Posts

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)

Brandon Lee back in the US

American journalist and human rights activist Brandon Lee is back home in the United States, an official from his home city of San Francisco (California) announced.

“Early Saturday morning, surrounded by friends, family, and community, Sunset native Brandon Lee arrived safely home to San Francisco on a medical transport following the assassination attempt in the Philippines that nearly claimed his life in August,” San Francisco Board of Supervisors District 4 representative Gordon Mar said on his Facebook account.

Mar also posted a photo of well-wishers welcoming Lee at San Francisco.

Lee’s well-wishers welcome him home in San Francisco. (Photo from Gordon Mar’s Facebook post.)

Lee was shot by unidentified gunmen in front of his house in Lagawe, Ifugao last August 6, wounding him on his spinal column and face.

Lee was immediately taken to a local hospital after the shooting but was transferred to a bigger hospital in the neighboring province of Nueva Vizcaya.

Within the night, Lee was taken to Baguio General Hospital (BGH), thought to be equipped to deal with Lee’s serious injuries.

He is immobile due to his spinal injury.

While at BGH, Lee was subjected to constant surveillance by suspected Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) operatives.

“Security guards at the hospital alerted us that a certain George Malidow of the [AFP], introducing himself as from Camp Henry Allen in Baguio, was asking for details about Brandon’s case,” the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) said in an alert five days after the assassination attempt.

Lee was then secretly transferred to St. Lukes Hospital in Taguig City while family and friends raised funds for a medical transport to the USA.

The United States government is said to have refused Lee free medical airlift to California as it is a privilege given only to military and diplomatic personnel.

The medical transport may have cost Lee’s friends and family at least P.6 million, a source said.

A correspondent of Baguio City-based media outfit Northern Dispatch and paralegal volunteer of both the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) and the Ifugao Peasant Movement (IPM), Lee had been repeatedly red-baited by the 54th Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army before the attack.

The CHRA blamed the Philippine Army for the attempt on Lee’s life.

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

Mar expressed gratitude to Lee’s San Francisco community who helped bring him home.

“Brandon’s here because of his strength, and the strength of the community and movement that’s lifted up him and the power of his example over these last few months,” Mar said in his post.

“I’m so, so glad to have Brandon back—but we’re not done yet. An outpouring of love and support moved mountains to make this transport happen, but we have mountains yet to move. There’s a ways to go still to cover the costs of Brandon’s care, and much more to be done to address the underlying injustices that led to his attack,” he added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Groups blame Duterte’s martial law for the deaths of 52 environmentalists

An international anti-corruption group has revealed that the Rodrigo Duterte government’s heavy-handed rule in Mindanao and many other parts of the country has caused the deaths of 52 environmentalists in the hands of the military in the past three years.

In a report entitled “Defending the Philippines”, the group Global Witness said that Duterte’s “martial law has emboldened [the military] to use force to silence environmental and indigenous activism, with 52 defenders have been killed extra-judicially by the army in the last three years.”

The group, in a press conference in Quezon City last Tuesday, September 24, said it uncovered shocking evidence of widespread attacks against land and environmental defenders when they stand up to destructive coal, agribusiness, mining and tourism projects.

The group also identified major local and international corporations as the beneficiaries of the systematic attacks against Filipino citizens.

 The report accused major players Dole Philippines, Del Monte Philippines, San Miguel Corporation, Standard Chartered and the World Bank of “corporate greed” that caused killings and widespread displacement of marginalized communities.

The revelations come after the Philippines was named last July as the world’s deadliest country for land and environment defenders in 2018 back, sparking widespread international coverage of the issue.

In his presentation, Global Witness Senior Campaigner Ben Leather said his group’s report could not be clearer in its finding that the Duterte government has miserably failed in protecting land and environmental defenders.

“Businesses from coal to agribusiness, from mining to tourism, are allowed to run rampant and irreparably damage the lives of ordinary Filipinos,” Leather said, adding corruption and conflicts of interest within government affecting well-known politicians also remain out of control.

“If the Filipino government is going to deliver on its promises, it has to protect land and environmental defenders and stand up to big business and corrupt politicians. And if companies and investors like Del Monte Philippines, San Miguel and Standard Chartered want their sustainability and human rights pledges to be anything other than poisonous hot air – then they too need to take immediate action to tackle the root causes of these attacks and support defenders,” Leather said.

Impunity against land and defenders

Local environmental group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (PNE), a partner to the investigations, agreed with the Global Witness analysis that “the killings are the sharp end of a broader impunity against land and environmental defenders.”

“The Global Witness report reveals damning evidence of how Duterte’s military and paramilitary have essentially functioned as mercenaries for large-scale mining and other extractive and destructive business projects. By using brute armed force to guarantee and secure dirty investments, Duterte has indeed failed in his promises to protect the environment and indigenous peoples, and curb corruption,” Kalikasan PNE national coordinator Leon Dulce said

“Martial Law is clearly not the so-called tool to save democracy that Malacanang wants to paint it to be. For us Filipino environmental defenders, it has functioned as a tool for repression and to promote the unimpeded plunder of our natural resources by big businesses,” Dulce added.

Kalikasan PNP demanded an independent into the function of military and paramilitary groups as ‘mercenaries of large-scale mines and other extractive and destructive projects across the Philippines.’

‘We also demand for the immediate cessation of the Martial Law declaration over Mindanao and the institutionalization of a national policy that will protect the rights of Filipino environmental defenders and other human rights defenders from the atrocities especially of state security forces,” Dulce said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Lawyer shot dead in Negros Oriental as chief of village where 4 cops killed allegedly commits suicide

By Visayas Today

A lawyer was shot dead while his wife and a pedicab driver were injured when the couple was attacked by two motorcycle-riding killers in Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental Tuesday afternoon, July 23.

The same day, the chief of the village in Ayungon town where four policemen were killed by communist rebels in a July 18 ambush also died in a hospital, one day after allegedly drinking pesticide, Negros Oriental police director Colonel Raul Tacaca said.

Barangay Mabato chairman Sunny Caldera (Photo from Visayas Today)

A police report said lawyer Anthony Trinidad and his wife Novie Marie, both 53 and residents of San Carlos City, Negros Occidental, were in their SUV when they were fired on in the center of Guihulngan.

Their vehicle hit the pedicab driven by Guillermo Magdasal, 52, before hitting a concrete wall.

The three were rushed to the Guihulngan District Hospital where the lawyer was declared dead.

Last year, Trinidad was reportedly among the names in a hit list by an alleged anti-communist group called Kawsa Guihulnganon Batok Komunista (KAGUBAK), according to Defend Negros #StopTheAttacks Network.

Defend Negros condemned the senseless killing of the lawyer.

Meanwhile, Tacaca said Barangay Mabato chairnan Sunny Caldera, 51, had been found vomiting by the roadside with a pesticide container near him on Monday.

He was brought to Bindoy District Hospital then transferred to the Silliman University Medical Center in Dumaguete City where he expired the next day.

Earlier, police Region 7 chief Brigadier General Debold Sinas said they were looking into Caldera’s possible involvement to the deaths of the four personnel of the Regional Mobile Force Battalion.

Sinas said the village chief, who had reportedly been seen talking to one of the policemen before they were killed, had not warned them that the area was a “mass base” of the rebels.

Tacaca acknowledged they had yet to talk to Caldera’s family.

The Mt. Cansermon Command of the New People’s Army owned responsibility for the ambush on the policemen.

“Based on our intelligence report, the four police operatives were gathering information and surveilling the area for another round of Oplan Sauron or Synchronized Enhanced Management of Police Operations where innocent civilians are killed by uniformed personnel in the guise of counter-insurgency efforts,” the rebels said in a statement released Monday.

“These police officers have been long harassing the residents of the area for allegedly supporting the revolutionary movement,” they claimed. “In fact, the residents were forced to evacuate because of continued intimidation.”

Multiple murder and theft charges have been filed against 20 suspected rebels for the ambush.

Also charged was Victoriano Anadon, a reported contact who the policemen were supposed to meet but who was later found to be allegedly linked to the rebels. #

Catholic shrine, activist organizations report police, military ‘harassment’

A revered Catholic Church shrine in Parañaque and a building housing activist organizations in Quezon City complained of harassments Thursday, reporting that police officers and suspected military agents are out to further intimidate institutions and organizations critical of the Rodrigo Duterte regime.

In an alert, human rights group Karapatan said its national officers and staff members observed increased presence of suspected military and police agents within the vicinity of Erythrina Building in Barangay Central in Quezon City since morning.

The building houses Karapatan, National Union of People’s Lawyers, Kodao Productions and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, among other organizations.

Aside from armed men in civilian clothing surrounding the building, a small Philippine Army truck was seen parked nearby.

Meanwhile, Philippine National Police officers had been swarming the Baclaran Church compound in Parañaque since Wednesday, forcing a bazaar meant to raise funds for indigenous peoples to suspend operations.

Instead of staying at the church gate, the police reportedly insisted on visiting the clergy’s living quarters because of an alleged bomb threat.

Baclaran Church, formally known as The National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, is known to regularly host indigenous peoples who suffer forced evacuation by the military.

The Redemptorist priests administering the shrine has yet to issue a formal statement but has reportedly asked the police to stay outside the church gate.

A police car in front of Erythrina Building. (Photo by Jinky Mendoza-Aguilar/Kodao)

Karapatan blamed the activities on President Duterte’s latest tirade against human rights defenders.

“We are warning government forces – stop harassing rights defenders, lawyers and alternative media practitioners; and do not plant evidence in our offices. We shall make you accountable in different fora in time,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.

Karapatan later reported that suspected military and police agents circling the area have already left as of seven o’clock in the evening.

“We attribute this temporary respite to the vigilance of NUPL lawyers, human rights workers and staff members of Karapatan, Bayan and Kodao Productions, and allied lawyers and members of the media who responded to the call to monitor the increased presence and activity of suspected military agents and police in our offices,” Palabay said.

Karapatan said it will remain vigilant and defiant against any attempt to intimidate and harass their ranks as well as all human rights defenders and communities who bear witness to the Duterte regime’s repressive policies. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

 

Women human rights defenders decry State attacks

Women group Tanggol Bayi and Gabriela along with other progressive groups held a picket protest outside Gate 1 of Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City Thursday, November 29, in commemoration of International Women Human Rights Defenders Day. They also call for an end to the continuing attacks against Women Human Rights Defender (WHRD).

Tanggol Bayi said that as of September 2018, 33 WHRD have been killed under the Rodrigo Duterte government and 45 are imprisoned based on trumped-up charges.

The group cited the arrest of Hedda Calderon, a long-time women activist and council member of Gabriela Womens Party, last October in Sta. Cruz in Laguna as wekk as the killings of Elisa Badayos, secretary general of Karapatan in Central Visayas in November 2017 and Mariam Uy Acob, paralegal of Kawagib (Moro Human Rights Alliance) last September.

Tanggol Bayi noted that “these attacks are far from isolated; they are fueled by a patriarchal and militarist society that flaunts the humiliation of women as décor to toxic machismo and thus, an inevitable outcome of State terrorism.”

“We reiterate our call to stop the attacks against women and WHRDs. This situation is urging us to unite and further strengthen our voices against misogyny and rising tyranny and dictatorship,” Tanggol Bayi ended. (Report and video by Joseph Cuevas)

 

Groups denounce killing of Moro human rights defender

Human Rights group Karapatan and Kawagib Moro Human Rights Alliance held an indignation protest Tuesday, September 25, at the Timog Circle in Quezon City against the recent killing of a Moro human rights worker in Mindanao.

Mariam Uy Acob, 43 years old and paralegal of Kawagib, was gunned down by suspected military agents last September 23 in Brgy. Dapiawan, Datu Saudi Ampatuan in Maguindanao. She was shot several times in her chest, stomach, shoulder and back.

Acob was a staunch critic of militarization in Moro communities. She consistently denounced the aerial bombardment and encampment in Moro communities by the 40th IB of the 6th ID of the Philippine Army.

In 2015 she led her community in a protest against militarization in Saudi Ampatuan as well as other parts of District 2 in Maguindanao.

Karapatan condemned the recent spate of attacks against human rights defenders under martial law in Mindanao. The killing of Acob is another blood on the Duterte regime, Karapatan added.

The killing of Acob came after seven young men were massacred after harvesting fruits in Sitio Bato, Brgy. Kabuntakas in Patikul, Sulu. The 55th IB accused the civilians as members of Abu Sayyaf.

“Martial law has not solved anything but has merely increased the power of an abusive institution that is behind these attacks against the Filipino people,” Karapatan said. (Video and report by Joseph Cuevas)

CPP: ‘Red October’ plot an AFP invention

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) denied repeated claims by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) of a so-called Red October plot to oust President Rodrigo Duterte by October.

The CPP said the AFP conjured the fictional plot only to set the stage for the Duterte government’s draconian measures against the people.

“This so-called Red October plot is nothing but an AFP invention. Like the rest of the AFP’s fakery, it is a poorly concocted story. They came up with this ‘intelligence information’ as early as July,” the CPP in a statement said.

The group challenged Duterte and the AFP to show proof especially after Duterte himself recently claimed he is in possession of a recorded phone conversation between the CPP and other groups.

But the AFP continues to push its story as its spokesperson Col. Edgar Arevalo told DZMM Tuesday that so-called legitimate opposition groups such as Tindig Pilipinas and Magdalo refused participation in the plot.

Arevalo cited the groups’ absence at the Rizal Park rally last September 21 commemorating the 46th anniversary of the declaration of martial law by the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship.

Arevalo claimed that part of the plot involved engaging in massive workers strikes, adding they learned of the plan from digital files and documents recovered from former communist rebels who surrendered.

‘What are Duterte and AFP planning for October?’

The CPP shot back that the real question is not whether there is such a conspiracy but what Duterte and the AFP are plotting for October.

“Is this a foreshadowing of a declaration of martial law by October? Indeed, ‘Red October’ sounds very similar to 1972 claims of a ‘Maoist rebellion’ which Marcos used as justification for declaring martial law and imposing his fascist dictatorship,” the CPP said.

The group said that in hyping up the alleged conspiracy, the clear aim of the AFP is to justify the implementation of increasingly severe measures in the name of “defeating the plot” to target legitimate protest actions which express the sentiments of a disgruntled people.

The revolutionary party said it is very apparent that Duterte and the AFP are increasingly insecure amid the rising economic and political crisis.

The CPP said Duterte has only himself to blame for his regime’s destabilization.

“By turning a deaf ear to the Filipino people’s most urgent demands for an end to the burdensome TRAIN taxes, solution to incessant price increases, wage increases, jobs and job security, as well as their clamor for an end to state terrorism, rampant violations of human rights, narco-politics and bureaucrat capitalist corruption, Duterte is inciting more and more people to rise up in protest and resist his rule,” the CPP said.

‘His own destabilizer’

In a separate statement, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said the so-called Red October plot is an obvious attempt to cover-up legitimate consumer actions and public grievances against frequent price hikes.

“Strong public opinion and actions against high rice prices have heightened during the past months and it really shook up Duterte’s leadership,” KMP secretary general Danilo Ramos said.

“Duterte is his own destabilizer. Any ploy or operation plan is not needed for his ouster,” the peasant leader added.
The farmers’ group however added that AFP’s canard could also lead to witch hunting and political persecution of activists and progressive mass leaders.
“The AFP could use this to justify more illegal arrests and detention of activists,” Ramos said, adding that almost 200 individuals were already arrested and detained since 2016 based on trumped-up criminal charges.  # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Families, human rights groups celebrate Palparan’s conviction

The families of missing University of the Philippines students as well as human rights groups celebrated when the Regional Trial Court in Malolos City, Bulacan found retired Army Major General Jovito Palparan guilty of kidnapping and serious illegal detention Monday, September 17.

Cheers erupted when those gathered outside the courthouse were informed of the verdict on the case filed by Concepcion Empeño and Erlinda Cadapan, mothers of missing UP students Karen and Sherlyn, respectively.

Right after the promulgation, Palparan berated Judge Alexander Tamayo as well as the public prosecutor. (Video and report by Joseph Cuevas / Featured photo by Jinky Mendoza Aguilar)

Lanzones at Mangosteen (o sa pitong kabataang Tausug)

Ni Pia Montalban

 

Nanlalagkit ang dagta,

kahit anong tamis

ng kabataang hinog

at di huhulas

ang lilang lamog

mula sa mga nilagusan

ng pulbura’t tingga.

Pitong bungang pinitas,

dagta’y pula ang tagas…

Pitong kabataang mag-uuma

yakap-yakap mga kahon ng bunga,

ngayo’y ikakahon silang terorista—

A-bu sa-yaff!

 

Ngunit gumugulong sa kalsada

ang nabitawang mga bunga

at magsasalaysay lamang ito

ng tapat na mga tala.