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UP Regent: Rapist and murderer Sanchez does not deserve release

An official of the University of the Philippines (UP) opposed the possible early release of convicted rapist and murderer Antonio Sanchez who, earlier announcements said, may be eligible for parole next month.

A statement posted by the office of UP Student Regent John Isaac Punzalan said it condemns plans for Sanchez’s early release from prison.

“We are one with the families of the victims, the rest of the UP community, and the people in demanding full justice for Eileen and Allan and not allowing the release of the rapist and murderer Sanchez. He does not deserve the early release as evident in the violations he committed inside the prison,” the statement reads.

The former Calauan, Laguna mayor was convicted in 1995 for the abduction, rape and murder of Eileen Sarmenta and the torture and murder of her boyfriend Allan Gomez, both UP Los Baños students as well as the earlier murder of father and son Nelson and Rickson Peñalosa in 1996.

Sanchez was sentenced with a total of nine counts of reclusion perpetua, which is equivalent to up to 40 years in prison each.

He has only served 25 years.

Sanchez’s remaining time in prison may be “recomputed” after displaying “good conduct,” an earlier government announcement said.

But the UP official said Sanchez was found to be in possession of P1.5 million worth of shabu and reported to have violated other prison regulations such as keeping a flat screen television set and an airconditioning unit while in jail.

Public outcry against Sanchez’s possible early release heightened after Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said that his former client’s inclusion among the roughly 11,000 inmates to benefit from the 2013 Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) law and a Supreme Court ruling that made the law retroactive is “automatic.”

Senator Ronald dela Rosa also invited widespread opposition to the planned move when he said that Sanchez “deserves a second chance.”

Seemingly reacting to the outcry, Bureau of Corrections chief Nicanor Faeldon, however, said Thursday that Sanchez’s early release is not yet a done deal.

The UP Student Regent’s office said Sanchez’s planned early release is proof that the justice system in the country is “rotting as ever, only seeking to side with the oppressors and those in power.”

“They’re criminalizing human rights advocates and activists but they’re letting rapists, murderers, and plunderers walk free,” the Regent’s statement says. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Court denies gov’t move to jail Satur anew

A Manila Court denied a motion by government prosecutors to jail journalist and former Bayan Muna representative Satur Ocampo anew, saying Ocampo’s bail bond remains in effect until proceedings on a murder charge against him has been terminated.

In an order dated Monday, August 19, Presiding Judge Thelma Bunyi-Medina of the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 32 said she finds no reason to issue a recommitment order against Ocampo.

“Plainly, the grant of bail to accused-movant Ocampo is not subject to any other condition, except that its effectivity is until the termination of the proceedings of this case,” Bunyi-Medina’s order reads.

The Court is hearing the murder charge against Ocampo for allegedly ordering the mass murder of at least 15 individuals alleged by the military as victims of a supposed purge by the Communist Party of the Philippines in the mid-1980s.

Ocampo has repeatedly said that the charge was laughable, explaining that he was still in jail in 1984 when government witnesses alleged that he gave the order in an underground meeting in Leyte.

In a motion to the court last June 12, government prosecutors argued Ocampo abused his provisional liberty when he was involved in the alleged kidnapping of Lumad children who fled their homes in Talaingod, Davao del Norte last November.

Ocampo, along with Act Teachers’ Party Representative France Castro, were charged with violations of Republic Act No. 10364 or the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2012 before Branch 2 of the Tagum City RTC.

“This renders him unworthy of the temporary liberty granted to him,” the prosecutors said.

Ocampo (center) reads the order junking the government’s appeal to jail him anew. Jailed National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace consultants Vicente Ladlad (left) and Adelberto Silva (right) look on. (Photo by Atty Kristina Conti/PILC)

Ocampo and Castro, however, said they did not go to Talaingod to kidnap the children but to show their support to the Lumad who fled Sitio Nasilaban, Barangay Palma Gil in Talaingod after elements of the 56th Infantry Battallion of the Philippine Army and the Alamara paramilitary band forcibly closed down their community school.

Through his Public Interest Law Center (PILC) lawyers, Ocampo said they were allowed to post bail after their arrest and the case is in a pre-trial stage at the Tagum City Regional Trial Court.

“The prosecution maliciously insinuates that accused Ocampo is already guilty of kidnapping and child abuse, while he is entitled to a presumption of innocence,” the PILC said in their oppostion to the government prosecutors’ move.

Judge Bunyi-Medina agreed with Ocampo’s lawyers, saying “[A]s admitted by the prosecution, said case is still pending before Branch 2 of the [RTC] of Tagum City, Davao del Norte, nor was it shown that a warrant of arrest was issued against him.”

The PILC said the motion by the government prosecutors is “politically motivated and legally baseless.”

“Ka Satur has weathered through some 12 cases – none of which he has been convicted in, all false and trumped-up,” the PILC said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Injustices breed activism, teachers tell Bato and Albayalde

The Filipino people’s intensifying poverty and other social injustices drive students to activism, a teachers group said in response to accusations they encourage their students to join rallies.

Replying to accusations by Senator Bato dela Rosa and police chief Oscar Albayalde that teachers encourage “anti-government” sentiments among students and the youth, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers said it is not the teachers’ fault but poverty, corruption and human rights violations under the Rodrigo Duterte government.

The two officials separately blamed the teachers following a Senate hearing where dela Rosa presented parents who complained that their children have left home and joined activist organizations.

Dela Rosa and Albayalde said teachers should “just do their jobs and not make students turn against the government.”

Dela Rosa went as far as ask that teachers who encourage students to join rallies must be fired.

“They should be removed. Parents enter [sic] their students there [in schools] to become professionals, not to fight the government,” Dela Rosa said.

Albalyalde, for his part accused the teachers of brainwashing their students.

“What they should stop [doing] is brainwash[ing] the students. You are a teacher, you act like a teacher,” Albayalde said.

Their statement did not sit well with the teachers.

What the teachers are doing

 “The two officials are not in the position to lecture us on our jobs. Their stances show that they have very little appreciation of the objectives of education,” ACT national chairperson Joselyn Martinez retorted in a statement Friday, August 16.

Martinez  said teachers are teaching their students patriotism, love of humanity, human rights, heroism, history, rights and duties of citizens, ethical and spiritual values, moral character and personal discipline, critical and creative thinking, scientific and technological knowledge and vocational efficiency as mandated by the Philippine Constitution.

“It is not the teachers’ fault if the government leadership acts in contrast to the values upheld by education. They should not blame us if the youth calls out the government for the ills that they see in society. We are only doing our job,” she explained.

Martinez said that the government should not find fault in teachers encouraging students to attend rallies as these are “real-life events that hold many learnings for the students.”

“It exposes our students to people from different walks of life who have grievances that are worth hearing. It helps broaden the youth’s view of our society and offers education that cannot be learned inside the classroom and from textbooks,” Martinez said.

It is the two officials who should show respect instead of preventing the youth from exercising their rights, the teacher said.

Part of democracy

Martinez hit dela Rosa and Albayalde for “demonizing activism and rallies which are basic constitutional rights of the people, including students and teachers.”

“In the guise of attempting to curb armed rebellion, dela Rosa and Albayalde are in effect discrediting the fundamental rights of the people to free expression, self-organization and to protest. It is them who are not doing their jobs as being government officials, their constitutional duty is to respect and uphold such rights,” Martinez said.

“Rallying is not a crime. It appears that dela Rosa’s and Albayalde’s rants all boil down to this administration’s intolerance of dissent. They should stop in their desperate bid to silence critics. We’re in a democracy after all,” Martinez said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Peace talks resumption possible if Duterte abandons ‘fascist dictatorship’—Sison, CPP

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) said that the resumption of formal peace negotiations between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) remain doubtful due to the lack of “conducive conditions.”

The CPP said that while public clamor for the resumption of the talks remains strong, peace talks cannot be resumed as long as President Rodrigo Duterte’s 2017 proclamation terminating peace negotiations remains in place.

In November 23, 2017, Duterte issued Proclamation 360 terminating the peace negotations and creating a task force to end insurgency, reintroducing the whole-of-nation approach employed by previous administrations.

The CPP said the situation created by the GRP’s intensified anti-insurgency program is made worse by widespread killings by Duterte’s agents in Negros and across the country, “continuing incarceration of leading NDFP consultants as well as the recent arrest and detention of two members of the NDFP peace staff.”

In his speech in Malacañan Thursday, August 8, Duterte claimed the NDFP asked him to resume the peace negotiations.

“They are insisting on resuming the talks. And the others, I will not mention the name, want to come home to talk,” Duterte said during the oath-taking of newly promoted star-rank police officers.

“Two of them. As a matter of fact, sabihin ko na, si (Luis) Jalandoni pati si (Fidel) Agcaoili,” he said.

NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison, however, said Duterte is completely wrong in presuming and implying that the revolutionary Left will negotiate with his regime under his unilateral terms.

Sison said that Duterte is mistaken in saying that NDFP Negotiating Panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili and senior adviser Luis Jalandoni want to talk with him in Manila despite the president’s termination of the talks as well as his Proclamation 374 designating the CPP and the New People’s Army (NPA) as so-called terrorist organizations.

Sison also cited Duterte’s Executive Order No. 70 ordering intensified military operations against NPA strongholds in Bicol, Samar and Negros, as well as “so many other despotic issuances and actions that are obstacles to GRP-NDFP peace negotiations.”

“There is yet no sign whatsoever that he is abandoning his scheme of fascist dictatorship, which is quite overreaching, especially because of his deteriorating health and the rapidly approaching end of his rule either by ouster or end of his legal term in less than three years,” Sison said in a statement.

“GRP-NDFP peace negotiations and the Manila visit of Agcaoili and Jalandoni are impossible so long as Duterte is in power and does not remove the aforesaid obstacles that he himself is responsible for,” Sison revealed.

Sison added that Duterte “underestimates the revolutionary integrity, long experience and intelligence of the NDFP by presuming that Agcaoili and Jalandoni will walk into his trap and slaughterhouse in Manila.”

Both Sison and the CPP said the NDFP maintains the policy of keeping its doors always open to peace negotiations, heedful of the clamor of various sectors for the resumption of peace negotiations amid Duterte’s all-out war.

Sison, however, pointed out that GRP-NDFP peace negotiations are only possible if Duterte does away with the “obstacles” he has made and mends his ways.

Sison added that the The Hague Joint Declaration and further peace agreements must be reaffirmed if the negotiations are to be resumed. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Group reports continuing surveillance on wounded journalist

Brandon Lee, the journalist and human rights activist shot and seriously injured by unidentified assailants in front of his home in Lagawe, Ifugao Tuesday night is being surveiled at the Baguio General Hospital, the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) said.

“Security guards at the hospital alerted us that a certain George Malidow of the [AFP], introducing himself as from Camp Henry Allen in Baguio, was asking for details about Brandon’s case,” the CHRA said in its alert.

“This was brought to our attention as this is not regular protocol for the AFP to be monitoring and investigating such case,” the group added.

Camp Allen is a military camp in the heart of the Cordilleran capital that once served as the site of the Philippine Military Academy.

Hospitals, meanwhile, are designated neutral zones by human rights statutes and local and international humanitarian organizations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross/Crescent.

Lee was brought to Baguio last night from Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya after being initially brought to a local hospital in Lagawe after the attack.

The CHRA said Lee is conscious and able to talk but is in need of type O+ blood donations.

He suffered four gunshot wounds on his torso, reports said.

Lee is a United States citizen, married to a Filipino and a permanent resident of the Philippines. They have a seven-year old daughter.

CHRA photo

Red-tagging victim

Lee, a red-tagging victim of the AFP since 2015, is the Ifugao provincial correspondent of the Baguio-based media outfit Northern Dispatch.

He is also a paralegal of the CHRA, the Ifugao Peasant Movement and the Justice and Peace Advocates of Ifugao, all of which have reported threats and harassments by members of the 54th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army for weeks prior to the attack.

The soldiers gathered data by interrogating and intimidating the organizations’ members and staff, the CHRA reported after Lee’s shooting.

The Philippine Army team was headed by a certain 1Lt Karol Jay R. Mendoza while its Civil-Military Operations head is a certain Lt.Col. Narciso B. Nabulneg, Jr. who both invoked President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order 70 in their interrogations, the group added.

Duterte’s EO 70 issued last December created a task force to combat insurgency that human rights organizations blame for the killing of activists across the country.

Condemnations

Meanwhile, Bayan Muna Reps. Eufemia Cullamat and Carlos Isagani Zarate today strongly condemned the attack against Lee, who they describe as “one of the noted volunteers of the Ifugao Peasant Movement and well-loved by the peasant and indigenous peoples in the Cordillera.”

“It seems like that the dark army and mad dogs of the government that are responsible for the killings of thousands in the anti-drug campaign are now after activists, people’s lawyers, community organizers, and other human rights workers,” Zarate said in a statement.

 “Brandon Lee’s assasination attempt is revealing of the type of government that we have when it threatens death to people like him, who serves the poor peasant and indigenous peoples so selflessly. We should not allow this to continue. This madness must stop and should be investigated promptly, and the perpetrators be brought to justice,” the House Deputy Minority Leader said.

The Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA) for its part said it holds State security forces that the Duterte administration has let loose in the Cordillera region – the 54th IBPA, the 5th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army and the Northern Luzon Command—acountable for the attack.

‘We urgently call on the people to voice out your concern and call for justice for Brandon and other human rights violations victims. The attacks on human rights defenders must end,” the CPA said.

The group announced it will hold a social media rally on Twitter and Facebook for Lee at five to eight o’clock Wednesday evening using the hashtags #Justice4BrandonLee and #StoptheAttacks. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Journalist seriously wounded in gun attack

(Updated: 10:00 pm, August 6)

A journalist and human rights defender is seriously wounded after being shot by unidentified gunmen in front of his house in Lagawe, Ifugao at six o’clock tonight, Tuesday, August 6.

Brandon Lee, Ifugao correspondent of Baguio City-based media outfit Northern Dispatch and paralegal volunteer of both the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) and the Ifugao Peasant Movement (IPM), was immediately taken to a local hospital for treatment.

He was later transferred to a bigger hospital in the neighboring province of Nueva Vizcaya, a source informed Kodao.

In a statement, the CHRA said the 54th Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army frequented Lee’s residence as well as the offices of both the IPM and the Justice and Peace Advocates of Ifugao, of which he is also a member, for weeks prior to tonight’s shooting.

The soldiers gathered data by interrogating and intimidating the organizations’ members and staff, the CHRA reported.

The Philippine Army team was headed by a certain 1Lt Karol Jay R. Mendoza while its Civil-Military Operations head is a certain Lt.Col. Narciso B. Nabulneg, Jr. who both invoked President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order 70 in their interrogations, the group added.

Duterte’s EO 70 issued last December created a task force to combat insurgency that human rights organizations blame for the killing of activists across the country.

In the task force’s launch in Camp Bado Dangwa in La Trinidad, Benguet last May 24, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police jointly identified Ifugao Province as a “priority target in the anti-insurgency campaign.”

Brandon Lee (Photo from his Facebook account)

In 2015, Lee was among the IPM members and staff accused of being New People’s Army members.

Lee’s media outfit, Northern Dispatch, had also been a victim of red-tagging by the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency.

Lee first became Northern Dispatch’s correspondent in 2010.

Other sources told Kodao that Lee’s IPM colleagues are currently under surveillance from unidentified men, preventing them from visiting Lee at the hospital. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Election commissioner Guanzon reveals threats from ‘Satanas’ Cardema

Election commissioner Rowena Guanzon accused former youth commissioner Ronald Cardema of issuing threats against her following the cancellation the latter’s nomination as the group Duterte Youth’s representative to the 18th Congress.

“[A]nother threat. “NAGMAMALINIS KA PA, IKAW DIN ANG MAY GAWA…SATANAS!” Guanzon said on her Twitter account Tuesday afternoon, August 6.

Guanzon tagged Cardeman’s Twitter handle in her post, adding “@RonaldCardema you will still deny this is from your gang of thugs?”

Guanzon’s tweet Tuesday afternoon.

Guanzon did not elaborate on the new threat.

Last July 18, Guazon announced receiving a threat via an anonymous text, saying “kapag inipit mo pa din kame at di pa din kame nakaupo ilalabas namin part 2 ng series mo at papakasohan ka pa namen.”

The First Division of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) granted petitions by various groups to cancel Cardema’s nomination, announced by Guanzon on her Facebook account last Monday, August  5.

“[T]his Commission reiterates its unmistakable conclusion based on facts, law and jurisprudence, that Respondent Ronald Gian Carlo L. Cardema is not eligible for nomination to represent Duterte Youth in the House of Representatives,” the decision reads, signed by Guanzon and fellow commissioner Marlon Casquejo.

Casquejo wrote the decision, Guazon revealed in another tweet.

In yet another tweet, Guazon added that the circumstances surrounding the withdrawal of all five Duterte Youth nominees and the subsequent nomination of Cardema speak resoundingly of a clear attempt not just to circumvent the law and the rules, but also to hide from the electorate Cardema’s ineligibility as nominee.

Cardema has yet to reply to Guanzon’s tweets.

In a statement, the Comelec Employees Union condemned the new threat against Guanzon.

“We say hands-off Commissioner Guanzon. We call on all parties concerned to respect the decision of the Comelec 1st Division,” the union, through its president Mac Ramirez, said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Despite orders, PNP refuses to free NDFP peace talks staff

National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace talks staff Alex and Winona Birondo have yet to be freed by the Philippine National Police from detention despite orders by Quezon City Prosecutor’s Office (QCPO) for their release from detention, their lawyers reported.

In a press statement, the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) said the couple were due for release last Friday, August 2, after charges against them by policemen failed to prosper in court.

Two sets of charges against the Birondos have been referred from inquest to preliminary investigation by the prosecutors allowing their release from detention, the PILC said through its managing counsel Atty Rachel Pastores.

“In separate orders, prosecutors were hard put to find probable cause against the Birondos who were accused first of obstruction of justice and direct assault and later of illegal possession of firearms and explosives,” Pastores said.

“Significantly, there is no evidence on record which shows that respondents were ever found of seen living in or were ever inside the searched premises where the items were found,” Assistant City Prosecutor Eviess JSA Acorda said in her resolution obtained by Kodao.

The prosecutor was referring to the firearms, ammunition and explosives the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) claimed they found in the Barangay Mariblo apartment were the Birondos were arrested last July 23.

On the charges that the Birondos assaulted police officers who raided their apartment, the QCPO in another resolution said the police did not only fail to mention if they identified themselves as PNP members during the incident but they also failed to fully explain how the couple were able to block the four officers.

“We take note of the fact that there were four arresting officers vis a vis the two respondents. Considering the disparity in numbers, there should be an explanation as to how the respondents actually blocked their way,” the second resolution, signed by Assistant City Prosecutor Arceli Bagsac, said.

Both resolutions directed the QCPD to release the elderly and ailing Birondos.

The PILC condemned the police’s refusal to follow the legal orders, saying that while the police have been quick to the draw with the arrest, but slow pokes when it comes to releases.

“Despite the clear orders, the Birondos remain in detention at Camp Caringal, with the police citing procedural requirements,” Pastores said.

“The police have been caught up in their own yarn of lies, which were starkly exposed under legal scrutiny,” she added.

Pastores said the police face significant counter-suits for violation of administrative procedures and criminal laws.

She also called on the government to stop the filing of trumped-up charges against those involved in the peace talks. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NUJP-Bacolod chairperson tailed by ‘suspicious rider’

National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP)—Bacolod Chapter chairperson Marchel Espina reported being tailed by a “suspicious motorcycle rider” while on assignment in Negros Oriental Sunday afternoon, August 4.

While returning from Canlaon City, Espina’s driver told her that they were being followed by a motorcycle rider, “who was of medium build and wore a bonnet concealing his face, a black jacket and pants and with a backpack.”

Espina was pursuing stories about the killings of civilians in Negros Island believed to be the result of the government’s intensified counter-insurgency drive.

Espina reports for Rappler.

Espina said the rider had tailed them for almost 18 kilometers, from Biak Na Bato to Taburda in La Castellana town.

She quoted her driver as saying he blocked an attempt by the rider to overtake their rental car and drove as fast as he could until they eventually lost the tail.

Motorcycle-riding gunmen have been reported as the perpetrators of many killings in the entire island in the past weeks.

At least 21 civilians were killed in Negros Oriental in the past two weeks, many by motorcycle riders. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Alert broadcaster thwarts ‘warrantless arrest’ attempts by soldiers

A former station manager of a Bukidnon radio station frustrated attempts by government soldiers to bring her to their military camp without a warrant.

Members of the 1st Special Forces Battalion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines harassed former Radyo Lumad station manager Kristin Lim since Saturday, August 3, and even engaged village leaders to convince  her to give herself up, to no avail.

Soldiers on board a military truck arrived at Lim’s home in Damilag, Bukidnon at 8:30 Saturday night and “invited” her to their camp for “questioning.” They were led by a 1st Lieutenant Baquial.

Lim refused after Baquial failed to present a warrant of arrest or a “valid and clear reason,” the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines in Northern Mindanao Region (RMP-NMR) said in an alert.

The troopers, however, were back early Sunday morning, insisting that Lim surrender herself.

The RMP-NMR said the soldiers were using the same tactic they used in the so-called capture of civilians Gloria Jandayan and Gleceria Balangiao who were later presented by the battalion as fake New People’s Army surrenderees.

The soldiers later asked members of barangays council to help convince Lim to be “summoned” to the military camp because of “her knowledge of the Left.”

Lim still refused, the RMP-NMR reported, agreeing to a dialogue only in the presence of a legal counsel.

RMP-NMR added that Barangay chairperson Jun Torres eventually agreed with Lim and in turn told the soldiers that they can summon her at the village hall as long as her safety is assured.

Other members of the council and the homeowners’ association also demanded that soldiers stop visiting their village on board military trucks as “the soldiers make it look like they are pursuing a dangerous criminal or terrorist.”

Red-tagged

Lim was hired as Radyo Lumad station manager in July 2018 until its temporary closure in January this year “due to threats and harassments.”

Radyo Lumad was located in Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon, a community radio station focused on reporting on indigenous peoples’ rights and welfare.

The radio station was part of RMP-NMR’s Healing the Hurt Project with the European Union and the World Association for Christian Communication.

(Disclosure: Kodao Productions was hired as training partner of the Radyo Lumad Project.)

Lim said the radio station decided to temporarily close due to persistent threats and harassments against its staff.

Earlier this year, Lim was among those red-tagged in flyers distributed in Cagayan de Oro City along with lawyers, journalists, church workers, indigenous peoples’ leaders and activists. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)