Posts

Lawyers: Duterte a disgrace to the legal profession

Rodrigo Duterte is a disgrace to the legal profession, a lawyers’ group said after the president reportedly authorized the release of a matrix to the public yesterday alleging a destabilization plot by journalists and lawyers.

In the press conference in Quezon City this morning, the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), named as among those involved in the destabilization plot to oust the president, said Duterte may have violated several laws in allowing a “foreign intelligence body” to launch surveillance operations against Filipino citizens.

“He is a big disappointment to the legal profession as he has abandoned all legal tenets,” NUPL chairperson and senatorial aspirant Neri Colmenares said.

Colmenares said Duterte, a lawyer, may have violated several laws in authorizing the release of the matrix naming the NUPL as well as Rappler, Vera Files and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) as among those seeking to destabilize the government.

Among the laws that may have been violated are the Anti-Wiretapping Law, the Data Protection Act, the Eletronic Engineering Act as well as Constitutional provisions on privacy, he added.

“Duterte is intolerant of dissent. Diyos niya ang intelligence reports. Lawyers like us should be ruled by evidence, which he and Panelo, also a lawyer, failed to present,” Colmenares explained.

NUPL recalled that Duterte announced last week he will get back at media organizations that came out with reports about the rise in his family’s wealth.

“In the coming weeks, I will return the favor. So [PCIJ], you better stop,” Duterte said.

NUPL secretary general Ephraim Cortez also said that the president may have also violated the Rules of Court allowing lawyers to represent anyone.

“[The matrix is] disturbing and without let up…designed to stifle dissent and is an attack against the legal profession,” Cortez said.

“It is doubly dangerous because it is peddled by Duterte himself, which means he is telling his foot soldiers it is open season for lawyers and journalists,” Cortez added.

The NUPL said they will raise Malacañan’s latest attack against them to the Supreme Court as a supplement to its Writ of Amparo petition filed last April 15 seeking protection for government state forces linking the human rights lawyers to the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army.

The NUPL yesterday immediately denied it is involved in any plot to oust Duterte, saying its lawyers does not have time beyond defending their many clients. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Death threat vs activists sent to Bayan-Negros leader after Patigas murder

By Visayas Today

The secretary general of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Negros received a death threat directed against him and other activist leaders just hours after Escalante City Councilor Bernardino “Toto” Patigas was murdered.

Mike dela Concepcion said a series of text messages was sent to his phone from the number +639999019988 just before 8 p.m.

Patigas, a survivor of the September 20, 1985 Escalante massacre who went into human rights work and sustained his advocacy even after entering politics, was shot dead by two unidentified gunmen as he returned from campaigning around 4:30 p.m. Monday, April 22.

The message to Dela Concepcion began with “Condolences,” then went on to say, “Nagsugod kmi sang priority, ikaw, si Clarissa, Roque, Nolie, Rey, Aldren, Patigas, Cristian, Dolly kg alyas Tatay Ogie nga ara makaita sa Silay kag Liberted. Ini tanan amo prioridad nga tapuson sa sini nga tuig.”

(We have begun our priority, you, Clarissa, Roque, Nolie, Rey, Aldren, Patigas, Cristian, Dolly and alias Tatay Ogie who can be found in Silay and Libertad. All these are priorities we have to finish this year.)

Clarissa refers to Clarissa Singson, secretary general of Karapatan-Negros; Roque to Rolando Rillo, chairman of the National Federation of Sugar Workers; Nolie to Noli Rosales, secretary general of the Kilusang Mayo Uno-Negros; Aldren to NFSW regional vice chairman Aldrin Aloquina; Cristian is apparently NFSW regional secretary general Christian Tuayon; Rey Alburo of the North Negros Alliance of Human Rights Advocates, of which Patigas was formerly secretary general; Dolly Celedonio of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas-Negros; and Hernani “Tay Ogie” Barros of the NFSW.

All the names mentioned in the text messages have been openly accused of being supporters or members of the communist rebel movement. Some of them have had charges filed against them for their supposed involvement with the rebels.

In a related development, Cristina Palabay, national secretary general of Karapatan, said she also received the same text message from the same number roughly around the time Dela Concepcion did. #

State forces disrupt psycho-social activity for Canlaon church workers

By Visayas Today

SAN CARLOS CITY – State forces disrupted a psycho-social activity organized for church workers in Canlaon City, Negros Oriental in the wake of the March 30 killing of eight persons there by police during what was initially dubbed an “anti-crime operation” that authorities later admitted targeted alleged communist rebels.

The eight were among 14 persons in all – including two barangay captains in Manjuyod town – who died during “Oplan Sauron 2.0,” which police said was the continuation of the original Oplan Sauron of December 27, that saw six persons slain, mostly in Guihulngan City, also in Negros Oriental.

Police claimed the fatalities were all communist rebels who supposedly fought back when officers served search warrants on them. But the account of the families of the dead, many of whom did not know and lived far from each other, indicated they were executed in cold blood.

Among those killed in Canlaon were the chairman of a local farmers’ organization that authorities have openly tagged as a “legal front” of communist rebels, a law minister of the parish and two volunteer church workers.

Fr. Edwin Laude. (Visayas Today)

Fr. Edwin Laude, pastoral director of the San Carlos diocese, said the activity was held at Canlaon’s St. Joseph parish church on Holy Wednesday to address the possible trauma of 12 church workers who had responded and reached out to the families of the slain.

While the activity was going on, he said, state security forces “in full combat gear” arrived at the church, saying they were there to “observe” what was going on but later “asking for the names of the participants and wanting to take their photos.”

The security personnel then said that “the next time any similar activity was held, we would need to ask the permission of the provincial government because psycho-social activities were part of medical missions, which are among the activities that need the permission of (Negros Oriental) Governor (Roel) Degamo to be held.”

Laude said they saw the disruption of the psycho-social activity by the security forces as a “threat,” stressing that “we are not hiding anything.”

Nevertheless, he added, San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza “has already asked the governor’s permission to assist the families” of those killed in Canlaon.

Laude also said that the communities where the March 30 victims lived and died still “live in fear” because of the continued presence of military and police personnel in combat gear, raising concerns the violence might be repeated.

He added that security forces, mainly in civilian clothes, also continue to be monitored around the Canlaon parish church.

“It is like martial law, only worse, because this is undeclared, subliminal, scarier,” Laude said, as he called the state security forces “praning” (paranoid).

At the same time, he said the church and the families of the victims are skeptical that police pledges of an “independent investigation” of the killings would amount to anything.

“People don’t see this” materializing, adding that the church’s request to “include the accounts of the victims’ families and of other witnesses” has so far been disregarded.

The only investigation whose findings the families are inclined to honor, said the priest, is that of the Commission on Human Rights.

Escalante City councilor murdered

By Visayas Today

Escalante City Councilor Bernardino “Toto” Patigas was murdered Monday afternoon, April 22, by still unidentified gunmen.

A worker of the North Negros Alliance of Human Rights Advocates, with which Patigas had long been associated with, confirmed the murder, saying the councilor died of a gunshot to the forehead.

Reports said Patigas, 72, had been campaigning with other candidates in the May 13 elections but decided to return to the city center ahead of his companions, driving his motorcycle.

Bernardino “Toto” Patigas. (Photo from Visayas Today)

As he passed by the Escalante National High School at around 4:30 p.m., two men waved at him.

When Patigas slowed down, they opened fire, hitting him in the leg and, as he fell, finished him off with the headshot.

Patigas was a survivor of the September 20, 1985 Escalante massacre, when government forces opened fire on protesters staging a protest against the Marcos dictatorship. Twenty protesters were killed.

For years, he was an active human rights advocate and continued to support the advocacy even after he joined politics.

Human rights group Karapatan, of which NNAHRA is an affiliate, called Patigas “the 48th Karapatan worker killed in the course of his human rights advocacy.”

Bayan Muna said he had also been its coordinator in Escalante City since 2010.

Despite the constant vilification as well as a number of trumped up cases filed against him, Patigas remained a respected and popular figure in Escalante.

In April 2018, Patigas’ name and picture was included among some 60 individuals in a poster of alleged rebels that was hung in a central Negros town. Also on that poster was human rights lawyer Benjamin Ramos, who would be murdered in Kabankalan City on November 6. #

NUPL: Ouster plot allegation ‘absurd’

A progressive lawyers’ group slammed a news report linking it to an alleged ouster plot against President Rodrigo Duterte, calling the story “an imagination gone berserk.”

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) said The Manila Times story “Oust-Duterte plot bared” published today and bylined by its chairman emeritus Dante Ang “fantastic” and “libelous.”

“This has certainly gone over the walls of credulity. It is absolutely false, totally baseless and completely ludicrous,” the NUPL said in a statement.

Ang’s story alleged the group, along with independent media groups and journalists including Vera Files, Rappler and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) are involved in a plot to oust Duterte.

The first matrix presented in The Manila Times report.

“There is a plot to discredit the President and destabilize his government,” Ang’s story said, quoting a anonymous source in the Office of the President said.

“There’s an obvious pattern of close coordination among some media organizations for the timely publication of anti-Duterte stories,” the source supposedly told Ang.

The story added the plot is utilizing the media, planting fake news, distributing them to the friendly media outlets, whetting the people’s appetite, arousing their anger, manipulating public emotion, touching base with the Leftist organization, enlisting the support of the police and the military, then going for the “kill.”

It added that journalist Ellen Tordesillas of Vera Files is serving as main distributor of the videos of a certain “Bikoy” accusing Duterte, son and former Davao City vice mayor Paolo Duterte, senatorial aspirant Christopher “Bong” Go, among others as illegal drugs distributors.

The second matrix alleging Tordesillas acting as nexus of the distribution of videos accusing the Dutertes of having links with the illegal drug trade in the country.

“’Bikoy,’ obviously a pseudonym, was the source of the black propaganda, the matrix shows. From Bikoy, the stories go to Ellen Tordesillas, president of Vera Files, who acts as the nexus and distributor of the materials to the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, Rappler and the NUPL. These organizations, in turn, distribute the false narratives to their respective members,” Ang’s story said.

In a press briefing at the Malacañan Palace, presidential spokesperson and chief legal adviser Salvador Panelo said revealed Ang’s source was President Duterte himself.

“I was supposed to release this today. Naunahan lang ako ng Manila Times,” he said. (Manila Times was just ahead of me.)

Panelo said the matrix was the result of intelligence information gathered by foreign countries and shared to Malacañan.

‘Laying the ground for more attacks’

The NUPL however said their inclusion in the matrix is a mere bait to engage them in absurd and endless tit for tat to distract them from their human rights lawyering.

“[The allegations] would have been amusing were it not perilous to the safety, security, and liberty, if not the lives, of each of the 500 or so lawyers, law students, law professors, judges, prosecutors, public defenders, government lawyers, and paralegals who are members of the NUPL in more than 20 chapters nationwide,” the NUPL said.

The NUPL said Ang’s story lacked evidence and credibility given his close association with Duterte and House of Representatives Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

“Basic it is that for evidence to be credible, it must not only be credible in itself but must also come from a credible source. And more so if it is cloaked under a fictituous anonymity that does not give the object of such calumny a fair chance to contest,” NUPL said.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) also scored Ang’s report, calling it “a marvel of unethical and amateurish writing.”

“Based on a single anonymous source and a matrix showing a web of threads so tenuous it would not hold up in the slightest breeze, Ang’s piece of claptrap wouldn’t even pass muster at any self-respecting high school publication,” the NUJP said in a statement.

“In fact, proof that the matrix, the source and the story are hogwash is the fact that former NUJP chair – AND former [Manila] Times editor – Inday Espina Varona is listed in the matrix as among NUPL members. She is neither a lawyer nor connected to the NUPL,” the group added.

The NUJP also said what Ang has done is similar to the narco-lists Duterte is fond of trotting which often amount to hit lists, death sentences without the benefit of trial.

“What we do fear is that this “revelation” could be a prelude to a crackdown against independent media and human rights lawyers,” the group said, adding that Ang should be held accountable should any harm come to those named in his article. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Mga abugado humingi ng proteksyon sa Korte Suprema

Nagtungo sa Korte Suprema sa Maynila ang grupong National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers o NUPL noong Abril 15 para maghain ng petisyon para sa Writ of Amparo at Writ of Habeas Data laban sa pananakot at harassment ng Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Sinamahan sila ng kanilang mga abugado mula sa Public Interest Law Center.

Ayon kay Atty. Edre Olalia, pangulo ng NUPL, layunin ng petisyon na mabigyan sila ng proteksyon ng Kataas-taasang Hukuman laban sa mga banta at red-tagging sa kanilang mga kasapi.

Kabilang sa mga respondent sa petisyon ay sina Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana at AFP Civil Military Operations Chief General Antonio Parlade Jr.

Isa si Parlade na inakusahan ang NUPL na supporter ng Communist Party of the Philippines at New Peoples Army subalit mariing pinabulaan ng grupo at sinabing walang basehan ang mga paratang nito.

Nababahala ang NUPL sa ganitong pananakot. Ayon sa kanila, simula nang manungkulan si Pangulong Duterte ay 36 abugado na ang napapatay.

Pinakahuli dito ay si Atty. Benjamin Ramos na upisyal ng NUPL sa Negros na pinaslang noong Nobyembre 2018 sa Kabankalan City. (Bidyo ni Joseph Cuevas/ Kodao)

CPJ finds ‘shrinking space for free press in PH’

By ALYSSA MAE CLARIN
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — A high-level mission of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) raised alarm over the “shrinking space for free press in the Philippines” in a press conference, April 16.

The CPJ mission said it believes that the attacks and threats against critical media organizations are politically motivated.

The New York-based group cited the 11 legal cases filed against Rappler and the cyber attacks against small media outfits.

Leading the group is CPJ’s Board chair Kathleen Carroll, joined by CPJ Asia Program Coordinator Steven Butler and Alliance for Journalists’ Freedom director Peter Greste.

The group met with various media groups as well as government officials, such as the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFoMS), the secretary of the Department of Justice, Bulatlat, Kodao Productions, AlterMidya, and the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines since April 14.

“Government forces are finding new and increasingly sophisticated ways to shut down press freedom. So the attacks on Rappler and others have a chilling effect across all journalists. That is profoundly damaging the country’s democracy,” Greste said.

“Our concern [is], not just about Rappler, but on the broader impact on the freedom of the press on the Philippines,” Butler for his part said.

Carroll explained that what concerns them most were the media killings and the dismissive stance of the PTFoMS on the cyber-attacks against news organizations.

“Not taking the (cyberattacks) as an issue is a mistake, and we hope that they reconsider, ” she said.

Carroll added the “red-tagging” of journalists and media people to be “very frightening.”

“This is a very great concern for the CPJ and the international community, because the Philippines has long enjoyed a very robust free press. We are concerned that not a lot is being done to protect your (Filipino journalists) ability to work without fear of retribution, prosecution, and attack,” said Carroll.

The group is set to publish its official mission report on its website after finalizing all the details.

The Philippines ranks fifth on CPJ’s Impunity Index, which measures the extent to which the killers of journalists escape punishment.

The 2009 Maguindanao massacre, in which 32 of those killed were journalists, remains the worst single incident of journalist killing in CPJ records.

Not a single conviction has yet been obtained for these murders. #

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. #

2 urban poor activists abducted

By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
bulatlat.com

MANILA — Two urban poor activists were forcibly disappeared yesterday, April 13, in Bulacan.

The two urban poor organizers are Kadamay member John Griefen Arlegui, 20, and youth group Anakbayan’s Reynaldo Remias, Jr., 24.

They were accosted at gunpoint between 10:00 to 11:00 in the morning while posting posters of senatorial aspirant Neri Colmenares and partylist group Bayan Muna along Angat-Pandi Road, according to eyewitnesses.

Kadamay said in its statement that they were forced into a red car that bore no license plate by armed men in plainclothes, right in front of the Iglesia ni Cristo church in Brgy. Sta Cruz, Angat, Bulacan.
 
Kadamay’s chapter in Pandi learned of their abduction when they noticed the election sortie vehicle, along with their election materials, parked along the highway in the afternoon of April 13. The two, however, were missing.
                                           
Kadamay said they have already searched police stations in Angat, Norzagaray, Sta. Maria, and San Jose del Monte but were told that the two are not in their custody.

Arlegui and Remias were among the members of Kadamay who occupied the abandoned government housing in Pandi, Bulacan.

The urban poor group suspects that the abductors belong to the 48th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army.

Last year, no less than President Duterte ordered an elite police force to go against Kadamay, whose members were occupying government housing units. He went as far as ordering to have them killed should Kadamay resist a police takeover in the housing units.

This is not the first time for Kadamay members in Pandi to be subjected to rights abuses.

On March 26, 2019, two Kadamay members Marlon Acedera and Joel Chavez were illegally arrested when bullets were supposedly found in their homes within the occupied housing in Padre Pio Resettlement in Cacarong Bata, Pandi.

The two remain incarcerated as of this writing.

Kadamay national chairperson Gloria Arellano called for the surfacing of their two members.

She added, “we blame the Duterte regime for openly attacking the legal democratic movement with all the possible means in order to quell the resistance of the Filipino people against its anti-poor and anti-people policies.” #

Indigenous peoples demand justice for Lumad chieftain Datu Kaylo

By MARYA SALAMAT
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – Manobo tribal chieftain Datu Kaylo, a consistent participant in the indigenous people’s Lakbayan to Manila to air their calls for self-determination, was reportedly killed by elements of the 3rd IB of the AFP Eastern Mindanao Command during its military operations in Kitaotao, Bukidnon last April 7.

“He died due to the intensified militarization, bombing and strafing of the indigenous communities,” said Pasaka-SMR in a statement.

Datu Kaylo was in the area visiting the communities and delving into the current situation of his fellow Manobos who had been forced to evacuate from their communities in Talaingod, a village that has gained prominence for its people’s resistance against logging and mining in the Pantaron Range. As a lumad leader, Datu Kaylo was concerned about the plight of the Manobos who are scattered around various communities after Talaingod was hit by successive operations and bombings there and in Bukidnon, said the Salugpongan Ta Tanu Igkanugon.

In previous Lakbayan, Kaylo helped to translate to Tagalog the statements of female Lumad warrior Bai Bibyaon Bigkay, a Gawad Bayani ng Kalikasan Awardee. Kaylo himself was regarded as a fierce environmental defender. [He helped here: ‘We’re all challenged to defend the environment’ — Bibiaon Bigkay]


Datu Kaylo and Bai Bibiaon (Photo grabbed from PASAKA-SMR FB post Apr 11, 2019)

Kaylo was a Lumad leader of the Salugpongan community organization and a member of the National Council of Leaders of Katribu, the national alliance of indigenous peoples’ organizations. He was also the Deputy Secretary General of the PASAKA Confederation of Lumad in Southern Mindanao. PASAKA SMR is a Confederation of Lumad organizations of nine tribes whose name combines lumad words conveying unity and solidarity.

PASAKA expressed its alarm over the “intensifying war being waged by the military” against their communities. They said this war has worsened with Martial Law in Mindanao. “Many from the Lumad have been forced to evacuate, including the children whose schooling has been curtailed by non-stop attacks of the military,” PASAKA said.

“Our plight in Talaingod is comparable to ants being trampled upon and forced to scatter anywhere, because of Martial Law in Mindanao, where soldiers and the paramilitary Alamara have attacked us to no end,” said the Salugpongan Ta Tanu Igkanugon in a statement.

Salugpongan mourns the death of Kaylo, who, they said, had sacrificed much since his youth for the defense of our ancestral land and the Lumad schools in Talaingod. “He could have contributed more for the Lumad.”

Amid calls for justice for the untimely death of Kaylo, PASAKA reiterated its condemnation of the Duterte government’s schemes that they said seek to drive them away from their homes so the government could push through with plunderous projects in the Pantaron Range. These projects include mining, plantations and dams. #