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Sr. Pat Fox condemns Duterte admin’s year-end rights abuses

The Australian nun deported by the Rodrigo Duterte government condemned the string of assassinations and massacres of indigenous peoples, farmers, and critics during the holiday season.

Sr. Patricia Fox, NDS, deported in April 2018 on allegations she attended a protest rally in Davao City, said the Duterte government rushed to commit more human rights abuses before the year 2020 ended.

Speaking as spokesperson of the Asia-Pacific Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (APCHRP), Sr. Fox said President Duterte took advantage of the Covid-19 lockdowns to orchestrate a crackdown on activists, with many being arrested on dubious charges while several others were killed.

“Two days before the year ended, the Duterte regime’s armed operatives launched simultaneous police and military operations in the islands of Panay and Bohol that resulted in the death of 10 people and the arrest of 17 others,” Sr. Fox said.

The nun cited the massacre of nine Tumandok tribespeople and the arrest of 17 others in Panay Island and the assassination of activist farmer Lorenzo “Dodoy” Paña in Bohol province last December 30.

Sr. Fox echoed reports by local human rights organizations that the simultaneous raids in Tapaz, Capiz province and Calinog, Iloilo province were cold-blooded execution of the victims.

“Family members of Eliseo Gayas, one of the men killed, narrated how they were ordered to go out of their house. When armed operatives entered, they killed Eliseo outright with four gunshots. Two other victims – Mario Aguirre and Roy Giganto – had their houses forcibly entered as operatives shot them dead inside while they were asleep, in the presence of their respective families,” Sr. Fox said.

Paña, like those massacred and arrested in Panay, was a red-tagging victim and no stranger to harassment by State forces, the nun pointed out.

“These senseless murders are a continuation of the string of human rights attacks we have witnessed this year against activists, lawyers, farmers, trade unionists, and even health workers,” Sr. Fox said.

In the same statement, the APCHRP said it strongly condemns the killing of nine Tumandok in Panay Island and the assassination of Dodoy Paña in Bohol.

“We also call for the immediate release of the 17 indigenous activists arrested in the same operation in Panay,” the APCHRP said.

The year 2020 will be forever remembered as the year of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent economic recessions it caused. However, it should also be noted as the apex of the Duterte regime’s barbarity and utter disregard for human rights, the group added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Another farmer killed in Bohol as 9 Tumandok are massacred in Panay

Another peasant activist in Bohol Province was killed just as nine Tumandok  civilians in Panay Island were being massacred last Wednesday in one of the bloodiest day for farmers under the four-year old Rodrigo Duterte government.

Lorenzo “Dodoy” Paña of Barangay Bantolinao, Antequera town was gunned down by unidentified motorcycle riding men around 9:00 AM last December 30 at Barangay Dorol, Balilihan town in Bohol, peasant organization Hugpong sa Mag-uumang Bol-anon-Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (HUMABOL-KMP) said.

Paña was on his way to bring lunch for his son working at a nearby construction site when fired upon by unidentified perpetrators.

Paña was a former officer of Hugpong sa Mag-uuma Dapit sa Kasadpan (HUMANDA KA), a formation of Humabol chapters in the first district of Bohol.

In 2018, the victim, along with his wife and children, worked as volunteers for the construction of a coconut processing plant managed by farmers organizations in Barangay Tinibgan, Maribojoc which now produces virgin coconut oil.

In June 26, 2018, the victim’s house was subjected to a warrantless search by around 30 members of SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in the said province.

His family complained of maltreatment during the said incident, HUMABOL-KMP said.

In previous years, the Paña family also reported of being harassed by state forces.

Paña’s killing happened while the 12th Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army (12IBPA) troopers and the PNP in Western Visayas killed nine Tumandok indigenous peoples in Capiz and Iloilo provinces, also in the Visayas.

Bohol peasant activist Lorenzo “Dodoy” Paña, killed in Balilihan, Bohol last December 30. (Humabol-KMP photo)

Immediate condemnation of the Tumandok massacre

The massacre in Panay Island earned swift condemnation from church leaders and organizations.

San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza, whose Diocese suffered similar police and military Synchronized Enhanced Management of Police Operations (SEMPO) that also resulted in massacres, cried out, “Do we have to kill our perceived ‘enemies’ – especially if they are unarmed?”

“Is this the way we celebrate Christmas as a Christian country about to welcome the New Year and 500 Years of Christianity [in the Philippines?” the prelate asked.

“How long will this spiral of violence continue? Have we run out of peaceful means? Are we that desperate? Do we really, seriously believe this is the effective and lasting way to solve our social ills? I RAISE MY VOICE TO CRY OUT: “NO MORE KILLING!” We want PEACE – JUST and LASTING PEACE!” he added.

The Promotion of Church People’s Response (PNP) in Panay and Guimaras islands directly blamed PNP chief Debold Sinas for the death of nine Tumandok leaders and activists yesterday.

“The brazen extra-judicial killings and illegal arrests of leaders of the Tumandok, an indigenous people of Panay, on the early hours of yesterday in the mountainous villages of Tapaz, Capiz and Calinog, Iloilo is part of the nationwide implementation of PNP Chief Sinas’ version of ‘political tokhang’, his brainchild SEMPO,” PCPR’s Fr. Marco Sulayao said in a statement.

The faith-based group also blamed National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) agent Jeffrey Celis it said petitioned for the search warrants in Metro Manila Regional Trial Courts used for the operations.

“Blood is on the hands of NTF-ELCAC red-taggers, especially Jeffrey Celis, who according to [a] reliable source, petitioned for the said warrants,” PCPR said.

National labor federation Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) included President Rodrigo Duterte in the blame for the massacre.

“The blood of the Tumandok is in the hands of Duterte, Sinas, PNP and NTF-ELCAC. They wantonly kill the indigenous peoples to give way to projects of big capitalists,” KMU said in a statement.

“We condemn this heinous killing perpetrated by the mercenary AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) -PNP. It is most likely that the police and military will present the killed and arrested Tumandok as members of the New People’s Army when in fact, they are just farmers and indigenous people defending their ancestral land and farms against land grabbing,” KMP chairperson Danilo Ramos said. 

Indigenous people’s group Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (Katribu) also denounced “the government’s wanton disregard for human rights and laments the death of our people’s heroes.”

“Our fight against the construction of Jalaur and Pan-ay Dams have not ended yet so we remain resolute in defending what’s left of our rivers and forests. Despite violence and threats, we will relentlessly and fiercely stand against corporate plunder and the destruction of the environment,” Katribu said in a statement.

“The indigenous peoples have nowhere to run to anymore. We will certainly hold the line,” it added.

An IP rights advocate calls for the dissolution of the government agency they blame for red-tagging the victims that led to their massacre. (Katribu photo)

Red-tagged victims

Killed in the synchronized and simultaneous operations in the neighboring towns were former Barangay Captain and  current Tumandok nga Mangunguma nga Nagapangapin sa Duta kag Kabuhi (TUMANDUK) chairperson Roy Giganto, his Barangay Lahug co-councilors Reynaldo Katipunan, and Mario Aguirre; Eliseo Gayas Jr. of Barangay Aglinab, Tapaz; Mario Diaz of Barangay Tacayan, Tapaz; Artilito Katipunan of Barangay Acuna, Tapaz; and Barangay Nawayan chairperson Dalson Catamen of Tapaz.

Former TUMANDUK chairperson and Tapaz local government employee Marevic Aquirre is missing, believed to have been abducted by the police.

Two youth residents of Barangay Aglinab, Tapaz town are also reported missing.

The PNP reported it arrested 17 other Tumandok from its SEMPO.

“These Tumandok leaders were very active in reclaiming their ancestral land now occupied by the 3rd Infantry Division, Philippine Army military reservation. They were also active in resisting the construction of the Jalaur mega-dam,” PCPR said.

The community of Lahug also resisted the coercion of military troopers to sign a resolution declaring the CPP/NPA as “persona non grata” in their barangay, the group added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

No to Coal in Bohol

We, the Bohol Clean Energy Advocates, call on the Sanggunian Panlungsod of Tagbilaran City and the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Bohol to recognize the negative impacts of coal-based power generation and the need to shift to renewable energy sources by passing resolutions to support calls for “a moratorium on the establishment of carbon-intensive and fossil-based technologies”; and interpose its objection on any proposed coal-fired project within our province;

WE ALSO URGE on the Office of the Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Office of the Secretary of the Department of Energy to deny any applications for coal-fired and other fossil-based power plants within Bohol; and implement the mandate for the development and use of renewable, sustainable energy sources and technologies.

We urge the Bohol Energy Development Advisory Group (BEDAG) and the Officials of the Provincial Government of Bohol to faithfully and strongly enforce the Vision and Mission of the province as “a prime eco-cultural destination and a strong, balanced agro-industrial province, with a well-educated, God-loving and law-abiding citizenry, proud of their cultural heritage, enjoying a state of well-being and committed to sound environmental management”, through “good governance and effective partnerships with stakeholders”; as well as the declaration of our province as an Eco-Cultural Tourism Zone under Republic Act No. 9446 that mandates us to “protect and enhance the natural features and cultural heritage of the tourism zone, while providing sustainable economic opportunities for the local community”.

Why is this important?

Alarmed that there are sectors in the Provincial Government along with investors and power providers who are poised to endorse a backward idea of a coal-fired power plant in the island, we demand that our leaders to lead us in achieving Bohol’s Goals that include, among others, Environmental Protection and Management; and, Responsive, transparent and accountable governance.

Drawing from our earlier manifesto, we echo the call, this time, taking a firm stand against whatever plans and machinations there might be to utilize coal in generating power within our province. We have united behind the following arguments:

1. THAT COAL IS DIRTY AND DEADLY. Coal damages both people and planet. Existing and proposed coal power plants in the Philippines can cause up to 2,410 premature deaths annually according to a 2015 Harvard study. Coal burning emits substances which contribute to smog, haze, lung disease, and respiratory illnesses; as well as neurological and developmental damage in humans and other animals (US Energy Information Administration, 2017). Coal mining contributes to soil erosion, water pollution and loss of biodiversity. It is directly linked with climate change as it is responsible for 46% of carbon dioxide emissions worldwide, inducing natural disasters.

2. THAT COAL IS COSTLY. While there is still a popular perception that coal is sold cheaply, a research by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) revealed that coal use actually brings with it additional costs that are not traditionally taken into account such as: (1) Subsidies to coal producers; (2) Air pollution estimated to cause more than 6,000 global deaths annually; and, (3) Greenhouse Gas emissions that undermine targets under the Paris Agreement on Climate. If we monetize these impacts the total cost of coal is estimated to be around USD 11 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh), more than double the cost of competing renewable energy based on recent renewable auction results.

3. THAT GLOBALLY COAL IS NO LONGER A VIABLE OPTION. The recent falls in solar Photo Voltaic prices have led India to cancel new coal capacity, in addition to rising concern about the impacts of coal use on air pollution. In China, this concern led to a moratorium on new coal plants in 28 out of 31 provinces. With the tide turning against coal across the world, there is real concern that investments made today could soon be impossible to operate on environmental, public health and cost grounds, leaving a legacy of stranded power stations as the last monuments to the age of coal. (IISD, 2017)

WE REJECT the proposal or plan of private or government investors in establishing a coal-power plant in the province of Bohol because it is tantamount to a violation of the existing laws and commitment for the Boholano people;

WE DECLARE that renewable energy is the way forward. A 2013 World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) report said that in 2011, at least 384 renewable energy service contracts were awaiting approval from the Department of Energy, equalling to 6,046 MW of generation capacity. Currently, there are 13 operational coal-fired power plants with a combined installed capacity of 4.937 MW;

WE STRONGLY SUPPORT the development of renewable energy sources as the way forward for our beloved Bohol that claims to have ecological and cultural tourism as its main path for sustainable development being one of its primary economic drivers.

WE ENJOIN our fellow Boholanos and residents to join us in this worthy cause to save our environment from this threat of destruction for our sake and the future generation.

WE DEMAND as citizens and voters that the Sanggunian Panlungsod of Tagbilaran City and the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Bohol shall recognize the negative impact of coal-based power generation and the need to shift to renewable energy sources by passing Resolutions to support calls for “a moratorium on the establishment of carbon-intensive and fossil-based technologies”; and interpose its objection on any proposed coal-fired project within our province;

WE ALSO URGE on the Office of the Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Office of the Secretary of the Department of Energy to deny any applications for coal-fired and other fossil-based power plants within Bohol; and implement the mandate for the development and use of renewable, sustainable energy sources and technologies.