Reporting the people’s demands is not a crime

Altermidya.net

Information is of utmost importance during the COVID-19 pandemic. Reporting the people’s grievances and demands is the solemn duty of the media; it is not a crime.

The Guimba municipal council’s Sangguniang Bayan Resolution No. 52 s.2020 last May 11 empowered the mayor of the Nueva Ecija town to file criminal charges against radio network Radyo Natin Guimba (RNG) for alleged violations of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act of 2020 (Republic Act 11469) by reporting the complaints of residents over the implementation of the Social Amelioration Program (SAP).

Prior to the resolution, RNG reported that a municipal councilor and son of the incumbent mayor confiscated RNG field reporter Lina Villaflor’s media identification cards issued by the Presidential Communications and Operations Office.

Earlier, on April 22, the mayor had written the station requesting a copy of the radio broadcast aired that day, stating that the “false and malicious” statements made by the commentator could be a basis for his legal action against the station.

This is a form of censorship meant to intimidate the media into either silence or reporting eventually and issues in a manner acceptable to local government officials.

Subsequent direct attacks against the station have been reported, among them the barring of RNG reporters from covering the sessions of the Guimba Sangguniang Bayan. On May 19, the local police again barred an RNG reporter from covering the distribution of rice seeds to farmers.

All these are in violation of press freedom, and were apparently in response to RNG’s reports on the problematic implementation by the Guimba local government of the SAP.

RNG reported that several residents had trooped to their station to air complaints on the “selective” manner in which the cash aid is being distributed—that the municipality and its barangay officials were prioritizing rich farmers over small tillers.

RNG also reported that the local police have prevented them from taking photos and videos of people who trooped to the municipal hall to complain about the SAP implementation.

As much as it is the constitutional right of the people to air their grievances, it is also the constitutional right – and the primordial duty – of the press to report on these issues.

Local government executives should keep in mind that that the current national emergency does not empower officials to silence dissent and curtail press freedom, both of which are essential to a functional democracy in which elected officials are duty-bound to defend the Constitution.

Joint statement: Stand with ABS-CBN, Defend Free Expression

Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade, Jr. of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF ELCAC) issued a statement Monday night claiming that “the ABS-CBN issue is about CPP [Communist Party of the Philippines] propaganda, so it falls under NTF ELCAC’s mandate.”

The statement came after the brouhaha ignited by the recent crossposting in several official government social media accounts of false information about the ABS-CBN issue.

Despite the fact that the NTF ELCAC got burned by the Palace when Communications Sec. Martin Andanar admitted that the cross-posting of NTF ELCAC’s infographics on ABS-CBN did not undergo the “usual vetting procedures,” Parlade persisted in linking the ABS-CBN issue to the CPP.

Under different circumstances, we could have dismissed Parlade’s red-baiting statement. But the reality is that journalists are being harassed, arrested, and killed under the pretext of counter-insurgency.

In a futile attempt to blindside the alternative media, Parlade directly mentioned the Altermidya Network and its members including Bulatlat, Kodao, Tudla, Kilab, Northern Dispatch, and even the formations National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, Union of Journalists of the Philippines (UJP), and the College Editors Guild of the Philippines, labeling all these groups as “creations of the CPP.” The general also labeled veteran journalist Inday Espina-Varona as a “long-time cohort” of the CPP and dared her to “expose herself some more.”

As we have said, time and again, the fight for the ABS-CBN franchise renewal is a fight for free expression and a fight for all. But Parlade is instead red-tagging virtually everyone and anyone who supports the call for the renewal of the ABS-CBN franchise.

There is nothing new in this attack. Keen observers of the increasingly deteriorating state of press freedom in the country were not surprised. In the context of the Duterte administration’s weaponizing the public health emergency to further its goal of controlling information and public opinion, Parlade’s use of the ABS-CBN issue is just one more demonstration of its determination to silence dissent and free expression.

At a time when millions are standing up and speaking out about the abuses of the Duterte administration, state agents respond with a patently unconstitutional crackdown on the media sector.

Parlade’s empty accusations should not deter the media from reporting the truth. Rather they should continue to monitor and hold government to account despite its concerted efforts to silence them.

Stand with ABS-CBN!  Defend press freedom and free expression!

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Altermidya Network
Bulatlat
Kilab Multimedia
Kodao Productions
Northern Dispatch
Tudla Productions
National Union of Journalists of the Philippines
College Editors Guild of the Philippines
Union of Journalists of the Philippines-UP

Philippine Press Institute
International Association of Women in Radio & Television (IAWRT) Philippines
UP Journalism Department
Photojournalists’ Center of the Philippines (PCP)
Let’s Organize for Democracy & Integrity – LODI
Concerned Artists of the Philippines
NUJP-NCR
Manila Today
Pinoy Weekly
PinoyMedia Center
UP Solidaridad
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Individuals

Inday Espina-Varona
Prof. Luis V. Teodoro
Ramon R. Tuazon
Therese S. Torres
Ma. Imelda Samson

Campus publications

Philippine Collegian
Manila Collegian
UPLB Perspective
UP Bagiuio Outcrop
UP Cebu Tug-ani
UP Mindanao Himati
Tinig ng Plaridel
Sinag (UP CSSP)
Kalasag (UP CAL)
Pagbutlak (UPV CAS)
UP Scientia (UP CS)
The Accounts (UPV College of Management)
NCPAG-Umalohokan
Alyansa ng Kabataang Mamamahayag ng PUP
CLSU Collegian
Fiat Lux
Himati-UP Mindanao
Iskolarium-PUP Sta. Maria Bulacan Campus
RedWire – University of the East
The Current – CMU
PUP BiblioFlix
The Angelite – Holy Angel University
The Catalyst PUP
The Chronicler – PUP Taguig
The College Chronicles –  Meycauayan College
The Lycean Pioneer-LPU Manila SHS
The Red Chronicles – San Beda College Alabang School of Law
The Geyser – Isabela State University Cabagan
The CSU Promethean – Cagayan State University Carig
The Scribes – PUP City of Meycauayan
The Searcher – PUP Sto. Tomas
The Work – Tarlac State University
TomasinoWeb – University of Santo Tomas

Military kills peasant leader in Iloilo

By Panay Today

ILOILO City – A peasant leader in Miag-ao, Iloilo was killed by the 61st Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army last Saturday, April 18.

The local peasant alliance Pamanggas identified the victim as John Farochilin, 50 years old.

The group said Farochilin served as chairman of the Alyansa sang mga Mangunguma sa Miag-ao (Alliance of Farmers in Miag-ao) and council member of Pamanggas.

“He was instrumental in availing food relief and seed subsidy for Miag-aoanon farmers during the campaign against hunger brought by El Niño in 2019. He also facilitated dialogues with the Miagao LGU on several occasion,” said the farmer’s group.

The 61st IBPA in their statement on Saturday that their troops clashed with about 40 members of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Sitio Anoy, Cabalaunan, Miag-ao, Iloilo.

A fire fight took place for about 35 minutes which resulted in the death of an NPA member, the arrest of seven personalities including a minor, and recovered a rifle, ammunition, sub-machine gun, backpacks, flags, documents, and medical paraphernalia, the military said.

The NPA Southern Front Mt. Napulak Command, however, denied the military’s accusations.

“Our unit was prepared even before they were attacked by the military troops. No one was arrested, wounded or dead. None of the NPA unit’s personal belongings nor rifles were left in the incident area,” said Ka Ilaya Kanaway, the command’s spokesperson.

Local human rights group Panay Alliance Karapatan condemned the killing as well as the arrests of the civilians.

“Justice should be given to the civilian victims and their families after proper investigation by the Commission on Human Rights and other concerned agencies. The soldiers responsible for the killing, arrest, and detention of these civilians should also be prosecuted and made accountable,” said Karapatan./www.panaytoday.net

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. #