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Sison warns against Duterte’s ‘war panel’

National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison warned that President Rodrigo Duterte’s plans to constitute a new government negotiating panel with at least three military officers as members is for “militarist purposes.”

“[The NDFP] and the Filipino people should be alert to Duterte’s militarist purposes in announcing that he wishes to reopen the peace talks with the use of a militarized negotiating panel under the militarized office of the presidential adviser, General [Carlito] Galvez,” Sison said.

Sison was reacting to Duterte’s speech at the PDP-Laban campaign sortie in Bukidnon Saturday, when the president talked about looking for members for a new peace panel, most of whom would come from the military.

“I’ll look for a new one, new methods, new people to talk to. Maybe one, two, three of them are from the military. Maybe around five. Two civilian members, three from the military,” Duterte said.

The president said he dissolved the previous peace panel last March 20 because it took them too long to negotiate with the NDFP.

“It took too long. Nothing happened in three years,” he claimed.

The previous Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) negotiating panel was composed of labor secretary Silvestre H. Bello III as chairperson and members Hernani Braganza, Angela Librado-Trinidad, Rene Sarmiento and Antonio Arellano.

‘Willing and committed GRP panel’

Records, however, show that Duterte’s first negotiating panel produced groundbreaking draft agreements with the NDFP on substantive agenda as well as the longest bilateral ceasefire between both parties that lasted five months.

In June 2018, the GRP-NDFP panels and reciprocal working committees and groups drafted the following:

  1.  Stand Down Agreement,
  2. Guidelines and Procedures towards an Interim Peace Agreement and the Resumption of Talks and its attached timetable,
  3. The Initialled Interim Peace Agreement, and
  4. The NDFP Proposed Draft of the Amnesty Proclamation which was given to the GRP and the Third Party Facilitator.

The documents were ready for Duterte’s approval when he again cancelled the formal round in Oslo, Norway scheduled a week after the both panels initialled the documents.

Earlier, both panels have already approved land reform and rural development as well as national industrialization and economic development subsections of the substantive social and economic reforms substantive agenda the parties mutually described as the “meat of the negotiations.”

NDFP chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili in fact acknowledged that the Bello-led GRP panel were willing and committed negotiators upon learning their counterparts were fired last March 14.

“The GRP should be wise enough to choose those who are willing or committed to address the roots of the armed conflict in order to attain a just and lasting peace as Sec. Bello has shown in the long years that he has been a consultant, member and then chairperson of the GRP panel since 1994,” Agcaoili said. 

Duterte, however, brushed aside the results of two years of hard work by both panels when he cancelled for at least the third time last June 2018 the formal round after meeting with his Cabinet’s security cluster.

“That the suspension comes after a command conference with the Armed Forces of the Philippines shows the power that warmongers wield over the civilian branch of this government,” the group Kapayapaan Campaign for a Just and Lasting Peace said at the time.

Presidential peace adviser Galvez, former Armed Forces chief of staff explained that the dissolution of the first GRP peace panel last month was aimed for the creation of a new panel that will focus on the so-called localized peace engagements.

Galvez added they will reconstitute the panel that will implement the government’s whole-of-nation approach.

‘War panel’

Sison, however, said the NDFP does not want to be baited into accepting a war panel of the Duterte regime, “whose purpose is merely to seek the impossible, such as the surrender of the revolutionary forces, especially the New People’s Army.”

“The NDFP must remind Duterte that he cannot dictate the terms of whatever kind of negotiations he seeks from the revolutionary movement of the people,” Sison said.

He added that Duterte must also explain why he terminated the peace negotiations and annul all agreements painstakingly made since the The Hague Joint Declaration of 1992.

Sison also asked why Duterte terminated and dismantles the GRP section of the Joint Monitoring Committee formed under the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Humans Rights and International Humanitarian Law tasked to receive and investigate complaints of human rights violations allegedly committed by either party.

“By all indications, Duterte is merely play-acting in the name of peace while carrying out an all-out war and scheming to rig the May 2019 elections in order to pave the way for a fascist dictatorship through charter change to a bogus federalism,” Sison said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

2 urban poor activists abducted

By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
bulatlat.com

MANILA — Two urban poor activists were forcibly disappeared yesterday, April 13, in Bulacan.

The two urban poor organizers are Kadamay member John Griefen Arlegui, 20, and youth group Anakbayan’s Reynaldo Remias, Jr., 24.

They were accosted at gunpoint between 10:00 to 11:00 in the morning while posting posters of senatorial aspirant Neri Colmenares and partylist group Bayan Muna along Angat-Pandi Road, according to eyewitnesses.

Kadamay said in its statement that they were forced into a red car that bore no license plate by armed men in plainclothes, right in front of the Iglesia ni Cristo church in Brgy. Sta Cruz, Angat, Bulacan.
 
Kadamay’s chapter in Pandi learned of their abduction when they noticed the election sortie vehicle, along with their election materials, parked along the highway in the afternoon of April 13. The two, however, were missing.
                                           
Kadamay said they have already searched police stations in Angat, Norzagaray, Sta. Maria, and San Jose del Monte but were told that the two are not in their custody.

Arlegui and Remias were among the members of Kadamay who occupied the abandoned government housing in Pandi, Bulacan.

The urban poor group suspects that the abductors belong to the 48th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army.

Last year, no less than President Duterte ordered an elite police force to go against Kadamay, whose members were occupying government housing units. He went as far as ordering to have them killed should Kadamay resist a police takeover in the housing units.

This is not the first time for Kadamay members in Pandi to be subjected to rights abuses.

On March 26, 2019, two Kadamay members Marlon Acedera and Joel Chavez were illegally arrested when bullets were supposedly found in their homes within the occupied housing in Padre Pio Resettlement in Cacarong Bata, Pandi.

The two remain incarcerated as of this writing.

Kadamay national chairperson Gloria Arellano called for the surfacing of their two members.

She added, “we blame the Duterte regime for openly attacking the legal democratic movement with all the possible means in order to quell the resistance of the Filipino people against its anti-poor and anti-people policies.” #

Indigenous peoples demand justice for Lumad chieftain Datu Kaylo

By MARYA SALAMAT
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – Manobo tribal chieftain Datu Kaylo, a consistent participant in the indigenous people’s Lakbayan to Manila to air their calls for self-determination, was reportedly killed by elements of the 3rd IB of the AFP Eastern Mindanao Command during its military operations in Kitaotao, Bukidnon last April 7.

“He died due to the intensified militarization, bombing and strafing of the indigenous communities,” said Pasaka-SMR in a statement.

Datu Kaylo was in the area visiting the communities and delving into the current situation of his fellow Manobos who had been forced to evacuate from their communities in Talaingod, a village that has gained prominence for its people’s resistance against logging and mining in the Pantaron Range. As a lumad leader, Datu Kaylo was concerned about the plight of the Manobos who are scattered around various communities after Talaingod was hit by successive operations and bombings there and in Bukidnon, said the Salugpongan Ta Tanu Igkanugon.

In previous Lakbayan, Kaylo helped to translate to Tagalog the statements of female Lumad warrior Bai Bibyaon Bigkay, a Gawad Bayani ng Kalikasan Awardee. Kaylo himself was regarded as a fierce environmental defender. [He helped here: ‘We’re all challenged to defend the environment’ — Bibiaon Bigkay]


Datu Kaylo and Bai Bibiaon (Photo grabbed from PASAKA-SMR FB post Apr 11, 2019)

Kaylo was a Lumad leader of the Salugpongan community organization and a member of the National Council of Leaders of Katribu, the national alliance of indigenous peoples’ organizations. He was also the Deputy Secretary General of the PASAKA Confederation of Lumad in Southern Mindanao. PASAKA SMR is a Confederation of Lumad organizations of nine tribes whose name combines lumad words conveying unity and solidarity.

PASAKA expressed its alarm over the “intensifying war being waged by the military” against their communities. They said this war has worsened with Martial Law in Mindanao. “Many from the Lumad have been forced to evacuate, including the children whose schooling has been curtailed by non-stop attacks of the military,” PASAKA said.

“Our plight in Talaingod is comparable to ants being trampled upon and forced to scatter anywhere, because of Martial Law in Mindanao, where soldiers and the paramilitary Alamara have attacked us to no end,” said the Salugpongan Ta Tanu Igkanugon in a statement.

Salugpongan mourns the death of Kaylo, who, they said, had sacrificed much since his youth for the defense of our ancestral land and the Lumad schools in Talaingod. “He could have contributed more for the Lumad.”

Amid calls for justice for the untimely death of Kaylo, PASAKA reiterated its condemnation of the Duterte government’s schemes that they said seek to drive them away from their homes so the government could push through with plunderous projects in the Pantaron Range. These projects include mining, plantations and dams. #

Court summons served to 2 tech companies over cyber-attacks vs alternative news

By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — A court summon has been served Thursday, April 11, to two tech companies facing a civil complaint before a Quezon City court over the cyber-attacks against several alternative news agencies in the Philippines.

“We welcome the serving of the summons before the two tech companies that were traced as sources of the cyberattacks against our sites, according to the digital forensic investigation of Sweden-based group Qurium,” said Rhea Padilla, national coordinator of AlterMidya – People’s Alternative Media Network, an umbrella organization of at least 30 alternative news agencies in the Philippines and one of the plaintiffs in the complaint.

National Union of Peoples’ Lawyer spokesperson Josalee Deinla told Bulatlat that the two tech companies namely IP Converge and Suniway Group of Companies are expected to submit their respective answers to the filed complaint in 15 days.

After this, the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 220 will schedule the pre-trial, Deinla added.

Padilla said, “this is a first in many steps to find out who are behind this vicious bid to silence critical media and stifle freedom of expression in the country.”

On March 29, marking the 25th year since the first ever internet connection in the Philippines, four alternative news agencies filed a civil complaint over the relentless cyber-attacks in the form of Distributed Denial of Service.

Sweden-based Qurium Media Foundation, as stated on its digital forensic report, was able to unmask and trace the real IP addresses behind the cyber-attacks, which was allegedly carried out via the infrastructure of the two tech companies.

Bulatlat, through its publisher Alipato Media Center, is among the four plaintiffs in the civil complaint, along with Kodao Productions, Pinoy Weekly and Altermidya.  #

Bulatlat, Rappler long-listed in international media award for independent reporting

Two Philippine online news outfits suffering harassment from various fronts close to the Rodrigo Duterte government have been “long-listed” in this year’s One World Media Awards

Bulatlat and Rappler are two of 10 media outfits in the world listed as possible winners of the special award category in recognition of their independent journalistic outputs.

Along with other critical media outfits in the Philippines, Bulatlat and Rappler are victims of attacks and charges they said are because of critical reports they published on the Duterte government’s so-called drug war.

Bulatlat and other alternative media groups have been the subject of sustained and malicious distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks since December last year.

It has filed a civil complaint against two companies that Sweden-based digital rights group Quirium identified as behind the DDoS attacks.

Rappler on the other hand is facing numerous civil and criminal charges in local courts while its chief executive officer Maria Ressa had been forced to spend a night in jail for being arrested after office hours.

United Kingdom-based One World Media (OWM) is an international group that provides support to independent journalism and recognizes the best global media coverage of developing countries.

It is partners with BBC, Al Jazeera, British Red Cross, the British Council, Save the Children, Sky News, among others.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) congratulated both Bulatlat and Rappler for “being long-listed in the One World Media Awards, which recognize the best media coverage of the developing world, reflecting the social, political and cultural life of people around the globe.”

“The inclusion of the two news outfits is an affirmation of the quality and value of the work they do and a testament to the fierce independence and courage of Filipino journalists in both the mainstream and alternative media who refuse to buckle under the continued assaults by the enemies of press freedom,” the NUJP in a statement said.

The media group added it takes particular pride in Bulatlat, “which houses an NUJP chapter and from where many of the leading journalists in the country today, both in the mainstream and alternative media, come from.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Bishop calls for end to ‘barbaric attacks’ as police general says church ‘not competent’ to probe Negros killings

By Visayas Today

“I am begging our state forces, the police and military personnel, these killings must end.”

This was the earnest appeal Wednesday by San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza as controversy continues to hound the March 30 deaths in Negros Oriental of 14 men during a police operation that was initially dubbed an anti-crime drive but was later acknowledged to be targeted against alleged communist rebels.

Alminaza’s statement was read by Fr. Eduardo Laude, director for pastoral management of the San Carlos diocese, who represented the prelate at the Wednesday Roundtable at Lido hosted by journalist Melo Acuna, which discussed the Negros Oriental killings.

The bishop was in Cebu City for the launching of a movement that will campaign for an end to killings and other rights violations.

“This is very personal on my part,” Alminaza said in his statement.

“Fourteen people of our island perished in this barbaric operation. They are part of my flock, their deaths pierced my heart with pain,” he added.

“I share the collective suffering of the many families left by the barbaric arrogance of our state forces,” the bishop said.

“We are demanding peace based on justice,” he said.

In all, said Alminaza, 69 persons have died in what are believed to be politically motivated killings, a substantial number of these happening in his diocese in less than half a year in what he called a “continuing injustice.”

In October 20 last year, nine persons were massacred in a farmers’ protest camp in Sagay City, Negros Occidental, which is part of the diocese.

And on December 27, police mounted the predecessor to the March operation, Oplan Sauron, leaving six persons dead in Negros Oriental, five of these in Guihulngan City, again part of the diocese.

Of the 14 persons killed on March 30, eight were from Canlaon City, which also belongs to the San Carlos diocese.

Manjuyod town accounted for four of the dead, including two barangay captains, and Sta. Catalina, two more.

Laude told the forum that the diocese had immediately mounted an investigation into the March 30 deaths and said the accounts of eyewitnesses and the families of the slain disputed police claims that those who died were killed when they fought it out with officers serving search warrants.

He also pointed to alleged irregularities, saying witnesses told of police commandos concealing their faces in balaclavas and with no nameplates on their uniforms who “surrounded victims’ houses and forced their way inside without identifying themselves as enforcers or giving them a chance to read the warrants.”

In earlier interviews to media, families of the fatalities, who lived far from and did not know each other, gave similar accounts of what happened, all saying the raider forced them out of their houses or rooms and then executed the victims.

Laude also said all accounts noted that “no barangay officials were present at the time of entry or search,” and showed up “only hours after.”

But Philippine National Police director for police-community relations, Major General Benigno Durana Jr, immediately dismissed the church’s findings saying it was “not a competent or legitimate investigative body.”

“Any findings they have will not matter,” he stressed, even as he warned that, “if you peddle that it will create a biased perception against our legitimate police forces.”

But Laude clarified that they had tapped the services of lawyers in their investigation and also cooperated with the Commission on Human Rights. Durana also claimed that, while “some sectors would call (the fatalities) farmers,” these were “farmers with other activities” who “acted as tipsters” and, thus, were “either accessories or accomplices of terrorist groups,” referring to communist rebels behind the assassination or ambush of police personnel.

He insisted that accusations of human rights violations were “all lies” by “sectors who are front organizations” of the Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army.

When CHR representative noted that, since the repeal of the Anti-Subversion Law, “belief in communism is not a crime” and that the farmers, had they committed any crimes, should have been tried, Durana accused him of “parroting the propaganda line of the CPP-NPA.”

Siapno protested this “unfair assertion” and stressed that the farmers enjoyed the presumption of innocence as much as the police operation was covered by the presumption of regularity.

He also stressed that even if police claimed the slain farmers were killed because they fought back, these “should be tried and go through our courts.”

Alminaza, meanwhile, minced no words in his statement, calling the police’s insistence that the farmers fought back “callous.”

The bishop pointed out that Negros has had “a long history of social struggle” and the island’s farmers possess “grate social awareness” as well as “experience defending our lives and rights.”

Citing the atrocities committed on the island by the police, military and paramilitary groups during the Marcos dictatorship, Alminaza said: “Here we are again calling to stop the attacks of violent and barbaric at the very hands of our state forces. Let me ask this again: What’s happening? Are we still observing law and order?”

Referencing the thousands of deaths from the government’s bloody campaign against narcotics, he noted that “the madness of the drug war has rippled into our farming communities, inflicting more harm to … our poor communities.”

“Why continue this madness? Why execute people by mere suspicion? Why shed blood just because of command from the mighty? Why? We demand answers,” Alminaza said as he reiterated an earlier warning for state security forces to “please make sure you are not adding more reasons for our people to get disillusioned with our government and peacekeepers that will make the best recruiters for the underground movement.”

COVER IMAGE: Journalist Melo Acuna, police Major General Benigno Durana Jr., Fr. Eduardo Laude and the CHR’s Marc Siapno discuss the March 30 killings of 14 persons during police operations in Negros Oriental at the Wednesday Roundtable at Lido. (image grabbed from video courtesy of Melo Acuna)

Probe reveals state security forces committed ‘murder, theft, other abuses’

“The horrific nature and extent of the victims’ wounds belie any claim that the force used against them was – by any stretch of the imagination – reasonable, and erodes the Philippine National Police’s credibility as to its claim that the killings were carried out under justifiable circumstances.”

By RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – – A 53-member national fact-finding mission (NFFM) found state security forces involved in the March 30 operations in Negros Oriental liable for murder, theft and other rights abuses.

In its initial report sent to Bulatlat, the NFFM led by Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said that eyewitnesses “clearly and categorically attested that what happened on March 30 were summary executions.”

The report revealed that all the 14 farmers killed in Canlaon City, Manjuyod and Sta. Catalina were unarmed and were already under the custody and control of state security forces when they were killed.

The mission underscored the fact that members of the raiding teams were in full battle gear, with their faces and their nameplates covered during the operations.

The NFFM said the use of deadly force was premeditated. Except for one, the victims were shot multiple times. The report cited the following:

• Valentin Acabal was shot in his genital area and his right thigh was riddled with bullets it was completely destroyed.

• Ismael Avelino’s torso had at least eight gunshots that his intestines burst out of his stomach

• Edgardo Avelino was shot twice in the chest and once in the center of the forehead

• Steve Arapoc was shot both in his back and chest while he was lying on the floor

“The horrific nature and extent of the victims’ wounds belie any claim that the force used against them was – by any stretch of the imagination – reasonable, and erodes the PNP’s credibility as to its claim that the killings were carried out under justifiable circumstances,” the report read.

The NFFM said the raiding teams were also the ones who dragged the bodies of the victims out of the crime scenes. “Such disturbance of a crime scene is strictly prohibited as it removes potential evidence of foul play,” the report read.

The NFFM thus deemed that the removal of the bodies was “an effort to conceal the crimes committed.”

Replete with irregularities

The NFFM said the search warrants issued against the victims “were nothing more than a pretext for the conduct of the operation.”

In a press conference held April 8 in Bacolod City and streamed live on Facebook, Karapatan legal counsel Maria Sol Taule pointed out irregularities in the conduct of police operations.

The team found out that copies of search warrants were either given to the victims’ families only after the killings took place or such copies were never provided at all.

The NFFM noted the following irregularities in the search warrants:

– All were issued by a single judge, Judge Soliver C. Peras of Branch 10 Regional Trial Court of Cebu City. Standard court procedure requires applications for search warrants to be filed with the trial court which has jurisdiction over the territory where the crime is being committed.

– Search warrants fail to describe the places to be searched with sufficient particularity, such as sketches or other details that should confine the search to a limited location. This violates a procedural requirement that search warrants must particularly describe the place to be searched.

– The search warrant against one of those arrested in Manjuyod, Nestor Kadusale, used false information. Police claimed that they conducted the surveillance and confirmed Kadusale’s possession of loose firearms on March 14, 2019, but records show that the request for Firearm Holder Verification filed with Camp Crame in Quezon City was made on March 8, six days before the actual surveillance.

The NFFM team also said that the raiding teams barged into the victims’ homes without giving prior announcement as to their presence and their intention to enforce the search warrants. The NFFM said this was a violation of an established rule that a law-enforcement officer may break into a house to execute the warrant only if he refused admittance to the place after giving notice of his purpose and authority.

Operatives also ordered the occupants to leave their houses as they supposedly searched the different rooms. The report said that both the rules of criminal procedure and the Philippine National Police’s operational rules strictly prohibit the conduct of a search of a house, room, or any other premises except in the presence of the lawful occupant, a member of his family or, in the absence of the latter, two witnesses of sufficient age and discretion residing in the same locality.

“With all the victims’ family members kept outside the premises, and the barangay officials arriving only hours after the raid and the purported search, the operatives involved therein were in clear breach of the aforementioned rules,” the report said.

Planting of evidence

The NFFM said that inventories of items allegedly confiscated from the victims’ houses were signed by barangay officials. Eyewitnesses, however, testified that these officials arrived only hours after the raid and the killings.

The victims’ family members also recounted that they were made to sign the same inventories. “These signatures, however, were procured under the most intimidating and coercive of circumstances, with dozens of masked men carrying high-powered firearms present, without the assistance of local officials or lawyers, after the raiding teams had carried out the executions, and with the family members fearing for their own lives,” the report said.

The NFFM also noted inconsistencies in the search warrants used against the victims and the inventories of items allegedly confiscated from the houses of those killed and arrested. For instance, the search warrant against Steve Arapoc claimed that he was in possession of one (1) .45 caliber pistol; yet, the raiding team claimed they found one (1) .38 caliber pistol.

Theft, other abuses

The NFFM also found out that operatives stole money and valuables in the total amount of P167,300 from the families of Sonny Palagtiw, Valentin Acabal, Edgardo Avelino, Armogena Caballero and Steve Arapoc.

The victims’ family members were also subjected to physical abuse and the unnecessary use of force, the NFFM said.

Arapoc’s younger brother, Mc Khillif Jun, was assaulted and handcuffed while his sister, Keren Arapoc, was harassed when a male member of the raiding team profusely frisked her entire body.

The NFFM also lamented the trauma inflicted on family members, especially minors.

• Franklin Lariosa’s four-year-old son was right beside him when he was shot and killed by the raiding team.

• Edgardo Avelino’s 16-year-old daughter suffered a nervous breakdown after the incident.

• Ismael Avelino’s children, aged ten and five years old were forced out of the room just before their father was shot multiple times while lying in his bed.

• Three of Steve Arapoc’s 10 siblings – aged 14, 10, and 6 – were also in the house when Arapoc was shot several times while lying in the living room.

Lucia Francisco of Gabriela, a member of the NFFM, said that the trauma being experienced by the victims’ families, especially the children, is so deep. “What they need now is psycho-social therapy,” she said during the press conference.

Those arrested, meanwhile, were not informed of their rights as cited in Miranda doctrine.

Danilo Ramos, KMP chairperson, called for justice for the victims. He said that all those involved in the March 30 operations dubbed as Operation Sauron must be held accountable.

The NFFM noted that Oplan Sauron has killed a total of 21 individuals killed in several Negros Oriental towns since December 2018.

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas said these joint police and military operations conducted under the guise of anti-criminality are directed against individuals who are members of mass organizations.

The NFFM noted that the victims were branded as New People’s Army fighters or supporters. It said that the March 30 operations were part of the implementation of President Duterte’s Executive Order 70 establishing a whole-of-nation approach in ending local insurgency and the Memorandum Order 32 placing Negros Island, Bicol, and Samar, under the “state of emergency.” #

NDFP’s Casambre ‘clandestinely’ transferred to ‘noisy’, ‘hot’ Bacoor jail

The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-National Capital Region (CIDG-NCR) of the Philippine National Police transferred detained National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace consultant Rey Claro Casambre from Camp Crame in Quezon City to the Bacoor City Jail in Cavite province last Wednesday, April 3, without informing his family and lawyers, his family complained.

“Tatay Rey was clandestinely whisked away by the CIDG-NCR Crame police custodian to the dark and cramped Bacoor City Jail without a word, not even to his legal counsels,” Casambre’s daughter Xandra said.

While he slept in a wooden bench inside a cramped jail cell in Camp Crame, Casambre is now jailed in an even more crowded and dark cell with too many fellow inmates, Xandra said.

“He is the 163rd inmate in a ‘dorm’ designed for only 60 people. (It is) Terrible!” she told Kodao.

According to Casambre’s wife Patricia, the Bacoor jail is very noisy and long-time inmates are allowed to sing karaoke in high volume even when it is visiting time.

“People (inmates) just do their thing right then and there,” Patricia reportedly told Xandra in her first visit to her husband’s new jail.

Xandra said Bacoor jail facility is much less accessible to family, lawyers, co-advocates and doctors.

Casambre is known to suffer many ailments connected with advancing age.

The BJMP (Bureau of Jail Management and Penology) administrator reportedly tried to give a positive impression during Casambre’s family’s first visit but Patricia was broken-hearted to note of the “intolerable noise and the oppressive heat that she would not wish on others.”

Casambre’s transfer came after the public prosecutors found probable cause to charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

A hearing on Casambre’s motion for reconsideration is being conducted as of press time. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Survivors’ tales show ‘most evil intentions’ in Negros Oriental killings

Visayas Today

MANJUYOD/CANLAON CITY –Sige na, sige na!” (Go ahead, go ahead!)

These words, followed by three shots – all she managed to count in her panic – and Angenate Acabal knew her husband Valentin, 47, was dead inside their home in Manjuyod town, Negros Oriental.

Some 125 kilometers north of there, around the same time, in Canlaon City, ordered out of her home at gunpoint, Carmela Avelino heard a shout in a mix of Tagalog and Bisaya: “Merong kalaban, nagsukol!” (There’s an enemy, he’s fighting back!)

Again, three shots and she knew Edgardo, 59, her husband, was gone.

Next door, Ismael, Edgardo’s 53-year old brother, uttered his last words, addressed to his 10-year old child, as his wife Leonora and two youngest children, the other 5, were herded out their house by armed men: “Indi pagpabay-i si Mama kag utod nimo.” (Don’t leave your mother and sister alone!)

As Leonora stepped outside their smashed door, she heard a burst of gunfire.

Contributed photo shows a masked police commando during the operation in Barangay Panciao, Manjuyod where three men, including village chairman Sonny Palagtiw, were killed.

As dawn broke on March 30, 14 men in all had died during pre-dawn raids by police commandos – eight in Canlaon, four in Manjuyod, two more in Sta. Catalina town – during what authorities initially called an “anti-crime operation” but later acknowledged was targeted against suspected communist rebels.

Even on an island beset by outbreaks of violence from an insurgency fueled by the vast gulf between the hacienderos, the planters, who own and control the vast sugarcane plantations that are Negros’ lifeblood and the landless farmers and laborers who toil for them, the single day’s toll came as a bad enough shock that Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo demanded police explain why so many needed to die.

Police claimed all the dead were rebel assassins, members of the New People’s Army Special Partisan Unit or SPARU, all supposedly wanted for carrying out attacks on government forces, who were killed when they chose to shoot it out against officers serving arrest or search warrants.

Malacanang stood by the police, insisting the operation was legitimate.

Never mind that many of the dead were in their 50s to late 60s, way too old to be the communist hitmen, who tend to be young, quick and agile, police claim they were, and two of those slain in Manjuyod were elected village chieftains – Valentin Acabal and Sonny Palactiw.Of the eight men killed in Canlaon, one was a Catholic lay minister and two – one of two father-and-son pairs – volunteer church workers.

As far as can be ascertained, only four of the dead – the Avelino brothers of Canlaon, Franklin Lariosa of Sta. Catalina, and Steve Arapoc of Manjuyod – belonged to peasant groups openly accused by state security forces of supporting or being “legal fronts” of the rebels.

And only the Avelinos appear to have been engaged in any recent activity that might have earned them the ire of authorities – the local farmers’ organization chaired by Edgardo hosted a forum about residents of neighboring Guihulngan City who had been displaced in December last year by a police operation similar to that of March 30.

Incidentally, police gave both operations the same code name – Sauron, the “dark lord” of The Lord of the Rings trilogy – with the March operation dubbed “2.0”.

And both operations involved not local police forces but units under the Central Visayas command based in Cebu City.

Aside from this, the warrants were also issued by courts in Cebu City, not in Negros Oriental. The separate but almost uniform accounts of Angenate Acabal and the Avelino widows, who do not know each other – as well as the stories the families of other victims told human rights organizations – not only belied the police accounts but, according to human rights lawyer Neri Colmenares, who visited the wakes of the three victims, showed “the most evil intentions,” the carefully coordinated “state-sponsored killings” of activists and others deemed “enemies of the state.”

All the stories begin in the dark before dawn – between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. – with the sound of doors being smashed in and then armed men in tactical gear, their faces covered in balaclavas and even dark glasses, storming in, assault rifles aimed at stunned residents.

Angelate Acabal greets a visitor at the wake of her husband, slain Barangay Candabong, Manjuyod caption Valentin Acabal

Around 20 armed men burst into the Acabal household and roused the 17-year old son who slept on a couch in the living room, ordering him to kneel, his hands clasped behind his neck. It was a position he would keep for more than two hours.

Other policemen then barged into the room where Valentin, who was sick with the flu, and Angenate slept with their 7-year old daughter, ordering them to kneel on the floor with their hands up.

“All three of us were praying and our daughter begged them not to hurt us,” Angenate said after sending the girl to another room so she would not have to listen to the retelling.

“Then they grabbed and my daughter and forced us out of the room.”The last thing she heard Valentin say was a prayer: “Gino-o, gitugyan nako kanimo ang tanan.” (Lord, I leave everything up to you.)

For two hours, Angenate said she and her children were kept under guard in the living room, not allowed near the room where her husband lay dead, and accompanied even on trips to the toilet.

It was only around 6 a.m., as curious villagers began to gather, that the policemen summoned two councilmen. Only then did they show a search warrant and the .45 caliber pistol the village chief was supposedly armed with.

Angenate said one of the policemen who guarded them asked her what her husband’s name was. When she told him, “he shook his head and said, ‘But in the blotter it was Eric’.”

A copy of the warrant, which she obtained later, did show it was for Eric, not Avelino, Acabal. Colmenares said even if Acabal used to be called by his old nickname Eric, “the warrant should reflect his real name, Avelino. This already makes it irregular.”

Shortly after, Angenate said, policemen from the town arrived “but only to take away my husband’s body to the hospital even though it was clear he was already dead” from at least seven gunshots, including one that shattered his femur and genitals.

“There was no attempt to investigate the scene of the crime. The (police) Scene of Crime Operatives only inspected his body at the hospital.”

Senatorial candidate and human rights lawyer Neri Colmenares talks to Ray and Argie, sons of slain Barangay Candabong, Manjuyod captain Valentin Acabal.

Worse, said Arcabal’s son Argie, a Qatar Airways cabin crew who flew home on learning of his father’s fate, “they took P30,000 I had just sent home for home repairs and even P7,000 that my mother was keeping for our church, of which she was treasurer.”

Meanwhile in Canlaon, Carmela Avelino was awakened by her 16-year old daughter’s shout for help and rushed out thinking a snake had crawled into their house.

As she got out of bed, “the curtains of our window parted and I saw five rifle barrels aimed at us and a voice ordered us out of the room.”

In the dirt-floor front room, “five policemen stood in line, blocking me from my husband, while others ordered me and the children outside and to go to the community center next door.”

On their way out, they heard three shots from their house and, moments later, more gunshots from Ismael’s house.

Carmela Avelino shows the spot where her husband Edgardo was killed.

Leonora said she and her two young children were awakened by the commotion from Edgardo’s house and stepped out of their room to see their door burst open as six hooded men in black entered and ordered them to lie on the floor at gunpoint.

They were then ordered out of their home and to crawl toward another house where they were kept under guard for the next three hours.

Another Avelino brother, Efraim, rushed out of his nearby house only to be grabbed by his neck and pushed back inside by a gunman in a uniform of the police Special Action Force who ordered him back inside or “you might be the first.”

Like Valentin Acabal, the bodies of the Avelino brothers would be taken from their homes hours later, after daybreak, and taken to the local hospital even though they had already been dead for hours.

A boot print can still be seen on the broken door of the home of Ismael Avelino in Barangay Panubigan, Canlaon City.

Edgardo had been shot in the forehead and right arm. Ismael suffered at least five gunshot wounds.

But unlike Acabal, who has not been autopsied, the Avelino brothers underwent a post-mortem examination and had their deaths classified as “homicide” by the Canlaon civil registrar. Only after the ambulance had left were village officials summoned and shown warrants.

Carmela said the warrant for Edgardo gave his family name as “Marquez,” which is his middle name, and not Avelino.

She said the policemen then asked her to accompany them inside the house and showed her a .45 caliber pistol lying in the pool of blood where her husband had fallen and an M16 rifle they supposedly found by a closet.

A policeman also “returned” money taken from their home, only to find out that P2,000 was missing from the original P5,000.

Post-mortem diagram showing the gunshot wounds that killed Ismael Avelino.

A sister of the Avelinos, Azucena Garubat, was arrested for allegedly possessing a .38 caliber revolver and remains detained at the Canlaon police station, together with Corazon Javier, a coordinator of activist women’s group Gabriela, who was allegedly found in possession of a rifle grenade.

The two were among 12 persons nabbed in the course of the March 30 operation.

Reacting to the accounts of the widows, Colmenares said it was “clear the operations were irregular. The fact alone that they wore masks to serve supposed warrants proves this. And there is also the total lack of an investigation after the deaths, which indicates that the police have no intention whatsoever to tell the truth about what happened.”

But while confident about the chances of successfully prosecuting the police personnel involved in the bloody operation, Colmenares said this would not be enough.

“Public uproar is crucial to send the message that enough is enough.”He also said that ultimate responsibility for the March 30 deaths, as for the December deaths, lay with President Rodrigo Duterte, who last year issued Memorandum Order No. 32, which ordered more police and military personnel to the Bicol region, Samar island and Negros to “quell lawless violence.”

Colmenares said the actions of Duterte and the police fell into the “three patterns of evidence” he said were the bases for successful prosecutions involving extrajudicial killings:

· “Public vilification, which establishes motive”;

· “The brazenness with which the crime is committed”; and

· “The complete lack of interest to investigate o prosecute”

COVER PHOTO: Leonora Avelino (partly hidden, top) talks to visitors at the wake of her husband, Ismael, and his brother, Edgardo in Barangay Panubigan, Canlaon City.

AFP and PNP lying; Red fighters only use command-detonated explosives—CPDF

By Joseph Gregorio

The Cordillera Peoples Democratic Front (CPDF) accused the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) of lying when they alleged the New People’s Army (NPA) used an unmanned improvised explosive device (IED) in their April 2 clash that killed a policeman and wounded nine others at Cabunagan, Poblacion, Tadian, Mountain Province.

“Accustomed to releasing fake news, it is not farfetched for these spinmasters to concoct a preposterous story to downgrade their defeat. They simply cannot accept that even with their superior manpower and weaponry, they are still defeated by the NPA,” CPDF Spokes person Simon “Ka Filiw” Naogsan said.

Naogsan said the AFP and the PNP vainly conjured a scenario to accuse the NPA of violating the Ottawa Treaty on the employment of unmanned IED that explodes when subjected to pressure or extreme heat.

“The NPA has long adhered to the Ottawa Treaty through banning the use of landmines in its operations and has been employing command-detonated explosives instead,” Naogsan said.

“The AFP and the PNP further show their ignorance as they do not know how to differentiate a command-detonated explosive from an unmanned landmine,” he added.

Government forces, through statements and social media posts, alleged the NPA used unmanned IEDs and landmines in their clash last Tuesday, their third fire fight with the communist guerrillas within a week.

“International humanitarian law and the Geneva Conventions have outlawed the use of landmines in warfare because of the risk of civilian casualties or collateral damage,” Police Regional office Cordillera (PROCor) Chief PBGen Israel Ephraim Dickson said.

But Leonardo Pacsi Command-NPA-Mountain Province spokesperson Magno Udyaw said their troops only used a command detonated device, exploded by an operator upon the order of the unit commander when government soldiers have entered the designated killing zone.

Udyaw clarified that there was no forest fire on the blast site at the time of the clash, adding they are not stupid to start a forest fire that can limit their combat manoeuvres. #