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UNTITLED

(For Randall Echanis)

by Lou Gartha Kho-Mawis

After that slow fear

crawling over our spirits

The rage takes over

Quick

Shooting like lightning

Charring the apathy of day

The helplessness of night

Then elightenment

We wriggle

Free from our chains

On tiptoe

we reach for the dreams

We thought were behind us

The gap that we must bridge

is worth our final breath

Our dreams conceive

a world without borders

Hands without chains

In the darkness

we have already died

Struggle is

Our ressurection

NDFP peace consultant Randall Echanis murdered

Randall Echanis, long-time National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant, was killed early Monday morning, August 10, in Novaliches, Quezon City.

His peasant organization colleagues said Echanis’ murder may be by state forces.

He was killed with a still unidentified neighbor, Anakpawis Party also reported.

Former Anakpawis Congressman Ariel Casilao said that Echanis “was undergoing medical treatment, and was unarmed, when suspected state forces raided his house.”

No further details are available at this time.

Echanis actively participated in peace negotiations with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) since 2002 and served as vice-chairperson of the NDFP’s Reciprocal Working Committee on Social and Economic Reforms.

He was NDFP’s leading consultant on agrarian reform and played a key role in the drafting of documents on agrarian reform and rural development and the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Reforms.

The victim, 72 years old, was also the incumbent deputy secretary general of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas.

As peasant leader, Echanis spearheaded nationwide campaigns for genuine agrarian reform, including free land distribution to Filipino farmers. He was instrumental in crafting the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) repeatedly filed in Congress since its first filing in 2007.

A former political detainee, Echanis was arrested three times during the Marcos, Aquino, and Arroyo regimes. He became Anakpawis Party’s third nominee after his latest release from jail in 2010.

Randall Echanis (left) with fellow NDFP peace consultant Vicente Ladlad (partly hidden), NDFP Negotiating Panel member Benito Tiamzon (center) and former NDFP resource person for political and constitutional reforms and now Manila City Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Damagoso (right). [Photo by Jon Bustamante/Kodao]

Swift condemnation

NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison condemned the murders, saying Department of Interior and Local Government secretary Eduardo Año may know about the killings.

“It is widely known that the DILG secretary Año has been boasting to his staff and other people that he has mapped out the locations of all social activists through the local governments and neighborhoods and that he can wipe them out the social activists anytime,” Sison said.

“This boasting of Año is taken seriously by all the social activists that he threatens to kill,” he added.

Sison said Echanis’ murder will have far reaching consequences as it arouses the indignation and just wrath of the peasant masses and the entire Filipino people.

“All social activists have no choice but to intensify in every necessary way their struggle against the tyrant, traitor, butcher and plunderer Duterte,” he said.

NDFP Negotiating Panel legal consultant Edre Olalia for his part said “ruthless dark forces have struck again” with Echanis’ murder.

“Are we totally and almost irretrievably shutting the doors and windows of a potential peaceful resolution of the perennial ills of society by sowing terror and trepidation among those who present alternative solutions? Where will the people go thence for their legal struggles if they are not welcome?” Olalia asked.

Echanis is the second NDFP peace consultant killed after President Rodrigo Duterte cancelled peace negotiations in June 2017.

Felix Randy Malayao, NDFP peace consultant for Cagayan Valley, was killed in his sleep inside a bus in Aritao, Nueva Vizcaya in January 2019.

“How bad can it get? It is almost conclusory that the ruthless dark forces have struck again. How then can we encourage people to openly and effectively engage in legitimate causes and advocacies for social and economic reforms if you treacherously silence them?” Olalia further asked. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

STATEMENT: Arrest of relief volunteers is also an attack on free expression

The rabid state forces are at it again: just this weekend, Bulacan police apprehended six volunteers of Tulong Anakpawis-Sagip Kanayunan, along with former Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao, who were on the way to a relief drive in Norzagaray, Bulacan. The manner that the police presented the circumstances of the arrest to the public also had a not-so-subtle message: publishing and distributing materials that are critical of government could now land people in jail.

Based on social media posts made by official accounts of the military and the police, one of the bases for these charges were the copies of Pinoy Weekly, a founding member of Altermidya Network and a multi-awarded alternative newspaper, which were seized from the relief volunteers and misrepresented as “anti-government propaganda materials” as the newspaper bore stories about how the hashtag #OustDuterte trended on Twitter even before the onset of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ).

To bluntly portray this article in Pinoy Weekly as basis for filing sedition charges is tantamount to haphazard violation of the constitutionally-protected freedom of the press and expression. Altermidya Network unequivocally denounces this move as sheer abuse of power. We ask, why are government forces targeting volunteers undertaking COVID-19 relief efforts? And how problematic is it to use credible publications like Pinoy Weekly to substantiate trumped-up charges?

More press freedom violations have been recorded in past weeks. Northern Dispatch (Nordis) correspondents Paola Espiritu and Sherwin De Vera have been red-tagged by troll accounts, branding them as a member of the Communist Party of the Philippines. The same is the case with Pokus-Gitnang Luzon correspondent Pia Montalban. Other freedom of expression violations have been recorded, even against common citizens who merely posted critical messages on social media.

The recent spate of red-tagging and brazen use of authority against the alternative media and the people’s growing voice of dissent speak volumes of how the Duterte administration – and its emboldened security forces – are facing the COVID-19 pandemic not only with apparent incompetence, but also under a self-serving, and despotic brand of governance.

Many experts have pointed out how misguided the Duterte administration’s response is as regards the public health emergency. Instead of offering swift, clear-cut, responsive medical solutions, the state has invariably ramped up its militarist moves. Instead of flattening the curve of the pandemic, the administration’s state forces are bulldozing our fundamental rights.

But the public will not back down and quietly accept this situation. The alternative media is united with the Filipino people in keeping our guards high, ever vigilant on the creeping fascism that the Duterte administration is espousing to paint over its gross incompetence in facing this crisis.

We may be living in abnormal times. Yet we must continue unwaveringly asserting our rights and the shrinking space for public opinion. We cannot allow another creeping pandemic – the affliction of a mounting autocracy – to spread unabated.

‘We underwent through a proper process’

On the arrest of former Anakpawis Representative Ariel Casilao and Sagip Kanayunan volunteers:

This illegal and immoral arrest could be one of the major blunders of the Duterte government’s continued effort to red-tag progressives, reaching to the point where one agency refuses to recognize the authority of another agency to issue food passes. Contrary to the statement of Usec. Malaya, we underwent through a proper process in applying for the food pass, so that our delivery of relief packs to the distressed fishing and farming communities will not be hampered.

Fernando Hicap

Chairperson, PAMALAKAYA

Former Anakpawis Party Representative

Carlo Francisco

‘Ang kaisipan ng gubyernong ito’

“Ang simpleng sinasabi ng gubyerno, ‘Sila po ay mga NPA. Sila ay mga sympathizers, mga front ng NPA.’ Magsasaka, abogado, taong simbahan, guro, principal, at maging ang isang taong gulang ay front ng New People’s Army. ‘Yan po ang kaisipan ng gubyernong ito.”—Ariel Casilao, Anakpawis national vice president

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)

Makabayan files bill seeking exemption of journalists from anti-drug ops

The Makabayan Bloc at the House of Representatives filed a bill seeking the exemption of journalists from acting as witnesses in police anti-drug operations.

House Bill 8832 was filed Wednesday by ACT Teachers’ Party Reps. Antonio Tinio and France Castro, Gabriela Reps. Arlene Brosas and Emmi de Jesus, Anakpawis Party Rep. Ariel Casilao, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate and Kabataan Party Rep. Sarah Elago together with National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) officers.

The bill seeks to amend Section 1 of Republic Act 10640, otherwise known as “An Act to Further Strengthen the Anti-Drug campaign of the Government,” which orders that journalists act as “optional witnesses” to drug operations.

The law amended section 21 of Republic Act No. 9165, otherwise known as the “Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002,” which earlier ordered that journalists act as mandatory witnesses to the police inventory of seized items in drug operations, along with elected officials and members of the National Proecution Service.

HB 8832 stemmed from an ongoing NUJP campaign against ordering journalists to as witnesses to police anti-drug operations.

According to the NUJP, journalists throughout the country report that law enforcement units continue requiring them to sign on as witnesses, often as a condition for being allowed to cover anti-drug operations.

“Worse, there are reports that they are made to sign even if they did not actually witness the operation or the inventory of seized items,” the NUJP’s “Sign Against the Sign” campaign said.

Journalists who decline can find their sources or the normal channels of information no longer accessible, the media group added.

HB 8832 said that aside from the obvious coercion and attempts to control information of vital interest to the public, the media’s opposition to this practice also stems from the fact that it unnecessarily places journalists at risk of retaliation from crime syndicates, on the one hand, and exposes them to prosecution for perjury and other offenses in the event of irregularities in the conduct of anti-drug operations, on the other.

The proposed measure said that journalists must be protected from harm and the anti-drug laws must help ensure that reportage on the government’s anti-drug operations must remain objective and factual.

Rep. Tinion said the Makabayan Bloc will ask Committee on Public Information chairperson Ben Evardone of Eastern Samar to schedule a hearing on the bill as soon as possible.

The NUJP for its part will ask Senate Committee on Public Information chairperson Senator Grace Poe to file a counterpart in the Senate. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Makabayan to field Neri in next year’s Senate race

The Makabayang Koalisyon ng Mamamayan o MAKABAYAN held its fourth National Convention at the  Quezon City Sports Club last September 25, unanimously voting to again field former Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmanares in the 2019 Senate race.

Themed “Bagong Pulitika, Demokrasya Hindi Diktadurya,” Makabayan said it aims to win not only in the next elections but also defeat Rodrigo Duterte’ s looming dictatorship and tyranny.

MAKABAYAN also presented nominees from its member parties—Gabriela Womens Party, ACT Teachers Party, Bayan Muna, Anakpawis and Kabataan.

It also announced Newly formed member parties—Manggagawa Party, Aksyon Health Workers Party, and Peoples Surge Party.  (Video and report by Joseph Cuevas)

PNP blocks Bicol farmers’ caravan

Hundreds of farmer-activists from Bicol complained of harassment when members of the Quezon Province police blocked their caravan on its way to Manila Sunday night.

The Provincial Public Safety Company-6th Maneuver Platoon of the Philippine National Police (PNP) blocked Lakbay Paraoma’s 28 buses, a jeep and a van at around 7:30 last night led by a certain Major Morillo in Barangay Talipan, Pagbilao in Quezon province.

Lakbay Paraoma is the Bicol Region contingent of the ongoing nationwide Lakbay Magsasaka to Metro Manila for a series of events demanding genuine agrarian reform.

In the convoy was the vehicle of Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao who joined the peasant caravan from Bicol to Manila.

The PNP issued traffic violation tickets against the 28 caravan bus drivers who they alleged were not wearing seatbelts.

Two bus drivers signed the tickets and were fined PhP5,000 each while the others refused, saying they were wearing seatbelts.

Bus driver Dude Villareal admitted he was not wearing a seatbelt but insisted it was harassment to derail the caravan.

“We will continue to fight for the rights of the farmers. The PNP will always find ways, such as issuing bogus violations to silence the protesters,” Bert Author, chairperson of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Bicol (KMB-KMP), said.

While negotiations were ongoing, caravan participants cooked dinner and threatened to stage an impromptu rally should the PNP refused to let them through.

The PNP subsequently revoked the traffic violation citations, saying it was a mere misunderstanding, alternative media outfit Baretang Bikolnon reported.

The caravan arrived at Calamba, Laguna past midnight where they spent the rest of the night.

They will join the farmers from Mindanao at the protest camp-out at the Department of Agrarian Reform before their major protest rally at Mendiola on October 25. (Raymund B. Villanueva/With reports from and photo by Baretang Bikolnon)

‘To freely oppose fascist regime,’ Makabayan bolts House majority

To be able to freely oppose the “fascist Rodrigo Duterte regime,” the Makabayan bloc announced Thursday it is bolting from the majority coalition in the House of Representatives.

The group’s sitting representatives and other leaders said in a press conference said they will henceforth be an independent bloc in Congress.

“Today, we, seven party list representatives of the Makabayan Bloc, declare our separation from the Majority Coalition in the House of Representatives to intensify our opposition to the Duterte administration that has now fully unravelled as a fascist, pro-imperialist and anti-people regime,” Makabayan said.

Makabayan is composed of Bayan Muna, ACT Teachers, Anakpawis, Kabataan, and Gabriela Women’s parties.

The group said it joined the Majority last year after being encouraged by Duterte’s reformist and populist actions and pronouncements on a range of issues.

Makabayan cited Duterte’s promise to resume the peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), release of political prisoners, ending of neo-colonial ties with the United States of America government, pursuing an independent foreign policy, addressing the roots of the Moro rebellion, ending labor contractualization, increasing government support to farmers, putting a stop to destructive mining practices, reducing income taxes of rank and file employees, and increasing social pensions, and prioritizing basic social services over infrastructure as among the reasons for entering the coalition.

“From the very start, we consistently opposed the Administration’s anti-people bills and policies to the point that we were stripped of our committee chairmanships due to our stand against the death penalty bill. Despite one disappointment after another, we persisted in the Majority in the hope that some socioeconomic and political reforms could be achieved, if not through Congress, then through the Government of Republic of the Philippines-NDFP peace talks,” the group explained.

Duterte has failed on his promises, Makabayan said.

“Worst of all, his ‘war on drugs’ has turned into a campaign of mass murder of the poor, for which he shows no signs of turning back,” the group said.

Earlier, Malacañan said it hoped Makabayan would keep it ties with the Duterte government.

“We hope the Makabayan bloc will stay with the administration and the House majority,” Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said at a palace briefing last September 8.

Abella said the palace hoped the progressive solons would continue to work with the administration on certain issues, even if they decide dissociate themselves from the Duterte.

“However, if they do decide to go, we wish them well and we hope that they will remain open to working together with others on issues of shared interest,” Abella said.

Makabayan in its announcement today however said the die is cast.

“We shall fight the fascist US-Duterte regime and hold it accountable for its gross violations of human rights and the further oppression and impoverishment of our people,” the group said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)