Reds condemn 54th IB for condoning rape of minor in Ifugao

By KIMBERLIE QUITASOL
www.nordis.net

BAGUIO CITY —A New People’s Army (NPA) unit and an underground women’s organization in separate statements condemned the 54th Infantry Battalion for condoning one of its soldier who raped a minor twice.

The Nona del Rosario Command of the New People’s Army in Ifugao said in a statement that Paul Tamang of the 54th IB first raped the 15-year-old victim in 2018. The army sexually assaulted her while she was alone doing the laundry at home.

In March 2019, Tamang returned saying that he wanted to talk about what happened and then raped her again. A few months later, two other soldiers from the 54th IBPA approached the family and offered them P70,000. They also informed them about the transfer of Tamang to a different unit following the incident.

Troops from the 54th IB, including Tamang, was in the victim’s village supposedly conducting a Community Support Program Operations (CSPO) when the abuse happened.

“The victim, her family and the entire community continue to seek justice for the violence and oppression they have experienced,” the statement said.

According to the NPA unit, there have been three reported rape cases perpetrated by soldiers of the 54th IB. These cases are on top of complaints of sexual harassment in various villages in Ifugao.

In a separate statement, Makibaka, the women’s revolutionary organization allied with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) condemned the 54th IBPA soldier for raping a minor twice at that.

Makibaka demanded that justice be served to the victim and for the pull out of the 54th IBPA from Ifugao.

In November 2014, the police arrested a member of the same army unit, Christopher Collado Baccay, for charges of charge for intentional abortion with rape. The victim filed the case before Branch 14 of the Regional Trial Court of Lagawe town in Ifugao. Authorities collared the rape suspect inside the 5th Infantry Division (ID) in Camp Melchor dela Cruz in Gamu, Isabela.

The 54th IBPA is not the only army unit assigned in Ifugao with records of rape and sexual abuse.

In 2012, Capt. Danilo Lalin of the 86th IB, then stationed in Ifugao, abducted and raped a 16-year old girl from Benguet. Isabel (not her real name) went missing on February 17, 2012, and returned home four days after. She later disclosed to her sister that Lalin brought her to a military camp in Ifugao where the army official raped her.

The trauma from her ordeal on the hands of Lalin caused the victim to suffer from depression and selective amnesia.

Lalin claimed that Isabel, who was 16 at the time was his girlfriend. Military officials transferred the suspect to the 5th ID headquarters in Gamu, Isabela after the incident. # 

Scientists, green group condemn continuing detention of colleague

By SHERWIN DE VERA
www.nordis.net

VIGAN CITY – The Advocates of Science and Technology for the People (Agham) and Center for Environmental Concerns (CEC) – Philippines condemned the continuing detention of environmental scientist, and peasant rights advocate Delilah “Delai” Padilla for trumped-up criminal charges filed by state forces in Cagayan Valley.

In separate statements, Agham and CEC said that Padilla’s apprehension and imprisonment are examples of attacks against environmental defenders and human rights advocates to silence and stop them from their advocacies. They also shared the significant contribution of Padilla to environmental defense and advocacy.

Delilah Padilla (Photo courtesy of AGHAM)

“As an environmental scientist, she was very dedicated to sharing her knowledge in far-flung communities that were experiencing environmental issues due to mining, logging, and pollution,” CEC Philippines said.

The institution added that “her work in environmental education resulted in improving the learning methods to promote the understanding of basic ecological principles among those who did not have formal schooling.”

Before relocating to Cagayan Valley, Padilla worked with CEC Philippines. She became part of the institution’s Environmental Research and Advocacy Program, where she worked to strengthen environmental education and awareness.

Later on, she also joined Agham to reach out to many scientists and encourage them to take part in people’s issues. In the early part of 2000, she became its Deputy Secretary-General.

According to Agham, Padilla headed the environmental investigation mission (EIM) in the coal mining areas in Cauayan, Isabela, in 2000. This undertaking exposed the dangers of coal mining and extractive industries to the people and the environment.

The group also noted that she was with the team that conducted the study on the impacts of the conversion of vast tracts of agricultural lands into monocrop plantations of Bt Corn in Isabela.

“Her temerity in the face of the glaring injustices that she saw challenged the status quo and helped stir the growing consciousness and will to act of the people she worked with. We know that her imprisonment will not deter her conviction to defend the environment and the people,” Agham said.

Agham lauded her for using her knowledge and expertise with the grassroots organizations and non-government sector “despite having the option to pursue a more lucrative career.”

According to the group, Padilla decided to move to Cagayan Valley after “realizing the need for a more proactive response to the needs of farmer communities.”

She was one of the conveners of Save the Valley, Serve the People, a broad multi-sectoral alliance against plunderous and destructive projects in the region. With her hard work and expertise, she earned respect and recognition of groups and communities, which eventually tasked her to become the spokesperson.

Padilla is a graduate of BS Biology from the University of the Philippines (UP) Los Baños. She also earned her Master in Environmental Science in UP Diliman.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) in Region 2 apprehended her on October 8 in Leonarda Village, Tuguegarao City in Cagayan. She is facing charges for assault, murder, frustrated murder, attempted murder, and robbery. The government placed a P700,000 bounty for her arrest. Also arrested in a separate operation on the same day were Violeta Ricardo and Cristeta Miguel. Authorities tagged the three as a ranking officer of the Cagayan Valley Regional Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

According to Danggayan ti Mannalon ti Cagayan Valley (Danggayan-CV), Padilla’s arrest came during their protest preparation for the October peasant month commemoration.

The number of environmental activists red-tagged, arrested for trumped-up charges and killed continues to rise, said Kalikasan-People’s Network for the Environment, with 225 killings recorded in the Philippines since 2001. This year, Global Witness, an international watchdog, reported the Philippines as the most dangerous country for land rights and environmental activists with 113 killed in the past three years alone. #

Initial people’s victory in the long march for justice

STATEMENT OF ALTERMIDYA NETWORK ON THE AMPATUAN MASSACRE VERDICT

AlterMidya

December 19, 2019

The conviction of members of the Ampatuan clan is an initial victory of the families and of the people who have joined their long journey for justice.

We hail the courage and determination of families, witnesses and lawyers who stood up against the powerful Ampatuan clan.

We commend Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes for upholding the rule of law.

The decision today is a small step toward ending impunity. It sends the message that the powers-that-be can still be held accountable, albeit belatedly.

This is not the endgame. Eighty of the accused are still at large and it is crucial for the Duterte administration to make sure that they are arrested and tried. Legal options for appeal can still be availed – from the RTC, to the appelate court, up to the Supreme Court. We will soldier on, no matter how long.

The past ten years have galvanized us, fortified our ranks. After the massacre, killings of journalists continued. Fifteen of our colleagues have been gunned down under this administration.

Moreover, warlordism, political patronage and all the conditions that led to the tragedy ten years ago remain. The enablers of this dome of impunity remain vastly untouched.

We will continue to engulf the reign of impunity in the blaze of the people’s wrath.

Nueva Vizcaya stands by checkpoints, barricade against OceanaGold

By SHERWIN DE VERA
www.nordis.net

BAGUIO CITY — The province of Nueva Vizcaya stands by its action to stop the operation of OcenaGold Philippines. Incorporated (OGPI), despite the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) order to “remove or dismantle” the checkpoints installed by the people and local government.

Governor Carlos Padilla, on Sunday, December 15, told Nordis that they already responded to DILG Secretary Eduardo Año’s request.

“We are politely turning down the request of the Secretary sapagkat ito ay isang issue na nasa korte (because this issue is already in court) and under the sub judice principle, not even the DILG has jurisdiction on this question,” he said.

He was reacting to the November 22 letter from the agency signed by Año. The DILG chief asked the province to “remove or dismantle the checkpoints” that the people and local government installed at OGPI’s entry.

Año said the provincial government has to first “coordinate with the [Philippine National Police] or the [Armed Forces of the Philippine] and secure the necessary permit” to establish checkpoints.

The DILG also wants the provincial government to “maintain status quo” before the Cease-and-Desist Order (CDO) issued by Padilla on June 25.

OGPI continued commercial operations despite the expiry of its Financial or Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) last June 20. The company cited the letter from Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) director Wilfredo Moncano. According to the MGB letter, the Administrative Code allows OGPI to operate as it has allegedly made a “timely and sufficient application for the renewal of a license.”

On July 1, residents of Didipio in Kasibu town and environmental groups, backed by the provincial and municipal governments, put up three checkpoints leading to the mine site of OGPI. The people put up the barricade to ensure the implementation of the CDO and halt the mining operation.

Proactive response

Notwithstanding their letter to the DILG chief, Padilla said that they are also verifying the authenticity of the letter. The governor noted that Diocese of Bayombong Bishop Jose Elmer Mangalinao informed him that  DILG Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya was not aware of the document.

However, the governor also told Nordis that DILG Nueva Vizcaya personally brought the letter to his attention. According to him, the following day, the regional office of the agency also inquired if he received the letter.

“In the absence of proof to the contrary, we are treating [the letter] as something from DILG,” he said.

Asked if he suspects anyone who would do such deceptive step, the governor responded: “Ang tingin ko ang OceanaGold ang number one suspect (I think OceanaGold is the number one suspect).”

Padilla said that mining companies, in general, use deception to protect their interests. He also questioned why the DILG furnished the Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Steven Robinson, a copy of the letter.

“Medyo nagdududa rin kami dahil doon sa sulat ni Sec. Año sa amin dahil copy furnished ang opisina ng ambassador ng Australia sa Philippines. Pwede nating sabihin na tahasang pakikialam ito sa internal concerns ng ating gobyerno at ng ating bansa (We also doubt the letter of Sec. Año because they furnished the office of the Ambassador of Australia to the Philippines a copy. We can say that this is an outright intervention to the internal concerns of our government at country),” he said.

“Ang amin lang is panawagan sa DILG, tooto man o hindi ang sulat na yan, ang paniwala naming ay wala sa kamay ng DILG ang usaping ito (Our message to DILG, whether the letter is genuine or not, we believe that this matter out of the hands of DILG),” the governor added.

Actions are in order

Nasa korte na ito at sa first round, sa [Regional Trial Court] level, ay panalo kami ((This is already in the court, at the RTC level, we won) so the presumption is what we are doing is in order,” said Padilla.

He explained that the issues raised by the DILG secretary were the same matters cited by OGPI in its court petition. The company filed for a temporary restraining order and injunction against the action of the people and local governments.

RTC Branch 30 in Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya, ruled on July 25 to deny the mining company’s petition.

“The OGPI not having clearly proven, at this point, its clear and unmistakable right to be protected, the prayer for a preliminary injunction is denied…,” stated the decision penned by Judge Paul Attolba, Jr.

The judge also noted in his ruling that “other issues raised will be best threshed out in full-blown trial” and ordered the Pre-Trail Conference to proceed.

Padilla stressed that the provincial government “do not want to enter into a dispute with DILG” since the matter is up for the court to decide.

“We are asking Secretary Año to understand that it is within the jurisdiction of the court; that is why we cannot comply with the content of his letter addressed to us,” he added.

Reinforce the barricade

Learning of the DILG, the Alyansa ng Nagkakaisang Novo Vizcayanos para sa Kalikasan (ANNVIK) called on Didipio residents and other groups to send reinforcements for the barricade on Thursday, December 12.

The group reiterated that different the “people’s barricade” was instrumental in forcing the company to stop its operation temporarily. It stressed that its success was the result of the sacrifices of the different sectors that joined and sustained the action for five long.

“Nais lampasan ng DILG ang ligal na proseso ng korte at ipinipilit ang kanyang awtoridad para i-pressure ang mga lokal na pamahalaan sa Nueva Vizcaya (The DILG wants to go beyond the legal process in court and use its authority to pressure the local government of Nueva Vizcaya),” ANNVIK said in a statement posted on Facebook.

Besides the court proceeding, LGU Kasibu and the Save Nueva Vizcaya Movement filed a petition before the Office of the President to deny the FTAA renewal of OGPI. More than 6,000 individuals signed the petition.

“Subalit sa kabila ng kaliwa’t kanang reklamo ay narito ang DILG upang saklolohan ang minahan (Despite the numerous complaints DILG is here to help the mine),” the group said.

The MGB has also admitted that the Office of the President found deficiency with OGPI’s FTAA renewal application under the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act. According to the bureau, the company has to undergo the free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) since the area covered by its operation is now under the ancestral domain application by the Bugkalot tribe. This matter came up after the DENR recommended the interim renewal of the FTAA.

ANNVIK added that the DILG letter and the previous endorsement of DENR for the interim renewal of FTAA renewal are proof that the Duterte government favors corporate mining interests. #

December 19 and the quest for justice

ON DECEMBER 19, the day set by the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 for the promulgation of its much-awaited verdict on the Ampatuan massacre, it will be 10 years and 25 days since the killings occurred in Maguindanao on November 23, 2009.

Let that sink in: a decade of injustice. Ten years since 58 men and women, of whom 32 were journalists and media workers, were brutally killed in the worst election-related violence in the Philippines and the worst attack on journalists in history. These are millions of moments when swift decisive justice could have been served on the alleged perpetrators of the crime and its masterminds.

On December 19, the Filipino public expects nothing less than a conviction from Quezon City RTC Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes. But the Ampatuan case is one more indication of the fact that in the Philippines, a verdict in the lower courts even on a patently heinous crime will take at least a decade. It proves that impunity thrives for the powerful, while for the victims of crimes such as the Ampatuan massacre, a decade can pass without attaining justice.

A decade has indeed passed but the conditions that led to the Ampatuan massacre remain: political dynasties and patronage are still alive, paramilitary groups have not been dismantled, and the Ampatuans’ collusion with the administration — Arroyo then and Duterte now — still persists.

But in this climate when attacks against free expression and the press escalate relentlessly – from the killings of journalists to illegal arrests to online attacks – we should remain undaunted. Despite the stark lesson on how elusive justice is from the Ampatuan massacre case, journalists, activists, and advocates must not only soldier on, but also up the ante in the fight to shatter the culture of impunity that has enveloped the nation.

A conviction of the Ampatuans would be considered an initial victory against impunity. An acquittal, on the other hand, would spell death to press freedom.

December 19 will not only underscore how elusive justice is in our country. It should also be a time for all of us to renew our commitment to continue fighting for it no matter the cost, and no matter how long.

On December 19, let us express our solidarity with the families of the Ampatuan massacre victims and register our resounding call: Justice for the 58 massacre victims. End Impunity. Convict the Ampatuans.

* Pooled editorial of the members of the AlterMidya Network, a national organization of independent media outfits in the Philippines.

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. #

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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.)