Remembering Ampatuan Massacre and the reigning impunity

By JOHN AARON MARK MACARAEG and ALYSSA MAE CLARIN
Bulatlat.com

MANILA- Nonoy Espina and Jes Aznar could have been dead 10 years ago.

Espina, former director of National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP) and now its chairperson, and Aznar, then a photojournalist of Agence France Press, were in Maguindanao covering the armed group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). While in the province, they heard from local reporters that Esmael Mangundadatu would file his certificate of candidacy against Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr.

Espina thought it worthy to write a story about the two big names in Maguindanao. He and Aznar decided to pursue it. Flu struck him the day before the filing however and the two decided to fly back to Manila.

“He couldn’t get up, literally,” Aznar told students of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication in a forum last month. They were not able to join the convoy led by Mangudadatu’s wife on Nov. 23, 2009.

When news came about the worst incident of electoral violence and single deadliest attack on the press—the Ampatuan Massacre — Aznar and Espina were shocked. “We could have been there. We escaped death,” Aznar said.

Espina recalled how he had felt his knees weaken at the news, as realization hit him all at once that he had avoided death. Thirty-two of the 58 victims were members of the media like Espina and Aznar.

“It was really a turning point in the history of Philippine media,” Aznar said.

Jes Aznar at the forum. (Photo by UJP- UP Diliman)

Horrors relived

Aznar and Espina immediately flew back to Mindanao and, along with Rowena Paraan, then NUJP secretary general, were among the first to go to the site of the tragedy.

“As soon as we get there, what greeted our NUJP team was a soldier shouting as he guided the backhoe operator scoop dirt, and as we look closer, along with it were dead bodies,” Espina recalled.

Until now, Espina confessed he could still visually imagine the looping image of the backhoe’s shovel diving then being lifted again.

“At the end of our first day at the scene, there were just 25 bodies excavated. Then they called off the excavation. As we left, I asked myself, ‘Putcha, when will the counting of bodies end?’”

For Paraan,the stench of decaying bodies lingered in her memory.

Under the scorching heat of noon, the NUJP team approached the rolling hills of sitio Malating, barangay Salman, Ampatuan, Maguindanao and stepped on to the unpaved road.

“As we arrived, they were digging out the van of UNTV. It was flattened and despite of it being really hammered with the paint almost all scratched out, you can still make out the ‘tres’,” said Paraan.

As Paraan narrated the horrifying scene she witnessed, the crowd of young journalists listened intently, most of them barely out of elementary when the massacre happened.

Paraan at the forum. (Photo by UJP-UP Diliman)

Aznar described it as “a frightening scenario.”

He said he was more afraid to what would then become of his profession as a journalist if anyone could just kill a journalist. He couldn’t help but think that he was wearing the same press ID as those who were being dug out —a once powerful tool and protection for mediamen.

Reigning impunity

Remembering it ten years later, it pains Espina that until now, the case is still yet to conclude.

“The government and the state remain unbothered by the massacre, considering they were the victims of the agents of state itself,” Espina told Bulatlat in an online interview.

He added that with the current political climate, one cannot doubt that the culture of impunity continuously reigns, worsening by each killing perpetuated by those in power.

Just this month, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) released the Global Impunity Index ranking the Philippines fifth as most dangerous country in the world. The Philippines has the highest number of unsolved journalists’ murders in the world, with 41 recorded killings in the past 12 years.

The attacks and harassments continue to persist.

“If justice cannot be found for the worst incident of electoral violence in the country and the single deadliest attack on the press ever recorded, you can be sure the killings will continue without letup,” said Espina. #

World biggest rice importer? Peasant group renews call to junk liberalization law

By JOHN AARON MARK MACARAEG
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – A peasant group has reiterated its call for the repeal of Republic Act No. 11203 or the Rice Liberalization Law as the country is set to be the world’s biggest rice importer.

Peasant women group Amihan, citing data from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), said the Philippines will be importing up to three million metric tons this year, beating China’s 2.5 million tons.

China’s population is 13 times more than the Philippines.

In a statement, Cathy Estavillo, Amihan secretary general, said, “This is an epic failure of the Duterte government, when rice sources are supposed to be within the country, but his policies made this distant and even at the discretion of foreign traders colluding with local big traders, who will eventually dictate supply and prices in the domestic market.”

The Rice Liberalization Law was signed February this year to supposedly reduce the price of rice by removing the quantitative restrictions on rice imports.

This, however, only resulted in the falling farmgate price of palay, which fell to as low as P7 in Central Luzon.

Estavillo, also spokesperson of consumer group Bantay Bigas, underscored that they have repeatedly warned that “RA 11203 will turn Filipinos into beggars of imported rice.” “We all have witnessed this law causing bankruptcy to rice farmers, and this will lead to displacement and ultimately declined productivity,” added Estavillo.

The peasant rights advocate also said that becoming the world’s biggest rice importer in a mainly agricultural country is an obvious failure of the government to provide “food on the table.”

“We reiterate, Rice Liberalization Law is anti-peasant and anti-Filipino. It is an economic and social crime against Filipinos as it threatens our inalienable right to food and food sovereignty,” Estavillo said. #

‘Press freedom is dead if Ampatuans not convicted’ – lawyer

By RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — Lawyer of the families of the victims of the Ampatuan massacre Nena Santos said she is confident that a conviction in the ongoing 10-year old case is in the offing.

In a press conference organized by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines Tuesday, Nov. 5, Santos said the Quezon City court is expected to issue a promulgation before the tenth year of the gruesome incident that killed 58 individuals, of whom 32 were journalists.

“We are not sure of the 100% (all 197 accused), but we are sure that the principal accused will be convicted,” Santos said.

Principal suspects include brothers Andal Jr., Zaldy and Sajid Ampatuan, sons of the alleged mastermind Andal Ampatuan Sr.

Santos underscored the significance of the Ampatuan massacre case to the state of press freedom in the country.

“If there would be no conviction, I’m sorry to say press freedom is dead,” Santos said. “(Because it means) impunity, because if nobody gets to jail for killing media people, where is democracy, where is press freedom?”

Asked about the highs and lows of the ten-year trial, Santos said her low points included the deaths of witnesses and some witnesses taking offers of money.

She said, however, that all 30 major witnesses did not recant their testimonies despite threats.

“Their lives are no longer normal. Their lives are in danger,” Santos said.

Santos revealed she herself received many death threats.

“I just have one focus: just handle the case to the best of my ability without any favor or without… falling into any offers of money, influence, position until this case is finally resolved,” Santos said.

Asked why the case has dragged on for 10 years, Santos said the defense “mainly caused the delays.”

The Ampatuan massacre, which took place on Nov. 23, 2009 in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao is considered as the single biggest attack on journalists worldwide. #

Karapatan warns of more raids of activists’ offices

By Len Olea/Bulatlat

MANILA — Human rights alliance Karapatan warned of more raids and arrests of activists in the coming hours or days.

In a Facebook post, Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said that at least ten search warrants were issued by Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 89 Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert on October 30. Four of these warrants have been served so far.

Tondo, Manila – Search Warrant No. 5944
Paco, Manila – Search Warrant No. 5947
Escalante City, Negros Occidental – Search Warrant No. 5949
Bacolod City – Search Warrant No. 5953

“If all the search warrants issued by Judge Burgos-Villavert from No. 5944 to No. 5953 are offices and homes of members of people’s and human rights organizations, then we are looking at more raids in the coming hours or days,” Palabay noted.

Earlier today, policemen raided the office of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Manila in Tondo, Manila. Three activists were arrested and brought to the Manila Police District.

In a report, National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) Acting Director Brig. Gen. Debold Sinas said the Philippine National Police has been monitoring leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) in Metro Manila. Sinas even units from the Philippine National Police (PNP) headquarters are monitoring these personalities in coordination with the military’s Joint Task Force-NCR.

Copy-paste warrants

Villavert has been criticized for issuing what Karapatan called as “copy-paste” search warrants that have led to the arrest of 57 activists in Negros island and five activists in Metro Manila.

Karapatan noted that Villavert was also the judge who issued warrants for the arrest of National Democratic Front peace consultants Vicente Ladlad, Rey Casambre, Estrelita Suaybaguio, Alexander and Winona Birondo, and Villamor couple.

In a statement, the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) also questioned Villavert’s actions.

Section 12 authorizes Executive Judges of Regional Trial Courts of Manila and Quezon City – as an exception to the general rule that it must be the court within whose territorial jurisdiction a crime was committed – to act upon applications filed by the police for search warrants involving, among others, illegal possession of firearms and ammunitions.

The same circular requires that such applications shall be personally endorsed by the heads of such agencies. The Executive Judges are also required to keep a special docket book listing the details of the applications and the results of the searches and seizures made pursuant to the warrants issued.

In this light, NUPL raised the following questions:

– Who, in the PNP, if any, endorsed the application for search warrant?

– Did the OIC PNP Chief personally endorse the application for search warrant?

– What was the basis, if any, of the application for search warrant to establish probable cause, considering serious and consistent assertions that the firearms and explosives were casually planted during the search?

– What was the basis of the honorable judge to grant the application and issue the search warrant?

– Did the honorable judge hear any witness, ask and document searching questions to personally determine the existence of probable cause as mandated by the Constitution and the Rules of Criminal Procedure?

– What was the reason behind and what really transpired during the meeting between the honorable judge and the police chief the day before the issuance of the warrant?

– Will the honorable judge make available at the proper forum and time the “special docket book,” which contains the details of the application for purposes of transparency and scrutiny?

– Why was there a need to apply for a search warrant in a faraway court when the same can be procured in a closer regional court without compromising secrecy and service of the warrant?

– Why is there seemingly a pattern to issue search warrants against political dissenters and critical groups from one and the exactly the same judge even if legally allowable?

“As the perceived bastion of fairness and justice, the Judiciary must relentlessly maintain its independence against actual or perceived interference and pressure exerted by other government branches. The bench and its members must not let themselves be used, or appear to be used, wittingly or unwittingly, as tools or minions of political persecution,” the NUPL said.

Progressive groups have called on the public to resist Duterte’s crackdown against critics. #

End Impunity, Free Expression!

Imagine a world without impunity, where everyone is free to exercise their right to freedom of expression and information and able to access, generate and share ideas and information in any way they choose, without fear. We do. 

By: Annie Game

On this International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, it’s important to recognize the essential link between the right to freedom of expression and the right to information. Journalists are too often the direct targets when either right is under attack, and ultimately — we are all victims. 

Two weeks ago, the UN General Assembly voted to declare 28 September the International Day for Universal Access to Information. A significant victory, following a decade of sustained advocacy by numerous civil society groups, including many African members of the IFEX network. 

Some people — but probably no one involved in the struggle to promote and defend freedom of expression — might have greeted this news of a new UN Day with a shrug.  But they should think again, for our right to information is inseparable from our right to expression, and both are increasingly under attack.

Threats to information are coming in many forms — from attacks on journalists, to deliberate disinformation, to the obstruction of newspapers — and the impacts are far-reaching: keeping people from the information they need to engage with the issues they care about, exacerbating political polarisation, and undermining democracy.

Let’s take a recent high-profile example of the power of expression, and its reliance on access to information. 

Last month, an estimated 6 million people took to the streets in response to the climate change crisis. The creativity of their protests inspired many as they marched; expression in action, emboldened by facts.  

Swedish climate activist Greta Thurnberg implored us to “listen to the scientists” — but what if the voices we need to listen to are silenced, directly or indirectly? 

Voices can be silenced through censorship, or drowned out in a sea of disinformation. But in a growing number of instances, the silencing tactic used is murder. Murder without consequences. Murder with impunity.

A comprehensive study released in August 2019 revealed that killings of environmental activists have doubled over the past 15 years. In 90% of those cases no one has been convicted — a shocking level of impunity, matched by those of murdered journalists.

As we mark another International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, this deadly form of censorship is never far from our thoughts.

UNESCO’s list of journalists who have been killed around the world — over a thousand since 2006 — is a sobering reminder. The proportion of women among fatalities has also risen, with women journalists facing increased gender-specific attacks.

Of the 207 journalists killed between January 2017 and June 2019, more than half were reporting on organized crime, local politics and corruption. 

Their right to expression was ended, forever, to stop them from sharing information. 

Every time such a crime goes unpunished, it emboldens others. Those who would share information in the public interest rightfully ask themselves – is this worth my life?  Is it worth putting my family at risk? And if they decide that it is not, who can blame them? The ripple effects of impunity are endless.

That is why, for over eight years, the IFEX network has campaigned to end impunity for crimes against journalists and all those exercising their right to freedom of expression.

It’s not work that lends itself to quick successes. As the expression goes, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. The work does not end with finding the perpetrators; states must be held accountable for allowing or encouraging a climate of impunity in which such crimes flourish. 

We embrace every win, large and small. The good news is that at IFEX we are seeing creative, collaborative, and powerful new strategies, and tangible progress. 

In the past 12 months, we’ve seen the truth finally coming to light in The Gambia about the 2004 killing of journalist Deyda Hydara; a landmark ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights that found the government of Colombia culpable in the 1998 murder of Nelson Carvajal Carvajal, and the historic decision by the Inter-American Commission to take to the Court the case of the brutal attack in May 2000 that nearly took the life of investigative journalist Jineth Bedoya Lima. 

Just two weeks ago, we welcomed the decision by Kyrgyzstan to re-open the 12-year old case of the murder of journalist Alisher Saipov, following sustained pressure by IFEX and its local members the Media Policy Institute and Public Association Journalists. 

Imagine, these cases represent a combined 66 years of impunity.

So let those responsible for — or contemplating — violence against journalists, hear this loud and clear: long after the world’s attention may have moved on, you may think you have gotten away with murder. No. Those of us committed to fighting impunity are persistent. We do not give up. So you can never rest easy.For us, the culture of impunity surrounding attacks on journalists represents one of the single greatest threats to freedom of expression worldwide. The progress we have made toward ending impunity would never have been possible without the resilience, persistence, and tenacity of those who fight it.

We must use our freedom of expression, to defend it. We must use it to call out crimes against journalists, and end impunity. #

——-
The International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists is one day, but this important work goes on year-round. I invite you to watch this short video and be inspired by the growing number of ways people around the world are working to end impunity and make it safer to be a journalist. Annie Game is the Executive Director of IFEX, the global network promoting and defending freedom of expression and information.

(This piece is a pooled editorial between IFEX and the People’s Alternative Media Network (Altermidya) on the occasion of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists. Kodao is an Altermidya member.)

A timeline of the birth and attacks on Salugpongan schools

by Kene E. Kagula/Davao Today

DAVAO CITY, Philippines —

2003

The Salugpongan Schools started as a literacy-numeracy school for the Talaingod Manobo children. Volunteer teachers were facilitated by the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP).

2007

Salugpongan Schools were established as a formal learning institution aiming to provide basic education to the Manobo and was accredited by the Department of Education.

Its full name, Salugpongan Ta Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center, Inc. (STTICLCI), was derived from its founders, the Salugpongan Ta Tanu Igkanogon (Unity in Defense of Ancestral Land), an organization formed by Talaingod Manobo leaders.

They envisioned to provide the Talaingod Manobo and other IP communities free, quality and culturally relevant education. They said this is the “concrete expression of their collective effort” to defend the Pantaron Mountain Range in their ancestral territory.

2009

Salugpongan school administrators joined in the consultation held by the Department of Education (DepEd) for the creation of the Indigenous Peoples Education (IPED) framework.

The framework has become what is now the DepEd Order No. 62 series of 2011, or “Adopting the National Indigenous People’s Education (IPED) Policy Framework intended to be “an instrument for promoting shared accountability, continuous dialogue, engagement, and partnership among government, IP communities, civil society, and other education stakeholders.”

Salugpungan schools encountered the first red-tagging incident from the 60th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, as the DepEd presents evidence that Salugpungan was granted a permit.

2012

The STTICLCI received accreditation status as a learning center from the Sangguniang Bayan of Talaingod.

2014

Its very first campus in Sitio Dulyan, Barangay Palma Gil, Talaingod, serving Kinder to Grade 6 learners, was granted Certificate of Recognition by the DepEd.

April — Due to the increasing military deployment and operations in Talaingod that has harassed its residents, the Salugpongan embarked on an evacuation, seeking sanctuary at the United Church of Christ of the Philippines’ (UCCP) Haran compound.

Dialogues went on and off for a month between local officials of Talaingod, Davao del Norte provincial LGU, Davao City LGU, and military officers that resolved the Manobo’s demand to pullout the paramilitary and soldiers.

November — The Davao del Norte DepEd division officer urges the 68th Infantry Battalion to spare the Salugpongan schools from military operations after complaints were raised by school administrators of soldiers “residing near the school and establishing patrol bases”.

2015

March — A fact finding mission in Talaingod in March confirms that military personnel were encamped in 257 households, two schools, a health center and a barangay hall.

July — The DepEd delayed the release of operating permits of the Salugpongan schools, which was released a month later after the Salugpongan community held a camp-in protest in the DepEd Regional office. Salugpongan decided to hold bakwit schools in UCCP Haran because of the attacks of the military and paramilitary.

davaotoday file photo

2016

January — A Salugpongan student, 16 year old Alibando Tingkas, was shot dead by the paramilitary Alamara in Barangay Palma Gil.

Amelia Pond, the Curriculum Development Officer of the Salugpongan Schools, and coordinator of RMP Southern Mindanao, was arrested during an RMP assembly in Cebu. She was arrested on a warrant bearing a different name allegedly of a New People’s Army member and was charged for murder. Pond was detained for 16 months, including a few months in hospital arrest following a spine surgery, before the case was dismissed for “mistaken identity”.

The Talaingod Manobos returned to their communities after President Duterte’s promise to act on their call to pullout troops in their villages. But later they found the military continues to encamp in their communities and schools.

2017

June — A Salugpongan teacher survives a strafing incident from a paramilitary member. The strafing traumatized the Lumad students.

July — Lumad schools camped out in “Panacañang” and at the DepEd regional office to raise public awareness on their continuing displacement, and urged the government to stop the attacks and red-tagging of their schools.

After his 2nd State of the Nation Address (SONA), President Rodrigo Duterte said in a press conference that he would “bomb Lumad schools” over allegations that they are built by the New People’s Army. The pronouncement forced students and communities to stay in sanctuaries while institutions such as UCCP Haran and UP Diliman hosted “bakwit” (evacuation) schools.

September 5 — 19-year old Salugpungan student Obello Bay-ao was murdered by CAFGU and Alamara members in the community of Sitio Dulyan. The suspects remained to be at large.

November 2018

18 Salugpongan teachers, and delegates of a National Solidarity Mission headed by former Bayan Muna Party-list Representative Satur Ocampo and ACT Teachers Party-List Representative France Castro was detained and charged with kidnapping and trafficking. The group was headed to help rescue the students and teachers the Salugpongan campus in Sitio Dulyan who fled after the paramilitary Alamara forcibly closed their schools.

The group, called “Talaingod 18” was granted bail as their case continues.

2019

July 8 — The DepEd Division released a memorandum calling for the suspension of 54 Salugpongan schools. The issuance was based on the recommendation of National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. that accused the school of not following the DepEd curriculum and teaching “ideologies that advocate against the government”.

July 22 — The Salugpongan schools submitted a reply to the DepEd order, firmly denying all the allegations. They also questioned the agency’s issuance of such order “without following due process”.

September 2019

In defiance to DepEd’s order of suspension, the school continue their operations for its students, re-opening “Bakwit schools” in UCCP Haran, and in University of the Philippines-Diliman in Quezon City for this school year.

October 7

DepEd Region 11 issued its final resolution calling for the closure of all Salugpungan schools. It claimed the basis on their fact-finding mission that verified Esperon’s claims and cited other instances that the schools did not comply with DepEd standards and curriculum. # (davaotoday.com)

Lumad leader, mother of seven, killed in Bukidnon

By Davao Today

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — A Lumad woman leader is the 14th victim of extrajudicial killings against indigenous peoples defender in the province of Bukidnon.

The Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organization reported that Bai Leah Tumbalang, 45, a Tigwahanon leader from San Fernando town of Bukidnon, was gunned down last Friday, Aug. 23 in Valencia City by riding in tandem gunmen suspected to be military agents.

According to the report, a witness claimed that two men riding a motorcycle was seen tailing the victim before she was shot in her forehead, causing her immediate death.

Kalumbay identified Tumbalang, mother of seven, as an active member of Kaugalingong Sistema Igpapasindog Tu Lumadnong Ogpaan (KASILO), a local Lumad and peasant organization in Bukidnon. She is also an organizer of Bayan Muna.

Tumbalang was reported to have received a death threats prior to her death.

Since 2011, Tumbalang and other KASILO members have been receiving threats to their lives as they lead the opposition against the deployment of paramilitary groups believed to be backed by mining interest in their communities.

Former KASILO secretary general Jimmy Liguyon was shot to death in that year by suspected paramilitary members after defending the ancestral domain from an expansion of a plantation project.

Kalumbay condemned the death of Tumbalang, whom they said is the 14th victim of summary killings of rights advocates in the province this year alone.

On August 12, Jeffrey Bayot, a KASILO member was also gunned down by motorcycle-riding men.

Four days before Bayot’s death, similar shooting incident also happened on August 9, killing another member of the group, Alex Lacay. #(davaotoday.com)

Cagayanos want blacksand mining ‘disguised as dredging’ stopped

By ACE ALEGRE
www.nordis.net

BAGUIO CITY — Cagayanos asked President Rodrigo Duterte’s help in stopping dredging activities at the mouth of Cagayan River they said is “disguised” magnetite mining.

The Cagayan Province Provincial Board approved last August 7 a resolution asking the president to suspend the dredging operations at the mouth of the Cagayan River in Aparri town.

This came after the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) confirmed that it did not issue any dredging permit to the private firm involved in the dredging.

Pacific Offshore Exploration Inc.  (POEI), a firm owned by a former Isabela town mayor, has been dredging the country’s biggest river system for months.

The company reportedly ships the dredged materials to a reclamation project in Hong Kong and may earn about $50 million monthly if it sells the sand at current local prices, according to the resolution.

A cubic meter of sand in Cagayan is being sold at P160 to P180.

The exportation of black sand to Hong Kong was met with protests from locals.

Provincial Board member and resolution author Mila Lauigan said the deal with the dredgers has to be investigated.

“That is why we are appealing to the President to immediately suspend the dredging operations and inquire whether the company has complied with all the requirements before it proceeds,” Lauigan said.

According to the provincial legislator, “the contractor is only extracting black sand and leaves waste (non-mineral sand) material back into the river.”

It is reason why environmentalists and locals are raising heaven and hell [while] Gov. Manuel Mamba had been defending POEI’s operations amidst the environmental mess it has been causing, she said.

Mamba’s camp had been defending the dredging operation they said is meant to prepare for the reopening the Port of Aparri.

Mamba said the port’s reopening would improve economic and trade relations between Cagayan province and China as well as neighboring Asian countries.

Mamba, who entered into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with Pacific Offshore Exploration Inc. (POEI) under the authority of a resolution passed by the Cagayan Provincial Board last January, insists there is only dredging activities in the area and not magnetite (black sand) mining.

The provincial board has yet to be shown a copy of the memorandum of agreement between Mamba and POEI.

Mamba’s camp said there is no economic value to the exportation and the dredging activities help clear the river of heavy silt for free.

Engr. Mario Ancheta of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Mines and Geosciences Bureau agreed with the governor that there is no mining but dredging operations that should be sanctioned by the DPWH.

“There is sand extraction, but it is not mining but dredging,” Ancheta said.

The Cagayan Export Zone Authority (CEZA), meanwhile, had been silent on the controversial dredging and “exporting” of the dredged sand to HK.

Immigration officials and the maritime police in Cagayan are also silent on the presence of foreign workers on the sand barges regularly approaching the shores of Aparri town. # (With additional reports from Raymund B. Villanueva) nordis.net / Photo from Gising Cagayan Facebook Page

International groups express condemnation, concern on journalist shooting

By KYLE EDWARD FRANCISCO
www.nordis.net

BAGUIO CITY — An international media watchdog and environmental protection institution expressed condemnation and concern on the recent attack against Brandon Lee.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), an independent, nonprofit organization that promotes press freedom worldwide, condemned on Friday, August 9, the shooting of Lee, who writes for Northern Dispatch and a paralegal volunteer of the Ifugao Peasant Movement.

CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative Shawn Crispin urged the authorities to “leave no stone unturned” in their investigation.

“Until President Rodrigo Duterte shows he is serious about protecting journalists, all the talk of investigations will come to nothing and violent attacks on the press will continue,” he said.

The Police Regional Office Cordillera formed a task force to conduct a thorough investigation of the case. To date, the police have yet to release the progress of their work to identify the perpetrators and motive for the attack.

Meanwhile, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature National Committee of The Netherlands (IUCN NL), expressed shocked over the incident. The institution has been working with local organizations in the country to increase the safety of environmental defenders.

The institution said that Brandon is one of their local partners “who stands up for the rights of people and nature.”

“Violence against environmental defenders in the Philippines is increasing at an alarming rate,” said Antoinette Sprenger, Senior Expert Environmental Justice of IUCN NL.

The Philippines recorded the most number of killings of environmental and land defenders in 2018 according to the recent report released by Global Witness. # 

Tens of thousands brave the rain, threats from gov’t, to protest state of the nation

By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — This year’s State of the Nation Address protest could be mistaken as a parade of under the sea creatures; only that it carries significant calls like “Atin ang Pinas! China layas!”

The almost 40,000 strong protesters withstood the heavy rain yesterday to echo their grievances against the Duterte administration ranging from its subservience to China to the workers’ call for salary increase and an end to contractualization.

Called as the United People’s SONA, groups vowed to further unite against a “dictator president.”

Benedictine nun Mary John Mananzan of the Movement Against Tyranny (MAT) commended the huge number of people who joined the protest, which, she said, shows the real state of the nation.

“Tuwang tuwa ang lolang aktibista nyo dito. Hindi kayo natakot sa ulan, at lalong lalo na hindi kayo natakot kay Duterte,” said Mananzan during the program. (Your activist grandma is elated. You were not afraid of the rain and most especially you are not afraid of Duterte.)

Photo by Carlo Manalansan/Bulatlat

She said now is the time to unite and show the people’s strength especially that democracy is being threatened as Duterte has made steps to control all branches of government.

Duterte’s subservience to China

Fernando Hicap, Pamalakaya chairperson, lambasted Duterte’s inaction on many issues hounding China and its incursion into the West Philippine Sea.

He said Duterte, like China, continues to neglect the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling that the Philippines has the exclusive sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea.

Photo by Carlo Manalansan/Bulatlat

He called Duterte, “bentador” and a traitor against the Filipino people when he admitted that he made a deal with China’s president, Xi Jin Ping, to not assert the right of the Philippines to the West Philippine Sea.

This, he added, is enough to file impeachment complaint against Duterte.

Former Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares asked, “What help did China extend to Duterte during the elections that he immediately changed after he won the presidency?”

Colmenares is referring to Duterte’s brave stance against China during the 2016 presidential elections.

He said there is no truth that China will wage war against the Philippines because the international community will surely oppose it. “Our neighboring countries, smaller than the Philippines at that, is standing against China’s incursion. But Duterte does not,” he added.

Photo by Carlo Manalansan/Bulatlat

3 years of Duterte presidency is misery for the people

The groups lamented that for three years, the administration of Duterte has not brought comfort to the Filipino people.

It has been three years of misery, they said, as life has become more difficult. The government data shows that inflation has gone down from 6.7 percent in the past year to 2.7 percent as of June this year. However, people of the marginalized sector did not feel it.

Former Agrarian Reform Secretary and Chairperson Emeritus of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) Rafael Mariano said that with the enactment of Rice Tariffication Law, farmers experienced further bankruptcy with the influx of imported rice in the market. He said the price of the farmers’ produce are too cheap that they did not earn at all from their harvest. He said a palay now only costs P14 to P16 per kilo.

Photo by Carlo Manalansan/ Bulatlat

“The cost of production is too expensive and yet they only sell it at a low price. This has resulted in the bankruptcy of many farmers,” Mariano said.

Leody De Guzman of Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino, meanwhile, criticized Duterte for not being true to his promise as contractualization has not ended. What’s worse is that there is the Security of Tenure bill, which, he said, only legalizes contractualization.

Elmer Labog, chairperson of Kilusang Mayo Uno chairperson said that under Duterte, workers work to live and not to earn.

“Three years under Duterte, workers’ wages are pegged far below living standards, contractualization remains rampant and legitimized, and unemployment is still one of the worst in Asia. The ITUC’s global index rights index listed Philippines as one of the top ten world’s worst country for workers in terms of trade union and human rights. If Duterte can’t do anything about it, then he must go,” said Labog.

Satire artist Mae Paner’s performance depicted the life of the Filipino people and how China has slowly taken over the Philippines. “Mayaman ang Pilinas, pero ang mga Pilipino naghihirap pa rin!” (The country is rich in resources but the Filipino people are still poor.) She wore a camiso chino with a net and a shark in her back painted with China’s flag.

Mothers from Rise Up for Life and for Rights also lamented how they were deprived of justice just because their loved ones were allegedly “drug users.” They appeal for independent investigation especially now that the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted Iceland’s resolution to conduct comprehensive investigation on extrajudicial killings in the Philippines.

Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay hit the Philippine National Police’s data on the drug-related killings saying that from 6,000 deaths, it is now 5,000.

“Are they like Comelec (Commission on Elections), the number changes in just a blink of an eye?” she asked.

Photo by Carlo Manalansan/Bulatlat

She also slammed the Duterte administration for attacking its critics — from Sen. Leila de Lima, the peace consultants, the farmers fighting for their land, activists and human rights defenders who are being slapped with trumped-up charges.

“To dissent against the government is not a crime. It is not terrorism,” she added.

Unite against dictatorship

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Secretary General Renato Reyes Jr. said a dictator can be defeated if the Filipino people are united.

Photo by Carlo Manalansan/Bulatlat

“The President is acting like a dictator and there seems to be no end to his evil designs. Where could we derive our strength? We could derive our power from collective action, from our united ranks fighting for sovereignty and democracy. Our unity is the only effective obstacle against a dictatorship,” Reyes said in Filipino.

Joshua Mata of Kalipunan said now more than ever the people should unite against Duterte. “We have experienced dictatorship before, will we let it happen again now?” he asked to which the people answered with a resounding no.

The program ended with a performance by rapper Calix with his song, Giyera ng Bulag, a single from Kolateral album that tackles Duterte’s so-called war on drugs. “Di mo ba nakita, Duterte, mga tao din kami!” (Can’t you see Duterte, we are humans.) was Calix’s last line that received applause from the audience. #