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Reds condemn 54th IB for condoning rape of minor in Ifugao

By KIMBERLIE QUITASOL
www.nordis.net

BAGUIO CITY —A New People’s Army (NPA) unit and an underground women’s organization in separate statements condemned the 54th Infantry Battalion for condoning one of its soldier who raped a minor twice.

The Nona del Rosario Command of the New People’s Army in Ifugao said in a statement that Paul Tamang of the 54th IB first raped the 15-year-old victim in 2018. The army sexually assaulted her while she was alone doing the laundry at home.

In March 2019, Tamang returned saying that he wanted to talk about what happened and then raped her again. A few months later, two other soldiers from the 54th IBPA approached the family and offered them P70,000. They also informed them about the transfer of Tamang to a different unit following the incident.

Troops from the 54th IB, including Tamang, was in the victim’s village supposedly conducting a Community Support Program Operations (CSPO) when the abuse happened.

“The victim, her family and the entire community continue to seek justice for the violence and oppression they have experienced,” the statement said.

According to the NPA unit, there have been three reported rape cases perpetrated by soldiers of the 54th IB. These cases are on top of complaints of sexual harassment in various villages in Ifugao.

In a separate statement, Makibaka, the women’s revolutionary organization allied with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) condemned the 54th IBPA soldier for raping a minor twice at that.

Makibaka demanded that justice be served to the victim and for the pull out of the 54th IBPA from Ifugao.

In November 2014, the police arrested a member of the same army unit, Christopher Collado Baccay, for charges of charge for intentional abortion with rape. The victim filed the case before Branch 14 of the Regional Trial Court of Lagawe town in Ifugao. Authorities collared the rape suspect inside the 5th Infantry Division (ID) in Camp Melchor dela Cruz in Gamu, Isabela.

The 54th IBPA is not the only army unit assigned in Ifugao with records of rape and sexual abuse.

In 2012, Capt. Danilo Lalin of the 86th IB, then stationed in Ifugao, abducted and raped a 16-year old girl from Benguet. Isabel (not her real name) went missing on February 17, 2012, and returned home four days after. She later disclosed to her sister that Lalin brought her to a military camp in Ifugao where the army official raped her.

The trauma from her ordeal on the hands of Lalin caused the victim to suffer from depression and selective amnesia.

Lalin claimed that Isabel, who was 16 at the time was his girlfriend. Military officials transferred the suspect to the 5th ID headquarters in Gamu, Isabela after the incident. # 

Activists press for justice on Malayao’s 1st death anniv

Activists commemorated the first death anniversary of Randy Felix Malayao in Isabela province, calling for justice for the slain National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant.

In a rally in front of Camp Melchor de la Cruz in Gamu town, headquarters of the 5th Infantry Division (5th ID) of the Philippine Army, various groups under the Makabayan bloc and the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan condemned the lack of justice for Malayao.

The soldiers however violently dispersed the rally, hurting protesters holding streamers and forcing them to continue their program in a nearby park.

“The Philippine Army parked a pick-up truck in front and an ambulance behind the rally with horns and sirens blaring to disrupt the program,” a source told Kodao.

Earlier, the activists celebrated a Mass at Malayao’s tomb in a private cemetery in San Pablo, his hometown.

Activists salute Malayao with raised fists at his tomb in San Pablo, Isabela.

As artists were painting a mural calling for justice for Malayao’s assassination at the wall of the adjacent public cemetery, however, San Pablo mayor Jojo Miro arrived and ordered the activists to stop.

The local government had the mural painted over as soon as the activists left, Makabayan said.

Malayao was killed in his sleep inside a bus in Aritao, Nueva Vizcaya province last January 30, 2019.

The Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), in a statement Wednesday, January 29, condemned the lack of justice for Malayao, accusing the government of inaction.

UMA pointed out that facial sketches of the gunman and the driver of the getaway vehicle had been released by the Cagayan Valley police as well as another person of interest caught on CCTV taking a photo of Malayao’s bus at a terminal in Quezon City.

“It seems the police and, for that matter, the Philippine government has no more interest in pursuing justice for the killing of Randy. Especially this time, when militarists in the Duterte administration are again spoiling the possible resumption of peace talks between the government and the NDFP,” UMA vice-chairperson Ariel Casilao said.

In a statement last year, Makabayan said it holds the Duterte administration and all his local cohorts along with the 5th ID of the Armed Forces of the Philippines accountable for the death of Malayao.

“When the President declared his open command to his army to eliminate activists, so-called legal fronts of Duterte’s protagonists, the CPP-NPA (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army) and alleged NPAs in the city, Duterte signed Malayao’s death order. Immediately after Duterte’s pronouncements of “death wishes” several malicious posters and leaflets branding Malayao as NPA leader in the city together with other known activists were displayed all over the region,” the group said.

Aside from being an NDFP consultant and Negotiating Panel spokesperson, Malayao was Bayan Muna Cagayan Valley regional coordinator at the time of his death. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDFP names 5 Cabinet officials as worst peace talks foes

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) accused high-ranking government and military officials of opposing efforts to revive peace negotiations and launching actions that violated the recently concluded ceasefire agreement between the Communist Party of the Philippines and the Manila government.

NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison named Duterte’s national security adviser Hermogenes Esperon, national defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana, interior and local government secretary Eduardo Año, presidential adviser on the peace process chairperson Carlito Galvez and new Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff Felimon Santos of opposing efforts to revive the peace process.

“Either Duterte has been pretending to be for peace negotiations all along or he fails as commander-in-chief to put in line his military subordinates for the resumption of the peace negotiations,” Sison said.

Sison said Duterte’s five subordinates made the following declarations to disobey the President’s public declarations on his desire to resume peace negotiations with the NDFP:

1. They can destroy the CPP and NPA before the end of the Duterte regime despite the failure of all previous regimes to destroy the people’s revolutionary movement and the repeated failure of the current Duterte regime to comply with its deadlines for destroying said movement.

2. They oppose peace negotiations in a neutral venue abroad but favor negotiations for the surrender of the CPP, the NPA and entire revolutionary movement in a Philippine venue under the control and manipulation of the regime and its armed minions.

3. They can stage fake localized peace talks despite the glaring fact that all organs of the CPP and commands of the NPA at all levels have publicly rejected and condemned such fakery.

4. They are happy with and enjoy the escalating conditions of oppression and exploitation under the semicolonial and semifeudal ruling system of big compradors, landlords and corrupt bureaucrats who are servile to the imperialist powers, their banks and monopoly firms.

5. They shun social, economic and political reforms to realize full independence, democracy, social justice and all-round development and they are most vehemently against genuine land reform and national industrialization.

“[T]he Filipino people should not be surprised if the GRP-NDFP will not be resumed in the twilight years of the Duterte regime,” Sison said.

Sison said that even before the end of the reciprocal unilateral ceasefire agreement last January 7, Duterte’s military and police subordinates “have been calling for war and blood and have been making offensive deployments against the Filipino people and revolutionary forces throughout the archipelago.”

The NDFP in Negros island, one of three rebel strongholds Duterte ordered to be flooded with military forces last year, reported “unabated military operations” during the two-week holiday truce.

Military movements

In a statement Wednesday, January 8, a day after the ceasefire agreement concluded, Ka Bayani Obrero, NDF-Negros spokesperson, said they received the following reports of AFP combat operations throughout the island from the Apolinario Gatmaitan Command of the New People’s Army (AGC-NPA):

1. December 24, 2019 – 1 military truck full of 62nd Infantry Battalion (IB) troops descended on Brgy. Mansablay, Isabela, Negros Occidental; 

2. December 27, 2019 – 21 soldiers of the 62nd IB descended on Sitio Kuyawyaw, Brgy. Inolingan, Moises Padilla, Negros Occidental; 

3. December 27, 2019 – 21 soldiers of the 62nd IB descended on Sitios Oway-oway and Binataan, Brgy. Quinten Remo, Moises Padilla, Negros Occidental; 

4. December 27, 2019 – 30 soldiers of the 62nd IB descended on Sitio Tibobong, Brgy. Quinten Remo, Moises Padilla, Negros Occidental; 

5. December 28, 2019 – 33 soldiers of the 62nd IB descended on Sitio Tiyos, Brgy. Quinten Remo, Moises Padilla, Negros Occidental; 

6. December 30, 2019 – Undetermined number of 62nd IB soldiers descended on Sitio Saisi, Brgy. Tan-awan, Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental; 

7. December 31, 2019 – 62nd IB soldiers also descended on Sitio Bayi, Sitio Cande-is and Sitio Ulitaw, Brgy. Buenavista, Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental; 

8. December 31, 2019 – 20 soldiers of the 79th IB led by a certain Maj. Tupaz descended on Sitio Tanquinto and Hacienda Amparo, Brgy. Mabini, Escalante City, Negros Occidental; 

9. January 1-3, 2020 – 62nd IB soldiers descended on Sitio Pisok, Brgy. Buenavista, Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental; 

10. January 3, 2020 – 14 soldiers of the 79th IB descended on Sitio Brodjen, Brgy. Malasibog, Escalante City, Negros Occidental, and;

11. January 6, 2020 – 40 soldiers of the 79th IB descended on Brgy. Paitan, Escalante City, Negros Occidental.

The NDF-Negros also reported troop movements and operations by the 11th IB under the 302nd Brigade and the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Brgy. Talalac in Sta. Catalina and other municipalities in the Third Congressional District of Negros Oriental.

 “[These] manifest the dubious sincerity of the Duterte regime regarding peace talks resumptions,” Obrero said.

Obrero said the AFP and the PNP implemented combat operations in peasant communities in the mountainous areas “to persistently spread terror, threats, and harm on the Negrosanons.” 

“This simply shows that Duterte has no control over his bloodthirsty and warmongering dogs in the military and police,” AGC-NPA spokesperson Ka Juanito Magbanua said.

Magbanua said all NPA guerrilla fronts in Negros successfully celebrated the CPP’s 51st founding anniversary last December 26. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Disruption of CPP event violates ceasefire, Joma says

The disruption by the Philippine Army (PA) of the Communist Party of the Philippines’ (CPP) event in Surigao del Sur earlier today, December 30, was a violation of the ongoing reciprocal unilateral ceasefires between the government and the rebels, Jose Maria Sison said.

“The troop movement is offensive in character, provocative to the NPA (New People’s Army) and disturbing to the community and is, therefore, a violation of the ceasefire,” Sison told Kodao in an online interview.

Asked to react to the incident, Sison warned that such actions by government troops may lead the NPA to defend itself.

Government soldiers belonging to the PA’s 401st Infantry Brigade “swarmed” a village in Bacuag town Monday morning, causing the NPA to cancel its celebration of the CPP’s 51st founding anniversary and mass wedding of its members.

NPA Guerilla Front 16 spokesperson Ka Oto also asked journalists on their way to the venue to turn back “as it is no longer safe.”

Col. Maurito Licudine, 401st IBPA commander, said they arrested two suspected communist rebels Sunday who admitted under interrogation that the CPP event was to be held Monday.

Licudine immediately deployed troops to the event venue, along with four 105mm howitzers, Mindanews reported.

“What held us was our concern that the communist rebels will withdraw from the negotiating table,” he said.

PA 4th Infantry Division commander Major General Nemecio Gacal, Jr. for his part blamed the communist rebels from “venturing out from their camps,” thus also violating the ceasefire agreement, Mindanews reported.

Sison disagreed, however, crediting his comrades for preventing a potentially deadly incident that may derail ongoing efforts to restart the peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

“[I]t is less than an incident in which the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) or PNP (Philippine National Police) fires at the NPA and sheds blood. Apparently, the CPP and NPA were able to adjust to the situation and prevent their enemy from firing at them and the people,” Sison said. 

He advised the CPP and NPA units threatened by the AFP troop movement to report and file a complaint to the NDFP negotiating panel. 

Sison also urged the GRP side to adhere strictly to the ceasefire agreement “just like the NDFP side has done.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

21 sacked Ceres workers among Bacolod raid detainees – Bayan

By Visayas Today

Twenty-one laid off workers of the Ceres Bus line who were consulting a labor leader were among the 55 persons (not 62 as earlier reported by authorities) arrested and detained in simultaneous raids last week on four locations in Bacolod City that state forces claimed harbored communist rebels in training.

This was bared by the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, which held a press conference in Metro Manila on Sunday, November 3, to denounce what it called the “tanim baril, tanim ebidensya” (planting of guns and evidence) tactics alleged used by the Army and police to justify the raids and boost their claims that those arrested are members of the rebel movement.

Also nabbed and detained were 25 youth, among them 13 minors, of the grassroots cultural group Teatro Obrero who were rehearsing for a presentation of their play “Papa Isio,” on the legendary Negros hero of the revolution against Spain and the war against America.

The youth and Ceres workers were among those arrested at a compound in a residential area of Barangay Bata that serves as the office of leftist party-list Bayan Muna and other organizations. The Army and police claim the place, where 30 firearms and explosives were supposedly recovered, served as a “training area” for rebel recruits, including potential “child warriors.”

Also netted in the raids were several officers of progressive groups like the National Federation of Sugar Workers, Kilusang Mayo Uno and Karapatan, all of which the government and state forces openly tag as “legal fronts” of the rebels, and Anne Krueger of the alternative media outfit Paghimutad, all of whom were accused of being part of the rebels’ regional leadership in Negros.

Aside from those arrested in the October 31 Bacolod raids, two succeeding raids in Escalante City on November 1 also led to the apprehension of NFSW staff Imelda Sultan and Ma. Lindy Perucho. As with the Bacolod operations, the Escalante raiders also claimed to have recovered weapons and explosives from the two women.

Also on October 31, Cora Agovida, the Metro Manila chairperson of Gabriela, and her husband Michael Tan Bartolome of the urban poor group Kadamay, were arrested and weapons and explosive also supposedly seized.

Incidentally, all the search warrants used as the basis for the raids were issued on October 30 by Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert of Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 89.

Bayan, in a statement, said the raids signified “how low the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines have sunk in their effort to comply with Duterte’s orders to crack down on activists and political dissenters.”

It also noted the similarities in the operations:

1. Police gets a search warrant from a friendly, uninformed or intimidated judge, in this case from Quezon City which is outside the area of jurisdiction where the operation is made;
2. Occupants of the raided office or home are forced to go outside while police operatives, some in plain clothes, come in to search the area;
3. Occupants are then allowed back in only to discover illegal guns and explosives that police allege were found in their possession;
4. All persons are then arrested, detained and interrogated for prolonged periods while being denied their right to their lawyer or to be visited by relatives and friends. In the worst case like the Kanlaon, Manjuyod and Sta. Catalina incidents last March 30, 14 farmers were killed by police serving such search warrants;
5. To justify and muddle their illegal conduct, police and military officials go the rounds of the media vilifying the victims and claiming that these are members or supporters of the New People’s Army.

Bayan called the raids “a portent of worse things to come” and predicted “an escalation of the Duterte regime’s fascist crackdown on groups and individuals critical of the government, whose crime is to merely exercise their constitutional right to organize, express and seek redress for their grievances.” #

Brandon Lee back in the US

American journalist and human rights activist Brandon Lee is back home in the United States, an official from his home city of San Francisco (California) announced.

“Early Saturday morning, surrounded by friends, family, and community, Sunset native Brandon Lee arrived safely home to San Francisco on a medical transport following the assassination attempt in the Philippines that nearly claimed his life in August,” San Francisco Board of Supervisors District 4 representative Gordon Mar said on his Facebook account.

Mar also posted a photo of well-wishers welcoming Lee at San Francisco.

Lee’s well-wishers welcome him home in San Francisco. (Photo from Gordon Mar’s Facebook post.)

Lee was shot by unidentified gunmen in front of his house in Lagawe, Ifugao last August 6, wounding him on his spinal column and face.

Lee was immediately taken to a local hospital after the shooting but was transferred to a bigger hospital in the neighboring province of Nueva Vizcaya.

Within the night, Lee was taken to Baguio General Hospital (BGH), thought to be equipped to deal with Lee’s serious injuries.

He is immobile due to his spinal injury.

While at BGH, Lee was subjected to constant surveillance by suspected Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) operatives.

“Security guards at the hospital alerted us that a certain George Malidow of the [AFP], introducing himself as from Camp Henry Allen in Baguio, was asking for details about Brandon’s case,” the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) said in an alert five days after the assassination attempt.

Lee was then secretly transferred to St. Lukes Hospital in Taguig City while family and friends raised funds for a medical transport to the USA.

The United States government is said to have refused Lee free medical airlift to California as it is a privilege given only to military and diplomatic personnel.

The medical transport may have cost Lee’s friends and family at least P.6 million, a source said.

A correspondent of Baguio City-based media outfit Northern Dispatch and paralegal volunteer of both the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) and the Ifugao Peasant Movement (IPM), Lee had been repeatedly red-baited by the 54th Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army before the attack.

The CHRA blamed the Philippine Army for the attempt on Lee’s life.

Lee is a United States citizen, married to a Filipino and a permanent resident of the Philippines. They have a seven-year old daughter.

Mar expressed gratitude to Lee’s San Francisco community who helped bring him home.

“Brandon’s here because of his strength, and the strength of the community and movement that’s lifted up him and the power of his example over these last few months,” Mar said in his post.

“I’m so, so glad to have Brandon back—but we’re not done yet. An outpouring of love and support moved mountains to make this transport happen, but we have mountains yet to move. There’s a ways to go still to cover the costs of Brandon’s care, and much more to be done to address the underlying injustices that led to his attack,” he added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

A timeline of the birth and attacks on Salugpongan schools

by Kene E. Kagula/Davao Today

DAVAO CITY, Philippines —

2003

The Salugpongan Schools started as a literacy-numeracy school for the Talaingod Manobo children. Volunteer teachers were facilitated by the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP).

2007

Salugpongan Schools were established as a formal learning institution aiming to provide basic education to the Manobo and was accredited by the Department of Education.

Its full name, Salugpongan Ta Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center, Inc. (STTICLCI), was derived from its founders, the Salugpongan Ta Tanu Igkanogon (Unity in Defense of Ancestral Land), an organization formed by Talaingod Manobo leaders.

They envisioned to provide the Talaingod Manobo and other IP communities free, quality and culturally relevant education. They said this is the “concrete expression of their collective effort” to defend the Pantaron Mountain Range in their ancestral territory.

2009

Salugpongan school administrators joined in the consultation held by the Department of Education (DepEd) for the creation of the Indigenous Peoples Education (IPED) framework.

The framework has become what is now the DepEd Order No. 62 series of 2011, or “Adopting the National Indigenous People’s Education (IPED) Policy Framework intended to be “an instrument for promoting shared accountability, continuous dialogue, engagement, and partnership among government, IP communities, civil society, and other education stakeholders.”

Salugpungan schools encountered the first red-tagging incident from the 60th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, as the DepEd presents evidence that Salugpungan was granted a permit.

2012

The STTICLCI received accreditation status as a learning center from the Sangguniang Bayan of Talaingod.

2014

Its very first campus in Sitio Dulyan, Barangay Palma Gil, Talaingod, serving Kinder to Grade 6 learners, was granted Certificate of Recognition by the DepEd.

April — Due to the increasing military deployment and operations in Talaingod that has harassed its residents, the Salugpongan embarked on an evacuation, seeking sanctuary at the United Church of Christ of the Philippines’ (UCCP) Haran compound.

Dialogues went on and off for a month between local officials of Talaingod, Davao del Norte provincial LGU, Davao City LGU, and military officers that resolved the Manobo’s demand to pullout the paramilitary and soldiers.

November — The Davao del Norte DepEd division officer urges the 68th Infantry Battalion to spare the Salugpongan schools from military operations after complaints were raised by school administrators of soldiers “residing near the school and establishing patrol bases”.

2015

March — A fact finding mission in Talaingod in March confirms that military personnel were encamped in 257 households, two schools, a health center and a barangay hall.

July — The DepEd delayed the release of operating permits of the Salugpongan schools, which was released a month later after the Salugpongan community held a camp-in protest in the DepEd Regional office. Salugpongan decided to hold bakwit schools in UCCP Haran because of the attacks of the military and paramilitary.

davaotoday file photo

2016

January — A Salugpongan student, 16 year old Alibando Tingkas, was shot dead by the paramilitary Alamara in Barangay Palma Gil.

Amelia Pond, the Curriculum Development Officer of the Salugpongan Schools, and coordinator of RMP Southern Mindanao, was arrested during an RMP assembly in Cebu. She was arrested on a warrant bearing a different name allegedly of a New People’s Army member and was charged for murder. Pond was detained for 16 months, including a few months in hospital arrest following a spine surgery, before the case was dismissed for “mistaken identity”.

The Talaingod Manobos returned to their communities after President Duterte’s promise to act on their call to pullout troops in their villages. But later they found the military continues to encamp in their communities and schools.

2017

June — A Salugpongan teacher survives a strafing incident from a paramilitary member. The strafing traumatized the Lumad students.

July — Lumad schools camped out in “Panacañang” and at the DepEd regional office to raise public awareness on their continuing displacement, and urged the government to stop the attacks and red-tagging of their schools.

After his 2nd State of the Nation Address (SONA), President Rodrigo Duterte said in a press conference that he would “bomb Lumad schools” over allegations that they are built by the New People’s Army. The pronouncement forced students and communities to stay in sanctuaries while institutions such as UCCP Haran and UP Diliman hosted “bakwit” (evacuation) schools.

September 5 — 19-year old Salugpungan student Obello Bay-ao was murdered by CAFGU and Alamara members in the community of Sitio Dulyan. The suspects remained to be at large.

November 2018

18 Salugpongan teachers, and delegates of a National Solidarity Mission headed by former Bayan Muna Party-list Representative Satur Ocampo and ACT Teachers Party-List Representative France Castro was detained and charged with kidnapping and trafficking. The group was headed to help rescue the students and teachers the Salugpongan campus in Sitio Dulyan who fled after the paramilitary Alamara forcibly closed their schools.

The group, called “Talaingod 18” was granted bail as their case continues.

2019

July 8 — The DepEd Division released a memorandum calling for the suspension of 54 Salugpongan schools. The issuance was based on the recommendation of National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. that accused the school of not following the DepEd curriculum and teaching “ideologies that advocate against the government”.

July 22 — The Salugpongan schools submitted a reply to the DepEd order, firmly denying all the allegations. They also questioned the agency’s issuance of such order “without following due process”.

September 2019

In defiance to DepEd’s order of suspension, the school continue their operations for its students, re-opening “Bakwit schools” in UCCP Haran, and in University of the Philippines-Diliman in Quezon City for this school year.

October 7

DepEd Region 11 issued its final resolution calling for the closure of all Salugpungan schools. It claimed the basis on their fact-finding mission that verified Esperon’s claims and cited other instances that the schools did not comply with DepEd standards and curriculum. # (davaotoday.com)

Despite filing of charges, military refuses civilian jail for Alexa Pacalda

They could not force her to say she indeed is a surrendered New People’s Army (NPA) fighter, so criminal charges were finally filed against human rights worker Alexa Pacalda at the Quezon Provincial Prosecutor’s Office last Saturday.

Seven days after her supposed arrest last September 14 in General Luna town and long before the 36-hour deadline for filing of criminal charges, the 201st Infantry Brigade-Philippine Army (IBPA) charged Alexa with illegal possession of firearms and ammunition in what the military obviously planned to be a secret inquest proceeding last September 21. Her lawyer and family were not informed.

But it did not turn out exactly the way the military wanted it.

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers’ (NUPL) Atty. Kristina Conti was nearby, giving a lecture on human rights reporting to dozens of Southern Tagalog journalists, when she found about the inquest proceeding. Journalists who attended the training received a tip that the young human rights defender would be taken to Lucena City from the military camp in Calauag town where she is detained. After a phone call from her NUPL colleague and Alexa’s lawyer Maria Sol Taule, Conti rushed to the Quezon Provincial Capitol compound where the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office is located.

She was met by Alexa’s father Arnulfo and Karapatan-Quezon Chapter colleagues, gratitude and relief on their faces. Conti’s entrance at the fiscal’s office, however, was different. The three lawyers from the Judge Advocate General’s Office (JAGO) tried to hide it but betrayed their surprise by asking where she came from, appearing all of a sudden when the inquest should have been secret.

A local activist (left) takes a selfie with a military intelligence operative (second from left) at the Quezon Provincial Prosecutor’s Office)

The mood inside the old and stuffy building became tenser when Alexa’s fellow activists called out the many intelligence operatives who kept on taking photos and videos of them. “Kanina ka pa kuha nang kuha ng photo ko, a. Para di ka na mahirapan, selfie na lang tayo,” said one to an intelligence officer in civilian clothes. (You’ve been taking lots of photos of me. Why don’t we take a selfie to make it easier for you?) The latter tried to play it cool and obliged but the mood did not lighten. Pretty quickly, more intelligence operatives, four of them, entered the building, apparently to assist their comrades.

Arnulfo Pacalda (left) listening to military personnel inside the Quezon Provincial Prosecutor’s Office.

All the while, Arnulfo and his young son with him kept their cool. As the lawyers were wrangling inside the fiscal’s room, they were seated at a distance. At exactly three o’clock, Arnulfo’s phone sounded, reciting the Catholic’s Three O’Clock Prayer. He stepped out of the room, went to a corner and finished the prayer with his head bowed.

Inside the prosecutor’s office, Conti was still being quizzed by the most senior of the three JAGO officers. She was asked if she is a local lawyer, explaining her sudden appearance. She in turn badgered her counterpart where Alexa was so she could consult with her client. The soldiers refused, even when the fiscal herself asked. “She is nearby. But there are security concerns,” the soldiers cryptically said. “But a lawyer must have access to her client, doesn’t she?” Conti shot back. The fiscal agreed and Alexa was finally brought inside.

Arnulfo and Alexa embrace at the Lucena City Regional Trial Court lobby.

Arnulfo and Alexa’s younger brother rushed to hug her as she entered the building. The embraces were long and tight. Beside them, Conti was smiling. When it was her time to speak to her, Conti asked, “Naaalala mo ako?” to which Alexa replied “Yes” and smiled back. Alexa had been Conti’s paralegal on some human rights cases they both collaborated on in the recent past.

Alexa and her younger brother embrace inside the Lucena RTC building.

Alexa looks nowhere near that of the female NPA fighter toting an AK-47 assault rifle and undergoing military training on the photos being shared on social media. (The photos appeared online only when Alexa’s video was released by her lawyer refuting giddy claims by her captors they had another surrenderee.) Alexa is hardly five feet tall and is very slight of built.

Arnulfo and Alexa Pacalda outside the prosecutor’s office.

Even with Alexa already inside the prosecutor’s office, the JAGO and the soldiers still refused to give Conti time to consult with her and her family in private. What followed were argumentations that went in circles. Finally, with the public prosecutor’s prodding, the JAGO relented and Conti and the Pacaldas were given 15 minutes at a dark corner of the building, surrounded by file cabinets outside of the female toilet.

Atty. Conti and the Pacaldas in a private consultation.

Back at the prosecutor’s office, Alexa was asked by Conti if she indeed signed the so-called surrender papers the JAGO submitted as part of its evidentiary documents. The young prisoner replied, “I do not remember anything.” Conti later told Kodao that even if she did, Alexa was obviously under extreme duress after being captured by the soldiers, tortured with sleep and food deprivation for 30 hours and forced to sign the proffered papers they told her would lead to her freedom. The same was true when her father Arnulfo was made to sign a document the Philippine Army said would help his daughter regain her freedom.

Conti asked the prosecutor if Alexa could already be committed to a civilian jail facility. The soldiers objected. The fiscal asked police officers present on who had authority over the prisoner. The police said the soldiers merely informed them two days after the abduction that Alexa had been in their custody but was never in the PNP’s. The fiscal then said Alexa’s lawyers had to file a motion first before deciding on Conti’s request. (Alexa’s lawyer and family filed a Petition for Habeas Corpus at the Supreme Court Monday, September 23.)

Military intelligence operatives taking photos and videos of the proceedings and the activists present.

Alexa’s other lawyer, Taule, told Inquirer.net Saturday that the criminal charges filed against her proves the soldiers were lying.  “They can’t win over Alexa despite detention of seven days in their camp so their game now is to file charges,” she said. The military for its part said they still consider Alexa as a surrenderee, admitting, however, that things have changed since they made public Alexa’s so-called surrender document. Lt. Col. Dennis Cana, public information officer of the Philippine Army’s Southern Luzon Command, told Inquirer.net that Pacalda’s video message refuting the military’s claim “will have a very strong effect on her surrender status” as her sincerity to lay down her arms “is put into question.”

After the inquest proceeding, Alexa was quickly brought outside to a parked black pick-up truck with darkened windows. The Pacaldas were allowed the quickest of goodbyes. By then, more fellow human rights defenders from all over the province had gathered at the gate and managed to chant, “Alexa Pacalda, palayain!” as the soldiers’ convoy sped off back to their camp in Calauag.

Alexa’s family and colleagues shouted “Alexa Pacalda, palayain!” as the military convoy taking her back to Calauag, Quezon sped by.

Conti said she was glad to have assisted Alexa during the inquest. “She really did not surrender as the military claimed,” she said. She also pointed out that if indeed Alexa was in possession of a firearm and blasting caps, it was not the 201st IBPA’s role to arrest her. It was the PNP’s. Alexa’s case is obviously a case of unlawful arrest or abduction, she said. # (Report and photos by Raymund B. Villanueva)

Farmers accuse Aranetas of grabbing farms and home lots in Bulacan

A farmers’s group accused a bank of fencing off land in Sitio San Isidro in Barangay Tungkong Mangga in San Jose del Monte City in Bulacan, adding the bank is acting in behalf of the “landgrabbing” Araneta family.

The Samahan at Sandigan ng mga  Magsasaka sa San Isidro-Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (Sasamag-KMP) said the Manila Banking Corp. ordered the fencing off of lots and started constructing one-meter high posts surrounding the perimeter of Blocks 9, 10, 11,12 and 13B in Sitio Isidro.

Sasamag-KMP said surveyors and engineers from AB Surveying and Development Corp. arrived last August 29 and claimed the farm lots planted with vegetables, root crops and food crops where houses are also located.

The surveyors misled barangay officials and presented a letter that said they would only conduct a “survey of the area,” the group said.

“The farmers were surprised to see heavy equipment and construction materials such as hollow blocks, steel and cement bags being hauled near their farms. The fencing and construction activities have instantly sent the farmers into a panic,” Sasamag-KMP said,

The group also said that soldiers of the 48th Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army encamped nearby only looked on as farmers tried to stop the surveying company from fencing off farms and home lots .

“The soldiers are not in our community to protect the people. They are here to protect the interests of land grabbers and private companies with businesses in San Jose Del Monte City,” Eriberto Peña of the Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Bulacan said in a statement.

Peña said the soldiers have been encamping near the community’s barangays hall since 2018 and conducting surveillance activities masked as “Community Support Program Operations.”

The farmers said Barangay Tungkong Mangga in SJDM is the targeted location of the intermodal depot and last station of the multibillion MRT-7—a big-ticket construction project supported by the Rodrigo Duterte administration.

The MRT-7 and commercial components will cut through 103.48 hectares of the farming communities of Sitio San Isidro and Sitio Ricafort in Tungkong Mangga. More than a thousand farmers and their families will be affected by the project, the KMP said.

Large real estate companies have already put up subdivisions and township projects in San Jose Del Monte City in anticipation of the completion of the MRT-7 project. 

In addition to the Araneta group, Ayala Land Inc. has also expanded its Php7-billion Altaraza Town Center project to include Amaia Altaraza Steps, a medium-rise condominium project.

Colinas Verdes Residential Estates and Country Club, a joint-venture partnership with Sta. Lucia Real Estate and Development, already covers 261 hectares of land in Tungkong Mangga, KMP added.

The group said the Araneta family covets a total of 3,500 hectares of land in San Jose Del Monte City that includes portions of the nearby Pangarap village in Caloocan City-North. 

“These real estate projects are affecting the farmers in the sub-village of San Isidro in Tungkong Mangga. There are frequent instances wherein crops planted by farmers are being bulldozed by surveying companies and private security guards employed by real estate companies. The security personnel also prohibit farmers from planting and harvesting their crops,” KMP leader Danilo Ramos said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Police and Army reservists lie about Makabayan’s disqualification, fact check group reports

Police and Philippine Army reservists did not let up on its campaign against progressive parties seeking re-election in today’s polls.

The Facebook page of the Iloilo City Police Office and multiple Facebook accounts of Army reservists in Mindanao shared May 12 a post that falsely reported that the Commission on Elections has disqualified six partylist groups under the Makabayan bloc— Bayan Muna, Anakbayan, Anakpawis, ACT-Teachers, Gabriela and Anakbayan, poll fact checker Tsek.ph reported early Monday morning.

Tsek.ph said the post, published by the Facebook page Diego Pagbabago at 2 p.m. that day, appeared about four hours later on the Iloilo City police’s Pulis Icpo Serbisyo Publiko page.

The group said social media monitoring tool Crowdtangle identified six other Facebook accounts that posted the false claim as the 8th Infantry “Dependable” Battalion, Philippine Army; Ask Jay Lee; Joint Reserve Task Force “Metro Davao”; CMO 11rcdg; 1st Metro Davao Ready Reserve Infantry Battalion Philippine Army; and 1105th Ready Reserve Infantry Battalion Peace Keepers.

“Diego Pagbabago’s status states that six partylist groups were disqualified but its headline reads, ‘Comelec disqualifies five partylist, days before election,’” it added.

The full text of the post:

Disqualified. Yan ang hatol ng Comelec sa Partylist na tatakbo sana ngayong halalan 2019. Ang kadahilanan ng Comelec sa pagsuspendi sa limang Partylist ay dahil sa aktibo nitong pakikilahok upang pabagsakin ang gobyerno. Ang pagdisqualify ay ugat sa isang petisyon na inihain ni Angel Aguilar sa Comelec upang kanselahin ang rehistro ng anim na Partylist Bayan Muna, Anak Bayan, Anakpawis, Act-Teachers, Gabriela and Anakbayan Partylist (Disqualified. That is the decision of Comelec on Partylist running in the 2019 election. The reason Comelec suspended the five Partylist is they are involved in overthrowing the government. The disqualification stems from a petition by Angel Aguilar before the Comelec to cancel the registration of the six Partylist Bayan Muna, Anak Bayan, Anak Pawis, Act-Teachers, Gabriela and Anakbayan Partylist).

The Comelec has not decided the petition filed against the six groups on April 26 by one Angela O. Aguilar, Tsek.ph said.

Siegfred Deduro, vice chairman of Makabayan in the Visayas, said in a statement to the Iloilo media that the disqualification claim is not true.

“Our partylist groups remain (to be) legitimate candidates under the partylist elections and (they) maintain their high honor and prestige as gamechangers in the House of Representatives,” Deduro, former Bayan Muna Representative, told Tsek.ph.

Bayan Muna is among the top partylist groups in Pulse Asia’s latest pre-election survey.

The post is no longer accessible at Diego Pagbabago and the other accounts.

Tsek.ph is fact-checking project for the Philippines’ 2019 elections that counts the University of the Philippines, Ateneo de Manila University, and De La Salle University as its academic partners as well as media outfits. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)