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SONA 2015: Sakay na sa “huling byahe” ni Pnoy
July 18, 2015
The increased and widespread harassment and intimidation of government critics and oppositionists in the run-up to Pres. Aquino’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) later this month is a dangerous sign that the Aquino government is adopting the tactics of notorious human rights violator Jovito Palparan – with the blessings of the Arroyo administration – in trying to quell anti-government protests.
Within the past three weeks, BAYAN has received alarming reports of soldiers, police and other state agents hounding union leaders and community organizers, human rights defenders and social activists, as well as progressive professionals, in their homes, workplaces and even in public, such as restaurants and on the street. They tell their targets that their activities are being monitored or that they are already identified as members of the CPP/NPA. They make veiled threats of something bad happening if their targets do not stop their social involvements. Invariably, these state agents leave a name and number to contact if and when their targets are ready to “cooperate”.
The victims of this latest spate of harassment and intimidation come from as far south as General Santos City to as far north as Cagayan Valley. Particularly targeted are activists and leaders in BAYAN-affiliated public sector unions, trade unions, youth and student groups, health workers and professionals, urban poor communities and progressive party list groups.
Even church workers and human rights defenders are not spared, like 15 colleagues in SocSarGen and Davao who were recently slapped with trumped-up charges of kidnapping and serious illegal detention for helping Ata Manobo and Balaan communities flee their militarized areas.
Clearly the objective of this intense harassment from state agents is to intimidate their victims into silence and inaction at a time when Aquino is salvaging whatever is left of his supposed “tuwid-na-daan” legacy, desperately looking for people to drag on his bumpy, crooked path to nowhere.
This is exactly the same kind of vilification and harassment tactics that then Gen. Palparan utilized wherever he was assigned, along with a spike in extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances of people suspected to be CPP/NPA leaders, members and even just sympathizers.
Pres. Aquino and his military and police forces are so desperate to silence his critics and derail the nationwide SONA protests that they have decided to do a Palparan.
Worse, the recent appointment of generals in the Palparan mold, with bloody human rights track records to their name, to head the AFP and the Philippine Army bodes a renewed spate of illegal arrests, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings.
BAYAN and the Filipino people will not be cowed by this latest fascist rampage under the counterinsurgency program, OPLAN Bayanihan of the Aquino regime. The upcoming SONA protests will be the biggest and most damning ever. We shall continue speaking out against the evils of the current regime presiding over a rotten, dying system and empower our people to struggle for a new and better government and society.###
Promulgation of the guilty verdict of the International Peoples’ Tribunal (IPT) on Pres. Benigno S. Aquino III and the US government for crimes against the Filipino people. The verdict was read by Atty. Josalee Deinla of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) at the July 20, 2015 forum before mass organizations marched towards Malacanang Palace in Mendiola, Manila.
A New People’s Army unit in the foothills of Mt Apo honored Leoncio “Commander Parago” with a military parade and a 21-gun salute two days after the late rebel leader was cremated in Davao City last July 10.
A platoon belonging to the NPA’s Mt. Apo Operational Command performed the rare ceremony for its “shining red star” in front of hundreds of civilian supporters and people’s militia members.
Pitao was killed by soldiers of the Philippine Army’s 10th Infantry Division in Davao City’s Paquibato District last June 28. The NPA said he was being treated for a variety of ailments when he was mowed down by gunfire along with medic Vanessa “Ka Kyle” Limpag.
The ceremony followed an unprecedented public wake, tribute and funeral march in a major Filipino city for a rebel attended by an estimated ten thousand supporters and friends, including national and local political and business leaders.
Led by Communist Party of the Philippines, NPA and National Democratic Front of the Philippines colors, the rebel troopers marched in single file into a clearing and performed rifle drills before consecutively firing their rifles.
They proceeded to present arms before singing Ang Internasyunal, the universal anthem of communist parties all over the world.
The audience joined in the singing of the anthem.
The ceremony ended with shouts of “Long live Ka Parago!”, “Long live the Filipino people!”, “Long live the New People’s Army” and “Long live the Communist Party of the Philippines!”
The 21-gun salute is traditionally a cannonade for surrendering ships but has developed through the centuries into an honorifical ceremony reserved for royalty, heads of state, high government officials and heroes, especially during important events and funerals using both cannons and rifles.
There is no universal pattern in performing the gun salute and every armed force may devise their own style.
Several NPA units around the country performed an honor drill and gun salute for the late CPP spokesperson Gregorio “Ka Roger” Rosal who died of natural causes in 2011.
“Ka Teo,” a veteran NPA fighter who once fought and worked with Pitao, described their fallen hero as an extraordinary leader who was a brilliant military tactician and inspiring revolutionary.
“The many military tactics that we use today to defeat the enemy were devised by Kumander Parago. His brilliance is proven by the fact that our casualties are always fewer than the number of our enemies killed and wounded in battle,” he said.
Teo said that Pitao’s influence was a major factor in his decision to become a full time NPA fighter in the 1980s.
“He did not convince us in so many words. His examples were enough for us to commit our lives to the revolution,” Teo said.
Ka Karen, a local Makabayang Kilusan ng Bagong Kababaihan member, said they will never forget Pitao who they consider their hero.
“He inspired us to stand and fight for a society that is just to women, peasant and Lumad,” she said.
“Contrary to what the Armed Forces of the Philippines said, his death does not weaken our resolve to push the revolution forward. His death strengthens our determination to defeat the enemies of the people,” Karen said.
The NPA usually holds public parades during the CPP’s anniversary on December 26, but only when both the CPP and the Philippine government reciprocally declare ceasefires in observance of the Yuletide season. These parades do not include live fire salutes.
The AFP often violates these ceasefires, however, by putting up roadblocks and harassing the NPA’s civilian supporters, even media persons and local and national government officials who wish to cover or attend the rebel’s celebrations.
Last year, Philippine Army soldiers in Surigao del Sur tried to prevent Bayan Muna representative Carlos Ysagani Zarate and special envoy for the peace negotiations Hernani Braganza from attending the CPP’s 46th anniversary celebrations and peace consultations in Marihatag town. The presence of Surigao del Sur vice governor Manuel Alameda in behalf of governor Johnny Pimental also did not deter the troopers from violating their own government’s ceasefire declaration.
As a rebel guerrilla force, the NPA can only hold open celebrations, especially involving live gunfire, in areas where it enjoys strong support from the residents.
The NPA’s Mt Apo Operational Command includes the First Pulang Bagani (Red Warrior) Battalion and other company-sized formations. Pitao was the most famous commander of this famed command known for conducting the most audacious operations in the rebel army’s history. (Jola Diones-Mamangun, Earl Condeza/Davao Today and Raymund B. Villanueva. Text by R. Villanueva)
Leoncio “Ka Parago” Pitao’s funeral march in Davao City passing under the Bankerohan footbridge from the corner of San Pedro Street and along Quirino Avenue early afternoon of July 10, 2015.
Libo-libong mamamayan ng Davao City ang nagtipon kagabi upang bigyan ng parangal si Leoncio Pitao sa huling gabi ng lamay para sa kanya sa Almendras Gym.
Isang natatanging kaganapan ang pagtitipon kagabi ng mga pesante at Lumad dahil sa lalim ng pagdakila sa isang rebeldeng kumander na matagal na tinugis ng sandatahang elemento ng pambansang pamahalaan.
Walang takot na ipinagdiwang ng mamamayan ng Davao ang anila’y kabayanihan ni “Kumander Parago” na tinagurian ng Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas bilang “maningning na pulang tala ng rebolusyon.”
Ito ang paunang bidyo ng parangal kagabi sa Davao City.
Almendras Gym, Davao City
July 9, 2015
Displacement, Human Rights Violations in Balit, San Luis,
Agusan del Sur
On January 23 of this year, 174 Banwaon families (composed of around 1,000 individuals, approximately 80% of whom are women and children) from the communities of Kimambukagyang, Tabon-tabon, Tabanganan, Nakadayas, Pig-ulingan, Mimpalaos, Maputi, Kandiisan, Tambo and KM 48 went on a massive exodus to the village center of Balit in the municipality of San Luis, Agusan del Sur. They were running from forced development.
The communities were at odds with Mario Napungahan, a former member of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU), who wanted to include their lands under his Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT). The communities had been resistant to a unified CADT given that Napungahan was encouraging the entry of mining companies into the ancestral lands of the Banwaons. Napungahan, who leads a private armed group himself, joins with the Philippine military in the pretext of counter-insurgency operations, threatening and killing the leaders of the communities resisting mining and other environmentally-detrimental ‘development’ projects.
In November 30 of 2014, members of the 26th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army camped at the barangay hall of Balit, conducting Community Organizing for Peace and Development (COPD). They were recruiting community members to join the CAFGU or the barangay-based Peace and Development Volunteers.
Learning from the experience of the neighboring CADT under Benhur Mansulonay where the chieftains who refused to sign the Free Prior and Informed Consent to allow a mining company were threatened with military force, the Balit community countered the military with streamers saying they wanted the military to leave. This aggravated the accusations against the community as supporters of the communist armed group, the New People’s Army (NPA).
On December 22, the village captain of Balit, Necasio Precioso Sr., was shot dead. Previously, he had argued with MSgt. Andres Villaganas, who accused Precioso’s family of being supporters of the NPA. The two clashed during a meeting where the military had demanded the appearance of two other community members whose sons they accused of being members of the NPA. Precioso, being the village leader, had accompanied them.
The start of 2015 witnessed an intensified COPD of the military. Fearing for their safety – from the direct harassment of the military and the possibility of getting caught in a cross-fire should there be an encounter between the military and the NPA – the communities demanded that the military pull out from their village centers. According to protocols, the military should be camping far from civilian houses and establishments. However, this was not followed.
The families decided to come together, believing they would be more secure if they would stay together. However, already one was reported missing and three children have died of sickness because of the drastic condition at their evacuation area. After leaving, some of the houses they left have been burned, their meager possessions divested by the private armies under Napungahan. At least 50 individuals have fallen sick because of their living conditions. But to them, it was still better than being out alone, scared that a bullet would strike them any time.
(More stories and images at www.rmp-nmr.org)
Highlights of Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio’s presentation “The South China Sea Dispute” at the forum “Asserting Philippine Sovereignty in the Wake of the China-US Powerplay” organized by P1NAS (Pilipinong Nagkakaisa para sa Soberanya) held at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila on July 25, 2015. Justice Carpio gives an update on China’s reclamation of seven reefs in the Spratlys and debunks China’s 9-dashed line and illegal claims including that over Scarborough Shoal and the high seas. He presents solid historical facts, including old maps and documents, and sets legal bases for our arbitration case under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in the maritime dispute with China.
On June 25, 2015, Health Action for Human Rights (HAHR) joins the Council for Health and Development (CHD) in a press conference at the Max Restaurant, Quezon Avenue, Quezon City to condemn the brutal murder, by suspected state elements, of Barangay Health Worker (BHW) Rosalie “Saling” Calago and her husband Barangay Kagawad and community leader Endric “Bayoto” Calago last May 24, 2015 at Sitio Bantayan, Barangay Tacpao, Guihulngan, Negros Oriental.
According to Dr. Magdalena Barcelon of CHD, “The couple was strafed by bullets, and their bodies scorched inside their home at around 10:00 PM by suspected elements of the 11th Infantry Battalion based in Brgy. Mckinley, Guihulngan City. This is the latest in a series of brazen attacks against health workers involving the AFP and a testament to its long history of human rights violations.”
Aside from being a BHW, Saling, 45 years old, is also a Barangay Nutrition Scholar, a barefoot reporter of local radio programs Kaling Kag Tugda and Pugasan in Negros and Cebu, and a supporter of Community Health Workers (CHWs) in their locality. Bayoto, 47, is a Barangay Kagawad (village official) and Vice-Chairperson of Kaugmaon-Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas. The couple are also members of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
Dr. Edelina dela Paz of HAHR explains that, “Health professionals, health workers, and health advocates such as the Calago couple dedicate their whole time and effort in order to serve the masses, especially in our country where adequate health services are inaccessible to the poor and the far-flung areas. This is why it is unacceptable that military elements continue to commit such heinous crimes against healthcare providers yet they remain unpunished. The government refuses to neither condemn nor investigate human rights abuses committed by the AFP.”
HAHR has tallied several cases of violations committed by the AFP and its paramilitary forces. In Manila, health advocates are accused of being armed, and portrayed by the police as ‘enemies of the state’. In Samar, a 70-personnel medical mission team for Typhoon Yolanda survivors was repeatedly shadowed by military forces which scared-away the civilians from availing the services. At least 50 community health professionals and workers were subjected to harassment, threats, illegal arrests, or filed trumped-up charges in Baguio, Cabanatuan, Cebu, Bukidnon, and Zamboanga. In Negros, Misamis Oriental, Davao, and CARAGA, frustrated murders and extrajudicial killings, at least 6 cases, were committed since 2006 against CHWs who simply stood-up for their rights, but neither suspect nor perpetrator has been prosecuted.
In the light of the incident on the Calago couple, HAHR and CHD challenge the Department of Health (DOH) and the Aquino administration to conduct an impartial, thorough, and speedy investigation so that justice may be served and the people behind the crime will be punished to the fullest extent of the law.
Likewise, HAHR and CHD challenge the DOH and the Aquino administration to protect the rights of its people including the health workers.
“Under fire, we, health workers pledge to strengthen our commitment to serving the masses, and fortify the struggle to achieve just and lasting peace in pursuit of the people’s health and human rights. Hopefully, all of these will redound to achieving justice and end the culture of impunity in the Philippines”, concluded Dr. Barcelon.###