At last week’s hearing by the House of Representatives hearing on the raid conducted by the police and the social work department on the Bakwit School at the University of San Carlos in Cebu City last February, Presidential Communications Operations Office undersecretary and National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict co-spokesperson Lorraine Badoy showed ignorance of parliamentary procedures and attempted to interrogate other resource persons. She was promptly told that she told that she could not ask questions as she is not a member of Congress. #
The Lumad child detained at the social work office in Cebu was finally reunited with her father, but not without further threats and taunts from a social worker, an indigenous peoples’ group reported.
After a standoff between Mikaela Dorothy Haictin’s father Lope and the Department of Social Work and Development (DSWD)-Central Visayas office last Thursday, the agency reluctantly honored the habeas corpus order of the local court and released her Friday.
But not without social worker Brenda Abilo taunting and threatening the child just before she regained her freedom, the Save Our Schools Network (SOS)-Cebu said.
SOS-Cebu reported Abilo whispered taunts in the child’s ear, sarcastically saying “she hopes that what Philippine National Police chief Debold Sinas said about her becoming an armed rebel will not come true.”
“It is deplorable that Brenda Abilo still managed to make this last minute condescending remark despite all that they at the DSWD-7 have done to the children, from their detention and confinement where the children are greatly restricted and prohibited from contacting parents and lawyers, to the DSWD-7’s refusal to implement a court order for the Lumad child’s immediate release,” SOS-Cebu said.
The group added that what Abilo did was to make clear that she and her office red-tagged the child and truly believe that the children are linked to armed groups.
The act put the lives of the children at even greater risk than ever before, SOS-Cebu said.
Mikaela was finally returned to her father Friday after the Court ordered the Sheriff to serve the Order of Release of Mikay from DSWD detention.
The Cebu chapter of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines filed for a Petition for the Issuance of the Writ of Habeas Corpus and subsequently threatened to file contempt charges against Abilo and DSWD Region 7 officials for refusing to heed the release order.
Earlier, former DSWD secretary Judy Taguiwalo criticized her former colleagues’ “unacceptable” refusal to heed the orders of the court and empathize with the sufferings of the child and her father whose reunion has been blocked again and again.
“The ‘Global Social Work Statement of Ethical Principles’ reminds social workers to uphold social justice and human rights. They should not be complicit in implementing ‘policies and practices (that) are oppressive, unfair or harmful,’” Taguiwalo said.
Abilo has yet to reply to Kodao’s request for comment. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)
Four other massacre victims in last Sunday’s brutal police operations against activists have been identified, all of whom were accused of illegal possession of firearms and explosives like the other five.
Human rights group Karapatan Timog Katagalugan said Dumagat Sierra Madre members Puroy Berhemedo dela Cruz and Randy Berhemedo dela Cruz were shot dead by the police in Sitio Mina, Barangay Sta. Inez, Tanay, Rizal.
Urban poor activists Abner Damas Esto y Mendoza and Edward Damas Esto y Mendoza were also killed by the police in sitio Macaingalan, Barangay Puray, Rodriguez, Rizal as part of the Conduct of Simultaneous Implementation of Search Warrants dubbed COPLAN ASVAL by the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines across four provinces last March 7.
In a separate alert, Gabriela Youth Laguna said the dela Cruzes were killed separately but in a similar fashion.
Quoting Puroy’s wife Minda, Gabriela said the raiders arrived between three to four o’clock in the morning and ordered them to surrender with their alleged firearms.
But even before the dela Cruzes were able to comply the raiders shot at the victim four times and killed him, the group added.
Gabriela added that Randy’s family was violently roused from sleep an hour later when the raiders kicked their door down, ordered his wife Violy and their children out and walk 50 feet away.
As soon as the Randy’s wife and children turned their backs, the victim was shot multiple times, killing him instantly.
No details were provided as to how the Estos were killed.
Like the two others killed in Rodriguez, Rizal at what media groups dub as “Bloody Sunday”, the Esto siblings were members of the red-tagged urban poor group San Isidro Kasiglahan, Kapatiran at Damayan para sa Kabuhayan, Katarungan at Kapayapaan (SIKKAD-K3).
The PNP earlier bragged it killed nine persons last Sunday in a “big score” against alleged communists.
- Michael Dasigao and Mark “Mak Mak” Lee Coros Bacasno in Rodriguez, Rizal;
- Manny Asuncion in Dasmarinas, Cavite; and
- Couple Anna Mariz and Ariel Evangelista in Nasugbu, Batangas.
The police also declared it arrested six others of the same charge as illegal possession of firearms and explosives.
Karapatan Timog Katagalugan said among those arrested was Joan Ignacio Efren of Sitio Lukuang Malaki, San Isidro, Rodriguez, Rizal.
- Steve Mendoza and Elizabeth Camoral in Cabuyao, Laguna;
- Nimfa Lanzanas in Calamba, Laguna;
- Eugene Eugenio in Antipolo city.
The PNP refuses to identify the nine other target of its operations but human rights groups said one Lito Baez of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Batangas missed being killed or arrested as he was not home when the police raided his house. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)
The Lumad raided and arrested by the police at a Roman Catholic retreat house inside a university campus last Monday now needs real rescue, a Cebu church leader said.
Fr. Nazario Vocales, Archdiocese of Cebu vicar and executive director of its Commission on Social Advocacy (COSA) called on the government to release the 24 Lumad and two teachers now under the custody of the police.
Vocales said COSA condemns the so called “rescue operation” by the Philippine National Police Regional Office 7 last February 15, adding what transpired was an illegal mass arrest and trespassing.
The priest said the incident was exacerbated by the police’s “terrifying use of force against the Lumad who reside in the premises of the University of San Carlos-Talamban as a venue for their Lumad Bakwit School.”
Vocales recalled that the victims were in a sanctuary provided by the church and with the blessing of Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma.
“It was a fitting way to welcome last year’s “2020 Year of Ecumenism, Inter-Religious Dialogue, and Indigenous Peoples,” Vocales said.
Vocales urged Cebuanos to once again express support to the Lumad victims as he urged the police and government workers to resist orders that undermine human rights and dignity.
“They need our help and support once more as the safe space for learning and a sanctuary for the stranded was shattered (Monday) by terrifying and illegal acts,” Vocales said.
Twenty-two students, two Lumad elders and two teachers were hauled off in what the police claimed was a rescue operation from a military training school inside the Talamban campus of the University of San Carlos.
No less than PNP chief Debold Sinas claimed that “some of the children told (police) investigators that they underwent some form of warfare training while in the custody of their handlers.”
Sinas and the PNP however were immediately rebuffed by a Cebu City social worker who interviewed the Lumad children.
“We won’t comment on that. The children never said that to us. Nothing about training to be child warriors,” Cebu City welfare officer Annie Suico told Philstar.com.
“We interviewed all of the children. They said nothing about being indoctrinated. All their guardians taught them were reading and writing,” Suico added.
Denial of legal service
Meanwhile, Atty. King Perez of the National Union of People’s Lawyers in Cebu said he finally was allowed to briefly talk with some of the Lumad in a police jail Tuesday afternoon.
Perez however complained that the police is making is making it difficult for lawyers to consult with the Lumad, saying they were made to wait for hours Monday afternoon, to no avail.
The police are being overly-strict on health protocols, Perez said, which is a “huge irony, given that they took the children and the elderly from the safety of a retreat house just to detain them in a crowded jail.”
Perez said they will try to secure the release of the Lumad today, Wednesday, if no inquest proceedings were held last night.
Meanwhile, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said it is investigating reports of human rights violations in the incident.
“The (CHR) has already dispatched an investigation team yesterday…to look into the situation involving the alleged rescue of (the) Lumad children,” CHR spokesperson Atty Jacqueline de Guia said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)
Priests hosting Lumad students and elders denied the police operation inside a Catholic-run university in Cebu City Monday morning was a rescue mission.
Societas Verbi Divini (SVD) Philippines Southern Province Provincial Fr. Rogelio Bag-ao, SVD and University of San Carlos (USC) President Fr. Narciso Cellan Jr, SVD said they are seriously concerned and surprised that the police alleged the incident was a rescue operation.
“[It] came as a surprise that reports about minors being ‘rescued’ surfaced today. While COSA (Cebu-Commission on Social Advocacies) mentioned that some parents were coming over to fetch their children, it did not dawn on us that the parents’ visit will necessitate the presence of policemen,” the priests in a joint statement said.
Bag-ao and Cellan denied the 24 Lumad as well as two volunteer teachers forcibly hauled from a retreat house inside USC’s Talamban campus to a police camp needed rescuing.
“Here, no rescue need ever be conducted because the presence of the lumads in the retreat house was for their welfare and well-being, and all throughout, they were nurtured, cared for, and treated with their best interest in mind,” they said.
Both explained that their hosting of the Lumad was in support of the bakwit (refugee) school program of the Save Our School’s (SOS) Network, along with Archdiocese of Cebu’s COSA.
President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the closure and destruction of indigenous peoples’ schools since 2017, forcing hundreds of their students as well as their teachers to seek refuge in Metro Manila, Cebu and Davao cities.
The priests pointed out that the four other schools within the archdiocese have hosted as many as 42 Lumad students, five teachers and three community elders (Datu) in the past two years.
The refugees were welcomed at USC-Talamban on May 11, 2020 where they were supposed to complete their modular schooling on April 3, 2020 after which, they would have returned to their respective indigenous communities.
The Lumad were forced to extend their stay since the Cebu City government imposed travel restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic, the priests said.
“After being locked down, the SVD Community has since sheltered the delegation at its retreat house, providing them with comfortable accommodation, and allowing them the use of its facilities for the lumad’s recreation,” Bag-ao and Cellan narrated.
The priests said that four of the delegates have since returned home after quarantine restrictions have loosened while more are scheduled to leave this week.
In videos and photos posted on social media platforms, the Lumad students were shown to have been roughly treated by the police during its operation Monday.
Some were strangled from behind while some were handcuffed as they were hauled to the regional police camp.
‘NPA training inside a Catholic university’
In its News Brief No. 21-0261, the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Central Visayas bragged it rescued the minors from a “child warrior training” inside the university.
“Twenty-one Lumad children were reunited with their parents two years after they were ‘recruited’ by community organizers in Davao del Norte and brought to Cebu City to undergo revolutionary training as future armed combatants,” the police said.
PNP chief Debold Sinas further alleged that the Lumad children belonged to a New People’s Army front based in Talaingod, Davao del Norte.
“Police Regional Office 7 investigators are eyeing serious illegal detention, human trafficking, and violations of RA 9851 (IHL Act) and RA 11188 (Special Protection of Children in Situations of Armed Conflict) charges against the arrested suspects,” the PNP added.
The police has yet to allow human rights lawyers to meet with the detainees, a full day after the arrests.
Demands for immediate release
The SOS in Cebu meanwhile called for the immediate release of the detained Lumad and their teachers, denying the students were coerced.
“The parents of the students provided authorization to the volunteer teachers to allow their children to join the Bakwit School. It is also the decision of the students themselves to take part in the Bakwit School,” SOS-Cebu said in a statement.
The group recalled the refugee schools hosted by schools and churches across the country were in response to the closure of 176 indigenous peoples’ school across Mindanao upon Duterte’s orders.
“It is then ironic for the police to claim to ‘rescue’ the Lumad when it is a truth that is widely known that it is the state forces that continuously harass and red-tag them. It is state forces themselves that continue to harm the Lumad,” SOS-Cebu said.
In Quezon City, the SOS Bakwit School at the University of the Philippines in Diliman led an indignation rally in front of the Commission on Human Rights along with indigenous peoples’ rights advocates Monday afternoon. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)
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.
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.
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.
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)
The loan agreement for the New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Low Dam Project (NCWS-Kaliwa Low Dam) is onerous and should be cancelled. President Duterte has reportedly ordered a review of loan agreements to determine if any are onerous and disadvantageous to the Filipino people. Yet the Kaliwa Dam project which has come under fire for its unfavorable Chinese loan agreement has already started.
The Php10.2 billion (US$211.2 million) loan agreement financing most of the Php12.2 billion NCWS-Kaliwa Low Dam has the following questionable provisions:
1. Costly to pay. The commercial loan agreement has a 2% annual interest rate, commitment fee of 0.3% annually, management fee of US$633,600, and a 20-year maturity with a 7-year grace period. The nominal interest rate is higher than other recent loan agreements with Japan or Korea which range from 0.08-0.26 percent. The loan is also not necessarily the cheapest loan even if US dollar equivalent interest rates are used.
2. Project is exclusive to Chinese contractors. While a Philippine project,only Chinese contractors are qualified to bid and Philippine corporations were excluded from the process. The China Energy Engineering Company, Inc. (CEEC) bagged the project. The contract is between the Metropolitan Waterworks Sewerage System (MWSS) and Chinese corporations.
3. Loan agreement is biased for Chinese laws. Article 8.4 of the loan agreement stipulates that Chinese Law will govern disputes pertaining to the agreement. Meanwhile, Article 8.5 says that disputes will be dealt with under the auspices of the Hong Kong International Arbitration Court.
4. Philippine patrimonial assets and property may be compromised in case of default on the loan. In the Article 8.1 Waiver of Immunity, the country “waives any immunity on the grounds of sovereignty or otherwise for itself or its property in connection with any arbitration proceeding”.
The loan agreement is financially disadvantageous, tied to Chinese contractors, and an affront to Philippine sovereignty. These issues are also on top of other issues raised by the Dumagats and Remontados, farmers and community folk, environmentalists, engineers, hydrologists, scientists, public servants, consumers, and many more. The dams projects will displace communities, inundate ancestral lands, and destroy the environment.
The Philippine government should not enter into loan agreements having such terms whether with China or any other sources of official development assistance (ODA). The Filipino people bear the burden of paying these onerous loans. This is even getting worse under the Duterte administration which is imposing new and higher consumption taxes while lowering taxes on the rich and on corporations. #
Government soldiers forced an indigenous person to eat human feces during a military operation in San Marcelino, Zambales Province last August 21, groups reported.
The Umahon Para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo (Umahon) and the Sandugo-Movement of Moro and Indigenous Peoples for Self-Determination (Sandugo) said soldiers of the 7th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army (76th IDPA) forced a certain Nalin Ramos to eat a soldier’s feces.
Ramos was among three Aeta residents, including relatives Witi Ramos and Jepoy Ramos, who were “physically assaulted, tortured and detained by the soldiers,” the groups said.
The three were also detained and hospitalized, Sandugo said. Upon their release, the three were too afraid to go home due to trauma and chose to stay at the evacuation center in Barangay Aglao in the said town.
“A total of 659 families evacuated due to repeated bombings of Aeta communities in Sitio Lumibao, San Marcelino,” Sandugo added.
Umahon said the soldiers wanted the Aeta community to evacuate their ancestral domain while they are pursuing suspected New People’s Army (NPA) guerillas in the area.
Four Philippine Army helicopters reportedly dropped bombs in the community.
The Angelite, the student newspaper of the Holy Angel University, reported that according to a chieftain of the said community, the 7th IDPA wanted the Aetas to evacuate so they could clear the area.
Sandugo said the government troopers are liable under the anti-torture law for their “evil” and “inhumane” treatment of the Aetas.
“The acts of the 7th Infantry Battalion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines reeks of evilness. Their recent actions against our Aeta brothers and sisters are inhuman. It is pure evil, only demons would have the conscience to do this,” Sandugo said.
The group added the 7th ID’s bombardment of the IP community was meant to drive away the Aetas and pave the way for mining explorations by the Dizon Copper-Silver Mines, Inc.
The Aeta residents oppose the project to proted the environment and their ancestral lands, Sandugo said. Sandugo called on the Commission on Human Rights to investigate the incidents and demanded the soldiers’ pull out from the Aeta community. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)
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 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 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)
Indigenous peoples groups from different regions marched to Mendiola, Manila on December 6 for a protest action against attacks on their communities.
The activity was part of a day-long observance of the Global Mobilization to Stop the Criminalization of Land Rights Defenders. They dubbed this year’s Philippine observance “Laban ng Pambansang Minorya para sa Karapatan, Lupang Ninuno at Sariling Pagpapasya.” (Video by Jek Alcaraz/Kodao)