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‘TANIM PILA’: Memo instructs police to use ‘planted’ beneficiaries at community pantries

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A memorandum and attached project brief from Philippine National Police (PNP) Cagayan de Oro are instructing cops to employ pre-designated beneficiaries in the rollout of their Barangayanihan initiative, which is inspired by the Maginhawa Community Pantry.

Under the said project, police precincts will serve ‘breakfast lugaw’ to select constituents in respective barangays. They are required to cite the Maginhawa Community Pantry as inspiration and make it clear that the effort is a partnership between the precinct and barangay donors and stakeholders.

“Respective beneficiaries will take pictures of the activity and post in their respective FB accounts. These netizens can be planted beneficiary civilians so as to manifest community’s appreciation,” read the project brief.

Although the project brief is attached to the said PNP Regional Office 10 memo, it mentions implementation by almost all precincts in Manila Police District and “possibly the whole NCR and other regions” in the rollout phase from April 21 to 25. Moreover, the next phase from April 26 to May 2 instructs nationwide Barangayanihan.

During this phase, the police are likewise instructed to “ask or plant civilian beneficiaries to take pics/selfies and posting in respective [Facebooks] with appreciation captions and standard MANDATORY hashtags.”

The objectives of Barangayanihan, according to its project brief, include forging stronger ties with the grassroots through the “basic unit of society”, the barangay.

The police directive also explicitly states that “The more we manifest collaborations with the barangay citizenry, the more we gain grounds in the fight against insurgency”, confirming the suspicion of several critics that state forces are planning to use the community pantry against the progressive movement.

Hijacking community pantries?

A portion of the project brief reads “Respective beneficiaries will take pictures and post in their respective FB..”

The said memorandum listed among its references the PNP’s guidance and compliance under Executive Order 70, which institutionalized the whole-of-nation approach against insurgency and established the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

Just last week, NTF-ELCAC executive director Allen Capuyan in a leaked Viber message encouraged the task force’s different clusters to partner with the public and private sectors to initiate community pantry-related activities.

Capuyan’s message read that the task force is encouraging its clusters, including the Peace, Law Enforcement and Development Support (PLEDS), the Poverty Reduction Livelihood and Empowerment Cluster (PRLEC), etc. to start their own community pantry activities.

The PNP memo to organize precinct-run community pantries seems to come from this directive from NTF-ELCAC. Former Bayan Muna party-list representative Teddy Casiño said that the task force’s latest approach follows the controversial red-tagging of community pantries by NTF-ELCAC officials Communications Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy and Lieutenant General Antonio Parlade Jr., which drew huge flak from the public.

“Ok sana kung gustong magtayo ng community pantry ng mga pulis. Pero naman, pati ba ito tataniman nila?” Casiño tweeted.

“Clearly, after failing to discredit and intimidate the community pantry movement, the NTF-ELCAC, police and military establishment are poised to hijack it due to their paranoia that it’s all a communist plot,” he said. “They simply can’t leave a good thing alone.”

In a statement, labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) said that the huge budget of the PNP should instead be rechannelled to cash aid for the poor. The Barangayanihan, it said, is a “publicity stunt” that hijacks pantries and attempts to conceal the government’s failure in addressing the pandemic.

“Desperadong hakbang ito gamit ang buwis ng mamamayan,” KMU leader Jerome Adonis said.”Ideretso nyo na ang pera sa mamamayan sa pamamagitan ng P100 daily wage subsidy at P10k ayuda.”

With reports from Ratziel San Juan

Restless night for rights defenders, activists

It had been a restless night for human rights defenders and activists who had been on alert against more police raids after the arrests of activists on Holy Tuesday, March 30.

“We are on alert tonight and expecting more raids in the offices of OLALIA-Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), Bagong Alyansang Makabayan(Bayan)-Timog Katagaluganand Gabriela Southern Tagalog, all in Cabuyao, Laguna,” KMU’s regional chapter Pagkakaisa ng Manggagawa sa Timog Katagalugan (Pamantik) yesterday said.

 “Residents near the offices have seen police elements in full battle gear roving the areas near the offices,” the group added.

Pamantik’s alert status was announced after operatives of the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group raided the abandoned office of its affiliate, the Alyansa ng mga Manggagawa sa Engklabo (AMEN) in Sta. Rosa City, Laguna also on Tuesday.

As in almost all raids against activists throughout the country, the police alleged it found firearms and explosives in the property.

“Nagtanim ang mga ito (PNP-CIDG) ng tila isang ‘armory’ ng mga baril, granada, bala at bomba,” KMU said after the Laguna raid. (The police again planted a seeming armory of guns, grenades, ammunitions and bombs.)

The raid came after the Bloody Sunday killings in four Southern Tagalog provinces last March 6, and just two days after the death of Dandy Miguel, Pamantik vice-chairperson.

It also followed the raid and arrests of Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon chairperson and concurrent Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas vice chairperson Jose Canlas in Pampanga and Bayan-Gitnang Luzon chairperson and KMU vice chairperson for Central Luzon Florentino “Pol” Viuya in Tarlac on Tuesday.

Karapatan paralegal May Arcilla was arrested along with Viuya after vigorously protesting so-called irregularities in the operation.

As in the Sta. Rosa raid, the police alleged it found guns and explosives in the houses it raided in Central Luzon.

The “huli” (arrest, capture) week actually started in Bulacan province last Friday with the arrest of Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap-Pandi chapter chairperson Connie Opalla by the police.

The police have yet to announce Opalla’s whereabouts despite announcing her arrest on its Facebook page.

“Huli Week” had been a moniker invented by Karapatan human rights workers since the time of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to describe the spike in the number of arrests of activists during Holy Week.

The PNP is known to favor the filing of so-called trumped up charges such as illegal possession of firearms and explosives, an unbailable criminal offense, to frustrate human rights lawyers from securing the victims’ early release. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘Huli week’ in full swing in Central Luzon; 3 arrested on Holy Tuesday

[UPDATED, 2:47 PM] “Huli” (arrest, capture) Week is in full swing in Central Luzon in the middle of Holy Week as at least three human rights defenders have been arrested and activists’ offices and houses were raided this morning, Holy Tuesday.

Alerts by various organizations said Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Gitnang Luzon chairperson Pol Viuya was arrested by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in his residence in Barangay Anupul, Bamban, Tarlac.

The alerts said Viuya was presented with a warrant of arrest but no details of his alleged offense had been provided.

Viuya is also Kilusang Mayo Uno vice chairperson for Central Luzon and member of its National Council.

Bagong alyansang Makabayan-Gitnang Luzon chairperson Pol Viuya. (Bayan image)

Reportedly arrested with Viuya was Karapatan-Central Luzon paralegal May Arcilla.

“As Karapatan paralegal, she fearlessly questioned the validity of the search warrant served and was arrested for speaking her mind. She is currently detained at Camp Macabulos, Tarlac City,” Karapatan said.

In Sapang Maisac, Mexico, Pampanga, the police arrested Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon (AMGL) chairperson Jose Canlas.

In a CLTV 36 interview, AMGL staffer Joyce said the police ordered them to get out of their hut, entered and later claimed to have found a .45 handgun inside.

Joyce said Canlas, concurrent Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas national vice chairperson, was never known to have owned a gun.

She added that Canlas protested his arrest as the search warrant belatedly presented by the police bore the name of Joseph Canlas, instead of his real name Jose.

The police responded by forcibly taking Canlas down to the ground that alarmed even children of the five-house compound, Joyce revealed.

Joyce added that monies amounting to at least P20,000 and other items have gone missing after the police operation.

Canlas had been taken to Camp Olivas in San Fernando City, PNP-Region 3 headquarters.

A source said activists in other provinces are also being arrested this morning, declining to name the other police targets pending verified reports from human rights organizations in the region.

The police had been known to conduct arrests of activists during Holy Week, taking advantage of lulls in activities of progressive organizations.  

Karapatan Central Luzon paralegal May Arcilla (Karapatan image)

‘Surface Opalla’

Meanwhile, urban poor group Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) demanded that the police surface its Pandi chapter leader Connie Opalla who was arrested last Friday in the Central Luzon province of Bulacan.

Opalla, Kadamay said, was able to inform her colleagues after her arrest she would be held at the San Rafael police station in Bulacan.

The PNP however has subsequently denied being in custody of Opalla despite already announcing her arrest on its Central Luzon Regional Command Facebook page.

The police said Opalla’s lawyers and family are being given the run-around by the police as her whereabouts is being withheld, along with other documents needed to secure her bail.

“They are hiding her from us, her family and lawyers. After two days of being incommunicado, she should be categorized as a missing person already,” Kadamay secretary general Mimi Doingo said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

(This is a developing story. Click for updates.)

Judge orders police to stop red-tagging activities

The Baguio City Regional Trial Court (RTC) ordered the police to stop its red-tagging activities against activists in the Cordilleras.

In an order issued Wednesday, March 24, Judge Emmanuel Cacho Rasing of the city’s RTC Branch 3 refrained the Philippine National Police (PNP) in the Cordilleras from further red-tagging and directed it to take down all its existing social media posts red-tagging activists.

“[W]hether the (PNP) Regional Office Cordillera is responsible, in one way or another, for the red-tagging complained of, it shall refrain during the pendency of this case from making any publication in social media or otherwise, which brands or tags petitioners and other organizations they belong, as stated in the petition, as communist terrorists, NPA/CPP (New People’s Army/Communist Party of the Philippines) fronts, NPA/CPP recruiters and other similar contents,” Judge Rasing ordered.

Judge Rasing likewise granted a hearing on the Writ of Amparo and temporary restraining order petition filed by activists Christian Dave Ruz of the Kabataan Party, Deanna Louisse Montenegro of the National Union of Students of the Philippines, University of the Philippines-Baguio Student Council chairperson Leandro Enrico Ponce and Keidy Transfiguracion of the Cordilleran Youth Center against PNP Cordillera and its controversial director B.Gen. Rwin Pagkalinawan on Monday.

Pagkalinawan earlier issued an extrajudicial shoot-to-kill order against activists in the region.

Human rights center Karapatan lauded Judge Rasing for his “immediate actions” on the youth’s petition.

“Such actions should be taken as examples on how courts should address in a relevant and timely manner the particular risks to life, security and liberty of human rights defenders,” Karapatan said in a statement.

The group said it hopes that the court would likewise consider expanding its orders to the taking down of similar materials in streets, workplaces, schools and communities; and to other government officials and offices in the region.

“We hope that the court will provide protections orders for the youth leaders and specify mechanisms for their protection,” Karapatan said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Groups welcome Senate bill criminalizing red-tagging

Several groups welcomed a bill filed by Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon criminalizing red-tagging, promising to strongly lobby for its passage.

Both the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said they support the measure that seeks to penalize the act.

“This is a very welcome development in the people’s fight against State-sponsored red-tagging and human rights violations. We are hoping for the approval of this measure. Farmers will lobby for the passage of this bill,” KMP chairperson Danilo Ramos said.  

The farmers’ group said it is being consistently red-tagged by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police and its Criminal Investigation and Detection Group.

“Many of our leaders and members who were subjected to red-tagging were either extrajudicially-killed, illegally arrested, and charged with trumped-up non-bailable charges. Red-tagging kills. We want masterminds of red-tagging to be held accountable accordingly,” Ramos said.

In a separate statement, the NUJP said it also welcomes Drilon’s bill seeking to define and penalize red-tagging by State actors.

“These dangerous accusations, when done by state agents as part of a so-called counter-insurgency program, are no longer private opinions and conspiracy theories but official actions and policy,” the NUJP said.

Like the KMP, NUJP has been openly and repeatedly accused by government officials of fronting for the Communist Party of the Philippines, an allegation it has consistently denied.

“Red-tagging has often led to harassment and violence against its targets and NUJP welcomes moves that will protect journalists from these threats and hold those making them to account,” it said. Filed on Wednesday, March 24, Drilon’s measure seeks to define red-tagging as “the act of labeling, vilifying, branding, naming, accusing, harassing, persecuting, stereotyping or caricaturing individuals, groups or organizations as state enemies, left-leaning subversives, communists or terrorists, or as part of counter-insurgency, or anti-terrorism strategy or program, by any state actor such as law enforcement agent, paramilitary or military personnel.”

The Senate Bill also seeks a penalty of 10 years imprisonment and perpetual absolute disqualification to hold public office for violators. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

PNP letter reveals ongoing profiling of lawyers

The police are going after human rights lawyers representing suspected communist sympathizers, a letter from an intelligence officer revealed.

In a letter to the clerk of court of the Calbayog City Regional Trial Court (RTC), Police Lieutenant Fernando Calabria Jr, requested for a list of lawyers representing CTG (communist terrorist groups) personalities in proceedings.

Calabria’s letter said the request is in compliance with directives from “higher PNP (Philippine National Police) offices.”

The letter, dated March 12, was printed on an officer Calbayog City Police Station letterhead.

PNP’s letter request to the Calbayog RTC.

The request also came with a table that seeks information on the lawyers’ names, affiliations, clients’ names, “modes of neutralization”, cases filed and status.

Supreme Court spokesperson Brian Hosaka said the Calbayog RTC has confirmed receipt of the request on Friday afternoon, “but no action has been made by them on the request.”

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines quickly condemned PNP’s action, saying the letter is “improper, deplorable, and alarming.”

“The letter disregards the very basic principle that lawyers are free and duty-bound to represent those accused regardless of political or ideological persuasions so that their rights are protected, due process is observed, justice is done, and that the rule of law is upheld,” the IBP through its national president and board chairman Domingo Cayosa said in a statement.

Cayosa asked government authorities to investigate the incident and exact accountability to ensure that lawyers can do their job without threats, harassment, intimidation, or retribution.

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers said the incident is an assault to the administration of justice.

“The letter-request shows the barefaced disregard of the PNP for human rights, particularly the right to access lawyers and legal services. It is an affront to the right and duty of lawyers to exercise their profession without fear as well as the administration of justice,” the NUPL said in a statement.

The lawyers’ group said the police have no right to profile lawyers on the basis of their clients’ personalities or ideologies.

Under the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, lawyers must “not be identified with their clients or their clients’ causes as a result of discharging their functions,” the group explained. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

DSWD worker taunts, threatens Lumad child as she regains freedom

The Lumad child detained at the social work office in Cebu was finally reunited with her father, but not without further threats and taunts from a social worker, an indigenous peoples’ group reported.

After a standoff between Mikaela Dorothy Haictin’s father Lope and the Department of Social Work and Development (DSWD)-Central Visayas office last Thursday, the agency reluctantly honored the habeas corpus order of the local court and released her Friday.

But not without social worker Brenda Abilo taunting and threatening the child just before she regained her freedom, the Save Our Schools Network (SOS)-Cebu said.

SOS-Cebu reported Abilo whispered taunts in the child’s ear, sarcastically saying “she hopes that what Philippine National Police chief Debold Sinas said about her becoming an armed rebel will not come true.”

“It is deplorable that Brenda Abilo still managed to make this last minute condescending remark despite all that they at the DSWD-7 have done to the children, from their detention and confinement where the children are greatly restricted and prohibited from contacting parents and lawyers, to the DSWD-7’s refusal to implement a court order for the Lumad child’s immediate release,” SOS-Cebu said.

The group added that what Abilo did was to make clear that she and her office red-tagged the child and truly believe that the children are linked to armed groups.

The act put the lives of the children at even greater risk than ever before, SOS-Cebu said.

Mikaela was finally returned to her father Friday after the Court ordered the Sheriff to serve the Order of Release of Mikay from DSWD detention.

The Cebu chapter of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines filed for a Petition for the Issuance of the Writ of Habeas Corpus and subsequently threatened to file contempt charges against Abilo and DSWD Region 7 officials for refusing to heed the release order.

Earlier, former DSWD secretary Judy Taguiwalo criticized her former colleagues’ “unacceptable” refusal to heed the orders of the court and empathize with the sufferings of the child and her father whose reunion has been blocked again and again.

“The ‘Global Social Work Statement of Ethical Principles’ reminds social workers to uphold social justice and human rights. They should not be complicit in implementing ‘policies and practices (that) are oppressive, unfair or harmful,’” Taguiwalo said.

Abilo has yet to reply to Kodao’s request for comment. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Right to water activist arrested, accused with illegal gun possession

The wave of search warrants served in the dead of night that lead to charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives victimized another activist, this time a government employee based in San Pablo City, Laguna.

Ramir Endriga Corcolon, an officer of the Confederation for the Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE) and an employee of a local water utility, was arrested by the police at 4:30 AM this morning.

Corcolon, a campaigner against the privatization of water services, is a COURAGE national council member and secretary general of the Water System Employees Response (WATER).

The federation of government employees unions said in an alert that Corcolon’s house was raided and searched by Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) operatives.

Corcolon was taken to Camp Vicente Lim in Canlubang town at 8:30 AM.

Corcolon in a police detention cell. (COURAGE photo)

A search warrant alleging the activist possessed a rifle grenade was issued last February 23 by Sta. Cruz, Laguna Executive Judge Divinagracia Bustos-Ongkeko.

The search warrant used to raid Corcolon’s house. (COURAGE photo)

Pictures posted by COURAGE on its Facebook page show that a handgun and ammunitions were also allegedly found in Corcolon’s house.

Guns and ammunition the police allege were found in Corcolon’s house. (COURAGE photo)

Dozens of activists had been issued similar warrants and charged with violation of Republic Act 9516, the anti-illegal possession of firearms and explosives law, in a sustained crackdown against Leftist critics of the Rodrigo Duterte government.

COURAGE demanded the immediate release of Corcolon and condemned what it calls the terror-tagging of activists.

“Corcolon is an employee that vehemently opposes the privatization of water districts. He also stands for the advancement of the rights of employees and the people,” COURAGE said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘State terrorism ito laban sa mga batang Pilipino’

“Sinasabi po nila (pulis) na itong mga bata (estudyanteng Lumad) ay ni rescue. State terrorism po ito laban sa mga batang Pilipino… Dahil sa track record ng Pamahalaang Duterte, kailanman hindi ito naging kakampi ng kabataang Pilipino. [Kaya naman] hindi po tayo makapapayag na magpatuloy ang ganitong pang-aabuso laban sa karapatan ng mga bata.” Kim Viznar, Children’s Rehabilitation Center

Groups assail Salem’s continuing detention

Media groups condemned government prosecutors and the police for their refusal to free Manila Today editor Lady Ann “Icy” Salem and labor organizer Rodrigo Esparago after the Mandaluyong Regional Trial Court (RTC) dismissed charges of illegal possession of arms and explosives against the two.

The executive board of the International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT)-Philippine chapter said “dark forces” are preventing Salem and Esparago from regaining their freedom.

“[T]here are dark forces, it seems, lurking to keep her (Salem) from returning to the folds of journalism and do what she does best – speaking truth to power,” IAWRT said in a statement.

The group said it had been more than a week since the trumped-up charges against Salem and Esparago had been dropped but both remain in jail after prosecutors from the Mandaluyong City prosecutor’s office and the Mandaluyong police contested the decision.

IAWRT however pointed out that the Court found the search warrant used to enter her home was declared invalid and the evidence against the two accused as inadmissible.

“It stands to reason that she should be freed, following this historic decision,” the group said.

Earlier, Salem’s lawyers from the Public Interest Law Center said the Court’s decision was “based on evidence, and on the merits of the case.” As such, the “issuance of a release order should be automatic and mandatory.”

IAWRT-Philippine Chapter urged the Mandaluyong RTC to look into Salem’s urgent motion for release.

“The planted evidence and trumped-up charges filed against her have been proven false and she deserves no less but freedom and justice to finally be served,” it said.

In a statement issued from London, Violet Gonda, IAWRT International President, said that Salem was arrested for her journalism.

“Journalism is not a crime. No one deserves to be kept behind prison bars for exercising the right to freedom of speech nor deserves persecution for being a journalist.”

Salem is also IAWRT-International communication officer.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) also condemned the police and the prosecutors “for cruelly continuing to block freedom for Manila Today editor Lady Ann Salem and trade unionist Rodrigo Esparago despite the dismissal of the obviously trumped up criminal charges against them.”

The law is meant to protect, not persecute, the people, the NUJP said, urging the prosecutors to respect Mandaluyong RTC Branch 209 Judge Monique Quisumbing-Ignacio’s ruling that Salem and Esparago’s arrest violated the Constitution and the Rules of Court.

Quisimbing-Ignacio also scored the police for going on a “fishing expedition” and providing “inconsistent” testimonies.

“If anything, the judgment should be more than enough reason not only to release Icy and Rodrigo but also to hold accountable each and everyone involved in this clear attempt to pervert the law,” the NUJP said in a statement.

The group bewailed that Philippine laws are turned into weapons “by the very people supposedly sworn to uphold it and wielded against those supposed to benefit from it.”

“Yet here we see the city prosecutor and police advocating double jeopardy!” the NUJP said.

Both media groups also called for the immediate resolution of the case involving Eastern Vista executive director Frenchie Mae Cumpio who was arrested on similar charges in Tacloban City last February 7, 2020. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)