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NUJP slams Army unit, LGU

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) condemned a military unit that tried to prevent Davao City-based journalists from covering the evacuation of about 2,000 Lumad evacuees in Lianga, Surigao del Sur Monday, July 16.

In a statement issued Tuesday, the NUJP said it strongly condemns the 4th Civic Military Operation (4th CMO) Battalion of the Eastern Mindanao Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines that stopped the vehicle carrying five journalists from the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Radyo ni Juan Network, Kilab Multimedia, The Breakaway Media and Davao Today at about 11 o’clock Monday at Kilometer 3, Sitio Neptune in Diatagon, Lianga.

A Major Jerson Igloria, battalion ground commander manning the checkpoint, told the reporters not to proceed to where the evacuees were gathered and was heard asking, “Sino yang nasa loob ng sasakyan? Mga illegal yan? ‘Di lumabas.” (Who are those inside the vehicles? Are they illegal? Why are they not alighting?)

Inquirer correspondent Barry Dacanay then alighted and tried to go near the approaching evacuees but was stopped by Igloria who told him, Sir, doon ka lang. Respetohay lang ta.” (Sir, just stay away. Let us respect each other.)

The Army officer then ordered the journalists to first secure a permit from the Lianga Municipal Social Welfare and Development (MSWD) Office before they would be allowed to cover the evacuation.

“Hintayin niyo yung MSWD kung papayagan kayo,” Maj. Igloria told them, claiming the place was an “ambush area” and therefore dangerous. (Just wait for the MSWD if it would allow you.)

A 4th CMO trooper interrogates a journalist at a checkpoint in Lianga, Surigao del Sur. (The Breakaway Media photo)

The journalists sought permission from the Lianga MSWD but were refused without explanation.

Asked later by local reporters about their refusal, Lianga MSWD officer Melita Encenzo denied forbidding the Davao journalists from proceeding to where the evacuees were.

“They just need to seek permission from the MSWDO or the barangays officials, just so we know who visits our area of responbility,” Encenzo reportedly said.

The journalists nevertheless managed to take photos and videos as well as conduct interviews when the evacuees reached the national highway.

The NUJP however said that both the military and the MSWD had no right in trying to prevent the Davao journalists from covering the Lumad evacuation.

“We stress that, in the absence of clear and present danger, neither the Army, MSWD, or any government agency has the authority to prevent any Filipino citizen from enjoying the freedom to travel and, in this case, stop journalists from covering what is clearly an event of utmost public interest and concern,” NUJP said.

The group said that even if it was dangerous, it is precisely the military’s mandate to protect civilians such as the journalists and the evacuees they were covering.

It also scored the MSWD for trying to prevent coverage of the evacuees’ plight and depriving them of assistance by withholding information that could help solicit more aid for the Lumad.

“Martial law [in Mindanao] does not justify the arbitrary restriction on coverage of the Lumad evacuation, unless, of course, we have ceased to be a democracy. What happened was a clearly unconstitutional violation of press freedom and, more importantly, of the people’s right to know,” the NUJP said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Military encampment forces Manobos to evacuate anew

Evacuees were confronted by the 74th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army.

Military operations by the 75th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army drove more than a thousand Manobo Lumad to evacuate anew in Surigao del Sur Province Monday, July 16.

At least 1,607 Manobos from 11 communities of Barangay Diatagon, Lianga town and three communities from Barangay Buhisan, San Agustin town were forced to evacuate due to the encampment of the 75th IBPA in their communities since June 14, 2018, the Save Our Schools (SOS) Network said in an alert.

Alternative multimedia group The Breakaway Media also reported that the evacuees started their march from their communities at six o’clock in the morning and arrived at Barangay Diatogon’s Gymnasium at two o’clock in the afternoon.

A military checkpoint tried to prevent the evacuees from reaching the national highway as well as media workers from covering the evacuation, SOS said.

More than 1,600 Manobo evacuees fill the road to Barangay Diatagon Monday. (SOS Network photo)

In their fourth forced evacuation under the Rodrigo Duterte government, the Manobos complain of human rights abuses by the military, including sexual harassment of women and teenagers.

Lianga Manobos have also evacuated in July and November last year and January this year due to intensified military operations.

The Lumad also complain of forced recruitment of Manobo men to the military’s Civilian Auxiliary Geographical Unit as well as threats, harassments, and intimidation of Lumad school students in Sitio Simowao in Barangay Diatogon.

Among the evacuees are 568 learners of the Tribal Filipino Program in Surigao del Sur and Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development, award-winning alternative schools for the indigenous Lumad.

The Save Our Schools Network also said the military threatened to file criminal charges against the Lumad leaders if they pushed through with their evacuation.

The Lumad said heavy military presence at the Andap Valley complex is to pave the way for the extraction of coal from their ancestral domain by mining giants Benguet Corp., Great Wall Mining and Abacus Coal.

Andap Valley is said to hold the biggest bulk of coal reserves in the country.

The Eastern Mindanao Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines has yet to issue a statement on the incident. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

More than 1,600 Manobo evacuees fill the road to Barangay Diatagon Monday. (The Breakaway Media photo)

Why the Duterte regime is isolated and hated by the Filipino people

By Jose Maria Sison, NDFP Chief Political Consultant
July 14, 2018

After two years of broken electoral promises, mass murder, corruption, deterioration of the economy and sell-out of Philippine sovereign rights, the Duterte regime is isolated and extremely hated by the broad masses of the Filipino people, contrary to persistent pro-Duterte propaganda churned out by the reactionary bureaucracy and the military, mercenary poll survey firms, a major part of the mass media and troll armies deployed by Duterte and his allies.

In a futile attempt to deflect attention from the socio-economic, political and moral issues against him, Duterte has engaged for several weeks in tirades against the God and related religious beliefs of Catholics and Christians. He accused the Catholic and other Christan institutions and their leaders of conspiring with the broad united front of patriotic and progressive forces that seek his ouster. The anti-God and anti-Christian rants of Duterte have served to undermine his own dwindling following and to further outrage the people and isolate him.

PCOO photo.

  1. False Promise to Solve the Problems of Illegal Drugs, Criminality and Corruption

Duterte came to power mainly on the demagogic promise of wiping out the drug problem, criminality and corruption within three to six months after assuming the presidential office. After two years in power, all these problems have become worse and more rampant. He has paid the most attention to the drug problem in order to display an iron fist by unleashing his death squads against the poor people in urban slums. The blood of drug lords at the level of governors and generals has been spared.

There has been only a Mafia-style rearrangement of the crime families. Duterte has emerged as the supreme lord and protector of the illegal drug trade, with his own close relatives like Paolo Duterte and cronies like his compadre Peter Lim, as his direct agents in their respective turfs. They have ensured that drug smuggling and nationwide distribution of illegal drugs are unabated. Peter Lim and other drug lords who face charges on the basis of evidence have been absolved recently by Duterte through his department of justice secretary Vitaliano Aguirre.

Some mayors who operate as drug lords in independent turfs and who have been slow at submitting themselves to the supreme lord and his adjutant lords have been ruthlessly murdered in their own homes or even in prison by police teams brazenly designated by Duterte. The worst phenomenon in the so-called war on drugs has been the murder of more than 23,000 alleged users and pushers of illegal drugs in urban poor communities.

The perverse logic of Duterte in calling for the extrajudicial killing of the poor suspects is to destroy the demand or market for the drugs. He openly calls on the police to list down drug suspects and surrenderers and to frame up a number of them in order to fulfill kill quotas in exchange for rewards in cash and promotions in rank. He further assures the police of impunity and, in any rare case of indictment or conviction for extrajudicial killing, presidential pardon.

Criminality has become aggravated because Duterte himself has used many police and military officers for criminal purposes and corrupted them mainly with cash rewards from his confidential and intelligence funds. He has directed them to list down alleged drug addicts and pushers, suspected petty criminals of various types, even mere loafers or loiterers who linger in the streets for relief from their cramped and humid shacks and alleged members and supporters of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People´s Army (NPA). The lists are subsequently used by the police and military for fulfilling kill quotas and getting rewards in cash and rank promotions.

An early sign that Duterte was not serious about his promise to wipe out corruption, especially at the highest level, was his refusal to arrest and prosecute those most liable for pork barrel plunder in the previous Aquino II regime as well as his efficient push on the Supreme Court (dominated by his and Arroyo appointees) to dismiss charges of plunder against former president Gloria Arroyo and other high officials. It has come to light that the biggest Luzon-based plunderers like the Marcoses, Arroyos and Estradas have been among the biggest electoral campaign financiers and supporters of Duterte.

Duterte´s office of the president now takes the lead in corruption with most of the confidential and intelligence funds amounting to 2.5 billion pesos for 2017 going mainly to the pockets of Duterte and his military and police trustees. Corruption is also involved in the bloating of other presidential expenses for travels, communications, equipment and the like. Cabinet members like Justice secretary Vitaliano Aguirre have scandalized the public by absolving Peter Lim and other drug lords, with the obvious approval of Duterte.

Corruption is business as usual in all departments at all levels of the reactionary government. Duterte has ignored discoveries of anomalies in high offices by the Commission on Audit. The more he has ignored complaints from the public against corrupt officials. In a few token cases, he has fired his own appointees on charges of corruption but after only a few months he reappoints them to other lucrative positions. He develops personal loyalty to him through complicity in criminality and corruption.

PCOO photo.

  1. Destruction of Marawi City, Lumad and Other Rural Communities in Mindanao and Nationwide

The indiscriminate bombing and destruction of Marawi City from May 23, 2017 onwards were done to show off the arrogance and iron fist capability of the Duterte regime with the help of imperialist powers. Duterte deliberately refused to avail of the offer of the Sultan and 15 leading families of Marawi City to negotiate with the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups and ignored their repeated plea for the AFP to stop the bombardment.

He wanted simply to demonstrate his destructive power causing the devastation of the city, the death of thousands of residents and his own military and police personnel and the forced evacuation of 400,000 to 500,00O people within and around Marawi, and the plunder of their homes by marauding soldiers. Tens of thousands of families are now being prevented from recovering their home lots and are unsure of getting compensation for the destruction of lives and property. A big number of evacuees are stranded in the cramped homes of relatives and in miserable evacuation centers.

The cost of military operations to destroy Marawi City amounted to more than three billion pesos. More than 120 billion pesos are estimated for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the city. Billions of US dollars of foreign assistance for the same purpose are unaccounted for. Like conquerors, the military cohorts of Duterte occupy and rule the city and many areas of the entire Mindanao, with the initial 60 days of martial law extended to the end of 2018 by the Supreme Court that is obsequious to Duterte.

Priority is being given to the construction of a big military camp on ten hectares where the Marawi city hall used to be located. This is in addition to the long standing Camp Ranao. A group of Chinese companies are favored by Duterte to build commercial stores and tourist facilities. Maranaws who used to applaud whenever he claimed to be descended form a Maranaw grandmother now call him Dutiti (meaning to say, poison in the Maranaw language).

The plan to destroy Marawi City was used to justify the declaration of martial law in the entirety of Mindanao and to justify the earlier military attacks on the Lumad and Bangsamoro communities under Duterte´s all-out war policy. Earlier than the bombardment of Marawi City, Duterte had ordered the bombing, invasion and occupation of the land and structures of Lumad communities that have been forced to evacuate. As early as January 2017, the AFP started to carry out Oplan Kapayapaan which combines psywar, intelligence and combat operations.

To terrorize the people, the military and paramilitary forces of the regime and mining companies have gone on a rampage, threatening and killing community leaders, teachers and activists. The schools for Lumad children at primary, elementary and high school levels that the Lumad communities have built in cooperation with religious and nongovernmental organizations have been closed. Food blockades and the fake listing of the people as NPA fighters and supporters have been undertaken. The atrocities were committed even during periods of ceasefire in connection with the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations.

Under the pretext of fighting the people´s army, Duterte has made it his characteristic act to bomb communities or rain artillery fire on them. Then the military, police and paramilitary forces proceed to commit further atrocities and compel people to evacuate. This is the modus operandi of the regime in the entirety of Mindanao and nationwide in order to deprive the people of their land and related resources and make these more available than ever before to the mining, logging and plantation companies owned by foreign and big comprador interests.

To realize his ambition of becoming a fascist dictator that is more efficient than Marcos in intimidating and controlling the people, Duterte is already undertaking a series of actions to lay the ground for the proclamation of nationwide martial law or a state of emergency which he dubs ¨revolutionary government¨. The ongoing martial rule in Mindanao is the dress rehearsal for its nationwide application. He has unleashed a series of operational plans for implementation in urban and rural areas for the listing of alleged drug addicts, criminals, loafers and terrorists and for the arrest and extrajudicial killing of those selected from the lists.

He is set to establish a national ID system for the purpose of systematic national surveillance and random checks on people. The Human Security Act (or Anti-Terrorism Act) is being amended by the Duterte-dominated Congress to widen the definition of terrorism as to include dissent, mass protests and strikes, increase the detention period of suspects from 3 to 30 days without charges, increase the penalty for terrorism so-called from 40 years to life imprisonment and to delete the fine of 500,000 pesos per day on the erring police officer for illegal detention. The amendments are meant to realize martial law even without proclaiming it.

People are being deceived to have themselves listed up in order to clear themselves and to receive supposed benefits. But the lists serve as basis for carrying out extrajudicial killings and causing mass intimidation. These have practically created a de facto situation of martial rule on a nationwide scale. There are also increasing cases of exemplary killings and harassments of local political oppositionists, religious leaders and social activists who are tagged by the military and police as NPA supporters for standing up for national freedom, democracy, social justice and environmental protection.

PCOO photo.

  1. Repeated Terminations of the GRP-NDFP Peace Negotiations by Duterte

Duterte was never interested in pursuing sincere and serious peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). He was merely play-acting when he said he would like to make peace with the people´s revolutionary movement and become the first Left and socialist president of the Philippines. He promised to the NDFP on May 16, 2016 to amnesty and release all the political prisoners even before the start of the peace negotiations.

After assuming presidential office, he withdrew his promise to amnesty and release all political prisoners. In violation of The Hague Joint Declaration of 1992, he kept on making preconditions amounting to the surrender of the revolutionary forces and the people and the liquidation of the people´s democratic government based in the countryside. At the outset of the talks, he ordered the widespread deployment and prepositioning of its troops in at least 500 barangays (villages) nationwide.

Failing to impose his preconditions, he fabricated reasons for terminating the negotiations several times. He declared the first termination on February 4, 2017, when he complained of an alleged incident which his negotiating panel could have presented appropriately to its counterpart and to the Joint Monitoring Committee under the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). His defense secretary Lorenzana declared all-out war against the revolutionary forces and people.

Nevertheless, Duterte agreed to the holding of the 5th round of formal talks on May 27 to June 1. But he ordered the GRP Panel and OPAPP secretary Dureza not to participate in the formal talks, unless the CPP withdrew its order calling for the further intensification of people´s war against the declaration of martial law in Mindanao. There was no ceasefire agreement and there was no way the NDFP negotiating panel could report and make recommendations to NDFP National Council and the CPP within the span of 72 hours. Duterte suspended the formal peace talks and threatened the arrest of eleven NDFP consultants upon their return to the Philippines.

He sued for a resumption of formal peace talks sometime in July 2017 but again unilaterally canceled these on July 19 when he made the brazen lie that the NPA tried to ambush his presidential convoy in Arakan, Cotabato on July 18. In fact, he was not in any of the unmarked vehicles which were fired upon because they ran through an NPA checkpoint. There was no ceasefire agreement in place. And Duterte did not get any prior permission from the CPP and NPA through the NDFP to pass through the territory of the people´s democratic government.

The second time that Duterte terminated the peace negotiation was on November 23, 2017 when he made the false claim that the NDFP was demanding a coalition government led by the CPP. He issued Proclamation No. 360 terminating the peace negotiations. This would be followed on December 5, 2017 by Proclamation No. 374 designating the CPP and NPA as ¨terrorist¨ organizations. These two proclamations are aimed at putting up permanent walls against peace negotiations.

In any event, he instructed his negotiating panel to engage its NDFP counterpart in back channel talks through their respective teams of representatives from March to June 2018 in Utrecht. Several agreements were arrived at and initialed by the two panels, especially the so-called Interim Peace Agreement (IPA), wrapping up an agreement on coordinated unilateral ceasefires, a certified copy of Duterte´s proclamation to amnesty and release all political prisoners listed by the NDFP and the sections on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development and National Industrialization and Economic Development of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER).

The IPA was scheduled to be signed by the negotiating panels at the resumption of formal talks in Oslo from June 28 to 30, 2018. But Duterte arbitrarily canceled the resumption of formal talks on June 14, when the stand down agreement to promote the peace talks was supposed to start. And he subsequently announced that he wanted to review the peace process since 1992 and scrap all agreements since then and to require the negotiations to be held in the Philippines under his control, surveillance, manipulation and duress. He simply wants to put the NDFP negotiating panel and related personnel within the range of his gun sight.

He was never interested in complying with existing agreements since 1992 and moving forward in the making of comprehensive agreements on social, economic and political reforms to address the roots of the civil war. Together with the US-directed security cluster of his cabinet, Duterte has come to the conclusion since 2016 that patriotic and progressive agreements though bourgeois democratic in character are impermissibly socialist and communist and should be blocked, even if such agreements have been co-written by the GRP and NDFP negotiating panels.

Duterte and his security cluster in the cabinet are violently opposed to the aim of the peace negotiations, which is to address the roots of the armed conflict and lay the basis for a just and lasting peace, and the mutually acceptable principles of national sovereignty, democracy and social justice, as stipulated in The Hague Joint Declaration of 1992. Duterte and his militarist cohorts aim to mount a decisive military offensive especially in Mindanao and want nothing less than the outright surrender of the revolutionary forces and the people under the pretext of a protracted and indefinite ceasefire.

Duterte has repeatedly blocked the resumption of formal talks by imposing the precondition of a joint ceasefire as an “enabling environment” to advance the negotiations. But this scheme was clearly exposed as a mere excuse to prevent the discussion of basic social reforms, particularly agrarian reform and rural development and national industrialization and economic development when the GRP thrice unilaterally and without explanation backed out at the last minute from agreements for simultaneous stand down or ceasefires immediately preceding formal talks.

In the most recent cancellation of formal talks, Duterte and his militarist cabal have resorted to the old, worn out and discredited excuse of holding public consultations and peace talks at the local level first. These were the same excuses given by the Arroyo and Aquino regimes in suspending the formal talks to avoid discussion of land reform and national industrialization, never to return to the negotiating table for the rest of their term.

But even when a temporary kind of ceasefire was supposed to be in effect as in 2016 and 2017, the military and police forces of the regime were always engaged in all-out war and in the occupation of communities and civilian structures in the rural areas. People were being coerced to have themselves listed as surrenderers supposedly to clear themselves and receive doleouts. As earlier explained, the lists serve as basis of the military for fulfilling the quota for killing people on mere suspicion of being members and supporters of the CPP and NPA.

AFP field officers are coming up with myriad ways of fabricating their lists because they are after the promised funds that are being downloaded directly from Duterte’s confidential and intelligence funds. The AFP has publicly declared that close to 8,000 members of the NPA have surrendered although it claimed in January that there are just above 3,000 NPA fighters.

Duterte´s main interest in pretending to be for peace negotiations is to end these completely and blame the CPP and NPA for the continuance of the civil war so that he can issue proclamations and orders to make a de facto martial law even before the proclamation of martial law nationwide. Right now, a de facto martial rule exists, with the use of operational plans to arrest people without judicial warrants and to kill them without any judicial process. The consuming objective of Duterte is to impose a fascist dictatorship on the people under the pretext of charter change for federalism.

Despite the fact that Duterte has terminated the peace negotiations with his Proclamation No. 360 since November 23, 2016, he and other GRP officials make it appear that the NDFP is responsible for the termination and have demanded that the peace negotiations be resumed in Manila. The revolutionary forces and the people represented by the NDFP have sharply rejected this stupid demand and have expressed their determination to fight the US-Duterte regime.

The regime is now reduced to whimpering and going back to an old discredited trick: localized peace talks. These sham peace talks are little zarsuelas staged by peace and order councils and the military who arrange “peace” meetings and present military assets either as NPA representatives or surrenderers. Even the captive audience is photographed and publicized as surrenderers in the mass media. All these childish tricks of military psywar amount to nothing in the face of the steadily growing armed revolutionary movement and the advance of the revolutionary forces and the people´s democratic government.

PCOO photo.

  1. Duterte Scheme of Fascist Dictatorship under the Cover of Chacha for Federalism

Duterte is obsessed with establishing a fascist dictatorship ala Marcos, his political idol, whose extrajudicial killings of around 3,500 over 14 years of autocratic rule he has already surpassed several times in only two years. His objective in unleashing campaigns to arrest people without judicial warrants and kill a number of them without judicial process under the pretext of eliminating suspected drug addicts, criminals, street loafers and terrorists is to terrorize the people and establish a fascist dictatorship.

These campaigns are now being directed mainly against the CPP and NPA and the leaders and mass activists of legal democratic organizations in the anti-Duterte broad united front. They are coordinated with the railroading of the charter change for federalism. The draft of the new charter from the Puno consultative committee, the resolution of both houses and the drafts of PDP-LABAN contain provisions that allow Duterte to have legislative and judicial powers in addition to executive powers during the transition period to a federal system of government. And the grounds for proclaiming martial law have been increased and eased up.

The same trick Marcos used to make a coup against the 1935 constitution is being replayed in the Duterte coup against the 1987 constitution. The supermajority of Duterte in the House of Representatives assures him of concentrating all powers of government in his hand. In a futile effort to deceive the people, he has announced that he would step down as soon as the fascist type of federal constitution would be ratified. But the people do not believe that he would give to another person what he has long craved for. Even now, he has displayed unmistakable signs of hubris from the power, privilege and resources in the hands of a head of state which are incomparably vast to that of a mayor in a remote big city.

The main beneficiaries of charter change are foreign monopoly capitalists who expect 100 percent ownership of entire enterprises in all kinds of businesses and Duterte himself and the regional dynasties and warlords who will further enjoy opportunities for accumulating power and wealth at the expense of the people. In this regard, centrifugal forces are reinforced and emboldened to break up the Philippines ultimately. The reorganization and maintenance of the federal system will entail high costs and large increases of the tax burden at federal, regional and lower levels and will aggravate the financial bankruptcy of the GRP and the social and economic crisis.

In the course of the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations in 2016 to 2017, the NDFP commented that the change of government from unitary to federal does not necessarily mean change for the better but offered to negotiate with GRP a federal constitution that is more patriotic, democratic and socially just than the 1987 constitution and can serve as the basis for the NDFP to co-found the Federal Republic of the Philippines.

Obsessed with monopolizing political power, under his fascist dictatorship, Duterte has deliberately blocked the GRP-NDFP negotiations on political and constitutional reforms. He has also claimed mendaciously that NDFP is demanding from him a coalition government led by the CPP, without the determination of the relative weights of political parties through elections. It is good that the NDFP has nothing to do but to oppose the charter change intended to install a Duterte fascist dictatorship masquerading as a federal government.

The overwhelming majority of the people are vigorously opposed to charter change to put Duterte on a throne of absolute power. They have suffered more than enough the escalation of oppression and exploitation under Duterte. The revolutionary forces and the people are determined to fight the US-Duterte regime and those who persist in supporting the tyranny of Duterte, his gross and systematic violations of human rights, his mismanagement of the economy and all his other intolerable acts in oppressing and exploiting the people.

PCOO photo.

  1. Mismanagement of the Economy, Heavier Tax Burden and Soaring Prices of Basic Goods and Services

Duterte admits that he knows nothing about economics. But he has chosen as policy makers or economic managers economists who adhere to the neoliberal policy regime, who agree with him to continue the policy pursued by the Aquino II regime and who do not comprehend the changes that have occurred in the global and domestic economy even before said regime ended.

The financial meltdown of 2008 has resulted in a prolonged global economic depression, relieved now and then by heavy doses of credit at the level of central banks, corporations and households. The majority of countries have alarming levels of public debt due to budgetary and trade deficits. Only for a while did the Philippines enjoy the big inflow of portfolio investments to buoy up the economy. But these started to flow out at an increasing rate since 2014.

The decrease of income from the export of raw materials and semi-manufactures and less inflow of foreign loans and less direct investments have exposed the underdeveloped, pre-industrial and semifeudal character of the economy and resulted in widening budgetary and trade deficits. The remittances of overseas contract workers and incomes of BPO call agents have been used by the GRP to raise the level of import-dependent consumption. The balance of payments has deteriorated. With dollar reserves declining, the peso has depreciated at the exchange rate 53.6 pesos per US dollar.

The economists of Duterte know nothing beyond the neoliberal parameters of raising tax revenues, spending these for the operations of government and funding imports, servicing the previously accumulated debt and resorting to local public borrowing, foreign loans and investments. The growth rate of the Philippine public debt has tripled since 2016 and has increased by nearly 1 trillion. As of May 2018, the national government has outstanding debt of 6.83 trillion pesos while private loans outstanding for production and household consumption reached as much as 7.28 trillion pesos. Duterte’s budget for 2019 is 3.757 trillion pesos , of which 1.2 trillion pesos need to be borrowed,

The Duterte regime has found no solution to the fall of production in agriculture and industry. It is just too happy that the GDP growth rate rises (supposedly 6.7% last year to 6.8% first quarter of this year) as a result of the growth of consumption, government spending and anti-industrialization investments. It does not care about productive investments to develop a self-reliant industrial economy. In the meantime, the number of unemployed Filipino workers leaped from 7.2 million to 10.9 million from December 2017 to March 2018. As compounded, the unemployed, underemployed and others already discouraged from seeking employment number as high as 13 million out of the labor force of 42.7 million.

The Duterte notion of development is to plunge into an eight trillion peso program of infrastructure projects up to 2022 to be sustained largely with tax revenues in collaboration mainly with Chinese construction companies and suppliers of materials and equipment. The expenditures and foreign debt required will prevent real development through national industrialization and genuine land reform as proposed by the NDFP and will continue to favor the export of cheap raw materials and the import of foreign manufactures.

Under these circumstances, the regime has planned and implemented since January the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN). The tax burden is increased from phase to phase, with corporations and the wealthy people given tax cuts and the broad masses of consumers paying excise taxes embedded in the inflated prices of basic goods and services they pay. TRAIN takes away anywhere from 1,000-3,000 pesos from the poorest majority Filipinos while giving 50,000–100,000 to the few richest Filipinos. It is scheduled to take even more from the poor and give more to the rich in 2019 and 2020.

The regime is raising taxes from the general mass of consumers, consisting mostly of low-income impoverished working people, swamped by a huge mass of unemployed, in a stagnant and underdeveloped semifeudal economy. The purpose is not only to fund the build, build, build infrastructure program but in fact mostly to pay for the doubled salaries of the military and police and for the rising costs of their operations and equipment, to assure foreign creditors of payment for the outstanding debt service and to cover the ever widening budgetary and trade deficits.

Even at the understated inflation rate of 5.2 per cent, the rapidly rising prices of basic goods and services have caused the accelerated isolation and hatred of the Duterte regime by the people. As a result, the broad united front for the ouster of Duterte which was first motivated by outrage over Duterte´s gross and systematic violations of human rights in his campaign of mass murder and mass intimidation is now further motivated and inflamed by a more sweeping outrage that involves the daily economic needs and survival of the overwhelming majority of the people.

Duterte has expected that he would be able to rev up the Philippine economy and employ more people by going on a spree of building a Metro Manila subway system, railways, roads, bridges, airports and seaports all over the country with the use mainly of foreign loans, construction companies, labor, materials and equipment from China. But there are delays and discordances between Philippine and Chinese counterparts. And yet Duterte´s neoliberal economists are too eager to raise the tax burden in advance in obeisance to Chinese and other foreign creditors.

Wages in the Philippines have stagnated since 2001 and are now assailed by the highest inflation rate since 2009. In view of the soaring prices of basic goods and services, the workers have been pressed by their inadequate income to demand higher wages, job security and the end of short-term contractualization. In this regard, the struggle of 8000 workers dismissed by PLDT exposes the falsity of Duterte´s promise to end contractualization. The homeless urban poor also demand affordable social housing. They have occupied idle substandard government housing but are being subjected to harassment and violent attacks by the police.

In the rural areas, the peasant masses and indigenous peoples who have lost and continue to lose land to corporate and bureaucratic land grabbers are intensifying the struggle for land and cooperate with the people´s army in dismantling the mining, logging and plantation enterprises of the land grabbers who refuse to comply with the laws of the people´s democratic government and who damage domestic food production and the environment.

Land grabbing for real estate speculation and building tourist facilities is rampant. But in one glaring instance of unbridled personal greed, Duterte has used environmental cleanup and land reform as pretext for closing down Boracay island and depriving thousands of families of jobs and livelihood in order to make way for Chinese casino owners and his cronies to take over major parts of the island.

In another conspicuous instance of extreme greed of the Duterte ruling clique is the grant of monopoly to favored bus companies at the expense of the huge mass of poor drivers and small operators of jeepneys, without giving any fair and realistic recourse for them. Adding insult to the injury, Duterte viciously made an outburst that he did not care that his victims were poor and that they would become poorer.

The widespread and intense people´s detestation of the Duterte regime due to the rapidly rising prices of basic goods and services and the steep rise of the rates of unemployment and landlessness are inflaming the struggles of the toiling masses of workers and peasants for jobs, land and better living conditions and are also fueling the mass protests against the escalation of the human rights violations and against the railroading of the charter change for federalism as pretext for a fascist dictatorship.

PCOO photo.

  1. Duterte Is Opposed to Social, Economic and Political Reforms in Peace Negotiations

Duterte has deliberately sabotaged and terminated the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations because of his ultra-reactionary adherence to the status quo under the oligarchy of big compradors, landlords and corrupt bureaucrats like himself. He is diametrically opposed to the very aim of making the comprehensive agreements on social and economic reforms and on political and constitutional reforms, which are the way to address the roots of the armed conflict and thereby lay the basis for a just and lasting peace.

He follows Lorenzana in condemning the NDFP proposed Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) as socialism and the comprehensive agreement on political and constitutional reforms (CAPCR) as communist-led coalition government. He wants to retain the underdeveloped and semifeudal status of the economy and to ensure that charter change to federalism results in the the imposition of his fascist dictatorship and the regional dynasties on the people.

Duterte exposes himself as a liar in previously making pronouncements that he is for national industrialization so that Filipinos would no longer become overseas contract workers separated from their family and motherland, that he is for the end of short-term contractualization of labor, that he is for minimum wage and higher wages to ensure a decent life for workers´ families, that he is for land reform and provision of services to the peasants, that the indigenous people have the right of self-determination and are entitled to their ancestral domain, and so on and so forth.

In terminating the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations, Duterte has called for the intensification of all-out war against the revolutionary forces, the people’s army and the people this year and thereafter. He leaves them with no choice but to fight back and take the initiative to launch offensives on a nationwide scale. The CPP, NPA, all allied forces of the NDFP and the people´s democratic government have declared that they are prepared to defend themselves and intensify people’s war through extensive and intensive guerrilla warfare on the basis of an ever widening and deepening mass base.

PCOO photo.

  1. False Independent Foreign Policy in Relations with US and China

In the first six months of the Duterte regime, US President Obama and members of the US Congress were alarmed by the extrajudicial killing of thousands of alleged drug addicts and pushers by Duterte´s police death squads. They threatened to cut down US military assistance in consideration of human rights violations. Duterte was riled and threatened to veer away from the US and towards China and Russia. He also claimed to be forging an independent foreign policy.

But he cozied up to US President Trump and was assured of unlimited US military assistance under Trump´s Operation Pacific Eagle-Philippines. Since then, he has fully exposed himself as not really being for an independent foreign policy. He is in fact traitorously keeping the Philippines under the domination of both the US and China and making deals at the expense of the Filipino people and for his own benefit together with his cronies.

Since assuming presidential office, he has retained all the treaties, agreements and arrangements that make the Philippines subservient to US imperialism economically, politically, culturally and militarily and which give US military forces extraterritorial rights in the country. He has aggravated US military dominance over the Philippines by accepting Trump´s Operation Pacific Eagle-Philippines by which he can receive unlimited US military assistance through the circumvention of US congressional oversight.

He has found an additional foreign master in China, a rising imperialist power. He has laid aside the final judgment of the Arbitral Tribunal of July 12, 2016 which recognized the sovereign rights of the Philippines over its exclusive economic zone and extended continental shelf in the West Philippine Sea and over the Panatag Shoal in accordance with the UN Convention on the Law of Sea. He has made no protest to China´s militarization of the Spratlys and has practically conceded to China the trillions of dollars worth of oil, gas and other natural resources in exchange for a few billions of dollars of high-interest Chinese loans for infrastructure projects.

These projects are extremely onerous. Chinese construction firms are in control of the projects. Sixty per cent of the labor force is Chinese. The interest rate on the loans is far higher than that on Japanese concessional loans. Worse, the projects are overpriced. Construction supplies and equipment are 100 percent Chinese. In case of payment defaults, the loans are subject to more onerous terms and to conversion to Chinese equity. Thus, the infrastructure projects face the prospect of becoming Chinese property as in Sri Lanka, Pakistan and elsewhere.

PCOO photo.

  1. Growing Resentment against Duterte among Military and Police Officers and Men

When he still had cordial relations with leaders of the revolutionary movement, he told them that, as GRP president, he had to demonstrate to the AFP and PNP that he was their commander-in-chief, he would pretend to carry out an ¨all-out war¨ not really to destroy the NPA but to overstretch and wear out the military and police brigades in futile search and destroy operations and so-called peace and development operations and ultimately to favor the armed revolution with more easy targets for guerrilla offensives.

But for all intents and purposes, he is deploying the AFP and PNP in a mad drive to really suppress the armed revolution and clear the way for establishing his fascist dictatorship. Nonetheless, he is actually overstretching, overstraining and wearing out his military and police forces. Since he became president, there has been no letup in the all-out war under Oplan Bayanihan up to the end of 2016 and under Oplan Kapayapaan from early 2017 onwards.

There has been no respite for the AFP and PNP maneuver units. The bulk of these has been deployed in Mindanao, undergoing the rigors of combat in Marawi City and also enforcing martial law in the rest of Mindanao, where they have to battle with the NPA and Bangsamoro armed groups. Of Duterte´s current total of 98 AFP battalions, he has deployed about 75 percent in Mindanao—50 percent against the NPA and 25 percent against the Bangsamoro group– and only about 25 percent in Luzon and the Visayas.

With this kind of deployment, the NPA can easily fight back and take initiatives in launching offensives. The total strength of AFP and PNP combat troops cannot effectively cover and control all the more than 40,000 barangays of the Philippines and all the areas of responsibility and guerrilla fronts of the NPA. On the average, there are not even two AFP soldiers per barangay. From their guerrilla base and zones, the NPA can move freely in more than 80 per cent of the barangays.

The NPA can use the national scale of the guerrilla fronts for fluid movement and flexible use of the tactics of concentration, shifting and dispersal, depending on circumstances, and the depth of the social and physical terrain of particular guerrilla fronts to lure in the enemy forces for annihilation. At the same time, it can deliver unexpected blows to certain vital but vulnerable parts of the enemy forces.

There is growing resentment among AFP and PNP officers and lower personnel against the Duterte regime despite the doubling of their salaries. Their grievances include the following: they are being overworked and being put in harm´s way too often, the less deserving among them get promoted, they are being used for extrajudicial killings and other criminal purposes and a big number of them are being corrupted with rewards in cash for carrying out unlawful orders that violate professional standards and service rules.

There is an increasing number of active and retired AFP officers who are in touch with the popular movement to oust Duterte. They wish to develop a movement of officers and enlisted personnel to coordinate with the growing mass protest movement and withdraw support from Duterte at the decisive moment. They emulate the examples of AFP officers who withdrew support from Marcos in 1986 and Estrada in 2001 and helped effect their ouster.

PCOO photo.

  1. Duterte´s Use of Abusive and Violent Language and Attacks on Catholics and Christians

While he was campaigning for the presidency, Duterte´s use of abusive, vulgar and violent language against his political rivals and those whom he accused of being involved in illegal drugs, criminality and corruption was entertaining to audiences in mass meetings and was even praised as a manifestation of an honest and frank character.

But since becoming president, Duterte´s use of the same gutter kind of language and content in rambling speeches have become repulsive not so much because of boring repetition but because of the attempt to deflect attention from unfulfilled promises, failures and aggravation of problems.

Duterte has increasingly used abusive, vulgar and violent language to rouse hatred among his political followers against his critics and opponents, to goad the military and police to engage in violent actions against the people and to express contempt for the working class and peasantry, the national minorities, women, the youth activists and other people.

The madness of Duterte in using his kind of language is not simply because he is crazed by Fentanyl and by power or that he is a psychopath and sociopath as professionally established by a court-approved psychiatrist and officially certified in his divorce case. It is easier to understand that he is driven to gain more power and wealth and it becomes necessary for him to intimidate people and rouse his political followers and his military and police subalterns to protect him.

The extremely violent character of his regime is defined by both his language and the actual escalation of exploitation and oppression. Even as he has failed to deliver on his promises to end contractualization, raise wages, carry out land reform, create industries and more jobs, the police under his inspiration have become more brutal in suppressing worker and peasant strikes.

Even as he has failed to deliver on his promise to give land to the landless tillers and to assure the indigenous people to keep their ancestral domain and whatever schools and cooperatives that they have established, he has been extremely vicious in ordering the bombing and military occupation of rural communities in order to make more land and more resources available for exploitation by foreign and big comprador mining, logging and plantation interests.

He has directed the military and police to target the youth activists for terrorist labeling and listing for the purpose of violent actions, including abduction, torture and murder. He has displayed with utmost arrogance the worst kind of misogyny, including his call on troops to rape women or shoot them in the vagina in order to make them useless. This exposes his view of women as mere sex objects.

There is no limit to the vileness and malice of Duterte. In a futile attempt to distract attention from the socioeconomic and political problems he has generated, he has gone so far as to use his presidential authority to attack the religious belief of Catholics and Christians and generate a climate for persecution and murder even of religious leaders. As if to proclaim his own stupidity, he has boasted of his own concept of God and attacked the God of the Catholics and Christians as stupid and lacking common sense, in gross disrespect and violation of the freedom of thought and belief.

As a result of his attacks on the God of the Catholics and Christians, a great number of his followers have left his camp and have put into question his sanity and competence to rule. He has become thoroughly isolated by a combination of factors which include state terrorism, mass murder, soaring prices of basic goods and services and high unemployment rate and his gross disrespect for Catholics and Christians.

PCOO photo.

  1. Growing Movement for the Ouster of the Duterte regime

In real fear of being ousted as well as in furtherance of his scheme to establish a fascist dictatorship by scapegoating the CPP and NPA, Duterte has taunted them as incapable of ousting him and his ruling clique.

But the process of ousting a president of the neocolonial republic has been successful in the cases of Marcos in 1986 and Estrada in 2001 without the NPA having to engage in battles in Metro Manila and the CPP having to take power here.

To oust a brutal and corrupt despot it is sufficient that a broad united front of legal patriotic and progressive forces engage in mass mobilization through marches and rallies, culminating in the withdrawal of support by his own military and police personnel.

Indeed, Duterte has more to fear from his own assumed instruments of terror than from the NPA. Reports are rife that a moderate group of military officers is poised to demand the resignation of Duterte. Another group is poised to take action in order to compel the ouster or resignation of Duterte.

The most important reason why Duterte is now in danger of being ousted from power is that he has grievously offended the working class, the peasantry, the middle strata of the bourgeoisie, the national minorities, the women, the youth and others. They have become aroused, organized and mobilized to oust Duterte from his arrogant perch because of his reign of greed and terror.#

 

Destroyer of worlds

In a far from modest and less than truthful description of itself, the Philippine government, said a Malacanang statement, is “headed by someone who has strong political will, decisive leadership, and compassion for his fellow men,” hence the “fruitful” first two years of the six-year Rodrigo Duterte presidency.

How “fruitful” have the past two years of the Duterte regime been? Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in the same statement that the government is winning the “war” on drugs, as evidenced by, he said, the number of police anti-drug operations (91,704 from July 2016 to March 2018), the arrest of 123,648 suspected drug pushers and users, the dismantling of drug dens and laboratories, and the government’s seizure of billions of pesos worth of illegal drugs and laboratory equipment. There’s also the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency’s (PDEA) declaration of over 6,000 barangay as being “drug free.”

In addition are the “economic feats” — Roque’s words — of the administration and its “independent foreign policy.” The first includes the 6.7 percent growth of the country’s gross domestic product (GRP) in 2017, while the second has “resulted in billions worth of investments that are expected to create thousands of jobs for Filipinos.”

Those “feats,” however, are not of any consequence to the imperative of ending the poverty of nearly 25 percent of Filipinos to which Mr. Duterte said he was committed. Only one percent of the population benefit from economic growth, while the remaining 99 million Filipinos don’t because of the skewed system of wealth distribution that’s one of the worst in Asia. Rooted in the archaic land tenancy system that has defied abolition for centuries, that system has kept millions desperately poor.

But Roque’s statement was nevertheless echoed by former Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, who said — without, however, specifying anything — that Mr. Duterte has made good on all his election promises except three. Special Assistant to the President Bong Go said basically the same thing, but was similarly short on the specifics.

None of these three regime worthies mentioned Mr. Duterte’s pre-election promise to enrich funeral parlor owners by killing 100,000 drug pushers and users, which, with four more years to go in his term, he can handily fulfill, 20,000 mostly poor Filipinos including women and children having been killed by the police and their surrogate assassins in only two years since 2016.

Roque’s celebration of his president’s “political will” and “decisive leadership” no doubt refers to his being true to that threat. It certainly doesn’t apply to his promise to pursue “an independent foreign policy,” despite the pledges of billions in investments and aid he has managed to extract from various countries, primarily China.

Those pledges — most are yet to materialize — hardly qualify as either proof or fruit of an independent anything. China’s promise of high interest loans are in fact a trap likely to condemn succeeding generations to indebtedness. Meanwhile, despite his early rants against American intervention and its sordid human rights record in the Philippines, his promise to end Philippine involvement in US war games, and his declaration of “separation” from the US, the country remains bound to US economic and strategic interests. The Mutual Defense Treaty is still in force, and so are the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) despite Mr. Duterte’s control over the majority in Congress, which could have enabled him to have all three abrogated.

As glaring as that reality is, even more flagrantly obvious is Mr. Duterte’s downplaying, and at times even justifying, Chinese imperialism’s brazen violation of Philippine sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea, where it has built military bases on the artificial islands it has constructed within the the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone, barred Filipino fisherfolk from their traditional fishing grounds, and even seized the catch of those who had initially managed to evade its coast guard cutters.

Mr. Duterte’s “compassion for his fellow men” is as mythical as his “independent” foreign policy. It apparently doesn’t include the poor, the marginalized, women, priests, and the Lumad against whom his various other “wars” have been directed.

An Ateneo de Manila University, University of the Philippines and La Salle University study has documented and established the anti-poor character of the killings that have primarily characterized the misnamed “war” against drugs, which has spared drug lords while focusing on small-time drug pushers. Mr. Duterte has even promoted government officials suspected of involvement in the P6.4 billion drug smuggling scandal, while reappointing others he had fired for corruption or made to resign, demonstrating thereby how serious his pledge to end both the drug problem and government corruption has been.

Over the last two years, instead of making an alternative world possible through the initiation of the social and economic reforms the country so desperately needs, Mr. Duterte has laid waste the world — as insecure, problematic and terrifying as it already was — of the widows and orphans of the breadwinners murdered in the course of his selectively anti-poor campaign against illegal drugs. A humanitarian crisis created by those murders is developing, as thousands of wives and children are made even more destitute by the loss of their husbands and fathers.

His order to arrest “istambay” is similarly savaging entire communities. Potentially productive young men — those looking for work but who are unable to find it, as well as those between jobs — are being hauled off to prison together with ne’er-do-wells and petty thieves. Their families are in the process deprived of the help and support of their sons who, among the poor, are their best hopes for survival in a country where the loss or absence of a family member can mean the difference between having food on the table or starving.

As distressing as all of these are, what’s likely to be one of Mr. Duterte’s lasting impacts on Philippine society is his relentless assault on the Constitution and the system of checks and balances which has made authoritarian rule beguiling and democracy repugnant to the uninformed. There is as well his and his minions’ demonization of the media, of the Church, of dissenting and critical women, and of individual clergymen in his apparent belief that they’re potential or actual instruments in a conspiracy to remove him from the power he claims to disdain but in reality so desperately craved.

His rants, ravings, profanities and tirades against critics, human rights defenders, clerics, women and God Himself have further divided a society already fragmented by economic, social and political inequality, and have made rational and informed discourse the subject of scorn among those sectors of the population that need it most. Mr. Duterte’s enshrinement of abuse, impunity, violence, lawlessness, and intimidation as State policies and as substitutes for informed debate and discussion is creating a generation of cynical, ignorant, brutal and mindless citizens and civilian and military bureaucrats who even now venerate, propagate and uphold the very opposite of the values of respect for others and the truth, and the right to free expression necessary in the making of a society of equals in which no one need sleep in fear or under bridges. This is how “fruitful” his first two years in power have been. #

First published in BusinessWorld Photo from PCOO.

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. #

 

Sr. Pat: You have to do something

By April Burcer

“You have to do something,” Australian missionary Sr. Patricia Fox, NDS said during a solidarity forum held at the Ateneo de Manila University last June 29, Friday.

“You can’t stay numb when there are massive human rights abuses, injustices and poverty,” the missionary said at the forum entitled D’yandi, about the breakdown of the peace talks, injustices and human rights abuses plaguing the country.

Fox said that the challenge for church members is the determination what the role of the Church is when there are injustices, poverty and human rights abuses.

Fox has been the subject of personal tirades by President Rodrigo Duterte who infamously said that the nun’s God is stupid.

“We do have a little difference with the President about who God is,” the nun said, adding she is being forced to confine herself to church activities.

“They said missionaries like me should only be in barangays, teaching church doctrines, not be involved with the issues of society,” Fox said.

But the nun said she will continue her missionary work with the poor sectors of Philippine society.

“I cannot not be involved with the people who are oppressed, who are victims of injustice or of war.  My belief is (the poor people are) who God is,” she explained.

The missionary emphasized the need to be aware of the issues in the society, looking into the system and doing something about it.

“That’s what I thought I was doing. At this stage, the government doesn’t agree with this,” she said, referring to the attacks the government has been throwing at her.

Farmers and justice

Fox has been working with farmers and the poor for more than 27 years and she said she learned so much in the Philippines, especially the plight of the farmers.

“Why are industrious farmers still poor? Over the time I learned there were problems. There were people who said they own the land but farmers have been tilling that land for a long time so how can it be their land? The farm lands are far and the roads then are rough. How do you get your produce to the market? You have to sell to a trader at a loss,” she said.

She also worked with farmers of Hacienda Luisita and other missionaries on a fact-finding mission where some of her colleagues were arrested.

However, this did not stop Fox from continuing with her work.

“I believe that is part of our mission. How can we have peace, how can we have justice, if there’s no justice for the farmers?” she asked. #

 

Progressives hold Black Friday Protest on Duterte’s 2nd year in office

Progressive groups held a Black Friday Protest at along EDSA, Quezon City last June 29, 2018 on the eve of the second anniversary of President Rodrigo Duterte ascension to office.

Aside from narrating Duterte’s failed promises, the protesters complained of the many human rights violations committed under his administration.

Position Paper on the proposed amendments to the Human Security Act of 2017 (House Bills 7141 and 5507)

Your Honors:

Following is a more complete version of NUJP’s position paper delivered during the Technical Working Group (TWG) meeting of June 18, 2018.

The NUJP opposes these bills, as well as the working draft currently being discussed by the TWG, asthey include provisions that may be later used against the people’s right to freedom of expression and the freedom of the press. If passed and implemented, this will make the practice of journalism in this country impossible and extremely dangerous.

Specifically:

  1. Section 4, wherein Republic Act 10175, otherwise known as the Cybercrime Law, specifically its Chapter II, item 4 on Libel, is included as a predicate crime on terrorism.

The NUJP and the mass media industry in general is on record to be opposed to libel as a crime, as it in fact being used to harass journalists. We have petitioned congress to decriminalize libel, as we are on record to have opposed the Cybercrime Law. We surely cannot agree to making libel an even stronger law by making it a predicate crime for the crime of terrorism.

In addition, almost all media outfits nowadays have online platforms. The inclusion of the Cybercrime Law as a predicate crime to the crime of terrorism would endanger journalists the most. We fear critical reports and opinion may already be called terroristic acts. Why pass bills that may constrict the exercise of free journalism in this country when, in fact and in practice, it is increasingly being subverted already? May we remind the TWG that according to our Constitution, “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of the press.”

  1. Section 5(b). Inciting to terrorism. – Any person who incites another person by any means to commit terrorism whether or not directly advocating the commission of any of such act, thereby causing danger that one or more such acts may be committed, shall be punished with the penalty of life imprisonment.

(We note that the National Bureau of Investigation and the Anti-Money Laundering Council propose that the words “inciting to terrorism” be defined and that the NBI has said that the penalty of life imprisonment is excessive and places inciters at the same level as those who actually commit terrorism. On the basis of the gravity of offense, inciting to terrorism warrants a lighter penalty.)

We ask, who determines incitement? Would a news article explaining the roots of “terrorism” or rebellion, which terms the government often interchanges freely, qualify as incitement? Past governments certainly viewed it this way.

  1. Sec. 5 (f). Glorification of terrorism – Any person who, not being a conspirator, accomplice or accessory under Sections 5, 6 and 7 of this act, shall by any means make a statement or act, through any medium, which tends to directly or indirectly encourage, justify, honor or otherwise induce the commission of terrorist acts (as proposed by the department of defense) by proscribed or designated individuals or organizations, or shall by any means honor glorify proscribed or designated individuals or organizations (as proposed by the AMLC), shall suffer the penalty of ten (10) years of imprisonment.

We offer the same comment as above. Who determines glorification and terrorism? Might not this provision be used by state forces to charge and harass members of the press who would write something about so called terrorism, misconstruing such as glorification?

  1. Sec. 5(g). Membership in terrorist organizations. – Any person who shall knowingly become a member or manifest his/her intention to become a member of any Philippine Court-proscribed or United Nations Security Council-designated terrorist organization shall suffer the penalty of life imprisonment.” (House Bill No. 5507)

The government, particularly state security forces, have time and again tagged legal organizations, including the NUJP, as “fronts” or even “enemies of the state.” If these agencies have been so cavalier in endangering the lives and reputation of legitimate media organizations in the past, these bills would further embolden them to violate our rights.

  1. Sec. 9. Section 8 of the same act is hereby renumbered and amended to read as follows:

“Section[8] 9. Formal application for judicial authorization. – The written order of the authorizing division of the court of appeals and/or regional trial court.

(The Philippine Military Academy Alumni Association – Eagle Chapter proposes to change the references to Court of Appeals and RTC to “proper judicial authorities” and the phrase “probable cause based on personal knowledge” to “probable cause based on reasonable ground of suspicion of facts and circumstances.”)

To track down, tap, listen to, intercept, and record communications, messages, conversations, discussions, or spoken or written words [of any person suspected of the crime of terrorism or the crime of conspiracy to commit terrorism] in Section 8 hereof shall only be granted by the authorizing division of the Court of Appeals and/or the Regional Trial Court upon an ex parte written application of a [police or of a law enforcement official] law enforcement or military personnel [who has been duly authorized in writing by the anti-terrorism council created in sec. 53 of this act to file such ex parte application], and upon examination under oath or affirmation of the applicant and [the] his/her witnesses [he may produce to establish]: (a) that there is probable cause to believe based on personal knowledge of facts or circumstances that any of the [said] crimes [of terrorism or conspiracy to commit terrorism] in section 4, 5, 5(a), 5(b), 5(c), 5(d), 5(e), 5 (f) and 5(g) hereof [has] have been committed, or [is] are being committed, or [is] are about to be committed; (b) that there is probable cause to believe based on personal knowledge of facts or circumstances that evidence, which is essential to the conviction of any charged or suspected person for, or to the solution or prevention of, any such crimes, will be obtained; and, (c) that there is no other effective means readily available for acquiring such evidence.

(On the phrases “In case of imminent danger or actual terrorist attack,” we note that the Department of Information and Communications Technology proposes to define the terms “imminent danger” and “actual terrorist attack.)

The Secretary of the Department of Information and Communications Technology / National Telecommunications Commission (as proposed by the DOJ) the Court of Appeals or the Regional Trial Court, upon the certification of the Anti-Terrorism Council based on reasonable ground of suspicion on the part of the law enforcement or military personnel, (as proposed by the Philippine National Police) shall have the power to compel telecom and internet service providers to produce all customer information and identification records as well as call and text data records and other cellular or internet metadata of any person suspected of any crime in section 4, 5, 5(a), 5(b), 5(c), 5(d), 5(e), 5(f) and 5(g) hereof.

Again, Your Honors, this is dangerous. It would open the floodgates to a widespread violation of people’s rights, including journalists. Also, if the proposals of Philippine Military Academy Alumni Association–Eagle Chapter to change the references to Court of Appeals and RTC to “proper judicial authorities” and the phrase “probable cause based on personal knowledge” to “probable cause based on reasonable ground of suspicion of facts and circumstances” are adopted, this could expose practically anyone to invasion of privacy.

  1. Section 18. Period of detention without judicial warrant of arrest. – The provisions of Article 125 of the Revised Penal Code to the contrary notwithstanding, any [police or] law enforcement or military personnel [, who, having been duly authorized in writing by the Anti-Terrorism Council] has taken custody of a person [charged with or] suspected [of the crime of terrorism or the crime of conspiracy to commit terrorism]of committing any of the punishable acts in section 4, 5(a), 5(b), 5(c), 5(d), 5(e), 5(f) and 5(g) hereof shall, without incurring any criminal liability for delay in the delivery of detained persons to the proper judicial authorities, deliver said [charged or suspected]arrested person to the proper judicial authority within a period of thirty (30) days (security reform initiative proposes a maximum of fourteen (14) days.) Counted from the moment the said [charged or suspected] person has been [apprehended or] arrested excluding Saturday, Sunday and Holidays.[, detained, and taken into custody by the said police, or law enforcement personnel: provided, that the arrest of those suspected of the crime of terrorism or conspiracy to commit terrorism must result from the surveillance under sec. 7 and examination of bank deposits under sec. 27 of this act.]

Thirty days is too long and open to so many potential abuses of basic rights. As you know, Your Honors, journalists are victims of harassment suits and arbitrary arrests and detention for the flimsiest of reasons. On the inclusion of the cybercrime law as among the special laws that may be applied against suspected terrorists.

Your Honors, it was clear to the NUJP during the June 18, 2018 meeting that these bills were merely cobbled up versions of anti-terrorism laws by other countries such as Australia. This much the proponents admitted. What they dishonestly withhold from the TWG, however, is that the laws they copied have very clear definitions and exemptions as safeguards against abuse, something they did not bother to copy in their dangerous versions. Many provisions of House Bills 7141 and 5507 are bullets aimed to kill people’s civil, political and human rights.

And so, while the NUJP was encouraged by the Honorable Chairperson Rufino Biazon’s opening statement last June 18 that people’s rights must be guaranteed, we, however, declare our opposition to the bills.

Thank you.

NUJP National Directorate

Nonoy Espina                                    Marlon Ramos                                   Dabet Panelo

      Chairperson                                       Vice Chairperson                              Secretary General

     Raymund Villanueva                       Jhoanna Ballaran                             Ron Lopez

Deputy Secretary General                           Treasurer                                          Auditor

 

Directors

Nestor Burgos                   Gerg Cahiles                       Kath Cortez                        Virgilio Cuizon

Justine Dizon          Sonny Fernandez        Kimberlie Quitasol         Richel Umel          Judith Suarez

Baylosis files contempt charges against warden

Detained National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) consultant Rafael Baylosis filed  a petition for indirect contempt Friday against the warden of the Metro Manila District Jail-4 for refusing to release him despite a court order.

In his petition filed at the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (QC-RTC), Baylosis said Jail Chief Inspector Jojie Jonathan Pangan’s refusal to release him is an act constituting improper conduct.

Pangan’s snub of the court order tend to impede, obstruct, or degrade the administration of justice, is disobedience to a lawful order, and tantamount to disrespect to the authority of the court, Baylosis said.

Branch 100 of the QC-RTC ordered Baylosis’s release last June 14 upon his posting of a bail bond to allow him to participate in the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations.

Baylosis’s release order is valid and existing despite yet another cancellation of formal talks between the NDFP and the Rodrigo Duterte government, Baylosis’s lawyer and Public Interest Law Center (PILC) managing counsel Rachel Pastores said in a statement.

“[Baylosis] has no warrant of arrest in any other case. So there’s no reason for the jail warden to disobey the release order,” Pastores said.

“His continued, unreasonable refusal to implement it is a contemptuous act which not only violates Baylosis’ rights.  It clearly shows disdain of the court which must be punished,” Pastores explained.

“The warden is not above the law.  He is mandated to follow the rules and the law. It is in the public interest that warden’s willful defiance of a court order be sanctioned,” she stressed.

Baylosis was to participate in the scheduled preliminary meetings and formal talks in The Netherlands and Norway earlier this month as a member of the NDFP’s Ceasefire Committee.

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process as well as the Department of Justice has reportedly posed no objection to the PILC’s petition for bail for Baylosis to allow him to negotiate the aborted coordinated unilateral ceasefire (CUC) between the NDFP and GRP.

Baylosis has been part of the peace negotiations in various capacities since 1996.

Arrested with a companion in Quezon City last February, Baylosis is facing charges of illegal possession of firearm and explosive at RTC Quezon City, Branch 100.

Pastores said the charges are trumped up by the Philippine National Police. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

A matter of time

By Prof. Luis V. Teodoro

The killing of three priests over the last six months — of Fr. Marcelito Paez last December, 2017, Fr. Mark Ventura in April, and Fr. Richmond Nilo this June — has provoked both outrage as well as fears that it is part of the Duterte regime’s campaign to silence its critics.

Priests have been murdered in this country and in the rest of the world for years. Among dozens of others in Latin America, while saying mass in 1980, El Salvador’s Archbishop Oscar Romero was assassinated by a death squad for his opposition to dictatorship, injustice and torture. In the Philippines, 32 clergymen and church workers, 16 of whom were Catholic priests, have been killed since the Marcos regime (1965-1986).

The online news site MindaNews lists 13 priests killed from 1971, when Marcos was in his second term, to 2011 during the Benigno Aquino III administration.

Fr. Nelson Javellana was ambushed in Maguindanao in 1971, Fr. Godofredo Alingal killed in Bukidnon in 1981, and Fr. Tullio Favali in North Cotabato in 1985.

Anti-illegal logging activist Fr. Mario Estorba was killed in Agusan del Sur in 1988, followed by Fr. Dionisio Malalay who was slain in Zamboanga del Sur in1989, and Fr. Nerylito Satur in 1991. All three killings happened during the Corazon Aquino post-martial law administration.

Bishop Benjamin de Jesus was killed in 1997 during the Fidel Ramos term, and Fr. Rhoel Gallardo of Basilan and Fr. Benjamin Inocencio of Jolo in 2000 during the brief presidency of Joseph Estrada .

Two priests were killed during the nine years that Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was president : Fr. Rufus Haley in 2001, and Fr. Reynaldo Roda in 2008. One priest, Fr. Fausto Tentorio, was killed in 2011 during the Benigno Aquino III administration.

These 13 plus the three killed during the present regime add up to 16 priests murdered in the last 47 years. Only the killers of Fr. Favali in 1985 have been punished: together with his men, the leader of the paramilitary group responsible was tried, convicted, and sentenced to life imprisonment, but was pardoned after 23 years in prison.

The Duterte regime can very well argue that the killing of priests is not a phenomenon unique to it, and that rather than part of a policy to intimidate the Church, the killings do not reveal any pattern but are likely to have been due to any number of motives .

But all the priests killed did have something in common: their being political and social activists, and their commitment to the defense of the poor and powerless. All were human rights defenders. Some were fighting for indigenous people’s rights, others for the environment, for a just and lasting peace, for equality and social justice, and against militarization and peasant and worker exploitation.

The killings suggest that they were carried out by those groups and forces hostile to those advocacies. The economic, social and political issues and problems the slain priests were addressing are still with us, and continue to demand the engagement of everyone, including the clergy, who sincerely care for this country and its people.

All post-Marcos administrations up to Benigno Aquino III’s at least paid lip service to the need for justice for the slain priests, and none of them ever suggested that the killings were justifiable. The Philippine National Police as of this writing has announced the arrest of a suspect in the killing of Fr. Nilo. But President Rodrigo Duterte’s most recent statements have laid the blame on the fatalities themselves, thereby suggesting that the killings can be blithely explained away, or even justified. And only Mr. Duterte’s subordinates have issued the usual assurances about going after the killers.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Mr. Duterte blamed the journalists who have been killed in this country for their own murders because they were all supposedly corrupt. He is similarly blaming the slain today by claiming that despite their vows of celibacy, priests are no different from him in that they too have had affairs with women. He followed this up, prior to the murder of Fr. Nilo, with attacks on the Catholic Church and even on God Himself.

Neither corruption nor immorality justifies anyone’s being killed, whether judicially or extrajudicially. If they did, every other government official would deserve a lethal injection, or a bullet in the head from the usual police and motorcycle-riding assassins. But the current President of the Philippines seems to think that these failings, like the use of illegal drugs, are capital offenses.

His tirades and profanities against Catholic priests and the Church itself, just like his justifying the killing of journalists — like Benigno Aquino III’s own verbal attacks on the press and media during his term — are also likely to encourage more killings. But this is to assume that it would be merely incidental and unintentional, and there is no regime policy to do away with its critics in the clergy and other “troublesome” sectors like the independent press.

Such a policy would after all be in direct contradiction with the government responsibility of protecting its citizens. But the context in which the killing of progressive and activist priests is happening nevertheless invites the conclusion that such a policy does exist.

In apparent fear of being ousted from power–he has even announced that China will protect him if there are ever such attempts–Mr. Duterte has attacked independent journalists on the assumption that the truth-telling responsibility of a free press is likely to help remove him from office. He and his police and military bureaucrats may be entertaining the same thoughts about the activist clergy and even the Catholic Church itself.

He may not be entirely mistaken. The institutional Catholic Church has always been conservative. But there are nevertheless individuals within it who believe in seeking justice though the heavens fall– who defend human rights, who fight for social change, peace and independence, and who, in the process, have themselves become the targets of State repression.

Even prior to the EDSA 1 civilian-military mutiny, progressive clergymen and women were already in the broad resistance against the dictatorship, and helped commit the Catholic Church to the overthrow of the Marcos terror regime. The free press and media were similarly pivotal in that historic enterprise. The crucial roles of the press and the clergy in the political upheaval of 1986 may help explain the Duterte regime’s antipathy for both.

The irony is that Mr. Duterte’s attacks on the Catholic Church and priesthood are fueling the simmering outrage against his regime that he fears can lead to his overthrow, just as his assault on independent journalists and their organizations has convinced responsible practitioners of the need for critical attention to his regime’s acts and policies.

Neither all the clergy and the entire Church, nor all journalists and their organizations, have as yet forged the unity resistance to autocratic rule demands. But thanks to Mr. Duterte’s own doing, among them his enshrinement of killing and police and military impunity as State policy, today as in the months, weeks and days before EDSA 1, it may only be a matter of time before it is achieved together with the workers, farmers, students, academics, urban poor, women, and indigenous and Moro people who believe that an alternative to the reign of assassins is both necessary and possible.

First published in BusinessWorld. Photo from PCOO. / Prof. Teodoro is chairperson of the People’s Alternative Media Network