“It is evident that the NTF-ELCAC (National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict is using its powers to protect key economic interests in the country. This has nothing to do with anti-terrorism or anti-communism. The military’s gross overreaction to people trying to defend their right to a safe, clean health and sustainable environment is totally unacceptable. The NTF-ELCAC should be disbanded.”—United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in the Context of Climate Change Ian Fry
Environmental and human rights groups hailed a United Nations (UN) expert’s recommendations to abolish the government’s anti-insurgency task force and the country’s anti-terrorism law after a 10-day investigation in the Philippines.
In a joint statement, the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) and the Philippines UPR (Universal Periodic Review) Watch said they welcome the statement made by UN Special Rapporteur on Climate Change and Human Rights Dr. Ian Fry recommending the abolition of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) and the repeal of Republic Act No. 11479, the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) of 2020.
In his exit statement last Wednesday, November 15, Fry said he listened to complaints by indigenous peoples groups, environmental rights defenders and other civil society organizations who were abducted, bombed and killed for opposing reclamation projects, hydro-electric dams, destructive mining and deforestation.
“They told me horrific stories on how they have been treated. I have listed in my recommendations to disband the NTF-ELCAC because it is clear that it’s operating beyond its original mandate,” Fry said.
“It is evident that the NTF-ELCAC is using its powers to protect key economic interests in the country. This has nothing to do with anti-terrorism or anti-communism. The military’s gross overreaction to people trying to defend their right to a safe, clean health and sustainable environment is totally unacceptable. The NTF-ELCAC should be disbanded,” Fry added.
The expert also said he would recommend ATA’s repeal after hearing stories of “totally unreasonable” designation of church and humanitarian workers as so-called terrorists whose funds are being held by the government.
Kalikasan PNE and the Philippine UPR Watch said Fry’s findings are welcome as they “(make) it clear that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s posturing as a climate change advocate” are merely for show.”
Rights group Karapatan also lauded Fry’s exit statement, saying it puts on center stage “the sinister role played by the NTF-ELCAC and the dangerous impact of the terror law on the lives and safety of environmental human rights defenders in the country.
The group noted that the Philippines is one of the world’s deadliest countries and Asia’s worst for environmental defenders in the past 10 years.
“Killings of environmental defenders peaked during the Duterte regime, which accounted for 205 or 73% of the 281 extra-judicially from 2012 to 2022,” Karapatan revealed.
The group added that the Marcos Jr. government is not doing better, citing the case of anti-Manila Bay reclamation campaigners who revealed being abducted by the NTF-ELCAC and the Philippine Army last September.
Bato, Task Force take exception
Reacting to the UN expert’s recommendations, Senator Ronald dela Rosa said Fry is “one of the most misinformed foreigners.”
In a budget hearing at the Senate Wednesday night, dela Rosa said Fry’s views might have changed if he only involved NTF-ELCAC in his investigations.
National security adviser and NTF-ELCAC vice chairperson Eduardo Año also said Fry should have met with the task force “to ensure that he has a full appreciation of the body’s mandate, operations, and overall directions.”
The NTF-ELCAC said it will seek a dialogue with Fry in the future.
Move to defund
But Karapatan said NTF-ELCAC’s “boilerplate responses” to Fry’s observations “further expose its propensity to disregard and distort human rights.”
“NTF-ELCAC’s statement that it is a ‘working and effective human rights mechanism’ is a ludicrous claim, considering its track record of propagating lies and its long list of crimes against the Filipino people,” Karapatan said.
The group said Fry should instead be commended for lending his voice to the growing call for an end to the NTF-ELCAC and ATA menace on people’s rights.
Karapatan added it anticipates Fry’s full report on his official visit to the Philippines to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2024.
“We hope that he can also look further into the militarist approach in the counterinsurgency policy of the Marcos Jr. – Duterte administration that drives NTF-ELCAC and the use of the terror law against environmental defenders and communities, as well as the neoliberal policies that spur destructive big reclamation, dam and mining projects that displace and violate rights of the people,” Karapatan said.
Meanwhile, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan said that in line with Fry’s recommendations, Congress should immediately move to defund NTF-ELCAC to prevent more human rights abuses in the country. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)
A group of human rights defenders said they have reported the case of the two abducted environmental activists to the United Nations (UN) at the ongoing 54th Regular Session of the Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva, Switzerland.
The Philippine UPR [Universal Periodic Review] Watch (PUPR) said the press conference organized by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) last September 19 when anti-Manila Bay reclamation project campaigners Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano revealed their abduction has reached the offices of several UN Special Rapporteurs and country missions.
The PUPR said it continues to update attendees at the 54th UN Human Rights Council session about the NTF-ELCAC’s “degenerative tactic” of presenting abduction and enforced disappearance victims as surrenderers.
“The PUPR team, continuing to report on developments in the Philippines, (also) shared this development with the office of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information,” the group in a statement said, referring to Irene Khan who is set to visit the Philippine in January 2024.
Bishop Melzar Labuntog, the General Secretary of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines also asked other UN experts to red-tagging, freezing of assets, and arrests and detention of church workers and groups.
“Church groups living out their faith and expressions have met malignment and have been equated with terrorist groups,” Labuntog said. “The clear trend of attacking church workers and ministries is a clear indication of how human rights, freedom, and justice are being trampled upon.”
Bishop Labuntog is part of the PUPR delegation to the ongoing UN session, alongside an indigenous people’s leader, a climate activist, a victim of extra-judicial killings, and a people’s lawyer.
The group said they emphasize the injustices suffered by civilians under the Philippine Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, citing at least 15 terrorism-related cases filed against activists, ranging from allegations of acts of terrorism to financing terrorism with corresponding civil forfeiture charges.
In their meetings with experts and country missions, the PUPR delegation said they also raise the issue of censorship such as the blocking of 25 websites of progressive news sites by the National Telecommunication Commission upon the orders of the National Security Council.
“The first target of government repression will not be the last,” National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers-National Capital Region secretary general Kristina Conti said.
Conti added that NUPL’s own Facebook page became inaccessible last September 26 after several posts condemning the killing of a fellow lawyer in Abra province.
PUPR said one of its members from the Council of Health and Development has delivered an oral intervention through video in the interactive dialogue on economic, social, and cultural rights and COVID-19 recovery at the ongoing UNHRC session. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)
By Nuel M. Bacarra
In the morning of September 19, a press conference organized by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) was held to present two new trophies, young “surrenderers” to the public. But the presscon blew up in the face of NTF-ELCAC personnel when Jonila Castro bravely revealed that she and Jhed Reiyana Tamano were abducted by the military forces and were forced to surrender because of the threat to their lives.
The presscon was broadcast live on a local government unit public information office Facebook page as well as on SMNI, galvanized church, rights defenders and activist groups to troop to Plaridel, Bulacan to demand for their immediate release.
I joined them to cover the event. We arrived past lunchtime, finding several Bulacan State University students already protesting in front of the municipal hall, faced by a phalanx of police personnel. The students took off their footwear and placed these in between themselves and the police, symbolizing the two sandals left behind when Jonila and Jhed were abducted in Orion, Bataan on September 2.
Upstairs, in front of the mayor’s office, I waited with fellow journalists, waiting for further developments. Jhed and Jonila were being kept at the mayor’s office as the local chief executive was deciding on her next move as the military did not want to surrender the two victims to her custody. Jhed and Jonila are Plaridel residents.
Minutes before three in the afternoon, I heard loud voices at the ground floor. I rushed downstairs and saw the police personnel dispersing the protesters. A protester was shouting “Huwag kayong manulak!” (Don’t push us!). I saw a young girl got hit by a policeman randomly punching the protesters. The youth pleading with the officers not to push was also hurt.
The police failed to disperse the protesters. Soon, they reasserted their place in front of the building’s main door and resumed their protest. This time, they faced the onlookers, some of them approaching and explaining what is happening at the mayor’s office. By then, Jonila’s parents have arrived with their lawyers and Makabayan bloc Representatives Arlene Brosas and Raoul Manuel to negotiate with the mayor.
I tried going back to where Jonila and Jhed were being kept to get more direct information but was no longer allowed by the police. We soon received information that the two would be brought to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) where the turnover of Jhed and Jonila to their families and supporters would take place. I asked to myself, “Why not turn them over now as family and lawyers are already there?” Then I thought, the mayor must be covering her behind because of the military’s objection to the victim’s release.
Minutes later, we saw Jonila and Jhed coming out of the building with their lawyers and family. We ran to our vehicles to join the convoy to Quezon City. As we approached the CHR headquarters after a mad dash from Bulacan, we saw activists lined up along Commonwealth Avenue who rushed into the compound as soon as our vehicles arrived.
We were allowed to take photos inside the conference room where the victims and their supporters were ushered in. We were asked thereafter to leave as the meeting would be closed door.
I made my way out of the building to take photos of the protesters. It was past six in the evening and I was really hungry at the time. A protester offered me a snack which I wolfed down as we waited for further developments.
After a while, we were told that Jhed and Jonila would be addressing the crowd.
The two thanked their supporters, saying their freedom is also because of the clamor for them to be surfaced. They said they knew people were looking for them and reiterated the correctness of what they are fighting for: a stop to the reclamation projects at Manila Bay.
The saga of Jhed and Jonila are far from over, however. The military and the NTF-ELCAC are doubling down on their canard that the two voluntarily surrendered. I think, though, the sandals left behind when the victims struggled during their abduction could not have been staged. And between two young girls and the NTF-ELCAC, who do we immediately see as liars?
That Tuesday had been the longest and most tiring day of coverage that I have had so far since I joined Kodao. I am a senior citizen with many bodily aches and pains associated with my age. I did not know I could still do it. But the significance of the events made me forget all these.
Jonila Castro and Jhed Reiyana Tamano, young as they are, showed us how to deal with state terrorism. They spoke the truth and turned the table around on their captors. Their courage is a shining example, showing the world how people’s rights are violated in the Philippines and how these are asserted and won. #
A fellow state abduction survivor vows to bring the case of the two surfaced Manila Bay activists to the attention of the international community at the ongoing 54th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, Switzerland.
Dyan Gumanao, abducted by suspected police and military agents at the Port of Cebu last January, said the case of Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano is another proof state agents are behind the “heinous abductions” of activists throughout the country.
“We salute the fortitude of Jhed and Jonila who, despite the violence and abduction they suffered in the hands of the military, revealed the truth to the public,” Gumanao said.
This morning, Castro and Tamano revealed in a press conference organized by the military, the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), and the local government unit (LGU) of Plaridel, Bulacan they were abducted and were coerced to sign an affidavit that they are rebel surrenderers.
The environmental activists, also known as the Orion 2, were abducted last September 2, in Orion, Bataan. The victims were held at the headquarters of the 70th Infantry Battalion in Dona Remedios Trinidad in Bulacan province where they said they were threatened and coerced by their abductors.
Gumanao said Castro and Tamano’s revelation is not an isolated incident as it also happened to her and her fellow activist and boyfriend Armand Dayoha last January.
The couple was rescued in another part of Cebu province after six days.
Gumanao is in Geneva as part of the Philippine UPR (Universal Periodic Review) Watch delegation to the UNHRC session.
The Philippine UPR Watch earlier said they are calling on the UNHRC to investigate the Ferdinand Marcos Jr. government’s human rights record that is “indistinguishable” from the sordid history of the Rodrigo Duterte government in terms of weaponization of laws and red-tagging of activists and critics.
Meanwhile, various groups demanded the immediate and unconditional release of Castro and Tamano.
Students of Bulacan State University (BSU) where both are alumnae, stormed Plaridel City Hall demanding their freedom.
The Environmental Defenders Congress also said it demands the release of the two victims following the startling revelation of the two environmental activists.
“The irreversible harm inflicted by reclamation projects on our marine environments is a stark reality, and it is precisely this grave concern that Jhed and Jonila were courageously fighting against,” the group said.
“In view of the public and categorical repudiation by activists Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano of the government narrative in the presence of NTF-ELCAC, the military, LGU officials and the media, there is no legal basis to hold them any second longer and they should be freed and if restrained illegally, can walk away from their custodians,” National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers chairperson Atty. Edre Olalia said.
Earlier, human rights group Karapatan called on Plaridel Mayor Jocell Vistan Casaje to ensure the safe release of the two victims to their families, lawyers of choice, human rights and church groups or their friends.
Kodao sources said the two are not charged with any criminal or civil complaint and are currently at Mayor Casaje’s office awaiting resolution of how they will be released.
The military is reportedly preventing attempts to have the victims released.
Sources also said Makabayan bloc officials are in Plaridel to help ensure the safe and immediate release of the victims.
Outside the municipal hall, the police are dispersing the BSU students and other activists gathered. # (Raymund B. Villanueva, with reports from Nuel M. Bacarra)
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) condemned the latest designation of six persons, including four Cordillera activists, as terrorists, saying its worst fears about the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 is now happening in full swing.
Reacting to the Philippine government’s Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) Resolution No. 41 of June 7 designating activists Windel Bolinget, Jen Awingan, Sarah Abellon-Alikes, and Steve Tauli, as well as two other individuals as terrorists, BAYAN said ATC’s move is abuse of power.
The group added the designation is based on mere allegations and unknown pieces of information and issued without the benefit of any hearing or mechanism for due process.
“[It] validates our earlier warning that the law can and will be abused to target activists, government critics, members of progressive movements and organizations, and practically anyone considered a threat by the national security cluster,” BAYAN chairperson Teddy Casiño said in a statement.
The four Cordillera activists are long-time leaders of the regional organization Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA) who previously faced rebellion charges by government agencies and have also reported various forms of attacks.
CPA chairperson Bolinget, regional council member Tauli and researcher Awingan were among seven persons charged with rebellion but was quashed by Branch 2 Bangued (Abra) Regional Trial Court (RTC) last May 11.
Tauli was also mauled and abducted by suspected members of the military on August 2022 in Tabuk City, Kalinga province, but was surfaced a day later after his abductors failed to turn him into a government spy.
The four activists were also part of a group that appealed before the Supreme Court for the issuance of a writ of amparo to protect them from what they claim are “continuing threats to their lives, liberty and security” by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict.
‘Weaponization of the law’
In its resolution, the ATC claimed its designation of the six persons were based on so-called verified and validated information, sworn statements, and other pieces of evidence gathered by different Philippine law enforcement agencies.
It said it found probable cause, warranting the designation of the six persons for violations of the ATA, particularly for committing terrorism; planning, training, preparing, and facilitating the
commission of terrorism; recruitment to and membership in a terrorist organization; and providing material support to terrorist organizations.
In its Resolution No. 12 dated December 9, 2020, the ATC designated the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army as terrorist organizations, a decision rejected by a Manila RTC Branch 19 ruling in September 2022 that ruled the groups were not organized for the purpose of terrorism.
BAYAN said ATC’s continuing designation as terrorists of activists is clear “weaponization” of the law against members of organizations known to be critical of the government.
The group cited the use of the ATA against human rights defenders Ken Rementilla, Jasmin Rubia and Hailey Pecayo merely for taking the cudgels for 9-year old Kyllene Casao who was killed on July 9, 2022 by suspected members of the Philippine Army’s 59th Infantry Battalion in Taysan, Batangas.
“Their designation as terrorists by the ATC is the latest effort to intimidate, harass and threaten them into silence and inactivity. It allows the government to freeze their accounts and properties, including personal funds and those for their families. It sets them up for public humiliation, discrimination and physical attack,” BAYAN said.
BAYAN also cited the government’s order to block 26 websites of progressive organizations and critical media by the National Telecommunications Commission upon orders of the ATC.
“This latest act of the ATC is tantamount to trial by publicity using guilt by association. We call on our people to oppose this blatant violation of the right to due process and freedom of association enshrined in the Bill of Rights,” BAYAN’s Casiño said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)
Tauli’s colleagues said kidnappers were state security forces
The abductors of anti-dam campaigner Stephen “Steve” Tauli wanted him to turn government spy and tried to force him to confirm fellow activists’ alleged links with underground revolutionary groups.
The Cordillera Peoples’ Alliance (CPA) and the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) on Monday, August 29, said the Kankanaey Igorot activist was also forced to sign a sworn statement admitting he was a leader of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA).
“The whole time, Steve was blindfolded and handcuffed, while being threatened that they could kill him anytime if he would not cooperate,” the groups said.
Tauli, CPA regional council member, was assaulted and abducted by five men at a store near the CPA office in Barangay Appas in Tabuk City, Kalinga province at around 6:45 in the evening.
While inside a black van he was forced into, Tauli was blindfolded, handcuffed and mauled while he desperately struggled and screamed for help, the two organizations reported.
The victim immediately and repeatedly demanded for his captors to identify themselves and their units as well as to bring to either a police station or a military camp, instead of an unknown location. Tauli also told his abductors to file charges against him in court if they thought he had committed a crime, the CPA and the CHRA narrated.
“Here, the men started to lecture Steve about the NTF-ELCAC (National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, the government anti-insurgency program) and its objective of stopping the insurgency problem in the country. They interrogated him about his work and some people he allegedly has links with,” their statement said.
After an hour of interrogation, the van drove for another two hours, stopping on what Tauli reportedly thought was a secluded area and where the interrogation continued for several more hours.
The CPA and CHRA said Tauli feared for his life, knowing what had happened to his friend and fellow activist James Balao who was abducted in Baguio City in 2008 and was never surfaced.
After repeated threats to his life and thoughts of distress to his family for suddenly going missing, Tauli agreed to sign a prepared sworn statement. His kidnappers then removed his blindfold to sign the document and read it while being recorded on video.
“They then threatened him not to report what had happened and to comply with what he had signed, otherwise they would harm him, his family, and his colleagues,” the CPA and CHRA narrated.
Tauli reportedly told the groups his wearing masks the entire time.
Tauli was released by his kidnappers the next evening, August 21, near where he was abducted and was made to walk to the CPA-Kalinga office. His colleagues, who were about to continue to search for him that night, found the victim dazed and in shock, the organizations said.
Red-tagged anti-dam activist
The groups said that Tauli, like fellow CPA leaders and members, were subject to red-tagging, surveillance and harassment before the incident.
Tauli’s abduction came at a time while CPA-Kalinga launched a campaign against the Saltan Dam and right after his group filed a petition for a Writ of Amparo at the Court of Appeals because of the continuing red-tagging and attacks against human rights defenders.
Saltan River in upper Kalinga province is considered one of the country’s cleanest inland waterway. It is a major tributary of the Chico River system and passes through the famed Balbalasang Balbalan National Park, “the green heart of the Cordillera.”
The Saltan D River Hydroelectric Power Project is listed to be on its pre-development stage and awarded by the government to a company called the JBD Management and Consulting Services, Inc.
“We are of the firm belief that the swift response of family, colleagues and the wider community to immediately search for him, government officials who stood by their mandate to protect their constituents, and the public outcry forced his abductors to release Steve Tauli,” the CPA and CHRA said.
“His was a near-death experience in the hands of his abductors who clearly were part of the State security forces,” they added.
The groups said Tauli and his family are still reeling from the deep trauma caused by his abduction and threats to his life are still continuing. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)
Commission succumbed to red-tagging?
The Komisyon ng Wikang Filipino (KWF) stopped the publication and distribution of five books by well-known writers and academicians, including a book on National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera.
In a memoramdum dated Thursday, August 9, KWF Commissioner for Programs and Projects Carmelita Abdurahman and Commissioner for Operations and Finance Benjamin Mendillo said the following books contain subversive and anti-government themes:
- Teatro Politikal Dos by Malou Jacob;
- Kalatas: Mga Kwentong Bayan at Kwentong Buhay by Rommel B. Rodriguez;
- Tawid-diwa sa Pananagisag ni Bienvenido Lumbera: Ang Bayan, ang Manunulat, at ang Magasing Sagisag sa Imahinatibong Yugto ng Batas Militar 1975-1979 by Dexter B. Cayanes;
- May Hadlang ang Umaga by Don Pagusara; and
- Labas: Mga Palabas sa Labas ng Sentro by Reuel M. Aguila.
The KWF also ordered its officer-in-charge director general to explain to mass media entities, libraries and schools given copies of said books that the commission wishes not to be charged under the Anti-Terrorism Law – Republic Act 11479 – particularly its Section 9 on inciting to commit terrorism.
‘Are they literary critics now?’
Kalatas author and University of the Philippines faculty member Rodriguez denounced the withdrawal of his book’s publication by the KWF and called on fellow writers and artists to defend the arts.
The academic blamed former communications undersecretary Lorraine Badoy and fellow Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI) presenters Jeffry Celis and a certain Frank he said are connected with the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) for KWF’s decision.
“Let us not allow this cabal to dictate on how we create art! They have no place in free speech! They have no right to prevent our right to create free art!” Rodriguez wrote.
The trio had alleged on their SMNI program “Laban Kasama ang Bayan” last August 9 that the books were instigated by the Communist Party of the Philippines which the KWF, an attached agency of the Office of the President, inadvertently allowed print.
The University of the Philippines Department of Filipino and Philippine Literature also condemned Badoy for red-tagging two of its faculty members who are “highly-regarded writers.”
The Department said that SMNI and the NTF-ELCAC had no right censuring the new books whatever are their themes, coming as it did this month, the country’s Buwan ng Wika – Month of Language. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)
International mission says elections neither free nor fair
Bayan Muna said “massive electronic vote shaving” was the main reason why it lost in the May 9, 2022 national elections, accounting for as much as 80% drop in the number of votes compared to 2019.
A winner in the last seven elections, even the topnotcher when it first ran in 2001, the party said its drop of votes from 1.117 million to just around 219,000 is “simply unbelievable and unacceptable.”
The last time Bayan Muna votes registered such a significant decrease was in the 2016 elections. From more than 946,000 in 2013, its counted votes was only 606,000 in 2016–good for a seat in Congress.
“Even at the height of red tagging, black propaganda, harassment and dirty operation against the progressive partylists by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) and the Duterte regime in 2019, Bayan Muna still managed to double its votes from 606,000 to 1.117 M,” it pointed out.
Bayan Muna said it seems they was targeted since the 2019 elections by the NTF-ELCAC and the Duterte administration to “unjustly stifle the effective and progressive voice of the marginalized sectors in Congress.”
The group said it will continue to protest what it believes was a “massive fraud and terrorism” in the 2022 elections as well as continue to investigate and uncover various fraud including massive electronic cheating.
Bayan Muna mentioned massive media ads and vote buying by dynastic and rich party list candidates as other forms of cheating in the last elections.
Massive vote buying
Meanwhile, an international observers’ mission (IOM) reported that the last elections were neither free nor fair and “marred by a higher level of failure of the electronic voting system.”
Members of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) said it began its monitoring of the elections in February and its members have been in Central Luzon, the National Capital Region, Southern Luzon, Central Visayas, Western Visayas and Mindanao since the first week of April to see firsthand how the campaign and elections were held.
In its report presented last Thursday, the IOM said it also witnessed rampant vote-buying, disturbing levels of state and military orchestrated red-tagging of candidates and parties, including numerous incidents of deadly violence.
It noted that main opposition candidate Leni Robredo was strenuously red-tagged while another presidential candidate, labor leader Leody De Guzman, was the victim of a strafing attack in Mindanao.
“Many campaign activists were arrested on false charges. Large numbers of voters were unable to cast their ballots. Vote-buying was widespread. Many found their names were no longer on the voter roll, and many had to trust that election officials would later put their marked ballot paper through a Vote Counting Machine (VCM) because of the breakdown of the voting machines,” the group reported.
The IOM also reported election-related violations of human rights from March 15, noting the first political killings related to the elections took place in Sorsogon, Bicol Region, on January 15.
“The elections took place in the most repressive atmosphere seen since the time of dictator Ferdinand Marcos. The Duterte government has orchestrated state terror, marshalling the entire machinery of the state, including the judiciary, the military and police, the departments of education, social welfare and local government, in a war on dissent which continued through the entirety of the election campaign,” it said.
”The election is both a tragedy and farce of epic Shakespearean proportions, a farce in that the electoral charade was based on a sea of disinformation, disenfranchisement and intimidation of large swathes of the voting public,” the IOM added. # (Raymund B Villanueva)
“A travesty of justice,” mothers of disappeared University of the Philippines (UP) students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan called yesterday’s interview by National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) spokesperson Lorraine Badoy of convicted kidnapper Jovito Palparan.
Reacting to an online interview last Wednesday of the retired general found guilty of kidnapping the students, the mothers said the caper was “a cheap, desperate attempt to vindicate criminals and rights violators.”
“It is nauseating, to say the least, to see Palparan and this Badoy trying so hard to salvage the face of the butcher for two hours, when Palparan is now a convicted criminal. The courts have convicted him, with overwhelming evidence and witness testimonies, for taking away our daughters. What a travesty of justice!” Concepcion Empeño, mother of Karen, said.
During the interview, aired over SMNI Network owned by controversial Rodrigo Duterte ally Apollo Quiboloy, himself charged in the United States of America for sex trafficking of minors and cash smuggling, Badoy said the show was done to “vindicate” Palparan.
Empeño also questioned why the interview was allowed in the first place by the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) authorities.
“They gave the convicted Palparan all the freedom to speak to the public. How about our daughters, did he give them a chance to speak and defend themselves? No! They remain missing to this day, for 15 years, while Palparan is alive and well,” Empeño exclaimed.
Erlinda Cadapan, Sherlyn’s mother, for her part said the interview is a cheap, desperate work of thieves such as Palparan and Badoy.
“They stole our daughters, and those who continue to employ abduction and enforced disappearances should be held accountable for the rest of their lives, like what they did to us, as we remain searching for our missing loved ones,” Cadapan said.
Cadapan said they are calling for NTF-ELCAC’s abolition as it perpetuates government’s systematic red-tagging of activists and persons resulting in real life harm on them.
“We call on whoever will be elected president to abolish the NTF-ELCAC, to help the victims of killings, enforced disappearances and other rights violations, and to see to it that the likes of Palparan, Badoy, red-taggers, human rights violators and ‘butchers’ will see their day in court,” Cadapan said.
Meanwhile, secretary Menardo Guevarra said the Department of Justice did not know of any request submitted by Badoy to be allowed to interview Palparan.
Guevarra added he is not aware of permission granted by the Malolos City Court for the interview either.
“Undersecretary Deo Marco will conduct an investigation tomorrow. Let’s wait,” Guevarra said on Thursday night.
Marco is the supervising undersecretary for the Bureau of Corrections that oversees the NBP. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)