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CPP slams CHR for ‘echoing AFP lies’ on landmines

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) challenged the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to cite International Humanitarian Law (IHL) principles the New People’s Army (NPA) allegedly violated in its ambush of government soldiers in Jipapad, Eastern Samar last July 7.

In a statement Tuesday, CPP public information officer Marco Valbuena demanded that CHR deputy spokesperson Marc Louis Siapno specify which IHL provision the NPA failed to observe in the military action that killed three government troopers and wounded six others.

Valbuena also strongly reacted to Siapno’s allegation that the NPA indiscriminately used improvised explosive devices (IED) during the incident.

“By condemning wholesale the use of landmines, the CHR mouthpiece is not helping educate the public with regard the Ottawa Treaty. He should understand that the treaty specifically bans the use of landmines that are ‘designed to be exploded by the presence, proximity or contact of a person’ and does not prohibit the use of command-detonated landmines,” Valbuena said.

Valbuena added: “Is the CHR spokesperson aware that the armed forces of Canada (where Ottawa is located) itself possesses and uses command-detonated landmines (similar to that of the NPA) which it says are not covered by the landmine treaty?”

In a statement Friday, Siapno alleged the NPA indiscriminately used IEDs, including landmines, that “fail in distinguishing between civilians and combatants and protect especially civilians and communities from the ill effects of armed conflict, which violates the spirit of IHL.”

Siapno also urged the government “to pursue the perpetrators…in keeping with the rule of law,” adding the five-decade CPP-led revolution is “senseless violence.”

‘Misleading’

Valbuena however said he is not surprised with CHR’s bias.

“In the first place, the CHR is an agency of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP). At every opportunity, it denounces the NPA and echoes the lies of the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines),” he said.

Valbuena cited the article “CHR, gov’t close ranks vs. NPA” published Monday by the Philippine News Agency he described as a “trash news website.”

The article quoted Philippine Army 8th Infantry Division commander Maj. Gen. Pio Diñoso saying the government troopers were unarmed when ambushed.

“The spot report of the AFP itself said that the ‘firefight lasted for about 20 minutes,” although the NPA report said the battle lasted only for 5 minutes,” Valbuena countered.

He added the NPA seized a Gloc-made pistol as well as a .45 caliber and a .9mm pistol of unknown makes from the soldiers. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Lawyer’s remarks on Noynoy shocks KBP, group prepares disbarment charge

The association of broadcasters in the Philippines strongly condemned a lawyer for his remarks regarding the death of former President Benigno Aquino III last Thursday, June 24.

In a statement, the Kapisanan ng mga Broadkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) said Atty. Larry Gadon, a fanatical supporter of President Rodrigo Duterte, showed “blatant disrespect for the dead” and that his “shocking behavior is contrary to civilized conduct.”

“[Gadon] violated the standards of responsible broadcasting and therefore must be strongly condemned,” the KBP said.

One of several hosts of the DWIZ-AM morning show “Karambola”, Gadon rejoiced upon learning of Aquino’s death.

“May nagbalita sa akin na ito raw putang*** Noynoy Aquino ay patay na! Patay na raw ang putang***!” Gadon exclaimed. (Someone told me that this son of a bitch Noynoy Aquino is dead! This son of a bitch is reportedly dead!)

Not content with his first string of expletives, Gadon went on to heap more against the late President: “Eh sana namatay na nga ang putang***…Patay na ang putang****! Yehey!” (How I wish this son of a bitch has died! The son of a bitch is dead! Yipee!)

The controversial lawyer also alleged that Aquino died due to HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) which prevented him from recovering from his other illnesses.

May HIV siya (PNoy) kaya hindi na gumaling,” he said. (Aquino had HIV, that was why he did not recover.)

KBP said it is sad about the incident, adding that had DWIZ remained to be its member, the station would have been quickly taken to task and disciplinary action imposed.

More condemnations

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) also condemned Gadon’s allegations of the late President being afflicted with HIV.

In a statement, CHR spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia said her fellow lawyer violated several provisions of the Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy Act or Republic Act No. 11166.

The law says it is unlawful to disclose, without written consent, information that a person has AIDS, has undergone HIV-related test, has HIV infection or HIV-related illnesses, or has been exposed to HIV.

The prohibition applies even to broadcasters and other media workers, de Guia, citing the same provision, said.

“We trust that necessary actions are also being undertaken to avoid similar incidents from happening,” she added.

Red Whistle, a support group for people living with HIV and AIDS, also said it will file criminal and disbarment charges against Gadon for “maliciously imputing that…Aquino III had HIV.”

The group also said that Gadon also violated Rule 1.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility that says lawyers “shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct.”

“Statements laced with malice like the one made by Atty. Gadon fuel HIV-related stigma and discrimination and offer no help in addressing the HIV epidemic in the country, which has the fastest rising number of new infections in the world,” Red Whistle said.

‘Guest host’

The radio station swiftly apologized to the Aquino family for Gadon’s remarks and sought to distance itself from the controversial lawyer by describing him as a “guest host.”

“The Management of DWIZ would like to apologize to everyone and, in particular, to the Aquino Family about the inappropriate statements made by our guest host in the show Karambola about the sudden death of our former President Benigno Simeon Aquino III,” the station said.

“The Management has taken action about this uncalled for comments and will not tolerate this kind of incident,” it added.

“We sincerely would like to extend our condolences to the bereaved family and the whole nation,” it added.

Even before his broadcasting stint, however, Gadon has already repeatedly figured in controversial incidents, including calling Duterte critics morons, flashing lewd gestures and dancing on the street to provoke activists.

He was one of the lawyers who filed the quo warranto petition that ousted former Ma. Lourdes Sereno as Supreme Court Chief Justice in 2017.

Lawyer to former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Gadon is also known to be a supporter of the family of another former President, the dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

News reports say Gadon is already facing at least four disbarment charges. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Groups oppose Duterte’s plan to arm civilians

Farmers and human rights groups expressed opposition to a statement by President Rodrigo Duterte ordering the arming of civilian groups to help in law enforcement, saying such move could lead to more unwarranted and merciless killings.

In separate statements, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Karapatan and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said so-called force multiplier groups under the Duterte government may lead to more extrajudicial killings.

“As if police brutality and the PNP’s (Philippine National Police) abuse of power are not enough, Duterte openly allows civic groups to carry arms. This is unacceptable and must be opposed. Tokhang killings have cost more than 30,000 lives,” KMP chairperson Danilo Ramos said.

Tokhang refers to extrajudicial killings of suspected illegal drug dependents by the police and suspected State agents since the start of the Duterte administration in 2016.

At the launch of the PNP-backed Global Coalition of Lingkod Bayan, Global Coalition of Lingkod Bayan Advocacy Support Groups and Force Multipliers in Camp Crame last Friday, Duterte ordered that the group carry firearms to help in law enforcement.

“If you have this coalition, you have a list of people who are there who can arm themselves. I will order the police if you are qualified, get a gun, and help us enforce the laws,” he said.

KMP said the public must oppose the proposal and Duterte’s move to turn so-called civic groups into his private army and death squads.

“Arming these civic groups will do more harm than good to the civilian population,” Ramos said.

Rights group Karapatan also expressed opposition to Duterte’s statement, citing abuses by state forces under his government.

“Arming them will further weaponize these groups as paramilitaries, which have a long bloody history of human rights violations, for the administration’s whole of nation approach in both campaigns — a tactic that merely uses the population to subvert civilian authority for militarist and fascist objectives and ends,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.

The government’s own human rights agency opposed the proposal, saying armed civilian groups may cause more killings instead of being a deterrent to crime.

“Elections are fast approaching. We don’t want election-related violence to rise,” CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said.

“We also don’t want this proposal to be an excuse for armed groups to be used by politicians. We don’t want a Maguindanao Massacre to happen again,” she added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Reds say Masbate incident will be investigated internally

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines pointed out that the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human rights and International Humanitarian Law established the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) as the principal mechanism to monitor the implementation of its agreement with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines, under which the deaths of footballer Keith and his cousin Nolven in a bomb blast last Sunday should be investigated.

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) rejected calls by Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) agencies to surrender New People’s Army (NPA) fighters suspected to be behind the deaths of two civilians in Masbate City last Sunday.

In a statement, the NDFP said it asserts its duty to investigate the incident under its Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) with the GRP.

“Under the CARHRIHL, in conformity with their respective separate duties and responsibilities, the NDFP has sole jurisdiction over complaints against units and personnel of the (NPA), in the same way that the GRP has the sole jurisdiction over complaints against its own armed units and personnel,” it said.

NDFP’s assertion came after police and military officers dared the NPA to turn those suspected to have perpetrated the killings over to the GRP.

The Commission on Human Rights made the same demand, saying the NPA “should identify all those responsible and surrender them to the lawful authorities to face justice within the court system.”

The NDFP however pointed out that the CARHRIHL established the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) as the principal mechanism to monitor the implementation of the CARHRIHL, under which the deaths of footballer Keith and his cousin Nolven in a bomb blast should be investigated.

At present, the NDFP-nominated section is open and functioning but the GRP-nominated section had been inactive even as both the GRP and the NDFP have agreed in 2016 to reconvene the JMC to start investigating the thousands of complaints of violations filed since opening in 2004.

“The NDFP welcomes the urgings of all concerned for the necessary investigation and wishes to have the full chance to do the investigation and make the report to the GRP-NDFP (JMC) if and when convened to deal with the case,” it said.

Their own legal system

The NDFP however said the investigation of the Masbate incident should be within the NPA command structure and frameworks of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), NDFP and the People’s Democratic Government (PDG) the Communists claim to have established in areas under their control.

“The NDFP will make sure that certain questions are answered by a thoroughgoing investigation,” it said.

The group said it will seek answer to questions, such as:

1) If true, which NPA unit and personnel are involved?

2) Is there no case of the enemy committing the crime and falsely ascribing it to the NPA?, and

3) Is there no local feud involved?

“There should be no rush to judgment, presumption or insinuation to the effect that the entire revolutionary movement and entire revolutionary forces are guilty of a criminal offense, negligence or error for which certain individuals may be liable on the basis of a full and complete investigation,” it said.

Under its responsibility and direction and within PDG’s legal system, the NDFP said the investigation must be started and completed within the NPA command structure.

“[This is] to fully and completely establish the facts and prepare any appropriate charges before any procedure to prosecute and try the case before the military court of the NPA or people’s court,” it explained. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDFP reminds the military: “We are not subjects to GRP’s authority”

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Negotiating Panel said it considers it absurd that a “mere government agency,” the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), has filed complaints against its allied organizations before another government agency.

NDFP Negotiating Panel interim chairperson Julieta de Lima said it is absurd and preposterous the AFP filed complaints against the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) with the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) as if the revolutionary organizations have become “subject to the authority of the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) and its agencies.”

De Lima said both the CPP and the NPA belong to the NDFP and the revolutionary movement’s “People’s Democratic Government,” and not to the GRP.

“It is completely stupid and unacceptable for the AFP as mere agency of the GRP to consider the CPP and NPA as mere subjects to the authority of the GRP,” she said.

De Lima pointed out that the CPP and the NPA, as well as 16 other NDFP allied organizations, are at war with the GRP.

“The fact is that there is a civil war between the co-belligerents: the GRP and its agencies on one side; and the People’s Democratic Government, the NDFP, CPP, NPA, other revolutionary forces and the entire Filipino people on the other side,” de Lima said.

Conduct of war

The CHR meanwhile urged both the government and the rebels to respect international humanitarian law (IHL) in the conduct of war as it acknowledged receipt of the cases filed by the AFP on the alleged attacks against civilian properties by the CPP and the NPA since 2010.

“In looking into these cases, the CHR asserts its independent, impartial position in investigating human rights violations, including those committed in the context of armed conflicts. We equally assert our jurisdiction over these cases. International humanitarian law (IHL) covers both State and non-State actors alike,” CHR spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia said.

The CHR said civilians must be protected from atrocities under the IHL

“While CHR stands firm for the liberty of people to believe in specific ideologies, ones freedom to act on these beliefs should be guided by what is lawful and respectful of the rights of others,” de Guia said.

The CHR spokesperson noted that the CPP in a statement has admitted that civilian properties were destroyed or damaged by NPA in the course of several operations.

“[T]he CPP claims that those who have suffered damages were compensated,” de Guia said.

‘The proper venue’

De Lima however said the CHR is not the venue for the filing of such complaints against the NPA as an agreement has been signed between the GRP and the NDFP for exactly such a mechanism.

The GRP and the NDFP signed the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) on March 16, 1998 in The Hague, The Netherlands establishing a Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) to receive and investigate reports of human rights and IHL violations by either party.

De Lima reminded the AFP that if it wants to file complaints against the CPP and NPA, the most appropriate thing it can do is to ask GRP President Rodrigo Duterte as GRP principal to file through his representative complaints against the underground groups to the NDFP Section of the JMC.

“Unlike the GRP under the Duterte regime which engages in fascist crimes of state terrorism, the NDFP strictly adheres directly to the international law on human rights and humanitarian conduct in war as well as through the provisions of CARHRIHL,” de Lima said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Gov’t snubs CHR in review of anti-drug war list of victims

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) revealed it is being kept out of the review of the first partial report of the deaths resulting from the conduct of the Rodrigo Duterte government’s anti-illegal drug operations.

The CHR said the snub is contrary to the commitments and assurances of the government during the 44th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) last year.

“This is an unfulfilled promise to Filipinos and the entire community of nations,” CHR Commissioner Karen Gomez-Dumpit said in a statement Monday.

In his speech delivered online during the UNHRC’s 44th general session last June 30, Guevarra said the Duterte government established an inter-agency panel, chaired by his office, “that is quietly conducting a judicious review of the 5,655 anti-illegal drugs operations where deaths occurred.”

The members of the interagency panel are the Department of Justice, the Presidential Communications Operations Office, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Presidential Human Rights Committee Secretariat, the Presidential Management Staff, the Dangerous Drugs Board, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, the Philippine National Police, and the National Bureau of Investigation, Guevarra later revealed.

The government assured the international community that the CHR would play a role in the panel.

“As with all human rights-related mechanisms in the country, the Commission on Human Rights would be involved in its capacity as an independent monitoring body,” it said.

But Dumpit said the CHR has not been involved despite “respectfully, diligently, consistently, and repeatedly asked the Department of Justice” concerning its role in the said panel, to no avail.

Nonetheless, Dumpit said the CHR strongly urges the Government to publicize the findings “as transparency is key to ensure the credibility of the said report.”

“This will allow victims and their families to access crucial information in the process of obtaining justice. We reiterate our openness and willingness to engage with the government in this process,” Dumpit said.

What the UNHRC said

In a 26-page report last June 4, the UNHRC said the Duterte government’s heavy-handed focus on countering national security threats and illegal drugs has resulted in serious human rights violations, including killings and arbitrary detentions, as well as the vilification of dissent.

The report also noted that the anti-drug killings range from “at least 8,663” to possibly triple the number.

In examining key policy documents of the Duterte government relating to its campaign against illegal drugs, the UNHRC found a troubling lack of due process, protections, and the use of language calling for “negation” and “neutralization” of drug suspects.

“Such ill-defined and ominous language, coupled with repeated verbal encouragement by the highest level of State officials to use lethal force, may have emboldened police to treat the circular as permission to kill,” the UNHRC report stated.

In a separate statement issued last June 26, various UN special rapporteurs said the UNHRC report confirmed their findings and warnings issued over the last four years: widespread and systematic killings and arbitrary detention in the context of the war on drugs, killings and abuses targeting farmers and indigenous peoples, the silencing of independent media, critics and the opposition.

“The reports also finds, as we had, stark and persistent impunity,” the UN experts said. 

The experts highlighted “the staggering cost of the relentless and systematic assault on the most basic rights of Filipinos at the hands of the Government”:

  • Based on the most conservative assessment, since July 2016, 8,663 people have been killed in the war on drugs and 223,780 “drug personalities” arrested, with estimates of triple that number.
  • At least 73 children were killed during that period in the context of a campaign against illegal drugs. Concerns have also been raised about grave violations against children committed by State and non-State actors in the context of military operations, including the recruitment and use of children in combat or support.
  • The lasting economic harm and increased poverty among the children and other family members of those killed is likely to lead to further human rights violations.
  • At least 208 human rights defenders, journalists and trade unionists, including 30 women, plus at least 40 legal professionals had been killed since 2015, many of whom were working on politically sensitive cases or advocating for land and environmental rights of farmers and indigenous peoples and housing rights of the urban poor.
  • The Securities and Exchanges Commission in 2018 revoked the license of a prominent news website Rappler and its CEO, Maria Ressa, has been arrested multiple times on various charges and found guilty of cyber libel.
  • On 5 May 2020, President Duterte’s government ordered the shut-down of ABS-CBN, the country’s largest TV and radio network, after years of explicit threats from the President in part because of its critical reporting on the “war on drugs”.
  • There has been no accountability whatsoever for the multiple human rights and humanitarian law violations, limited follow-up on transitional justice and reconciliation in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao; independent investigations by local institutions have been thwarted; many in the opposition silenced, including Senator Leila Norma Eulalia de Lima imprisoned since 24 February 2017.
  • President Duterte ordered the country’s withdrawal from the International Criminal Court after the tribunal launched a preliminary examination of crimes against humanity committed in the context of the “war on drugs” in 2018.

The special rapporteurs also called on the UNHRC member-states “to initiate governmental sanctions and criminal prosecution against individual Philippine officials who have committed, incited or failed to prevent human rights abuses.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Kabataan, ipagpapatuloy ang laban na nasimulan noong martial law

Sa pagkilos ng mga kabataan sa harap ng Commission on Human Rights sa ika-48 anibersaryo ng martial law noong nakaraang Lunes, Setyembre 21, nagpahayag si Regina Tolentino, deputy secretary general ng College Editors Guild of the Philippines o CEGP, na nais ipagpatuloy ng mga kabataan ang pakikibaka noong panahon ng batas militar.

Ito aniya ay dahil walang pinag-kaiba ang kasalukuyang rehimen ni Pangulong Duterte sa panahon ni Marcos sa isyu ng karapatang pantao at usaping panlipunan.