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Neri grateful for his and Labog’s inclusion in Pacquaio and de Guzman slates

Makabayan reveals Robredo camp refusing requests for dialogue.

The inclusion of progressive candidates in at least two senatorial slates is a positive development, a sign that other political groups recognize the need for candidates that genuinely represent the marginalized sectors, Senate aspirant and former Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said.

In a statement, Colmenares thanked both Sen. Manny Pacquaio and labor leader Leody de Guzman for his and Kilusang Mayo Uno chairperson Elmer “Ka Bong” Labog’s inclusion in their respective slates for next year’s national elections.

“The recognition and support of a presidential candidate, like Sen. Pacquiao, is very important for candidates like me who rely on the support of ordinary Filipinos in our campaign. We value such unconditional endorsement,” Colmenares said.

“I would also like to express my gratitude to labor leader Ka Leody de Guzman for including me in his senatorial slate for his presidential run in 2022,” he added.

‘Why endorse someone we haven’t talked to yet?’

Meanwhile, former Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño revealed that the Makabayan bloc has yet to endorse any presidential candidate, belying allegations by former Senator Antonio Trillanes IV the group has already made a deal with Manila Mayor Isko Moreno.

“Just to be clear, Makabayan hasn’t declared support for any presidential candidate yet, whether Isko Moreno, Leni Robredo or Manny Pacquiao,” Casiño said.

Casiño said their group has been bombarded with questions on why Makabayan has not yet declared support for Robredo.

The former legislator also said they have been asked if they really supporting Moreno or why are they even talking with Pacquiao and Moreno.

While the bloc has spoken to both the Pacquiao and Moreno camps, Casiño said it is for the purpose of unifying opposition parties to form a stronger alliance against the return of the Marcoses in Malacañang Palace.

“We believe that if these three candidates can unite under one slate the chances of preventing a Duterte dynasty or the return of the Marcoses to Malacañang will be greater. This is in parallel to 1Sambayan’s efforts to unify the democratic forces for the 2022 elections,” Casiño explained.

 Makabayan also wants to engage presidential bets on their platforms, particularly on matters involving human rights, workers, farmers, indigenous peoples, sovereignty, among others, he added.

“We believe that only through earnest and continuous dialogue can we contribute in their crafting a progressive platform of governance,” Casiño said.

In case a unified opposition slate is not feasible, Casiño said the Makabayan wants to explore the possibility of working together with other opposition groups to end Rodrigo Duterte’s rule or prevent a Marcos restoration in 2022, including various terms of cooperation based on the outcomes of the ongoing dialogues.

“There is nothing wrong with talking to all three candidates on these three important matters. Other groups should not begrudge nor cast any malice on Makabayan for doing what any progressive political party ought to do,” he said.

Casiño also revealed they have failed to meet with Robredo despite numerous requests for a dialogue.

“To be honest, it would be difficult for Makabayan to ask its constituency to support Robredo when we do not even know her stand on contractualization, the national minimum wage, free land distribution for poor peasants, indigenous people’s rights, the peace process, and a host of other issues that matter to our constituency,” Casiño said.

 “To be blunt, how can we rally our constituents behind a candidate who has refused to even meet us?,” Bayan Muna’s first nominee asked. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘Si Spokesperson Harry Roque, nagkasakit at sino umatupag sa kanya?’

“Remember, si Spokesperson Harry Roque [ay] nagkasakit at sino [ang] umatupag sa kanya? ‘Di ba ang mga healthcare workers and hopefully mas malaki dapat ang kanyang pag-unawa, lalo na sa ating healthcare workers na itinaguriang heroes pero ganyan na lamang nila lapastangin.”Rep. Ferdinand Gaite, Bayan Muna Party-List

‘Ang magiging biktima lamang lagi ay ang pinakabulnerableng grupo’

“Kitang-kita sa kasong ito kung paano ginagamit ng estado ang Terror Law sa paglabag sa karapatan ng mga katutubo, at kung papaano sila mabilisang pinaratangang terorista. Patunay ito na mapanganib ang Anti-Terror Law, sapagkat ang magiging biktima lamang lagi ay ang pinakabulnerableng grupo na mga katutubo, lalo na yaong mga lumalaban para sa lupaing ninuno at karapatan para sa sariling pagpapasya.”Rep. Eufemia Cullamat, Bayan Muna

‘The cyberattacks were traced back to the government’

“Malinaw na malinaw ito, the cyberattacks were traced back to the government, which means it is an official policy of this administration to attack media organizations, especially those critical of the Duterte regime. This is damning evidence that the government is out to silence the press, and belies the administration’s repeated claims that they are not attacking press freedom.”Rep. Ferdinand Gaite, Bayan Muna

Groups urge SC to act on attacks against rights lawyers and clients

Human rights and civil society organizations petitioned the Supreme Court (SC) to take urgent action against threats, red-tagging and killings of judges and lawyers as well as their clients.

In a letter to the SC Tuesday, May 18, Karapatan, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, Alliance of Concerned Teachers, Cordillera Peoples’ Alliance, Kilusang Mayo Uno, and the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advance of Government Employees said the attacks against court officers continue despite clear condemnation by the High Court last March 23.

Addressed to Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo, the petition said the “attacks against human rights lawyers violate the basic principle that lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their clients’ causes as a result of discharging their functions.”

The groups said that attacks against the lawyers and judges deprive them of effective access to legal services and adequate protection for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The letter reminded the Court that there have been 147 reported attacks against court officers in recent years.

Eighty-four or 57% of the victims are human rights lawyers affiliated with the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), Public Interest Law Center, Union of People’s Lawyers in Mindanao and the Free Legal Assistance Group, the petition said.

In its March 23 statement, the SC acknowledged that members of the bar and the bench have been attacked and asked the lower court to submit reports on the matter.

The SC statement also came after NUPL member Angelo Karlo Guillen was stabbed with a screw driver on his lower left temple and back by two unidentified assailants in Iloilo City.

“The court condemns in the strongest sense every instance where a lawyer is threatened or killed, and where a judge is threatened and unfairly labeled. We do not and will not tolerate such acts that only perverse justice, defeat the rule of law, undermine the most basic of constitutional principles, and speculate on the worth of human lives,” the SC said.


‘State sponsored’

In their submission, the signatories also asked the Court look into the attacks suffered by the lawyers’ clients “and to understand the overarching government policies that cause them.”

The signatories asserted that the lawyers who represent activists, human rights defenders and ordinary people also become targets of the government’s counterinsurgency drive.

“An urgent and decisive action from the Supreme Court is a matter of life and death for activists and human rights defenders especially now when we are being increasingly targeted in the government’s counterinsurgency and counterterror campaign for our work and causes,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay, one of the signatories, said.

“Despite the Supreme Court en banc’s much-needed statement two months ago, we are concerned that the attacks have only continued, if not worsened to even more alarming forms.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Duterte’s new mining order disastrous to environment—groups

President Rodrigo Duterte lifted the nine-year moratorium on new mineral agreements, earning warnings from various groups of further corporate plunder of the environment and more natural disasters.

Bayan Muna Representative Eufemia Cullamat said she is dismayed with Duterte’s decision that would most likely result in the worsening of the environmental crisis in the country.

“Instead of putting a stop to environmental destruction that causes disasters, he is allowing further exploitation of our natural resources,” Cullamat said.

Cullamat, a Manobo Lumad persecuted for her community’s opposition to further mining activities in their ancestral domain, said mining projects have only brought untold suffering to various indigenous communities around the country.

“The country only earns two percent in royalty taxes in exchange for the tons of soil they extract, the poisoning of our waterways by mine tailings and the loss of livelihood and homes in mining sites,” she said.

In his Executive Order (EO) 130 issued Wednesday, April 14, Duterte amended former President Benigno Aquino’s EO 79, granting permission to the government to enter into new mineral agreements.

“The Government may enter into new mineral agreements, subject to compliance with the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 and other applicable laws, rules and regulations,” Duterte’s order said.

“The DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) may continue to grant and issue Exploration Permits,” it added.

Duterte’s order said new mineral agreements will usher significant economic benefits to the country that can support various government projects, such as the Build Build Build and Balik Probinsiya, Bagong Pag-Asa Program by providing raw materials and new employment opportunities.

‘Unfettered corporate greed’

Environmental group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) however agreed with Cullamat, adding Duterte’s order will only result in more environmental disasters.

“Mr. Duterte’s order to lift the mining agreement moratorium will be a disaster upon disaster because the Mining Act of 1995 is still in place. We cannot allow this deluge of destructive large-scale mining when communities are still suffering from the converging pandemic and climate crises,” Kalikasan PNE national coordinator Leon Dulce said.

The Mining Act encourages 100% ownership of mineral lands by foreign corporations that operate based on “unfettered corporate greed” and does not orient the mining industry to extract based on people’s needs, he added.

Kalikasan PNE said the law also has provisions that allow companies to renege on rehabilitation, polluter taxation and waste management obligations.

“Mining companies need only to pay P50.00 per ton of waste disposed of in unauthorized areas and only P0.05 for every ton of mine waste and P0.10 for mine tailings in terms of compensation for resulting damages,” the group explained.

“Let us recall that in the industry-wide audit made by the late Environment Secretary Regina Lopez, at least 68 percent of mining companies had been found with serious violations. This revelation already spells the potential disaster that the Executive Order will bring to the environment and communities,” Kalikasan added.

Beneficial to foreign corporations

Economic think-tank IBON said that Duterte’s new order will most likely benefit foreigners, not the local industry.

“Without domestic industries to process and use the minerals, [EO 130] will just mean that the most significant value-added from our finite mineral resources will keep going to foreign firms, industries and economies,” IBON executive director Sonny Africa said.

Africa said that at the expense of even more environmental damage and displacement of rural communities, real economic gains from Duterte’s decision are negligible.

“Even before the pandemic, mining and quarrying only employed around 190,000 in 2019. That’s not even half a percentage point of total employment and the 2-week NCR+ ECQ even displaced more jobs than that,” Africa said.

Similarly, the Php15.5 billion in taxes, mining fees and royalties paid to government in 2019 is negligible even with the additional excise tax under the TRAIN (Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion, Republic Act No. 10963) law,” the economist explained.

“This EO No. 130 is just the latest sign that it really is just business as usual for the economic managers. The refusal to really reform economic policies combined with the pandemic will just mean that people will remain worse off than before the pandemic for many years to come,” Africa said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Bolinget seeks NBI protection vs PNP shoot-to-kill order

Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA) chairperson Windel Bolinget has sought the protection of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) against a shoot-to-kill order against him by the Philippine National Police (PNP) in the region, his group announced.

“Bolinget has voluntarily submitted to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) earlier today, Jan. 21, for security while proving his innocence from the fabricated case he is charged with,” the CPA said Thursday.

A shoot-to-kill order had been issued against the prominent Igorot activist by PNP Cordillera commander R’win Pagkalinawan last Wednesday.

“Shoot to kill if nanlaban (he fights back),” Pagkalinawan said in a text message to reporters.

The PNP in Kalinga also announced a PhP100,000 bounty for information on the activist’s whereabouts.

The CPA said Bolinget’s decision to submit himself to the NBI was made as it was clear the police and Pagkalinawan “didn’t have any intention to observe due process.”

The CPA said Bolinget is not admitting guilt for the “fabricated charge” but to have full access to all legal services in challenging the charge while under NBI’s protective custody.

“We challenge the state security forces to show the same integrity and adhere to the rule of law,” the CPA said.

Bolinget and 10 others had been charged with murder by the Office of the Provincial prosecutor of Davao del Norte, at the southern part of the country, for their alleged involvement in the killing of Garito Malibato, a member of a local indigenous peoples’ organization called Karadyawan, in March 2018.

The CPA and human rights group Front Line Defenders earlier said the murder charge appears to be fabricated as Bolinget has never been to Barangay Gupitan, Kapalong, Davao del Norte where Malibato was murdered.

The group added that local indigenous organizations pointed to the paramilitary group Alamara as the real perpetrators of the murder.

“Further, a relative of the victim also expressed that Malibato had received several death threats from the same paramilitary group before he was killed,” FLD said.

Other groups also denounced Pagkalinawan’s order against Bolinget.

“Again the militarists are operating with trigger happy fingers with this kind of order.  They are now trying to condition the minds of the people that Windel will most likely resist arrest or ‘manlaban.’ Thus, such an order is justified,” the Bayan Muna Party said in a statement.

The National Council of Churches of the Philippines for its part called for the withdrawal of the charges against Bolinget as well as an end to the harassment and red tagging of indigenous activists.

“This most recent manufactured case against Mr Bolinget is part of a long history of harassment and intimidation including red-tagging, that is being conducted by elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and PNP against Mr Bolinget and other indigenous activists and human rights defenders,” NCCP said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Rep. Cullamat pays tribute to martyred daughter; condemns desecration of remains by gov’t soldiers

Bayan Muna Representative Eufemia Cullamat paid tribute to her fallen daughter she described as a martyr for the Lumad’s struggle for self determination and justice.

In a statement, the grieving mother also slammed the Philippine Army for desecrating the remains of 22-year old Jevilyn by taking photos of the New People’s Army medic like a war trophy.

“I love my child who loved the people. I am proud of her. She was a hero of the Lumad and all of the people,” Cullamat said in Filipino.

As a mother, Cullamat said she is heartbroken at the news that Jevelyn perished in a raid by government troopers in Marihatag, Surigao del Sur last Saturday, November 28.

“I strongly condemn the disrespectful acts on the remains of my daughter. She is not a trophy to be used in the military’s propaganda. You did not only disrespect the dead, you also offended my grieving family,” she said.

In subsequently deleted posts, the Philippine Army posted photos of its raiding team delightfully posing before the younger Cullamat’s remains, along with seized guns and paraphernalia.

Violation of the rules of war

International Association of Democratic Lawyers interim president and National Union of People’s Lawyers president Edre Olalia said the government soldiers violated international rules, domestic laws and bilateral agreements on the conduct of war.

In a legal opinion, Olalia cited Article 16 of the 1949 Geneva Convention prescribing protection of corpses against ill treatment.

Article 34 (1) of the 1977 Additional Protocol I on International Armed Conflicts also orders that remains of persons who have died from hostilities shall be respected, he said.

The human rights lawyer also cited Article 4 of the 1977 Additional Protocol II on Non-International Armed Conflicts that prohibits “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment” of all persons who do not take a direct part or who have ceased to take part in hostilities, as was in Jevilyn’s case who already died when the Philippine Army’s trophy photographs were taken and distributed.

Offenses upon the personal dignity of fallen parties constitute a war crime in both international and non-international armed conflicts according to the 1998 Statute of the International Criminal Court, Olalia said as well.

The lawyer said government troops are mandated to observe international instruments on the conduct of was as Republic Act 9851 penalizes crimes against international humanitarian law, genocide and other crimes against humanity.

Olalia also reminded the government of Article 3 of the 1998 of its Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines prohibiting “at any time and in any place” the desecration of the remains of those who have died in the course of the armed conflict and to prevent despoliation and mutilation and to dispose of them with respect.

“On top of these commands under international humanitarian law, at core is basic human decency, respect and civility that is at issue here,” Olalia said.
“There are universal laws that civilized people observe even if, because, or in spite of armed hostilities,” the human rights lawyer added.
Jevilyn Cullamat (supplied photo)

‘Victim of state terrorism’

Cullamat said Jevilyn’s decision to join the armed struggle stemmed from the abuses the Lumad suffer at the hands of the government’s armed forces as well as the indigenous peoples’ extreme poverty.

“She saw with her own two eyes how our leader Dionel Campos, Datu Bello Sinzo, and Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development, Inc executive director Emerito Samarca were massacred in Lianga, Surigao del Sur on September 1, 2015,” the elder Cullamat said.

She said Jevilyn was a kind child who they raised to become nationalistic, brave, principled and with a mind of her own.

“Every Lumad child is raised to become worthy and useful to the community,” Cullamat added.

The Makabayan Bloc member said that Jevilyn’s sacrifice of her life for the people and defense of their ancestral land is worthwhile, “whatever the vultures who surrounded my daughter’s remains say.”

“It is a great honor for me to have a child who became a warrior and martyr…I am undoubtedly proud of Jevilyn because she fought against an unjust system, for us Lumad,” she said.

“No mother would renounce a child who set aside her personal interests to offer her life for the people and for the defense of our ancestral land,” Cullamat added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Neri Colmenares wins international human rights award

Neri Colmenares, one of the country’s most prominent public interest lawyers, is this year’s awardee for outstanding contribution to human rights by the foremost organization for international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies.

The International Bar Association (IBA) bestowed Colmenares the award for his “extensive contribution to human rights, and his continuing determination and advocacy, in the face of great adversity.”

IBA said Colmenares has made an outstanding contribution to the promotion, protection and advancement of the human rights of any group of people, particularly with respect to their right to live in a fair and just society under the rule of law.

The presentation was made on Monday, 9 November, during the online Section on Public and Professional Interest Awards ceremony as part of the IBA 2020 – Virtually Together Conference.

Himself a victim of unrelenting red-baiting by military, police and government officials for his human rights advocacy and activism, Colmenares is a former three-term member of the Philippine House of Representatives and is currently the national chairperson of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL).

He is also a leader of the Concerned Lawyers for Civil Liberties and adviser for advocacies of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines.

Stellar academic career

Colmenares’ human rights advocacy began when he became the Western Visayas regional chairperson of the Student Catholic Action of the Philippines during martial law in the 1970s.

Neri Colmenares (Photo by Bong Magpayo from the Bedans for neri Colmenares Facebook page)

While campaigning for the return of student councils in schools ordered closed by then President Ferdinand Marcos, Colmenares was arrested and tortured by the military.

He spent four years in jail as one of martial law’s youngest political prisoners at 18.

After his release from prison, Colmenares earned his BA Economics degree from San Beda University (SBU), his law degree from the University of the Philippines and his Master of Laws degree from the University of Melbourne in Australia on scholarship.

Colmenares is an outstanding alumnus awardee of SBU.

Legal fighter

As a human rights lawyer, Colmenares has argued a number of cases before the Supreme Court and championed causes in the legislature in support of marginalized sectors, including the following:

* The Party List Election Case in 2000, which led to the High Court ordering that 20 per cent of the seats in Congress be reserved for the marginalized and underrepresented poorer .

* The Pork Barrel Case during the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration that led the Supreme Court to declare the Congressional practice as unconstitutional.

* In 2017 Mr Colmenares, alongside fellow human rights lawyers, constitutionalists and several law students, established Manlaban sa EJK that campaigns against the continuing extra judicial killings under President Rodrigo Duterte.

* Colmenares is also acting as co-counsel in a complaint against President Duterte for crimes against humanity, filed to the International Criminal Court (ICC) by families of extrajudicial killing victims.

* Colmenares is a counsel-complainant in one of the 37 petitions questioning the constitutionality of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020

As a parliamentarian, Colmenares advocated for the democratic rights of those with disabilities and the elderly, such as special election precincts to assist them in voting, as well as introducing the Early Voting Law for media personnel who would be covering the election on the day.

He also authored the law mandating the Philippine government to issue early warning to citizens during disasters and calamities as well as an increase of benefits given to social security system pensioners, among many other pieces of legislation.  

In 2005, Colmenares helped organize the Counsels for the Defense against Attacks on Lawyers, a group of lawyers and law students advocating against the unlawful killings and arrests of their colleagues under then President Arroyo.

Colmenares (second from left) denouncing extra-judicial killings. (Photo from Neri Colmenares’s Facebook account)

‘Exceptional lawyer’

In bestowing him the award, IBA Human Rights Law Committee co-chairperson Federica D’Alessandra said Colmenares has drawn on every tool in the legal toolbox, from legislation, to litigation, to advocacy in order to advance human rights and the rule of law for the protection of the Filipino people.

“With this award the IBA recognizes [Colmenares’] incredible accomplishments, and celebrates his great resolve as he continues to fight for media freedom, and stand against extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances and unlawful detention in the Philippines,” D’Alessandra said.

“Mr Colmenares is truly an exceptional human rights lawyer, and has contributed hugely to increasing respect for the rule of law and the promotion and protection of human rights. His advocacy is all the more remarkable given the relentless persecution in the Philippines of individuals speaking out against human rights abuses. His continuing determination and courage make him an exceptional awardee,” she added.

No better time

The NUPL said it is humbled by the International Bar Association’s choice of Colmenares as the recipient of the prestigious award.

“It could not have come at a better time than now that human rights lawyers and defenders in the Philippines are under attack especially in the form of vicious vilification commonly referred to as red-tagging,” the NUPL said.

The group said this is the first time that a Filipino has won the award bestowed by IBA’s

80,000 member-lawyers from 190 Bar Associations in 160 countries worldwide.

“We share the elation of our colleagues, clients and friends and see this latest award on yet another prominent progressive leader not only as a distinct and well-deserved honor but also as a tribute to all others who rage against injustice despite the great odds and risks and as a clear repudiation of the ongoing demonization of human rights defenders and social activists in the country,” the NUPL said.

The group also asked the global legal community to continue monitoring the human rights situation in the Philippines and support their campaign for human rights as well as the call to stop the attacks against lawyers, judges and human rights defenders.

“We hope that message sinks in on those forces who peddle lies, spins and crap against us who continue to push back and stand ground against brazen attacks on rights and freedom,” the NUPL said.

Added reason to continue human rights work

Colmenares said the award is both an honor and an inspiration to human rights lawyers like them to continue their work with the people despite the threats and difficulties.

He said awards from established international institutions like the IBA serves as a mantle of protection to threatened lawyers worldwide.

“Fifty (50) lawyers and judges have been killed in the Philippines since 2016 and this award will also provide a mantle of protection for human rights lawyers like me,” Colmenares said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘Hindi natin kailangan ng consuelo de bobo’

“Hindi natin kailangan ng consuelo de bobo sa panahong ito ng pandemya at malawak na kagutuman. Ang kailangan ng manggagawa ay ibalik sa kanila ang kanilang trabaho. Ibalik ang ABS-CBN!

The committee knew fully well that denying ABS-CBN’s franchise would lead to thousands of workers unemployed which will further monkey wrench our already dwindling economy. But they did it anyway without a shred of truth – all just to please President Duterte in his wish to bring down the Kapamilya network.”Hon. Ferdinand Gaite, Representative, Bayan Muna Party List