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Gov’t snubs CHR in review of anti-drug war list of victims

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) revealed it is being kept out of the review of the first partial report of the deaths resulting from the conduct of the Rodrigo Duterte government’s anti-illegal drug operations.

The CHR said the snub is contrary to the commitments and assurances of the government during the 44th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) last year.

“This is an unfulfilled promise to Filipinos and the entire community of nations,” CHR Commissioner Karen Gomez-Dumpit said in a statement Monday.

In his speech delivered online during the UNHRC’s 44th general session last June 30, Guevarra said the Duterte government established an inter-agency panel, chaired by his office, “that is quietly conducting a judicious review of the 5,655 anti-illegal drugs operations where deaths occurred.”

The members of the interagency panel are the Department of Justice, the Presidential Communications Operations Office, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Presidential Human Rights Committee Secretariat, the Presidential Management Staff, the Dangerous Drugs Board, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, the Philippine National Police, and the National Bureau of Investigation, Guevarra later revealed.

The government assured the international community that the CHR would play a role in the panel.

“As with all human rights-related mechanisms in the country, the Commission on Human Rights would be involved in its capacity as an independent monitoring body,” it said.

But Dumpit said the CHR has not been involved despite “respectfully, diligently, consistently, and repeatedly asked the Department of Justice” concerning its role in the said panel, to no avail.

Nonetheless, Dumpit said the CHR strongly urges the Government to publicize the findings “as transparency is key to ensure the credibility of the said report.”

“This will allow victims and their families to access crucial information in the process of obtaining justice. We reiterate our openness and willingness to engage with the government in this process,” Dumpit said.

What the UNHRC said

In a 26-page report last June 4, the UNHRC said the Duterte government’s heavy-handed focus on countering national security threats and illegal drugs has resulted in serious human rights violations, including killings and arbitrary detentions, as well as the vilification of dissent.

The report also noted that the anti-drug killings range from “at least 8,663” to possibly triple the number.

In examining key policy documents of the Duterte government relating to its campaign against illegal drugs, the UNHRC found a troubling lack of due process, protections, and the use of language calling for “negation” and “neutralization” of drug suspects.

“Such ill-defined and ominous language, coupled with repeated verbal encouragement by the highest level of State officials to use lethal force, may have emboldened police to treat the circular as permission to kill,” the UNHRC report stated.

In a separate statement issued last June 26, various UN special rapporteurs said the UNHRC report confirmed their findings and warnings issued over the last four years: widespread and systematic killings and arbitrary detention in the context of the war on drugs, killings and abuses targeting farmers and indigenous peoples, the silencing of independent media, critics and the opposition.

“The reports also finds, as we had, stark and persistent impunity,” the UN experts said. 

The experts highlighted “the staggering cost of the relentless and systematic assault on the most basic rights of Filipinos at the hands of the Government”:

  • Based on the most conservative assessment, since July 2016, 8,663 people have been killed in the war on drugs and 223,780 “drug personalities” arrested, with estimates of triple that number.
  • At least 73 children were killed during that period in the context of a campaign against illegal drugs. Concerns have also been raised about grave violations against children committed by State and non-State actors in the context of military operations, including the recruitment and use of children in combat or support.
  • The lasting economic harm and increased poverty among the children and other family members of those killed is likely to lead to further human rights violations.
  • At least 208 human rights defenders, journalists and trade unionists, including 30 women, plus at least 40 legal professionals had been killed since 2015, many of whom were working on politically sensitive cases or advocating for land and environmental rights of farmers and indigenous peoples and housing rights of the urban poor.
  • The Securities and Exchanges Commission in 2018 revoked the license of a prominent news website Rappler and its CEO, Maria Ressa, has been arrested multiple times on various charges and found guilty of cyber libel.
  • On 5 May 2020, President Duterte’s government ordered the shut-down of ABS-CBN, the country’s largest TV and radio network, after years of explicit threats from the President in part because of its critical reporting on the “war on drugs”.
  • There has been no accountability whatsoever for the multiple human rights and humanitarian law violations, limited follow-up on transitional justice and reconciliation in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao; independent investigations by local institutions have been thwarted; many in the opposition silenced, including Senator Leila Norma Eulalia de Lima imprisoned since 24 February 2017.
  • President Duterte ordered the country’s withdrawal from the International Criminal Court after the tribunal launched a preliminary examination of crimes against humanity committed in the context of the “war on drugs” in 2018.

The special rapporteurs also called on the UNHRC member-states “to initiate governmental sanctions and criminal prosecution against individual Philippine officials who have committed, incited or failed to prevent human rights abuses.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘Evil and crooked’: Councilor, employees unions condemn dismissal of 60 Bacolod employees

A Bacolod Councilor opposed the termination of 60 employees of the city’s water district, saying the move is a grave abuse of authority by the directors of the local water utility.

In a privileged speech Friday, January 8, Councilor Wilson Gamboa said the Board of Directors of the Bacolod City Water District (BACIWA) unjustly and illegally terminated the workers in collaboration with the private water utility company PrimeWater Infrastruture, Inc.

The local legislator was reacting to the Board’s decision to terminate the workers effective December 31 by declaring their positions “redundant” after the public water utility signed a controversial Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) with PrimeWater.

PrimeWater is owned by the family of Senator Cynthia Villar.

Gamboa said the firing of the employees hammered the final nail of a total “takeover” of BACIWA by PrimeWater.

“These members of the BACIWA Board of Directors believed that they are the absolute authority by issuing arbitrary, capricious, and illegal resolutions and orders which completely gave PrimeWater total supervision and control over its management, operations, collections, and the trampling of employees’ rights. Now, they have evolved as the henchmen of PrimeWater,” Gamboa fumed.

Gamboa said the BACIWA Board could not declare the workers’ positions as redundant when PrimeWater would hire private employees as replacement, including the fired employees who would be “reabsorbed” should they take Option 2 of the proffered retirement package.

The legislator also said the “evil and crooked” BACIWA directors failed to conduct proper consultation with the affected employees.

“[The workers’] rights and tenure must be protected against an unjust, inhuman, and illegal order of the Board of Directors of BACIWA who acted as the corporate carpetbaggers and collaborators of PrimeWater,” Gamboa said.

First dismissed government employees of 2021

Employees union president Leny Espina, who was among those dismissed, said the affected workers were barred from entering the BACIWA premises since Monday, January 4.

Espina said the union will continue to stage actions in front of the BACIWA office every day along with other Bacolod City supporters in protest of their dismissal and the takeover of the public water utility.

The Confederation for the Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE) and the Water System Employees Response (WATER) also launched a nationwide campaign to have the dismissed employees reinstated.

COURAGE National President Santiago Dasmariñas, Jr. said the dismissal violated the constitutional and legal rights of government employees to security of tenure.

He added that the dismissal was also meant to quell legitimate protests against the privatization of local water services.

“We ask the Duterte government to stop privatization of local water services and put laid off public sector workers back to work!” Dasmariñas said.

Ramir Corcolon, WATER secretary general, asked the government to put the welfare of people above business interests.

“Experience has shown that privatization of water only led to more expensive but still poor, or even poorer, water services. Greed should not reign over the right of the public to affordable and quality water services,” Corcolon said.

Water district unions and national agency employees unions all over the country also posted photos of solidarity activities in support of the BACIWA workers Thursday. #(Raymund B. Villanueva)

PNP’s Oplan Sauron and SEMPO killed the Tumandok 9—Bishop

A Roman Catholic Bishop said the massacre of nine Tumandok tribesfolk in Panay Island is a continuation of the mass killings and arrests in Negros Island since 2018 under operations devised by now Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Debold Sinas and one of his predecessors  and now Senator Rogelio “Bato” Dela Rosa.

San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza said that the Rizal Day massacre of the Tumandok is similar to the massacre of six and the mass arrest of 26 in the towns Guihulngan, Mabinay, and Sta. Catalina in Negros Oriental in December 2018 as well as the killing of 14 farmers in the island in March 2019.

“We recall with sadness that the ‘one-time, big-time’ SEMPO (Synchronized Enhanced Management of Police Operations) under Oplan Sauron by then-PNP Provincial Regional Office-7 Director Debold Sinas and PNP Chief Rogelio ‘Bato’ Dela Rosa led to violent killings and arrests,” Alminaza said in a statement.

“These operations were carried out mostly during wee hours, and the farmers were shot under unproven claims that they fought it out,” he added.

The Prelate also noted that the killings were part of the police’s service of search and arrest warrants while those arrested were later charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

Police and military operatives raided Tumandok tribal communities in Tapaz, Capiz and Calinog in Iloilo last December 30 that resulted in the death of nine who have been previously accused by government agents as New People’s Army members.

Killed were Eliseo Gayas, Jr., Mauro Diaz, Arcelito Katipunan, Mario Aguirre, Roy Giganto, Jomer Vidal, Dalson Catamin, Reynaldo Katipunan and Rolando Diaz, Sr. who campaigned for the return of their ancestral land by the military and opposed the construction of the Jalaur Mega-Dam project.

Some of the victims were elderly while four of them were elected local government officials.

Sixteen were also arrested, including minors.

However, both Oplan Sauron and SEMPO “failed to bring lasting peace and instead bred a culture of even more violence and disrespect for our people,” Alminaza said.

“Under the (Rodrigo) Duterte administration and Oplan Sauron alone, there are now over 106 cases of unsolved extrajudicial killings recorded in Negros island,” he added.

Alminaza said he is alarmed the killings in Capiz demonstrate how Oplan Sauron and SEMPO will be implemented throughout the country.

“To President Duterte and PNP Chief Sinas: Serve the God of Peace; Stop Sauron, the Lord of Evil!” the Bishop said.

Earlier, the Capiz Archdiocese Social Action Center (CASAC) expressed sadness that some of the victims were farmers and members of the indigenous people’s tribe while some are still missing and their families grieving.

“[T]his incident raises our concern and thus, vehemently condemn this act of violence. In this time of calmness, there should be no room for the cultivation of fear and impunity,” CASAC said.

The Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR) in Panay and Guimaras islands likewise condemned the Capiz massacre and blamed Sinas and President Duterte for the carnage.

“The brazen extra-judicial killings and illegal arrests of leaders of the Tumandok…is part of the nationwide implementation of PNP Chief Sinas’ version of ‘political tokhang,’ his brainchild SEMPO,” PCPR said.

The faith-based group also blamed the SEMPO for the assassinations of Bayan Muna Iloilo City Coordinator Jose Reynaldo “Jory” Porquia and Federation of Ilonggo Farmers leader John Farochilin in April 2020. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Gov’t ignores appeal for Ladlad’s hospitalization; Alcantara’s son arrested to force father to surrender

The wife of jailed National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Vicente Ladlad appealed to authorities to bring him to the hospital due to “repeated chest tightness.”

Fides Lim, Kapatid spokesperson said Ladlad had been suffering the recurring condition since the morning of Wednesday, December 30, even as he underwent a medical check-up at the Makati Medical Center (MMC) last Monday, December 28.

“I am appealing to Manila RTC (Regional Trial Court) Branch 32 Judge Thelma Bunyi Medina for prompt action now on our motion to bring my husband, political prisoner Vicente Ladlad, to MMC for immediate treatment for repeated chest tightness since 11 AM today,” Lim said on a Facebook post yesterday.

Lim reported that Ladlad’s doctors said the elderly peace consultant may be suffering from “unstable angina” and needs to be hospitalized before a heart attack or stroke occurs.

Ladlad had been a chronic asthmatic since childhood that has degenerated into emphysema in his later years.

Lim said human rights lawyers handling Ladlad’s current illegal possession of firearms case already included a motion for hospitalization but which the court ignored.

“Please. To the government prosecutors in particular. Act on our appeal now and allow Vic to be brought to the MMC hospital before his condition gets worse,” Lim implored.

Pinapayagan niyo yang mga corrupt na politiko, bakit political prisoners tulad ni Vic di pwede? Gawa-gawa lang ang kaso niya!” she added.

(You allow corrupt politicians [to be hospitalized], why not political prisoners like Vic? The charges against him are trumped-up!)

Ladlad was re-arrested midnight of November 8, 2018, a year after the Rodrigo Duterte government walked away from its peace negotiations with the NDFP.

The NDFP maintains its peace consultants should be immune from arrest and persecution as the NDFP-Government of the Republic of the Philippines’ Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees remains in effect even in the absence of formal negotiations between the parties.

Phillip Alcantara (Image by Karapatan-Central Luzon)

Tirso Alcantara’s son arrested

Meanwhile, the son of another NDFP peace consultant was arrested by Malolos police in Guiguinto, Bulacan province Wednesday morning, December 30.

Philip Alcantara, son of Tirso “Ka Bart” Alcantara, was driving his van at around 8:30 AM when three men in civilian clothes flagged him down along a national road in Guiguinto town.

The men then introduced themselves as Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) operatives and told Philip he was being arrested for charges of multiple murder.

According to human rights group Karapatan-Central Luzon, the police officers forcibly boarded Philip’s van and placed a bag beside him containing a gun, grenade, and a PhilHealth ID.

He was brought to the CIDG headquarters in Malolos.

Karapatan-CL said Philip was only shown a photocopy of the first page of the warrant issued by a a court in faraway Infanta, Quezon.

The police said Philip is the “Ka Joshua” named in the warrant.

The human rights group however said Philip is a glass and aluminum works entrepreneur and not a combatant.

Karapatan-CL said Philip was arrested to force his father to surrender to the military.

The elder Alcantara had gone into hiding after his fellow peace consultants had either been assassinated by suspected government agents or were arrested on similar charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

Karapatan-CL noted that Philip’s sister was imprisoned for eight years over trumped-up charges while Ka Bart’s two brothers were killed by state security forces. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Another farmer killed in Bohol as 9 Tumandok are massacred in Panay

Another peasant activist in Bohol Province was killed just as nine Tumandok  civilians in Panay Island were being massacred last Wednesday in one of the bloodiest day for farmers under the four-year old Rodrigo Duterte government.

Lorenzo “Dodoy” Paña of Barangay Bantolinao, Antequera town was gunned down by unidentified motorcycle riding men around 9:00 AM last December 30 at Barangay Dorol, Balilihan town in Bohol, peasant organization Hugpong sa Mag-uumang Bol-anon-Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (HUMABOL-KMP) said.

Paña was on his way to bring lunch for his son working at a nearby construction site when fired upon by unidentified perpetrators.

Paña was a former officer of Hugpong sa Mag-uuma Dapit sa Kasadpan (HUMANDA KA), a formation of Humabol chapters in the first district of Bohol.

In 2018, the victim, along with his wife and children, worked as volunteers for the construction of a coconut processing plant managed by farmers organizations in Barangay Tinibgan, Maribojoc which now produces virgin coconut oil.

In June 26, 2018, the victim’s house was subjected to a warrantless search by around 30 members of SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in the said province.

His family complained of maltreatment during the said incident, HUMABOL-KMP said.

In previous years, the Paña family also reported of being harassed by state forces.

Paña’s killing happened while the 12th Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army (12IBPA) troopers and the PNP in Western Visayas killed nine Tumandok indigenous peoples in Capiz and Iloilo provinces, also in the Visayas.

Bohol peasant activist Lorenzo “Dodoy” Paña, killed in Balilihan, Bohol last December 30. (Humabol-KMP photo)

Immediate condemnation of the Tumandok massacre

The massacre in Panay Island earned swift condemnation from church leaders and organizations.

San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza, whose Diocese suffered similar police and military Synchronized Enhanced Management of Police Operations (SEMPO) that also resulted in massacres, cried out, “Do we have to kill our perceived ‘enemies’ – especially if they are unarmed?”

“Is this the way we celebrate Christmas as a Christian country about to welcome the New Year and 500 Years of Christianity [in the Philippines?” the prelate asked.

“How long will this spiral of violence continue? Have we run out of peaceful means? Are we that desperate? Do we really, seriously believe this is the effective and lasting way to solve our social ills? I RAISE MY VOICE TO CRY OUT: “NO MORE KILLING!” We want PEACE – JUST and LASTING PEACE!” he added.

The Promotion of Church People’s Response (PNP) in Panay and Guimaras islands directly blamed PNP chief Debold Sinas for the death of nine Tumandok leaders and activists yesterday.

“The brazen extra-judicial killings and illegal arrests of leaders of the Tumandok, an indigenous people of Panay, on the early hours of yesterday in the mountainous villages of Tapaz, Capiz and Calinog, Iloilo is part of the nationwide implementation of PNP Chief Sinas’ version of ‘political tokhang’, his brainchild SEMPO,” PCPR’s Fr. Marco Sulayao said in a statement.

The faith-based group also blamed National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) agent Jeffrey Celis it said petitioned for the search warrants in Metro Manila Regional Trial Courts used for the operations.

“Blood is on the hands of NTF-ELCAC red-taggers, especially Jeffrey Celis, who according to [a] reliable source, petitioned for the said warrants,” PCPR said.

National labor federation Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) included President Rodrigo Duterte in the blame for the massacre.

“The blood of the Tumandok is in the hands of Duterte, Sinas, PNP and NTF-ELCAC. They wantonly kill the indigenous peoples to give way to projects of big capitalists,” KMU said in a statement.

“We condemn this heinous killing perpetrated by the mercenary AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) -PNP. It is most likely that the police and military will present the killed and arrested Tumandok as members of the New People’s Army when in fact, they are just farmers and indigenous people defending their ancestral land and farms against land grabbing,” KMP chairperson Danilo Ramos said. 

Indigenous people’s group Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (Katribu) also denounced “the government’s wanton disregard for human rights and laments the death of our people’s heroes.”

“Our fight against the construction of Jalaur and Pan-ay Dams have not ended yet so we remain resolute in defending what’s left of our rivers and forests. Despite violence and threats, we will relentlessly and fiercely stand against corporate plunder and the destruction of the environment,” Katribu said in a statement.

“The indigenous peoples have nowhere to run to anymore. We will certainly hold the line,” it added.

An IP rights advocate calls for the dissolution of the government agency they blame for red-tagging the victims that led to their massacre. (Katribu photo)

Red-tagged victims

Killed in the synchronized and simultaneous operations in the neighboring towns were former Barangay Captain and  current Tumandok nga Mangunguma nga Nagapangapin sa Duta kag Kabuhi (TUMANDUK) chairperson Roy Giganto, his Barangay Lahug co-councilors Reynaldo Katipunan, and Mario Aguirre; Eliseo Gayas Jr. of Barangay Aglinab, Tapaz; Mario Diaz of Barangay Tacayan, Tapaz; Artilito Katipunan of Barangay Acuna, Tapaz; and Barangay Nawayan chairperson Dalson Catamen of Tapaz.

Former TUMANDUK chairperson and Tapaz local government employee Marevic Aquirre is missing, believed to have been abducted by the police.

Two youth residents of Barangay Aglinab, Tapaz town are also reported missing.

The PNP reported it arrested 17 other Tumandok from its SEMPO.

“These Tumandok leaders were very active in reclaiming their ancestral land now occupied by the 3rd Infantry Division, Philippine Army military reservation. They were also active in resisting the construction of the Jalaur mega-dam,” PCPR said.

The community of Lahug also resisted the coercion of military troopers to sign a resolution declaring the CPP/NPA as “persona non grata” in their barangay, the group added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Gov’t troops massacre 9 Tumandok in Panay

Nine Tumandok indigenous peoples have been massacred by combined police and military operations in Panay Island earlier today, Wednesday, according to reports.

Two days before the year ends, 12th Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army (12IBPA) troopers and the Philippine National Police in Western Visayas swooped down on Tumandok communities in Calinog in Iloilo and Tapaz in Capiz and killed the victims in a Synchronized Enhanced Management of Police Operation (SEMPO).

Among those killed in Lahug, Tapaz were Tumandok nga Mangunguma nga Nagapangapin sa Duta kag Kabuhi/Tumandok Farmers in Defense of Land and Life (TUMANDUK) chairperson and Barangay Lahug Councilor Roy Giganto.

Roy Giganto (Panay Today photo)

Giganto, also a former Barangay Lahug chairperson, was killed along with co-councilors Reynaldo Katipunan and Mario Aguirre.

An Eliseo Gayas in Barangay Aglinab, a Mauro Diaz in Barangay Tacayan, and an Artilito Katipunan in Barangay Acuna were also reportedly killed in the same operation.


UPDATE (8:50 PM): The number of massacre victims, previously reported as eight, have risen to nine.

The two other previously unnamed victims of the massacre have been identified as Barangay Daan Sur, Tapaz, Capiz chairperson Dalson Catamin, kapitan and Jomer Vidal of Barangay Nayawan of the same town.

The ninth victim, also a resident from Barangay Daan Sur, has yet to be identified.


Panay Island farmers’ alliance Pamanggas reported that the other victims’ families were ordered outside their homes before the victims were shot.

They were unarmed when killed by the military and the police, Pamanggas said.

Two Barangay Aglinab youths were also taken and remain missing, the reports said.

In Barangay Garangan, Calinog town, Tumandoks Luisito Bautista Jr., Marilyn Chiva, Welsie Chiva, at Glen Legario were arrested by the military.

Alternative news outfit Panay Today said a total of 15 Tumandok have been arrested.

Marevic Aguirre, former TUMANDUK chairperson, also remains missing, it added.

Missing Marevic Aguirre, former TUMANDUK chairperson. (Manila Today photo)

Victims all red-tagged

Some of the victims, such as Giganto and Gayas, were known Tumandok tribal leaders who stood against the Jalaur Mega Dam project in their ancestral domain.

They also refused to sign the consent resolution asked of indigenous peoples before projects are implemented in their ancestral land.

Giganto was earlier reported to have been arrested by the military and the police but later turned up dead.

Blood-spattered house after combined AFP and PNP men massacred 8 Tumandok IPs in Panay Island last December 30, 22020. (Photo from Jeffry Giganto’s FB account)

Gayas was also earlier reported arrested by the SEMPO and tortured until he vomited blood.

Bautista is also a barangay councilor who had been red-tagged and summoned by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) at the 12IBPA camp just last month.

Last December 11, NTF-ELCAC asset Jeffrey Celis accused TUMANDUK as a front organization of the Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army in the indeginous people’s area in Panay island. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

AFP, PNP troops kill 5 mango orchard workers in Rizal

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) killed five mango orchard workers in Baras, Rizal last Thursday, December 17, human rights and peasant groups reported.

Troops belonging to the 2nd Infantry Division (2ID) of the AFP and the Region IV-A Command of the PNP killed Carlito Zonio, Vilma Salabao, Wesley Obmerga, Jonathan Alberga, and Niño Alberga, workers of a mango farm in Sitio Malalim, Barangay San Juan of the said town, human rights group Karapatan-Southern Tagalog said.

The AFP said the 2:30 AM incident was a shootout with members of the New People’s Army (NPA).

The AFP added they conducted the pre-dawn raid to serve a warrant of arrest to a certain Antonio Cule that resulted in an encounter and the death of the victims.

Brigadier General Alex Rillera, 202nd Infantry Brigade commander, said two of the victims were “Ka Sandra” and “Ka Onli” of the NPA.

Philippine Army social media accounts also alleged the victims were NPA members, one of them was even a “top spy” for the group.

But Karapatan-ST, quoting eyewitnesses and the victims’ neighbors, said Zonio,  Salabao, and Obmerga were farm caretakers and mango tree sprayers while the Albergas were guards.

The victims had been workers at the farm in the last three years.

Marco Valbuena, Communist Party of the Philippines public information officer, denied the victims were NPA members.

“We denounce the AFP’s peddling of fake news to cover up their criminal responsibility in the Baras 5 Massacre,” Valbuena said in a tweet.

PNP refuses to release cadavers

The police took the remains of the victims to the Antipolo Memorial Homes but refused to release the cadavers of three of the victims to their families.

The remains of the guards were handed over to their relatives.

The Karapatan-ST fact-finding team also complained of harassment by PNP teams when they assisted families of the three in retrieving their cadavers from the funeral home Monday night, December 21.

Police officers demanded that members of the fact-finding team alight from their vehicles and present their identification cards.

The human rights workers refused.

The harassment continued last December 22 at the Antipolo police station where a Karapatan paralegal was isolated and forced to erase photos from his camera.

In a statement, Sama-samang Artista para sa Kilusang Agraryo (SAKA) joined Karapatan and the peasant organizations affiliated with Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas in condemning “yet another state-sponsored massacre.”

SAKA said, “Instead of counting presents this holiday season, the Filipino people are counting corpses.”

The murder of the so-called Baras 5 raises the peasant death toll under President Rodrigo Duterte to 295, SAKA added.  # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Bishop calls on faithful to wear white to end extrajudicial killings in Negros

A Roman Catholic Bishop appealed to members of his diocese to wear white when they hear Mass on December 24 and 25 as well as on December 31 and January 1 to demand for an end to extrajudicial killings in Negros.

Towards the end of his homily at the funeral Mass for slain red-tagged community doctor Mary Rose Sancelan and husband Edwin in Guihulgan City, Tuesday, December 22, San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza called on his Church’s faithful to collectively act for justice for the victims of extrajudicial killings in the island.

“As your Bishop, I encourage you all who will come for Mass to wear white on Christmas eve (December 24) and Christmas day (December 25), as well as on new year’s eve (December 31) and new year’s day (January 1) – Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God and 54th World Day of Peace, both are Holy Days of Obligation – to express our desire for and commitment to peace, sanctity of life, human dignity and human rights and our collective call to end the killings,  the Covid pandemic and abuse of our common home,” Alminaza said.

Alminaza called for justice for the doctor and her husband who were shot dead at past five o’clock in the afternoon of December 15 near their home in Carmen Ville Subdivision, Barangay Poblacion, Guihulngan City.

Sancelan, Guihulgan City health officer and Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) chief, was previously included in the hit list of the anti-communist vigilante group Kawsa Guihulnganon Batok Komunista (Kagubak) in 2019.

Kagubak mistakenly named her as JB Regalado, Central Negros New People’s Army spokesperson.

Sancelan was among the five in the Kagubak hit list who have since been killed, including lawyer Anthony Trinidad, Heidi Malalay Flores, and Boy Litong and his son.

All victims have sought police assistance and protection against the vigilante group after the list has been made public, to no avail.

The Philippine National Police promised before a Senate inquiry last August 28, 2019 that it will conduct investigations on Kagubak.

“Dr. Mary Rose Sancelan feared her death, apprehensive that the hit list of KAGUBAK would soon be realized. These were her words last year: ‘I felt helpless and paranoid when I go out to work. Of course we are afraid to die…’”–Bishop Gerardo Alminaza (Photo of the Sanselan couple’s funeral Mass from the Bishop’s Facebook account)

“Our beloved martyr, Dr. Mary Rose, took eight bullets on our behalf,” Alminaza said, adding that Sancelan dedicated her life to end both the Covid pandemic and “the pandemic of injustice.”

“Committed to social justice, she tirelessly and prophetically spoke against human rights violations, militarization, and the political imbalance in our locality—consistently insisting on the need to address the roots of our social crisis to achieve just peace,” he said.

The prelate asked that for awareness-raising purposes and as display of solidarity that parishioners take photographs of themselves in white as they did last year.

He also announced that the ringing of church bells at eight o’clock every night throughout the Diocese shall continue to call to an end to the killings in Negros that human rights groups said are perpetrated by suspected state agents. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Huling Yakap ni Nanay Sonya

By Carlos Isagani T. Zarate

Namanhid na ang aking mga alaala:

mabilis na nag-agaw ang liwanag

at dilim sa aking gunita — sigaw

ng umalingawngaw na takot

at hambalos ng mainit na mga tingga!


Handa nang manibasib ang mga halimaw;

iwinawasiwas ang pabaong birtud ng poon!

Tanging sandata ay imbing mga kataga,

pananggalang ang mahigpit, mainit,

walang bitiw na mga yakap mo, Nanay!


Subalit sa pagitan ng isang kisapmata,

ang iyong mahigpit na yakap – ang tila pusod

na muling sa ati’y nag-ugnay, sa aki’y

nagbigay ng lakas at buhay — ay pinasabog

ng abuso, kahayupan at kalupitan!


Sa isang kisapmata, ang iyong humulagpos na yakap

at nabubuwal na hapong katawan aking nasilayan;

gusto kung sumigaw: ‘Wag mo akong bitawan, Nanay,

higpitan mo pa ang iyong mapag-aruga , mapag-adyang

mga yakap — labanan natin. Ang dilim!


caritaz. 21 disyembre 2020

(The poet is a third-term Bayan Muna Representative to the Philippine Congress)

Artwork by Aurelio Castro III (Used with permission)

Alvin Luque’s journey to immortality

By Raymund B. Villanueva

Alvin Luque’s story was of a red-tagged activist who chose to fight back by joining an armed group to carry on a commitment to serve the people. He eventually perished in a hail of bullets in the dead of night last December 10, International Human Rights Day while on his sickbed. In his death, however, he gained immortality in the eyes of many.

His old friends say they had no inkling of what Alvin would someday become, a prominent Communist guerrilla who drove the military to countless operations to capture and kill one of loudest voices of the New People’s Army (NPA).

‘The student politician with a Brit accent’

Alvin was born of a well off family in Cotabato City who sent a precocious son to the best private schools in the island—a privilege he paid back by being a good student.

Fr. Eliseo Mercado, OMI, former president of Notre Dame University of Cotabato (NDUC), in a radio address said Alvin was among the brightest in his class, a scholar throughout elementary and high school. Among the thousands who had once been students of the school, he clearly remembers Alvin and felt compelled to talk about him on the day his former ward was killed by the military.

It was not only the priest that remembers Alvin as a child. A schoolmate recalled Alvin was a cheerful and friendly child. He greeted and waved at everyone around the campus. “’Alvin The Good Politician’ ang tawag ko sa kanya pag nakikita na namin siya ng mga klasmeyt ko. Solved na ang Algebra problem ko dahil nakakagaan ng pakiramdam ‘pag nakikita namin siya,” Mohida Sali wrote of her old schoolmate.

A classmate who declined to be named said Alvin was a competitive rival for top class honors. He delighted in debating in English to prove who was best. But his desire to be top did not deter from his being a good friend, his classmate said. “Oftentimes we watched Betamax movies at their house, which only a few families could afford in the 80s,” the classmate said. His nickname was Bimbo, “cute, fat, fair-skinned and chinito,” the classmate added. Alvin was also active in religious clubs and school politics. His father was a manager of a big business while his mother was a teacher at NDUC’s girls’ school.

Bai Ka Uy, an artist friend, said Alvin captained their high school’s debate team, one who spoke with a British accent.

Another friend, Amirah Ali Lidasan, surmised that Alvin cultivated his British accent because of his fondness for New Wave music pioneered by English bands in the 1980s. But his absolute favorite artists in his younger days were Rick Astley and Spandau Ballet. The latter’s song “Gold” was Alvin’s karaoke standard, Lidasan revealed. “But he came from a family of Cotabato city educators who probably had the bigger influence in his mastery of the English language,” Lidasan added.

“When he enrolled at the Ateneo de Davao University for an English degree, he was teased for his accent,” Uy recalled.

At the Ateneo, Alvin could not help but shine. As he did in elementary and high school, he dove into campus politics and was department representative to the student council.  Thus began his student activism and his first brushes with the pointed end of the State’s stick.

Uy recalled: “We were restless and full of hope. The country has just been released from the grasp of one demon to another [In 1986]. All 36 of us marching for students’ rights and [against] oil price hikes when we were halted by three police vehicles, [the police] fired shots. Napagkamalan ka pang pari , which saved you from getting floored. A small price to pay for believing that the Filipino youth deserves…better education.”

Uy said the arrested students, including Alvin, were asked to strip for a search and slept in a dirty cell the night of their arrest. “There was drama all around. But we ate barbeque courtesy of our current president (then Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte) who ordered bunches of chicken bbq from Delongtes which was just nearby. This president has gone a long way too, and by all signs has done his own personal [180 degree turnaround],” Uy continued.

In his senior year, Alvin was persuaded to have a go at the top post but lost. He however took his student leadership to the national level and got elected as National Union of Students of the Philippines vice president for Mindanao in the early 1990s.

After college, Alvin became an English teacher at the Assumption School of Davao. But the calling to serve the poor was too strong for Alvin to ignore.

A young Alvin Luque in Davao City. (Supplied photo)

His generation’s best

Alvin became a workers’ organizer while teaching at the exclusive girl’s school in the late 1990s.  

“He lived and fought with the workers. During his stint in the legal mass movement, Alvin showed resoluteness, courage, perseverance, and humility. He had a deep sense of sympathy for the oppressed even though he came from a middle class family,” the Kilusang Mayo Uno-Southern Mindanao Region (KMU-SMR) said in its tribute.

“To many who knew and worked with him, he was fun to be with and loved to exchange ideas with his colleagues. He was brilliant and expressive, and he devoted his talents to advancing the struggles of ordinary people,” the group added.

Former KMU-SMR comrade Omar Bantayan said Alvin became a real activist when he began to identify himself with the marginalized.

“[He] came from a pretty affluent background — eating veggies back then was even a struggle for him,” Bantayan said.

Uy echoed this, revealing that Alvin did not like fish in broth, a staple in Central and Southern Philippines. “Naka-simangot ‘yun, pero ngingiti agad at kakain din naman,” Uy said.

Alvin put his public speaking skills to full use as an activist-leader. “[His] command of linguistics shamed the average politician. The podiums and lecterns [he] stood behind were so honored when [he] delivered [his] fiery speeches,” Bantayan wrote. Alvin also penned the best prose and poetry Bantayan said he ever laid eyes on.

Alvin Luque leading a rally in Davao City. (Davao Today file photo)

It was after his KMU stint and he became Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Southern Mindanao Region (Bayan-SMR) secretary general that Alvin became a problem for the oppressive State.

Red-tagging victim

Alvin was a tireless and creative Bayan-SMR secretary general, Uy recalled, adding that he always asked that cultural presentations be regular parts of rallies he organized and led. His stint as leading regional activist coincided with the successful campaign to oust the Joseph Estrada government.

Alvin’s success as leader went beyond activists’ circles. In the 2001 national and local elections, then re-electionist Duterte included him in his slate for the city council. He narrowly lost, however.

After the elections, the military stepped up its red-tagging of Alvin. In July 2002, the 73rd Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army accused him and other activists of being NPA members. Like what it does today with many activists, the military presented so-called witnesses with fantastic stories of Alvin giving large amounts and mobile phones to NPA guerillas. One military witness also alleged it was Alvin who ordered the burning of a bus, a farm and a government office.

To counter the rebellion charge against Alvin, his lawyers submitted to the Court a photograph showing him and other Assumption faculty members attending a junior-senior prom. The photo was taken at the time he was allegedly at an NPA camp in Davao City’s remote Barangay Marilog on the second week of February 1999.

In another affidavit, Bishop Felixberto Calang of the Philippine Independent Church (PIC) said he saw Luque at the PIC’s Davao City compound along Torres Street practically every night that week. Alvin helped in the preparations for the centennial celebration of the establishment of the Union Obrera Democratica Filipina, the country’s first real labor federation established in 1902.

“It would be physically impossible then for Alvin Luque to have gone to Marilog in the second week of February 1999 and stay there for a week as alleged,” Calang said.

Still, the military and State did not let up. While dropping charges against Alvin’s co-accused, the rebellion charge against him was ordered all the way from Manila. Soon, even the trumped up charges and threats of arrest did not suffice and Alvin had to take his activism elsewhere in Mindanao and even to Metro Manila.

Alvin Luque as candidate for the Davao City Council, here with the late Bayan Muna Representative Joel Virador. (Supplied photo)

The military’s persecution of Alvin continued to worsen, forcing him to confront his accusers directly and publicly. In a public letter to former Task Force Davao commander Col. Eduardo del Rosario in January 2007, Alvin accused the military and the police of “[using] political killings to silence those critical of [the] government” to win the so-called war against alleged enemies of the State and to win medals.

“The AFP’s Bantay Laya (counterinsurgency program during the Gloria Arroyo government) may have set perhaps the most elaborate and the most expensive military campaign to date, but this has not deterred the people’s will to rid the nation of a Marcos-like regime,” Alvin wrote. “The AFP’s use of the Judiciary circuit to immobilize activist leaders has undermined the Courts. It has turned this institution into an apparatus to carry out the regime’s all-out war, a war that is devoid of any sense of justice,” he added.

To arms

Believing he is about to be summarily killed by the military like many of his fellow activists, Alvin made himself scarce. For nearly three years, people wondered where he had gone. Alvin has in fact sought refuge in the guerrilla zones of the NPA in 2007-2008, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) revealed. In 2009, he made his first public appearance as an NPA guerilla.

At the celebration of the CPP’s anniversary that year, Alvin ended all speculation and spoke before journalists somewhere in Surigao del Sur wearing a CPP shirt and an NPA cap.

“Yes, I have chosen to seek refuge under the revolutionary movement, particularly with the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army and the National Democratic Front (NDF). This is the most logical choice on my part because these are the very organizations that can guarantee not only my protection from political killings but also, above all, freedom of the people from the oppressive grip of a reactionary fascist state,” he announced in what became the biggest story of the CPP’s anniversary that year.

“I am still breathing and fighting precisely because of this choice. This has been my personal choice. This does not in any way prove that the organizations I was involved with in the legal arena and the revolutionary forces that I have sought refuge in are one and the same,” he added.

He was henceforth known as Ka (Comrade) Joaquin Jacinto.

Ka Joaquin Jacinto, NDF-Mindanao spokesperson, at the CPP’s 48th anniversary celebrations in Paquibato, Davao City, December 26, 2016. (Kilab Multimedia photo)

For a period, Ka Joaquin was assigned to a local unit of the NPA where he deepened his understanding of the situation of the peasant masses and the necessity of waging armed revolution. He is remembered by the masses and the Red fighters for his almost constant jolly mood, the CPP said.

In several CPP anniversary celebrations in the Caraga and Davao regions, Ka Joaquin was the master of ceremonies. He dropped his British-accented English and spoke flawless Cebuano instead. He presided over the biggest CPP celebrations ever, even a peace summit where Duterte’s Cabinet officials attended and where the President allegedly sent roasted calves.

There was something else different with Ka Joaquin. Gone were the chubby and asthmatic Alvin of Catholic schools and urban areas. What people saw was a lean and muscular Ka Joaquin who looked fit enough to be a real guerilla fighter.

In an interview at a Bukidnon camp, Ka Joaquin said it actually took him long to decide whether to join the NPA or not. “Of course, one question was, would I be able to leave my family, friends and all the things I was accustomed to behind for the NPA. That was easily answered by the greater need to survive,” he said. But his real dilemma for was his health and physical state.

“When I climbed to my first NPA camp, I took 10 steps and stopped to rest and catch my breath. How could they think I was NPA before I actually joined?” he exclaimed.

At the NPA camp in 2012, however, Kodao witnessed Ka Joaquin fetching water from a nearby stream without breaking sweat. He easily carried heavy water jugs on both hands while climbing steep inclines. “My asthma seems cured by our long treks and climbs. I am also eating more vegetables and fresh food,” he said.

The CPP said Ka Joaquin had difficulties adjusting physically to the guerrilla movements of the NPA–night trekking, carrying one’s own load and scaling steep mountains. “He would shed weight and eventually find his ‘fighting form,’” it added.

For several years, Ka Joaquin would join Ka Oris (Jorge Madlos, NPA spokesperson) and help in strengthening the work of NDF-Mindanao. He worked closely with the CPP Information Bureau and served as one of the faces of the Philippine revolution, the CPP said.

Recognizing Ka Joaquin’s keen political sense, he was assigned as NDF-Mindanao spokesperson in 2016.

It was the CPP’s 48th anniversary celebrations in Davao City’s Paquibato District in December 26, 2016 that Ka Joaquin led one of his biggest events. A few months later, Duterte turned his back on formal peace negotiations with the NDF and declared both the CPP and the NPA as terrorist organizations.

Ka Joaquin Jacinto as master of ceremony at the Peace Summit with NDFP peace negotiators. (Kilab Multimedia photo)

By the military’s own admission, they had launched many combat operations specifically to capture or kill Ka Joaquin.

Hors de combat

He was unarmed and was convalescing when a combined military and police raiding team swooped down at a Tandag City resort at one o’clock in the morning supposedly to serve a warrant of arrest on Ka Joaquin.

“He was detached a few months ago from the main office of the NDF-Mindanao to undergo medical checkups and to recuperate from partial paralysis. A few months ago, he was physically debilitated and could not walk after he underwent intense physical struggles amid heavy enemy operations and counter-guerrilla maneuvers,” the CPP said.

On International Human Rights Day, the red-tagged activist, fierce human rights defender and revolutionary leader lay dead on his sick bed, cut down by the military that had long wanted him gone.

A flood of tributes poured out when news of his death spread.

Ang kanyang buhay, kahit naiiba, ay itinatanyag po natin sapagkat iyon ay isang buhay na pag-aalalay para sa kapwa at para po sa bayan…Maraming kabataan ang mai-inspire sa kanyang buhay, katulad din ng maraming kabataan na nag-aalay ng kanyang panahon, treasure, at time para sa bayan. Kaya po pinagpupugayan po natin si Alvin Luque,” Fr. Mercado said.

“The eloquent chubby young boy from Cotabato city was not only a friend but now my hero,” Uy said.

Bantayan wrote, “[He[ loved purely and [he was] loved back by [his] friends, students, and the peasants and workers he served. Alvin, you will always live in our hearts.”

KMU-SMR exclaimed, “Highest honor to Alvin Luque, a workers’ and peoples’ martyr!”

The CPP and all revolutionary forces pay the highest tribute to Ka Joaquin. Together, let us raise our fists and celebrate his innumerable contributions in serving the oppressed and exploited Filipino masses and their revolutionary cause,” the underground party said.

But Alvin himself had long predicted his death: “I have no regrets with the choice I have made…and I will use this life to make my mark, together with other revolutionaries, in liberating the people from a rotten society. And should I die in the course of this fight, it is one death I know that is well worth bearing.” #