Abduction survivor Jonila Castro addresses UN; reveals continuing rights violations under Marcos gov’t 

State abduction survivor and anti-Manila Bay reclamation activist addressed the ongoing 56th regular session of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, narrating widespread freedom of expression violations under the Ferdinand Marcos Jr. government.

In an interactive dialogue last Wednesday, Castro again narrated her abduction with fellow environmental activist Jhed Tamano by the Armed Forces of the Philippines last year and the subsequent harassment court charges filed against them by authorities.

Castro and Tamano were abducted in Orion, Bataan on Sepember 2, 2023 and were detained for 17 days in a military camp in Dona Remedios Trinidad, Bulacan before the Philippine Army’s attempt to present them as rebel surrenderees.

“Now we face serious allegations of defamation. These challenges highlight the threats to our freedom of expression as defenders, amidst numerous other attacks (against defenders and activists) under the Marcos administration,” she said in her speech.

Castro, now advocacy officer of the environmental coalition Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, condemned government’s red-tagging practices and their severe implications for environmental defenders, journalists and activists.

“Red-tagging not only jeopardizes our safety but also undermines environmental advocacy,” Castro said.

“By silencing voices that promote environmental protection, it facilitates unchecked exploitation of natural resources and hampers efforts to combat environmental degradation,” she said.

Castro was among the civil society representatives who delivered interventions at the UN session where Special Rapporteur Irene Khan highlighted the perilous situation faced by journalists in exile.

Castro said a journalist from the Philippines was forced to go into exile after threats to his security, agreeing to Khan’s report of the physical, digital, and legal threats they endure journalists endure.

“But just like exiled journalists, Filipino environmental defenders also confront threats that compromise their safety and security,” Castro affirmed in a press release sent to media right after the UN HRC session.

Castro endorsed Khan’s recommendations for the protection of exiled journalists, recommending an independent investigation on the Philippines on continuing human rights violations under the Marcos Jr. government.

Castro is part of the delegation of the Philippine Universal Periodic Review Watch, a network of civil society organizations monitoring recommendations of UN member states related to human rights in the Philippines. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Tribunal on war crimes in the PH goes underway

The International People’s Tribunal (IPT) is underway in Brussels, Belgium, investigating alleged war crimes in the Philippines committed by the Rodrigo Duterte and the Ferdinand Marcos Jr. governments.

“The intensity of the armed conflict in the Philippines, the ruthlessness of atrocities committed by the State, and the severity of the violations of the laws of war have made it imperative to call out and make the perpetrators answerable for the outrages against the people and those who resist oppression and exploitation,” Edre Olalia, transitional president of IPT co-convenor International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL), explained. 

“This tribunal will not only provide a deterrent for future abuses, preserve evidence for future legal action, but also present a parallel politico-legal platform as a credible alternative to tedious, protracted, inadequate and status quo-friendly existing legal remedies and judicial arenas that do not bring true justice to the people,” Olalia added.

The tribunal began on Friday and is set to end later today, Belgium time.

In addition to hearing complaints against Marcos Jr. and Duterte, the IPT is scrutinizing the direct role and supervision of the United States government in counterinsurgency operations in the Philippines.

“Crucial to this inquiry is the examination of the role played by the U.S. government, which has historically directed, designed and supported so-called counterinsurgency operations,” former Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño said.

“Through military aid, political backing, and diplomatic relations, successive U.S. administrations, including the current one led by President Biden, have contributed to the perpetuation of violence and impunity in the Philippines,” Casiño added.

The Marcos Jr. and Duterte governments have both massacred civilians and recklessly bombed entire communities with impunity in the name of their ‘counterinsurgency’ operation “because of U.S.-backing,” Robert Reid, chairperson of IPT co-convenor Friends of the Filipino People in Struggle (FFPS), said. 

IADL interim president Edre Olalia and FFPS president Robert Reid. (IPT 2024 photo)

Abduction survivor as star witness

A prominent government abduction survivor is among the resource persons in the ongoing tribunal.

“My abduction by state agents was not an isolated incident but a part of a larger pattern of human rights violations perpetrated by the U.S.-backed Marcos Jr. regime,” Jonila Castro said in a press conference launching the tribunal.

Castro is an environmental activist kidnapped by elements of the Philippine military on September 2, 2023 together with fellow environment defender Jhed Tamano.

“By brandishing me as a so-called terrorist, they effectively robbed me of my freedom and put a target squarely on my back. With their terror-tagging spree, they intend to create a chilling effect where anyone who dares to speak out against injustice risks becoming a target themselves,” Castro added. 

Peasant-based human rights network Tanggol Magsasaka (Defend Farmers) in the Philippines expressed support for the exercise, saying it is high time Duterte and Marcos Jr. are made accountable for their war crimes.

Tanggol Magsasaka added Duterte was responsible for the worst human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian laws, ranging from political killings, massacres, summary executions, and bombings of civilian communities.

The group cited documentation by human rights group KARAPATAN from July 2016 to June 2022 showing a total of 442 victims of extrajudicial killings.

Half of the victims, listed at 222, were human rights defenders, while the rest were peasants, indigenous and Moro peoples, workers, environmental defenders, lawyers, church people, and the urban poor, the report said.

Tanggol Magsasaka said that an overwhelming majority of the victims, listed at 336, were from the peasant sector, 103 of whom were leaders and members of KMP, 31 were from Anakpawis while three were from Pamalakaya.

“The Marcos Jr. regime is continuing the policies of the previous Duterte government – intensified militarization and heightened police brutality resulting in a host of human rights violations. While the anti-drug war is impacting urban poor communities, the counterinsurgency campaign continues to affect the lives of the rural poor,” the group added.

NDFP Negotiating Panel senior adviser Luis Jalandoni explains the importance of international people’s tribunals.

Court of public opinion

While not a formal trial court or recognized by any government or inter-government entity, the organizers said the IPT has a strong tradition of forming public and global opinion on repressive regimes.

This year’s IPT follows a series of tribunals on the Philippines which first started with the Permanent People’s Tribunal (PPT) in 1980 also in Belgium that investigated two cases filed by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and found the Marcos Sr. dictatorship “guilty of grave and numerous economic and political crimes against the Filipino.”

Subsequent tribunals in 2005, 2007, 2015 and 2018 have indicted the defendant Philippine regimes together with the U.S. government for committing crimes against the Filipino people. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Netherlands asked to probe Dutch corporate abuse in Bulacan airport project

Environmental groups held a rally in front of the The Netherlands Embassy in Makati last Friday, March 22, to demand accountability for two Dutch company’s involvement in the San Miguel Corporation’s P735-billion New Manila International Airport (NMIA) project on Manila Bay.

Environmental organizations and science advocates joined representatives of the group Defend Manila Bay from Cavite, Bulacan and Metro Manila coastal and fishing communities to protest what they call as an environmentally destructive reclamation project.

The protesters said that the NMIA project gained approval through intimidation of communities.

“Dutch company Boskalis Westminster NV stands to profit from the Philippines mega-airport, even as it is devastating the lives of our local fishing and coastal communities and our marine and coastal environment as well,” Jonila Castro, Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment’s Advocacy Officer for Reclamation and Water, said.

Castro, also a member of Defend Manila Bay, is one of two young environmentalists who revealed their abduction by the Philippine Army and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed conflict in September last year.

READ: Environmentalists reveal abduction by military

Defend Manila Bay said the Dutch dredging giant Boskalios signed a €1.5 billion contract to construct the first phase of the NMIA in 2018, a project that is about the size of Makati City itself.

Boskalis is also extracting materials from the coastlines of Cavite province for back-fill material for the land reclamation process required to build the mega airport located in the territory of Bulacan province across the bay.

“Boskalis is profiting from a project that bypassed environmental and social scrutiny, ignored warnings from impact assessments, and, worst, used military intimidation to coerce ‘consent’ from affected communities. If this is not grave corporate abuse, then what is?” Bulacan community organizer Jhed Tamano asked.

Tamano is Castro’s co-survivor in the military’s abduction and fake-surrender fiasco.

“Soldiers had arrived every day, intimidating the community in Taliptip, Bulacan, threatening the residents that something bad might happen to them if they continued to refuse to leave. They did this until most of the 700 families in the coastal communities there were forced to leave their homes and agree to unjust compensation offers,” Tamano revealed.  

READ: Saving Taliptip

‘Chilling norm’

Environmental Defenders Congress leader and Asia Pacific Network of Environment Defenders convenor Lia Torres said Castro and Tamano’s abduction is one of the many attacks suffered by environment defenders under the Ferdinand Marcos Jr. government.

“Jhed and Jonila’s abduction by soldiers is a becoming chilling norm under Marcos Jr.’s reign, emblematic of the militarization targeting communities opposing environmental devastation,” Torres said.

“Under the Marcos Jr. administration, 21 abduction incidents involving state forces targeting 38 individuals occurred, with 14 cases involving defenders. Twenty-one remain missing,” Torres added.  

In February 2023, an investigative report by London-based Global Witness revealed that residents of Taliptip, Bulacan, disclosed that SMC sought approval for an unspecified “land development” rather than the massive airport project.

“This blatant lack of transparency robbed communities of their right to assess the project’s impacts and challenge any resulting harms,” Castro said.

A plethora of birds roosting over makeshift structures put up by fisherfolk. (Photo by Leon Dulce/Kalikasan PNE)

Kalikasan further revealed that in addition to the displacement of communities from Bulacan, communities across the Manila Bay in Cavite province have also reported loss of livelihood and destruction of the environment.

The group said dredging operations by Boskalis cause dwindling fish catch and increasing cases of hunger by fishing families.

Dutch credit company also accountable

READ: Groups press call to save Manila Bay from reclamation projects

The protest rally also demanded accountability from the Dutch export credit agency Atradius Dutch State Business that provided at least 1.5 billion euros in export credit insurance to Boskalis for the NMIA project.

Boskalis obtained insurance for the project from the Dutch state through Atradius DSB in May 2022, it said.

“Despite opposition from local communities and civil society groups in both the Netherlands and the Philippines, the application was approved in 2022 by Atradius DSB and Dutch state secretary for finance Marnix van Rij,” Castro said.

The move contradicts the Netherlands’ government’s own environmental and corporate social responsibility (CSR) goals, she added.  

Manila Bay wetlands in trouble

The NMIA project has also sparked significant controversy for its destruction of vital wetlands hosting diverse wildlife, including endangered migratory birds, the protesters said.

“Manila Bay is an internationally recognized biodiversity hotspot, and the airport development is set to destroy protected ecosystems in the area,” Jerwin Baure, a marine scientist of Advocates of Science and Technology for the People said.

The construction also encroaches upon a recommended ‘strict protection zone’ identified by a joint study of the Philippine and Dutch states, the scientist said.

“The construction will cause irreversible harm to the natural habitats in the area. As Manila Bay is a productive fishing ground, many fishers will lose their livelihoods. With mangroves being cut down, we also lose their ecosystem function of sequestering carbon from the atmosphere, helping to mitigate climate change,” Baure said.

“It’s puzzling that Dutch companies are involved in this harmful reclamation project, given their collaboration with Philippine authorities on the Manila Bay Sustainable Development Master Plan (MBSDMP) from 2018 to 2020, which received hundreds of millions of pesos worth of funding from the Dutch government, he added.

The protesters said they urge The Netherlands government to investigate corporate abuses by the Dutch companies and to ask the Philippine government to halt the airport project.

Human rights lawyer and Karapatan legal counsel Atty. Maria Sol Taule speaks at a rally in The Netherlands against rights abuses committed against environmentalists opposing Manila Bay reclamation projects. (Supplied photo)

Dutch and Filipino environmentalists also held a parallel protest rally in Papendrecht, The Netherlands, Boskalis WMV’s headquarters.

They said the two rallies are the first of a series of globally coordinated actions against reclamation projects on Manila Bay.

READ: Groups demand scrapping of all Manila Bay reclamation projects

Last year, President Marcos ordered the suspension of all but one of the projects but environmental groups decried that reclamation have nonetheless continued. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Jhed, Jonila fail to attend UN rights council session

GENEVA, Switzerland—Environment activists Jhed Tamano and Jonila Castro, alleged military abduction survivors, failed to attend the ongoing 55th regular session of United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in this city due to the filing of grave defamation charges against them by the Department of Justice, the Philippine UPR (Universal Periodic Review) Watch revealed.

Wanting to personally narrate their ordeal before the international body, Tamano and Castro were forced to forego their trip to attend to court hearings after the 70th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army’s 7th Infantry Division filed the new charges against them later this month.

The Philippine UPR Watch condemned the Department of Justice’s recommendation to file the grave defamation charge and elevating it to the courts as “a deliberate attempt at preventing them from telling the world of their ordeal.”

“Jhed and Jonila wanted to deliver oral interventions at the UNHRC general debates as survivors of abduction by the Ferdinand Marcos Jr. government that also tried to falsely present them to the public as so-called rebel surrenderees,” Karapatan legal counsel and Philippine UPR Watch delegate Atty. Ma. Sol Taule said.

Castro and Tamano were also scheduled to speak at various regular session side events at the UN as well as in various other countries throughout Europe in the coming weeks.

“Both survivors had already secured travel visas but were forced to cancel when the DOJ and 70th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army’s 7th Infantry Division filed new trumped up charges against them,” Taule added.

Castro and Tamano each posted bail last February 21 at the Dona Remedios Trinidad Municipal Trial Court in Bulacan on charges the anti-Manila Bay reclamation activists deliberately defamed the military and the Ferdinand Marcos Jr. government in a press conference organized by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict last September 19 in Plaridel, Bulacan.

“That is not prosecution but political persecution,” Taule said.

In an earlier statement, Castro and Tamano said the DOJ is in collusion with the NTF-ELCAC and the Armed Forces of the Philippines in telling the courts a “patchwork” of stories to save face and cover up its practice of abduction and presentation of fake surrenderees.

“This decision proved that our questioning of the DOJ’s capability to conduct fair investigations was correct, adding the department conveniently ignored the fact that they were kidnapped and coerced into surrendering and admitting that they were members of Communist groups,” the young environmentalists said after posting bail last month.

Despite their physical absence however, Castro and Tamano’s ordeal shall be told in side events and dialogues with permanent missions of UN member states as well as officials of international civil society organizations in the UN nonetheless, the Philippine UPR Watch said.

“If the government thinks that it could cover up its abductions and other human rights violations by preventing Jhed and Jonila from personally telling their ordeal to the world, it is mistaken,” Center for Environmental Concerns executive director Lia Mai Torres said.

Torres added that foreign governments are very interested in knowing more about the case of the two young environmental defenders who bravely revealed their abduction and 17-day imprisonment in a Philippine Army camp in front of their abductors.

“The case of Jhed and Jonila helps reveal that human rights situation is no better under Marcos Jr. and environmental defenders are among the victims,” Torres said.

A network of human rights groups, churches, and people’s organizations, the Philippine UPR Watch is an active participant in UNHRC sessions through oral interventions, forums, dialogues and reports on the state of human rights in the Philippines. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

[DISCLOSURE] The reporter is a member of the PH UPR Watch delegation as chairperson of the People’s Alternative Media Network that also spoke with UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression and opinion Irene Khan in her visit to the Philippines earlier this year.

Jhed, Jonila post bail for defamation charge

State abduction survivors Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano posted bail at the Dona Remedios Trinidad Municipal Trial Court in Bulacan province on Wednesday for the grave oral defamation charge against them by the Ferdinand Marcos Jr. government.

The environmental activists posted P18,000 each for their temporary liberty after being accused by the Department of Justice (DOJ) that they used a press conference to accuse the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict of abduction in Bataan Province.

In a press conference organized by the Plaridel Public Information Office last September 19, 17 days after their abduction in Orion, Bataan last September 2, the two victims revealed they have been abducted by the military and have not surrendered as the Philippine Army claimed.

Embarassed by Castro and Tamano’s brave revelation in front of their abductors, the military filed perjury charges that was dismissed by the DOJ in favor of the new defamation charge.

AFP’s ‘honor and reputation’

The new charge was filed by Lt. Col. Ronnel dela Cruz, commander of the 70th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army’s 7th Infantry Division based in Doña Remedios Trinidad.

Castro and Tamano were detained at the army unit’s headquarters during their ordeal.

In its resolution, the DOJ alleged the respondents “employed machinations and took advantage of the benevolence of the 70th IB (Infantry Battalion) and the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) to embarrass and put them in bad light.”

“There was a deep-rooted motive on the part of respondents to select a public forum that would express their sentiment. We consider the statement of respondents to be serious slander because the circumstances of the case show that they consciously, intentionally and on purpose waited and chose the press conference which would be held in public to air their grievance and plight,” the DOJ added.

“The slanderous words were obviously uttered with evident intent to strike deep into the character, honor and reputation of (the) complainant and the AFP,” the resolution reads.

Abductors and liars

In a joint statement, Tamano and Castro on Tuesday bewailed that the victims have become the respondents, even after the Supreme Court recently granted them Writ of Amparo and Habeas Data protection mechanisms.

“The abductors are very intent to jail those they’ve abducted,” the victims said.

The two also revealed that the Office of the Solicitor General has filed an omnibus motion appealing the writs granted them by the high tribunal.

“The only criminals here are the AFP and NTF-ELCAC abductors and liars, as well as the other government agencies that assist them,” the two added.

The only two victims who bravely revealed being abducted in the presence of their abductors, Tamano and Castro are being hailed as the faces of enforced disappearances and fake surrenders human rights organizations accuse the military of committing.

Their testimonies have also become instrumental in the issuance of recommendations for the abolition of the NTF-ELCAC by the United Nations special rapporteurs on climate change and freedom of expression and opinion. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Gawa-gawang kaso’t dahas, kambal na mukha ng pasismo ng Estado

Ni Nuel M. Bacarra

Sa pag-igting ng pasismo sa bansa, kasabay na pinag-iibayo rin ng mga armadong pwersa ng Estado ang paggamit ng iba’t ibang porma at pamamaraan para higit na gipitin ang mamamayang lumalaban. Ang mga batas na dapat nagpoprotekta sa mamamayan ay ginagamit ng ilang opisyal ng pamahalaan sa pagpapatindi ng pandarahas, paninindak at panunupil para protektahan ang kaayusang kanilang pinakikinabangan. Mas marahas, mas mainam para sa kanila.

Nakasaad sa Artikulo II Seksyon 11 ng Konstitusyon ng Pilipinas sa ilalim ng titulong “Mga Patakaran ng Estado” na: “Pinahahalagahan ng Estado ang karangalan ng bawat tao at ginagarantiyahan ang lubos na paggalang sa mga karapatang pantao.” Dagdag pa rito, mayroon nang batas kontra tortyur, ang R.A. 9745; batas sa sapilitang pagkawala o enforced disappearance (R.A. 10353) at R.A. 11862 o ang pinalawig na batas kontra sa human trafficking. Mayroon ding Magna Carta of Women, ang R.A. 9710. Mayroon pang nakasalang na panukala sa Senado na S.B. Blng. 2447 tungkol sa mga saligang karapatan at kalayaan ng mga tagapagtanggol sa mga karapatang pantao.

Kung ang mga batas na ito ay ilalapat sa mga kaso ng mahigit na 700 bilanggong pulitikal sa buong bansa, marami na sanang napalaya kabilang ang mga tagapayo ng rebolusyonaryong kilusan sa usapang pangkapayapaan; sina Frenchie Mae Cumpio at iba pang biktima ng modus na tanim-ebidensya at mga gawa-gawang kaso. Resolbado na rin sana ang kaso ng tinaguriang biktima ng “Bloody Sunday” sa Southern Tagalog kung saan siyam na aktibista ang pinatay at apat pa ang inaresto noong Marso 2021; at inilitaw na sana sina Dexter Capuyan at Bazoo de Jesus.

Iniikutan ng mga armadong pwersa ng Estado ang mga batas at ginagawang armas ito laban sa naghahangad ng panlipunang pagbabago.

Nais ng mga uhaw-sa-dugong pasista na walang pagkakontento sa pagpatay, pambobomba ng mga komunidad o sa simpleng panghuhuli o pagdukot, na maging karaniwang kaayusan ito sa lipunang Pilipino upang sindakin ang mga pwersang naghahangad ng pambansang kalayaan at demokrasya. Subalit sa kaso nina Jhed at Jonila na sinampahan ng gawa-gawang kaso, ito ay para isalba ang kahihiyan nila sa paggamit ng binaluktot na interpretasyon ng batas o pag-kriminalisa rito.

Nagpapatuloy na banta sa buhay

Nitong Pebrero 5, sa protesta ng mga progresibong tagapagtanggol ng karapatang pantao at kapaligiran, mga syentista at mga kabataan sa tanggapan ng Department of Justice at Korte Suprema sa Padre Faura, Manila, iginiit nila ang paggawad ng positibong desisyon sa isinampang writ of amparo at writ of habeas data nina Jonila Castro at Jhed Reiyana Tamano.

Ang petisyon para sa writ of amparo ay isang remedyo ng isang tao na ang karapatan sa buhay, kalayaan at seguridad ay nalalabag o nanganganib dahil sa iligal na gawain o pagkaligta sa mga batas ng mga upisyal ng gubyerno o empleyado o pribadong entidad o mamamayan. Mabibilang dito ang ginagawang red-tagging ng National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), iligal na pagtugaygay at iba pa na nararanasan pa rin nina Jonila at Jhed sa kasalukuyan.

Ang writ of habeas data naman ay isang karapatang konstitusyunal ng mamamayan para iwasto ang maling datos ng gubyerno o pribadong institusyon hinggil sa pagkatao ng isang indibidwal. Sa ganitong usapin, tahasang sinasabi ng dalawang aktibista na hindi sila rebelde na sumuko sa militar tulad ng ibinibintang sa kanila para papaniwalain ang publiko at bigyang-katwiran ang pagdukot sa dalawa.

Ang tapang at paninindigan nina Jonila at Jhed na ilantad nang harap-harapan ang katotohanan ng pagdukot sa kanila ng militar sa Bataan noong Setyembre 2, 2023 ang nagsandal sa pader sa militar para palayain silang dalawa. Hindi na sila mabinbin pa o patagalin sa kustodiya ng militar dahil katakut-takot na kahihiyan ang aabutin nila mula sa sambayanan.

Dahil depensibo ang militar sa politika, nanatili ang panghaharas sa kanila. Sinampahan sina Jonila at Jhed ng kasong perjury o pagsisinungaling. Dahil wala naman talagang batayan ito at lalong nagpatibay sa testimonya ng pagdukot sa kanila, ibinasura ito ng korte. Panibagong kaso naman na grave oral defamation o malalang paninirang-puri ang planong isampa sa kanila dahil diumano ay ginamit ng dalawa ang press conference (na inisponsor ng NTF-ELCAC) para “siraan” ang militar.

Hindi na bago

Ganito na ang padron ng mga panghaharas ng militar sa tuwing ibabasura ng korte ang mga gawa-gawang kasong isinasampa nila laban sa mga aktibista o kung makadaragdag ito sa ibayong kahihiyan nila. Napakadali sa kanila ang gumawa ng kaso at magmanupaktura ng mga ebidensya para sindakin at pahirapan ang mga taong nagtataguyod ng katarungan at kapayapaan at ng mga naghahangad ng pagbabago sa lipunan.

Ang dating National Security Adviser na si Hermogenes Esperon mismo ang nagsampa ng kasong perjury noong Mayo 2019 laban sa sampung indibidwal. Ginawa ito matapos magsampa ng petisyon ng writ of amparo at habeas data sa Korte Suprema ang organisasyon ng KARAPATAN, GABRIELA at Rural Missionaries of the Philippines.

Noon lamang Enero 9, 2023 pinawalang-sala ng Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 138 ng Quezon City ang 10 indibidwal mula sa tatlong organisasyon.

Ang kasong ito ay isa lamang sa mga ligal na maniobra ng paggamit ng Estado sa mga batas para kahit paano ay mapigilan ang mga aktibista sa pagtataguyod ng mga karapatan ng mamamayan at sa paglalantad ng kabulukan ng Estado.

Sa Timog Katagalugan, maliban sa mga kaso ng extra-judicial killings, 13 indibidwal din mula sa iba’t ibang progresibong organisasyon ang sinampahan ng mga gawa-gawang kaso. Talamak nang ginagamit ng estado laban sa lumalabang mamamayan ang batas kontra sa terorismo o ang R.A 11479 at di na iilang bilanggong pulitikal ang kinasuhan gamit ang batas na ito. Pero kung gaano kabangis ang batas na ito, tinutugon ito ng paglaban ng mamamayan.

Mga tagasuporta nina Jonila at Jhed na nag-protesta sa harapan ng Korte Suprema sa iniisip ng DOJ na pagsasampa sa dalawang biktima ng pagdukot ng kasong “paninirang puri.” (Larawang kuha ni N. Bacarra)

Lakas ng mamamayan

Ang pagdukot kina Jonila at Jhed at ang pagsisiwalat nila rito ay batid na malawak na mamamayan. Ang pagbubunyag ng katotohanan na ikinagalit ng mga pasistang galamay ng estado ay kaso ng “malubhang pagsisinungaling” laban sa kanila na naging katawa-tawa na. Umuuk-ok ito sa tiwala ng taumbayan sa armadong pwersa ng bansa.

Nakarating na ito sa Komisyon ng Karapatang Pantao ng United Nations at lubos na malalantad pa ito sa darating na mga buwan.

Malakas ang loob ng mga progresibong organisasyon at indibidwal dahil ang lakas nila ay nagmumula sa kanilang pagkakaisa at sa suporta ng taumbayan. Sina Jonila at Jhed ay larawan ng laban ng sambayanan. Anumang pag-alipusta sa kanilang karapatan at pagtatangka sa kanilang buhay ay may katapat na paglaban at sigaw ng lumalabang mamamayan. #

Rights groups laud UN expert recommendation to abolish NTF-ELCAC, repeal anti-terror law

Environmental and human rights groups hailed a United Nations (UN) expert’s recommendations to abolish the government’s anti-insurgency task force and the country’s anti-terrorism law after a 10-day investigation in the Philippines.

In a joint statement, the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) and the Philippines UPR (Universal Periodic Review) Watch said they welcome the statement made by UN Special Rapporteur on Climate Change and Human Rights Dr. Ian Fry recommending the abolition of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) and the repeal of Republic Act No. 11479, the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) of 2020.

In his exit statement last Wednesday, November 15, Fry said he listened to complaints by indigenous peoples groups, environmental rights defenders and other civil society organizations  who were abducted, bombed and killed for opposing reclamation projects, hydro-electric dams, destructive mining and deforestation.

“They told me horrific stories on how they have been treated. I have listed in my recommendations to disband the NTF-ELCAC because it is clear that it’s operating beyond its original mandate,” Fry said.

“It is evident that the NTF-ELCAC is using its powers to protect key economic interests in the country. This has nothing to do with anti-terrorism or anti-communism. The military’s gross overreaction to people trying to defend their right to a safe, clean health and sustainable environment is totally unacceptable. The NTF-ELCAC should be disbanded,” Fry added.

The expert also said he would recommend ATA’s repeal after hearing stories of “totally unreasonable” designation of church and humanitarian workers as so-called terrorists whose funds are being held by the government.

Kalikasan PNE and the Philippine UPR Watch said Fry’s findings are welcome as they “(make) it clear that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s posturing as a climate change advocate” are merely for show.”

Rights group Karapatan also lauded Fry’s exit statement, saying it puts on center stage “the sinister role played by the NTF-ELCAC and the dangerous impact of the terror law on the lives and safety of environmental human rights defenders in the country.

The group noted that the Philippines is one of the world’s deadliest countries and Asia’s worst for environmental defenders in the past 10 years.

“Killings of environmental defenders peaked during the Duterte regime, which accounted for 205 or 73% of the 281 extra-judicially from 2012 to 2022,” Karapatan revealed.

The group added that the Marcos Jr. government is not doing better, citing the case of anti-Manila Bay reclamation campaigners who revealed being abducted by the NTF-ELCAC and the Philippine Army last September.

Bato, Task Force take exception

Reacting to the UN expert’s recommendations, Senator Ronald dela Rosa said Fry is “one of the most misinformed foreigners.”

In a budget hearing at the Senate Wednesday night, dela Rosa said Fry’s views might have changed if he only involved NTF-ELCAC in his investigations.

National security adviser and NTF-ELCAC vice chairperson Eduardo Año also said Fry should have met with the task force “to ensure that he has a full appreciation of the body’s mandate, operations, and overall directions.”

The NTF-ELCAC said it will seek a dialogue with Fry in the future.

Move to defund

But Karapatan said NTF-ELCAC’s “boilerplate responses” to Fry’s observations “further expose its propensity to disregard and distort human rights.”

“NTF-ELCAC’s statement that it is a ‘working and effective human rights mechanism’ is a ludicrous claim, considering its track record of propagating lies and its long list of crimes against the Filipino people,” Karapatan said.

The group said Fry should instead be commended for lending his voice to the growing call for an end to the NTF-ELCAC and ATA menace on people’s rights.

Karapatan added it anticipates Fry’s full report on his official visit to the Philippines to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2024.

“We hope that he can also look further into the militarist approach in the counterinsurgency policy of the Marcos Jr. – Duterte administration that drives NTF-ELCAC and the use of the terror law against environmental defenders and communities, as well as the neoliberal policies that spur destructive big reclamation, dam and mining projects that displace and violate rights of the people,” Karapatan said.

Meanwhile, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan said that in line with Fry’s recommendations, Congress should immediately move to defund NTF-ELCAC to prevent more human rights abuses in the country. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

TAMBAYAN Ep 3: Kumusta na sina Jhed at Jonila?

Sa pinakahuling episode ng Tambayan ngayong tinaguriang ‘International Day of Climate Action’, kumustahin natin ang dalawang environmental defenders na sina Jhed Tamano at Jonila Castro. Kamakailan lang ay kinasuhan sila ng Department of National Defense ng perjury kaugnay ng paglalantad nila ng pagdukot sa kanila ng mga militar.

Groups press call to save Manila Bay from reclamation projects

Various groups held a rally along Roxas Boulevard in Manila on Wednesday, October 18, demanding a complete stop to ongoing reclamation projects on Manila Bay.

Led by environmental group Kalikasan, the rallyists that included fisherfolks Pamalakaya, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, Bayan Muna and various church-based organizations and formations formed a human chain with the famous Manila Bay sunset as background.

Themed “Save Our Sunset, Save Manila Bay,” the event called on President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to implement his verbal promise of halting reclamation projects by issuing an executive order.

The rally participants said reclamation is still ongoing despite Marcos’ order to stop the projects and conduct an investigation.

Marcos Jr. announced last August that his government has suspended all but one of reclamation projects to allow the (DENR) to conduct a cumulative impact assessment.

READ: Groups demand scrapping of all Manila Bay reclamation projects

The President’s order followed massive and prolonged flooding in Bulacan and Pampanga provinces after successive typhoons in July and August that dumped floodwaters from upland areas in Central Luzon.

Kalikasan said the reclamation projects impede the waters from freely flowing out into the bay, endangering entire towns in the said provinces.

Anti-Manila Bay reclamation project activists Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamayo made their first public appearance in the event after their sensational release from their military abductors last September 19.

READ: Environmentalists reveal abduction by military

Castro and Tamayo called on their fellow protesters to continue their campaign for Manila Bay and to save the livelihood of tens of thousands of families living around it.

Rep. Lito Atienza, former Manila Mayor and environment secretary, meanwhile condemned the corruption he said is part of the 21 reclamation projects in the bay. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Jonila and Jhed’s case reaches UN, rights defenders announce

A group of human rights defenders said they have reported the case of the two abducted environmental activists to the United Nations (UN) at the ongoing 54th Regular Session of the Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva, Switzerland.

The Philippine UPR [Universal Periodic Review] Watch (PUPR) said the press conference organized by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) last September 19 when anti-Manila Bay reclamation project campaigners Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano revealed their abduction has reached the offices of several UN Special Rapporteurs and country missions.

The PUPR said it continues to update attendees at the 54th UN Human Rights Council session about the NTF-ELCAC’s “degenerative tactic” of presenting abduction and enforced disappearance victims as surrenderers.

“The PUPR team, continuing to report on developments in the Philippines, (also) shared this development with the office of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information,” the group in a statement said, referring to Irene Khan who is set to visit the Philippine in January 2024.

Bishop Melzar Labuntog, the General Secretary of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines also asked other UN experts to red-tagging, freezing of assets, and arrests and detention of church workers and groups.

“Church groups living out their faith and expressions have met malignment and have been equated with terrorist groups,” Labuntog said. “The clear trend of attacking church workers and ministries is a clear indication of how human rights, freedom, and justice are being trampled upon.”

Bishop Labuntog is part of the PUPR delegation to the ongoing UN session, alongside an indigenous people’s leader, a climate activist, a victim of extra-judicial killings, and a people’s lawyer.

The group said they emphasize the injustices suffered by civilians under the Philippine Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, citing at least 15 terrorism-related cases filed against activists, ranging from allegations of acts of terrorism to financing terrorism with corresponding civil forfeiture charges.

In their meetings with experts and country missions, the PUPR delegation said they also raise the issue of censorship such as the blocking of 25 websites of progressive news sites by the National Telecommunication Commission upon the orders of the National Security Council.

“The first target of government repression will not be the last,” National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers-National Capital Region secretary general Kristina Conti said.

Conti added that NUPL’s own Facebook page became inaccessible last September 26 after several posts condemning the killing of a fellow lawyer in Abra province.

PUPR said one of its members from the Council of Health and Development has delivered an oral intervention through video in the interactive dialogue on economic, social, and cultural rights and COVID-19 recovery at the ongoing UNHRC session. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)