As a multimedia group, Kodao publishes news stories, opinion essays, cartoons, photos and others here.

NDFP may respond to UN appeal for ceasefire, Joma advises

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Negotiating Panel may recommend for a unilateral ceasefire declaration in response to the United Nation’s (UN) appeal for a global truce during the corona virus disease (Covid-19) pandemic, Jose Maria Sison said.

Sison said he is advising the NDFP peace panel to recommend to its principal, the NDFP National Council, the issuance of a unilateral ceasefire declaration by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) to the New People’s Army (NPA) in response to UN secretary general Antonio Guterres’ call for a global ceasefire.

“The NDFP and the broad masses of the people themselves need to refrain from launching tactical offensives to gain more time and opportunity to fight the Covid-19 pandemic and to look after the health and over-all welfare of the people in both urban and rural areas,” Sison said.

“The world must know that long before the belated quarantine declarations and repressive measures of the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines), the NDFP and the revolutionary forces have been informing, training and mobilizing the people on how to fight the pandemic,” he added.

Guterres called for an immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world last Monday, March 23, saying it is time for humankind to put armed conflict on lockdown and focus together “on the true fight of our lives.” 

Guterres asked the warring parties to pull back from hostilities, silence the guns, stop the artillery and end the airstrikes. “This is crucial to help create corridors for life-saving aid, open windows for diplomacy and bring hope to places among the most vulnerable to #COVID19,” he said.

Sison said the UN’s appeal is what the revolutionary forces in the Philippines may respond to, instead of the “bogus unilateral ceasefire declaration of the GRP.”

He warned that reciprocating President Rodrigo Duterte’s ceasefire order may appear as “directly condoning and becoming complicit in the criminal culpabilities of the Duterte regime for allowing the Covid-19 to spread nationwide since January, for making no preparations against the pandemic and for making lockdowns on communities and yet failing to provide mass testing and treatment of the sick, food assistance and compensation for those prevented from work.”

The GRP declared a unilateral ceasefire against the CPP, the NPA, and the NDFP effective 00:00 hour of March 19 to 24:00 hours of April 15, Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo announced Wednesday evening, March 18.

Sison further advised that while the NPA can cease and desist from launching tactical offensives, it must be vigilant and be ready to act in self-defense against any tactical offensive launched by GRP military, police and paramilitary forces against its own guerrilla fronts.

He added that the GRP has persisted in launching tactical offensives and bombing of communities in the countryside as well as campaigns of red tagging, abductions and murder in the urban areas against civilians, justifying NDFP’s desistance from reciprocating Duterte’s ceasefire offer.

NDFP Negotiating Panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili told Kodao that they shall submit their recommendation to their National Council soon. # (Raymund Villanueva)

‘CPP already helping fight Covid-19 even before Duterte’s truce announcement’

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates–Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) forces are already carrying out a mass campaign to fight the corona virus disease (Covid-19) outbreak even before the Rodrigo Duterte government announced a 27-day ceasefire in line with its imposition of a lockdown, the group announced.

In a statement Thursday, March 19, the CPP said it had already issued directives to all its forces to encourage collective action to respond comprehensively and extensively to the threat of the outbreak.

“Ceasefire or not, NPA Red fighters have already been directed to step up efforts to render social, economic, medical and public health services to the people. In particular, units of the NPA are working with local people’s health committees. Red fighters and the people are coordinating efforts to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 in their areas,” the underground party said in reaction to Duterte’s unilateral ceasefire announcement Wednesday, March 17.

Malacañan Palace said government’s ceasefire is meant to allow the military and police to concentrate on helping fight the outbreak.

The CPP however said it remains to be seen if the ceasefire announcement is really to help fight the virus, more so that it appears that the military is using Duterte’s lockdown to further militarize Luzon island.

“Whether Duterte’s ceasefire order will indeed supercede previous orders to mount all-out war to crush the NPA (New People’sArmy) remains to be seen,” the CPP said.

The group revealed that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) are conducting intense combat, intelligence, psychological warfare and suppression operations in Abra, Mt. Province, Quezon, Mindoro, Masbate, Sorsogon, Camarines Sur, Capiz, Samar, Negros, Bukidnon, South Cotabato and other provinces leading to widespread abuses of human rights.

It also mentioned the “cold-blooded murder” of Party leader Julius Giron who was convalescing in Baguio City, his physician Lourdes Tan Torres and an unnamed aide last March 13.

The group said that in light of Duterte’s Covid-19 lockdown, rural peasant communities are worried that the emerging public health emergency might be used as pretext to impose even worse population control measures and economic blockade in their villages which will cause further hardships on the people.

“There is concern that Duterte’s ceasefire might be used to make available more soldiers to further reinforce the military lockdown against the population which have already caused grave hardships on the people in the National Capital Region and across the provinces,” the CPP said.

The party can issue its own unilateral ceasefire declaration in due time, when conditions or negotiations warrant such, the group added.

“At the moment, all units of the NPA are advised to remain on alert even with Duterte’s ceasefire declaration. They must remain on active defense and ready to give battle to AFP and PNP units which continue to conduct offensive operations or conduct suppression activities against the people,” it said.

The CPP advised the NPA and all its revolutionary forces to closely monitor whether the AFP and PNP actually implement their ceasefire declaration, whether troops conducting combat operations are ordered withdrawn, and whether it has put to stop aerial and human surveillance and intelligence operations, psywar and suppression activities in rural communities, conscription of paramilitary forces, forcing to “surrender,” requiring residents to render unpaid labor to construct military detachments in villages, and other military abuses.

“All units of the NPA, as well as local revolutionary organizations and committees, must promptly submit their reports to their higher commands and to the leading committees of the Party,” the CPP said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

107 pamilya sa Sampaloc, Manila, walang matuluyang bahay

Ni Sanafe Marcelo

Sinasabi ng gobyerno na manatili lamang sa bahay ang taumbayan dahil sa banta ng COVID-19 sa bansa. Ngunit ang tanong ng 107 pamilya sa Barangay 432 Zone 44 District 4 Sampaloc, Manila, paano sila papasok ng bahay kung wala naman silang bahay?

Kuha ni Sanafe Marcelo

Ayon kay Benjie Subillano, isang street vendor, binuwag o dinemolis ang bahay noong Pebrero 19 kaya nagtitiis na lamang sila na sa kalsada natutulog.

Kuha Ni Sanafe Marcelo

Dagdag ni Subillano na hindi sila natatakot sa COVID-19 dahil ang mas ikinatatakot nila ay ang kawalan ng pagkain. Wala na nga raw silang bahay ay wala pa silang hanapbuhay dahil sa lockdown. Nangangamba siya na higit na maaapektuhan ang kanilang mga anak at tiyak ang kagutuman ang haharapin ng kanyang pamilya.

Panawagan ni Subillano sa pamahalaan na sana ay matulungan sila na bigyan ng maayos na relokasyon. Aniya , “Hindi naman kami hayop, tao din kami na nahihirapan din.” #

CPP reveals Baguio raid victim was top leader, vows justice

GENEVA, Switzerland—A victim of the Baguio City raid last Friday, March 13, turned out to be a top leader of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), statements by the underground revolutionary movement in the Philippines revealed.

In a statement, the CPP said Julius Giron, one of the victims in the early morning raid, was a stalwart of the Party’s Central Committee, its Political Bureau and Executive Committee member who served the party’s central organs over the past three decades.

The underground group said Giron played a key role in reconstituting the Party’s leadership in 2014 when alleged CPP chairperson Benito Tiamzon and secretary general Wilma Tiamzon were arrested in Cebu province.

It said Giron brought together more than a hundred Party cadres to hold the Party’s Second Congress in 2016 when he was elected to the CPP’s Central Committee, its Political Bureau and as one of the key officers of its Executive Committee.

The government announced Giron’s killing, along with one Lourdes Tan Torres/Ma. Lourdes Dineros Tangco and an unnamed aide in a joint military and police operation at about 3:30 AM in Barangay Queen of Peace in Baguio City last Friday.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) claimed Giron and companions “resisted arrest, prompting authorities to retaliate in a search warrant operation.”

The CPP however said there was no fire fight and the raiding party fired at the victims at close range in an execution-style killing.

“Claims made by the military and police that they were about to serve an arrest warrant are outright lies. It was a liquidation operation, a massacre, carried out at 3 a.m. with the clear aim of assassinating Giron and eliminating all witnesses,” the CPP said.

“The entire Party and all revolutionary forces are enraged over the murder of Ka Nars,” the group added.

Stellar revolutionary career

The CPP said Giron was among the young cadres who pioneered revolutionary work in the Cordilleras and other Northern Luzon regions in the 1970s.

The group said Giron helped forged Igorot unity, and in rousing, organizing and mobilizing the national minority groups in resisting national oppression, defense of their ancestral land, and in their fight for autonomy.

Giron was in the Cordilleras during the people’s epic struggle against the Chico River Dam Project, the CPP revealed.

CPP founding chairperson Jose Maria Sison gave Giron high praises in a statement Tuesday, March 17, revealing the victim, like him, received religious tutelage from his mother and served as a sacristan to the Catholic priests in his grade school days.

Sison said Giron was a bright and sociable person in high school with plenty of friends.

“He was charismatic because he was intelligent and had a talent for singing and dancing. He also excelled at numbers and hoped to become an engineer. He enrolled in the course of Engineering in the University of the Philippines in Baguio but was able to finish only the first two years because of his heavy responsibilities as a leading activist,” Sison wrote.

He added that Giron joined the Kabataang Makabayan (KM) in 1970 and was a product of the First Quarter Storm (FQS) of 1970. Giron led the KM in Baguio City during the FQS.

“He often delighted and inspired the mass protests by reciting Amado Hernandez’s ‘Kung Tuyo Na ang Luha Mo, Aking Bayan’ to the music of ‘Ang Gabing Mapanglaw’. He helped build the Samahan ng mga Anak Pawis (SaAnPa) in Baguio City in 1970. He became an outstanding activist of the national democratic movement as he engaged in organizing workers in the transport, energy, and mining sectors,” Sison recalled.

Sison added that Giron became a member of the CPP in 1971 and assumed major responsibilities, serving with its Trade Union Bureau, participating in the organization of the CPP’s Northern Luzon Regional Party group, being designated a staff member of the Instructor’s Bureau of the CPP under the Education Department, and serving as team leader of an armed propaganda unit in Ifugao province.

Giron then went to Isabela province to instruct Political Officers of the New People’s Army (NPA) for regional and national deployment.

Giron during CPP’S Second National Congress in an undisclosed location in 2016. (CPP photo)

“As Founding Chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines and Chief Political Consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, I honor Comrade Julius Soriano Giron with the Red salute and express the highest respect and commendation for his martyrdom and for his long record as a communist leader and revolutionary fighter in the Filipino people’s struggle for national liberation and democracy,” Sison said.

He also condoled with his late comrade’s family and to all of Giron’s comrades, relatives and friends.

“I share with them profound grief over his demise and at the same the pride and joy for his lifelong and fruitful service to the people in their noble cause and struggle for national and social liberation from foreign monopoly capitalism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism,” Sison said.

“Comrade Julius served the people in the best way that he could and in the most exemplary way, died as a martyr and will therefore live forever in the hearts and minds of the people and in the continuance of the people’s democratic revolution with a socialist perspective. His murder in the hands of the armed minions of the traitorous, tyrannical, genocidal, corrupt and mendacious [Rodrigo] Duterte regime outrages the people and incites them to intensify their revolutionary struggle,” Sison said.

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Peace Negotiating Panel, its consultants, personnel and staff also extended condolences to the comrades, family, relatives and friends of Giron and his two companions.

“While in detention during the years of the Marcos dictatorship, we came to know of Comrade Julius’ artistry.  He was a good painter and headed the painting group inside prison. Indeed, his deep love for the Cordillera people is reflected in his paintings and poetry which are on display in his wake,” NDFP chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili said.

“We render the highest salute to Comrade Julius for his selfless commitment and lifelong dedication to the revolutionary movement of the people for national freedom, democracy, social justice and genuine peace,” Agcaoili said.

Peace consultant

Agcaoili revealed that Giron was one of NDFP’s senior consultants in the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines)-NDFP peace talks on social, economic and political reforms, as well as end of hostilities and disposition of forces and was in fact designated as National Consultant Number 1.

“He was holder of Document of Identification (DI) number 978410 under the name of Arnold Cruz as National Consultant 1, which entitled him to protection and immunity under the JASIG (Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees),” Agcaoili said.

“The martyrdom of Comrade Julius and his companions inspires us even more to firmly pursue the Filipino people’s struggle for national and social liberation and for genuine and lasting peace,” he added.

The CPP said it will exact justice on Giron’s killers.

“Giron was, in fact, murdered in cold blood. The perpetrators and masterminds of the assassination of the Girons are criminals. The Party and revolutionary movement will make sure that they will pay for their crime,” it said.

Giron was convalescing in Baguio due to illnesses brought about by his advanced age, the CPP said. He was 70 years old. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDFP says no need to rush into reciprocating Duterte’s unilateral ceasefire announcement

GENEVA, Switzerland—There is no clear basis for the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) to rush into reciprocating the government’s unilateral declaration of ceasefire, its chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison said.

In a statement, Sison said that while there is ongoing communication between the NDFP and Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) negotiating panels, there is yet no agreement for reciprocal unilateral ceasefires in regard to efforts in containing the corona virus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

In asking for certain “considerations, requirements and modalities” for the NDFP to think about reciprocating GRP’s unilateral ceasefire announcement, Sison said there has to be clarifications.

He added that without such understanding, the ceasefire announcement by Malacañang Palace is “premature, if not insincere and false.”

President Duterte has decided to declare a unilateral ceasefire against the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the New People’s Army (NPA), and the NDFP effective 00:00 hour of March 19 to 24:00 hours of April 15, Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo announced Wednesday evening in Manila.

According to Panelo, the President directed the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP), including the national defense as well as the interior and local government departments, to cease and desist from carrying out operations against the revolutionary forces.

Duterte last Monday publicly asked the underground communist groups for a ceasefire during the Covid-19 pandemic, promising to repay them “with a good heart in the coming days” if they agree.

Sison however said the NDFP is not assured and satisfied that the ceasefire announcement is based on national unity against Covid-19, the appropriate solution of the pandemic as a medical problem and the protection of the most vulnerable sectors of the population, including workers, health workers, those with any serious ailments and the political prisoners.

“Unless it receives sufficient assurances from the GRP, the NDFP will be inclined to think that the GRP unilateral ceasefire declaration is not sincere and is not intended to invite reciprocation by the NDFP but is meant to be a mere psywar (psychological warfare) trick,” Sison warned.

Sison pointed out that according to the people and their own forces in the Philippines, Duterte’s lack of sincerity in seeking a real ceasefire is manifested by the following”

  1. The militarist lockdown on the whole of Luzon is mean not to fight the Covid-19 pandemic but to intimidate the people, suppress democratic rights, commit human rights violations and prevent the working people from going to their workplaces, and immobilize even the health workers and people who wish to be tested and treated for Covid-19 and other serious ailments; and
  2. The AFP and the PNP continue to redtag, abduct and murder social activists, including human rights defenders, in urban areas and to unleash attacks against the people in the guerrilla fronts of the NPA.

The NDFP and the CPP earlier condemned the killing of senior cadre Julius Giron, his physician Lourdes Tan Torres and their aide last March 13 in Baguio City. Human rights activists also blamed the military for the abduction and killing of choreographer and activist Marlon Maldos last Tuesday, March 17, in De la Paz, Cortes in Bohol province.

Sison said that despite all the above, the NDFP continues to hope that Duterte orders the GRP negotiating panel come to clear terms with its counterpart “for the benefit of the people.”

“Promises of Duterte, such as doing a good turn from a good heart, can be believed only as they are realized promptly and according to a definite schedule,” he said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDFP ready to accept ceasefire request amid Covid scare, ‘if Duterte is serious’

UTRECHT, The Netherlands—The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) said it will seriously study the ceasefire request by President Rodrigo Duterte during the time of Corona Virus Disease 2019 (Covid-19) emergency despite doubts that the government’s deployment of military forces in Metro Manila is really to fight the pandemic.

NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison said that if Duterte is really serious with his request, he should make a formal offer through the government’s negotiating panel to their counterparts based in this city.

“The offer will be seriously studied by the NDFP and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). It will be related not only to the common fight against Covid-19 but also to the resumption of the peace negotiations,” Sison said.

Duterte made the ceasefire request in a speech in Malacañang Monday, March 16, asking the New People’s Army’s help in containing the disease by not attacking government soldiers.

“Ceasefire lang. Ceasefire muna tayo. Ako na ang naghihingi. Ceasefire. Kindly give me that…if you want us to be always on talking terms…during this crisis. Kindly cooperate and help. Mas mabuting tumulong na lang muna kayo. I will repay you with a good heart in the coming days,” Duterte said.

Sison said that in studying Duterte’s request, the NDFP will demand that public funds be poured into the effort to fight Covid-19 to ensure that there are adequate health workers, facilities, equipment and medicines.

NDFP Negotiating Panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili for his part said he awaits a formal request from his government counterparts if Duterte is really serious with his ceasefire request and promises.

“Of course we are always ready to accept their formal proposals,” Agcaoili said.

Sison added that “the NDFP will certainly demand that the GRP realign government spending from excessive military spending and from rampant corruption in order to pursue genuine land reform and national industrialization and expand social services, specially public health and education.”

In the meantime, the revolutionary forces and the people themselves have to undertake collective efforts to fight the Covid-19 pandemic while remaining guarded against “continuing military assaults under NTF-ELCAC (National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict) and various operational plans of the Duterte regime,” Sison said.

Sison said that Duterte has admitted in his speech that his redeployment of his military and police to urban areas would leave a vacuum and will allow the NPA to increase its tactical offensives in the countryside. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Rights defenders tell UN of many rights violations in PH

GENEVA, Switzerland—A team of Filipino rights defenders here are preparing for another busy week calling for investigations by the United Nations (UN) on the state of human rights in the Philippines.

With three oral interventions one after the other last Friday, March 6, and another last Monday, March 2, the Ecumenical Voice for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines (EcuVoice) strongly urged the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to pass another resolution in June to look into various reports of many rights violations by the Rodrigo Duterte government.

But contrary to the confrontational stance employed by the government Mission in the ongoing 43rd UNHRC session here, the four speakers from EcuVoice unanimously supported the reports presented by UN special rapporteurs.

EcuVoice delegation co-leader and Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said last Friday that she welcomes the report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders that noted “wide-ranging and cumulative violation of the rights of defenders.”

“This rings true in my particular case and that of human rights defenders of Karapatan. Twelve of my colleagues were killed by suspected State forces under the current administration, three have been arrested the past four months, and many more are facing trumped up charges. Women defenders face misogynist attacks, driven by discriminatory pronouncements of government officials,” Palabay said.

Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay addressing UNHRC’s 43rd Regular Session.

Johanna dela Cruz of the National Council of Churches of the Philippines said they are also grateful for the report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders and support his conclusions and recommendations.

Dela Cruz said church people’s rights in the Philippines are violated, primarily those “doing their Christian mandate and mission of ministering to the poor and the marginalized. Bishops and Parish priests, particularly from the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI), were red-tagged, harassed by soldiers implicating them as rebels.”

National Council of Churches in the Philippines’s Johanna dela Cruz addressing UNHRC’s 43rd Regular Session.

EcuVoice head and International Association of Democratic Lawyers interim president Edre Olalia for his part reported to the UNHRC that in the 44 months of the Duterte administration, at least 48 lawyers including judges and prosecutors have been murdered.

“Human rights lawyers like Ben Ramos as well as lawyers handling drug-related cases continue to be brazenly attacked in various forms. Orchestrated smear campaigns and vilification by red-tagging, labelling and reprisal charges against human rights defenders at every opportunity continue with impunity,” Olalia said.

The three defender’s reports Friday brings to four the successful oral interventions presented by EcuVoice before the UNHRC.

Last Monday, Clemente Bautista of Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment reported that there are serious challenges to life, security and liberty of environmental defenders in the Philippines, “which redound to transgressions on the rights to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environmental of communities, including that of indigenous peoples and peasants.”

Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment’s Clemente Bautista addressing UNHRC’s 43rd Regular Session.

“It must be noted that the EcuVoice delegation have welcomed all the UN special rapporteurs’ reports presented thus far, quite different from the bellicose stance of the Philippine government in the ongoing debates,” Olalia said.

This week, the UNHRC is scheduled to hear reports and oral interventions on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights as well as reports on minorities despite a growing scare of the spread of the corona virus disease (COVID) in this country brought about by 24 confirmed cases.

COVID has also spread in neighboring France and Italy, prompting overseas and migrant Filipino workers to express travel and work concerns that are likely to be affected by stringent measures imposed on border crossings.

All side events at the UN in this city have been cancelled that has severely affected restaurant and café businesses of Filipino expatriates in this city. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘Why is the government picking fights at the UN?’ PH rights defenders ask

GENEVA, Switzerland—A group of Filipino rights defenders here criticized the approach being taken by the Philippine government to the ongoing 43rd session of the UN Human Rights Council they said “consistently challenges recommendations made by UN experts.”

The Ecumenical Voice for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines (EcuVoice) delegation said that in its two oral interventions this week, the government challenged the report of both UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism Fionnuala Ní Aoláin and UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Michel Forst “in a rather impertinent tone.”

“We are amused and amazed with the way the Philippine government is comporting itself in this arena of international dialogue and diplomacy by directly challenging not just the reports but the Special Rapporteurs themselves,” EcuVoice delegation co- head Cristina Palabay said.

“Madam Special Rapporteur, you have addressed in your report the need for due diligence policies within the UN system to ensure that practices on countering terrorism and extremism are compliant with international human rights law. However, do you also see the need for a similar due diligence review by the UN and international organizations to ensure that funding support are not channelled by organizations towards actors professing terrorism?” the government Mission said.

The government also challenged some of the concerns raised by Aoláin by saying her suggestions “merit a more serious thought and debate, to ask in particular, if these concerns can hold their weight against realities on the ground.”

Aoláin in her report concluded that many violent extremism prevention programmes worldwide are directly contributing to human rights violations and may even foster radicalization instead of preventing it.

Aoláin also encouraged the entire UN to review its entire counter-terrorism architecture to better protect human rights and the rule of law when they support and member countries’ programmes.

“But look at how the government acts so defensively at well-intentioned reports that it reacts so vociferously, violently even, to general recommendations that are not particularly directed at the Philippines. Such defensiveness often betrays guilt,” EcuVoice head Atty. Edre Olalia said.

Earlier last Wednesday, the government also challenged UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Michel Forst’s report by telling him to investigate human rights defenders instead, EcuVoice said.

EcuVoice said Presidential Communications Operations Office secretary Martin Andanar set the tone last week for the government’s stance at the ongoing sessions by trying to mislead the international community with his “ludicrous if only it is not perilous” spins and slants on press freedom.

“Because the entire world now sees the many thousands of dead bodies on Philippine streets killed by the so-called war against illegal drugs and disapproves official hate speech and reprisals against critics and dissenters, it is apparent that the Duterte administration has chosen that the best defense is an offense in the UN,” Olalia said.

EcuVoice spearheaded the submission of several reports of human rights violations under the Rodrigo Duterte government to the 43rd UNHRC Regular Session in this city in accordance with the Iceland-led resolution of July 2019 calling for investigations in the Philippines.

Commission on Human Rights chairperson Chito Gascon is also expected to attend the sessions here next week and to file his agency’s report on the state of human rights in the past 44 months of the Duterte administration. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

[Disclosure: Aside from covering the regular session, the reporter, himself a victim of red-tagging, intended to present an oral intervention as an alternative and human rights journalist.]

EcuVoice: PH government exporting red-tagging in Geneva

GENEVA, Switzerland—A group of rights defenders called on the Philippine Mission to the ongoing 43rd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council here to just answer questions about the human rights situation in the Philippines instead of engaging in red-baiting.

“The Philippine Government must focus on explaining to the international community why rights defenders are being killed and arrested, members of the Ecumenical Voice for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines (EcuVoice) delegation said.

Reacting to the government Mission’s statement Wednesday, March 5, at the Palais des Nations, EcuVoice said the government must also stop recklessly accusing killed and threatened human rights defenders as supporters of communists.

“How are vilifying human rights defenders as terrorists a justification to the fact that many of us are under threat of unjust arrests and are being killed by the security forces of the Duterte government?” EcuVoice delegation co-head and Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.

The group said that while paying lip service to UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders Michel Forst’s report on the invaluable contribution of human rights defenders, the government accused rights activists in the Philippines of “[using] the cover of human rights defenders to protect, cover, or promote agendas of deceit and violence.”

The government further accused Filipino “communists” of benefitting from and exploiting the goodwill that the United Nations system endows human rights defenders.

 “Mr. Forst, you have mentioned the need to address impunity and provide effective remedy, what would you advice in such situation where unscrupulous groups are using the defender badge as an impunity blanket to evade accountability from gross human rights violations?” the government self-righteously taunted.

“This red-tagging spree being exported by the government in the august halls of the UN Human Rights Council is ad nauseam and reflects not only the paucity of its arguments but the bankruptcy of its moral ground in the community of nations.

“Enough already. Just answer the questions please, “EcuVoice team leader Atty. Edre Olalia said.

The EcuVoice delegation is in this city to follow up on at least written submissions related to the Iceland-led resolution in July 2019 calling for an investigation on human rights violations under the Rodrigo Duterte government.

Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment international networks coordinator Clemente Bautista successfully presented an oral intervention on the killings of environmental defenders last Monday, March 2.

Other delegation members include a human rights worker facing arrest when she returns home, a congresswoman whose partylist is villified, a widow of a slain human rights lawyera bishop who is facing death threats, a mother whose two sons were murdered in the “drug war,” a lawyer who is labelled and his group viciously smeared a journalist whose peers are being pressured, and this reporter whose colleagues are facing various threats. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NUJP to hold nationwide candle-lighting activities for press freedom

(UPDATED)

National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) chapters all over the Philippines will hold candle-lighting activities later today, Friday, February 28, to press for media freedom and the franchise renewal of embattled media network ABS-CBN.

To coincide with a mini-concert infront of ABS-CBN’s headquarters in Quezon City are candle-lighting activities in the network’s stations in General Santos City, Davao City, Cagayan de Oro City, and Zamboanga City in Mindanao.

The island-wide coordinated activity marks the start of similar actions in support and solidarity with ABS-CBN reporters and media workers, the NUJP said.

A similar activity will be held in the network’s Northern Luzon stations in Baguio City and Dagupan City, as well as in Bacolod and Iloilo cities in the Visayas.

NUJP Bacolod and Iloilo chapters have started their protest actions several weeks ago and both have complained of surveillance by suspected military intelligence personnel during and after their activities.

NUJP chapters in Sorsogon, Surigao del Sur and Batangas shall also hold activities in support of the press freedom campaign.

In Quezon City, NUJP and its allied organizations as well as ABS-CBN workers and supporters will hold a mini-concert as part of its seventh consecutive Friday protests.

The NUJP started their protest actions against threats to block the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise last January 17 after reports that Solicitor General Jose Calida was set to file a quo warranto petition against the network.

Calida eventually filed the petition this month as well as a gag order petition in a bid to stop network representatives from publicly commenting on the issue.

The NUJP has since conducted and led 11 activities that compelled both Malacañan Palace and Congress to address concerns of harassments.

The group said its call for ABS-CBN franchise renewal is in defense of press freedom and the jobs of the network’s 11 thousand workers.

In a Senate hearing last February 24, ABS-CBN chief executive officer Carlo Katigbak apologized for “hurting” President Rodrigo Duterte’s feelings but explained that the network failed to broadcast PhP7 million worth of campaign advertisements in 2016 only due to election rules.

Duterte last Wednesday publicly accepted the network’s apology that prompted legislators to call on House of Representatives Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano to schedule hearings for bills on ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)