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Pooled Editorial | Journalists denounce police intimidation and harassment in Kidapawan coverage

AlterMidya, a nationwide network of independent media organizations, denounces police intimidation and attempts to suppress information by preventing journalists from covering the aftermath of the April 1 Kidapawan massacre.

The Cotabato police set up a checkpoint outside the Spottswood United Methodist Center where the protesting farmers retreated after Friday’s violent dispersal. Setting up a checkpoint arbitrarily is already questionable, but preventing journalists from covering an issue of public concern and requiring them to register with the police before entering the church compound is even more reprehensible. The police even denied entry to reporters who have already registered at the checkpoint, according to our colleagues from radio outfit RCPA Davao last April 3.

The media were also prevented from interviewing those victims of the dispersal who were in police custody. Hospital officials reportedly informed the media that there were “orders from the police and municipal government” not to allow reporters to interview the victims. The police also refused to provide information on one of the dead victims, whose body was held by the police for autopsy and whom they claimed tested positive for powder burns using an outdated paraffin test.

On Saturday afternoon, reporters of 783 Radyo ni Juan were harassed by policemen deployed near the Spottswood Methodist Center. Policemen sand “One (Juan) Radio, one month na lang mo.” (One Radio, you’ve only got one month left.)

During the violent dispersal, Kilab journalist Jaja Necosia was also among those hurt when the police stoned the protesters. Necosia was wearing his press ID and taking photos of advancing police when he was hit. Davao Today correspondent Danilda Fusilero was also arrested by the police while she was covering the dispersal. Two police officers handcuffed Fusilero and accused her of being among the protesters. They removed her handcuffs only after she showed the police her press ID and was vouched for by a former North Cotabato official.

Media groups like the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines have condemned police harassment, intimidation and repression of journalists covering the Kidapawan massacre. But state security forces have been subjecting journalists to more and more violence when covering protests, putting in jeopardy their safety and the media’s critical role in gathering information on matters of public concern.

AlterMidya is therefore calling for an immediate and impartial investigation into both the violence the police unleashed against the farmer-protesters and media, as well as to stop the continuing and worsening harassment and attacks against the demonstrators and our fellow media practitioners. We also urge all journalists and journalist groups, media advocacy organizations, and press freedom advocates to defend the Constitutional right of the press to provide the public the information on political, social and other issues that it urgently needs.

For reference: Prof Luis V. Teodoro, AlterMidya National Chairperson

Mar’s arrival prompted violent Kidapawan dispersal–Karapatan

Various groups held a condemnation rally in front of the Department of Agriculture main office in Quezon City to condemn the massacre of farmers in Kidapawan City morning of April 1.

According to later reports, at least three farmers were killed and 30 farmers were injured when Philippine National Police fired upon farmers barricading the highway to press the government for relief from hunger brought upon by the protracted drought that hit the region.

Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said they received reports that Liberal Party candidate Mar Roxas was set to arrive in Kidapawan prompting the PNP to disperse the barricade.

Six thousand farmers and indigenous peoples have been barricading the Cotabato-Davao Highway since Saturday.

Here is a short clip of Palabay’s speech at the rally.

(Photo by Kilab Multimedia)

UCCP, Lumad accuse Philippine Army and Alamara of burning Haran

MANILA–United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) bishops expressed outrage at the arson attack against their church compound at Haran, Davao City where hundreds of Lumad evacuees have sought refuge early morning of Wednesday, February 24.

UCCP general secretary general Bishop Reuel Marigsa said they are angry and worried over the apparent arson that wounded five Lumad evacuees, including three children. The victims suffered third degree burns.

“It is clear to us that the burning of UCCP Haran’s Waltertong and Gonzalez cottages was deliberate, as plastic bottles containing gasoline were found around the compound,” Marigsa said.

Marigsa also said that the part of their cyclone fence has been cut for access into the property.

Six UCCP bishops attended the condemnation rally at the Boy Scouts’ Monument in Quezon City last night, including Marigsa, his executive assistant Arthur Asi, Metro Manila Bishop Marino Inong, Northwest Mindanao Bishop Melar Labuntog and Western and Central Visayas Bishop Jezer Bertuldo. The bishops are gathered in Manila for their regular national executive committee meeting.

Marigsa said the attack may only be part of the counterinsurgency operations by government forces through the paramilitary group Alamara.

“It has always been the Alamara that is trying to intimidate us. They keep on trying, but we are not afraid,” Marigsa said.

The UCCP national executive committee vowed to continue to provide sanctuary to the Lumad refugees in their Haran compound.

The Pasaka Confederation of Lumad Organizations in Southern Mindanao also said the attack was premeditated as they have been receiving information that the Haran compound would be burned to the ground.

Pasaka secretary general Jong Monzon said that a datu who sought refuge inside the Haran compound overheard Philippine Army soldiers and the Alamara planning to burn it down if the Lumad refugees refuse to leave.

Monzon said that Kapalong (Davao del Norte) Manobo Datu Dul-om Tumagsa was among those forcibly taken to Davao City by the Alamara and the 60th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army to join a series of rallies in front of the Haran Compound. They were led by Alamara datus Ongging and Larry Mansaloon.

It was then that Tumagsa heard about the Philippine Army and the Alamara’s plan to burn the church compound and the refugee center to the ground and even kill the Lumad evacuees, Monzon said.

Tumagsa decided to bolt the Alamaras and brought his families to Haran to seek refuge themselves.

“Sadly, the threats Datu Dul-om warned us about were carried out,” Monzon said.

Not involved

The Philippine Army denied involvement in the incident.
“The Philippine Army is not involved in the incident. The accusation is malicious (and) has no basis at all,” its spokesperson Col. Benjamin Hao said.

“That is part of the figment of imagination of those who are cohorts of the NPA (New People’s Army),” Hao added.

When sought for clarification if he was accusing the UCCP and the Pasaka as NPA cohorts, Hao replied “Only NPAs have the reason to accuse us. Lahat na lang ibinabato sa amin and, up to now, wala namang napapatunayan.” (We are accused of just about anything and, up to now, nothing has been proven.)

History of arson

Monzon enumerated a series of arson attacks against the Lumads, however.

He cited the burning of four Lumad houses and a cooperative center in White Culaman in Kitaotao, Bukidnon last August; the burning of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural Development (Alcadev) cooperative store in Sitio Han-yan, Lianga, Surigao del Sur last September; and the burning of the Alcadev teachers’ cottage in Agusan del Sur last October.

“These burnings have been perpetrated by the paramilitary groups under the direction of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. They are the ones who threaten us,” Monzon said.

Meanwhile, victims of the Haran burning suffered a restless night.

“The Lumad evacuees refused to stay inside their makeshift huts here at the refugee center and instead laid on the ground all night. Still, they could not sleep,” Monzon said.

“The two-year old victim was crying all night because of the pain on his hands and legs,” he said. (by Raymund B. Villanueva. Featured image above courtesy of Bong del Rosario/Kilab Multimedia. Video below by Kilab Multimedia)

Martial Law victims hold national gathering vs Marcos return to Malacañang

Human rights victims and defenders speak at the national gathering of the Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses to Malacanang (CARMMA) at the Bahay ng Alumni in U.P. Diliman last Monday.

Former Vice-President Teofisto Guingona, Sr., and former senators Aquilino Pimentel Jr. and Rene Saguisag joined hundreds of other human rights victims during Ferdinand Marcos’ 27-year rule as they chanted “No more Marcos!”

Among the speakers were Marie Hilao-Enriquez of KARAPATAN, Joanna Cariño of the Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA), Bishop Arturo Asi of the UCCP (United Council of Churches in the Philippines), and Bonifacio Ilagan of the FQSM (First Quarter Storm Movement).

COMMENTARY: Duterteconomics doesn’t share labor’s ideology

by Raymund B. Villanueva

DAVAO CITY MAYOR Rodrigo Duterte launched his bid for the presidency last Tuesday in Tondo with a threat against militant labor. Singling Kilusang Mayo Uno out, he said he will kill all those who would organize labor unions in economic enclaves he plans on putting up. There should be no labor unions in these enclaves for 10 years or there would be a decade of carnage, he said.

He was obviously referring to something similar to Davao City’s bloodbath against perceived criminals, mostly petty offenders. Laughter could be heard in the videos when Duterte uttered his threat. There was nothing funny in it at all. It was beyond outrageous; it was ominous.

What gall the mayor has to think he shares militant labor’s ideology when he asks them to stop defending workers’ rights. Labor unions protect workers from low wages, unpaid benefits, unjust working conditions and other forms of exploitation. Only an unthinking and unfeeling person could dismiss unionism’s contributions to humanity by threatening them with bloody death, even jestingly (which the video proves was not).

Capitalism, proletarian ideology’s antithesis, is, above all else, exploitation of workers. Special economic zones were invented to worsen this exploitation.

According to the Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research, the Philippines has 326 special economic zones as of May 2015, 68 of which are manufacturing enclaves. While these numbers look impressive Duterte should know that these only employed 735,000 in 2010, or a mere two percent of the country’s employed labor. Current SEZ employment figures remain essentially unchanged.

At the Subic SEZ, Korean giant Hanjin has more than 20,000 workers building giant ships. All of them are contractual employees engaged through a number of contractors. EILER reports that Filipino workers are verbally and physically abused by their Korean bosses on a daily basis and are often served with stale meals. Many accidents occur in this enclave, often deadly, without making the news. Media and even local government officials are barred from entering the shipyard. Shouldn’t Duterte promise to look into such reports first before foisting the specter of more special economic zones at Filipino laborers?

Duterte may be charming to some, but I seriously doubt his brand of charm would be able to reverse the general decline of direct foreign investments into Philippine manufacturing. There is no need for more SEZs when the government is still desperate to fill up those already existing. What few foreign investments that trickle into the local economy go to the stock market and real estate industry, which are part of the speculative market. The doddering global capitalism rolls this way nowadays. It is absolutely unnecessary to threaten militant labor with mayhem when his SEZs are still figments of his bloody imagination.

Moreover, Duterte is being redundant when he threatens militant labor with bloodshed. Economic zones have an unwritten “no union, no strike” policy. SEZ security forces are especially trained to quell any union activity. There is very little government oversight in these special zones, except when there is labor unrest. In such cases, the government always sides with the capitalists anyway. All too often, labor leaders and union members end up killed. Is this what Duterteconomics wants continued?

KMU was quick to criticize Duterte’s statement, as it should. KMU asked if Duterte was joking. The labor center said Duterte made a big joke of himself and should take back his words. It also asked the candidate to stand with labor unions and not with greedy capitalists. I share KMU’s wonder what kind of “respectful” labor unions Duterte wants.

Duterte must think that KMU will not dare criticize his statement because he helped in some labor disputes in Davao City in the past. He clearly showed his capacity to violate labor and other human rights when he could utter threats just like that. Such statements and his kind must never be tolerated, alliances notwithstanding.

Lastly, Duterte’s supporters should know it was the dictator Marcos who first put up SEZs in this country via the Bataan Special Economic Zone in 1969. Ominous, isn’t it? #

Journalists hold torch parade to mark 6th anniv of Ampatuan Massacre

The National Union of Journalists in the Philippines held a torch parade from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines to Mendiola Bridge to mark the 6th anniversary of the Ampatuan Massacre last November 23. This event followed another march by journalists belonging to the National Press Club earlier that day.

Watch highlights of the parade and listen to the statement given by one of the lawyers of the victims’ families.

Ampatuan Massacre: Still no justice after six years

On the sixth year of the Ampatuan Massacre journalists marched from the National Press Club (NPC) to Mendiola to demand justice for the 58 victims, including 34 journalists.

NPC members were joined by the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) and the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan)-National Capital Region Chapter.

The Ampatuan Massacre is said to be the worst such incident in human history that killed the most number of journalists in a single day. It is also considered the worst election-related crime in Philippine history.

As a presidential candidate in 2010, Benigno Aquino promised justice to the victims. Very near the end of his six year term, the Aquino presidency still has to deliver on its promise.

NPC Pres. Joel Egco and BAYAN-NCR Sec-Gen. Mong Palatino spoke at the rally before an effigy of “Pnoy-chio” was burned.

ALTERMIDYA EDITORIAL: Ampatuan Massacre, a grim symbol of reigning impunity under Aquino

23 November 2015

It is Pres. Benigno Aquino III’s last year in office but justice remains elusive for the victims of Ampatuan massacre. No perpetrator has been convicted, the victims still cry for justice. Aquino’s vow six years ago to immediately resolve the gruesome massacre has become a hollow promise: the culture of impunity and sheer lack of accountability continues to reign under his administration.

The Ampatuan massacre, considered as the single most violent incident in the history of Philippine media, claimed the lives of 58 people including 32 journalists on November 23, 2009. The case against the alleged masterminds, the Ampatuan warlord clan, moves painfully slow.

The court case, after six years, is still at its preliminary stage at gathering evidence and bail proceedings. One of the primary suspects, Ampatuan patriarch, former governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. died early this year of liver cancer, extinguishing his criminal liability in the massacre case. Another suspect, Sajid Ampatuan, was released and is running for mayor of Shariff Aguak, under the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) of Vice President Jejomar Binay, in the 2016 polls. Majority of the suspects including members of the clan’s private army and several police officers are still at large or were granted bail.

The gross failure and lack of interest of the Aquino government to swiftly bring justice to the victims and end impunity continues to cultivate a dangerous atmosphere for Filipinos, media worker or not. After the Ampatuan massacre, the killing of journalists persists under Aquino’s term. The recent killing of DWIZ correspondent Jose Bernardo brings the total number of murdered journalists to 30 under the Aquino administration and 150 since 1986.

Extrajudicial killings of political activists, human rights defenders, indigenous people, and community leaders continue. Threats and harassment of state critics are intensifying. All these are a bleak reminder of the escalating impunity in the country and the ineptness of government that breeds it.

Six years of waiting has been enough. The Ampatuan massacre is a pivotal issue in the people’s struggle against growing impunity. Another day of delay in bringing justice to the 58 victims is another license for greater human rights violations and unaccountability in the country. We could no longer allow this government, or the next, to continue this injustice. We hold the Aquino government accountable for this injustice as well as its own crimes against the people.  We would persist in demanding for justice for the victims and their families of the Ampatuan massacre, and all cases of extrajudicial, arbitrary and summary killings, enforced disappearances and other human rights violations.

Accountability for these murders, for political repression, the absence of justice, and the persisting culture of impunity are all the responsibility of the President and the State. #

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Altermidya-People’s Alternative Media Network is a national network of independent and progressive media outfits, institutions and individuals. Kodao Productions is a founding member of Altermidya.

Bayang Barrios sings ‘Igpaw Mindanao’

“Igpaw, Mindanao” performed live by Bayang Barrios at Bamboo Giant, Manila for the campaign #StopLumadKillings supported by ILPS-Philippines.

Music composed by Danny Fabella of Musikang Bayan, arranged by Teddy Katigbak, with additional vocals of Onie Badyong and Empiel Palma, Andrew Barrios on guitar, and Budeths Casinto on percs in the original soundtrack. Video contains images from DavaoToday, Mindanews, RMP-NMR, Tudla Productions, and PinoyWeekly.

WEBSTREAMING: Martsa Amianan and Manilakbayan 2015 meet at Mendiola

Indigenous peoples from Northern Luzon have arrived in Metro Manila to meet with indigenous peoples from Mindanao Island at Mendiola to start their protest actions against the ongoing Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation in Manila.

Indigenous tribes in the Philippines are resisting foreign and large-scale mining encroachments in their ancestral domains that bring with them killings, harassment and other human rights violations.

Watch this Kodao Productions web-streaming of the events as they unfold since before dawn today.