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Activists vow legal pushback vs state forces

By Visayas Today

BACOLOD CITY–Those responsible for the October 31 mass arrest in Bacolod City, from state security personnel to the judge who issued the search warrants, should expect a wave of countercharges to hold them accountable, activist groups have vowed.

“We will make sure there will be countercharges,” Bacolodnon Neri Colmenares, who chairs the Bayan Muna party-list and used to represent it in Congress, told a press conference Thursday, November 7.

In all, the joint police and Army units under the Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict that carried out the raids on three offices and a private residence in Bacolod City arrested and detained 57 persons, among them a dozen minors.

They claimed to have recovered more than 30 firearms and some explosives from the offices of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, women’s organization Gabriela – both in Barangay Bata – and the National Federation of Sugar Workers in front of the Libertad market, and the home of Romulo and Mermalyn Bito-on in Barangay Taculing.

The security forces said the offices, particularly the compound that houses the office of Bayan and other groups, were being used to train “recruits,” including minors, of the New People’s Army.

However, on November 6, 32 of those arrested – 21 laid off workers of Vallacar Transit who were consulting the Kilusang Mayo Uno and 11 members of cultural group Teatro Obrero, all arrested at the Bayan office – were released after the city prosecutor dropped the charges against them.

Only 11 persons remain in detention, seven of them facing non-bailable charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

Colmenares said the release of the 32 “proves the falsity of the charges” that those arrested were rebels and that the offices were training facilities.

He said those they intend to charge, both before trial courts and the Office of the Ombudsman, include the “generals, colonels,” and enlisted personnel of police and Army units that carried out the raids, prosecutors, judges who issue “fake” warrants, and the “false witnesses” on whose testimonies the warrants were based.’

The search warrants covering the Bacolod raids were all issued by Quezon City Regional Trial Court Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert. She also issued the warrants that led to the arrests of two other activists in Escalante City and at least five others in Manila around the same time as the Bacolod raids.

While there is a special rule issued by the Supreme Court allowing the RTC executive judges of Manila and Quezon City to issue warrants for areas outside their jurisdiction, activists accuse Villavert of abusing this privilege and issuing “wholesale” warrants that abet human rights violations.

Colmenares said among the charges the security forces can expect are those related to their alleged “planting” of evidence and violations of the anti-torture law. #

Inhustisya ng gubyerno, binatikos ng mga aktibista

Isang kilos-protesta ang isinagawa ng mga grupo ng kabataan at iba pang organisasyon noong Setyembre 10, 2019 laban sa kawalang hustisya sa ilalim ng gobyerno ni Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte. Idinaos ito sa harapan ng Department of Justice kasabay ng Preliminary Investigation laban kina Atty. Neri Colmenares at iba pang lider kabataan na sinampahan ng kaso.

Panawagan nila na ibasura ang kaso laban kina Colmenares sa paniniwalang isa itong panggipit laban sa mga kabataan at progresibong lider.

Binatikos naman nila ang tila kawalang hustisya at pagpabor ng gobyerno sa mga mayayaman. Inihalimbawa nila ang katiwalian sa Bureau of Corrections at naudlot na pagpapalaya sa dating mayor na si Antonio Sanchez, gayundin ang laganap na “GCTA (Good Conduct Time Allowance) for Sale” sa mga drug lord, rapist at mamamatay tao.

Kinundena rin nila ang patuloy na Oplan Tokhang at militarisasyon ng mga komunidad. (Music: News Background Bidyo ni: Joseph Cuevas/ Kodao)

‘I’ll sue you,’ Colmenares warns people behind trafficking raps over ‘missing’ youth

By Visayas Today

Former Bayan Muna congressman Neri Colmenares said he would sue those responsible for filing kidnapping and child abuse charges against him and several others over allegedly “missing” youth activists after the Department of Justice issued subpoenas for the respondents.

While acknowledging he had yet to read the complaint, filed by the Major Crimes Investigation Unit of the police’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, Colmenares said it was a “foregone conclusion” that “I’ll file a criminal case” against those responsible for filing the complaint and “witnesses who commit perjury.”

“We will not take this sitting down,” he said.

The complaint alleges violations of: 
• Republic Act No. 9208 or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003 
• RA 7610 or the Special Protection of Children Against Child Abuse, Exploitation, and Discrimination Act
• RA 9851 or the Philippine Act on Crimes against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide, and other Crimes against Humanity

Aside from Colmenares, the named respondents are Kabataan Representative Sarah Elago, Anakbayan president Vencer Crisostomo and secretary general Einstein Recedes; Anakbayan members Charie del Rosario, Bianca Gacos, Jayroven Villafuente Balais, and Alex Danday; and, ironically, former Akbayan congressman Tom Villarin, who belongs to a party list group that is known to have been at odds with the organizations his co-accused belong to.

The complaint also seeks to include “all other officers” of Kabataan and “all other members” of Anakbayan in the complaint as “John and Jane Does.”

The case stems from the complaints of parents who claimed their children left home and went missing after being recruited into activist groups.

Among the complainants in the case is Relissa Lucena, whose daughter, 18-year old senior high school student and Anakbayan member Alicia, belied the claim that she was missing or had been kidnapped.

Alicia, who stressed it was her choice to join the youth group, said she left home in July after her parents refused to let her out and instead took her to Camp Aguinaldo, military headquarters, in hopes of making her “normal.”

Colmenares, who learned of the subpoena on Tuesday, August 20, while visiting Bacolod, dismissed the complaint.

“It is clear I have committed no crime, much less trafficking. This is a trumped up harassment charge,” he said.

(Images provided by the NUPL show pages from the CIDG complaint)

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, which Colmenares chairs, also condemned the “false charge.”

“How in heaven’s name could someone like Neri be even remotely involved, connected or liable for such inane and contrived shotgun charges that have been debunked? Totally absurd,” NUPL president Edre Olalia said in a statement.

Olalia saw a more sinister pattern, linking the complaint to a perceived government crackdown on critics.

“Make no mistake about it: they are lining and rounding up the most voluble and visible people who stand in the way and who fight back against repression and injustice,” he said. #

Makabayan Coalition holds final gathering before polls

Idinaos ng Makabayang Koalisyon ng Mamamayan o Makabayan ang kanilang Miting De Avance noong Mayo 7 sa Plaza Miranda sa Quiapo sa Maynila.

Dumalo ang mga tagasuporta, organisasyon at kasaping mga partylist sa ilalim ng Makabayan. Kabilang na dito ang Bayan Muna, ACT Teachers, Gabriela Women’s Party, Anakpawis at Kabataan.

Inihapag ng mga partylist ang kanilang plataporma para sa susunod na kongreso kabilang na dito ang tuluyang paglaban sa TRAIN Law, tunay na reporma sa lupa, ganap na libreng edukasyon, pag-giit sa mataas na sahod at pagbasura sa kontraktwalisasyon.

Ayon sa Makabayan, sa kabila nang matinding atake ng administrasyon, kawalan ng pondo at paninira mula sa mga kalabang partido, naitaas nila ang laban sa elektoral na pakikibaka sa nakalipas na mga buwan.

Muling ipinakilala at hiniling ng Makabayan na suportahan ang 11 kandidato nito sa eleksyon sa Mayo 13. Ito ay sina Atty. Neri Colmenares, Atty. Chel Diokno, Atty. Florin Hilbay, Erin Tañada, Leody de Guzman, Atty. Sony Matula, Senador Grace Poe, Senador Nancy Binay, Senador Bam Aquino, Samira Gutoc at Serge Osmeña.

Ayon sa Makabayan ito ang magiging “Independent Senate” na siyang tunay na magsusulong ng interes at kagalingan ng taumbayan. (Bidyo nila Maricon Montajes, Carlo Francisco at Joseph Cuevas/ Kodao)

Survivors’ tales show ‘most evil intentions’ in Negros Oriental killings

Visayas Today

MANJUYOD/CANLAON CITY –Sige na, sige na!” (Go ahead, go ahead!)

These words, followed by three shots – all she managed to count in her panic – and Angenate Acabal knew her husband Valentin, 47, was dead inside their home in Manjuyod town, Negros Oriental.

Some 125 kilometers north of there, around the same time, in Canlaon City, ordered out of her home at gunpoint, Carmela Avelino heard a shout in a mix of Tagalog and Bisaya: “Merong kalaban, nagsukol!” (There’s an enemy, he’s fighting back!)

Again, three shots and she knew Edgardo, 59, her husband, was gone.

Next door, Ismael, Edgardo’s 53-year old brother, uttered his last words, addressed to his 10-year old child, as his wife Leonora and two youngest children, the other 5, were herded out their house by armed men: “Indi pagpabay-i si Mama kag utod nimo.” (Don’t leave your mother and sister alone!)

As Leonora stepped outside their smashed door, she heard a burst of gunfire.

Contributed photo shows a masked police commando during the operation in Barangay Panciao, Manjuyod where three men, including village chairman Sonny Palagtiw, were killed.

As dawn broke on March 30, 14 men in all had died during pre-dawn raids by police commandos – eight in Canlaon, four in Manjuyod, two more in Sta. Catalina town – during what authorities initially called an “anti-crime operation” but later acknowledged was targeted against suspected communist rebels.

Even on an island beset by outbreaks of violence from an insurgency fueled by the vast gulf between the hacienderos, the planters, who own and control the vast sugarcane plantations that are Negros’ lifeblood and the landless farmers and laborers who toil for them, the single day’s toll came as a bad enough shock that Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo demanded police explain why so many needed to die.

Police claimed all the dead were rebel assassins, members of the New People’s Army Special Partisan Unit or SPARU, all supposedly wanted for carrying out attacks on government forces, who were killed when they chose to shoot it out against officers serving arrest or search warrants.

Malacanang stood by the police, insisting the operation was legitimate.

Never mind that many of the dead were in their 50s to late 60s, way too old to be the communist hitmen, who tend to be young, quick and agile, police claim they were, and two of those slain in Manjuyod were elected village chieftains – Valentin Acabal and Sonny Palactiw.Of the eight men killed in Canlaon, one was a Catholic lay minister and two – one of two father-and-son pairs – volunteer church workers.

As far as can be ascertained, only four of the dead – the Avelino brothers of Canlaon, Franklin Lariosa of Sta. Catalina, and Steve Arapoc of Manjuyod – belonged to peasant groups openly accused by state security forces of supporting or being “legal fronts” of the rebels.

And only the Avelinos appear to have been engaged in any recent activity that might have earned them the ire of authorities – the local farmers’ organization chaired by Edgardo hosted a forum about residents of neighboring Guihulngan City who had been displaced in December last year by a police operation similar to that of March 30.

Incidentally, police gave both operations the same code name – Sauron, the “dark lord” of The Lord of the Rings trilogy – with the March operation dubbed “2.0”.

And both operations involved not local police forces but units under the Central Visayas command based in Cebu City.

Aside from this, the warrants were also issued by courts in Cebu City, not in Negros Oriental. The separate but almost uniform accounts of Angenate Acabal and the Avelino widows, who do not know each other – as well as the stories the families of other victims told human rights organizations – not only belied the police accounts but, according to human rights lawyer Neri Colmenares, who visited the wakes of the three victims, showed “the most evil intentions,” the carefully coordinated “state-sponsored killings” of activists and others deemed “enemies of the state.”

All the stories begin in the dark before dawn – between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. – with the sound of doors being smashed in and then armed men in tactical gear, their faces covered in balaclavas and even dark glasses, storming in, assault rifles aimed at stunned residents.

Angelate Acabal greets a visitor at the wake of her husband, slain Barangay Candabong, Manjuyod caption Valentin Acabal

Around 20 armed men burst into the Acabal household and roused the 17-year old son who slept on a couch in the living room, ordering him to kneel, his hands clasped behind his neck. It was a position he would keep for more than two hours.

Other policemen then barged into the room where Valentin, who was sick with the flu, and Angenate slept with their 7-year old daughter, ordering them to kneel on the floor with their hands up.

“All three of us were praying and our daughter begged them not to hurt us,” Angenate said after sending the girl to another room so she would not have to listen to the retelling.

“Then they grabbed and my daughter and forced us out of the room.”The last thing she heard Valentin say was a prayer: “Gino-o, gitugyan nako kanimo ang tanan.” (Lord, I leave everything up to you.)

For two hours, Angenate said she and her children were kept under guard in the living room, not allowed near the room where her husband lay dead, and accompanied even on trips to the toilet.

It was only around 6 a.m., as curious villagers began to gather, that the policemen summoned two councilmen. Only then did they show a search warrant and the .45 caliber pistol the village chief was supposedly armed with.

Angenate said one of the policemen who guarded them asked her what her husband’s name was. When she told him, “he shook his head and said, ‘But in the blotter it was Eric’.”

A copy of the warrant, which she obtained later, did show it was for Eric, not Avelino, Acabal. Colmenares said even if Acabal used to be called by his old nickname Eric, “the warrant should reflect his real name, Avelino. This already makes it irregular.”

Shortly after, Angenate said, policemen from the town arrived “but only to take away my husband’s body to the hospital even though it was clear he was already dead” from at least seven gunshots, including one that shattered his femur and genitals.

“There was no attempt to investigate the scene of the crime. The (police) Scene of Crime Operatives only inspected his body at the hospital.”

Senatorial candidate and human rights lawyer Neri Colmenares talks to Ray and Argie, sons of slain Barangay Candabong, Manjuyod captain Valentin Acabal.

Worse, said Arcabal’s son Argie, a Qatar Airways cabin crew who flew home on learning of his father’s fate, “they took P30,000 I had just sent home for home repairs and even P7,000 that my mother was keeping for our church, of which she was treasurer.”

Meanwhile in Canlaon, Carmela Avelino was awakened by her 16-year old daughter’s shout for help and rushed out thinking a snake had crawled into their house.

As she got out of bed, “the curtains of our window parted and I saw five rifle barrels aimed at us and a voice ordered us out of the room.”

In the dirt-floor front room, “five policemen stood in line, blocking me from my husband, while others ordered me and the children outside and to go to the community center next door.”

On their way out, they heard three shots from their house and, moments later, more gunshots from Ismael’s house.

Carmela Avelino shows the spot where her husband Edgardo was killed.

Leonora said she and her two young children were awakened by the commotion from Edgardo’s house and stepped out of their room to see their door burst open as six hooded men in black entered and ordered them to lie on the floor at gunpoint.

They were then ordered out of their home and to crawl toward another house where they were kept under guard for the next three hours.

Another Avelino brother, Efraim, rushed out of his nearby house only to be grabbed by his neck and pushed back inside by a gunman in a uniform of the police Special Action Force who ordered him back inside or “you might be the first.”

Like Valentin Acabal, the bodies of the Avelino brothers would be taken from their homes hours later, after daybreak, and taken to the local hospital even though they had already been dead for hours.

A boot print can still be seen on the broken door of the home of Ismael Avelino in Barangay Panubigan, Canlaon City.

Edgardo had been shot in the forehead and right arm. Ismael suffered at least five gunshot wounds.

But unlike Acabal, who has not been autopsied, the Avelino brothers underwent a post-mortem examination and had their deaths classified as “homicide” by the Canlaon civil registrar. Only after the ambulance had left were village officials summoned and shown warrants.

Carmela said the warrant for Edgardo gave his family name as “Marquez,” which is his middle name, and not Avelino.

She said the policemen then asked her to accompany them inside the house and showed her a .45 caliber pistol lying in the pool of blood where her husband had fallen and an M16 rifle they supposedly found by a closet.

A policeman also “returned” money taken from their home, only to find out that P2,000 was missing from the original P5,000.

Post-mortem diagram showing the gunshot wounds that killed Ismael Avelino.

A sister of the Avelinos, Azucena Garubat, was arrested for allegedly possessing a .38 caliber revolver and remains detained at the Canlaon police station, together with Corazon Javier, a coordinator of activist women’s group Gabriela, who was allegedly found in possession of a rifle grenade.

The two were among 12 persons nabbed in the course of the March 30 operation.

Reacting to the accounts of the widows, Colmenares said it was “clear the operations were irregular. The fact alone that they wore masks to serve supposed warrants proves this. And there is also the total lack of an investigation after the deaths, which indicates that the police have no intention whatsoever to tell the truth about what happened.”

But while confident about the chances of successfully prosecuting the police personnel involved in the bloody operation, Colmenares said this would not be enough.

“Public uproar is crucial to send the message that enough is enough.”He also said that ultimate responsibility for the March 30 deaths, as for the December deaths, lay with President Rodrigo Duterte, who last year issued Memorandum Order No. 32, which ordered more police and military personnel to the Bicol region, Samar island and Negros to “quell lawless violence.”

Colmenares said the actions of Duterte and the police fell into the “three patterns of evidence” he said were the bases for successful prosecutions involving extrajudicial killings:

· “Public vilification, which establishes motive”;

· “The brazenness with which the crime is committed”; and

· “The complete lack of interest to investigate o prosecute”

COVER PHOTO: Leonora Avelino (partly hidden, top) talks to visitors at the wake of her husband, Ismael, and his brother, Edgardo in Barangay Panubigan, Canlaon City.

Makabayan endorses Senate bets based on several unities

Inindorso ng Makabayang Koalisyon ng Mamamayan o MAKABAYAN ang siyam na kandidato na lalahok sa halalan sa Mayo 2019. Ginanap ang aktibidad noong Marso 3 sa Quezon City Sports Club.

Bukod sa natatanging kandidato ng partido na si Atty. Neri Colmenares, inindorso nila sina Bam Aquino, Grace Poe at Nancy Binay. Kasama din sina Atty. Florin Hilbay, Atty. Chel Diokno, dating senador Serge Osmeña, dating Rep. Erin Tañada at Samira Gutoc.

Batay sa napagkaisahan sa MAKABAYAN, itataguyod ng mga kandidato ang mga sumusunod na plataporma:

1.Pagsuspinde o pagbasura ng probisyon sa excise tax ng TRAIN Law

2. Paglaban sa Charter Change at mga katulad na makasarili at kontra-Pilipinong amyenda sa Konstitusyon

3. Pagtaguyod ng karapatang pantao at due process para sa lahat 4. Pag-giit ng ating soberanya at karapatan sa West Philippine Sea

5. Pagpapatuloy ng usapang pangkapayapaan sa pagitan ng gobyerno at National Democratic Front of the Philippines. (Bidyo ni: Maricon Montajes /Kodao)

Groups demand junking of TRAIN Law

Progressive organizations and Partylist groups held protested at the office of Bureau of Internal Revenue in Quezon City Wednesday, February 12, demanding the junking of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Law (TRAIN) and Oil Deregulation Law.

Saying both laws have severely eroded the people’s economic wellbeing, the protesters also demanded an increase in the wages of both private (P750 per day) and public (P16,000 per month) workers.

In his speech, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr urged candidates in the coming local and national elections in May to fight for people’s issues.

Makabayan senatorial candidate Atty. Neri Colmenares for his part vowed to push what he calls the people’s agenda if elected in the Senate. He added that he will protect ordinary Filipinos against high prices and taxes. (Video by Joseph Cuevas)

Neri to Imee: Let’s debate at Plaza Miranda

Makabayan senatorial bet Neri Colmenares challenged Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos to a debate at Plaza Miranda on the issue of human rights violations during Ferdinand Marcos’ iron-fisted rule.

Angered at Imee’s statement that reports of human rights violations during Martial rule were just ‘political accusations’, Colmenares said he himself was tortured and imprisoned as one of the youngest political detainees during the Marcos eara.

“I was tortured and imprisoned for four years during martial rule for merely espousing the return of student councils,” Colmenares said.

“[I]f Gov. Marcos will insist that the human rights violations during her father’s regime are mere political accusations then I challenge her to a debate on the topic in Plaza Miranda,” added Colmenares.

After filing her certificate of candidacy at the Commission on Elections Tuesday, Imee said her entire family would never admit to human rights violations committed during the late strongman’s martial rule.

“If what they demand from us is admission, I think we could not do that. Why would we admit to something we did not do?” Imee said in Filipino.

Colmenares said Imee and her entire family are blatantly lying about the atrocities under the Marcosian martial law.

“[T}he Philippine government itself recognizes thousands of human rights violations under Martial rule by enacting Republic Act No. 10368 or the Human Rights Victims Reparation & Recognition Act of 2013. With this law Marcos human rights victims are recognized and indemnified from the US$ 650 million ill gotten wealth returned by Swiss banks,” he said.

“Even the Supreme Court in Marcos vs Manglapus and many other decisions declared Marcos dictator and human rights violator and ordered the return of ill gotten wealth,” he added.

Before and during the first years of Marcos’s rule as president and strongman, Plaza Miranda was the country’s most popular site for debates and political events. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Neri Colmenares files certificate of candidacy for the Senate in 2019 polls

Neri Colmenares filed his certificate of candidacy at the Commission on Elections on Thursday, October 11, vowing to continue his advocacy for people’s rights and interests if elected.

The official candidate of the Makabayan Coalition of progressive parties, Colmenares vowed to fight against measures that contribute to the people’s poverty, such as the Duterte government’s Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Law.

Instead of anti-people laws, Colmenares said there should be more pro-people measures, such as those that would ensure permanent jobs, lower prices of commodities and free social services, especially for the poor.

Colmenares is the author of the law that increased SSS pensions, as well as measures against electricity and water hikes.

He also pushed for passenger rights, anti-torture, free hazard warning through mobile phone services and many others. # (Video by Joseph Cuevas)

Makabayan to field Neri in next year’s Senate race

The Makabayang Koalisyon ng Mamamayan o MAKABAYAN held its fourth National Convention at the  Quezon City Sports Club last September 25, unanimously voting to again field former Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmanares in the 2019 Senate race.

Themed “Bagong Pulitika, Demokrasya Hindi Diktadurya,” Makabayan said it aims to win not only in the next elections but also defeat Rodrigo Duterte’ s looming dictatorship and tyranny.

MAKABAYAN also presented nominees from its member parties—Gabriela Womens Party, ACT Teachers Party, Bayan Muna, Anakpawis and Kabataan.

It also announced Newly formed member parties—Manggagawa Party, Aksyon Health Workers Party, and Peoples Surge Party.  (Video and report by Joseph Cuevas)