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Human rights defenders declare Aquino guilty of violations

Human rights defenders from all over the Philippines commemorated the 66th International Human Rights Day in Manila by staging a symbolic trial of President Benigno for his government’s violations.

They proclaimed the Aquino government is guilty of about 175,000 documented cases of human rights violations ranging from extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture, rape and many others in its four-and-a-half year reign so far.

They blame the Manila government’s implementation of its US-sponsored counter-insurgency program called Oplan Bayanihan for non-stop harassment and forced evacuation specially of indigenous peoples’ communities in the regions.

The protest actions last December 10 concluded with the burning of a US flag-draped effigy of Aquino.
http://www.karapatan.org/2014+monitor+year-end

International Support — Human Rights Day in Manila 2014

Affiliated mass organizations of the Philippines Chapter of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS-Philippines) mark Human Rights Day in Manila. They joined a protest march and rally of rights victims led by KARAPATAN to indict the US-Aquino regime for crimes against the Filipino people. Among those who expressed support are international delegates of the People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty and Asian Peasant Coalition. Performing with cultural groups from the Manilakbayan of Mindanao is One Billion Rising (OBR) Global Director Monique Wilson.

Pooled Editorial | Fight for genuine freedom of information law

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There is no reason to rejoice over the recent approval of the consolidated bill on Freedom of Information (FOI) in the House at the committee level, and the approval of the Senate version earlier this year.

We, alternative media practitioners united under Altermidya, believe that the FOI versions restrict rather than enhance public access to information.

The consolidated bills, both in the Lower House and the Senate, fail to meet the minimum international standards set by Article 19 for an FOI law to be effective. These include, among others, the following:

  • a strong presumption in favor of disclosure (the principle of maximum disclosure);
  • broad definitions of information and public bodies;
  • positive obligations to publish key categories of information;
  • clear and narrowly drawn exceptions, subject to a strong harm test and a public interest override; and
  • effective oversight of the right by an independent administrative body.

Both FOI bills adopted all of the exceptions proposed by Malacañang in its own version. Contrary to Palace claims that these are necessary, the list institutionalizes the absence of transparency and accountability.

Exempting from public access the minutes, drafts of resolutions, orders, memoranda etc., including drafts of bilateral and multilateral agreements from public scrutiny, precludes citizen participation in decision-making on issues of public interest.

Subjecting access to income tax returns, and statement of assets, liabilities and networth (SALN) of public officials to existing laws, rules and regulations  further undermines efforts to curb corruption.

The provision exempting from disclosure matters involving national security is also so broad that it could be used to hide cases of human rights violations perpetrated by state agents.

With regard to the public interest override, both bills state that “The President, the Supreme Court, the Senate, the House of Representatives, and the Constitutional Commissions may waive an exception with respect to information in the custody of offices under their respective supervision or control, when they deem that there is an overriding public interest in disclosure.” (Emphasis supplied)

This provision does not provide a mechanism for checks and balance. In both bills, no independent administrative body that will have effective oversight of the right to information will be created.

Journalists and ordinary citizens have been demanding enactment of a genuine freedom of information law. We cannot settle for a law that will make truth telling even more difficult: a bad law is worse than no law at all.

 

AlterMidya is a nationwide network of independent and progressive alternative media outfits and practitioners in the Philippines that promotes journalism for the people.

Environmentalists, Manilakbayanis pay tribute to Francis Morales

Francis Morales would have joined the hundreds of Mindanaoans who are now in Metro Manila to demand food and peace for Mindanao from the Manila government. But he succumbed to complications of leukemia a few weeks ago.

“Tatay Francis” (Father Francis) was a seminarian who thumbed down privileged treatment so he can be dissuaded from his activism. Only short of his ordination, he chose instead to work full time among peasants and indigenous peoples teaching them literacy and sustainable agriculture. He joined the New People’s Army when the Philippine Army was out looking for him. In jail, he never wavered in his commitments to the people. Until he reached old age he was still in the forefront working for the people’s interest.

Francis was active calling for justice for the victims of natural and human disasters. He put high and mighty government officials to task in whatever forum. Mindanaoans feel orphaned by his death.

This video shows the humble tribute organized by Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment and the Manilakbayan who could not attend his funeral in Davao.

The struggle continues…

The members of Alliance of Health Workers (AHW) and Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) held a protest to denounce the four year Aquino administration for not giving them any single salary increase amidst endless price increases of basic commodities and services.

Mendiola, Manila
November 27, 2014

Political prisoners go on fast, call for release and end to criminalization of political acts

Countdown to International Human Rights Day

Political prisoners go on fast, call for release and end to criminalization of political acts

Political prisoners in the Philippines launched a seven-day fast today, as members of the International League of  People’s Struggle (ILPS) commemorate the International Day of Solidarity with Political Prisoners. The fast will last until December 10, International Human Rights Day.

Close to a hundred political prisoners in different jails in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao announced participation to the fast to call for their release and as a gesture of solidarity to various people’s protest actions leading to December 10.

Those fasting are political prisoners in various detention centers in Metro Manila, at the Special Intensive Care Area-Metro Manila District Jail (SICA-MMDJ) and Taguig City Jail-Female Dorm in Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City; New Bilibid Prisons-Maximum Security Compound in Muntinlupa City; and PNP Custodial Center in Quezon City.

In the provinces, fasting political prisoners are those detained in the following jails: Aurora Provincial Jail in Southern Tagalog; Ormoc City Jail, Tacloban City Jail, and Dancalan Provincial Jail in Bobon, Northern Samar and Bohol Detention and Rehabilitation Center in the Visayas; and in Valencia City Jail, Malaybalay City Jail, Gingoog City Jail, Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center in Misamis Oriental, and Cagayan de Oro City in Mindanao. Jailed peace consultants of the National Democratic Front are also joining the fast.

Some political prisoners will also hold noise barrages and hanging of streamers as protest. These activities culminate on Human Rights Day, “as their way of highlighting the government’s practice of criminalizing political actions and filing trumped up charges against those perceived as ‘enemies of the state’,” said Jigs Clamor, SELDA national coordinator.

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As support to the political prisoners, various progressive organizations led by Karapatan and SELDA held picket actions today at the Manila Regional Trial Court and at the Department of Justice.

The protesters first went to the Manila Regional Trial Court for the hearing of the multiple murder case against peace consultants Benito Tiamzon, Wilma Austria-Tiamzon, Randall Echanis, Raphael Baylosis, Vicente Ladlad, and Makabayan Coalition Chair Satur Ocampo.  The case is considered the “mother” of all trumped-up charges implicating Ocampo et al in a supposed mass grave found in Monterico Village, Baybay Leyte. All those accused in the case, except the Tiamzon couple are on conditional bail.

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Joined in by Manilakbayan from Mindanao and Karapatan-Southern Tagalog, the protesters marched to the Justice Department. “This department cannot simply say they cannot do anything on these trumped up cases lodged against political prisoners,” Clamor said. “The military weaves stories with prosecutors so they can arrest and detain people who are actively defending their rights and their communities,” he added.

As of November 2014, there are 491 political prisoners, 220 of them were arrested under the BS Aquino regime. There are 43 female political prisoners, 53 are ailing, 42 are elderly, and six are minors.

“The political prisoners are not the enemy of Filipino people. The plunderers and those who perpetuate human rights violations, killings, disappearances, torture and harassment are those who should be jailed. We need the political prisoners back in the streets and in the communities to continue their selfless work and advocacies. They should be immediately released,” he concluded. ###

 

Manila, December 3, 2014

Bonifacio Day 2014 — Robin Padilla, Juana Change…

Actor Robin Padilla, comedienne Juana Change and other luminaries join militants in commemorating the 151st birth anniversary of Filipino revolutionary martyr Gat Andres Bonifacio. ILPS-Philippines and Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) Chair Elmer Labog vows to continue the struggle for freedom and democracy. Also in the rally are Makabayan President Satur Ocampo, Archbishop Oscar Cruz, Manobos from Mindanao and leaders of various sectoral social movements.

Learning history’s lessons

carol aurollo(Photos by Mon Ramirez)

On the 151st birth anniversary of The Great Plebeian, Gat Andres Bonifacio, nationwide protest actions calling for government accountability and genuine societal change were launched, inspired by the revolutionary vision and example of the Supremo of the Katipunan.

More than historic symbolism and patriotic fervor were on display as the people who marched and demonstrated were spurred by burning issues that have plagued this country since flag independence and despite the trappings of a modern democracy — institutionalized corruption and plunder of public funds; policies that entrench poverty, backwardness and inequality; injustice that breeds armed conflicts and social unrest; violations of human rights with impunity; and continuing affronts to national dignity, territorial integrity and sovereignty.

They consciously partook of the revolutionary spirit embodied by Bonifacio with the tagline “Diwa ni Bonifacio, Tunay na Pagbabago” but capped this with the provocative call “Panagutin si Aquino!”  For indeed, theirs was a call meant to finally unmask the pretentions of a reactionary regime that had decked itself out as the harbinger of change (in a copycat take on US presidential candidate Obama’s campaign slogans revolving around “change we can believe in”).

Hot-button issues that rang out in the protesters’ slogans and speeches included the following:  President Benigno Aquino as pork barrel king and chief purveyor of patronage politics;  “daang matuwid” as empty rhetoric when applied to KKK (kaklase/kamag-anak/kabarilan);  caciqueism epitomized by Hacienda Luisita; high growth rates where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer;  Yolanda and Pablo typhoon victims abandoned and treated with bureaucratic contempt; public infrastructure, utilities and services handed over for private profit-making through so-called public-private partnerships (PPPs); devastating militarization campaigns disguised as “bayanihan” and pursuit of peace;  foreign policy defined as “Kano ang boss ko!” ergo give the US what it wants and more.

There was heightened vexation over Mr. Aquino’s leadership style characterized by a disdain for the masses who he thinks he is able to hoodwink with his populist speechifyng; intolerance for any kind of criticism or opposition and a tendency to retaliate; a laid back manner bordering on incompetence and laziness;  a propensity for credit grabbing and believing in his own propaganda; coddling of the crooked in his inner circles; unabashed pro-Americanism and whose idea of patriotism is belligerent bluster against a resurgent China, admittedly the US’ biggest creditor and trading partner.

Such grievances, exasperation and indignation were enough to bring these protesters to the point of saying “Enough of Aquino!”  But do they mean “We want Binay?”  We can safely hazard their reply, “Of course not.”  Because these politically conscious, new breed of Filipinos have learned their lessons about cosmetic changes that merely bring about a changing of the guards, a mere rigodon of factions of the same exploitative and oppressive ruling elite.  Think EDSA I and II.

They look to bringing about a kind of change that will usher in a real break from the past in terms of a political platform of governance that is truly pro-people and pro-Filipino; of political leaders from the ranks of the masses and the middle class and not the old dynasties of the elite; of true transparency, responsibility and accountability to the people.

The 11-point program of the Pagbabago (People’s Movement for Change), one of the groups at the forefront of Bonifacio Day demonstrations gives us the gist of such a program.

  • Honest leaders chosen in fair and free elections.
  • Good governance:  prioritizing the country’s interests; addressing poverty, providing accessible and affordable basic services; resolving the problem of onerous public debt and high debt service; responsible utilization of public funds; fearless against organized crime without resort to violations of rights.
  • Land for the peasantry; food self-sufficiency; modern agriculture and rural development;.
  • National industrialization and development of the domestic economy; decent jobs and sources of livelihood.
  • Uphold the people’s democratic rights; end abuse of authority and punish the abusers.
  • Peace based on addressing roots of armed conflicts.
  • Respect for the rights and advance the status of women.
  • Culture that serves the interests of the many and teaches the value of service to the people.
  • Protection of the environment and wise utilization of natural resources.
  • Uphold national dignity, territorial integrity and sovereignty; cooperate and seek mutually beneficial relations with all countries.
  • Recognition and respect for the rights of the Moro people and other national minorities.

Because constitutional succession means more of the same, they are open to transitional arrangements where leadership does not fall on the vice president but to a transition council of the most actively involved in booting out the old and bringing in the new.  A collective kind of leadership which is not to be sneezed at since our experience with the current presidential system is absurdly unsatisfactory while parliamentary systems that represent organizations of the people at different levels democratically making and executing decisions are worth a try.

This is until truly democratic elections can take place where lack of resources, political pedigree and clout is not a bar to competent, upright and hardworking citizens running for public office made synonymous to real service to the people.

Now what’s the point of calling for Aquino’s accountability and for him to step down, be impeached or  ousted when time is said to be running out. The 2016 electoral derby is closing in with elite politicians already briskly engaged in the standard mudslinging and obligatory horse trading.  Why not just wait for the end of Aquino’s term and the start of a new regime?

Let us assume that we are facing another national, electoral exercise that will not be a big departure from before; that is, elections still dominated by the reactionary political class and their foreign-backed, moneyed sponsors.  The push for strengthening the national consciousness and the people’s movement that banner these issues, calls and aspirations before the 2016 elections can mean altering the national agenda and terms of reference, boosting the chances of viable, alternative candidates with progressive politics and breaching the erstwhile monopoly of power by the elite.

And yet the people’s movement for change is in for the long haul.  It will take much more awareness building, organizing strong and autonomous people’s organizations and cause-oriented groups and engaging the powers-that-be in myriad arenas of struggle for fundamental changes to take place.

But the writing is on the wall: the old elite social system and the old elite politics are rotten to the core and moribund.  Our visionary forebears led by Gat Andres Bonifacio have shown us the way of revolutionary struggle for revolutionary change.  #

Published in Business World

1 December 2014

 

Aquino strikes 5 on 5th year of  Ampatuan Massacre – Zarate

 

As  the killing of witnesses to the infamous Ampatuan Massacre continue, Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate said the Aquino administration must be held to account for  at least  five (5)  issues that aggravated the sufferings of the relatives of the victims.

Justice delayed, justice denied, justice mocked.

“At least four witnesses have already been killed under questionable circumstances since 2010, the latest one just last November 19.  Alleged bribery  by members of the Ampatuan clan has been revealed repeatedly at the witness stand. And just recently, 41 suspects from the police ranks who were part of those who set up road checkpoints at opposite ends of the road where the massacre happened were granted bail.  Worst still, army officials who were also complicit in this slaughter of  civilians were even recently promoted.  This is brazen mockery of our justice system,” Rep. Zarate said.

“The delayed massacre trials have multiplied the grief of the victims’ families and have made a mockery of our justice system over and over,” said the Davao-based Rep. Zarate, one of the  private lawyers who assisted the relatives of the 58 victims massacred five (5)  years ago in the hilly portion of Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman, Ampatuan town, Maguindanao.

Media killings on the rise: 25 since 2010

With 25 journalists murdered as of June,  2014, President Aquino already stands second to former president Arroyo in terms of the most number of media killings.  Confronted with the issues, Pres. Aquino callously contends that these were not work-related killings.  Yet, documentation made  by the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) shows that all 25 killings were work-related, and that almost all of them were on political beat when they were killed.  “Again, the callous attitude   by which the Aquino administration treats the issue of media killings speaks volumes of its low regard to the issue of continuing impunity in our country today” Rep. Zarate added.

Banned media coverage: what are they hiding?

Rep. Zarate also scored the ban imposed on media coverage of the  massacre trial since August 14, 2014. While the police did not say who issued the ban,  concerned journalists  were even forced to file a complaint with the Office of the Ombudsman. The Freedom Fund for Journalists (FFFJ) has stated that this “provokes suspicion that vital information is being hidden from the public.”  “This ban on media coverage certainly is anathema to the transparency  required under the circumstances when issues of  bribery continue  to  hang in the air,” Rep. Zarate added.

Peace is unachievable without justice in Mindanao

“The Aquino administration is supposedly addressing the issue of  peace in Mindanao but it is doing this without truly addressing the root causes of the armed conflict,” Rep. Zarate said.

While it is offering a dangling its own peace formula in the Moro conflicted areas,  it is  at the same time unleashing its war machines in many parts of  Mindanao, in blatant disregarded to the lives and livelihood of the people,” Rep. Zarate said citing  for example the recent and ongoing series of  extrajudicial killings of lumad leaders and massive evacuations in the Davao and Caraga Regions.

“Pres. Aquino it appears  is  going to bully its own brand of peace in Mindanao just to be able to call it peace.  It is in reality as peace of the grave,” Rep. Zarate said.  “With the expansion of large-scale mining, agri-plantations and power industries  that will further delete Mindanao’s remaining resources,  we can  see only see the intensification of a vicious cycle of socio-economic violence begetting military violence.”

Traditional politics is bloody politics

“Not only is traditional politics self-serving to those in power, it is,  more importantly,  against the best interest of  the people. Injustice has grown wider and deeper as we mark the fifth year of the Ampatuan Massacre.  With no conviction  or  any real reparation yet in sight, justice for all the victims of impunity is still illusory . “

“As the Ampatuan massacre continues to be emblematic of the continuing state of impunity in our country,  we will incessantly continue to demand justice, lest we forget what it truly is,” Rep. Zarate said. ###

End Impunity Now – AlterMidya

Impunity is BS Aquino—Karapatan
“His government is shameless. He is impunity personified. His name is Noynoy ‘Impunity’ Aquino,” Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general said on the eve of the International Day to End Impunity, November 23.
 
“There is madness going on right before our eyes with witnesses and potential witnesses being killed one by one. The Ampatuans may be in jail but their power has not diminished. They are still able to silence witnesses. But what is BS Aquino government doing?” Palabay asked. 
 
On November 19, the former driver of Ampatuan Sr., Dennis Sakal was killed while Butch Saudagal, known as Ampatuan Jr’s bagman, was wounded. Both were shot while riding a motorcycle to Sharrif Aguak. 
 
“The BS Aquino government coddles the Ampatuans in the same way that it coddles and protects the notorious general Jovito Palparan who is housed at the Philippine Army camp,” Palabay said. 
 
Five years ago, the whole world was stunned with the massacre of 58 persons. Five years have passed and still no sign of conviction for the murderers,” Palabay said. 
 
Karapatan twits Coloma: BS Aquino’s rights record speaks for itself
 
In response to Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr.’s statement yesterday on “baseless” rights abuses under Aquino, Palabay said that “Malacanang keeps denying what is obvious and blatantly happening, such as killings and other human rights violations, in the same manner that it denies its criminal neglect of typhoon Yolanda victims.”
 
Karapatan enumerated several unsolved cases such as the killing of Fr. Fausto Tentorio, Datu Jimmy Liguyon, town councillor Fernando Baldomero, the massacre of botanist Prof. Leonard Co, Sofronio Cortez and Julius Boromeo and anti-mining activist Juvy Capion and her two sons. 
 
“While there are is not even a hint that justice will be served on the victims of these killings, the BS Aquino government, through the Armed Forces of the Philippines, has not stopped in its killing spree. Their pronouncements invoking adherence to international human rights standards are all for show. Even the United Nations human rights experts and international monitors have seen through their lies,” said Palabay. 
 
The human rights group documented 222 victims of extrajudicial killing, 221 frustrated killings, 104 victims of torture and more than 40,000 who forcibly evacuated due to military operations.
Palabay cited the continuing massive deployment of AFP troops in the Caraga region where at least four battalions are currently conducting military operations. 
 
Since November 1, there are two missing farmer-small scale miners in the Bayugan, Agusan del Sur who have yet to be found—Philims and Philip Poloyapoy. Their brother, Filjohn, was found dead on November 3.  The three were arrested by elements of the 75th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) while conducting combat operations on November 1 at Purok 13,Bagong Silang, Brgy Bayugan 3, Rosario, Agusan del Sur. 
 
The Poloyapoy brothers first encountered the military on October 31 on the way to the gold-panning site. They came from their farm. Filjohn was walking ahead of Philip and Philims. They had with them a “jolen gun” (a homemade gun made of PVC pipe that uses marbles for bullets and alcohol as fuel). The brothers use the gun to hunt birds and to drive away boars that destroy their crops. 
 
Unknown to Philip and Philims, who were behind Filjohn, there were already soldiers ahead of them. The two were after the birds they saw and fired their “jolen gun”. The soldiers, who were now with Filjohn, were alarmed and fired at Philip and Philims. Fortunately, they were not hit. The soldiers left after they scolded and warned the brothers. The three were last seen on November 1. They told their mother they would be going to their farm huts.   
 
“Nakakasuklam na ito. The Aquino government can afford to drag its heels on the Ampatuan massacre and go easy with the Ampatuans even as the world watches. We can just imagine what happens to the case of the Poloyapoys and many other lesser-known individuals from the villages who become victims of the government’s fascist attacks. The world does not know them. The only way for us to end impunity is to also end the reign of the impunity king, BS Aquino,” Palabay concluded. ### 
http://www.karapatan.org/Impunity+is+BS+Aquino