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‘This is not the end’ Jonas’ lawyer vows

Philippine Army Major Harry Ballaga Jr. was acquitted by the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 216 of arbitrary detention charges in connection with the disappearance of farmers’ rights activist Jonas Burgos thursday, October 12.

In this interview immediately after the promulgation of the case, Burgos’ prosecuting attorney Edre Olalia said the setback is not end of their quest for justice.

Burgos’ mother Editha for her part said she believes she still can find her son Jonas.

Duterte has no one to blame but himself on rating fall, groups say

President Rodrigo Duterte has no one else to blame but himself on his recent Social Weather Station (SWS) approval rating slide, a farmers’ group and a human rights organization said.

Saying the big decrease in Duterte’s trust rating is a reflection of his political isolation from the masses, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) added the latest SWS survey further exposes the President as an enemy of the people.

“There is no genuine land reform [under Duterte]. Land monopoly persists and vast tracts of lands remain in the control of a few landed families. Agricultural lands are being converted, further threatening our food security. Tens of thousands of hectares of lands are devoted to foreign-owned plantations. Estimates peg that more than seven in every 10 farmers nationwide have no land to till,” the KMP said.

Human rights organization Karapatan for its part said the people are starting to see through “Duterte’s lies.”

“The Filipino people see through the government’s lies, fake news, deception and repression, as evidenced by the unrelenting campaigns and struggles for justice of victims of State-sponsored violence, that even recent surveys have to reflect the people’s sentiments,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.

“Though surveys are not the end-all, be-all of political opinion, it runs consistent with swelling protests and clamor for an end to [Duterte’s] repressive and fascist policies,” Karapatan added.

In a survey conducted last September 23 to 27, the SWS said Duterte’s gross satisfaction rating fell by 11 per cent from 78 to 67 percent.

Compared with SWS’s June 2017 survey, gross satisfaction with Pres. Duterte fell by 11 points from 78 per cent, gross undecided rose by four points from 10 per cent, and gross dissatisfaction rose by 7 points from 12 per cent, the SWS report said.

This gives a net satisfaction rating of plus 48 (percentage of satisfied minus the percentage of dissatisfied), SWS added classifying the latest rating as “good” from the previous “very good.”

“Whatever popular support he garnered during the 2016 presidential elections would swiftly fade as more and more sectors become disillusioned with his false promises of change,” the KMP said.

Karapatan said no amount of lies can cover up the growing dissatisfaction with Duterte.

“The mad scramble of Duterte’s sycophants to spread lies in international platforms on the non-existence of extrajudicial killings in the country, the recent launch of a group that is posing as a new paramilitary force in defense of the Duterte regime, and the unrelenting moves to suppress civil liberties and exercise of people’s rights are all desperate attempts by Duterte to project acceptability of its anti-people programs and to quell opposition to his fascist regime,” Karapatan said.

Karapatan added “government officials like Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Cayetano and Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella, and the Philippine National Police are on defensive mode, employing the most laughable excuses, semantics and word plays denying the existence and prevalence of EJKs.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Activists defend rights commission, slam 1000 budget by HoR

BANGKOK, Thailand—Activists came to the defense of the beleaguered Commission on Human Rights (CHR) after the House of Representatives (HoR) gave the agency a thousand-peso budget in 2018.

In a statement, human rights group Karapatan said the 119 representatives who approved the punitive budget are “sycophants…(who) are having a field day with their fascist and anti-people schemes in the past days.”

Karapatan added the HoR decision is an attempt by the chamber’s so-called super majority to clip the functions of a constitutional body mandated to check on the human rights violations of State actors.

“We view the recent attempts of the (Rodrigo) Duterte administration to de facto abolish the CHR as a dangerous step that undermines available mechanisms for redress for human rights violations in this so-called democratic form of government,” Karapatan said.

A representative who voted against the budget said Duterte’s HoR wants to cripple the CHR.

“(The thousand peso) budget for the CHR will cripple it amidst the extrajudicial killings, military and police abuse, (and) state-sanctioned violence,” Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Elago said.

In the plenary debate on the 2018 General Appropriations Bill Tuesday night, 1-Sagip Rep. Rodante Marcoleta moved for the P1,000 budget , accusing the CHR for failing to investigate alleged violations by terrorists.

Marcoleta’s move mirrored HoR Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez’s threat last August 7 to give no budget to the CHR.

“Kung ako ang tatanungin ninyo e, zero kapag ganyan ang performance. Bakit? Hindi natin ia-abolish kasi constitutional budget, eh di wag mong bigyan ng budget yan,” Alvarez said.

Asked to comment on the HoR vote, Alvarez said his desire for a zero budget was not actually granted.

“Hindi naman zero. One thousand. Kasi hindi nila ginagawa ang trabaho nila. Yung mandato nila under the Constitution, hindi nila ginagawa,” Alvarez said.

The speaker said if the CHR wants to protect the rights of criminals, it is better off asking the criminals for a budget.

Duterte, for his part, blamed CHR chairperson Chito Gascon for the HoR decision, saying the agency chief had it coming.

“Dilawan talaga iyan e,” Duterte in a press conference said.

Meanwhile, Gascon said they are saddened by the HoR’s “whimsical and capricious display of vindictiveness” but are grateful to the 32 representatives who voted against the budget.

We were heartened by many members of the House who stood their ground to defy the tyranny of numbers shamelessly exhibited tonight (Tuesday),” Gascon said in a statement.

“We draw strength from their solidarity as we press on with pursuing our mandate to uphold and defend the human rights of all,” he added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Rights violations victims ask Duterte, ‘Where is change?’

Human rights violations remain rampant during Duterte’s first year in office, people’s rights alliance Karapatan said in a press briefing last July 14 in Quezon City.

Two mothers of drug war victims–Djastin Lopez, 25, and Emer Soriano, 16–Michelle Campos, daughter of slain lumad leader Dionel Campos, and Rodolofo Tagalog Sr., father of peasant killed in Masbate, gave testimonies in the said forum.

Leon Dulce of the environment network Kalikasan presented the Global Witness Report finding the Philippines as the deadliest in Asia for environment and land defenders.

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Activists hold rally for peace and justice in Mindanao

After President Rodrigo Duterte declared Martial Law over the whole of Mindanao earlier this week following attacks by the Maute Group, progressive organizations held a rally at Plaza Miranda last Wednesday afternoon to call for peace and justice in Mindanao.

Protesting what they say is an unwarranted military rule to quell an attack at certain locations in the island, the activists said martial law is not the proper response to the crisis in isolated areas in Mindanao.

They instead called on President Duterte to revoke his declaration in fear of massive human rights violations against innocent civilians. # (Videography by Ivan Dexter Tolentino and Esther Anne Cabrillas / Editing by Jo Maline D. Mamangun)

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Groups to hold rally vs EJKs on June 12

Human rights, church and activist groups announced a massive rally against extrajudicial killings under the Rodrigo Duterte government on June 12.

In a press conference last May 19, the groups belied the Duterte government’s assertions before the United Nations Universal Period Review on the human rights situation in Geneva, Switzerland earlier this month the killings are not state-sponsored.

The groups said the June 12 rally shall call on the government to stop the killings that some reports say have reached 12,000 cases and to demand justice for the victims. (Videography by Ivan Dexter Tolentino and Esther Anne Cabrillas / Editing by Jo Maline D. Mamangun) Read more

Suspected AFP and PNP agents harass human rights lawyer

A lawyers’ group condemned the harassment of one of its members by suspected Armed Forces of the Philippines personnel in Caloocan City yesterday.

In a statement, the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) said Atty. V.J. Topacio was tailgated by a white Toyota Revo vehicle and a motorcycle from a hearing at the Caloocan City Prosecutor’s Office where he represented Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Metro Manila campaign officer Ferdinand Castillo.

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Peace advocates hound AFP chief of staff Eduardo Año

Peace advocates and human rights defenders hounded Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Eduardo Año at the Ateneo de Manila University this morning, recalling his record of human rights violations.

Año delivered a lecture at the Jesuit university on protecting the people and the State, which the rally participants said is ironic as the general is at the forefront of implementing the Duterte government’s ongoing all-out war that victimizes civilian communities throughout the country.

Año had been charged with masterminding the abduction and enforced disappearance of activist Jonas Burgos, among other human rights violations. Read more

AFP-PNP arrest and torture activist

AN activist from Metro Manila was arrested and tortured by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) over what human rights group Karapatan said are false charges.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan)-Metro Manila campaign officer Ferdinand Castillo, 57, was arrested last February 12 in Sta. Quiteria, Caloocan by elements of Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), the Intelligence Service Group of the Philippine and the Intelligence Service of the AFP (ISAFP) for charges of murder and attempted murder. Read more

Black Friday protest vs impunity held at Camp Crame

A multi-sectoral rally was held at the PNP headquarters in Camp Crame to protest the killings in the Duterte government’s “war on drugs,” citing the brazenness by which the crimes were committed, mostly among the urban poor residents.

Rights group Karapatan said Pres. Duterte is “partly to blame for this brutality as he condones the police actions done in the name of his ‘war on drugs.”

The protesters called on the government to instead focus its attention to ‘economic reforms that would address poverty and violence”, which are among the reasons why the drug problem persists. (Video by Divine C. Miranda) Read more