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Filipina mom flees Gaza with 7 children, hopes to reunite with Palestinian husband

By Angel L. Tesorero / Khaleej Timesby Angel Tesorero

Marlene and her seven children successfully evacuated war-torn Gaza last November and are back in her home country. Like other evacuees, they were given $1,400 in cash aid by the Philippine government and were housed in a hotel for a couple of days upon arrival in her home country.

While safe from the rockets and bullets of the zionists, Marlene finds its hard to take care of her children aged  15, 13, 11, 9, 7, 5 and 3 years old alone. Her Palestinian husband Amjad is in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as an expat who wishes to bring the entire family to join him soonest.

Money running out

When the Philippine government’s temporary shelter to Gaza evacuees ended, Marlene was assisted by the Philippine-Palestine Friendship Association (PPFA) to look for accommodations elsewhere. They are renting a room in Cavite Province and the aid money they received is already running out.

“Worse, the children are still traumatized by the war,” added Marlene, noting, “Even the sound of the metallic electric fan brought my young sons to tears at night because it sounded like drones. My second child also wakes up in the middle of the night and cries. They are afraid of fireworks and the sound of airplanes.”

The children and their mom were living with Marlene’s in-laws in Deir Al Balah (a city in central Gaza Strip) when Israel escalated its attacks. Escaping heavy bombardment, they hurriedly left the house with nothing but the clothes they were wearing, mismatched slippers, and a bag containing their passports.

Emergency kit

“The bag was our emergency kit – I had prepared it a long time ago because, in the past two years, I have experienced four intermittent conflicts and airstrikes, and I was told by neighbors to put all our passports in one bag and run whenever we hear a warning siren,” she added.

No one died in the shelling, but Marlene was hit by a shrapnel near her abdomen. Marlene and the kids sought refuge in Rafah, southern Gaza, on October 15. The in-laws, aged 75 and 73, decided to stay behind.

The situation in Rafah was no different and after two weeks, they moved back to Deir Al Balah, only to experience another airstrike. Marlene and the kids were again lucky and escaped alive. They then moved back to Rafah until the border with Egypt was opened and the first batch of refugees were evacuated.

Marlene and her seven children arrived in the Philippines on November 10 last year. Her in-laws decided to remain in Deir Al Balah because even the 20-km journey to Rafah was too much for them.

Marlene shared: “My in-laws said they were ready to face any fate that befell them. When our house was bombed for the third time, my 73-year-old mother-in-law just lay down on the floor in fear. She could not run, her body was trembling. She laid down and prayed. Thankfully, my father-in-law arrived and dragged her safely out of the house. The five-floor building was leveled to the ground with only one room remaining, where the two of them are now staying.”

Schooling disrupted

The schooling of the six younger children was entirely disrupted by the punitive war, that has so far claimed more than 22,000 lives and displaced 90 per cent of the Palestinian population.

Marlene and Amjad’s children, except the eldest, were born in the UAE, and have studied in Ajman’s Al Hikmah School (except for the 5-year-old and 3-year-old, who have yet to enter school). The family lived in Sharjah until 2020, when they visited Gaza and got stranded there because of the pandemic. Their UAE residence visas lapsed and only Amjad was able to return after finding work in the country in 2021. Since the kids can only speak Arabic and English, they cannot attend a Philippine school.

However, it was not all bad news for Marlene. Her eldest daughter, who is a very bright student, bagged a scholarship at a university in Switzerland, where she will continue her senior high school education until college.

Return to homeland

“But living in Gaza turned out good for my family, because it was there that my children truly found a home,” Marlene said poignantly, adding: “They felt they belonged, they were happy living with their cousins, they went to school and made new friends. They were happy. Until the war happened.”

Amjad is now working on bringing his entire family to the UAE. He said he sought assistance from charity organizations and school authorities to help send his children to school.

He is also praying that one day the family will be able to return to their homeland. #

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This report was original to the Khaleej Times where the author is a senior deputy editor.

CPP on AFP’s claim of strategic victory over the NPA: ‘Dream on’

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) dismissed claims by Manila government security officials the New People’s Army (NPA) has already been strategically defeated, describing the declarations are nothing more than dreamland statements.

In a reaction to an online press briefing by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) last Wednesday, the CPP branded as ludicrous government claims that all but 14 “weakened guerilla fronts” of the NPA have been dismantled.

“This is pure wishful thinking on the part of the US-Marcos regime. It is a desperate attempt to fool the people and dampen their spirit of resistance,” the CPP said in a statement.

‘Zero active guerilla fronts’

In the briefing, NTF-ELCAC executive director Ernesto Torres Jr. said there are “zero active guerrilla fronts” and only 14 weakened units of the NPA remain. NTF-ELCAC said six guerilla fronts had recently been dismantled.

Torres did not identify the locations of the so-called remaining fronts but said it is Manila government’s priority to dismantle them to help in local peace talks engagements.

National Security Council (NSC) assistant director general Jonathan Malaya in the same briefing alleged the NPA is at its weakest in its 55-year history with less than 1,500 fighters remaining nationwide.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in a New Year statement also boasted there are no longer active NPA fronts, reporting killing 67 leaders and 1,399 members as well as seizing 1,751 firearms throughout 2023.

The CPP however said the AFP, NSC and the NTF-ELCAC presented no proof in their self-congratulatory claims, saying in turn that majority of the guerilla fronts across 14 regional NPA commands are “far from dismantled.”

CPP chief information officer Marco Valbuena said the NPA’s current strength remains deep and the wide mass support it enjoys is far from what the AFP wishes to imagine.

‘Why the increased AFP budget then?’

Valbuena admitted the NPA suffered grave losses from 2019 to 2022 due to internal weaknesses and errors as well as sustained military operations by close to 100,000 AFP troops since 2017.

“Squandering hundreds of billions of pesos, the reactionary armed forces have unleashed unimaginable state terrorist violence in the countryside,” Valbuena said.

But claims of strategic victory over the NPA are belied by the Marcos government’s increased military budget by almost 40% this year, Valbuena said, citing AFP’s ₱282.7 billion budget from last year’s ₱203.4 billion.

Valbuena said that a large part of the military’s funds go to the purchase and maintenance of US-supplied jet fighters and drones used in aerial bombing, artillery shelling and full-scale military operations in the countryside.

The CPP officer also said that a vast majority of AFP battalions remain deployed against the NPA despite announcements of wanting to shift to external defense against Chinese encroachment into Philippine territories.

Valbuena further said AFP’s claims of victories in the battlefield come at the expense of farmers and indigenous peoples’ communities who suffer de facto martial rule in the guise of “community support operations.”

“The AFP hinder the free movement of people, imposing curfew and prohibiting them from working in their fields, destroying their organizations, and other forms of suppression, in order to pave the way for the aggressive entry of mining operations, expansion of plantations, ecotourism and infrastructure projects,” he said.

“Fascist troops continue to carry out a campaign of state terrorism against the peasant masses, carrying out killings of civilians and covering up their crimes by claiming their victims to be NPA fighters,” Valbuena added.

Women NPA fighters at CPP’s 55th founding anniversary celebrations last December 26. (CPP photo)

‘Masses want their Red fighters back’

The CPP said in areas temporarily abandoned by NPA units due to intense military operations, the people wait for the return of the Red guerillas.

The Party said affected NPA units are determined to recover strength, rebuild their mass bases, and continue to wage armed revolution.

It added that the NPA has in fact started regaining its bearings since last year and have carried out maneuvers to frustrate AFP’s encirclement and focused military operations.

With the CPP’s third rectification movement launched on its 55th founding anniversary last December 26, it said the NPA shall soon regain lost territories and expand to new areas.

The CPP’s Central Committee also laid down several tasks the NPA should accomplish to recover strength, including the building of company-sized units for each guerrilla front and to launch basic or annihilative tactical military offensives that have a high percentage of succeeding.

Since December, CPP newsletter Ang Bayan has published reports of NPA operations that resulted in the killing of three Philippine Army troopers in Panay Island last December 9 and 10 and a paramilitary spy in Negros Island last December 27.

“The Red commanders and fighters of the NPA, and cadres of the Party are all determined to carry forward the people’s war as long as it takes until complete victory is attained,” the CPP said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Reds tell Marcos officials to quit sabotaging efforts to revive talks

No end to armed conflict without solving root causes, CPP insists

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) denounced claims made by GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) security officials the November 23 Oslo Joint Statement is an agreement for the surrender of the New People’s Army (NPA) and an effective end to the 55-year civil war in the Philippines.

Reacting to statements made by National Security Council Assistant Director General Jonathan Malaya in an online press briefing last January 3, the CPP said the official misrepresented the joint statement to deviously undermine efforts to revive peace negotiations between the GRP and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

In its own statement issued Thursday, the CPP said Malaya’s claims also seeks to prevent discussions from taking place that should tackle the socioeconomic and political issues that are the root causes of the armed conflict.

The CPP also criticized claims by other government officials that the joint statement was signed with the aim of ending the CPP-led armed struggle.

In a primer on the Oslo Joint Statement last Friday, December 29, the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict quoted both Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin and defense secretary Gilberto Teodoro as saying the communiqué does not signify the resumption of the peace talks.

There is no guarantee of peace talks, both officials reportedly said.

The primer further quoted Bersamin as saying, “The peace talks are over and done…The communiqué that was mutually agreed upon communicates to the people of the Philippines, and to the world, that both parties now want to end the hostilities.”

The CPP however clarified that the GRP officials are intentionally misreading the joint statement that while it includes the phrase “ending the armed struggle,” it is accompanied and preceded by the phrase “resolving the roots of the armed conflict.”

“This entails thoroughgoing negotiations that should be undertaken with a clear agenda that comprises (a) human rights; (b) social and economic reforms; (c) political and constitutional reform; (d) disposition of forces under The GRP-NDFP Hague Declaration signed in 1992,” the CPP explained.

Both parties have already signed a Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) under The Hague Joint Declaration in 1998 by the NDFP and the Joseph Estrada GRP.

The CARHRIHL has since been reaffirmed by the NDFP and subsequent Gloria Arroyo, Benigno Aquino and Rodrigo Duterte GRP governments.

The revolutionary group added that should peace negotiations again take place with the Ferdinand Marcos Jr. government, these should address the widespread problems of landlessness, poverty and hardships, political repression and tyranny, as among the issues that drive the people to take up arms against the Manila government.

“Indeed, the CPP and the NDFP consider peace talks as an additional battlefield, albeit unarmed, alongside revolutionary armed struggle, to advance the people’s national democratic cause, to assert across the negotiating table the people’s demands: for genuine land reform and national industrialization, social justice and true democracy,” the CPP statement said.

While several GRP officials have issued varying statements on the signing of the Oslo Joint Statement, mostly in disagreement with the NDFP-NPA-CPP position, President Marcos himself has yet to clarify his official position on whether to resume negotiations or to simply ask the underground Left to surrender. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

720 New Zealand OFWs lose jobs over Christmas

MANILA–Hundreds of overseas Filipino workers in New Zealand lost their jobs just before Christmas and are asking the Philippine government for continuing financial assistance as they look for new jobs this New Year.

About 720 Filipino construction workers were shocked to learn they were suddenly out of work last December 20 and have since greeted 2024 jobless and stranded abroad.

The workers were employed throughout New Zealand by labor contractor ELE Group that figured in a corporate collapse, surprising the entire country, especially its foreign workers.

Dennis Sarmiento, barely eight months as an aluminum fabricator in Hamilton City, said he was preparing to send money home to his family in General Trias, Cavite for the Christmas and New Year holidays when he received notice he could no longer go to work as the company was closing.

“We had no inkling the company was closing down. We were just told to no longer report for work,” Sarmiento told Kodao.

“I had to explain to my family back home our unexpected predicament. We spent the Christmas and New Year as beneficiaries of other OFWs and migrant rights organizations, finding ourselves without means to celebrate on our own,” he added.

Migrante-Aotearoa, among the first organizations to come to the aid of the beleaguered Filipinos called on the Philippine government to give immediate cash aid to the laid off OFWs.

Filipino-Kiwi activists supporting laid-off OFWs. (Migrante-Aotearoa photo)

“The closure of giant labor hire ELE Group has left hundreds of Filipino migrant workers in a state of uncertainty, grappling with the challenges of unemployment and financial instability during what should be a festive time of year,” the group said.

Migrante-Aotearoa said it sent a petition to the Philippine Embassy in Wellington asking to give financial aid within 48 hrs to assist OFWs in hardship.

“We know that emergency aid for OFWs is totally possible, if only the billions of pork barrel funds and confidential funds that have been pocketed and unaccounted for by the Philippines’ most corrupt politicians have been allocated to support OFWs and their families instead,” it said in a statement.

First Union secretary general Dennis Maga said their intervention compelled the Philippine government to offer the equivalent of Php30k to the beleaguered workers but have yet to receive information how many actually received the amount.

First Union also called on New Zealand authorities to allow and expedite the process of the jobless workers’ transfer to other employers so they spend as little time as unemployed migrants.

Unpaid wages and benefits of the laid off workers should also be paid, First Union added.

Over Christmas and New Year, Migrante-Aotearoa, Gabriela-Aotearoa, Union Network of Migrants (UNEMIG), First Union, church organizations and migrant Filipinos distributed food packs to as many laid off OFWs as they could.

They also formed teams to assist the workers in navigating the maze of in-country job applications.

Sarmiento said he and ELE colleagues are grateful for the migrant rights activists and unions who act as their guardian angels in one of their saddest Christmases ever.

“I did not know anything about unions and activists before this ordeal. Now I know better and I thank them,” Sarmiento said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

PISTON urges drivers to defy ban on jeepneys

The Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (PISTON) called on jeepney drivers and operators to continue plying their routes in defiance of the government’s deadline on franchise consolidation.

On the first day of the New Year and prohibition of operation of unconsolidated jeepneys, the transport group urged fellow transport workers to claim their right to livelihood for their families and commuters.

“Public transportation is a public service that should serve the people and not the few. Let is claim our right to the roads. Let us hold accountable the incompetent, oppressive and puppet [Ferdinand] Marcos Jr. regime accountable,” PISTON said in a New Year statement.

Several jeepneys were seen still plying their routes along Commonwealth Avenue and Pasig City poblacion in the morning of 20024’s first working day Tuesday, January 2.

Traffic had been light and passenger numbers have sparse on both locations, Kodao observed.

PISTON warned that a public transport disaster would befall major cities once commuters start returning to their jobs or schools.

Transport authorities on the other hand sought to downplay the effects of the banning of traditional jeepneys on the roads saying they are open to extending permits as long as operators commit to surrendering their individual franchises to transport cooperatives or corporations.

PISTON said the government Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP) is only aimed at handing over their livelihood to local and foreign capitalists.

The group added the PUVMP will result in higher fares for commuters and lower incomes for drivers and operators who will likewise incur huge debts.

New vehicles approved under the program cost around P2.5 million. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

2 civilians killed in AFP attack in Batangas, CPP reveals

Two civilians were killed in the December 17 Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) operation in Balayan, Batangas while a member of the New People’s Army (NPA) is missing, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) revealed.

Pretty Sheine Anacta, 19, and Rose Jane Agda, 30, were killed along with five other NPA fighters, CPP’s official newsletter Ang Bayan said in a statement Thursday, December 28.

The two civilian victims were reportedly visiting their relative Precious Alyssa Anacta, Ka (Comrade) Komi, 26, who was among the guerrillas killed in the incident.

Pretty Sheine was Ka Komi’s younger sister while Rose Jane was her sister-in-law, the CPP said.

According to the NPA, Pretty Shaine fainted at the first burst of gunfire but was later executed by the attacking soldiers of the 59th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (59th IBPA).

“She was alive but was eventually killed by the butchers. To make it appear the maiden was a Red fighter, they planted an assault rifle beside her,” NPA-Batangas spokesperson Ka Gregorio Caraig said.

The CPP also said Rose Jane’s cadaver indicated rape by government troopers.

“Rose Jane’s situation was disgusting when her cadaver was seen at the funeral parlor. Her pants was down, a sign that she may have been abused,” the CPP statement reads.

READ: Rights workers reveal AFP desecration of slain NPA fighters’ corpses

The CPP also revealed that NPA member Baby Jane Orbe (Ka Binhi) remains missing nearly two weeks after the clash.

The group said they are sure Orbe is being held by the 59th IBPA it accused of being notorious violators of human rights and international humanitarian law.

Orbe was injured in the clash and the CPP said her hors de combat status should be respected by her captors.

Orbe must be treated in an hospital where she must be allowed to be visited by her relatives and lawyers, the CPP said.

The Philippine Army for its part said that one of its soldiers, a Sgt. Jernell Ramillano, was killed in its attack against the NPA while three other government troopers were injured. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

South Africa charges Israel before World Court for genocide of Palestinians

The Republic of South Africa (RSA) instituted proceedings against Israel before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for the latter’s genocide against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

Citing violations by Israel of its obligations under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (the Genocide Convention), South Africa filed the petition last Friday, December 29, at the ICJ, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations.

According to the Application, “acts and omissions by Israel…are genocidal in character, as they are committed with the requisite specific intent…to destroy Palestinians in Gaza as a part of the broader Palestinian national, racial and ethnical group.”

RSA’s petition added that “the conduct of Israel — through its State organs, State agents, and other persons and entities acting on its instructions or under its direction, control or influence — in relation to Palestinians in Gaza, is in violation of its obligations under the Genocide Convention.”

South Africa said that Israel, since 7 October 2023 in particular, has failed to prevent genocide and has failed to prosecute the direct and public incitement to genocide,” adding further that “Israel has engaged in, is engaging in and risks further engaging in genocidal acts against the Palestinian people in Gaza.”

President Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa also announced his government’s petition on his office’s official X (formerly Twitter) account.

The ICJ, popularly called the World Court, is a civil tribunal that hears disputes between countries. It is distinct from the International Criminal Court which is a criminal tribunal that prosecute individuals. Both are based in The Hague, The Netherlands.

The ongoing hostilities in Gaza started last October 27 when Hamas fighters attacked Israelis in a massive operation that killed hundreds, including 4 Filipinos working and residing in the region.

Israel’s ongoing retaliation to the attack has resulted in more than 20,000 Palestinians casualties, including 8,000 children and 6,200 women as of December 20.

Popular global opinion however blames the zionist movement for its illegal occupation of Palestine, a claimed backed by several UN resolutions since 1948.

In its application against Israel, South Africa requested the Court to indicate provisional measures in order to “protect against further, severe and irreparable harm to the rights of the Palestinian people under the Genocide Convention.”

Israel must comply with its obligations under the Genocide Convention not to engage in genocide, and to prevent and to punish genocide, it added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

UAE: Some residents to mute New Year’s Eve celebrations as Gaza burns

The call for ceasefire and scaling up of humanitarian aid has resonated louder among the residents

By Angel L. Tesorero / Khaleej Times

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES (UAE)–Celebratory fireworks will be muted across Sharjah this New Year’s Eve. This is among the latest decisions to scale back festivities in the UAE in solidarity with the Palestinians and as calls for an end to the hostilities in Gaza are amplified.

From cancelling Diwali celebrations in some schools early last month, to foregoing elaborate Christmas celebrations this week, the call for ceasefire and scaling up of humanitarian aid has resonated louder among UAE residents.

“The situation in Gaza is tragic, and I cannot remain indifferent,” Evgheni Pogonii, from Moldova, said as some Christians decided to forego the usual Christmas festivities.

Evgheni Pogonii.

Evgheni Pogonii.

“When you think of it, it is hard to celebrate New Year with fireworks when you know deadly missiles are raining on the Palestinian population,” Filipino expat Michelle Oribello reacted, adding: “Imagine the deafening sound of Israeli missiles and you can already predict the many lives that will be lost.”

Almost 21,000 people – seventy per cent of them women and children – have been killed in the Gaza Strip and there is no end in sight for the dire conditions of the civilians as the death toll is expected to rise further as Israel recently said there would be “no peace” until Hamas is destroyed.

Michelle Oribello.

Michelle Oribello

Nowhere to go

Amjad, 44, a Palestinian expat living in Ajman whose family has been evacuated to safety in the Philippines, said: “There is now no safe place in Gaza.”

“We, Palestinians, usually welcome New Year with a greeting, ‘Kul am wa antum bi khair’. But Gaza has been razed to the ground. Our own house has been hit by missiles three times – twice when family was there and once after they left for Rafah before crossing Egypt and seeking refuge in the Philippines.”

Away from his family, Amjad said he has no “appetite to welcome 2024”, adding: “The situation in Gaza is worse than anyone can imagine. We are besieged from all sides and the occupation has destroyed almost everything.”

Amjad is working on bringing his family to the UAE soon. Five of his children were born here before they moved to Gaza in 2020. “My kids have actually seen and really enjoyed the fantastic fireworks in the UAE. But now, suppose they were here, I don’t think they will enjoy any of the fireworks. They will only remember the rockets fired day and night that destroyed our house and killed our relatives, friends and neighbours,” he emphatically said.

“But I have also seen how the world has stood for us. I highly appreciate the move by Sharjah. This strong solidarity will definitely help our cause and we pray that soon we can say: ‘May you be well with every passing year’ (Kul am wa antum bi khair),” Amjad added.

Solidarity and unity

Egor Sharay, Dubai-based Russian journalist and cultural analyst, added: “The solidarity and unity will definitely play a crucial role in ending the hostilities and fostering a progressive society. The tragic events in Gaza underscore the need for peaceful efforts to address such challenges. The famous Russian writer Leo Tolstoy’s perspective on non-resistance to evil resonates with the importance of this solidarity.”

Egor Sharay.

Egor Sharay

Salute and respect

For now, the ban on fireworks only applies to New Year’s Eve activities in Sharjah, including the annual spectacular show at Al Majaz Waterfront that has been confirmed cancelled this year.

Netizens have expressed their admiration for the emirate’s “sincere expression of solidarity”. “Salute and huge respect for them for this huge decision. We can see humanity here,” were common remarks on social media posts.

Olga Gafurova, a Dubai resident for 17 years and executive editor of Aviamost Russian Magazine, said: “I totally support Sharjah’s decision to ban New Year fireworks in solidarity with people in Gaza. We can’t simply say it doesn’t concern us and live with eyes wide shut. Love and compassion are necessities – without them humanity cannot survive.

Olga Gafurova.

Olga Gafurova

“Instead of fireworks, let’s spark hope in each other’s hearts and think of what we can do to help those who are in need. Of course, we cannot help everyone, but everyone can help someone. For instance, some Muslims in Russia welcomed Palestinian refugees and also banned the fireworks to avoid the loud noise that can cause additional trauma to Palestinian people. Let’s create a better world for generations to come.”

Pause and think about Palestine

Other religious and secular celebrations have earlier been limited in solidarity with those suffering under the deadly military campaign in Gaza.

As reported early last month, on-campus celebrations for Diwali festivities were muted. Students were encouraged to celebrate Diwali by donating towards the Emirates Red Crescent campaign.

Abhilasha Singh, principal of Shining Star International in Abu Dhabi, noted: “The scale of the catastrophic devastation in Gaza is beyond imagination. (I told my students) they must pause and think of the children in Palestine.. We are collectively praying for peace. The humanitarian crisis should end soon.”

‘We are here for them’

Following the UAE’s ‘Tarahum – for Gaza’ (Compassion for Gaza) campaign, residents immediately responded to call to provide urgent humanitarian relief to the Palestinians caught in the war.

People bought baskets of groceries like canned goods, baby diapers, feminine hygiene products, rice, pulses, biscuits and other essential items that were sent to Gaza. “We are here for them,” said Dubai resident named Sana, who served as a volunteer in the packing of goods.

March for Peace

At the recent COP28 hosted in Dubai, the world saw about 2,000 climate activists who marched not only demanding for climate justice but also the protection of human rights.

Carrying a huge black banner emblazoned with “Ceasefire Now” in bold letters written in English and Arabic, the protesters shouted their call while marching around the UN-controlled Blue Zone during the climate summit.

Silent protest

UAE residents have also joined the call to boycott international brands that are deemed supportive of the ‘genocide’.

Haya Issa, an American expat with Palestinian-Jordanian roots, said” “We are boycotting brands that are openly supportive of the genocide in Gaza,” she said. “And many of our favourite fast-food, sodas and coffee brands are on this list. So we have changed our routine and habits quite a lot. I don’t think you need to be Palestinian to see the need to stay away from brands that actively support or condone the level of violence in Gaza.”

Diplomatic arena

The UAE has been leading the international call to end hostilities in Gaza. Last week, the UN Security Council approved the UAE-drafted resolution to boost aid to the besieged enclave. The adopted text calls for “urgent steps to immediately allow safe and unhindered humanitarian access, and also for creating the conditions for a sustainable cessation of hostilities.”

Hundreds of injured and cancer patients have also been evacuated from the Gaza Strip to receive urgent medical treatment at various hospitals in the UAE, as part of the country’s humanitarian initiative ordered by President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Several tonnes of food, medical and relief aid have also been delivered to Gaza. #

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This report is original to the Khaleej Times where the author is senior deputy editor.

CPP confirms 10 NPA casualties in Christmas Day carnage in Bukidnon

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) confirmed the deaths of 10 people in the bombing of a New People’s Army camp by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Christmas Day in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon.

In a statement Thursday, December 28, the CPP said it condemns the AFP for dropping scores of 250-pound bombs and firing Israeli-made 155 mm/52 caliber artillery rounds at the target that lasted until December 26.

“The aerial attack, which was carried out for several hours, constitutes a brazen violation of international humanitarian law and the civilized conduct of war as it is involves an disproportionate use of force relative to its target,” CPP information officer Marco Valbuena said.

“The bodies of some of fatalities were grossly mangled, while others were dismembered during the vicious overkill,” he added.

Valbuena said the bombs, over-flight of drones and fighter jets, and firing of howitzers caused widespread fear and trauma among the tens of thousands residents in various nearby barangays.

“It also caused the destruction of large masses of forest resources which are source of livelihood of people,” he further said.

Valbuena added that the use of massive 250-pound bombs against guerrilla fighters shows the blood lust of the AFP, unleashing firepower without respecting reason and the principles of laws of war.

The CPP said it declares the victims of the December 25 bombings as martyrs of the Filipino people.

In a press statement, the AFP said its attack was a pursuit operation by the 403rd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Division after receiving information about the guerrillas’ presence in Barangays Can-ayan, Kibalabag, Kulaman and Mapulo.

Major General Jose Maria Cuerpo, commander of the 4th ID, said there were three women among the NPA fighters killed.

A similar carnage happened in Balayan, Batangas last December 17 where eight NPA fighters and civilian supporters were killed by combined Philippine Army, Philippine Air Force and Philippine Navy troopers.

Local human rights groups also reported that the victims were mangled beyond recognition by government soldiers.

READ: Rights workers reveal AFP desecration of slain NPA fighters’ corpses

The Malaybalay incident happened at the start of a two-day unilateral ceasefire declaration of the NPA over Christmas and the CPP’s 55th founding anniversary last December 26.

The Ferdinand Marcos Jr. government refused to reciprocate the CPP-NPA ceasefire declaration despite announcing last November ongoing dialogues for the possible resumption of formal peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

PISTON to SC: Expedite petition to suspend jeepney consolidation deadline

Militant drivers and operators urged the Supreme Court to expedite the decision on their petition for a temporary restraining order on the implementation of the year-end jeepney franchise consolidation deadline.

In a supplemental motion, the Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (PISTON) said the suspension of the deadline shall prevent the “grave and irreparable injury” the jeepney drivers and operators, their families, the commuters and the public in general will likely suffer at the start of the new year.

“[M]illions of drivers, operators and their families, as well as commuters all over the country will experience a severe impact on their income and livelihood should the franchise of thousands of PUV operators be cancelled on January 1, 2024,” PISTON added.

The group filed the initial petition before Christmas against the government’s Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP) that orders the surrender of individual franchises to cooperatives and corporations by December 31.

PISTON argues the consolidation scheme only aims to take away the livelihood of jeepney owners and operators in favor of corporations and big businessmen.

“Hundreds of thousands of citizens are affected, will lose their livelihoods, will be buried in debt or will have serious problems with additional expenses,” PISTON national president Mody Floranda said.

Bayan Muna and NUPL lawyers filed last Thursday an Extremely Urgent Motion at the Supreme Court on the petition of PISTON and commuters for a restraining order against PUV consolidation and cancellation of franchise. (Bayan Muna photo)

PISTON likewise warned that so-called modern jeepneys will increase basic fares to around P40-P50 once the PUVMP goes into full effect.

“No matter how you look at it, this bogus modernization brings nothing good to the people,” Floranda said.

In a statement Thursday, December 28, however, the Supreme Court declined to immediately issue a decision to PISTON’s original petition and instead  ordered the Department of Transportation (DoTr) and the Land Transportation and Franchising Board (LTFRB) to reply within 10 days.

DoTr secretary Jaime Bautista meanwhile claimed that “majority” of jeepney operators support the program with 70% already participating in the process.

The December 31 franchise consolidation deadline stays, Bautista declared.

PISTON however belied Bautista’s claims, citing an Inclusive Cities Advocacy Network study saying 73% of Metro Manila’s traditional jeepneys will be disqualified from modernization.

Floranda also criticized LTFRB’s announcement it will give out temporary permits to jeepney operators on some routes after January 1 if they commit to have their franchise consolidated.

“That proposal is just a stopgap measure. Eventually, those who bought temporary permits will also be affected by the phase out. This proves that the whole program is a failure,” Floranda said.

PISTON and fellow transport organization Manibela are set to stage a rally at Malacanang today, Friday, following a solidarity lunch at the University of the Philippines in Quezon City.

(PISTON infographic)

The groups said the impending transport crisis is ultimately President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s fault for his refusal to suspend the PUVMP.

PISTON also announced the success of Thursday’s transport strike in Davao City that paralyzed some routes in Mindanao’s main metropolis. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)