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Military ‘sorry’ for false list of dead or captured NPA

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (UP) apologized for its false list of University of the Philippines (UP) students who died or were captured as New People’s Army (NPA) rebels.

In a statement, the AFP said it sincerely apologizes to those “inadvertently affected by inconsistencies” in the list published on its Facebook account.

The AFP said its Civil-Military Operations Office is already conducting an internal investigation, adding it will hold to account those responsible.

The AFP apology,

The list had gone viral despite being deleted shortly after publication.

Among those listed as dead or captured NPA rebels are prominent UP alumni, including former government officials.

Former Congressman and Integrated Bar of the Philippines president Roan Libarios, former Government of the Republic of the Philippines Negotiating Panel chairperson and Philippine Health Insurance Corporation president Atty. Alexander Padilla, former Deparment of Environment and Natural Resources executive Elmer Mercado, and stage and film director Behn Cervantes who died of natural causes in August 2013 were among those listed.

False list

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) condemned the inclusion of at least two journalists in the list.

The NUJP said the listing of Agence France Presse bureau chief for Singapore and Malaysia Roberto “Bobby” Coloma and business and economic journalist Roel Landingin was “malicious red-tagging” by the military.

“It is appalling how the military office tasked with communicating with the citizenry has shamelessly resorted to such blatant falsehood to push the narrative of UP as the supposed ‘breeding ground’ of enemies of the state,” the NUJP said.

“We would normally dismiss this canard as laughably stupid. However, putting the people it names in mortal danger is no laughing matter at all. Especially since AFP units are known to spread disinformation such as this through their own social media accounts,” the media group added.

Schools reject Parlade’s allegation

In a related development, the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU), De La Salle University (DLSU), University of Santo Tomas (UST), and the Far Eastern University (FEU) protested their inclusion in another list as recruitment havens for the NPA.

In a repeat of his allegations in 2018, National Task Force to End Local Communist and Armed Conflict spokesperson Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade said the NPA recruits new members from 18 Philippine colleges and universities.

ADMU President Roberto Yap, DLSU President Raymundo Suplido, FEU President Michael Alba and UST Vice Rector Isaias Tiongco jointly rejected Paralde’s statement against their schools.

The officials said their universities “seek to direct our students to engage in acts that contribute to the strengthening of social cohesion, defend the country’s democratic institutions, and promote nation-building.”

Parlade’s claims are “really getting old” and that the accusations were irresponsibly “cast without proof,” the school officials said.

Parlade’s statement and the AFP list followed defense secretary’s Delfin Lorenzana’s unilateral abrogation last week of the UP-Department of National Defense Agreement of 1989 requiring the AFP to seek permission before conducting operations in campus.

The move earned widespread condemnation from UP alumni and civil society groups. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

2020 saw most brazen abuses vs journalism—NUJP

The year 2020 had been particularly bad for journalism in the Philippines that saw more media workers killed, arrested, jailed and lose their jobs, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) reported.

The media group said four journalists have been killed in the Philippines, including Cornelio Pepino in Negros Oriental last May 5; Jobert Bercasio in Sorsogon last September 14; Virgilio Maganes in Pangasinan last November 10; and Ronnie Villamor in Masbate last November 14.

Villamor was shot dead by the Philippine Army that claimed the journalist was a communist supporter and killed in an encounter.

Maganes, who survived the first slay attempt against him in 2016 by playing dead, was killed inside their family compound in Villasis, Pangasinan.

“Their deaths have brought the total of media killings under Duterte to 19, and to 191 since 1986,” the NUJP said.

The International Federation of Journalists lists the Philippines as among the most dangerous countries for journalists in the world in 2020.

Their killing of four Filipino media workers figured in the list of 60 journalists killed worldwide in 2020 by the Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).

The IFJ list made the Philippines the fourth most dangerous country for journalists in the world in 2020, along with Syria and after India (8 killed), Pakistan (7), Afghanistan (7).

The list made the country the most dangerous in Southeast Asia as well.

Twenty-seven journalists were killed in the Asia-Pacific, the most dangerous region for journalists in 2020.

Arrests and detention

Seven journalists have also been arrested, at least two of whom remain detention, both women and executives of alternative media outfits.

Those arrested in 2020 include Glenn Jester Hitgano in Jan. 21 (arbitrarily arrested during coverage); Frenchiemae Cumpio in Feb. 7 (illegal firearms possession); Ramil Traya Bagues in Aug. 18 (cyber-libel); Rommel Ibasco Fenix in Sept. 15 (libel and violation of Anti-Photo and Video Voyeurism Act of 2009);  Virgilio Avila Jr.  in Nov. 10 (cyber-libel); Mia Concordia in Nov. 10 (cyber-libel); and Lady Ann Salem in Dec. 10 (illegal possession of firearms and explosives).

Cumpio, executive director of alternative media outfit Eastern Vista, was sleeping at a church group’s dormitory when arrested in the dead of night.

Her case was among those cited by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights report in June last year as a clear case of human rights violation.

Partial Committee to Protect Journalists list of jailed media workers where Frenchie Mae Cumpio appears.

Cumpio’s imprisonment also made it to the list of 274 journalists jailed in 2020 globally by the New-York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

The CPJ said the number was “a new high…as governments cracked down on coverage of COVID-19 or tried to suppress reporting on political unrest.”

Salem, editor of alternative news outfit Manila Today was arrested, of all days, on International Human Rights Day.

The NUJP has reported Salem’s case to the CPJ but the latter’s list has yet to include her name.

Salem is currently is in a Covid-19 isolation protocol at the Mandaluyong City Jail after her transfer from the Philippine National Police’s jail facility at Camp Crame.

CPJ infographic on countries where journalists have been jailed in 2020.

The rest of the arrested Filipino journalists were able to post bail, except Bagues whose current status the NUJP is trying to find out.

Red-tagging and charges

The NUJP said that the Philippine government had been especially vicious against the press the past year as compared to the first three years of the Rodrigo Duterte government.

“[B]ad as the first three years were, 2020 trumped them all as Duterte and his minions ramped up their attacks on the free press even as the COVID-19 pandemic began to make its deadly grip felt,” the NUJP said.

The media group said the Duterte government displayed a “most brazen abuse of state power” by red-tagging journalists and media institutions.

Aside from Cumpio and Salem, various government agencies and officials red-tagged alternative media outfits Kodao Productions, Bulatlat, Pinoy Weekly, Northern Dispatch, Panay Today, Manila Today, Radyo Natin-Guimba as well as dominant media organizations ABS-CBN, Rappler, CNN-Philippines, among many others.

Veteran journalist and NUJP director and former chairperson Nestor Burgos Jr. had also been red-tagged.

Editors and staff of Baguio City-based Northern Dispatch faced various police-instigated charges in court throughout last year.

Rappler CEO Maria Ressa and former researcher-writer Rey Santos Jr. were judged guilty in June last year of libelling a businessman with links to Duterte.

Maria Ressa in a press briefing after her conviction of libel last June 15. (Photo by R. Villanueva)

ABS-CBN closure

The NUJP said the pandemic gave Duterte convenient cover to make good his repeated threats to shut down ABS-CBN, the Philippines’ biggest media conglomerate.

As threats of arrest forced the growing crowds that had rallied to the beleaguered network since late last year to stand down, the House of Representatives allowed ABS-CBN’s franchise to lapse, forcing the network to stop broadcasting on May 5.

On May 5, the network stopped broadcasting and, two months later, in June, the majority of the House committee on congressional franchises sealed its fate, voting to deny it a new franchise to operate.

Duterte thus become the second president after Ferdinand Marcos to force ABS-CBN off the air, the NUJP said.

The closure left thousands jobless and the loss of ABS-CBN regional stations also left many areas without their major source of news and entertainment.

The full extent of this would become clear during typhoons Rolly and Ulysses that caught millions of victims previously dependent on ABS-CBN news and alerts unaware of the hazards of the disasters, the NUJP said.

We strongly condemn the NTF-ELCAC’s callous, dangerous, and evidence-less red-tagging of the Altermidya network,” media organizations including the Asian Center for Journalism at the Ateneo de Manila University, the University of the Philippines Department of Journalism, the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, the Consortium on Democracy and Disinformation, the Foundation for Media Alternatives, MindaNews, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, and the Philippine Press Institute as well as media outfits Rappler and VERA Files said.

Bright spots

All was not gloomy in 2020, however, as there had been bright spots in the local media community’s defense of press freedom, the NUJP said.

“Not least of this was the successful push to have UNESCO revert the status of the Ampatuan massacre to ‘unresolved’ after it was pointed out that the legal process is not finished and 76 suspects are still at large and will need to be tried should they be arrested, the media group said.

The NUJP also cited other notable victories such as the case of GMA workers who sued the network over unfair labor practices

In February, the Court of Appeals decided to reinstate, with no loss of seniority and with full back wages, 51 employees who had been illegally terminated while the Supreme Court in September ruled to reinstate 30 cameramen and assistant cameramen illegally dismissed by GMA in 2013.

The NUJP also said that despite “continuing efforts of the enemies of truth to spread disinformation, the media community has, by and large, successfully fended them off, including the paid influencers and trolls of government.”

“As we thankfully bid goodbye to 2020, we are also aware of what could be even greater challenges and threats to freedom of the press and of expression in 2021 and beyond…And so we look forward to 2021 resolved to continue defending and pushing the boundaries for press freedom in our land,” the NUJP said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Another farmer killed in Bohol as 9 Tumandok are massacred in Panay

Another peasant activist in Bohol Province was killed just as nine Tumandok  civilians in Panay Island were being massacred last Wednesday in one of the bloodiest day for farmers under the four-year old Rodrigo Duterte government.

Lorenzo “Dodoy” Paña of Barangay Bantolinao, Antequera town was gunned down by unidentified motorcycle riding men around 9:00 AM last December 30 at Barangay Dorol, Balilihan town in Bohol, peasant organization Hugpong sa Mag-uumang Bol-anon-Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (HUMABOL-KMP) said.

Paña was on his way to bring lunch for his son working at a nearby construction site when fired upon by unidentified perpetrators.

Paña was a former officer of Hugpong sa Mag-uuma Dapit sa Kasadpan (HUMANDA KA), a formation of Humabol chapters in the first district of Bohol.

In 2018, the victim, along with his wife and children, worked as volunteers for the construction of a coconut processing plant managed by farmers organizations in Barangay Tinibgan, Maribojoc which now produces virgin coconut oil.

In June 26, 2018, the victim’s house was subjected to a warrantless search by around 30 members of SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in the said province.

His family complained of maltreatment during the said incident, HUMABOL-KMP said.

In previous years, the Paña family also reported of being harassed by state forces.

Paña’s killing happened while the 12th Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army (12IBPA) troopers and the PNP in Western Visayas killed nine Tumandok indigenous peoples in Capiz and Iloilo provinces, also in the Visayas.

Bohol peasant activist Lorenzo “Dodoy” Paña, killed in Balilihan, Bohol last December 30. (Humabol-KMP photo)

Immediate condemnation of the Tumandok massacre

The massacre in Panay Island earned swift condemnation from church leaders and organizations.

San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza, whose Diocese suffered similar police and military Synchronized Enhanced Management of Police Operations (SEMPO) that also resulted in massacres, cried out, “Do we have to kill our perceived ‘enemies’ – especially if they are unarmed?”

“Is this the way we celebrate Christmas as a Christian country about to welcome the New Year and 500 Years of Christianity [in the Philippines?” the prelate asked.

“How long will this spiral of violence continue? Have we run out of peaceful means? Are we that desperate? Do we really, seriously believe this is the effective and lasting way to solve our social ills? I RAISE MY VOICE TO CRY OUT: “NO MORE KILLING!” We want PEACE – JUST and LASTING PEACE!” he added.

The Promotion of Church People’s Response (PNP) in Panay and Guimaras islands directly blamed PNP chief Debold Sinas for the death of nine Tumandok leaders and activists yesterday.

“The brazen extra-judicial killings and illegal arrests of leaders of the Tumandok, an indigenous people of Panay, on the early hours of yesterday in the mountainous villages of Tapaz, Capiz and Calinog, Iloilo is part of the nationwide implementation of PNP Chief Sinas’ version of ‘political tokhang’, his brainchild SEMPO,” PCPR’s Fr. Marco Sulayao said in a statement.

The faith-based group also blamed National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) agent Jeffrey Celis it said petitioned for the search warrants in Metro Manila Regional Trial Courts used for the operations.

“Blood is on the hands of NTF-ELCAC red-taggers, especially Jeffrey Celis, who according to [a] reliable source, petitioned for the said warrants,” PCPR said.

National labor federation Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) included President Rodrigo Duterte in the blame for the massacre.

“The blood of the Tumandok is in the hands of Duterte, Sinas, PNP and NTF-ELCAC. They wantonly kill the indigenous peoples to give way to projects of big capitalists,” KMU said in a statement.

“We condemn this heinous killing perpetrated by the mercenary AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) -PNP. It is most likely that the police and military will present the killed and arrested Tumandok as members of the New People’s Army when in fact, they are just farmers and indigenous people defending their ancestral land and farms against land grabbing,” KMP chairperson Danilo Ramos said. 

Indigenous people’s group Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (Katribu) also denounced “the government’s wanton disregard for human rights and laments the death of our people’s heroes.”

“Our fight against the construction of Jalaur and Pan-ay Dams have not ended yet so we remain resolute in defending what’s left of our rivers and forests. Despite violence and threats, we will relentlessly and fiercely stand against corporate plunder and the destruction of the environment,” Katribu said in a statement.

“The indigenous peoples have nowhere to run to anymore. We will certainly hold the line,” it added.

An IP rights advocate calls for the dissolution of the government agency they blame for red-tagging the victims that led to their massacre. (Katribu photo)

Red-tagged victims

Killed in the synchronized and simultaneous operations in the neighboring towns were former Barangay Captain and  current Tumandok nga Mangunguma nga Nagapangapin sa Duta kag Kabuhi (TUMANDUK) chairperson Roy Giganto, his Barangay Lahug co-councilors Reynaldo Katipunan, and Mario Aguirre; Eliseo Gayas Jr. of Barangay Aglinab, Tapaz; Mario Diaz of Barangay Tacayan, Tapaz; Artilito Katipunan of Barangay Acuna, Tapaz; and Barangay Nawayan chairperson Dalson Catamen of Tapaz.

Former TUMANDUK chairperson and Tapaz local government employee Marevic Aquirre is missing, believed to have been abducted by the police.

Two youth residents of Barangay Aglinab, Tapaz town are also reported missing.

The PNP reported it arrested 17 other Tumandok from its SEMPO.

“These Tumandok leaders were very active in reclaiming their ancestral land now occupied by the 3rd Infantry Division, Philippine Army military reservation. They were also active in resisting the construction of the Jalaur mega-dam,” PCPR said.

The community of Lahug also resisted the coercion of military troopers to sign a resolution declaring the CPP/NPA as “persona non grata” in their barangay, the group added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

52nd anniversary celebrations to be held today despite attacks—CPP

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) announced it will celebrate its 52nd founding anniversary today despite all-out attacks by government troopers.

In a Christmas day statement, CPP public information officer Marco Valbuena said “simple but joyous activities” will be held today in both rural and urban areas throughout the country.

“These activities are going to be held clandestinely to evade suppression by the fascist enemy’s military and police forces,” Valbuena said.

He said the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) continue to attack peasant communities even during the Christmas and New Year holiday season.

“The AFP has, so far, failed to detect and prevent the gatherings and assemblies which have already been held in some revolutionary areas… In some villages, the masses and local NPA units were able to mount their gatherings right under the nose of the AFP,” Valbuena added.

He said that more activities will also be held in the coming days.

Last December 16, the CPP Central Committee urged party members to celebrate their 52nd anniversary “with secret meetings and assemblies to mark the event wherever and whenever possible.”

The CPP also did not declare a holiday truce with the government following the December 7 announcement by Rodrigo Duterte that he will never again issue a ceasefire order with the CPP and its forces as long as he is president.

Duterte said, “There will be no ceasefire ever again under my term…For all intents and purposes, that ceasefire is dead. That’s gone. That has been long gone.”

(CPP image)

‘Fight against terror and evil’

The CPP said its celebrations this year shall focus on looking back in the past year, taking stock of the current situation and paying tribute to the heroes and martyrs of the Philippine revolution.

The celebrations shall also “affirm the commitment and determination to serve the people and fight to end the reign of terror and evil of the tyrannical US-Duterte regime.”

“Some of these meetings and gatherings double as education seminars to discuss the Party’s views about the current international and national situation,” the party’s statement added.

In the cities, the CPP said its revolutionary forces are also set to hold clandestine gatherings and assemblies among Party members and the revolutionary masses in their communities and homes.

“As in the rural areas, they can employ various creative methods to avoid enemy detection,” it said.

It also reminded its members it is not far-fetched for Duterte’s anti-communist National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Coflict to carry out another clampdown against the legal democratic forces in the government’s desperation to drown the joyous and militant spirit of the Party’s anniversary celebrations. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Church leaders express alarm at ‘reign of unpeace’ during Advent

Church leaders expressed alarm and concern at the deteriorating prospects for peace as shown by the Rodrigo Duterte government’s demonization of human rights.

In a pastoral statement, the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) said that while the Advent season has arrived, “unpeace” reigns as the Rodrigo Duterte government continues to consider human rights as a barrier to peace and order.

“This is evident in the arrests of a journalist and six union organizers on the day when the whole world was commemorating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” the church leaders said.

Several activists have also been arrested or killed in the past few months while numerous lives continue to be claimed under the campaign against illegal drugs, they added.

The statement was signed by Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro Bishop Emeritus and PEPP co-chairperson Antonio Ledesma; Bishop and PEPP co-chairperson Rex B. Reye; Bishop and National Council of Churches in the Philippines general secretary Reuel Norman Marigza; Sr. Mary John Mananzan, OSB of the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines; Justice, Peace and Reconciliation Commission executive director Reverend Dr. Aldrin Penamora; and PEPP head of secretariat Bishop Emeritus Deogracias Iniguez Jr.

The church leaders pointed out that the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) had been relentless in its malicious red-tagging of organizations and individuals critical of the government, including churches and church personalities, by falsely accusing them of being linked to terrorism.

They blamed the harmful rhetoric coming from President Duterte himself.

“This is in sharp contrast with the advent period a year ago when back channel negotiations between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) resulted in a Christmas ceasefire which redounded to a hopeful atmosphere for peace,” the pastoral statement said.

No ceasefire

President Duterte announced last December 7 that there will no longer be ceasefire declarations nor peace negotiations with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), New People’s Army and the NDFP as long as he is president.

His announcement followed the repeated and public announcements by the Armed Forces of the Philippines that it will never recommend the declaration of ceasefire with the Communist groups.

The CPP in turn announced Wednesday, December 16, it is impossible for them to issue the traditional  ceasefire declaration over Christmas and New Year while government troops terrorize civilian communities and conduct intense military operations against their revolutionary forces.

The CPP ordered the NPA to actively defend civilians and their ranks from AFP military operations throughout the holiday season as well as urge its members to secretly observe its 52nd founding anniversary on December 26.

‘Silence guns during season of hope’

While calling on both parties to “silence the guns during this season of hope,” the PEPP pointed out that the Duterte government’s rejection of the results of the back channel talks during this COVID-19 pandemic is what brought about the state of unpeace.

“[It] unilaterally stopped the peace negotiations, and proceeded to heighten its war against the NDFP, the New People’s Army (NPA), and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), and its so-called ‘legal fronts’, the group said.

“Since then, three NDFP consultants – Randal Echanis and Eugenia Magpantay and Agaton Topacio — were killed, while many others like Rey Claro Casambre of the Philippine Peace Center remain in jail. Even former NDFP Consultant Alfredo Mapano, who was already working for the government, was re-arrested,” it added.

The PEPP pointed out that the government is set for an all-out war in 2021 with the passage of the Anti-Terrorism Act while substantial funds were also designated for its counter-insurgency program with P19-billion set aside for the NTF-ELCAC.

The PEPP however said such policies will only further fan the flames of the armed conflict.

“This drive to annihilate the CPP-NPA-NDF without seriously addressing the long-standing issues of poverty, landlessness and inequality in the country, will not bring about a just and enduring peace,” the church leaders said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Media groups rally behind AlterMidya; condemn ‘callous, dangerous, evidence-less red-tagging’

Media institutions defended a network of independent news outfits from government allegations it is a Communist “propaganda machinery.”

In a statement following a Senate hearing last week, the country’s most respected media institutions expressed support to the People’s Alternative Media Network (AlterMidya) and denounced the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC)’s repeated allegations against the group.

“We strongly condemn the NTF-ELCAC’s callous, dangerous, and evidence-less red-tagging of the Altermidya network,” the media organizations said.

The institutions include the Asian Center for Journalism at the Ateneo de Manila University, the University of the Philippines Department of Journalism, the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, the Consortium on Democracy and Disinformation, the Foundation for Media Alternatives, MindaNews, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, and the Philippine Press Institute as well as media outfits Rappler and VERA Files.

At the third hearing of the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, Peace, Unification and Reconciliation on red-tagging last December 1, NTF-ELCAC executive director Allen Capuyan said AlterMidya outfits were part of the Communist Party of the Philippines’ “propaganda machinery.”

The media institutions however said Capuyan’s allegation is “a baseless blanket statement… provided without proof, presented as an out-of-context info-graphic, fraught with deadly consequences.”

“Red-tagging, especially without credible evidence of wrongdoing, is a devious form of disinformation. Other institutions red-tagged have been systematically harassed or demonized; other individuals, especially women, have been trolled, detained, assaulted, even killed,” the signatories said.

The institutions said the Altermidya network offers independent readings of national issues and events that a functioning democracy should welcome as part of a healthy pluralism in the public discourse.

“It is admirably committed to reporting on corruption, human rights abuses, and environmental issues, as well as the plight of farmers and workers. And some of its institutional members, including but not limited to Bulatlat.com and Northern Dispatch, have a well-deserved national reputation for high-quality journalism: hard-hitting, yes, but also rooted in the facts,” their statement said.

The media organizations said the AlterMidya network has done its journalism despite great risk, including death threats and a massive distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack.

“We therefore view this latest act of red-tagging with the utmost concern. It renders these community journalists even more vulnerable to abuse and violence, at the exact time we need more of their journalism,” they said.

‘Small but courageous’

In an earlier statement, the NUJP called on fellow journalists and “all Filipinos who cherish freedom and democracy” to support AlterMidya “against the utterly malicious and clearly criminal red-tagging by security officials.”

The NUJP said the government’s “baseless accusations” against the alternative media are nothing new but the level of vilification from the Duterte administration through NTF-ELCAC indicates it is bent on silencing contrary views and voices to force conformity on the Filipino people.

The NUJP said the latest assault on the alternative media is similar to the silencing of ABS-CBN and the continued attacks on Rappler and other critical and independent news organizations.

The union said AlterMidya’s “small but courageous news outfits” play a vital role in serving the people’s right to know through reportage and analysis that provide fresh perspectives to often under-reported social issues.

These issues include land reform, human rights, the environment and injustice as well as oft-neglected sectors such as farmers, small fisher folk, the urban poor, laborers and indigenous people.

“The otherwise unheard or ignored voices they bring to the national conversation strengthen our democracy by helping shape a fuller, more accurate picture of our society, of our people.

This, of course, is what those who seek to impose their will on us fear most and why they seek to silence not only the alternative media but independent Philippine media as a whole,” the NUJP said.

“It has always been a matter of pride for the NUJP to have the alternative media with us and count some of their best journalists as leaders of the organization,” NUJP said.

‘Will not be muzzled’

Alternative news outfit Bulatlat.com in an editorial said it will not be muzzled by the government’s latest attempt to discredit independent journalism in the Philippines.

Bulatlat  said President Duterte had been attempting to picture independent journalists as

“enemies of the state for exposing the administration’s gross human rights record, and lately its inefficiency in handling the COVID-19 pandemic and the aftermath of recent strong typhoons.”

“Our allegiance is to the truth. That such truth hurts those in power only affirms even more the relevance of independent and fearless journalism. We in Bulatlat will continue to perform our tasks, alongside our colleagues in the alternative and dominant media, because the Filipino people deserve no less,” the country’s oldest existing online news outfit said.

Mindanao’s Davao Today also said it is concerned with the “malicious and baseless attempt to taint the integrity of Davao Today in its role as the voice of the Mindanao community.”

“In a national landscape where dissenting voices are increasing and systematically silenced, independent and community-sourced bearers of information have become our last stronghold of democratic practice. Community journalism should flourish to serve the community as Davao Today has been doing,” the outfit said in a statement.

AlterMidya said it sees the latest attacks against itself and its members as a form of intimidation to force critical journalists into silence amid growing discontent among the people due to the Duterte government’s mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

AlterMidya said it will pursue legal action against NTF-ELCAC’s “malicious smear campaign.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NUJP: Stand with AlterMidya, Defend Press Freedom

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines calls on the community of independent Filipino journalists and on all Filipinos who cherish freedom and democracy to support the alternative media against the utterly malicious and clearly criminal red-tagging by security officials at the December 1 hearing of the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, Peace, Unification and Reconciliation.

It has always been a matter of pride for the NUJP to have the alternative media with us and count some of their best journalists as leaders of the organization.

These small but courageous news outfits play a vital role in serving the people’s right to know through reportage and analysis that provide fresh perspectives to often under-reported social issues – land reform, human rights, the environment and injustice, to name a few – and oft-neglected sectors – the peasants, small fisher folk, the urban poor, laborers and indigenous people.

The otherwise unheard or ignored voices they bring to the national conversation strengthen our democracy by helping shape a fuller, more accurate picture of our society, of our people.

This, of course, is what those who seek to impose their will on us fear most and why they seek to silence not only the alternative media but independent Philippine media as a whole.

Baseless accusations against the alternative media are nothing new, of course. But the level of vilification from this administration, through the agencies and officials in the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, indicates that government and its security machinery are bent on silencing contrary views and voices, and force conformity on our people.

Make no mistake, this assault on the alternative media is no different from the silencing of ABS-CBN and the continued attacks on Rappler and other critical and independent news organizations that insist on fulfilling our role of watchdog, of holding power to account, of speaking truth to power.

We cannot, we must not, allow them to succeed. Let us once and for all show them that we, the Philippine media and people, are free not because we are allowed to but because we insist on being free. #

On the incredulous red-tagging of Altermidya Network at the Dec. 1 Senate hearing

ONCE AGAIN, state forces led the hostile red-baiting of independent media at the December 1 Senate hearing after they presented the Altermidya Network and its members nationwide as so-called communist fronts.

The red-tagging of Altermidya journalists, online and on-ground, has intensified even more in the past months. These incidents, just like the National Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) presentation at the Senate hearing earlier, were done without evidence and incredulously linked the member outfits of Altermidya to an underground Communist organization.

In fact, the task force, despite its billion-peso-budget, merely copied the publicly-available Altermidya list of members and placed it under an incredible organizational heading.

We are appalled at this irresponsible practice, which is a stark contrast to our ethical commitment of truthful and careful reporting as journalists. The Altermidya Network is the broadest alliance of community journalists, independent media outfits, community radio broadcasters, and grassroots film collectives in the country. Its member outfits have a consistent record of covering underreported issues in communities – some for more than two decades, while other community-based media outfits in provinces join and continually expand the network.

Journalists from the alternative media relentlessly report on the situation in various communities across the country: on environment issues, corruption, human rights abuses, on the situation of farmers and workers, among others. Reporting on these stories have resulted in the non-stop attacks in various forms against our members – from death threats, cyberattacks, harassment, physical assault, detention, and even attempted murder.

Now, these attacks against the independent media are being mounted in a prominent arena at the Senate. But we can clearly see through these tactics of smearing and intimidating truth-tellers and critics into silence, especially in the middle of a growing discontent among the public.

We in the Altermidya are not new to attacks on media freedom. We will pursue legal action against this malicious smear campaign on our members. While we exhaust all means to fight back, we shall continue our journalistic responsibility of truth-telling– and with fellow journalists and freedom-loving Filipinos, persist in upholding press freedom and freedom of expression at all costs. #

Peace advocates slam red-tagging as a ‘work of evil’; call for peace talks resumption

By Joseph Cuevas

Peace advocates held a media briefing last Wednesday, November 11, to condemn red and terror-tagging activities they say undermine efforts to resume peace negotiations between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP).

The group Pilgrims for Peace pointed out that if the GRP still wants to resume negotiations with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and New People’s Army (NPA), it should stop calling the underground groups as terrorists.

It also pointed out that the NDFP is not classified as a terrorist organization even in the government’s own official pronouncements.

The advocates are dismayed that “war and terror-mongering are rearing their ugly heads once again, as a dominant trend in the current conduct by the GRP.”

Fr. Christopher Ablon of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente described the red-tagging activities of government agencies such as the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police and some officials of the government as a “work of evil” that directly hurts peace efforts.

Ablon cited that six out of seven victims of extra-judicial killings of church workers and peace advocates red-tagged.

Not terrorist organizations

Atty. Edre Olalia, legal consultant of the NDFP, said that red-tagging and vilification violates the presumption of innocence and human rights of target, especially the right to association.

The practice of red-tagging, especially by the state forces and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, has no other real purpose but to silence dissent and criticism and repress opposition and counter-narratives against government policies and actions, Olalia explained.

“Red-tagging together with the draconian measures like the newly signed Anti-Terrorism Law turn the state forces and machinery against such unarmed civilians and groups who are exercising their basic rights and fundamental freedoms in a democratic society,” Olalia said.

Olalia pointed-out that the CPP-NPA-NDF possesses a level of legitimacy while their armed resistance abide by standards set by the United Nations resolutions and conventions.

“The CPP and NPA have not been listed as a terrorist organizations by the United Nations and the NDFP has never been [listed as] a terrorist organizations in any country,” Olalia added.

Olalia said that red-tagging conditions the mind of the public to eventually designate legal organizations and individuals as terrorists by the Anti-Terrorism Council.

NDFP peace consultant and long-time activist Rafael Baylosis stressed that CPP-NPA-NDF must not be called terrorist organizations but entities fighting for national liberation and democracy for the people.

Talks resumption

Baylosis said that peace negotiations must be resumed and the Duterte government should rescind its terrorist proclamation of the CPP and the NPA.

He also called on the government to respect previous agreements signed by both parties.

Baylosis recalled the cancelled fifth round of peace talks last 2018 that was set to sign the Interim Peace Agreement that included the common draft on social and economic reforms, the coordinated and unilateral ceasefire, and release of all political prisoners thru general amnesty.

Pilgrims for Peace encouraged the GRP to consider resuming the peace talks anew in order to address the root cause of armed conflict through peace negotiations. #

IBON opens to gov’t inspection days before anti-terrorism law effectivity

With the Anti-Terrorism Law (ATL) soon coming into effect, research group IBON opened their office for inspection by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and Bgy. Sacred Heart officials last Wednesday, July 15.

The group said they requested the ocular inspection to show their transparency and prove the absence of illegal materials and equipment on the premises.

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“This is an important contribution to IBON asserting its character as a legitimate organization that does not, never has, and never will have the guns, explosives, and other illegal items that are wont to be planted to justify spurious search warrants and bogus charges against activists and human rights defenders,” the group’s executive director Sonny Africa said.

The group said that it also wants to protect the rights and ensure the safety of IBON staff and tenants.

IBON Foundation said the inspection is in anticipation of the ATL which is presumed to become effective on July 18.

The group recalled the Duterte administration’s continued disinformation drive about IBON which appears to be laying the groundwork for using the ATL against it.

Africa expressed concern that the draconian and oppressive law will be used to try and hinder IBON’s research, education and advocacy work.

The CHR first inspected IBON premises in November 2019 after a reported imminent police operation on its building.

It confirmed the absence of anything illegal, irregular, or prohibited on the premises.

IBON is among many non-government organizations actively red-tagged by the National Task Force to End Local Communism and Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) since late 2018. 

The group has repeatedly refuted allegations by the government task force that it supports terrorism.

The IBON building also houses AlterMidya and IBON International who are also targets of government harassment and red-tagging.

Last February, IBON lodged a complaint at the Office of the Ombudsman against NTF-ELCAC officials: National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon; Armed Forces of the Philippines Deputy Chief of Operations Brigadier General Antonio Parlade; and Presidential Communications and Operations Office secretary Lorraine Badoy. This was for their malicious and baseless red-tagging of IBON since 2018.

IBON said that it supports petitions against the Anti-Terrorism Law filed at the Supreme Court.

The law must be declared unconstitutional for being overly vague in its definition of terrorism. It gives room to target economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights defenders and in doing so undermines prospects for economic democracy, human rights and social justice. These are if anything more crucial than ever at this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, said the group. #