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Groups denounce Sagay massacre, abduction of farmer organizer

Human rights advocates held a protest action in front of Camps Aguinaldo and Crame in Quezon City to denounce Saturday’s massacre in Hacienda Nene, Sagay City in Negros Occidental and the abduction of farmer-organizer Joey Flores Sr. in Nueva Ecija last week.

Nine farmers and farm workers, including 2 minors, were killed by suspected SCAA/CAFGU members of the 12th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army in the northern Negros island city.

The protesters said they suspect Armed Forces of the Philippines-backed paramilitary and goons carried out the brutal attack.

The protesters also assailed the abduction of Joey Torres Sr., Bayan Muna’s peasant organizer in Central Luzon last week they say was by the Philippine Army. (Video by Joseph Cuevas/Kodao)

Arrested peasant advocates tortured, Karapatan says

The four peasant rights workers arrested in Nueva Ecija recently may have been tortured, human rights group Karapatan said.

In a statement, the group said Yolanda Diamsay Ortiz (46) of Anakpawis Party, Eulalia Ladesma (44) of Gabriela Women’s Party, and youth activists Edzel Emocling (23) and Rachel Galario 20 bore visible bruises on their faces when visited by kin last October 14.

The four were arrested by operatives of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), Philippine National Police and elements of the 7th Infantry Division in Sitio Bangkusay, Brgy. Talabutab Norte, Natividad, Nueva Ecija last October 13/

They are being held by the CIDG in their office at the Old Capitol building in Cabanatuan City.

Ladesma’s daughter told Karapatan after their visit her mother recounted that her hair was grabbed and was forced to drop to the ground when the CIDG operatives accosted her.

While on the ground, Ledesma was kicked several times and her hands tied thereafter while being forced to admit to being “Mariz”.

The daughter also relayed that she also saw Ortiz with a bruised face, her left eye swollen and there were hand marks on her neck due to strangulation.

Ladesma and Ortiz repeatedly told the former’s daughter that they were hit every time they refused to answer their captors’ questions.

Karapatan paralegals were not allowed to have access to the four women.

“Karapatan strongly condemns the illegal arrest, detention, and torture undergone by the four women human rights defenders in Nueva Ecija. This is indefensible,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.

“This is precisely what happens when you have security forces that have no respect for human rights. This is the kind of police and military that we have – uniformed men with no integrity and not the slightest respect for women and their rights,” Palabay added.

Palabay said the four were arrested two days being Rural Peasant Women’s Day on October 15 when the world honors the struggles of women peasants and their advocates.

Palabay also lamented how abuses against rural women persist in the Philippines despite the ratification of laws that explicitly prohibit such violations, including the Anti-Torture Law of 2009.

This is on top of legislation and policies that seek to protect women from all forms of violence, including the Magna Carta of Women, Palabay said.

Karapatan noted that there has been a spike in the number of arrests of activists on the basis of trumped-up charges and the an increase of harassment cases against rights defenders – all alleged to be “rebels” by the Rodrigo Duterte government.

The 7th Infantry Division for its part said in a statement that the four women were “rebels conspiring against the government.”

Palabay, however, said that the military’s statement has no credibility if the victims were tortured.

“We have no doubt the spin doctors in the military will use this opportunity to forward their deluded narrative, even at the expense of torturing women! This is a shameful act that truly exposes the atrocities of the military and the police. All of those involved should immediately be held accountable,” Palabay said.

Karapatan demanded the release of the four women. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Rights groups demand IACLA abolition

By Joseph Cuevas

Human rights group Karapatan and other organizations trooped to Camp Crame in Quezon City Tuesday, October 9, to demand the abolition of the Inter-Agency Committee on Legal Action (IACLA) they said is a mechanism for political repression.

Karapatan said since the formation of IACLA by the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) a year ago, 221 individuals have been charged with trumped-up cases.

Of those charged, 178 have already been arrested from October 9, 2017 to September 30 this year, Karapatan said.

The group said 128 peasant and indigenous peoples have been victimised by these trumped-up charges.

It added that the arrests include those of development workers Benito Quilloy and Rita Espinoza of Assert Socio-Economic Initiatives Network last October 2017, the continuous detention of National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace consultant Rafael Baylosis, trade union organizer Marklen Maojo Maga and public sector union organizers Alexander Reyes and spouses Oliver and Rowena Rosales.  Karapatan added.

“We call on for the abolition of IACLA and the withdrawal of all trumped up charges against activists and progressives. This is a systematic move by the government to legitimize repression, a blatant subversion of laws compounded by the collusion with the Justice Department, courts and other agencies to jail individuals and members of progressive organizations labelled as enemies of the state,” Karapatan said.

Makabayan seeks House probe

Meanwhile representatives from the Makabayan bloc at the House of Representatives filed a resolution seeking a probe on “the profiling and surveillance of PNP against activists in schools.”

House Resolution 2229 filed last Monday wants the House Committee on Human Rights to look into the claims of the AFP that some schools recruitment grounds for communists.

Rep. Sarah Elago of the Kabataan Party said that the AFP’s move is a serious attack and crackdown against youth and students groups critical of government policies.

She added that the so-called ‘Red October’ plot is a mere ploy to silence the people’s growing opposition to rising prices brought by the government’s tax reform law.

School administrators from the University of the Philippines (UP), De La Salle University and the Ateneo de Manila University denied the allegation.

Dialogue with CHR

Last Monday, progressive groups and church leaders held a dialogue with the Commission on Human Rights about the red-baiting incidents against activists and church leaders.

Iglesia Filipina Independiente Bishop Antonio Ablon of Pagadian City told to CHR Chairman Chito Gascon that the military branded him and his church as a “menace” and as members of New People’s Army with markings and spray paint on the wall of a chapel last September 29.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) also revealed a PNP memorandum to all station commanders to conduct surveillance and profiling of so called “left leaning groups and leaders.”

These include the profiling of unionists at the Jose Reyes Medical Center in Manila.

Police officers also visited the office of an environment group and the student regent of UP were also reported, Bayan added.

Gascon for his part said the CHR investigate.

Gascon added that the CHR will create a mechanism such as a quick reaction team in cooperation with human rights groups and lawyers group to address reports of human rights violations.

 

Rights groups express alarm over intensified harassment

By Joseph Cuevas

Karapatan and other progressive groups scored the government over recent incidents of harassments and red-tagging of progressive organizations and activists.

Karapatan linked this series of attacks to the alleged ‘Red October’ destabilization plot the military and police said the Communist Party of the Philippines and other groups are about to launch this month.

Karapatan reported that last week, red-tagging incidents by State forces against church leaders and organizations were recorded.

Last September 21, the Karapatan chapter in Cagayan Valley received text messages accusing the organization of being a legal front of the New People’s Army and being “fake humanitarians.”

The group also reported last that last September 29 in Pampanga, a streamer was hung over a bridge in Balibago in Angeles City with a message “Karapatan, terrorist and protector.”

A similar incident happened last September 28 in Zamboanga Del Sur where the perimeter wall of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) church in Tigbao town were painted with the words “IFI=NPA”.

“UCCP=NPA, IFI=NPA and Bishop Ablon=NPA” were also painted along the highway of Brgy. Lacupayan in Tigbao.

IFI Bishop Antonio Ablon is the chairperson of Karapatan Western Mindanao.

Legal groups red-tagged

Urban poor group Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (KADAMAY) also reported harassments against its chairperson Gloria Arellano and public information officer Michael Beltran.

KADAMAY said two police officers asked for their whereabouts at their office in Quezon City but the two leaders were not around at the time.

The unidentified police officer also queried KADAMAY personnel about Arellano and Beltran’s activities.

Organizers and labor leaders of NutriAsia in Meycauayan in Bulacan also reported harassments by police in civilian clothing were roving around the church where workers were staying.

Incidents of rock throwing also happened after workers ran after fleeing motorcycle-riding men believed to be NutriAsia guards casing the area.

The workers said even Meycauayan Police Supt. Santos Mera was seen around the area looking for the labor leaders.

Mera commanded the violent dispersals of striking Nutriasia workers last June 14 and July 31.

Red October canard

Karapatan said that the Duterte regime is hard-selling the alleged ‘Red October’ plot to further justify its human rights violations.

The group cited the killing of a 43-year old Moro Human Rights Worker in Maguindanao last September 23.

“The regime is conjuring its own monsters, triggered by insecurities which stem from its inability to solve the country’s problems,” Karapatan said.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Peace Center (PPC) said that the so-called ‘Red October’ ouster plot is a lie.

“It is a fabrication aimed at preventing the various legal groups from closing ranks and undertaking bigger joint protest actions. It is a part of scheme to red-tag, demonize and stigmatize the more militant and progressive groups as ‘terrorist’ and ‘communist’ as a prelude to ‘neutralizing’ them with more repressive measures,” the PPC said. #

Groups denounce killing of Moro human rights defender

Human Rights group Karapatan and Kawagib Moro Human Rights Alliance held an indignation protest Tuesday, September 25, at the Timog Circle in Quezon City against the recent killing of a Moro human rights worker in Mindanao.

Mariam Uy Acob, 43 years old and paralegal of Kawagib, was gunned down by suspected military agents last September 23 in Brgy. Dapiawan, Datu Saudi Ampatuan in Maguindanao. She was shot several times in her chest, stomach, shoulder and back.

Acob was a staunch critic of militarization in Moro communities. She consistently denounced the aerial bombardment and encampment in Moro communities by the 40th IB of the 6th ID of the Philippine Army.

In 2015 she led her community in a protest against militarization in Saudi Ampatuan as well as other parts of District 2 in Maguindanao.

Karapatan condemned the recent spate of attacks against human rights defenders under martial law in Mindanao. The killing of Acob is another blood on the Duterte regime, Karapatan added.

The killing of Acob came after seven young men were massacred after harvesting fruits in Sitio Bato, Brgy. Kabuntakas in Patikul, Sulu. The 55th IB accused the civilians as members of Abu Sayyaf.

“Martial law has not solved anything but has merely increased the power of an abusive institution that is behind these attacks against the Filipino people,” Karapatan said. (Video and report by Joseph Cuevas)

Abandoned Mount Samat Military Camp Yields Bones, Evidence; Quest for Justice Continues

This article is republished in light of the conviction of retired Philippine Army Major General Jovito S. Palparan by the Branch 15 of the Malolos Regional Trial Court yesterday for the kidnapping and serious illegal detention of missing University of the Philippines students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno. The testimony of prosecution witness Raymond Manalo contained in this article was given due consideration and weight by the court that finally convicted Palparan, long-known as “The Butcher” by his victims and the human rights community.

This report was originally published by Bulatlat.com on October 18, 2008.

= = = =

By Raymund B. Villanueva

On March 22, 2007, Shara Hizarsa was waiting for her father Abner to bring lunch to school she would later share with him. He had cooked and brought food for her without fail since he left the underground revolutionary movement due to frail health.

But no one arrived for the girl’s lunch that day.

It had been 19 months since. There is still no father to cook and bring food for Shara.

Last October 13, Shara commemorated her 12th birthday. Even her mother Cris cannot be with her on her special day because she had to join dozens of relatives of the forcibly disappeared under the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo regime in a fact-finding mission in Barangay Bliss, Limay, Bataan.

Horror camp

In an abandoned military camp near the World War II monument in Mount Samat, about 50 human rights workers under Karapatan and Desaperacidos, the victims’ relatives, officials and staff of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and University of the Philippines (UP) anthropologists led by Dr. Francisco Datar dug holes on the ground, hoping to find remains of summary execution victims. They were led to the site by Raymond Manalo, one of two brothers who escaped from the custody of the 24th Infantry Battalion of the 7th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army.

Manalo said that he and his brother Reynaldo were taken to the camp on November 21 or 22, 2006. A week later, he saw missing UP student Karen Empeño and farmer Manuel Merino. They were later joined by Sherlyn Cadapan, another abducted UP student.

Inside the camp, Raymond was ordered to help build the barracks, cook and clean house for the soldiers, led by a certain Maj. Donald “Allan” Caigas. He witnessed how the two students were hung upside down on one foot with sticks repeatedly rammed into their private parts. After each torture session on the women, Raymond was ordered to clean the room of the victims’ blood and faeces and even wash their underwear. He recalled of many nights he went to sleep with blood-curdling screams ringing in his ears.

Raymond also recounted in his affidavit that he, his brother Reynaldo and Merino were taken to “cattle-rustling and harassment missions” by the soldiers led by Caigas. He witnessed the execution and abduction of farmers in outlying villages.

One night in June 2007, soldiers took Merino from their holding room, saying then Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan wanted to talk to him. Several minutes later, he saw Merino being marched to a grassy field 50 meters away from the camp’s barbed-wire perimeter. Standing by a window, Manalo heard screams and moans, like someone who was startled (“Parang nagulat.”), followed by two gunshots. “Siguro hindi nadale sa saksak, kaya binaril,” he said. (“They probably failed to kill him by stabbing so they shot him.”) Then he saw what looked like a bonfire that lasted late into the night. The next morning, he was told not to look for Merino as he has already “joined” Cadapan and Empeño. “Pinatay si ‘Tay Manuel dahil sabi ng militar matanda na siya,” Raymond added. (“Manuel was killed because the military said he was already old.”)

A diorama exhibited at the House of Representatives based on Raymond Manalo’s description of the military camp. (Diorama by Ron Magbuhos Papag)

In July 2007, the Manalo brothers were taken to Caigas’ farm in Bolinao, Pangasinan to work as laborers where they escaped on the night of August 12, 2007.

Clear and convincing’ testimony

The government and army’s top officials took turns belying Raymond’s testimony by denying the existence of the camp. Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro and retired Armed Forces Chief of Staff Hermogenes Esperon said that Manalo’s testimony was “baseless.” Lt. Gen. Isagani Cachuela, PA Northern Luzon commanding general, said that he would not know about the existence of the camp in Barangay Bliss. Maj. Gen. Ralph Villanueva, 7th ID commander, which has jurisdiction over the 24th IB, echoed Cachuela’s statement saying he “still has to find out.”

Last September 20, PA spokesperson Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner also issued a statement saying Cadapan, Empeno and Merino were nowhere to be found in any army camp where their relatives and supporters claimed they were detained.

But residents of Barangay Bliss are one in saying that there indeed was a military camp in their village. The Philippine Daily Inquirer also reported that former Bataan vice governor Rogelio Roque confirmed that the military used to occupy the area, which is adjacent to his property.

Despite the military’s denials, Raymond’s testimony was considered by the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court (SC) as “factual,” “harrowing” as well as “clear and convincing.” Last October 6, the SC affirmed the Appellate Court’s decision to grant the privilege of the Writ of Amparo to the Manalo brothers, providing them protection from State forces. The order also affirmed the possible culpability of Palparan in their abduction and torture, as well as that of Cadapan, Empeño, Merino and others. The SC also rejected the 7th ID’s investigation as “very limited, superficial and one-sided.”

CHR chair Leila de Lima, for her part said, “The Manalo brothers, for me, have the most significant testimony in the extralegal killings and enforced disappearances.”

‘I will prove to them I am right’

A week after being granted the privilege of the Writ of Amparo, Raymond led the fact-finding mission to the military camp. Before the sun rose, Raymond had already identified the camp layout while other mission members set up tents and cordoned areas where the possible grave sites were.

According to their observations, there was painstaking effort to erase the camp’s footprint in the area. The concrete hut floors, the basketball court, the flag pole as well as the Marian grotto were broken up and thrown in a clump of bamboo trees about 100 meters away. All the holes were backfilled and the water pipes removed. Still, amid the shrubbery and the wildflowers that overrun the abandoned camp and under the sprawling shades of the dozen huge mango trees that blanketed the area, Raymond managed to identify the spot of every structure that stood in the military camp.

Raymond Manalo describing the camp layout.

Hindi ko aakalaing babalik pa ako rito. Takot ako, nanginginig, giniginaw. ‘Nung una kaming dinala rito, akala namin ay isa-salvage na kami,” Raymond said. (“I never thought I would come back here. I am afraid, shaking, and I feel cold. When we were first taken here, we thought we would already be summarily executed.”)

By the time the CHR team arrived by mid-morning, the mission was ready to dig and document whatever could be found in the area.

At noontime, De Lima arrived from Manila and conducted an ocular inspection of the possible gravesites. She also ordered additional diggers to complement the Karapatan team who found the stony soil difficult to penetrate beyond a foot and a half.

The first four holes in three possible gravesites produced negative results. But there were signs of unusual human activity such as burnt tarpaulins, tabletop covers, shoes, among others. Raymond identified one shirt that might have belonged to Cadapan. The anthropologists also confirmed that some of the spots pinpointed by Raymond bore “disturbances” by human activity.

As dusk neared on the mission’s first day, a fifth hole was dug which the experts said was “promising” as the soil was still soft and comparatively loose past two feet. It was then that the experts ordered a halt to the diggings on account of the approaching darkness.

Night falls on the mission camp

Under the pale light thrown by old-fashioned “petromax” lamps, the remaining 30 or so human rights workers ate dinner while a squad of Philippine National Police-Regional Mobile Group troopers kept a somewhat loose perimeter security. Before dinner was over heavy rains fell on the camp, overturning tents and soaking both mission members and their clothing and equipment. The victims’ relatives bussed back to Manila due to security considerations, along with some Manila-based journalists. Only then did the CHR-sourced generator arrive from the town proper to provide electricity.

By 7 pm, when the rain stopped, the mission members slept with their wet clothes and soaked sleeping provisions. The generator was turned off an hour later and the last mobile phone calls and text messages were sent. Even the police retreated inside their tents and vehicles.

Breakthrough

The mission’s second day started with a briefing between the CHR, UP and Karapatan teams. Datar expressed confidence that if Raymond was telling the truth, they would find human remains such as small bones of the hand and feet. “These are the things that betray the perpetrators of the crime,” he said.

But that morning provided more disappointments. Site Three was abandoned after it produced no convincing evidence. A new site was opened in the hope of more positive results. Datar interviewed Raymond several times and asked him to walk from the camp’s edge to where he thought Merino was taken at least four times. Raymond also informed the expert that he remembers Merino was wearing an old pair of yellow “Beach Walk” flip-flops. Assured that Raymond was certain about his coordinates and facts, Datar ordered the widening of Site One.

While standing on the edge of the camp Raymond found clothing on the ground, nearly covered with soil. When he picked it up, he identified it to have belonged to Caigas. “Shorts ito ni Caigas. ‘Basic Wear’ ang tatak. Siya lang ang meron nito—pantulog niya,” he said. (These are Caigas’ ‘Basic Wear’ brand short pants. Only he had them—as sleepwear.”) He said he was certain because he washed the soldiers’ dirty laundry.

At exactly 12:30 pm, anticipation gripped team members on Site One. What was thought to be just a layer of burnt wood close to the surface yielded a four-centimeter splinter, which Datar immediately identified as a human bone. He then ordered a wider surface scraping of the site. Before the team decided to take a delayed lunch break the hole already produced 15 more bone pieces.

Dr. Datar shows what kind of bone fragment was found on the site.

When digging resumed more bones were found on the burnt-out hole. At 3:45 pm, Datar’s graduate assistant struck another vital piece of evidence—an overturned slipper found on the edge of the small cavity with yellow straps and bearing the brand name “Beach Walk.” When Raymond saw the article, he exclaimed “’Yan ‘yun! Kay ‘Tay Manuel! ‘Yan ‘yun!” (That’s it! That’s old man Manuel’s. That’s it!) Datar then said, “Positive na tayo.” (“We are already positive about this grave site.”) A few minutes later a simple ring band was also found as well as a human vertebra.

At 5 pm, the digging and scraping has reached the hole’s edge. Datar said that, based on the materials gathered and examined by the UP, CHR and Karapatan experts on the site, firewood and rubber tires were placed at the hole’s bottom before the victim was placed in a fetal position wrapped in a mattress. “These foreign objects and the victim’s position explain why the hole is relatively small,” he said. Datar added that the gravesite was covered with un-burnt soil in the perpetrators’ efforts to conceal the spot.

Datar however hastened to add that it would be impossible to extract DNA from the “carbonized” bones. He also said that he still has to study the specimens in the laboratory to ascertain which parts of the body the bones came from.

Strong proof

Still, Datar commended Raymond’s fortitude. “May lakas siya ng loob na sabihin (ang nalalaman),” he said. (“He was courageous to speak out.”). “It was clear there were human activities in the areas he pointed out,” Datar added.

Nabuhayan ako ng loob,” Raymond said. “Kung wala tayong nakita e di lalo na nilang sasabihing sinungaling ako,” he added. (“I had a morale boost. If we found nothing here, the military will say I lied all the more.”)

Raymond’s legal counsel Rex JMA Fernandez is optimistic about the results of the fact-finding mission. “What Raymond said (about their abduction and killings) was proven today. Moreover, there was deliberate purpose to sanitize the burial place. If you take a closer look, the camp was big. It was not cursory but a protracted occupation of the place (by the military). That Palparan was involved in the tortures would be validated by these findings. Even if the military would try to undermine the results of this mission, Raymond is a very credible witness,” the lawyer explained.

Fernandez added that he wants the area declared a crime site. “I think they should continue digging and investigating. They should also interview the locals,” he said.

The mission ends, the quest for justice continues

Cris Hizarsa summed it up for the relatives.  “Katulad ng ibang mga pamilyang naghahanap, umaasa akong hindi kasama ang asawa ko sa mga pinatay dito.  Yun ang pag-asa ko at ng mga anak ko.  Sana, yun ang regalong maiuuwi ko sa kaarawan ni Shara.” (“Like the other relatives of the victims, my family and I hope my husband was not one of those killed here.  I hope that is the news I bring home to my daughter Shara for her birthday.”)

Manalo breaks down at the spot where Manuel Merino was murdered by Philippine Army soldiers under the command of Gen. Palparan.

Before dusk of the second day, all the holes were backfilled as the mission camp was being dismantled. Raymond Manalo then walked one last time to the gravesite, accompanied by the Karapatan team and Dr Datar.  The CHR team chose not to join them.  Fr. Dionito Cabillas led the prayers while the mission members joined hands around the makeshift grave.  After the prayers, shouts of “Justice!” rang several times.

Then everyone broke down.  Copious tears flowed on Raymond’s scarred face, his shoulders askew in physical and emotional pain.  The chests of relatives of the forcibly disappeared heaved in grief while Datar’s own eyes were moist and red.

As the sun was setting behind Mt Samat the mission members walked away from the grave now looking more desolate with the weak flicker of candles amid the creeping darkness.  Finally, Raymond turned his back on the site where Manuel Merino was killed, leaving the wild flowers to bloom in a land that has seen such horror finally coming to light. (More photos of the fact-finding mission here.)

 

 

 

Rights groups assail Duterte’s fascist attacks

Human Rights group Karapatan and other progressive groups held a Black Friday Protest, September 14, at Gate 2 of Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo in Quezon City to call for an end to the attacks of the Duterte regime against the Filipino people.

According to Karapatan, the Duterte regime is a danger to the Filipino people.

Duterte’s reign of terror through its counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan and its imposition of martial law in Mindanao are taking advantage of alleged terrorist activities as pretext to attacks against civilians, the group said.

Two farmers from Compostella Farmer’s Association (CFA) were killed last August 19. Couple Gilbert and Jean Labial on their way home after visiting a wake from a fellow CFA member. They were killed by suspected elements of 66th IB because of their opposition to the entry of mining companies in their area, the protesters said.

Karapatan also cited the recent killing of Haide Malalay Flores last August 21 in Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental who was shot dead while on her way home. She was a businesswoman and an activist for peasant advocacies.

Karapatan reported as well the case of spouses Edison and Divina Erece who were arrested by elements of military and police last September 3 in Calayan, Cagayan. The couple were members of the peasant group Amihan-Cagayan.

They were charged with illegal possession of explosives, murder, arson and qualified assault.

Political prisoners now number 509, majority of whom are poor peasants, Karapatan said.

Meanwhile, Antonio Flores, secretary-general of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), stressed that aside from killings of 150 farmers, the Duterte government also slapped trumped up charges against peasant activists.

The filing of criminal offenses and red-tagging of farmer leaders as members of New Peoples Army are the trademark of this administration. Instead of addressing the problem of landlessness and poverty, continuos military operations and human rights violations happened almost everyday, Flores added.

Estrellita Bagasbas of Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (KADAMAY) said that even urban poor people were victims of Duterte’s attacks.

She cited the violence in Pandi Bulacan where “fake and ousted members” of KADAMAY are allegedly being used by the police as intelligence agents.

Some organizers and leaders of KADAMAY also recieved death threats and harassments, KADAMAY said. # (Video and report by Joseph Cuevas)

Ang malaking laban na dapat nating harapin

“Labanan ang pasistang atake sa mamamayan. Ito ang malaking laban na dapat nating harapin.”Atty. Nero Colmenares, chairperson, National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, at the 5th National Congress of the Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights

Ika-limang Kongreso ng Karapatan idinaos

Inilunsad ng Karapatan ang ika-lima nitong Pambansang Kongreso noong Agosto 19-21, 2018 sa Rancho Luisito, Rodriguez sa Rizal.

Dumalo sa pagtitipon ang mga kinatawan ng Karapatan mula sa iba’t-ibang rehiyon at lider ng mga progresibong grupo.

Bitbit ang temang “ Labanan ang pasistang atake sa mamamayan”, naging tampok sa kongreso ang pagtalakay sa limang taon na tagumpay ng Karapatan sa pagtataguyod ng karapatang pantao, paglaban sa atake nang dating rehimen ni Benigno Aquino III at kasalukuyang rehimen ni Rodrigo Duterte, gayundin ang pakikiisa ng organisasyon sa pakikibaka ng mamamayan sa ibat-ibang isyung panlipunan.

Nagbigay ng mensahe at pagbati ang iba’t-ibang grupo at indibidwal sa loob at labas ng bansa, tulad ni Sen. Cynthia Villar, ang Commission on Human Rights, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, Civicus World Alliance for Citizen Participation at National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

Nagkaroon naman ng workshop ang mga delegado kung saan pinagtibay nila ang Pangkalahatang Programa ng Pagkilos para sa taong 2019 hanggang 2021.

Binigyang-pugay din nila ang dalawa sa haligi ng Karapatan na sina Sr. Cecilia “Ateng” Ruiz ng Karapatan-Gitnang Luson at dating pambansang tagapangulo nito na si Marie Hilao Enriquez.

Nagsagawa din sila ng eleksyon para sa bagong konseho. Kabilang sa mga nahalal sina Elisa Tita Lubi bilang bagong pambansang tagapangulo, Cristina Palabay bilang pangkalahatang kalihim, Roneo “Jigs” Clamor bilang deputy secretary general, Reylan Vergara ng Karapatan Panay bilang pangalawang tagapangulo, at Gabriela Krista Dalena bilang treasurer.

Inihalal din nila ang bagong officers-at-large na kinabibilangan nila Atty. Antonio “Tony Boy” Azarcon, Dr. Reggie Pamugas, Reia Penol, Editha Burgos, Fr. Wilfredo Ruazol, Jose Mari Callueng at Sr. Patricia Fox. (Video at ulat ni Joseph Cuevas)

Ampatuan furlough alarms journos, rights groups

Journalists and human rights advocates expressed alarm over a four-hour furlough given by the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (QC-RTC) to a primary suspect in the November 24, 2009 Ampatuan Massacre that killed 58 victims, including 32 reporters.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said in a statement it is concerned to learn that QC-RTC Judge Jocelyn Solis – Reyes allowed former Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) governor Zaldy Ampatuan to leave detention to attend his daughter’s wedding Tuesday, August 21.

“While we may understand a parent’s desire to be present at such an important milestone in the life of a child, we stress that the crime of which Mr. Ampatuan is accused of is of such a heinous nature that the shock and outrage it stirred around the world forced then President Gloria Arroyo to move against the powerful clan that was among her staunchest allies,” NUJP said.

The NUJP said it learned of Ampatuan’s furlough only through Tawi-Tawi Rep. Ruby Sahali who posted on social media a picture of herself with former ARMM governor Zaldy Ampatuan.

The caption read: “Alhamdulilla with my former Boss Former RG Datu Zaldy Uy Ampatuan during the wedding ceremony of his eldest daugher Bai Nur Aila.”

Rep. Sahali also posted video from the wedding, which she indicated was held at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza Hotel.

“Almost nine years after the rampage that claimed the lives of 58 persons, 32 of them media workers, no one has yet been convicted. Yet a principal accused, Sajid Ampatuan, was granted bail. That and now this, we feel, gives us and the victims’ families more than enougy cause to worry about whether we can truly expect justice for this most grievous of crimes,” NUJP said.

Suara Bangsamoro and the Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights also condemned what they call double standards in granting petitions for temporary releases from detention.

“Granting Zaldy Ampatuan a furlough, instead of conviction, is an insult to the victims of the Maguindanao Massacre. It also proves that under the Duterte administration impunity reigns as criminals and human rights violators such as Ampatuan’s boss, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, are allowed to regain and continue to consolidate their political power,” Suara Bangsamoro chairperson Jerome Succor Aba said.

Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay for her part said that while Ampatuan was readily given such privilege, “political prisoners were heartlessly denied of their appeals to properly grieve and pay their respects to their loved ones.”

“Andrea Rosal was disallowed to go to the cemetery where her child was interred. Joseph Cuevas and Eddie Cruz were not allowed to even go to the wake of their fathers. Of course, they were not in government and they are poor, so they don’t have the perks of hoodlums and killers such as the Ampatuans, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Juan Ponce Enrile, and Jinggoy Estrada,” Palabay said.

 

The Philippine Star also said Judge Reyes also earlier allowed Ampatuan to attend his daughter’s college graduation from the Ateneo de Manila University.

“We all know that most people accused of lesser offenses almost never get to enjoy a privilege as that granted Zaldy Ampatuan. What made him an exception to the rule?” the NUJP asked.

Sources said Department of Justice prosecutors objected to the petition for furlough by Ampatuan’s defense lawyers, to no avail.

Other sources said that both the prosecution and defense have submitted their memoranda on the case to the court, signalling that the resolution of the long-drawn case would follow shortly.

Judge Reyes reportedly has to rule on the memoranda first before announcing a promulgation schedule.

Reyes holds the Ampatuan Massacre trial in a special court inside Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)