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CHR slams PNP’s arrest and humiliation of minor

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said it will investigate the arrest and humiliation of a 13-year old by the Philippine National Police in Malabon City last Saturday, September 26.

The CHR reported that the minor was arrested for not wearing a mask when he crossed the street to their house from a neighbor’s place.

The agency said that after taking the boy’s mugshot at the police station, officers allegedly told the minor that “he now has a profile picture for his Facebook account.”

The CHR said the remark caused distress to the boy.

 “It is concerning that this happened despite the prohibition on the arrests of minors,” CHR spokesperson Atty. Jacqueline de Guia said in a statement Monday, September 28.

While noting that Joint Task Force Covid-19 Shield Commander Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar reminded police forces and barangay law enforcers to not penalize minors for quarantine violations, the CHR said proper sanction and disciplinary actions must still be pursued to prevent a similar incident.

The CHR said the barangay chairperson also apologized for the incident.

De Guia reminded the police of the joint memorandum circular “Reiteration of Protocols on Reaching out to Children, including those in Street Situations, in need of Special Protection, Children at Risk, and Children in Conflict with the Law During the Enhanced Community Quarantine” issued by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Council on the Welfare of Children (CWC) in dealing with such cases.

“Minors who are guilty of violating quarantine rules must be turned over to their parents, guardians, and/or a social worker so that proper interventions, guidance, and/or advice are given to them,” de Guia said.

“We remind that law enforcers and barangay leaders are duty-bound to protect the rights of children. Any form of punishment that humiliates and degrades the dignity of minors is violative of this sworn obligation,” she added.

The CHR said children should be protected more so during the coronavirus pandemic,  “as they bear the brunt of the secondary effects and the measures taken to combat Covid-19.”

“Government officials and its officers should be the first ones to protect the welfare of children, not violate them,” de Guia said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Groups accuse Duterte of lying before UN on human rights

President Rodrigo Duterte’s speech before the 75th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) last Tuesday night, September 22, drew jeers from rights groups, calling his remarks on human rights “malicious” and “perverse.”

They said that the President’s repeated threats against UN investigators and local human rights workers show he lied when he professed open dialogue and constructive engagement before the international community.

While hailing the “properly moderate and constructive” tone the President adopted in his 20-minute pre-recorded video message, the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) said Duterte used his usual “poisonous language” on the issue of human rights that has led to countless extrajudicial killings in the Philippines in the last four years.

Duterte accused human rights advocates of “weaponizing” human rights in their alleged propaganda against his government.

“They attempt to discredit the functioning institutions and mechanisms of a democratic country and a popularly-elected government which in its last two years still enjoys the same widespread approval and support,” Duterte said.

The President, who also talked about the coronavirus pandemic and the South China Sea struggle with China, assured the UN that human rights are protected in the country.

Duterte was obviously reacting to UN High Commissioner on Human Rights Michelle Bachelet’s report that no less than 8,663 were summarily killed under Duterte’s drug war.

“The Philippines will continue to protect the human rights of its people, especially from the scourge of illegal drugs, criminality, and terrorism,” Duterte said. 

‘Perverse redefinition of human rights’

Human rights organizations said Duterte tried to redefine human rights and is simply trying to evade accountability.

“It is perverse for the President to redefine human rights as protection from illegal drugs, criminality, and terrorism, when human rights begin with the right to life, as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” Peter Murphy, ICHRP Global Council chairperson, said.

“But the President has repeatedly and recklessly called for lives to be ended, women to be raped, telling his soldiers and police that he will take the blame,” Murphy added.

ICHRP said Duterte’s UNGA speech is a calculated intervention in the deliberations of the ongoing UN Human Rights Council’s 45th Session at the UN’s Geneva, Switzerland headquarters where Bachelet’s report is being considered.

Local human rights alliance Karapatan said Duterte’s remark is a glaring effort “to vilify human rights defenders in the Philippines and to undermine their calls for accountability.”

“Duterte is posturing in making desperate pleas before the international community that is growing increasingly critical of his human rights record and tyrannical rule,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.

International Association of Democratic Lawyers’s Edre Olalia said that facts and record show it is Duterte’s government that has weaponized the law against human rights advocates, defenders, activists, dissenters, media, the opposition and many others.

“There is a gaping disconnect between the truth and the rhetoric that [the Duterte government] will ‘continue to protect the human rights of its people especially from the scourge of illegal drugs, criminality and terrorism,’” Olalia said.

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) for its part said that while impunity in the Philippines did not start from the Duterte administration alone, his government has a definite role in ending it.

“[O]r, at the very least, not making it worse with present attitudes and behaviors. It is contrary to democracy to depict dissent and protests as efforts to destabilize,” the CHR said.

Lying to the international community

The CHR said that the best way in improving the human rights situation in the country is by encouraging constructive engagement, including open and unhindered access by independent human rights mechanisms and UN special.

The national human rights institution said the government’s law enforcement agencies must cooperate with investigations to ensure that perpetrators of human rights violations are held accountable and punished.

But Duterte’s refusal to allow UN experts into the country shows he lied to the international community, Karapatan said.

“If his administration was truly for an open dialogue and constructive engagement with the UN and independent bodies, then he would’ve allowed the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and UN Special Rapporteurs to freely conduct an in-country investigation on the sham drug war and other human rights violations,” Palabay said.

Instead, Palabay added, the UN experts’ requests had been met with “threats of violence, wild accusations of foreign meddling, and demeaning insults.”

“The Philippine government even rejected most of the findings and recommendations of the recent report of the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights and is currently finding ways to evade independent investigation at the UN Human Rights Council,” Palabay added.

Olalia echoed Palabay’s denunciation, adding that the government declarations it is open to dialogue and constructive engagement with the UN on human rights issues is “a pretense.”

“It is either hypocritical or cynical given its actual attitude and record with respect to the UN Human Rights Council, the ICC and other international venues. Its engagement is nothing short of tokenism, spins, slants and diversions,” Olalia said.

ICHRP urged member States of the UN Human Rights Council to authorize Bachelet’s office to hold a more wide-ranging investigation on the Philippine situation.

“The Duterte government, if it stands by the President’s commitment to the UN principles and to multilateralism, should fully cooperate with such an initiative,” the group said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Facebook removes fake accounts linked to PNP and AFP

Fake social media accounts meant to mislead Filipinos and supportive of President Rodrigo Duterte are linked to the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Facebook revealed.

In an announcement Tuesday, September 22, Facebook Head of Security Policy Nathaniel Gleicher said the company removed accounts found to have links with both government agencies.

“Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our investigation found links to Philippine military and Philippine police,” Facebook reported.

Gleicher said Facebook’s investigation found two separate networks originating from the Philippines and China that violate the company’s policy against “coordinated inauthentic behavior.”

“We removed 155 accounts, 11 Pages, 9 Groups and 6 Instagram accounts for violating our policy against foreign or government interference which is coordinated inauthentic behavior on behalf of a foreign or government entity,” Gleicher said.  

In the Philippines, Facebook removed 57 fake Facebook accounts, 31 Pages and 20 Instagram accounts with hundreds of thousands of followers.

Gleicher explained the people behind the activity coordinated with one another and used fake accounts as a central part of their operations to mislead people about who they are and what they are doing.

He said that Facebook found the full scope of the activity after civil society in the country and news organization Rappler brought it to the company’s attention.

In support of the Dutertes

Facebook said that the networks focused on posting content supportive of Duterte and her daughter and Davao City mayor Sara Carpio’s potential run in the 2022 Presidential elections.

(Malacanan photo)

They also posted in Chinese, Filipino and English about global news and current events, including Beijing’s interests in the South China Sea and Hong Kong.

The fake accounts also uploaded criticisms of Rappler, issues relevant to overseas Filipino workers as well as praise and some criticism of China.

The network in the Philippines consisted of several clusters of connected activity that relied on fake accounts to evade enforcement, post content, comment and manage pages, Facebook reported.

The operation appeared to have accelerated between 2019 and 2020, the company said.

“They posted in Filipino and English about local news and events including domestic politics, military activities against terrorism, pending anti-terrorism bill, criticism of communism, youth activists and opposition, the Communist Party of the Philippines and its military wing the New People’s Army, and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines,” Gleicher said.  

The accounts spend around $1,100 for ads on Facebook that are paid for in Philippine peso, he added.

A post by one of the removed fake accounts. (Taken from the Facebook announcement)

How much are the PNP and AFP spending?

Human rights group Karapatan welcomed Facebook’s move it said is “a damning evidence of State-sponsored online attacks, red-tagging and mass deception in the social media platform.”

“We welcome Facebook’s move as urgently-needed action to put a halt on the worsening red-tagging and State-backed disinformation campaigns on the platform and we hope that Facebook can do more,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.

Karapatan said it was among the organizations that complained to Facebook and the Commission on Human Rights through a June 9 letter.

The group said that the more pressing question, however, is whether taxpayers’ money was used to fund the fake Facebook accounts.

Karapatan said the substantial amount reported by Facebook is wasted on the Duterte government’s efforts to spread disinformation as well as undermine and vilify dissent.

“We are in the middle of a pandemic and instead, the investigation conducted by Facebook highly suggests that the government is spending our taxes to weaponize social media to spread lies online and to attack its critics — and the actual amount of money they have spent and pocketed can be much, much higher,” Palabay said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Duterte now a known dictator with EU Parliament vote, rights group says

President Rodrigo Duterte is now known as a dictator by the international community after the European Parliament passed a resolution last September 17 condemning widespread human rights violations in the Philippines, an international rights group said.

The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) said Duterte has become a globally notorious dictator whose four-year reign has greatly surpassed the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the number of civilians killed by his government.

“With the strong resolution from the EU Parliament, the Duterte government has now gained notoriety as a world-known human rights violator, if not, a dictator following the likes of Ferdinand Marcos,” ICHRP said in a statement.

More than 3,000 were killed, 34,000 were tortured, 70,000 were imprisoned and billions of public funds were stolen by the Marcos regime.

Duterte’s long list of violations

The European Parliament said at least 8,663 people had been killed by the Philippine National Police through a “widespread and systematic” anti-drug campaign by the Duterte government.

The resolution said that Duterte himself explicitly encouraged the police to commit extrajudicial execution and promised them immunity and promotions.

Majority of the victims were from poor and marginalized communities, the measure added, quoting a June 2020 report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The resolution also listed the following human rights violations committed by the government:

-threats, harassment, intimidation and violence against human rights defenders, journalists and activists, equating their advocacy with insurgency;

-conviction of Rappler’s Maria Resa and Reynaldo Santos for cyberlibel and the denial of the renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise;

-imprisonment of Senator Leila de Lima;

-killing of at least 43 land rights defenders;

-criminalization and attacks against indigenous human rights defenders;

-killing of human rights defender Zara Alvarez and peace advocate Randall Echanis;

-assassination of at least 16 journalists and a pattern of intimidation of independent news sources;

-Duterte’s withdrawal from the International Criminal Court;

-Congress’ approval of the death penalty measure and adoption of a new anti-terrorism law;

-Duterte’s repeated sexist and misogynistic speech and behavior;

-endangerment of workers’ rights advocates;

-Duterte’s repeated reference to political opponents’ sexual orientation as a smear against them and implying that homosexuality is a disease;

-victimization of up to 100,000 children in prostitution rings and child labor; and

-government’s failure to curb corruption.

The European Parliament resolution said it proactively supports the adoption of a resolution at the ongoing 45th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council to establish an international investigation into human rights violations committed under the Duterte government.

The measure also recommended to the European Union (EU) to temporarily withdraw the Philippines’ Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus status that provides tariff perks for Filipino goods until the Duterte government “immediately carry out impartial, transparent, independent and meaningful investigations into all extrajudicial killings.”

The resolution was adopted with 626 votes in favor, seven against, and 52 abstentions.

Allies of Duterte however dared Europe to go ahead with its sanctions and vowed reprisals in the future.

“No more discussions. They should do what they want to do during this time. If they want to implement it, go ahead,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said.

“I’m sorry. I’m being very undiplomatic in my answer, but what else can I say? At the time of a pandemic, they’re threatening us. Susmaryosep, what else do we lose?” Roque added.

Philippine House of Representatives Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano for his part said the European Parliament’s resolution is an interference in the “country’s domestic issues.”

“The Philippine House of Representatives takes exception to the outright interference of the European Parliament in the purely domestic matters of the Philippines by dictating on the government ‘to renew the broadcast license’ of ABS-CBN and to ‘drop’ the Cyberlibel charges against Maria Ressa,” Cayetano said in a statement.

“To our friends in the European Parliament, we have a saying here in the Philippines that the world is round. The day will come – mark my words – that the Philippines will be in a position to impose economic sanctions on your countries,” he said.

A bill seeking to block United States (US) assistance to the Philippine police and military, including equipment and training, “until human rights conditions are met,” has also been submitted by 19 US House of Representatives members last week.

Duterte’s de facto martial law

 ICHRP said it welcomes the resolution by the legislative branch of the European Union it said is a damning indictment of the human rights crisis in the Philippines.

“The demands for justice for those slain in the drug war, the killings of activists, attacks on press freedom have all gained international condemnation. It is an attestation that the world no longer tolerates this repressive government. Duterte and his dictator government will be made accountable,” ICHRP chairperson Peter Murphy said.

 “President Duterte with his ‘de facto’ Martial Law in place and the continuing repression in the country has found himself increasingly isolated in the international community. Cut from the same cloth as that of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, Duterte is now synonymous with killings and human rights atrocity,” Murphy added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Groups laud global calls for probes and sanctions on Duterte’s rights violations

Human rights groups welcomed measures by the international community to call for investigations and sanctions to stop human rights violations under the Rodrigo Duterte government.

Karapatan said the recent resolution on the human rights situation in the Philippines by the European Parliament is a “welcome step towards reckoning and accountability over the Duterte administration’s blatant disregard of its obligation to uphold human rights and civil liberties in the country.”

The European Parliament, voting last Thursday, September 17, said it proactively supports the adoption of a resolution at the ongoing 45th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council to establish an international investigation into human rights violations committed in the Philippines since Duterte became president.

The measure also recommended to the European Union (EU) to temporarily withdraw the Philippines’ Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus status that provides tariff perks for Filipino goods until the Duterte government “immediately carry out impartial, transparent, independent and meaningful investigations into all extrajudicial killings.”

“The resolution — adopted with 626 votes in favor, 7 against, and 52 abstentions —particularly killings related to the drug war as well as the recent killings of human rights activists Jose Reynaldo Porquia in Iloilo City, Randall Echanis in Quezon City and Zara Alvarez in Bacolod City while the Philippines is under coronavirus lockdown imposed by the government,” Karapatan said in a statement.  

The resolution also expressed alarm on the conviction of Rappler executive editor Maria Ressa over cyberlibel charges and the shutdown of ABS-CBN.


Philippine Human Rights Bill

US Congresswoman Susan Wild (D-PA). Supplied photo.

Filipino-American organizations meanwhile welcomed the introduction of the Philippine Human Rights Bill at the United States House of Representatives by Philadelphia Democrat Susan Wild.

The measure seeks to block US assistance to the Philippine police and military, including equipment and training, “until human rights conditions are met.”

The bill is co-sponsored by 18 other representatives.

If the bill becomes law, the US government shall stop funding support to the Philippine police and military unless the following are met:

  • Investigating and prosecuting members of the military and police forces who are credibly found to have violated human rights;  
  • Withdrawing the military from domestic policy;
  • Establishing protections of the rights of trade unionists, journalists, human right defenders, indigenous persons, small-farmers, LGBTI activists, and critics of the government;
  • Taking steps to guarantee a judicial system that is capable of investigating, prosecuting, and bringing to justice members of the police and military who have committed human rights abuses; and
  • Fully complying with any and all audits or investigations regarding the improper use of security aid.

Organizations such as the Communications Workers of America (CWA), The Malaya Movement, the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines and Kabataan Alliance said they applaud the bill.

“[We are] proud to support the introduction of the Philippine Human Rights Act to protect the working people in the Philippines who are suffering greatly under the Duterte regime,” CWA Senior Director for Government Affairs and Policy Shane Larson said.

“Although we’re all dealing with the fallout of the pandemic right now, we cannot turn our backs on the crisis that Filipino workers have been facing under Duterte, which has greatly accelerated during COVID-19, with the Philippines government’s intensified power grab to persecute its political enemies. We must show Duterte that Americans and the labor movement won’t stand for him and his administration imprisoning and executing trade unionists and activists,” Larson added.

Other organizations supporting the bill include the Teamsters, Ecumenical Advocacy Network on the Philippines, United Church of Christ – Global Ministries, United Methodist Church – General Board of Church & Society, Migrante USA, Gabriela USA, Anakbayan USA, Bayan-USA, Franciscan Network on Migration, Pax Christi New Jersey, Kabataan Alliance, and National Alliance for Filipino Concerns and others.

PH government response

In response, Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque dismissed the effects of a possible revocation of the tariff perks on Philippine goods in Europe.

“No more discussions. They should do what they want to do during this time. If they want to implement it, go ahead,” Roque in an annoyed tone said.

“I’m sorry. I’m being very undiplomatic in my answer, but what else can I say? At the time of a pandemic, they’re threatening us. Susmaryosep, what else do we lose?” Roque added.

Philippine House of Representatives Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano for his part said the European Parliament’s resolution is an interference in the “country’s domestic issues.”

“The Philippine House of Representatives takes exception to the outright interference of the European Parliament in the purely domestic matters of the Philippines by dictating on the government ‘to renew the broadcast license’ of ABS-CBN and to ‘drop’ the Cyberlibel charges against Maria Ressa,” Cayetano said in a statement.

“To our friends in the European Parliament, we have a saying here in the Philippines that the world is round. The day will come – mark my words – that the Philippines will be in a position to impose economic sanctions on your countries,” he fired back.

Karapatan however thanked the political parties who initiated the European Parliament resolution and the members of parliament who supported and adopted it.

“[W]e hope this will enjoin other governments and the international community at large to continue to take a strong stance in denouncing the Duterte administration’s attacks on human and people’s rights in the Philippines and in supporting an independent investigation by the UN HRC on these attacks,” the group said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Transport leader beaten up inside police station

A transport group said its leader arrested Sunday was beaten up inside the Daraga, Albay police station by suspected military intelligence agents.

The Pinagkaisang Samahan ng Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (PISTON) said its vice president and its Bicol chapter CONDOR-PISTON spokesperson Ramon Rescovilla was beaten up by three burly men inside the Daraga police station.

While undergoing tactical interrogation, Rescovilla was punched five times on his body and head. He was also kicked on his right foot, the group reported.

Rescovilla was arrested at a bridge near his home between Barangays Bintayan and Kilicao in Daraga, Albay Province at 4 pm by about 20 civilian-clad and uniformed police and military personnel.

The transport group leader told his colleagues he was ordered to lie face down on the pavement and handcuffed while an orange body bag was forcibly slung across his body when arrested.

When the bag was later opened by the police, a gun and a grenade was seen inside, a criminal charge the Philippine National Police has filed against many activists.

The police also refused Rescovilla’s requests for a medical check up after the beating as no doctor was available at the time.

Rescovilla’s son Bryan was told by a brother said the victim was crying in pain when found by family members at the police station.

Ayon, umiiyak, hinahawakan iyong tiyan. Binugbog yata sa loob,” regional alternative news group Baretang Bikolnon reported. (He was crying, holding his stomach. He may have been beaten while under police custody.)

Rescovilla had been continuously red-tagged and harassed by state forces prior to the arrest, PISTON said in a statement.

Rescovilla is the fourth activist arrested in the Bicol region since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Paramilitary destroys Lumad school; leader invokes Duterte in attack

A paramilitary group destroyed an indigenous people’s school in Bukidnon Province last Wednesday, August 26, the Save Our Schools (SOS) Network reported.

The Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Inc. (MISFI) Academy in Sitio Laburon, Brgy. Matupe, San Fernando was attacked and destroyed by around 50 members of paramilitary group ‘Bagani’, the network said in an alert Saturday.

The group said two teachers tending to the school farm were alerted by students at around 7:15 in the morning that armed men have trespassed the school campus.

The school—repeatedly accused by government forces as a New People’s Army training facility—is 15-minutes away from the farm.

The teachers saw the paramilitary group destroying the school buildings and tearing up textbooks.  

The destroyed teachers’ quarters. (SOS photo)

“The teachers were about to take photos of the incident but were threatened by the ‘Bagani’ leader Lito Gambay, who told them to leave as President (Rodrigo) Duterte will know about this,” the SOS said.

Students and community members cried out of frustration as their school was being destroyed before their eyes, the SOS added.

The two school buildings and teachers’ cottage was built in 2007 from donations by the European Union Aid for uprooted people.

The main school building after the attack. (SOS photo)

The SOS said the ‘Bagani’ paramilitary is under the command of the 89th Infantry Battalion Bravo Company of the Philippine Army which has set up camp in Brgy. Kalagangan, San Fernando, 30-minutes away from the school.

“The Save Our Schools condemns in strongest terms the unabated destruction and closure of Lumad schools in Mindanao. As of August 2020, around 178 lumad schools are now forcibly closed,” the group said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Another view of the destroyed school building after the attack. (SOS photo)

People’s Initiative for an ABS-CBN franchise gets underway

A group of neighbors and friends from Rizal Province were the first ones to submit signatures for a People’s Initiative for an ABS-CBN franchise.

Motoring from Barangay Sta. Cruz,  Antipolo City to ABS-CBN’s Sgt. Esguerra gate Friday morning. August 28, the group led by Marcia Cruz submitted signatures of registered voters in support of the campaign.

Five filled-up sheets were received by representatives of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), Defend Jobs Philippines (DFP) and employees of the embattled network.

The People’s Initiative is a power given by the 1987 Philippine Constitution to the people to directly initiate laws such as franchises.  

Cruz said they were requested by her sister living in Canada to download forms on the Pirma Kapamilya Facebook page and ask family members, friends and neighbors to sign.

She added that her sister was saddened by ABS-CBN’s forced closure that now deprive them of news and entertainment from their home country.

“Napakalaking tulong ng ABS-CBN sa kanila sa ibang bansa dahil ang The Filipino Channel lang ang pinapanood nila para sa balita,” Cruz said.

She explained it was easy gathering the 75 signatures they submitted as none of those they asked refused to sign.

“Wala pong pilitan. Lahat po sa amin ay gustong maibalik ang ABS-CBN,” she said.

The NUJP and DFP set up a signing booth this morning and gathered about a hundred signatures in about an hour.

ABS-CBN employees, pedestrians, taxi drivers and ambulant vendors around the network compound also signed.

Across the street where she tends a small snack store, Iluminada Cos crossed the street to ask if she could sign.

Cos said she wanted to express her support to ABS-CBN workers who have been her customers for many years.

“Marami sa kanila ay matagal ko nang kilala dahil sa akin sila bumibili ng miryenda. Sana maibalik ang ABS-CBN,” she said.

Today is the last day of work for hundreds of ABS-CBN employees who became victims of the second wave of retrenchments after the network was denied a new franchise by House of Representatives Committee on Legislative Franchises last July 10.

The network also announced that today is the last day of its Regional Network Group.

The NUJP bewailed the development and called on Filipino journalists to stand together in “warding off the darkness.”

“Today, August 28, 2020, the light goes out on one of the cornerstones of independent community journalism in the country as ABS-CBN’s regional stations air their final newscasts after more than 30 years of dedicated service,” the group in a statement said.

“Today, hundreds of our colleagues, among them our members, lose their jobs, joining the thousands more stripped of employment after the legislative lapdogs of a vindictive president shut down the country’s largest network by denying it a new franchise,” it added.

The NUJP said the closure of ABS-CBN’s regional stations also deprives many millions of Filipinos throughout the country of a major source of credible news and information even as the national struggles against the pandemic.

It added that the earlier shutdown of ABS-CBN’s free TV and radio had already deprived people living in areas that could access only their signal their only source of news and information about the country and the world.

“It is clear that democracy is under siege, by the government no less, as seen in the relentless assaults on the critical and independent media, and the continuing attacks on the people’s basic rights and freedoms,” the NUJP said.

The first filled up sheets of People’s Initiative for an ABS-CBN franchise were from the First District of Rizal Province.

Started by a group of young lawyers who disagreed with the House of Representatives’s denial of a new ABS-CBN’s franchise, the Pirma Kapamilya campaign seeks to gather seven million signatures from among registered and active voters from all congressional districts in the country.

The signatures will be submitted to the Commission on Elections for verification. The poll body will also determine if the signatures represent at least three percent of registered voters in each district.

Once passed in a referendum, an ABS-CBN franchise cannot be overturned by either Congress or the President, Pirma Kapamilya said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Hustisya, panawagan sa sunud-sunod na pamamaslang sa mga aktibista

Ginanap sa Metro Manila ang isang ‘Global Day of Action for Justice’ sa Bantayog ng mga Bayani sa Quezon City noong Agosto 19 na ang panawagan ay hustisya sa mga biktima ng pagpaslang laluna sa mga aktibista.

Binatikos ng mga progresibong grupo ang gobyerno na siyang tumatarget sa mga aktibista. Pinakahuli na dito ang pagpatay sa human rights worker na si Zara Alvarez ng Karapatan-Negros noong Agosto 17.

Noong nakaraang linggo ay pinatay naman ang Anakpawis National Chairperson at National Democratic Front consultant na si Randall ‘Ka Randy’ Echanis.

Bishop grieves for slain Church and rights worker

San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza expressed grief at the brutal murder of church worker and human rights defender Zara Alvarez in Bacolod City Monday night, August 17, calling the victim his “dear little child of struggle.”

“I bleed of this never-ending injustice and violence, someone closest in my work with the oppressed is murdered. I just cannot believe this continuing madness of senseless killings!” Alminaza said in a statement.

“These systemic killings of human rights defenders and activists must be condemned and must stop! Our responsible agencies must pursue justice and accountability on those responsible and should never allow impunity of criminals doing senseless executions of Filipinos!” the Bishop cried.

Alvarez, a victim of terrorist-tagging by the Rodrigo Duterte government, was shot to death while on her way home. She was 39 years old and survived by an 11-year old daughter.

Alminaza said the victim was tagged as a terrorist in a case filed before the Department of Justice in 2018. Her name was eventually deleted from the list but she continued to receive death threats from suspected state forces.

The prelate said the threats has resulted in Alvarez’s violent death “widely deemed as another case of extrajudicial killing, in pursuance of the state’s anti-terrorism campaign.”

“Zara is a human rights champion in the Negros island, an activist, organizer and ecumenical church worker. Her active involvement in the Church People -Workers Solidarity is worthy of emulation – always reminding us to be prophetic in our work of evangelization and social justice,” Alminaza described the victim.

A very personal tribute

In his statement, the Bishop recalled the victim’s “brave words” in an interview by UCANEWS in 2019, saying that because of her work of pursuing justice for the victims of human rights violations, “receiving death threats has already become one small part of [their] work…”

“Just last night, Zara Alvarez took the bullets from her assassin. Those who wanted to silence a woman of dedicated service for the poor, yes, they murdered her,” he said.

The Bishop further wrote:

“Zara, they imprisoned you of fabricated charges; yet, you were declared innocent by the court.

“Zara, they are afraid of you; though a petite woman yet capable of condemning injustice and ever-ready to organize farmers, peasants, workers, jeepney drivers and even church people.

“Zara, they took your life, believing that they can silence the cause you are fighting for… But no, Zara, your martyrdom in the cause for justice will inspire us to advance the cry for justice – the cry of the oppressed.

“Zara, you are a courageous witness in the cause for social justice.

“As you said: I cannot leave everything behind while everyone I know is being killed…’”

The Bishop, who last year ordered the nightly ringing of all church bells in his diocese and issuing an oratio imperata to call for an end to the killings of farmers and activists in Negros Island, also said he is grateful for having known the victim.

“I thank the Lord for knowing you, Zara, my dear little child of struggle. I promise to ever continue our work in the service of God’s poor. You inspired me in many ways to be a pastor of the anawim of God’s kingdom,” he said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)