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Arrested peasant advocates tortured, Karapatan says

The four peasant rights workers arrested in Nueva Ecija recently may have been tortured, human rights group Karapatan said.

In a statement, the group said Yolanda Diamsay Ortiz (46) of Anakpawis Party, Eulalia Ladesma (44) of Gabriela Women’s Party, and youth activists Edzel Emocling (23) and Rachel Galario 20 bore visible bruises on their faces when visited by kin last October 14.

The four were arrested by operatives of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), Philippine National Police and elements of the 7th Infantry Division in Sitio Bangkusay, Brgy. Talabutab Norte, Natividad, Nueva Ecija last October 13/

They are being held by the CIDG in their office at the Old Capitol building in Cabanatuan City.

Ladesma’s daughter told Karapatan after their visit her mother recounted that her hair was grabbed and was forced to drop to the ground when the CIDG operatives accosted her.

While on the ground, Ledesma was kicked several times and her hands tied thereafter while being forced to admit to being “Mariz”.

The daughter also relayed that she also saw Ortiz with a bruised face, her left eye swollen and there were hand marks on her neck due to strangulation.

Ladesma and Ortiz repeatedly told the former’s daughter that they were hit every time they refused to answer their captors’ questions.

Karapatan paralegals were not allowed to have access to the four women.

“Karapatan strongly condemns the illegal arrest, detention, and torture undergone by the four women human rights defenders in Nueva Ecija. This is indefensible,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.

“This is precisely what happens when you have security forces that have no respect for human rights. This is the kind of police and military that we have – uniformed men with no integrity and not the slightest respect for women and their rights,” Palabay added.

Palabay said the four were arrested two days being Rural Peasant Women’s Day on October 15 when the world honors the struggles of women peasants and their advocates.

Palabay also lamented how abuses against rural women persist in the Philippines despite the ratification of laws that explicitly prohibit such violations, including the Anti-Torture Law of 2009.

This is on top of legislation and policies that seek to protect women from all forms of violence, including the Magna Carta of Women, Palabay said.

Karapatan noted that there has been a spike in the number of arrests of activists on the basis of trumped-up charges and the an increase of harassment cases against rights defenders – all alleged to be “rebels” by the Rodrigo Duterte government.

The 7th Infantry Division for its part said in a statement that the four women were “rebels conspiring against the government.”

Palabay, however, said that the military’s statement has no credibility if the victims were tortured.

“We have no doubt the spin doctors in the military will use this opportunity to forward their deluded narrative, even at the expense of torturing women! This is a shameful act that truly exposes the atrocities of the military and the police. All of those involved should immediately be held accountable,” Palabay said.

Karapatan demanded the release of the four women. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘Mababang tingin ni Duterte sa kababaihan’

“Ayaw namin kay Duterte dahil sa hindi maganda at mababa niyang pagtingin sa kababaihan.”—Gert Libang, Vice-Chairperson, Gabriela

Makabayan to field Neri in next year’s Senate race

The Makabayang Koalisyon ng Mamamayan o MAKABAYAN held its fourth National Convention at the  Quezon City Sports Club last September 25, unanimously voting to again field former Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmanares in the 2019 Senate race.

Themed “Bagong Pulitika, Demokrasya Hindi Diktadurya,” Makabayan said it aims to win not only in the next elections but also defeat Rodrigo Duterte’ s looming dictatorship and tyranny.

MAKABAYAN also presented nominees from its member parties—Gabriela Womens Party, ACT Teachers Party, Bayan Muna, Anakpawis and Kabataan.

It also announced Newly formed member parties—Manggagawa Party, Aksyon Health Workers Party, and Peoples Surge Party.  (Video and report by Joseph Cuevas)

Duterte has rapist mentality, women groups say

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Joke only’

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

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

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

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

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

‘Spokesperson and defender’

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

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

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

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

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

 

‘Mas maraming human rights violation’

“Sa pagtalikod ni Duterte sa usapang pangkapayapaan sa CPP at NDF ay mas lalong nagkakaroon ng kalayaan ang mga State Security Forces para magkomit ng samu’t-saring human rights violation.”—Joms Salvador, Secretary General, Gabriela

Human rights groups slam woman’s strip search

By April Burcer

Various human rights groups are calling for the investigation of the reported strip search of a female drug suspect in a police station in Makati City that went viral last week.

Gabriela and Karapatan released separate statements condemning the act as despicable, cruel and degrading.

“What the Makati Police did to the arrested drug suspects was despicable, including the act of doing a strip search on a woman and having her bend over in front of the male and female police officers. This is another case of abuse of police authority to trample upon the rights of the oppressed,” Gabriela said.

Karapatan also said that the superiors of those involved “should be investigated as well to look into their accountability, considering the principle of command responsibility under the said law.”

Both groups are calling for the investigation of the incident and to hold the involved police officers accountable, and should be meted out with punishment under the Anti-Torture Law.

Makati City police chief Rogelio Simon, however, claimed that the video was just a demo and that the drug suspect involved consented to the procedure because of monetary benefits.

The Commission on Human Rights also launched its own investigation of the case and categorizes this as a form of psychological torture, which is prohibited under Republic Act (RA) No. 9745 or the Anti-Torture Act signed in 2009.

Culture of torture

The incident was not an isolated case according to Karapatan as the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency in Central Visayas (PDEA-7) also conducted strip searches of drug suspects during its so-called Greyhound operations in jail facilities in the region in May 2017.

“Despite these previous incidents, the practice continues. It is lamentable and infuriating that strip search is considered as “standard operating procedure” by the Philippine National Police and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP),” Karapatan’s statement said.

The practice should have been deemed illegal because of the Anti-Torture Law but authorities think that such acts are justifiable as long as they do it according to the guidelines and manual of operations, the group added.

Gabriela, on the other hand, blames this culture of “disrespect  and disregard of women’s rights” on President Rodrigo Duterte, ading  “it is not surprising that the fascist and anti-women culture among the police and the military also increases. “

In fact, even with the Anti-Torture Law, Karapatan has documented 248 victims of torture under the Benigno S. Aquino III administration and 94 victims of torture within the two years of the Duterte regime.

Gabriela is also appealing to other women who were victims of police abuse to come out and reveal whatever human rights injustices they have suffered in the hands of the police and military. #

 

Gabriela condemns govt’s removal of comfort woman statue

Women’s group Gabriela strongly condemned the removal of the comfort woman statue along Roxas Boulevard in Manila Friday, saying the move is a desecration of Filipino women’s dignity.

Blaming Japan and the Rodrigo Duterte government for the statue’s removal, the group said the move casts a foul insult on hundreds of victims of sex slavery during the Japanese Imperial Army’s occupation of the Philippines in World War II.

Despite opposition from women’s rights advocates, historians and other sectors, “Japan once again succeeded in imposing its revisionist take on WW II on puppet regimes like the Duterte regime,” Gabriela in a statement said.

(Photo by Atty. Dennis Gorecho)

Groups and personalities are still trying to find out who ordered the removal, seeking explanations from both the Department of Public Works and Highways and the City Government of Manila.

Lawyer Dennis Gorecho, a volunteer during the statue’s erection and unveiling near Manila Bay’s breakwater, said the statue was installed with the blessings of the National Historical Institute and should be considered a historical landmark and monument protected under Republic Act No. 10066, otherwise known as the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009.

The law protects the statue against prohibited acts such as intentional destruction, demolition, mutilation, damage, modification, and alteration, Gorecho explained.

Gorecho added construction and real estate development in any national shrine, monument, landmark and other historic edifices and structures, declared, classified, and marked by the National Historical Institute as such, are prohibited without the prior written permission from the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP).

This includes the designated security or buffer zone, extending five meters from the visible perimeter of the monument or site.

An image posted on Gorecho’s Facebook account however showed a backhoe machine operating near the statue. In the lower part of the image, the statue could no longer be seen.

(Image from Atty Dennis Gorecho’s Facebook page)

Lila Pilipina, the organization of women sexually enslaved by the Japanese Imperial Army, Tulay Foundation, a group whose members belong to Manila’s Chinese-Filipino community victimized by Japanese atrocities during the war, and other groups and individuals spearheaded the construction and installation of the statue.

It was unveiled last December 8 with NHCP executive director Ludovico Badoy in attendance, along with Gabriela, and others groups and personalities.

Similar “comfort women” statues were earlier erected in Korea, Australia, Canada, Germany, San Francisco and New Jersey, USA.

“The comfort woman statue supposedly serves as a reminder to future generations of Japan’s atrocities and abuses against Filipino women during the Second World War, and women’s historical victimization in times of wars of aggression,” Gabriela said.

Japan, however vigorously protested the erection of the statue with the Duterte government, threatening diplomatic and economic sanctions.

Japan has refused to acknowledge it sanctioned the sexual enslavement of hundreds of thousands of women during its rampage across the region during the war.

Japanese Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications Seiko Noda reportedly expressed Tokyo’s disappointment over the erection of the statue along Roxas Boulevard during her courtesy call on Duterte last January 16 in Malacañan.

Gabriela blamed the Duterte government for caving in to Japan.

“[I]t is highly despicable that the Duterte government, like a thief in the night, removed the comfort woman statue in Manila. What has been left of the marker will be a stark reminder of how the Duterte regime pimped the dignity of women and the Filipino nation in exchange for multi-billion Japanese loans and technical assistance,” Gabriela said.

Despite the statue’s removal, Gabriela said it will vigorously pursue efforts to expose Japan’s sex slavery in the country and other parts of the globe.

“Women will persevere in highlighting the horrors of Japanese occupation, no matter how Japan and its puppets try to cover it,” Gabriela said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva / Photos by Atty. Dennis Gorecho)

‘To freely oppose fascist regime,’ Makabayan bolts House majority

To be able to freely oppose the “fascist Rodrigo Duterte regime,” the Makabayan bloc announced Thursday it is bolting from the majority coalition in the House of Representatives.

The group’s sitting representatives and other leaders said in a press conference said they will henceforth be an independent bloc in Congress.

“Today, we, seven party list representatives of the Makabayan Bloc, declare our separation from the Majority Coalition in the House of Representatives to intensify our opposition to the Duterte administration that has now fully unravelled as a fascist, pro-imperialist and anti-people regime,” Makabayan said.

Makabayan is composed of Bayan Muna, ACT Teachers, Anakpawis, Kabataan, and Gabriela Women’s parties.

The group said it joined the Majority last year after being encouraged by Duterte’s reformist and populist actions and pronouncements on a range of issues.

Makabayan cited Duterte’s promise to resume the peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), release of political prisoners, ending of neo-colonial ties with the United States of America government, pursuing an independent foreign policy, addressing the roots of the Moro rebellion, ending labor contractualization, increasing government support to farmers, putting a stop to destructive mining practices, reducing income taxes of rank and file employees, and increasing social pensions, and prioritizing basic social services over infrastructure as among the reasons for entering the coalition.

“From the very start, we consistently opposed the Administration’s anti-people bills and policies to the point that we were stripped of our committee chairmanships due to our stand against the death penalty bill. Despite one disappointment after another, we persisted in the Majority in the hope that some socioeconomic and political reforms could be achieved, if not through Congress, then through the Government of Republic of the Philippines-NDFP peace talks,” the group explained.

Duterte has failed on his promises, Makabayan said.

“Worst of all, his ‘war on drugs’ has turned into a campaign of mass murder of the poor, for which he shows no signs of turning back,” the group said.

Earlier, Malacañan said it hoped Makabayan would keep it ties with the Duterte government.

“We hope the Makabayan bloc will stay with the administration and the House majority,” Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said at a palace briefing last September 8.

Abella said the palace hoped the progressive solons would continue to work with the administration on certain issues, even if they decide dissociate themselves from the Duterte.

“However, if they do decide to go, we wish them well and we hope that they will remain open to working together with others on issues of shared interest,” Abella said.

Makabayan in its announcement today however said the die is cast.

“We shall fight the fascist US-Duterte regime and hold it accountable for its gross violations of human rights and the further oppression and impoverishment of our people,” the group said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

 

Gabriela leads International Women’s Day celebrations in Manila

Women’s group Gabriela led the celebrations of International Women’s Day in Manila last March 8.

The group called for the release of women political detainees, including genuine agrarian reform, jobs, social justice, social services, children’s rights, defense of the environment, self determination for indigenous peoples and just peace, among other demands. (Video by Divine C. Miranda) Read more

Women dance and rise to support peace talks resumption

Hundreds of women and their supporters held the 5th annual One Billion Rising event at Manila’s Liwasang Bonifacio on Valentine’s Day.

Through dances and speeks, they also called for a stop to the Duterte administration’s declaration of an all out war.

They also prodded the Duterte administration to return to the negotiation table with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

“President Duterte’s emotional rant abruptly terminating negotiations and the declaration of an all-out war has unleashed a monster of human rights violations, killings of activists and illegal arrests,” said Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Emmi De Jesus. Read more