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DOLE rejects one of Debold’s last schemes; KMU hails stoppage of ‘evil attempt’

General Debold Sinas may not get everything he wants after all as the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) rejected the implementation of one of his last projects as outgoing chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP).

In a letter, DOLE secretary Silvestre Bello III dismissed as additional red tape Sinas’ proposal for the imposition of the National Police Clearance System (NPCS) on everyone who wishes to transact with the department.

“[R]equiring DOLE’s clientele to secure a police clearance issued by PNP’s national headquarters to avail of our services will do more harm than good,” Bello told Sinas.

The labor secretary explained that in a rapid survey he ordered in response to the general’s request, 94 percent of employers and workers are not in favor of the PNP’s latest scheme.

“It is a form of red tape to all and an additional financial burden to many,” Bello said.

The labor secretary also explained that the NPCS has no legal basis and may in fact violate the Constitution, the Labor Code and other laws.

Labor secretary Silvestre Bello III’s rejection of police chief Debold Sinas’ proposal.

Sinas, controversial for his violation of the government’s pandemic lockdown protocols during his 55th birthday celebration in 2020, retires on Saturday, May 8, on his 56th birth anniversary.

Sinas’ tenure as PNP chief has also been widely condemned for brutal counter-insurgency drives nationwide that killed civilian activists and arrested scores of others with unvarying illegal weapons and explosive charges.

Despite numerous complaints however, President Rodrigo Duterte refused to have his PNP chief investigated and has in fact publicly exonerated the controversial general.

‘Revenue generation’

In a March 10 letter, Sinas informed Bello of the PNP’s NPCS and proposed that the DOLE require a national police clearance for all who wish to transact with the department.

Sinas justified the NPCS scheme as the PNP’s effort to make police clearances more effective.

“For the longest time, the PNP has been issuing Local Police Clearance (LPC) nationwide to determine if an individual has any record. In the issuance thereof, however, the same has little impact on the aforesaid primary mandate of the PNP considering that more focus is being made on income or revenue generation,” Sinas said.

The controversial police chief revealed that only the local government units benefit from the revenues collected from issuing LPCs.

Sinas’ controversial NPCS proposal rejected by 94 percent of workers and employers.

Sinas also admitted that the sources of information, scope, period of validity, processing time and format of the LPC vary in every local police station nationwide.

“Since the record checking is localized, an individual may be cleared in one jurisdiction although he has criminal records in other places,” Sinas further admitted.

‘Blatant transgression’

Labor federation Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) expressed appreciation for Bello’s decision, noting however the labor department should not have dignified Sinas’ proposal with a survey.

“It is uncalled for. It should have been junked outright and immediately at an early stage. It is incorrect for the DOLE to even subject the matter to a survey,” KMU chairperson Elmer Labog told Kodao.

Labog said the PNP’s attempt to require workers to seek clearance prior to being able to transact business with DOLE is a “blatant transgression” of workers’ rights that included the right to privacy, self-organization and freedom of association.

“It reeks of arrogance and…militarization of the bureaucracy,” Labog said.

The survey ordered by Bello.

“The…proposal is a slap to these (are basic worker’s rights). Why must we ask for permits from the PNP? What are those ‘transactions’? It is vague like any other fascist scroll such as the Anti-Terror Law. [It is another] tool for harassment at intimidation of the workers,” KMU said in an earlier April 21 statement.

The KMU said workers actively rejected Sina’s proposal through Bello’s survey.

“We laud workers for standing against this directive and using the survey to pressure Bello to junk Sinas’ proposal,” the labor group said.

“Sinas leaves his post with bloody hands and even attempted to leave something evil against workers behind. It’s good that a united workers’ voice stopped him,” KMU said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

PNP letter reveals ongoing profiling of lawyers

The police are going after human rights lawyers representing suspected communist sympathizers, a letter from an intelligence officer revealed.

In a letter to the clerk of court of the Calbayog City Regional Trial Court (RTC), Police Lieutenant Fernando Calabria Jr, requested for a list of lawyers representing CTG (communist terrorist groups) personalities in proceedings.

Calabria’s letter said the request is in compliance with directives from “higher PNP (Philippine National Police) offices.”

The letter, dated March 12, was printed on an officer Calbayog City Police Station letterhead.

PNP’s letter request to the Calbayog RTC.

The request also came with a table that seeks information on the lawyers’ names, affiliations, clients’ names, “modes of neutralization”, cases filed and status.

Supreme Court spokesperson Brian Hosaka said the Calbayog RTC has confirmed receipt of the request on Friday afternoon, “but no action has been made by them on the request.”

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines quickly condemned PNP’s action, saying the letter is “improper, deplorable, and alarming.”

“The letter disregards the very basic principle that lawyers are free and duty-bound to represent those accused regardless of political or ideological persuasions so that their rights are protected, due process is observed, justice is done, and that the rule of law is upheld,” the IBP through its national president and board chairman Domingo Cayosa said in a statement.

Cayosa asked government authorities to investigate the incident and exact accountability to ensure that lawyers can do their job without threats, harassment, intimidation, or retribution.

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers said the incident is an assault to the administration of justice.

“The letter-request shows the barefaced disregard of the PNP for human rights, particularly the right to access lawyers and legal services. It is an affront to the right and duty of lawyers to exercise their profession without fear as well as the administration of justice,” the NUPL said in a statement.

The lawyers’ group said the police have no right to profile lawyers on the basis of their clients’ personalities or ideologies.

Under the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, lawyers must “not be identified with their clients or their clients’ causes as a result of discharging their functions,” the group explained. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

DSWD worker taunts, threatens Lumad child as she regains freedom

The Lumad child detained at the social work office in Cebu was finally reunited with her father, but not without further threats and taunts from a social worker, an indigenous peoples’ group reported.

After a standoff between Mikaela Dorothy Haictin’s father Lope and the Department of Social Work and Development (DSWD)-Central Visayas office last Thursday, the agency reluctantly honored the habeas corpus order of the local court and released her Friday.

But not without social worker Brenda Abilo taunting and threatening the child just before she regained her freedom, the Save Our Schools Network (SOS)-Cebu said.

SOS-Cebu reported Abilo whispered taunts in the child’s ear, sarcastically saying “she hopes that what Philippine National Police chief Debold Sinas said about her becoming an armed rebel will not come true.”

“It is deplorable that Brenda Abilo still managed to make this last minute condescending remark despite all that they at the DSWD-7 have done to the children, from their detention and confinement where the children are greatly restricted and prohibited from contacting parents and lawyers, to the DSWD-7’s refusal to implement a court order for the Lumad child’s immediate release,” SOS-Cebu said.

The group added that what Abilo did was to make clear that she and her office red-tagged the child and truly believe that the children are linked to armed groups.

The act put the lives of the children at even greater risk than ever before, SOS-Cebu said.

Mikaela was finally returned to her father Friday after the Court ordered the Sheriff to serve the Order of Release of Mikay from DSWD detention.

The Cebu chapter of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines filed for a Petition for the Issuance of the Writ of Habeas Corpus and subsequently threatened to file contempt charges against Abilo and DSWD Region 7 officials for refusing to heed the release order.

Earlier, former DSWD secretary Judy Taguiwalo criticized her former colleagues’ “unacceptable” refusal to heed the orders of the court and empathize with the sufferings of the child and her father whose reunion has been blocked again and again.

“The ‘Global Social Work Statement of Ethical Principles’ reminds social workers to uphold social justice and human rights. They should not be complicit in implementing ‘policies and practices (that) are oppressive, unfair or harmful,’” Taguiwalo said.

Abilo has yet to reply to Kodao’s request for comment. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Lumad 26 now need real rescue from police, priest implores

The Lumad raided and arrested by the police at a Roman Catholic retreat house inside a university campus last Monday now needs real rescue, a Cebu church leader said.

Fr. Nazario Vocales, Archdiocese of Cebu vicar and executive director of its Commission on Social Advocacy (COSA) called on the government to release the 24 Lumad and two teachers now under the custody of the police.

Vocales said COSA condemns the so called “rescue operation” by the Philippine National Police Regional Office 7 last February 15, adding what transpired was an illegal mass arrest and trespassing.

The priest said the incident was exacerbated by the police’s “terrifying use of force against the Lumad who reside in the premises of the University of San Carlos-Talamban as a venue for their Lumad Bakwit School.”

Vocales recalled that the victims were in a sanctuary provided by the church and with the blessing of Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma.

“It was a fitting way to welcome last year’s “2020 Year of Ecumenism, Inter-Religious Dialogue, and Indigenous Peoples,” Vocales said.

Vocales urged Cebuanos to once again express support to the Lumad victims as he urged the police and government workers to resist orders that undermine human rights and dignity.

“They need our help and support once more as the safe space for learning and a sanctuary for the stranded was shattered (Monday) by terrifying and illegal acts,” Vocales said.

Police canard

Twenty-two students, two Lumad elders and two teachers were hauled off in what the police claimed was a rescue operation from a military training school inside the Talamban campus of the University of San Carlos.

No less than PNP chief Debold Sinas claimed that “some of the children told (police) investigators that they underwent some form of warfare training while in the custody of their handlers.”

Sinas and the PNP however were immediately rebuffed by a Cebu City social worker who interviewed the Lumad children.

“We won’t comment on that. The children never said that to us. Nothing about training to be child warriors,” Cebu City welfare officer Annie Suico told Philstar.com

“We interviewed all of the children. They said nothing about being indoctrinated. All their guardians taught them were reading and writing,” Suico added.

Denial of legal service

Meanwhile, Atty. King Perez of the National Union of People’s Lawyers in Cebu said he finally was allowed to briefly talk with some of the Lumad in a police jail Tuesday afternoon.

Perez however complained that the police is making is making it difficult for lawyers to consult with the Lumad, saying they were made to wait for hours Monday afternoon, to no avail.

The police are being overly-strict on health protocols, Perez said, which is a “huge irony, given that they took the children and the elderly from the safety of a retreat house just to detain them in a crowded jail.”

Perez said they will try to secure the release of the Lumad today, Wednesday, if no inquest proceedings were held last night.

Meanwhile, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said it is investigating reports of human rights violations in the incident.

“The (CHR) has already dispatched an investigation team yesterday…to look into the situation involving the alleged rescue of (the) Lumad children,” CHR spokesperson Atty Jacqueline de Guia said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Priests deny police story: ‘USC Lumad needed no rescuing’

Priests hosting Lumad students and elders denied the police operation inside a Catholic-run university in Cebu City Monday morning was a rescue mission.

Societas Verbi Divini (SVD) Philippines Southern Province Provincial Fr. Rogelio Bag-ao, SVD and University of San Carlos (USC) President Fr. Narciso Cellan Jr, SVD said they are seriously concerned and surprised that the police alleged the incident was a rescue operation.

“[It] came as a surprise that reports about minors being ‘rescued’ surfaced today. While COSA (Cebu-Commission on Social Advocacies) mentioned that some parents were coming over to fetch their children, it did not dawn on us that the parents’ visit will necessitate the presence of policemen,” the priests in a joint statement said.

Bag-ao and Cellan denied the 24 Lumad as well as two volunteer teachers forcibly hauled from a retreat house inside USC’s Talamban campus to a police camp needed rescuing.

“Here, no rescue need ever be conducted because the presence of the lumads in the retreat house was for their welfare and well-being, and all throughout, they were nurtured, cared for, and treated with their best interest in mind,” they said.

Both explained that their hosting of the Lumad was in support of the bakwit (refugee) school program of the Save Our School’s (SOS) Network, along with Archdiocese of Cebu’s COSA.

President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the closure and destruction of indigenous peoples’ schools since 2017, forcing hundreds of their students as well as their teachers to seek refuge in Metro Manila, Cebu and Davao cities.

The priests pointed out that the four other schools within the archdiocese have hosted as many as 42 Lumad students, five teachers and three community elders (Datu) in the past two years.

The refugees were welcomed at USC-Talamban on May 11, 2020 where they were supposed to complete their modular schooling on April 3, 2020 after which, they would have returned to their respective indigenous communities.

The Lumad were forced to extend their stay since the Cebu City government imposed travel restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic, the priests said.

“After being locked down, the SVD Community has since sheltered the delegation at its retreat house, providing them with comfortable accommodation, and allowing them the use of its facilities for the lumad’s recreation,” Bag-ao and Cellan narrated.

The priests said that four of the delegates have since returned home after quarantine restrictions have loosened while more are scheduled to leave this week.

In videos and photos posted on social media platforms, the Lumad students were shown to have been roughly treated by the police during its operation Monday.

WATCH SOS’ LIVE VIDEO OF THE INCIDENT HERE.

Some were strangled from behind while some were handcuffed as they were hauled to the regional police camp.

‘NPA training inside a Catholic university’

In its News Brief No. 21-0261, the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Central Visayas bragged it rescued the minors from a “child warrior training” inside the university.

“Twenty-one Lumad children were reunited with their parents two years after they were ‘recruited’ by community organizers in Davao del Norte and brought to Cebu City to undergo revolutionary training as future armed combatants,” the police said.

PNP chief Debold Sinas further alleged that the Lumad children belonged to a New People’s Army front based in Talaingod, Davao del Norte.

“Police Regional Office 7 investigators are eyeing serious illegal detention, human trafficking, and violations of RA 9851 (IHL Act) and RA 11188 (Special Protection of Children in Situations of Armed Conflict) charges against the arrested suspects,” the PNP added.

The police has yet to allow human rights lawyers to meet with the detainees, a full day after the arrests.

Lumad school children call for the release of those arrested in Cebu at a rally in Quezon City. (Photo by Jo Maline Mamangun/Kodao)

Demands for immediate release

The SOS in Cebu meanwhile called for the immediate release of the detained Lumad and their teachers, denying the students were coerced.

“The parents of the students provided authorization to the volunteer teachers to allow their children to join the Bakwit School. It is also the decision of the students themselves to take part in the Bakwit School,” SOS-Cebu said in a statement.

The group recalled the refugee schools hosted by schools and churches across the country were in response to the closure of 176 indigenous peoples’ school across Mindanao upon Duterte’s orders.

“It is then ironic for the police to claim to ‘rescue’ the Lumad when it is a truth that is widely known that it is the state forces that continuously harass and red-tag them. It is state forces themselves that continue to harm the Lumad,” SOS-Cebu said.

In Quezon City, the SOS Bakwit School at the University of the Philippines in Diliman led an indignation rally in front of the Commission on Human Rights along with indigenous peoples’ rights advocates Monday afternoon. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Joma: Partisan deployment order not from me

National Democratic Front of the Philippines chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison denies the order to form and deploy New People’s Army (NPA) urban partisan units came from him.

Asked to react to the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) announcement it is looking at possible charges against him, Sison said the new allegations that he ordered the deployment is a “pure concoction of the butcher (PNP chief Debold) Sinas and his fascist superiors.”

Sison said he is not in any position to give any special order to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) or the NPA to deploy partisans.

Sison said he was among the guests in a recent international webinar on human rights violations of the Rodrigo Duterte government when other speakers and inquirers from the audience brought up the issue of the possible revival of the NPA’s armed city partisan units.

He said he merely acknowledged the fact that there had been such a strong public clamor since 2016 when the mass murder of suspected street-level users of illegal drugs had been perpetrated by the police.

“Although I acknowledged the public clamor during the webinar, I was careful to state that it is the Central Committee of the CPP that decides such questions concerning the nationwide revival of the armed city partisans,” Sison said.

“[A]nd I referred to the publications of the CPP and the statements of Marco Valbuena, CPP spokesman, that the CPP is really concerned about the brutal extrajudical killings being done by the military and police under the direction of the chief butcher Duterte,” he explained.

Standing order?

Sinas announced Monday that the PNP is looking at filing a complaint against Sison after alleging the partisan unit deployment is a standing order from him.

Sinas said he already spoke with PNP legal officers for the possible filing of a complaint against Sison.

“We are looking at its possible effect, if his statement can be used against him for any criminal case. I have already talked to some of our legal officers to ask if there is a case for threat, whatsoever, that could be filed over his pronouncements,” Sinas, in Filipino, told a press briefing.

“Once our legal team determines the case that could be filed, then we will file the case in court,” the police chief added.

Old order

A review of the CPP’s 41st anniversary statement however showed that its plan to revive its urban partisan units was announced as early as December 26, 2009.

“We must have a plan to increase the number of Red commanders and fighters, units of the NPA and guerrilla fronts from around 120 to 180 in order to cover the rural congressional districts and gain the ability to deploy armed city partisan units in the urban congressional districts,” part of the statement said.

“The NPA can take the initiative of developing armed city partisan warfare and launching special operations against enemy facilities and anti-people enterprises in order to force the enemy forces to go on guard duty and put more of its troops on the defensive,” it added.

The CPP said the NPA in urban areas must target for arrest and trial violators of human rights and international humanitarian law. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

PNP’s Oplan Sauron and SEMPO killed the Tumandok 9—Bishop

A Roman Catholic Bishop said the massacre of nine Tumandok tribesfolk in Panay Island is a continuation of the mass killings and arrests in Negros Island since 2018 under operations devised by now Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Debold Sinas and one of his predecessors  and now Senator Rogelio “Bato” Dela Rosa.

San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza said that the Rizal Day massacre of the Tumandok is similar to the massacre of six and the mass arrest of 26 in the towns Guihulngan, Mabinay, and Sta. Catalina in Negros Oriental in December 2018 as well as the killing of 14 farmers in the island in March 2019.

“We recall with sadness that the ‘one-time, big-time’ SEMPO (Synchronized Enhanced Management of Police Operations) under Oplan Sauron by then-PNP Provincial Regional Office-7 Director Debold Sinas and PNP Chief Rogelio ‘Bato’ Dela Rosa led to violent killings and arrests,” Alminaza said in a statement.

“These operations were carried out mostly during wee hours, and the farmers were shot under unproven claims that they fought it out,” he added.

The Prelate also noted that the killings were part of the police’s service of search and arrest warrants while those arrested were later charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

Police and military operatives raided Tumandok tribal communities in Tapaz, Capiz and Calinog in Iloilo last December 30 that resulted in the death of nine who have been previously accused by government agents as New People’s Army members.

Killed were Eliseo Gayas, Jr., Mauro Diaz, Arcelito Katipunan, Mario Aguirre, Roy Giganto, Jomer Vidal, Dalson Catamin, Reynaldo Katipunan and Rolando Diaz, Sr. who campaigned for the return of their ancestral land by the military and opposed the construction of the Jalaur Mega-Dam project.

Some of the victims were elderly while four of them were elected local government officials.

Sixteen were also arrested, including minors.

However, both Oplan Sauron and SEMPO “failed to bring lasting peace and instead bred a culture of even more violence and disrespect for our people,” Alminaza said.

“Under the (Rodrigo) Duterte administration and Oplan Sauron alone, there are now over 106 cases of unsolved extrajudicial killings recorded in Negros island,” he added.

Alminaza said he is alarmed the killings in Capiz demonstrate how Oplan Sauron and SEMPO will be implemented throughout the country.

“To President Duterte and PNP Chief Sinas: Serve the God of Peace; Stop Sauron, the Lord of Evil!” the Bishop said.

Earlier, the Capiz Archdiocese Social Action Center (CASAC) expressed sadness that some of the victims were farmers and members of the indigenous people’s tribe while some are still missing and their families grieving.

“[T]his incident raises our concern and thus, vehemently condemn this act of violence. In this time of calmness, there should be no room for the cultivation of fear and impunity,” CASAC said.

The Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR) in Panay and Guimaras islands likewise condemned the Capiz massacre and blamed Sinas and President Duterte for the carnage.

“The brazen extra-judicial killings and illegal arrests of leaders of the Tumandok…is part of the nationwide implementation of PNP Chief Sinas’ version of ‘political tokhang,’ his brainchild SEMPO,” PCPR said.

The faith-based group also blamed the SEMPO for the assassinations of Bayan Muna Iloilo City Coordinator Jose Reynaldo “Jory” Porquia and Federation of Ilonggo Farmers leader John Farochilin in April 2020. # (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)

Sea of white makes crusading Bishop’s heart grateful

San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza said his heart was filled with gratitude when he saw a sea of white as he celebrated Mass at the San Carlos Borromeo Cathedral last Christmas Eve and yesterday, Christmas day.

In response to his call that parishioners wear white during Masses on December 24 and 25 to demand for an end to extrajudicial killings in Negros Island, thousands of parishioners throughout the Diocese turned church pews to white, the fourth straight year they did so.

“I feel until now so much gratitude in my heart! For so many reasons, [including] that our people are still very much with us,” Alminaza told Kodao.

“We are very much in touch with our people and we truly express their deepest sentiments when we called on them to wear white as an act of solidarity and to express our desire for and commitment to peace, sanctity of life, human dignity and human rights, and our collective call to end the killings, COVID pandemic and abuse of our common home,” the prelate added.

Mass at San Carlos Borromeo Cathedral, San Carlos City, Neg. Occ. celebrated by Bishop Gerardo Alminaza. (Photo from the Bishop’s Facebook account)

Oplan Sauron

Towards the end of his homily at the funeral Mass for slain red-tagged community doctor Mary Rose Sancelan and husband Edwin last December 22, Alminaza again called on his Church’s faithful to collectively act for justice for the victims of extrajudicial killings in the island.

The Sancelans were shot to death by unidentified assassins at past five o’clock in the afternoon of December 15 near their home in Carmen Ville Subdivision, Barangay Poblacion, Guihulngan City.

Their assassination was the latest in a long list of extrajudicial killings in the island that included massacres of peasants and assassination of lawyers, activists, progressive politicians, dubious midnight raids that resulted in massacres in the past three years.

The Philippine National Police-Central Visayas’ counter-insurgency program Oplan Sauron has also resulted in mass arrests of workers, journalists and human rights defenders.

Sancelan, Guihulgan City health officer and Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) chief, was previously included in the hit list of the anti-communist vigilante group Kawsa Guihulnganon Batok Komunista (Kagubak) in 2019.

Kagubak mistakenly named her as JB Regalado, Central Negros New People’s Army spokesperson.

Sancelan was among the five in the Kagubak hit list who have since been killed, including lawyer Anthony Trinidad, Heidi Malalay Flores, and Boy Litong and his son.

Mass at the St Anthony De Padua Parish Church, Toboso, Negros Occidental, ked by Fr, Martin Brodit. (Photo from Bishop Alminaza’s FB account)

Right values

But Alminaza expressed gratitude that the faithful of his Diocese “have not lost yet [their] right values and priorities : sanctity of life, human dignity and human rights, integrity of creation, solidarity. “

The prelate said the Diocese’s display of solidarity proved that it is “a listening Church.”

“I also feel affirmed, very happy, inspired and encouraged. It shows the collective efforts of everyone: our priests, religious, and lay faithful,” he said.

Alminaza said he witnessed how the members of the diocese reminded each other through text and personal message before they left their homes to wear white in accordance with his request.

“I witnessed how we all feel so empowered that we are all in this together! Our message is CLEAR: #WearWhiteForPEACE #StopTheKillingsPH #DefendLifeAndRights #SilenceKills #Justiceforallvictims #CareForThePoor #CareForOurCommonHome,” he said.

Christmas Eve Vigil Mass at Nuestra Señora de las Flores Mission Station, Brgy Masulog, Canlaon City. (Photo fro, Bishop Alminaza’s FB account)

Mixed emotions

Alminaza however revealed that while his brother priests were mostly happy to see a sea of white during the Masses, one told him he felt angry because of the continuing incidence of extrajudicial killings in Negros and throughout the country.

But the Bishop said that the priests of his diocese mostly felt happy with the response of the faithful.

“I feel further affirmed when another (priest) also shared, ‘Personally, I felt joy because I saw the lay faithful listening and participating and cooperating in our various advocacy and diocesan pastoral concerns, particularly our collective call to end the killings, commitment to peace, sanctity of life, and others,’” he said.

Another priest told him the people’s response has become a powerful symbol of the diocese’s collective awareness about the social realities the Church is faced with, the Bishop said.

The priest added he felt challenged not to get discouraged or remain in the sidelines because the people look up to [the Church] for guidance especially at this time.

Mass at St. Joseph Parish, Sagay City. (Photo from Bishop Alminaza’s FB account)

Bell ringing to continue

Alminaza told Kodao that the nightly 8 PM ringing of church bells throughout the Diocese will continue this Christmas [season], “and beyond until the killings stop.”

“The bells are intended to prick the conscience of those who move in our midst and exact evil in killing hapless civilians; they must turn from their wicked ways,” he said.

“The bells ring as a soothing reminder to families who have been victimized that we are with them in their grief. Most importantly, they are a clarion call to our people that we must rise and pursue justice and peace!” Alminaza added.

The Bishop said he is asking the vigilante group Kagubak to stop terrorizing the people in Guihulngan with a list of those to be killed. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Christmas and Fiesta Mass at the Holy Family Chaplaincy, Central Lopez, Sagay City. (Photo from Bishop Alminaza’s FB account)
Christmas Eve Mass at St. John Mary Vianney Seminary College, Inc., San Carlos City  ·(Photo from Bishop Alminaza’s FB account)

Huling Yakap ni Nanay Sonya

By Carlos Isagani T. Zarate

Namanhid na ang aking mga alaala:

mabilis na nag-agaw ang liwanag

at dilim sa aking gunita — sigaw

ng umalingawngaw na takot

at hambalos ng mainit na mga tingga!


Handa nang manibasib ang mga halimaw;

iwinawasiwas ang pabaong birtud ng poon!

Tanging sandata ay imbing mga kataga,

pananggalang ang mahigpit, mainit,

walang bitiw na mga yakap mo, Nanay!


Subalit sa pagitan ng isang kisapmata,

ang iyong mahigpit na yakap – ang tila pusod

na muling sa ati’y nag-ugnay, sa aki’y

nagbigay ng lakas at buhay — ay pinasabog

ng abuso, kahayupan at kalupitan!


Sa isang kisapmata, ang iyong humulagpos na yakap

at nabubuwal na hapong katawan aking nasilayan;

gusto kung sumigaw: ‘Wag mo akong bitawan, Nanay,

higpitan mo pa ang iyong mapag-aruga , mapag-adyang

mga yakap — labanan natin. Ang dilim!


caritaz. 21 disyembre 2020

(The poet is a third-term Bayan Muna Representative to the Philippine Congress)

Artwork by Aurelio Castro III (Used with permission)