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Epic film on missing activist is finalist in this year’s Cinemalaya  

In a country known to produce full-length feature films in just seven days, a film 17 years in the making is one of this year’s finalists of the Cinemalaya Film Festival.

Alipato at Muog (Flying Embers and a Fortress) started shooting two days after director JL Burgos’s brother Jonas was abducted in a Quezon City mall in April 2007. It uncovers the hard truths behind their family’s tireless search for justice.

In the film, JL gives light to the pursuit of truth led by their mother, press freedom icon Editha Burgos. He compiles testimonials from a lawyer, reporter, former Justice Secretary and Human Rights Commission Chair, and anonymous witnesses to give deeper context to Jonas’ disappearance.

JL further details the ordeal through animation and previously unseen footage of their family’s search, including the discovery of Jonas’s last known photo in captivity.

Since his brother’s abduction, JL has been helping spread awareness about enforced disappearance and other human rights issues. Previously, he produced and directed full-length human rights documentaries Portraits of Mosquito Press (2015) and Han-Ayan (2017).

Alipato at Muog director JL with mother and press freedom icon Edith Burgos at the Cinemalaya XX media conference. (Alipato at Muog Facebook page photo)

Portraits tells of the Burgos family’s fight for press freedom under Ferdinand Marcos Sr.’s dictatorship. Imprisoned during martial law, Burgos patriarch Joe founded We Forum and Malaya, fiercely independent publications that fought the dictatorship.

Han-ayan tells of a Lumad community’s fight for their right to self-determination, paying for their struggle with blood, sweat and tears.

JL is a proponent of Stop The Attacks, a campaign by artists for artists who have been victims of constant red-tagging and harassment by the state.

The Burgos’s search for Jonas set in motion a continuing probe here and abroad not only into his enforced disappearance, but also into the plight of other families with missing loved ones.

Alipato at Muog will be screened at the Cinemalaya XX Festival from August 2 to 11 at the Ayala Mall, Manila Bay.

An annual independent film festival and competition, Cinemalaya is organized by the Cultural Center of the Philippines. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Environment advocate bares torture during abduction, enforced disappearance

by Maujerie Ann Miranda

Environment advocate and abduction survivor Francisco “Eco” Dangla III bared in a press conference at the Commission on Human Rights in Quezon City today the ordeal he and a fellow activist underwent in the hands of their attackers.

Last March 24, Dangla and Joxelle “Jak” Tiaong were violently kidnapped in San Carlos City, Pangasinan by probable state agents while on board a tricycle on their way home from a consultation with community leaders. 

They were surfaced after three days of harrowing physical and psychological torture he feared he and Tiaong would not survive.

“After some time in the hands of our abductors, we really thought we would be killed,” he said.

The victims were convenors of the Pangasinan People’s Strike for the Environment, fighting against projects such as offshore black sand mining and the establishment of coal power plants they said are being opposed by many Pangasinan residents and institutions such as the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan.

Dangla said he tried using his mobile phone but was ordered at gunpoint to stop. After a prolonged struggle with his abductors that left him with wounds and bruises, he also shouted for help from the residents.

Dangla said they were blindfolded in all the three days and nights they were kept in a safe house, leaving him with deep scars around his eyes.

He revealed that they were constantly interrogated about their alleged links with the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army (NPA).

They were also given names the two were supposed to profile.

 “The first night of the abduction was the worse because they did not allow us to sleep with their incessant questioning,” he said.

The two environmentalists tried reasoning with their abductors, saying they are working with the Church in resisting the construction of more coal-fired power plants in the area, as well as the massive offshore magnetite mining project on Lingayen Gulf.

“I even cited Pope Francis’ Laudato Si as the reason for our activities,” to which our attackers retorted we are just using the church for our alleged activities as NPA recruiters,” he said in Filipino.

Both Dangla and Tiaong are environment ministry affiliates of the archdiocese.

Environment activist, and abduction and enforced disappearance survivor Francisco ‘Eco’ Dangla III. (Photo by R. Villanueva/Kodao)

Days and nights of torture

Dangla said he and Tiaong were repeatedly hit on the head, arms and torso when the abductors disliked their answers.

Dangla said that the pyschological torture was greater than the physical.

He revealed their abductors said there was a cobra beside them ready to bite. He also heard a back hoe in the background the kidnappers said they will use to bury them if they do not admit to their allegations.

Dangla added, “Susunugin kami, tapos ilalaga kami sa gulong. May naaamoy [ naman ako] na nasusunog na plastic, na gulong.” (They will burn us, stew us in burning rubber tires. That was when I smelled burning plastic, rubber.)

The abductors also threatened to electrocute them and were told that the biscuits offered them were laced with truth serum.

Dangla said that the death threats to their family were the worse. 

“They asked about our family background and told us they would kill them as well if we do not confess to whatever they were accusing us of,” he said.

Just before they were freed, the abductors allowed them to take a shower but put marks on their backs to continue the intimidation.

“Iniisip ko kung babarilin ba [ako] o sisipain tapos ihuhulog sa pozo negro,” Dangla said. (I was thinking, they would shoot us and dump us in a septic tank.)

On March 27, they were released. 

Surviving the ordeal

The environment activist shared, “Noong nasa kamay [kami] ng mga abductor ,nananantya [ako] kung mabubuhay o mamamatay [kami]. Gusto [ko] ding i-assure [si Jak] kung mamamatay man [kami], siguro naghahanap ‘yung mga kasama. Marami namang nagmamahal sa atin, na tama yung ginagawa namin.”

(While we were in the hands of the abductors, I did not know whether we would survive or die. I wanted to assure Jak that, if we indeed die, our colleagues were probably looking for us. There are many who love us; that what we are doing is right.)

He thanked the community, the churches and fellow advocates who helped them and called for their surfacing.

Francisco ‘Eco’ Dangla III with fellow environment activist and abduction survivor Jonila Castro (left) and Karapatan-Central Luzon leader Pia Montalban (right). [Photo by MA Miranda/Kodao)

It could only be state forces

The environment advocate shared that he has been experiencing harassment from state forces since 2014, which intensified in 2018 and 2019 when he was tagged as a “regional threat” by the Ilocos Regional Peace and Security Council.

Dangla revealed that placards were also hung around Pangasinan in the past accusing him of being a recruiter for the NPA for his environmental activism.

He was also a victim of online red-tagging during the pandemic.

Jonila Castro, herself an environmental activist, abducted and then surfaced last September with fellow anti-Manila Bay reclamation activities campaigner Jhed Tamano, called for accountability and justice for all victims of enforced disappearance during the press conference.

Castro said Dangla and Tiaong’s case is another proof that the human rights situation has not improved under the Ferdinand Marcos Jr. government.

She condemned the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict and its practice of forcing communities and leaders to falsely “surrender” as Communist insurgents.

Karapatan Central Luzon regional coordinator Pia Montalban said enforced disappearance cases follow the pattern of red-tagging and harassment by the State before the abducted of victims.

“Kaya di po kami masisisi na ang sisisihin namin ay ang Estado o ang armadong pwersa nito,” said Montalban. (That is why we cannot be faulted for pointing out to the State and its armed forces as the perpetrators.)

Lee Sudario, Norman Ortiz, Steve Abua, Ma. Elena “Cha” Pampoza, and Elgene “Leleng” Mungcal are some of the abducted activists in Central Luzon that have yet to be surfaced, according to Montalban. 

The human rights advocate emphasized the legitimate advocacies of the abducted, such as the protection of the environment, land for the farmers, among others.

Karapatan Central Luzon called for the surfacing of all desaparacidos and the end to the abduction and other forms of harassment to activists. #

TAMBAYAN Ep 3: Kumusta na sina Jhed at Jonila?

Sa pinakahuling episode ng Tambayan ngayong tinaguriang ‘International Day of Climate Action’, kumustahin natin ang dalawang environmental defenders na sina Jhed Tamano at Jonila Castro. Kamakailan lang ay kinasuhan sila ng Department of National Defense ng perjury kaugnay ng paglalantad nila ng pagdukot sa kanila ng mga militar.

Sa gitna ng unos

(Para kay Gene Roz Jamil C. de Jesus)

Ni Ibarra Banaag

Kahit lumuluha sa gitna ng hinahon,

nawa’y mapangibabawan ang hamon,

sana’y maging kalmado sa kumunoy,

kahit pa tumatangis sa dapit hapon.

Ano kaya ang kaniyang dinadanas,

sa sakmal ng mga walang habag,

ang bunsong sa Ina ay tumahan,

na ilang araw na niyang hinahanap.

Sa nagpayabong ng dahon at bulaklak,

 na sa alikabok ay muli pang madama,

sidhi at diliryo ng dambuhalang bigat,

namumukod tanging hangarin matupad.

Ang bisig at kamay na yumayakap,

mga matang may taglay na liwanag,

ang labi na humahalik sa dalamhati,

mga binting naghahatid ng pagbati.

Ngunit kahit sa siphayo’y di mapakali,

kahit pa pilit niyayapos ang pangamba,

kahit pa bangungot ay karimarimarin,

hiling sa Diyos, matunton ang hininga.

Higit na mahalaga ay magka-tuldok,

kaysa mabalisa ng walang tagpos,

at huwag matuyo ang luha sa pisngi,

o ibaon pa sa duyan ng huling hibik.

Subalit habang ang puso’y tumitibok,

ang bawat pintig ay lukso ng dugo,

handang manikluhod sa haring araw,

na bunutin na ang tarak na balaraw.

Ang salitang handa ay walang mukha,

ang tatag ng dibdib ay mapanlinlang,

abutin mang mapaos ang mga tinig,

‘di kailaman magbabago ang tindig.

May 8, 2023

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De Jesus is a former student leader and a cum laude graduate of UP Baguio, reported missing since April 28 with Dexter Capuyan, a Bontoc-Ibaloy-Kankanaey indigenous peoples’ right activist. The latter had been accused by state forces as a leader in the New People’s Army.

The two were in Taytay, Rizal where Capuyan was seeking medical attention before they became incommunicado. Human rights group said that it is likely that they have been abducted by the military and demand that the two be immediately surfaced.

Dexter Capuyan (Photo from the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance)

AMARC Asia-Pacific Demands Immediate Release of Elena “Lina” Tijamo and Frenchie Mae Cumpio of the Philippines

25 June 2020

KATHMANDU, Nepal–AMARC Asia-Pacific demands the immediate release of Elena “Lina” Tijamo, the Community Radio Coordinator of a farmers’ group (FARDEC) in Bantayan Island, Cebu, the Philippines. Elena, 58, was forcibly taken from her home in Barangay Kampingganon, Bantayan, Cebu in the evening of June 13. According to media reports, suspected military elements—four armed masked men in civilian clothes accompanied by two women—held back family members while they covered Tijamo’s mouth with tape, tied her hands, and took her away. As of today, Elena remains missing.

Elena is the program coordinator for sustainable agriculture FARDEC, non-profit, non-government organization that offers paralegal and educational services to farmers facing land issues. She is also the Community Radio Coordinator of FARDEC in Bantayan Island, Cebu. According to media sources, Elena was red-tagged by state elements as being an “alleged New People’s Army.” In its statement of June 14, FARDEC has said “our stand for the rights of farmers has resulted in the targeting of FARDEC by protectors of vested interests.” A detail media report is available at https://kodao.org/iawrt-community-radio-coordinator-abduct…/.

The incident happened while the much-protested “Anti-Terrorism Bill” in the Philippines is in the process of becoming law. The bill, fast-tracked from May 29 and approved in Congress three sessions later, was condemned by all quarters of Philippine society—media, schools, lawyers, church, business, celebrities, etc. for the broad definition of terrorism that may be used against critics.

Speaking on the incident, Ramnath Bhat, President of AMARC Asia-Pacific has demanded the immediate release of Elena “Lina” Tijamo. He has also expressed grave concerns over the continuously deteriorating conditions of media freedom and freedom of expression in the Philippines. “Intimidation of human rights workers and media activists including community radio workers is deplorable and unacceptable, it must stop immediately. We call upon all concerned authorities of the Philippines including the judiciary to take necessary steps to protect human rights and media freedom and upon the wider media, activism and development community to highlight her illegal abduction. We express our solidarity and support to Elena’s family as well as with all community radio workers and human rights activists of the Philippines who are continuing the struggle”

On a similar case, AMARC Asia-Pacific has noted, with much distress the decision of the Tacloban Regional Trial Court to junk the omnibus motion to quash the search warrant used by the police and military to arrest broadcaster and journalist Frenchie Mae Cumpio and four other human rights defenders last February 7. The decision denies our colleague freedom and perpetuates the injustice she suffers. AMARC Asia-Pacific reiterates its protest against Cumpio’s arrest. We reckon that her imprisonment is unjust and she must be freed immediately!#

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AMARC is the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters. It has more than 400 member community radio stations and advocate groups worldwide and enjoys an observer status with the United Nations.