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Paurong na Gulong ng Hustisya

Ni Nuel M. Bacarra

Hindi biro ang mabilanggo, laluna’t ang mga ebidensyang itinambak sa iyo ay itinanim lamang. Malalaman mo na lamang na may mga kaso ka sa mga lugar na hindi mo pa nararating. Magugulat ka at bubulagain ka na lamang ng santambak na kaso ng pagpatay, tangkang pagpatay, iligal na pagkakaroon ng mga eksplosibo tulad ng granada at iba’t ibang uri ng baril at iba pa na puro nilambang na kaso.

Ang inaasahan mong pagdinig sa kaso mo ay hindi minsan matutuloy dahil wala ang piskal, nasa kumperensya ang huwes, hindi nakatugon ang prosekusyon sa mga dokumentong kailangang isumite sa korte at marami pang ibang kadahilanan. Karaniwang eksena ito korte at pag-antala sa proseso. Kung madalas ang ganito, mapapaisip ka na lamang na sinsadya ito para patagalin ang kaso at, siyempre, bimbin ka sa kulungan na siyang tunay na layunin ng mga gawa-gawang kaso.

Marami ang ganitong kalagayan ng mga bilanggong pulitikal. Karaniwan kumbaga. Isang larawan kung anong uri ang sistema ng hustisya sa bansa.

Mula sa bilangguan

May sulat na nakarating sa akin kamakailan na idinaan sa social media para sa mga kapamilya at kaibigan na ang petsa ay Aril 11. Malamang nagpasalin-salin kaya tumagal at digitized form na ito. Mula ito kay Fe Serrano, 67, bilanggong pulitikal na kasalukuyang nakapiit sa San Jose District Jail (SJDJ) sa Occidental Mindoro dahil sa maraming gawa-gawang kaso. Sulat itong ginawa sa eksaktong dalawang taon niya sa kulungan.

Ayon sa kanya, pinalalakas at pinatatatag siya ng suporta mula sa kanyang pamilya, mga abogado niya, ng mga tagapagtanggol at tagapagtaguyod ng karapatang-tao, ng mga hermanos at hermanas niya sa Sarongbanggi (isang sosyo-kultural na asosasyon ng mga Bikolano sa UPLB), mga kaibigan at ng mga kasama. Higit sa lahat, ng mga alaala na kanyang pumanaw na asawa at kasama na si Eduardo “Eddik” Serrano na dati ring bilanggong pulitikal.

Mula Camp Vicente Lim sa Laguna, Taguig City Jail female dorm sa Camp Bagong Diwa hanggang SJDJ, kinaya at kinakaya niya ang mga hamon ng pisikal at mental na kahirapan ng panghaharas, siksikan at umaapaw na mga bilangguan at pagkawalay nang matagal sa pamilya.

Mismong si Associate Justice Marvic Leonen ng Korte Suprema na ang nagsabi na kailangang harapin ang malaki at inugatan nang problema ng mga siksikang kulungan sa bansa.

Nakisalamuha siya sa mga bilanggo, pulitikal man o hindi, na karamihan ay biktima ng iligal na pag-aresto. Nakinig siya sa mga kwento ng pakikibaka sa buhay, ng ngitngit, ng pagmamahal, ng mga daing at ng pag-asa sa buhay at ng paglaya. Lahat sila ay naghahangad ng katarungan.

Pinangingibabawan niya ang pagkainip sampu ng mga kasama niya sa bilangguan habang pinatatag ang sarili sa mga pagsubok dulot ng pagkakakulong. Hindi niya kinaligtaan ang magbahagi ng karanasan at tumulong kahit sa pamamagitan ng pagmumulat at pagbabahagi ng kaalaman sa kapwa niya bilanggo.

Kaisa rin siya sa humigit-kumulang na 800 bilanggong pulitikal sa bansa na nananawagan ng pagpapawalambisa sa Anti-Terror Act of 2020. Aniya, gaano man katagal ang pakikibakang ito, alam niyang hindi siya nag-iisa sa labang ito.

Larawan ni N. Bacarra/Kodao

Tunguhin

Isa si Fe Serrano sa mga bilanggong pulitikal na nahaharap sa santambak na kaso. May nakasampang 34 na kaso laban sa kanya sa pitong (7) Regional Trial Courts sa Mindoro. Sa dalawang taon niya sa kulungan, napawalang-sala siya sa lima (5) pa lamang na kaso.

Ayon sa grupong Karapatan noong Mayo 7, mayroong 73 kinasuhan ng paglabag sa Anti-Terror Act o R.A. 11479 at ng kakambal nitong batas na Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2012 o R.A. 10168. Isa si Serrano na may kaso ng diumanong paglabag sa R.A. 11479.

Kung susundan ang tantos ng pagbasura sa kaso ni Serrano, lalabas na aabot pa ng sampung taon ang itatagal niya sa kulungan para matapos ang 29 pang kaso. Ibig sabihin, sa edad na 77 pa niya makakamtan ang kanyang kalayaan. Pero kwentada ito sa positibong sapantaha na madulas ang gulong ng mga kaso. Subalit hindi ganito ang kalakaran ng hustisya sa usapin ng mga bilanggong pulitikal maging ng mga karaniwang detenido. Kabaligtaran nito ng gulong ng hustisya sa bansa.

Kahit sabihin pang nagpapakatatag ang mga bilanggong pulitikal para lumaban, ramdam nila ang lupit ng estado sa usapin ng pagpapatagal ng mga kaso laluna yaong may mga gawa-gawang kaso ng diumanong paglabag sa Anti-Terror Act.

Naka-monitor ang Anti-Terror Council sa mga iskedyul ng pagdinig ng korte ng isang detenido na may kasong terorismo. Matamang sinusubaybayan ito at halatang-halata na interesado ito sa dalawang bagay: siguruhin ang hatol na guilty ang nasasakdal o gawin ang lahat ng pamamaraan para patagalin ang pagdinig o hearing.

May kaso noong isang taon na ipinilit ang plea bargaining agreement sa cashier ng Rural Missionaries of the Philippines na si Angelie Magdua na akusado ng terrorism financing na paglabag sa R.A 10168. Sa ganitong maniobra, hindi na kakailanganin ang pagdinig sa kaso. Nahaharap si Magdua sa 55 kaso. Kung ganito karami ang kaso, isang katiyakan na sa bilangguan ka na maghihintay ng kamatayan. Anumang sirkunstansya ang kinalagyan ni Magdua, matingkad ang pagpilipit na maniobra sa kasong ito.

Magkakalkal o mag-iimbento ng kaso ang mga “nagpapatupad ng batas” gamit ang mga testigong “surrenderee” para makasuhan ang mga target na organisasyon, indibidwal, aktibista man, karaniwang mamamayan laluna sa mga rebolusyonaryo. Mukha ito ng sistemang paurong ng batas sa bansa.

Pagkasangkapan ito sa batas para “nyutralisahin” ang mga kinakategoryang kaaway ng estado. At sa lenggwahe ng mga armadong pwersa ng gubyerno sa terminong ito, maaaring ipakahulugan ito sa simpleng pagbilanggo o pagpatay.

Sa loob at labas ng piitan

Sa mga tulad ni Fe Serrano, ang malalang kundisyon sa kulungan na nagdudulot ng di makataong pagkakait ng mga saligang pangangailangan at karapatan ay mga bagay na dapat labanan at iparating sa madla. Subalit mas mahalaga pa rito ay ang pagpapakatatag ng sarili para isulong ang kagalingan ng mga bilanggo.

Sa isang banda, malaking bagay ang suporta ng mga kamag-anak, kaibigan at kasama para sa kanila. Ito ang magpapaypay sa apoy ng paglaban nila sa panloob na kontradiksyon sa sarili at sa obhetibong kalagayan ng mga bilangguan.

May isang antas na ng pagkalantad ang kabuktutan ng anti-terror at terrorism financing na kampanya ng estado sa loob at labas ng bansa. Sa katatapos na pagdinig ng International People’s Tribunal sa Brussels noong nakaraang buwan, idineklarang guilty sina Duterte, Marcos Jr. at si Biden na presidente ng US sa usapin ng lansakang paglabag sa karapatang-tao at internasyunal na makatong batas. Dagdag pa rito ang desisyon ng Korte Suprema na banta sa buhay, kalayaan at seguridad ang red-tagging.

Ang usapin ng pagkakaroon ng mga bilanggong pulitikal ay salamin ng di istableng kundisyong pulitikal ng bansa. Kahit anong tanggi ng gubyerno, paparami ang bilang na ito. Kaya ang programa para kontrahin ang kalagayang ito ay ang paglulunsad ng mga “kontra-insurhensya” kampanyang militar. Itinuturing ang mga naglulunsad ng rebolusyonaryong pagbabago, bilang simpleng isporadikong rebeldeng lagalag o mga insurekto na ang naghahasik lamang ng panggugulo sa bansa. Itinatanggi ang pagiging organisado nito, may programang isinusulong, may perspektiba, at sumusunod sa mga alituntunin ng digma na itinatakda ng United Nations mismo at iba pang mga internasyunal na kasunduan hinggil sa digma.

Marami pa ang tulad ni Fe Serrano na dumaranas ng pagdurusa dahil sa paghahangad ng pagbabago ng lipunan. Sa ganito ring konstekto kung bakit mga simpleng kasong kriminal ang ipinupukol sa mga bilanggong pulitikal. Kapag nalitis ang isang kasong pulitikal at pabor ang desisyon ng korte sa mga bilanggong pulitikal, magiging bahagi ito ng siyensya at pilosopiya ng batas na higit na magpapaalab sa paglaban ng mamamayan. #

CHR tells world of red-tagging, misuse of counter-terror measures

Rights defenders ask UN to conduct investigations in PH

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in the Philippines called on the Philippine government to end the practice of red-tagging and ensure that counter-terrorism measures are not “weaponized” against activists and political opponents.

In an intervention in the ongoing United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), CHR chairperson Richard Palpal-latoc said the Commission is seriously concerned about the Philippine government’s misuse of counter-terrorism measures to curtail the right to freedom of expression and peaceably assemble in the country.

“[It] creates a chilling effect in human rights activism in the country,” Palpal-latoc said in a video-taped message as part of the interactive dialogue on UN special rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights Ben Saul’s report last March 12 .

“State agents and institutions, particularly the law enforcement, using State resources, systematically engage in red-tagging, which is the act of branding or accusing individuals or organizations, many of whom are human rights defenders and community workers,” Palpal-latoc revealed.

He added that victims of red-tagging are labeled as subversives or communists that facilitate and carry out terrorist acts.

“Red tagging legitimizes intrusion into civilians’ private lives and has dangerous consequences – online and physical attacks, prolonged incarceration, and even death to some,” the CHR chairperson said.

Palpal-latoc said the Philippine national human rights institution joins the international Treaty Bodies, Special Rapporteurs, UN Member States, and global civil society organizations in calling the Philippine Government to end the practice of red-tagging and ensure that counter-terrorism measures are not weaponized against activists and political opponents.

“We also strongly encourage the Government to work with the Special Rapporteur Mr. Ben Saul, in reviewing the human rights impacts of the country’s counter-terrorism policies and practices through an official country visit,” he added.

The Philippine UPR Watch delegation to the 55th UNHRC regular session in Geneva, Switzerland.
(Photo by the World Council of Churches)

Just as bad under Marcos

Meanwhile, delegates of the Philippine UPR (Universal Periodic Review) Watch in Geneva said the human rights situation is not better under the Ferdinand Marcos Jr. government, contrary to what government officials are telling UN member states.

In a side event UN HRC session last March 14, the delegation echoed CHR’s revelation of red-tagging and weaponization of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) of 2020 in the Philippines, adding the Marcos administration has continued with repressive and oppressive policies implemented under the previous Rodrigo Duterte regime.

“High level envoys have been here at the start of this UNHRC session telling other member states and the UN in general of the so-called successes of the UN Joint Program (UNJP) that has been implemented in the Philippines in the last three years. What success is the Marcos government talking about when rights violations continue unabated?” IBON executive director Sonny Africa asked.

Department of Justice undersecretary Raul Vasquez claimed in an oral statement to the UNHRC last February 27 that the Philippine government “strengthen[ed] existing domestic human rights mechanisms (through the UNJP) in support of [the government’s) rights-based development agenda.”

Vasquez also announced that the Marcos government shall establish “a human rights coordinating council (HRCC) to take over and broaden the programs identified under the UNJP, and ensure greater participation of other government agencies and civil society organizations.”

Africa said that both IBON and Karapatan are members of a technical working group within the UNJP and they have a front row seat of how capacity-building exercises are ineffective when laws such as the Anti-Terrorism Act are still actively used to oppress human rights defenders.

“The Marcos government cannot claim success of the UNJP when the drug killings continue, such as in the case of Jemboy Baltazar killed by the police 13 months into the Marcos presidency. Worse, the police officer who shot him was given a very light sentence and his cohorts were set free in what the court described was a simple case of mistaken identity,” Africa said.

Africa added that the planned HRCC is likely to become another failure like the UNJP.

“As long as the Marcos government continues to ignore the recommendations made by UN special rapporteurs who recently visited the country, such as the abolition of the red-tagging National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict and the review of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) 2020, there will be more rights violations,” Africa warned.

Clergy, environmentalists as ATA victims

United Methodist Church clergy and National Council of Churches in the Philippines member Rev. Glofie Baluntong narrated how the ATA was used to drive her away from Southern Tagalog where she was a Distrist Superintendent for Mindoro and Romblon.

Baluntong was charged with alleged violation of the ATA in 2021 for her defense of the indigenous Mangyan in Mindoro who resist mining and logging operations in the island.

Center for Environmental Concerns executive director Lia Mai Torres narrated how two state abduction survivors and fellow environment defenders Jhed Tamano and Jonila Castro were supposed to be part of the Philippine UPR Watch delegation but for additional charges filed against them by the DOJ.

“The ongoing UH HRC session, being the first one after their abduction and dramatic walk to freedom, would have been the most opportune time for the two brave environmental activists to share to the world their ordeal in the hands of the Marcos government,” Torres said.

The DOJ filed a grave oral defamation charge against Tamano and Castro last February before the Dona Remedios Trinidad Municipal Trial Court for allegedly maligning the Philippine Army.

“The irony of the kidnappers charging their abductions victims is simply incredible,” Torres quipped.

800 political prisoners

Karapatan legal counsel Ma. Sol Taule told attending Geneva graduate students and Geneva-based international civil society organizations of the 800 political prisoners languishing in various jails throughout the Philippines.

“The fact that the Marcos government keeps in jail hundreds of political prisoners is testament that the human rights situation in the Philippines under Marcos Jr. is not better,” Taule said.

“Since the compromise project of UNJP did not produce the intended result of respect for human rights in the Philippines, we urge the United Nations to revisit the approved 2019 Iceland resolution for the conduct of an independent investigation,” she said.

Taule added that the DOJ has no right to head the proposed HRCC given its lack of credibility in delivering justice to human rights violations victims, as in the case of the notorious Bloody Sunday killings in Southern Tagalog three years ago that killed five activists and killed several others in a single day.

The lawyer also cited the DOJ’s role in Administrative Order 35 creating the Inter-Agency Committee on Extra-Legal Killings, Enforced Disappearances, Torture and other grave violations to the Rights to Life, Liberty and Security of Persons in 2012.

“The world knows the Philippine government’s bloody record in killing thousands upon thousands of suspected drug dependents as well as human rights defenders and simple civilians. What moral right does DOJ have to head a human rights coordinating council?” Taule asked.

“The Philippine government is lying about the real situation on the ground and it is miserable failing to abide by its commitments to the international community. It is high time for the UNHRC to find the truth out for itself by conducting its own investigation,” the human rights lawyer added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

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(DISCLOSURE) The reporter is a member of the Philippine UPR Watch delegation as chairperson of the People’s Alternative Media Network who met with UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression and opinion Irene Khan last January.

NDFP consultant, 3 others arrested in ‘another wave of arbitrary arrests’

6 others ordered arrested; Gov’t designates community doctor a ‘terrorist’

A retired National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Negotiating Panel peace consultant was arrested in what a human rights group said is another wave of arbitrary arrests and trumped up charges that involve 10 other activists.

Ruben Saluta, a participant in several formal rounds of peace negotiations between the NDFP and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) in 2016 and 2017, was reported arrested in General Santos City last Sunday night.

He was arrested with his wife Presentacion and their companion Yvonee Losaria at Phase 5, Doña Soledad, Barangay Labangal in the said city.

A Manila Bulletin news report said the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group of the Philippine National Police (CIDG-PNP) arrested the three on the strength of a warrant of arrest for rebellion.

Earlier arrested in March 2015 on charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives, Saluta was released from prison by the Rodrigo Duterte government in October 2016 to enable his participation in the peace negotiations.

In June 2018, Saluta was cleared by the court after finding “serious doubt in the prosecution evidence and in their chain of custody” of the seized firearms.

Saluta has since retired from his post after the GRP walked away from the negotiations in November 2017.

In a separate statement, the Communist Party of the Philippines confirmed that Saluta has long retired from active duty in the revolutionary underground because of his hypertension and chronic pulmonary disease.

“The Party denounces the gross inhumane treatment of the elderly revolutionaries who have lived lives in service of the oppressed and exploited masses,” the CPP added.

Human rights group Karapatan said the guns alleged to have been found with Saluta were planted, adding the elderly former peace negotiator and his wife are suffering from various illnesses.

“Previous charges against Saluta couple have been long dismissed, and it is highly possible that the evidence taken during their arrest were planted, just like in the past case against them,” Karapatan said.

‘No due process’

On Monday, Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA) staff Jennifer Awingan was arrested on charges of rebellion despite not having received any subpoena.

Also reportedly included in the arrest order are CPA Chairperson Windell Bolinget, Regional Council member and abduction-torture survivor Steve Tauli, Northern Dispatch journalist Niño Oconer, farmer leader Lourdes Jimenez, and development workers Sarah Abelton and Florence Kang.

WHAT WENT BEFORE: Cordillera activist mauled and abducted

“[The respondents] were unable to be afforded their right to due process during the inquest proceedings,” Karapatan said.

“Karapatan denounces these recent arrests and trumped up charges as part of the renewed attacks against activists and political dissenters through criminalization of their work. We demand the immediate release of Awingan, the Saluta couple and Losaria, as we call for the junking of the charges against them,” the group added.

No respite for community doctor

Meanwhile, the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) on Monday designated community doctor and University of the Philippines alumna Natividad Castro as a terrorist, a move both Karapatan and the group Health Action for Human Rights (HAHR) said was arbitrary.

The ATC alleged that Castro remains active in financing revolutionary communist groups and has conducted medical trainings for New People’s Army guerillas.

In a statement, the HAHR questioned the lack of a hearing or even a prior to the designation.

“Dr. Naty had no chance to rebut or even learn of the basis of the designation prior to its publication. She has been condemned as a terrorist by the ATC even before her side was heard. How can she even contest the designation when she has not even informed of the basis of such designation?” the group said.

Castro was arrested at their home in San Juan City last February 18 in a commando-style raid also by the CIDG-PNP. Branch 7 of the Bayugan City RTC in a March 25 resolution ordered her release from the Agusan del Sur provincial jail after finding no probable cause against her.

WHAT WENT BEFORE: Rights group hails Doc Naty’s release

An acknowledged champion of community-based health programs, Castro’s designation as an alleged terrorist puts at risk the lives of thousands of other community health workers and health professionals all over the country, the HAHR said.

“The ATA (Anti-Terrorism Act) and ATC (have) no place in a democratic society. The latest designation by the ATC is nothing more than a with-hunt to silence government critics,” the group said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

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)

Pahayag ng isang manunulat at direktor hinggil sa Anti-Terrorism Act

Inihahalintulad ni Bonifacio Ilagan, isang manunulat at direktor, ang kanyang mga naging karanasan noong panahon ng Martial Law sa maaaring mangyari ngayong naipasa na ang Anti-Terrorism Act.

Pinirmahan ng pangulo ang nasabing batas noong Hulyo 3. Limang araw na lamang ang nalalabi bago ito tuluyang ma-implementa.