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Regent Foods planning ‘run-away shop’ tactic after Mayor Vico warning, workers say

Regent Foods Corporation (RFC) management is set to implement a “run-away shop” tactic with its threat to transfer out of Pasig City, the snack manufacturer’s striking workers said.

“The Regent management just proved what we have been pointing out since we started our strike and mounted our picketlines last October 16 — that the RFC management will implement a runaway shop and lockout of its plant in Pasig City to get rid of the issues we are raising,” Regent Food Workers Union (RFWU) president Tita Cudiamat said.

Cudiamat was reacting to RFC’s statement that it is now mulls transferring its business out of Pasig City after Mayor Vico Sotto advised the company to rethink its position of filing charges against its striking workers.

“If you want to have a healthy relationship with our city, I highly suggest you rethink your position,” Sotto warned.

“Moving forward, RFC may simply accept its fate that the Pasig City Administration will unjustly make life hard for it and its 400-strong workforce, and contemplate simply bringing its business elsewhere,” the company said in a statement.

Cudiamat however said that RFC’s reaction to Sotto’s warning proves the company’s “illegal” plans.

Labor group Defend Jobs Philippines echoed the strikers’ accusations that RFC implemented a “long  list of unfair labor practices against their workers.”

“For the longest time, striking workers have been airing out and complaining about the management’s attempt of runaway shop, lockout, union busting, unfair labor practices, contractualization, low wages, unpaid benefits, and violations of the workers right to union and strike,” Defend Job Philippines spokesperson Christian Lloyd Magsoy said in a statement.

Magsoy defended Sotto who also raised funds to allow some of those arrested, including a bystander, to post bail last Monday.

“No amount of defensive statements and baseless attacks against Mayor Vico can justify the long-drawn hardships of Regent workers for almost three decades of existence of this company,” Magsoy said.

Both RFWU and Defend Jobs Philippines warned the RFC management to brace itself for countercharges they plan to file in several legal venues the company’s “unfair labor practices, abusive acts…and the violent dispersal” last November 9 that also injured several workers.

“Instead of lying and spreading fake news and charges, the RFC management must focus in addressing our legitimate concerns. If they will remain firm in fabricating lies and stories, then we have no resort but to fight back in whatever legal and just means possible,” Cudiamat said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Regent Foods products

Bacolod journos to remember Maguindanao massacre victims

By Visayas Today

Officers and members of the Negros Press Club and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines-Bacolod chapter reiterated their call for justice for the victims of the massacre in Ampatuan, Maguindanao that killed 58 people, including 32 journalists, 10 years ago.

The local media groups will mark their death anniversary with a tribute at the NPC building on Friday, November 22, at 3 p.m.

It will be followed by the lighting of candles and offering of prayers at the Marker for Fallen Journalists at the public plaza.

The victims’ kin, campus journalists, students, and civic leaders are also expected to join the commemoration.

On November 23, 2009, the 58 victims, including the 32 journalists, were shot to death on the way to the provincial poll office for the filing of certificate of candidacy of Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu, for governor against Andal Ampatuan Jr., the son of the governor at the time, Andal Ampatuan Sr., the alleged mastermind of the massacre who died in 2015.

The promulgation of judgment is expected to be handed down on or before December 20 this year.

The Maguindanao massacre is considered as the worst election-related violence in recent Philippine history and the worst attack on journalists the world has known. #

Kids of Ampatuan massacre victims cry ‘justice’ 10 years after carnage

By Visayas Today

SITIO MASALAY, Ampatuan, Maguindanao – Princess Arianna Caniban was eight months old when the November 23, 2009 Ampatuan massacre happened, claiming the lives of 58 persons, 32 of them media workers.

On Sunday, November 17, Princess Arianna, whose father John was a reporter for the community paper Peryodiko Ini in Koronadal, joined other children of the murdered journalists on the very hilltop in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao where their parents died.

Most of the victims, including the journalists, were in a convoy on its way to file the candidacy of the town vice mayor Esmael Mangudadatu, who intended to run for governor against Andal
Ampatuan Jr., a scion of the powerful clan that ruled Maguindanao and mayor of the town of Datu Unsay, which bears his nickname.

The convoy was stopped at a highway checkpoint by scores of gunmen, allegedly led by Unsay himself, and forced, along with the five passengers of two other vehicles that just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, to the hilltop in Sitio Masalay where they were gunned down.

The killers then tried to conceal the evidence by burying the bodies and vehicles in huge pits dug ahead of the slaughter but were foiled when soldiers looking for the missing convoy arrived.

Among the other victims were Mangudadatu’s wife, aunt, sisters, lawyers and supporters.

The massacre, named after both the town and the clan accused of planning the carnage, has been acknowledged as the worst incident of electoral violence in recent Philippine history and the single deadliest attack on the press ever recorded.

Each year since, the families of the massacre victims have made the pilgrimage to the site of the slaughter to pray for them and cry for justice. And yet, for a crime whose ferocity and scale shocked the world, justice has been frustratingly slow in coming.

When the trial of the close to 200 suspects finally ended a few months ago, the Justice department promised a verdict before the massacre’s 10th anniversary. It normally takes 90 days after a case is submitted for decision for the verdict to be handed down. In this case, that should have been on November 20.

However, Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes, who presided over the trial, suddenly sought a 30-day extension from the Supreme Court, citing “the voluminous records of these cases which have now reached 238 volumes.”

The request has been granted with an non-extendable deadline set for December 20.

Thus, a decade later, Princess Arianna, now 10, was with the other slain journalists’ children putting on a skit in which they spoke of the hardships they have gone through over the past years.

“Who is going to take care of me? Who will buy my medicines?” Princess Arianna, who has been diagnosed with rheumatic heart fever, asked as tears flowed down her face.

Not only did the journalists’ families lose husbands, fathers, wives, sons or daughters, most of them also lost their breadwinners, adding almost certain penury to their grief.

And the children have suffered the most.

Jean Malabanan, daughter of Gina dela Cruz, was forced to look after her four siblings after her mother died in the massacre.

She spoke of having to suffer through long periods when their power and water were cut off because they could not meet their payments.

Although those accused of the massacre were agents of the state – the principal members of the clan who were charged included, aside from Unsay the mayor, the patriarch Andal Sr., the long-time governor of the province, his sons Zaldy, then governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, and Sajid Islam, the vice governor of Maguindanao; the then provincial director of police and other officers were also accused of conniving to carry out the massacre – the families of the slain journalists have received little to no support from government.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines and other groups helped send the massacre victims’ children to school, with a number of them finishing college and helping support their families.

However, last year, the scholarship program had to be suspended after donors sent notice they could no longer fund it.

At the mass he said at the massacre site to honor the victims, Catholic priest Rey Ondap also lashed out at politicians he accused of trying to “to use the massacre for their own ends,” singling out former president Benigno Aquino III, “who promised justice during his campaign” for the 2010 election.

“Nothing happened,” said Ondap, who entered the priesthood the year the massacre happened.

He mused about the contrast: “While I am happy to celebrate a decade of priesthood I am unhappy this case has yet to be resolved.”

And despite the expected verdict next month, the priest also scored officials of the current government who had earlier not only promised a decision but even gave the supposed date it would be issued.

He said the massacre and the decade spent working to hold the perpetrators accountable “show how the government and the judiciary work.” Nevertheless, he urged the families of the victims not to lost hope. “Leave history in the hands of God,” he told them.

Emily Lopez, president of JUSTICE NOW, the organization of the murdered journalists’ families, also slammed government officials who, she said, not only “tried to use us for political ends but even tried to divide us.”

Yet, while speaking of their disappointment and frustration at the further delay in the verdict, she urged the families: “Let us hold firm. We have to if we are to claim justice for our loved ones.”

JUSTICE NOW officer Grace Morales, who lost her husband Rosell, also said even if the expected verdict brings justice to their loved ones, “there are more than a hundred other media killings that remain unsolved.”

These, she said, would continue to feed the culture of impunity and embolden more killings.

Since 1986, the NUJP has recorded 187 media murders. Of these, 14 have happened under the Duterte administration. #

Senate unanimously opposes sugar liberalization

By Visayas Today

The Senate has unanimously opposed the executive branch’s plan to liberalize the sugar industry and will conduct an investigation, in aid of legislation, into the matter.

Senate Resolution 213, introduced by Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, said the planned inquiry is aimed at “safeguarding the welfare of 84,000 sugar farmers and 720,000 industry workers in 20 provinces of the country.”

It noted that liberalizing the sugar industry would be “irrelevant and very untimely” since the Sugar Industry Development Act of 2015 “is barely four years in effect, and much of the programs and projects it envisions to implement for the development of the sugar industry are not yet fully realized.”

In a statement, Zubiri acknowledged the role of the industry alliance Tatak Kalamay for raising the issue and prodding him to rally his fellow senators against the plan.

“They (the senators) heard Tatak Kalamay’s plea and for as long as we are in the Senate, we assure you of our support and protection and we also urge the economic managers to conduct proper consultation before announcing such plans,” he said.

Zubiri urged government economic managers to abandon plans to liberalize sugar and instead “help us by ensuring the restoration of the full SIDA budget in order to make our industry competitive globally.” #

NUJP Europe commemorates Ampatuan Massacre’s 10th anniversary

By Macel Ingles

ROME, Italy—Members of the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP)-Europe Chapter joined the Roman Catholic community in Rome to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Ampatuan massacre where 58 people were killed, 32 of whom were media workers.

In a commemoration Mass officiated Fr. Ricky Gente, chaplain priest of the Sentro Filipino Chaplaincy at the Basilica de Sta. Prudenziana in Rome, 17 November, he reminded the parishioners of the need to keep the memory of the slain media workers and the rest of the 58 victims alive and called for support to the families of the victims in their quest for justice.

In a statement read at the Mass, NUJP Europe called the slow Ampatuan trial an indictment of the culture of impunity in the Philippines.

During the Mass, a minute of silence and a candle-lighting ceremony were held.

NUJP-Europe members light candles for the victims of the Ampatuan massacre. (Photo by macel Ingles)

Edu del Carmen, chairperson of the Rome-based Filipino organization Umangat Migrante also read a solidarity message.

“Mahigpit kaming nakikiisa sa inyong isasagawang pag-alala sa mga biktima at kasama kaming nanawagan para sa kagyat na katarungan para sa mga biktima,” del Carmen said.

The Ampatuan massacre of November 23, 2009 is regarded as the worst incident of electoral violence in Philippine history and the world’s single biggest attack on journalists.

The Philippine Supreme Court recently granted the 30-day extension on the deadline for the ruling on the cases against Datu Andal “Unsay” Ampatuan Jr. and close to 200 others charged for the mass killing.

NUJP-Europe Chapter members who attended the event are journalists from Germany, Spain, Norway, United Kingdom (UK), and Italy. 

The chapter was formed in 2015 by Filipino journalists from Germany, Ireland, Norway, UK, Belgium, Spain, Sweden and France. #

Groups condemn attack on Kule

Media groups condemned the reported attack on Philippine Collegian by suspected government intelligence operatives late Saturday night, November 16.

The Union of Journalists of the Philippines-UP (UJP-UP) and the People’s Alternative Media Network (Altermidya) said the incident is an act of intimidation against the official student publication of the University of the Philippines-Diliman.

In an alert, the Philippine Collegian reported that a certain Wilfredo Manapat forcibly entered their office at around 9:30 in the evening at the Sampaguita Residence Hall.

When confronted by Collegian staff members, Manapat reportedly said he was there to “do an inspection as part of surveillance.”

Two of Manapat’s companions stood outside the building, the Collegian said.

The Collegian staff immediately called up UP-Diliman chancellor Michael Tan who apparently ordered the dispatch of campus police officers to arrest the trespasser.

Manapat was subsequently brought to the UP-Diliman police station and, when pressed, claimed he was merely looking for his colleagues. 

“In light of the recent attacks against the press, we stand with the Philippine Collegian and denounce this blatant intimidation against student publications,” UJP UP-Diliman, an association of mass communications students, said in a statement.

“This is a clear attempt of state oppressors to unnerve media entities that maintain a line of reportage reflective of the real social-political situation of the public,” the group added.

Altermidya for its part said it views the incident as a brazen attack on Philippine Collegian and the campus press.

The incident came a day after Interior and Local Government secretary Eduardo Año warned that the National Youth Camp being held in UP might be used by “communist front groups” to agitate and recruit students.

“We warn Secretary Año, who himself is implicated in the enforced disappearance of Jonas Burgos, against further labeling student organizations as communist fronts and therefore treated as targets by state security forces. Red-tagging always precedes grave human rights violations as we have seen in the recent raids and arrests of activists,” Altermidya said.

Altermidya pointed out that the Saturday’s incident was not the first time this year that members of the campus press have been red-tagged and subjected to surveillance and harassment by state security forces.

In August 2019, police visited the office of The Pillar of University of Eastern Philippines and interrogated its editor-in-chief.

In Bicol, police officers also red-tagged campus journalists from Ateneo de Naga University and Baao Community College, who were also officers of the College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines. 

“We stand in solidarity with the campus press, and call on our colleagues in the media and concerned citizens to denounce the State’s attempts to silence critics,” Altermidya said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Stop suppressing workers, Vico tells Regent Foods

Pasig City mayor Vico Sotto vowed to defend the 23 arrested workers of Regent Foods Corporation after company owners decided to go ahead with its charges of physical injuries against the strikers.

In a Facebook post, Sotto said he will do everything within his power to help the arrested workers regain and maintain their liberty.

“Yesterday (Saturday) afternoon, I talked to the 11 still inside and assured them that I will personally make sure that they are out on bail by Monday,” Sotto posted.

The mayor said 12 of those arrested have already posted bail, including the tricycle driver who was arrested with the workers.

Sotto said Regent owners, couple Irwin and Susan See, refused his request to drop charges against the workers, prompting him to “speak out in public.”

“I asked Regent to withdraw the charges against the 23. Mr. Irwin See and Ms. Susan See separately asked me to give them some time to ask their board,” he revealed.

The Sees reportedly told Sotto that the company board would talk about his request and that he will be informed once a decision is reached.

Upon multiple follow-ups by his office however, the company’s lawyers informed the mayor they would not withdraw the charges, saying they will “just trust the judicial process.”

The mayor slammed the company’s decision.

“[That] is of course easy to say as multimillionaires who will eat (three times) a day no matter what happens here; while the people they have sued have recently lost their main source of income and are now even torn away from their families,” the mayor fumed.

Injured Regent Foods workers after violent dispersal by company guards last November 9.

The 23 workers were arrested after a violent dispersal by the security guards last November 9, injuring several of the workers.

The workers launched their strike last October 16 demanding regular employment for long-time employees and salary increases.

They also complained of non-implementation of the collective bargaining agreement, non-recognition of the new leadership within the union and physical and verbal abuses by management.

The workers immediately sought Sotto’s mediation and help in keeping their strike peaceful and safe but the mayor initially clarified he cannot interfere with the labor issues as those fall under the jurisdiction of the labor department.

“However, when my constituents are being deprived of liberty as they fight for their rights as workers, I cannot sit around and do nothing,” Sotto said Sunday.

He further revealed that Regent management hired outside private security to disperse their employees on strike last November 9 that turned violent.

“The situation was naturally tense and violence broke out. I have seen videos of the workers being kicked by the private security as they lay on the ground,” the mayor said.

The tricycle driver who was arrested with the workers and two of their supporters was an innocent bystander “who just went down to see what was going on,” the mayor said.

Sotto said he condemns the company and its owners’ “misuse” of “[their] privileged position to suppress the rights of [their] protesting workers.”

 “These people are not criminals; they do not have the goal of hurting you. They are fighting for what they believe to be just. You can continue with the labor dispute without sending the poor and powerless to jail!” Sotto said.

“If you want to have a healthy relationship with our city, I highly suggest you rethink your position,” Sotto warned.

Image from Regents Foods website.

Regent Foods Corporation manufactures Cheese Ring, Cheese Ball, Snacku, Sweet Corn, Tempura, Labzter, Jelly Candy, Fiesta Cakes, Mixed Cakes, Assorted Cakes, Ube Cake, Pandan Cake, Melon Cake, Strawberry Cake, Mocca Cake, Custard Cake, Lemon Cake, Cheese Cake and Belgian Waffle. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Worldwide lawyers’ group supports charges vs Duterte in int’l courts

A worldwide group of lawyers backed plans to file potential suits against President Rodrigo Duterte abroad “for violations of international human rights law.”

Fifty lawyers of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) in a resolution said they support plans to study the filing of cases in different countries “against Duterte and all those responsible for the killings, torture and other grievous violations of international law utilizing the principles of universal jurisdiction.”

The IADL passed the resolution during its Council meeting in Brussels, Belgium last November 8 to 10.

IADL Council meeting delegates vote on the resolution on the Philippines (NUPL photo)

The group said it resolved “to support all actions and submit reports in relation to the July 2019 UN HRC (United National Human Rights Council) Resolution 41/2 on the comprehensive human rights situation in the Philippines.”

The group, which counts veteran defense lawyers in the International Criminal Court (ICC), also endorsed the charges of crimes against humanity against President Duterte before the ICC.

The IADL said it plans to send a delegation to the ICC and ask an audience with the Office of the Prosecutor on cases filed against the Philippine president.

IADL members also vowed to “work and campaign for the withholding or cessation of foreign military aid and a review of trade agreements with the Philippines vis-a-vis respect for human rights and the accountability of violators.”

The group—which has progressive and democratic lawyers, jurists, law professors, judges, prosecutors and law student members in 80 countries worldwide—also promised “to conduct or support international fact finding missions into those attacks and killings and to urge the Philippine Government to cooperate and allow them entry into the country.”

The IADL has consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission (ECOSOC) and actively engages in the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva as well as parallel platforms in New York and Vienna.

Founded in 1947, the group has the late freedom icon Nelson Mandela as honorary chair.

Meanwhile, in the same council meeting, a Filipino human rights lawyer was elected as president of one of the most prestigious lawyer’s group in the world.

Filipino human rights lawyer

National Union of Peoples’ Lawyer (NUPL) president Edre Olalia was elected as transitional IADL president until the group’s next regular congress in 2020.

Atty Edre Olalia at the IADL council meeting that elected him as transitional president. (NUPL photo)

Olalia had been a member of the IADL governing bureau together since 2010, along with NUPL chairperson Neri Colmenares.

Olalia’s term as transitional president ends in November next year when the next IADL Congress is held in Johannesburg, South Africa.

His presidency may be potentially confirmed for a period until 2023, the group said.

“I hope it inspires even more people’s lawyers to just keep on the good fight despite the odds and encourage others to consider this as a meaningful option beyond one’s self,” Olalia said of his election.

Present in the council meeting were 50 lawyers representing 30 nations, namely Algeria, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Columbia, France, Greece, Haiti, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestine, Philipines, Portugal, Puerto Rico, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Togo, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States, Venezuela, Vietnam, and Western Sahara. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Ampatuan Massacre cases to be promulgated before Christmas

The court trying the Ampatuan Massacre cases has until December 20 of this year to announce whether the 197 accused for the murder of 58 victims are innocent or guilty.

In a November 7 memorandum, Supreme Court administrator Jose Midas Marquez granted Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 presiding judge Jocelyn A. Solis-Reyes until the said date to read her verdict to the accused.

The memorandum was Marquez’s reply to Solis-Reyes’ request for a 30-day extension to the original November 20 deadline.

Justice Midas-Marquez’s memorandum to Judge Solis-Reyes.

In an October 28 letter, Judge Solis-Reyes wrote the Supreme Court administrator to request for the extension “due to the voluminous records of these cases.”

The records have reached a total of 238 volumes, broken down to 165 volumes of records of proceedings, 65 volumes of transcripts of stenographic notes and 8 volumes of prosecution’s documentary evidence, Solis-Reyes said.

Marquez replied that he found the ground for the judge’s request “reasonable.”

Judge Solis-Reyes request for extension.

The high tribunal’s administrator however reminded that the 30-day extension is non-extendible.

He also directed Solis-Reyes to submit to his office a copy of the decision within 10 days from promulgation as proof of her compliance to decide the cases within the period requested.

The cases were originally due for promulgation on November 20 after the long-drawn trial was declared submitted for decision last August 22.

Previous to this, groups such as the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said they hoped that the promulgation of the cases to happen before the 10th anniversary of the massacre on November 23.

The NUJP, along with other groups such as the Union of Journalists-University of the Philippines in Diliman and the College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines, have announced a series of activities commemorating the 10th anniversary of the massacre dubbed as the worst attack on journalists in history.

Of the 58 massacre victims, 32 were journalists. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Rights group links former officer’s disappearance to military

Karapatan Southern Mindanao Region (SMR) said the disappearance of its former secretary general is linked to the intensifying crackdown on activists and the victim’s past experiences of harassment and red-tagging by the military.

In calling for the “surfacing” of human rights defender Honey Mae Suazo who has been missing since November 2, Karapatan SMR raised the possibility of the military’s involvement in what they suspect is a case of abduction.

“Honey May has been with Karapatan for five years. In that period, she was subjected to multiple threats and malicious accusations peddled by the military,” the group’s current secretary general Jay Apiag said in a statement.

“Although, she had left Karapatan, it seems that she still remains a target. If her past experiences of continuous harassment are indicative of anything, it is that Honey May is still facing reprisal for her work as a human rights defender,” he added.

Suazo was Karapatan SMR secretary general from 2011 to 2016. The group said she was subjected to numerous threats, the most recent of which came from Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Deputy Chief of Staff for Civil Military Operations Antonio Parlade.

Karapatan SMR said Brigadier General Parlade accused Suazo of being associated with the Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army (NPA) after she assisted the family of NPA leader Zaldy Cañete to visit the latter who was hospitalized after suffering near-fatal injuries after an encounter in Bukidnon Province.

“As a matter of fact, Honey May Suazo’s photograph and name was viciously appended in the posters hanged in the cities of Butuan and Surigao, April this year, accusing her as a terrorist.” Apiag emphasized.

Apiag said Suazo was merely performing a mandate of a human rights advocacy institution to assist wounded combatants who are accorded protection and right to visitation of families as mandated under the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) of which the Philippine government is a signatory.

“Regardless of what the military is trying to insinuate, assisting families of combatants, including hors de combat, is not illegal or condemnable. They can double check with the IHL provisions or go to the database and briefers provided by the International Committee of the Red Cross if they need a refresher,” Apiag said.

Apiag said that Suazo’s disappearance is with the backdrop of an intensifying crackdown against activists and legitimate people’s organizations.

“With martial law in Mindanao, the repressive machinations led by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, and implementation of counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapanatagan, attacks against activists like Honey May have become more commonplace, justified by false allegations and smear campaigns,” he said.

Initial investigations

Karapatan SMR said it formed and dispatched an investigation team composed of paralegal after hearing of Suazo’s disappearance and submitted the following

– On the morning of November 2, All Soul’s Day, Suazo visited her relatives’ graves with her partner, Anelo Pabuaya;
– Following their visit to the cemetery in Panabo, Suazo and her partner were at a friend’s house in Barangay New Site Gredu. At around 3 in the afternoon, Suazo decided to go ahead of her partner to return to Davao City;
– A few minutes later, Suazo called her partner saying she realized she had no enough money for the bus ride and asked Pabuaya to fetch her at Panabo City Hall;
– After a while, Suazo called Pabuaya again, saying she was being tailed by a white pick-up truck. She asked Pabuaya to immediately come and fetch her. Pabuaya advised her to go to the nearest police station. When Pabuaya went to the station, he did not find Suazo. He tried to contact her mobile phone numbers but all were out of reach.

“Given her background and the widespread targeting of activists, we hold the AFP accountable on Honey May’s disappearance. We demand for the immediate surfacing of Honey May Suazo and to end all attacks of human rights defenders.,” Apiag said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)