Rights group assails ‘trumped up charge’ against chairperson and reg’l officer

By Joseph Cuevas

Human rights group Karapatan assailed the attempted murder charges against its national chairperson Elisa Lubi and its Southern Mindanao chapter secretary-general Jayvee ‘Jay’ Apiag.

In a petition filed in a court today, March 29, Karapatan said the “trumped-up and utterly absurd” charges is meant to harass and threaten its officers as the Rodrigo Duterte government has done to other human rights workers.

“This attempted murder charge filed by the military is bereft of any factual basis. Clearly, these charges are pure hogwash and judicial harassment targeting human rights workers,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said.

Lubi and Apiag are facing an attempted murder charge filed by Corporal Elvin Jay Claud at a Davao City court regarding an alleged May 20, 2018 armed encounter between the New People’s Army and the Philippine Army’s 89th Infantry Battalion and 10th Infantry Division in Sitio Balite, Brgy. Salapawan, Paquibato District, Davao City.

However, the case was only filed on June 3, 2020, two years after the alleged encounter.

Karapatan chairperson Elisa Lubi

Lubi said in her motion filed before the same court there is an abundance of evidence showing her presence in Metro Manila in the days, weeks and months preceding and following the alleged incident.

Lubi, who is of an advanced age and laden with illnesses common of an elderly person, added she is physically incapable of engaging in combat.

Apiag for his part said it is public knowledge he was in Brgy. Madaum, Tagum City, Davao del Norte, interviewing the kin of Ariel Maquiran at reported date of the incident.

Maquiran was an industrial worker in a banana plantation shot dead by suspected agents of the Philippine Army’s 16th Infantry Battalion on May 17, 2018.

“Both were likewise denied of their right to due process as they did not receive copies of subpoenas to participate in the preliminary investigation on the case. Clearly, these charges are pure hogwash and judicial harassment targeting human rights workers,” Palabay said.

Karapatan called on the court to recall the warrants against Lubi and Apiag and to reinvestigate the case to allow them to disprove the military’s absurd fictional accounts.

Constant targets of harassments

Karapatan revealed that both Lubi and Apiag had been constant targets of harassments by government forces.

In 2018, Lubi was included in a failed proscription by the Department of Justice (DOJ) against leaders of so-called ‘communist organizations’.

The Department of Justice eventually trimmed down its list of so called communist leaders from 658 to 8 and excluded Lubi.

In 2019, Lubi was also charged with perjury by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon but the prosecutor’s office in Quezon City dismissed the allegation after a few months.

In 2020, Apiag received several death threats and was red-tagged in posters bearing alleged ‘communist leaders’ in Southern Mindanao.

“Human rights workers from Karapatan are being targeted by these lies and fabricated charges in order to stop us from doing our work. We are being branded as ‘terrorists’ to vilify us and they have killed many of our colleagues in their desperate efforts to silence us,” Palabay said. #

Alamara lays siege on Lumad sanctuary

Armed paramilitary forces laid siege to a church compound housing indigenous peoples refugees in President Rodrigo Duterte’s home turf of Davao City Sunday morning, January 26, terrorizing Lumad children in their sanctuary.

Around 50 members of the paramilitary Alamara descended at the Haran compound of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) at nine o’clock in the morning, brandishing bolos and threatening the terrified refugees inside.

The bandits carried placards alleging that the UCCP brainwashed the Manobo refugees to resist ongoing mining activities in their ancestral lands in the Pantaron Mountain Range.

Manobo refugees prepare to evacuate the sanctuary area as Alamara bandits surround their compound. (Kilab Multimedia photo)

Some of the Alamara bandits wielded bolos and wire cutters and managed to enter the compound, forcing the refugees staying at the sanctuary area to seek refuge inside the UCCP office building.

Manobo leaders faced off with the Alamara and prevented them from overwhelming the compound.

UCCP Southeast Mindanao Jurisdictional Area Bishop Hamuel Tequis arrived at 10 a.m. to confront the Alamara as police officers also arrive to help ease the tension.

The police however refused to arrest the Alamara members who broke into UCCP compound. It also prevented members of the local media to enter the compound to cover the refugees’ press conference.

Davao city vice mayor Sebastian Duterte later arrived to broker a dialogue between the bishop, the refugees and the Alamara.

The Alamara attackers reportedly wanted to haul the refugees back to their communities in Kapalong and Talaingod, Davao del Norte.

UCCP Bishop Tequis and Davao City vice mayor Sebastian Duterte inside the besieged church compound and Lumad sanctuary.

Bishop Tequis said his church continues to stand firm on their commitment to serve the indigenous peoples in Davao region.

“By doing our duty to act as shepherds of the poor and the deprived we manifest our unwavering commitment to defend the rights of those who are deprived of their civil liberties,” Tequis said in a statement.

The bishop said the continuing harassment and possible filing of charges against UCCP Haran Mission Center is “a threat against the commitment of the church to do Christ’s mission of ministering to the oppressed and the marginalized.”

UCCP Haran had been serving as a sanctuary for Lumad forcibly displaced by violence and attacks by paramilitary and military groups in the region since the early 1990s. Earlier, it has been attacked by bandits, including an attempt to burn down the temporary Lumad school put up for its young refugees numbering around 200.

The Manobo refugees at the UCCP Haran office building. (Kilab Multimedia photo)

“[UCCP Haran had] served as a home for victims of oppression and injustice. It has become a place of healing among them who have been distressed by intermittent harassment and violence committed against them. But more than these, UCCP Haran is a sanctuary of peace in keeping with God’s own purpose,” Tequis said.

The bishop urged the government not to intervene in the church’s “constructive and beneficial affairs” for the oppressed and downtrodden even as he condemned what he calls the vilification and crucifixion of the UCCP for simply “shepherding the Lumad.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Duterte has rapist mentality, women groups say

“Misogynist” Rodrigo Duterte fuels the rape mindset in country, women’s rights groups said in response to yet another controversial rape statement by the President.

Accusing him of having a “rapist mentality,” the group blasted Duterte’s statement that many rape attacks are happening in Davao because there are many beautiful women in the city.

“Ingon sila nga daghang rape ang Davao. Basta daghang gwapa, daghang rape gyud na,” Duterte said in a speech in Davao City Thursday, August 30. (They said there are many rape cases in Davao. As long as there are many beautiful women, there will be more rape cases.)

“Instead of seriously addressing the problem, the misogynist Duterte has added insult to the scars of rape survivors,” #BabaeAko said in a statement Friday.

The group said Duterte’s boast of his home city, Davao, being among the safest in the Philippines has been demolished by Philippine National Police (PNP) statistics that show it has the highest rape rate nationwide.

With 42 reported cases of rape in the second quarter of 2018, the PNP said Davao City has the highest number in the country during the period.

#BabaeAko said that more than his prohibition while still Davao mayor of women wearing shorts in public, Duterte’s anti-rape strategy failed because he is disrespectful of women and only sees them as mere sexual objects.

‘Joke only’

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque tried to downplay the widespread backlash against Duterte’s controversial remark, saying people should not give too much weight to the President’s “joke”.

“Let’s just say there are standards of what is offensive and what is not offensive. It’s more liberal in the South,” Roque said in a press briefing in Malacañan Friday.

#BababeAko said it was not the first time the President has encouraged rapists and put the blame on women, however.

“In his presidential campaign, he grouched that as mayor, he should have been first to rape a foreign missionary. He slapped down his daughter, Sara, current mayor of Davao, calling her a ‘drama queen’ when she confessed to an experience of sexual assault. He has joked of pardons for soldiers who rape. He has offered Filipino “virgins” to filthy foreigners with purchasing power,” the group recalled.

#BabaeAko said the country does not deserve him “who willfully breaks our laws and encourages others to do the same, because his notion of power stops at coercive force.”

‘Spokesperson and defender’

Gabriela Women’s Party echoed #BabaeAko’s condemnation, saying Duterte sent yet again a very dangerous and distorted message in his latest rape remark

“He (Duterte) toys with Davao pride and misogyny to gloss over a very important detail — that women in his hometown Davao City suffered the most number of rape cases in the country,” GWP said.

President Duterte is proud to have rolled back whatever gains and legal mechanisms that have been instituted for women’s rights in Davao City, the group said.

“Is Pres. Duterte already the self-proclaimed spokesperson and defender of rape pertrators in Davao?” GWP Representative Emmi de Jesus for her part asked.

“We strongly condemn this latest flamboyant display of misogyny, which places more Filipino women at risk of rape. A person who finds pleasure in the mass killings of innocent people and who finds humor in demeaning women and enabling rapists is not fit to be President,” GWP added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)


Kadayawan for whom?

by Krista Melgarejo

Growing up in Davao City, I’ve spent most of my years looking forward to the festivities happening around the city. Floral floats, street dances, the parades and most especially in-season fruits like the durian being sold at rock bottom prices. These things always come to any Dabawenyo’s mind with the Kadayawan – traditionally a festivity of the lumads to celebrate the abundance of their harvest.

But these past years, the Kadayawan has lost its true essence, especially for the lumads.

The history of the lumads is one of struggle, with decades of fighting for their ancestral lands and their right to self determination. With the continued harassment by military and the paramilitary elements, the lumads have become no strangers to walking thousands of miles away from their ancestral lands in order to find sanctuary in the lowlands and the big cities – from the premises of the UCCP Haran in Davao City to the major thoroughfares of Metro Manila.

With Digong’s Martial Law in effect since the Marawi siege, it has only given state forces the license to intensify its harassment against the national minorities of Mindanao.

The Save Our Schools Network reported there are over 7,609 lumad individuals who have been victims of threats, harassments and extrajudicial killings by state forces since the beginning of Duterte’s presidency. Under Duterte’s Martial Law, the numbers have been exponentially increasing.

With the closing down of more lumad schools and more people being driven out of their lands, they have found refuge in places like the University of the Philippines – Diliman which they will call home for the next few months. While the smiles of these energetic and eager lumad kids will never fail to inspire activists like myself, the thought of them being traumatized and becoming accustomed to the bakwit life is painful and enraging at the same time.

With the festivities of the Kadayawan capping off as of this writing, Dabawenyo or not, perhaps we should all stop and think about how do we perceive and deal with the issues of our national minorities. Have they merely become cultural tokens during these festivities or are we also prepared to stand next to them in these trying times?

Let’s call this wishful thinking, but I hope that as a fellow Dabawenyo and the former mayor of the city, Digong does the same. # (Featured image by Kilab Multimedia)

Karapatan condemns military and police brutality vs. Lumad evacuees

(Photo by Paolo C. Rizal/

“A congresswoman who acted in concert with the Armed Forces of the Philippines prompted the brutal action of the police against the Lumad evacuees at the UCCP compound in Davao City,” said Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan.

North Cotabato Rep. Nancy Catamco mobilized the police, the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the paramilitary group ALAMARA to supposedly rescue the Lumad who sought shelter at the UCCP compound since April 2015 because of the military operations in their communities.

“It is not the most convenient situation for the Lumads to be in an evacuation center, in a place far away from their homes and farms. But they had to do this sacrifice for their temporary security and safety. Their lives are at stake if they remain in their communities in the presence of the elements of the 68th IB-PA and its paramilitary group ALAMARA,” Palabay added.

Palabay said the AFP has been conducting combat operations in the remote villages in Talaingod, Davao del Norte. Its troops led by the 68th IBPA have encamped in the communities, tagged civilians as mass base of the New People’s Army, used Lumad schools as camps, and threatened and coerced the civilian population.

This is not the first time the Lumads from Talaingod, Davao del Norte left their communities. Last year, several hundreds of Lumads also evacuated because of bombings, use of civilians as shields and guides during combat operations, and a host of other gross human rights violations. The evacuees at the UCCP compound are the second batch of evacuees who left their homes this year. The Lumads decided to finally leave their homes after members of the ALAMARA paramilitary group started to forcibly recruit them into the paramilitary group.

“The Lumads left their homes and farms seek shelter only to become victims of violence again,” lamented Palabay. “Ano ang gusto ng gobyernong ito? Saan niyo sila gustong magpunta?”

Members of rights and religious groups supporting the plight of the evacuees were falsely charged by the AFP with kidnapping, illegal detention and human trafficking.

Three days ago, on July 20, the plight of the evacuees was brought to the attention of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Internally Displaced Persons Dr. Chaloka Beyani who is on official visit in the Philippines from July 21 to 30, 2015. ###

NPA honors Parago with 21-gun salute

A New People’s Army unit in the foothills of Mt Apo honored Leoncio “Commander Parago” with a military parade and a 21-gun salute two days after the late rebel leader was cremated in Davao City last July 10.

A platoon belonging to the NPA’s Mt. Apo Operational Command performed the rare ceremony for its “shining red star” in front of hundreds of civilian supporters and people’s militia members.

Pitao was killed by soldiers of the Philippine Army’s 10th Infantry Division in Davao City’s Paquibato District last June 28. The NPA said he was being treated for a variety of ailments when he was mowed down by gunfire along with medic Vanessa “Ka Kyle” Limpag.

The ceremony followed an unprecedented public wake, tribute and funeral march in a major Filipino city for a rebel attended by an estimated ten thousand supporters and friends, including national and local political and business leaders.

Led by Communist Party of the Philippines, NPA and National Democratic Front of the Philippines colors, the rebel troopers marched in single file into a clearing and performed rifle drills before consecutively firing their rifles.

They proceeded to present arms before singing Ang Internasyunal, the universal anthem of communist parties all over the world.

The audience joined in the singing of the anthem.

The ceremony ended with shouts of “Long live Ka Parago!”, “Long live the Filipino people!”, “Long live the New People’s Army” and “Long live the Communist Party of the Philippines!”

The 21-gun salute is traditionally a cannonade for surrendering ships but has developed through the centuries into an honorifical ceremony reserved for royalty, heads of state, high government officials and heroes, especially during important events and funerals using both cannons and rifles.

There is no universal pattern in performing the gun salute and every armed force may devise their own style.

Several NPA units around the country performed an honor drill and gun salute for the late CPP spokesperson Gregorio “Ka Roger” Rosal who died of natural causes in 2011.

“Ka Teo,” a veteran NPA fighter who once fought and worked with Pitao, described their fallen hero as an extraordinary leader who was a brilliant military tactician and inspiring revolutionary.

“The many military tactics that we use today to defeat the enemy were devised by Kumander Parago. His brilliance is proven by the fact that our casualties are always fewer than the number of our enemies killed and wounded in battle,” he said.

Teo said that Pitao’s influence was a major factor in his decision to become a full time NPA fighter in the 1980s.

“He did not convince us in so many words. His examples were enough for us to commit our lives to the revolution,” Teo said.

Ka Karen, a local Makabayang Kilusan ng Bagong Kababaihan member, said they will never forget Pitao who they consider their hero.

“He inspired us to stand and fight for a society that is just to women, peasant and Lumad,” she said.

“Contrary to what the Armed Forces of the Philippines said, his death does not weaken our resolve to push the revolution forward. His death strengthens our determination to defeat the enemies of the people,” Karen said.

The NPA usually holds public parades during the CPP’s anniversary on December 26, but only when both the CPP and the Philippine government reciprocally declare ceasefires in observance of the Yuletide season. These parades do not include live fire salutes.

The AFP often violates these ceasefires, however, by putting up roadblocks and harassing the NPA’s civilian supporters, even media persons and local and national government officials who wish to cover or attend the rebel’s celebrations.

Last year, Philippine Army soldiers in Surigao del Sur tried to prevent Bayan Muna representative Carlos Ysagani Zarate and special envoy for the peace negotiations Hernani Braganza from attending the CPP’s 46th anniversary celebrations and peace consultations in Marihatag town. The presence of Surigao del Sur vice governor Manuel Alameda in behalf of governor Johnny Pimental also did not deter the troopers from violating their own government’s ceasefire declaration.

As a rebel guerrilla force, the NPA can only hold open celebrations, especially involving live gunfire, in areas where it enjoys strong support from the residents.

The NPA’s Mt Apo Operational Command includes the First Pulang Bagani (Red Warrior) Battalion and other company-sized formations. Pitao was the most famous commander of this famed command known for conducting the most audacious operations in the rebel army’s history. (Jola Diones-Mamangun, Earl Condeza/Davao Today and Raymund B. Villanueva. Text by R. Villanueva)

Parago funeral march (uncut)

Leoncio “Ka Parago” Pitao’s funeral march in Davao City passing under the Bankerohan footbridge from the corner of San Pedro Street and along Quirino Avenue early afternoon of July 10, 2015.

LUKSANG PARANGAL: Huling Sulyap kay Kumander Parago

Libo-libong mamamayan ng Davao City ang nagtipon kagabi upang bigyan ng parangal si Leoncio Pitao sa huling gabi ng lamay para sa kanya sa Almendras Gym.

Isang natatanging kaganapan ang pagtitipon kagabi ng mga pesante at Lumad dahil sa lalim ng pagdakila sa isang rebeldeng kumander na matagal na tinugis ng sandatahang elemento ng pambansang pamahalaan.

Walang takot na ipinagdiwang ng mamamayan ng Davao ang anila’y kabayanihan ni “Kumander Parago” na tinagurian ng Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas bilang “maningning na pulang tala ng rebolusyon.”

Ito ang paunang bidyo ng parangal kagabi sa Davao City.

Almendras Gym, Davao City
July 9, 2015

LARAWAN: Huling Sulyap kay Kumander Parago