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Ulat sa isinagawang national solidarity at fact-finding mission sa Negros

Nagsagawa ng National Solidarity and Fact Finding Mission ang mga progresibong grupo sa naganap na pagsalakay sa mga opisina ng mga organisasyon at pag-aresto sa 57 na aktibista sa Negros noong Oktubre 31.

Pinuntahan nila ang mga opisina ng Bayan Muna, National Federation of Sugar Workers, Gabriela, Anakpawis at Kilusang Mayo Uno sa Bacolod City. Binisita din nila ang bahay ni Makabayan Negros coordinator Romulo Bito-on Jr. na isa rin sa inaresto ng mga pulis at militar.

Nalaman nila na maraming iregularidad sa mga ginawang raid gayundin ang ilegal na pagtanim ng mg baril at granada para makulong ang mga nasabing aktibista. Nakalaya ang 21 na manggagawa ng Ceres Bus Line at 11 miyembro ng Teatro Obrero matapos i-utos ng Prosecutors Office na walang basehan ang kaso para sa kanila.

Sa ngayon ay 13 pa ang nakakulong kung saan 9 ang kinasuhan ng illegal possession of firearms and explosives. (Background Music For Videos TV and Radio – by AShamaluevMusic Bidyo ni: Joseph Cuevas/ Kodao)

32 nabbed in Bacolod raids freed

By Visayas Today

In what human rights advocates said was a clear victory and an indictment of government’s ham-fisted efforts to stifle dissent, 32 of 57 persons arrested and detained following simultaneous raids on what authorities claimed were communist rebel safehouses in Bacolod City on October 31 were released on Wednesday, November 6, after prosecutors cleared them.

Those who walked out of detention at the Negros Occidental Provincial Police Office were 21 laid-off workers of Vallacar Transit Inc., which operates the Cere Bus line, and 11 members of the cultural group Teatro Obrero.

All of them were arrested at the office of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan in Barangay Bata where authorities claimed to have recovered 32 guns.

A number of minors who were also rehearsing with Teatro Obrero at the Bayan office had been released earlier.

Wednesday’s releases left only 11 persons in detention and facing criminal prosecution.

Seven of them are charged for non-bailable offenses:
1. Cheryl Catalogo
2. Karina Mae Dela Cerna
3. Albert Dela Cerna
4. Noly Rosales
5. Proceso Quiatzon
6. Romulo Bito-on
7. Mermalyn Bito-on

The Bito-on couple, who were nabbed during a raid on their home, are accused of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

The others, who were arrested in the raid on the Bayan office, were charged with illegal possession of multiple firearms.

Those charged with illegal possession of firearms, a bailable offense, are:
1. Anne Krueger
2. John Milton Lozande
3. Danilo Tabora
4. Roberto Lachica

Krueger, a community journalist from alternative media outfit Paghimutad, was arrested at the Bacolod office of women’s organization Gabriela, from where authorities claimed to have recovered two .38 caliber revolver and ammunition.

Lozande, secretary general of the National Federation of Sugar Workers, was also nabbed at the Bayan office, while Tabora and Lachica were at the NFSW office when it was raided.

Aside from the firearms and explosives charges, Lozande, Rosales, the Dela Cernas, who are father and daughter, Catalogo and Quiatzon are also set to be charged for human trafficking.

Immediately after the raids, a joint military and police operation under the Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, the Army proclaimed a major victory and predicted the imminent destruction of the communist rebel movement on Negros.

The military had also claimed the offices of the organizations that were raided, particularly the Bayan office which occupies a large compound, were training facilities where the rebels were supposedly molding “child warriors.”

However, the organizations, all tagged as rebel “fronts,” denied the accusation and insisted the guns and explosives supposedly seized had been planted.

It turned out the laid-off Ceres workers were consulting Rosales, who heads the Kilusang Mayo Uno labor union, about their dismissal from work.

Members of the cultural group Teatro Obrero march out of the Negros Occidental Provincial Police Office where they had been detained since October 31, when they were arrested during simultaneous raids on the offices of activist organizations in Bacolod City. (Visayas Today photo)

The Teatro Obrero members, on the other hand, were rehearsing for a play, “Papa Isio,” about the legendary hero of the revolution against Spain and the war against the American colonizers, which they were supposed to have presented on November 5, which commemorates the liberation of Negros from the Spaniards.

Former Bayan Muna representative and Bacolod native Neri Colmenares, who visited the detainees with Representatives Carlos Isagani Zarate of Bayan Muna and Arelen Brosas of Gabriela Women’s Party, said he expected the release of the 32 detainees to substantially weaken the cases against the remaining 11.

“The release of the majority of the people arrested during the raids essentially means that the charges against them are not true,” he explained.

Incidentally, it took them more than two hours, or close to the end of visiting hours at 5 p.m., to gain access to the detainees and escort those to be released out of Camp Alfredo Montelibano Sr. after police guards refused them entry, saying they were under orders from Col. Romeo Baleros, the provincial director.

Lawyer Joemax Ortiz, counsel of the laid off transport workers, slammed authorities for arresting and forcing them to “go through the inconvenience of proving their innocence” when “they should have been released then and there because they were clearly innocent.”

Progressive groups said the Bacolod raids and the arrest of other activists in Manila signaled the start of a widespread crackdown on legal dissenters and critics of government. #

Pag-aresto sa maraming aktibista, kinondena

Mariing kinundena ng Bagong Alyansang Makabayan at iba pang aktibistang organisasyon ang pag-aresto sa mga kapwa nilang aktibista sa Lungsod ng Bacolod at Maynila kamakailan.

Nagprotesta sa harapan ng Camp Crame ang mga aktibista upang ipanawagan ang agarang pagpapalaya sa 57 indibidwal na anila’y iligal na inaresto. (Bidyo ni Jek Alcaraz/Kodao)

‘Hindi lakas kundi kahinaan’

Hinggil sa pag-aresto sa mga sibilyan sa Bacolod: “Hindi pagpapakita ng lakas kundi kahinaan at desperasyon ng gubyernong Duterte itong ginagawa niya.”–Satur Ocampo, Bayan Muna

21 sacked Ceres workers among Bacolod raid detainees – Bayan

By Visayas Today

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It also noted the similarities in the operations:

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

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

KMP: Guns, grenade in Bacolod raids are from the police

The firearms and explosives the Philippine National Police (PNP) said it confiscated from its raids of offices of activist organizations in Bacolod City Thursday night are recycled from their old anti-loose firearms operations, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said.

“The loose firearms are from their own ‘Tokhang Kontra Guinadili-an nga Pusil’ that were rounded in previous police operations,” KMP chairperson Danilo Ramos said in a statement, adding the “planting” of evidence is an old trick in the government’s playbook of political repression.

“Matagal nang ginagawa ng pulis itong tanim baril, tanim ebidensya,”  Ramos said. (The police had long been known to plant guns, plant evidence.)

Ramos pointed out to the video posted by community journalist Anne Krueger before she herself was arrested as proof the guns and grenades were from the composite police and military raiding teams.

In the video, Krueger, who was then at the Gabriela office, and a companion could be heard saying they do not own the bag police operatives said were found in a dark corner of the office’s backyard.

“We just cleaned that area and this is the first time we are seeing that bag. That is not ours, that is yours,” the unidentified Gabriela member said in the video.

Buking na buking na ang pulis at militar sa mga pagtatanim nila ng mga baril at ebidensya,” Ramos said in his statement. (The police and the military are notorious for planting guns as so-called evidence.)

The Bacolod PNP said it seized 14 caliber .45 pistols, nine caliber .38 revolvers, and a hand grenade from the local offices of Kilusang Mayo Uno, Gabriela, and Anakpawis in Barangay Bata, and two other offices, including the one occupied by the National Federation of Sugar Workers in Barangay 33.

“It was CIDG operatives who brought and planted the pistols, revolvers, submachine guns, ammo magazines, and live bullets. The Bacolod City Police Office and the PNP Regional Office-7 have an armory of almost 10,000 old and rusty firearms that they usually recycle for planting of evidences,” Ramos added.

Presidential Communications and Operations Office secretary Martin Andanar meanwhile defended the police and the military, denying the guns and grenade were planted.

“We assert that any allegations that the raids conducted were a form of harassment are simply false and we have hard evidence secured to prove our argument,” Andanar added.

Bayan Muna Party however said the judge who issued the search warrant used in the Bacolod raids must publicize her special docket book to prove that court procedures were strictly followed.

Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate pointed out that while Manila and Quezon City (QC) executive judges are authorized to issue warrants upon application by the PNP and the National Bureau of Investigation, the applications “shall be personally endorsed by the heads of such agencies.”

“Did the OIC PNP Chief endorse it? Under the rules the judge must ensure that the application is endorsed by the head of agency, otherwise she would be violating the rules for issuing the warrant,” Zarate asked.

Bayan Muna chairperson Neri Colmenares also pointed that the executive judges “shall keep a special docket book listing names of Judges to whom the applications are assigned, the details of the applications and the results of the searches and seizures made pursuant to the warrants issued.”

“We are calling on the Supreme Court, especially Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta, to review the actions of the QC RTC Judge, and for the Supreme Court to provide mechanisms to discipline judges who abuse legal processes and merely accede to baseless applications for search warrant by state forces,” Colmenares said.

Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert of Branch 89 of the Regional Trial Court in Quezon City issued the search warrants. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Bacolod raids and arrests are Espenido’s handiwork—farmers

The mass arrest of 62 civilians, including three minors, and the raid on three offices in Bacolod City last Thursday, October 31 are the handiwork of controversial police officer Jovie Espenido, a farmers’ group reported.

“A real-life horror story is unfolding in Bacolod City and it is orchestrated by evil incarnate Lt. Col. Jovie Espenido – the newly-installed newly assigned deputy city director for operations of Bacolod City Police Office (BCPO). These vile acts attacking civil liberties deliberately intend to sow terror and fear across Bacolod City and Negros island anew,” Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) chairperson Danilo Ramos said.

KMP’s reaction came after combined police and military operatives simultaneously raided the office of the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW), Bayan Muna and Gabriela starting at five o’clock Thursday afternoon and arrested the activists.

Those hauled to the city police station included six minors the authorities allege are undergoing “training and “indoctrination”.

The police said several firearms and grenades were reportedly recovered during the raids on the offices as well as in the home of Bayan Muna’s Romulo Bito-on and his wife Mermalyn, who were both arrested.

All three organizations have long been openly red-baited by the police and the military of being “legal fronts” of the communist movement.

The KMP however said the raids are “real-life horrors” that only add up to “the long list of state-sponsored atrocities under Memorandum Order No. 32.”

President Rodrigo Duterte issued MO 32 in November 2018 ordering more military and police troops in three regions including Negros.

Recently, the controversial Espenido, alleged to have ordered the bloody July 2017 raid in Ozamiz City that killed Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog and his wife and 13 other persons, was assigned to Bacolod City.

A few days ago, Espenido said “it would be God’s will if blood would flow in Bacolod City” in the course of his anti-drugs and anti-criminality campaign.

“The conduct of these mass raids was clearly illegal and unjust that the raiding teams had to come up with preposterous accusations that the civilians were allegedly conducting firearms and explosives training in the offices. Napakasinungaling ng mga pulis at militar,” Ramos said. (The police and the military are such liars.)

“These attacks happened with the knowledge and authorization of President Rodrigo Duterte. This is de facto martial law creeping in Negros Island and the rest of the country,” Ramos added.

‘Gestapo-like raid’

Other human rights groups and some of those apprehended denied the accusations they were rebels and said the weapons had been “planted.”

A video taken of the search at the nearby office of Gabriela showed a police officer inspecting a revolver and ammunition taken from a backpack at a corner of the yard.

Among those arrested were known activist leaders John Milton Lozande and Danny Tabura of the NFSW, Proceso Quiatchon of the human rights group Karapatan, Nilo Rosales and Aldrin de Cerna of the Kilusang Mayo Uno.

Lozande said the raiders held them for around an hour and then he was called to a house in the compound and showed “an obviously planted” gun supposedly found in his bag.

Nine other persons were arrested at the Gabriela office and two more from the NFSW.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said among those arrested at the Gabriela office was Anne Krueger of the newly established alternative media outfit Paghimutad, which has been covering social issues, including extrajudicial killings and other human rights abuses.

They were all taken to the Negros Occidental Provincial Police Office.

Interestingly, the raids were covered by search warrants issued by Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert of Branch 89 of the Regional Trial Court in Quezon City.

Karapatan, in a statement, called this suspicious and said this was reminiscent of the Oplan Sauron 2 operations in Negros Oriental in March, which were covered by search warrants issued in Cebu City.

Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate also condemned the “dastardly Gestapo-like raid … simultaneously conducted by state forces against the offices of Bayan Muna, Gabriela and NFSW in Bacolod, Negros Occidental.”

He noted that the raids were conducted “at night before a long weekend so as to ensure that the courts are closed tomorrow so that the planted pieces evidence and subsequent trumped-up charges filed cannot immediately be challenged.”

Karapatan called the raids part of a “full-blown crackdown on activists and red-tagged legal organizations,” noting that earlier in the day, police arrested Cora Agovida, the Metro Manila chairperson of Gabriela, and her husband Mickael Tan Bartolome of the urban poor group Kadamay, and claimed a .45 caliber pistol and two grenades were seized from their home.

However, Pancito told media the raids, which he described as “part of cutting the source of manpower to Red areas,” or territory were the rebels operate, would prove to be a “big blow to the Red fighters of the New People’s Army” and would “trigger the downfall” of the insurgency on Negros. # (Raymund B. Villanueva, with reports by Visayas Today)

Pang-aagaw sa Gunita: Ilang tala hinggil sa 34th Escalante Massacre Commemoration

ni Rogene A. Gonzales

Salamat sa Sama-samang Artista para sa Kilusang Agraryo (SAKA), Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), at Defend Negros #StopTheKillings Network, nagkaroon ako ng pagkakataong makibahagi sa 34th Escalante Massacre Commemoration (EscaM) sa Negros Occidental noong Setyembre 18-21. Matinding militarisasyon ang kinakaharap ng isla matapos tinatayang labing-isang batalyon ng Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) ang ipinakat doon ng Malacañang sa pinabangong kampanya na Executive Order 72 o “Whole of Nation Approach.” Bago ito, inilabas din ang mga direktibang Synchronized Enhanced Managing of Police Operations (SEMPO) 1 at SEMPO 2, at ang Memorandum Order (MO) 32 o Oplan Sauron na itinuturong dahilan sa pag-akyat ng bilang ng sibilyang pinaslang sa lugar sa katwirang “War on Drugs.”

Karamihan sa 87 na pinatay tokhang-style ng estado ay mga aktibista at miyembro ng mga progresibong grupo. Kabilang na sa mga naging biktima sina Benjamin Ramos, human rights lawyer na aktibong tumutulong sa mga land dispute case, at Bernardino “Toto” Patigas, city councilor ng Escalante at miyembro ng Bayan Muna at  North Negros Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (NNAHRA). Sunod-sunod ang masaker ng mga magbubukid sa Negros gaya ng Sagay 9 at Negros 14, pawang mga koordinadong death squads ang itinuturong salarin ng mga nakasaksi. Pinakamasaklap na sa mga balita ang pagkakapatay sa isang taong gulang na sanggol dahil sa indiscriminate firing ng mga pulis at militar noong July 25, 2019 sa bayan ng Sta. Catalina.

Bandang 3:30 p.m. ng Setyembre 18 sinalubong kami ng balita na tinamnan ng mga armas ang jeep ng Mobile Propaganda Team ng Teatro Obrero at NFSW na abala sa pag-iimbita sa mga bayan-bayan para sa 34th EscaM.

***

Tatlong oras ang inabot ng biyahe patungong Escalante mula Bacolod lulan ng ordinary bus. Ang pag-aakala kong saglit na bakasyon ay napalitan agad ng takot at pangamba pagkarating doon. Ilang minuto bago makatapak sa tutuluyang opisina ng National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) ay iligal na inaresto at ikinulong ang walong indibidwal na aktibo sa paghahanda para sa 34th EscaM. Sa pangunguna ng 79th Infantry Batallion ng Philippine Army at Philippine National Police, tinaniman ng gawa-gawang kasong illegal possession of firearms and explosives ang tinaguriang Escalante 8—apat dito ay kabataang miyembro ng Teatro Obrero na sina Kenneth Serondo, Carlo Apurado, Rolly Hernando, at Reynaldo Saura; tatlong miyembro ng NFSW na sina Leon Charita, Joel Guillero, at Benvenido Ducay; kasama si Aiza Orbesa ng KADAMAY-Negros.

Noong Setyembre 20, 1985 naganap ang Escalante Massacre na nag-ambag sa nalikhang pampublikong disgusto sa diktadura ni Ferdinand Marcos hanggang sa kanyang ganap na ouster noong Pebrero 1986. Ang tatlong araw na welgang bayan sa Northern Negros na nilahukan ng libo-libo laban sa Batas Militar at lumalalang pyudal na pagsasamantala sa isla ay sinagot ng estado ng pagpapaulan ng mga bala gamit ang grupong para-militar na kumitil sa 21 sibilyan, karamihan ay mga magbubukid, kabilang ang mga kabataang-magbubukid at kabataan-estudyante. Mula noon, ginugunita ng mga mamamayan ng Escalante ang anibersaryo ng malagim na trahedyang sumapit sa kanilang mga kababayan: taon-taon naglulunsad ng martsa at programa sa plaza na kinaroroonan ng isang rebulto ng tatlong nakakuyom na mga kamao at nagsisilbing palatandaan ng massacre site. Taon-taon ding itinatanghal ng Teatro Obrero ang reenactment ng masaker upang ipaalala ang tunay na diwa ng pagsingil ng hustisya at ang pagkakaugat ng dugo sa nagpapatuloy na laban para sa lupa.

Isang insulto kung gayon ang fabricated charges na isinampa ng AFP sa Escalante 8 na higit isang buwan nang nakakulong sa Escalante Police Station. Bago nangyari ang iligal na pag-aresto, napabalitang nagbahay-bahay ang mga sundalo at lantarang nire-red tag ang Teatro Obrero na supporter umano ng New People’s Army (NPA) at upang mag-imbita sa isasagawa nilang “Northern Negros Peace Summit” katuwang ang lokal na sangay ng Department of Education sa kaparehong petsa ng 34th EscaM: Setyembre 17–20. Sa loob ng kanilang programa ay inimbitahan ang mga batikang artista at musikero, ang ilan ay progresibo pa nga ang postura. Namataan din ang kilalang aktres na asawa ng kongresista sa Negros Occidental, nakikilahok sa aktibidad. Kinopya ng summit ang mga bahagi ng EscaM na naglalayong ipaalala ang karahasan at pananagutan ng estado gaya ng reenactment ng nangyari sa trahedya subalit nilalayon ng aktibidad ay pawang historical revisionism. Sa dulo ng summit ay nakatakda pang maglabas ng mga “Statement of Apology” mula sa Local Government Unit (LGU), AFP, PNP at “rebel returnee.” Ayon sa mga grupong nag-oorganisa ng tunay na EscaM, natatangi ang commemoration ngayong taon dahil sa kawalan ng suporta ng LGU, kasabay ang pagtindi ng klima ng pampulitikang panunupil dulot ng MO 32.

Ang Northern Negros Peace Summit ang ipinantapat ng LGU sa 34th EscaM, kapansin-pansin na ginawa itong piyestang pang-deodorize sa reputasyon ng AFP-PNP.

***

Matapos ang ibinigay naming workshop para sa pagsusulat at pagpipinta para sa mga kabataan, nakatanggap ang halos lahat ng nasa opisina ng text blast mula sa isang ‘di kilalang numero ngunit nakapangalan bilang “MalacaNang.” Mahaba ang mensahe na nagpapaliwanag hinggil sa kawalang-saysay umano ng pakikibaka ng mga magbubukid. Sinasabi nito na sa halip na manindigan para sa libreng pamamahagi ng lupa ay magbayad na lamang upang makuha nila ang Certificate of Land Ownership o CLOA. Ang pinaka-mapanganib sa mga detalyeng ipinapakalat: binabansagan ang Teatro Obrero bilang tumutulong sa mga NPA. “May pag-asa pa, kung gusto ninyo na magbago sa inyong buhay, mabibigyan kayo ng pagkakataon sa mga programa ng gobyerno. Itext lang ang number na ito…” pagtatapos ng mensahe. Pinayuhan kaming huwag nang lumabas ng opisina noong hapong iyon dahil namataan ang maraming sundalo na nakapuwesto sa mga kanto.

Sa press release ng 3rd Infantry Division at 303rd Infantry Brigade, 2,510 na mga dating rebelde ang sumuko umano sa peace summit. Pinabulaanan ito ng mga taong-simbahan sa pangunguna nina Carmelite priest Fr. Gilbert Billena at Religious Brothers Tagoy Jakosalem at Simon Peter Jardinico sa pagsasabing “distortion of historical truths” ang ginagawa ng mga pulis at militar sa Escalante. Anila, peke ang iprinesenta sa media na mga surrenderee, at ang katotohanan, sila ay mga “law-abiding citizens or hacienda workers; pressured to claim as NPA members or supporters. And for publicity purposes in favor of the government.” Ipinapanawagan din ng mga pari ang kagyat na pagre-resume ng peace talks upang mabunot ang ugat ng armadong tunggalian sa bansa, at matigil ang militarisasyong nagpapalikas sa mga rural na residente at pumapatay sa mga lider at miyembro ng people’s organizations.

Ramdam ang tensiyon sa opisina ng NFSW, lalo na sa mga nanay na sumusuporta sa pagtatanghal ng kanilang anak sa EscaM. Si Nanay Ester, ina ni Carlo Apurado na isa sa Escalante 8, ilang beses na ring nagpapabalik-balik para maki-update. Malungkot at tulala siya palagi dahil sa nangyari. “Hindi nila alam ang pakiramdam ng isang ina,” sabi niya minsan, habang nangingilid ang luha sa kanyang pisngi. Matinding bagabag ang nararanasan ng mga komunidad mula noong nagkaroon ng malawakang militarisasyon sa Negros. Tila lalong dumidilim ang gabi dahil sa mga nakaumang na baril.


Paghahasik ng malisya sa 34th EscaM ang pakay ng textblast mula sa isang “MalacaNang” hinggil sa layunin ng Teatro Obrero at ilang paglilinaw umano sa pakikibaka para sa lupa. Binanggit din ang “MKLRP” sa mensahe.

Dahil sa panganib na nilikha ng insidente ng pagtanim-armas, napagpasyahang iatras ang torch parade na ilulunsad dapat sa massacre site sa bisperas ng EscaM. Sa kabila nito, itinuloy ang cultural night sa harap ng opisina. Naging abala ang lahat sa paghahanda. Ang garahe ng tricycle ay nilatagan ng tarpaulin at mural na nagsilbing pansamantalang entablado. Ang mga kabataan ng Teatro Obrero at Teatro Bungkal ay nagsuot na ng kanilang costume at nag-praktis ng kanilang itatanghal. Ang iba naman ay nakatutok sa pagtatapos ng ipinipintang mural. May nakatoka na rin sa soundsystem at sa pagsabit ng mga streamers at flags. Sa kabila ng panganib at intimidasyon ng militar ay di nagpagapi sa takot ang lahat.

Naging marubdob ang pagtatanghal ng mga miyembro ng Teatro Obrero at Teatro Bungkal. Sa kanilang mga dulang-iglap sa saliw ng mga makabayang tugtugin, isinalaysay nila ang naranasang pang-aapi ng mga magbubukid ng Negros kabilang na ang iba pang masaker na naganap. Sayang lamang at di ito nasaksihan ng kalakhang mamamayan ng Escalante dahil sa panggigipit ng estado. Lumabas kami ng gate ng opisina at humanay, nagsindi ng mga kandila at naglunsad ng maikling martsa, inalayan ng awit at dasal ang mga naging biktima ng Escalante massacre at ang marami pang pinatay dahil sa pasistang paghahari ng rehimeng Duterte.

Di nagpatinag sa banta ng harassment mula sa pagdagsa ng mga militar sa Escalante, itinuloy ang cultural night sa pangunguna ng NFSW at Teatro Obrero.

Nakadalawang sigarilyo na ngunit di pa rin naaapula ang kaba ko sa maaaring kahinatnan ng araw. Di ako nakatulog nang maayos dahil sa pag-aalala sa sitwasyon. Bandang hatinggabi, naririnig ko ang tawag sa telepono para sa patuloy na paghahanap ng abogado para sa Escalante 8. Hatinggabi sila dinala sa Bacolod para sa preliminary inquest, nagtataka ako kung bakit tila walang office hours at agaran ang pagdinig kapag gawa-gawa ang kaso. Kinaumagahan, kailangang interbiyuhin ang Escalante 8 upang makatulong sa paggawa ng counter affidavit. May posibilidad na hindi na kami makabalik ng opisina kung sakaling mapag-tripan ng mga puwersa nga estado at sampahan din ng mga gawa-gawang kaso. Nagkaroon ng briefing sa dapat gawin pero di ako mapakali sa takot.

Pagdating sa police station ay sinalubong kami ng isang sundalong may bitbit na M-16. Pinasulat kami sa logbook ng isang pulis na nakaupo sa lobby. Nang banggitin namin ang pakay namin na mag-interview ay pinapunta kami sa isang kuwarto sa tabi ng detention cell. Dito, muling isinulat ang aming mga pangalan sa isang bond paper at hiningan ng ID. Pagkabigay namin nito, matapos kilatisin ay piniktyuran ng isang officer ang aming mga ID. Napansin ko sa isang sulok ang isang kabinet na may label na “INTEL.”

Umiiyak na inilahad ni Aiza Orbesa na inosente silang lahat. Ikinuwento niya ang pagharang ng dalawang nakamotor at naka-bonnet na kalalakihan na namuwersa sa kanila na bumaba ng sasakyan. Kausap pa umano ng mga di-kilalang kalalakihan ang mga pulis at militar na naroon. Noong una ay permit lamang ang kanilang hinahanap hinggil sa kanilang aktibidad kaya bumalik sa opisina si Aiza para kunin ito. Ngunit nang makuha niya ito at ipinakita sa mga nangharang sa kanila ay iba na ang naging takbo ng kuwento: tinaniman sila ng isang sako ng mga armas (isang 9mm at kalibre .38), at mga bote ng Tanduay na umano ay molotov cocktails. Nang makarating ang pahayag at litrato ng AFP sa ilang mainstream websites ay nadagdagan pa ang mga armas (kahit na wala man lang kaming nakitang reporter na tumungo sa lugar para i-verify ang impormasyon.) Ngunit ang tanging dala lamang ng Escalante 8 noon ay soundsystem, tubig, pagkain, at flag. At sa pagkakaalam nila, walang iligal sa pag-iimbita sa isang pagtitipon na 34 taon nang ginagawa sa Escalante.

Matapos marinig ang kanilang mga salaysay at bago lisanin ang police station ay sabay-sabay kaming sumigaw, isang tinig na umugong palabas ng karsel: “BILANGGONG PULITIKAL! PALAYAIN!”

Matapos ang interbyu sa Escalante 8, nalibot namin ang plaza na punumpuno ng mga tao. Karamihan ay mga estudyante, guro, at mga residente. Maraming mga sundalo ang may bitbit na baril. Marami ring mga pulis na nakapaligid at ang iba ay nakasandal sa kanilang riot shield. Parang magkakaroon ng giyera sa lugar ngunit di ko alam kung sino ang kanilang kaaway. Sumunod na dumating ang isang marching band ng mga unipormadong sundalo, at kasunod nito ay mga truck na may tarpaulin na nagsasaaad na maglulunsad sila ng medical at dental mission.

Tinitigan ko ang mga mukha ng mga nanonood sa plaza, di ko maipinta kung natutuwa ba sila sa nasasaksihan nila o alam nilang isa itong pekeng komemorasyon? Isang pagtitipon na deka-dekada nilang inilulunsad upang buhayin ang alaala ng mga kababayang martir pero ngayong taon ay inagaw sa kanila maging ang paggunita?

Nakapormasyon at nagroronda ang maraming sundalo sa plaza ng Escalante City. Marami sa kanila ang may bitbit ng mga matataas na kalibre ng armas.

Sa misang bayan na inilunsad sa Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, naging symbolic offering sa patuloy na paghahangad ng hustisya ang sulo, tubo, sagwan, at mga uhay ng palay. Bandang komunyon ay tinugtog ang Pag-ibig sa Tinubuang Lupa.

Matapos mananghalian ay humanay na ang lahat upang ilunsad ang martsa-protesta patungong palengke at nagsisilbing sentro ng lungsod. Sunod-sunod ang mga panawagang isinisigaw:

“Hustisya para sa Escalante Massacre!”

“Gutom na, pinapatay pa!”

“Bigas, hindi armas!”

“Ang tao, ang bayan, ngayon ang lumalaban! Natutong lumaban dahil sa kahirapan!”

“Tunay na reporma sa lupa, ipaglaban!”

Ang Teatro Obrero at Teatro Bungkal, di alintana ang nagbabagang init ng araw sa harap ng Escalante public market.

Dapithapon na nang magpaalam kami para bumiyahe sa Bacolod para sa aming flight kinabukasan, umalis na mabigat ang loob dahil di tiyak kung ano ang maaaring mangyari dahil sa patuloy na militarisasyon ng isla. Sumakay kami ng ordinary bus at nang makalayo sa sentro ay natanaw ko ang lawak ng mga hacienda sa Escalante, maging sa mga kasunod na siyudad at bayan.

Habang palubog ang araw at ang mga sinag nito’y nakalatag sa buong lupain, dumaan ang isang truck na puno ng tubo, nakalimutan ko na kung pang-ilang truck ng tubo iyon na nakita ko sa buong araw. Matamis man ang iniluluwas nilang produkto, mapait ang kalagayan ng mga mamamayan dito. Naalala ko ang Escalante 8 at ang maliit na bilangguan na naglilimita sa kanilang pagkilos. Ilang paglubog at pagsikat ng araw ba ang titiisin bago sila makalaya sa isang krimeng itinanim lamang dahil ang ipinaglalaban nila ay lupa at hustisya? # 

‘Stop the killings!’

“Hinding-hindi malulutas ng militarisasyon at pagpaslang sa mamamayan ang sigalot ngayon na nangyayari sa kanayunan. Stop the killings! Defend Negros! Resume peace talks!”—Prof. Judy Taguiwalo, University of the Philippines-Diliman

Drug ‘bagman’ and ‘whistleblower’ Ricky Serenio shot dead in Bacolod ambush

by Visayas Today

Ricky Serenio, the self-confessed drug syndicate bagman who blew the whistle on persons, including policemen and politicians, he claimed were on the take from the illegal trade, was ambushed and killed in Bacolod City Saturday afternoon, August 31.

Two wounded suspects were arrested soon after following a brief chase by police.

Serenio, who was on his way home to Pulupandan town south of Bacolod, had just turned onto the highway after picking up a friend in a subdivision when he was attacked by the motorcycle-riding killers.

He was rushed to the nearby Bacolod South Hospital but was declared dead on arrival from at least five gunshot wounds.

A passing police patrol chased the gunmen, resulting in a multi-vehicular accident. The suspects then tried to flee on foot.

They were identified as Joemar Dumip-ig, 30, of Barangay 14 in Bacolod, and Allan Bustamante, also 30, of Barangay Mabuhay 2 in Toboso town. Both had gunshot wounds in the leg and were taken to the Corazon Locsin Montelibano Memorial Regional Hospital for treatment.

Serenio gained notoriety when, shortly after his arrest in Talisay City in January 2017, he admitted being the “bagman” of the Berya drug syndicate, which operates in Western Visayas, and then started naming law enforcers, judges, politicians and even media practitioners he claimed received protection money from his gang.

Soon after, in April of the same year, Serenio’s brother Wilmar was gunned down. The next month, his father Wilfredo was also shot dead outside their home in Barangay Singcang-Airport.

Before Serenio was killed, a younger brother said he visited their home and had lunch there. #