units, and even the PNP. We challenge the AFP and PNP, which have remained mum and indifferent about James’ involuntary disappearance since September 17, to surface James Balao if indeed they truly are champions of people’s rights and democracy.

We hope that other government institutions and more local governments in the Cordillera and all over the country, such as the provincial and municipal levels, would also concretely aid us in this situation that we, the CPA, and the Balao Family are in. Every part of the government should be doing their part because the government exists to serve and protect the people. We continue to appeal to the public and to the officials of Benguet to also urgently extend its support in our search for James Balao. James is the eldest of four children, and is the son of Mr. Arthur and Mrs. Jane Balao of La Trinidad and Atok.

James had unselfishly given himself in service to his fellow Cordillera indigenous peoples through his work as CPA and Clan President of the Oclupan Clan Association. Now is an opportune moment for us to fight for our right to life, our right to survive as humans and as indigenous peoples. Help us find James M. Balao. #

Press conference for the surfacing of James Balao

Download: Letter of Arthur, father of James

Filing of the write of amparo for James Balao

STATEMENT FROM THE INTERFAITH GATHERING FOR TRUTH AND ACCOUNTABILITY ON THE ENFROCED DISAPPEARANCE JAMES BALAO

James Balao, a founding member of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) is missing since September 17. His family, friends and colleagues have searched long-enough to find him. The agony lingers, the emotion heightens.

James Balao is a victim of enforced disappearance, which by definition is state perpetrated. This is based on his long time involvement to the CPA, an organization branded as left-leaning and critical to government. James is the first case of enforced disappearance in the Cordillera. According to a national alliance for human rights KARAPATAN, there are 199 cases of enforced disappearances under the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration. The three recent cases of enforced disappearances in the country happened in a span of less than a week, 2 cases immediately preceded the disappearance of James, in September 20 and 21. The victims are peasant organizers in Bataan.

We are outraged with the waves of enforced disappearances in the country. This alarming reality directly undermines the sanctity and integrity of life. The darkness gripping their victims and the sufferings of their families and loved-ones could not be captured by words. It is brutal with the victims frequently tortured and in constant fear for their lives. Often, the captors of the enforcedly disappeared (desaparacidos) never release them and their fate remains unknown. This must stop!

We hold the present administration accountable for the enforced disappearance of James Balao and to the many victims of human rights violations in the country under an undeclared martial law. Extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, political harassments and persecutions that are widely happening under this regime are glaring evidences of injustices. These acts must be condemned!

It is necessary for us to challenge the state and all its instrumentalities to surface James Balao unconditionally and immediately. We cannot be blind to gross violations of human rights and turn deaf to the people’s cry.

The Interfaith Gathering for Truth and Accountability condemns in strongest terms the state perpetrated disappearance of James Balao. We support the call of his family, friends and colleagues for him to be surfaced immediately. We appeal to the public to be one with us in a sustained effort to fight enforced disappearances alongside with other forms of human rights violations. We demand no less than justice!

Stop Enforced Disappearances! Surface James Balao Now!

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me.
To bring good news to the poor
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind
To let the oppressed go free. To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Luke 4:16-21

INTERFAITH GATHERING FOR TRUTH AND ACCOUNTABILITY
September 29, 2008

Dialogue with the 50th Infantry Battalion

(Arkibong Bayan)

(Photos Courtesy of Cordillera Peoples Alliance)

SC affirms Palparan link to abduction

October 13, 2008

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

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

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

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

Raymond did not identify the people who allegedly torched Merino.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace groups shouldn’t be used as smokescreen of gov’t in peace efforts

October 13, 2008

DAVAO CITY, October 12, 2008—A peace advocate and founder of Kusog Mindanaw (Strong Mindanao) has reminded peace groups and coalitions in Mindanao not to be used as “smokescreen” of the government’s real intention in peacemaking.

Fr. Eliseo Mercado said Saturday that there are groups which have been approached by the government and used in its “camouflaging tactics” in order to pursue peace and development in Mindanao.

He added that the present government is already unpopular and inept to fulfill its commitments in the controversial memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain.

Mercado said that because of its “unpopularity”, the Arroyo government is now seeking the help and assistance of highly regarded peace groups in Mindanao to mediate in its peace efforts.

“The integrity of Arroyo government in terms of peace efforts has already dropped. It has no social capital to pursue with peace efforts,” Mercado told the group of consecrated women in the Archdiocese of Davao in a gathering Saturday at the MIC Cursillo House in Torres St., this city.

That is why, he continued, “Mrs. Arroyo turned 90-degrees in saying that her government will no longer sign the peace accord with MILF. Now, she loses her credibility.”

Mercado also explained that Arroyo’s use of disarmament, demobilization and rehabilitation (DDR) framework for peace negotiations with the MILF is misplaced.

“While DDR is part of the supposed entire comprehensive peace agreement of the government with the rebels, it should not be used as front in negotiating,” said Mercado, also former member of the government’s peace panel.

According to DDR in Peace Agreements and UN Peacekeeping Mandates, disarmament entails the actual collection of arms and ammunition, while demobilization is a process that separates the combatants from military service or armed troops and may include the establishments of camps and receiving areas where former combatants hand in their weapons and in return receive counseling, vocational training or economic assistance.

Reintegration (Rehabilitation as used by Arroyo) programs support the immediate and medium term social and economic inclusion of former combatants into their communities of origin or new communities. (Mark S. Ventura) (CBCPNews)

KMU Leader, Lawyer Slam Tagging of Union as ‘Rebel Group’ in Textbook

October 12, 2008

The KMU is tagged as a “rebel group” in a high school textbook; one of its lawyers is slapped with criminal charges in connection with the burning of a cellsite; there was an attempt to break into their national office. All these, says one of the KMU’s leaders, have the objective of destroying the workers’ movement.

BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
LABOR WATCH
Bulatlat

The executive vice chairman and the chief legal counsel of the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU or May 1st Movement) have condemned the labor center’s tagging as a “rebel group” in a high school textbook that has been in circulation since 2003.

In the book Filipino: Wika at Panitikan sa Makabagong Henerasyon I (Filipino: Language and Literature for the New Generation I) – written by Angelina Binsol and Teresita Lacsina, examined by Encarnacion Jimenez, and published by Diwa Scholastic Press, Inc., the KMU is listed as a “rebel group” along with the New People’s Army (NPA), the National Democratic Front (NDF), the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The listing occurs as part of an exercise where the students are instructed to research on how to contribute toward the surrender of these groups’ members.

The same list describes the NPA as being under the leadership of Bernabe Buscayno, more commonly known by his former nom de guerre “Kumander Dante”.

For several years during the 1960s and 1970s, Buscayno was known as the highest-ranking NPA leader. He was arrested in 1976 and, together with opposition politician Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr., was found guilty of subversion, illegal possession of firearms, and murder. He was sentenced to death by firing squad two years later. But his sentence was never carried out and he lived to see what is now known as the EDSA I uprising of 1986, which ousted the Marcos regime. He never rejoined the NPA: he ran for senator in 1987, and has repeatedly declared that he no longer believes in the armed struggle.

In an Oct. 11 press conference in Quezon City, KMU executive vice chairman Lito Ustarez said the tagging of the KMU as a “rebel group” is part of the government’s offensive against its critics. “Because the KMU is the one labor center that really advances workers’ interests, it is being lumped into the same league with groups that are considered enemies of the state,” Ustarez said.

The KMU executive vice chairman said the union’s tagging as a “rebel group”, which they discovered last September, is just one of the many forms of harassment that they have been experiencing, not just from the Arroyo administration but also from capitalists.

He cirted the case of Remigio Saladero, KMU’s chief legal counsel, who was recently accused by telecommunications corporation Globe Philippines of being among 27 “NPA members” who burned the company’s cellsite in Batangas. Saladero, together with 26 Southern Tagalog activists – all leaders of legal and progressive organizations – has been slapped with criminal charges in connection with the Globe cellsite burning.

“They tagged him as an NPA member to have an excuse for arresting him without warrant,” Ustarez said.

Saladero, for his part, denounced the criminal charges against him and the 26 Southern Tagalog activists as “false, incredible, fantastic, and part of the intensifying repression of workers.”

He noted that even labor lawyers are no longer spared from open harassment. “This is so that no one will be left to defend workers,” he said.

Ustarez also cited a recent attempt to break into the KMU office in Quezon City. On Oct. 6, at around 3 a.m., a man carrying a knife was seen scaling the walls of the Balai Obrero compound in Proj. 3, Quezon City, where the KMU national office is based. Citing eyewitness accounts, Ustarez said the man was accompanied by three lookouts in a tricycle nearby. When one of the neighbors was awakened, the man jumped down and ran off with his companions.

Ustarez said they suspect the would-be burglars could actually be military personnel. “Witnesses said they were burly men sporting crew-cut hair,” he said.

The KMU leader said all these “attacks” against his group have the objective of destroying the workers’ movement. (Bulatlat)

Balao Family Files Amparo Petition

October 12, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Letter of Concern from Filipino Scholars in the US: On the Enforced Disappearance of James Balao

October 12, 2008

Letter of Concern from Filipino Scholars in the US: On the Enforced Disappearance of James Balao (Cordillera People’s Alliance)

We are alarmed and disturbed with the enforced disappearance of Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) member James M. Balao since September 17, 2008. His family has no information regarding his whereabouts up to this moment. We urgently call for the immediate and unconditional surfacing of James, in the spirit of upholding our basic human rights, very basic of which is the right to life and security which must not be denied to anyone.

His enforced disappearance is being attributed to his work with the legal people’s movement advocating indigenous peoples rights, human rights and social justice. Balao has reported that he was being surveilled since June and this heightened until his disappearance last week. The CPA and the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) point to military intelligence agents as the perpetrators of this violation.

Since the Arroyo government implemented its Operation Plan Bantay Laya in 2001, members and leaders of legal and legitimate people’s organizations such as the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) have been targeted for neutralization by agents of the state and are unjustly labeled as communist fronts and terrorist organizations. Innocent lives have already been claimed as a result of this State policy of political and extrajudicial killings, and Balao is the second case of enforced disappearance to a CPA member or officer, since Ama Daniel Ngayaan was abducted in 1987.

We ask the Philippine National Police, the Armed Forces of the Philippines to fully assist the family, the Cordillera Peoples Alliance and the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance in the search for James Balao.
The State policy Oplan Bantay Laya which has labelled legal progressive organizations such as the Cordillera Peoples Alliance as “sectoral fronts” of the Communist Party of the Philippines, National Democratic Front of the Philippines and the New Peoples Army should be immediately terminated.
We call on President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to sincerely implement the recommendations of United Nations Special Rapporteur Philip Alston – “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”.

We call on the Philippine Government to observe the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) and other international human rights laws and declarations such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

The search for James Balao gets more and more urgent by the minute. He must be immediately and unconditionally surfaced.

Sincerely,

RICK BONUS, Ph.D ?Associate professor

American Ethnic Studies?University of Washington

SARITA SEE, Ph.D.?Associate Professor?University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

CYNTHIA TOLENTINO, Ph.D.?Assistant Professor?Department of English?University of Oregon

RICHARD T. CHU, Ph.D.?Five College Assistant Professor?History Department?University of Massachusetts

SHARON DELMENDO, Ph.D.?Professor of English?St. John Fisher College?Rochester, NY

MARIA HWANG?Doctoral student?Department of American Civilization?Brown University, RI

LUIS H. FRANCIA?Faculty?Asian/Pacific/American Studies Program?New York University

BENITO VERGARA JR., Ph.D.?Anthropologist

DYLAN RODRIGUEZ, Ph.D.?Associate professor?Ethnic Studies?University of California, Riverside

JOI BARRIOS, Ph.D.?Writer?Lecturer for the Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies?University of California Berkeley

PETER CHUA, Ph.D.?Associate Professor of Sociology?San Jose State University

FRANCISCO BENITEZ, Ph.D.?Assistant professor of Comparative Literature?University of Washington

LUCY BURNS, Ph.D.?Assistant professor, Asian American Studies?University of California Los Angeles

ANTONIO TIONGSON JR., Ph.D.?Assistant professor?American Cultural Studies?Colorado College

NERISSA S. BALCE, Ph.D.?Assistant professor?Department of Asian and Asian American Studies?State University of New York at Stony Brook

Army Moves to Evict Peasants From Land

October 12, 2008

By virtue of a 1991 Deed of Transfer between the DND and the DAR, some 6,000 peasants and other residents in a 3,100-hectare area within a military reservation in Nueva Ecija should have acquired ownership of the land they live on and till. But they have not, and now they face the possibility of being driven away from the area.

BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
Bulatlat

Melencio Rioroso, 76, and Francisco Espiritu Apellido, 60, are two of the peasants farming and residing in Barangay (village) San Isidro in Laur, Nueva Ecija. That village is part of a 3,100-hectare area within the Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation (FMMR) that is now the subject of a brewing land dispute.

Apellido has spent a good deal of his life in Brgy. San Isidro. He has lived there since 1966, or for 42 of his 60 years.

For as long as he can remember, it is the land in this village that has provided him and his family of eight with their daily needs. “Pagtatanim at pagbebenta ng gulay ang ikinabubuhay namin” (We earn our keep by planting and selling vegetables), he said.

He received a Certificate of Land Ownership Award (CLOA) for his one-hectare land in Brgy. San Isidro just three years ago.

Rioroso, meanwhile, has lived in at least three Nueva Ecija towns in the last three decades. Originally from Pantabangan, he and his family of eight moved to Palayan City in 1980 after acquiring six hectares of land there from a certain Armando Sabado. Two years later he and his wife, together with five of their children, moved to Laur, where they have lived since then.

In 1995, the Riorosos received four CLOAs for their land, which all in all covers 10 hectares.

Apellido and Rioroso are two of the over 1,000 peasants in the contested 3,100-hectare area within the FMMR who have received CLOAs since 1991. Right now, they live in fear of losing their lands to the military.




These farmers in Laur, Nueva Ecija, try to keep their land.

People have been settling in the 73,000-hectare area now known as the FMMR since the early 1950s.

In 1956, then President Ramon Magsaysay declared the area as a military reservation through Presidential Proclamation No. 237. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) uses 15,000 of the 73,000 hectares as a camp and training ground.

On Nov. 5, 1991, through a Deed of Transfer between then Defense Secretary Renato de Villa and then Agrarian Reform Secretary Benjamin Leung, the Aquino government allotted 3,100 hectares of the FMMR to landless peasants, as well as to families evacuating from Pampanga following the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo.

By virtue of this Deed of Transfer, over a thousand peasants and other residents within the 3,100-hectare contested area have received CLOAs, but many more still have yet to acquire these.

And now, those who do have CLOAs – like Apellido and Rioroso – face the possibility of losing these. The Philippine Army’s 7th Infantry Division (ID), which is stationed at Fort Magsaysay, is hell-bent on driving them away from the land that should have been turned over to them nearly 17 years ago.

An Oct. 5-6 fact-finding mission organized by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP or Peasant Movement of the Philippines), Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon (AMGL or Peasant Alliance in Central Luzon), Alyansa ng Magbubukid na Nagkakaisa (ALMANA or United Peasant Alliance), Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR), Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), and Tanggol Magsasaka (Defend Farmers) found that the 7th ID has requested the DAR to cancel the CLOAs given to peasants within the 3,100-hectare contested area.

This request is contained in a June 24 letter by then Maj. Gen. Ralph Villanueva (recently promoted), commanding officer of the 7th ID, to a Mr. Orlando Tumacay, Provincial Agrarian Reform Officer of Nueva Ecija. Part of the letter reads thus:

This pertains to the dialogue conducted on 17 June 2008 at Hqs, 7ID regarding 3,100-hectare land within the Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation which was ceded by the DND in favor of DAR through a Deed of Transfer executed on 05 November 1991. Also, the latest dialogue dealing on said issue transpired on 25 (sic) June 2008 at the same venue attended by DENR and DAR personnel from Cabanatuan City.

Based on the background investigation conducted by the Division Judge Advocate of this Command, said area is subject to a case filed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) against the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR). This case is still pending at the Court of Appeals.

In this regard, may I request that all issuances of titles within the 3,100 hectares of the Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation be deferred pending the litigation of the case filed at the Court of Appeals. I would like to further request that all Certificates of Land Ownership Award (CLOAs) be revoked (emphasis supplied – AMR) upon the affirmation of the Secretary of Justice on our stand that the Deed of Transfer regarding the 3,100 hectares is null and void since only another Presidential Proclamation can declare such land use.

The Division Judge Advocate referred to in Villanueva’s letter is Col. Hermilo Barrios – the same “Colonel Barrios” who, Brgy. San Isidro residents told the fact-finding mission, has been going around the 3,100-hectare contested area, summoning them and the residents of the other villages to “meetings” and “assuring” them that their lands would not be taken.

Apellido and Rioroso have both lived and earned their living in Brgy. San Isidro for a good part of their lives, and cannot imagine themselves in any other place.

“Malalaman ko na lang siguro” (I’ll probably just find out later), Apellido said when asked where he will go if he and his family are driven away from the land.

“Ewan ko” (I don’t know), Rioroso said when asked the same question. (Bulatlat.com)

US nuns upset at ‘terror’ tag

October 11, 2008

Agence France-Presse
First Posted 11:58:00 10/11/2008

BALTIMORE — Two Roman Catholic nuns whose non-violent action against nuclear weapons landed them with prison sentences returned home to Baltimore to learn they had been listed as terrorists, they said Friday.

Sister Ardeth Platte, 72, and Sister Carol Gilbert, 60, came back from two weeks out of town to find letters from the Maryland State Police saying they had been wrongfully listed as suspected terrorists in a federal database in 2005-2006.

“To be labeled a terrorist is really very hard to hear and to accept, when your whole life has been one of loving nonviolence,” Platte said.

Maryland State Police have sent letters to a total 53 activists wrongfully labeled as terrorists, inviting them to look at their entries in the database — after which the files would be deleted.

The Dominican nuns broke into a US nuclear missile silo in Colorado in 2002 and painted crucifixes with their own blood — earning Platte and Gilbert prison sentences of 41 and 33 months respectively.

“If they can label us as terrorists, they can label all kinds of people as terrorists,” Gilbert said. “So then people become afraid to speak out against what the established government might be saying — and that is the demise of democracy.” (PDI)

Military unit main suspect: City council, AI condemn abduction of rights activist

October 9, 2008

By Aileen P. Refuerzo

BAGUIO CITY – Amnesty International reiterated its call to the Philippine government to “surface” James Balao, a member of the Cordillera People’s Alliance who was believed abducted by elements of the Army’s Military Security Unit here since Sept. 17

In a statement, AI also urged anybody who has knowledge of Balao’s disappearance to contact his family, the CPA or AI among others who are searching for him.

This, as the city council Monday approved a resolution “condemning the involuntary disappearance of Balao.” In a resolution, proponent councilors Rocky Thomas Balisong, Betty Lourdes Tabanda, Galo Weygan, Perlita Rondez, Nicasio Aliping Jr., Antonio Tabora Jr., Erdolfo Balajadia, Isabelo Cosalan Jr., Nicasio Palaganas, Richard Carino, Fred Bagbagen, Elaine Sembrano, Joel Alangsab and Gloria Ysabel De Vera said Balao’s disappearance is “a result of the continuing political persecution of activists and civilians critical of the government.”

“This involuntary disappearance is alarming thereby curtailing and threatening democratic rights in the Philippines,” the resolution said.

Balao, an active member of the CPA contributing his research and education skills to advocate people’s issues, was last seen last Sept. 17 somewhere between his residences at Fairview barangay here and in La Trinidad, Benguet.

Before this, he was suspected to be under surveillance by unidentified entities since April this year. Balao was said to have observed white and blue vans tailing him from his residence to his daily chores.

The resolution also sought to give assistance to Balao’s family, the CPA and the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance for the immediate location of Balao and release from his captors if any.

The city council resolution will be furnished to the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, Department of National Defense, Philippine National Police, Dept. of Justice, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Commission on Human Rights, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples and Joint Monitoring Committee on CARHRHIL.

This, as the University of the Philippines Baguio, including representatives from the administration, faculty, union, and students held a press conference Tuesday calling on the government to initiate a speedy, impartial investigation on Balao’s disappearance. — – With a report from AD (NorthernPhilippineTimes)