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Bishop seeks clemency for mother-son political prisoners

A bishop asked for executive clemency for two political detainees, mother and son Morita and Selman Alegre, after the death of their patriarch and fellow prisoner of conscience Jesus who died last June 13.

In a public appeal, San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza asked President Rodrigo Duterte and justice secretary Menardo Guevarra to grant clemency to both mother and son or for the review of their conviction.

“As the shepherd of the Diocese of San Carlos, which counts the late Jesus Alegre and his family among its members, I appeal to President Rodrigo Duterte and Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra to allow the widowed Morita and her son Selman to attend the wake and the June 30 funeral of their beloved Jesus, who had been separated from them by prison for the last 16 years,” the bishop also said.

READ: 2nd oldest political prisoner dies in detention

The prelate announced that the remains of Jesus would be flown to Bacolod city in accordance with his wife Morita’s wishes for a full body burial for him in their home town of Sagay City.

“Morita is now 74 years old, and she and her son Selman have earned, through more than 16 years of pain and suffering, the right to be set free and live their remaining years with their loved ones,” Alminaza said.

The bishop said he is convinced the Alegres were victims of injustice.

“Kapatid, a support organization of political prisoners in the country, has documented the Alegres’ case extensively and came up with the conclusion that the case against them was clearly false and fabricated,” he said.

“With his death, Jesus Alegre is now free at last from worldly greed, oppression and injustice. But his widow and son, both unjustly convicted and imprisoned for the last 16 years, continue to languish and suffer in separate jails,” he added.

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

Alminaza also appealed for the freedom of the many poor who are similarly situated as the Alegres.

“Land grabbing is an old and persistent problem in Negros where the wealthy and powerful families have used both private and government instrumentalities to defeat the poor’s rights over their small parcels of land,” he said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Baby of political prisoner couple dies

By Joseph Cuevas

An infant of a political prisoner couple died after being denied post natal care since birth, a human rights group reported.

Month-old Carlen, daughter of political prisoners Nona Espinosa and Adidas Acero, died last February 14 due to infection of the lungs and blood, Kabataan para sa Karapatan-Negros Oriental said.

Born last January with several health complications and a cleft-palate, Carlen was immediately separated from her mother after delivery through a cesarean section.

Espinosa was taken back to jail in Guihulngan City three days after giving birth in a local hospital and was denied the chance to give post natal baby care for her child.

Espinosa and Acero were among the nine peasant activists arrested last September 20 in Brgy. Buenavista in Guihulgan City. The police alleged the couple were high-ranking New People’s Army officials in Negros Island.

Kabataan para sa Karapatan said that Carlen’s health complications worsened because she was denied breast milk that would have strengthened her immunity system.

Carlen’s death followed that of River, child of political prisoner Reina Mae Nasino, whose internment last October became controversial after jail officers ran away with her remains, leading the grieving family in a bizarre chase all the way to the cemetery.

In May 2014, two day-old Diona Andrea died due to persistent pulmonary hypertension after a difficult pregnancy by her mother Andrea Rosal.

Rosal was arrested when she was seven months pregnant and repeatedly refused hospitalization despite health complaints.

Group calls for CHR probe

Political prisoners support group Kapatid called on the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to investigate Carlen’s death as infant deaths among political prisoner mothers are becoming serious concerns.

The group added that CHR should likewise look into the conditions of pregnant prisoners to see if the government is complying with the United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-Custodial Measures for Women Offenders.

“If this happened to the infants of Nona Espinosa and Reina Mae Nasino, what about other prisoners who also lost their newborn after being separated from them? There are stories in the dark that must come to light, but let the plight of baby Carlen and baby River remind the government of its obligation to prioritize the protection of the innocent,” Kapatid asked.

The group demanded that the government should grant liberties to pregnant detainees and allow them to care for their infants as “there are other custodial and judicial measures to enforce their appearance in court.”

Kapatid pointed out the importance of keeping mother and child together as breastfeeding is essential for survival, especially for those born with health concerns.

“While Carlen was born with a cleft palate, Nona Espinosa could have been able to give what her child needs had they not been separated too soon,” the group said.

 “It is clear that even when it was sickness that took their lives, it was the Duterte regime’s blatant violence against women and inhumane treatment of prisoners that killed Baby Carlen,” Kabataan para sa Karapatan-Negros Oriental added. #

Sea of white makes crusading Bishop’s heart grateful

San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza said his heart was filled with gratitude when he saw a sea of white as he celebrated Mass at the San Carlos Borromeo Cathedral last Christmas Eve and yesterday, Christmas day.

In response to his call that parishioners wear white during Masses on December 24 and 25 to demand for an end to extrajudicial killings in Negros Island, thousands of parishioners throughout the Diocese turned church pews to white, the fourth straight year they did so.

“I feel until now so much gratitude in my heart! For so many reasons, [including] that our people are still very much with us,” Alminaza told Kodao.

“We are very much in touch with our people and we truly express their deepest sentiments when we called on them to wear white as an act of solidarity and to express our desire for and commitment to peace, sanctity of life, human dignity and human rights, and our collective call to end the killings, COVID pandemic and abuse of our common home,” the prelate added.

Mass at San Carlos Borromeo Cathedral, San Carlos City, Neg. Occ. celebrated by Bishop Gerardo Alminaza. (Photo from the Bishop’s Facebook account)

Oplan Sauron

Towards the end of his homily at the funeral Mass for slain red-tagged community doctor Mary Rose Sancelan and husband Edwin last December 22, Alminaza again called on his Church’s faithful to collectively act for justice for the victims of extrajudicial killings in the island.

The Sancelans were shot to death by unidentified assassins at past five o’clock in the afternoon of December 15 near their home in Carmen Ville Subdivision, Barangay Poblacion, Guihulngan City.

Their assassination was the latest in a long list of extrajudicial killings in the island that included massacres of peasants and assassination of lawyers, activists, progressive politicians, dubious midnight raids that resulted in massacres in the past three years.

The Philippine National Police-Central Visayas’ counter-insurgency program Oplan Sauron has also resulted in mass arrests of workers, journalists and human rights defenders.

Sancelan, Guihulgan City health officer and Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) chief, was previously included in the hit list of the anti-communist vigilante group Kawsa Guihulnganon Batok Komunista (Kagubak) in 2019.

Kagubak mistakenly named her as JB Regalado, Central Negros New People’s Army spokesperson.

Sancelan was among the five in the Kagubak hit list who have since been killed, including lawyer Anthony Trinidad, Heidi Malalay Flores, and Boy Litong and his son.

Mass at the St Anthony De Padua Parish Church, Toboso, Negros Occidental, ked by Fr, Martin Brodit. (Photo from Bishop Alminaza’s FB account)

Right values

But Alminaza expressed gratitude that the faithful of his Diocese “have not lost yet [their] right values and priorities : sanctity of life, human dignity and human rights, integrity of creation, solidarity. “

The prelate said the Diocese’s display of solidarity proved that it is “a listening Church.”

“I also feel affirmed, very happy, inspired and encouraged. It shows the collective efforts of everyone: our priests, religious, and lay faithful,” he said.

Alminaza said he witnessed how the members of the diocese reminded each other through text and personal message before they left their homes to wear white in accordance with his request.

“I witnessed how we all feel so empowered that we are all in this together! Our message is CLEAR: #WearWhiteForPEACE #StopTheKillingsPH #DefendLifeAndRights #SilenceKills #Justiceforallvictims #CareForThePoor #CareForOurCommonHome,” he said.

Christmas Eve Vigil Mass at Nuestra Señora de las Flores Mission Station, Brgy Masulog, Canlaon City. (Photo fro, Bishop Alminaza’s FB account)

Mixed emotions

Alminaza however revealed that while his brother priests were mostly happy to see a sea of white during the Masses, one told him he felt angry because of the continuing incidence of extrajudicial killings in Negros and throughout the country.

But the Bishop said that the priests of his diocese mostly felt happy with the response of the faithful.

“I feel further affirmed when another (priest) also shared, ‘Personally, I felt joy because I saw the lay faithful listening and participating and cooperating in our various advocacy and diocesan pastoral concerns, particularly our collective call to end the killings, commitment to peace, sanctity of life, and others,’” he said.

Another priest told him the people’s response has become a powerful symbol of the diocese’s collective awareness about the social realities the Church is faced with, the Bishop said.

The priest added he felt challenged not to get discouraged or remain in the sidelines because the people look up to [the Church] for guidance especially at this time.

Mass at St. Joseph Parish, Sagay City. (Photo from Bishop Alminaza’s FB account)

Bell ringing to continue

Alminaza told Kodao that the nightly 8 PM ringing of church bells throughout the Diocese will continue this Christmas [season], “and beyond until the killings stop.”

“The bells are intended to prick the conscience of those who move in our midst and exact evil in killing hapless civilians; they must turn from their wicked ways,” he said.

“The bells ring as a soothing reminder to families who have been victimized that we are with them in their grief. Most importantly, they are a clarion call to our people that we must rise and pursue justice and peace!” Alminaza added.

The Bishop said he is asking the vigilante group Kagubak to stop terrorizing the people in Guihulngan with a list of those to be killed. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Christmas and Fiesta Mass at the Holy Family Chaplaincy, Central Lopez, Sagay City. (Photo from Bishop Alminaza’s FB account)
Christmas Eve Mass at St. John Mary Vianney Seminary College, Inc., San Carlos City  ·(Photo from Bishop Alminaza’s FB account)

Bishop calls on faithful to wear white to end extrajudicial killings in Negros

A Roman Catholic Bishop appealed to members of his diocese to wear white when they hear Mass on December 24 and 25 as well as on December 31 and January 1 to demand for an end to extrajudicial killings in Negros.

Towards the end of his homily at the funeral Mass for slain red-tagged community doctor Mary Rose Sancelan and husband Edwin in Guihulgan City, Tuesday, December 22, San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza called on his Church’s faithful to collectively act for justice for the victims of extrajudicial killings in the island.

“As your Bishop, I encourage you all who will come for Mass to wear white on Christmas eve (December 24) and Christmas day (December 25), as well as on new year’s eve (December 31) and new year’s day (January 1) – Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God and 54th World Day of Peace, both are Holy Days of Obligation – to express our desire for and commitment to peace, sanctity of life, human dignity and human rights and our collective call to end the killings,  the Covid pandemic and abuse of our common home,” Alminaza said.

Alminaza called for justice for the doctor and her husband who were shot dead at past five o’clock in the afternoon of December 15 near their home in Carmen Ville Subdivision, Barangay Poblacion, Guihulngan City.

Sancelan, Guihulgan City health officer and Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) chief, was previously included in the hit list of the anti-communist vigilante group Kawsa Guihulnganon Batok Komunista (Kagubak) in 2019.

Kagubak mistakenly named her as JB Regalado, Central Negros New People’s Army spokesperson.

Sancelan was among the five in the Kagubak hit list who have since been killed, including lawyer Anthony Trinidad, Heidi Malalay Flores, and Boy Litong and his son.

All victims have sought police assistance and protection against the vigilante group after the list has been made public, to no avail.

The Philippine National Police promised before a Senate inquiry last August 28, 2019 that it will conduct investigations on Kagubak.

“Dr. Mary Rose Sancelan feared her death, apprehensive that the hit list of KAGUBAK would soon be realized. These were her words last year: ‘I felt helpless and paranoid when I go out to work. Of course we are afraid to die…’”–Bishop Gerardo Alminaza (Photo of the Sanselan couple’s funeral Mass from the Bishop’s Facebook account)

“Our beloved martyr, Dr. Mary Rose, took eight bullets on our behalf,” Alminaza said, adding that Sancelan dedicated her life to end both the Covid pandemic and “the pandemic of injustice.”

“Committed to social justice, she tirelessly and prophetically spoke against human rights violations, militarization, and the political imbalance in our locality—consistently insisting on the need to address the roots of our social crisis to achieve just peace,” he said.

The prelate asked that for awareness-raising purposes and as display of solidarity that parishioners take photographs of themselves in white as they did last year.

He also announced that the ringing of church bells at eight o’clock every night throughout the Diocese shall continue to call to an end to the killings in Negros that human rights groups said are perpetrated by suspected state agents. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Singil

(Alay kay Zara Alvarez)

Ni George Tumaob Calaor

Basa pa sa dugo

ni Ka Randall

ang iyong

mga kamay

labi niyay kamakailan lang hinimlay.

ngunit hayan!

Si Ka Zara naman

ang iyong pinaslang!

Oo nga’t muling magluluksa’t

hihibik ang Inang Bayan

at sa luhang

kanyang ipapatak

sa bawat buhay

na marahas mong

ibinaon sa hukay

ng pagkaganid mo’t

pagkagahaman

sa kapangyarihan

buntis na magluluwal

ang kanilang mga burol

sa daang libong mga kawal…

hustisya ay buong giting kakamitin!

At mula sa trono ng diktadurya mong

nanlilimahid sa dahas ng pagkapasista

paghahari mo ay mabubuwal!

Laya ng Bayan ay lubos nang itatanghal!

Bishop grieves for slain Church and rights worker

San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza expressed grief at the brutal murder of church worker and human rights defender Zara Alvarez in Bacolod City Monday night, August 17, calling the victim his “dear little child of struggle.”

“I bleed of this never-ending injustice and violence, someone closest in my work with the oppressed is murdered. I just cannot believe this continuing madness of senseless killings!” Alminaza said in a statement.

“These systemic killings of human rights defenders and activists must be condemned and must stop! Our responsible agencies must pursue justice and accountability on those responsible and should never allow impunity of criminals doing senseless executions of Filipinos!” the Bishop cried.

Alvarez, a victim of terrorist-tagging by the Rodrigo Duterte government, was shot to death while on her way home. She was 39 years old and survived by an 11-year old daughter.

Alminaza said the victim was tagged as a terrorist in a case filed before the Department of Justice in 2018. Her name was eventually deleted from the list but she continued to receive death threats from suspected state forces.

The prelate said the threats has resulted in Alvarez’s violent death “widely deemed as another case of extrajudicial killing, in pursuance of the state’s anti-terrorism campaign.”

“Zara is a human rights champion in the Negros island, an activist, organizer and ecumenical church worker. Her active involvement in the Church People -Workers Solidarity is worthy of emulation – always reminding us to be prophetic in our work of evangelization and social justice,” Alminaza described the victim.

A very personal tribute

In his statement, the Bishop recalled the victim’s “brave words” in an interview by UCANEWS in 2019, saying that because of her work of pursuing justice for the victims of human rights violations, “receiving death threats has already become one small part of [their] work…”

“Just last night, Zara Alvarez took the bullets from her assassin. Those who wanted to silence a woman of dedicated service for the poor, yes, they murdered her,” he said.

The Bishop further wrote:

“Zara, they imprisoned you of fabricated charges; yet, you were declared innocent by the court.

“Zara, they are afraid of you; though a petite woman yet capable of condemning injustice and ever-ready to organize farmers, peasants, workers, jeepney drivers and even church people.

“Zara, they took your life, believing that they can silence the cause you are fighting for… But no, Zara, your martyrdom in the cause for justice will inspire us to advance the cry for justice – the cry of the oppressed.

“Zara, you are a courageous witness in the cause for social justice.

“As you said: I cannot leave everything behind while everyone I know is being killed…’”

The Bishop, who last year ordered the nightly ringing of all church bells in his diocese and issuing an oratio imperata to call for an end to the killings of farmers and activists in Negros Island, also said he is grateful for having known the victim.

“I thank the Lord for knowing you, Zara, my dear little child of struggle. I promise to ever continue our work in the service of God’s poor. You inspired me in many ways to be a pastor of the anawim of God’s kingdom,” he said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NPA celebrates 51st anniversary with mass health campaign

The New People’s Army celebrated its 51st founding anniversary today, Sunday, March 29, by mobilizing its forces to fight the corona virus disease (Covid-19) pandemic, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) said.

“In its message to the NPA, the CPP Central Committee directed the NPA to mark this day by reaffirming its pledge to serve the people by mobilizing its forces, together with the revolutionary mass organizations, in a public health campaign to prevent the spread of Covid-19.,” the CPP’s Information Bureau said in a statement.

The CPP directed the NPA, especially its medical units, to carry out the campaign in coordination with revolutionary village health committees to help contain the disease, give special attention to the elderly and pregnant women, help care those who have been infected and promote personal hygiene and community sanitation,” the statement reads.

A face mask serves as a precaution against the corona virus, a disguise, and a placard for this NPA fighter. (Photo by Nonoy Espina)

In addition, the CPP directed its members in the cities to carry out similar mass campaigns, while raising demands for mass testing and other public health measures.

“In fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, the Filipino people must draw lessons and inspiration from the victories and achievements they have accumulated through collective action,” the CPP said.

The CPP also pointed out that the Filipino must take action and resist what it calls “repressive measures” adopted by the Rodrigo Duterte government to control the spread of Covid-19.

It also urged Filipinos to “raise their call for the president’s ouster to make him answer for his criminal sabotage of the public health care system.”

The CPP called on the Filipino people to surmount the Covid-19 pandemic by acting as one, “as they have achieved numerous victories in their revolutionary struggle for national and social liberation.”

Celebration in Negros

In Negros Island, the Apolinario Gatmaitan Command (AGC) of the NPA today celebrated the guerrilla army’s anniversary with a program.

AGC-NPA spokesperon Juanito Magbanua. (Photo by Nonoy Espina)

The event was marked by the presence of AGC spokesperson Juanito Magbanua, one of the high profile guerrilla leaders in the island.

Speeches and a cultural program were presented during the celebration.

A New People’s Army guerrilla reads from “Ispading,” the Negros rebels’ cultural publication. (Photo by Nonoy Espina)

Both the NPA and the Duterte government are currently on ceasefire after each party declared their respective unilateral truce orders to allow both of their forces to respond to the Covid-19 emergency throughout the country. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

A Red fighters walks past the makeshift “stage” in the NPA’s celebration of its 51st founding anniversary today in Negros Island. (Photo by Nonoy Espina)
NPA fighters in Negros Island celebrate their army’s 51st founding anniversary. (Photo by Nonoy Espina)

Kwento ng ina ng inarestong menor de edad sa Bacolod

Ibinahagi ni Jingjing (hindi tunay na pangalan) ng kanyang karanasan matapos hulihin ang kanyang 15 anyos na anak habang nag-eensayo para sa isang pagtatanghal. Kasama ang kanyang anak sa 57 na dinakip sa ginawang raid ng mga pulis at sundalo noong Oktubre 31 sa Bacolod City na ayon sa mga progresibong grupo ay malaking crackdown ng gubyerno laban sa mga aktibista.

Nagbigay-payo din sa mga kabataan at magulang si Jingjing na lubos ang pagsuporta sa ginagawa ng anak sa na kasapi ng isang pang-kulturang grupo. (Background music: Lovers by David Fesliyan Salin ni: Reylan Vergara/ Karapatan Bidyo ni: Joseph Cuevas/ Kodao)

Senate unanimously opposes sugar liberalization

By Visayas Today

The Senate has unanimously opposed the executive branch’s plan to liberalize the sugar industry and will conduct an investigation, in aid of legislation, into the matter.

Senate Resolution 213, introduced by Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, said the planned inquiry is aimed at “safeguarding the welfare of 84,000 sugar farmers and 720,000 industry workers in 20 provinces of the country.”

It noted that liberalizing the sugar industry would be “irrelevant and very untimely” since the Sugar Industry Development Act of 2015 “is barely four years in effect, and much of the programs and projects it envisions to implement for the development of the sugar industry are not yet fully realized.”

In a statement, Zubiri acknowledged the role of the industry alliance Tatak Kalamay for raising the issue and prodding him to rally his fellow senators against the plan.

“They (the senators) heard Tatak Kalamay’s plea and for as long as we are in the Senate, we assure you of our support and protection and we also urge the economic managers to conduct proper consultation before announcing such plans,” he said.

Zubiri urged government economic managers to abandon plans to liberalize sugar and instead “help us by ensuring the restoration of the full SIDA budget in order to make our industry competitive globally.” #

Mga inaresto sa Bacolod, lalo pang pinahirapan matapos dakpin

Isinalaysay ni Jefer Alipo-on, 23 anyos, ang kanilang naging karanasan nang sila ay inaresto noong Oktubre 31 sa ginawang raid ng mga pulis sa opisina ng Bayan Muna sa Bacolod City. Isiniwalat ni Alipo-on sa bidyo na ito ang karagdagang tortyur sa kanila ng mga pulis matapos silang dakpin.

Matapos ang halos isang linggo, isa si Jefer sa nakalayang 11 miyembro ng Teatro Obrero, kasama ang 21 na mga manggagawa ng Ceres Bus Line noong Nobyembre 6. Subalit mayroon pang siyam na nakakulong at sinampahan ng anila’y gawa-gawang kaso na iligal na pag-iingat ng baril at granada. (Music: Tangerine Dream Valley of Sun Bidyo ni: Joseph Cuevas/ Kodao)