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Moro groups condemn Ramadhan airstrikes

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) air and ground strike operations in Liguasan Marsh, Maguindanao during the recent Ramadhan displaced 1,716 people or 208 families, a Moro human rights alliance said.

Cotabato-based Kawagib said the AFP claimed that the attacks targeted ISIS members in the area but merely disrupted the lives of Moros instead, particularly in Barangay Dalgan in Pagalungan town.

Kawagib and other Moro and human rights groups said they conducted a fact-finding mission last June 24 and documented complaints from residents about the AFP airstrikes of June 12.

Residents said were up as early as two o’clock that Tuesday to prepare their meals but were surprised by the sound of helicopters and fighter planes that dropped bombs in their community.

The residents rushed to nearby Dalgan Elementary School and National Memorial High School for shelter but later fled to Pagalungan proper when around a hundred soldiers appeared later.

The residents stayed at the municipal gym for a week, fearful of returning to their barangay.

About 100 families also fled by boat and built shelter along the riverside in Kulangan in Datu Montawal, Kawagib said.

The military said no civilian area was targeted in its “surgical airstrikes” and ground operations against Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) gunmen, led by a certain Esmail Abubakar.

 Sixth Infantry Division commander, Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, claimed at least 15 BIFF gunmen were killed and eight others were wounded in their operations.

The AFP previously said the BIFF is an ISIS-inspired group.

Kawagib, however, belied AFP claims.

No BIFF

“Residents said the military’s claim that there is a strong ISIS presence in Maguindanao was fueled by rumors and speculations with no factual basis,” Kawagib spokesperson Cosain Naga said.

“This suggests that ISIS presence is being used to justify the deployment of hundreds of government troops and the intensification of military combat operations in a disputed area,” he added.

The group said the evacuation disrupted classes in Barangay Dalgan.

Dalgan Elementary School principal Faisal S. Kimula said they have yet to restart their classes as residents have occupied the schools for sanctuary.

“It’s so saddening to know that our registered students this academic year has decreased by 52 percent due to the bombing incident in our village,” Faisal told the mission.

Kawagib said fishermen also discovered their pump boats missing when they returned to their community while households complained of losing their livestock worth 186,000 pesos.

Lessons at a Quran school is also being disrupted when its Ustadz refused to follow the soldiers’ orders to leave, Kawagib said.

Second strike

The mission noted that the June 12 air and ground strikes at Brgy Dalgan followed military operations launched last March 13 when civilian Nazrullah Balao of Sitio Tukananes was reportedly killed.

Balao’s family said Nazrullah was hit by shrapnel from bombs dropped by the AFP and was found dead inside his house.

Balao’s family only received 500 pesos cash relief and nothing else from authorities, Kawagib said.

“What this State has done to this Moro community is not a victory, but a continuing threat to the Moro people,” Naga said.

“No cover up or military propaganda will justify this injustice brought by military offensive on them,” he added.

During Ramadhan

Naga pointed out that the attack happened during Ramadhan, which also happened in the past years.

Military operations against Moro communities during their holy month is a violation of their cultural and religious rights, Kawagib pointed out.

Kawagib demands indemnification for the victims of the military operations on Ramadhan in Barangay Dalgan, especially to the Ballao family.

“After what the state has done, there must be accountability. The government should take action and pull out [its] troops in Moro communities,” Naga said.

The Kawagib–led fact finding mission was joined by local organizations Suara Bangsamoro, Liga ng Kabataang Moro, and the Manila-based Hustisya. #

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Journalists hold torch parade to mark 6th anniv of Ampatuan Massacre

The National Union of Journalists in the Philippines held a torch parade from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines to Mendiola Bridge to mark the 6th anniversary of the Ampatuan Massacre last November 23. This event followed another march by journalists belonging to the National Press Club earlier that day.

Watch highlights of the parade and listen to the statement given by one of the lawyers of the victims’ families.

Aquino’s “last word” on Mamasapano, the writing on the wall?

President Benigno S. Aquino III’s speech at the PNPA graduation was meant to write finis to the public uproar over the bloody, botched counterterrorist operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. Instead it only managed to further rile a people sick and tired of the finger-pointing, the obfuscation and lies about what really happened, the stonewalling about key factors that caused the failed operation and, to top it all, the pathetic excuse that the president is, after all, only “human” and also makes “mistakes”.

But the only mistake Aquino admits to is the total trust he conferred on the sacked SAF Commander Napenas (who he says “fooled” him about the seemingly foolproof design of Oplan Exodus and his capability to lead it) and on suspended Chief PNP Purisima (who he says failed to follow his order to coordinate with the AFP and who failed to give him accurate updates on the progress of the operation). The question he refuses to answer: why didn’t he, as Commander-in-Chief/Chief Executive, ensure that AFP chief Catapang and the OIC PNP Chief Espina were in the loop from the very beginning? Why did he rely on a suspended general with no authority whatsoever, and a lower level PNP officer whose authority is not at par with either Catapang or Espina, to call the shots in this complex, high-level and high-risk operation?

What Aquino is still trying to obscure is the fact that he authorized Oplan Exodus including the so-called “time-on-target coordination” with the AFP, meaning the AFP would only be informed when the operation was already under way. He also agreed to set aside the ceasefire protocol with the MILF which meant the SAF commandoes would enter MILF territory without any prior coordination whatsoever with the joint AFP-MILF bodies overseeing the ceasefire. These two factors are what led to the Mamasapano fiasco: the lack of proper and timely coordination with both the AFP and the MILF.

Aquino stonewalls about his authorizing the setting aside of the ceasefire protocol with the MILF despite knowing about the dangers of fully armed contingents of MILF, BIFF and PAGs (private armed groups) in the area and the likelihood of the “pintakasi” phenomenon (where the armed community unites to resist any armed intruder) as clearly pointed out in the BOI report.

According to the BOI report, Aquino never gave any guidance as to how Oplan Exodus would take into consideration the ongoing GPH-MILF peace process. Aquino obviously agreed with the assessment that the MILF was coddling Marwan and was not to be trusted on that score. He apparently did not consider weighty the ensuing fall-out on the peace process should anything go wrong. Aquino does not admit to any of these and still pretends to be the leader who would do everything to achieve “peace” in Mindanao, even if it only means getting Congress to pass a watered down Bangsamoro Basic Law that he wagers the MILF will nonetheless accept.

These two fatal errors sealed the doom of the SAF troopers who in effect walked into a death trap: there was no escape and no rescue until it was already too late.

What stands out in Aquino’s speech is that he was most silent about US involvement in the Marwan operation. The Foreign Affairs department had all but exonerated the US by testifying in the Senate hearings that they accepted hook, line and sinker the US embassy’s declaration that US involvement was limited to the medical evacuation of the trapped SAF troopers.

That claim by the US embassy was proven to be a big lie when a video taken by a SAF commando of a drone flying just overhead and monitoring the battle surfaced. This validated reports from independent fact-finding missions of the presence of drones days before and on the night of the SAF operation.

Forced to amend its statements, the US and some Philippine government officials subsequently admitted that they helped in intelligence gathering (which is allowed under PH-US agreements such as the VFA) but continued to insist that US forces were not otherwise involved, especially in combat operations.

However, SAF commander Napenas testified under oath during executive sessions of the Senate hearings that there were six US officers, three of whom arrived with him, at the Tactical Command Post along with other SAF commanders. The presence of the six Americans, one of whom was even reported to have issued an order to an Army brigade commander to initiate artillery fire, speaks not only of the high interest the US had in the operation but the hand that they were allowed to have by the Philippine government — Aquino no less — in directing the operation.

Did the American “advisers” lead Aquino to believe that they had such reliable intelligence information, and they had trained and armed the SAF commandos so well, that arresting Marwan and Usman would be a walk in the park and that there would be no need to inform the AFP and MILF?

Was BSA so enthralled by the thought that personally turning over “international terrorists” Marwan and Usman to the FBI would be a publicity coup without equal? Coupled with the capping of the Bangsamoro peace process with the imminent passing of the BBL, would this not make him a shoo-in for the Nobel Peace Prize which had eluded his mother? The thought that he could even surpass his revered mom’s record and name must have been so titillating, the other side of the coin — the high probability of a firefight and costly casualties — was completely overlooked or shunted aside in his calculations.

As a bonus, a successful operation would redeem the name of his BFF (best friend forever) General Purisima, justifying his decision to allow the latter to direct the entire operation despite his suspension from office on corruption charges.

Some quarters continue to press the question of where funding for Oplan Exodus could have come from. If the US funded it, then Aquino, Purisima and the SAF could be considered as mercenaries doing the US bidding. But if not, then Aquino and Purisima could be criminally liable for misusing the SAF personnel and related resources outside of the authorized government budget and chain of command and thereafter for bringing about the unnecessary death of the SAF 44, MILF 17 and several civilians.

For the nth time, Aquino dissembles and stonewalls on the full extent of his and US complicity in engineering the Mamasapano disaster. The lid on this political can of worms is off and all attempts at a cover-up by Aquino and his apologists are failing.

The political demise of the Aquino regime is all but written on the wall. #

Published in Business World
30 March 2015

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Aquino Resign: Establish the People’s Council for National Unity, Reform and Peace

Illustrated manifesto of the Noynoy Out Now (NOW) Movement, which was launched March 5, 2015 at the Quezon City Sport Club, laying down the context, basis, and goals of the people’s ultimate drive for the ouster of President Noynoy Aquino.

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“Tayo’y mga Pinoy”: Noynoy Resign Now!

Heber Bartolome of Banyuhay, with Mae Paner aka Juana Change, renders “Tayo’y mga Pinoy” at the Manila protest march rally calling for Pres. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino’s resignation. Aquino was depicted as a Pinocchio puppet of the United States whose nose gets longer as he tells more lies about the Mamasapano incident. Elmer “Bong” Labog, Chair of the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) and the Philippines Chapter of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS-Phils), speaks at the program covered live by nationwide TV broadcasts for the evening news.

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KA SATUR: Pananaw hinggil sa Board of Inquiry (BOI) Report (Part 5/6)

Sa panayam ng Kodao Productions kay Ka Satur Ocampo, presidente ng MAKABAYAN Coalition hiningi ang kanyang opinyon hinggil sa inilabas na Board of Inquiry (BOI) Report kaugnay sa insidente sa Mamasapano.

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KA SATUR: Pananaw hinggil sa Board of Inquiry (BOI) Report (Part 4/6)

Sa panayam ng Kodao Productions kay Ka Satur Ocampo, presidente ng MAKABAYAN Coalition hiningi ang kanyang opinyon hinggil sa inilabas na Board of Inquiry (BOI) Report kaugnay sa insidente sa Mamasapano.

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KA SATUR: Pananaw hinggil sa Board of Inquiry (BOI) Report (Part 3/6)

Sa panayam ng Kodao Productions kay Ka Satur Ocampo, presidente ng MAKABAYAN Coalition hiningi ang kanyang opinyon hinggil sa inilabas na Board of Inquiry (BOI) Report kaugnay sa insidente sa Mamasapano.

LARAWAN: Students hold ‘blackout’ campus walkouts against Mamasapano ‘yellow-washing’

Thousands of students walked out of classes today to call for the resignation of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III over the Mamasapano offensive a day after the Board of Inquiry released their report on the bloody operations.

The students also condemned the “unlimited” tuition hikes under the Aquino government. They called for justice for Rosana Sanfuego and Kristel Tejada, students who took their lives after they were unable to pay for tuition and campus fees.

UP Diliman 1

University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman walkout

The students opposed the “yellow-washing” of the Mamasapano investigations and condemned the Aquino government’s efforts to “cover-up and hide the truth from the public.”

In UP, campus administrators including UP Diliman Chancellor Michael Tan and several college deans took part in the protests.

UP Diliman 2

UP Diliman walkout

UP Diliman 3

UP Diliman

PUP Manila

Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) Manila walkout

Campus walkouts started at 10am and “blackout” marches in campuses were held in the afternoon.

​Students from the University of the East, Ateneo de Manila University, Miriam College, National Teachers College and many others also held campus “Blackout Protests for Justice.” Similar youth protests were also held in Baguio, Pampanga, Laguna, Legazpi, Iloilo, Cebu, Cagayan de Oro, and Davao.

UST

Univeristy of Sto Tomas (UST) walkout

Monumento Caloocan

Monumento, Caloocan City

 

“The BOI report further exposes BS Aquino as a liar and a traitor. That American soldiers were seen in the command posts confirms that they were running the show. Aquino betrayed the nation and sacrificed the lives of Filipinos in the altar of US terror war. Buking na buking na po kayo ng taumbayan, Mr. PNoychio,” said Vencer Crisostomo, national chairperson of Anakbayan.

Crisostomo meanwhile said the BOI report may have already been doctored when it was not released immediately to “yellow-wash” President Aquino’s role. He also said the refusal to continue the hearings in the lower house, the termination of the Senate hearings and the suspension order on Makati Mayor Junjun Binay are part of efforts to “misdirect and deceive.”

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University of the Philippines (UP) Manila walkout

 

UP Manila

UP Manila

 

“Aquino is entangled in his own web of lies. His desperate efforts anger the Filipino people further. Today we walkout against BS; no more lies, no more injustice, no more impunity,” he said.

Videos of the UP Diliman walkout can be viewed in the Anakbayan facebook page by clicking the following links:

(Photos and videos are from Anakbayan National Office)

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The Mining Act of 1995 is a long-wrought tragedy for indigenous peoples

The benefits of mining argued by mining corporations as compensatory for its immense social costs and environmental destruction is a lie. Mining corporations in collusion with the government paint a rosy picture of mining, insisting on “responsible mining” and “there is life in mining” yet its impacts on the environment and people, especially to the indigenous peoples, tell a different story.

The Mining Act of 1995 is a long-wrought tragedy to indigenous people. It worsens foreign-favored, one sided, anti-people policy of liberalization of the mining industry. It bridges and aggravates the centuries-old foreign plunder of resources in our lands. The Mining Act of 1995 worsens the oppressions against us.

As our ancestors did, we have valiantly defended our lands from the transgressions, and today we defend our land and life from liberalized mining. However, we found ourselves pitted against government forces as they play protector of large-scale mines. Deployment of military forces where there are large-scale mining interests are massive.

As if the massive deployment of military was not enough, the AFP recruits indigenous peoples to paramilitary groups. Reneging its campaign promise to dissolve paramilitary groups at the aftermath of the Ampatuan massacre, President BS Aquino beefs up the viciousness of its armed forces by allowing the formation of paramilitary groups and use them as pawns in counter-insurgency and as mining security. Under the BS Aquino presidency, 50 indigenous peoples, including 6 indigenous women and 6 indigenous children, were slain by the AFP and paramilitary groups.

The violation of human rights of indigenous peoples worsened as a result of mining and militarization. On October 18, 2012, member of the 26th Infantry Battalion strafed the home of Juvy Capion, a Blaan woman and one of the leaders of the Blaan people’s fight against the mining operations of SMI-Xstrata in their ancestral lands. The attack on their home killed and 8 months- pregnant Juvy, and her two young sons. Kitari Capion, Datu Anting Freay, and 16-year-old Victor Freay adds to the lists of Blaan people killed by suspected military forces in the SMI-Xstrata mining site between 2012 and 2013.

Military operations also caused the forced evacuation of communities. Thousands of indigenous peoples repeatedly evacuated in Surigao del Sur, agusan del Sur, Compostela Valley, and Bukidnon among others.

In tandem with violence, the government uses deception to facilatate the entry of mining outfits in ancestral lands. The connivance of the government and mining corporations is best exemplified by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP.) The NCIP is the lead agency in deceiving, manipulating, bribing and dividing indigenous peoples.

Instead of upholding IP rights and welfare against business interests, NCIP only negotiated in favor of the latter. The NCIP conducts “consultations” for mining outfits to fulfill the mandated Free Prior Informed Consent of indigenous communities. However, the FPIC process is riddled with issues of corruption, bribery, and coercion; and it has been used to legalize the entry of development projects in ancestral lands. The IPRA neither projects nor defends the rights of indigenous peoples to their lands and self-determination. It is tool of the State, deceptive and lethal, for plunder and exploitations of indigenous people’s lands.

The Mining Act of 1995, aided by the IPRA and strengthened BS Aquino’s very own EO 79 is a deadly combination for the rights of indigenous peoples to their lands and to self-determination.

For us indigenous peoples, the BS Aquino administration brings no respite from environmental destruction, human rights violations, repression, and oppressions similar to past regimes. Its continued implementation of the Mining Act of 1995 is a testament to this fact.