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Rights defenders urge new CHR officials to uphold independence

Groups urged the new appointees at the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to uphold the mandate of the commission and maintain its independence, probity and transparency.

Following President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s appointment of Atty. Richard Palpallatoc as new chairperson and Atty. Beda Epres as commissioner for full six-year terms, human rights group Karapatan and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said the new officers should ensure that the commission would continue to conduct independent investigations on reported human rights violations.

“[The CHR should] provide prompt, responsive, accessible and excellent public service for the promotion and protection of human rights,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said in a statement.

“In particular, we expect members of the new commission en banc to address the recommendations by the previous commission during its public inquiry on the attacks and challenges against human rights defenders and its investigations in the drug war,” Palabay added.

In a separate statement, Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. called on chairperson Palpallatoc to show independence despite close links with Presidential Chief of Staff and former executive secretary Vic Rodriguez.

Palpallatoc was formerly deputy executive secretary under Rodriguez and was also his former law partner.

“We hope that despite his (Palpallatoc) previous proximity to the halls of power as a Palace official, he will maintain the CHR’s independence from Malacanang,” Reyes said.

After two months in power, the Marcos administration finally filled up the two vacant positions at the CHR, a constitutional body tasked to protect citizens from human rights violations, particularly by State forces.

In a radio interview, Palpallatoc said he applied for the position because he wants to give particular attention to the rights of children, women and other marginalized sectors.

Prior to his new appointment, Epres for his part was a career official and investigator of the Office of the Ombudsman.

Atty. Jose Luis Martin Gascon, the last CHR chairperson, died in office in October 2021 while several commissioners have served their full terms this year.

The Rodrigo Duterte administration has deferred its appointment of replacements, choosing to let the incoming government to make the appointments.

‘Be like Diokno, de Lima and Gascon’

Reyes said that the new CHR chairperson can emulate some of his predecessors like Jose W. Diokno, Leila de Lima and Chito Gascon.

“The CHR is important amid efforts to hold the previous regime accountable before the ICC (International Criminal Court) for the failed drug war. There is also the upcoming Universal Periodic Review where the rights record of the Philippines will be scrutinized by the members of the UN Human Rights Council. There are also many human rights complaints by civil society groups that require the response of the CHR,” Reyes also pointed out.

Palabay for her part “strongly remind(s) the new appointees of the continuing immense challenges of upholding truth, justice and accountability for the thousands of victims of human rights violations during the Ferdinand Marcos Sr.’s dictatorial rule, the very reason why the CHR was created by the 1986 Philippine Constitution.

Palabay also noted the lack of an open, transparent and independent process in the process of appointing the new CHR officials.

Both Bayan and Karapatan said they look forward to holding a dialogue with the new officials on the state of human rights in the country.

“[W]e will continue to engage with the incoming new members of the Commission especially in pursuing justice and accountability of the previous Duterte administration and in the continuing defense of people’s rights, welfare and dignity,” Palabay said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Aklan activists demand military withdrawal from communities

‘Special Ops’ targeting chairperson and spokesperson, BAYAN says

Activists in Aklan province called on the military and police to stop its operations targeting their leaders and demanded the withdrawal of army troops in civilian communities.

In an alert, the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan in Aklan said it condemns the harassment against its chairperson George Calaor and spokesperson Kim-Sin Tugna, as well as members of peoples’s organizations and other civilians.

“We will hold the 301st Brigade of the Philippine Army, the local PNP, and the Duterte government responsible for any harm done to Calaor and Tugna,” the group said.

BAYAN-Aklan reported that a coordinated police and military operation is ongoing against its leaders and members that is “clearly intended to sow fear and silence activists like Calaor and Tugna.”

“This could be a prelude to a wider violent crackdown in the province and region. We remember how state forces previously attacked communities in Capiz and Iloilo which led to massacres and extrajudicial killings,” the group added.

The Philippine Army denied BAYAN’s accusations.

‘Only for training’

In a statement, 301st Infantry Brigade-Philippine Army commander Brig. Gen. Marion Sison said the presence of soldiers Barangay Cawayan, New Washington, and Barangay Poblacion, Kalibo, is part of a 45-day immersion phase as students of the Civil-Military Operations Competency Enhancement Training (CMOCET).

“CMOCET is an In-Service Training of the Philippine Army’s 3rd Infantry Division Training School focused on “community consultations and problem-solving sessions,” the general said.

“CMOCET students were not deployed to conduct surveillance on anyone but to apply their learning through community visitations, dialogues, symposiums, and awareness drives,” he added.

Sison also said that the deployment has the approval of local government officials.

Surveillance against activists

BAYAN-Aklan however reported that the soldiers are conducting surveillance operations against Tugna and Calaor, both red-tagging victims by the military.

The group said that Barangay Poblacion chairperson Neil Candelario has confirmed that a “special operation” is being conducted against the Calaor, also a well-established poet, and Tugna.

“In fact, our (Calaor and Tugna) pictures were first shown to him (Candelario) while investigating our persons to the Punong Barangay. It was also the barangay captain who told us about the “special operation” as verbalized by their personnel when they a paid courtesy call to Punong Barangay Candelario on June 20, 2022,” BAYAN-Aklan revealed.

“Moreover, there are people in the communities that can confirm their surveillance activities against Mr. Tugna and Mr. Calaor,” it added.

The group said it fears that the “special operations” would lead to warrantless searches and arrests, and possibly, extra-judicial killings, recalling the massacre of nine Tumandok indigenous persons and the arrest of 17 others in December 2020.

Like the massacre and mass-arrest victims, BAYAN-AKlan leaders and members have been the subject of intensified vilification and red-tagging by the military and the police, it added.

BAYAN-Aklan said the military have no business being in civilian communities except to so fear among the populace. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Colmenares urges repeal of VAT and excise tax on fuel to lower prices

Senatorial candidate Neri Colmenares presented five proposals to mitigate effects of rising oil prices he blames not just on the crisis in Eastern Europe but on government’s high taxes on petroleum products.

Colmenares, chairperson of the Makabayan block of progressive parties, said they have long proposed the five measures in response to the oil crisis that are likely to very soon affect prices of essential goods as well.

Colmenares said the first proposal is for the immediate repeal of the value added tax (VAT) and excise tax imposed on fuel that would result to an average relief of P27 per liter.

“We have done away with the VAT on water supplied by Manila Water and Maynilad; we must follow suit with fuel,” he said.

The second proposal is to unbundle oil prices, Colmenares said, that would provide for transparency in the pricing of petroleum products by the oil companies.

“By seeing where every peso spent per litter goes, we can easily check for overpricing and market abuse. This proposal is contained in House Bill No. 10386,” he added.

The senatorial candidate said the next three proposals are:

• The repeal of the Oil Deregulation Law and enactment of a new policy framework to ensure that oil prices are within reasonable costs and regulated, as contained in House Bill No. 4711;

• The buy-back of Petron to provide the public with a state-owned alternative to acquire oil and petroleum products, as contained in House Bill No. 244. Ramon Ang has already expressed willingness to sell Petron; thus, the Government must take on this offer and seek a just take-over of the company;

• The establishment of a National Petroleum Exchange Corporation to serve as the central import and distribution hub of oil and petroleum products, ensuring lower prices through economies of scale and helping oversee oil prices in the market, as contained in House Bill No. 4712.

Colmenares’ proposals came after prices increased for the 10th straight week last Tuesday by at least P3 per liter on gasoline and nearly P6 per liter on diesel, bringing prices to about P80 and P60 per liter, respectively.

The recent hikes in oil prices are the highest in more than a decade, pushing transport groups to hold protest rallies calling on the government to stop the increases.

Earlier, energy secretary Alfonso Cusi warned that gasoline prices may reach to about P100 per liter if the conflict between Ukraine and the Russian Federation is not immediately resolved.

Colmenares said the Philippine government does not have its hands tied in dealing with rising fuel costs and must act with urgency to cushion the country from the crisis.

“We can overcome this crisis if the government would stop imposing burdensome taxes and implement enough regulation on the oil industry,” Colmenares said Filipino.

No reason to hike prices yet

Meanwhile, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) said in a separate statement that oil companies have no reason to increase prices as a result of the conflict in Eastern Europe.

“The current automatic price adjustments under deregulation are unjust because these are driven by market speculation and because the current inventory of the big oil companies were purchased at a much lower price yet will be sold at a much higher price,” BAYAN secretary general Renato Reyes said.

Reyes also criticizd the refusal of the oil companies to make a full disclosure of their pricing mechanisms.

“The pricing by the oil cartel is untransparent because oil companies refuse to unbundle the price components of their products,” he said.

Reyes added is is unjust that government profits from the people’s misery brought about by high taxes on the already overpriced oil products, including a 12% VAT and excise taxes.

Reyes said that BAYAN’s demands the removal or suspension on huge taxes on oil products such as the excise tax and VAT as well as the imposition of strict regulations on the industry “in light of market speculation, overpricing and utter lack of transparency in pricing.”

“The people can no longer bear the oppression by government and the oil companies. The government should act now to lower oil prices or face more protests from the people,” he said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

A POEM FOR TARITS

By Raymund B. Villanueva

TA ZIGEBEBANNAG NGA KAVULU

Para kani Rita “Tarits’ Baua

Nu tiyempu na aggaradu ta komang

Nu aranni ngana mas-si y kapayakang

Y danung malimakang, kaddo masipakang

Mala ta gukag na abayaw y negalu tu nuang.

Namegafu ta aggig sittam nga kusetseru

Napakaga ta malapo tu davvun y aradu

Nage na nabaling y aggaw na Yafu

Nagalla-gallakang ngana y anteru fugu.

Sangau, ta nappange tu umma

Magite-takki ittam nga lumakag dua

Ta davvun y vukal itetaga ta

Innam mu, mattatalovu nepagi-mula.

Angngarigang tu ariam mu meyennag gapa

Kannammuam-mu, maddarawa ngana

Umara-ranni aggaw, affu-fusi na vunga

Mapannu-pannu sangau yore y kareta.

-6 Eneru 2022
1:49 n.f.
Syudad nak-Quezon

FOR A COMRADE GONE TO REST

For Rita “Tarits” Baua

When the fields cry out to be plowed

The ponds from the rains are drying out

What water remains is drained, the grass is cut

And the carabao is fetched from where it’s tethered.

We start often from the edges

Our plows biting into softened soil

Just like that, before the day is through

What once was flat is now furrowed.

The new morn that on us shall dawn

Will then welcome our unshod feet

Gently covering kernels we drop

That soon shall see tender leaves sprouting.

In the chance you no longer can wait

We are certain of their flowering, fruiting

As are the days for gathering

And the carts will groan with our bountiful harvest.

-Translated 7 February 2022
8:49 AM
Calatagan, Batangas

PARA ITI KADUA A NAPANEN NAGINANA*

For Rita “Tarits” Baua

(An Ilokano translation)

No agsaning-in dagiti kelleng a maarado

Dagiti piskiria a nadanuman maatianan

Ania man danum a nabati, dagiti ruot maparaspas

Ti nuang maala manipud nakaigalutanna.

Rugian kadagiti sidsidiran

Tangbaw bukwalenna dagiti naruka a daga

Kasta latta, sakbay a malpas ti aldaw

Dati a natanap itan naaradon.

Agbukarton ti maysa a parbangon

Mangsarabo kadagiti lamulamo a dapan

Abbungan bukbukel a matmatnag

A di agpaut pagrusingan adu a bulong.

No bilang ta dikan makapaguray

Siguradokami iti panagsabongda, panagbunga

Kas kadagiti aldaw a panagburas

Dagiti karison agarasaas kinabaknang ti ani.

–Honor Blanco Cabie,
2105-2112; Feb 9, 2022, Metro Manila, Wednesday.

Comelec’s Guanzon calls on all fellow commissioners to resign

Commissioner Rowena Guanzon challenged all collegues in the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to resign following her allegations that another commissioner is being influenced by a high government official to delay the release of the resolution on the petition to disqualify former Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. from the presidential race.

In a gathering at the Manila Cathedral on Monday morning, the commissioner said, “Sirang-sira na kayo riyan. Sabay-sabay tayong mag-resign ngayon!” (You are all comprised. Let us all resign now!)

Guanzon added that her duty is to protect the public from disqualified candidates .

The gathering coincided with Guanzon’s deadline to fellow Comelec Commissioner Aimee Ferolino to submit her draft of the First Division’s decision on the petition to disqualify Marcos Jr. as presidential candidate.

Guanzon is First Division chief and the supervising commissioner of the hearings on the petition.

The feisty commissioner earlier revealed that Fedelino is unduly delaying the division’s decision, alleging further that a nationally-elected official is exerting influence on her colleague.

Guanzon explained that if the decision is released after she has retired on Wednesday, February 2, her vote to disqualify Marcos would be nullified.

She revealed last Friday that her vote was to disqualify Marcos Jr. on the grounds of moral turpitude, having been convicted twice of tax evasion.

Guanzon added that Marcos Jr. has not paid the penalty for his crimes with the Quezon City Regional Trial Court, paying other kinds of arrears instead with the Bureau of Internal Revenue through the Landbank.

Fedelino on the other hand wrote last Friday to Comelec chairperson Sheriff Abbas, asserting there was no delay in the release of the resolution.

Fedelino explained that the lawyer assigned to write the resolution had been sick with the corona virus.

She also denied Guanzon’s claim that the original deadline for the resolution was January 17.

Popular sentiment among cause-oriented groups favor Guanzon, however.

‘Stand with Guanzon’

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said it stands with Guanzon in disqualifying Marcos as well as her decision to reveal the delay in the release of the poll body’s decision on the said petition.

“Commissioner Guanzon is right to disqualify Marcos from the presidential race. She is also right to assert her vote amid the obvious efforts to delay the release of the resolution until she retires and her vote is excluded. We stand with Commissioner Guanzon in her fight to ensure the integrity of the Comelec,” Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said.

In a statement, Bayan said it supports calls for an investigation the on the high government official alleged to be influencing the poll body.

“Why is there no outrage nor alarm in the Comelec? Why is there no probe up to now? If the Comelec can be influenced this way in favor of Marcos, what does that say of its impartiality in presiding over the elections?” Reyes asked.

Bayan said not since the “Hello Garci” incident involving former President Gloria Arroyo has the Comelec faced such a serious crisis, now that one of its own has cried foul over maneuverings that seemingly favor a candidate.

“We call on the Comelec First Division to issue the resolution. We call on the Comelec to investigate the politician allegedly trying to influence the Comelec. We call in the public to stand with Commissioner Guanzon,” Bayan pressed. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘Who is this politician trying to influence the Comelec?’

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) welcomed Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Rowena Guanzon’s stand to disqualify Bongbong Marcos from running as president.

“We welcome the position taken by Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon in the matter of disqualification of Bongbong Marcos on the grounds of moral turpitude,” BAYAN said.

The group also raised concerns over the claim of Guanzon about a politician trying to delay the issuance of Comelec’s decision after knowing her stand on the issue.

“Who is this politician trying to influence the Comelec? Shouldn’t there be an investigation by the en banc and shouldn’t this politician be cited for contempt?” BAYAN asked.

“She is correct in citing Marcos Jr’s repeated failure to pay taxes and the corresponding fines as her basis to disqualify him from the presidential race. We raise concern over Guanzon’s claim that a certain politician was trying to delay the issuance of a decision by the Comelec First Division after learning of her vote to disqualify Marcos. Who is this politician trying to influence the Comelec?”Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN)

Go’s withdrawal to benefit Marcos-Duterte dynasties, BAYAN warns

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) warned Senator Lawrence Christopher Go’s withdrawal from the presidential race may just be an attempt to avert the split of the Duterte-Marcos alliance in the 2022 national elections.

In a statement, BAYAN secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said Go’s withdrawal only benefits the alliance between the Marcos and Duterte dynasties.

In a press conference Tuesday, November 30, Go declared he is withdrawing from the presidential race.

Go said he wants to spare President Rodrigo Duterte from further problems caused by his daughter’s decision to partner with Marcos.

“Ayaw rin talaga ng pamilya ko kaya naisip ko na siguro ay hindi ko pa panahon sa ngayon…Ayaw ko rin lalong maipit si President Duterte. Higit pa po sa tatay pagmamahal ko sa kanya,” Go said. (My family is really against my candidacy. I also do not want to put President Duterte in a difficult situation. My love for him is greater than that of a father.)

Go earlier filed his candidacy for the vice-presidency, eventually substituting as presidential candidate for fellow Senator Ronald dela Rosa who withdrew last November 15.

Both Go and dela Rosa are believed to be acting at the behest of the President in filing their certificates of candidacy (COC) last October while their faction of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Laban ng Pilipino is convincing presidential daughter and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio to run as president.

Duterte-Carpio however decided to run as Marcos Jr.’s vice-presidential running mate instead.

President Duterte went on to accuse Marcos Jr. of being a weak leader who has no public service achievements to speak of.

Many also believe the president was referring to the late dictator’s son when he repeatedly alleged that a presidential candidate is cocaine-dependent.

Reyes said Go’s withdrawal may lead to the elder Duterte supporting Marcos Jr. after all, despite his tirades against the presidential aspirant.

“Perhaps there is already a form of accommodation for Rodrigo Duterte under a Marcos-Sara Duterte tandem,” Reyes said.

“Whatever the final outcome of their maneuvers, the people are more than ever resolved to stop a Marcos restoration and a Duterte extension,” Reyes added.

Progressive groups like BAYAN accuse both dynasties of gross and widespread human rights violations. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Court acquits activist couple in Manila

Another Burgos-Villavert warrant dismissed

By Joseph Cuevas

A Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) judge acquitted two political prisoners on Wednesday, November 24, dismissing charges against them based on a search warrant issued by a controversial Quezon City judge.

In a 13-page decision, Branch 19 judge Marlo Mardazo-Malagar said that the prosecution failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt Michael Bartolome and Cora Agovida’s ownership or possession of illegal firearms, ammunitions and explosives the police alleged were seized from the couple.

The polices’ Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) raided Agovida and Bartolome house in Sta. Ana, Manila on October 31, 2019, later alleging they found hand guns and a hand grenade during the raid.

In a text message, Atty. Katherine Panguban of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers told Kodao that the couple’s arrest sprung from the implementation of a series of “questionable” search warrants issued by Quezon City Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert in 2019 against Metro Manila based activists and rights defenders.

Burgos-Villavert also issued warrants against Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Metro Manila’s Ram Bautista, Manila Workers’ Unity’s Alma Moran and Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay)-Manila’s Reina Mae Nasino based on police information that the activists were part of a gun-running syndicate.

Other Burgos-Villavert warrants have been either quashed or junked by fellow judges, including the one used against journalist Lady Ann Salem and trade union organizer Rodrigo Esparago in December 2020.

Salem and Esparago were released last March after the Mandaluyong City RTC dismissed charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives against the two..

Womens group Gabriela said it welcomes the court decision, adding the development is a slap on the Rodrigo Duterte administration that has incessantly attacked activists and human rights defenders.

Agovida is Gabriela-Manila’s chairperson and regional spokesperson of Gabriela-Metro Manila while Bartolome is a Kadamay-Metro Manila organizer. #

Senate reveals more questionable Pharmally deals

Controversial medical equipment supplier Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. bagged more questionable contracts from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), the ongoing investigation by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee revealed.

At the investigation’s sixth hearing last Monday, September 13, Senator Panfilo Lacson observed that Pharmally may have actually won contracts worth around P12 billion despite having no established record in the business and having only P625,000 in paid up capital when it incorporated in 2019.

Lacson made the observation after Senator Franklin Drilon bared additional P4 billion in test kits contracts were awarded to Pharmally that were not included in the Commission on Audit’s 2020 report flagging questionable transactions between the corporation and the DBM procurement service.

In addition to earlier revelations that Pharmally has bagged more than P8 billion in contracts, Drilon said the following purchase orders were awarded to the company:

  • P300 million worth of KN95 masks at P100 per piece issued on April 23, 2020;
  • P2.88 billion for 41,400 test kits at P69,500 per kit on June 9, 2020;
  • P245.85 million for 312 test kits at P787,968 each on June 10, 2020; and
  • P774.35 million for 17,000 test kits at P45,550 each (no date cited).

“This is not in the COA report. What happened to this?” Drilon asked former DBM undersecretary Christopher Lao who was its procurement service head at the time of the transactions.

While acknowledging that Drilon’s documents may be official DBM records, Lao denied having any idea about the contracts.

Drilon however said Lao himself signed at least two of the contracts.

The Blue Ribbon Committee investigation was triggered by state auditors who revealed “deficiencies” in government spending in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Duterte gov’ts corruption

In his summary of Monday’s hearing, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said Pharmally still has to explain its incredible fortune with the Rodrigo Duterte government.

“Pharmally still could not explain where it got money to pay its Chinese suppliers. The ‘buy now, pay later’ explanation is hard to believe at a time when the demand was highest,” Reyes said.

Reyes rued that former Duterte economic adviser Michael Yang again chose to skip the Senate hearing to explain his role as go-between between Pharmally and the DBM while possibly being the company’s funder.

“One can’t help but ask, is Pharmally, which was underfunded and incapable of manufacturing medical supplies, just Yang’s dummy?” Reyes asked.

Reyes also noted questionable procedures revealed at the Senate hearing, such as “same day deliveries” of overpriced face masks despite the absence of purchase orders.

“DBM-PS was still asking for quotations and here was Pharmally delivering half-a-million face masks within three hours. It looked like a deal was already in the bag,” he said.

Reyes said that instead of spearheading the defense of Yang, the scale of his administration’s corruption during the pandemic should already be obvious to Duterte. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

BAYAN’s Reyes says Afghan gov’t collapse is another defeat for US imperialism

The collapse of the foreign-backed government in Afghanistan is another defeat for interventionist military adventures by the United States, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said.

In a statement following reports Afghanistan president Ashraf Ghanil has fled Kabul, Reyes said US military interventionism that pushes imperialistic ends is bound to fail if the local populace see them as invaders.

“However hard the US imposes its version of ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom’, the Afghan people still see them as invaders. US imperialism did not bring them change and development but deeper crisis,” Reyes wrote in Filipino.

The defeat of the US-led military coalition that occupied Afghanistan is another defeat similar to what it suffered in Iraq and Vietnam, he added.

Taliban fighters have started their entry into the capital city after Ghanil has reportedly fled Kabul as the US started evacuating its diplomatic staff with helicopters, reminiscent of the chaos seen when Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese in April 1975.

The Taliban first gained prominence as an anti-Soviet occupation force that implemented what is seen as a hard line form of Sunni Islam when it first led Afghanistan in the 1990s.

The US led an international military coalition that occupied Afghanistan after the 9-11 attacks in New York, accusing the Taliban of supporting Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden was killed by US commandos in Abbotville, Pakistan in April 2012.

The coalition reportedly spent about $3 trillion dollars in the two-decade conflict, with the US shouldering about $978 billion from 2001 to 2020.

US President Joe Biden earlier ordered the withdrawal of soldiers and urged peace negotiations between Kabul and the Taliban.

Reyes said the US occupation of the country has led to the worst reported cases of human rights violations in the world in the last two decades.

He said that civilian deaths has been treated a mere “collateral damage” that has also bred continuing armed resistance against the occupation.

Reyes added that future developments would indicate whether the Taliban would commit human rights violations it was accused of in the past.

Meanwhile, United Nations secretary general Antonio Guterres urged the Taliban to exercise utmost restraint as he voiced concern about the future of women and girls under another Taliban regime.

The Taliban are being accused of curtailing women’s rights to education, work, free expression and others.

Pope Francis on the other hand Pope Francis called for an end to the conflict in Afghanistan so its people “can live in peace, security and reciprocal respect.”

In his Sunday address in Vatican City, Francis said, “I join in the unanimous worry about the situation in Afghanistan. I ask you to pray along with me to the God of peace so that the din of weapons ends and that solutions can be found around a table of dialogue.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva)