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Your legacy is anti-people, KMP tells Arroyo

Contrary to her glowing description of her presidency and speakership as she announced her retirement from politics, farmers said House of Representatives (HOR) Speaker and former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s legacy are laws detrimental to the people’s interests.

Responding to her valedictory at the last session of the HOR Tuesday, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said Arroyo led the approval of an endless string of anti-people policies and legislation, including the rice tarrification law, the lowering of the age of criminal liability, regressive taxes, revival of mandatory military training for minors, among others.

Arroyo said she will retire from politics after three decades after having been elected as senator, vice president, president and Pampanga representative.

Recalling her presidency and career in Congress with world leaders, Arroyo said she does not think she will have as dramatic a legacy as giants of world history such as United States President John Kennedy.

“I think my legacy will center around restoring our country’s fiscal stability after a storm of financial crisis here and abroad. Our fiscal reforms expanded resources for infrastructure and development, after which, as I said earlier, our poverty level went down from 39% to 26%” she said.

‘Good riddance’

The KMP said they welcome Arroyo’s retirement from politics as “good riddance.”

“She will continue to be known as among the most loathed public officials in history. Arroyo and her enabler Rodrigo Duterte deserve condemnation for all the anti-people policies they are implementing,” KMP chairperson emeritus and Anakpawis President Rafael Mariano said. 

Mariano recalled that Arroyo’s speakership did nothing but ignore Anakpawis’ landmark bills.

“Under Arroyo’s helm in Congress, pro-people measures such as the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill and Php750 national minimum wage hike were snubbed and archived,” Mariano said.

Mariano added that Arroyo also presided in the railroading of the refilled coco levy bill that reduced the number of farmer-representatives to the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Trust Fund Committee from nine to only three last month. 

“The coco levy bill approved by Congress will not guarantee the return of the multibillion coco levy fund and assets to farmers. Duterte and his allies will only gain control of the fund,” Mariano said. 

Under the new coco levy bill, the trust fund committee will have an annual capitalization budget of Php10-billion, the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Trust Fund Committee to be appointed by the President will be composed of six representatives from government sector, two representatives from the private coconut industry sector, and only three farmer-representatives.

The coco levy assets will be privatized under the supervision of the Privatization Management Office, the KMP added.

“These are not the demands of small coconut farmers. Ito ang gusto ni Duterte kaya ito ang sinunod ng Kongreso,” Mariano said.

“This long and drawn out battle for the return of the coco levy fund has burdened millions of small coconut farmers and their families. Many of them have died without actually benefiting from the coco levy fund,” the peasant leader said.  

Estimated to be worth up to 150 billion pesos, the fund was levied from coconut farmers by the Ferdinand Marcos regime that the Supreme Court said belonged to them.

Mariano said small coconut farmers will continue to assert the genuine return of the fund.

‘Loathed politician’

Arroyo, daughter of former President Diosdado Macapagal, was the Phillippine president for nine years.

She took over the presidency from Joseph Estrada in 2001 after an uprising.

Her election in 2004 to a presidential term of her own was widely believed to be fraudulent, leading to massive protests and even ouster attempts by rebel soldiers.

During her reign, human rights group Karapatan reported 1,205 victims of extrajudicial killings and 206 victims of enforced disappearances. 

She was also elected as Pampanga second district representative in 2010.

She was arrested and jailed for plunder in 2011 but was acquitted and freed in 2016.

In July 2017, she was elected as House Speaker in a controversial maneuver alleged to be orchestrated by Davao City mayor Sara Duterte who was at odds with then Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Bill lowering children’s criminal liability draws wide opposition

Government agencies, children’s rights advocates and international organizations are up in arms over efforts at the House of Representative to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) of children from 15 to nine years old.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Council (JJWC) object to the measure, saying the proposed adjustment violate international laws such as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) promoting and protecting children’s rights that the Philippine government promised to uphold.

“It will increase the chances of more children at a younger age to be subjected to judicial proceedings contravening the spirit and intent of the Convention,” the DSWD and JJWC in a statement said.

Both offices recalled that the UNCRC Committee has in fact praised the Philippine government when it passed the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006 (or RA 9344), which raised the MACR from 9 to 15 years old.

‘Bill by dumbest lawyer’

But President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly complained that the law is too lenient on children in conflict with the law and blamed its principal sponsor Senator Francis Pangilinan.

“This law passed by this son of a b***? He passed the juvenile law…Fifteen years old and you can’t put them in jail!” Duterte in a speech in Puerto Princesa City said.

“You are really nothing. You are the dumbest lawyer I know…I will destroy him,” Duterte said of Pangilinan last November.

In response to Duterte’s wishes, the House Committee on Justice, chaired by Oriental Mindoro Rep. Doy Leachon, said it will hold a hearing today to repeal RA  9344 as a “priority matter of legislation.”

“[The House of Representatives] will move for the passage of the bill in support of a request from President Duterte,” a statement from Speaker Gloria M. Arroyo’s office last Friday added.

‘Anti poor’

But both the DSWD and the JJWC said that poverty should be blamed on children running afoul with the law.

“Prior to the enactment of RA 9344, studies found that most children involved in crimes were poor.  Most came from dysfunctioning families who lack access to basic needs, parental love and support, with very little education and were usually neglected or abused,” the agencies said.

“Most committed theft and crimes against property.  Clearly, these were crimes committed for survival, safety and security, they added.

A children’s rights group echoed the agencies’ concern, adding dire poverty in the Philippines makes them more prone to criminality and anti-social activities.

“The government should address poverty and make services available to children in conflict with the law. Lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 9 years old is not the solution. Children should be protected and be given the chance for rehabilitation,” the Association for the Rights of Children in Southeast Asia said in another statement.

Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights and its member organizations including the Children’s Rehabilitation Center also voiced its opposition to the measure, saying the MACR bill neglects that fact that poverty and lack of socio-economic opportunities are the main drivers of child offenses.

“At least 45 percent of the offenses attributed to children are petty theft, robbery and other offenses against property, while 65 percent of children offenders come from poor families,” Karapatan said.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Save the Children Philippines also voiced their opposition to the measure.

“Lowering the age of criminal responsibility is an act of violence against children,” the UNICEF said Friday.

“This will only push them to further discrimination, abuse and eventually, into more anti-social behavior,” SCP for its part said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Abandoned Mount Samat Military Camp Yields Bones, Evidence; Quest for Justice Continues

This article is republished in light of the conviction of retired Philippine Army Major General Jovito S. Palparan by the Branch 15 of the Malolos Regional Trial Court yesterday for the kidnapping and serious illegal detention of missing University of the Philippines students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno. The testimony of prosecution witness Raymond Manalo contained in this article was given due consideration and weight by the court that finally convicted Palparan, long-known as “The Butcher” by his victims and the human rights community.

This report was originally published by Bulatlat.com on October 18, 2008.

= = = =

By Raymund B. Villanueva

On March 22, 2007, Shara Hizarsa was waiting for her father Abner to bring lunch to school she would later share with him. He had cooked and brought food for her without fail since he left the underground revolutionary movement due to frail health.

But no one arrived for the girl’s lunch that day.

It had been 19 months since. There is still no father to cook and bring food for Shara.

Last October 13, Shara commemorated her 12th birthday. Even her mother Cris cannot be with her on her special day because she had to join dozens of relatives of the forcibly disappeared under the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo regime in a fact-finding mission in Barangay Bliss, Limay, Bataan.

Horror camp

In an abandoned military camp near the World War II monument in Mount Samat, about 50 human rights workers under Karapatan and Desaperacidos, the victims’ relatives, officials and staff of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and University of the Philippines (UP) anthropologists led by Dr. Francisco Datar dug holes on the ground, hoping to find remains of summary execution victims. They were led to the site by Raymond Manalo, one of two brothers who escaped from the custody of the 24th Infantry Battalion of the 7th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army.

Manalo said that he and his brother Reynaldo were taken to the camp on November 21 or 22, 2006. A week later, he saw missing UP student Karen Empeño and farmer Manuel Merino. They were later joined by Sherlyn Cadapan, another abducted UP student.

Inside the camp, Raymond was ordered to help build the barracks, cook and clean house for the soldiers, led by a certain Maj. Donald “Allan” Caigas. He witnessed how the two students were hung upside down on one foot with sticks repeatedly rammed into their private parts. After each torture session on the women, Raymond was ordered to clean the room of the victims’ blood and faeces and even wash their underwear. He recalled of many nights he went to sleep with blood-curdling screams ringing in his ears.

Raymond also recounted in his affidavit that he, his brother Reynaldo and Merino were taken to “cattle-rustling and harassment missions” by the soldiers led by Caigas. He witnessed the execution and abduction of farmers in outlying villages.

One night in June 2007, soldiers took Merino from their holding room, saying then Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan wanted to talk to him. Several minutes later, he saw Merino being marched to a grassy field 50 meters away from the camp’s barbed-wire perimeter. Standing by a window, Manalo heard screams and moans, like someone who was startled (“Parang nagulat.”), followed by two gunshots. “Siguro hindi nadale sa saksak, kaya binaril,” he said. (“They probably failed to kill him by stabbing so they shot him.”) Then he saw what looked like a bonfire that lasted late into the night. The next morning, he was told not to look for Merino as he has already “joined” Cadapan and Empeño. “Pinatay si ‘Tay Manuel dahil sabi ng militar matanda na siya,” Raymond added. (“Manuel was killed because the military said he was already old.”)

A diorama exhibited at the House of Representatives based on Raymond Manalo’s description of the military camp. (Diorama by Ron Magbuhos Papag)

In July 2007, the Manalo brothers were taken to Caigas’ farm in Bolinao, Pangasinan to work as laborers where they escaped on the night of August 12, 2007.

Clear and convincing’ testimony

The government and army’s top officials took turns belying Raymond’s testimony by denying the existence of the camp. Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro and retired Armed Forces Chief of Staff Hermogenes Esperon said that Manalo’s testimony was “baseless.” Lt. Gen. Isagani Cachuela, PA Northern Luzon commanding general, said that he would not know about the existence of the camp in Barangay Bliss. Maj. Gen. Ralph Villanueva, 7th ID commander, which has jurisdiction over the 24th IB, echoed Cachuela’s statement saying he “still has to find out.”

Last September 20, PA spokesperson Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner also issued a statement saying Cadapan, Empeno and Merino were nowhere to be found in any army camp where their relatives and supporters claimed they were detained.

But residents of Barangay Bliss are one in saying that there indeed was a military camp in their village. The Philippine Daily Inquirer also reported that former Bataan vice governor Rogelio Roque confirmed that the military used to occupy the area, which is adjacent to his property.

Despite the military’s denials, Raymond’s testimony was considered by the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court (SC) as “factual,” “harrowing” as well as “clear and convincing.” Last October 6, the SC affirmed the Appellate Court’s decision to grant the privilege of the Writ of Amparo to the Manalo brothers, providing them protection from State forces. The order also affirmed the possible culpability of Palparan in their abduction and torture, as well as that of Cadapan, Empeño, Merino and others. The SC also rejected the 7th ID’s investigation as “very limited, superficial and one-sided.”

CHR chair Leila de Lima, for her part said, “The Manalo brothers, for me, have the most significant testimony in the extralegal killings and enforced disappearances.”

‘I will prove to them I am right’

A week after being granted the privilege of the Writ of Amparo, Raymond led the fact-finding mission to the military camp. Before the sun rose, Raymond had already identified the camp layout while other mission members set up tents and cordoned areas where the possible grave sites were.

According to their observations, there was painstaking effort to erase the camp’s footprint in the area. The concrete hut floors, the basketball court, the flag pole as well as the Marian grotto were broken up and thrown in a clump of bamboo trees about 100 meters away. All the holes were backfilled and the water pipes removed. Still, amid the shrubbery and the wildflowers that overrun the abandoned camp and under the sprawling shades of the dozen huge mango trees that blanketed the area, Raymond managed to identify the spot of every structure that stood in the military camp.

Raymond Manalo describing the camp layout.

Hindi ko aakalaing babalik pa ako rito. Takot ako, nanginginig, giniginaw. ‘Nung una kaming dinala rito, akala namin ay isa-salvage na kami,” Raymond said. (“I never thought I would come back here. I am afraid, shaking, and I feel cold. When we were first taken here, we thought we would already be summarily executed.”)

By the time the CHR team arrived by mid-morning, the mission was ready to dig and document whatever could be found in the area.

At noontime, De Lima arrived from Manila and conducted an ocular inspection of the possible gravesites. She also ordered additional diggers to complement the Karapatan team who found the stony soil difficult to penetrate beyond a foot and a half.

The first four holes in three possible gravesites produced negative results. But there were signs of unusual human activity such as burnt tarpaulins, tabletop covers, shoes, among others. Raymond identified one shirt that might have belonged to Cadapan. The anthropologists also confirmed that some of the spots pinpointed by Raymond bore “disturbances” by human activity.

As dusk neared on the mission’s first day, a fifth hole was dug which the experts said was “promising” as the soil was still soft and comparatively loose past two feet. It was then that the experts ordered a halt to the diggings on account of the approaching darkness.

Night falls on the mission camp

Under the pale light thrown by old-fashioned “petromax” lamps, the remaining 30 or so human rights workers ate dinner while a squad of Philippine National Police-Regional Mobile Group troopers kept a somewhat loose perimeter security. Before dinner was over heavy rains fell on the camp, overturning tents and soaking both mission members and their clothing and equipment. The victims’ relatives bussed back to Manila due to security considerations, along with some Manila-based journalists. Only then did the CHR-sourced generator arrive from the town proper to provide electricity.

By 7 pm, when the rain stopped, the mission members slept with their wet clothes and soaked sleeping provisions. The generator was turned off an hour later and the last mobile phone calls and text messages were sent. Even the police retreated inside their tents and vehicles.

Breakthrough

The mission’s second day started with a briefing between the CHR, UP and Karapatan teams. Datar expressed confidence that if Raymond was telling the truth, they would find human remains such as small bones of the hand and feet. “These are the things that betray the perpetrators of the crime,” he said.

But that morning provided more disappointments. Site Three was abandoned after it produced no convincing evidence. A new site was opened in the hope of more positive results. Datar interviewed Raymond several times and asked him to walk from the camp’s edge to where he thought Merino was taken at least four times. Raymond also informed the expert that he remembers Merino was wearing an old pair of yellow “Beach Walk” flip-flops. Assured that Raymond was certain about his coordinates and facts, Datar ordered the widening of Site One.

While standing on the edge of the camp Raymond found clothing on the ground, nearly covered with soil. When he picked it up, he identified it to have belonged to Caigas. “Shorts ito ni Caigas. ‘Basic Wear’ ang tatak. Siya lang ang meron nito—pantulog niya,” he said. (These are Caigas’ ‘Basic Wear’ brand short pants. Only he had them—as sleepwear.”) He said he was certain because he washed the soldiers’ dirty laundry.

At exactly 12:30 pm, anticipation gripped team members on Site One. What was thought to be just a layer of burnt wood close to the surface yielded a four-centimeter splinter, which Datar immediately identified as a human bone. He then ordered a wider surface scraping of the site. Before the team decided to take a delayed lunch break the hole already produced 15 more bone pieces.

Dr. Datar shows what kind of bone fragment was found on the site.

When digging resumed more bones were found on the burnt-out hole. At 3:45 pm, Datar’s graduate assistant struck another vital piece of evidence—an overturned slipper found on the edge of the small cavity with yellow straps and bearing the brand name “Beach Walk.” When Raymond saw the article, he exclaimed “’Yan ‘yun! Kay ‘Tay Manuel! ‘Yan ‘yun!” (That’s it! That’s old man Manuel’s. That’s it!) Datar then said, “Positive na tayo.” (“We are already positive about this grave site.”) A few minutes later a simple ring band was also found as well as a human vertebra.

At 5 pm, the digging and scraping has reached the hole’s edge. Datar said that, based on the materials gathered and examined by the UP, CHR and Karapatan experts on the site, firewood and rubber tires were placed at the hole’s bottom before the victim was placed in a fetal position wrapped in a mattress. “These foreign objects and the victim’s position explain why the hole is relatively small,” he said. Datar added that the gravesite was covered with un-burnt soil in the perpetrators’ efforts to conceal the spot.

Datar however hastened to add that it would be impossible to extract DNA from the “carbonized” bones. He also said that he still has to study the specimens in the laboratory to ascertain which parts of the body the bones came from.

Strong proof

Still, Datar commended Raymond’s fortitude. “May lakas siya ng loob na sabihin (ang nalalaman),” he said. (“He was courageous to speak out.”). “It was clear there were human activities in the areas he pointed out,” Datar added.

Nabuhayan ako ng loob,” Raymond said. “Kung wala tayong nakita e di lalo na nilang sasabihing sinungaling ako,” he added. (“I had a morale boost. If we found nothing here, the military will say I lied all the more.”)

Raymond’s legal counsel Rex JMA Fernandez is optimistic about the results of the fact-finding mission. “What Raymond said (about their abduction and killings) was proven today. Moreover, there was deliberate purpose to sanitize the burial place. If you take a closer look, the camp was big. It was not cursory but a protracted occupation of the place (by the military). That Palparan was involved in the tortures would be validated by these findings. Even if the military would try to undermine the results of this mission, Raymond is a very credible witness,” the lawyer explained.

Fernandez added that he wants the area declared a crime site. “I think they should continue digging and investigating. They should also interview the locals,” he said.

The mission ends, the quest for justice continues

Cris Hizarsa summed it up for the relatives.  “Katulad ng ibang mga pamilyang naghahanap, umaasa akong hindi kasama ang asawa ko sa mga pinatay dito.  Yun ang pag-asa ko at ng mga anak ko.  Sana, yun ang regalong maiuuwi ko sa kaarawan ni Shara.” (“Like the other relatives of the victims, my family and I hope my husband was not one of those killed here.  I hope that is the news I bring home to my daughter Shara for her birthday.”)

Manalo breaks down at the spot where Manuel Merino was murdered by Philippine Army soldiers under the command of Gen. Palparan.

Before dusk of the second day, all the holes were backfilled as the mission camp was being dismantled. Raymond Manalo then walked one last time to the gravesite, accompanied by the Karapatan team and Dr Datar.  The CHR team chose not to join them.  Fr. Dionito Cabillas led the prayers while the mission members joined hands around the makeshift grave.  After the prayers, shouts of “Justice!” rang several times.

Then everyone broke down.  Copious tears flowed on Raymond’s scarred face, his shoulders askew in physical and emotional pain.  The chests of relatives of the forcibly disappeared heaved in grief while Datar’s own eyes were moist and red.

As the sun was setting behind Mt Samat the mission members walked away from the grave now looking more desolate with the weak flicker of candles amid the creeping darkness.  Finally, Raymond turned his back on the site where Manuel Merino was killed, leaving the wild flowers to bloom in a land that has seen such horror finally coming to light. (More photos of the fact-finding mission here.)

 

 

 

Political persecution behind arrest orders, groups say

Political persecution by militarists in the Rodrigo Duterte government and new House of Representatives Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo may be behind the issuance of arrest warrants against a Cabinet secretary and three opposition leaders by a Palayan City Regional Trial Court (RTC) last July 11, various groups said.

In a press conference in Quezon City Friday afternoon, groups including the Makabayan bloc of progressive parties, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and others said the arrest orders against National Anti-Poverty Commission chairperson Liza Maza, and former Representatives Satur Ocampo, Teddy Casiño and Rafael Mariano are pure harassment by both militarists and a resurrected Arroyo.

In a statement, Maza said the arrest order is part of a “continuing political persecution against her by the rightists and militarists who wield substantial influence within the Duterte government.”

“Almost from the beginning, the rightists and militarists have tried to make it difficult on us – myself and other progressives who have joined the Duterte government – opposing or obstructing the reforms that we pushed for and manoeuvring to have us removed, one by one,” Maza added.

Palayan City RTC Branch 40 Judge Evelyn Ancheta Turla issued arrest orders against the four last July 11 stemming from a 2006 double murder charge.

The judge, who told the public prosecutor in July 2008 that the case did not meet her standards, reversed herself and said in an order that she now finds probable cause to proceed with the trial against the four accused.

Casiño said the recycling of such trumped-up charges is part of “a desperate and reckless witch hunt against opposition.”

“This is an attempt to curtail my liberty. And the fact that it is happening under a Duterte-Marcos (family)-Arroyo alliance makes it more frightening,” Casino said.

In his statement, Mariano said he vehemently denies the accusations, saying they are “baseless, malicious and fabricated.”

 ‘It was irregular’

Atty. Rachel Pastores, counsel for the four accused, said the case is pure harassment as the complaint was not even subscribed before a public prosecutor before it was filed.

“The complainants swore before the Philippine National Police and not to a public prosecutor. It was irregular,” Pastores said.

A Cleotilde Peralta and an Isabelita Bayudang alleged Ocampo, Maza, Mariano, Casiño and 18 other activists met in 1998 to plan the assassination of former Bayan Muna (BM) members who have left the party.

Peralta said her husband was ran over and killed in 2001 while Bayudang said her husband was shot to death in 2004 upon orders of the four accused and others.

In 2016, however, Peralta and Bayudang were found liable for damages in a civil suit and were ordered to pay P325,000 to Ocampo by Quezon City RTC Branch 95.

The QC RTC said Peralta and Bayudang lied when they alleged BM was already existing in 1998 when it was in fact created only in 2000.

Peralta and Bayudang’s petition to have Bayan Muna disqualified using the same allegations was also dismissed by the Commission on Elections in 2008.

Reconsideration, remedies

Pastores said that Turla’s decision is wrong, more so that no additional information has been introduced to the case.

“We will avail of all legal remedies. We will file a motion for reconsideration,” Pastores said.

Speaking for the Makabayan bloc, ACT Teachers Representative Antonio Tinio warned of darker times ahead.

“This is a classic GMA [Arroyo] move when she was in power. And it is being revived now that she is back in power. Darker times are indeed ahead,” Tinio said.

Former BM Representative Neri Colmenares for his part called on “the professional witnesses” to not allow themselves to be used by the military.

“Time will come you will be dropped by the military and your handlers, like what happened when the court decided that you pay damages to Satur Ocampo and others,” Colmenares said.

Colmenares also called on Duterte to order the dismissal of the case through the Department of Justice.

Panawagan kay Presidente, pwede bang maghunus-dili ka muna?” Colmenares said. (I call on the President, can you please calm down for a moment?) # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Victims decry Arroyo’s ‘resurrection’ as House speaker

A day after former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo wrested the House of Representatives speakership in a controversial manner Monday, families of victims of human rights violations held a press conference and vowed to bring her to justice.

Under Arroyo’s Oplan Bantay Laya counter-insurgency program, more than 1,600 were killed extrajudicially while 200 remain missing to this day.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said it was under Arroyo’s nine-year regime when the Philippines became the most dangerous country for journalists with more than 120 killed.

Arroyo’s rehabilitation an insult to victims–groups

Families of victims of human rights violations under the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo government slammed the newly-installed House of Representatives Speaker, saying she is still accountable for the many atrocities from 2001 to 2009.

Angered at the complete rehabilitation of Arroyo’s political career, the families said her comeback is an insult to the victims and to the Filipino people who were also victims to the massive electoral fraud she befitted from in 2004.

“[Arroyo’s rise to the Speakership] illustrates the grave impunity under [President Rodrigo] Duterte who coddles a fraud, plunderer and rights violator,” the families said.

In a press conference, JL Burgos, brother of the disappeared peasant rights activist Jonas abducted in April 28, 2007, said, “Birds of a feather flock together,” adding he is not surprised the Arroyo’s political rehabilitation happened under a regime such as Duterte’s.

Roneo Clamor, Karapatan deputy secretary general, said the spectacle at the House of Representatives Monday, boils down to impunity, noting that both Arroyo and Duterte are accused of implementing policies that cause human rights violations in the country.

Karapatan said more than 1,600 were victims of extrajudicial killings while more than 200 remain missing as a result of Arroyo’s Oplan Bantay Laya counter-insurgency program.

Also present in the press conference Tuesday were Evan Hernandez, mother of human rights worker Beng Hernandez who was among the first victims of extrajudicial killings under Arroyo, as well as Linda Cadapan, mother of missing University of the Philippines student  Sherlyn.

Cadapan said she had been in tears since Monday afternoon after learning Arroyo has benefitted from a dramatic coup d’etat that ousted former House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.

“It is hard to believe that the worst violator of human rights like Arroyo can escape justice and can still be rehabilitated as one of the highest officials of the land once more,” Cadapan told Kodao in Filipino.

Worst annual death rate of journalists

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines for its part said it vows to persevere even more to exact accountability from Arroyo under whose term a total of 103 journalists were killed.

“It was under the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo presidency that the worst attack against journalists in history happened,” NUJP said, recalling 32 reporters were killed in November 23, 2009 in the incident called the Ampatuan Massacre.

“The family believed to be behind this gruesome act has been abetted by the corrupt and bloody government of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo through political, financial, military and other forms of support, emboldening them to commit unprecendeted forms of atrocities,” NUJP said.

The group added that Arroyo’s nine years still has the worst average annual death rate of any president.

NUJP recalled that during Arroyo’s state of national emergency, the newspaper The Daily Tribune was raided and troops deployed around the premises of ABS-CBN.

During a live interview, then Arroyo Cabinet Secretary Ric Saludo said they could take over station for airing statement of mutinous military officers.

Kodao Production’s daily radio program was also taken off air due to orders from Malacañang.

The NUJP, as well as Kodao Productions and Bulatlat.com were tagged by the Armed Forces of the Philippines as “enemies of the state” under Arroyo.

Kodao was also charged with rebellion, along with 60 other activists under Arroyo’s state of national emergency in 2016.

The case was dismissed, however, when the government witnessed wrongly claimed he had been working as a spy under Kodao since 1989.

Kodao was only established in 2000. #