Rights defenders ask UN: ‘Probe alarming record of Marcos gov’t’

A group of Filipino human rights advocates are in Geneva, Switzerland to attend the ongoing 54th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and seek an evaluation of the United Nations Joint Program (UNJP) being implemented in the Philippines.

A delegation of the Philippine UPR (Universal Periodic Review) Watch said the UN must conduct a comprehensive, relevant and participatory evaluation of the program as it is failing to improve the human rights situation in the country.

The UNJP is also unable to significantly address continuing human rights violations in the Philippines with the Ferdinand Marcos Jr. presidency virtually indistinguishable from the Rodrigo Duterte regime in terms of red-tagging, weaponization of laws and the people’s worsening poverty.

“PH UPR Watch calls on the UNHRC to seriously look at the alarming human rights record of the Marcos Jr. administration and the harmful policies perpetuating it,” the PH UPR Watch in a statement said.

The delegation said the Marcos government is abusing the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 and the anti-terrorism financing law in persecuting critics even as the UNJP is being implemented by the UN, the Philippine government and private sector stakeholders.

Launched in 2021, the UNJP is an attempt to help the Philippine government in realizing its responsibilities in recognizing and upholding human rights.

The program conducts trainings and dialogues with the military, police and various government agencies on human rights and international humanitarian law in partnership with the Commission on Human Rights and civil society groups.

The Duterte government agreed to the program in place of a full investigation as recommended by the UNHRC following an Iceland-sponsored resolution in 2019 to probe into thousands of deaths resulting from the so-called drug war in the Philippines.

PH UPR Watch however said that there had been no significant improvement on the human rights situation in the Philippines even after three years of UNJP implementation, evidenced by the worsening weaponization of laws and incessant red-tagging by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict of critics and political dissenters.

The delegation also complains of an ongoing wholesale violation of the Filipino people’s economic rights as shown by uncontrolled rise in the prices of oil products and basic food items.

The PH UPR Watch delegation at the UNHRC’s 54th Session is composed of representatives from Karapatan, National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, National Council of Churches in the Philippines, United Church of Christ in the Philippines, Alliance of Concerned Teachers, Rise Up for Life and for Rights, and the KATRIBU – Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas.

The group will engage in dialogues with various UN special rapporteurs and country representatives as well as present their findings before the UNHRC to shed light on widespread human rights violations. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Martial law survivors oppose DepEd’s whitewashing of Marcos dictatorship

Teachers also condemn new curriculum as ‘undermining truth’

A group of martial law survivors expressed opposition to a Department of Education (DepEd) memorandum ordering that the Marcos name be disassociated from the dictatorship of the 1970s to the 1980s.

The Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses and Martial Law (CARMMA) said the recently-launched Matatag curriculum is “historical distortion and mass disinformation.”

“We at the [CARMMA] flag and condemn in the strongest possible terms the [DepEd]’s shameless scheme to whitewash and distort our history with its September 6, 2023 memo to change ‘Diktadurang Marcos’ to ‘Diktadura’ in the Grade 6 Araling Panlipunan curriculum of the newly-launched Matatag curriculum,” the group said.

CARMMA said it is historical fact that the two-decade rule of President Ferdinand Marcos Sr. was a dictatorship.

“The culpability of the crimes against the Filipino people during that dark and bloody period in our history rests primarily on the Marcoses,” the group said.

Teachers condemn move

Earlier, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) told the DepEd to stick to the historical fact that Marcos Sr. was a dictator.

“The alteration of historical terminology is not only distortion but also undermines the truth about one of the darkest periods in Philippine history,” ACT said last Sunday.

The Congress of Teachers/Educators for Nationalism and Democracy (CONTEND) also said the revision is “a blatant example of disinformation, where the people are deliberately misled by manipulating historical facts.”

The DepEd, meanwhile, said in its controversial memorandum that the revision of the Araling Panlipunan curriculum was made after an “arduous process of review and revision.”

“[It] was done under the guidance and scrutiny of experts, the review of stakeholders, and the public and the launch of the MATATAG curriculum,” the memorandum said.

Who implemented the dictatorship?

CARMMA however asked who was ultimately responsible for dictatorship that resulted in the murder, torture, illegal incarceration, and disappearances of thousands of victims.

“Who signed the orders to dissolve Congress and for the military to take over media outlets 50 years ago on September 21, 1972? Who ultimately benefitted from the plunder of our nation’s coffers, burdening Filipinos with debt that will be paid by generations to come?”CARMMA further asked.

“The answer to these questions is simple: the Marcoses,” the group said.

“Hence, the compound term ‘Marcos dictatorship’ is different from merely calling the period a ‘dictatorship’ alone,” it explained.

Marcos Sr. declared martial law on September 21, 1972, 51 years ago.

The Marcoses were deposed in 1986. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Makabayan solon, DND condemn Chinese envoy’s threat against OFWs in Taiwan

A Makabayan solon and the Department of National Defense (DND) separately condemned an alleged threat made by Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian against Filipinos in Taiwan.

House of Representative Deputy Minority Leader and ACT Teachers Party Rep. France Castro said Huang’s statement is a threat and an imposition on a sovereign country.

“It is condemnable that China seems to be issuing a threat not just against the Philippines as a country but to innocent overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who were obligated to work abroad to create better lives for their families,” Castro said in a statement Saturday, April 15.

In a public speech Friday, the Chinese envoy said, the “Philippines is advised to unequivocally oppose Taiwan independence rather than stoking the fire by offering the US access to the military bases near the Taiwan Strait if you care genuinely about the 150,000 OFWs.”

“The Taiwan question is entirely China’s internal affair, as is the Mindanao issue to the Philippines. You will never allow any third party to meddle with resolving rebel issues in Mindanao,” Huang said.

This did not sit well with the progressive solon who said Huang’s statement must be condemned.

The DND in a separate statement took exception to Huang’s assertion the Philippines is “meddling” in Chinese internal affairs concerning Taiwan.

DND spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said the Philippines’ primary concern regarding the heated situation between China and Taiwan are the expatriate Filipinos in the island.

Pique at new EDCA sites

While it appears to directly threaten Filipino workers in Taiwan, Huang’s speech was in fact obviously directed at the Philippine government’s decision to open four new military sites the for United States military to be closer to China.

“Obviously, the US intends to take advantage of the new EDCA sites to interfere in the situation across the Taiwan strait to serve its geopolitical goals, and advance its anti-China agenda at the expense of peace and development of the Philippines and the region at large,” Huang said.

The Chinese Ambassador also likened the situation in Taiwan to Mindanao, implying that China does not meddle with Moro independence struggles in Southern Philippines. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

5-puntong kahilingan, giit sa World Teachers’ Day

Nagdaos ng kilos-protesta ang mga gurong kasapi ng Alliance of Concerned Teachers para sa World Teachers’ Day noong Oktubre 5 sa Maynila.

Pangunahin nilang bitbit ang 5-puntong panawagan ng mga guro. Kabilang sa mga ito ang salary upgrade, overtime pay, laptops at P1,500 na internet allowance kada buwan, P3,000 inflation adjustment allowance at P10,000 tax-free election service honorarium.

Bukod dito, hiling din nila sa gobyerno ang ligtas na balik-eskwela sa mga lugar na may mababang kaso ng Covid-19.# (Bidyo ni Joseph Cuevas/Kodao)

‘Kung hindi nagsilbi ang mga guro, hindi maitatawid ang pagbubukas ng klase’

“Napakabilis nilang maglabas ng mga memo o department order tuwing dagdag na trabaho, attendance sa mga webinar, gabundok na mga paperwork ang ipapagawa sa mga teacher pero itong benepisyo na karapat-dapat lamang na maibigay sa kanila ay ginigipit pa. Kung hindi nagsilbi ang mga guro noong panahon na June 1 to October 4, hindi maitatawid ang pagbubukas ng klase noong nakaraang taon.”ACT Rep. France Castro, Deputy Minority Floor Leader

Teachers denounce ‘state abandonment’ as school year opens

School teachers greeted the new school year with protest actions against what they call an “indifferent” Rodrigo Duterte administration that has abandoned the education sector amid a raging coronavirus crisis.

Teachers spent the last weekend before the new school year sorting distance learning modules, complaining they hardly had time to catch their breath from last school year. (ACT photo)

In a “sunrise protest” before the first day of classes this year, members of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) trooped to Mendiola Bridge in Manila to denounce “government neglect and utter disregard of teachers and students’ welfare.”

“Today, we will be forced into another school year of underfunded and ill-equipped distance learning, with no plans from the government on how it can safely re-open our school nor on how it will address the grave issues hounding DepEd’s (Department of Education) learning continuity plan,” the group said in a statement.

The teachers said the government failed to address for the second consecutive year their demand for the safe re-opening of schools and bigger state support for distance learning needs.

ACT secretary general Raymond Basilio said teachers bore the brunt of the shift to remote learning when the pandemic hit last year, forcing them to remain “overworked, underpaid, and under-supported.”

Basilo added the DepEd continue to ignore their demands for overtime pay and service credits, Php1,500 monthly internet allowance, Php3,000 inflation adjustment allowance, hazard pay, and their overdue upgrading to salary grade 15 and other benefits to offset the additional hardships they endured because of the shift to online teaching mode.

In earlier “laptop protests,” teachers posted their photos collating printed modules for distribution to parents and students today they said should have been the responsibility of DepEd Central had it adequately prepared for the new school year.

The teachers also complained they themselves have to spend from their own pockets to enough teaching materials for the projected 20 million students to be enrolled this year.

“As state abandonment peaks, we have no one else to turn to but each other. The future of our youth and their right to accessible quality education now lies on the collective resolve of teachers, parents, and students to say ‘no more’ and demand better,” Basilio said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Teachers spent the last weekend before the new school year sorting distance learning modules, complaining they hardly had time to catch their breath from last school year. (ACT photo)

PNU’s invitation of Duterte offends teachers, students

The invitation of President Rodrigo Duterte to address a state university’s anniversary celebrations was an affront to the school’s tradition of excellence and service, a teachers’ group said.

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) said it was ironic for the Philippine Normal University (PNU) to have invited someone who has neglected the education sector to address its 120th anniversary celebrations last Wednesday, September 1.

“Irony of ironies: The President who let education down speaks before [the] teachers’ university,” ACT added.

The group also criticized Duterte, saying: “We don’t know where Duterte found the gall to speak before teachers and future teachers whom he has consistently failed to protect in all his years as President.”

ACT pointed out that the Philippines currently suffers one of the longest school closures in the world as a result of Duterte’s failed coronavirus pandemic response.

Other proofs of Duterte’s dismal track record in education include the country’s gravest learning loss during his presidency as well as worsening hardships of education workers, the activist group added.

“He is also responsible for the grim state of teachers as overworked, underpaid, and under-supported. He betrayed teachers with his sham promise of a substantial pay hike, then attacked those of us who are fighting to hold him accountable. The deep impacts of his legacy of neglect and attacks on education will be suffered by generations to come,” ACT secretary general Raymond Basilio said.

ACT said PNU’s students, professors and alumni protested Duterte’s inclusion in yesterday’s program through a petition shortly after school authorities made the announcement late Tuesday.

About 200 PNU professors, students and alumni have signed the petition as Duterte’S pre-recorded message was streamed online yesterday, ACT said.

“The President who has continuously neglected the people and the education sector should not be invited as a guest,” ACT Education Students-PNU said in a separate statement.

PNU’s live streaming of the event was also peppered with laughter emojis and comments critical of Duterte.

A real time comment even made fun of the President’s speech, saying, “DO NOT READ FROM YOUR NOTES!”

Duterte’s brief message during the online celebration launch indicated however the school’s invitation was mere formality, paid in equal measure by the President’s perfunctory delivery. The President read 30 seconds worth of prepared notes and an even shorter ad lib saying his late mother was a PNU alumna. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Groups urge SC to act on attacks against rights lawyers and clients

Human rights and civil society organizations petitioned the Supreme Court (SC) to take urgent action against threats, red-tagging and killings of judges and lawyers as well as their clients.

In a letter to the SC Tuesday, May 18, Karapatan, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, Alliance of Concerned Teachers, Cordillera Peoples’ Alliance, Kilusang Mayo Uno, and the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advance of Government Employees said the attacks against court officers continue despite clear condemnation by the High Court last March 23.

Addressed to Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo, the petition said the “attacks against human rights lawyers violate the basic principle that lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their clients’ causes as a result of discharging their functions.”

The groups said that attacks against the lawyers and judges deprive them of effective access to legal services and adequate protection for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The letter reminded the Court that there have been 147 reported attacks against court officers in recent years.

Eighty-four or 57% of the victims are human rights lawyers affiliated with the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), Public Interest Law Center, Union of People’s Lawyers in Mindanao and the Free Legal Assistance Group, the petition said.

In its March 23 statement, the SC acknowledged that members of the bar and the bench have been attacked and asked the lower court to submit reports on the matter.

The SC statement also came after NUPL member Angelo Karlo Guillen was stabbed with a screw driver on his lower left temple and back by two unidentified assailants in Iloilo City.

“The court condemns in the strongest sense every instance where a lawyer is threatened or killed, and where a judge is threatened and unfairly labeled. We do not and will not tolerate such acts that only perverse justice, defeat the rule of law, undermine the most basic of constitutional principles, and speculate on the worth of human lives,” the SC said.

‘State sponsored’

In their submission, the signatories also asked the Court look into the attacks suffered by the lawyers’ clients “and to understand the overarching government policies that cause them.”

The signatories asserted that the lawyers who represent activists, human rights defenders and ordinary people also become targets of the government’s counterinsurgency drive.

“An urgent and decisive action from the Supreme Court is a matter of life and death for activists and human rights defenders especially now when we are being increasingly targeted in the government’s counterinsurgency and counterterror campaign for our work and causes,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay, one of the signatories, said.

“Despite the Supreme Court en banc’s much-needed statement two months ago, we are concerned that the attacks have only continued, if not worsened to even more alarming forms.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

ACT, TDC express alarm as DepEd gathers numbers of members

Two teachers’ organizations oppose a Department of Education (DepEd) order to gather numbers of their members in several regions throughout the country.

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) and the Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC) expressed alarm at the directive to division level officials on orders from DepEd Undersecretary for Field Operations Revsee Escobedo.

“As per reports, our union leaders in regions 1, 3, 4A, 4B, 6, 10, and CAR have been asked by their division offices to provide the number of ACT members in their area as per orders from Usec. Revsee,” ACT said in a statement Saturday, April 17.

TDC for its part bared that one notice sent through a Facebook chat group in one of the divisions in Region II reads: “Good morning everyone, the DepEd Central Office is surveying thru this online form, teachers, who are currently members of the (TDC) and (ACT). We appreciate receiving your feedback by filling out this Google form today until 12:00 Noon. All PSDS/Districts In-charge are requested to disseminate to all School Heads and Teachers in AOR (area of responsibility).”

Both organizations, victims of red-tagging operations by the police and military, said the order may be another profiling drive against their members.

‘For possible dialogues’

Escobedo confirmed to Kodao he issued the order but said it is in preparation for possible dialogues with both organizations and other teachers’ groups.

Department of Education Undersecretary for Field Operations, Atty. Revsee Escobedo. (Phjoto from DepEd Tayo FB page)

“I only asked for numbers, not names. How can we red-tag numbers?” Escobedo, also DepEd Employees Association Coordinating Office supervising official, said in a phone interview.

The official said they want to know the number of members of teachers’ groups to identify which organizations to initiate dialogues with on various issues such as salary increases.

He said the groups’ statements are overreactions.

‘No clear explanation’

Both teachers’ organizations however said the order, sent only through text and social media messages, lack explanation that gives rise to doubts as to its real intent.

ACT recalled that the Philippine National Police earlier asked school officials for the names of its members, several of whom were later accused of being communists or communist sympathizers.

“This is eerily reminiscent of the 2019 police profiling of our members, which precluded worse attacks on our members and on our very organization,” ACT said.

The group said its members Nestor Ada and Lai Consad have been arrested and charged with trumped-up charges after being profiled and subsequently red-tagged.

Ada, a high school principal, is still in jail in Northern Samar three months after being arrested on charges of illegal possession of guns and explosives in campus.

Assistant Principal Consad was also arrested at her school in Butuan City last November after being red-tagged by the police and the military.

“So we’re understandably alarmed at (the) sudden interest with our members,” ACT secretary general Raymond Basilio said.

TDC for its part said it will instruct its members not to participate in the “survey, profiling and inventory” of its members that “has no clear objectives and hastily done through Google Forms, text messages, Facebook messages or phone calls.”

ACT said DepEd has never defended teachers and school officials who fell victim to red-tagging and persecution by other government agencies.

The DepEd is a member of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Teachers condemn arrest of Butuan City vice principal

By Joseph Cuevas

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) condemned the arrest of a union leader in Butuan City and called for her immediate release.

Rosanilla “Teacher Lai” Consad, ACT secretary in Region XIII, a special education teacher and an assistant principal of San Vicente National High School, was arrested yesterday, March 17, at around 4:30 pm in Butuan City by Regional Intelligence Unit 13 of National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA), the police and military.

Consad is also a member of ACT’s National Council.

Consad is being charged with attempted homicide in relation to a New People’s Army ambush in Sitio Manhupaw, Brgy. Poblacion 2, Santiago in Agusan del Norte last November 21.

ACT secretary-general Raymond Basilio said that Consad had been a victim of state vilification and repression since 2018.

In November 2019, she reported about intelligence agents visiting her school to inform her that she and her husband are part of a certain hit list supposedly for being activists.

“Teacher Lai’s case only proves that terrorist-tagging serves as a prelude to worse, more fascist attacks on rights, freedoms, and lives. All of which are part of the Duterte regime’s systematic attack on the Filipino people as it desperately seeks to silence all dissent and establish its tyrannical rule,” Basilio said.

ACT Teachers Party slams DILG memo

Meanwhile, ACT Teachers Party Rep. France Castro said that teacher Lai has been a victim of harassment, threats and red-tagging by state security forces for standing up for the rights and welfare of her fellow public school teachers in Caraga.

“The arrest came days after the DILG release a memorandum tagging ACT and other progressive groups in the public sector as a communist terrorist groups. These are the real threats of red-tagging to the safety, security and freedoms of activists, human rights defenders and union leaders who have been vocal about the failure of the Duterte administration in addressing the perennial crisis of the country’s health system, education system and economy,” Castro said.

ACT Teachers Party will file a house resolution in Congress to investigate Consad’s arrest, Castro added

Consad is expected to file a petition today to be allowed post bail. #