Posts

‘Stop the attacks,’ defenders demand on human rights day

Human rights defenders held coordinated rallies all over the Philippines last International Human Rights Day to demand a stop to attacks on civil, political and economic liberties under the Rodrigo Duterte regime.

In Manila, the activists marched from Liwasang Bonifacio to Mendiola where they torched another Duterte effigy they said showed the many ways the government violate people’s rights. (Video by Carlo Francisco)

Casambre arrest proves Duterte ‘cannot be trusted’

The Rodrigo Duterte government is “ludicrous” in arresting and charging yet another National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant with trumped-up murder and attempted murder cases, various groups said.

The arrest of long-time peace consultant and Philippine Peace Center (PPC) executive director Rey Claro Casambre and spouse Patricia Cora in Bacoor, Cavite early Friday morning as well as the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) claim a calibre .45 gun and a grenade were found in the couple’s car drew quick condemnations from activists who said the incident is yet another canard by “peace spoilers.”

Rey and Cora just came from a wake at the University of the Philippines campus in Quezon City when arrested by members of the PNP’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group.

They were taken to Camp Crame in Quezon City early Friday morning where they were informed of a warrant of arrest against Rey for murder and attempted murder he allegedly committed along with six others in Davao Oriental Province.

The warrant of arrest was issued on November 23 by Judge Emilio Dayanghirang III of Lupon Regional Trial Court Branch 32.

No details of the murder and attempted murder charges have been made public yet.

“As usual, and as predictable as the sun will come out tomorrow, the non-bailable murder charges are trumped-up and sprang out of nowhere. And as tiringly contrived as expected, a roving firearm and a rusty grenade were again routinely planted to make the arrest appear aboveboard for good measure,” NDFP legal consultant Atty. Edre Olalia fumed.

Olalia said nobody would ever believe such false narrative, noting that Casambre is a publicly-known peace consultant who is also covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).

“As such, [Casambre] should not have been [subjected to surveillance], harassed and arrested for an indubitably manufactured case,” Olalia said.

The lawyer said Rey’s spouse Cora is a translator with the PPC where he is executive director for the longest time

“The arrest of the Casambres, treacherous as it is baseless, once again proves that this government cannot be trusted and that it is the number one violator of the most basic rights especially of those seeking genuine and long-lasting solutions to the problems besetting our people and our country,” Olalia said.

Casambre is the fourth NDFP peace consultant after Rafael Baylosis, Adelberto Silva and Vicente Ladlad arrested after Duterte effectively terminated the once-promising peace negotiations in November 2017.

Baylosis was arrested last January, Silva in October and Ladlad in November and were each charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

All four are elderly and suffering from various ailments.

More condemnations

Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Ysagani Zarate said the Casambres’ arrest is the same modus that the police used in arresting Ladlad, Baylosis and Silva.

“They planted guns and explosives and filed trumped up charges,” the progressive solon said.

Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights secretary general Cristina Palabay said only fools would believe the elderly Casambre couple would be carrying weapons inside their vehicle.

“All bear the same signs of fabricated charges,” Palabay said.

Atty. Rachel Pastores, lawyer for the Casambres said the arrest was carried out by “peace spoilers” who betray government’s insincerity in the peace negotiations.

“We now fear for the safety of others involved in the peace talks. Among them, [our] clients Alexander and Winona Birondo who were part of the NDFP delegation and whose cases were recently dismissed by a Quezon City trial court. The Birondo spouse have reported intense surveillance and harassment,” Pastores said.

By harassing and rounding up all peace consultants and unnecessarily demonizing them, the PNP exploits their badges as law enforcers, and aids and abets the scuttling of the peace talks, Pastores said.

Zarate added it is tragic and ironic that Casambre, who is pushing for the resumption of the peace talks and who even attended the Congress hearing for the approval of the resolution for the resumption of the negotiations, is the one behind bars while hawks pushing for war are even promoted by Duterte.

“The Duterte administration is ill-advised if they think that the armed conflict can be solved with this type of modus and a purely military solution without addressing the roots of the armed conflict,” Zarate said.

‘Ludicrous’

The NDFP Negotiating Panel for its part said Casambre’s arrest is unjust and ludicrous that virtually closes the doors to any possibility of resuming the peace negotiations with the Duterte regime.

NDFP’s chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili said the charges against Casambre related to an incident in Lupon, Davao Oriental on September 13 this year involve others who are currently experiencing “intense harassment and surveillance.”

The others have assisted the NDFP Negotiating Panel in various capacities as resource persons, writers, researchers and staff during the peace negotiations, Agcaoili said.

“To ensure the smooth resumption of the formal peace talks, the detained peace consultants should be released immediately,” he added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘Binabantaan ng pag-aresto’

“Ang NDFP ay ginagawa ang lahat ng paraan para buhayin ang usapang pangkapayapaan. Kahit ang mga peace negotiator ang pumupunta dito, pero sila ay binabantaan pa rin ng pag aresto.”–Renato Reyes Jr, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general

(Meme by Carlo Francisco)

Galvez ill-suited as peace adviser—Karapatan

Criticism greeted Malacañan Palace’s announcement of President Rodrigo Duterte’s planned appointment of Carlito Galvez Jr. as Presidential adviser on the peace process, citing the general’s role in the collapse of the peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights in a statement said Duterte’s decision to appoint the retiring Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff as peace adviser is nailing the door to peace shut.

“What will a high-ranking military officer contribute to the advancement of the peace process when the institution [he leads] has been largely behind the derailment and collapse of the negotiations?” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.

Palabay said it is likely that the general will only turn OPAPP into the “Office of the Presidential Adviser on Preventing Peace.”

“War is business, and the military is adept at profiting from violating people’s rights,” Palabay added.

Malacañan said Wednesday the President is set to appoint Galvez as replacement to Presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza who recently resigned “for failing to curb corruption in the agency.”

Duterte publicly fired OPAPP Undersecretary for Support Services Ronald Flores and Assistant Secretary Yeshton Donn Baccay of the agency’s Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) program last November 26.

Before Dureza’s resignation, however, Galvez already announced he was keen on being a peace adviser when he retires from military service this month.

Prior to his appointed as AFP chief, Galvez was chairperson of the government’s Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

He said he used to visit territories controlled by belligerent forces in his 12 years as a military officer in Mindanao.

Karapatan, however, said Galvez is ill-suited to become a peace adviser because he actively and strongly opposed the peace negotiations between the government and the NDFP, along with defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana and national security adviser Hermogenes Esperon.

““The mercenary character of the military prevents them from understanding that peace is not merely the laying down of arms, but a condition that necessitates social justice,” Palabay said.

Palabay also pointed out that Galvez’s appointment will make him the seventh former AFP Chief appointed to key civilian positions in Duterte’s government.

 

Among other former AFP Chiefs-of-Staff appointed by Duterte are Esperon, Año, environment and natural resources secretary Roy Cimatu and social work and development secretary Joselito Bautista.

“Duterte may think he is keeping the military in line by doling out key civilian positions to military men, but he is further endangering the Filipino people. The control of the military over communities will heighten, insidiously using civilian agencies as arsenal against Filipinos themselves,” Palabay warned.

She added that Duterte’s militarization of the bureaucracy undermines civilian supremacy.

“This is how the Duterte regime intends to stay in power amid widespread protest and resistance – fear and repression to be manned by a set of military men kept loyal through the awarding of political favors at our expense,” Palabay concluded. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Activists commemorate Bonifacio Day with protests

Activists held protest actions in Mendiola and the United States Embassy in Manila last November 30 in time for Philippine national hero Andres Bonifacio’s 155th birth anniversary.

A highlight of the activities was the burning of yet another effigy of President Rodrigo Duterte they blame for the occupation of China of islands in the West Philippine Sea.

They also condemned Duterte for his bloody human rights record. (Video by Mark Kenneth Solanoy)

 

TRAIN Package 1A: From the poor to the rich

Government’s continued implementation of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) means that TRAIN’s taxes will keep raising prices next year and make inflation higher than it should be.

Read: TRAIN still inflationary with lifting of fuel excise suspension

Free Satur and France; free the Lumad children

The Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC) condemns the illegal detention of Former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo and ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro and other delegates of the National Solidarity Mission (NSM) in Davao del Norte since 9:30 pm last night November 28 by the combined elements of the 56th IB, Philippine National Police and Municipal Social Work and Development Officers.

CRC also denounces threats of Anti-Trafficking and violation of RA 7610 charges against the NSM delegation, after rescuing the Lumad people from further harassment of the army and ALAMARA in their community following the closure of the main school of Salugpongan Ta Tanu Igkakanon Learning Center Inc (STTILCI) in Dulyan, Davao del Norte yesterday November 28, 2018.

The escalation of military attacks on schools spread fear and paranoia among children in the schools of STTILCI and the Lumad communities in Mindanao.

CRC calls for the release of Rep. Satur Ocampo, Rep France Castro and the rest of the NSM. End Martial Law in Mindanao. Let the children study in their schools, pull out military troops from the Lumad communities. #

TRAIN still inflationary with lifting of fuel excise suspension

Research group IBON said that government’s continued implementation of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) means that TRAIN’s taxes will keep raising prices next year and make inflation higher than it should be.

The group said that lifting the fuel excise tax suspension shows the Duterte administration’s insincerity and insensitivity in addressing the inflationary impact of the tax reform program, particularly on poor Filipino households.

The administration’s interagency Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) recently announced its plan to recommend that the second tranche of fuel excise tax be implemented, backpedaling on its previous suspension proposal.

The DBCC cited the lowering of Dubai crude oil prices and consideration of possible foregone revenues as reasons for its latest recommendation.

IBON however said that not going through with the suspension means new inflationary pressure next year from the second round of oil excise taxes in January 2019 on top of the now built-in additional prices from the first round in January 2018.

The liquid petroleum gas (LPG) excise tax of Php1.00 per kilogram (kg) in 2018 increases to Php2.00/kg in 2019, and Php3.00/kg in 2020. Diesel excise tax of Php2.50/liter in 2018 increases to Php4.50/liter in 2019, and Php6.00/liter in 2020.

Kerosene excise tax of Php3.00/liter in 2018 increases to Php4.00/liter in 2019 and Php5.00/liter in 2020.

The gasoline excise tax meanwhile is set to increase from Php7.00/liter in 2018 to Php9.00/liter in 2019 and Php10.00/liter in 2020.

IBON said that another fuel excise tax hike further increases costs of production. This will create a domino effect that will sustain the high prices of goods and services that many Filipinos, especially the poor, suffered this past year.

IBON estimates that the poorest 60 million Filipinos have already endured real income losses of anywhere between Php2,500 to Php6,800 due to worsening inflation since the onset of 2018.

The group added that it is premature to think that oil prices are going to stay low or that the peso will not continue to depreciate.

Oil prices remain volatile and could still increase next year with US sanctions on Iran gaining traction, possible Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) production cuts, and untoward geopolitical events.

IBON insisted that the administration can do much to moderate inflation by suspending the inflationary taxes of TRAIN package 1.

IBON said that government should stop imposing higher consumption taxes such as the fuel excise which burdens the majority of poor Filipinos who can ill afford this amid low wages and growing joblessness. 

 

Instead, the government should improve revenue collection by cracking down on tax evaders and corruption in the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and Bureau of Customs (BOC). 

 

It should also build a tax system that raises revenues more from higher income, wealth and property taxes on the rich.#

Charges against Satur and aid group has no basis–LODI

The Duterte regime has reached a new low with the filing of preposterous human trafficking and kidnapping charges against veteran journalist, activist and human rights advocate Satur Ocampo, ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro as they were on a fact-finding to aid beleaguered indigenous people in Talaingod, Davao del Norte.

The arts and media alliance, Let’s Organize for Democracy and Integrity demands the immediate release of Ocampo and Castro and their 17 companions.

The charges are baseless, meant to cover up the truth: That it is the paramilitary groups Alamara and Magahat Bagani, commanded by the Philippine Army, that lay waste to Lumad communities. They should be the ones facing charges as they have killed Lumad leaders, shut down schools, and driven off communities from ancestral lands that President Rodrigo Duterte has promised to business and foreign patrons.

Ocampo is a a columnist with The Philippine Star and chairperson of the Board of Directors of Bulatlat.com. He joined the 19-member National Humanitarian Mission that went to Talaingod Wednesday night to bring aid to the Lumad.

Ocampo and the rest of the mission accompanied the Lumad evacuees at the Talaingod police station to lodge complaints against the paramilitary group Alamara. To preempt the human rights case, cops concocted their lies.

The charge has no basis. The parents of 29 Lumad students provided written statements of recognition for the mission’s presence and purpose.

This afternoon, Ocampo and the others were taken to Kapalong District Hospital and eventually to the Tagum City Prosecutors Office for inquest proceedings.

We repeat: accusing Ocampo, who is all of 79 years old, of trumped-up charges of kidnapping and human trafficking is preposterous. We demand that the Talaingod PNP withdraw its charges against Satur Ocampo and he is set free immediately.

We warn the Duterte government that detaining an elderly journalist who is only acting on his convictions that are well within his rights would earn the greater condemnation of the journalistic community in the Philippines and the world. #

4 missing teachers in Philippine Army custody

A Church group said its four volunteer teachers missing since November 12 were abducted and are being detained by government soldiers in Lanao del Sur.

The Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) today said Philippine Army troopers illegally arrested and are detaining literacy-numeracy volunteer teachers Tema Namatidong (28), Julius Torregosa (30), Ariel Barluado (22) and Giovanni Solomon (30).

Citing reports from its Northern Mindanao Sub-Region (NMR) office, RMP said that the four teachers were conducting classes on agriculture and community beautification when soldiers belonging to the 51st and 81st Infantry Battallions on board four military trucks arrived at Sitio Babalayan, Barangay Durongan, Tagoloan 2, Lanao del Sur, morning of November 12.

The soldiers were said to be looking for Sultan Jamla and Datu Langi who are community leaders in the area.

From then on, the volunteers went missing and cannot be contacted, RMP said.

On November 27, 2018, RMP-NMR and the Social Action Center of the Archdiocese of Iligan City were able to contact Corporal Rico Ordaneza of the 103rd Infantry Brigade who confirmed that the four are in his unit’s custody.

“We demand the immediate release of our volunteer teachers. They have been in the custody of the 103rd Brigade for 15 days– more than the prescribed number of days allowed by law that police/military personnel can detain suspected persons or persons of interests without cases filed before them,” Sr. Elenita Belardo, RMP national coordinator said.

A mission partner of the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP), the RMP said its literacy-numeracy program in Mindanao is an effort to reach communities too far away from regular schools, and is implemented with the help of the community members.

“These volunteer teachers are helping the children of their own community. Not everyone can have the perseverance and dedication that they have. They should be treated with respect and admiration and not be harassed and persecuted, ” Belardo said.

The RMP said the incident is among the latest attacks against tribal schools, students and teachers that have intensified especially with the Mindanao-wide Martial Law still in place.

On November 17, Esteban Empong Sr., 49,  a member of a Lumad school’s Parents-Teachers Community Association was shot dead while asleep in a relative’s house in Kitaotao, Bukidnon while five students who are all minors were allegedly tortured by soldiers of the 19th IBPA while they were on their way home in Magpet, North Cotabato on November 18, the group cited.

The group also stated that that under President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration, one to two Lumad schools are being attacked every day with threats and harassments, military encampment, illegal arrest and detention, torture, destruction of schools, forcible closures and extrajudicial killings of teachers, parents and even students and among others.

“We demand an end to these attacks and we call on our friends from the religious community to denounce this latest arrest and echo the call for the release of our teachers. “ Belardo said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)