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Rep. Castro ng Makabayan Bloc, nagsalita hinggil sa revolutionary government

Nagbigay-pahayag si Rep. France Castro ng Makabayan Bloc kaugnay ng nilulutong ‘revolutionary government’ ng mga taga-suporta ni Pangulong Duterte nitong nakalipas na linggo.

‘Government will only be putting millions of children, teachers, education support personnel and their families at risk’

“Addressing classroom shortages, large class sizes, lack of adequate water supply, working comfort rooms, ensuring health, and (hiring additional) utility personnel in schools (must first be accomplished). The lack of gadgets and access to a strong internet connection for the new modes of teaching under the ‘new normal’ for schools would require additional budget for education, not cuts.

Without addressing these safety measures and lack of infrastructure for education, government will only be putting millions of children, teachers, education support personnel and their families at risk of getting the COVID-19 virus.”

Rep. France Castro
ACT Teachers’ Party
Assistant Minority Leader,
House of Representatives

Jo Maline Mamangun

Court denies gov’t move to jail Satur anew

A Manila Court denied a motion by government prosecutors to jail journalist and former Bayan Muna representative Satur Ocampo anew, saying Ocampo’s bail bond remains in effect until proceedings on a murder charge against him has been terminated.

In an order dated Monday, August 19, Presiding Judge Thelma Bunyi-Medina of the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 32 said she finds no reason to issue a recommitment order against Ocampo.

“Plainly, the grant of bail to accused-movant Ocampo is not subject to any other condition, except that its effectivity is until the termination of the proceedings of this case,” Bunyi-Medina’s order reads.

The Court is hearing the murder charge against Ocampo for allegedly ordering the mass murder of at least 15 individuals alleged by the military as victims of a supposed purge by the Communist Party of the Philippines in the mid-1980s.

Ocampo has repeatedly said that the charge was laughable, explaining that he was still in jail in 1984 when government witnesses alleged that he gave the order in an underground meeting in Leyte.

In a motion to the court last June 12, government prosecutors argued Ocampo abused his provisional liberty when he was involved in the alleged kidnapping of Lumad children who fled their homes in Talaingod, Davao del Norte last November.

Ocampo, along with Act Teachers’ Party Representative France Castro, were charged with violations of Republic Act No. 10364 or the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2012 before Branch 2 of the Tagum City RTC.

“This renders him unworthy of the temporary liberty granted to him,” the prosecutors said.

Ocampo (center) reads the order junking the government’s appeal to jail him anew. Jailed National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace consultants Vicente Ladlad (left) and Adelberto Silva (right) look on. (Photo by Atty Kristina Conti/PILC)

Ocampo and Castro, however, said they did not go to Talaingod to kidnap the children but to show their support to the Lumad who fled Sitio Nasilaban, Barangay Palma Gil in Talaingod after elements of the 56th Infantry Battallion of the Philippine Army and the Alamara paramilitary band forcibly closed down their community school.

Through his Public Interest Law Center (PILC) lawyers, Ocampo said they were allowed to post bail after their arrest and the case is in a pre-trial stage at the Tagum City Regional Trial Court.

“The prosecution maliciously insinuates that accused Ocampo is already guilty of kidnapping and child abuse, while he is entitled to a presumption of innocence,” the PILC said in their oppostion to the government prosecutors’ move.

Judge Bunyi-Medina agreed with Ocampo’s lawyers, saying “[A]s admitted by the prosecution, said case is still pending before Branch 2 of the [RTC] of Tagum City, Davao del Norte, nor was it shown that a warrant of arrest was issued against him.”

The PILC said the motion by the government prosecutors is “politically motivated and legally baseless.”

“Ka Satur has weathered through some 12 cases – none of which he has been convicted in, all false and trumped-up,” the PILC said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Duterte gov’t targets Makabayan reps with trumped-up charges, regional parliamentarians report

Four Makabayan bloc representatives were targets of trumped up charges and other forms of harassments by the Rodrigo Duterte government, a regional group of parliamentarians reported.

The ASEAN (Association of SouthEast Asian Nations) Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) said ACT Teachers Party Representatives France Castro and Antonio Tinio, Anakpawis Representative Ariel Casilao and Bayan Muna Representative suffered various forms of harassment under the Duterte government, along with Senators Leila de Lima, Antonio Trillanes and Risa Hontiveros and Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat.

“A key tactic of President Duterte’s administration to silence criticism has been the use of trumped-up criminal charges against lawmakers,” APHR said, adding the eight opposition lawmakers faced politically motivated criminal charges since June 2016.

Rep. Castro charged with ‘kidnapping’

APHR reported that Castro was detained last November 28 while participating in a National Solidarity Mission (NSM) to provide school supplies and food to indigenous Lumad communities in Mindanao.

Castro and 17 others, including former Bayan Muna representative Satur Ocampo collectively known as the “Talaingod 18” were initially charged with “kidnapping and failure to return a minor” under the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act.

The charges were later downgraded to “other acts of child abuse” under Republic Act 7610 and all 18 people were released on bail on 1 December, but the investigation into the case is ongoing.

“The case appears politically motivated, as the delegation escorted the minors from the village at the request of their parents, in order to protect them from potential abuse by paramilitaries,” the APHR said.

“Given the paramilitaries’ history of abuse towards indigenous communities in the region, which has often included attacks on schools, it was reasonable to assume that their safety was at risk,” the group added

Reps. Tinio and Casilao charged with ‘child abuse’

ACT’s Tinio and Anakpawis’ Casilao also suffered harassments, APHR said, after attending a rally in Davao City last October 23 to protest the imposition of martial rule in Mindanao.

APHR said the peaceful rally was attended by children and youth belonging to Lumad communities.

“On the day of the rally, Sara Duterte, the President’s daughter and current mayor of Davao City, posted pictures on social media of Antonio Tinio and Ariel Casilao attending the demonstration.

“You take [minors] out of school to put them in the streets to conduct your rallies. Again, you do not deserve to be in Congress. When will the House of Representatives ever kick you out,” the younger Duterte wrote.

On 4 December, Davao City police charged Antonio Tinio and Ariel Casilao with “other acts of child abuse” under Republic Act 7610, the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act.

The APHR however said the charges appear entirely baseless.

“There is no evidence of the participants ‘influencing’ the youth to be ‘angry and resent the present government’ as claimed in the subpoena filed by the Davao City Prosecutor’s Office,” the APHR said.

The group added that even if Tinio and Casilao indeed influenced the young rally-goers, the alleged act would hardly constitute “other acts of neglect, abuse, cruelty or exploitation”, as defined by RA 7610.

“The charges further violate the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, which is guaranteed in the Philippine Constitution to all citizens regardless of age,” the APHR said.

The parliamentarians reminded that this right is also protected by international treaties to which the Philippines is a state party, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention of the Rights of the Child.

“[The treatises] explicitly enshrines the right of children to take part in peaceful assemblies. The case appears to be part of a wider effort to harass the Makabayan bloc and their affiliated social organisations, the APHR said.

Rep. Zarate charged with organizing rally ‘without permit’

Zarate was slapped with charges of violations to the Marcosian Public Assembly Act of 1985 on January 30, 2018 stemming from a rally he attended on November 13, 2017 against the visit of US President Donald Trump to Manila during the 31st ASEAN Summit.

Zarate and others were charged with conducting the rally “without permit.”

The rally was violently dispersed by the police with water cannons and sonic alarms, injuring several protesters. The police claimed some of its personnel were also injured when the protesters tried to push through the barricade.

The charges were dismissed by the Manila Prosecutors’ Office on 8 May 2018.

“The charges appear to have been baseless and part of the wider effort to judicially harass members of the Makabayan bloc,” the APHR said.

“The charges under Articles 148 and 158 of the Revised Penal Code were based on contradictory testimony of the police officers, while Carlos Zarate denied involvement in any form of violence during the demonstration,” the group added.

The APHR pointed out that, under international standards, freedom to assemble peacefully should generally not require seeking permission from authorities because this could be misused to suppress legitimate protests.

The four Makabayan parliamentarians are APHR members.

A common pattern

The APHR said that while the charges against the four Makabayan parliamentarians as well as against de Lima, Trillanes, Hontiveros and Baguilat have been filed under different laws – including charges for “drug trafficking”, “kidnapping”, “child abuse” and “inciting to sedition” – the cases all fit a common pattern.

“These lawmakers appear to have been targeted for opposing the President’s policies, and in particular the widespread extrajudicial killings under the guise of the ‘war on drugs,’” it said.

“They have also often been singled out because of their defence of human rights and their attempts to protect their constituents from human rights violations, whether in the context of the anti-drug campaign or other administration efforts, such as the push to reinstate the death penalty,’ the APHR said.

The APHR is a group of South East Asian lawmakers committed to promoting human rights, democracy and justice in the region. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

ACT Rep. France Castro wins Norwegian prize for work on trade union rights

By Macel Ingles

NORWAY–The Arthur Svensson Prize for 2019 goes to Filipina teacher leader and ACT Teacher’s Party Representative France Castro for her many years of labor organizing and struggle for academic rights in the Philippines.

Castro won the award for her many years of struggle to organize teachers and fighting for basic workers rights in the Philippines, wrote the Svensson Foundation in a press statement.

Castro is invited to Oslo to receive the prize at Rockefeller on June 12.

The award goes with a cash prize worth half a million kroners or about three million pesos.

One of 10 worst countries

The Philippines, according to The International Trade Union Federation, is one of the 10 worst countries in the world for workers and union stewards.

According to the ITUC, the country does not respect basic labor rights such as the right to organize and collective bargaining, and child labor rights as well as against discrimination and forced labor.

The group also noted the prevalence of extreme state violence and oppression of civil rights.

Workers and union activists experience threats and persecution and have to fight for basic rights in order to organize and against persecution from the government and employers, the group noted.

Attack on trade unionists

In a press statement the Svensson Foundation said, “Despite threats and persecution, there are brave people who fight for trade union rights. The regime has attacked trade union activists among teachers and journalists. Some have been killed and many had been imprisoned. Death threats are not unusual. Police officers had also launched an organized campaign that publicly vilified unionized teachers.”

The group added Castro works for democracy and human rights and has worked as a teacher and took initiatives to start a union in Quezon City.

After a few years, she became the secretary general for the Alliance for Concerned Teachers (ACT) and organized the teachers under a common union, it added.

The first CBA

ACT under Castro´s leadership grew in a very short time to become one of the country´s biggest unions in the Philippines.

The alliance signed its first collective bargaining agreement (CBA) in 2016 for teachers in Philippine public schools, an agreement that recognizes the right to strike.

She has also been elected to the Philippine Congress where she has, among others, worked for the expansion of maternity leave to 105 days.

“As a representative of teachers, she has fought against neo-liberal reforms in the education sector and better work environment for teachers. She has also engaged in the fight against lowering age of criminal responsibility for children, and the abolition of obligatory military training in schools and against the killing of thousands of youths under Duterte´s anti-drug
war,” the foundation noted.

In Congress

It noted that Castro, in connection with her and her union´s advocacy for indigenous peoples rights to education, has been arrested by the paramilitary and arrested in November 2018 during a solidarity visit of the indigenous groups under attack in Mindanao.

“Both in and out of Congress, she has all the time fought for the poor, workers and human rights against powerful opponents,” the Foundation wrote.

Awarding on 12 June

The Svensson prize is given to a person or organization that worked to promote trade union rights and or strengthen union organizing in the world.

The award is an international prize started by Industri Energi and awarded annually by the Committee for Arthur Svensson International Prize for Trade Rights.

The prize is at 500,000 Norwegian kroner. Half of the amount will be
given to the prize winner and a certain amount will be set aside for follow up work connected to the prize winner or similar projects.

The prize is named after the former leader of the Chemical Union Arthur Svensson who was known for his international advocacy. #

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. #

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. #

Marawi students resent destruction of schools, humanitarian mission reports

Students in Marawi struggle to regain access to education as the new school year started amid battles between government troops and the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups, educators who recently visited evacuation centers in Mindanao said.

“The students harbor deep resentment because their return to their schools for the new school year has been hampered,” All UP Workers’ Union’s Felix Pariñas said.

Pariñas, who participated in the National Interfaith Humanitarian Mission to Marawi and Iligan cities last June 13 to 16 was among the panellists in the Books Not Bullets: A Press Forum on the National Humanitarian Interfaith Mission & Needs Assessment by the University of the Philippines-Diliman Delegation held last June 20.

ACT Teachers Party Rep. France Castro, another mission participant, for her part said more than 20,000 students in the affected areas remain unaccounted for by the Department of Education (DepEd) and the Commission on Higher Education.

She added that 1,424 teachers are still trapped in Marawi itself, 700 of whom are unaccounted for or have yet to report their status to the DepEd, Castro reported.

The DepEd has reportedly mobilized the Learning Continuity Program that aims to transfer internally-displaced students to schools near Marawi.

But Pariñas said DepEd’s program still has little or no effect as students in various evacuation centers are unsure about their chances of resuming schooling.

UP System Information Office’s Jo Lontoc, also a mission delegate to Iligan and Marawi, said there have yet to be arrangements by the DepEd, the schools and the local government units on the affected students’ situation.

“The fighting broke out during the enrolment period.  They really don’t know if they can still go back to school in the near future,” Lontoc said.

The students also expressed hopes for an end the aerial bombings in Marawi, the delegates said.

“They demand an end to the aerial bombing, hoping they would still have schools to go back to when the fighting stops,” Pariñas said.

“Tattered, ragged,” Pariñas described an elementary school the mission visited.

Lontoc added that many students staying in Marawi dormitories were also forced to evacuate and have yet to reunite with their families.

“They are also evacuees who are separated from their families,” Lontoc said.

Pariñas added that students fear for their safety after President Rodrigo Duterte’s statement he would condone rape by soldiers as Mindanao is under martial law anyway.

“They dread the consequences of the President’s statement,” Pariñas said.

Inefficient response

The mission delegates said that while DepEd organized relief efforts to aid students with school bags and school uniforms, these are bogged down by inefficient distribution as well as safety concerns and martial law restrictions.

“Multiple checkpoints worsen already existing issues such as traffic, even outside Marawi. This limits the inflow of volunteers such as the UP delegates from carrying out their mission,” the delegates said.

Castro said the Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives intends to file a house resolution for an investigation into the validity of martial law imposition and the possible humanitarian abuses in Mindanao when regular Congress sessions resume on June 24. # (Eunice Lei Wu of UP-CMC for Kodao Productions / Featured image courtesy of Gabby Endona and Gabe Sante of UP-CMC )