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REPORT: Philippine Army source of cyber-attacks vs. media outfits

An internet protocol (IP) address assigned to the Philippine Army was the source of cyber-attacks on media websites Bulatlat.com and Altermidya.net, a government agency confirmed.

Bulatlat and Altermidya said the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-PH), an agency of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), finally gave them a copy of its initial findings confirming earlier reports state agents were behind the attacks on their websites.

In an August 11 report, CERT-PH said its analysis and investigation revealed that IP address 202.90.137[.].42 that conducted unauthorized vulnerability scans of the said websites, was assigned to the Philippine Army.

“CERT-PH noted the 2182 lines of logs with destination bulatlat.com from the IP 202.90.137[.].42, which was submitted by the investigation requester,” part of the report said.

A vulnerability scan seeks potential weaknesses in the targeted network without permission from the system owner.

READ: Group reveals attacks on media and human rights websites

CERT-PH’s report said additional analysis of the incidents did not prosper due to Philippine Army’s refusal to reply to requests for “coordination.”

In a joint statement, Bulatlat and Altermidya said CERT-PH’s report validated findings made last June by their hosting provider, Sweden-based Qurium Media Foundation.

The media outfits said the Armed Forces of the Philippines at the time feigned ignorance and issued a statement claiming it upholds press freedom.

The DOST, which provides the infrastructure to the Philippine Army, also refused to reveal the agency behind the IP space and to this day has not communicated with Bulatlat and Altermidya regarding its promise to ask the DICT for an independent probe, despite repeated requests.

“As of today, we have not received any communication from the DOST regarding its investigation, which we requested a copy of. We tried reaching out to them via office phone and email, but we have yet to receive a response,” Bulatlat and Altermidya said.

The media outfits said they condemn the Philippine Army for carrying out cyber crimes against independent media outfits.

“We take offense at the duplicity they have shown regarding this incident – publicly professing respect for press freedom but launching vicious digital attacks, and never cooperating with other government agencies,” the outfits said.

Bulatlat and Altermidya also expressed disappointment with the DOST for “covering up for the Philippine Army.”

“DOST should not allow its infrastructure be used to suppress the truth, and should impose penalties for agencies found to commit abuses,” they said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

CERT-PH’s report.

Int’l community urged to press investigations on PH rights violations

The 52 drug war cases investigated by the Department of Justice only comprise .9% of the 5,655 cases of drug-related killings it admitted before the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2020.

There is no effective domestic mechanism to deliver justice and accountability for human rights violations in the Philippines, making investigations by the international community necessary and urgent, rights alliance Karapatan said.

Despite repeated promises of cooperation made by Philippine government officials to the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC), Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said the country’s domestic mechanisms remain ineffective and inadequate in delivering justice.

Palabay said that both the government’s Inter-Agency Task Force on Administrative Order No. 35 (AO 35) and the inter-agency panel on the drug war have yet to show any significant progress in holding the perpetrators of human rights violations accountable.

Palabay called on the UNHRC to press on with its plan to conduct investigations on the state of human rights in the Philippines to coincide with the International Criminal Court’s own investigations on the thousands of deaths resulting from President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs campaign.

Slow pace of investigations

From the creation of the AO 35 task force in 2012 up to December 2019, the group has handled only 385 cases, including cases that date all the way back to 2001 under the term of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Palabay revealed.

Citing government’s own reports, Palabay further revealed there were only 13 convictions while 127, or 33% of the cases, were dismissed and the perpetrators were either cleared or acquitted by the courts.

She also noted the slow progress of majority of the investigations and prosecution, with 111 cases archived while 89 are still under investigation.

Recent cases added to the list include the brutal killings of National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace consultant Randall Echanis, Karapatan human rights worker Zara Alvarez, the massacre of nine Tumandok tribes people in Panay Island, and the killings in the Bloody Sunday raids in Southern Tagalog region—all perpetrated during the coronavirus pandemic lockdowns.

“[T]he task force fails to uphold its mandate when the same violations continue with even more brazenness, especially under this murderous regime which issues clear directives for State forces to kill, kill, and kill,” Palabay pointed out.

UNHRC promise going nowhere

Palabay also scored the apparent failure of the Duterte government to deliver on its promise to the UNHRC’s 44th General Assembly in July 2020 of “public transparency and full accountability” on drug-related killings.

On August 16, 2021, justice secretary Guevarra, in behalf of the Duterte administration, announced it has reviewed 52 drug war cases forwarded by the Philippine National Police to his office.

“[But] no report has been made public by the DOJ (Department of Justice). The 52 drug war cases comprise only .9% of the 5,655 deaths cited by Guevarra in his June 2020 statement before the HRC,” Palabay complained.

 “These cases are a mere drop in the bucket of reported drug war killings, and yet a year since the drug war panel has been in place, the public has not seen any report and has not heard of any substantial effort to hold the perpetrators accountable,” Palabay said.

Palabay further questioned the DOJ’s ability to inspire confidence among victims and their families to cooperate with its investigation, more so that its task force includes those who are accused of being violations perpetrators themselves.

“It raises the issue of the task force’s credibility and independence, and therefore, its effectiveness in fulfilling its mandate,” Palabay said.

‘Good luck’

President Duterte and his spokespersons however rejected calls for investigations by the international community on the human rights situation in the country.

Duterte himself threatened to either block, arrest or slap experts brave enough to come to the Philippines.

Presidential spokesperson Herminio L. Roque Jr. is no less derisive of the planned investigations, declaring the Duterte government will not cooperate with the ICC.

“For its own good, they should drop the case rather than prove to the world that the local courts are inutile… Good luck on obtaining the cooperation of the Philippine state,” Roque said.

Presidential chief legal counsel Salvador Panelo also said investigations from abroad are blatant interference in Philippine domestic affairs.

Life-saving

Palabay however pressed for both ICC and UNHRC investigations to proceed to stop the Duterte administration from its unending killing spree.

“We call on the UN Human Rights Council and the international community to press for an independent international investigation, in line with the recommendation of (UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Michelle) Bachelet that in the absence of clear and measurable outcomes from domestic mechanisms, options for international accountability measures should be considered,” Palabay insisted.

“The international independent investigation by the UN Human Rights Council is an important and life-saving step and approach to address the worsening human rights situation in the Philippines,” Palabay said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Prisoners’ support group asks poll body to extend voters’ registration

A prisoners’ support group asked the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to extend the deadline to the ongoing voters’ registration to allow persons denied of liberty (PDL) to vote in next year’s national and local elections.

With just two weeks before the September 30 deadline, the group Kapatid said an extension shall allow prisoners’ to still “make a difference” through their votes

Kapatid spokesperson Fides Lim said, “It is important for PDLs, especially those wrongly imprisoned for crimes they did not commit – the Philippines’ political prisoners – to register and have their votes counted in the 2022 elections.”

“Imprisonment does not disenfranchise them of their right to vote and to have a say in the outcome of the upcoming crucial presidential elections,” Lim explained.

Kapatid’s request is the latest in the growing clamor for the Comelec to extend the deadline after a series of recent pandemic lockdowns severely limited the number of registrations the poll body could accept.

Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez however said the election commissioners are firm in sticking to the deadline as a strict preparation schedule has already been set for next year’s polls.

But Lim said the big number of eligible voters among PDLs may run of time to register or reactivate their registration within the remaining two weeks.

She said their group received reports that voters’ registration forms were being distributed in some jails.

“But as prisons remain in continuing lockdown, the Comelec has to move the deadline of registration and also push voter education to draw in more detainees eligible to vote,” Lim said.

Kapatid said about 74% of the country’s over 200,000 PDLs are still qualified to vote as they are still under trial while an undetermined number of those convicted have their cases under appeal.

“There are over 148,000 votes out there in jail facilities, and count in the votes too of their eligible family members. If they can all cast their ballots in May 2022 and vote for ‘worthy’ candidates, along with their relatives, they can make a difference,” Lim said.

Lim, wife of political prisoner and National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace consultant Vicente Ladlad, said next year’s election is crucial as voters, including PDLs, can hold politicians responsible for illegal arrests and murder, accountable for their “crimes against humanity.”

“The elections in 2022 could be a make or break as our country’s fragile institutions take a beating as never before in the hands of a President who pretends to shun the onus of accountability and culpability for his manifold human rights violations,” Lim said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDFP peace consultant Suaybaguio walks free

National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Esterlita Suaybaguio walked to freedom at the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) offices at past 5 pm Friday afternoon, cleared of charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

With no available Quezon City barangay available to witness her release by the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, the CHR agreed to be the venue of the process yesterday.

BJMP and CHR personnel complete the process to release NDFP peace consultant Esterlita Suaybagio last September 17. (Photy by Defend Jobs Philippines)

Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 219 judge Janet Abegos-Samar acquitted the women’s rights advocate of charges stemming from a search warrant issued by controversial QC executive judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert in 2019.

Suaybagio, alleged by the military as a high-ranking officer of the Communist Party of the Philippines, was arrested in an apartment building in Cubao, Quezon City early morning of August 26, 2019.

Suaybaguio told the court police officers pushed and pinned her to the sink after storming in, preventing her from viewing the commotion inside her apartment.

The activist said she was shocked to learn later that a police officer had allegedly found a 9MM firearm and a hand grenade inside her bag.

Suaybaguio’s acquittal was a triumph over government’s policy of trumped-up charges against activists, particularly NDFP peace consultants, her lawyers from the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) said.

“Her acquittal adds to the victory in a string of cases against activists which have been recently dismissed…We hope the dismissal of other fabricated charges (against other political prisoners) will follow,” the PILC said.

The law center noted similar warrants issued by Burgos-Villavert against journalist Lady Ann Salem and NDFP Negotiating Panel staff members Alexander and Winona Marie Birondo have been dismissed earlier.

Burgos-Villavert has been accused by rights defenders as a “warrant factory” after meeting with former police general Debold Sinas and subsequently issuing warrants used by the police to arrest activists.

The most controversial warrant issued by the judge was used to arrest women’s rights activist Reina Mae Nasino in 2020, who was then 7 months pregnant. Nasino gave birth while in detention to her child River who died weeks later. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDFP demands Loida Magpatoc’s release

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Negotiating Panel demanded the release of its peace consultant arrested by the military and the police in Quezon, Bukidnon on Wednesday, September 15.

NDFP Negotiating Panel interim chairperson Julie de Lima said Loida Magpatoc is a member of the NDFP Reciprocal Working Committee on Social and Economic Reform and should be immune from arrest.

“[S]he is a member of the NDFP Negotiating Panel, by virtue of which she is protected by the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines)-NDFP Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).  She should therefore be released,” de Lima told Kodao.

Magpatoc was reported arrested by a composite team of the 88th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, the Quezon Philippine National Police and the military’s intelligence units in Purok 3, Barangay Paitan in Quezon town.

An old warrant issued by Branch 7 of the Bayugan (Agusan del Sur) Regional Trial Court on September 3, 2001, was reportedly used for her arrest.

A Rappler report said the same warrant was used when Magpatoc was first arrested in July 2013.

The same report said the military alleged that Magpatoc is head of the New People’s Army’s Far South Mindanao Committee.

Last May 13, the GRP’s Anti-Terrorism Council named Magpatoc and 18 others as members of the Communist Party of the Philippines’ Central Committee.

Loida Magpatoc (right, wearing a black jacket) during the GRP-NDFP’s 3rd formal round of Negotiations in Rome, Italy in January 2017. (Kodao file photo)

Land reform and rural development expert

Magpatoc was among the NDFP peace consultants released in August 2016 by President Rodrigo Duterte to be able to participate in the resumption of formal peace negotiations between the GRP and the NDFP.

Then government chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III told Kodao they working to release Magpatoc and nine others through the JASIG.

Magpatoc was present during the negotiations’ third formal round in Rome, Italy in January 2017 when both parties agreed on free land distribution for poor farmers, a high point in the negotiations.

De Lima said Magpatoc is an expert on land reform and rural development who helped draft the NDFP’s version of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms with fellow peace consultant Randall Echanis and others.

Echanis was brutally murdered in August 2020 in Quezon City.

De Lima said that in the NDFP Negotiating Panel’s subcommittee on land reform and rural development, Magpatoc and Echanis were most active in advancing peasant rights and welfare.

“We call on the Filipino people to demand her immediate release. We call on all peace loving people’s to campaign for her freedom, together with all political prisoners,” de Lima said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Lawyers, activists hail ICC decision to investigate Duterte’s war on drugs

Neri Colmenares, a lawyer for the families of the victims of extrajudicial killings (EJK) in the Philippines, hailed the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) decision to initiate investigations on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.

In his reaction to the ICC’s decision Wednesday night, Colmenares said justice may be near for the victims, estimated to be between 8,000 and 30,000.

“This ICC decision to investigate the EJKs in the Philippines is a major step to justice! The families of thousands of EJK victims have long asked for the accountability of the killers. Malapit na po!” Colmenares said.

The former Bayan Muna Representative serves as lawyer for the group Rise Up for Life and for Rights that was among those who filed complaints with the ICC in 2018.

In earlier interviews, Colmenares said at least seven families have identified police officers involved in the killing of suspected anti-drug operations and have resolved to press charges before the international tribunal despite threats and intimidation.

The ICC’s pre-trial chamber decision.

In a September 15 decision issued from its The Hague, The Netherlands headquarters, an ICC pre-trial chamber authorized the commencement of an investigation of the alleged crimes between November 1, 2011 and March 16, 2019 in the context of Duterte’s so-called war on drugs campaign.

The period also covers the time when Duterte was still Davao City mayor.

Prior to her retirement in June this year, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda requested for judicial authorization to proceed with investigation regarding the country’s situation in relation to Duterte’s drug war. 

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr., fierce critic of Duterte’s drug war, also hailed the ICC decision.

“This is a historic moment for the Philippines and a crucial step towards justice and accountability,” Reyes said.

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) likewise welcomed the ICC decision that came as the country’s biggest group of human rights lawyers observes its 14th founding anniversary today, September 16.

It was the NUPL that first expressed alarm over the rise of extrajudicial killings mere days into the Duterte presidency.

“It was July 4, 2016 when we first publicly called out against the madness of the extrajudicial killings in the bloody drug campaign against the poor. Now the ICC has opened the doors for a new beginning. It has been a long and tortuous journey so far,” the NUPL said.

The group’s jubilation however is marred by the killing of yet another member and officer in Mindanao, reportedly the 75th lawyer to be killed under the Duterte administration.

Human rights lawyer Atty. Juan Macababbad was shot dead by two assassins on board a motorcycle in Surallah, South Cotabato at 5:30 pm Wednesday.

Davao Today reported the victim was about to close the gates of his home in Zone 2, Brgy. Libertad when the assailants fired seven shots that killed the lawyer.

Macabbbad was vice-president of the Union of People’s Lawyers in Mindanao and NUPL founding member.

Duterte said he does not acknowledge the ICC’s authority to prosecute him, more so after the ordered the country’s withdrawal of its ratification of the Rome Statute the established the tribunal in March 2019.

The ICC however said that the Philippines was still a signatory to the treaty when a complaint against Duterte and his police officers was filed in 2018. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Groups describe as ‘prank’ Duterte’s amnesty offer to Leftists

Political detainees as well as human rights groups and lawyers slammed as “prank” the Rodrigo Duterte government’s offer of amnesty to Leftist political prisoners, designed to prevent future peace negotiations from happening.

In a statement read in a recent online forum, six political prisoners condemned Proclamation 1093 offering amnesty to suspected and convicted Leftist rebels as an instrument of “continuing oppression.”

“Proclamation 1093 will not provide genuine amnesty. This cannot be the means for the release of political prisoners,” detained National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultants Vicente Ladlad, Rey Casambre, Ferdinand Castillo, Frank Fernandez, Reynante Gamara and Adelberto Silva said.

President Duterte signed last February 16 proclamations 1090, 1091, 1092 and 1093 granting amnesty to suspected Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Mangagawa ng Pilipinas/Revolutionary Proletarian Army/Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPMP-RPA-ABB) and “Communist Terrorist Group” members, respectively.

The House of Representatives concurred under its Concurrent Resolution No. 15 approved last May 19, but the Senate has yet to react to the edicts.

In a statement, Kapatid said that while political prisoners are not closing the door to a grant of amnesty, it is “…totally unjust that those foisted with false charges will own up to crimes they did not commit just to be able to leave prison.”

Kapatid said that for the political prisoners, Proclamation 1093 that refers to Leftist rebels is “fake” and a “trap” because:

1. Amnesty will be granted only to “rebels” who had surrendered or those referred to as “rebel returnees;”

2. It will not be granted to most political prisoners who were arrested, detained, charged with or convicted of trumped-up criminal charges since they did not surrender;

3. It will not cover those who have been proscribed and charged and convicted under the Human Security Act of 2007 and the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020;

4. It puts the burden on political prisoners to prove that the crimes they supposedly committed were in furtherance of their political beliefs; and

5. The applicant must admit, in writing and under oath, their guilt on charges they are criminally liable for although the charges are falsified.

Kapatid said the political prisoners also condemned the use of the term “communist terrorist group” to “disparage and degrade the political standing” of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the New People’s Army (NPA) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

The Duterte government has designated the three revolutionary organizations as terrorists in separate proclamations in 2017 and this year.

National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers president Edre Olalia said Proclamation 1093’s intention is suspect for its description of its supposed beneficiaries.

 “[T]he premise, framework, and implication of the use of the term ‘communist terrorist group’ render this kind of amnesty patently objectionable and unacceptable, legally and politically,” Olalia said.

“It is practically an institutionalized self-flagellation and it demeans political prisoners, using the dangle of inchoate freedom and the seduction of material bribery,” the human rights lawyer said.

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate noted that the amnesty being offered to Leftists are unlike those offered to the MILF, MNLF and the RPMP-RPA-ABB that were outcomes of peace agreements.

“[W]e should remember that this regime ended the peace negotiations. The amnesty is in fact based on Executive Order No. 70 – the government order which ended peace negotiations, justified imprisonment of activists, and paved the way for killing human rights defenders,” the legislator noted.

“The government said that it will no longer engage with peace negotiations but they are saying now that localized peace negotiations were held for former rebels to be granted amnesty. This amnesty proclamation is a ploy to totally prevent peace talks from transpiring,” Zarate, also a human rights lawyer, added.

The six detained NDFP peace consultants said they insist on “general, unconditional and omnibus amnesty.”

“General amnesty means it covers all political prisoners and other political offenders according to a pre-screened list. Unconditional amnesty means no preconditions will be imposed on political prisoners before they are set free. Omnibus amnesty means it will cover all court cases of political prisoners,” the detainees said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Space for peaceful protests is vanishing in Hong Kong as pro-democracy coalition is disbanded

Civil Human Rights Front announced its disbandment on August 15, 2021

The following post is an English translation of a Chinese report published on Hong Kong-based CitizenNews on August 14, 2021. It is republished by Kodao through Global Voices under a content partnership agreement. 

Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF), a coalition of pro-democracy political and citizen groups for the mobilisation of large-scale rallies, announced its disbandment on August 15, 2021. 

Many anticipated the group would eventually dissolve when the Hong Kong Police Force started investigating the group in April 2021, citing national security concerns

Throughout its tenure, the umbrella organization frequently hosted major mass rallies in Hong Kong, including the 2019 anti-China extradition protests. Since its establishment in 2002, the Hong Kong police had collaborated with the group to ensure rallies were orderly, safe and peaceful. Yet, upon the enactment of the national security law (NSL) on June 30, 2020, the Police Force banned the CHRF’s 2020 July 1 pro-democracy rally for the first time since the annual protests began in 2002, citing COVID-19 and security concerns. In May 2021 the coalition was flagged as an illegal entity.

CHRF has represented the rational, peaceful and moderate front of Hong Kong’s civil society since its establishment. For 18 years, it served as a platform for civic groups to communicate and build consensus on common agendas for positive social change. Though no protests have been organised since the NSL was implemented, police vowed to investigate key figures of the group for potential national security infractions. 

The Civil Human Rights Front’s origins

The Civil Human Rights Front was established in 2002 by Rose Wu, a veteran feminist and a faculty member at CUHK’s School of Theology. The group hoped to provide a loose platform for civil groups to regularly discuss human rights and social justice. Eventually, more than 30 groups had joined the coalition, which was officially launched on September 13, 2002. 

At that time, the most pressing issue in Hong Kong was the legislation of Basic Law Article 23 — a local version of the national security law. The CHRF hosted its first rally in December 2002 against the proposed law and unexpectedly drew 60,000 demonstrators — ten times more than anticipated. 

On July 1, 2003, the CHRF organized its second rally against local national security legislation. Around 500,000 people turned out, making it the second-largest protest in the city since the mass rally against China’s crackdown on the Tiananmen student movement in 1989. The rally forced the Hong Kong government to halt the legislation. 

Since then, July 1 rallies have become an annual event for citizens to voice out their discontent. As the rally host, the CHRF would decide on the annual agenda while other organisations and protesters would use the occasion to voice their demands.

Between 2005 and 2013, the agenda of the annual rally covered a wide range of issues including universal suffrage, minimum wage, environmental concern, property bubbles, the introduction of a national education curriculum and more. The turnout ranged from 21,000 to 430,000 depending on the political climate at the time.

In 2014, 510,000 people joined a rally demanding genuine universal suffrage of the Legislative Council and the Chief Executive. After the rally, two student activist groups, Hong Kong Federation of Student Unions and Scholarism staged a rehearsal of ‘Occupy Central Protests‘, a massive civil disobedience campaign that advocates for democratic election reform with no pre-screening for candidates according to international standards of universal suffrage. During the sit-in, 511 protesters were arrested.

Since then, many started to question the effectiveness of the annual ‘ritualistic’ peaceful rallies organized by the CHRF and called for more radical forms of protest and civil disobedience. 

CHRF: The rational and peaceful front of Hong Kong protests

Civil engagement ebbed after the Occupy Central sit-in protests in 2014 failed to bring democratic changes in the city. As a large number of activists were arrested for participating in the peaceful sit-in, some protesters became sceptical of orderly, symbolic acts of protest in favour of more disruptive resistance. The number of participants in demonstrations dropped dramatically until February 2019 when the government introduced an amendment to the Extradition Bill or The Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019.

In response to the government decision to bypass the Bill Committee and submit the controversial bill directly to the Legislative Council for second reading on June 12, 2019, the CHRF organized the anti-China extradition rally on June 9. The government decided to proceed with the reading despite the 1 million demonstrators who had turned out against the bill. After the rally, some protesters clashed with police outside the Legislative Council. 

On June 12, the CHRF hosted an authorized peaceful assembly at Lung Wui Road. On the same day, some protesters surrounded the Legislature and a few clashed with the riot police. The police force ended up firing tear gas, bean bag rounds and rubber bullets to disperse the protesters, including thousands of peaceful protesters at Lung Wui Road. At the end of the day, the police justified its actions by labelling the protest a riot, a crime that could lead to a maximum of 10 years imprisonment. The CHRF called for another rally on June 16. 

Although the government announced on June 15 they would suspend the amendment to the extradition law, the police operation on June 12 had turned the single-issue protests into a city-wide political movement with five demands: the withdrawal of the fugitive law amendment, holding the police accountable for the violent clampdown on June 12, the release of the arrested protesters, changing the ‘riot’ label of the June 12 protests, and stepping down of the Chief Executive Carrie Lam. Over 2 million people turned out for the June 16 protest, which made headlines worldwide.

After the 2019 July 1 rally, which ended when a few dozen radical activists stormed the Legislative Council complex, the anti-China extradition movement evolved into a series of decentralised protests hosted by different activist groups. Very often, these protests ended in clashes between riot police and protesters. 

In response to the violent clashes between riot police and demonstrators and between pro-Bejing and pro-democracy protesters such as the Yuen Long subway attack incident on July 21, the CHRF hosted a ‘be water assembly’ at Victoria Park on August 18, 2019, condemning the collusion between the police and the pro-Beijing mobs, more than 1,700,000 joined the protest. 

The Hong Kong government and the pro-establishment groups condemned the CHRF and the pro-democracy political parties for not cutting ties with the radical protesters. 

Since March 2021, when Singapore-based Chinese newspaper Lianhe Zaobao reported that the Hong Kong police had launched an investigation on the CHRF, many coalition members have cut ties with the group. One month later in April 2020, the Hong Kong police accused the CHRF of violating the Societies Ordinance for failing to register as a legal entity.  The last convenor of CHRF Figo Chan was sentenced to jail for participating in an illegal assembly on October 1, 2019. The umbrella group was left with no leadership. 

The final disbandment of the CHRF was announced on August 15 through a statement

CHRF originally hoped to continue to face the challenge with everyone in the existing ways, but convenor Figo Chan is already in jail because of several cases, and the secretariat can no longer maintain its operations. With no members participating in the next secretariat, we can only begrudgingly announce our disbandment.

BAYAN’s Reyes says Afghan gov’t collapse is another defeat for US imperialism

The collapse of the foreign-backed government in Afghanistan is another defeat for interventionist military adventures by the United States, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said.

In a statement following reports Afghanistan president Ashraf Ghanil has fled Kabul, Reyes said US military interventionism that pushes imperialistic ends is bound to fail if the local populace see them as invaders.

“However hard the US imposes its version of ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom’, the Afghan people still see them as invaders. US imperialism did not bring them change and development but deeper crisis,” Reyes wrote in Filipino.

The defeat of the US-led military coalition that occupied Afghanistan is another defeat similar to what it suffered in Iraq and Vietnam, he added.

Taliban fighters have started their entry into the capital city after Ghanil has reportedly fled Kabul as the US started evacuating its diplomatic staff with helicopters, reminiscent of the chaos seen when Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese in April 1975.

The Taliban first gained prominence as an anti-Soviet occupation force that implemented what is seen as a hard line form of Sunni Islam when it first led Afghanistan in the 1990s.

The US led an international military coalition that occupied Afghanistan after the 9-11 attacks in New York, accusing the Taliban of supporting Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden was killed by US commandos in Abbotville, Pakistan in April 2012.

The coalition reportedly spent about $3 trillion dollars in the two-decade conflict, with the US shouldering about $978 billion from 2001 to 2020.

US President Joe Biden earlier ordered the withdrawal of soldiers and urged peace negotiations between Kabul and the Taliban.

Reyes said the US occupation of the country has led to the worst reported cases of human rights violations in the world in the last two decades.

He said that civilian deaths has been treated a mere “collateral damage” that has also bred continuing armed resistance against the occupation.

Reyes added that future developments would indicate whether the Taliban would commit human rights violations it was accused of in the past.

Meanwhile, United Nations secretary general Antonio Guterres urged the Taliban to exercise utmost restraint as he voiced concern about the future of women and girls under another Taliban regime.

The Taliban are being accused of curtailing women’s rights to education, work, free expression and others.

Pope Francis on the other hand Pope Francis called for an end to the conflict in Afghanistan so its people “can live in peace, security and reciprocal respect.”

In his Sunday address in Vatican City, Francis said, “I join in the unanimous worry about the situation in Afghanistan. I ask you to pray along with me to the God of peace so that the din of weapons ends and that solutions can be found around a table of dialogue.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Thailand protests against pandemic mismanagement met with police violence

By Prachatai/Global Voices

A protest in Bangkok against the Thai government’s alleged mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic was met with police violence on Saturday, August 7. Police used water cannons, rubber bullets, and tear gas against the protestors and arrested at least 18 people.

The protest was organized by the activist group Free Youth and partner organizations, who have made three demands: the resignation of Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the reallocation of monarchy and military budgets toward COVID-19 assistance, and replacement of the Sinovac COVID-19 vaccines with mRNA vaccines. This is one of several protests that have been held related to the government’s COVID response.

Organizers met at the Democracy Monument with a plan to march to the Grand Palace. By noon, two hours ahead of the scheduled 2:00 pm start time, around 100 protesters had begun gathering at the Democracy Monument but were faced with lines of crowd control police blocking the planned route.

At 12:25 pm, the police ordered the protesters to end their gathering and crowd control police began to advance on the protesters. There were reports that rubber bullets were used and that 2 protesters were arrested.

Firecracker-like sounds were heard at the scene. Protesters were also reportedly shooting slingshots and throwing glass bottles and rocks at the crowd-control police. Officers in the vicinity were seen wearing bulletproof vests and carrying cable ties, batons, and shields. Some were also carrying rubber bullet firearms.

Due to the crowd control police and other anti-protest blockades, the protesters were repeatedly re-routed on thier march, but eventually ended up at the Victory Monument. The Free Youth announced via their Telegram channel for the protesters to meet at the Victory Monument before marching to the 1st Infantry Regiment headquarters, where PM Prayut lives.

However, protestors found the roads near the 1st Infantry Regiment headquarters closed, as the police had declared them a no-entry zone. The police ordered the protesters back to the Victory Monument, and the protestors refused, sparking. clash.

During the conflict, officers were told that they could use rubber bullets if protesters approached the police lines. The clash lasted for at least two hours, as police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at the protesters. At around 5:20 pm, police began using water cannons.

Tear gas was fired at protesters at the Din Daeng Intersection. Photo by Prachatai

Amid the tear gas, bullets, and water cannons, the protesters were forced to retreat to the Victory Monument and the organizers announced the end of the protest at 5:35 pm.

However, clashes continued at the Victory Monument throughout the evening as crowd control police continued to fire tear gas at the remaining protesters. There were also reports that tear gas was fired from the skywalk above the monument, while water cannon blasts were reported as crowd control police moved toward the momument. Clashes continued until around 9:00 pm.

Several National Human Rights Commissioners weighed in on the protest. Regarding the potential violations of the right to freedom of expression, Commissioner Wasan Paileeklee said that even though there might be a legal framework supporting the police’s operation, their actions must be proportional.

Rows of containers blocked the street at the Nang Leong Intersection. Photo by Prachatai

Activists harassed by officers ahead of protest

Police officers searched several activists’ homes ahead of the protest. Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that on Saturday, August 7 that three plainclothes officers and one uniformed officer searched activist Chukiat “Justin” Sangwong’s apartment at 7:30 am. Chukiat said that the officers also asked to see his computer, but he refused, and he was told that he would be charged if he shared images of the search warrant. TLHR said that three plainclothes officers and one uniformed officer also searched the home of a Thammasat University student in Pathum Thani.

Activist Piyarat Chongthep said that at least two members of the We Volunteer protest guard group were followed by police officers who tried to search their houses ahead of the protest. Officers also came to We Volunteer’s headquarters, and Piyarat later told TLHR that around 10 officers were stationed outside the building, threatening that he could be arrested if he left to join the protest.

Piyarat also said that two members of the We Volunteer protest guard group had been arrested at a friend’s house on Friday night August 6. The house was also searched and the two detainees were later released after nothing illegal was found.

TLHR reported that over 15 police officers also raided the residence of a We Volunteer member on Saturday morning, claiming that they had received a report of illegal activities. They arrested at least three people, brought them to the police station, and confiscated their car and mobile phones. No search warrant was presented.

Protest route blocked with oil tankers

Oil tankers blocking the route to the Grand Palace. Photo by Prachatai.

Shipping containers and oil tankers were placed across Sanam Luang on Saturday morning to block the original route of the march to the Grand Palace. A banner saying “The king’s soldiers and the police of the (good) people have joined forces, ready to protect Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace” was hung from the containers.nearby roads were also closed.

TLHR later published a letter from Assistant Police Commissioner Pol Lt Gen Kraiboon Suadsong to the State Railway of Thailand requesting the use of decommissioned train cars and oil tankers to prevent activities risking the spread of COVID-19.

The State Railway Workers’ Union of Thailand (SRUT) then issued a statement calling for decommissioned rolling stock not to be used as barriers, and for an investigation to be launched into how the train cars were taken. They also expressed disagreement with the train cars were used, as the right to peaceful assembly is enshrined in Thailand’s Constitution and in international human rights law.

The SRUT said that there is a risk that dangerous objects could be placed in the cars and oil tankers, potentially causing harm.

At least 18 people arrested

A protester was arrested at the Democracy Monument (Photo from iLaw)

TLHR reported that at least 18 people were arrested before and during Saturday’s protest. TLHR also said that two protesters who were arrested at the Democracy Monument had thier hands tied with cable ties, and one of them showed signs of being assaulted while in detention. TLHR later reported that police officers also detained the driver of a van carrying four speakers after the protest, pushing him to the ground before arresting him.

Eight We Volunteer members arrested before the protest were charged with being members of a secret society under Sections 209 and 210 of the Thai Criminal Code, while the remaining 10 people were charged with violating the Emergency Decree. #

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The original version of this article was published by Prachatai, an independent news site in Thailand, and was edited and republished by Global Voices as part of a content-sharing agreement. It is republished by Kodao as part of a similar agreement.