Archive for the ‘State Terrorism’ Category

Protesters wear sad masks for MassKara

October 7, 2008

By Carla Gomez
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:42:00 10/07/2008

BACOLOD CITY – Instead of masks with happy faces identified with the city’s ongoing MassKara Festival, about 100 persons donned masks with sad faces and picketed the Bacolod Police Station to demand the release of five farmers arrested during the recent visit of President Macapagal-Arroyo to Bacolod City last week.

The five workers of Hacienda Paraiso in La Carlota City and Hacienda Grande in La Castellana owned by Antonio Arroyo, uncle of First Gentleman Mike Arroyo, were among those demanding the immediate distribution of the Arroyo lands in Negros Occidental under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, TFM spokesperson Edna Sobrecaray said on Monday.

Police Station 1 is located in front of the Bacolod public plaza where the city is celebrating its 29th MassKara Festival known for masks with smiling faces.

The protesters carrying placards said they were wearing masks with sad faces to symbolize the agony of the farmers detained instead of receiving land that the President had promised them in 2001.

The police Thursday filed multiple charges against the five arrested for interrupting Ms Arroyo’s speech at the opening of the MassKara Festival in Bacolod City on Wednesday.

Supt. Leo Erwin Agpangan, Bacolod City Police Office deputy director for operations, said they filed charges against Hermegildo Padilla, Everlito Alguna, Bonifacio Alguna, Noel Estaris Jr. and Gerardo Batalla for inciting to sedition, alarm and scandal and resisting arrest before the City Prosecutor’s Office.

The five were with about 20 protesters, including Bagong Alyansang Makabayan members, who unfurled banners with anti-Arroyo messages just as the President was starting her speech before about 5,000 people.

“We will continue to hold daily protest actions until the police release five farmers from detention. We condemn their arrest. They do not deserve the charges against them,” Sobrecaray said.(PDI)

3 farmers tortured, killed by soldiers?

October 7, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rebels

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hultmans ‘shocked’ at Teehankee release

October 7, 2008

By Joel Guinto
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 22:04:00 10/07/2008

MANILA, Philippines — The family of the late Maureen Hultman is “very angry” and “shocked” over President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s grant of executive clemency to the man convicted of her murder.

“We are very sad, very disappointed, and very angry,” Andres Hultman said in an interview on QTV-11 television Tuesday evening.

The elder Hultman criticized the secrecy he said surrounded the clemency grant to Claudio Teehankee Jr.

“He was sentenced to life imprisonment…Now he’s free. Why was it kept quiet and secret? Why didn’t the rules and regulations apply,” Hultman said.

Hultman’s statement belied Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita’s claim earlier Tuesday that the family did not oppose the clemency grant.

“It was completely unexpected. The possibility was never mentioned to us, that he will be pardoned,” Hultman said.

He also expressed dismay over reports that Teehankee’s brother, Philippine representative to the World Trade Organization Manuel Teehankee, a former justice undersecretary, asked Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales to push for his brother’s pardon.

“What does this say about the country?” he said.

Hultman laughed off reports that Teehankee had apologized for the murder of his daughter, saying, “The last time we talked to him, he denied that he committed the crime.”

“We miss everything about her [Maureen]. She was the most lively of our children,” he said.(PDI)

Release of missing CPA leader being demanded

October 7, 2008

by Harley Palangchao

Two groups in the region are calling on the military and intelligence units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police to cause the release of James Balao, one of the founding members of the militant Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA).

He was reportedly missing since Sept. 17 and was last seen in Baguio City.

The CPA and the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance made the call to the AFP and the PNP, which the groups claimed are the most possible agencies behind Balao’s disappearance.

The CPA reported Wednesday that Balao is the second founder of the CPA to be the victim of a supposed enforced disappearance after Ama Daniel Ngayaan, who was abducted by government forces in Pasil, Kalinga in 1987.

To recall, Balao, who worked for the Research and Education Commission of the CPA, was first arrested in 1988 for alleged illegal possession of subversive documents but the case was subsequently dismissed for lack of evidence.

The call for the government forces to cause Balao’s release, if he is indeed in their custody, gained support from other cause-oriented and militant groups in the Cordilleras in wake of the noted pattern of disappearances of prominent militant leaders and protesters whose cadavers were later recovered while some are still missing up to now.

“Balao’s enforced disappearance is not an isolated incident. It is part of a systematic and desperate move of the state against members and officers of the CPA in its “counter-terrorism and anti-insurgency campaign,” reads the CPA statement released to the media Tuesday afternoon.

The CPA has been labeled by the military as a political front of the Communist Party of the Philippines, or supporter of the New Peoples Army, but such tag was vehemently denied by the group, saying that CPA is a legitimate people’s organization.

“We challenge the AFP and PNP to immediately and unconditionally surface James Balao. Each day that you, the PNP and AFP, remain silent and indifferent to the enforced disappearance of James only validates further your accountability in his disappearance,” the CPA statement further reads. (BaguioMidlandCurier)

Mediaman files counter charges vs police officer

October 7, 2008

by Harley Palangchao & Liza Agoot

A mediaman filed a case for violation of his rights as an accused person before the People’s Law Enforcement Board  against the head of the police station who detained him unjustly last week after a minor vehicular accident.

Peoples Journal
photojournalist Cesar Reyes filed a criminal case against P/Insp. Joseph Fokno Del Castillo, chief of Baguio City Police Office Compac 4, for violation of Republic Act 7438 or incriminating an innocent person as well as delay in the delivery of detained persons. An administrative case for grave abuse of power and authority was also filed against the police officer.

This stemmed after the police proceeded to detain Reyes from midnight of Sept. 18 up to noon of Sept. 22 for charges of grave threat and
illegal possession of fire arms without his knowledge.

To recall, Reyes was involved in a vehicular incident night of Sept. 18 along Session Road, when he bumped into a KIA pride taxi driven by Jaime Caccam. Caccam then called for back up from fellow drivers and his operator Carlos Abrigo. Reyes said that he was forced to bring out his gun when one person pushed him to the ground after being verbally abused by several other men.

To settle the matter, Reyes paid P2,000 for the supposed damage to the taxi while Abrigo said he forgave the journalist. The amicable settlement was logged in the police blotter of Compac 4.

But what surprised Reyes was that Abrigo went back to file a case for grave threat against him after the amicable settlement. More surprising to Reyes was why he was charged for illegal possession by Del Castillo when he voluntarily surrendered his gun and necessary documents to the authorities. Del Castillo even attested that the firearm seized by two of his men from Reyes was turned over to him together with the firearm license card and permit to carry outside of residence.

“When I was detained at Compac 4, I was never informed that I was being investigated. I was only made to believe that I will just raise the amount of P2,000 to pay Abrigo. There is therefore no basis for Del Castillo to state in his affidavit that he informed me of the nature and cause of my arrest and my constitutional rights as an accused because he never did,” Reyes said.

“The case for grave threat was unnecessary because Carlos Abrigo and I have already settled our differences as borne in the police blotter we both voluntarily signed,” he added.

Del Castillo also failed to deliver Reyes to the proper judicial authority during the entire period of his detention. From Compac 4, Reyes was brought to the City Jail 5 p.m. of Sept. 19. This was when he learned that he was being charged with grave threats by Abrigo and illegal possession of firearm by Del Castillo.

The mediaman was ordered released on Monday by the City Prosecutor’s Office after inquest prosecutor Ruth Bernabe dismissed for lack of probable cause the illegal possession of firearm case filed against him. “There is no probable cause to indict the respondent of violation of illegal possession of firearm. It appears from the records of the case that the respondent was able to present a license for the said firearm as a permit to carry,” reads Bernabe’s resolution.

Lawyers Richard Cariño and partner Christian Ulpindo, who acted as Reyes’ legal counsels, said they do not want to pre-empt their next move.

As of Sept. 26, however, Del Castillo continues to unjustly withhold Reyes’ firearm license and permit to carry.(BaguioMidlandCourier)

Gloria Arroyo does a Sarah Palin

October 6, 2008

Is President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo doing a Sarah Palin?

I ask this in light of the insistence by Press Secretary Jesus Dureza that the press conference that was to have taken place last Oct. 2 had to be limited to economic issues and that the members of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (Focap) had to provide in advance the questions to be asked the president.

The Focap, through its president Jason Gutierrez of Agence France-Presse, balked at the preconditions set by Malacañang. Rightly so, I should say.

“The president is the nation’s chief political leader and as such the public would be interested in knowing where she is taking the country as well as her initiatives in response to outstanding political issues,” Gutierrez wrote Dureza after Malacañang canceled the event. “As members of the media, we in Focap see our role as the conveyor of the president’s message to the nation, be they political or not.”

Gutierrez added: “As a matter of principle upon which Focap was founded more than 30 years ago under martial law, and as responsible members of the press, we strongly object to being party to any form of media management, prior restraint or censorship. Fencing off certain subjects for discussion with the president does not bode well for press freedom.”

Dureza wrote Gutierrez back to say that Focap had misunderstood Malacañang’s action and that requiring advance questions was not a way to manage or censor the press briefing, as Focap alleged, but so that the president can better prepare her answers.

Then Dureza let on in his letter – almost gleefully, as if to say “Suck on this, Focap!” — that the president was going to meet with members of the Manila Overseas Press Club on Oct. 3 in a meeting he described as on a “no attribution basis.” (What!? I can talk to the president but I can’t tell people I did? Drat.) Presumably, MOPC agreed to the Palace’s conditions. (I won’t debate how any self-respecting media group would agree to something like this. Then again, the MOPC, in the “about us” section of its website, can’t even get the name right of Carl Mydans, the legendary photojournalist from Life magazine, so there you go.)

Before we go any further, let me point out a couple of things:

1. Malacañang always screens not just the questions to be asked during press conferences with Arroyo but also who can ask the questions. It does this with the MOPC, as well as with the Malacañang press corps and other media groups.

2. Arroyo and the Focap has always had a rocky relationship. Arroyo has always resisted meeting with Focap. She apparently doesn’t enjoy being asked relevant, intelligent questions. In July 2005, Malacañang actually barred Focap members from joining an Arroyo press briefing at the Palace. Earlier, Malacañang had been furious that Focap had invited as guests in its forums mutineers and former Arroyo officials who had become critical of her.

Now back to Sarah Palin.

In case you’ve been livin’ under dem rocks the past two months, she’s the moose-huntin’, straight-talkin’ hockey mom from Wasilla, Alaska, who was handpicked by dat doggone ol’ mav’rick John McCain to be his runnin’ mate in the US elections. (Dat sent everyone ape shit, din’t it?) Dat Sarah girl din’t have nothin’ by way of profound intellect and real political experience (aside from a little mayorin’ here and some governorin’ there) and so the McCain camp thought it was wise to protect her from the likes of Katie Couric, who can ambush her with tough questions, such as what sort of mag’zines and noospapers Sarah reads. (Our gal Sarah, bless her heart, replied, “All of dem!” which floored poor Katie nat’rally because even she can’t get past the advertisements in People mag’zine, no sir.) Dem ‘publicans only want her to talk to jern’lists who can ask only harmless, stoopid questions. And fer good measure, those doggone ‘publicans had insisted she memorized sev’ral talkin’ points. You betcha she drilled-baby-drilled those talkin’ points into her head in time for the debate last Fridey, which many out there in the vast and cold state of Alaska — where she is an executive of, where Sarah can actually see dem Reds runnin’ ’round like headless chickens since dey discovered cap’talism – folks ‘cludin’ her huntin’ pal Joe (Sixpack, not Biden) thought she wonned fair and square.

I can understand why the McCain camp did what it did with Sarah Palin. As her interviews with Couric showed, she’s an airhead. A doggone airhead.

But Arroyo? She’s an economist. She taught economics at UP. Her whole political credential revolves around her being adept with economics. She went to the same school as Bill Clinton, for crying out loud! She should be able to parry the toughest questions.

Ah, but the key issue in this mini-flap are not the advance questions. The more important issue is the requirement that the Focap people cannot ask her political questions. To paraphrase a Focap member who posted his thoughts on the group’s message board, “Excuse me? She’s the president of a country and she doesn’t want political questions?”

(It’s like interviewing Moses and all you are allowed to talk about is his beard. What’s with the stick? “Sorry, can’t go there.” You actually parted the sea with that? “What part of confidential-due-to-biblical-security you don’t understand?” Did you actually talk to God? Why would he disguise himself as a burning bush? “Is your head hard enough to withstand this tablet?”)

We all know, of course, why this is so. As far as Malacañang is concerned, journalists can be pests. They can provoke people — especially hot-tempered and arrogant people like Arroyo — into doing something silly during a press briefing, like raising their voice, respond condescendingly to reporters or, heaven forbid, throw a cellphone at one of them.

Or worse, Arroyo can be painted into a corner on questions about her legitimacy and all the scandals facing her and her people.

I actually pity Jess Dureza, who is himself a former journalist. I’m sure he doesn’t want to censor the press (nudge-nudge wink-wink). But with a boss like Arroyo, the tendency is, apart from simply following her wishes, to try to minimize the damage she could do to herself. pinoypress.net

Victim’s mom deplores gun policy for barangay chiefs

October 6, 2008

ALAMINOS CITY–The fear of possible abuse and misuse of the shotgun issued by the provincial government was lent credence with the recorded killing of a nurse last year.

The death of Gabriel Viray Bautista, 39, a Lucap resident, in the hands of barangay officials from neighboring Bani town, using a handgun issued by a congressman, was recalled by the victim’s mother, Clara Viray Bautista.

The 76-year old woman, dressed in black, wept bitterly before newsmen at a press conference called by Mayor Hernani Braganza on Thursday to discuss his latest advocacy: “No to shotguns and .45s”.

Her son was mercilessly gunned down on September 4, 2007 in front of the Meteor Garden Videoke Bar in Bani, by Bani barangay officials using a Caliber .45 pistol issued to one of the suspects under a similar program of 1st District Rep. Arthur Celeste, arming barangay captains.

“Many months in the past, the city suffered from violence. We do not want a repeat of that incident in our beloved city”, said Braganza fearing that more residents will fall victims with the recent arming of barangay captains in the province.

When asked why he did not raise his objection then, the mayor said he had warned against it but the media did not find it worthy as an issue then.

Three of the suspects now in police custody are Marcelo Tugas, barangay captain of Garreta,; former Barangay Captain Rico Aquino of San Miguel,; and Councilman Donald Sison, also of San Miguel. Sonny Avelino, former barangay chairman of Ambabaay, tagged as the gunman, remains at large.

All were on a drinking spree that evening when they chanced upon Bautista.

In his September 10, 2007 signed affidavit, Aquino stated that the caliber. 45 pistol used in the shooting, an Armscor bearing SN 1046871, registered under his name was issued by Celeste on December 2006. The gun is now in the custody of P/Supt. Lloyd Millan, the police chief.

Gabriel, 39, father of three children and a male nurse of the Western Pangasinan District Hospital, was with co-workers to have snacks when he was shot.

“I want justice for my only son,” wept Mrs. Bautista, adding that those responsible must be punished to the full extent of the law.

She pressed for the immediate arrest of Avelino.

The suspects not only shot Bautista to death but also commandeered their vehicle and divested the passengers of their cash, jewelry and cell phones. — LM (SundayPunch)

Braganza slams policy on shotguns for kapitans

October 6, 2008

PROTEST CONTINUES

ALAMINOS CITY–This is not a war zone.

This was Mayor Hernani Braganza referring to both his city and the province as he severely criticized anew the provincial government’s program arming barangay leaders with shotguns ostensibly for the latter’s protection and to help “maintain peace and order”.

In a press conference on Thursday at Lucap Wharf, Braganza minced no words in denouncing the program as he anticipated the misuse of the issued firearm by the barangay officials.

Underscoring his opposition, Braganza cited the Philippine National Police’s own policy that it would not agree to arming civilians with shotguns even in strife-torn Mindanao.

“If the PNP is not keen on arming the civilians to fight the rebels in Mindanao, why are we doing this in our province,” Braganza posed.

Despite being the lone voice opposing the shotgun distribution, Braganza maintained his stand that his city does not need shotguns because Alaminos, like the rest of Pangasinan, remains a friendly and peaceful city.

He reiterated his appeal to the Governor Amado Espino Jr. to re-issue the shotguns instead to the province’s local police stations known to be poorly equipped.

Braganza clarified he has nothing personal against the governor to whom he is indebted for saving his life when he was still a young activist in the mid 70s and Espino was then the Metrodiscom commander of the then Philippine Constabulary in Angeles City.

“We are not against the distribution of the shotguns per se,” said Braganza, pointing out that the shotguns should instead be issued to the police, who needs these more in its fight against criminality.

He stressed that the preservation of peace and order is the primary job of the Philippine National Police, and it is duty of civilian officials from mayor down to barangay captain, to govern, preventing crimes in their respective jurisdictions, without the use of guns.

ARMED ALAMINOS kapitans

The provincial government said that as of September 19, about 99 percent of the 1,330 barangay chairmen of Pangasinan were already issued one pump shotgun each.

Included were 15 of the 39 kapitans of Alaminos who, Braganza said, were personally invited by Espino to Lingayen without any coordination with his office.

The 15, the mayor said, defied the resolution of the city council headed by Vice Mayor Teofilo Humilde Jr. which adopted it in its regular session of September 5 expressing vigorous objection to the distribution of shotguns to local barangay captains.

Braganza said the city legal office is now preparing letters to the 15 barangay captains who received the shotguns, asking them to explain why they defied the city council resolution and his order not to receive the shotguns.

However, he said that of the 15 barangay captains, five have already expressed their desire to return the issued shotguns to the provincial government through the local police.

The same resolution had appealed to Espino to issue the shotguns to the local police instead.

However, he said he is still giving the 15 a chance to turn the weapons over to Liga ng mga Barangay president Helen Bumagat, barangay captain of Amandiego, who in turn will return the same to the capitol.

Humilde also read a manifesto from Alaminos City officials restating that Alaminos City attained unprecedented progress and peace “not by arming our barangay officials and civilians” during the press conference.

Braganza said it is the responsibility of the mayors like him to provide the barangay captains with all the tools and equipment, like vehicles, which they need to carry out their mandate “but never shall we give them guns”.

Braganza pointed out that only policemen should be made to respond to situations where crime perpetrators are armed.

GUIDELINES

Braganza echoed the observation of his fellow mayor, Domingo Doctor of Burgos, that the shotguns were issued without any guidelines at all.

Doctor, a lawyer and former military officer, even had to seek general guidelines governing the shotguns from no less than incoming Police Director General Jesus Verzosa, since the barangay captains were only given insufficient training to handle guns.

The city mayor expressed doubt that a mere memorandum receipt issued by the provincial government can take the place of a license or a permit to carry firearms.

He said licensing is a strict requisite for any holder of firearms set forth by law which must apply to all, and cited a need for the holder of firearms to secure clearances and undergo neuro-psychiatric test and even drug test before an application to hold firearms is approved by the PNP.

Councilor Cirilo Radoc, a lawyer, said once the firearm is used to commit a crime, both the barangay chairman and whosoever issued the firearm become criminally liable.

Braganza said he himself is a gun-owner, being a member of a gun club but his license to own and his permit to carry the same outside of his residence is not transferable to any city or barangay official.

He cited it as an analogy where license to own the shotguns belongs to the province and not to the barangay chairmen.—LM (SundayPunch)

Statements: Ilocos HR group denounces Philippine Army’s vilification cmapaign

October 5, 2008

By ILOCOS HUMAN RIGHTS ALLIANCE (IHRA)

Human Rights group Ilocos Human Rights Alliance (IHRA-Karapatan) strongly condemns the statements made by the 50th Infantry Battalion (IBPA) Civil Military Operations branding Karapatan as “legal front” of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA).

We view these statements of the 50th IBPA as part of the dirty tactics of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to discredit and harass legal progressive organizations who are steadfast in asserting the rights of the people.

In their radio program Timek ti Soldado (The Soldier’s voice) aired in July and August 2008, certain Lt. Kigis and Sgt. Garcia consistently slandered Karapatan and its regional chapter, IHRA and tagged it as “communist front that “protect and defend the rights of their fellow NPA’s.” Kigis and Garcia also stated in their program that Karapatan destroys the moral values of the youth because it influences the youth “to do harm to their families and to the community.”

The said “soldier-broadcasters” also accused party list group Bayan Muna and Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) of using projects as “legal fronts” to deceive the people and recruit them to join the CPP-NPA.

These malicious and slanderous statements of the two “soldier-broadcasters” only proved the desperation of the AFP to crush the people’s movement. It is undeniable that the military disrespects civil and political rights of the people. The AFP specifically the 50th IBPA irresponsibly used the media to directly malign the CPP-NPA without even analyzing and acknowledging the root-causes of nearly 40-year old armed conflict. As such, these irresponsible accusations served as a license to attack legal progressive organizations as it directly these organizations such as Karapatan to the CPP-NPA-NDFP, the target of the counterinsurgency program, Oplan Bantay Laya 2.

The vilification campaign made by the AFP is a component of OBL 2, the continuation of the failed counterinsurgency program of the US-Arroyo regime that resulted in the killings of more than 900 unarmed civilians and members of the legal democratic organizations, disappearance of more than 198 and other gross human rights violations. These statements clearly show that the military is behind the spate of gross and systematic human rights violations.

For more than 13 years, Karapatan has been in the forefront of human rights advocacy in the Philippines. It has exposed and opposed state terrorism and fought hard to attain justice for the victims of human rights violations committed by state agents such as the AFP and PNP. It has served the marginalized sectors of the society by fighting for the people’s nationalist and democratic interests. No amount of disparagement can stop Karapatan from asserting the people’s civil, political, socio-cultural and economic rights.

It is no surprise that the Arroyo regime and the military’s state terrorism will be met with outmost defiance by people struggling for peace anchored on justice. #

From Under This Hat: Surface James

October 5, 2008

By KATHLEEN T. OKUBO

James Balao is mestizo Japanese, like me. His eyes are just chinkier because he is also part Chinese, like my kids. He is a very much better investigative and literary writer than very many of us identified as journalists.

We, both, trace our roots to the Japanese migrant workers who came in the 1900s to build Kennon Road, the City of Baguio and the town of La Trinidad. He was abducted on September 17, twelve days ago, on his way to his parent’s house for a visit. His is the first case of enforced disappearance under this president.

This stirs my memory of my father’s stories during the 2nd world war. My father was assigned to the USAFFE engineering brigade when the war broke out. He was one of those who did not choose to change his name when the Japanese were the established enemies of (the American colonizers of) the country. His group was usually ahead of the fighting troops having to build bridges or dig trenches for mobility and defense.

When Bataan fell, he was among the last of the defending Igorot soldiers and Baguio boys who naturally sought each other for support until the death march and eventual escape from it.

He, and his death march colleagues in the Japanese-army-occupied Baguio City were wanted outlaws. They naturally joined the guerrilla forces – the people’s army for the Americans had ran or retreated to Australia.

The Kempetai (the notorious Japanese secret police) searched for them. In this hunt he painfully witnessed school mates, former playmates and relatives rat on these escapees and guerillas. In his story he described these traitors as having a bag with two holes for eyes over their heads as they went to point at the wanted outlaw. Victims were cruelly treated, “worst than dogs” by the Kempetai. He was not able to escape one of these he was tortured in their chambers (the present Bayanihan Hotel). He was just lucky he got away and headed to the mountains before they could (the Tabora park now) chop of his head.

That was an open war situation and the nationalist bravely defended his country whether he was part Japanese, Chinese, Jew, Russian American, and Igorot.

When Martial Law was declared by Marcos, many young activists were abducted, detained, tortured, summarily killed. The youngest political detainee I met was 13 years old, high school president, top of his class, son of a shipping magnate, and he even did not know why. From Baguio there were some 80 people, from Dagupan more than 150 members of then ‘de Colores’ prayer group. I also met former friends and even relatives pointed out innocent people like the traitors of old.

The Kempetai of today is no longer a foreigner but a ‘macabebe’ or a ‘magdalo’ made legit by a government directive and leashed against the lesser people of a nation, against an Andress Bonifacio. History, has documented traitors in different guises and most during or when it is a poor peoples war against the establishment. For traitors like these try very hard to legitimize themselves in the eyes of the nation. (No wonder the PR budget is so big)

Yes, Virginia, there is an on-going war in the country. It is a war against graft and corruption, big time thieves, against being cheated off your daily sustenance, against those who perpetuate poverty. A war against Martial Law again. I believe it is for this reason the people’s enemy has taken James.

I repeat the appeal to friends, relatives, the Filipino, Japanese, Chinese and Igorot communities to please help the family and clan find James.

I also add this postscript to also stress the need for unity against state terrorism:

“First they came for the communists and I did not speak out because I was not a communist; Then they came for the socialists and I did not speak out because I was not a socialist; Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist; Then they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew; Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.” # (NorDis)

Support pours in to surface missing activist

October 5, 2008

BAGUIO CITY — Support continue to pour in from all sectors, for the immediate surfacing of James M. Balao, an activist reported missing since September 17.


Photo by Brenda S. Dacpano/NORDIS

Declared by rights groups as a case of enforced disappearance (see side bar for related text), the Balao case is gaining even international attention as his family and friends intensify urgent search efforts.

In a proposed resolution, some Baguio City council members are united in condemning the involuntary disappearance of Balao and are committed to give any assistance to the family for the “immediate surfacing and release of Balao by his captors.” The proposal is up for deliberations during the council’s regular session Monday.

Mayor Reinaldo Bautista Jr., also condemning the abduction of Balao, said Thursday he would issue a directive to the city and regional Philippine National Police (PNP) offices for assistance in locating Balao immediately. He also asked the public to contact his office for any information on Balao’s whereabouts.

Police Regional Office Cordillera (PROCOR) Director Eugene Martin came out with a directive early last week to all provincial offices for any information on the case.

Meanwhile, Commissioner Leila De Lima of the Commission on Human Rights assured the family that their office would treat the case as a priority.

In an on-line petition signing initiated by the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), of which Balao is a member, hundreds have already signed calling for the immediate surfacing of Balao.

“The search for James Balao gets more and more urgent by the minute. He must be immediately and unconditionally surfaced,” said the petition.

Wilma Gacayan Wilson, one of the petitioners commented, “James is a good friend of mine from college 20 plus years ago, in the University of the Philippines Baguio. James is a man of character, morals, ethics, principle. He has always stood up for the poor, the unfortunate and for those whose voice is suppressed. The Philippine government, if it truly believes in basic human rights, needs to expend all the necessary resources to ensure the safe return of James to his family at the soonest possible time.”


CONGRESS LOBBY. The Balao siblings (left) asked Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño some assistance for their brother’s enforced disappearance case. Photo by Cye Reyes/NORDIS

Meanwhile, Balao’s siblings along with the CPA and the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) had a dialog Thursday with Bayan Muna Representative Teddy Casiño who is a member of the Congressional Committee on Human Rights. He was in town for a speaking engagement.

According to Casiño, Bayan Muna would include the case of Balao in a privilege speech Monday, along with the recent disappearance of two peasant organizers in Bataan. He also consoled with the family and assured them of the party’s assistance in the search of their brother.

The United Nations Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearance asked the CHRA to forward a case summary to New York to present it to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who was there to address the UN.

Amnesty International (AI) released an appeal to the public to send letters of concern to pressure the Philippine authorities from PGMA to the secretary of defense and the chief of police to order a prompt and thorough investigation on the Balao case and other cases of enforced disappearance and extra-judicial killing.

Meanwhile, militant organizations held a candle-light protest Wednesday and a noise barrage Friday condemning Balao’s alleged abduction.

According to CPA Chairperson Beverly Longid, Balao’s case is not an isolated incident and is part of a systematic government move against members of legitimate people’s organizations like CPA in its “counter-terrorism and anti-insurgency” campaign.

CPA members Markus Bangit and Alyce Claver were assassinated in June and July 2006, respectively. Both cases are yet to be resolved.

CPA alleged elements of the Intelligence Security Unit (ISU) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as the perpetrators of Balao’s abduction.

Before his disappearance Balao had reported that he was in heavy surveillance since June and had often observed white and blue vans tailing him.

As of press time, no government unit has confirmed nor denied the accusation.

The Balao family continues to appeal for the witnesses to come out and for the public to give any information of Balao’s whereabouts. # Cye Reyes (NorDis)

Pangilinan joins calls for surfacing of Balao

October 3, 2008

By Rimaliza Opiña

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SENATOR Francis Pangilinan backed calls of international rights groups calling for the immediate surfacing of missing activists in the country.

The statement was issued over the recent disappearance of James Balao, an activist affiliated with the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA). He was declared missing since September 17.

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

“Have we again reached a point in our history when international groups need to interfere for human rights to be acknowledged? What are the military and police doing? Shouldn’t they be searching for James Balao? Their lack of decisive action on his disappearance further confirms suspicions they are involved in this crime,” Pangilinan said.

The independent human rights group, Karapatan, pegs the number of killed activists and journalists at 800 and 200 cases of enforced disappearance since 2001.

The senator said he will support petitions calling for the surfacing of the missing activist.

“If we need to petition the Supreme Court to command the military to open their camps, that is what we will do,” he said.

Members of the City Council filed a proposed resolution supporting the call for Balao’s surfacing. Several militant organizations did the same. They held rallies and sponsored various forums for the purpose.

27 aktibista sa Southern Tagalog ‘hinaharas,’ kinasuhan ng arson

October 3, 2008

BAHAGI umano ng “pagkikriminalisa sa mga aktibista” ang “malisyosong” pagkaso ng arson ng Globe Telecom sa 27 lider ng militanteng mga organisasyon sa Southern Tagalog.

Sa isang press conference, kinondena ni Bayani Cambronero, regional coordinator ng Bayan Muna-ST, ang “pagsasampa ng gobyernong Arroyo ng gawa-gawang mga kaso dahil sa kabiguan nitong patahimikin kami sa pamamagitan ng esktrahudisyal na pamamaslang.”

Kinasuhan ang prominenteng mga lider-aktibista ng arson, destruction, at conspiracy to commit rebellion kaugnay ng panununog ng mga rebeldeng New People’s Army sa cell site ng Globe Telecom sa Lemery, Batangas noong Agosto 2.

Kinasuhan sina Cambronero; Rolando Ming, bise-presidente ng Piston (Pinag-isang Samahan ng Tsuper at Operator Nationwide); Noriel Ricafort, pangakalahatang kalihim ng Bayan-Batangas; Atty. Remigio Saladero, founding member ng National Union of People’s Lawyers at kilalang labor lawyer; Agaton Bautista, provincial coordinator ng Anakpawis-Batangas; Renato Baybay, tagapangulo ng Kamagsasaka-Ka (Katipunan ng mga Magsasaka sa Kabite); at Isabelo Alicaya, tagapangulo ng Habagat (Haligi ng mga Batangueñong Anak Dagat), at iba pa.

Kabilang pa sa mga kinasuhan ang walong magsasaka na dinukot at tinortyur ng mga elemento ng PNP (Philippine National Police) sa Silang Cavite noong Agosto 31. Pinakawalan din ang mga ito nang hindi kinakasuhan.

Ayon kay Cambronero, madaling mapatunayan sa anumang tanggapan o korte ang kanilang pagka-inosente kapag sinunod ng gobyerno ang due process. “Marami sa amin, hindi man lang sinabihan hinggil sa kaso at aksidente lang nalaman ito,” aniya.

Samantala, naniniwala si Arman Albarillo, pangkalahatang kalihim ng Bayan-ST, na “nakikipagsabwatan” ang Globe Telecom sa PNP. “PNP pa rin at iba pang mga ahensiya sa ilalim ng COC-IS (Cabinet Oversight Committee on Internal Security) ang may hawak ng mga baraha dito,” aniya.

Bahagi pa rin umano ang ito ng Oplan Bantay Laya 2, programang kontra-insurhensiya ng gobyernong Arroyo.

Magpoprotesta sa Oktubre 6 ang iba’t ibang mga organisasyon sa Southern Tagalog sa harap ng Camp Crame, Quezon City para kalampagin ang bagong talagang hepe ng PNP na si Jesus Versoza hinggil sa diumano’y panghaharas sa kanilang mga lider.

Philippine Military Told: Justify P10-B Additional Budget

October 2, 2008

MANILA, PHILIPPINES — Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today said the minority bloc in the Senate is sympathetic to the request of defense officials to augment the budget of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to beef up its fighting capability against insurgencies and fast- track the goal to attain permanent peace.

Pimentel said they will thoroughly look into the proposal submitted by Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, Jr. for an additional Pl0 billion for the AFP budget for 2009, which amounts to a l7.7 percent increase in the P56.5 billion already earmarked for the military under the national budget submitted by Malacanang to Congress.

He pointed out that the eight-man Senate minority bloc had in fact earlier urged the executive branch to submit a supplementary budget to enable the AFP to purchase much-needed firearms and to recruit additional troops following the outbreak of armed hostilities in several areas in Central and Muslim Mindanao as an offshoot of the government’s decision not to sign the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) last month.

“We want to look at the specific requests of the AFP in terms of the armaments, equipment and other logistics, as well as manpower that they need,” the minority leader said.

According to Secretary Teodoro, the additional funding will be used to recruit more soldiers, repair ships and helicopters and buy more ammunition.

Pimentel, however, said that Pl0 billion is too big an augmentation fund for one department or instrumentality of government. He said it would be very difficult to grant the full amount requested considering that Congress is not allowed by the Constitution to increase the national budget beyond the level proposed by the President.

He pointed out that whatever extra fund that can be infused into the AFP will be derived from the amounts deducted from other agencies or appropriation items in the budget bill.

For this reason, Pimentel said it may be more practical for Malacanang to propose a supplemental budget for the AFP for the current fiscal year. He said the only question is whether the House of Representatives and the Senate can still accommodate the passage of the supplemental budget since they are now both deliberating on the proposed Pl.4 trillion national budget for 2009.

“But if an additional funding is extremely necessary to meet essential expenses of the AFP, I believe that the senators and congressmen will exert extra efforts to approve a supplemental budget. That, I suppose, will depend on the justification to be given by Malacanang and defense officials,” he said.

Pimentel noted for instance, the urgency of providing funds for the repair of some cargo aircraft after one of the two C-130 cargo planes of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) crashed into the sea in Southern Mindanao last month while airlifting soldiers and relief goods for people displaced by the armed conflict.

He said the executive branch will also have to set aside funds for the purchase of a new or second-hand military cargo plane to solve the PAF’s cargo transport problem. (PStar)

October 2, 2008

ARROYO HECKLED
Farmers nabbed for jeering
GMA MassKara speech

BACOLOD City – “Oust GMA! She’s fake!” Five farmer-activists hollered these defiant words, stunning President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who was delivering a speech during yesterday’s opening of the 2008 MassKara Festival at the public plaza here.

Plain-clothed Presidential Security Guards and policemen immediately swarmed the placard-bearing hecklers who managed to position themselves near the stage.

A visibly astounded Arroyo stopped speaking for about three minutes, but she continued after the farmers and their placards have been removed from the plaza by the policemen and her guards.

The hecklers were farmer-members of Task Force Mapalad (TFM), a peasant organization espousing agrarian reform. They were brought to the Bacolod City Police Station 1.

Before the heckling, members of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan-Negros) and the human rights alliance Karapatan marched along Araneta Street. They tried to breach the police security around the plaza, but were overpowered by anti-riot policemen.

Felipe Gelle, chairperson of Bayan-Negros, condemned the arrest of the TFM members. He urged the police to release the protesters immediately and without charges.

In a press statement, Task Force Mapalad claimed that six were arrested, not five as the Bacolod City Police Office (BCPO) reported.

It said the hecklers belonged to a group of 20 protesters who were demanding the distribution of the Arroyo-owned 157-hectare Hacienda Bacan in Brgy. Guintubhan, Isabela, Negros Occidental.

The task force also claimed that the farmers were “manhandled” by policemen while being brought to Police Station 1.

The protesters will be charged for inciting sedition, resisting arrest, illegal assembly and alarm and scandal.

The city police identified the five arrested as Ederlito Algona, 40; Bonifacio Algona, 20; Noel Estaris, 21; Gerardo Batalla, 56; and Herminigildo Padilla, 41.

Task Force Mapalad named another one — Romeo Pidoy. It denounced the arrests, saying that the farmers have a very legitimate demand.

“All they wanted was to remind President Arroyo of her promise, declared publicly last May, that Hacienda Bacan would be distributed to the farmer-beneficiaries,” said TFM President Jose Rodito Angeles.

Pastor Emmanuel Alano, convener and spokesman of the multi-sector group Negros CARP Reform Movement (NCRM), said the arrest of the farmers reflected the intolerance of the Arroyo administration to legitimate protests and grievances of the people.

Angeles said the farmers wanted to call the attention of Arroyo to the continuing delay in the distribution of Hacienda Bacan, owned by the family of her husband, Mike Arroyo, despite the fact that it had already undergone property valuation by the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP).

Last July, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) ordered the LBP to issue a certificate of cash deposit in favor of Rivulet Agro-Industrial Corp., which holds the title to the hacienda, but the bank did not comply.

DAR said it needed the certificate of deposit to generate and issue certificates of landownership award (CLOAs) to the farmer-beneficiaries.

The task force had earlier accused Finance Secretary Margarito Teves, the concurrent LBP chairman, of intervening to prevent the issuance of the certificate of deposit.

The other day, TFM had urged the DAR to proceed with the issuance of CLOAs to some 60 farmer-beneficiaries of Hacienda Bacan.

Angeles said DAR is morally and legally bound to issue the CLOAs because considerable time had already lapsed since it ordered the bank to issue a certificate of cash deposit.

“There is no legal basis for continuing to hold back the issuance of the CLOAs, and even the DAR legal department says, there is no legal impediment to distributing the land to the farmer-beneficiaries,” said Angeles./PN – Bacolod

Photos: Bacolod Stuns Gloria

October 2, 2008

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was stunned to hear the chants “Oust Gloria” from members of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN-Negros). She has just began her speech at the opening of Masskara Festival 11:00 am today at Bacolod Public Plaza.

The lightning rally was carried out in the face of the imposition of the “No Permit, No Rally” by S/Supt. Ronilo Quebrar of the Bacolod City Police. The police were augmented by elements of the Philippine Army.

= from the press statement of Bayan – Negros

Press Statement — October 1, 2008
Reference: Felipe Levy Gelle Jr.
Secretary-General, BAYAN-Negros
Mobile landline: (034) 457-5021

LIGHTNING RALLY STUNNED GLORIA MACAPAGAL-ARROYO

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was stunned to hear the chants “Oust Gloria” from members of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN-Negros). She has just began her speech at the opening of Masskara Festival 11:00 am today at Bacolod Public Plaza.

The lightning rally was carried out in the face of the imposition of the “No Permit, No Rally” by S/Supt. Ronilo Quebrar of the Bacolod City Police. The police were augmented by elements of the Philippine Army.

At Araneta Street, BAYAN-Negros main contingent of 50 protesters faced and resist the dispersal by the combine police and army anti-riot team. They push us a few meters towards the intersection of Luzurriaga and Araneta. Several members of BAYAN were hurt during the attempted dispersal of BAYAN contingent.

We clarify that the protest is not meant to embarrass City officials and organizers of the Masskara Festival but is directed against Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, whom we refuse to recognize as a legitimate president. Alongside, we bring the issue of creeping martial law, militarization, charter change and the call to scrap the value-added taxation.

Protest actions will always be present every time Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo arrives in Bacolod and in Negros. That is how the people express their disgust and disapproval of the corrupt and inept governance of Mrs. Arroyo.

Aside from BAYAN, small sugar planters lead by Fr. Arman Onion and sugar cooperatives were also holding protest during the arrival. They brought the issue of unjust imposition of advanced VAT

We also express our solidarity with the members of the Task Force Mapalad who were nabbed by members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) at the Bacolod Public Plaza. We call on the police to immediately release the illegally arrested members of TFM without charges. ###

(Arkibong Bayan)

(Bayan-Negros)

Adan: US military presence is “beneficial to our people”

October 1, 2008

Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews
Sunday, 28 September 2008 20:19
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DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/27 September) – The executive director of the Presidential Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement says the presence of US troops in the Philippine is “beneficial to our people,” citing in dollars and cents the benefits.

Contrary to reports of alleged basing by the US military, Adan said, “we believe that it is through the Visiting Forces Agreement that our country can better protect its sovereignty as it lives up to its obligations under the Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States.

The American soldiers, Adan told the Legislative Oversight Committee on the Visiting Forces Agreement Thursday at the Senate’s Pecson Room in Pasay City, are “like guests who lend assistance to repair a house and were invited by the host owner to stay and live with them for the duration of the project very much in the traditional spirit of Bayanihan.”

“Necessarily, the owners have to offer them space to sleep, work and eat, they need some privacy. In the process, they will leave marks on the floor, cause the rearrangement of furniture, and leave some footprints. The footprints of these visitors are big. Because they have big planes, big ships. The host children may complain about these discomforts. However, these are minor and tolerable,’’ he said.

Adan concluded by saying the VFA “continues to serve the national interest, is beneficial to our people and is conducted with due regard to Philippine laws.”

From the first to third quarter this year, the Philippines has already benefited from two million US dollars’ worth of American medical civic actions programs (medcaps), 165,000 US dollars’ worth of engineering and civic action programs (encaps).

Adan cited the 400 helicopter sorties by the US Air Force to assist in search and rescue and delivery of 300 tons of food in Panay Island, then devastated by Typhoon Frank.

Adan said the American soldiers number from “400 to 600 at any one time or less than the size of an Army battalion.”

He said 25,000 persons have benefited from medical civic action programs in Central Mindanao, Western Samar and Palawan and that in Sulu and Tawi-tawi, 390 projects have been done, including road repairs, building of classrooms and that these have “greatly contributed to the quest for peace in the province.”

The US government has allocated 16 million US dollars as military assistance for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in 2007 and 3.6 million US dollars for 2008.

Local communities, he said, are also earning. Zamboanga City earns an average of “5.5 million pesos every six months in employment and supply contracts on account of the US military presence.”

Adan enumerated four implementing guidelines on the US troops’ presence: that no US troops shall be engaged in combat operations; the Armed Forces of the Philippines commander shall have control over operations all the time; that ownership of facilities temporarily used by US troops will remain with the Armed Forces of the Philippines; and that US troops can only use weapons in self-defense.

Adan also noted that what is “difficult to quantify” is when an Army commander in

Cotabato last August asked a US mobile training team to help recover and disarm an unexploded bomb dropped by the Philippine Air Force.

“In saving the lives of Filipinos who were potentially endangered from the bomb, the American bomb experts risked their lives as well together with our brave Filipino soldiers in neutralizing the bomb,” Adan said.

Asked after the hearing who actually asked for assistance, Adan said “the commander in the area.”

When MindaNews told him the Army commander there said he had “no idea” about the operations, Adan said it must have been “the commander from the EOD.”

MindaNews asked Lt. Col. Diosdado Carreon, commanding officer of the Army’s 40th Infantry Battalion, on August 17, the day the US-RP team detonated the bomb, if he sought the assistance of American soldiers to look for unexploded ordnance or unexploded bombs and he said, “no idea.”

He said the Army Division had control over the EOD.

A soldier who identified himself as Lt. Hermosura, intelligence officer of the 40th IB, asked the MindaNews team and the other soldiers and paramilitary elements to vacate the area as the bomb would be detonated.

MindaNews chanced upon the US-RP team searching for unexploded bombs in Barangay Baliki, Midsayap, North Cotabato on August 17.

August 17 was a Sunday and MindaNews went to the interior parts where armed clashes were fierce days earlier, to look for the area where houses were reportedly burned, when the MindaNews team chanced upon the US-RP team.

Carreon, commanding officer of the Army’s 40th Infantry Battalion, had told MindaNews early that morning that the area had been “cleared.”

As it turned out, it wasn’t really “cleared” as the US-RP team was still looking for bombs.

Fortunately for the US-RP team, very few of the evacuees, who were already advised by their mayors and barangay captains to return home as the area had been “cleared” by the military, had actually returned home. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

Rights groups extend relief to evacuees

October 1, 2008

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews/30 September) — Human rights groups in Southwestern Mindanao conducted a two-day relief mission in areas in North Cotabato and Maguindanao affected by the resumption of hostilities between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

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Dubbed “Duyog sa Ramadan” (In solidarity with Ramadan), the Suara Bangsamoro, Kawagib Moro Human Rights Organization, National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) and ACT International, started on Monday the distribution of relief items to hundreds of remaining evacuees in the towns of Aleosan, Midsayap, and Pikit in North Cotabato.

Suara national president Amira Lidasan said they have given packed foods to residents from the villages of Katinggawan, Rangaban, Baliki and Lindongan in Midsayap; Bagolibas and Pagangan in Aleosan; and Nalapaan in Pikit.

The packs included rice, mongo, sugar, sugar, salt, and dried fish.

“This is our way of helping our people during Eid al-Fitr (Hariraya Puasa). Also, this is just a modest respite to the protracted torment of Moro people,” the group said.

Kawagib spokesperson Bai Ali Indayla expressed dismay that “the military has refused to heed our cries” for a suspension of military operations during the holy month of Ramadan.

“This government showed no sign of respect to the Muslims’ most significant occasion,” Indayla said.

In a recent fact-finding mission in Maguindanao, the group found out that the military has set up temporary command posts in areas near the evacuation sites.

One proof, it said, was the encounter between government soldiers and Moro rebels last Friday near the Datu Gumbay Elementary School in Datu Piang, Maguindanao.

Seven civilians, four of them children, were reportedly wounded.

The school, used temporarily as evacuation center, is near the temporary command post of the 601st Brigade.

“If only the AFP would pull out their troops in Moro communities, there will be no more evacuees. Muslims in the evacuation centers have only one wish – return home and celebrate Eid al-Fitr peacefully,” Indayla said. (Malu Cadeliña Manar/MindaNews)

Court issues writ of amparo for suspected NPA

October 1, 2008

BACOLOD CITY — The Bacolod regional trial court issued a writ of amparo against Senior Supt. Rosendo Franco, Negros Occidental police director; Senior Supt. Ronilo Quebrar, Bacolod police chief; Senior Insp. Luisito Acebuche, Bacolod police Station 1 chief, and Brig. Gen. Josue Gaverza, commander of Army’s 303rd Infantry Brigade, for the arrest of Gabriela volunteer Mary Grace Delicano.

Government authorities maintained that Delicano is a top ranking rebel leader in Negros island, something Delicano denies. Her brother Benedicto filed for the issuance of the writ of amparo which Bacolod Judge Ray Alan Drilon ruled as sufficient in form and substance.

The writ of amparo, approved by the Supreme Court in October 2007, is a legal remedy available to any person whose right to life, liberty and security, is violated or threatened with violation by an unlawful act or omission of a public official or employe, or of a private individual or entity.

The respondents were ordered to submit their written response within 72 hours from its receipt.

Drilon set the summary hearing on the petition on Friday.

Delicano was arrested here based on an arrest warrant for robbery-in-band. An alleged former comrade in the communist movement in Northern Negros identified her as the finance officer of the Kilusang Larangang Northern Negros, Komiteng Rehiyonal-Negros of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army. – Gilbert Bayoran (Malaya)

Rights group hit military use of air raids in Samar

September 28, 2008

By Joey A. Gabieta
Visayas Bureau
First Posted 19:28:00 09/27/2008

TACLOBAN CITY — A HUMAN RIGHTS group in Eastern Visayas has accused the military of conducting air raids in remote villages of two Samar towns that resulted in the dislocation of families.

The Eastern Visayas chapter of Karapatan claimed that government troops conducted the air strikes in the villages of Bay-ang in San Jorge and in Hagbay in San Jose de Buan on Sept. 16 and 18.

The human rights group also alleged that aside from dropping bombs on these villages, the military also arrested and detained civilians.

“These acts are clear indications that the military is not considering the lives of the civilians and the people whom they are mandated to protect,” the group’s regional secretary general Kathrina Castillo said in an e-mail.

While the military admitted having conducted air strikes, they maintained it was only done in one village in San Jorge town as part of the support for the soldiers pursuing suspected rebels.

Maj. Magintonong Tocalo, chief of the 8th Infantry Division civil-military office, said the allegations were lies that were part of Karapatan’s efforts to malign the Armed Forces of the Philippines before the public.

“It’s nothing but fabricated lies. While it was true that there was such an incident, it was part of our legitimate operations as we hunt down members of the New People’s Army in the area,” Tocalo said in a phone interview on Thursday.

He said the military conducted air raids and bombings in the second week of September but these were done only in Bay-ang village.

Tocalo also clarified that nobody was living in the area that was bombed by the military, which he said was two kilometers away from the barangay proper.

“We have discovered in the area some (abandoned) camps of the rebels. It serves as the base of the rebels operating in Samar,” Tocalo said.

Tocalo also denied that they arrested and detained civilians since there were no people living in the area.

‘Tagaytay 5’ slams attempt to jail them anew

September 28, 2008

By Niña Catherine Calleja
Southern Luzon Bureau
First Posted 19:25:00 09/27/2008

CALAMBA CITY — THE FIVE POLITICAL prisoners known as “Tagaytay 5,” who were recently ordered freed by the lower court, lambasted the recent attempt of the police to jail them for the second time.

On Sept. 8, the Tagaytay City Prosecutors’ Office, through prosecutors Ernesto B. Vida and Edgar A. Ambagan, filed a motion for reconsideration with the Tagaytay Regional Trial Court Branch 18, challenging the dismissal of the rebellion charges against the five filed two years ago.

The Department of Justice and the Philippine National Police charged the five of rebellion for allegedly planning to overthrow the Arroyo administration.

In a statement sent to the Inquirer, the “Tagaytay 5” called the motion a “legal maneuver” of the prosecutors’ office to hound them and send them back to prison.

“In effect, what the DOJ and the PNP are asking the court is our baseless rearrest and unjust imprisonment,” it said.

Tagaytay Judge Edwin G. Larida Jr. ruled that the five farmers were innocent of the charge of rebellion, and consequently ordered their release from incarceration on Aug. 20.

In a phone interview Saturday morning, lawyer Jose Manuel I. Diokno said the motion was a mere scrap of paper.

“It would be a double jeopardy as the case against the ‘Tagaytay 5’ was duly tried and dismissed,” he said.

The lawyers of the five filed a manifestation opposing the motion for reconsideration on Sept. 19.

Razon headed to NSC–Palace source

September 28, 2008

By Christine Avendaño
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 19:47:00 09/28/2008

MANILA — President Macapagal-Arroyo is poised to appoint newly retired Philippine National Police Director General Avelino Razon to the National Security Council (NSC), a Malacañang source has revealed.

“Razon will be a deputy to National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales at the NSC,” said the official, who asked not to be identified for not having been assigned to speak on the matter.

Razon retired from the police service on Sept. 27 and was replaced by Deputy Director General Jesus Versoza.

But both Gonzales and Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita could not confirm Razon’s appointment to the NSC.

“I have no idea,” Ermita said.

In a separate phone interview, Gonzales said on Sunday he had not been apprised of Razon’s appointment.

But if it were true that Razon was going to the NSC, then he would be appointed deputy director general, according to Gonzales, who is director general of the agency.

Gonzales said Razon’s entry to the NSC would be welcome as “he has a reputation of being a good police officer.’’

Actually, Gonzales said, he already had something in mind for Razon should he be named to the NSC.

He said that with his police experience, Razon could look into the sudden rise in petty crimes in the country, a common complaint made to him by local government executives.

“I promised to look at it and this could be a good opportunity should General Razon come in,’’ Gonzales said.

Gonzales has lost three deputies — retired Gen. Victor Mayo, Pedro Cabuay, who is now chief of the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, and retired Gen. Romeo Tolentino, who is going to the Philippine National Oil Co.

His deputies now include Senior Deputy Adviser Milo Ibrado, Deputy Adviser Luis “Chavit” Singson and Arturo Lomibao, another former PNP chief.

Gonzales said Singson would like to do special assignments while Lomibao has been assigned to anti-terrorism work.

===========

My Take:

Now, at least we see loyalty here.  PGMA is more loyal to PDSP than to the military.  Razon as Gonzales’ deputy?  Can Mamang Pulis stomach that kind of insult?

Just asking…

AFP eyes supplemental budget for Mindanao war

September 28, 2008

By Nikko Dizon
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 20:37:00 09/28/2008

MANILA — The Armed Forces has stressed the need to replenish the ammunition of soldiers in Central Mindanao in order to sustain its pursuit operations against commanders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), who had led attacks on civilian communities.

“If we are to sustain our operations and increase our operational tempo, there is a need to replenish our expended ammunition,” Lieutenant Colonel Ernesto Torres, Jr. told reporters on Sunday.

Asked if there was a need for a supplemental budget for the military campaign, Torres said “it may be expected” but quickly added that he had no detailed information yet on the “request of the Armed Forces regarding this campaign.”

The defense department has proposed a P56.54 billion regular budget for 2009, more than half of which is for the Philippine Army whose troops are in the frontlines of the government’s campaigns against communist and Muslim insurgencies.

Torres said that in the last one-and-a-half months of operations in Central Mindanao, the military already expended a significant amount of ammunition.

The soldiers’ continued mobility needed to be ensured as well, Torres said, pointing out that the military recently lost a C-130 Hercules cargo plane in a devastating crash last August.

“We will proportionately increase our operational tempo so as not to allow the LMGs (lawless MILF groups) to hurt more people and destroy more properties,” Torres said, when asked if fighting could intensify with the end of the holy month of Ramadan in a few days.

In a separate statement, the Philippine Navy said on Sunday that its Landing Tank, BRP Benguet (LT507), left the Navy port in Cavite on Sunday to transport 220 tons of ammunition and 23 Army vehicles in support of the operations in Mindanao.

There were also relief goods for the soldiers under the 103rd, 104th and 403rd Brigades in Iligan City from the AFP Civil Relations Service office, said Capt. Leopoldo Alano, commander of the Naval Task Force 80, in the press statement.

The ship also brought truckloads of relief goods for typhoon victims in Visayas and evacuees displaced by the fighting in Mindanao.

The military is hunting down MILF commanders Ameril Ombra Kato, Abdullah Macapaar alias Bravo, and Aleem Sulaiman Pangalian who led their men in a rampage in North Cotabato, Lanao del Norte, and Saranggani province last August in protest of the scuttled signing of the agreement on ancestral domain between the government and the Moro rebel group.

The MILF rebels’ attacks left scores of civilians dead and displaced hundreds and thousands of residents in the impoverished Central Mindanao provinces.

==========

My Take:

Now what?

After commiting grave humn rights abuses and killing civilians with thier aerial bombings, they want us to shell out more money to sustain their wrong doings?

Just asking…

Two Peasant Organizers in Bataan Missing

September 28, 2008

BY BULATLAT

Two peasant organizers in Bataan province have been missing, Desaperacidos (Families of Desaparecidos for Justice) disclosed.

The group said suspected military men abducted Nelson Balmaña on Sept. 21 and Florencia Espiritu on Sept. 22. Both are organizers of the Sto. Niño Lubao Farmers’ Association (SLFA). The victims have been organizing peasants from Lubao, Pampanga, an adjacent barangay (village) to Hermosa, Bataan.

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

The next day, Florencia left the house at 10:30 am and was boarding a tricycle, when at least six armed men believed to be elements of the 24th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army took her and forced her into a white L300 FB Mitsubishi.  Four of the men were armed with .45 caliber pistols, while one carried an armalite.

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

Desaperacidos said the recent abductions placed to 199 the number of the disappeared under the Arroyo regime

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

Mary Guy Portajada, spokesperson of Desaperacidos, revealed that three have been abducted in a just six days.

“The Armed Forces of the Philippines clearly shows that it is untouchable, and continues to carry out enforced disappearances, even after the Court of Appeals had ruled that it is guilty of the disappearance of Sherlyn Cadapan, Karen Empeño and Manuel Meriño,” said Portajada.

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

Meanwhile, in another statement, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) condemned the recent abductions.

Willy Marbella, KMP deputy secretary general for internal affairs, hit the military for ‘wreaking havoc on the peasant movement.’  “After forcibly disappearing our Bulacan leader-organizer Jonas Burgos, our National Council member Nilo Arado, framing up Tagaytay 5 and our deputy secretary general for external affairs Randall Echanis, here they go again, abducting our organizers in Bataan,” said Marbella.

Marbella said the ‘counter-insurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya II (Operation Freedom Watch II) has been targeting the legal democratic movement, particularly, the peasant movement.’

Portajada called on the people to be vigilant, as ‘this government does not sleep as it commits human rights violations.’ “Impunity reigns as Gloria Arroyo and her military remain unpunished for its crimes,” she said. (Bulatlat)

Diagnosing Sickness and Fear in Guihulngan

September 28, 2008

Fifteen doctors who recently joined a humanitarian mission in Guihulngan, Negros Oriental shared that many of the residents’ diseases have been caused by fear of gun toting soldiers roaming their villages.

BY RONALYN V. OLEA
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Bulatlat

Fifteen doctors who recently joined a humanitarian mission in Guihulngan, Negros Oriental shared their observation that many of the residents’ diseases have been caused by fear of gun toting soldiers roaming their villages.

Doctor Merry Mia, director of the Health and Training Services Department of the Council for Health and Development (CHD), disclosed this in a lugawan (porridge) –forum for the benefit of Guihulngan residents held at the St. Scholastica’s College, Sept. 23.

Mia was among the 70-member Negros Mercy Mission who went to the said province from Sept. 12 to 15. The mission attended to 1,035 patients from 12 barangays (villages)- Trinidad, Binobohan, Mani-ak, Sandayao, Kalupaan, Tacpao, Hilaitan, Banwage, Balogo, Linantuyan, Plogastasano, and Imelda.

The mission, split into three clusters, administered medical consultations, pre-natal checkups, minor surgeries (cyst extraction, circumcision), dental services and psycho-social counseling.

Mia said, “It is a common observation by doctors that patients with hypertension, hyperacidity, muscle pains, headache and insomnia were also those who expressed fear of government troops.”

She said that one of the pronounced cases in the counseling activities includes fear of being shot by military men who fire their guns indiscriminately within residential areas. These incidents occurred at Barangays Trinidad, Imelda and Banwague.

High stress levels

Mia noted that those who live near military detachments have high stress levels. “They have difficulty sleeping and are afraid to go through their daily activities,” she said.

Residents interviewed by the mission’s volunteers related that the soldiers would fire their guns around 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. almost daily. The soldiers always say that they had an encounter with the rebels. The residents, however, said there have been no exchanges of fire.

Mia said the residents’ movements have been restricted. “The military has imposed a curfew. Every morning, the soldiers would check all the residents. These have hampered the people’s activities and livelihood.”

Another doctor, Edelina dela Paz, vice chairperson of Health Alliance for Human Rights (HAHR), cited the case of a pregnant woman from Bgy. Linantuyan. She said soldiers pointed a gun at the poor woman.

“The fear in her mind can affect her baby,” said dela Paz. She said it was good the woman is strong enough.

Dela Paz underscored the importance of psycho-social counseling in areas like these. “You have to make them ventilate their fears. The military aims to intimidate the people so that the people won’t say anything any more,” she said.

Other patients complained of cough and colds, epigastric pain, musculoskeletal pains and upper respiratory tract infection.

She said that the nearest health center has no doctor and no medicines. “There was no health education among the people, too.”

Mia said the Franciscan Mountain Clinics in Bgy. Trinidad and Banwage have been frequently visited by soldiers. “People are afraid to go to these alternative health clinics because of the military.”

Securing the area?

In fact, Mia said that during the first day of the mission, nine soldiers from the 11th Infantry Battalion attempted to enter the premises of the Franciscan Mountain Clinic in Kalabaklabakan, Brgy. Trinidad.

When physician Mark Chito Molina, member of the Health Alliance for Democracy –Cebu chapter, Cynthia Vargas of the CHD and Amy Tapales, staff of the Franciscan Mountain Clinic prevented the military from entering the clinic premises, Lt. Jade Cañete, commander of the unit, insisted that they have to get in to “secure the area.”

Mia said, “Secure from whom? They are the ones who sow fear among the people.”

The soldiers attempted three times to enter the premises, causing delay to the delivery of medical services.

Poverty

Mia also said that many of the diseases they diagnosed are preventable if only the people have the money to obtain their basic needs and health care services.

Mia said that cases of stress and insecurity are also brought about by problems of daily survival and separation from family members. She said that some of the residents’ loved ones have left Guihulngan in search of additional income elsewhere.

Rolando Libang, executive assistant of the CPDG, said landlessness remains to be the major problem of farmers in Guihulngan. He said that 90 percent of the farmers are tenants.

Agricultural workers receive only P45 ($0.855 at an exchange rate of $1=P46.745) a day, said Libang. Farmers are paid P200 ($4.278) for three days’ work of weeding out grass in sugar plantations.

Libang said farmers have no food security at all. They harvest palay (rice grains) only once a year because of the soil’s acidity. The farmers harvest only 2,000 kernels of corn per cropping season.

Malnutrition

Dela Paz said that most of the children she examined complained of pain in the stomach. “It is ironic that the children of farmers, who are the producers of food, are malnourished.”

She lamented the eating patterns of the children. Most of the schoolchildren would eat ground corn with ginamos (salted fish) before leaving for school. “Kung may bigas, maswerte na.” (If they have rice, they are lucky.)

The children, dela Paz said, would eat nothing for morning snacks. “I found out that they reserve kamote (sweet potato) or saging (banana) for lunch,” said dela Paz.

Prescription

Katharina Anne Berza, CHD advocacy officer, said, “In its prescription, the mission underscored the need for the people to have access to their right to health and economic alleviation.”

She said further, “A clear health program must be implemented to battle the health problems the communities face instead of having army troops who spread fear and anxiety. Genuine land reform is definitely a necessity and not the presence of soldiers in full battle gear.” (Bulatlat)

Surface James Balao Now!

September 28, 2008

BY THE ALL UP ACADEMIC EMPLOYEES UNION-BAGUIO CHAPTER
ALL UP ACADEMIC EMPLOYEES UNION NATIONAL
DEMOCRATIC SPACE

2008 is the Centennial Year of the University of the Philippines. Since January, the entire University System has been celebrating. In fact, in UP Baguio, one of the culminating activities is a Grand Alumni Homecoming on December 5, 2008. But Alas! The preparations to turn this activity into a memorable, major celebration is threatened. One of the University of the Philippines Baguio’s harvests of intelligent minds, of true Iskolars ng Bayan who take to task genuine service to the people, is missing.

James Balao graduated in1981 with a degree in B.S. Psychology. As a student, he served as editor-in-chief of the official student paper, Outcrop. After graduation, James involved himself in research and writing projects for both academic and non-government organizations. One of his major research outputs has to do with “The Land Problem of the Cordillera National Minorities.”

No one could just disappear in thin air. James could not disappear voluntarily without informing his family and friends. James loves life. In fact, he has been an advocate of the defense of life and land of the Cordillera peoples, for the protection of his people from oppression and exploitation. James could have only disappeared involuntarily, forcibly.


CONGRESS LOBBY. The Balao siblings (left) asked Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño some assistance for their brother’s enforced disappearance case. (Photo by Cye Reyes/NORDIS)

The UP community appeals to the highest authorities of the Philippines to find the whereabouts of James and send clear signs of the Government’s adherence to justice by surfacing him immediately. If any state agency suspects him of any violations of the laws of the Philippines, James must be allowed to defend himself. The law enforcers must adhere to due process.

We also appeal to all concerned individuals and organizations to sign the on line petition at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/CPAjamesbalao/. You may also forward letters of solidarity to the Balao family through and through the Cordillera Human Rights Association email address (chra@cpaphils.org)

Justice for Rachelle Mae Palang (1986-2008): Press Freedom Fighter and Nurse of the People

September 28, 2008

BY THE COLLEGE EDITORS GUILD OF THE PHILIPPINES
DEMOCRATIC SPACE
Posted by Bulatlat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Highest tribute to Rachelle Mae Palang!
Justice for Beng and Mae-Mae!

The Cruelty of Enforced Disappearances: An Abhorrent Crime Against Humanity

September 27, 2008

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

BY RONALYN V. OLEA
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Bulatlat

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

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

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

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


Bonifacio Ilagan.

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

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

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

Not expecting the worst

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

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

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

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

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

Double whammy

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

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

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

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

No time to grieve

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

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

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

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

Still painful

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Both parents missing

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

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

Looking up the same sky

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

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

Missing their moments together

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Same plight

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

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

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

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

Perpetrators, cowardice

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

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

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

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

Continuing search for their relatives and the pursuit of justice

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

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

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

Doing the same abhorrent acts

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

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

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

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

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

The same monster

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

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

Must not forget

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

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

Editorial Cartoon: Blabbermouth

September 27, 2008

The only field where he excells.

Not enough guns for cops, says incoming PNP chief

September 27, 2008

BINALONAN–Just as the provincial government has completed its distribution of shotguns to the more than 1,000 barangay chairmen in Pangasinan, the police chief-in-waiting admitted there are not enough guns for the country’s police force.

Deputy Director General Jesus Versoza, a Pangasinense who was invited by the mayors’ league here last week, said they are looking at another five years before they are able to address the shortage of firearms even with the P10 billion allocated by the national government for a capability enhancement program.

Apart from firearms, Verzosa said the Philippine National Police (PNP) Force also needs more patrol cars and boats.

Meanwhile, Verzosa also said the PNP will only be able to meet the international police-population ratio of 1:500 by the year 2017.

Verzosa, PNP’s deputy chief for administration and the next in line as PNP chief when Director General Avelino Razon Jr. retires at the end of September, told local newsmen the current rate of the PNP to the country’s population of 80 million is 1:745.

“(It’s) way, way below the international standard,” said Versoza, who hails from Dasol.

To meet the ratio, he said the PNP will have to recruit 10,000 policemen every year for the next nine years, but this largely depends on the budget that will be allocated.

Over the last few years, he said the PNP has been recruiting an average of 5,000 policemen as mandated under the General Appropriations Act (GAA) but sometimes they’re able to ask for additional 2,000 or 3,000 recruits.

Verzosa was invited by the mayors for a discussion on various police concerns, particularly security issues in the wake of the gunslaying of Agno Mayor Arthur Cabantac last August.

Meanwhile, the mayors passed a resolution commending the efforts of Pangasinan Provincial Director, Senior Supt. Isagani Nerez and the Task Force Cabantac for the identification and filing of murder charges against three suspects in the Cabantac slay.

The mayors have put up an additional P250,000 reward for the identification and capture of the mastermind. Earlier, they approved another P250,000 for the capture of the perpetrators.# (SundayPunch)

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

My Take:

No guns for the police? And yet they are willing to arm the Villages heads with shotguns?

Just asking…

Activist reported missing

September 26, 2008

BAGUIO CITY ― Alarm spread as a local activist has been reported missing by his family.


James Balao

James Balao, a member of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), was reported missing Wednesday. Knowing he was arriving that day, the family waited and went to check him out when he did not, the CPA said in a statement.

This is the first case of enforced disappearance in the Cordillera under the present administration, the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) noted.

“The family was informed that he had left his residence in Fairview, Baguio City at around 7:00 A.M. on the said date. Since then, he, unusually, has not been in contact with his friends or members of his family; nor can they contact him,” CPA said.

Family members say this is very unlikely of James who is known to be responsible and extremely as to informing them of his whereabouts.

James, 47, is of medium-built, 5’7”-5’9” tall and is chinky-eyed. He was last seen wearing a black jacket, brown pants, visor, black hiking boots and eyeglasses. He was carrying a yellow and blue backpack and red traveling bag.

“He was going to spend the following days at the family residence in La Trinidad,” his younger sister told CPA officers.

His absence is very alarming, as he had reported regular surveillance to his family that started on the week of June and has increasingly heightened until his disappearance, according to Beverly Longid, CPA chair. He has even observed white and blue vans that regularly tail him from his residence to his daily chores, she added.

Vio Hidalgo of the Baguio City Police Office (BCPO) said there have been no reported arrests named Balao since Wednesday.

Family members and friends are urgently calling on the authorities, particularly the Philippine National Police, (PNP) the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the public who know him (former classmates, friends), to kindly aggressively assist the Balao family and in the search for James.

Longid and Atty. Rene Cortes, chairperson of the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) with the Balao family appeal to the public for any information on Balao’s whereabouts.

As this developed, the family enjoins every one to send information to either the Balao family at 09175069404; the offices of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (442-2115); or the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (445-2586 and 09189199007). # KTO(NorDis)

Abra human rights worker gets death threats

September 26, 2008

BAGUIO CITY ― A human rights worker in Abra continues to receive death threats through text messages from an unidentified sender allegedly from the elements of the military.

Irene Timbreza, spokesperson of Abra Human Rights Alliance (AHRA) and the deputy general secretary of Kakailian Salakniban tay amin a Nagtaudan (Kastan), received on July 25 a text message from an unidentified sender warning her to be prepared because she will die on November 1. Kastan is the local chapter of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA).

The text message read, “You better start preparing, you will die on November 1.”

Timbreza dismissed the threat as a prank until her daughter received a similar message on her cell phone on August 23 saying, “On November 1, your mother will die. Show her this message otherwise your mother will really die.”

According to Timbreza, she noticed that she and a colleague from Kastan were heavily under surveillance by elements of the military since July.

It was in July when these two Kastan members joined a mission to retrieve three bodies of alleged members of the New People’s Army (NPA) killed during an encounter in Sallapadan, Abra. The retrieval mission was launched in response to the request of families of those killed.

It was during the retrieval operations that unidentified members of the 41st Infantry Battalion took pictures and video footages of Timbreza and her colleague. They also noticed a motorcycle-riding man taking pictures of them while waiting for the bodies to be embalmed in Bangued, the capital of Abra.

According to a statement by the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) released Thursday, these “harassment may be attributed to the 503rd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army (IBPA) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), currently based in the province conducting massive counter-insurgency operations under the directive of Oplan Bantay Laya, especially in areas where there are pending mining applications.”

The statement further said the harassments are not isolated incidents but “part of a larger policy of the state to tag people’s organizations and their staff and volunteers as ‘front organizations and supporters’ of the NPA.”

“This policy has led to the surveillance, harassment and intimidation, and killing of people’s advocates and human rights workers all over the country,” said the CHRA statement.

The CHRA condemns these threats against Timbreza. They said similar threats have preceded the extra-judicial killings of many activists in the country.

According to CPA Secretary General Windel Bolinget in a phone interview, these threats frequently received by members of their organization are clear indications of intensifying political repression under the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo regime.

“Timbreza and other members of Kastan-CPA have long been targeted by threats and harassment because of their being vocal and active participation in the campaign opposing mining applications in the province and the consequent militarization,” said Bolinget.

Timbreza is actively participating in fact finding missions, dialogs and campaigns against the human rights violations in Abra. # Cye Reyes and Jude Baggo (NorDis)

Editorial Cartoon: Blind Force

September 25, 2008

They’re just like bullets.

Talks with MILF to continue

September 25, 2008

President Gloria Arroyo has assured the United Nations that she will resume peace talks with Muslim separatists as recent fresh fighting in southern Philippines left two rebels dead.

Her assurance came a day after the government announced that it was working on adding the names of three rebel commanders to the UN’s list of terrorists.

President Arroyo has suspended peace talks with the rebels and poured more troops into Mindanao to pursue the three Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) leaders and their men blamed for deadly attacks there in August.

But speaking before the UN General Assembly in New York on Tuesday, Mrs. Arroyo said she remained committed to the peace process but stressed the negotiations would only resume when the three rebel commanders are arrested.

Organization of Islamic Confe-rence Secretary General Edmeleddin Ihsanoglu told President Arroyo that it would support efforts for political settlement in Mindanao “only within the context of Philippine sovereign integrity and will not allow crossing that line,” Press Secretary Jesus Dureza said.

MILF leaders Umbra Kato, Abdu-rahman Macapaar or Bravo and Sulayman Panglian last month led attacks on mostly Christian communities in the provinces of Lanao del Norte, Maguindanao, North Cota-bato and Sarangani.

Ensuing clashes between them and government troops caused the death of more than 200 soldiers, rebels and civilians and displaced at least a quarter-million residents.

Foreign aid agencies have reported difficulties in getting access to refugee camps in their efforts to avert a humanitarian crisis.

“Much progress was made until violent elements within the [MILF] decided to take the law into their own hands,” the President said in her speech, which was released on Wednesday in Manila.

She added that the government would resume dialogue with the rebels when the area was secure and the separatist leadership had regained control of their men.

By “area,” the President was apparently referring to the four provinces, although there also had been violence in Sultan Kudarat province.

MILF justifies attacks

The MILF said it launched the attacks in answer to the Supreme Court’s aborting a peace deal that would have given the rebel group control over an expanded Muslim autonomous area, the Bangsamoro Juridical Authority, that would constitute the rebel homeland.

Mrs. Arroyo said any future negotiations would also have to subscribe to the UN principle of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, or DDR, the so-called paradigm shift of her administration in dealing with the nearly four decades of undeclared war in Mindanao.

Some 50 MILF separatists engaged government troops in gun battles across Maguindanao on Tuesday, according to the Philippine Army spokesman, Maj. Armand Rico.

Two rebels were killed and two soldiers wounded in the fighting, Rico said in a statement.

The government’s move to include Kato, Bravo and Panglian in the UN list of terrorists will only worsen the situation in Mindanao, according to officials of the MILF.

Ghadzali Jaafar, MILF vice chairman for political affairs, said the government should resolve the conflict in the South within the framework of an existing ceasefire agreement between Manila and the rebels.

According to Mohagher Iqbal, the MILF chief negotiator, the separatist group cannot stop the government from going to the United Nations.

He, however, said that Manila’s move would give the MILF an opportunity to also present its case on alleged atrocities committed by government troops in Mindanao.

“We have compiled and documented these [atrocities] and in due time, if we are given the chance, we will present [them] before the United Nations,” Iqbal added.

If the three commanders would be tagged as terrorists, he said, the Philippine government should also be branded as a terrorist for allegedly causing the death of and injury to civilians in the South.
– AFP With Jefferson Antiporda,Al Jacinto And Angelo S. Samonte(ManilaTimes)

=========

My Take:

200 soldiers was killed?  Is this official?  How come media reports never mentioned this number before?  Is this a real figure or some inflated numbers just to get the UNs nod to add the 3 MILF leaders int their list of terrorists?

Just asking.

Soldier hurt in NegOr encounter; nurse’s death angers youth groups

September 25, 2008

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ANOTHER clash between soldiers and a group of suspected rebels erupted yesterday morning in Oriental Negros, leaving a Cebuano soldier injured.

The gunfight took place hours before two other civilians who were killed in an encounter in the same province last week were buried.

Major Christopher Tampus, Central Command spokesperson, identified the wounded soldier in the latest incident as Private First Class Recto A. Moboayaen Jr., a resident of Barangay Pandacan, Pinamungahan, Cebu.

Moboayaen is recovering from gunshot wounds in the left knee and left hip.

He was taken to a hospital in the province. He would have been airlifted yesterday to Cebu but the transfer was put on hold upon his doctor’s advice.

Also yesterday, the College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) released an official statement on the death of 21-year-old nurse Rachelle Mae Palang.

When she was killed in an “encounter” between the military and armed rebels last Thursday, she died serving the poor and the deprived, her peers said.

“We shed our tears for Rachelle who was ruthlessly killed by armed goons of cold-blooded and self-serving tyrants. Her only fault, if it is a fault at all, was her love for those who are suffering because of an unjust system. Her only crime, if at all it is called a crime, was to give up her dreams of living a life of comfort in exchange for serving those who need her the most— the poor and the deprived. For this, she paid with her life,” read the CEGP statement.

Tampus said yesterday’s encounter happened around 7 a.m. in Sitio Mansugban-on, Barangay Manlukahoc, Sipalay City, Oriental Negros.

A section of Army troops under 61st Infantry Battalion led by Lt. Mc. Gary Dida traded gunfire with an estimated 17 suspected members of the New People’s Army (NPA).

This occurred about five hours before the burial of Bernardo Villalonga and Jerry Cabungcag.

Villalonga, Cabungcag and Palang died in an alleged encounter between soldiers and rebels in Sitio Langub, Barangay Malungcay Dako, Dauin, Oriental Negros last week.

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) 7 is investigating the reported encounter, following a resolution passed by the Cebu Provincial Board.

Villalonga, who hailed from Sevilla town, Bohol, was buried at noon yesterday at the Carreta Cemetery, Cebu City.

At 2:30 p.m., Cabungcag, who resided in Sitio Lawis, Barangay Pasil, was buried in the same cemetery.

According to a radio DyLA report, the Municipal Council of Consolacion, Cebu, where Palang was a resident, passed a resolution supporting the Provincial Board’s call for the CHR 7 to dig deeper into the incident.

The council also passed a separate resolution extending their sympathy to the family of Palang. Palang’s father Elenito is a former municipal councilor.

In the encounter in Sipalay yesterday, Tampus said the troops led by Lt. Mc. Dida were on patrol when they spotted the 17 suspected rebels.

The gunfight that followed reportedly lasted 30 minutes.

Shortly after the gunfight, three suspected rebels were arrested.

Soldiers also confiscated an M16 Armalite rifle.

Those caught were identified as Meralyn Pedrosa Mahinay, alias Angel, 20; Robelyn Gelacio Aba, alias Geya, 22; and Roseby Fondador Cañete, alias Dyna, 19.

Tampus said the three were turned over to the Sipalay Police Station.

Lt. Gen. Pedro Ike Inserto, Centcom commanding general, sent two Huey helicopters to the area to assist the troops in the operation.

Two Marchetti planes were also put on standby to be deployed if there was a need to provide air cover.

Inserto, however, reportedly told his men to “strictly observe rules of engagement and absolute respect for human rights.”

The CEGP, however, condemned the “malicious” attempt of the military to confuse and mislead the people, and for refusing to see the difference between CEGP as a legitimate alliance of student publications and those organizations calling for armed struggle.

Palang was the CEGP’s vice president for the Visayas while she was still a student of Velez College and editor-in-chief of their publication, Vital Signs.

“We are deeply insulted when the military praised and showered Mae-Mae’s killers with gifts and recognitions. Like barbarians, they celebrate in the death of a peace and freedom-loving person who helped more people than they ever will in their lifetime,” read the statement.

Mark Ray Sison of the Student Christian Movement at the University of San Carlos (USC) said in a press statement that he was dismayed by how the military transported the bodies, which hung from bamboo poles, covered in plastic and cloth.

“It’s as if they (the dead) were animals,” he said.

Chuck de los Santos, chairperson of the USC League of Filipino Students, said he hopes that others would be as principled as Palang was.

“We will continue what Rachelle struggled for. Her death did not create fear in us but rather, made us more militant and courageous in serving the people, whatever the cost may be,” he added. (JTG/EPB)

Karaniwang kaganapan sa kanayunan

September 24, 2008

Pons Caudilla (Bikol Xpress)

NASA koprahan sa bundok ang mga magsasakang sina Nelfa Cledera, 44 at Maricel Camacho, 35, bandang alas-10 ng umaga noong ika-3 ng Setyembre, nang may lumapit sa kanilang armadong lalaking nagpakilalang mga miyembro umano ng NPA (New People’s Army).

Ayon sa mga armado, hinahanap daw nila ang kanilang mga kasamahan at isasama sina Nelfa at Maricel sa paghahanap. Tumanggi sina Nelfa at Maricel dahil hindi naman sila mga NPA at hindi nila alam kung ano ang pinagsasabi ng dalawang armado.

Agad-agad, pinuwersang kunin ng mga ito kay Nelfa ang dala-dalang P2,000. Panggastos sa eskuwela ng anak ang perang ito ni Nelfa, kung kaya nagmakaawa siya. Pero matigas ang mga armado.

Pilit na isinama sina Nelfa at Maricel ng dalawa upang magsilbing giya para hanapin ang iba umano nilang mga NPA. Sa kabila ng pagtanggi nila, patuloy pa rin ang pagtatanong ng dalawang armado. Walang nagawa ang dalawang magsasaka kundi sumama.

Dalawang oras na halos silang sapilitang pinaglakad ng mga armado. Nagulat na lamang sila nang makita nila sa lugar na pinagdalhan sa kanila ay maraming militar. Nakilala umano nilang militar ang mga ito dahil sa suot na fatigues.

Lumapit sa kanila ang isa sa mga militar at sapilitan silang pinaamin na mga miyembro ng NPA. Sinabi nito na dati siyang NPA kaya mabuti na ituro na nila ang lugar kung nasaan ang kanila umanong mga kasamahan. Wala namang maisagot ang mga dinukot.

Nagpatuloy silang maglalakad. Isa sa mga militar ang lumapit kay Nelfa at nagbantang kukulatain siya nito ng baril kung hindi magsasabi ng totoo. Nagsisigaw habang umiiyak si Nelfa at nagmamakaawa dahil wala naman daw silang alam at wala naman silang kasalanan.

Pagdating nila sa lugar ng Pasimbugan, sumagi sa isip ni Nelfa na tumakas na sila dahil baka patayin sila ng mga armado. Pero maraming taong sibilyan na makakakita sa kanila kaya hindi na rin nila ito itinuloy. Pinasakay sila sa isang bangkang de-motor kasama ng mga sundalo.

Pagdating sa lugar ng Tamban ay pinagtitingan sila ng mga tao. May lumapit pa nga raw na ilang sibilyan at tinanong sila kung bakit kasama sila ng Army. Ano daw ang ginawa nilang kasalan?

“Wala kaming kasalanan, magkokopra sana kami tapos sapilitan kaming isinama nila, sa takot namin ay sumama kami kahit hindi namin alam kung saan papunta,” tugon ni Nelfa.

Sapilitang pisinakay ang mga dalawa sa isang sasakyang ng militar at dinala sa detatsment ng mga sundalo sa Brgy. Mananao, Tinambac Camarines Sur. Humihingi pa sana sila ng tulong sa mga sibilyan kaso wala namang magawa ang mga ito. Pagdating sa nasabing detatsment, palit-palitang na ininteroga sila at pinaranas ng matinding mental at sikolohikal na pagpapahirap. Binantaan pa sila na pagdumating na ang umaga ay papatayin sila kung hindi magsasabi ng totoo.

Sumunod na araw, mag-aalas-dos ng hapon, pinakawalan ang mga biktima, matapos sapilitang kunan ng litrato at pinapirama ng samut-saring dokumento na hindi naman pinabasa sa kanila, bagkus ay binasa lang ito sa harap nila. Ang sabi ng mga sundalo na ang nilalaman ng mga dokumento umano kusang-loob silang sumama sa mga sundalo at hindi pinilit.

Tulala ng tatlong araw si Nelfa dulot ng hindi makakalimutang pangyayari.

Pinaghihinalaang mga tropa ng 42nd Infantry Battalion ng Army ang dumukot at nagpahirap kina Nelfa at Maricel, ayon sa Karapatan, alyansang pangkarapatang pantao. (PinoyWeekly)

Pagmimina at militarisasyon sa Masinloc

September 24, 2008

Lala Bautista/Mitch Santos

Minahan ng GGHI sa Brgy. Sta. Rita, Masinloc, Zambales

BUNSOD ng matinding pagtutol ng mamamayan ng Masinloc, Zambales sa operasyon ng pagmimina ng Golden Global Harvest Inc. o GGHI, pormal na itinatag ang alyansang Sagip Masinloc noong Setyembre 10, na binubuo ng mahigit 100 estudyante, magsasaka, residente, at makakalikasan.

Noong Hulyo 2, ibinaba ng Sangguniang Bayan ang Temporary Restraining Order laban sa GGHI, sa udyok ng nagrereklamong mga residente.

Ayon sa Sagip Masinloc, matagal na hinayaan ng lokal na pamahalaan ang operasyon ng kompanya kahit na hindi kinonsulta ang mga residente ng apektadong mga barangay.

Sa panayam noong Hunyo, sinabi ni Roberto Emilao, bise-alkalde ng Masinloc, na nagkasundo ang Sangguniang Bayan at Sangguniang Panlalawigan ng Zambales na hayaan ang pagmimina ng nikel ng GGHI. Aniya, “’Wag nating isara ang ating pag-iisip sa makabagong progreso gaya ng minahan na ito dahil magbibigay ito ng trabaho sa mga tao at tulong pinansiyal sa bayan.”

Gamit sa pagmimina ng GGHI

Pagkasira sa kabuhayan at kalikasan

Ngunit ayon sa pagsusuri ng Siera Tapulao Adventure Group o STAG, isang grupo ng mountaineers na nangangalaga sa watershed ng Masinloc, P6 Milyon ang mawawala sa kita ng mga magsasaka sa Sitio Paglana, Brgy. Sta. Rita pa lamang. Higit na mas malaki raw ito kumpara sa P1-M buwis na ibinabayad ng minahan sa isang taon sa lokal na pamahalaan.

Nais ng mga residente sa mga sasakuping barangay na itigil ang operasyon ng pagmimina ng nikel at pagbayarin ang GGHI sa mga pinsalang idinulot nito gaya ng pagkasira ng lupang taniman.

Umano’y patuloy ang pag-agos mula sa kabundukan patungo sa ilog, na siyang nagsisilbing patubig para sa palayan, ng hindi maipagkakailang mga katas ng nakalalasong kemikal gaya ng mercury, cyanide, at oribe (ores) mula sa minahan. Kumakapit sa bato at lupa ang kulay nito na kung dati-rati ay malayang pinaliliguan, iniinuman o pinaglalabahan ng mga residente, ngayon ay hindi na. Maging sa mga hayop gaya ng kalabaw ay delikado na itong ipainom.

Sampung ektarya ng palayan na ang natabunan ng putik mula sa pagguho ng lupa sa bundok sa loob lamang ng pitong buwang operasyon ng GGHI. Hanggang sa ngayon, hindi pa rin nakapagpupunla ng palay ang mga magsasaka. Nagdulot din ang pagmimina ng pagkasira ng watershed, ayon sa STAG.

Bilang tugon sa pag-aalala ng mga mamamayan sa negatibong mga epekto ng pagmimina, iminungkahi ang lokal na pamahalaan na magbuo ng kanal sa perimetro ng minahan.

Bukirin na natabunan ng pagguho ng putik na dulot ng pagmimina

Pero ayon sa Sagip Masinloc, hindi ito solusyon. Sa karagatan pa rin umano tiyak na dadaloy ang nakalalasong basura mula sa minahan na tiyak na papatay sa mga isda at iba pang organismo na pinagmumulan ng kabuhayan ng mamamayan na Masinloc.

Presensiyang militar

Bukod dito, malakas ang presensiya ng militar sa mga lugar na saklaw ng minahan—banta umano ito sa karapatang pantao at kalayaang sibil ng mga mamamayan.

Binugbog kamakailan ng mga sundalo sa kanyang bukirin si Martin Ilago, isang magsasaka sa Brgy. Sta. Rita. Sa karatig-bayan naman ng Sta. Cruz, dinukot at tinortyur ang apat na sibilyan na kasalukuyang inaalipin sa kampong militar, ayon sa ulat ng mga residente.

Ayon kay Vic Delara, presidente ng STAG, inaasahan na niya na at ng kanilang grupo ang mga atake ng mga nagmamay-ari ng minahan, katuwang ng ilang awtoridad.

Hindi na sila malayang nakakaakyat sa mga kabundukan lalo na sa lugar na malalapit sa minahan dahil mahigpit umano ang pagbabantay ng pribadong mga security guard at sundalong militar.

Sinabi rin ni Nelson Mallari ng Central Luzon Aeta Association na lubos na apektado ang mga katutubo sa magkatambal na problemang pagmimina at militarisasyon.

Zambales: Mining capital

Mistulang mining capital ang Zambales. Noong panahon ng panunungkulan ni Governor Vic Magsaysay, malalaking minahan lamang ang namamayagpag. Pero sa ilalim ng kasalukuyang lokal na pamunuan ni Governor Amor Deloso, mas pinaigting ang kampanya para sa pagsusuporta hindi lamang sa malalaking minahan kundi maging sa small-scale mining o SSM.

Hinihikayat ng lokal na pamahalaan na mamuhunan kahit ang pangkaraniwang mamamayan, maging ang magsasaka, sa pamamagitan ng pagbebenta ng lupain nitong may potensiyal sa mina.

Kaiba sa malalaking minahan, walang malalaking makinarya at traktora ang mga operasyon ng SSM. Manu-mano ang operasyon. Kulang o kundi man ay walang safety measures para sa mga manggagawa na pulos kontraktuwal lamang. Ibinabase sa metro-kuwadrado na lalim at tinatamaang bato ang sistema ng pagbabayad sa manggagawa nito.

Kamakailan pumutok sa balita na ang ilang SSM ay pag-aari din ng mga ilang dambuhalang lokal at dayuhang mamumuhunan kabilang na si dating presidential spokesperson Mike Defensor.

Ayon sa Kalikasan-People’s Network for the Environment, mahigit kalahating milyong ektarya ng lupain sa Pilipinas na ang nakalaan ngayon para sa 200 proyekto ng dayuhang pagmimina.

“Sa kabuuan, mas maraming kabuhayan ang mapipinsala ng pagmimina kumpara sa lilikhain nitong kabuhayan para sa mga mamamayan. Ang maliliit na kilos-protesta na isinasagawa ng Sagip Masinloc ay panimula lamang patungo sa tuluy-tuloy na mas malawak at organisadong pagbabantay para sa mas matagumpay na pagkilos kontra sa pananamantala,” ayon sa STAG. (PinoyWeekly)

‘Batang mandirigma’ ng MILF?

September 24, 2008

Kenneth Roland A. Guda

MUKHANG bata nga sila. Nagmamartsa, nasa pormasyon, matikas. Bitbit ang matataas na kalibre ng baril.

Ganito ang ipinakitang bidyo ni Lt. Col. Julieto Ando, tagapagsalita ng 6th Infantry Division ng Army, sa midya kamakailan bilang patunay daw ng pagkakaroon ng mga “batang mandirigma” sa MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front). Nakuha raw ang bidyong ito sa inabandonang kampo ni Kumander Umbra Kato sa Maguindanao.

“Ipinakita ng bidyo ang mga batang lalaking Muslim na sinasanay ng mga rebeldeng MILF. Malinaw na paglabag ito sa tratado ng UN (United Nations) na nagbabawal sa mga bata na lumahok sa pakikidigma,” pagbibigay-diin ni Ando.

Ang problema lang, hindi ipinaliwanag ni Ando kung paano niya nasabing nasa edad 17 pababa nga ang mga “batang” nagsasanay na maging rebelde. O kung sumasangkot nga ba ang mga “batang” nagsasanay na ito sa pakikidigma. O, kung totoo man ito, bakit nahihikayat ang mga “batang” Moro na lumahok sa MILF.

Pinaiimbestigahan ni Ando at ng AFP sa mga pandaigdigang ahensiya tulad ng UN ang MILF kaugnay ng sinasabing mga “batang mandirigma.”

Pero ang hindi alam o hindi binanggit ni Ando, naglabas na ng masusing pag-aaral ang Unicef (UN Children’s Fund) hinggil dito noon pang 2007.

Sa pag-aaral na ito, kaanib ng Unicef ang Ibon Foundation, Children’s Rehabilitation Center at Center for Women’s Resources. Pinuntahan ng mga mananaliksik ang walong komunidad sa walong probinsiya sa Pilipinas para pag-aralan ang kalagayan ng kabataan at kababaihan sa mga lugar na may digmaan.

Giyera kontra sa New People’s Army ang inilulunsad ng AFP sa pinuntahang mga probinsiyang Abra, Mindoro Oriental, Capiz, Leyte, Surigao del Sur, at Compostela Valley. MILF naman ang kalaban ng gobyerno sa mga probinsiyang North Cotabato at Maguindanao.

Narito ang sinaling sipi mula sa Uncounted Lives: Children, Women & Conflict in the Philippines, librong inilathala ng Unicef at Ibon hinggil sa naturang pag-aaral. Malawak ang saklaw ng libro, pero pinili naming sipiin ilang bahagi lamang ng Part II ng libro, hinggil sa mga probinsiyang may presensiya ng MILF: North Cotabato at Maguindanao. PW ang nagpaiksi at nagsalin mula sa orihinal na Ingles.

Sa amin nanggaling ang anumang di-sinasadyang pagkakamali. (Ed.)


Isinaling sipi mula sa Uncounted Lives: Children, Women & Conflict in the Philippines

North Cotabato

Isang dosenang barangay ang matatagpuan sa Kalaong (sa North Cotabato), at malaking bahagi nito ang sumasakop sa Liguasan Marsh. Tatlo sa limang katao dito ay Moro; ang iba’y kalimitang Kristiyano. Pangunahing kabuhayan ng mga tao ang pagsasaka, pag-aalaga ng mga hayop at pangingisda.

Ang komunidad na binisita, Barangay Pantawan, ay may mahigit 500 kabahayan…

Ang MILF at ang paglaban nito

Hindi man nila direktang sinasabi ito, lumalabas na simpatetiko sa MILF at sa ipinaglalaban nito ang mga bata sa FGD (focused group discussion). Ayon sa kanila, ["Ang] itinuturo ng Islam ay kabutihan lamang. Nangyayari ang jihad kapag niyuyurakan ang karapatan.["] Inamin ng ilan na sinusuportahan ng mga pamilya nila ang mga mandirigma ng MILF sa pamamagitan ng pagbigay ng bigas. Anila, boluntaryo ang pagsali sa MILF. [Pero] tuwing nakasasagupa nito ang militar, nananalangin sila para sa mga mandirigma ng MILF.

Bagamat hindi pa lubos na naiintindihan ng mga bata ang giyera, naihahayag nila kung bakit may giyera, at kung bakit may matinding presensiya ng militar sa kanilang mga komunidad. Ayon sa isa, “Hindi binibigay ng gobyerno ang karapatan ng Moro sa Mindanao. Hindi nangingibabaw ang Islam.”…

Abdul: Natulak [sa pakikidigma] pero determinado

Si Abdul, 22, ay isang magsasaka sa isa sa maliliit na bayan ng North Cotabato. Anim na taon na ang nakararaan, sa edad na 15-anyos, isa siyang nakababatang mujahideen sa Camp Abu Bakr – malaking base ng MILF na inatake ng gobyerno noong 2000…

Noong 1991, lumipat ang pamilya ni Abdul mula sa Kabacan, North Cotabato, isang bayang dominante ang mga Kristiyano, tungong Camp Abu Bakr dahil sa mga oportunidad na pangkabuhayan na inaalok ng MILF…

Noong siya’y pitong taong gulang, alam na niya ang tungkol sa mga nakababatang mujahideen. Naiintindihan niya na tinutugunan ng mga ito ang mahalagang gawain sa ilalim ng Islam…Pero di tulad ng kapatid niyang isa sa mga nakababatang mujahideen, wala siyang balak na humawak ng armas. Kuntento na siyang mag-aral at pana-panahong tumulong sa pamilya…

Naririnig niya mula sa mga nakakatanda na samantalang hindi lahat ng sundalo [ng gobyerno] ay abusado, may ilang sadyang tumatarget ng inosenteng mga sibilyan. Dagdag niya: “Kapag nakapasok na [ang mga sundalo sa aming komunidad] walang pagtatangi silang papatay ng mga Muslim…Lumaban man kami o hindi, papatayin nila kami.” Nang inatake ng militar ang kanyang komunidad, walang magawa ang napilitang si Abdul kundi ipagtanggol ang komunidad…

Noong 2000, itinalaga [si Abdul] bilang bahagi ng blocking force na guguwardiya sa kampo. Sa alala niya, may 30 mandirigma ng MILF na kaharap ang humigit-kumulang 800 sundalo…Nang nagsimula ang sagupaan, ang unang karanasan sa palitang-putok sa murang edad ni Abdul, marami sa mga kasamahan niya ang nabuwal hanggang lima na lamang silang natira…Bumalik si Abdul at ang apat na natitirang mujahideen sa malaking kampo. Bumalik si Abdul sa kanyang ina…


Maguindanao

Matatagpuan ang Barangay Bentingaw malapit sa Liguasan Marsh at, ayon sa matatagal nang mga residente, itinuturing na bahagi ng Rajamudah Camp ng MILF. Pagsasaka at pangingisda ang pangunahing kabuhayan dito…

Naranasan ng lahat ng bata sa FGD ang masamang epekto ng armadong tunggalian. Isang umaga noong Hunyo 2000, ginising ang komunidad ng pagsabog at pagputok ng baril. Dinagsa ang tahimik nilang komunidad ng mga sundalo ng AFP na, ayon sa mga residente, lumalabas na nagpapaputok nang walang pagtatangi…Ayon sa 9-anyos na si Halid, “Sinunog ng mga sundalo ang bahay namin. Kinuha din nila ang mga alaga naming hayop tulad ng baka at iba pa. Ipinahabol kami sa aso.”…

Amin: Nag-aarmas para ipagtanggol ang sarili

Isang 16-taong-gulang na sundalo ng MILF si Amin na pinakabata sa apat na magkakapatid. Isang insidente na ikinasawi ng buhay ng kanyang ama at mga kapatid na lalaki ang nagtulak sa kanya na mag-armas at lumahok sa MILF. Nang magsimulang bombahin ng militar ang mga karatig ng Barangay Bentingaw noong 2000, lumikas ang pamilya ni Amin patungong malapit sa Liguasan Marsh. Pero pati ang lugar na ito ay binomba rin.

Naaalala pa ni Amin ang lahat: Tinamaan agad ang kanyang ama at nakababatang kapatid sa shrapnel pero hindi agad nasawi…Walang doktor sa lugar dahil lahat ng health personnel ay nasa evacuation centers. Ang nakatatandang kapatid niya, na mujahideen na noong panahong iyon, ay namatay rin sa pakikidigma. Tatlong kaanak agad ang nawala kay Amin na 11-taong-gulang pa lamang noon…

Sinabi ni Amin na nag-armas siya para ipagtanggol ang sarili at ang ina… “Walang ibang dahilan (ang paghawak ko ng armas) kundi ang ipagtanggol ko ang aking pamilya dahil sa nangyari. Hindi ako napilitan.”…

Hindi niya maalalang dumaan sa isang proseso ng pagrerekluta…Matapos na lamang ang malungkot na insidente nang unang maisipan ni Amin na humawak ng sandata, pero 13-taong gulang pa lamang siya noon. Pero kahit noong panahong ito, binibigyan na siya ng mga simpleng gawain sa kampo ng MILF. Dahil hindi pa siya tuwirang mandirigma, madalas pa niyang bisitahin ang ina na nagsasaka…

Sa una, ang gusto lang niyang gawin ay ipaghiganti ang pagkamatay ng ama at mga kapatid na, ayon sa kanya, walang labang pinatay…”[Pero] sa paglaki ko, nalaman kong hindi pagpatay ang dahilan ng pakikidigma. May mas malaking dahilan sa paglaban sa giyerang ito: ang pananampalataya sa Islam.”…

Dr. Iqbal: Hinggil sa mga bata at sa armadong pakikibaka

Inilinaw ni Dr. Mohagher Iqbal, kasalukuyang hepe ng public affairs ng MILF at punong negosyador nito, ang posisyon ng MILF hinggil sa mga batang mandirigma: “Hindi dapat lumahok ang mga bata sa giyera dahil dapat nasa paaralan sila.” Pero sinabi niyang may ilang kaso na kinukuha ng MILF sa kustodiya ang bata kapag namatay ang mga magulang nito dahil sa armadong labanan at walang ibang kaanak na susuporta sa bata.

“Sa halip na itaboy sila para maging social deviants, kriminal o adik sa droga, mas mabuti pa silang nasa pangangalaga ng organisasyon…” ani Dr. Iqbal…

Sa mga kasong ito, aniya, ang mga bata sa MILF ay hindi narerekluta bilang full-time na mandirigma kundi nabibigyan ng auxilliary tasks sa kampo nito. Kabilang sa mga gawain nila ay ang pagiging kuryer o tagadala ng pagkain ng mga mandirigma ng MILF sa panahon ng digmaan. Hindi ibig sabihin, ani Dr. Iqbal, na walang karanasan sa pagpapaputok ng baril ang mga batang nasa kustodiya nila. Hindi malayong nakagamit na ang mga ito ng baril bilang paglaban sa militar, laluna tuwing brutal na inaatake ang kanilang mga komunidad…

Pinasubalian ni Dr. Iqbal ang paniniwalang napipilitan o nabi-brainwash ang mga bata na sumali sa kanilang organisasyon… (PinoyWeekly)

Walang dalaw

September 24, 2008

Ilang-Ilang D. Quijano

NAKAPIIT kasama ng karaniwang mga kriminal sa Manila City Jail si Randall Echanis, lider-magsasaka na inaresto noong Enero sa umano’y gawa-gawang kasong rebelyon ng gobyernong Arroyo. Masahol ang mga kondisyon dito-pagkaing kakarampot.

Pero malaking inspirasyon para kay Echanis ang tuluy-tuloy na dalaw ng mga tagasuporta at kapamilya, ayon sa kanyang asawa na si Linda. Naaalala niyang isa sa pinakamahirap na yugto sa buhay ni Echanis ang solitary confinement mula 1983 hanggang 1986 sa ilalim ng diktaduryang Marcos.

Kaya naman nakikiisa siya sa mga kaanak ng tinaguriang Cuban 5, mga bilanggong pulitikal na ngayong buwan ay 10 taon nang nakakulong dahil sa umano’y gawa-gawang mga kasong bahagi ng panggigipit ng Estados Unidos sa sosyalistang bansang Cuba.

Noong Setyembre 17, nagdaos ng porum ang grupong pangkababaihang Gabriela, embahada ng Cuba, at Amistad (Philippine-Cuban Friendship Association). Iginiit dito ang kagyat na pagpapalaya sa Cuban 5 at pagbibigay sa kanila ng karapatan sa dalaw.

10 taon ng Cuban 5

Ang Cuban 5 ay sina Antonio Guerrero, Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labanino, Rene Gonzalez, at Fernando Gonzalez.

Inaresto sila ng gobyernong US noong 1998 at kinasuhan ng conspiracy to commit espionage (pang-eespiya) at murder kaugnay diumano ng pamamaril as dalawang eroplano ng US na lumipad nang walang awtorisasyon sa teritoryo ng Cuba.
Tanyag ang kaso ng Cuban 5 sa pandaigdigang komunidad.

Umano’y niluto ang paglilitis laban sa lima na respetadong mga akademiko, artista, piloto, at engineer.

Pinadala sila ng gobyernong Cuba sa Miami, Florida para alamin ang mga plano ng teroristang mga organisasyong naka-base dito na hinihinalang nasa likod ng serye ng mga pambobomba sa Cuba noong 1997. Isinumbong ng gobyernong Cuba sa gobyernong US ang mga impormasyong kanilang nakalap. Pero sa halip na aksiyunan ng huli, inaresto at kinasuhan ang lima.

Kung ang Cuban 5 ay tagapagtanggol lamang ng mga interes ng mga mamamayan ng Cuba, si Echanis ay tagapagtanggol din lamang ng interes ng mga magsasaka bilang deputy secretary- general for external affairs ng KMP (Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas), ayon sa kanyang mga tagasuporta.

Kaya umano siya napagdiskitahan ng gobyernong Arroyo. Inaakusahan si Echanis ng murder kaugnay ng nahukay ng militar na libingan sa Leyte ng diumano’y mga biktima ng kilusang komunista noong dekada ‘80.

Masuwerte pa si Linda at nayayakap niya at ng kanyang mga anak si Echanis, kahit pa kailangan muna nilang dumaan sa mahihigpit na protocol sa piitan. Sina Adriana Perez at Olga Salanueva, sampung taon nang hindi nayayakap ang kani-kanilang asawa.

Walong beses na pinagkaitan ng US visa sina Ariana, asawa ni Gerardo Hernandez, at Olga, asawa ni Rene Gonzalez. Dahilan ng US sa diplomatic note sa Cuba noong 2003, “panganib sa pambansang seguridad” sina Adriana at Olga. Sangkot diumano ang mga ito sa kampanyang pampulitika laban sa US.

Ayon sa Cuban Foreign Ministry, labag sa internasyunal na mga obligasyon ng US gaya ng United Nations Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Being Subjected to Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment ang pagtanggi sa karapatan sa dalaw ng Cuban 5.

Peligro sa buhay

Sabi ni Gerardo sa asawang si Ariana sa isang sulat, “Kailangan mong maging handa. Amin ay isang pampulitikang paglilitis at kailangang maging matatag at para harapin ito. Sa huli, mananalo tayo.” (You have to be prepared. Ours is a political trial and we have to be sufficiently strong and mature to confront it. In the end, we are going to win.)

Gaya ni Echanis, ikinulong ang Cuban 5 kasama ang karaniwang mga kriminal. Bagkus, nasa panganib ang kanilang mga buhay kahit nasa loob ng piitan.

Kuwento ni Maruchi Guerrero, binibisita niya at ng kanyang ina si Antonio sa US Florence Penitentiary nang biglang magkagulo. Dalawang bilanggo ang namatay at marami ang sugatan dahil sa away ng magkakaibang lahi.

“Napapanatag kami dahil lamang kasama namin ang aking kapatid sa visiting room nang mangyari ang insidente. Pero lalo naming nakita ang araw-araw na peligro sa buhay ng lima,” sabi ni Maruchi. (We were only consoled in knowing that at the time of the incident my brother was together with us in the living room, but we are much more aware of how much our five brothers risk their lives every day.)

Ito rin ang ikinakatakot ni Linda-na may mangyaring masama sa asawa sa loob ng piitan, sadya man o hindi. Kaya naman ipinetisyon ng mga abogado ni Echanis ang kanyang pagpapalipat sa Camp Crame kasama ng iba pang bilanggong pulitikal.

Nagdesisyon na ang Regional Trial Court pabor sa paglipat pero hindi pa rin ito ipinatutupad ng Philippine National Police.

Karapatang ipinaglaban

Ipinaglaban, at hindi kusang ibinigay ng Estado ang karapatan sa dalaw ng mga bilanggong pulitikal sa Pilipinas, sabi ni Linda. Dati siyang bilanggong pulitikal at kasalukuyang chief-of-staff ni Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano. “Dugo ang ibinuwis ng marami noong Batas Militar para lamang makamit ang ganitong karapatan,” aniya.

Ayon sa Gabriela, libu-libong kababaihan noon ang nagtiis na mawalay sa piling ng kani-kanilang pamilya na piniling labanan ang diktaduryang Marcos. Nauulit umano ang senaryo ngayon.

“Dinaranas ang parehong pighati ng mga asawa, anak, ina, at kapatid ng parami nang paraming aktibistang dinudukot, pinapatay, at ilegal na dinedetine dahil sa pakikipaglaban para sa demokratikong mga karapatan ng mga Pilipino laban sa isa na namang pasistang presidente,” sabi ng grupo.

May 250 bilanggong pulitikal sa buong bansa. Mahigit na kalahati-60 porsiyento-ang ipiniit sa ilalim ng gobyernong Arroyo.

Pinas at Cuba

Magkatulad ang kasaysayan ng Pilipinas at Cuba, sabi ng mga organisador ng porum. Parehong matagal na sinakop ng mga Espanyol. Parehong nagrebolusyon ang mga mamamayan. Parehong patuloy na “pinakikialaman” ng US sa ngalan ng giyera kontra terorismo.

Isa sa mga pakikialam ng US sa Pilipinas ang suporta nito sa Oplan Bantay Laya, programang kontra-insurhensiya ng gobyernong Arroyo na pinupuntirya ang mga sibilyan, ayon kay Ruth Cervantes, public information officer ng grupong Karapatan.

Naniniwala si Amb. Jorge Rey Jimenez ng Cuba na dapat magsama-sama sa panahong pilit binabansagan na “terorista” ang mga tagapagtanggol ng mga karapatan at kalayaan gaya ng Cuban 5.

Hiling ni Linda para sa mga kaanak ng Cuban 5 ang karapatang makapiling ang kanilang mga mahal sa buhay habang nakabilanggo. Higit pa rito, hiling niyang mapalaya na sina Gerardo, Ramon, Antonio, Fernando, at Rene, gaya ng hiling niyang mapalaya ang sariling asawa. (PinoyWeekly)

‘Creeping authoritarianism’ seen in GMA executive order

September 23, 2008

By Christina Mendez and Michael Punongbayan
Tuesday, September 23, 2008

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Sen. Manuel Roxas II warned yesterday of “creeping authoritarianism” with President Arroyo’s signing last month of an executive order reorganizing the National Peace and Order Council.

Opposition politicians joined Roxas in warning of the “chilling effect” of Executive Order 739, which reportedly grants sweeping powers to Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno in enforcing security laws, including imposing sanctions on local executives seen as not kowtowing to Malacañang.

“This is creepy,” Roxas said.

“What really is the new power of Secretary Puno for? Is it to help keep peace and fight the rebels or is it preparation for emergency rule?” Roxas asked in Filipino.

Roxas said there is basis for the warning of former defense secretary Avelino Cruz Jr. of the possibility that Malacañang might use the armed hostilities in Mindanao to justify the declaration of a state of emergency.

“The reorganization of this NPOC, which resembles the martial law era Peace and Order Council, seems to bring back the same climate of fear, suspicion and surveillance that led to extrajudicial killings and other human rights abuses under martial law,” he said.

Under the reorganized NPOC, the POCs in the regional, provincial, city and municipal levels are tasked to “apply moral suasion to and/or recommend sanctions against local chief executives who are giving material and political support to the communist rebels.”

For Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay of the United Opposition, the Arroyo administration used the “communist bogey to justify the signing of Executive Order 739 that effectively neutralizes local executives and strengthens the hand of internal security forces at the local level.”

Sought for comment, Puno laughed off the allegations.

“Some people are getting concerned over something that is not really that big a deal. What an executive order can only do is to delegate the authority of the President,” Puno said at a press briefing at the Philippine National Police headquarters in Camp Crame.  — With Cecille Suerte Felipe

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My Take:

This is not a simple authoritarian rule move.  This is the only solution left for the administration to survive the biggest political losses it will incur come 2010 polls.

Now they are employing a single stone to get the two birds on their sight: the parliamentary of streets (which they tag as rebel fronts) and the traditinal political opposition (who has the real capacity to take back Malacañan on 2010).

Peace in Mindanao – at what price?

September 20, 2008

By the Policy Study, Publication, and Advocacy
Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG)

(This issue analysis comes in two parts: 1) Bringing the MILF to the Peace Talks; and, II. The Peace Process and U.S. Role)


I. Bringing the MILF to the Peace Talks

Peace is not just the absence of war. It is the outcome of settling an armed conflict by addressing its fundamental roots toward a just and lasting peace. Unless the causes are addressed, any peace that is forged is just a means of preserving an unjust status quo leading to bigger tensions.

In the old days, peace terms were prescribed by victorious states and armies in a war or armed conflict; the terms usually included disarming the vanquished and dismembering territories. The impositions in the treaties that ended the two major world wars of the 20th century yielded no lasting peace: World War I led to World War II, and the latter was followed by the so-called “cold war” and thereafter by the permanent and borderless “war on terrorism.”

In the Philippines, the ongoing peace talks between the Arroyo government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fits into a peace process paradigm developed by capitalist countries led by the United States. Sometimes referred to as globalization-driven, the peace process – somewhat similar to the UN’s “peace building,” “conflict resolution” or “dispute settlement” – purportedly aims to address the core issues of the Bangsamoro problem, namely, the Moro people’s ancestral domain claim and self-rule.

The trouble is, not all “peace processes” are success stories as advocates and current political literature on this paradigm admit. In fact, the backlash generated by a controversial Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (Moa-AD), which is a product of this peace process, and the resumption of hostilities are imperiling the peace talks between the GRP and MILF.

Two major peace talks

The centuries-long Bangsamoro struggle for self-determination – in terms of having a separate and independent state – has gone through two major peace negotiations with the government. The first, held with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), traversed through 20 years ending in the 1996 final peace accord that has been criticized as inadequate in building autonomy and development for the ARMM. The second, with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), started in 1997 with an agreement on the cessation of hostilities followed by the Tripoli agreement of 2001(1) . Unfolding in this second process are seemingly irreconcilable interests representing not only the MILF and GRP but also the local elite, investors, and foreign governments.

In the GRP-MNLF peace talks, a confluence of events – on the part of the Marcos regime the economic crisis and the need to tap Middle East countries for oil and market for cheap Filipino labor, and, on the MILF military setbacks and the gradual loss of armed support from Libya and other OIC countries – drove both parties to enter into a negotiated political settlement. In the early phase, however, a faction of the MNLF that disagreed with the peace talks, led by Salamat Hashim, formed the MILF in 1977. The MILF has been the main revolutionary Moro group with its armed component, Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), consistently fighting for secession.

The MILF suffered a major setback when 50 of its military camps were destroyed by the AFP in the total war unleashed by then President Joseph Estrada in 2000 and again, when the Buliok complex which replaced Camp Abubakar as the rebels’ central headquarters, came under heavy military offensive – in violation of a truce – in February 2003. Government offensives forced the MILF’s positional warfare units to disperse into smaller, clan-led guerrilla forces.

Although intelligence reports say that the BIAF is still 15,000-strong with 11,000 firearms, the MILF’s fighting spirit appeared to have reached what some security analysts call a “hurting stalemate” which can go either to extremism by its dispersed units or to a prolonged armed engagement without any prospects of winning. Aside from economic losses and other reasons, the Arroyo government pursued the peace talks in a bid to silence the guns of the MILF – which had been put into effect in the 1997 ceasefire agreement – in order to concentrate on its strategic offensives against the New People’s Army in a vain attempt to put it into irrelevance by 2010.

Ripe time

By 2003, the time was ripe for giving momentum to the “peace process.” The MILF faced the threat of having its inclusion in the U.S. government’s list of foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs) renewed and, hence, foreign support from Muslim countries being reduced. An exchange of communications between MILF Chair Salamat Hashim (2) and U.S. President George Bush followed in early 2003, paving the way for U.S. participation in the peace talks. Further legitimizing U.S. participation was an official request by Arroyo for U.S. assistance in the peace talks.

Since Malaysia was the official facilitator of the talks being held in Kuala Lumpur, U.S. role was through the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP), a quasi-state agency created by an act of Congress. Washington promised an initial $30 million aid package to the MILF subject, however, to the latter’s signing a final peace agreement. The USIP’s Philippine Facilitation Project, which allowed U.S. state department authorities a direct access to the MILF including its military camps, lasted from 2003-2007. Since then, U.S. liaison with the MILF has been continued by the state department and its embassy in Manila.

Meantime, Malaysia, Libya, and the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) tried to persuade the MILF to drop its secessionist goal, work for an expanded autonomy and, at one point, to adjust its hard position against the constitutional framework of the negotiations. This stance complemented the USIP’s peace formula regarding an expanded autonomy with legal authority for the MILF and for the GRP to soften its constitutional rigidity.

The MoA-AD, the signing of which was aborted by a Supreme Court (SC) temporary restraining order, articulates a compromise deal with the MILF in which its historical ancestral domain claim is recognized by the government in principle but makes its actualization conditional. The implementation of this claim, along with the ownership of natural resources and the exercise of jurisdictional authority, will need to pass through the gauntlet of more contentious negotiations leading up to the Comprehensive Compact, plebiscite, and a constitutional amendment that will establish a federal system. More importantly, the agreement binds the MILF to honor private landholdings, corporate plantations, foreign investments particularly in energy resources, as well as the presence of foreign forces in Bangsamoro.

II. The Peace Process and U.S. Role

The critique that the U.S. had a hand in crafting the MoA appears to be not without basis. The agreement – the whole peace talks for that matter – is a by-product of a new peace formula whose underlying goal is to enhance the U.S.’ comprehensive security strategy in Mindanao and the whole Southeast Asian region. Among other instruments, the superpower’s security imperatives, i.e., economic, geo-political, and military objectives, are promoted through the now spurious “war on terrorism” defining the region as the second front. This post-9/11 declaration, backed by Arroyo, became the entry point for an indefinite forward deployment of U.S. forces and basing facilities particularly in southern Philippines.

With the USIP and other policy thinkers in Washington, however, this strategy has been reformulated to adopt what is described as the “political economy of security.” Basically, this new formula postulates that U.S. security imperatives are better advanced by transforming the Bangsamoro into a governable zone and a stable extension of global capitalism supported by international funds and investments in a post-conflict scenario. Mindanao, particularly the Bangsamoro homeland, holds the key to U.S. security goals in Southeast Asia and the MILF is seen as a major player for undercutting the influence of anti-American extremism particularly among the region’s Muslim populations. The non-resolution of the Moro problem now will have far-reaching implications to U.S. security imperatives in the region in the future.

What this means is that, using the classic “carrot and stick” policy, U.S. special forces will continue to pin down the Abu Sayyaf Group and other alleged terrorist networks through surgical military strikes and expanded intelligence, but the politico-diplomatic approach will moderate the MILF by tying it down to a protracted peace process and cutting its ties to the ASG and extremist politics. As far as the U.S. is concerned, the push for the MILF’s abandonment of secessionism matched by the Arroyo regime’s dropping of its constitutional rigidity with the support of Malaysia and other countries is a positive step for moving the peace process forward.

MILF disarmament

But this formula will only succeed if, among other conditions, the MILF is finally disarmed and transformed into a mass-based political party thereby enhancing – in the language of the peace process – its legitimate political authority. It also depends on the cooperation and, more important, the political will of the Arroyo government even as, in the eyes of the USIP and other U.S. policy strategists, it is weak and incapable of delivering peace and development in the Moro communities (3). In the post-conflict scenario, it is almost inevitable for the U.S. with its military presence in Mindanao to head an international mission to guarantee the security of a new Bangsamoro.

The cooperation of the Arroyo regime and the MILF in this new peace formula is assured by internationalizing the peace process – the icing on the cake, so to speak. Supportive of the “peace and development” policy for Mindanao, a coalition of donor countries led by the U.S., Japan as well as the World Bank is committed to fund the Bangsamoro’s economic reconstruction. Aside from infusing 60 percent of its economic assistance to the Philippines in Mindanao, the USAID has committed a multi-year Mindanao Peace and Development Agreement worth $190 million and increased its economic support fund (ESF) to 25.9 million US dollars. Japan, besides joining the International Monitoring Team (IMT), has committed 400 million US dollars in Mindanao. Japan, which is also the U.S.’ chief security partner in East Asia, is working closely with the MILF’s development arm, Bangsamoro Development Agency. Similar commitments have come from Canada, Australia, Malaysia, Libya, and the OIC.

Cold war

Peace process as a paradigm finds its birth in the 1970s when it was coined by U.S. policy strategists to reduce tensions between Israel – a U.S. ally – Egypt, and Syria following the 1973 Yom Kippur war. The first peace process involving Israel and Egypt was choreographed by Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, considered dean of the realist diplomacy, as part of their détente strategy for winning the cold war in the Middle East. While there had been agreements forged, the process itself – hyped as the “roadmap to peace” – has been incremental for 40 years. Meantime, while tensions have aggravated in the Middle East today, the net effect of this peace process, among others, has included the rise of Israel as a nuclear power occupying a major swathe of the Palestinian land claim, the taming of the Palestine Liberation Organization by giving it a symbolic political authority, and a pro-U.S. Egypt.

After the cold war, peace process has been introduced in several flashpoints in the world including Northern Ireland, Sudan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Aceh, East Timor, Bougainville, Kosovo, Kenya, the Basque region in Spain, and now, in Mindanao. As a politico-diplomatic track adopted in the global anti-terrorist war, peace process is the entry point for the U.S. purportedly to bring stability and governance in so-called “ungoverned” and “contested” territories such as Mindanao followed by a post-conflict program of international aid and security guarantee.

Global capitalism

The major political-economic goal of the peace process is to extend and embed market-driven global capitalism in these areas. A British scholar, Jan Selby, notes that the peace process is more of “a stalling mechanism for the powerful” whose central purpose “is to forestall radical or revolutionary political change” as well as to “reconsolidate hegemony and/or legitimacy.” Meanwhile, this peace formula has given birth to a global “peace industry” that involves multilateral agencies, think tanks, academic consultant groups, corporate investors, media, and elite stakeholders.

In Mindanao, the USIP itself anticipated that the MoA-AD would face strong legal and constitutional resistance and predicted Arroyo’s lack of capability in pushing the peace process to the end. Indeed the draft agreement has lit a wildfire of resistance from powerful non-Muslim politicians and landlords who have threatened war against the MILF unless it is shelved. How to bring stability and governance that would make the MILF the political authority which is only possible if the Muslim sultans and non-Muslim oligarchs disengage from dominant power politics is a daunting task.

This underscores the inherent failure of the peace process – the reason why, according to Selby – the whole exercise, which involves deliberate, well-calibrated long and tedious phases, does not provide substantial basis for sustainable, lasting peace. But if the net effect – which appears to be an underlying motive in the “peace process” – is to at least pacify a rebel army toward its eventual capitulation or accepting an exit strategy from war, then that itself can be claimed as an accomplishment by the peace architects.

But, at what price? The peace process can bring about a simulated peace – but not the final solution to the Bangsamoro people’s historic and just grievances. Moro leaders should be wary with other external parties’ facilitation programs that put into greater harm the core interests not only of the Bangsamoro people but the sovereign and territorial rights of the country as a whole.

The challenge to both parties, particularly the MILF, is how to address the Bangsamoro people’s historic and just grievances by pursuing peace talks based on sincerity, independence, and non-interference by external parties except a transparent and facilitative role of a third party negotiator. The call for full transparency in the talks should include full consultations with Lumads and non-Muslim communities in the disputed territories.

As the MILF leadership itself said when Hashim announced their 50-year jihad in 2000, if peace cannot be achieved now under Arroyo it will do so with her successor and thereafter.

_________________

(1) Implementing Guidelines on the Security Aspect of the GRP-MILF Tripoli Agreement of Peace of 2001.

(2) Reports said that it was Sen. Aquilino Pimentel, Jr. who convinced Salamat Hashim to write Bush in January 2003. Pimentel is the architect of federalism that aims to transform Bangsamoro into a federated state.

(3) In fact, some Washington policy experts on this issue see the Arroyo government as the main problem and not the MILF.

Duterte says no to Ilaga, vigilante groups

September 20, 2008

DAVAO CITY – Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte opposes the creation of anti-Moro vigilante groups saying it cannot solve the ongoing conflict in Mindanao.

The mayor reacted to reports that Ilaga–a notorious anti-Moro group back in Martial Law years–was revived and vigilante groups are now being formed following the clashes between the government troops and Moro rebels in Central Mindanao.

Clashes between the government troops and some disgruntled commanders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) erupted after the failed signing of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) last month, which would have granted the Moro rebels their own territory under the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE).

Duterte said he is against the formation of a group whose “sole purpose is vendetta” because it will only lead to the killing of more people.

The Reform Ilaga Movement warned the MILF to stop their “harassment and attacks” against the civilians in Mindanao late last month, vowing to kill 10 MILF members for every civilian killed.

Vice Governor Emmanuel Piñol of North Cotabato also said he will oppose the arming of Ilaga, saying the resurgence of this vigilante group will only worsen the situation in Mindanao. The North Cotabato province came out with a resolution to look into the group’s revival.

But Khaled Musa, MILF’s deputy secretary of the committee on information, blamed Piñol and other “ultra-rightist” politicians in Mindanao for the resurgence of the Ilaga.

In the MILF’s official website luwaran (http://www.luwaran.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=879), Musa said Piñol is behind the arming of the Ilaga, infamously nicknamed by Moro fighters as the Ilonggo “landgrabbers” association, because of the group’s penchant to take over the lands of Moro communities after violence erupts and Moro people flee their lands.

Musa called Piñol Ilaga’s “over-all commander” and the worst “grabber” of Moro and indigenous peoples’ lands in M’lang, Magpet and Kidapawan in North Cotabato; and in Columbio in Sultan Kudarat.

Piñol’s brother, North Cotabato Representative Bernardo Piñol, was quoted saying that former local officials are supporting and arming the Ilaga. He said civilians are arming to defend themselves and are already involved in the offensive.

In this report from Sunstar-Cagayan de Oro (http://www2.sunstar.com.ph/static/cag/2008/08/29/news/dilg.justifies.arming.civilian.html), Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno told reporters in August that his office will push through with the plan of arming civilian police auxiliaries in Mindanao to defend communities against the Moro rebels. Puno said it is part of the PNP’s (Philippine National Police) “internal security plan.”

In another report, (http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/breakingnews/nation/view/20080820-155830/PNP-sending-shotguns-to-Mindanao-auxiliaries) PNP Director General Avelino Razon also announced the distribution of at least a thousand shotguns to police auxiliaries recruited in regions nine, 10, 11 and 12. Razon said that if the project succeeds, 12,000 more shotguns will be up for distribution.

Razon said the PNPs move is legal based on Executive Order 546, which grants the PNP an active role in internal security operations, in support of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). The executive order also allows the PNP to deputize Barangay tanods as “force multipliers” in the peace and order plan, if approved by the peace and order councils.

GMA News TV (http://www.gmanews.tv/story/116211/Civilian-police-auxiliaries-to-go-after-NPA-too—PNP) also reported PNP Chief Supt. Nicanor Bartolome in a Camp Crame media briefing in August , saying that civilian police auxiliaries will not only be used against the Moro rebels but against the Communist rebels as well.

The Communist Philippine Revolution website (http://www.philippinerevolution.net/cgi-bin/ab/text.pl?issue=200001-02;lang=eng;article=13) linked Ilaga to the 1977 massacre of some 200 individuals, including women, children and elderly folk from the Moro tribes of Singgil and Kalagan; and the lumad tribes of B’laans and Manobos.

One of the Ilaga leaders, Norberto Manero Jr., also known as Kumander Bucay, was convicted for the brutal killing of Italian priest Fr. Tullio Favalli in Tulunan, North Cotabato in 1985. Manero was later set free.

The group Ilaga was also charged with cases of human rights violation including rape and arson. (Marilou Aguirre-Tuburan/davaotoday)

Terrorizing Communities: The Oplan Bantay Laya II in Guihulngan, Negros Oriental

September 19, 2008

As the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) noted a decline in the incidence of extrajudicial killings in the country, another face of the government’s counter-insurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya II emerges. In Guihulngan, Negros Oriental, terror has gripped the hearts and minds of the people.

BY RONALYN V. OLEA
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Volume VIII, No. 31, September 7-13, 2008

Since the latter part of 2007, the Central Command (CenCom) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) had declared Negros as its priority area in its counter-insurgency campaign. The CenCom specifically identified Central Negros, which includes Guihulngan, La Libertad, Vallehermoso and Canlaon in Negros Oriental and Magallon, Isabela, La Castallena, Himamaylan and Binalbagan in Negros Occidental.

Documentation by Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights)-Negros shows varying degrees of human rights violations.

Detachments in populated areas

In Barangay (village) Linantuyan, Negros Oriental, more than 160 soldiers are encamped inside the barangay hall and the public market. They belong to the 11th Infantry Battalion (IBPA) and 32nd Division Reconnaissance Company (DRC) under the command of 1Lt. Joseph Buencamino.

Thirty more soldiers under the command of Sgt. Jerome Espino are encamped inside the barangay hall of Brgy. Banwague.

In Brgy. Magsaysay, a squad of soldiers belonging to 79th Battalion Philippine Army and 1st Scout Ranger Battalion also occupied the barangay hall. In Brgy. Tinayunan Hill, a platoon-size military unit stayed inside the compound of an elementary school.

The occupation of barangay halls was documented by Karapatan-Negros in July this year.

On Aug. 7, a platoon-size segment of the 11th Infantry Battalion entered the St. Francis College in Guihulngan. When asked by school authorities, the soldiers said they were looking for water and a place to take their lunch.

A teacher in one of the elementary schools in Guihulngan revealed that the soldiers go in and out of their school without permission. Their pupils, the source said, are afraid of the military’s presence.

Cedula, ID system

Since March, the soldiers have ordered all residents of Brgy. Linantuyan aged 15 and above to acquire a cedula (community tax certificate).

The soldiers imposed a virtual identification (ID) system; cedulas served as the resident’s tag number.

After acquiring cedulas, residents are forced to report to the Army barracks for picture-taking, census and interrogation. The interrogations would last for one to four hours. Others are threatened and intimidated.

Interrogation, red baiting

In Brgy. Linantuyan, Karapatan revealed that residents are presumed as supporters of the New People’s Army (NPA).

A resident of Sitio (sub-village) Pinasagan was interrogated sometime in April. He was accused of carrying an M-14 rifle sometime in May 2004. One of the soldiers, who the victim identified as Silpao, cocked his .45 caliber pistol while conducting the interrogation.

Another farmer, 53, of the same sitio was accused of collecting food and P5.00 each from his neighbors for the NPA.

A 29-year old farmer was accused of being an NPA hitman.

A 47-year-old woman, resident of Sitio Alamag, said she was interrogated for two hours inside the barangay hall. A soldier, identified only as Silpao, told her that if she refuses to admit they support the NPA, it would be better for the Army to bomb her village.

There are more than 50 farmers who have been subjected to one to two hours of interrogation since the first week of April.

On May 14, the soldiers fetched eight farmers from their houses. The farmers were brought to the “Bravo” Company headquarters in Brgy. McKinley. They were made to sign a complaint of grave coercion against Lourdes Baloy, a member of the local peasant organization Kaugmaon.

Fake rebel returnees

A former barangay kagawad (village councilor) was accused of being a leader of the militia unit of the NPA. A news report said he surrendered to the Philippine Army. He denied the report.

On May 16, the Philippine Army called on all barangay officials to an assembly at the Hilaitan National High School –Trinidad Annex. The soldiers conducted lectures. They also said that all participants were ‘rebel returnees.’

The soldiers also ordered the barangay council to hold assemblies. In these meetings, the soldiers conducted lectures on anti-communist doctrines, and at times, threatened certain individuals.

In the same barangay, the soldiers coerced the barangay council to “pass” a resolution banning Karapatan and “supporting” the establishment of an Army detachment in the barangay hall.

Barangay Defense System

The soldiers also set up the Barangay Defense System (BDS), which they tout as their counter political infrastructure and as proof that they have “mass support”.

The soldiers used some members of the barangay council to list down the members of the BDS. Under this system, every able-bodied person is forced to perform the duty of “guarding” their detachment. Men are assigned in the evening and the women during the day.

Mock rallies

Karapatan-Negros said that the soldiers also staged fake rallies against Karapatan and Kaugmaon.

On June 9, some 50 members of the BDS and soldiers in full battle gear picketed the house of Kaugmaon’s Baloy.

On June 14, the military brought their assets and informers from the towns of Isabela and Magallon and staged a rally in the poblacion of Guihulngan. The “protesters” were accompanied by two trucks of fully armed soldiers. They burned the effigies of Fred Cana, secretary-general of Karapatan-Negros and Erwin Sabijon, chair of Kaugmaon.

While the Arroyo government claims that the human rights situation has improved, the people of Guihulngan, a city 30 kilometers from Dumaguete, continue to live in fear as soldiers who are supposedly conducting operations against the NPA subject them to constant threats and harassments. Bulatlat

Torture Survivor Files Charges vs Perpetrators

September 19, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ordeal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Strong case

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Youth Under Siege

September 19, 2008

Youth organizations have been targets of the government’s counter-insurgency campaign. Besides killings and enforced disappearances, other forms of political repression are hurled against young activists.

BY JEFFREY OCAMPO
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Contributed to Bulatlat
Volume VIII, Number 32, September 14-20, 2008

Youth organizations have been targets of the government’s counter-insurgency campaign. Besides being targets of killings and enforced disappearances, youth activists also suffer from other forms of political repression.

According to the human rights group Karapatan, out of the 910 killings, 23 victims come from the youth sector.

In 2006, Karapatan documented the most number of cases of extrajudicial killings. Three of its most distressing cases had young activists as victims.  Students Rei Mon Guran and Cris Hugo, both from Sorsogon, Bicol, were victims of summary execution during that year. Guran and Hugo were both regional coordinators of the League of Filipino Students (LFS) when they were shot by their assailants in separate incidents. Guran sustained four gunshot wounds after a gunman fired at him inside a bus, which had a stopover at Bulan, while Hugo was shot dead by two motorcycle-riding men while walking home with his professor. In Negros Occidental, Anakbayan organizer Peter Angcon was killed allegedly by military agents.

These young activists were youth leaders known for their sharp criticisms of the Macapagal-Arroyo administration. The national leadership of Anakbayan and LFS held Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the military directly responsible for the killings. The groups say that all evidences point to the military as the perpetrators, and Arroyo is the commander-in-chief.

Recent reports of various youth groups indicate that the efforts of the Macapagal-Arroyo administration in quelling dissent among the people, including the youth, have not ceased. State agents are employing surveillance, harassment and other tactics against young activists.

Executive order 731: of “hideous intentions”

Last June 10, an executive order (EO) was publicly announced by the Macapagal-Arroyo administration but only after the president had signed it three days earlier. Entitled “Activating and Reorganizing the Energy Operations Board into a Contingency Task Force Under the National Food and Energy Council”, EO 731 aims to monitor the national security situation amid continuous oil price surges within the past months and the people’s active response against it.

The task force has Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita as its head and Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes as its operations officer. Both retired military men are close allies of the president. Meanwhile, the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) is directed to “issue timely intelligence assessments of political and security developments” and “provide advice on matters affecting national security.” Its current commander Brigadier General Romeo Prestoza is known to be a former member of Military Intelligence Group (MIG21), a special military unit for technical intelligence.

Critics of the administration point out the “hideous intentions” behind the EO 731. For the members of progressive youth organizations, this is but a camouflage that legitimizes military intelligence operations within academic institutions. The ulterior motive is to spy on student activities, instill fear among the youth and discourage students’ active involvement in national affairs.  Further, they question the inclusion of the Commission on Higher Education in the task force.

Anakbayan National Chairperson Ken Ramos links recent cases of military presence in school premises and the series of political harassments experienced by students to the issuance of EO 731.

Military presence

Ramos added that youth activists are also being singled out and harassed during  “educational forums” held by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in different schools. During the said forums, progressive student organizations are branded by the AFP as “front organizations of the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army and the National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).”

The AFP singles out the LFS, Student Christian Movement (SCM) and Anakbayan.  The AFP, through the Reserved Officers Training Corps (ROTC) in universities, has conducted these forums at the Philippine Normal University (PNU), Centro Escolar University (CEU), Jose Rizal University (JRU) and University of the Philippines, Diliman (UPD).

Part of these educational forums is a film-showing of a documentary, which tackles the stories of young people “deceived by the CPP-NPA-NDF.” A “former NPA member” in the documentary named Ka May pinpoints the LFS and Anakbayan as legal fronts of the NPA. She then discourages students from joining these organizations saying that her life has been destroyed because she joined these groups, which led her to join the NPA. The documentary ends with a slide show of names and information about “other student-victims of the deceptions of the CPP-NPA-NDF.”

SCM counters this accusation by saying that red baiting has been the “dirty tactic” of the AFP to prevent youth and students from joining their organizations. This ploy, however, will not stop their organizations from moving on with their tasks of exposing the realities of the times and presenting alternatives to the current system, they say. “If the AFP thinks that they can fool youth and students with this forum and documentary, they are wrong,” the group adds.

Meanwhile, these youth groups attest to the presence of military in schools and universities. Their claim is confirmed by a recent incident at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP), Sta. Mesa. Four identified members of the Philippine Army were cornered by a mob of enraged students last August 29 after they were caught in the act of spying on the activity being organized by student groups. The messages stored in the cellular phone recovered from the military agents confirmed the intelligence operations the four men were carrying out.

In a statement released by PUP Student Regent Sophia Prado and Ramos, they said that “the presence of military units are meant to monitor student actions, pinpoint the organizations and sow fear inside the campus and ultimately disrupt the student movement.”

Cases of harassment escalate

Recent reports from different youth groups show that there have been alarming cases of harassment among their members. On July 13, TANGGULAN Youth Network for Civil Liberties and Human Rights convened a meeting to gather these reports.

One of the most alarming cases of harassment was experienced by a student of Jose Rizal University (JRU). Ella, a freshman Hotel and Restaurant Management student was reportedly harassed last July allegedly by a military agent who enfolded her in his arms and pointed a knife at her stomach. The incident happened twice, first at Damca in Sta. Mesa and then along Shaw Boulevard. In the second incident, the victim screamed, making her assailant run away.

Meanwhile, a LFS UPD chapter member was discussing national issues with a student she was recruiting when the student asked if they could go somewhere far so they could talk about the matter well. As soon as they were away, the student called “a friend” and said that the person on the line was from ISAFP.

Another case happened to a UP Manila student who, aboard a bus, was threatened allegedly by a military agent who sat beside her. Shaken, the student was not able to do or say anything except “‘Wag po” (Please, don’t).

TANGGULAN along with the victims of political harassments and different youth groups would file a complaint with the Commission on Human Rights on Sept. 15.

Silencing voices, killing “the hope”

In the provinces, repression experienced by youth and students is more blatant and often includes grave harassments and killings.

Last year, Criselda Josena of Tandem, the official student publication of the University of Northern Philippines (UNP), was charged with robbery and subsequently with theft by the publication’s adviser without sufficient evidences. According to her colleagues, she is now suffering post-traumatic stress syndrome after she was continuously summoned by the university’s administration.

Meanwhile, a student of Polytechnic University of the Philippines branch in Lopez, Quezon was recently charged with rebellion without enough evidence to justify the charge.

Resistance

Anakbayan, LFS and SCM along with various student councils, student publications, student organizations and individuals condemn the “fascistic means of the Mrs. Arroyo” in silencing groups and individuals critical of her administration. In her “desperate attempt to stay in power, she makes no qualms in using extra legal means to control the people,” the groups said.

The youth groups are to mount protest actions in the following weeks to counter the “heightened political repression.”  Bulatlat

OSG Admits Lapses in Due Process in Arrest of UCCP Pastor

September 19, 2008

During a Court of Appeals hearing of the petition for certiorari, prohibition, and mandamus filed by the lawyers of Rev. Berlin Guerrero, representatives from the Office of the Solicitor General admitted that the government committed lapses in due process in the arrest of the pastor from the United Church of Christ of the Philippines. This alone, according to former Sen. Jovito Salonga, one of Guerrero’s lawyers, was enough to convince the appellate court to order his client’s release.

BY BULATLAT
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Vol. VIII, No. 32, September 14-20, 2008

After one year, three months and 15 days in detention, Pastor Berlin Guerrero was happy to be free.

In its resolution, Sept. 11, the Court of Appeals (CA) Third Division ordered his release to the custody of his lawyers former Senator Jovito Salonga and Emilio Capulong Jr.

The CA began hearing the petitions filed by Guerrero’s lawyers after the case was remanded to the appellate court by the Supreme Court.

The court issued a temporary restraining order enjoining Judge Matias Garcia II of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 19, Bacoor, Cavite from conducting further proceedings against Guerrero in criminal case No. B-91-245.

Torture and abduction

Guerrero, a pastor of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) was accused of murdering a certain Noli Yatco. The warrant of arrest for this charge was dated 1998.

The pastor was abducted May 27, 2007 allegedly by elements of the Naval Intelligence Security Forces. In an affidavit, the pastor said he was tortured in a safe house. He said that no one among his captors mentioned the murder case and he was accused of being an officer of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

On the same day, Guerrero was brought to the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) Camp Pantaleon Garcia in Imus, Cavite.

No basis

In an interview after the hearing, Guerrero said that the CA decision proves that the murder charge filed against him has no basis.

Speaking before Guerrero’s supporters and friends, Salonga said, “Sapat na ang admissions na ginawa ng kalaban at statements ng mga abogado ni Pastor para magdesisyon ang korte.” (The admissions made by the prosecution and the statements of Pastor’s lawyers were deemed enough for the court to issue a resolution.)

Guerrero explained that the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) through its representatives admitted that the government violated due process in his arrest and detention. He said that Associate Justice Martin Villarama Jr of the Court of Appeals. saw the lack of probable cause in the murder charge.

Senior State Solicitor General Edgar Sison and State Solicitor II Maricar Prudon-Sison represented the respondents in the petition filed by Guerrero at the Supreme Court.

Guerrero said that during the hearing, the Appellate Court pointed out that the lone witness to the murder charge filed against him was not personally examined by Judge Myrna Lim-Verano of the 5th Municipal Circuit Trial Court of Carmona and Gen Mariano Alvarez, Cavite before she issued the warrant of arrest.

The CA also prohibited the Lower Court from enforcing and implementing the order dated August 2, 2007 issued by Judge Garcia. The said order denied the motion to quash the warrant of arrest and to dismiss the information on the murder charge.

Bishop Solito Toquero, co-chairperson of the Ecumenical Bishops Forum (EBF), said that amid the controversies hounding the CA, hope remains. “Salamat sa Diyos at sa lahat ng tumulong.” (Thank God and all those who have helped.)

Hopes and wishes

Guerrero said he hoped that the court would also hear the details of his abduction. He said that those who abducted and tortured him must be held liable.

Asked what he plans to do, the pastor said he would thank all the supporters, especially from the Church and spend time with his family.
It was the birthday of his youngest son, Jarius Vinces. The pastor said, “My immediate release from prison was his wish.” He said that his daughter Lora Wigbertte also celebrated her birthday last Sept. 9 and also wished for his freedom. Bulatlat

US Reported to Kill 12 in Pakistan

September 17, 2008

As the American campaign against suspected Al Qaeda and Taliban militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas seemed to intensify on Friday, two missiles fired from remotely piloted American aircraft killed 12 people on Friday in an attack on a village compound in North Waziristan, according to a local journalist and television reports.

BY PIR ZUBAIR SHAH AND ALAN COWELL
The New York Times/Truthout
Posted by Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 32, September 14-20, 2008

Islamabad, Pakistan – As the American campaign against suspected Al Qaeda and Taliban militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas seemed to intensify on Friday, two missiles fired from remotely piloted American aircraft killed 12 people on Friday in an attack on a village compound in North Waziristan, according to a local journalist and television reports.

At the same time, fighting between Pakistan security forces and militants elsewhere in the wild lands bordering Afghanistan killed 32 militants and two soldiers, The Associated Press reported, citing a Pakistan Army spokesman, Maj. Murad Khan.

The missile strike was said to have taken place near Miran Shah, the main settlement in North Waziristan, before first light Friday and was aimed at the home of a local tribesman, Yousaf Khan Wazir, who was among the dead, a local journalist said, speaking in return for anonymity.

A Pakistani intelligence official said most of the dead in the attack were “Punjabi Taliban.” The term refers to militants from the Punjab Province of Pakistan. The target was said to be a militant training camp, the official said, asking not to be named because he was not authorized to speak publicly.

The missiles were fired at a village called Tole Khel, two miles east of Miran Shah, and the dead included women and children, according to residents speaking to Pakistani reporters. There was no immediate word on the reported attack from American or Pakistani military authorities.

Pakistan’s government has little control in the tribal areas which the United States regards as safe havens for Al Qaeda and Taliban militants. In July, President Bush approved secret orders permitting American Special Operations forces to carry out ground assaults inside Pakistan without the prior approval of the Pakistani government, according to senior American officials.
Earlier this month, American forces raided a Pakistani village near the Afghan border in an attack that angered Pakistani officials who asserted that it had achieved little except killing civilians and stoking anti-Americanism in the tribal areas.

According to two American officials briefed on the raid, more than two dozen members of the Navy Seals spent several hours on the ground, supported by an AC-130 gunship, and killed about two dozen suspected Al Qaeda fighters before they were whisked away by helicopter.
Some Pakistani officials have made clear they prefer the C.I.A.’s Predator drone aircraft as the means of killing Qaeda operatives without the deployment of American troops on the ground.

In the missile strike 0n Friday, Pakistani gunships hovered over the area after the attack and a Pakistani military convoy in the area was hit by a roadside bomb that wounded three government soldiers, Pakistan state television reported.

The attack was the second of its kind this week. On Monday, a missile strike from a Predator killed several Arab Qaeda operatives. The increasing missile strikes are seen as part of a more aggressive overall American campaign in the border region less than two months before America’s presidential elections. The New York Times/posted by Bulatlat

Pir Zubair Shah reported from Islamabad and Alan Cowell from Paris.

Arroyo knew MOA details — Esperon

September 16, 2008

By Nikko Dizon
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 04:35:00 09/16/2008

MANILA, Philippines—Presidential peace adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said Monday President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was aware of the details of the controversial memorandum of agreement (MOA) on ancestral domain that he initialed in Kuala Lumpur early last month.

Esperon, speaking to reporters during the 15th anniversary celebration of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), explained that the peace negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) involved consultations with the Cabinet and guidance from the “top leadership.”

Malacañang backed out of the peace agreement after its constitutionality was questioned before the Supreme Court.

“Any product of negotiation (is) always submitted to the President for further executive action or for further guidance to the negotiating panel,” Esperon told reporters.

Asked if the President had seen the MOA, Esperon replied: “Yes, of course, the President knows what the panel has been going through.”

When told that his statement ran counter to the claim of Solicitor General Agnes Devanadera before the Supreme Court that Ms Arroyo had “never” seen the document, Esperon clarified his remarks.

The President had not seen the MOA “in its entirety,” Esperon said. “I mean, in the end, we will always seek the guidance of the President, not exactly expecting that she knows word for word the MOA itself. But the guidance would come from the top leadership,” he said.

Esperon flew to Kuala Lumpur over the weekend to explain to Malaysia, which moderated the peace talks for more than 10 years, of the government’s decision to back out of the agreement.

Esperon said Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi expressed disappointment over the collapse of the peace talks.

One of the members of Esperon’s now-defunct peace panel, Rudy Rodil, declined to comment.

Former peace adviser and now election commissioner Rene Sarmiento, also present at the OPAPP event, told reporters a peace process “takes a lot of patience.”

He said the country had learned a lot from the issue of the MOA itself, such as the importance of the involvement of civil society, being stakeholders, in discussions.

Esperon said that even if the government would no longer sign the MOA, the document could still be used as a “major reference,” particularly its “substance,” in future negotiations with the MILF.

“The MOA represent a meeting of minds. It also contains consensus points and therefore by that alone, as a product of four years and seven months of deliberations—long deliberations, long negotiations—it cannot just be put aside and so it becomes a major reference,” Esperon said.

Esperon said that while he already had a short list of possible members of a new peace panel, its recomposition “is not our main concern right now.”

Esperon said the government had asked a Malaysian facilitator to relay to the MILF that the peace process would continue but they (the rebels) should surrender the two commanders responsible for recent attacks in central Mindanao—Ombra Kato and Commander Bravo.

Esperon said the government was shifting to a direct dialogue with communities which would “not only provide the ideas for resolving the conflict but will also definitely provide the constituency for peace.”

“That is actually the shift in the paradigm. For so long a time, we have been conducting dialogues only with the armed groups,” he said.

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My Take:

Hmmm.. interesting remarks.  Maybe the Supreme Court should comment on this.

Editorial Cartoon: Protector…

September 15, 2008

 

Nerez defends arming of barangay kapitans

September 15, 2008

STO. TOMAS—The Police Provincial Office has also thrown its support behind the issuance of a pump shotgun to each of the 1,330 barangay chairmen (kapitan) of Pangasinan by the provincial government.

Police Provincial Director Sr. Superintendent Isagani Nerez said this was a sound move by Governor Amado Espino Jr. who is responsible for the maintenance of peace and order in the province and assured that no regulations were violated.

Espino is chairman of the Provincial Peace and Order Council as well as also chairman of the Regional Peace and Order Council.

Nerez said down the line are the mayors, who are the chairmen of their respective municipal and or city peace and order councils, as well as the barangay chairmen who are heads of their respective barangay peace and order councils.

He maintained there is no ‘legal infirmity’ in the distribution of shotguns to the barangay chairmen, although he heard that some politicians in Pangasinan appear to have registered their objection.

Compared to policemen, the barangay captains are considered a notch higher in authority because the former are just agents of persons in authority.

When Nerez was asked whether the barangay chiefs still need to go through with the requirement of psychiatric and drug tests just like any other persons applying for permit to carry firearms, he said the barangay chair is a person in authority and is presumed to be in a ‘normal’ mental state otherwise he or she will not be elected by their constituents.

Board Member Alfonso Bince Jr., however, said the provincial board will include the conduct of psychiatric and drug tests as among of the requirements that would be imposed on barangay chairmen before issuing the shotguns.

However, Nerez believed the tests would no longer be necessary and only the implementing rules and regulation reinforcing the authority provided the kapitans under the Local Government Code will suffice.

The policy today simply states that the shotguns remain the properties of the provincial government and the barangay captains will be required to sign the memorandum receipts to cover the issuance of the guns.

Nerez has instructed all chiefs of police to strictly monitor the use of the shotguns, seeing to it that the same cannot be brought out by the kapitans outside their jurisdiction.

“I would like to reiterate that the arming of our barangay captains by the provincial government is most beneficial in the peace and order campaign of the local police,” Nerez told newsmen.

To downplay the implications of the distribution of the shotguns, Nerez cited the requests of some media men who would like to arm themselves because of the persistent threats on their lives as being no different from the needs of the barangay chairmen to protect themselves while maintaining peace and order in their barangays.

Nerez said he is saddened that some officials believe that the shotguns are not necessary because they see no threat to peace and order in their respective jurisdictions.

He was obviously referring to Mayor Hernani Braganza of Alaminos City who reportedly directed all the barangay chiefs in his city not to receive the shotguns and to immediately return these to the provincial government if the shotguns have been received.

Nerez clarified that it was the barangay officials who requested for the shotguns as they felt they need the firearm to be more effective in their role as chairs of their barangay peace and order committees.

In this case, he believes that the barangay chairmen’s requirements must prevail because they are the ones in the forefront in the campaign on peace and order in their communities.

He also cited the current problem in Mindanao where the Philippine National Police is contemplating to issue shotguns to members of the police auxiliaries in troubled areas.-LM (SundayPunch)

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My Take:

Now they’re trying to make a village chieftain turn into a bullet-minded pawn.  They’re trying to militarize the local governance.  Another thing– by issuing them shotgun, the police expects these barangay heads not to bother them whenever a problem, requiring a police presence, arises in their community. They have a shotgun anyway. Duh!


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