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More rights violations with Sinas as top cop, groups warn

A farmers’ group and a human rights organization warned that more rights abuses will follow National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) commander Major General Debold Sinas’s appointment as the next Philippine National Police (PNP) chief.

Following the announcement by Malacanan Palace that the controversial officer is the country’s next top cop, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said Sinas’ record is enough proof that the police would be further tainted with more human rights violations once he assumes command.

The group said Sinas is accountable for Oplan Sauron in Negros it blames for the deaths,   arrests, and detention of farmers and activists during his stint as Central Visayas Regional Police Office chief.

“Sinas is also behind the arrests of Manila-based activists including Reina Mae Nasino. Sinas is also on the hook for the still unresolved brutal killing of peasant leader and peace consultant Randy Echanis last August 10,” the KMP said in a statement.

Sinas, described by the KMP as an “attack dog” of President Rodrigo Duterte, will replace outgoing PNP Chief Lt. Gen. Camilo Cascolan.

The police general also courted widespread condemnation by celebrating his birthday last March with a party at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City despite a government-imposed ban on gatherings.

The KMP said that with Sinas at the PNP’s helm the public must expect for the worst from the police and remain vigilant at all times.

“The PNP only serves at the pleasure of the President who terrorizes the people on a daily basis,” KMP chairperson Danilo Ramos said.

Human rights group Karapatan for its part said it is not surprised at Sinas’ appointment as PNP chief as Duterte has a clear penchant for rewarding the most notorious of human rights violators with rank promotions.

Karapatan warned that with Sinas’s appointment, ”a bloody party of human rights violations” is sure to follow.

“Duterte’s most rabid and murderous lapdogs are given freer rein to merrily kill, kill, and kill with wanton impunity,” the group said in a statement.

Karapatan said it fears Sinas will continue the Duterte government’s “sham and bloody drug war and the repression of critics and activists.”

The group recalled that the Commission on Human Rights reported the increase of drug-related killings in Central Visayas from July 2018 to October 2019 when he was police chief in the region.

“Karapatan has nothing but indignation and disgust for Sinas’ appointment. The messages being sent are clear as day: follow the president’s orders and you will be protected and promoted,” Karapatan said.

“[T]his fascist regime is gearing up for an intensified crackdown on dissent and assault on human rights by appointing one of its most loyal butchers as the country’s top cop,” the group added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Bacolod raids and arrests are Espenido’s handiwork—farmers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Gestapo-like raid’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Stop the killings!’

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

Armed men ‘abduct,’ grill Himamaylan villagers – rights group

By Visayas Today

Armed men believed to be military personnel barged into a home in an upland village of Himamaylan City early Friday morning, August 30, allegedly handcuffing and blindfolding occupants, including high school students, and forcing them into a vehicle as they searched for purported communist rebels, a human rights group said.

The September 21 Movement Southern Negros said the gunmen forced their way into the home of farmer Delia dela Rosa Pacheco, 64, in Sitio Maliko-liko, Barangay Carabalan around 3 a.m.

They then rounded up Pacheco, her niece Aiza dela Rosa, 24, and two other relatives, one a Grade 11 student, the other in Grade 10, and a guest, Teresita Camanso, 46, a daycare worker from Sitio Lanap, Barangay Buenavista who was staying for the night after attending a seminar at the Himamaylan city hall.

The statement quoted Pacheco as saying they were all ordered to lie on the floor as the gunmen cuffed and blindfolded them. They were later taken to the vehicle.

Camanso told the human rights group that the gunmen asked her if she knew “Loida” and “Toti,” who they said were members of the New People’s Army who were supposedly staying in the house.

She was also grilled about the formation of an indigenous peoples’ organization in her village. 

The other occupants of the house were also interrogated. 

The September 21 Movement condemned the incident and urged vigilance against what it called the “creeping militarism and dictatorship in Negros.” #

‘One death is too many’

Artwork by Jose Mari Callueng

“One death is too many. In the case of Negros Island, since President Duterte took an oath to “…do justice to every man and consecrate myself (himself) to the service of the nation,” at least 87 lives have been taken. Half of these were killed when Duterte ordered the deployment of more military troops there by virtue of the Memorandum Order No. 32.

“This is the image of Negros Island now. Once an island known as the “Sugarbowl of the Philippines,” has become a killing field. It is bloodied. And the killing won’t stop very soon. What with the threats from the President to deploy even more troops there.

“It won’t stop unless we stop the murderer in Malacañang.”—Jose Mari Callueng, human rights defender

Itanong Mo Kay Prof: Walang Tigil na Pamamaslang sa Negros

Panayam kay Prof. Jose Maria Sison, Chair Emeritus ng International League of People’s Struggle, ni Prof. Sarah Raymundo hinggil sa extra-judicial killings sa isla ng Negros. Sa kasalukuyan ay mayroon nang 87 ang napatay sa isla simula ng maupo sa Malacanang si Pangulong Duterte.


NUJP-Bacolod chairperson tailed by ‘suspicious rider’

National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP)—Bacolod Chapter chairperson Marchel Espina reported being tailed by a “suspicious motorcycle rider” while on assignment in Negros Oriental Sunday afternoon, August 4.

While returning from Canlaon City, Espina’s driver told her that they were being followed by a motorcycle rider, “who was of medium build and wore a bonnet concealing his face, a black jacket and pants and with a backpack.”

Espina was pursuing stories about the killings of civilians in Negros Island believed to be the result of the government’s intensified counter-insurgency drive.

Espina reports for Rappler.

Espina said the rider had tailed them for almost 18 kilometers, from Biak Na Bato to Taburda in La Castellana town.

She quoted her driver as saying he blocked an attempt by the rider to overtake their rental car and drove as fast as he could until they eventually lost the tail.

Motorcycle-riding gunmen have been reported as the perpetrators of many killings in the entire island in the past weeks.

At least 21 civilians were killed in Negros Oriental in the past two weeks, many by motorcycle riders. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Hindi Malayo ang Negros

By Luchie Maranan

Akala mo lang 
Wala kang kinalaman,
Wala kang pakialam
Sa islang naglalamay
Sa mga pinaslang.

Ang mapulang tilamsik at daloy 
Ay umaabot sa iyong kinaroroonan
Dahil maniwala ka’t hindi,
“Ang sakit ng kalingkingan
Ay dama ng buong katawan.”

Ang dilim ay malawak na inilalatag
Hanggang ang iyong 
Sariling liwanag ay di na mabanaag.
Nasa hangin ang pulbura ng salarin
Pagtutol ay pupulbusin.

Akala mo lang
Naumid na ang iyong paligid,
Ngunit dinig hanggang sa iyong isip
Ang hiyaw ng dumaraming
Tinutugis at inuusig.

Akala mo lang 
Wala kang kinalaman,
Wala kang pakialam
Ngunit ang Negros ay larawan
Ng iyong sariling bayan.

Hulyo 31, 2019

Baby Marjon

“Baby Marjon” by Jose Mari Callueng (Poster paint on paper, 20 July 2019)

“It was only on Saturday when I received photos of a crime scene of what happened in Santa Catalina, Negros Oriental. A picture of dead bodies lying on the ground. One was of a father named Marlon, the other was of a child, a one year old child named ‘Marjon.’ Before the investigators laid them on the ground, the baby’s dead body was found on a makeshift hammock. They were attacked while they peacefully slept.

“At Karapatan, we’ve been documenting rights violations of different forms–forced evacuations, illegal arrests and detentions, extrajudicial killings, among others. Since I joined this group of brave human rights workers, listing names and respective profiles of those killed under this murderous regime has become part of the daily routine. It never stops.

“Last week was the bloodiest in Negros, killing nine, a reflection of the dire situation of the entire island since President Rodrigo Duterte placed it under Memo. No. 32 which deployed more troops there. Many residents have been the subject of various rights violations since, such as harassment, intimidation, threats, if not murdered for being ‘suspected’ as members of the NPA.

“To write down a name of a defenseless one year old, Marjon is the most painful. He can barely talk, nor can he walk on his own little feet. He was murdered. My heart weeps as I put the image of a bloodied hammock on my drawing book. This is how low this government has become. This is too much.” — Jose Mari Callueng, Karapatan

NPA ‘strictly abides by rules of war’ – CPP to HRW

By Visayas Today

Communist rebels offered assurances on Thursday, July 30, that their armed units “conscientiously study and abide by the Geneva Conventions and Protocol I,” which govern the conduct of war.

Earlier in the day, Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch, acknowledged that responsibility for the string of killings that have claimed at least 20 lives in Negros Oriental over the past two week “remains unclear.”

He nevertheless urged both the government and rebels to “take all necessary measures to end unlawful attacks, either by their forces or armed elements linked to them.”

State security forces and the New People’s Army have blamed each other for the killings.

The NPA accuses government forces of retaliating on civilians suspected of being rebel supporters following the death of four police intelligence officers in an ambush on July 18. The police accuse the rebels of torturing and then executing the four.

Adams reminded both parties that “killing civilians and captured combatants are war crimes.”

Responding to Adams, the CPP said it considered the attention HRW had given to the Negros killings “important” and agreed with his observation that the violence was “linked to the issues of land rights, poverty and injustice.”

It maintained that the four policemen “died in the course of a legitimate act of war” – an NPA ambush – “and were not tortured as falsely claimed by” President Rodrigo Duterte, and stressed that the rebels “do not have a hand in the successive killings of civilians.”

The CPP also said the deaths of seven persons on July 25, the bloodiest day for Negros Oriental, “fall into the pattern of coordinated operations of the police and military.”

Among those killed on that day were sibling educators Arthur and Aldane Bayawa and Buenavista barangay captain Romeo Alipan, who were shot dead in their respective homes in Guihulngan City, and Marlon Ocampo and his year-old son Marjon, who died when gunmen strafed their home in Sta. Catalina town.

“We believe that they are victims of death squads attached to the military and police in Negros island meant to intimidate the people against supporting the armed resistance of the NPA,” the CPP said. “Many of them have been previously publicly tagged as sympathizers of the NPA.” #