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Group reveals attacks on media and human rights websites

Digital platforms linked to the Rodrigo Duterte government launched attacks on the websites of alternative media outfits and a human rights organization, a Sweden-based digital forensics group revealed.

Several internet protocol (IP) addresses linked to the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and the Philippine Army attacked the websites of media outfits Bulatlat (Bulatlat.com) and Altermidya (Altermidya.net) and human rights group Karapatan (Karapatan.org), Qurium Media Foundation reported.

Qurium said that it was able to identify a vulnerability scan an attack on Bulatlat.com last May 18 by a machine from the DOST network with IP address 202.90.137{.}42.

The vulnerability scan sought potential weaknesses in the targeted network without permission from the system owner, Qurium said.

The group said the IP address’ certificate was registered to IP Solutions, Inc., a supplier of hardware and services to Philippine government agencies.

Another unit under the same IP address was registered to a certain “acepcionecjr@army.mil.ph Taguig Red Server.”

The “army.mil.ph” is the official domain and website of the Philippine Army.

The IP address was also traced to an edit in the Wikipedia entry “Chief of the Army (Philippines)” last June 10, 2021, Qurium said.

The series of attacks also included “HTTP flood attacks”, a type of volumetric Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack designed to overwhelm a targeted server with seemingly legitimate HTTP requests.

Kodao was first to announce of an intense DDoS attack that coincided with the attacks on AlterMidya, Bulatlat and Karapatan.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines has issued separate alerts on both reports. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Latest Lianga massacre was 25th under Duterte, Karapatan reports

The deaths of three Lumad-Manobo in Lianga, Surigao del Sur last Tuesday, June 15, is the 25th massacre of civilians in the Rodrigo Duterte government’s counter-insurgency campaign, a human rights group reported.

Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights said the Lianga Massacre on June 15 was the second since 2015 and “a testimony of the [Duterte] regime’s hideous legacy of killings” that continues up to its last year in power.

“We condemn in the strongest terms this latest massacre in Lianga and ask with much rage, ‘How many more will Duterte’s state forces kill and kill?’” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said.

Karapatan’s Caraga regional chapter said in an urgent alert last Wednesday that troops belonging to the 3rd Special Forces Battalion (SFB) of the Philippine Army fired upon a group of six farmers, killing three while the three others ran for safety.  

Killed were farmers Willy Rodriguez, Lenie Rivas and Angel Rivas in Sitio Panukmoan, Brgy. Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur.

All members of the Lumad-Manobo tribe, they were residents of Sitio Manluy-a, Brgy. Diatagon.

Angel Rivas, 12 years old, was a Grade 6 student of the Lumad school Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur (TRIFPSS) while her sister Lenie and cousin Willy Rodriguez were members of Lumad organization Malahutayong Pakigbisog alang sa Sumusunod (MAPASU).

The soldiers brought the lifeless bodies of the three to their brigade headquarters in St. Christine, Lianga and presented the victims as New People’s Army (NPA) members.

Spokespersons of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict were also quick to allege Angel was an NPA “child soldier” killed in a firefight with the government soldiers.

Relatives of the victims however belied the government’s claim and said the victims were simply on their way to Lianga town proper to buy rice after harvesting abaca hemp at their farm.

They even sought permission from a nearby military encampment to visit their abaca farm Tuesday morning, the relatives said.

The military troops of the 3rd SFB led by Captain Aranas and the 48th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army have been encamping in the community of Manluy-a for several months and had established a military detachment in a civilian community called Kilometer 18.

The relatives also bewailed the state of the cadavers when fetched from the funeral parlor, saying Angel’s face is unrecognizable from its numerous bullet wounds.

The cadavers were also haphazardly wrapped in plastic and packaging tape, they added.

“The perpetrators are mad killers, with clearly no respect to life and rights. They look at the Lumad people like hunted prey, lying to their teeth and falsely tagging the victims as members of the New People’s Army (NPA),” Palabay fumed.

June 15’s incident is the second massacre in Barangay Diatagon since Lumad-Manobo leaders Dionel Campos and Datu Juvello Sinzo of MAPASU and Emerito Samarca, executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (Alcadev), were killed by Magahat-Bagani paramilitary men on September 1, 2015.

The paramilitaries were then under the command of the 36th and 75th infantry battalions of the Philippine Army who were also nearby when the first massacre happened.

The earlier massacre set off evacuations from Lumad communities, with 3,000 individuals seeking refuge in Tandag City that lasted months.

No charges were filed against the perpetrators of the first Lianga Massacre, which coincidentally happened on the last year of the previous Benigno Aquino government.

‘Mass killing’

Karapatan said 121 civilians, mostly farmers and indigenous peoples, have been killed in 25 massacres in the five years of the Duterte government:

  1. Sumilao, Bukidnon;
  2. Palayan, Nueva Ecija;
  3. Masbate City, Masbate;
  4. Cawayan, Masbate;
  5. Mobo, Masbate;
  6. Mandaon, Masbate
  7. San Nicolas, Pangasinan;
  8. Silay, Negros Occidental
  9. Gubat, Sorsogon;
  10. Bulan towns, Sorsogon;
  11. Lake Sebu, South Cotabato;
  12. Polomolok, South Cotabato;
  13. Siaton, Negros Oriental;
  14. Bato, Camarines Sur;
  15. Ragay, Camarines Sur;
  16. Matalam, Cotabato;
  17. Antique;
  18. Patikul, Sulu;
  19. Baguio City;
  20. Polomok, South Cotabato;
  21. Kabacan, North Cotabato;
  22. Baras, Rizal;
  23. Capiz;
  24. Sta. Rosa, Laguna; and
  25. Lianga, Surigao del Sur.

“These killings should be met with all the strongest condemnation possible from different sectors. Justice for Angel Rivas, Willy Rodriguez, and Lenie Rivas!” Palabay said.

Meanwhile, indigenous peoples’ rights advocates held an indignation rally in front of the Commission on Human Rights in Quezon City on Thursday evening, June 17, to condemn the latest massacre.# (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘MAGSASAKA, BUTIHING AMA’: Who was Jesus Alegre and why he did not deserve a single day in prison

By KAPATID

Jesus Alegre, a 75-year-old political prisoner, his wife Morita, 74, and son Selman, 47, have been in prison for 16 years despite the fact they did not deserve even a single day behind bars. On Sunday, June 13, after months of increasing weakness and disorientation, Jesus could no longer sit up or stand by himself and died without even seeing a glimmer of freedom.

Who was Jesus Alegre and why should his story be known?

Named after the savior of the world and happiness, Jesus Alegre was a Filipino everyman born on December 22, 1945 who eked out a living from fishing and farming. Together with his family, he lived by the sea in barangay Taba-Ao in Sagay at the northern tip of Negros Occidental, a provincial cradle of centuries-old feudal oppression. He strived to make ends meet by fishing and by selling copra and coconut wine (tuba) produced from the coconut trees they planted.

Though he could barely read and write and his wife Morita is illiterate, they were able to raise seven children and send them to school with the income they earned from the sea and the earth. According to a 2015 report from Karapatan, the industrious couple was also of great help to anyone in their community who needed financial assistance.

Life for Alegre and his family in their coastal barangay seemed good. But it changed when a “landlord town official,” Avelino Gaspar, tried to grab the land they tilled and nurtured over a generation. Gaspar tried to get out a land title for 15 hectares that included the portion of 1.12 hectare, which the family of Alegre had improved and planted with 386 coconut trees. Gaspar wanted to acquire the entire area and lease it to a Japanese who was interested in turning it into a resort.

Committed to keeping what they have, the Alegre family filed a protest before the Bureau of Lands and the land dispute was taken up by the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office. Because of such protest, Gaspar was barred from getting title for the applied land. This stoked his ire, especially when the Alegres refused the money that was offered in exchange for their small plot of farmland.

On September 8, 1994, according to Karapatan, hired goons assaulted the Alegres, killing their son Romeo. It was fortunate that the rest of the family was able to escape the attack. Despite the death of their son, the Alegres stood firm in keeping their land from which they derived their livelihood with dignity and peace.

The attacks against Alegre and his family intensified even after the killing. In 2001, hired goons fenced their land to drive them away and threatened them with death. According to the report, hired men shot at Alegre and his son Danilo when they approached them and tried to talk to them.

One day, a firefight ensued between the goons and some unidentified men. One of the goons, Rogelio Tipon, was killed. The killing of Tipon was blamed on the Alegres. Jesus, his wife Morita and son Selman were arrested on April 14, 2005 and charged falsely with murder. All three were convicted on April 1, 2009 and sentenced to reclusion perpetua for murder.

Morita is presently held at the Correctional Institute for Women in Mandaluyong while Selman is at the New Bilibid Prison Maximum Security Compound, the same facility of his father Jesus.

The main witnesses to the killing of Tipon were his wife Helena and Avelino Gaspar himself. Helena was the main complainant of the murder case. But as the Alegres were on trial, she executed an Affidavit of Desistance. Yet through the insistence of Gaspar, the three Alegres were still prosecuted and Helena’s affidavit was never formally filed, and the private complainant was turned into “People of the Philippines.”

Jesus’ story tells of how ordinary and poor Filipinos easily fall victim to the powerful and moneyed who even more easily get away with jailing and even killing the innocent to get what they want. Jesus Alegre was not an activist nor a member of any groups involved in peasant struggles. But his plight showcases the age-old feudal oppression in the island of Negros, and human rights groups took up his case to provide support and considered him and the rest of his family as political prisoners.

As relayed by the members of Karapatan and Kapatid who visited him in the past months and years, Jesus would consistently air only one wish: “Gusto kong makalaya. Kelan ako lalaya?” (I want to be freed. When will I be freed?)

Political detainee Jesus Alegre in obvious pain when he was first taken to the hospital in February 2021. Four months later, Alegre dies while in detention.

Inside jail, in one of the most extremely congested prison systems in the world where two inmates die every day and 5,200 every year, his health steadily deteriorated. In February this year, due to the efforts of Kapatid, the support group of families and friends of political prisoners, Jesus was brought to the Ospital ng Muntinlupa for check-up and laboratory tests. He was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, uncontrolled diabetes type 2, ischemic heart disease, and possible chronic kidney disease. Kapatid had to shoulder all his medical expenses.

Jesus’ wish was never granted by the government despite Kapatid’s repeated efforts to submit his name and of Morita to the Department of Justice at least four times from December 2019 to December 2020 so they could make it to the Christmas list of elderly prisoners to be considered for executive clemency.

Even in the midst of a health crisis where Jesus is considered at risk because of his medical condition, the calls made by Kapatid and other groups were disregarded. Jesus is the fifth political prisoner to die during the pandemic and his death brings to a greater yet unknown total number the death toll among persons deprived of liberty amid the continuing health emergency.

Kapatid presses for justice and freedom for 74-year-old Morita Alegre and their son Selman and to allow them to pay their last respects to a good husband and a good father whom Morita has not seen for 16 years. Is this too much ask of a government which has freed plunderers for proven crimes against the people? Isang sulyap lang. Just a glimpse of him who never had a glimmer of freedom. #

ICC asked to proceed with investigations on Duterte gov’t’s war on drugs

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has been asked to proceed with an investigation on the human rights crisis in the Philippines after the conclusion of the preliminary investigation pointing to mass murders under the Rodrigo Duterte regime.

“Following a thorough preliminary examination process, the available information indicates that members of the Philippine National Police, and others acting in concert with them, have unlawfully killed between several thousand and tens of thousands of civilians [between 2016 and 2019],” ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said.

“My Office has also reviewed information related to allegations of torture and other inhumane acts, and related events as early as 1 November 2011, the beginning of the Court’s jurisdiction in the Philippines, all of which we believe require investigation,” she added.

Bensouda said her preliminary investigation has determined that there is a reasonable basis to believe that the crime against humanity of murder has been committed on the territory of the Philippines between 1 July 2016 and 16 March 2019 in the context of the Government of Philippines’ “war on drugs” campaign.

The prosecutor said the situation in the Philippines has been under preliminary examination since February 2018 when her office started analyzing “a large amount of publicly available information and information provided to it under article 15 of the Rome Statute.”

The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court is a treaty that established the permanent international court with jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for the international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression.

Lawyer Jude Sabio filed charges before the ICC on April 2017 accusing Duterte of crimes against humanity in connection with the thousands of deaths of suspected illegal drug dependents.

In 2017, former Senator Antonio Trillanes IV traveled to The Hague, The Netherlands to submit information bolstering Sabio’s charges.

The group Rise Up for Life and for Rights composed of families of the victims of Duterte’s war on drugs also submitted a complaint before the ICC in 2018.

Duterte responded by ordering the Philippines’ withdrawal of its ratification of the Rome Statute and repeatedly insulting Bensouda.

Bensouda however clarified that although the Philippines withdrew from the Rome Statute effective March 17, 2019, the ICC retains jurisdiction over crimes that are alleged to have occurred on the territory of the country during the period when it was still a party to the statute.

“Moreover, these crimes are not subject to any statute of limitation,” she explained.

Karapatan photo

Welcome development

Bensouda’s announcement was welcomed by human rights and activist groups as a “long-awaited step towards justice and accountability.”

“[I]t is yet another damning indictment of the Duterte government’s murderous policies that have killed — and continue to kill — thousands of Filipinos with impunity,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.

“Karapatan, together with the families of the victims of the drug war and other human rights advocates, welcomes this significant and much-needed development amid the backdrop of the rapidly deteriorating human rights crisis in the Philippines,” Palabay added.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said that one of Duterte’s grossest crimes is its so-called war on illegal drugs.

“In spite of the thousands upon thousands killed, the illegal drugs scourge has gone unabated, proving it is ineffective,” Reyes said.

The ICC prosecutor’s findings is another clear basis why darkness should never be allowed to reign over our country. The regime of state-sponsored killings must be stopped,” he added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

2nd oldest political prisoner dies in detention

By Joseph Cuevas

The country’s second oldest political prisoner died at the Ospital ng Muntinlupa on Sunday, June 13.

Jesus Alegre, 75 years old, showed physical weakness and disorientation after suffering diarrhea and swollen limbs last June 11, political prisoner support group Kapatid said.

Alegre also vomited and could no longer sit or stand without support but was rushed to the said hospital only last Sunday, the group said.

It was unclear if Alegre was tested for the COVID-19 virus upon admission at the hospital.

Kapatid said that as early as February this year, Alegre’s health condition was deteriorating and he was in fact diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, type 2 diabetes, ischemic heart disease, and possible chronic kidney disease.

Alegre was a 16-year inmate at at the New Bilibid Prison’s Maximum Security Compound, along with 74 year-old wife Moreta and son Selman.

A family of poor farmers, the Alegres were wrongfully convicted on a trumped-up charge of murder in 2005, Kapatid said.

Kapatid said due to their advanced ages, the Alegres were among the political prisoners the group lobbied for release on humanitarian grounds.

The Alegres were also listed in Kapatid’s April 2020 petition urging the the Supreme Court to release prisoners vulnerable to COVID-19.

Last week, Kapatid also called on the Supreme Court to issue a Writ of Kalayaan to decongest jails amid the coronavirus pandemic, prioritizing elderly and sick political detainees.

Kapatid said that Alegre’s death shows the terrible state of the country’s highly congested prisons that expose prisoners to greater danger from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Alegre was the third political prisoner to have died this year after peasant leader Joseph Canlas succumbed to Covid-19 and Maximo Redota suffered a stroke without receiving medical attention.

Kapatid demanded an investigation into Alegre’s death “to ascertain the responsibility and accountability of government agencies in looking after the health and safety of persons deprived of liberty.”

The oldest political detainee is 82-year old Gerardo dela Peña. #

‘Rebuke of Duterte’s murderous ways’: Karapatan wins prestigious international human rights award

A local organization that is the subject of incessant red-tagging and slander by the military and the Rodrigo Duterte government is awarded a prestigious international award “in recognition of its commitment to human rights in the Philippines.”

The Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights is this year’s recipient of the annual William D. Zabel Human Rights Award given by United States-based group Human Rights First.

The awarding ceremony was held online and featured a performance by Annie Lenox and other internationally-acclaimed artists.

“The award has been presented annually for more than three decades and acknowledges the work of courageous activists on the front lines of the struggle for freedom and human rights,” Human Rights First president and CEO Michael Breen said in a statement.

Human Rights First image

“Human Rights First has tremendous respect and admiration for Karapatan and the work done by (secretary general) Tinay Palabay. They are human rights defenders whom the government of Philippines regularly targets, and we hope this award, and our ongoing partnership, helps shine a bright light on their efforts and shields them from additional threats,” Breen added.

Human Rights First noted Karapatan’s documentation of human rights violations through fact-finding missions, active filings of cases through Philippine courts and quasi-judicial bodies like the Commission on Human Rights, the United Nations, and other international human rights bodies.

“It also refers victims to medical professionals and groups for psycho-social and additional assistance; and organizes victims of human rights violations and their families,” Human Rights First said.

The group also noted that no less than 15 human rights workers of Karapatan have been killed in the past five years, nearly 70 since 2001, and many more are imprisoned or are facing judicial harassment and threats because of their work in defending human rights.

“This recognition is an homage to their memory and legacy of selflessness, compassion and service to the poor and oppressed and we continue to honor them every day as we do the best that we can in advocacy, documentation, direct services and movement-building in the Philippines,” Human Rights First said.

The William D. Zabel Human Rights Award is presented each year to leaders and organizations for their work in advancing rights, justice and equality for those suffering persecution and violations of their human rights.

The award is named after the renowned human rights defender who first became famous for his successful campaign against bans on interracial marriage in the United States.

Zabel Award recipients include ALQST for Human Rights, which monitors and documents human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia; Miroslava Cerpas Hernández, who promotes the rights of migrants and refugees displaced by violence in Honduras; Friar Tomás González, who protects vulnerable migrants on the Mexican border; Yazidi human rights activists Khaleel Aldakhi and Ameena Saeed Hasan; European antisemitism activists Jane Braden-Golay, Siavosh Derakhti, and Niddal El-Jabri; Dr. Denis Mukwege of the Democratic Republic of Congo, who later went on to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize; and human rights lawyer Chen Guangcheng of China.

Human Rights First is a non-profit, nonpartisan international human rights organization based in New York, Washington D.C., Houston, and Los Angeles.

Dedicated to martyred rights defenders

In a statement, Palabay said Karapatan is grateful for the recognition of their work in defending and advancing people’s rights.

Palabay said the award is a homage and tribute to the memory of their fallen comrades and their legacy of selflessness, compassion and service to the poor and oppressed.

“We cry out for justice over the killings of our fellow human rights workers under the Duterte administration: Zara Alvarez, Elisa Badayos, Bernardino Patigas Sr., Mariam Uy Acob, Ryan Hubilla, Nelly Bagasala, Billamin Hassan, Joseph Baning, Atty. Benjamin Ramos, Randy Malayao, Arnie Espenilla, Lizando Alcovendas, Pizo Cabug, and Aldren Enriquez. We likewise recall our colleagues Bishop Alberto Ramento, Eden Marcellana, Benjaline Hernandez, Fr. William Tadena, Rev. Edison Lapuz, Atty. Juvy Magsino, Prof. Jose Maria Cui, Fernando Baldomero, Romeo Capalla, William Bugatti and many others who were killed during the past administrations — whose killings have remained unresolved to this day,” Palabay said.

Many other Karapatan workers are being persecuted for their work, Palabay said, including their chairperson Elisa Tita Lubi, regional leaders Jayvee Apiag and Daisy “Jackie” Valencia and workers Teresita Naul, Alexander Philip Abinguna, Renalyn Tejero and Nimfa Lanzanas who are in jail due to “similar fabricated cases.”

She added that the Zabel award is dedicated to Karapatan chairperson emirita Marie Hilao-Enriquez, and the late former Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA) chairperson, Philippine Navy Captain Danilo Vizmanos.

Duterte, charged with crimes against humanity for thousands of reported extrajudicial killings related to his government’s centerpiece drug war, had singled out Karapatan and called it an “organization of demons” in one of his notorious rants against critics.

Palabay said the Zabel Award is a strong statement of solidarity and an affirmation that human rights work is a just and essential endeavor in the midst of tyranny and oppression.

“Let this be a strong rebuke to the murderous ways of this administration and a clarion call for justice,” Palabay said.

 “This award also comes at a crucial time, against the backdrop of a rapidly deteriorating human rights crisis and alarming democratic backsliding in the Philippines, and this award is a recognition of the tremendous challenges we currently face amid worsening attacks on human rights defenders, police brutality, militarization, and the narrowing of civic and democratic spaces in the country,” Palabay said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘A clear and undeniable pronouncement’

“President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to block access to records of police killings in the drug war is a clear and undeniable pronouncement that this government openly encourages impunity.”Cristina Palabay, Secretary-General, Karapatan

‘Kill-kill-kill mindset’ caused police officer to kill grandmother, rights groups say

Human rights groups expressed alarm at the spate of killings of civilians by police officers, with Karapatan calling for a system change within State security forces.

Following the killing of a 52-year old grandmother by a police sergeant in Fairview, Quezon City Monday night, Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said a dangerous mindset ails many among security forces in the country.

“How many more should die, before it is acknowledged that the system that drives State security forces to kill civilians needs to be changed?” Palabay asked.

Palabay added there are more than enough recent cases to indicate that the public killings by police officers are not isolated incidents.

Kaparatan listed the following cases involving police officers, military men and even community security personnel in the last three months:

-On May 31, 2021, a drunk Police Master Sergeant Hensie Zinampan shot 59-year old Lilibeth Valdez in Brgy. Greater Fairview in Quezon City.

-On May 29, 2021, National Democratic Front of the Philippines consultant Reynaldo Bocala, 75, and his 60-year old companion Wilfredo Epago were killed during a police and military raid in Pavia, Iloilo.

-On May 23, 2021, police shot Edwin Arnigo, an 18-year old with autism, during a raid of an illegal cockfighting game in Valenzuela City. Arnigo happened to just pass by the area when executed by a police officer.

-On May 11, 2021, peasant leader Joseph Canlas died after contracting COVID-19 inside a prison in Pampanga. Canlas was arbitrarily arrested during a questionable police and military raid on March 30, 2021.

-On April 19, 2021, 35-year old Retchie Nepomuceno was killed along a road in Cebu City, after accusing a police staff sergeant of raping her while in police custody.

-On April 9, 2021, Ernanie Jimenez died after being beaten by barangay tanod for allegedly violating curfew rules in Calamba City, Laguna.

-On April 2, 2021, 21-year old Darren Manaog Penaredondo died, after being forced to do 300 rounds of pumping exercise in General Trias, Cavite for allegedly violating community quarantine policies.

-On March 7, 2021, nine activists in Southern Tagalog – a fisherfolk couple, a trade union leader, four indigenous farmers, an urban poor activist and a youth leader – were killed in simultaneous police and military raids in three provinces.

Karapatan said police claims that the incidents are “isolated incidents” are simply not true.

“What is clear and apparent is that these violations are brazenly conducted, at many times in full view of an audience. What is clear and apparent is that a governance driven by a kill-kill-kill policy is fostering a environment of insecurity,” she said.

Palabay added that the dangerous mindset of normalizing such killings is deeply ingrained among State forces.

Meanwhile, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said it shall be conducting a motu propio investigation into the shooting of Valdez.

PMSgt,Henzie Zinampan in front of a church building. (Facebook photo)

In a video circulating online, an allegedly drunk PMSgt. Zinampan can be seen grabbing the victim’s hair and eventually shooting her through the neck.

Ironically, in a standard declaration among police officers, Zinampan has condemned fellow PMSgt. Jonel Nuezca who was also caught on video shooting and killing mother and son Sonia and Frank Gregorio during an altercation in Paniqui, Tarlac Province last December 21.

“This incident is gravely concerning as we expect our police to ‘serve and protect,’ and not be at the frontlines of violating rights, let alone arbitrarily curtailing one’s right to life,” CHR executive director and spokesperson Atty. Jacqueline Ann de Guia said.

De Guia also said the CHR urged the PNP to translate commitments of internal cleansing into actual reduction of cases of human rights violations on the ground after a string of recent deaths and killings attributed to police officers.

“One death is one too many. We urge the government to address these violations with the larger view that the protection of human rights is primarily a State obligation,” de Guia said.

Newly-installed Philippine National Police chief Guillermo Eleazar has ordered the Quezon City Police District to file murder and administrative cases against Zinampan. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Canadian Parliament denounces attacks on Karapatan’s Palabay

Canadian parliamentarians called on the Philippines government to stop its officials from harassing and threatening the lives of human rights defenders.

In a statement, the Canadian House of Commons Subcommittee on International Human Rights said it is appalled that Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay was harassed and threatened by a top intelligence official after appearing as a resource person in its hearing earlier this month.

“After sharing her traumatic experiences defending human rights in the Philippines, Cristina Palabay’s life was threatened by agents of the Philippines government as a direct result of her appearance before the Subcommittee,” it said from Ottawa.

“The Subcommittee is appalled by the situation Ms. Palabay finds herself in,” the Subcommittee added.

Palabay and Rappler executive editor Maria Ressa narrated human rights abuses by the Rodrigo Duterte government in a hearing conducted by the Subcommittee last May 4.

The Canadian parliamentarians said Palabay’s “brave” testimony described the crumbling state of human rights in the Philippines, for which is continuously being persecuted.

Immediately after, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency Alex Paul Monteagudo posted images online alleging Palabay’s connections with the underground Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army.

Just last month, Monteagudo earned the ire of Philippine Senators and the employees union of the Philippine Senate for his “malicious, baseless and dangerous” red-tagging activities of public sector unionists.

The Subcommittee said it will take “additional measures” to mitigate risks Palabay and other resource persons face.

“The personal safety and wellbeing of all those who appear before the Subcommittee are of the utmost concern to its members,” the Subcommittee said.

Red-tagging memes posted by NICA director general Alex Paul Monteagudo. (Karapatan-supplied images)

It also called on the Canadian government to denounce the attacks, especially against human rights defenders such as Palabay.

“The Subcommittee reminds states that have ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, such as the Philippines, that when attacking human rights defenders, they are violating their international human rights obligations,” it said.

Palabay also denounced the attacks, saying Monteagudo’s posts show the Duterte government’s “disdain for independent justice-seeking efforts.”

Palabay said reprisals by government officials against defenders who provide testimonies and information to governmental or inter-governmental bodies on the human rights situation in the Philippines should stop. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Groups urge SC to act on attacks against rights lawyers and clients

Human rights and civil society organizations petitioned the Supreme Court (SC) to take urgent action against threats, red-tagging and killings of judges and lawyers as well as their clients.

In a letter to the SC Tuesday, May 18, Karapatan, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, Alliance of Concerned Teachers, Cordillera Peoples’ Alliance, Kilusang Mayo Uno, and the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advance of Government Employees said the attacks against court officers continue despite clear condemnation by the High Court last March 23.

Addressed to Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo, the petition said the “attacks against human rights lawyers violate the basic principle that lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their clients’ causes as a result of discharging their functions.”

The groups said that attacks against the lawyers and judges deprive them of effective access to legal services and adequate protection for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The letter reminded the Court that there have been 147 reported attacks against court officers in recent years.

Eighty-four or 57% of the victims are human rights lawyers affiliated with the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), Public Interest Law Center, Union of People’s Lawyers in Mindanao and the Free Legal Assistance Group, the petition said.

In its March 23 statement, the SC acknowledged that members of the bar and the bench have been attacked and asked the lower court to submit reports on the matter.

The SC statement also came after NUPL member Angelo Karlo Guillen was stabbed with a screw driver on his lower left temple and back by two unidentified assailants in Iloilo City.

“The court condemns in the strongest sense every instance where a lawyer is threatened or killed, and where a judge is threatened and unfairly labeled. We do not and will not tolerate such acts that only perverse justice, defeat the rule of law, undermine the most basic of constitutional principles, and speculate on the worth of human lives,” the SC said.


‘State sponsored’

In their submission, the signatories also asked the Court look into the attacks suffered by the lawyers’ clients “and to understand the overarching government policies that cause them.”

The signatories asserted that the lawyers who represent activists, human rights defenders and ordinary people also become targets of the government’s counterinsurgency drive.

“An urgent and decisive action from the Supreme Court is a matter of life and death for activists and human rights defenders especially now when we are being increasingly targeted in the government’s counterinsurgency and counterterror campaign for our work and causes,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay, one of the signatories, said.

“Despite the Supreme Court en banc’s much-needed statement two months ago, we are concerned that the attacks have only continued, if not worsened to even more alarming forms.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva)