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Rights defenders vow to fight Duterte

Human rights defenders, led by the Karapatan, vowed to fight Rodrigo Duterte’s fascism as they commemorated International Human Rights Day last December 10 in Manila.

Condemning various cases of human rights violations under Duterte’s three-year old rule, the activists held a program at Liwasang Bonifacio and later marched to Mendiola to burn an effigy of the president. (Video by Jek Alcaraz/Kodao)

Activists vow to defeat Duterte’s fascism on human rights day 2019

Led by KARAPATAN, human rights defenders and peace advocates in the Philippines marked International Human Rights Day 2019 with a protest rally at the Liwasang Bonifacio in Manila condemning extra judicial killings and other rights violations.

They marched to Mendiola fronting Malacanang Palace and burned a huge effigy of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte as they called to end tyranny and struggle for a just and lasting peace. (ILPS-Philippines video)

Rights group links former officer’s disappearance to military

Karapatan Southern Mindanao Region (SMR) said the disappearance of its former secretary general is linked to the intensifying crackdown on activists and the victim’s past experiences of harassment and red-tagging by the military.

In calling for the “surfacing” of human rights defender Honey Mae Suazo who has been missing since November 2, Karapatan SMR raised the possibility of the military’s involvement in what they suspect is a case of abduction.

“Honey May has been with Karapatan for five years. In that period, she was subjected to multiple threats and malicious accusations peddled by the military,” the group’s current secretary general Jay Apiag said in a statement.

“Although, she had left Karapatan, it seems that she still remains a target. If her past experiences of continuous harassment are indicative of anything, it is that Honey May is still facing reprisal for her work as a human rights defender,” he added.

Suazo was Karapatan SMR secretary general from 2011 to 2016. The group said she was subjected to numerous threats, the most recent of which came from Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Deputy Chief of Staff for Civil Military Operations Antonio Parlade.

Karapatan SMR said Brigadier General Parlade accused Suazo of being associated with the Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army (NPA) after she assisted the family of NPA leader Zaldy Cañete to visit the latter who was hospitalized after suffering near-fatal injuries after an encounter in Bukidnon Province.

“As a matter of fact, Honey May Suazo’s photograph and name was viciously appended in the posters hanged in the cities of Butuan and Surigao, April this year, accusing her as a terrorist.” Apiag emphasized.

Apiag said Suazo was merely performing a mandate of a human rights advocacy institution to assist wounded combatants who are accorded protection and right to visitation of families as mandated under the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) of which the Philippine government is a signatory.

“Regardless of what the military is trying to insinuate, assisting families of combatants, including hors de combat, is not illegal or condemnable. They can double check with the IHL provisions or go to the database and briefers provided by the International Committee of the Red Cross if they need a refresher,” Apiag said.

Apiag said that Suazo’s disappearance is with the backdrop of an intensifying crackdown against activists and legitimate people’s organizations.

“With martial law in Mindanao, the repressive machinations led by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, and implementation of counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapanatagan, attacks against activists like Honey May have become more commonplace, justified by false allegations and smear campaigns,” he said.

Initial investigations

Karapatan SMR said it formed and dispatched an investigation team composed of paralegal after hearing of Suazo’s disappearance and submitted the following

– On the morning of November 2, All Soul’s Day, Suazo visited her relatives’ graves with her partner, Anelo Pabuaya;
– Following their visit to the cemetery in Panabo, Suazo and her partner were at a friend’s house in Barangay New Site Gredu. At around 3 in the afternoon, Suazo decided to go ahead of her partner to return to Davao City;
– A few minutes later, Suazo called her partner saying she realized she had no enough money for the bus ride and asked Pabuaya to fetch her at Panabo City Hall;
– After a while, Suazo called Pabuaya again, saying she was being tailed by a white pick-up truck. She asked Pabuaya to immediately come and fetch her. Pabuaya advised her to go to the nearest police station. When Pabuaya went to the station, he did not find Suazo. He tried to contact her mobile phone numbers but all were out of reach.

“Given her background and the widespread targeting of activists, we hold the AFP accountable on Honey May’s disappearance. We demand for the immediate surfacing of Honey May Suazo and to end all attacks of human rights defenders.,” Apiag said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Karapatan warns of more raids of activists’ offices

By Len Olea/Bulatlat

MANILA — Human rights alliance Karapatan warned of more raids and arrests of activists in the coming hours or days.

In a Facebook post, Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said that at least ten search warrants were issued by Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 89 Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert on October 30. Four of these warrants have been served so far.

Tondo, Manila – Search Warrant No. 5944
Paco, Manila – Search Warrant No. 5947
Escalante City, Negros Occidental – Search Warrant No. 5949
Bacolod City – Search Warrant No. 5953

“If all the search warrants issued by Judge Burgos-Villavert from No. 5944 to No. 5953 are offices and homes of members of people’s and human rights organizations, then we are looking at more raids in the coming hours or days,” Palabay noted.

Earlier today, policemen raided the office of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Manila in Tondo, Manila. Three activists were arrested and brought to the Manila Police District.

In a report, National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) Acting Director Brig. Gen. Debold Sinas said the Philippine National Police has been monitoring leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) in Metro Manila. Sinas even units from the Philippine National Police (PNP) headquarters are monitoring these personalities in coordination with the military’s Joint Task Force-NCR.

Copy-paste warrants

Villavert has been criticized for issuing what Karapatan called as “copy-paste” search warrants that have led to the arrest of 57 activists in Negros island and five activists in Metro Manila.

Karapatan noted that Villavert was also the judge who issued warrants for the arrest of National Democratic Front peace consultants Vicente Ladlad, Rey Casambre, Estrelita Suaybaguio, Alexander and Winona Birondo, and Villamor couple.

In a statement, the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) also questioned Villavert’s actions.

Section 12 authorizes Executive Judges of Regional Trial Courts of Manila and Quezon City – as an exception to the general rule that it must be the court within whose territorial jurisdiction a crime was committed – to act upon applications filed by the police for search warrants involving, among others, illegal possession of firearms and ammunitions.

The same circular requires that such applications shall be personally endorsed by the heads of such agencies. The Executive Judges are also required to keep a special docket book listing the details of the applications and the results of the searches and seizures made pursuant to the warrants issued.

In this light, NUPL raised the following questions:

– Who, in the PNP, if any, endorsed the application for search warrant?

– Did the OIC PNP Chief personally endorse the application for search warrant?

– What was the basis, if any, of the application for search warrant to establish probable cause, considering serious and consistent assertions that the firearms and explosives were casually planted during the search?

– What was the basis of the honorable judge to grant the application and issue the search warrant?

– Did the honorable judge hear any witness, ask and document searching questions to personally determine the existence of probable cause as mandated by the Constitution and the Rules of Criminal Procedure?

– What was the reason behind and what really transpired during the meeting between the honorable judge and the police chief the day before the issuance of the warrant?

– Will the honorable judge make available at the proper forum and time the “special docket book,” which contains the details of the application for purposes of transparency and scrutiny?

– Why was there a need to apply for a search warrant in a faraway court when the same can be procured in a closer regional court without compromising secrecy and service of the warrant?

– Why is there seemingly a pattern to issue search warrants against political dissenters and critical groups from one and the exactly the same judge even if legally allowable?

“As the perceived bastion of fairness and justice, the Judiciary must relentlessly maintain its independence against actual or perceived interference and pressure exerted by other government branches. The bench and its members must not let themselves be used, or appear to be used, wittingly or unwittingly, as tools or minions of political persecution,” the NUPL said.

Progressive groups have called on the public to resist Duterte’s crackdown against critics. #

21 sacked Ceres workers among Bacolod raid detainees – Bayan

By Visayas Today

Twenty-one laid off workers of the Ceres Bus line who were consulting a labor leader were among the 55 persons (not 62 as earlier reported by authorities) arrested and detained in simultaneous raids last week on four locations in Bacolod City that state forces claimed harbored communist rebels in training.

This was bared by the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, which held a press conference in Metro Manila on Sunday, November 3, to denounce what it called the “tanim baril, tanim ebidensya” (planting of guns and evidence) tactics alleged used by the Army and police to justify the raids and boost their claims that those arrested are members of the rebel movement.

Also nabbed and detained were 25 youth, among them 13 minors, of the grassroots cultural group Teatro Obrero who were rehearsing for a presentation of their play “Papa Isio,” on the legendary Negros hero of the revolution against Spain and the war against America.

The youth and Ceres workers were among those arrested at a compound in a residential area of Barangay Bata that serves as the office of leftist party-list Bayan Muna and other organizations. The Army and police claim the place, where 30 firearms and explosives were supposedly recovered, served as a “training area” for rebel recruits, including potential “child warriors.”

Also netted in the raids were several officers of progressive groups like the National Federation of Sugar Workers, Kilusang Mayo Uno and Karapatan, all of which the government and state forces openly tag as “legal fronts” of the rebels, and Anne Krueger of the alternative media outfit Paghimutad, all of whom were accused of being part of the rebels’ regional leadership in Negros.

Aside from those arrested in the October 31 Bacolod raids, two succeeding raids in Escalante City on November 1 also led to the apprehension of NFSW staff Imelda Sultan and Ma. Lindy Perucho. As with the Bacolod operations, the Escalante raiders also claimed to have recovered weapons and explosives from the two women.

Also on October 31, Cora Agovida, the Metro Manila chairperson of Gabriela, and her husband Michael Tan Bartolome of the urban poor group Kadamay, were arrested and weapons and explosive also supposedly seized.

Incidentally, all the search warrants used as the basis for the raids were issued on October 30 by Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert of Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 89.

Bayan, in a statement, said the raids signified “how low the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines have sunk in their effort to comply with Duterte’s orders to crack down on activists and political dissenters.”

It also noted the similarities in the operations:

1. Police gets a search warrant from a friendly, uninformed or intimidated judge, in this case from Quezon City which is outside the area of jurisdiction where the operation is made;
2. Occupants of the raided office or home are forced to go outside while police operatives, some in plain clothes, come in to search the area;
3. Occupants are then allowed back in only to discover illegal guns and explosives that police allege were found in their possession;
4. All persons are then arrested, detained and interrogated for prolonged periods while being denied their right to their lawyer or to be visited by relatives and friends. In the worst case like the Kanlaon, Manjuyod and Sta. Catalina incidents last March 30, 14 farmers were killed by police serving such search warrants;
5. To justify and muddle their illegal conduct, police and military officials go the rounds of the media vilifying the victims and claiming that these are members or supporters of the New People’s Army.

Bayan called the raids “a portent of worse things to come” and predicted “an escalation of the Duterte regime’s fascist crackdown on groups and individuals critical of the government, whose crime is to merely exercise their constitutional right to organize, express and seek redress for their grievances.” #

On the arrest of 6 human rights workers in Palawan

“The warrantless arrest of Glendhyl Malabanan and six other human rights workers in Palawan is a clear case of the government’s intensifying reprisals on human rights defenders and activists for their work in exposing the Duterte regime’s fascist attacks on the people.”-Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general

Despite filing of charges, military refuses civilian jail for Alexa Pacalda

They could not force her to say she indeed is a surrendered New People’s Army (NPA) fighter, so criminal charges were finally filed against human rights worker Alexa Pacalda at the Quezon Provincial Prosecutor’s Office last Saturday.

Seven days after her supposed arrest last September 14 in General Luna town and long before the 36-hour deadline for filing of criminal charges, the 201st Infantry Brigade-Philippine Army (IBPA) charged Alexa with illegal possession of firearms and ammunition in what the military obviously planned to be a secret inquest proceeding last September 21. Her lawyer and family were not informed.

But it did not turn out exactly the way the military wanted it.

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers’ (NUPL) Atty. Kristina Conti was nearby, giving a lecture on human rights reporting to dozens of Southern Tagalog journalists, when she found about the inquest proceeding. Journalists who attended the training received a tip that the young human rights defender would be taken to Lucena City from the military camp in Calauag town where she is detained. After a phone call from her NUPL colleague and Alexa’s lawyer Maria Sol Taule, Conti rushed to the Quezon Provincial Capitol compound where the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office is located.

She was met by Alexa’s father Arnulfo and Karapatan-Quezon Chapter colleagues, gratitude and relief on their faces. Conti’s entrance at the fiscal’s office, however, was different. The three lawyers from the Judge Advocate General’s Office (JAGO) tried to hide it but betrayed their surprise by asking where she came from, appearing all of a sudden when the inquest should have been secret.

A local activist (left) takes a selfie with a military intelligence operative (second from left) at the Quezon Provincial Prosecutor’s Office)

The mood inside the old and stuffy building became tenser when Alexa’s fellow activists called out the many intelligence operatives who kept on taking photos and videos of them. “Kanina ka pa kuha nang kuha ng photo ko, a. Para di ka na mahirapan, selfie na lang tayo,” said one to an intelligence officer in civilian clothes. (You’ve been taking lots of photos of me. Why don’t we take a selfie to make it easier for you?) The latter tried to play it cool and obliged but the mood did not lighten. Pretty quickly, more intelligence operatives, four of them, entered the building, apparently to assist their comrades.

Arnulfo Pacalda (left) listening to military personnel inside the Quezon Provincial Prosecutor’s Office.

All the while, Arnulfo and his young son with him kept their cool. As the lawyers were wrangling inside the fiscal’s room, they were seated at a distance. At exactly three o’clock, Arnulfo’s phone sounded, reciting the Catholic’s Three O’Clock Prayer. He stepped out of the room, went to a corner and finished the prayer with his head bowed.

Inside the prosecutor’s office, Conti was still being quizzed by the most senior of the three JAGO officers. She was asked if she is a local lawyer, explaining her sudden appearance. She in turn badgered her counterpart where Alexa was so she could consult with her client. The soldiers refused, even when the fiscal herself asked. “She is nearby. But there are security concerns,” the soldiers cryptically said. “But a lawyer must have access to her client, doesn’t she?” Conti shot back. The fiscal agreed and Alexa was finally brought inside.

Arnulfo and Alexa embrace at the Lucena City Regional Trial Court lobby.

Arnulfo and Alexa’s younger brother rushed to hug her as she entered the building. The embraces were long and tight. Beside them, Conti was smiling. When it was her time to speak to her, Conti asked, “Naaalala mo ako?” to which Alexa replied “Yes” and smiled back. Alexa had been Conti’s paralegal on some human rights cases they both collaborated on in the recent past.

Alexa and her younger brother embrace inside the Lucena RTC building.

Alexa looks nowhere near that of the female NPA fighter toting an AK-47 assault rifle and undergoing military training on the photos being shared on social media. (The photos appeared online only when Alexa’s video was released by her lawyer refuting giddy claims by her captors they had another surrenderee.) Alexa is hardly five feet tall and is very slight of built.

Arnulfo and Alexa Pacalda outside the prosecutor’s office.

Even with Alexa already inside the prosecutor’s office, the JAGO and the soldiers still refused to give Conti time to consult with her and her family in private. What followed were argumentations that went in circles. Finally, with the public prosecutor’s prodding, the JAGO relented and Conti and the Pacaldas were given 15 minutes at a dark corner of the building, surrounded by file cabinets outside of the female toilet.

Atty. Conti and the Pacaldas in a private consultation.

Back at the prosecutor’s office, Alexa was asked by Conti if she indeed signed the so-called surrender papers the JAGO submitted as part of its evidentiary documents. The young prisoner replied, “I do not remember anything.” Conti later told Kodao that even if she did, Alexa was obviously under extreme duress after being captured by the soldiers, tortured with sleep and food deprivation for 30 hours and forced to sign the proffered papers they told her would lead to her freedom. The same was true when her father Arnulfo was made to sign a document the Philippine Army said would help his daughter regain her freedom.

Conti asked the prosecutor if Alexa could already be committed to a civilian jail facility. The soldiers objected. The fiscal asked police officers present on who had authority over the prisoner. The police said the soldiers merely informed them two days after the abduction that Alexa had been in their custody but was never in the PNP’s. The fiscal then said Alexa’s lawyers had to file a motion first before deciding on Conti’s request. (Alexa’s lawyer and family filed a Petition for Habeas Corpus at the Supreme Court Monday, September 23.)

Military intelligence operatives taking photos and videos of the proceedings and the activists present.

Alexa’s other lawyer, Taule, told Inquirer.net Saturday that the criminal charges filed against her proves the soldiers were lying.  “They can’t win over Alexa despite detention of seven days in their camp so their game now is to file charges,” she said. The military for its part said they still consider Alexa as a surrenderee, admitting, however, that things have changed since they made public Alexa’s so-called surrender document. Lt. Col. Dennis Cana, public information officer of the Philippine Army’s Southern Luzon Command, told Inquirer.net that Pacalda’s video message refuting the military’s claim “will have a very strong effect on her surrender status” as her sincerity to lay down her arms “is put into question.”

After the inquest proceeding, Alexa was quickly brought outside to a parked black pick-up truck with darkened windows. The Pacaldas were allowed the quickest of goodbyes. By then, more fellow human rights defenders from all over the province had gathered at the gate and managed to chant, “Alexa Pacalda, palayain!” as the soldiers’ convoy sped off back to their camp in Calauag.

Alexa’s family and colleagues shouted “Alexa Pacalda, palayain!” as the military convoy taking her back to Calauag, Quezon sped by.

Conti said she was glad to have assisted Alexa during the inquest. “She really did not surrender as the military claimed,” she said. She also pointed out that if indeed Alexa was in possession of a firearm and blasting caps, it was not the 201st IBPA’s role to arrest her. It was the PNP’s. Alexa’s case is obviously a case of unlawful arrest or abduction, she said. # (Report and photos by Raymund B. Villanueva)

Pagtatakip ng gubyerno sa paglabag ng karapatang pantao, kinondena

Sa pagharap ng ilang representante ng gubyerno, militar at pulis sa isinasagawang public inquiry ng Commission on Human Rights (CHR), nagdaos ng kilos protesta ang mga human rights advocates sa pangunguna ng KARAPATAN National upang pabulaanan ang pagtatakip ng pamahalaan sa maraming paglabag sa karapatang pantao sa bansa. (Arrem Alcaraz/Kodao)

Commission on Human Rights, Quezon City

September 12, 2019

Journalist seriously wounded in gun attack

(Updated: 10:00 pm, August 6)

A journalist and human rights defender is seriously wounded after being shot by unidentified gunmen in front of his house in Lagawe, Ifugao at six o’clock tonight, Tuesday, August 6.

Brandon Lee, Ifugao correspondent of Baguio City-based media outfit Northern Dispatch and paralegal volunteer of both the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) and the Ifugao Peasant Movement (IPM), was immediately taken to a local hospital for treatment.

He was later transferred to a bigger hospital in the neighboring province of Nueva Vizcaya, a source informed Kodao.

In a statement, the CHRA said the 54th Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army frequented Lee’s residence as well as the offices of both the IPM and the Justice and Peace Advocates of Ifugao, of which he is also a member, for weeks prior to tonight’s shooting.

The soldiers gathered data by interrogating and intimidating the organizations’ members and staff, the CHRA reported.

The Philippine Army team was headed by a certain 1Lt Karol Jay R. Mendoza while its Civil-Military Operations head is a certain Lt.Col. Narciso B. Nabulneg, Jr. who both invoked President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order 70 in their interrogations, the group added.

Duterte’s EO 70 issued last December created a task force to combat insurgency that human rights organizations blame for the killing of activists across the country.

In the task force’s launch in Camp Bado Dangwa in La Trinidad, Benguet last May 24, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police jointly identified Ifugao Province as a “priority target in the anti-insurgency campaign.”

Brandon Lee (Photo from his Facebook account)

In 2015, Lee was among the IPM members and staff accused of being New People’s Army members.

Lee’s media outfit, Northern Dispatch, had also been a victim of red-tagging by the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency.

Lee first became Northern Dispatch’s correspondent in 2010.

Other sources told Kodao that Lee’s IPM colleagues are currently under surveillance from unidentified men, preventing them from visiting Lee at the hospital. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Mga aktibista: ‘Berdugong Esperon,’ walang karapatang akusahan ang mga progresibo

Isang kilos-protesta ang isinagawa ng iba’t-ibang grupo bilang suporta sa grupong Karapatan, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines at Gabriela noong Agosto 1, Hwebes, kontra sa kasong perjury na isinampa ni national security adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. laban sa tkanila,

Mariin nilang binatikos ang opisyal sa anila’y pangigipit sa mga grupong nagtataguyod ng karapatang pantao at gawing ligal ang atake sa mga ito.

Anila, ang taong katulad ni Esperon na may maraming reklamong kinaharap hinggil sa paglabag sa karapatang pantao ay hindi dapat nambibintang ng walang batayan. (Bidyo ni Arrem Alcaraz/Kodao)