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Right to water activist arrested, accused with illegal gun possession

The wave of search warrants served in the dead of night that lead to charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives victimized another activist, this time a government employee based in San Pablo City, Laguna.

Ramir Endriga Corcolon, an officer of the Confederation for the Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE) and an employee of a local water utility, was arrested by the police at 4:30 AM this morning.

Corcolon, a campaigner against the privatization of water services, is a COURAGE national council member and secretary general of the Water System Employees Response (WATER).

The federation of government employees unions said in an alert that Corcolon’s house was raided and searched by Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) operatives.

Corcolon was taken to Camp Vicente Lim in Canlubang town at 8:30 AM.

Corcolon in a police detention cell. (COURAGE photo)

A search warrant alleging the activist possessed a rifle grenade was issued last February 23 by Sta. Cruz, Laguna Executive Judge Divinagracia Bustos-Ongkeko.

The search warrant used to raid Corcolon’s house. (COURAGE photo)

Pictures posted by COURAGE on its Facebook page show that a handgun and ammunitions were also allegedly found in Corcolon’s house.

Guns and ammunition the police allege were found in Corcolon’s house. (COURAGE photo)

Dozens of activists had been issued similar warrants and charged with violation of Republic Act 9516, the anti-illegal possession of firearms and explosives law, in a sustained crackdown against Leftist critics of the Rodrigo Duterte government.

COURAGE demanded the immediate release of Corcolon and condemned what it calls the terror-tagging of activists.

“Corcolon is an employee that vehemently opposes the privatization of water districts. He also stands for the advancement of the rights of employees and the people,” COURAGE said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Aklan activists warn of more SEMPO-like raids by police, seek help from local leaders

Activists in Aklan province asked local political and church leaders to stop a repeat of mass killings and arrests of civilians by the police.

In an open letter to Aklan Governor Florencio Miraflores, Representatives Carlito Marquez and Teodorico Haresco Jr., the Diocese of Kalibo, and the local media as well as to residents, members of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN)-Aklan and the Makabayan bloc appealed for the preemption of a repeat of the massacre of nine Tumandok tribespeople and the mass arrest of 16 others last December 30.

“[W]e are conveying our appeal to all of you to take necessary actions so as to preempt the perceived occurrence of a SEMPO (Synchronized Enhanced Management of Police Operations)-like operation in the province of Aklan that might cost lives of civilians,” the activists said in their January 24 letter.

The activists explained they suspect that another SEMPO is about to happen, this time against leaders and members of both BAYAN-AKLAN and the MAKABAYAN Bloc in the province.

Makabayan is a group of progressive political parties that are members of the House of Representatives, including Bayan Muna, Gabriela Women’s Party, Kabataan Youth Party and ACT Teachers Party.

“We are making the public aware that the gale of red-tagging campaign of the NFT-ELCAC (National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict) is blowing strongly in the province of Aklan amid (the) crisis of COVID19,” they said.

The activists said tarpaulins demonizing their groups abound in Kalibo City while surveillance and monitoring of their activities increased since January 4.

The activists suspect that State forces are behind the harassments.

The 12th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army also increased its harangues against their organizations on its Sunday block time radio program, the activists complained.

The Tumandok had been subjected to the same threats and harassments before the Rizal Day massacre and mass arrests, the letter explained.

“The current red-tagging and subjecting of activists under intense surveillance are incidents that serve as preludes to warrant-less search and arrests, massacre and killings,” the activists said.

The appeal added that local political and church leaders personally know the activists who are engaged with them in dialogues and humanitarian activities for Aklanon’s welfare.

“Yes we are activists, but we are not terrorists,” the letter said.

“[W]e are appealing to the provincial government of Aklan through Governor Florencio T. Miraflores and to the Chairman of the Committee of on Human Rights in the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Aklan to immediately take necessary action to protect our civil, constitutional and human rights as your constituents in the province,” the activists said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Winds of democracy in the Philippines

By Sonny Africa

Delivered at the International People’s Research Network (IPRN) Webinar on “Building People’s Democracy” held on November 27, 2020

What struggles to build a democratic society truly fulfill the aspirations of the people? IBON will briefly share our experience in the Philippine context and look forward to discussions to enrich this from different perspectives. The winds of democracy are blowing strong here.

We can start by affirming the essential character of the Philippine state. It remains as it has always been – political and economic elites inextricably intertwined and using the powers of government to advance their narrow interests. But it may be useful to look at some major developments over the last four decades of neoliberal globalization. This may help clarify authoritarian trends seen today and also point to areas needing particular attention.

Globalization and democracy

The 1980s saw hype about the “end of history” and the supposed triumph of Western liberal democracy with its distinct blend of free markets and private property, civil liberties and human rights, and supposed political freedoms. (Even then, giant China was of course a conveniently disregarded outlier.) Since then, there has been an increase in pluralist electoral democracies enshrining the popular vote for choosing leaders – as in the Philippines upon the fall of the Marcos dictatorship in 1986. (Even Russia started choosing its president by popular vote in 1991.) There has also been a huge expansion in mass media and then the internet which, it was argued, strengthened liberal democracies by democratizing information.

In economic systems, free market policies of neoliberal globalization were promised to unleash economic potential, develop backward economies, and bring prosperity to all. In reality, we’re all familiar with how neoliberal globalization has resulted in greater exploitation, greater destruction of natural resources and the environment, and greater wealth and economic power in the hands of a few. Hundreds of millions or even billions of people exploited, abused and left behind made the rumble underfoot grow stronger as economic crises erupted and deepened.

Elites however twisted this dissatisfaction, went on an all-out disinformation offensive in mass media and the internet, and manipulated elections to rise to power as today’s populist authoritarianisms – the Philippines’ own Pres. Duterte is a case in point. In too many places around the world, demagogues of different degrees are elected and have risen to the top of falsely democratic political systems.

They mostly keep the forms of liberal democratic institutions in place – free elections, the branches of government, mass media, even civil society. But these are wielded self-interestedly, subverted in practice, and any portions particularly inconvenient are carved out. But they are fundamentally authoritarians and we see everywhere the growing use of state violence, against any and all opposition, to protect elite economic interests and to retain political power.

These processes have played out in the Philippines as elsewhere. In our specific circumstances, how do we build a democratic society?

People, most of all

The most critical foundation remains people’s organizations with a vision of a democratic society. The Philippines is fortunate to have a long-standing core of this in the mass movement built up over decades. These include the country’s largest organizations of politicized peasants, formal and informal workers, youth and students, women, indigenous people, teachers and academics, and more.

The mass movement combines concrete struggles on immediate concerns with constant education work on systemic issues. Concrete struggles and constant education are both essential to build solid core constituencies for genuinely transformative change for the better.

These organizations are at the forefront of challenging anti-people social and economic policies and countering neoliberal globalization. They are also an army that reaches out not just to their direct constituencies and networks but also communicates to the widest number of people through mass media, social media, and other internet platforms.

They are supplemented by tactical formations and alliances on urgent issues to more immediately reach out to and mobilize the wider public. For instance, the steady assault of the regime on accustomed liberal democratic institutions creates wide opportunity for this. The attacks on senators, congressional representatives, the Supreme Court chief justice, the Ombudsman, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), major broadcast and internet media outfits, civil society, activists and others have stirred wide outrage. This scattered dissent needs to be brought together.

Progressives in government

At the same time, people’s organizations have enough strength and flexibility to also directly engage in traditional elite-dominated governance through elected parliamentarians such as via the party-list system in Congress. Progressive party-list groups have always been among the frontrunners in Congressional elections and already form a solid pro-people bloc in the House of Representatives.

While fully part of the traditional institutionalized political system, progressive parliamentarians remain solidly grounded in people’s organizations and are relentless in challenging the boundaries of the country’s so-called democracy. As real representatives of and from the people, their legislative measures and political work are consistently biased for the people. They seek to deliver concrete benefits while consistently seeking to weaken the economic power and fight the political abuses of self-serving elites.

Through their visible public service, they enable the general public to see that more democratic economic and political policies are possible. But they are also the beachhead of democracy in the authoritarian Duterte government for launching attacks from within. They are valuable for reaching out to other progressives and potential allies within the government, and for organizing efforts to push for democratic changes in the centers of reactionary politics.

Research matters

The superstructures of power are defended not just by sheer violence but by the hegemony of self-serving and reactionary knowledge. We of course give special attention to the invisible power of ideas, values and beliefs in reproducing capitalism and today’s worsening authoritarianism. Among the most important ways to challenge this is with solid research from the perspective of and upholding the aspirations of the people for social justice, equity, and a decent life for all.

The struggle of ideas is one of the most urgent realms of political struggle. Solid research and tenacious advocacy are vital to overcome the dominance of ruling class ideas and values. More and more people must unlearn that oppression is just to be accepted and that the only improvement in our material conditions is what ruling elites will allow.

Solid research is vital to support the campaigns of people’s organizations and of progressives in government. For instance, research on economic issues reveals what changes decades of imperialist globalization have wrought as well as confirms what remains the same. And we know that ideas are meaningless if not transformed into a political force so these need to be formed with or by the mass movement and then taken up by it.

Solid research is vital to credibly challenge anti-people policies and to articulate our new ideas and visions for a more just and democratic society. We challenge capitalism not just because it is exploitative and oppressive but also because it isn’t immutable, can be replaced, and should be replaced. We look to the socialist alternative not just because we imagine it as just, humane and liberating, but also because it is possible and can already start to be built. Research makes our critique potent and also makes our alternative real.

Research is about ideas and we are today facing a deluge. What does it take to be dynamic in the digital age with its endless tsunami of trivialities and information? It isn’t enough that our analysis is correct and that we are credible – to communicate today we have to be real-time, interactive, and nimble with text, photos, graphics, audio, video and animation. And while we will continue to distribute our research, we also have to be ever more accessible not just conceptually but also literally. More than ever, people constantly seek information with a mere click of their finger or a swipe of their thumb.

Democracy in progress

Finally, we all know the value of seeing that oppressive structures can be changed and that what is accepted as ‘normal’ can be replaced. In the Philippines, the most radical flank and most direct challenge to the oppressive status quo are the scattered but growing sites of democratic governance in the countryside. In many rural areas across the country, communities are undertaking examples of how local political and economic democracy can be interlinked to benefit the majority people and not a few elites. These are areas where landlords, agri-business, and mining corporations do not dominate and where people’s organizations have taken control of their communities and their lives. They push the envelope of our democratic struggles.

On a historical scale, there’s no doubt that the world is changing for the better. There’s too much creativity, energy and bravery committed to that for it to be otherwise. Perhaps in fits and starts, or with setbacks big and small – but, still, we’re inexorably moving forward on the back of millions of steps and struggles every day around the world. #

Red Red Whine

by Sonny Africa

IBON staff reflect on red-tagging and its attack on the ideas of the Left

Two weeks ago, as floodwaters reached a new high to trap thousands of Filipinos on the roofs of their homes and force hundreds of thousands more to evacuate, red-tagging reached a new low.

The nation struggled to mobilize help beyond what the government was giving but the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) saw it as just another day at work to whine about Reds. It tried to dissuade donations for relief work of youth activists, took a swipe at CNN Philippines for being infiltrated, and even thought it worthwhile to meddle in a call for support among co-parents in a high school group chat.

The sad episode is a case study of the depths the Duterte government goes to in calling people Communists or terrorists and organizations as fronts or infiltrated. The hysterical claim last week is that the call for donations is “extorting money and goods to fund and support their terrorist activities”. Go figure.

But it also prompts deeper reflection on what red-tagging is and why we all lose from it. It isn’t the mere labelling that the government and its security apparatus like to pretend it is and which, they insist, even the Left does to itself. Red-tagging is labelling to attack not just people and organizations but also the very ideas and values so needed to make tomorrow better than today.

Fear of ducks

These are the coordinates of their lunacy: Communists are terrorists, Communist ideas a.k.a. Leftist ideas are passé, and anyone spouting Leftist ideas is a terrorist or a brainwashed puppet.

But the thing is, with the world and the country the way they are, it’s obvious what anyone concerned about humanity will cherish for their absence – social justice, equality, and a decent life for all. An honest grasp of history, politics and economics also points to what’s needed for these values to become real – people taking control of society and their lives.

Drilling down further shows what makes ‘Reds’ look, swim and quack like the ducks that elites fear so much – the rejection of capitalism, redistribution of wealth, and the imagining (or even building) of a socialist alternative. There’s a diversity of ducks but they all have these feathers.

Reds proudly embrace these ideas, and are famously relentless in putting these ideas into practice as conditions allow. They wear their red hearts on their sleeves and wave their red flags, literally and figuratively, because it isn’t enough for the ideas to be compelling. They have to be grasped and embraced and practiced by as many people as possible.

Which brings us back to red-tagging. Leftist ideas are the floodwaters of social change but instead of homes of the poor they wash away the structures of power. These waters are rising – maybe not like a storm surge but inexorably rising nonetheless.

Red-tagging aims to put a stop to that. Starting with activists and their organizations, including their supporters, and then really anyone daring to think differently and taking a stand. It wants to reduce radical ideas to a trickle of disembodied voices embellishing a fake democracy but threatening no one.

Progressive ideas will be tolerated if spoken from armchairs or as rhetoric in speeches and policy-making. But red flags are raised when these ideas are connected to each other and, especially, when they’re borne by the organized power of politicized Filipinos in a mass movement for change.

Capitalism and wannabe authoritarians don’t want that. They need a blind and docile public that doesn’t question why the economy leaves them behind, nor that opposes unrelenting corruption and the abuse of power.

Duck-hunting

The Duterte administration is averse to Leftist ideas but is incapable of arguing against them beyond shrill banalities. The government admits as much whenever it laments losing the “propaganda war,” as verbalized by the NTF-ELCAC, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA), and even a militarist senator.

What they don’t see and can’t concede is that they’re losing because they’re on the wrong side of history – so they’ve gone duck hunting instead.

This wouldn’t be a problem if they were going after armed ducks. The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-led New People’s Army (NPA) is waging armed revolution in the countryside and, for that, is prepared for an equally armed response. The state can’t seem to defeat them in the battlefield and is in a virtual stalemate. But that’s another story.

The problem is that the Duterte administration is going after anything that quacks, wherever they might be, even if they aren’t doing anything illegal in their advocacies, projects, humanitarian work, law-making, and fiscalizing. In a back-handed compliment, the state is starting with the biggest, most influential, and deepest-rooted mainstream Left forces. The calculation may be that if the powerful radical flank is broken then moderates become more manageable.

The new Anti-Terrorism Law (ATL) is bringing a tactical nuke cannon to a duck hunt with the same kind of widespread and excessive damage. Red-tagging today is in cheap posters and flyers, bad PowerPoint presentations, loose media statements, and troll-like social media posts.

The ATL will make red-tagging graduate from these – bypassing courts where they’d just be a mess of inadmissible evidence – to become the first step towards thinly ‘legalized’ surveillance, freezing of assets, warrantless arrests, and indefinite detention. The brazen abductions and assassinations by shadowy state security forces before the new law will still continue.

Fantastic tales

Red-taggers won’t admit it but they know they would never win a battle of ideas. So they fight with twisted fantasies instead and bank on sheer repetition using the vast propaganda apparatus of the government.

Armed Reds and Leftist activists, or armed Leftists and Red activists, are crudely lumped together — this only exposes that it’s Red and Left ideas that they fear most of all. The NTF-ELCAC’s banal propagandists think that they’ve stumbled on irrefutable wisdom and repeat this ad nauseam.

A Philippines that would be idyllic if not for the renegade violence of NPA bandits in the countryside? As if it isn’t the government that’s been killing tens of thousands of alleged drug offenders and unarmed activists. The Duterte government’s state-sponsored and -sanctioned violence against civilians kills more than the guerrilla war does in the countryside.

Families blissfully happy if not for youth brainwashed to hate their parents? As if children, youth and students can’t see for themselves how their families and many others are exploited while a fraction have uncountable wealth and luxury. Our best and brightest love their country and their families. Their choices come from maturity and deserve respect.

Activists whose real agenda is hate, death and destruction? As if they aren’t among the most consistently compassionate, dedicated and productive defenders of human rights or enablers of oppressed and exploited folks wherever they might be. The self-sacrifice is out of a deep love for others.

Lumad communities in picturesque harmony if not for NPA recruiters? As if they don’t know that soldiers and paramilitary goons pave the way for mining, logging and energy projects that won’t benefit the Lumad communities. The government exploits the Lumad many times over when they are paraded as propaganda props.

The NPA are rapists, murderers and extortionists? As if a roving army of such deviants could survive for decades, attracting idealistic youth and getting the support of rural communities knowing them and seeing for themselves who they are.

And an economy made poor by Communist armed conflict? As if the economy wasn’t poor before the rise of rebellion, and isn’t kept poor by neoliberal policy incantations from worshipers of the Gods of Capitalism. And as if the most rapid economic growth in decades hasn’t benefited oligarchs, government functionaries, and foreign capital while leaving the majority poor and farther behind than ever.

The red pill

Part of red-tagging is the Duterte government wanting us to take the blue pill. To swallow their disinformation, stay ignorant, and live in the confines of an unjust, unequal and unchanging world. It’s a pill to make people not just clueless but ultimately helpless and hopeless.

The red pill, on the other hand, frees us from the enslaving control of thinking that there is no alternative to capitalism and the status quo. It affirms the working class coming together as the most powerful force for change for the better.

It also makes us see how everything is commodified where the presidency, elections, legislators and laws, even the judiciary can be bought. And how oligarchs, foreign investors, business cronies, and government officials have become wealthier – as well how the wealth of the president and his family has become suspiciously invisible.

At one level, the NTF-ELCAC propagandists are just indoctrinated military personnel and folks with a quasi-religious devotion to the president (or maybe just a crush). At a deeper level, the NTF-ELCAC is the spearhead of the system trying to put down dissent and the rising waters of social revolution.

A line is being drawn in the dolomite sand. But it isn’t between those for or against ‘Communist-terrorists’ – it’s between those embracing or enabling the status quo and those choosing to change this for the better. More than ever, it’s time to take sides. #

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Kodao publishes IBON articles as part of a content-sharing agreement.

Checkpoints, rains fail to stop ‘Grand Mañanita’ vs Duterte’s anti-terror bill

Scenes at the “Grand Mañanita” protest event against the Rodrigo Duterte government’s anti-terrorism bill at the University of the Philippines, June 12.

Despite many police checkpoints surrounding the sprawling University of the Philippines campus and the rains brought by a typhoon, thousands of protesters attended the event that fell on the 122nd anniversary of Philippine Independence from European colonization.

Organized primarily by the group Movement Against Tyranny, the event may very well be the most creative protest action this year.

(Parody song “Mañanita” by Plagpul of the song “Seńorita” by Shawn Mendes, Camila Cabello/Video editing by Jek Alcaraz, videophotography by Alcaraz, Joseph Cuevas, Sanaf Marcelo, Maricon Montajes)

They murdered a jolly activist today

They killed him in the midst of a dangerous pandemic, one that shut down his beloved city and rendered its poor communities nearly helpless.

The person brutally murdered by four burly men in early this morning was one of Iloilo City’s most visible personalities during times of disaster and calamities, often seen organizing and coordinating relief missions. And giving relief to those most affected by the coronavirus lockdown was one of the last public things he did before assassins brutally snuffed out his life.

Jory Porquia was at ease with the poor, both urban and rural. He had a smooth rapport with the people he chose to serve since his student-activist days. He bantered easily with the poor and marginalized, his voice and laughter carrying the Ilonggo’s sing-song and tender accent far, be it in Iloilo City’s poor communities or in the far-flung communities of the Tumanduk, the indigenous people of his beloved Panay Island.

Jory was coordinator of the alternative political party Bayan Muna in his home city of Iloilo, touted to be the “City of Love.” How he lived this love was unconscionable to the enemies social justice Porquia struggled to abide by all his life. The assassins barged into his rented house and pumped nine bullets into him, killing him on the spot.

Bayan Muna immediately condemned the assassination, calling it traitorous. The group suspects Porquia’s murderers could only be of the government. “Prior to this killing, Jory was hounded by elements of Iloilo City PNP (Philippine National Police) for leading relief operations and education campaign on COVID 19 among hungry residents of poor communities in Iloilo City,” Bayan Muna said. “This is part of the impunity in political killings aimed at terrorizing activists critical of Duterte’s administration,” it added.

 Bayan Muna revealed that even though Iloilo City mayor Mayor Jerry Treñas welcomed the relief and feeding activities Bayan Muna and Jory initiated, this did not sit well with the government. ”The police did not only prevent activists like Porquia from doing volunteer work against the pandemic, it even spread the blatant lie that the food served by activists to quarantined residents are contaminated with the COVID 19 virus,” Bayan Muna fumed. “Apparently, the PNP gets instructions from their generals ignoring the policies of local chief executives,” the group added.

The lies and harassments did not stop Jory. But the assassins’ bullets did.

Jory Porquia (Supplied photo)

Successful activist career

Jory survived Ferdinand Marcos’ Martial Law as a leading Kabataan para sa Demokrasya at Nasyonalismo (KADENA) and League of Filipino Students leader. After Marcos was ousted he was appointed by Corazon Aquino to the National Youth Commission. He left his government post when it became clear the so-called People Power government is not one to bring genuine social change.

As a young family man, he had to work as a migrant worker in Saudi Arabia, Singapore and China. In those countries, it was as if Jory was still the Iloilo activist of old as he became active in organizing fellow migrant workers and advocating for Filipino migrants’ rights.

Upon his return, Jory briefly engaged in the construction business and worked as Migrante organizer in Panay. To this day, Migrante calls him its own, expressing grief and anger at his murder. “With pain and sorrow, we grieve with Jory Porquia’s loved ones, friends and his fellow Bayan Muna members for his demise,” Migrante International said.

Jory was an well-rounded activist. Aside from his organizing tasks in various organizations, he was also an active environmentalist. He was among the activists of the Madia-as Ecological Movement, which was instrumental in the banning of destructive commercial mining in Panay.

When Bayan Muna Party was founded in 2000, Jory was among its founding members. As party coordinator in Iloilo City, he actively engaged in developing good relations with local political leaders in Panay. He even was goaded into trying his luck at an elected position in the 2010 local elections, but lacking funds, it was a long shot.

But in 2016, Jory again found himself in government service. In barely a year, he assumed the coordination of the National Anti-poverty Commission and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in Panay Island. As he left government in 1987, so he did in 2017.

“Jory is a great loss to the progressive movement for social transformation, but will inspire Bayan Muna members and all activists to persist in advancing New Politics against the tyrannical rule of the current administration. We will always remember you, Kaupod (Comrade) Jory, as we turn our grief into liberating courage,” former Bayan Muna Representative and current vice president for the Visayas Siegfred Deduro said in his tribute.

Jory Porquia (Supplied photo)

Loving father

Even in his very busy schedule as a social activist however, Jory was a loving father to his two children.

In announcing the death of his father this morning, Jory’s son Lean remembered when his father immediately flew to Manila when he needed someone to talk to. He said his dad always supported his decisions but always reminded him to ask himself, “Who is he doing it for?” Lean and his sister grew up sharing their father’s patriotism.

Lean raged at his father’s killing. “They killed my tatay (father) when all he wanted was to help the poor. They killed my tatay in the middle of a crisis when all he did was to give relief to those who need it. They killed my tatay, mercilessly. Nine gunshots to kill him, NINE! He was alone. He was defenseless,” he wrote on his Facebook wall.

But like his father’s friends and colleagues, Lean could not help but remember his father’s jolly nature and easy-going ways with the ordinary folk even when he was facing grave danger and great injustices. “You survived Martial Law. You went in and out of prison because you fought for other people’s rights. Despite that, you gave a smile on the faces of people you helped, people that I don’t know, people that I’m surprised to welcome you in their homes and share their meal, even if it’s just one small can of sardines. You brushed shoulders with bureaucrats, but only to remain grounded in advancing the welfare of the poor people in Iloilo,” he recalled.

At the time of his assassination, Lean revealed Jory was brewing a personal project that was close to his heart. “We were just talking last night about your plans of opening up a small restaurant. You even showed me all the papers are ready. You even took a picture of your own masterpiece dish and I told you to reserve some when I have the chance to go home,” he wrote.

“How can I go home and grieve? How can we cry for justice when justice is elusive for people who fight for justice? I can only place my rage in words that mean nothing to those who killed you,” Lean added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

KODAO ASKS: Bakit kailangang ipagdiwang ang Sigwa ng Unang Kwarto?

Inilunsad nitong Enero 26, 2020 sa Bantayog ng mga Bayani, Quezon Ave, Quezon City ang pagdiriwang sa ika – 50 anibersayo nang Sigwa ng Unang Kwarto.

Tinanong ng Kodao ang mga dumalo sa pagtitipon kumbakit kailangang gunitain at ipagdiwang ang First Quarter Storm of 1970. (Bidyo ni Jek Alcaraz/Kodao)

A new hope: The issues and struggles of 2019

By Renato Reyes Jr.

The year 2019 has got to be one of the most difficult 12 months for the Filipino people. We witnessed an unprecedented escalation of political repression on various fronts. The attacks were vicious and relentless and tested our collective resolve to fight back. The backward economy experienced new challenges with the continuing neo-liberal policies this regime chose to uphold. Under attack this year were human rights, national sovereignty, democracy and the rule of law. Through it all, the struggling Filipino people stood their ground, made significant advances, pushed back against tyranny and scored victories for the people.

Push-back against fascist attacks

The year 2019 saw the worst attacks on human rights including the killings and mass arrests in Negros, the militarization of Eastern Visayas, continuing Martial Law in Mindanao, trumped-up charges and arrests in Manila, extrajudicial killings in the drug war, red-tagging and attacks on academic freedom, the right to organize and freedom of expression. The National Task Force to End Local Armed Conflict repeatedly reared its ugly head and led the crackdown on dissent in the name of “counter-insurgency”. The “whole of nation approach”, which called for the militarization and weaponization of the civilian bureaucracy in the service of counter-insurgency.

The call “Defend Negros” reverberated as human rights defenders showed solidarity with the people of Negros facing extrajudicial killings, mass arrests, harassment and militarization. The courageous people of Negros are standing up to tyranny thanks in part to the nationwide and international solidarity that came after the series of violent attacks in the island. There remain many detained on trumped-up charges and justice remains elusive for those killed like the Sagay 9, Atty, Ben Ramos, Toto Patigas and Atty. Anthony Trinidad, among many others.

The October 31 raid on legal offices of activist groups in Negros and the arrest of as many as 51 individuals including minors, was one of the worst incidents of wholesale political repression against activists in the country in recent history. Majority of those arrested were eventually released for lack of probable cause or after posting bail. There are many however who remain incarcerated because of trumped-up charges and planted evidence. At around the same time in Manila, five activists were arrested based on warrants issued by the same QC judge that issued the Negros search warrants.

In the face of these escalating attacks, the people pushed back, waged mass actions, called nationwide attention to the abuses, built alliances, and amplified the call to defend human rights. The lies of state forces were eventually exposed, including the manufacture of spurious search warrants used to raid offices of legal activists. A solidarity mission was held and the groups arrived in time for the release of many of the arrested individuals.

The September 21 commemoration of Marcos’ Martial Law and the December 10 International Human Rights Day mobilizations bannered the calls against tyranny and dictatorship. Thousands participated nationwide in protest of the worsening human rights situation under the fascist Duterte regime.

The struggle for justice for all human rights victims continues in 2020.

Bato, bato who?

In August, neophyte Senator Bato dela Rosa attempted to conduct his own McCarthyist witch-hunt of youth activists in several universities, citing the alleged “missing of minors” who were recruited to the NPA. Such claims however were belied as there were no “missing minors”. The purpose of the hearing was to actually attack academic freedom and activism in schools by delegitimizing dissent. The efforts of Bato were soon exposed and the students fought back by holding protests and walk-outs across the country.

One week after his tirades on student activists, Bato would find himself at the crosshairs of a senate probe on the early releases of high-profile inmates convicted of heinous crimes. Bato used to be Bucor director and under his watch, anomalous GCTA releases took place.

Atin ang Pinas!

Another banner issue for 2019 was the West Philippine Sea. The campaign to defend our sovereign rights in our Exclusive Economic Zone and protest the puppetry of the regime united a broad range of patriotic forces. The protests against China’s violation of our sovereign rights was sustained: April 9, June 12, the days after the sinking of the MV Gem-Ver, July 12 anniversary of the Hague ruling, and the biggest anti-China protest on the occasion of Duterte’s State of the Nation Address. The pressure from the public forced Duterte to address the issue of the China and the West Philippine Sea during his SONA.

Labor unrest

This year saw several workers’ strikes take place, with almost all being brutally attacked by private goons and state forces. Notable workers’s struggles include the workers of SUMIFRU, Super 8, PEPMACO, NutriAsia in Cabuyao, Laguna, Nissin-Monde and Regent Foods. Most common issues are contractualization, the right to unionize, collective bargaining, and poor working conditions.

Trade union repression has worsened this year with the frequent use of police forces to break up picket lines and arrest striking workers. Some of the worst violations happened with the NutriaAsia workers whose strike was violently attacked and leaders arrested and detained for several months. The same violence was imposed on the striking workers of Regent Foods in Pasig, with union leaders and supporters also arrested. The timely intervention of Pasig Mayor Vico Sotto helped secure the release of the detained workers.

The attacks on striking workers spurred a boycott of products of the companies suppressing workers’ rights. The boycott of PEPMACO, NutriAsia and Regent Food products remain in force to this day.

Electoral struggle

It was a difficult year for the electoral struggle as progressive partylist groups and candidates faced fascist attacks from the entire state machinery. The regime also used considerable resources at is disposal to ensure the election of their candidates. Pera, pananakot at panlilinlang ang ginamit para mailuklok ang mga kandidato ng administrasyon at sagkaan ang oposisyon. Despite the tremendous odds, partylist group Bayan Muna achieved three seats in Congress and placed second in the partylist race. ACT, Gabriela Women’s Parety and Kabataan got one seat each. Anakpawis will definitely do better in the next elections even as attacks continue against the peasant sector.

On May 17, more than a thousand marched to the PICC to protest election fraud under the Duterte regime.

Rice crisis

This year was bleak for millions of Filipino rice farmers reeling from the effects of the rice liberalization and the massive importation of rice. The Philippines gained the distinction as the biggest rice importer in the world as palay prices dipped to P9 per kilo in some parts of the country. More than 50,000 farmers signed a petition for the repeal of the Rice Tariffication Law and public outrage over the state of agriculture was clearly felt. This forced Duterte to order government to purchase more palay from local producers. However, the regime stopped short of actually halting rice importation and repealing the law.

Mass transport crisis

Commuters continued to suffer in 2109 with what Bayan has described as a “mass transport crisis”. Trains continued to break down, a jeepney phaseout was being pushed, and the quality of life of Metro Manila workers and students continued to deteriorate due to the long commute. Not even the commute stunt of Presidential Spokesman Sal Panelo could cover up the reality that mass transport in the country is utterly lacking and problematic. The regime of privatization has failed to address the transportation needs of the public and the problems are expected to continue in 2020.

GCTA and ninja cops

The PNP faced its worst crisis yet with the issue of the “ninja cops”, an offshoot of the probe into the Good Conduct Time Allowance. The supposed release of heinous crime convicts such as Mayor Antonio Sanchez led to the conduct of a senate probe into anomalies in the GCTA. Even Sen. Bato, a former Bucor chief, found himself in the hot seat for the releases under his watch, Like many things in the corrupt bureaucracy, the system could be bought. In the course of the investigation, the issue of “ninja cops”was raised by former CIDG chief and now Baguio Mayor Benjamin Magalong. This led to a new round of investigations that centered on no less than PNP chief Oscar Albayalde. The PNP Chief was implicated in protecting his personnel who were involved in the recycling of illegal drugs. Albayalde was allowed to resign, though disgraced and without fanfare. Until now, Duterte has not appointed a PNP chief. He has ordered DILG Secretary Eduardo Ano to “handle” the PNP until 2022.

The entire drug war has been exposed as a sham. So many families cry out for justice for the thousands of victims of extrajudicial killings brought about by the brutal drug war.

Water crisis and the crisis of privatization

March 7 marked the start of the water crisis in Metro Manila as Manila Water customers suddenly found themselves without water. Long lines were formed in Mandaluyong, Pasig and San Juan as people waited for water supply in the streets. Maynilad will also follow suit with its service interruptions. Water services, which had been privatized since 1997, again failed the the consumers. The private water concessionaires incurred widespread public anger because of their failure to prepare for the El Nino and provide new water sources to keep up with their expansion. Their proposed water rate hike was widely opposed. Eventually, their contracts were scrutinized and exposed as having been onerous and grossly disadvantageous to the public. The statements from Malacanang and the DOJ were a vindication of the Left’s position on water privatization and the onerous contracts entered into by the Ramos regime and extended by the Arroyo regime. Even Duterte grudgingly acknowledged this on December 3, when he discussed the concession agreements: “Itong Left inunahan tayo. Kana si [Sal?] narinig mo si ano? Inunahan — nakaamoy ang mga ulol and they think that they are the savior of the…”

The water service interruptions continue, and are expected to be the “new normal” possibly beyond summer 2020. The public awaits the outcome of the contract reviews. It is time for government to take back water services, not give it to another crony of the regime. This should be on our campaign agenda next year.

The end of Martial Law in Mindanao

After more than two years, Martial Law in Mindanao will end midnight of December 31. The period covered by Martial Law saw many human rights violations and abuses by state security forces. This includes extrajudicial killings of peasants and indigenous peoples, the militarization of communities, closure of Lumad schools, mass arrests and the filing of trumped up charges. Mindanao has borne the brunt of the counter-insurgency operations of the regime. Their heroic resistance continues.

A recent survey indicated that 65% of those polled wanted Martial Law to end this year.

Peace talks ituloy!

A most welcome development at the end of 2019 was the revival of peace efforts between the GRP and the NDFP. Backchannel talks were held, a 15-day reciprocal ceasefire was put in place and confidence-building measures were sought. The peace talks stand to benefit the Filipino people through the forging of substantive agreements that address the root causes of the armed conflict. It also has the effect of countering the fascist attacks of the regime against the people. The news of the revival of the peace talks was welcomed by many, especially peace advocates. Some 130 lawmakers have signed a resolution supporting the peace talks. Despite efforts of peace spoilers and war hawks intent on sabotaging the peace talks, there appears to be positive advances with the reconstitution of the GRP peace panel and the inclusion of Executive Secretary Bingbong Medialdea in the panel.

We need to press for the release of all political prisoners, including NDF peace consultants who will participate in the peace talks.

The peace spoilers are bent on sowing intrigues to sabotage the talks. They also want to banner their so-called achievements in “localized peace talks”. Unfortunately for them, their latest fakery in the supposed “mass surrender” of NPA’s in Masbate was quickly exposed as a sham. The resumption of the peace talks is proof of the failure of the localized talks and the “whole of nation approach”.

A new hope

In the immortal words of Rogue One’s Jyn Erso we subscribe: “Rebellions are built on hope”. The resistance to tyranny and oppression is fueled by the hope that a better world, a more just and human society, is indeed possible. Our hope is likewise fueled by the resilience and tirelessness of the oppressed masses. Time and again, they who are most oppressed and downtrodden have taught us the meaning of courage.

We welcome the new year with a new hope and a firm resolve to fight for our people and for a better future. #

The author is the secretary general of the New Patriotic Alliance/Bagong Alyansang Makabayan.

Kabataang handang kumilos at manindigan

“Sa bawat pagdanak ng dugo ng mga magsasaka sa mga sakahan, sa bawat binubuwag nilang picket line ng mga manggagawa, at sa bawat maralita na tinatanggalan nila ng karapatan sa paninirahan, ay ang pag-usbong ng bagong salinlahi ng mga kabataang rebolusyonaryo na handang kumilos at manindigan, buhay man ay ialay!”—Alex Danday, Anakbayan spokesperson

Image by Jo Maline Mamangun

#Batomeltdown and the Neverending Cycle Of Abuse, Rape and Murder of the Filipino Youth

By L.S. Mendizabal

June 2006—It was my freshman year at UP Los Baños. Students would scurry to and from their classes in random buildings scattered all over the campus at the foot of Mt. Makiling. They walked briskly by flyers posted on a few trees, utility poles and many a wall at jeepney stops and outside classrooms next to professors’ announcements. They were flyers of Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan, also UP students, who were abducted that same month. I remember giving them a quick glance: young girls’ faces—probably as young as I was—in black and white Xerox ink, under which the words were in striking capital letters, “MISSING” and “SURFACE!” I remember not reading the rest of the text. I was worried about the time, about how my next professor sent late students home. At the back of my mind, though, I thought, “Why are they missing? Must be why they want to bring soldiers in here.” During that time, certain members of the faculty, including a reserve colonel who’d eventually become Office of Student Affairs (OSA) Director, were pushing for the placement of personnel from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) within university grounds. Little did I know that it was the military that took Empeño and Cadapan, never to be seen and found to this day.

Unlike my high school batchmates who applied for the university residence halls, Mama sent me to a nuns’ ladies’ dormitory. We were practically monastics, too, without the veils. In fact, that’s what other people called us upon knowing where we stayed: “mga madre.” Some would take the joke further and call us “virgins.” I couldn’t blame them: we had a strict 9 p.m. curfew and by that, I mean all the cool college happenings happened afterwards. If you arrived so much as only ten minutes past curfew, the Mother Superior was already on the phone with your parents, telling on you. We had our meals cooked for us three times a day at a refectory except Sunday, which was when we felt absolutely free. My dormmates and I would do all sorts of things on this particular “free day.” We spoiled ouselves with P10-siomai (with rice!) and P15-ice cream outside (outside!) the campus, we spent hours in the internet shop, followed the dirt road to where all the cattle were, drank fresh carabao’s milk, went out with guys we were dating (secretly, of course), ran enthusiastically in the thunderstorm courtesy of Reming. On Sundays, we were free. Unstoppable. Just as long as we were home by nine o’clock and steered clear of the lovers’ common spot by the Fertility Tree (or any activity anywhere near your fertility, really) because Mother Superior would most certainly expel a resident student who suddenly got knocked up. There was also the “Neverending Bridge” which is actually Palma bridge. It earned its nickname from an old tale about a student who crossed it at midnight but never seemed to reach its end until he took his shirt off and wore it inside out. It might sound stupid but it was the kind of stupid myth any freshman would willingly believe just for the fun of it. Besides, what business could you possibly have on that bridge at an ungodly hour? Some would say that murderers disposed of their dead victims by throwing the bodies off the bridge, which was why it was haunted. One such restless soul belonged to a female student who was raped and killed in the 90s. This was, by far, the most hair-raising story, because it was no urban legend. While it isn’t true that her body was dumped under the Neverending Bridge, a female UP student was indeed abducted in 1993, gangraped and shot in the face by then Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez. Her friend who was with her at the time of her abduction was taken with her “to avoid complications.” He, too, was beaten and shot to death. Sanchez was given seven life sentences behind bars to pay for these crimes.

 For UPLB students during my time, what happened to Eileen Sarmento and Allan Gomez lay somewhere between a ghost story and a cautionary tale. It was the reason no one dared to cross the Neverending Bridge on foot past nightfall, the reason parents sent their daughters to a nuns’ house. Last week, the Gomez-Sarmento case revisited my consciousness when Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director General Nicanor Faeldon said that Sanchez was likely to be freed in two months due to a new law increasing good conduct time allowance (GCTA) and a Supreme Court (SC) decision applying this law retroactively. I only knew the urban legend so having the rape-slay case bombard the news once again and finally knowing it in full, harrowing detail has proven that real life is truly more horrifying than any ghost story.

Two days later, amidst public outrage over Sanchez’s possible early release, Faeldon changed his tune: Sanchez would most likely not qualify for GCTA benefits because of certain violations he committed in the past. This was followed by Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra’s explanation that inmates convicted of “heinous crimes” are not eligible for credit of preventive imprisonment (CPI), therefore making them ineligible for GCTA as well. However, there is no conclusive interpretation of the new law’s ambiguous provisions just yet. Around the same time, #BatoMeltdown went viral when Sen. Rolando “Bato” Dela Rosa verbally attacked a student leader in a public hearing, recanting his earlier statement that “Sanchez deserves a second chance” by literally yelling that Sanchez “should have been sentenced to death” in the first place, but that even he, a senator, could not change the law and even if he could, the problem was that [militant progressives] are against death penalty. The meltdown ocurred while the senate’s basic education committee was discussing the proposed revival of the mandatory Reserved Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) in senior high school in which National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) President Raoul Manuel expressed that it was difficult to trust said proposal, particularly in its objectives in “law enforcement” and “human rights awareness” when one of its proponents (without naming names) publicly supports the freeing of an ex-mayor and convicted rapist while the senator finds it easy to kill the poor in the Tokhang campaigns. Fair point.

Many people were angered, even entertained, by Dela Rosa’s outburst. Personally, I found it all deeply troubling—from Dela Rosa’s pronouncements to those of his colleagues. Let us break down the rhetoric of #RespectYourSenators for those who missed the full show. Here are the takeaway points from Dela Rosa, Sen. Pia Cayetano and committee chairman, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian:

• By saying that enforcing mandatory ROTC is a misrepresentation of nationalism, Manuel was judging them unfairly;

• Manuel attacked Dela Rosa personally by citing his public comment on giving Sanchez a second chance;

• It was Manuel and other progressive activists’ fault that Sanchez may walk free because they object against the death sentence;

• Manuel must not be a true representative of Filipino students because most of these students are actually in favor of ROTC;

• Manuel must not love his country because he opposes mandatory ROTC, does not care whether China invades the Philippines and probably expects the New People’s Army to defend the nation (to which Manuel responded calmly that the youth, in fact, worry about this matter because the AFP whose constitutional task is to preserve national integrity and sovereignty are not exactly doing their job);

• Manuel’s statements on not trusting public officials in the implementation of mandatory ROTC because of their disregard for human rights were “irrelevant and not germane to the topic”;

• Manuel and other guests invited by the committee should show respect to their senators and must not criticize them during public hearings. They should take their criticisms to the media, instead;

• Oh wait, Manuel really does represent the Filipino students, which means that they share the same state of mind and dearth of discipline because, “How dare you criticize a senator?”;

• Manuel should believe and respect Dela Rosa because, aside from being his senator, he is older, too;

• Hence, mandatory ROTC should be enforced to instill discipline in disrespectful youth;

• Gatchalian already knew very well (“alam na alam ko na”) what the progressive youth groups were to say and the committee just invited NUSP “for the sake of fairness.” He then gave them a stern warning for “dragging irrelevant issues” into the hearing and “wasting their time,” insinuating that the youth groups might not be invited to these kinds of hearings thereafter;

• Once more, the youth and non-members of the committee should respect their senators;

• Manuel only incited Dela Rosa to react violently so that progressive youth groups may have enough reason to criticize him and cause trouble later on;

• Dela Rosa does not give a fuck about Manuel, who wasn’t going to be arrested for his irrelevant statements anyway so, “Go home, Manuel!”

The last one gave me shudders. They may not be hurting kids in senate public hearings but an alarmingly high number of students, youth leaders, activists and human rights workers are being slaughtered every day both out in the streets and in their very homes. What was made to sound like an assurance seemed more like a threat. What was supposed to be a public discussion with youth representation about a law that’d later affect the youth suddenly became exhausting, not exhaustive. The recognition and respect that should’ve been given to Manuel, national president of the nation’s largest alliance of student councils, was somehow dislodged by baseless red-tagging, castigation and a humiliating tirade all in one breath. If the youth have no respect for their public officials and their rules, then they do not love their country. Consequently, they must be punished with mandatory military service as early as in high school. For these “grown-up” lawmakers, it was as simple as one-plus-one.

The reality behind such arguments is this: the youth frightens the state to such a degree that it is taking drastic measures to prevent more Manuels from multiplying. The youth, after all, would be so much easier to control if they did not think critically, not join organizations who might “brainwash” them into thinking critically, not have access to free, nationalist and scientific education (thus, the violent attacks and killings in Lumad schools), not question authority or even give the remote indication of an independent opinion. When the youth go astray and commit crimes, incarcerate them. Never mind if they’re minors. The younger they are repressed, the better. All these are part of a grander fascist scheme that emanates from the state’s primordial fear of the youth once they leave their gadgets and phones, and struggle together beyond social media in the rural and urban areas, united against all that is unjust: fraudulent national elections, drug wars, wars against the poor, rampant corruption in the government, etc. The youth in their sheer number, sharpness of mind and physical strength have always been a force to reckon with. That is why the state does everything in its power to deprive us of our youth by keeping us in the dark, uneducated and misinformed, sending the military to our schools and forcing their extensive set of rules down our throats—the incarceration, rape and murder of the Filipino youth, both figuratively and literally in the cases of Eileen Sarmenta, Allan Gomez, Karen Empeño, Sherlyn Cadapan, Kian Delos Santos and thousand others. The youth, the hope of our future, have been reduced to body counts, headlines and flyers pasted on walls. And the usual suspects? Armed, powerful figures of authority. Note that some of those involved in the rape and double murder of Sarmenta and Gomez were police personnel. Meanwhile, Empeño and Cadapan were not only abducted but tortured and raped by elements of the Philippine Army on then AFP Gen. Jovito Palparan’s orders, the same Palparan who is now being petitioned to also be released by pro-administration blogger, Mocha Uson, and her followers. Respect authority, they say. If there’s anything Mama has taught me and helped me more than other life lessons, it is that “Respect begets respect.” First and foremost, the authorities must know how to respect human rights. It is only then that a just and peaceful society will be able to thrive, where the youth can dance in the rain and children can run free, and not criminals in power.

Our current public servants should be examined in their utmost rawness during the #BatoMeltdown, and not in their dressed and made up selves hurrying to shake our hands before elections, promising the farmers land, the workers regularization and the youth no tuition fees and free internet for all. Gatchalian, after marching with students in protest rallies calling for accessible higher education in 2016, came off as even more absurd than Dela Rosa. Is it not their job to take their time in carefully considering their constituents’ sentiments, especially those of the youth? Is it not Manuel’s right to share his misgivings about a certain law that would do more harm than good? Don’t the taxpayers deserve to be heard, not ganged up on and bullied like what they did to Manuel? Apparently, to these senators, inviting the youth to this all-important affair was a privilege that Manuel wasted, when in fact, they wasted taxpayers’ money and the youth’s time by lecturing them on opinions best kept to themselves. There exists a pre-ordained script that everyone should stick to in this theatre that is Lawmaking where the young, marginalized and poverty-stricken can never assume roles except as props and background to the actors’ advantage. Welcome to the theatre of Moro-moro staged by and for the rich and powerful (and a handful of morons).             I do not blame Manuel for apologizing in the end. He knew that it wasn’t the right arena, and therefore, a losing game. For instance, the death penalty did exist during Sanchez’s conviction but he was not executed because of his status and power. If the death sentence is to be revived, who will they kill next? Certainly not the rich and powerful. Like I said, they run the (freak) show. If anything, Manuel’s remarks on fascism, the culture of impunity and apathy among the ranks of the government were far from irrelevant. They were relevant in 1993, in 2006, and they are relevant now. More than ever, the youth must be vigilant as they continue the struggle to be heard in this anti-youth regime. After all, it is not farfetched that Sanchez’s case merely serves as a plot contrivance for a smoother intermission before the next act, Bato’s Chorus: The Death Penalty. Like the Neverending Bridge at midnight, the horrors just won’t end. #