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Maza resigns; last NDFP-nominated member leaves Duterte Cabinet

The last of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP)-nominated members to the Rodrigo Duterte Cabinet has tendered her irrevocable resignation today, August 20

National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) Lead Convenor Liza Maza announced she is leaving the Duterte government after deeper reflection on the events of the past weeks, including the double murder charges she faced with three other former Makabayan bloc representatives like herself.

“I am announcing that I have tendered this morning my irrevocable resignation as Secretary and Lead Convenor of the National Anti-Poverty Commission,” Maza said in a pres conference.

She said that while the fabricated and baseless murder charges were eventually dismissed, the revival of these cases and the issuance of warrants of arrest under a seeming crackdown on activists like her took its toll on her work at the NAPC.

“I realized that similar attacks by the anti-reform, rightist, and militarist forces in our society will continue to undermine my leadership of this agency. As such, I simply can no longer work under these circumstances,” she said.

Along with Maza, former social work and development secretary Judy Taguiwalo and agrarian reform secretary Rafael Mariano were nominated to the Duterte Cabinet by the NDFP.

Taguiwalo and Mariano were no longer re-appointed by President Duterte after they were rejected by the Commission on Appointments.

Maza explained that Duterte’s total cancellation of its peace talks with the NDFP last August 14 was her biggest reason for resigning.

“The decision killed my remaining hopes that the peace talks would result to substantive social and economic reforms that would end widespred poverty in the country as well as the ongoing civil war,” she said.

She added that the cancellation of the talks signals that policies that are counter to reforms for the poor as well as militaristic mindset and attitude are primary to the government.

Maza said that her resignation is not a surrender of the pursuit of meaningful reforms that she has embarked on in her two years of leading the NAPC, which she said has always been her life’s work as an activist and legislator.

“[N]or am I succumbing to the reactionary forces who have long wanted me out of this post. Rather, it has become clear to me that this pursuit will be better served with me working outside of government,” she said.

Among Maza’s biggest achievements as NAPC lead convenor was the publication of the 100-page “Reforming Philippine Anti-Poverty Policy – Going Beyond, Moving Forward” roadmap that sought “meaningful debates on poverty eradication instead of mere poverty alleviation.”

Maza said during its launch in January that among the book’s proposals are the development of Philippine industries, review of international economic deals, regulation of foreign investments for development, state-directed financing for development, and more progressive taxation.

She said then she hoped that President Duterte would support their proposals.

Maza, in her statement today, said that poverty eradication may no longer be possible under the Duterte administration.

“I joined the Cabinet more than two years ago with high hopes of helping to facilitate meaningful socioeconomic and political reforms from within the government, when the President was initially engaged in the peace negotiations that can potentially bring these about,” she explained.

“His latest pronouncement, however, on finally terminating the talks brings me to the conclusion that these reforms may no longer be possible under the current administration,” she said, adding she believes “genuine change cannot happen when the old forces of fascism and corruption, and the defenders of elite and foreign interests, are consolidating their position in government.”

“I have found it best to resume fighting from among the masses for this genuine change, which, as ever, has been the only real way to make sure that it will happen,” Maza concluded. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Makabayan 4 blame military and police for ‘trumped-up charge’

After the dismissal of the double murder charge against them by a Nueva Ecija court, four former Makabayan Coalition representatives condemned government’s security cluster for what they call a mere case of political persecution against dissenters.

National Anti-Poverty Commission lead convenor Liza Maza and fellow former Makabayan representatives Rafael Mariano, Teddy Casiño and Satur Ocampo were welcomed in a gathering in Quezon City last August 14 after warrants of arrest against them were withdrawn.

Court dismisses double murder charges vs Makabayan 4

The Palayan Regional Trial Court (RTC) dismissed the double murder case against National Anti-Poverty Commission lead convenor Liza Maza and her fellow former Makabayan bloc representatives Satur Ocampo, Teddy Casiño and Rafael Mariano.

In a decision dated August 8, Palayan City RTC Acting Presiding Judge Trese D. Wenceslao ordered the dismissal of the cases and quashed the warrants of arrest against the four.

“[C]onsidering that the evidence on hand absolutely fails to support a finding of probable cause against the accused-movants, the Motion for Reconsidetion (of the Order dated July 11, 2018 with Prayer to Quash Warrants of Arrests) is hereby GRANTED,” Judge Wenceslao ordered.

“Consequently, the Warrants of Arrest issued on July 11, 2018 under Criminal Case Nos. 1879-P and 1880-P against Saturnino C. Ocampo, Liza L. Maza, Teodoro A. Casiño and Rafael V. Mariano are QUASHED. The instant cases are DISMISSED as to the said accused-movenats,” he added.

Wenceslao, however, ordered that the arrest warrants against more than a dozen others who did not ask the court for reconsideration stand.

Dispositive portion of Judge Wenceslao’s decision. (Photo by Renato Reyes Jr.)

The four opposition leaders were ordered arrested by Judge Evelyn Atienza-Turla last July 11 after reversing her 2008 decision that the case does not meet her standards in finding probable cause.

Atty. Rachel Pastores, counsel for the four accused, said the case is pure harassment as the complaint was not even subscribed before a public prosecutor before it was filed.

“The complainants swore before the Philippine National Police and not to a public prosecutor. It was irregular,” Pastores said.

A Cleotilde Peralta and an Isabelita Bayudang alleged Ocampo, Maza, Mariano, Casiño and 18 other activists met in 1998 to plan the assassination of former Bayan Muna (BM) members who have left the party.

Peralta said her husband was ran over and killed in 2001 while Bayudang said her husband was shot to death in 2004 upon orders of the four accused and others.

In 2016, however, Peralta and Bayudang were found liable for damages in a civil suit and were ordered to pay P325,000 to Ocampo by Quezon City RTC Branch 95.

The QC RTC said Peralta and Bayudang lied when they alleged BM was already existing in 1998 when it was in fact created only in 2000.

The two complainants were ordered to pay damages to Ocampo, but have yet to abide by the court decision.

The two complainants have not appeared in court since then.

Peralta and Bayudang’s petition to have Bayan Muna disqualified using the same allegations was also dismissed by the Commission on Elections in 2008. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

 

Groups gather to defend Makabayan 4

Various groups gathered last Saturday, August 11, to defend the four former Makabayan Representatives, Satur Ocampo, Liza Maza, Teddy Casiño and Rafael Mariano.

Lawyers explained that the double murder case used as basis for the issuance of warrants against the four were baseless, as proven by two earlier decisions by a trial court and the Commission on Elections.

Family members of the accused also spoke against what they call the political persecution of political dissenters by the Rodrigo Duterte government. (Video by Joseph Cuevas)

Hinggil sa persekusyon ng Makabayan 4

“Nagaganap ang political persecution kapag iyong mga nasa kapangyarihan tulad ni Duterte at mga kasapakat niya ay gustong patigilin at supilin ang mga nagsasabi ng katotohanan.”–Prof. Jose Maria Sison, International League of Peoples’ Struggles chairperson.

 

Groups launch #DefendSecLiza campaign

Various groups launched a campaign to defend National Anti-Poverty Commission lead convenor Liza Maza in a press conference in Quezon City last Monday, August 6.

Saying they are composed of groups outside the Makabayan bloc, they said they want to show that support for Maza is wide and committed in defending the embattled Cabinet secretary from political persecution.

Maza, along with former Makabayan representatives Satur Ocampo, Teddy Casiño and Rafael Mariano were issued warrants of arrest by a Palayan City Regional Trial Court for alleged murders committed nearly two decades ago.

The accused and their supporters, however, claim that the cases were trumped up, as proven by earlier decisions by the QC RTC and the Commission on Elections. (Video by Joseph Cuevas)

Itanong mo kay Prof: Political persecution sa mga lider-aktibista

Sa episode na ito ng Itanong mo kay Prof, ipinaliwanag ang ibig sabihin ng political persecution at bakit target nito ang mga progresibong lider tulad nila Liza Maza, Satur Ocampo, Rafael Mariano at Teddy Casiño.

Judge who ordered arrest of Satur et. al. inhibits, prosecutors mum

Nueva Ecija public prosecutors refused to comment on a motion for reconsideration on double murder charges and warrants of arrests against four activist leaders at a hearing in Palayan City Friday morning, August 3.

Lawyers of National Anti-Poverty Commission lead convenor Liza Maza and fellow former Makabayan bloc representatives Satur Ocampo, Rafael Mariano and Teddy Casiño told reporters in a press briefing outside the Palayan Regional Trial Court (RTC) that the prosecutors had no comment when asked about the motions.

“When the public prosecutors were asked to comment on the motion for reconsideration, they simply submitted it to the judge’s discretion,” Public Interest Law Center (PILC) managing counsel Rachel Pastores said.

“This made the hearing very quick; travel time from Manila to here was in fact longer,” Pastores added.

Dozens of activists travelled to Nueva Ecija early Friday morning and held a picket in front of Palayan City RTC Branch 40 to support the four leaders.

August 1, 2018 inhibition order by Judge Evelyn A. Atienza-Turla.

Judge Evelyn Atienza-Turla inhibited herself from the case since last August 1 and the case was raffled off to Judge Trece Wenceslao instead.

Turla issued arrest orders against the four last July 11 stemming from a 2006 double murder charge against them.

The judge, who told the public prosecutor in July 2008 that the case did not meet her standards, reversed herself and said in an order that she now finds probable cause to proceed with the trial against the four accused.

Pastores said they are hoping that the court would decide on their motion within 10 days as the arrest order is “unjust and without legal basis.”

The double murder charge stemmed from a complaint by a Cleotilde Peralta and an Isabelita Bayudang who alleged that the four activist leaders met in 1998 to plan the assassination of former Bayan Muna (BM) members who have left the party.

Peralta said her husband was ran over and killed in 2001 while Bayudang said her husband was shot to death in 2004 upon orders of the four accused and others.

In 2016, Peralta and Bayudang were found liable for damages in a civil suit and were ordered to pay P325,000 to Ocampo by Quezon City RTC Branch 95.

The QC RTC said Peralta and Bayudang lied when they alleged BM already existed in 1998 when it was in fact created only in 2000.

Peralta and Bayudang’s petition to have Bayan Muna disqualified using the same allegations were also dismissed by the Commission on Elections in 2008. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Lawyers, groups slam arrest warrants vs Satur Ocampo, others

Groups and lawyers condemned the issuance of warrants of arrests against four well-known activists at a press conference in Quezon City Friday.

They explained that the resurrected case against Satur Ocampo, Rafael Mariano, Liza Maza and Teddy Casiño were based on lies as proven in another court and the Commission on Elections and that they blame political persecution as the real reason behind the threat against the four.

Political persecution behind arrest orders, groups say

Political persecution by militarists in the Rodrigo Duterte government and new House of Representatives Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo may be behind the issuance of arrest warrants against a Cabinet secretary and three opposition leaders by a Palayan City Regional Trial Court (RTC) last July 11, various groups said.

In a press conference in Quezon City Friday afternoon, groups including the Makabayan bloc of progressive parties, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and others said the arrest orders against National Anti-Poverty Commission chairperson Liza Maza, and former Representatives Satur Ocampo, Teddy Casiño and Rafael Mariano are pure harassment by both militarists and a resurrected Arroyo.

In a statement, Maza said the arrest order is part of a “continuing political persecution against her by the rightists and militarists who wield substantial influence within the Duterte government.”

“Almost from the beginning, the rightists and militarists have tried to make it difficult on us – myself and other progressives who have joined the Duterte government – opposing or obstructing the reforms that we pushed for and manoeuvring to have us removed, one by one,” Maza added.

Palayan City RTC Branch 40 Judge Evelyn Ancheta Turla issued arrest orders against the four last July 11 stemming from a 2006 double murder charge.

The judge, who told the public prosecutor in July 2008 that the case did not meet her standards, reversed herself and said in an order that she now finds probable cause to proceed with the trial against the four accused.

Casiño said the recycling of such trumped-up charges is part of “a desperate and reckless witch hunt against opposition.”

“This is an attempt to curtail my liberty. And the fact that it is happening under a Duterte-Marcos (family)-Arroyo alliance makes it more frightening,” Casino said.

In his statement, Mariano said he vehemently denies the accusations, saying they are “baseless, malicious and fabricated.”

 ‘It was irregular’

Atty. Rachel Pastores, counsel for the four accused, said the case is pure harassment as the complaint was not even subscribed before a public prosecutor before it was filed.

“The complainants swore before the Philippine National Police and not to a public prosecutor. It was irregular,” Pastores said.

A Cleotilde Peralta and an Isabelita Bayudang alleged Ocampo, Maza, Mariano, Casiño and 18 other activists met in 1998 to plan the assassination of former Bayan Muna (BM) members who have left the party.

Peralta said her husband was ran over and killed in 2001 while Bayudang said her husband was shot to death in 2004 upon orders of the four accused and others.

In 2016, however, Peralta and Bayudang were found liable for damages in a civil suit and were ordered to pay P325,000 to Ocampo by Quezon City RTC Branch 95.

The QC RTC said Peralta and Bayudang lied when they alleged BM was already existing in 1998 when it was in fact created only in 2000.

Peralta and Bayudang’s petition to have Bayan Muna disqualified using the same allegations was also dismissed by the Commission on Elections in 2008.

Reconsideration, remedies

Pastores said that Turla’s decision is wrong, more so that no additional information has been introduced to the case.

“We will avail of all legal remedies. We will file a motion for reconsideration,” Pastores said.

Speaking for the Makabayan bloc, ACT Teachers Representative Antonio Tinio warned of darker times ahead.

“This is a classic GMA [Arroyo] move when she was in power. And it is being revived now that she is back in power. Darker times are indeed ahead,” Tinio said.

Former BM Representative Neri Colmenares for his part called on “the professional witnesses” to not allow themselves to be used by the military.

“Time will come you will be dropped by the military and your handlers, like what happened when the court decided that you pay damages to Satur Ocampo and others,” Colmenares said.

Colmenares also called on Duterte to order the dismissal of the case through the Department of Justice.

Panawagan kay Presidente, pwede bang maghunus-dili ka muna?” Colmenares said. (I call on the President, can you please calm down for a moment?) # (Raymund B. Villanueva)