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‘One death is too many’

Artwork by Jose Mari Callueng

“One death is too many. In the case of Negros Island, since President Duterte took an oath to “…do justice to every man and consecrate myself (himself) to the service of the nation,” at least 87 lives have been taken. Half of these were killed when Duterte ordered the deployment of more military troops there by virtue of the Memorandum Order No. 32.

“This is the image of Negros Island now. Once an island known as the “Sugarbowl of the Philippines,” has become a killing field. It is bloodied. And the killing won’t stop very soon. What with the threats from the President to deploy even more troops there.

“It won’t stop unless we stop the murderer in Malacañang.”—Jose Mari Callueng, human rights defender

Group reports continuing surveillance on wounded journalist

Brandon Lee, the journalist and human rights activist shot and seriously injured by unidentified assailants in front of his home in Lagawe, Ifugao Tuesday night is being surveiled at the Baguio General Hospital, the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) said.

“Security guards at the hospital alerted us that a certain George Malidow of the [AFP], introducing himself as from Camp Henry Allen in Baguio, was asking for details about Brandon’s case,” the CHRA said in its alert.

“This was brought to our attention as this is not regular protocol for the AFP to be monitoring and investigating such case,” the group added.

Camp Allen is a military camp in the heart of the Cordilleran capital that once served as the site of the Philippine Military Academy.

Hospitals, meanwhile, are designated neutral zones by human rights statutes and local and international humanitarian organizations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross/Crescent.

Lee was brought to Baguio last night from Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya after being initially brought to a local hospital in Lagawe after the attack.

The CHRA said Lee is conscious and able to talk but is in need of type O+ blood donations.

He suffered four gunshot wounds on his torso, reports said.

Lee is a United States citizen, married to a Filipino and a permanent resident of the Philippines. They have a seven-year old daughter.

CHRA photo

Red-tagging victim

Lee, a red-tagging victim of the AFP since 2015, is the Ifugao provincial correspondent of the Baguio-based media outfit Northern Dispatch.

He is also a paralegal of the CHRA, the Ifugao Peasant Movement and the Justice and Peace Advocates of Ifugao, all of which have reported threats and harassments by members of the 54th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army for weeks prior to the attack.

The soldiers gathered data by interrogating and intimidating the organizations’ members and staff, the CHRA reported after Lee’s shooting.

The Philippine Army team was headed by a certain 1Lt Karol Jay R. Mendoza while its Civil-Military Operations head is a certain Lt.Col. Narciso B. Nabulneg, Jr. who both invoked President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order 70 in their interrogations, the group added.

Duterte’s EO 70 issued last December created a task force to combat insurgency that human rights organizations blame for the killing of activists across the country.

Condemnations

Meanwhile, Bayan Muna Reps. Eufemia Cullamat and Carlos Isagani Zarate today strongly condemned the attack against Lee, who they describe as “one of the noted volunteers of the Ifugao Peasant Movement and well-loved by the peasant and indigenous peoples in the Cordillera.”

“It seems like that the dark army and mad dogs of the government that are responsible for the killings of thousands in the anti-drug campaign are now after activists, people’s lawyers, community organizers, and other human rights workers,” Zarate said in a statement.

 “Brandon Lee’s assasination attempt is revealing of the type of government that we have when it threatens death to people like him, who serves the poor peasant and indigenous peoples so selflessly. We should not allow this to continue. This madness must stop and should be investigated promptly, and the perpetrators be brought to justice,” the House Deputy Minority Leader said.

The Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA) for its part said it holds State security forces that the Duterte administration has let loose in the Cordillera region – the 54th IBPA, the 5th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army and the Northern Luzon Command—acountable for the attack.

‘We urgently call on the people to voice out your concern and call for justice for Brandon and other human rights violations victims. The attacks on human rights defenders must end,” the CPA said.

The group announced it will hold a social media rally on Twitter and Facebook for Lee at five to eight o’clock Wednesday evening using the hashtags #Justice4BrandonLee and #StoptheAttacks. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Alert broadcaster thwarts ‘warrantless arrest’ attempts by soldiers

A former station manager of a Bukidnon radio station frustrated attempts by government soldiers to bring her to their military camp without a warrant.

Members of the 1st Special Forces Battalion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines harassed former Radyo Lumad station manager Kristin Lim since Saturday, August 3, and even engaged village leaders to convince  her to give herself up, to no avail.

Soldiers on board a military truck arrived at Lim’s home in Damilag, Bukidnon at 8:30 Saturday night and “invited” her to their camp for “questioning.” They were led by a 1st Lieutenant Baquial.

Lim refused after Baquial failed to present a warrant of arrest or a “valid and clear reason,” the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines in Northern Mindanao Region (RMP-NMR) said in an alert.

The troopers, however, were back early Sunday morning, insisting that Lim surrender herself.

The RMP-NMR said the soldiers were using the same tactic they used in the so-called capture of civilians Gloria Jandayan and Gleceria Balangiao who were later presented by the battalion as fake New People’s Army surrenderees.

The soldiers later asked members of barangays council to help convince Lim to be “summoned” to the military camp because of “her knowledge of the Left.”

Lim still refused, the RMP-NMR reported, agreeing to a dialogue only in the presence of a legal counsel.

RMP-NMR added that Barangay chairperson Jun Torres eventually agreed with Lim and in turn told the soldiers that they can summon her at the village hall as long as her safety is assured.

Other members of the council and the homeowners’ association also demanded that soldiers stop visiting their village on board military trucks as “the soldiers make it look like they are pursuing a dangerous criminal or terrorist.”

Red-tagged

Lim was hired as Radyo Lumad station manager in July 2018 until its temporary closure in January this year “due to threats and harassments.”

Radyo Lumad was located in Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon, a community radio station focused on reporting on indigenous peoples’ rights and welfare.

The radio station was part of RMP-NMR’s Healing the Hurt Project with the European Union and the World Association for Christian Communication.

(Disclosure: Kodao Productions was hired as training partner of the Radyo Lumad Project.)

Lim said the radio station decided to temporarily close due to persistent threats and harassments against its staff.

Earlier this year, Lim was among those red-tagged in flyers distributed in Cagayan de Oro City along with lawyers, journalists, church workers, indigenous peoples’ leaders and activists. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NPA ‘strictly abides by rules of war’ – CPP to HRW

By Visayas Today

Communist rebels offered assurances on Thursday, July 30, that their armed units “conscientiously study and abide by the Geneva Conventions and Protocol I,” which govern the conduct of war.

Earlier in the day, Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch, acknowledged that responsibility for the string of killings that have claimed at least 20 lives in Negros Oriental over the past two week “remains unclear.”

He nevertheless urged both the government and rebels to “take all necessary measures to end unlawful attacks, either by their forces or armed elements linked to them.”

State security forces and the New People’s Army have blamed each other for the killings.

The NPA accuses government forces of retaliating on civilians suspected of being rebel supporters following the death of four police intelligence officers in an ambush on July 18. The police accuse the rebels of torturing and then executing the four.

Adams reminded both parties that “killing civilians and captured combatants are war crimes.”

Responding to Adams, the CPP said it considered the attention HRW had given to the Negros killings “important” and agreed with his observation that the violence was “linked to the issues of land rights, poverty and injustice.”

It maintained that the four policemen “died in the course of a legitimate act of war” – an NPA ambush – “and were not tortured as falsely claimed by” President Rodrigo Duterte, and stressed that the rebels “do not have a hand in the successive killings of civilians.”

The CPP also said the deaths of seven persons on July 25, the bloodiest day for Negros Oriental, “fall into the pattern of coordinated operations of the police and military.”

Among those killed on that day were sibling educators Arthur and Aldane Bayawa and Buenavista barangay captain Romeo Alipan, who were shot dead in their respective homes in Guihulngan City, and Marlon Ocampo and his year-old son Marjon, who died when gunmen strafed their home in Sta. Catalina town.

“We believe that they are victims of death squads attached to the military and police in Negros island meant to intimidate the people against supporting the armed resistance of the NPA,” the CPP said. “Many of them have been previously publicly tagged as sympathizers of the NPA.” #

Another murder in Canlaon hours before bells toll vs killings

By Visayas Today

Just five hours before church bells were to start tolling on Sunday, July 28, to call for an end to the wave of violence sweeping across Negros Oriental province, another person was killed in Canlaon City where, the day before, gunmen barged into the homes of a councilor and a barangay captain, killing them in cold blood.

An initial report from the Canlaon police identified the victim as Anaciancino Rosalita, married, of Barangay Bucalan, who was shot dead at the Oval Public Market in Barangay Panubigan.

The village is also where Councilor Ramon “Bobby Jalandoni” and Panubigan barangay captain Ernesto Posadas were murdered in the early hours of Saturday, July 27. Just hours after these murders, in Ayungon town, gunmen also stormed the home of former mayor Edsal Enardecido, killing him and his cousin Leo.

The report said a concerned citizen phoned the city police station to report the shooting incident around 3:05 p.m. at the Oval Public Market.

No other details were available.

Since July 18, when communist rebels ambushed four police intelligence officers in Ayungon, more than 20 civilians have been killed in various shooting incidents.

The bloodiest day was Thursday, July 25, when seven died, including sibling educators and a village chief in Guihulngan City, and a man and his year-old son in Sta. Catalina town. Among the other victims was lawyer Anthony Trinidad, who was shot dead, also in Guihulngan, on July 23.

The bloodshed prompted the four bishops of Negros – Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos, Julito Cortes of Dumaguete, Patricio Buzon of Bacolod and Louie Gabines of Kabankalan – to issue a joint pastoral statement ordering church bells to be rung throughout Negros island at 8 o’clock every night “until the killings stop.”

They have also issued an “Oratio Imperata to End the Killings in Negros Island.”

Bishop issues oratio imperata against Negros killings

Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of the Diocese of San Carlos issued another pastoral appeal asking the people of Negros Oriental to pray with him following the murder of four more civilians early Saturday morning.

In his third pastoral letter this week, Bishop Alminaza issued an urgent call to prayer and action to end the killings in Negros Island via an oratio imperata.

“Heavenly Father, the source of life and foundation of peace, we your children mourn, worry, and are anxious because of the successive murders of our brothers and sisters.

We beg you, awaken the minds of those who don’t even care, disturb the conscience of those who author the killings, touch the hearts of those who support the murders, and comfort those who mourn.

Give us the strength to fight evil with good, and to reject crooked ways. Protect us from the lies of the devil, and free our country from the power of Satan. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

(Alminaza’s Oratio Imperata of Cebu)

An oratio imperata is a short Roman Catholic invocative prayer a bishop issues in times of grave need and calamities.

Alminaza’s appeal came after four more executions within his diocese were reported by human rights organizations.

“Today, in Canlaon City and in Ayungon, Negros Oriental, four lives again perished from gun barrels of criminals. When life is always sacred, these criminals have treated life as dispensable,” the prelate said.

Former Ayungon mayor Edcel Enardecido and his cousin Leo Enardecido were killed around 2:30 a.m. while Canlaon City Councilor Bobby Jalandoni and Barangay Panubigan Chairperson Ernesto Posadas were killed separately, bringing to at least 21 the deaths from a wave of violence that has swept the province of Negros Oriental since a week ago.

Bishop’s third pastoral appeal this week.

Alminaza said three of the latest victims were government officials close to the hearts of the poor in their localities.

“While serving as elected officials, they wholeheartedly defended those who have less in life and promoted programs to help them,” Alminaza said.

“Those who were killed are persons; they are not just numbers or statistics! We fervently pray that we may not continue counting dead bodies; that every one of us will continue protecting human lives,” he added.

The prelate said the “pattern of systemic killings” is alarming.

“Who will be next?” he asked.

Alminaza issued his first pastoral letter two days after the killing of human rights lawyer Anthony Trinidad in Dumaguete City last July 23.

Alminaza condemned Trinidad’s murder and the wounding of his wife and called for the resumption of the peace process between the Duterte government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines as a way to stop the attacks on civilians alleged to be supporters of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

After the killing of three more civilians last Thursday, July 24, an angered Alminaza issued his second pastoral letter last Friday calling for the ringing of church bells around his diocese at 8 PM every evening starting Sunday.

Before that day ended, however, four more were killed, bringing to seven the number of civilians murdered last Thursday.

“In anger and in a call for justice, in a spirit of communion and in a collective prayer, we exhort our parishes, mission stations and religious houses to ring our church bells every 8PM stating this July 28, 2019 (Sunday) until the killings stop,” Alminaza said in his second pastoral appeal.

“Let the toiling of bells remind us that the senseless killings are inhuman. Let the tolling of the church bells call us to a collective prayer, for us to beg God to touch the hearts of perpetrators, as we call on responsible government agencies to effectively address the series of deaths,” the prelate added.

Alminaza’s second pastoral appeal exhorted the government to act on ending the killings. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

4, including ex-mayor, city councilor slain in Negros Oriental early Saturday

By Visayas Today

The former mayor of Ayungon and his cousin, and a councilor and village chairman of Canlaon City were killed early Saturday, July 27, bringing to at least 21 the deaths from a wave of violence that has swept the province of Negros Oriental since a week ago.

The Negros Oriental police office said former mayor Edcel Enardecido, 60, who had completed his three year-term limit, and his cousin Leo Enardecido, were killed around 2:30 a.m.

In Canlaon City, Councilor Bobby Jalandoni and Ernesto Posadas, barangay chairman of Panubigan, were killed separately.

Canlaon is where eight men – farmers and volunteer church workers – were killed in police operations on March 30.

Authorities claimed they were communist rebels who allegedly fought back when served search warrants but their families all gave closely similar accounts indicating they were executed.

Panubigan is the village where two of the eight – brothers Edgardo and Ismael Avelino – were killed.

Federico Sabejon, a resident of Barangay 3, Siaton town, was also killed 7 PM Friday night, July 26, by motorcycle-riding killers, the group Defend Negros #StopTheAttacks reported.

Thursday proved to be particularly bloody for the province, with seven killed, including a high school principal and his sister and fellow educator, a village chairman – all killed in Guihulngan City – and a man and his year-old son, slain when gunmen shot up their home in Sta. Catalina town.

On July 23, a lawyer who handled human rights cases and had been included in a hit list of a shadowy anti-communist group, was also killed in Guihulngan.

Angered by the bloodshed, San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza, in whose diocese many of the murders have happened, has ordered church bells rung each night at 8.p.m. starting Sunday, July 28, “until the killings stop.”

Human rights groups monitoring the killings say the latest deaths, including one in Siaton Friday evening, bring the total of extrajudicial killings on Negros island to at least 83 since mid-2016.

Below is the list of EJK victims as reported by Defend Negros #StopTheAttacks:

2017

1. Alexander Ceballos, Jan. 20, 2017 –Murcia
2. Wenceslao Pacquiao- Jan. 25, 2017- – Calatrava
3. Oden Asebuche- May 16, 2017–South Negros
4. Arman Indeno- July 21, 2017- Don Salvador Benedicto (DSB)
5. Glenn Absin- July 23, 2017– Guihulngan
6. Alberto Tecson- July 24, 2017–Guihulngan
7. Danilo Salazar- July 28, 2017– Guihulngan
8. Rene Faburada- August 4, 2017–Guihulngan
9. Leodegario Benero Jr., August 17, 2017– Guihulngan
10. Marlyn Vidal – August 26, 2017 – Guihulngan
11. Oscar Asildo- August 30, 2017– Guihulngan
12. Luardo Yac- Sept. 7, 2017- – Guihulngan
13. Geofrey Absin- November 3, 2017– Guihulngan
14. Eden Bacordo-September 15, 2017—DSB
15. Leah Mae Sadoa-September 15, 2017–DSB
16. Arnold Larida-September 15, 2017–DSB
17.Webby Argabio- September 8, 2017Kabankalan City
18. Eleuterio Moises- November 28, 2017–Bayawan
19. Elisa Badayos- November 28, 2017
20. Flora Gemola- December 2017- NFSW Chair–Sagay City

2018

21. Ronald Manlanat- February 2018- NFSW–Sagay City
22. Jerry Turga-May 8, 2018–Moises Padilla
23. Edmund Sestoso, May 1, 2018–Dumaguete 
24. Julius Barellano- June 2018–NFSW
25. Robert Selendron–DSB
26. Heidie Malalay Flores- August 21, 2018–Guihulngan
27. Jaime Delos Santos- October 6, 2018, Pamalakaya chair- Guihulngan
28. Marchstel Sumicad- October 20, 2018 – Sagay 9 massacre victim
29. Rene Laurencio- October 20, 2018 – Sagay 9 massacre victim
30. Morena Mendoza- October 20, 2018 – Sagay 9 massacre victim
31. Marcelina Dumaguit- October 20, 2018 – Sagay 9 massacre victim
32. Angelife Arsenal- October 20, 2018 – Sagay 9 massacre victim
33. Eglicerio Villegas- October 20, 2018 – Sagay 9 massacre victim
34. Paterno Baron- October 20, 2018 – Sagay 9 massacre victim
35. Rannel Bantigue- October 20, 2018 – Sagay 9 massacre victim
36. Joemarie Oghayon- October 20, 2018 – Sagay 9 massacre victim
37. Benjamin Ramos Jr. – November 6, 2018 – Kabankalan City
38. Jessebel Abayle-February 21, 2018–Siaton
39. Carmelina Amantillo-February 21, 2018–Siaton
40. Consolacion Cadevida-February 21, 2018–Siaton
41. Felimon Molero-TFM- -February 21, 2018–Siaton
42. Dr. Avelex Amor –November 20, 2018–Canlaon
43. Jesus Isugan-December 27, 2018–Guihulngan
44. Demterio Fat-December 27, 2018–Guihulngan
45. Jaime Revilla-December 27, 2018–Guihulngan
46. Jun Cubul-December 27, 2018–Guihulngan
47. Reneboy Fat-December 27, 2018–Guihulngan
48. Constancio Languita-December 27,2018–Sta. Catalina
49. Gabby Alboro-December 28, 2018–Guihulngan

2019

50. Remegio Arqiullos-January 11, 2019–Guihulngan
51. Sanito “Tating” Delubio-March 1, 2019–DSB
52. Edgardo Avelino-March 30,2019–Kanlaon City
53. Ismael Avelino- March 30,2019–Kanlaon City
54. Rogelio Recomono-March 30,2019–Kanlaon City
55. Melchor Pañares -March 30,2019–Kanlaon City
56. Genes Palmares -March 30,2019–Kanlaon City
57. Mario Pañares -March 30,2019–Kanlaon City
58. Ricky Recomono -March 30,2019–Kanlaon City
59. Gonzalo Rosales-March 30,2019–Kanlaon City
60. Anoj Enojo Rapada- March 30, 2019–Sta. Catalina
61. Franklin Lariosa-March 30, 2019–Sta. Catalina
62. Valentin Arcabal- March 30, 2019–Manjuyod
63. Sonny Palagtiw-March 30, 2019–Manjuyod
64. Steve Arapoc -March 30, 2019–Manjuyod
65. Manolo Martin- March 30, 2019–Manjuyod
66. Bernardino “Toto” Patigas-April 22, 2019–Escalante City
67. Felipe Dacal-Dacal – June 8 – Escalante City
68. Lito Itao- chief tanod, June 27, 2019–Buenavista, Guihulngan, Negros Oriental
69. Joemar Mahilum- July 2,2019–Escalante 
70. Salvador Romano, July 2, 2019–Manjuyod
71. Atty. Anthony Trinidad, July 24, 2019– Guihulngan
72. Rakilin Astorias July 25, 2019–Saiton
73. Reden Eleuterio July 25, 2019 — Ayungon
74. Arhtur Bayawa July 25, 2019–Guihulngan
75. Aldane Bayawa July 25, 2019–Guihulngan
76. Romeo Alipan, July 25, 2019–Buenavista, Guihulngan
77. Marlon Ocampo July 25, 2019–Sta. Catalina
78. Marjon Ocampo July 25, 2019–Sta. Catalina

79. Federico Sabejon, July 26, 2019–Siaton

80. Edcel Enardecido, July 27, 2019–Ayungon

81. Leo Enardecido, July 27, 2019–Ayungon

82. Bobby Jalandoni, July 27, 2019–Canlaon City

83. Ernesto Posadas, July 27, 201–Canlaon City

(With additional reports from Raymund B. Villanueva)

Bishop asks ringing of church bells vs killing of civilians in Negros

The Roman Catholic Bishop of San Carlos in Negros Oriental Gerardo Alminaza requested the ringing of church bells every eight o’clock in the evening starting Sunday to protest the non-stop killing of civilians in the entire Negros Island.

“In anger and in a call for justice, in a spirit of communion and in a collective prayer, we exhort our parishes, mission stations and religious houses to ring our church bells every 8PM stating this July 28, 2019 (Sunday) until the killings stop,” Alminaza said in his pastoral appeal issued Thursday.

“Let the toiling of bells remind us that the senseless killings are inhuman. Let the tolling of the church bells call us to a collective prayer, for us to beg God to touch the hearts of perpetrators, as we call on responsible government agencies to effectively address the series of deaths,” the prelate added.

Alminaza’s pastoral appeal is entitled “Exhortation to Government to Act on Ending the Killings, issued on the Roman Catholic saint St. James the Great on July 25, a day marked with a fresh wave of bloodletting throughout the province.

San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza’s second pastoral appeal this week. (Courtesy of Visayas Today)

Hours after the bishop issued the appeal, a father and child were shot dead in Sta. Catalina town, the sixth and seventh fatalities in a particularly bloody day in Negros Oriental, local news outfit Visayas Today reported.

Sta. Catalina police said Barangay San Jose council member Ramonito Nuque reported the killing of Marlon Ocampo and his unidentified child at Sitio Tara at around eight o’clock. Ocampo’s unnamed wife was also wounded, the report said.

The day started with the murder of school principal Arthur Bayawa and his school supervisor sister Aldane by gunmen who barged into their home in Barangay Hibaiyo in Guihulngan City at one o’clock in the morning.

Less than an hour later, Barangay Buenavista chairperson Romeo Alipan, was also shot dead inside his home in the same city.

Later in the day, gunmen also killed Raklin Astorias in Siaton town and Reden Eleuterio in Ayungon town, Visayas Today reported.

Bishop Alminaza said that the “barbaric deaths” of the victims, all happening in one day, are “manifestations of a total absence of peace and order.”

He challenged local government officials of the province to break out of their silence on the killings.

“Government leaders of the City of Guihulngan and of Negros province, please speak up! Let not your silence add to th growing number of killings. Let not yout silence embolden more the criminals. Be bold and join us in the cry to end the senseless killings!” Alminaza said.

San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza (Courtesy of Visayas Today)

The prelate also called on the police and military to protect the people, promote peace and “not act to instil fear.”

“Maintain peace, do not create violence Act within the law, not beyond it,” the bishop said.

Thursday’s pastoral appeal is Alminaza’s second this week.

Last Wednesday, Alminaza issued his first pastoral letter appealing for an end to violence following the killing of lawyer Anthony Trinidad in Guihulngan City.

He also called for the resumption of peace talks between the government and communist rebels as well as a meeting of clergy and lay leaders to discuss how they could help stem the bloodshed.

Activist groups and human rights defenders blamed Duterte’s Memorandum Order 32 of November 2018 ordering additional troops to for the increasing number of attacks against civilians. 

“Negros is now fast turning into a killing field and this should be stopped immediately,” Bayan Muna Rep. and human rights lawyer Carlos Zarate said Thursday.

“While we strongly demand justice for these innocent victims, we likewise strongly condemn the inutility of authorities in putting a stop to this utter madness,” Zarate, a human rights lawyer, added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Miradel walks free, unites with son she gave birth to under detention

After five years behind bars, Maria Miradel Torres will finally reunite with her son she gave birth to in prison.

Miradel walked out from Camp Bagong Diwa Tuesday afternoon, July 23, no longer wearing an inmate’s orange garb but an aquamarine shirt and a huge smile.

Miradel while leaving Camp Bagong Diwa yesterday. (Photo by Jose Mari Callueng/Karapatan)

She was acquitted of murder and frustrated murder charges her lawyers and supporters said are trumped up.

Miradel was four-months pregnant when she was arrested by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) and the Southern Luzon Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on June 20, 2014.

The police and the soldiers did not present a warrant of arrest and searched the entire house without a search warrant when she was snatched.

Later, an alias warrant of arrest was presented,  issued by the court on the very day of her so-called arrest.

A Gabriela member in Mauban town, Miradel was charged with murder and frustrated murder at the Infanta Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Quezon.

Miradel denied that she was a murderer.

 “I cannot even kill a mosquito. There is no truth to the crime they are accusing me of,” she told Bulatlat.com in 2014.

When the police swooped down on her relatives’ house where she was staying, Miradel was suffering from profuse bleeding and was seeking medical treatment.

Her difficult pregnancy was exacerbated by the poor maternal and pre-natal health care inside the country’s prisons.

Miradel and her then newly-born son Payter. (Bulatlat file photo)

Miradel gave birth to her son Payter on November 17, 2014, at the Philippine General Hospital. She was only allowed to be with her child for six months, two months in the hospital and four months in jail thereafter.

Miradel’s bail petitions to allow her to take care of her infant had been repeatedly denied by the Infanta RTC.

When her infant son was taken away from her, what followed was five years of agony.

Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay witnessed how Miradel suffered but chose to fight her unjust imprisonment.

“We saw her pain with her difficult pregnancy while in detention, her joy when she nursed little Payter in the hospital, their heartbreaking separation when jail officials decided to disallow Payter’s stay in jail despite his need for his mother’s breastmilk and care, her parents’ unbending determination to support their daughter, and Miradel’s own resolve to fight on,” Palabay said.

Human rights worker Jose Mari Callueng visited Miradel at Bagong Diwa’s “female dormitory” several times.

“[During]…the many times I visited Miradel at the female dorm of Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig, she would always talk about her son and how she looked forward to the day when she can give him countless hugs and kisses,” Callueng said.

Finally, though, Miradel is reunited with her son. But many women political prisoners, some of whom mothers with little children, still languish in jail.

“There are 545 political prisoners in the Philippines, 65 of them are women, some are mothers with little children. There are 13 couples who are political prisoners, with children and/or grandchildren longing for their immediate release,” Palabay said.

Miradel’s freedom, however, is a cause for celebration for human rights workers.

“At most times, we witness the sorrows of the families of political prisoners when their loved ones get arrested, tortured, and detained for years. It is excruciatingly painful to see how they are given the run-around by the police and military to locate their loved ones, how they have to work doubly hard to have enough money for pamasahe (fare money) to see them in jail and to bring some bread or medicine that they need, how they hear the false testimonies in court accusing these dedicated and courageous individuals of crimes they did not commit, how their loved ones are maliciously painted as common criminals and terrorists,” Palabay said.

“But there are times that we witness big smiles, hearty thank you’s, joyful tears and pleasant hellos and goodbyes. Since yesterday, we witnessed these big smiles, hearty thank you’s, joyful tears and pleasant hellos and goodbyes,” she added of Miradel’s release.

“Let us not allow another good mother or father, or son or daughter, them who fight for the rights of the people, to be separated from their families again, and suffer anguish as the state imprison them on baseless trumped-up charges,” Callueng added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Makabayan bloc set to win 6 seats

The Makabayan bloc may still get as many as six seats in the House of Representatives as the National Board of Canvassers (NBOC) is set to proclaim the winners of the party list race tonight.

Despite relentless harassment and vilification by the military and police throughout the campaign period up to election day last May 13, the progressive parties amassed a total of 2,236,155 votes that may give the bloc up to six seats in the 18th Congress, just one less than its current number of representatives.

Bayan Muna is set to have three seats after garnering 1,117,403 votes representing 4.01% of all party list votes cast.  

It placed second behind high-spending ACT-CIS Party, the only other party to win three seats.

Gabriela Women’s Party placed 12th in the race, garnering 449,440 votes representing 1.61% of all party list votes cast and winning one seat.

ACT Teachers Party came close behind at 15th place, with 395,327 votes representing 1.42% of all party list votes cast and winning one seat.

Gabriela Womens’ and ACT Teachers’ each have two sitting representatives in the current 17th Congress.

Both groups are the only parties in their respective sectors elected to any legislature in the entire world.

At 51st place and the last group to win a seat is Kabataan Party, garnering 196,385 votes representing 0.70% of all party list votes cast.

Anakpawis, however, failed to win a seat, placing at 62nd place with 146,511 votes representing 0.53% of all party list votes cast.

The NBOC is set to proclaim all 51 winning parties at seven o’clock tonight at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City.

Gabriela Womens’ Party has two seats, ACT Teachers Party has two more while Bayan Muna, Kabataan and Anakpawis have one each in the current 17th Congress.

The bloc lost one seat in May 13’s elections.

Relentless attacks

Earlier, the Makabayan Bloc complained of threats and harassments of its campaigners, members and supporters by the military and police.

A massive “zero vote” was also launched in Mindanao prior to the elections while Davao City mayor Sara Duterte openly called on her constituents not to vote for Makabayan parties.

Makabayan members also suffered two massacres in Negros Island and arrests of supporters in Bulacan and Bohol whiles its supporters were prevented from voting in several regions across the country.

On election day last May 13, Philippine National Police officers distributed newsletters tagging Makabayan parties as communist fronts.

 “Despite many reports of fraud, the Rodrigo Duterte regime cannot defeat the people’s will,” Bayan Muna second nominee Ferdinand Gaite earlier told Kodao. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)