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Groups slam media security chief for red-tagging ahead of UN expert’s visit

Media groups and rights defenders condemned government’s top media security official, calling his allegation that a jailed journalist is active in terrorist groups a classic example of red-tagging.

Altermidya and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFOMS) executive director Paulino Gutierrez’s attack against journalist Frenchie Mae Cumpio also proves the absurdity of his agency’s continued existence.

In his January 4 “Paul’s Alarm” column on JournalnewsOnline, Gutierrez wrote, “Nais din niyang (United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression and opinion Irene Khan) malaman ang sitwasyon ni Franchie (sic) Mae Cumpio, na kasalukuyang naka-detine sa Palo Provincial Jail sa Leyte dahil sa aktibo nitong papel sa lokal na teroristang grupo ng mga komunista.” (She also wants to know about Franchie (sic) Mae Cumpio’s situation, who is currently detained at the Palo Provincial Jail in Leyte because of her active role in the local terrorist group of communists.)

Altermidya said the official’s allegation is exactly what they mean about red-tagging: government officials linking civilians to alleged communist groups without proof.

“May we remind Mr. Gutierrez that Ms. Cumpio is contesting the charges filed against her in court and has yet to be convicted. There is absolutely no point for anyone, more so a high government official, to forget that ‘everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law,’” Altermidya said in a statement.

In a separate statement, the NUJP said Gutierrez’s accusation highlights precisely how red-tagging has become institutionalized in the Philippines and has become undeclared policy.

“It also shows the absurdity of having a body created for media security in a government task force that actively puts journalists’ security at risk by accusing them of being enemies of the state,” NUJP said.

The group added that Gutierrez’s allegation violates not just the constitutional presumption of innocence but also the Journalist’s Code of Ethics.

Human rights group Karapatan also slammed Gutierrez, saying the official’s red-tagging of Cumpio is hypocritical.

“Here is a big example of the government’s so-called ‘promotion of human rights,’ and yet, the Philippine government is already vilifying human rights defenders and press freedom defenders because they have tagged them as enemies of the state,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.

Braggadocio gone wrong

Ironically, Gutierrez wrote about Khan’s official 10-day visit to the Philippines starting next week in his column, disclosing he is ready to meet with the UN expert on press freedom and freedom of expression.

Gutierrez added it is a significant personal honor for him to lead the country’s preparations for Khan’s visit as chief of the only government agency in the world dedicated to media worker’s rights.

Altermidya however said Gutierrez’s attack against Cumpio is emblematic of their complaints to the UN expert.

“It is exactly this kind of information that we wish Ms. Khan would closely look into in her investigation into the Philippine situation,” Altermidya said.

“The statement of USec Guiterrez highlights the urgency of our appeal to Ms Khan to conduct a thorough investigation on the continued vilification of journalists, affecting the exercise of press freedom and the people’s right to know,” Altermidya said.

Karapatan said that government agencies involved in the visit of the UN Special Rapporteur are the same agencies engaged in red-tagging, terrorist-labelling, filing of trumped up charges, and other forms of violations.

Special jail visit to Frenchie Mae

In his column, Gutierrez revealed that Khan wishes to visit Cumpio in jail.

The youngest journalist in prison in the world today, Cumpio was arrested in February 2020 when she was 20 years old.

A former editor of the student publication University of the Philippines Vista in Tacloban, Cumpio was a broadcaster with Manila Broadcasting Company’s Aksiyon Radyo station in Leyte at the time of her arrest.

She was also the executive director of alternative media outfit Eastern Vista and manager-in-training of Radyo Taclobanon, a women-led disaster resiliency community radio station project in Supertyphoon Yolanda-hit Eastern Visayas.

“Indeed, she is the very Frenchie Mae Cumpio mentioned in laureate Maria Ressa’s Nobel Peace Prize speech,” Altermidya said. # (Raymund B. tVillanueva)

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DISCLOSURE: Altermidya’s statement was issued with the author as reference, being the group’s chairperson. He is also a former NUJP officer. Kodao and the author were Cumpio’s trainers for the Radyo Taclobanon project.

Groups slam ‘EDSA-pwera’ video as deceitful, misleading

Survivors of Ferdinand Marcos Sr.’s martial law dubbed as deceitful and misleading the advertisement alleging the 1987 Philippine Constitution is to blame for the country’s poverty and the government’s corruption.

The group Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses and Martial Law (CARMMA) in a statement said the “EDSA-pwera” (left-out) campaign that seeks amendments to the Constitution said personalities behind it are also “grossly anti-people.”

“What they think of as witty wordplay is not only misleading but deceitful,” CARMMA in a statement said, adding that the ad also falsely claims that Marcos Sr.’s dictatorship was an era of economic prosperity in the Philippines.

Released as signature-buying sprees for a so-called people’s initiative for charter change have been reported, the ad said it is time to discuss amendments to the 1987 charter—also called the EDSA Constitution after the 1986 People Power uprising that ousted the Marcos Sr. dictatorship.

The ad, placed by the firm Gana Atienza Avizado Law, claims the Constitution encouraged neglect of social services, corruption and gross profiteering while prohibiting foreign ownership of lands and businesses, thus preventing economic progress.

But CARMMA said that while the 1987 Constitution does not fully represent the interest and demands of the people, the claims made in the video are a misrepresentation of the real problems of the people.

“In fact, this provision in the 1987 constitution was included to remedy the Marcos dictatorship’s unhampered exposure of the Philippine economy to foreign plunder, to the detriment of local production, especially manufacturing. This, coupled with the Marcos clique’s own rapacity, bled our country dry,” the group added.

Former Senate President Vicente Sotto III, a supporter of the People Power uprising, also called the video “untruthful and inaccurate,” adding the charter is not the problem but the people who implement it.

Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman, whose activist brother Atty. Harmon Lagman was disappeared under the Marcos dictatorship, also criticized the video, saying “”The ad is crudely crafted and there is nothing substantial conveyed in the message.”

“The ‘EDSA-pwera’ Charter Change ad campaign is part of the Marcos family’s continuing demonization of the EDSA People’s Power Revolution which ousted the Marcos dictatorship and helped install the ‘Cory Constitution’ or the present 1987 Philippine Constitution,” Lagman said. 

Meanwhile, the Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives said they are considering asking Congress to conduct investigations if public funds have been used in the production and broadcast of the video and signature-buying activities in Albay and Sorsogon provinces.

Gana Atienza Avizado Law said the ad is a private initiative by their “small law firm,” assisted by an advertising agency.

Website abogado.com.ph said the law firm counts among its clients political big-wigs such as the Romualdezes who are cousins with president Ferdinand Marcos Sr. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

UN report urges PH: Stop ‘misusing’ anti-terror measures vs. clergy, activists

A United Nations (UN) special mandates report raised serious concerns over repeated allegations of the Philippine government’s misuse of counter-terrorism and anti-money laundering laws against members of the clergy and other activists.   

Six UN Special Rapportuers said it received reports of arbitrary arrest, enforced disappearance, killing, and filing of fabricated charges against civil society activists from 2019 to 2023, spanning the second half of the Rodrigo Duterte government and the first year of the Ferdinand Marcos Jr. administration.

“We express our serious concern over the allegations of judicial harassment, office raids, targeted financial sanctions, asset freezing and other administrative sanctions against religious groups, Indigenous Peoples and organizations,” the experts also said.

In a report dated October 10, 2023 but only made public this week, the experts also expressed concern over the Philippine government’s over-broad definition of terrorism in its law, Republic Act 11479.

 “We note with concern that there appears to be an observable trend in the Philippines, whereby individuals and groups associated with churches, who are living out their faith through development and humanitarian work, have been linked by the government to CPP-NPA-NDFP (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front of the Philippines),” the report reads.

“We also express serious concern about the seemingly broad and unchecked executive powers implicated by the allegations—particularly the discretion of the Anti-Terrorism Council to designate individuals and organizations as “terrorist” and the Anti-Money Laundering Council to adopt targeted financial sanctions thereafter,” it added.

The experts said the Philippine government has also employed its counter-terrorism financing oversight powers in a broad and arbitrary manner against non-profit organisations and individuals, including the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines.

The UN experts said it looked into reports on of 24 victims who included two bishops and other clergy, a journalist, indigenous rights advocates, lawyers, non-profit organizations and other human rights defenders.

The report said the Duterte government filed a reply to UN in 2020, assuring the international community of its compliance to international human rights standard but still urged Manila to provide those it charges with crimes “all appropriate legal safeguards.”

The experts’ findings were submitted to the UN Human Rights Council by UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism Fionnuala Ní Aoláin.

Aolain was joined in the report by Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Clement Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; José Francisco Cali Tzay, Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous Peoples; and Nazila Ghanea, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief

“We are concerned that such measures risk obstructing the delivery of vital and well-protected humanitarian, human rights and development services,” they said, adding such moves violate the Philippines’ human rights obligations under international law. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

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)