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NUJP to military: Why blame the journalists, not the Chinese?

A media group strongly reacted to an Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) statement blaming an ABS-CBN news team over an incident with Chinese military vessels at the West Philippine Sea last Thursday.

Reacting to AFP spokesperson Maj. Gen. Edgar Arevalo’s statement issued Friday, April 9, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) took exception to AFP’s suggestion the incident was caused by the “journalists’ insatiable desire to be ahead in reporting.”

A Chinese Coast Guard and two missile-bearing People’s Liberation Army-Navy boats engaged a civilian Filipino vessel with the news team on board in an extended high-speed chase near Palawan Thursday.

ABS-CBN reporter Chiara Zambrano and her team were headed to Ayungin Shoal in Kalayaan, Palawan and was intercepted by Chinese ships while inside the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

Arevalo implied Zambrano was simply hungry for a scoop and did not exercise prudence in doing her job.

“While we understand the journalists’ insatiable desire to be ahead in reporting, we appeal to them to exercise prudence in the course of their job,” Arevalo said.

The NUJP pointed out however that the journalists were on board a civilian boat sailing in Philippine waters and were not doing anything illegal.

“It is almost like the military is asking the Filipino journalists ‘what were you doing there?’” the NUJP said.

“[T]he better question might be aimed at the AFP: What were you not doing there? An even more important question is what the Chinese military was doing in our waters and how the (Rodrigo) Duterte administration plans to address this incident,” the group retorted.

The NUJP said Zambrano and team should instead be praised by the military and the Duterte government instead of being blamed.

“We commend them for going the extra nautical miles to try to get a better perspective on the situation in the West Philippine Sea,”

Chinese presence within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone had been on the news since last month as hundreds of Chinese vessels had been discovered to be overstaying at the Julian Felipe Reef. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Four other Southern Tagalog massacre victims identified

Four other massacre victims in last Sunday’s brutal police operations against activists have been identified, all of whom were accused of illegal possession of firearms and explosives like the other five.

Human rights group Karapatan Timog Katagalugan said Dumagat Sierra Madre members Puroy Berhemedo dela Cruz and Randy Berhemedo dela Cruz were shot dead by the police in Sitio Mina, Barangay Sta. Inez, Tanay, Rizal.

Urban poor activists Abner Damas Esto y Mendoza and Edward Damas Esto y Mendoza were also killed by the police in sitio Macaingalan, Barangay Puray, Rodriguez, Rizal as part of the Conduct of Simultaneous Implementation of Search Warrants dubbed COPLAN ASVAL by the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines across four provinces last March 7.

In a separate alert, Gabriela Youth Laguna said the dela Cruzes were killed separately but in a similar fashion.

Quoting Puroy’s wife Minda, Gabriela said the raiders arrived between three to four o’clock in the morning and ordered them to surrender with their alleged firearms.

But even before the dela Cruzes were able to comply the raiders shot at the victim four times and killed him, the group added.

Gabriela added that Randy’s family was violently roused from sleep an hour later when the raiders kicked their door down, ordered his wife Violy and their children out and walk 50 feet away.

As soon as the Randy’s wife and children turned their backs, the victim was shot multiple times, killing him instantly.

No details were provided as to how the Estos were killed.

Like the two others killed in Rodriguez, Rizal at what media groups dub as “Bloody Sunday”, the Esto siblings were members of the red-tagged urban poor group San Isidro Kasiglahan, Kapatiran at Damayan para sa Kabuhayan, Katarungan at Kapayapaan (SIKKAD-K3).

The PNP earlier bragged it killed nine persons last Sunday in a “big score” against alleged communists.

The five other massacre victims earlier identified by Karapatan Timog Katagalugan were:

  • Michael Dasigao and Mark “Mak Mak” Lee Coros Bacasno in Rodriguez, Rizal;
  • Manny Asuncion in Dasmarinas, Cavite; and
  • Couple Anna Mariz and Ariel Evangelista in Nasugbu, Batangas.

The police also declared it arrested six others of the same charge as illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

Karapatan Timog Katagalugan said among those arrested was Joan Ignacio Efren of Sitio Lukuang Malaki, San Isidro, Rodriguez, Rizal.

Earlier identified as arrested were:

  • Steve Mendoza and Elizabeth Camoral in Cabuyao, Laguna;
  • Nimfa Lanzanas in Calamba, Laguna;
  • Eugene Eugenio in Antipolo city.

The PNP refuses to identify the nine other target of its operations but human rights groups said one Lito Baez of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Batangas missed being killed or arrested as he was not home when the police raided his house. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

2ND UPDATE: Massacre and mass arrest as SEMPO rampages in Southern Tagalog

By Joseph Cuevas

(This is a developing story. Refresh for more updates.)

Five activists were killed while four others were arrested in a joint Synchronized Enhanced Management of Police Operations in Laguna, Rizal, Cavite and Batangas provinces Sunday morning, eve of International Women’s Day, March 7.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) conducted joint Synchronized Enhanced Management of Police Operations (SEMPO) in the four provinces that resulted in the massacre and arrests.

In Rodriguez, Rizal, Michael Dasigao, officer of a Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap-affiliate organization and a Mark “Mak Mak” Lee Coros Bacasno were shot dead by the police, an alert from human rights organization Karapatan-Southern Tagalog said.

Manny Asuncion

In Cavite, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN)-Cavite coordinator Manny Asuncion was brutally killed after police and military raided the Workers’ Assistance Center in Dasmariñas.

Photos released by Kilusang Mayo Uno’s Southern Tagalog chapter Pamantik show that Asuncion’s body appear to have been dragged from the center’s upper floor, leaving streaks of blood on the floor and stairs.

In Nasugbu, Batangas, activist couple Anna Mariz and Ariel Evangelista were found dead in a funeral home hours after police raided their house in Nasugbu.

Their 10-year old child was able to escape.

In Barangay Mamatid, Cabuyao, Laguna, Steve Mendoza, executive vice-president of OLALIA-Kilusang Mayo Uno, was arrested at his house at around 3:15 this morning.

Nimfa Lanzanas

Nimfa Lanzanas of Kapatid-Southern Tagalog, and aide for political prisoners in the region, was arrested in front of her grandchildren at her house in Calamba City.

Elizabeth Camoral, spokesperson of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) in Laguna, was also arrested after the police raided the office of farmers’s group Defend Yulo at around 4:30 in the morning in Cabuyao.

In Antipolo City, Rizal, Confederation for the Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE)-Rizal member Eugene Eugenio was also arrested.

Eugenio is president of the Advancement of Rights and Responsibilities of Organized Workers LGU (ARROWS) – Antipolo City Hall.

Meanwhile, Lino Baez of BAYAN-Batangas missed being arrested as he was absent when his house was raided where the police said they found illegal guns.

Elizabeth Camoral

Karapatan Southern Tagalog is investigating reports of other arrests, including of Dumagat tribes people in Tanay, Rizal.

Manila Regional Trial Court First Vice Executive Judge Jose Lorenzo De La Rosa issued the search warrants used in the SEMPO.

The massacre and mass arrest today followed the simultaneous arrests of unionists Ramir Corcolon in San Pablo City and former Lakas ng Manggagawang Nagkakaisa sa Honda union leader Arnedo Laguinas in Sta. Rosa, both in Laguna province, last March 4.

SEMPO, previously implemented in Negros and Panay islands, has consistently resulted in massacres and mass arrests of activists.

Its latest implementation before this morning’s incident resulted in the massacre of nine and the mass arrest of Tumandok tribes people in Iloilo and Capiz provinces last December.

The Katipunan ng Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan said it condemns the “tokhang-style” attacks against progressive groups in the region and demanded justice for those killed today. # (With Raymund B. Villanueva. Photos provided by Karapatan ST)

Human rights lawyer survives murder attempt

A lawyer, counsel to human rights violations victims and petitioners against the Rodrigo Duterte government’s controversial Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, had been stabbed in Iloilo City Wednesday night, March 3.

Atty. Angelo Karlo Guillen was stabbed with a screw driver on his lower left temple and back by two unidentified assailants at about 9:15 PM along Gen. Antonio Luna Street in the said city.

He was taken to the St. Paul Hospital and is reportedly in stable condition.

An assistant vice president for Visayas of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) and secretary general of its local chapter, Guillen serves as counsel in various public interest and human rights cases in both Panay and Negros islands.

The lawyer represents red-tagged activists and human rights defenders, including those arrested in the simultaneous raids in Bacolod City in October 2019 and the Tumandok arrested in Panay last December that also saw the killing of nine tribes people in two villages.

On May 1, 2020, Guillen was arrested when he tried to intervene in the mass arrest of 42 activists protesting the murder of Bayan Muna Iloilo coordinator Jory Porquia.

The assailants wore masks and caps, reports said.

Not a robbery

Groups and individuals said the assailants took pains to make it appear the attack was a common crime, a scenario the local police reportedly quickly supported.

“The attack against (the victim) was conveniently dismissed by the local PNP as robbery-hold up. Four hours after the incident there is still no hot-pursuit operation. There were no check points. Not even police visibility in the crime scene,” Lean Porquia, son of murdered Bayan Muna Iloilo City coordinator Jory, said.

Atty. Jose Edmund Guillen, Public Attorney’s Office Region VI chief and uncle to the victim also dismissed the police’s robbery theory.  

“You want to make it appear as a robbery? The CCTV footage says otherwise. It was a kill operation. Right on the dot, after the stabbing, two motorcycles arrived to pick up the masked killers and they disappear[ed] in the dark,” he said.

 “[W]e cannot be fooled by this, because we know for a fact that the state and its security forces have been targeting Atty. Guillen as well as other lawyers handling cases of activists not only in Panay island but in Negros island as well,” human rights group Karapatan Negros Oriental said in a statement.

State terror in Panay

Porquia said the lawyer’s laptop was taken that contained all the files of the cases he is handling, including his father’s murder, the Tumandok massacre, the anti terror law petition, the mass arrest of 42 activists, the Sagay 9 massacre, and several writ of Amparo cases.

“The attack on Atty. Guillen should be seen in the context of systematic, continuing, and increasing attacks on human rights and human rights defenders. Atty. Guillen has been redtagged for several times just like other peoples’ lawyers and human rights defenders who were tagged as ‘terrorists’ or ‘communists’ and were subsequently attacked and harassed,” the NUPL Panay Law Students group said.

Last February 28, a possible witness to the victim’s Tumandok 9 case was also killed .

Village chief Julie Catamin of Brgy. Roosevelt, Tapaz, Capiz was shot dead by motorcycle-riding assassin in Brgy. Malitbog, Calinog, Iloilo .

Catarmin went on record belying the Philippine National Police’s allegation that those massacred and arrested by police and military operatives in the December 30, 2020 bloodbath were communist guerillas.

Swift condemnation

Various groups and individuals condemned the attack against Guillen and called for an immediate investigation.

The Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) said Guillen’s attackers are evil.

“It is very clear that those who have motives to silence Atty. Guillen, even to the point of violence, could only be the Duterte regime and its tentacles in the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict,” the labor federation said in Filipino.

The NUPL also condemned the slay attempt against its officer.

The group said it has recorded at least 54 killings of lawyers and judges that appear to be related their human rights work.

In December 2020, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, NUPL, and various legal groups raised concerns over the increasing and alarming incidents of attacks on lawyers before the Supreme Court. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Military ‘sorry’ for false list of dead or captured NPA

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (UP) apologized for its false list of University of the Philippines (UP) students who died or were captured as New People’s Army (NPA) rebels.

In a statement, the AFP said it sincerely apologizes to those “inadvertently affected by inconsistencies” in the list published on its Facebook account.

The AFP said its Civil-Military Operations Office is already conducting an internal investigation, adding it will hold to account those responsible.

The AFP apology,

The list had gone viral despite being deleted shortly after publication.

Among those listed as dead or captured NPA rebels are prominent UP alumni, including former government officials.

Former Congressman and Integrated Bar of the Philippines president Roan Libarios, former Government of the Republic of the Philippines Negotiating Panel chairperson and Philippine Health Insurance Corporation president Atty. Alexander Padilla, former Deparment of Environment and Natural Resources executive Elmer Mercado, and stage and film director Behn Cervantes who died of natural causes in August 2013 were among those listed.

False list

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) condemned the inclusion of at least two journalists in the list.

The NUJP said the listing of Agence France Presse bureau chief for Singapore and Malaysia Roberto “Bobby” Coloma and business and economic journalist Roel Landingin was “malicious red-tagging” by the military.

“It is appalling how the military office tasked with communicating with the citizenry has shamelessly resorted to such blatant falsehood to push the narrative of UP as the supposed ‘breeding ground’ of enemies of the state,” the NUJP said.

“We would normally dismiss this canard as laughably stupid. However, putting the people it names in mortal danger is no laughing matter at all. Especially since AFP units are known to spread disinformation such as this through their own social media accounts,” the media group added.

Schools reject Parlade’s allegation

In a related development, the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU), De La Salle University (DLSU), University of Santo Tomas (UST), and the Far Eastern University (FEU) protested their inclusion in another list as recruitment havens for the NPA.

In a repeat of his allegations in 2018, National Task Force to End Local Communist and Armed Conflict spokesperson Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade said the NPA recruits new members from 18 Philippine colleges and universities.

ADMU President Roberto Yap, DLSU President Raymundo Suplido, FEU President Michael Alba and UST Vice Rector Isaias Tiongco jointly rejected Paralde’s statement against their schools.

The officials said their universities “seek to direct our students to engage in acts that contribute to the strengthening of social cohesion, defend the country’s democratic institutions, and promote nation-building.”

Parlade’s claims are “really getting old” and that the accusations were irresponsibly “cast without proof,” the school officials said.

Parlade’s statement and the AFP list followed defense secretary’s Delfin Lorenzana’s unilateral abrogation last week of the UP-Department of National Defense Agreement of 1989 requiring the AFP to seek permission before conducting operations in campus.

The move earned widespread condemnation from UP alumni and civil society groups. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Philippine Army soldiers kill journalist in Masbate

MANILA — A journalist was shot and killed by government soldiers in Milagros, Masbate, last Saturday, November 14.

Ronnie Villamor, 50, a stringer for local tabloid Dos Kantos Balita was killed by troops led by a certain 2nd Lieutenant Maydim Jomadil after covering an aborted survey of a disputed property.

Villamor was also a pastor of the Life in Christ Church.

A spot report on the incident by Milagros police chief Major Aldrin Rosales quoted army troops as saying they were investigating the presence of five armed men in Barangat Matanglad who fled at their approach.

The army and the police said Villamor was a New People’s Army (NPA) member who allegedly drew a firearm when ordered to stop his motorcycle at a Scout Platoon-2nd Infantry Battalion Philippine Army checkpoint.

The victim’s colleagues however disputed the soldiers’ version of the incident, saying there was no encounter between the government soldiers and the NPA.

Masbate Tri-Media President Dadong Briones Sr. told Dos Kantos Balita the victim just came from a coverage of an aborted survey of a piece of land being disputed by certain Dimen family and businessman Randy Favis.

Favis’s goons reportedly prevented the survey from proceeding, prompting the surveyors to return to mainland Bicol and the victim to proceed to his brother Arthur’s house at Barangay Bonbon.

Dos Kantos Balita reported that witnesses saw army troopers flagging down the victim and, after being identified by Favis’s men Johnrey Floresta and Eric Desilva, shot Villamor dead.

In a statement, the Masbate chapter of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) condemned the killing of their colleague and demands a thorough investigation of the incident.

“The killing of our colleague…at the hands of government soldiers sends a chilling message to us journalists not only here in Masbate but all throughout the country,” the victims’ colleagues said.

Villamor is the fourth journalist murdered in Masbate after Joaquin Briones (March 13, 2017), Antonio Castillo (June 12, 2009), and Nelson Nedura (December 2, 2003), the NUJP said.

“He (Villamor) is the 19th slain during the Duterte administration and the 191st since 1986. He was also the second killed this month, only four days after NUJP member Virgilio Maganes, who had survived an attempt on his life in 2016, was shot dead outside his home in Villasis town, Pangasinan,” the group added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Groups laud global calls for probes and sanctions on Duterte’s rights violations

Human rights groups welcomed measures by the international community to call for investigations and sanctions to stop human rights violations under the Rodrigo Duterte government.

Karapatan said the recent resolution on the human rights situation in the Philippines by the European Parliament is a “welcome step towards reckoning and accountability over the Duterte administration’s blatant disregard of its obligation to uphold human rights and civil liberties in the country.”

The European Parliament, voting last Thursday, September 17, said it proactively supports the adoption of a resolution at the ongoing 45th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council to establish an international investigation into human rights violations committed in the Philippines since Duterte became president.

The measure also recommended to the European Union (EU) to temporarily withdraw the Philippines’ Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus status that provides tariff perks for Filipino goods until the Duterte government “immediately carry out impartial, transparent, independent and meaningful investigations into all extrajudicial killings.”

“The resolution — adopted with 626 votes in favor, 7 against, and 52 abstentions —particularly killings related to the drug war as well as the recent killings of human rights activists Jose Reynaldo Porquia in Iloilo City, Randall Echanis in Quezon City and Zara Alvarez in Bacolod City while the Philippines is under coronavirus lockdown imposed by the government,” Karapatan said in a statement.  

The resolution also expressed alarm on the conviction of Rappler executive editor Maria Ressa over cyberlibel charges and the shutdown of ABS-CBN.


Philippine Human Rights Bill

US Congresswoman Susan Wild (D-PA). Supplied photo.

Filipino-American organizations meanwhile welcomed the introduction of the Philippine Human Rights Bill at the United States House of Representatives by Philadelphia Democrat Susan Wild.

The measure seeks to block US assistance to the Philippine police and military, including equipment and training, “until human rights conditions are met.”

The bill is co-sponsored by 18 other representatives.

If the bill becomes law, the US government shall stop funding support to the Philippine police and military unless the following are met:

  • Investigating and prosecuting members of the military and police forces who are credibly found to have violated human rights;  
  • Withdrawing the military from domestic policy;
  • Establishing protections of the rights of trade unionists, journalists, human right defenders, indigenous persons, small-farmers, LGBTI activists, and critics of the government;
  • Taking steps to guarantee a judicial system that is capable of investigating, prosecuting, and bringing to justice members of the police and military who have committed human rights abuses; and
  • Fully complying with any and all audits or investigations regarding the improper use of security aid.

Organizations such as the Communications Workers of America (CWA), The Malaya Movement, the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines and Kabataan Alliance said they applaud the bill.

“[We are] proud to support the introduction of the Philippine Human Rights Act to protect the working people in the Philippines who are suffering greatly under the Duterte regime,” CWA Senior Director for Government Affairs and Policy Shane Larson said.

“Although we’re all dealing with the fallout of the pandemic right now, we cannot turn our backs on the crisis that Filipino workers have been facing under Duterte, which has greatly accelerated during COVID-19, with the Philippines government’s intensified power grab to persecute its political enemies. We must show Duterte that Americans and the labor movement won’t stand for him and his administration imprisoning and executing trade unionists and activists,” Larson added.

Other organizations supporting the bill include the Teamsters, Ecumenical Advocacy Network on the Philippines, United Church of Christ – Global Ministries, United Methodist Church – General Board of Church & Society, Migrante USA, Gabriela USA, Anakbayan USA, Bayan-USA, Franciscan Network on Migration, Pax Christi New Jersey, Kabataan Alliance, and National Alliance for Filipino Concerns and others.

PH government response

In response, Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque dismissed the effects of a possible revocation of the tariff perks on Philippine goods in Europe.

“No more discussions. They should do what they want to do during this time. If they want to implement it, go ahead,” Roque in an annoyed tone said.

“I’m sorry. I’m being very undiplomatic in my answer, but what else can I say? At the time of a pandemic, they’re threatening us. Susmaryosep, what else do we lose?” Roque added.

Philippine House of Representatives Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano for his part said the European Parliament’s resolution is an interference in the “country’s domestic issues.”

“The Philippine House of Representatives takes exception to the outright interference of the European Parliament in the purely domestic matters of the Philippines by dictating on the government ‘to renew the broadcast license’ of ABS-CBN and to ‘drop’ the Cyberlibel charges against Maria Ressa,” Cayetano said in a statement.

“To our friends in the European Parliament, we have a saying here in the Philippines that the world is round. The day will come – mark my words – that the Philippines will be in a position to impose economic sanctions on your countries,” he fired back.

Karapatan however thanked the political parties who initiated the European Parliament resolution and the members of parliament who supported and adopted it.

“[W]e hope this will enjoin other governments and the international community at large to continue to take a strong stance in denouncing the Duterte administration’s attacks on human and people’s rights in the Philippines and in supporting an independent investigation by the UN HRC on these attacks,” the group said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Reds condemn 54th IB for condoning rape of minor in Ifugao

By KIMBERLIE QUITASOL
www.nordis.net

BAGUIO CITY —A New People’s Army (NPA) unit and an underground women’s organization in separate statements condemned the 54th Infantry Battalion for condoning one of its soldier who raped a minor twice.

The Nona del Rosario Command of the New People’s Army in Ifugao said in a statement that Paul Tamang of the 54th IB first raped the 15-year-old victim in 2018. The army sexually assaulted her while she was alone doing the laundry at home.

In March 2019, Tamang returned saying that he wanted to talk about what happened and then raped her again. A few months later, two other soldiers from the 54th IBPA approached the family and offered them P70,000. They also informed them about the transfer of Tamang to a different unit following the incident.

Troops from the 54th IB, including Tamang, was in the victim’s village supposedly conducting a Community Support Program Operations (CSPO) when the abuse happened.

“The victim, her family and the entire community continue to seek justice for the violence and oppression they have experienced,” the statement said.

According to the NPA unit, there have been three reported rape cases perpetrated by soldiers of the 54th IB. These cases are on top of complaints of sexual harassment in various villages in Ifugao.

In a separate statement, Makibaka, the women’s revolutionary organization allied with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) condemned the 54th IBPA soldier for raping a minor twice at that.

Makibaka demanded that justice be served to the victim and for the pull out of the 54th IBPA from Ifugao.

In November 2014, the police arrested a member of the same army unit, Christopher Collado Baccay, for charges of charge for intentional abortion with rape. The victim filed the case before Branch 14 of the Regional Trial Court of Lagawe town in Ifugao. Authorities collared the rape suspect inside the 5th Infantry Division (ID) in Camp Melchor dela Cruz in Gamu, Isabela.

The 54th IBPA is not the only army unit assigned in Ifugao with records of rape and sexual abuse.

In 2012, Capt. Danilo Lalin of the 86th IB, then stationed in Ifugao, abducted and raped a 16-year old girl from Benguet. Isabel (not her real name) went missing on February 17, 2012, and returned home four days after. She later disclosed to her sister that Lalin brought her to a military camp in Ifugao where the army official raped her.

The trauma from her ordeal on the hands of Lalin caused the victim to suffer from depression and selective amnesia.

Lalin claimed that Isabel, who was 16 at the time was his girlfriend. Military officials transferred the suspect to the 5th ID headquarters in Gamu, Isabela after the incident. # 

Activists press for justice on Malayao’s 1st death anniv

Activists commemorated the first death anniversary of Randy Felix Malayao in Isabela province, calling for justice for the slain National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant.

In a rally in front of Camp Melchor de la Cruz in Gamu town, headquarters of the 5th Infantry Division (5th ID) of the Philippine Army, various groups under the Makabayan bloc and the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan condemned the lack of justice for Malayao.

The soldiers however violently dispersed the rally, hurting protesters holding streamers and forcing them to continue their program in a nearby park.

“The Philippine Army parked a pick-up truck in front and an ambulance behind the rally with horns and sirens blaring to disrupt the program,” a source told Kodao.

Earlier, the activists celebrated a Mass at Malayao’s tomb in a private cemetery in San Pablo, his hometown.

Activists salute Malayao with raised fists at his tomb in San Pablo, Isabela.

As artists were painting a mural calling for justice for Malayao’s assassination at the wall of the adjacent public cemetery, however, San Pablo mayor Jojo Miro arrived and ordered the activists to stop.

The local government had the mural painted over as soon as the activists left, Makabayan said.

Malayao was killed in his sleep inside a bus in Aritao, Nueva Vizcaya province last January 30, 2019.

The Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), in a statement Wednesday, January 29, condemned the lack of justice for Malayao, accusing the government of inaction.

UMA pointed out that facial sketches of the gunman and the driver of the getaway vehicle had been released by the Cagayan Valley police as well as another person of interest caught on CCTV taking a photo of Malayao’s bus at a terminal in Quezon City.

“It seems the police and, for that matter, the Philippine government has no more interest in pursuing justice for the killing of Randy. Especially this time, when militarists in the Duterte administration are again spoiling the possible resumption of peace talks between the government and the NDFP,” UMA vice-chairperson Ariel Casilao said.

In a statement last year, Makabayan said it holds the Duterte administration and all his local cohorts along with the 5th ID of the Armed Forces of the Philippines accountable for the death of Malayao.

“When the President declared his open command to his army to eliminate activists, so-called legal fronts of Duterte’s protagonists, the CPP-NPA (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army) and alleged NPAs in the city, Duterte signed Malayao’s death order. Immediately after Duterte’s pronouncements of “death wishes” several malicious posters and leaflets branding Malayao as NPA leader in the city together with other known activists were displayed all over the region,” the group said.

Aside from being an NDFP consultant and Negotiating Panel spokesperson, Malayao was Bayan Muna Cagayan Valley regional coordinator at the time of his death. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Rights group links former officer’s disappearance to military

Karapatan Southern Mindanao Region (SMR) said the disappearance of its former secretary general is linked to the intensifying crackdown on activists and the victim’s past experiences of harassment and red-tagging by the military.

In calling for the “surfacing” of human rights defender Honey Mae Suazo who has been missing since November 2, Karapatan SMR raised the possibility of the military’s involvement in what they suspect is a case of abduction.

“Honey May has been with Karapatan for five years. In that period, she was subjected to multiple threats and malicious accusations peddled by the military,” the group’s current secretary general Jay Apiag said in a statement.

“Although, she had left Karapatan, it seems that she still remains a target. If her past experiences of continuous harassment are indicative of anything, it is that Honey May is still facing reprisal for her work as a human rights defender,” he added.

Suazo was Karapatan SMR secretary general from 2011 to 2016. The group said she was subjected to numerous threats, the most recent of which came from Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Deputy Chief of Staff for Civil Military Operations Antonio Parlade.

Karapatan SMR said Brigadier General Parlade accused Suazo of being associated with the Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army (NPA) after she assisted the family of NPA leader Zaldy Cañete to visit the latter who was hospitalized after suffering near-fatal injuries after an encounter in Bukidnon Province.

“As a matter of fact, Honey May Suazo’s photograph and name was viciously appended in the posters hanged in the cities of Butuan and Surigao, April this year, accusing her as a terrorist.” Apiag emphasized.

Apiag said Suazo was merely performing a mandate of a human rights advocacy institution to assist wounded combatants who are accorded protection and right to visitation of families as mandated under the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) of which the Philippine government is a signatory.

“Regardless of what the military is trying to insinuate, assisting families of combatants, including hors de combat, is not illegal or condemnable. They can double check with the IHL provisions or go to the database and briefers provided by the International Committee of the Red Cross if they need a refresher,” Apiag said.

Apiag said that Suazo’s disappearance is with the backdrop of an intensifying crackdown against activists and legitimate people’s organizations.

“With martial law in Mindanao, the repressive machinations led by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, and implementation of counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapanatagan, attacks against activists like Honey May have become more commonplace, justified by false allegations and smear campaigns,” he said.

Initial investigations

Karapatan SMR said it formed and dispatched an investigation team composed of paralegal after hearing of Suazo’s disappearance and submitted the following

– On the morning of November 2, All Soul’s Day, Suazo visited her relatives’ graves with her partner, Anelo Pabuaya;
– Following their visit to the cemetery in Panabo, Suazo and her partner were at a friend’s house in Barangay New Site Gredu. At around 3 in the afternoon, Suazo decided to go ahead of her partner to return to Davao City;
– A few minutes later, Suazo called her partner saying she realized she had no enough money for the bus ride and asked Pabuaya to fetch her at Panabo City Hall;
– After a while, Suazo called Pabuaya again, saying she was being tailed by a white pick-up truck. She asked Pabuaya to immediately come and fetch her. Pabuaya advised her to go to the nearest police station. When Pabuaya went to the station, he did not find Suazo. He tried to contact her mobile phone numbers but all were out of reach.

“Given her background and the widespread targeting of activists, we hold the AFP accountable on Honey May’s disappearance. We demand for the immediate surfacing of Honey May Suazo and to end all attacks of human rights defenders.,” Apiag said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)