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Groups condemn trumped up terror cases filed against Nat Santiago, other activists

By Nuel M. Bacarra

Progressive groups held a rally Friday morning, May 3, at the Bulwagan ng Katarungan in Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija to support the filing of counter affidavits for the four activists charged with violations of RA 11479 or the Anti-Terror Law (ATL) of 2020 and other criminal offenses.

Chants reverberated calling for the junking of the ATL

Charges of alleged murder, attempted murder and violation of the ATL were filed by a certain 1Lt. Michael J. Regario and others of the 84th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (84th IBPA) against Nathaniel Santiago, secretary general of Bayan Muna and also of the Makabayan Coalition; Rosario Brenda Gonzalez of the Assert Socio-economic Initiatives Network (ASCENT), a development worker; Anasusa San Gabriel of Bulacan Ecumenical Forum; and Servillano Luna, Jr., the campaign director and former secretary general of Anakpawis.

The four activists charged with violations of the controversial Anti-Terror Law: (From left) Nathanael Santiago, Anasusa San Gabriel, Servillano Luna Jr. and Rosario Brenda Gonzalez. [BAYAN image]

Makabayan said in a statement the charges against the activists have no bases at all.

The military alleges Santiago and his fellow respondents were participants in an encounter between soldiers of the 84th IBPA and the New People’s Army (NPA) that reportedly took place last October 8, 2023 in Brgy. San Fernando, Laur, Nueva Ecija.

A Private First Class Sher Nelson B. Casayuran reportedly died in the incident.

The military claimed residents reported the presence of 10 NPA rebels in the area that prompted the 84th IB to conduct an operation that led to a firefight with the revolutionary guerillas.

The complainants claim they recognized about 20 people among the NPA, including the four respondents and activists Lee Sudario and Norman Ortiz who both subsequently declared missing by human rights groups and believed to be abducted by the military.

Former Anakpawis Party Rep. Fernando Hicap condemns the trumped up charge against peasant movement comrade Servillano ‘Jun’ Luna Jr. (N. Bacarra/Kodao)

Outright lie

Human rights lawyers representing the respondents meanwhile expressed disbelief at the complaints against their clients.

National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) president Atty. Rey Cortez said it is hard to believe that the government troopers can see 20 people in a bushy area in a firefight, can identify faces, and can know their names and addresses.

“It is an outright lie. It is incredible and can happen only in movies. But it is actually happening because we know that they are doing these cases against our leaders and activists,” Cortez said.

The lawyer added he is confident that the complaints will be dismissed as “they are founded on lies.”

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan chairperson and former Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño said the charges filed against the four activists are not meant for conviction but to derail their pro people activities.

He recalled that other trumped up charges against himself, fellow former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo and others were dismissed by the Courts.

Former Bayan Muna Rep. Karlos Ysagani Zarate also said: “We, in Bayan Muna and Makabayan bloc vehemently condemn the charges of murder, frustrated murder, and Anti-Terror Law violations. This truly shows that we are right in saying that Anti Law Terror Law will be weaponized by the military to suppress the activists and critics.”

“In fact Mr. Santiago is one of the petitioners questioning the constitutionality of the Anti-Terror Law,” Zarate said, adding he and Santiago were together in a meeting that day the reported clash between the military and the NPA happened.”

ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro and Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Arlene Brosas who also accompanied the NUPL lawyers in Cabanatuan in a statement said the complaint against Santiago  

“is an absurd and blatant fabrication of the AFP and the NTF-ELCAC.”

“Their (complainants’) malicious intent is clear—to use these fabricated terrorism and other serious charges as grounds for a wholesale attack on the Makabayan coalition and the progressive parties under its umbrella in order to intimidate, imprison and silence our parties, elected representatives, leaders and members and prevent us from giving voice to the poor and oppressed majority and articulating dissent,” the legislators said.

Former Anakpawis Party Rep. Ariel Casilao and farmer-leader Danilo Ramos condemn the trumped up charges against Santiago and other respondents. (N. Bacarra/Kodao)

Former Anakpawis Representatives Ariel Casilao and Fernando Hicap as well as Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas chairperson Danila Ramos also attended the comdemnation rally at Cabanatuan yesterday.

Methodist pastor tells UN of PH government harassment using anti-terror law

GENEVA, Switzerland—A Filipina clergy spoke before the ongoing 55th regular session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in this city complaining of trumped up charges against her by the Philippine government using the Philippine Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA, Republic Act No. 11479) of 2020.

United Methodist Church (UMC) Pastor Glofie Baluntong said both the Rodrigo Duterte and Ferdinand Marcos governments use the ATA and other repressive laws in the Philippines to harass human rights defenders

At the UNHRC’s discussion of the report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism Ben Saul last Tuesday, March 12, Baluntong narrated that on June 17, 2019, Philippine National Police forces barged into her church compound in Roxas, Oriental Mindoro without a court-issued warrant, demanding she surrender of Karapatan Southern Tagalog members she was hosting. She was then accused of aiding alleged rebels, she added.

“Since then, I have endured harassment, intrusive visits, and questioning by the Armed Forces (of the Philippines),” she revealed.

Rev. Baluntong, also a member of the National Council of Churches of the Philippines, also told the international body that she was subsequently charged by the Philippine government of attempted murder on August 18, 2021.

“[They cited] an armed encounter that allegedly occurred on March 25 of that year—a day on which I was conducting funeral rites for a departed church member,” Baluntong told the UN.

“I was also wrongfully charged with [violation of] the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, and grave threats from state forces have forced me to flee my town,” she added.

Baluntong’s testimony at the UNHRC discussion followed former senator Leila de Lima’s own intervention via video, narrating her seven-year ordeal as a political prisoner for her opposition to Duterte’s bloody drug war.

Baluntong called upon UN member states, including the Philippines, to heed Saul’s recommendations to ensure that counter-terrorism laws and practices, including efforts to combat terrorism financing, respect human rights.

Baluntong said that governments must make sure they do not curtail the legitimate activities of civil society organizations, impede civic space, or hinder humanitarian endeavours.

“Saul’s report testifies to my own lived experience,” Baluntong said.

United Methodist Church Rev. Glofie Baluntong delivering her oral intervention at the 55th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. (Screengrab from UN TV)

Increasing number of cases

Meanwhile, rights group Karapatan, a member of the Philippine UPR (Universal Periodic Review) delegation attending the ongoing UNHRC session here said at least 27 individuals have been charged by the Philippine government of violating the ATA.

These are in addition to several Islamic groups charged as terrorists groups under the ATA and the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2012 (Republic Act No. 10168).

“Charges under ATA against three political prisoners had been dismissed, but they remain in jail due to other trumped up criminal charges.  Eight political prisoners who were detained and faced charges under Republic Act No. 11479 had been released,” Karapatan legal counsel Atty. Ma. Sol Taule said.

The constitutionality of the Philippine Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 had been contested by 47 petitions before the Supreme Court that in turn struck down some of its most questionable provisions.

The high court however deferred judgement on other contested points citing lack of actual injury pending it’s the law’s full implementation.

“There has been no reported conviction under both laws strongly indicating the infirmities of the trumped up charges and of the law itself,” Taule said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

[DISCLOSURE] The reporter is a member of the PH UPR Watch delegation as chairperson of the People’s Alternative Media Network that also spoke with UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression and opinion Irene Khan during her visit to the Philippines earlier this year.

Rights defenders at UN press calls for NTF-ELCAC abolition, junking of anti-terror act

GENEVA, Switzerland—The Philippine UPR Watch again called for the abolition of the National Task Force To End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) and the junking of the controversial Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 in its ongoing participation at the 55th Regular Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UN HRC) in this city.

A delegation of the group informed various permanent missions of member states and international civil society organizations based in Geneva last Monday and Tuesday of the results of two recent visits of UN special rapporteurs who denounced government’s red-tagging practices.

The group said they it is attending the session to testify on continuing human rights violations under the Ferdinand Marcos Jr. government.

“We are here to inform the international community that the findings by both special rapporteur on climate change and human rights Ian Fry last November and special rapporteur on freedom of expression and opinion Irene Khan last February that human rights violations continue are true,” Center for Environmental Concerns executive director Lia Mai Torres said.

Philippine UPR Watch said the rest of UN member states must be informed that both experts recommended the abolition of the NTF-ELCAC and called for the review of the anti-terror law that are being used against human rights defenders and other civilians.

A network of human rights defenders in the Philippines, the Philippine UPR Watch said it is scheduled to deliver oral interventions at the UNHRC session and its other events to give updates on the government’s lack of compliance to its commitments to the international body 20 months after the last review on the Philippines.

 “The Marcos Jr. government wants to paint a rosy picture of so-called improved rhetoric and improved conditions but we are here both as victims and witnesses that anti-people policies have not changed as evidenced by the exit statements by Mr. Fry and Ms. Khan,” Torres added.

Clergywoman as victim of weaponized law

Among the main topics in the 55th UN HRC session are discussions on countering religious hatred and social security and public services.

With the Philippine UPR Watch delegation is Rev. Glofie Baluntong of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines who was among the first charged by the government under the controversial Anti-Terror Law of 2020.

Based on an earlier murder charge in August 2021, Baluntong was slapped with an alleged violation of the Anti-Terror Act in August 2022 which was recently dismissed by the public prosecutor for lack of merit.

“But the dismissal came with the warning that the case may be re-filed anytime that the military or the police decides to do so,” the clergyperson said.

The United Methodist Church pastor was charged by the military of assisting the New People’s Army.

But the pastor said she was performing necrological services to a member of her church at the time she committed the alleged murder she was initially charged with.

“The government is saying that my work with the indigenous people’s communities make me an enemy of the state,” Baluntong said.

Baluntong said that red-tagging attacks and trumped-up charges prevent her from performing her ministry with the indigenous peoples and poor communities in her home province of Mindoro.

With Baluntong and Torres is IBON Foundation executive director Sonny Africa who said that his participation in the 55th session is in preparation for the anticipated official visit of the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty.

Africa is also expected to participate in the panel discussion on challenges and good practices to realize the right to social security and to provide quality public services.

Delegation co-leader and Karapatan legal counsel Ma. Sol Taule  said, “This delegation supports suggestions made by the UN experts who recently visited the Philippines to continue our engagements leading to the submission of their respective final reports to the UN HRC.”

The Philippine UPR Watch delegation is also scheduled to speak at forums in various cities in Switzerland and throughout Europe during the duration of the UN HRC session. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

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[DISCLOSURE] The reporter is a member of the PH UPR Watch delegation as chairperson of the People’s Alternative Media Network that also spoke with UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression and opinion Irene Khan in her visit to the Philippines earlier this year.

KODAO ASKS: Katanggap-tanggap ba ang desisyon ng Korte Suprema sa mga petisyon kontra Terror Law?

Sa bisperas ng Pandaigdigang Araw para sa Karapatang Pantao, naglabas ng desisyon ang Korte Suprema kaugnay sa ligalidad ng Anti-Terrorism Act.

Nagbigay ng saloobin ang ilang mga grupong nagpetisyon kontra dito kung saan sinabi ng Korte na iligal ang ilang probisyon nito subalit konstitusyunal ang naturang batas.

High Court strikes down 2 Anti-Terror Act provisions as unconstitutional

Petioners demand junking of entire law

The Supreme Court declared as unconstitutional two provisions of Republic Act No. 1174, the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) of 2020, in an En Banc session last Tuesday.

The Court declared as struck down controversial portions of Sections 4 and 25 of the law that were among those contested by 37 petitions last year, its public information office announced today.

“The qualifier to the provisio in Section 4 of RA 11479 (on) ‘…which are not intended to cause death of serious physical harm to a person, to endanger a person’s life, or to create a serious risk to public safety’ by a vote of 12-3 is declared as unconstitutional for being overbroad and violative of freedom of expression,” the Court said.

Petitioner Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) said this decision has clarified that protests and advocacy are not considered as acts of terrorism.

“Our main win from the SC ruling on the terror law is that ACTIVISM IS NOT TERRORISM,” BAYAN secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said.

In its December 7 decision, the Court also declared as unconstitutional by a vote of 9-6 the second method for designation in Section 25 paragraph 2 of RA 11479, “Request for designations by other jurisdictions or supranational jurisdictions may be adopted by the ATC (Anti-Terrorism Council) after determination that the proposed designee meets the criteria for designation of UNSCR (United Nations Security Council) No. 1373.”

The court added that all other challenged provisions are not unconstitutional on the basis of the petitions against it.

‘Still dangerous’

Reyes however warned that the other contested provisions declared as not unconstitutional by the decision may still be abused by the ATC created by the law.

“Other dangerous provisions on designation, proscription, warrant-less arrests and prolonged detention remain and must be challenged. We will prepare our motion for reconsideration as we study the SC ruling when it is released,” Reyes said.

Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights secretary general Cristina Palabay, also a petitioner, said her group is dismayed by the Court’s decision to retain other “draconian provisions.”

“The Supreme Court’s decision to adopt repressive provisions – the vague and overbroad definition of ‘terrorism,’ arbitrary powers of the Anti-Terrorism Council to designate and freeze assets of individuals and organizations, and the long period of warrantless detention — will only set to worsen the already dismal human rights situation in the country,” Palabay said.

Palabay also pointed out the other offenses outlined in Sections 5 (Threats to commit terrorism), 6 (Planning, training, preparing, and facilitating the commission of terrorism), 7 (Conspiracy to commit terrorism), 8 (Proposal to commit terrorism), and 9 (Inciting to commit terrorism) remain “largely vague and susceptible to subjective interpretations and therefore abuse.”  

The Karapatan official added that the retention of the ATC’s “arbitrary” power to designate along with the other vague offenses in the Anti-Terrorism Act “can still be used to target dissenters.”

“The ATC’s power to designate individuals and organizations as ‘terrorists’ is not only arbitrary, as pointed out by Associate Justice Benjamin Caguioa during the oral arguments, the process of designation ‘already achieves the purpose of proscription.’ It has also proven to be deadly,” she said.

Palabay cited the 2018 Department of Justice petition to proscribe over 600 individuals as terrorists under the Human Security Act, seven of whom have eventually been murdered, including human rights worker Zara Alvarez and peace consultants Randy Malayo and Randall Echanis.

“The ATC’s power to designate is a virtual hit list. Being designated as a ‘terrorist’ is essentially a death warrant. This arbitrary power along with the retention of the 14-day period of warrantless detention in Section 29 are dangerous provisions that would only engender the commission of human rights violations including torture and enforced disappearances under the cover of implementing the terror law,” Palabay said.

Palabay said Karapatan continues to demand that the entire law must be junked and declared unconstitutional.

‘Fight isn’t over’

Bayan Muna chairperson and counsel-petitioner against the ATA Neri Colmenares said their group plans to challenge the Supreme Court’s declaration that almost all the other provisions of the law are not unconstitutional.

“We believe that it should still strike down other provisions that allow authorities to detain people for up to 24 days without charges, allows the ATC to designate terrorists at will and freeze their assets, allows authorities to detain persons already out on bail incommunicado in the guise of house arrest, and other draconian provisions,” Colmenares said.

The Senate aspirant said he and some fellow petitioners will most likely file a Motion for Reconsideration “to challenge the other provisions that have a devastating effect on human rights and civil liberties” once they get a copy of the full decision.

The Office of the Solicitor General, ATA defender during the oral arguments before the Court, has yet to comment on the SC decision. #  (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘It is just a sweeping accusation, no different from red-tagging’

“The designation is arbitrary, has no clear standards, with no evidence presented and no specific terrorist acts cited. It is just a sweeping accusation, no different from red-tagging, that violates the rights of those designated. Those listed will also suffer the freezing of their bank accounts, a direct injury. All of this was done without due process.” — Renato Reyes, Secretary-General, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan

Mga grupo nagtipon sa harap ng Korte Suprema bago ang ikalawang oral argument ng Anti-Terror Law

Nagtipon ang mga human rights advocate mula sa iba’t ibang grupo sa harapan ng Korte Suprema bago ang ikalawang oral argument ng Anti-Terror Law, Pebrero 9, 2021.

Kanilang inihayag ang pagtutol sa naturang batas at suporta mga abogadong humarap sa oral arguments ngayong hapon laban sa anila ay delikadong batas.

Protesta inilunsad sa pagsisimula ng oral arguments kontra terror law

Nagsama-sama ang iba’t-ibang grupo na tutol sa RA 11479 o ang Anti-Terrorism Act sa Padre Faura sa Maynila ilang oras bago simulan ang oral arguments nito sa Korte Suprema, Pebrero 2.

Kaugnay ito sa 37 petisyon kontra sa nasabing batas na ayon sa mga aktibista ang pinakamaraming petisyon sa kasaysaysan ng mga batas sa Pilipinas.

Mariin nilang tinututulan ang terror law at sinabi na malaking banta ito sa pagpapahayag ng mamamayan laluna sa paglaban ngayon sa tiraniya.

KODAO ASKS: Ano ang iyong pagtingin sa Anti-Terror Law?

Sinalubong ng nagkakaisang mamamayan ang ika-5 State of the Nation Address o SONA ni Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte sa pamamagitan ng isang protestang may temang “SONAgkaisa.” Ginanap ito noong Lunes, Hulyo 27, sa kahabaan ng University Avenue sa UP Diliman, Quezon City. Dinaluhan ito ng 8,000 katao mula sa iba’t ibang sektor at mga progresibong grupo.

Bitbit ng mga sektor ang kani-kanilang mga panawagan at hinaing sa apat na taon na panunungkulan ng pangulo. Pinakatampok sa mga ito ang panawagang ibasura ang kontrobersyal na Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 o Anti-Terrorism Law.

Hiningan ng Kodao Productions ang ilan sa mga dumalo ng kanilang pagtingin hinggil sa pagkakapasa ng nasabing batas. (Bidyo nina Jo Maline Mamangun, Jola Mamangun, Joseph Cuevas, at Arrem Alcaraz)

Petisyon kontra-Terror Law inihain ng mga mamamahayag at artista

Inihain ang ika-13 petisyon kontra sa kontrobersyal na Anti-Terrorism Law kaninang umaga, Hulyo 23 sa Korte Suprema. Pinangunahan ito ng National Union of Journalists of the Philippines at Concerned Artists of the Philippines.

Hinihiling nila na ideklarang labag sa batas ang Anti-Terror Law dahil sa mga probisyon nito na napakalawak na depinisyon patungkol sa terorismo. Gayundin magiging sandata din ito para sikilin ang sinumang nais magpahayag ng pagtutol lalo na sa gobyerno. (Bidyo ni Joseph Cuevas/ Kodao)