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AFP bombing spree in Mindanao disobeys Duterte’s Covid-19 ceasefire order, Reds report

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is disobeying President Rodrigo Duterte’s ceasefire order, undertaking aerial bombing, cannon firing, and other military operations amid the corona virus disease (Covid-19) emergency, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) reported.

In a statement, the CPP said that based on New People’s Army (NPA) field reports, the AFP  is on a bombing spree and continues to carry out focused military offensives in the Bukidnon-Davao border area in disregard of the ceasefires declared by the Duterte government.

“Philippine Air Force (PAF) units under the AFP’s 4th Infantry Division used an FA-50 fighter jet to indiscriminately drop five 500-pound bombs near two Lumad communities in Barangay Mandahikan, Cabanglasan (Bukidnon province) on March 27,” the CPP said in a statement.

According to the CPP, the fighter jet dropped three bombs around 9 a.m. and two more at 2 p.m, traumatizing children and other community residents.

The bombing damaged the primary source of food and livelihood of the Lumad in the area, the group added.

On March 29, the AFP, using attack helicopters, fired at least 10 rockets in the same barangay at around noontime.

Rounds were also reportedly fired from artillery cannons installed at an adjacent barangay in Loreto, Davao del Norte province.

A Cessna surveillance aircraft flew overhead the whole day after the airstrike, the CPP said.

The military also deployed additional soldiers at Sitio Miyaray to conduct combat operations while two trooper units and three armored fighting vehicles were also deployed at Sitio Tapayanon, Barangay Gupitan, Kapalong, Davao del Norte, the CPP reported.

The bombings and troop deployments followed a fire fight resulting from an operation by the AFP’s 60th and 56th Infantry Battalions against the NPA in the area last March 24.

“The military made it appear that the attack was staged by the NPA although it was clear that they were carrying out offensive combat operations as evidenced by the fact that they have prepositioned artillery units to back up their ground troops,” the CPP said.

The underground group also said that the military raided an NPA encampment in Little Baguio, San Fernando, Bukidnon on March 29 at 2 a.m.

“Residents reported that military troops continue to operate in Barangays Kibongcog and Poblacion, San Fernando; Barangay Concepcion, Valencia; Santa Filomena, Quezon; Barangays Bulonay and Kalabugao, Impasug-ong; Barangays Busdi, Caburacanan, Manalog, Saint Peter and Zamboanguita, Malaybalay City; and Barangay Poblacion, Cabanglasan,” the CPP said.

The AFP also placed two artillery cannons in Sitio Nursery, Barangay Concepcion and another in Sitio Salaysay in Barangay Santa Filomena and have subjected the area to continuous aerial surveillance since the last week of March, reported the CPP.

Philippine Army Commanding General Lt. Gen. Gilbert I. Gapay however has only issued congratulatory messages to his troops engaged in fire fights against the NPA in Zamboanga Sibugay and Quezon provinces, admitting however that the fire fight in Mulanay town happened after his troops responded to reports that NPA rebels were in the area.

In the Zamboanga Sibugay encounter, Gapay said his troops were merely in the vicinity as part of the Philippine Army’s community visitation for Covid-19 information awareness.

The CPP, however, said that the military had been using the Covid-19 pandemic emergency to camouflage its intensified counter-insurgency operations in contempt of the United Nations plea to a global truce and in direct contravention of Duterte’s unilateral ceasefire order effective March 19 to April 13. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Police harass Sitio San Roque community kitchens

Residents of Sitio San Roque cannot seem to catch a break after the police harassed the community kitchen they have been operating for three days.

In an urgent alert, the group Save San Roque said about 15 Quezon City Police District officers arrived at two areas in their community to tear down placards asking the government for more help.

“Despite the peaceful volunteerism at our community kitchen, about 15 police officers descended upon us to tear down our placards asking for help,” the group said on its Facebook page.

QCPD officers descend on Sitio San Roque anew to tear down placards asking government for more help. (Save San Roque photo)

Save San Roque said the police arrived at around 10 o’clock in the morning and left after an hour.

The police action was upon the directive of the QCPD Station 2 commander, the group said.

The Philippine National Police-National Capital Region Command website identifies Lt. Colonel Rodrigo Soriano as Station 2 commander.

Save San Roque had been operating community kitchens after the community started receiving relief donations from private individuals following the arrest of 21 residents accused by the police and government officials, including President Rodrigo Duterte, of holding a rally last April 1.

It turned out that the residents only massed up along Epifanio delos Santos Avenue upon hearing that local and national government officials were about to hand out relief items.

Despite Quezon City mayor Joy Belmonte’s request to the QCPD not to press charges, the Department of Interior and Local Government announced it will push ahead in filing charges against those arrested.

QCPD officers tearing down placards asking government for more help. (Save San Roque photo)

In a surprise address later that evening, Duterte threatened to kill participants of protest actions in direct reference to those arrested.

The arrests and Duterte’s threats have resulted in an outpouring of help to the beleaguered residents, with private individuals offering to pay the bail for those arrested.

Groups have also started to give food packs to the residents, allowing Save San Roque and the Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap to operate two community kitchens in the area.

The Sitio San Roque incident inspired #OustDuterteNow tweets on social media that trended for days since the incident. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Life doubly harder in Marawi shelters as coronavirus grounds aid groups

Marawi residents find it hard to follow precautions against the novel coronavirus disease when relief goods are limited and water trucks are reducing trips. Local authorities say they do not have enough resources to feed the people for an extended period. They need outside help.

BY CARMELA FONBUENA/PCIJ

RESIDENTS trooped to the small mosque at Area 1 Temporary Shelter in Marawi City’s Sagonsongan village for the Friday prayers on March 27. They were aware they were violating instructions from the barangay chairman to observe physical distancing, a precaution against the highly contagious novel coronavirus disease that has killed at least three fellow Maranaos.

“They prayed side by side, but they were all wearing masks,” said Saipoding Mariga Mangotara, one of about 17,000 Marawi residents still living in shelters three years after the siege that flattened the city center and destroyed their homes.

The mosque-goers had a plea to Allah. They prayed for the virus to go away so that quarantine measures, which had made life even more difficult, would end.

The disease has killed over 50,000 and infected more than a million people around the world by the first week of April. The Philippines confirmed more than a hundred deaths and over 3,000 infections during the same period, but experts said the country’s poor testing rate means there are thousands more undetected cases.

Marawi City Mayor Majul Gandamra ordered all village chiefs to strictly impose “enhanced community quarantine” measures on March 19, grounding Mangotara and his neighbors inside their 24-square-meter homes.

Quarantine measures such as military and police checkpoints have hurt people’s livelihoods, including those of about 1,500 tricycle drivers and an undetermined number of “pedicab traders” who earned their living going around barangays to sell fish and vegetables.

They’re no longer allowed to go outside the shelters to earn money to buy food. Those who do have money have found it difficult to pass through checkpoints to reach the markets. There are sari-sari stores, but residents are afraid the owners will soon shut them down to keep the supply for their own families.

“We’re like chickens in a coop. We can’t get out. It’s hard because we’re running out of food. We don’t have income. We can’t buy,” said Mangotara.

Residents at the shelter got food packs from the local government, but a few kilos of rice and canned goods would last only a few days. Private donations, which have helped them get by since their displacement in 2017, have arrived in trickles since the quarantine. Even feeding programs have stopped because of crowding.

Saipoding Mariga Mangotara and wife Geraldine inside their home at Area 1 temporary shelter in Marawi City’s Sagonsongan village. File photo: Carmela Fonbuena

No more fieldwork

The quarantine has grounded most, if not all, aid and development groups operating in Marawi City, even if they’re exempted from the lockdown measures along with health workers and other emergency front liners. Task Force Bangon Marawi field office manager Felix Castro Jr., who oversees activities in the shelters, said there were no requests from the usual groups and foundations to visit the shelters lately.

Marawi residents have been asking for assistance but it’s hard for everyone to move, said Charlito Manlupig, chairman of Balay Mindanaw Foundation, an organization helping communities in Marawi and other parts of Mindanao.

“There’s zero movement among the different aid groups, as far as I know. Almost all partner international agencies have pulled out. No one is allowed to do field work,” Manlupig said.  

It’s a challenge for many temporary shelters, evacuation sites, and vulnerable communities throughout the Philippines that rely on aid groups and foundations.

“I can confirm that though not ended, most of our field activities have been significantly reduced due to the pandemic,” said Allison Lopez, spokesperson for the local chapter of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Lopez said the ICRC felt it was important to take precautionary measures to make sure its staff would not inadvertently bring the virus to vulnerable communities.

That meant postponing projects such as cash-for-work programs in Lanao del Sur and Zamboanga del Sur, as well as the distribution of food and household items to displaced people in Agusan del Sur. “These three projects alone cover 1,000 people,” said Lopez.

It’s the same at Oxfam Philippines. Humanitarian manager Rhoda Avila said they, too, have suspended field work for two weeks since the lockdown.

Oxfam was able to install handwashing facilities in some areas before the lockdown, but was forced to postpone a project to install water pump facilities in a conflict community in Maguindanao.

Families in transitory shelters in Marawi City put up sari-sari stores to augment their income.
File photo: Carmela Fonbuena

Scared of disease and hunger

Authorities have vowed to protect the Marawi shelters in case of a wider outbreak. Asnin Pendatun, cabinet secretary of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao, said they were closely watching Lanao del Sur, where Marawi City is located, because it had the most number of COVID-19 infections.

All six cases in the region as of March 31 were residents of Marawi City and Lanao del Sur. Three elderly cases have died, two were admitted to the Amai Pakpak Medical Center in Marawi, and one was quarantined at home.

This graphics is posted the Facebook page of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Interagency Task Force on COVID-19.

But authorities were still tracking attendees of a religious gathering in Malaysia from Feb. 27 to March 1, which was linked to clusters of coronavirus cases in Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei, Pendatun said. There were at least 10 attendees from Lanao del Sur.

Zia Alonto Adiong, Bangsamoro parliament member and spokesperson for the Lanao del Sur COVID-19 task force, said they were wary of undetected cases in the province. “The scarcity of test kits is a problem. We don’t know the exact number of cases, who they are, and where they are. We don’t have the data. It definitely affects the degree of response of the local government units,” he said.

Adiong was worried about asymptomatic cases, too. “They might look healthy but they are carriers of the disease. There has to be mass testing,” he said.

Displaced residents are equally scared.

In March, occupants of Bahay Pag-asa shelters in Buadi Itowa village became agitated. A resident had just returned from Metro Manila – the epicenter of coronavirus outbreak in the country – and developed a fever.

People knew she had been to Greenhills Shopping Center in San Juan, the site of the first known cases of local transmission, and feared she had brought the virus to their community. Panicked residents sent her to Amai Pakpak Medical Center. She later tested negative.

“We were really scared. We thought she caught the disease. There was a misunderstanding. We were all relieved to learn she had tested negative,” said Johanna Abdelfattah, a resident who also serves as community organizer for Balay Mindanaw Foundation.

Hunger is a force much stronger than the virus, however. Two weeks into the quarantine, fears of getting infected were overshadowed by a problem literally closer to the gut – how to get food on the table.

Some have turned fatalistic. “People here say we will die when Allah says it’s our time to die,” said Mangotara.

LGU’s burden

To make the quarantine work, it’s important to guarantee residents they will get food, water, medicines and other necessities, Balay Mindanaw area manager Charmaine Mae Dagapioso Baconga said.

“The people are scared. The people are bored. It’s hard to control their movements. Some people are complaining because it’s really been hard. They’re afraid to get the disease, but they also worry about their livelihood,” said Baconga.

Mayor Gandamra said the city would not be able to feed its people for an extended period without outside help.

“Definitely, we cannot sustain the distribution of food packs if coronavirus drags on and the quarantine measures are extended. We are not the same as the cities in Metro Manila. We are not like Quezon City that has billions of pesos in income,” he said.

Transitional Shelter Sites, as of April 2, 2020

For a population of about 200,000 people, Marawi City only has P2.5 million in its calamity fund each month, which translates to about P870,000 in emergency funds it can spend for coronavirus response. “We’ve been spending way beyond [our budget]. Fortunately, we still have savings,” Gandamra said.

The Bangsamoro regional government has sent food packs to indigents and persons under investigation (PUIs) and persons under monitoring (PUMs) for the disease, hoping to keep them in their homes. “We are coordinating with the province to be able to deliver food packs in batches,” said Pendatun.

As for the national government, the Department of Budget and Management said on April 2 that P100 billion had been released for the distribution of cash aid to poor families all over the country.

Gandamra said city officials were still checking the guidelines to see if residents in the shelters were qualified, as not all of them were beneficiaries of cash transfers under the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program.

Gandamra and Adiong were counting on private aid groups to find a way to continue assistance to displaced residents of Marawi.

Rice, water supply, medicines

The mayor hopes donors prioritize rice, as fears of a shortage have made it difficult to stockpile on the staple.

“There are provinces that do not want other local government units to buy from them. They are keeping their supply for their own people. We understand they’re protecting themselves, but there will be areas that will not have rice if the situation gets worse,” Gandamra said.

Water supply was always a problem, but coronavirus has made it worse. Water trucks that used to fill up their tanks were reducing trips lately, making it harder for residents to follow hygiene rules and handwashing instructions, Mangotara and Abdelfattah said.

Castro said there was a temporary disruption because the Marawi task force had to issue clearances to let truck drivers pass through checkpoints in Iligan, where many of them lived. He said water distribution would continue, but admitted that supply was not always enough.

There are water pumps in Sagonsongan and Bahay Pag-asa, but Abdelfattah said the queues were often long and supply was unreliable. The pumps broke down frequently because of overuse, she said.

While rains have allowed residents to collect water, they are also a cause of illnesses. “The sun is out one minute, then it rains the next. It’s hot, then cold. People have asked for medicines at the first sign of colds or fever because they’re afraid it might be coronavirus. The barangay has run out of supply,” said Abdelfattah.

Now that dry season has arrived, water pumps are badly needed as there are no rains to augment water supply. Balay Mindanao was unable to transport water pump facilities for communal gardens at Bahay Pag-asa because of the suspension of domestic air travel, Abdelfattah said.

Abdelfattah knew her neighbors envied her because she had a job at the foundation. “I tell them I will not hesitate if it’s in my power to make their lives better. But I also have to be careful with what I say to them because I cannot give them false hopes. I can only do so much right now,” she said.

Three years since the siege, displaced Marawi residents were still struggling to rise again. Coronavirus is poised to set back gains they have made.

“Coronavirus has made our lives doubly harder… I hope none of us will get it. I cannot imagine what’s going to happen to us.”

= = = = = = =
 
Carmela Fonbuena is a freelance journalist based in Manila. Follow her on Twitter (@carmelafonbuena) or email her at elafonbuena@gmail.com for comments.
 — PCIJ

Rights groups decry harassment of campus journalists

Free expression groups and advocates are outraged at village officials and public school teachers in Cabiao, Nueva Ecija who forced a campus journalist into issuing a public apology over his criticism of the Rodrigo Duterte government’s handling of the corona virus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

Arts and media alliance Let’s Organize for Democracy and Integrity (LODI) said the officials and teachers “deserve nothing but our (LODI) contempt and scorn” for being “bad examples to the youth” when they forced University of the East Dawn editor in chief Joshua Molo into issuing a public apology over his online criticisms of the president and the government.

 “In their attempt to silence Joshua, they abused their positions of influence in the community and merely helped cover up the negligent and inept who Joshua wished to expose,” LODI said in a statement.

Molo caught the ire of Barangay San Fernando Sur officials and his former high school teachers when he questioned the Duterte administration’s “inaction” in posts on his Facebook wall. The post has since been taken down.

Molo’s posts piqued three of his former teachers at Cabiao National High School who professed their unquestioning support of the president.

LODI identified Molo’s former teachers as Jun Ainne Francisco, Rochelle Galang, Wilma Manalo, Mel Garcia, Delmar Miranda, Jonifel Ventura, and Rogelio Dela Cruz. The barangay officials are unidentified.

That Molo was eventually “forced” to issue a public apology and take down his posts have earned the ire of free expression and rights groups and advocates.

Violation to free expression

In an alert, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said Redwire, an independent publication run by students of UE-Manila first broke the news and quoted friends who were in contact with the campus journalist as saying that the barangay officials threatened to file a libel case against Molo and have him picked up by police if he refused to apologize.

“A video posted on the UE Dawn editor’s social media account Sunday afternoon, April 5, showed him (Molo) making the ‘apology,’ taking his cue from persons outside the frame of the image to begin reading the message he had prepared on his phone, a possible indication he was under duress at the time,” the NUJP said.

Before removing the video, the campus journalist posted a comment saying a former teacher had asked him to take it down, the group added.

LODI said the Molo’s criticisms of the government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic are “non-crimes” and that he was right in pointing out the slow delivery of relief items for the citizens placed under quarantine.

Molo’s student publication, the UE Dawn, also condemned “in the strongest possible terms” actions against its editor, adding “preventing someone from expressing his or her opinion on matters such as grievances against the government is an act of oppression.”

Alumni of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), the national alliance of student publications that count the UE Dawn as its member, expressed full support to Molo and condemned “the cowardly acts of harassment against him.”

 “The coronavirus pandemic is no excuse to deny anyone, including students, the right to air grievances against government and to hold government accountable for its ineptitude and neglect. The limits on physical movement render free public debate online all the more important. Students have every right to participate in the debate,” the CEGP alumni said.

In a statement, the group asked Molo’s teachers to reconsider their plans to file charges against the campus journalist.

“[They should]…allow Joshua to freely speak his mind, and to instead to help him ventilate the valid complaints he is raising regarding the Duterte administration’s response to the pandemic. Teachers should be the last ones to discourage critical and independent thinking among students. Neither should they encourage blind, unthinking obedience to authority,” the CEGP alumni said.

Human rights group Karapatan for its part said, “We are alarmed on this incident as it is a case of curtailment of the right to free expression. Karapatan would like to remind authorities that the right to free speech is protected by the Philippine Constitution and international human rights instruments. Anyone who wishes to express dismay over government’s actions should never be threatened and penalized.”

Philippines Graphic editor in chief Joel Pablo Salud also publicly criticized Molo’s former teachers, asking “What sort of teachers would take the constitutionally-assured exercise of free speech against this university student editor? These are former teachers in high school; the young man is now in college,” he said.

“Is this the kind of system these teachers are propagating–coercion, intimidation, harassment of those who will exercise their right to free speech? To make matters more disturbing, these teachers were allegedly his former Campus Journalism instructors in high school,” Salud added.

Journalist Inday Espina-Varona said the barangay officials were wrong in coercing submission from Molo on issues way beyond the specific complaint.

“Threatening Molo with arrest on grounds of anti-government sentiment is a violation of his constitutional right to free expression,” Espina-Varona said,

 ‘Acting like a dictator’

In the same statement, the CEGP also condemned Cebu governor Gwendolyn Garcia’s threat against Today’s Carolinian (TC), student publication of the University of San Carlos in Cebu, that published an editorial critical of the local executive.

“She [Garcia] is not exempt from the requirement of accountability of public officers, and she has no legal authority to limit what can or cannot be said, or what can be asked or commented on,” the article reads.

The editorial entitled “A governor is not above the Constitution” was a criticism of Garcia’s announcement to form a unit to track down people with critical online posts.

Garcia responded with an “invitation” to TC editor in chief Berns Mitra to “beam some light into your clearly uninformed mind that has hastily jumped to an erroneous conclusion.”

The former officers of the CEGP however said Garcia should simply answer the questions and concerns raised by Cebu campus journalists.

“The pandemic is not a license for Garcia to act like a little dictator. She remains a public servant required by law to be accountable at all times to the people,” they said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Filipino seafarer dies of Covid-19 in San Francisco, groups worry about hundreds on board cruise ship

A Filipino seafarer has reportedly died in a San Franciso hospital due to the dreaded corona virus disease, a group of Filipino-Americans in the Californian city reported.

According to the Filipino Community Center (FCC) based in the said city, the seafarer contracted the virus on board the Grand Princess Cruise Ship that has been docked at the San Francisco Cruise Terminal since the early part of March.

The FCC learned of the unnamed sailor’s demise Saturday morning.

Fox 2 KTVU confirmed the crew member’s death, quoting Grand Princes spokesperson Negin Kamali saying: “All of us at Princess Cruises are deeply saddened to report that one of our team members who was working on Grand Princess passed away, from complications related to Covid-19. Our hearts go out to his family, friends, team members and all who are impacted by this loss. All of us at Princess Cruises offer our sincere condolences.”

Another Filipino crew member of the ship has tested positive with the disease, the League of Filipino Students-San Francisco State University said in its Facebook page.

The Grand Princess Cruise Ship was on its way to Hawaii last February 21 when it learned that two male passengers on a recent trip to Mexico have died of the virus.

The ship sailed to Oakland to let off its passengers and then returned to its home port of San Francisco to start its quarantine procedures.

The Grand Princess is a sister ship of the Diamond Princess that was placed under a four-week quarantine in Yokohama, Japan last month.

According to the FCC, there are still 78 Filipino workers of the original total crew of 1,111 on board and are undergoing quarantine.

A total of 438 Filipino workers earlier left the ship, along with 11 Chinese crew members.

The Grand Princess quarantine ended last Saturday, April 4, the California Office of Emergency Services told a press conference organized by the FCC.

Filipinos in San Francisco demands transparency, testing and treatment for hundreds of crew members still on board the Grand Princess Cruise Ship. (FCC photo)

Wrong strategy

Following the Filipino seafarer’s death, however, labor and community organizations amplified demands for transparency, testing and treatment for the hundreds of workers still on board the ship.

Representatives from the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITWF) and other labor advocates described the cruise ship as an “incubator” for the corona virus.

They cited a Center for Disease Control and Prevention study of the Diamond Princess that exposed the disastrous results of quarantining passengers and crew in ships’ tight quarters.

More than 700 of the 3,700 people onboard Diamond Princess tested positive for COVID-19.

Workers remaining on board the Grand Princess are at high risk of exposure and infection until the ship is decontaminated, the ITWF said.

ITWF Northern California Inspector Samantha Levens added, “This is not a problem created by COVID-19. What we are witnessing is existing inequalities and exploitation of seafarers being heighted and exposed by the pandemic.” 

Swati Rayasam of the Alliance for South Asians Taking Action described the treatment of these workers as “appalling” and “inhumane.”

Terry Valen of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns for his part said, “There are no plans in place, as far as we know, from the Office of Emergency Services to house the workers if they can’t get home because of international travel restrictions. Right now they are being asked to stay on the ship.” 

Filipinos in San Francisco demands transparency, testing and treatment for hundreds of crew members still on board the Grand Princess Cruise Ship. (FCC photo)

Fellow Filipino crew members from the Grand Princess who were repatriated in mid-March shared their concern for those still on board.

“I hope that this all ends soon, that they can all go back home to their families here [in the Philippines] who are left wondering, especially the spouses and children,” an audio message from a former Filipino Grand Princess crew member played during the press conference said.

An open letter to Princess Cruises and the Philippine government also said that more than two weeks after being flown back to the Philippines, the workers are still pushing for testing and treatment.

Only a portion of the over 400 workers who were quarantined in a facility in Tarlac, Philippines, were tested for COVID-19. They have since been sent to their home provinces. 

Crew members from India still on board conveyed their concerns in a video uploaded online three weeks ago.

They pleaded to the Indian government to be “evacuate[d] from the ship as soon as possible.”

Community organizations are echoing these concerns.

The Grand Princess Cruise Ship is one of the many ships currently stranded at sea scrambling for safe harbor.

Thousands of passengers and crew members remain on board in at least 15 cruise ships worldwide, with workers representing dozens of countries and nationalities, the FCC said.

Port closures, flight restrictions and border closures add to the direness and urgency of the situation, the group added.

 “As frontline workers, we in the maritime industry literally keep the world running. And our rights and voices must be at the forefront of the fight against this global crisis,” ITF’s Levens said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

CPP: Gov’t in contempt of UN’s global ceasefire plea with ‘non-stop combat operations’

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) accused the Rodrigo Duterte government of violating its unilateral ceasefire declaration and is “in direct contempt” of the United Nations request for a global ceasefire amid the corona virus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

In a statement, the CPP said state armed forces continue to mount “non-stop combat operations” against the New People’s Army in at least 63 towns and cities, covering 97 rural villages across the country.

“[Government] Military and police units across the country have continued to carry out relentless offensives despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s unilateral ceasefire declaration which covers the period March 19 to April 15,” Marco Valbuena, CPP chief information officer, said.

The government’s counterinsurgency operations has resulted in a series of armed encounters and widespread violation of human rights violations, Valbuena added.

“Over the past three weeks, state forces attacked and raided at least seven NPA encampments in the provinces of Rizal, Quezon, Bukidnon and Zamboanga Sibugay,” Valbuena said.

The AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) also conducted airstrikes and artillery shelling in Davao del Norte, Davao de Oro and Bukidnon, Valbuena reported.

In a separate statement last Saturday, the CPP said there have been at least seven clashes since the separate ceasefire declarations by the CPP and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines, all reportedly instigated by the military.

On March 17, an NPA unit in Sitio Bendum, Barangay Busdi, Malaybalay City, Bukidnon province was reportedly attacked by the elements of the 85th Infantry Battalion (IP) of the Philippine Army.

On the same day, another unit of the NPA was attacked by a units of the AFP 1st Special Forces Battalion in Mt. Kitanglad, Bukidnon.

On March 28, an NPA unit encamped in the mountainous part of Barangay Pungay, Rodriguez, Rizal was attacked by a unit of the 80th IB.

On March 31, another NPA unit in Barangay Mabunga, Gumaca, Quezon was attacked by a unit of the AFP’s 59th IB. The CPP said the government military unit has been conducting non-stop combat operations in at least five towns in Quezon province.

On April 1, another NPA unit was attacked by the 85th IB in Barangay Ilayang Yuni, Mulanay, Quezon.

Last Thursday, April 2, another NPA encampment unit in Barangay Balagon, Silay, Zamboanga Sibugay was raided by troops of the 44th IB. The same AFP unit raided another NPA camp in Barangay Peñaranda, Kabasalan in the same province.

On the other hand, all NPA units have complied with the CPP declaration, Valbuena said, adding however the guerrilla units are on “extra alert” in the face of the attacks from state forces.

The CPP issued its unilateral ceasefire declaration in response to the call of the United Nations for a global ceasefire that took effect on March 26 and will last until April 15.

According to the CPP, the ceasefire should give all NPA units the opportunity to carry out a public health campaign to help the masses surmount the Covid-19 epidemic.

Units of the NPA are conducting information drives, and campaigns for sanitation and personal hygiene, the CPP said.

Duterte said his government’s unilateral ceasefire order would allow the AFP and the Philippine National Police to focus on defeating the Covid-19 pandemic. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘Lou Tangco, revolutionary doctor and people’s martyr’

By Raymund B. Villanueva

Classmates of the doctor killed in a combined military and police raid in Baguio City last March 13 paid tribute to their colleague whose death they said is a great loss to the country. Members of the University of the Philippines College of Medicine (UPCM) Class of 1977 mourned the death of Dr. Ma. Lourdes “Lou” Dineros Tangco and said that while the light in her eyes had been extinguished and her laughter silenced, they will always remember the late physician’s selflessness.

“The UPCM Class of 1977 knew Lou as a principled and brave doctor committed to her ideals with the strength and tenacity to fight for them, but with the open-mindedness to accept others as they were,” the group said in a tribute.

Tangco was gunned down along with Julius Giron, a stalwart of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), who was ill with acute pancreatitis. The doctor was reportedly providing medical care to the high-ranking rebel. The military alleged that Tangco, Giron and their companion Arvie Alarcon Reyes fought back that led to their deaths.

The CPP however said the three were unarmed and were asleep when the raiding team arrived and were shot at close range. “Claims made by the military and police that they were about to serve an arrest warrant are outright lies. It was a liquidation operation, a massacre, carried out at 3 a.m. with the clear aim of assassinating Giron and eliminating all witnesses,” the CPP said.

A product of an affluent family

Photo courtesy of Dr. Carol Araullo

LouTang, as her classmates fondly called her, came from a family of physicians. She was the daughter of Gorgonia Dineros and the former member of the UP Board of Regents, Dr. Ambrosio Tangco. She was the niece of former UPCM Anatomy professor Dr. Oscar Tangco and cardiologist Dr. Francisco Tangco, the tribute reads. She had a sister who was a graduate of the college while Dr. LouTang’s own son is also an UPCM alumnus.

“Though a product of an affluent family, Lou had always been down to earth and felt that her heart belonged to the needy majority,” the UPCM Class of 1977 said.

Tangco, her classmates said, was a true product of the First Quarter Storm of 1970. But while she was “grim and determined” in practicing her principles, she was not beyond exchanging light banter with classmates.

“She will always be remembered for her loud and infectious laughter. She exuded joyfulness and sincerity, as her circle of relatives, classmates, friends and colleagues will attest,” they said.

Her friend and fellow UPCM alumna, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan chairperson Dr. Carol P. Araullo remembers her fried similarly. “She was easy to get along well, although over-eager (makulit) at times.  She was well liked and could relate well to people from all walks of life,” Araullo told Kodao.

Araullo recalled that Tangco never exhibited any of the trappings of her comfortable, even privileged, upbringing, being a daughter of a well-respected and successful orthopedic surgeon who also served as a member of the UP Board of Regents at one point.  She dressed simply, enjoyed simple pleasures and was easy-going. “She carried a certain self-assured composure that did not come from being an “anak ng Diyos” (child of God) or what we called the scion of doctors who were also professors at the UP College of Medicine-Philippine General Hospital.  She was not one to compare herself with others but she just did her thing whether it was surviving the rigors of medical school and 36 to 48-hour hospital duties at PGH or going full-time into primary health care/community medicine in the far-flung areas of the Cordilleras after graduation,” Araullo said.

A selfless doctor

After graduation, Tangco went to the then single province of Kalinga-Apayao through the Rural Health Physicians Program of the government and served as a parish doctor in a far flung municipality, reachable only after a half day’s hike through mountain trails. Since then, she went on to serve communities in other parts of the Cordillera, and later all over the country, her classmates revealed.

Araullo added that Tangco enthusiastically shared funny, unforgettable stories anecdotes about her life as a doctor to the barrios, a rural physician with the Kalinga people. “She immersed herself in their world: she ate what they ate, slept in their homes, wore their native clothing, learned their language.  She was more than a doctor, she was a teacher, an organizer and a beloved friend,” Araullo said.

For serving the medical needs of underserved areas, Tangco was given the outstanding alumna award by her high school alma mater, Maryknoll College.

In Class 77’s 25th anniversary yearbook, Tangco’s son described her as “somewhat a personification of the Oblation – an offering of one’s self to a higher cause.” The Oblation is a statue in each UP campus symbolizing selfless offering of oneself to the country.

In the same yearbook, Tangco wrote that, even as a child, it bothered her that doctors were leaving the Philippines when it was clear there was a need for more of them in the country. “I said then that when, and if, I become a doctor, I would not leave. I would stay in PGH [to] help improve the way it was run, and be here for my people.”
Along the way, Tangco said she found that staying in PGH was not enough. “There were too many places where health needs are too great to ignore, where basic education is wanting, where food is not enough and water is not always potable. Many do not own the land they are tilling. So, to the provinces I went. Through the Rural Health Physicians Program, I chose to go to Kalinga-Apayao,” she wrote.
She added that it did not take long for her to realize that the traditional doctor’s role would only end up in frustration. “People had to learn that health is not a privilege but a right and a responsibility. They must be equipped to take on this responsibility. However, I knew I could not do this alone. I found other doctors and health workers doing similar work, together we helped each other develop the community-based health programs,” she narrated.
There was a time when Tangco said she saw herself as a surgeon. But somehow all that paled in comparison to the need that stared her in the face. “So there I was, transformed into a literacy/numeracy educator, community organizer, counselor, adviser, health educator, doctor,” she narrated.

Her white coat and the red banner

Photo courtesy of Dr. Carol P. Araullo

Tangco’s transformation became complete when she realized that even with more fellow doctors doing pioneering work in rural communities, they would not be able to defeat the forces that keep people poor and unhealthy. She also saw with her own eyes many social injustices that compel the people to fight back.

“Dr. Tangco witnessed this in the struggle of the tribes of Kalinga and the Mountain Province, against the Chico River Dam Project being imposed on them by the US-Marcos dictatorship in the seventies,” the Mabakayang Samahang Pangkalusugan (MSP)-Cordillera in a statement said. MSP is the underground group of medical workers allied with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. Not long after, the group added, “she heeded the challenge to join the revolutionary struggle.”

MSP said that one of Tangco’s primary tasks when she went underground was the training of NPA medics from peasant, worker, and peti-bourgeoisie class origins, most of whom had never attended medical or nursing school. She trained them to become doctors to the masses,” MSP said. Tangco tempered her revolutionary work and skills in the Cordillera, Cagayan Valley and Mindanao, it added.

“She was forged by simple living and arduous struggle. She gave up the immaculately white coat worn in the hospital and the titles’ Doctor’ and ‘Ma’am’,” the statement said. She was also “active in other aspects of Party (CPP) and NPA work” and became known as “Ka (Kasama/Comrade) Del” and “Ka Morrie”.

“She was often an instructor of various Party courses. She led the Regional Medical Staff as its Secretary. She became a member of the Regional Party Committees, where she was assigned. There was a period when she worked as a trade union organizer,” MSP said.

TRADITIONAL MEDICINE. NPA guerillas are trained to utilize both traditional and modern treatment of illness. Among the basic skills they learn from the medical officers is the use of acupuncture. (Northern Dispatch file photo.)

Not a combatant

UPCM alumnus (Class of 74) and fellow activist Dr. Romeo Quijano told Kodao that Tangco could not have been armed when killed, along with Giron and their aide, however.

Quijano said that Tangco told her she was strict in prohibiting her rebel-patients from bringing along their guns while they were under her medical care. “What I learned was that Dr. Lou brought her patient to Baguio City to be given better medical treatment. It would have been out of character if she violated her own policy that she strictly adhered to,” Quijano said.

Tangco and Quijano remained close friends, even if he was three years ahead of her at UPCM and she had been all over many far-flung communities of the country throughout the decades. But what cemented their friendship further was when Tangco helped him organize the International Conference on Pesticides and the Media in Makilala, North Cotabato in 1997. The event, sponsored by the Pesticide Action Network-Asia Pacific (PANAP), saw Tangco display her full mastery of the people’s right to health and helped convinced journalists from many countries about the dangers posed by pesticides. Quijano revealed that so impressed was PANAP’s officers that they have since supported the farmers’ struggles against pesticide-using corporations that endanger people’s health around their plantations.

“In my view, the event would not have been as successful without Dr. Lou’s help,” Quijano said. He added that Tangco was instrumental in strengthening community and peoples organizations in Mindanao and Luzon as well as workers’ unions.

Always busy with her organizing work, Tangco still found time to attend UPCM alumni events, sometimes with her doctor-son. She even represented her class in association meetings.

Quijano recalled the last time she saw Tangco was during his wife’s birthday in 2018. “She was happy mingling with fellow UPCM alumni and, as always, her infectious laugh rang above the din of the well-attended party. “I regret that we were not able to talk much because of the number of well-wishers who attended,” Quijano said.

Quijano revealed he was shocked when he learned of his friend’s death and incredulous at military and news reports that the three put up a fight. “Who would serve a search warrant at three o’clock in the morning when the subjects were most probably asleep. That’s an old canard by the military,” Quijano said.

Quijano, one of the country’s top toxicologist, revealed it crossed his mind that his friend may die a violent death in the hands of the military because of the dangerous life she lived. He nonetheless demanded justice for his friend.

AFP demeans Tangco with video

HEALTH MONITORING. Medical officers in NPA units are tasked to monitor the health of all fighters, keeping special tabs on those suffering from hypertension and other ailments that require maintenance medicines and regular check-ups. (Northern Dispatch file photo)

Araullo, like Quijano, was equally shocked upon hearing how their friend died. “There is a photo of a bloodied woman lying prone with a gun at her back accompanying the news report attributed to the AFP,” she said. The photos released by the AFP suggest the narrative that the three chose to suicidally exchange fire with the raiders. “Only an independent investigation into the massacre of these three can provide the facts and circumstances that can lead to the truth of their demise,” she said.

Adding insult to injury, the AFP came out with a video of Tangco’s remains being airlifted by the military and turned over to her relatives, Araullo pointed out.  In the video, the military claimed it gave Tangco the chance to peaceably surrender but she refused and instead resisted arrest, thus her untimely demise which the military purports to regret. 

“I happen to know that the family had to resort to asking assistance from the AFP for Lou’s remains to be brought to Manila from Baguio because of the impending lockdown of the National Capital Region on March 15. The family was constrained to accept the AFP’s condition that the ‘Left’ not be allowed to ‘politicize’ her death which I took to mean there should be no memorials or tributes organized by fellow activists during her wake,” Araullo revealed.

She said she finds it not only ironic but the height of opportunism that the AFP produced the video with its propaganda narrative that Tangco was not a victim of human rights violation but someone whom the AFP magnanimously tried to allow to surrender. Or that, even in death, the military again tried to make it appear that it magnanimously accorded Tangco a decent turn over to her family with uniformed men carrying her casket, Araullo fumed.

Araullo said the AFP likely does not realize that the woman they had “summarily executed” was a bona fide doctor with a high standing in the medical community and with influential relations and friends. She could have just been a statistic as far as they are concerned.  “That is why they tried to pre-empt the story line of who she was, how she died and why,” she said.

Araullo also shared with Kodao a tweet from AFP Southern Luzon Commander Maj. Gen. Antonio Parlade boasting about Tangco’s death, alleging the victim was a combatant when she was killed. “Frothing-in-the-mouth anti-communist and rabid member of the NTF-ECLAC (National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict) General Parlade had the gall to tweet: ‘In times of crisis like COVID19, Ma Lourdes Dineros Tangco of the CPP Health Bureau chose to fight it out with government forces than be captured. She should be helping our affected communities. BUT NO her warped ideological belief tells her that her services is exclusive for NPAs.’”  Such trash talk, Araullo said, only gives “fascists” such as Parlade more brownie points for another promotion in the AFP ladder and reveals the true character of the regime and reactionary system that he serves. 

‘Hero to the masses’

Araullo said that the manner with which Tangco was mowed down by six merciless AFP bullets to her body only underscores her heroism and selflessness. “Dr. Lourdes Dineros Tangco will be forever remembered and hailed as a martyr and a hero to the masses that she selflessly and whole heartedly served as a revolutionary doctor,” Araullo said.

Quijano for his part said Tangco deserves to be honored for dedicating her life to the Filipino masses victimized by a rotten system. “She decisively overcame her privileged upbringing to live out the principles she wholeheartedly believed in.  She never allowed herself to be drowned by privilege and opportunities easily available to UPCM graduates. She showed how it was to love the masses by being one of them,” Quijano said. “I consider it an honor to be one of her closest friends,” he added.

Tangco’s classmates are equally proud of their friend.  “The UPCM Class of 1977 mourns the loss of a beloved and active member of the class. She touched the lives of many classmates who dearly love her and are deeply saddened by her untimely demise. Lou will be missed by the many poor and underserved communities she had been serving her entire life, and her passing is a great loss for our country,” they said,

Tangco’s son, in bidding her goodbye composed a poem for his beloved mother:

”She gave all that she could give so that the banner may advance
Though she has fallen, she had the courage to stand up and take her chance
Her blood joins the martyrs’ that water the paddies
So rice may grow golden and in the harvest time dance.”
#

(With reports by Sherwin de Vera/Northern Dispatch)

Protestants’ Lenten call to Duterte: Care and compassion, not bullets

The country’s biggest group of Protestant churches urged President Rodrigo Duterte to feel care and compassion for the poor affected by his government’s island-wide lockdown due to the corona virus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

In its Lenten call to the president, the National Council of Churches of the Philippines (NCCP) said that the pandemic is a health crisis and that Duterte’s threat to arrest and shoot the desperate and hungry is uncalled for.

“Callous remarks and threats are not what are needed right now, especially as Holy Week is fast approaching. What is needed is food,” NCCP General Secretary Bishop Reuel Norman O. Marigza said.

The group of the Philippines’ mainline Protestant churches was reacting to Duterte’s surprise televised address Wednesday when he threatened he will order his police to shoot rioters.

Alam mo, we are ready for you. Gulo o barilan o patayan. I will not hesitate [to order] my soldiers to shoot you. I will not hesitate to order the police to arrest and detain you,” Duterte said. (Disorder, gunfight or killings.)

“My orders are, sa pulis pati military, pati mga barangay na pagka ginulo at nagkaroon ng okasyon na lumaban at ang buhay ninyo ay nalagay sa alanganin, shoot them dead,” Duterte added. (To the police, military and the village officials, that if there is disorder and there is resistance and your lives are put in danger, shoot them dead.)

“Naintindihan ninyo? Patay. Eh kaysa mag-gulo kayo diyan, eh ‘di ilibing ko na kayo. Ah ‘yung libing, akin ‘yan. Huwag ninyo subukan ang gobyerno kasi itong gobyerno na ito hindi inutil,” the president also said. (Do you understand? Dead. If there is disorder, I might as well bury you all. The burial is on me. Do not test the government, because this government is not inutile.)

Duterte was reacting to urban poor residents in Quezon City who were asking for food assistance after being put out of work since the government’s Luzon-wide lockdown started in March 15.

Officers of the Philippine National Police swooped down on the gathering and arrested 21 of the residents they allege refused to return to their hovels inside Sitio San Roque.

The residents later told reporters they were waiting for the food aid package they were promised by some local and national officials who were present in the area.

Later reports also clarified that the residents were not conducting a protest rally.

The NCCP said it is saddened and appalled with Duterte’s treatment of the people’s growing unrest brought by hunger amid the lockdown.

“The order of the President to ‘shoot those causing riot’ is sending a message that the government lacks genuine concern for our poor sisters and brothers who are growing desperate every day from hunger,” Marigza said.

Marigza added that it takes extreme conditions like hunger for people to brave the threat of Covid-19 and it was not for lack of discipline or being uncooperative.

“The people of San Roque simply need to survive. Going out in the streets is their desperate measure to call out the government that they are hungry. But instead of listening to their demands, they were met with violence and some were even arrested,” the prelate explained.

“What happened in San Roque is a painful proof that it is the poor who always suffer in any crisis such as now. The incident shows that enhanced community quarantine, without proper economic support to those severely affected, will not work,” Marigza added.

 Marigza said the residents of San Roque, located across NCPP’s headquarters along Epifanio delos Santos Avenue, had long been struggling on a daily basis and deprived of basic social services even before the pandemic.

Originally part of a massive park project when Quezon City was created as the Philippines’ new capital during the American Commonwealth period, the area became a resettlement destination for victims of demolitions in Manila and Pasay cities.

Demolitions of the residents’ houses started when developments for a new Quezon City Business District in the area commenced. Remaining residents in Sitio San Roque refused relocation sites they described as “danger-prone areas” such as those in Rodriguez, Rizal.

“How do we want them to respond to a government measure that will make their already difficult lives even much harder?” Marigza asked.

The NCCP leader also raised concern over the government’s “fixation on arrests and imprisonment” in a time of a public health crisis.

He pointed out reports that more than 17,000 people arrested while there are around only 3,000 who were tested for COVID 19.

“Mass testing and a systematic distribution of food and other assistance are imperative right now. Again, our Lenten call, test more people and help the poor, do not arrest or shoot them,” Marigza said.

The country’s biggest group of Protestant churches urged President Rodrigo Duterte to feel care and compassion for the poor affected by his government’s island-wide lockdown due to the corona virus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

In its Lenten call to the president, the National Council of Churches of the Philippines (NCCP) said that the pandemic is a health crisis and that Duterte’s threat to arrest and shoot the desperate and hungry is uncalled for.

“Callous remarks and threats are not what are needed right now, especially as Holy Week is fast approaching. What is needed is food,” NCPP General Secretary said Bishop Reuel Norman O. Marigza.

The group of the Philippines’ mainline Protestant churches was reacting to Duterte’s surprise televised address Wednesday when he threatened he will order his police to shoot rioters.

Alam mo, we are ready for you. Gulo o barilan o patayan. I will not hesitate [to order] my soldiers to shoot you. I will not hesitate to order the police to arrest and detain you,” Duterte said. (Disorder, gunfight or killings.)

“My orders are, sa pulis pati military, pati mga barangay na pagka ginulo at nagkaroon ng okasyon na lumaban at ang buhay ninyo ay nalagay sa alanganin, shoot them dead,” Duterte added. (To the police, military and the village officials, that if there is disorder and there is resistance and your lives are put in danger, shoot them dead.)

“Naintindihan ninyo? Patay. Eh kaysa mag-gulo kayo diyan, eh ‘di ilibing ko na kayo. Ah ‘yung libing, akin ‘yan. Huwag ninyo subukan ang gobyerno kasi itong gobyerno na ito hindi inutil,” the president also said. (Do you understand? Dead. If there is disorder, I might as well bury you all. The burial is on me. Do not test the government, because this government is not inutile.)

Duterte was reacting to urban poor residents in Quezon City who were asking for food assistance after being put out of work since the government’s Luzon-wide lockdown started in March 15.

Officers of the Philippine National Police swooped down on the gathering and arrested 21 of the residents they allege refused to return to their hovels inside Sitio San Roque.

The residents later told reporters they were waiting for the food aid package they were promised by some local and national officials who were present in the area.

Later reports also clarified that the residents were not conducting a protest rally.

The NCCP said it is saddened and appalled with Duterte’s treatment of the people’s growing unrest brought by hunger amid the lockdown.

“The order of the President to ‘shoot those causing riot’ is sending a message that the government lacks genuine concern for our poor sisters and brothers who are growing desperate every day from hunger,” Marigza said.

Marigza added that it takes extreme conditions like hunger for people to brave the threat of Covid-19 and it was not for lack of discipline or being uncooperative.

“The people of San Roque simply need to survive. Going out in the streets is their desperate measure to call out the government that they are hungry. But instead of listening to their demands, they were met with violence and some were even arrested,” the prelate explained.

“What happened in San Roque is a painful proof that it is the poor who always suffer in any crisis such as now. The incident shows that enhanced community quarantine, without proper economic support to those severely affected, will not work,” Marigza added.

 Marigza said the residents of San Roque, located across NCPP’s headquarters along Epifanio delos Santos Avenue, had long been struggling on a daily basis and deprived of basic social services even before the pandemic.

Originally part of a massive park project when Quezon City was created as the Philippines’ new capital during the American Commonwealth period, the area became a resettlement destination for victims of demolitions in Manila and Pasay cities.

Demolitions of the residents’ houses started when developments for a new Quezon City Business District in the area commenced. Remaining residents in Sitio San Roque refused relocation sites they described as “danger-prone areas” such as those in Rodriguez, Rizal.

“How do we want them to respond to a government measure that will make their already difficult lives even much harder?” Marigza asked.

The NCCP leader also raised concern over the government’s “fixation on arrests and imprisonment” in a time of a public health crisis.

He pointed out reports that more than 17,000 people arrested while there are around only 3,000 who were tested for COVID 19.

“Mass testing and a systematic distribution of food and other assistance are imperative right now. Again, our Lenten call, test more people and help the poor, do not arrest or shoot them,” Marigza said.

The mass arrest and Duterte’s speech made the hashtag #OustDuterte the top trend on Twitter for more than 24 hours since Wednesday. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Kadamay chides officials for telling lies about hungry protesters

The Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) chided government officials for telling lies about the violent dispersal of protesting and hungry residents of Sitio San Roque in Barangay Bagong Pag-Asa in Quezon City Tuesday morning, April 1.

The urban poor group slammed interior and local government undersecretary Jonathan Malaya for alleging that Kadamay instigated the protest action along Epifanio delos Santos Avenue when the protesters were in fact members of a different group called the Sandigan ng Maralitang Nagkakaisa (SaMaNa).

“Saan naman galing ang impormasyon ni Malaya? Napakabilis naman niyang magimbento ng kuwento,” Kadamay chairperson Gloria Arellano said in a statement. (Where did Malaya get his information? He is so quick in inventing stories.)

Kadamay said Malaya accused the group of “fooling the residents to merely dramatize issues and make the government look bad as part of Leftist propaganda.”

But Arellano said Malaya’s allegation is false and is an attempt to misdirect the issue of hunger among urban poor communities during the government’s enhanced community quarantine order due to the corona virus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

“Ang usapin dito, kagutuman at panganib sa kalusugan ng mahihirap habang abusado ang sundalo, pulis at emergency powers ni Duterte, kaya inaresto sila at di tinulungan,” Arellano said. (The issue here is hunger and the danger to people’s health, while the military, police and President Rodrigo Duterte’s emergency powers are abusive. That is why the victims were arrested, instead of being helped.)

Arellano also rebuked Philippine National Police (PNP) deputy chief Guillermo Eleazar who hinted at the possibility that the action was spurred by Kadamay members from Pandi, Bulacan “looking to incite chaos.”

“Paano naman makakarating ng Quezon City ang mga taga Bulacan sa ganitong panahon?” Arellano asked. (How can those from Bulacan reach Quezon City at this time?)

Kadamay said Tuesday’s protest action was a spontaneous act by hungry residents demanding food and social services promised by President Duterte when he ordered the lockdown last March 15.

The urban poor group said that mass arrests and the gross lack of social services has been the defining feature of how the administration has handled the COVID 19 pandemic. 

As of March 30, the PNP has tallied around 17,000 arrests while only 3,000 Filipinos have been tested for the virus. 

“Simula pa lamang ng pandemic, dahas, aksyong military at tila martial law na ang naging tugon ng administrasyong Duterte. Hindi nakakagulat kung bakit biglaang kumikilos ang tao pagkat hindi na nila matiis ang gutom na hindi pinapansin ng mga nasa Malacañang,” Arellano said. (Since the pandemic start, violence, militarism and virtual martial law characterized the Duterte administration’s actions. We are not surprised that spontaneous actions are being held by hungry residents who are being ignored by the Palace.) 

Arellano also stressed that the Duterte government should stop delaying and immediately release the social assistance it promised to low income families who are subjected to risks posed by the virus. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Police arrest hungry protesters in Quezon City

Twenty-one protesting and hungry Quezon City residents were arrested Tuesday morning, April 1, the incident earning swift condemnation from the urban poor group Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay).

Residents of Sitio San Roque, Barangay Bagong Pag-Asa, reportedly members of the group Sandigan ng Maralitang Nagkakaisa (SaMaNa) held a protest action along Epifanio delos Santos Avenue and were violently dispersed by the Quezon City Police Department.

Although not affliated with their group, Kadamay said the SaMaNa protesters were calling for food and social services amid the corona virus disease (Covid-19) lockdown imposed on the whole Luzon island by the Rodrigo Duterte government.

Kadamay said the protesters have yet to be given food and other aid promised by the government in imposing the lockdown since March 15.

In a DZRH report, the arresting officers were heard to have repeatedly accused the protesters of being “hard-headed” for refusing to stay indoors.

Kadamay however clarified the residents’ protest action was a spontaneous demonstration “rooted in the growing discontent, hunger and frustration at the lack of aid from government.”

The urban poor group urged that instead of responding with violence and arrests, the government should solve grave deficiencies in handling the crisis it says affect the poor as the most vulnerable sector in the country.

“Instead of listening to pleas about the lack of services, the poor are being subjected to violence and arrest. We should instead ask, why is there no help being given to the poor?” Kadamay chairperson Gloria Arellano said.

Arellano said such protest actions are bound to happen if the government insists on a militarist response to the pandemic instead of focusing on social services.

She stressed that it is the primary task of the national government to address the urgent need for food, sanitation, medical services and other basic needs during the pandemic, adding that the Duterte administration continues to pass on the burden to many ill equipped local government units while avoiding outlining a concrete plan apart from the lockdown.

Kadamay said it will do everything it can to help in the negotiations for the release of the arrested.

The group also revealed it is operating community kitchens and relief operations in several poor communities in and outside Metro Manila, adding however that these activities are limited in scope.

Kadamay said it remains the responsibility of the government to address the needs of the people during the emergency. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)