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Neri grateful for his and Labog’s inclusion in Pacquaio and de Guzman slates

Makabayan reveals Robredo camp refusing requests for dialogue.

The inclusion of progressive candidates in at least two senatorial slates is a positive development, a sign that other political groups recognize the need for candidates that genuinely represent the marginalized sectors, Senate aspirant and former Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said.

In a statement, Colmenares thanked both Sen. Manny Pacquaio and labor leader Leody de Guzman for his and Kilusang Mayo Uno chairperson Elmer “Ka Bong” Labog’s inclusion in their respective slates for next year’s national elections.

“The recognition and support of a presidential candidate, like Sen. Pacquiao, is very important for candidates like me who rely on the support of ordinary Filipinos in our campaign. We value such unconditional endorsement,” Colmenares said.

“I would also like to express my gratitude to labor leader Ka Leody de Guzman for including me in his senatorial slate for his presidential run in 2022,” he added.

‘Why endorse someone we haven’t talked to yet?’

Meanwhile, former Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño revealed that the Makabayan bloc has yet to endorse any presidential candidate, belying allegations by former Senator Antonio Trillanes IV the group has already made a deal with Manila Mayor Isko Moreno.

“Just to be clear, Makabayan hasn’t declared support for any presidential candidate yet, whether Isko Moreno, Leni Robredo or Manny Pacquiao,” Casiño said.

Casiño said their group has been bombarded with questions on why Makabayan has not yet declared support for Robredo.

The former legislator also said they have been asked if they really supporting Moreno or why are they even talking with Pacquiao and Moreno.

While the bloc has spoken to both the Pacquiao and Moreno camps, Casiño said it is for the purpose of unifying opposition parties to form a stronger alliance against the return of the Marcoses in Malacañang Palace.

“We believe that if these three candidates can unite under one slate the chances of preventing a Duterte dynasty or the return of the Marcoses to Malacañang will be greater. This is in parallel to 1Sambayan’s efforts to unify the democratic forces for the 2022 elections,” Casiño explained.

 Makabayan also wants to engage presidential bets on their platforms, particularly on matters involving human rights, workers, farmers, indigenous peoples, sovereignty, among others, he added.

“We believe that only through earnest and continuous dialogue can we contribute in their crafting a progressive platform of governance,” Casiño said.

In case a unified opposition slate is not feasible, Casiño said the Makabayan wants to explore the possibility of working together with other opposition groups to end Rodrigo Duterte’s rule or prevent a Marcos restoration in 2022, including various terms of cooperation based on the outcomes of the ongoing dialogues.

“There is nothing wrong with talking to all three candidates on these three important matters. Other groups should not begrudge nor cast any malice on Makabayan for doing what any progressive political party ought to do,” he said.

Casiño also revealed they have failed to meet with Robredo despite numerous requests for a dialogue.

“To be honest, it would be difficult for Makabayan to ask its constituency to support Robredo when we do not even know her stand on contractualization, the national minimum wage, free land distribution for poor peasants, indigenous people’s rights, the peace process, and a host of other issues that matter to our constituency,” Casiño said.

 “To be blunt, how can we rally our constituents behind a candidate who has refused to even meet us?,” Bayan Muna’s first nominee asked. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Neri undeterred by non-inclusion in Leni’s slate

Former Bayan Muna Representative and Senate aspirant Neri Colmenares said he and the entire Makabayan bloc will not be distracted by his non-inclusion in Vice President Leni Robredo’s slate for next year’s national elections.

In a statement following Robredo’s press conference with running mate Senator Kiko Pangilinan Friday morning, Colmenares said his resolve to run for the Senate is based on the need to give the poor and marginalized a strong voice in Congress.

“We in Makabayan have always relied on the support of various groups and the people for progressive and pro-people independent candidates like me,” he said.

Team Robredo’s senatorial slate does not include Colmenares even after strong endorsements from allies such as 1Sambayan and former Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio.

Colmenares said it is the Vice President’s prerogative as standard bearer on who to include in her team.

“My non-inclusion in her slate at this time is based on what she thinks is best for the interest of her candidacy,” he said.

Colmenares added he is grateful for his inclusion in 1Sambayan’s senatorial slate.

Colmenares and Kilusang Mayo Uno chairperson Elmer “Bong” Labog are the official candidates for the Senate of the Makabayan bloc, a group of progressive parties representing marginalized sectors.

“We will employ our 3.5 million voter base, our national campaign machinery, our social media warriors, and poll watchers nationwide to push for the people’s agenda in the Senate and oppose the efforts of Duterte and Marcos to return to Malacañang,” Colmenares said.

Meanwhile, social media reports said both Colmenares and Labog are guest candidates of presidential and vice-presidential aspirants Manny Pacquiao and Lito Atienza.

The Pacquaio-Atienza camp has yet to make a formal announcement however. # (Raymund B. Villanueva

Lawyers, activists hail ICC decision to investigate Duterte’s war on drugs

Neri Colmenares, a lawyer for the families of the victims of extrajudicial killings (EJK) in the Philippines, hailed the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) decision to initiate investigations on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.

In his reaction to the ICC’s decision Wednesday night, Colmenares said justice may be near for the victims, estimated to be between 8,000 and 30,000.

“This ICC decision to investigate the EJKs in the Philippines is a major step to justice! The families of thousands of EJK victims have long asked for the accountability of the killers. Malapit na po!” Colmenares said.

The former Bayan Muna Representative serves as lawyer for the group Rise Up for Life and for Rights that was among those who filed complaints with the ICC in 2018.

In earlier interviews, Colmenares said at least seven families have identified police officers involved in the killing of suspected anti-drug operations and have resolved to press charges before the international tribunal despite threats and intimidation.

The ICC’s pre-trial chamber decision.

In a September 15 decision issued from its The Hague, The Netherlands headquarters, an ICC pre-trial chamber authorized the commencement of an investigation of the alleged crimes between November 1, 2011 and March 16, 2019 in the context of Duterte’s so-called war on drugs campaign.

The period also covers the time when Duterte was still Davao City mayor.

Prior to her retirement in June this year, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda requested for judicial authorization to proceed with investigation regarding the country’s situation in relation to Duterte’s drug war. 

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr., fierce critic of Duterte’s drug war, also hailed the ICC decision.

“This is a historic moment for the Philippines and a crucial step towards justice and accountability,” Reyes said.

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) likewise welcomed the ICC decision that came as the country’s biggest group of human rights lawyers observes its 14th founding anniversary today, September 16.

It was the NUPL that first expressed alarm over the rise of extrajudicial killings mere days into the Duterte presidency.

“It was July 4, 2016 when we first publicly called out against the madness of the extrajudicial killings in the bloody drug campaign against the poor. Now the ICC has opened the doors for a new beginning. It has been a long and tortuous journey so far,” the NUPL said.

The group’s jubilation however is marred by the killing of yet another member and officer in Mindanao, reportedly the 75th lawyer to be killed under the Duterte administration.

Human rights lawyer Atty. Juan Macababbad was shot dead by two assassins on board a motorcycle in Surallah, South Cotabato at 5:30 pm Wednesday.

Davao Today reported the victim was about to close the gates of his home in Zone 2, Brgy. Libertad when the assailants fired seven shots that killed the lawyer.

Macabbbad was vice-president of the Union of People’s Lawyers in Mindanao and NUPL founding member.

Duterte said he does not acknowledge the ICC’s authority to prosecute him, more so after the ordered the country’s withdrawal of its ratification of the Rome Statute the established the tribunal in March 2019.

The ICC however said that the Philippines was still a signatory to the treaty when a complaint against Duterte and his police officers was filed in 2018. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘Preparasyon na nila ‘yan sa eleksyon’

“Itong bira nila sa Makabayan, lalo na sa oposisyon, preparasyon na nila ‘yan sa eleksyon. Gustong lumpuhin ng gobyerno ang oposisyon bago pa man mag-halalan. Hindi na lang ito red-tagging kundi using the government funds for electoral purposes to defend the administration. May tulog talaga ang Duterte candidates at para ma-ensure na manalo sila, lulumphin nila ang oposisyon long before 2022. It’s a combination of red-tagging and electioneering using public funds.”Atty. Neri Colmenares, Chairman, Bayan Muna

Neri Colmenares wins international human rights award

Neri Colmenares, one of the country’s most prominent public interest lawyers, is this year’s awardee for outstanding contribution to human rights by the foremost organization for international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies.

The International Bar Association (IBA) bestowed Colmenares the award for his “extensive contribution to human rights, and his continuing determination and advocacy, in the face of great adversity.”

IBA said Colmenares has made an outstanding contribution to the promotion, protection and advancement of the human rights of any group of people, particularly with respect to their right to live in a fair and just society under the rule of law.

The presentation was made on Monday, 9 November, during the online Section on Public and Professional Interest Awards ceremony as part of the IBA 2020 – Virtually Together Conference.

Himself a victim of unrelenting red-baiting by military, police and government officials for his human rights advocacy and activism, Colmenares is a former three-term member of the Philippine House of Representatives and is currently the national chairperson of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL).

He is also a leader of the Concerned Lawyers for Civil Liberties and adviser for advocacies of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines.

Stellar academic career

Colmenares’ human rights advocacy began when he became the Western Visayas regional chairperson of the Student Catholic Action of the Philippines during martial law in the 1970s.

Neri Colmenares (Photo by Bong Magpayo from the Bedans for neri Colmenares Facebook page)

While campaigning for the return of student councils in schools ordered closed by then President Ferdinand Marcos, Colmenares was arrested and tortured by the military.

He spent four years in jail as one of martial law’s youngest political prisoners at 18.

After his release from prison, Colmenares earned his BA Economics degree from San Beda University (SBU), his law degree from the University of the Philippines and his Master of Laws degree from the University of Melbourne in Australia on scholarship.

Colmenares is an outstanding alumnus awardee of SBU.

Legal fighter

As a human rights lawyer, Colmenares has argued a number of cases before the Supreme Court and championed causes in the legislature in support of marginalized sectors, including the following:

* The Party List Election Case in 2000, which led to the High Court ordering that 20 per cent of the seats in Congress be reserved for the marginalized and underrepresented poorer .

* The Pork Barrel Case during the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration that led the Supreme Court to declare the Congressional practice as unconstitutional.

* In 2017 Mr Colmenares, alongside fellow human rights lawyers, constitutionalists and several law students, established Manlaban sa EJK that campaigns against the continuing extra judicial killings under President Rodrigo Duterte.

* Colmenares is also acting as co-counsel in a complaint against President Duterte for crimes against humanity, filed to the International Criminal Court (ICC) by families of extrajudicial killing victims.

* Colmenares is a counsel-complainant in one of the 37 petitions questioning the constitutionality of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020

As a parliamentarian, Colmenares advocated for the democratic rights of those with disabilities and the elderly, such as special election precincts to assist them in voting, as well as introducing the Early Voting Law for media personnel who would be covering the election on the day.

He also authored the law mandating the Philippine government to issue early warning to citizens during disasters and calamities as well as an increase of benefits given to social security system pensioners, among many other pieces of legislation.  

In 2005, Colmenares helped organize the Counsels for the Defense against Attacks on Lawyers, a group of lawyers and law students advocating against the unlawful killings and arrests of their colleagues under then President Arroyo.

Colmenares (second from left) denouncing extra-judicial killings. (Photo from Neri Colmenares’s Facebook account)

‘Exceptional lawyer’

In bestowing him the award, IBA Human Rights Law Committee co-chairperson Federica D’Alessandra said Colmenares has drawn on every tool in the legal toolbox, from legislation, to litigation, to advocacy in order to advance human rights and the rule of law for the protection of the Filipino people.

“With this award the IBA recognizes [Colmenares’] incredible accomplishments, and celebrates his great resolve as he continues to fight for media freedom, and stand against extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances and unlawful detention in the Philippines,” D’Alessandra said.

“Mr Colmenares is truly an exceptional human rights lawyer, and has contributed hugely to increasing respect for the rule of law and the promotion and protection of human rights. His advocacy is all the more remarkable given the relentless persecution in the Philippines of individuals speaking out against human rights abuses. His continuing determination and courage make him an exceptional awardee,” she added.

No better time

The NUPL said it is humbled by the International Bar Association’s choice of Colmenares as the recipient of the prestigious award.

“It could not have come at a better time than now that human rights lawyers and defenders in the Philippines are under attack especially in the form of vicious vilification commonly referred to as red-tagging,” the NUPL said.

The group said this is the first time that a Filipino has won the award bestowed by IBA’s

80,000 member-lawyers from 190 Bar Associations in 160 countries worldwide.

“We share the elation of our colleagues, clients and friends and see this latest award on yet another prominent progressive leader not only as a distinct and well-deserved honor but also as a tribute to all others who rage against injustice despite the great odds and risks and as a clear repudiation of the ongoing demonization of human rights defenders and social activists in the country,” the NUPL said.

The group also asked the global legal community to continue monitoring the human rights situation in the Philippines and support their campaign for human rights as well as the call to stop the attacks against lawyers, judges and human rights defenders.

“We hope that message sinks in on those forces who peddle lies, spins and crap against us who continue to push back and stand ground against brazen attacks on rights and freedom,” the NUPL said.

Added reason to continue human rights work

Colmenares said the award is both an honor and an inspiration to human rights lawyers like them to continue their work with the people despite the threats and difficulties.

He said awards from established international institutions like the IBA serves as a mantle of protection to threatened lawyers worldwide.

“Fifty (50) lawyers and judges have been killed in the Philippines since 2016 and this award will also provide a mantle of protection for human rights lawyers like me,” Colmenares said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Ang pagkaka-pareho ni Marcos at Duterte

Sa paggunita ng mga aktibistang grupo sa ika-48 na anibersaryo ng Batas Militar, inihambing ni Atty Neri Colmenares ang pagkakapareho ng diktadurya ni Ferdinand Marcos at kasalukuyang gubyerno ni Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte. Biktima ng torture noon si Colmenares at biktima pa rin siya ng pang-uupat ng gubyerno ngayon. (Bidyo ni Jek Alcaraz/Kodao)

Neri Colmenares on Anti-Terror Law and Street Protests

Opposition and resistance have overwhelmed the Philippine political landscape amidst the Covid19 pandemic, when the ‘anti-terror bill’ became a law. Now, the broad people’s resistance has become a test if the regime can continue to intimidate the people with the law and the virus.

In the end, the anti-terror law and the tyrannical regime that gave birth to it will be quashed by the protest movement of the streets where significant victories have been achieved in the past.

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. #