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‘I’ll sue you,’ Colmenares warns people behind trafficking raps over ‘missing’ youth

By Visayas Today

Former Bayan Muna congressman Neri Colmenares said he would sue those responsible for filing kidnapping and child abuse charges against him and several others over allegedly “missing” youth activists after the Department of Justice issued subpoenas for the respondents.

While acknowledging he had yet to read the complaint, filed by the Major Crimes Investigation Unit of the police’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, Colmenares said it was a “foregone conclusion” that “I’ll file a criminal case” against those responsible for filing the complaint and “witnesses who commit perjury.”

“We will not take this sitting down,” he said.

The complaint alleges violations of: 
• Republic Act No. 9208 or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003 
• RA 7610 or the Special Protection of Children Against Child Abuse, Exploitation, and Discrimination Act
• RA 9851 or the Philippine Act on Crimes against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide, and other Crimes against Humanity

Aside from Colmenares, the named respondents are Kabataan Representative Sarah Elago, Anakbayan president Vencer Crisostomo and secretary general Einstein Recedes; Anakbayan members Charie del Rosario, Bianca Gacos, Jayroven Villafuente Balais, and Alex Danday; and, ironically, former Akbayan congressman Tom Villarin, who belongs to a party list group that is known to have been at odds with the organizations his co-accused belong to.

The complaint also seeks to include “all other officers” of Kabataan and “all other members” of Anakbayan in the complaint as “John and Jane Does.”

The case stems from the complaints of parents who claimed their children left home and went missing after being recruited into activist groups.

Among the complainants in the case is Relissa Lucena, whose daughter, 18-year old senior high school student and Anakbayan member Alicia, belied the claim that she was missing or had been kidnapped.

Alicia, who stressed it was her choice to join the youth group, said she left home in July after her parents refused to let her out and instead took her to Camp Aguinaldo, military headquarters, in hopes of making her “normal.”

Colmenares, who learned of the subpoena on Tuesday, August 20, while visiting Bacolod, dismissed the complaint.

“It is clear I have committed no crime, much less trafficking. This is a trumped up harassment charge,” he said.

(Images provided by the NUPL show pages from the CIDG complaint)

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, which Colmenares chairs, also condemned the “false charge.”

“How in heaven’s name could someone like Neri be even remotely involved, connected or liable for such inane and contrived shotgun charges that have been debunked? Totally absurd,” NUPL president Edre Olalia said in a statement.

Olalia saw a more sinister pattern, linking the complaint to a perceived government crackdown on critics.

“Make no mistake about it: they are lining and rounding up the most voluble and visible people who stand in the way and who fight back against repression and injustice,” he said. #

Injustices breed activism, teachers tell Bato and Albayalde

The Filipino people’s intensifying poverty and other social injustices drive students to activism, a teachers group said in response to accusations they encourage their students to join rallies.

Replying to accusations by Senator Bato dela Rosa and police chief Oscar Albayalde that teachers encourage “anti-government” sentiments among students and the youth, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers said it is not the teachers’ fault but poverty, corruption and human rights violations under the Rodrigo Duterte government.

The two officials separately blamed the teachers following a Senate hearing where dela Rosa presented parents who complained that their children have left home and joined activist organizations.

Dela Rosa and Albayalde said teachers should “just do their jobs and not make students turn against the government.”

Dela Rosa went as far as ask that teachers who encourage students to join rallies must be fired.

“They should be removed. Parents enter [sic] their students there [in schools] to become professionals, not to fight the government,” Dela Rosa said.

Albalyalde, for his part accused the teachers of brainwashing their students.

“What they should stop [doing] is brainwash[ing] the students. You are a teacher, you act like a teacher,” Albayalde said.

Their statement did not sit well with the teachers.

What the teachers are doing

 “The two officials are not in the position to lecture us on our jobs. Their stances show that they have very little appreciation of the objectives of education,” ACT national chairperson Joselyn Martinez retorted in a statement Friday, August 16.

Martinez  said teachers are teaching their students patriotism, love of humanity, human rights, heroism, history, rights and duties of citizens, ethical and spiritual values, moral character and personal discipline, critical and creative thinking, scientific and technological knowledge and vocational efficiency as mandated by the Philippine Constitution.

“It is not the teachers’ fault if the government leadership acts in contrast to the values upheld by education. They should not blame us if the youth calls out the government for the ills that they see in society. We are only doing our job,” she explained.

Martinez said that the government should not find fault in teachers encouraging students to attend rallies as these are “real-life events that hold many learnings for the students.”

“It exposes our students to people from different walks of life who have grievances that are worth hearing. It helps broaden the youth’s view of our society and offers education that cannot be learned inside the classroom and from textbooks,” Martinez said.

It is the two officials who should show respect instead of preventing the youth from exercising their rights, the teacher said.

Part of democracy

Martinez hit dela Rosa and Albayalde for “demonizing activism and rallies which are basic constitutional rights of the people, including students and teachers.”

“In the guise of attempting to curb armed rebellion, dela Rosa and Albayalde are in effect discrediting the fundamental rights of the people to free expression, self-organization and to protest. It is them who are not doing their jobs as being government officials, their constitutional duty is to respect and uphold such rights,” Martinez said.

“Rallying is not a crime. It appears that dela Rosa’s and Albayalde’s rants all boil down to this administration’s intolerance of dissent. They should stop in their desperate bid to silence critics. We’re in a democracy after all,” Martinez said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Despite orders, PNP refuses to free NDFP peace talks staff

National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace talks staff Alex and Winona Birondo have yet to be freed by the Philippine National Police from detention despite orders by Quezon City Prosecutor’s Office (QCPO) for their release from detention, their lawyers reported.

In a press statement, the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) said the couple were due for release last Friday, August 2, after charges against them by policemen failed to prosper in court.

Two sets of charges against the Birondos have been referred from inquest to preliminary investigation by the prosecutors allowing their release from detention, the PILC said through its managing counsel Atty Rachel Pastores.

“In separate orders, prosecutors were hard put to find probable cause against the Birondos who were accused first of obstruction of justice and direct assault and later of illegal possession of firearms and explosives,” Pastores said.

“Significantly, there is no evidence on record which shows that respondents were ever found of seen living in or were ever inside the searched premises where the items were found,” Assistant City Prosecutor Eviess JSA Acorda said in her resolution obtained by Kodao.

The prosecutor was referring to the firearms, ammunition and explosives the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) claimed they found in the Barangay Mariblo apartment were the Birondos were arrested last July 23.

On the charges that the Birondos assaulted police officers who raided their apartment, the QCPO in another resolution said the police did not only fail to mention if they identified themselves as PNP members during the incident but they also failed to fully explain how the couple were able to block the four officers.

“We take note of the fact that there were four arresting officers vis a vis the two respondents. Considering the disparity in numbers, there should be an explanation as to how the respondents actually blocked their way,” the second resolution, signed by Assistant City Prosecutor Arceli Bagsac, said.

Both resolutions directed the QCPD to release the elderly and ailing Birondos.

The PILC condemned the police’s refusal to follow the legal orders, saying that while the police have been quick to the draw with the arrest, but slow pokes when it comes to releases.

“Despite the clear orders, the Birondos remain in detention at Camp Caringal, with the police citing procedural requirements,” Pastores said.

“The police have been caught up in their own yarn of lies, which were starkly exposed under legal scrutiny,” she added.

Pastores said the police face significant counter-suits for violation of administrative procedures and criminal laws.

She also called on the government to stop the filing of trumped-up charges against those involved in the peace talks. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Negros killings prelude to martial law – NPA

By Visayas Today

The string of killings in Negros Oriental over the past two weeks and the deployment of more police personnel to the province are meant to “condition public opinion” prior to placing Negros under martial law, communist rebels claimed on Tuesday, July 30.

Philippine National Police chief Oscar Albayalde has announced the deployment of 300 more Special Action Force personnel to Negros in the wake of the killings, which have claimed at least a score of civilian lives since rebels killed four police intelligence officers in Ayungon town on July 18.

In a phone interview with Aksyon Radyo-Bacolod’s Art Tayhopon, Ka Ann Jacinto, deputy spokesperson of the Leonardo Panaligan Command, the New People’s Army unit operating in Central Negros, noted that the recent murders bore the hallmarks of “Tokhang,” the name police have given to their anti-drug operations but which has also become synonymous to extrajudicial killings.

She also claimed these were a continuation of Oplan Sauron, the code name for two police operations in late December last year and March 30 that left 20 persons dead. Authorities claimed the fatalities were rebel suspects who fought back when served warrants but the victims’ families invariably said they were executed inside their homes.

Jacinto brushed off police and military attempts to lay the blame for the killings on the rebels, saying many of those killed, including local government officials, were known “progressives” who “sympathized with and supported the peasants’ struggles.”

These, she said, included lawyer Anthony Trinidad, who had been included on the “kill list” of a shadowy anti-communist group before he was killed on July 23; the siblings and educators Arthur and Aldane Bayawa as well as Buenavista barangay captain Romeo Alipan of Guihulngan who were among the seven persons murdered on July 25; Canlaon City Councilor Ramon “Bobby” Jalandoni and Panubigan barangay captain Ernesto Posadas, killed mere minutes of each other early Saturday, July 27; and former Ayungon mayor Edsel Enardecido and his cousin Leo, slain two hours later and who Jacinto described as staunch anti-mining advocates.

Jacinto also addressed the graffiti spray painted on the homes of Jalandoni, Posadas and Enardecido, which proclaimed “Mabuhay ang NPA” and accused the three of being “traitors,” saying “it is not the habit of the NPA to paint messages during military operations.”

The rebels, she stressed, “issue press releases or statements detailing the decisions of the revolutionary people’s court or the reasons for military actions against legitimate military targets” as in the case of the four officers killed in Ayungon.

The NPA has said the four had disguised themselves as employees of the Environment department allegedly to conduct surveillance on more targets for Sauron.

The police and military claim the four were tortured and executed, but the NPA maintain they died in a rebel ambush. #

4, including ex-mayor, city councilor slain in Negros Oriental early Saturday

By Visayas Today

The former mayor of Ayungon and his cousin, and a councilor and village chairman of Canlaon City were killed early Saturday, July 27, bringing to at least 21 the deaths from a wave of violence that has swept the province of Negros Oriental since a week ago.

The Negros Oriental police office said former mayor Edcel Enardecido, 60, who had completed his three year-term limit, and his cousin Leo Enardecido, were killed around 2:30 a.m.

In Canlaon City, Councilor Bobby Jalandoni and Ernesto Posadas, barangay chairman of Panubigan, were killed separately.

Canlaon is where eight men – farmers and volunteer church workers – were killed in police operations on March 30.

Authorities claimed they were communist rebels who allegedly fought back when served search warrants but their families all gave closely similar accounts indicating they were executed.

Panubigan is the village where two of the eight – brothers Edgardo and Ismael Avelino – were killed.

Federico Sabejon, a resident of Barangay 3, Siaton town, was also killed 7 PM Friday night, July 26, by motorcycle-riding killers, the group Defend Negros #StopTheAttacks reported.

Thursday proved to be particularly bloody for the province, with seven killed, including a high school principal and his sister and fellow educator, a village chairman – all killed in Guihulngan City – and a man and his year-old son, slain when gunmen shot up their home in Sta. Catalina town.

On July 23, a lawyer who handled human rights cases and had been included in a hit list of a shadowy anti-communist group, was also killed in Guihulngan.

Angered by the bloodshed, San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza, in whose diocese many of the murders have happened, has ordered church bells rung each night at 8.p.m. starting Sunday, July 28, “until the killings stop.”

Human rights groups monitoring the killings say the latest deaths, including one in Siaton Friday evening, bring the total of extrajudicial killings on Negros island to at least 83 since mid-2016.

Below is the list of EJK victims as reported by Defend Negros #StopTheAttacks:

2017

1. Alexander Ceballos, Jan. 20, 2017 –Murcia
2. Wenceslao Pacquiao- Jan. 25, 2017- – Calatrava
3. Oden Asebuche- May 16, 2017–South Negros
4. Arman Indeno- July 21, 2017- Don Salvador Benedicto (DSB)
5. Glenn Absin- July 23, 2017– Guihulngan
6. Alberto Tecson- July 24, 2017–Guihulngan
7. Danilo Salazar- July 28, 2017– Guihulngan
8. Rene Faburada- August 4, 2017–Guihulngan
9. Leodegario Benero Jr., August 17, 2017– Guihulngan
10. Marlyn Vidal – August 26, 2017 – Guihulngan
11. Oscar Asildo- August 30, 2017– Guihulngan
12. Luardo Yac- Sept. 7, 2017- – Guihulngan
13. Geofrey Absin- November 3, 2017– Guihulngan
14. Eden Bacordo-September 15, 2017—DSB
15. Leah Mae Sadoa-September 15, 2017–DSB
16. Arnold Larida-September 15, 2017–DSB
17.Webby Argabio- September 8, 2017Kabankalan City
18. Eleuterio Moises- November 28, 2017–Bayawan
19. Elisa Badayos- November 28, 2017
20. Flora Gemola- December 2017- NFSW Chair–Sagay City

2018

21. Ronald Manlanat- February 2018- NFSW–Sagay City
22. Jerry Turga-May 8, 2018–Moises Padilla
23. Edmund Sestoso, May 1, 2018–Dumaguete 
24. Julius Barellano- June 2018–NFSW
25. Robert Selendron–DSB
26. Heidie Malalay Flores- August 21, 2018–Guihulngan
27. Jaime Delos Santos- October 6, 2018, Pamalakaya chair- Guihulngan
28. Marchstel Sumicad- October 20, 2018 – Sagay 9 massacre victim
29. Rene Laurencio- October 20, 2018 – Sagay 9 massacre victim
30. Morena Mendoza- October 20, 2018 – Sagay 9 massacre victim
31. Marcelina Dumaguit- October 20, 2018 – Sagay 9 massacre victim
32. Angelife Arsenal- October 20, 2018 – Sagay 9 massacre victim
33. Eglicerio Villegas- October 20, 2018 – Sagay 9 massacre victim
34. Paterno Baron- October 20, 2018 – Sagay 9 massacre victim
35. Rannel Bantigue- October 20, 2018 – Sagay 9 massacre victim
36. Joemarie Oghayon- October 20, 2018 – Sagay 9 massacre victim
37. Benjamin Ramos Jr. – November 6, 2018 – Kabankalan City
38. Jessebel Abayle-February 21, 2018–Siaton
39. Carmelina Amantillo-February 21, 2018–Siaton
40. Consolacion Cadevida-February 21, 2018–Siaton
41. Felimon Molero-TFM- -February 21, 2018–Siaton
42. Dr. Avelex Amor –November 20, 2018–Canlaon
43. Jesus Isugan-December 27, 2018–Guihulngan
44. Demterio Fat-December 27, 2018–Guihulngan
45. Jaime Revilla-December 27, 2018–Guihulngan
46. Jun Cubul-December 27, 2018–Guihulngan
47. Reneboy Fat-December 27, 2018–Guihulngan
48. Constancio Languita-December 27,2018–Sta. Catalina
49. Gabby Alboro-December 28, 2018–Guihulngan

2019

50. Remegio Arqiullos-January 11, 2019–Guihulngan
51. Sanito “Tating” Delubio-March 1, 2019–DSB
52. Edgardo Avelino-March 30,2019–Kanlaon City
53. Ismael Avelino- March 30,2019–Kanlaon City
54. Rogelio Recomono-March 30,2019–Kanlaon City
55. Melchor Pañares -March 30,2019–Kanlaon City
56. Genes Palmares -March 30,2019–Kanlaon City
57. Mario Pañares -March 30,2019–Kanlaon City
58. Ricky Recomono -March 30,2019–Kanlaon City
59. Gonzalo Rosales-March 30,2019–Kanlaon City
60. Anoj Enojo Rapada- March 30, 2019–Sta. Catalina
61. Franklin Lariosa-March 30, 2019–Sta. Catalina
62. Valentin Arcabal- March 30, 2019–Manjuyod
63. Sonny Palagtiw-March 30, 2019–Manjuyod
64. Steve Arapoc -March 30, 2019–Manjuyod
65. Manolo Martin- March 30, 2019–Manjuyod
66. Bernardino “Toto” Patigas-April 22, 2019–Escalante City
67. Felipe Dacal-Dacal – June 8 – Escalante City
68. Lito Itao- chief tanod, June 27, 2019–Buenavista, Guihulngan, Negros Oriental
69. Joemar Mahilum- July 2,2019–Escalante 
70. Salvador Romano, July 2, 2019–Manjuyod
71. Atty. Anthony Trinidad, July 24, 2019– Guihulngan
72. Rakilin Astorias July 25, 2019–Saiton
73. Reden Eleuterio July 25, 2019 — Ayungon
74. Arhtur Bayawa July 25, 2019–Guihulngan
75. Aldane Bayawa July 25, 2019–Guihulngan
76. Romeo Alipan, July 25, 2019–Buenavista, Guihulngan
77. Marlon Ocampo July 25, 2019–Sta. Catalina
78. Marjon Ocampo July 25, 2019–Sta. Catalina

79. Federico Sabejon, July 26, 2019–Siaton

80. Edcel Enardecido, July 27, 2019–Ayungon

81. Leo Enardecido, July 27, 2019–Ayungon

82. Bobby Jalandoni, July 27, 2019–Canlaon City

83. Ernesto Posadas, July 27, 201–Canlaon City

(With additional reports from Raymund B. Villanueva)

CPP: ‘The NPA does not torture its enemies’

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) denied the New People’s Army (NPA) tortured the four police officers killed in Ayungon, Negros Oriental last July 18.

In a statement, the CPP’s Information Bureau said that based on reports of the NPA’s Mt. Cansermon Command that claimed responsibility for the attack, the four armed personnel of the Philippine National Police (PNP) were killed in an ambush.

Those killed were not tortured, contrary to claims made by President Rodrigo Duterte, the CPP said.

“They were armed adversaries of the NPA and died in a legitimate act of war. Duterte and the police are making up stories in a vain attempt to gain public sympathy,” the CPP added.

The group said, the NPA strictly prohibits the use of torture, “[u]nlike the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines] and PNP.”

“The NPA’s rules prohibit even lifting a finger against its captives or prisoners. The policies of the NPA are much unlike Duterte’s cruel war that targets civilians with extreme brutality,” the CPP said.

‘No ordinary ambush’

In a press conference last Friday, Police Regional Office-7 (Central Visayas) director PBGen. Dobeld Sinas said he does not believe the casualties died in an ordinary ambush.

Sinas alleged the four police officers were dragged, hogtied, mauled and even hit with butts of rifles by the NPA.

Sinas identified the fatalities as Corporal Relebert Beronio and Patrolmen Raffy Callao, Patrolman Ruel Cabellon and Patrolman Marquino de Leon.

Based on police reports, the four police officers were on board two motorcycles were waylaid and fired upon by at least 11 unidentified NPA fighters.

They were intelligence personnel of the 704 Mobile Force Company of the Regional Mobile Force Battalion in Central Visayas.

The NPA’s Mt. Cansermon Command (MCC) spokesperson, Dionisio Magbuelas, said the four officers were killed for acting as spies to implement police operations that had led to civilian deaths in Negros Oriental.

“Based on our intelligence report, the four police operatives were gathering information and surveilling the area for another round of Oplan Sauron or Synchronized Enhanced Management of Police Operations where innocent civilians are killed by uniformed personnel in the guise of counter-insurgency efforts,” the NPA said in a statement.

‘Series of successful tactical offensive’

In another statement Thursday, the NPA unit claimed no less than 43 soldiers and police were either killed or injured in three separate offensives it conducted between June 22 and July 18.

Aside from the Ayungon ambush, the MCC also conducted what it called a sniping operation in Sitio Bulo, Brgy. Bantolinao, Manjuyod, Negros Oriental last June 22 that resulted in the death of three soldiers of the 94th Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army (IBPA) and the wounding of 20 others.

Last July 2, the MCC said it foiled a raid attempt by the 11th IBPA in Sitio Small Samac, Brgy. Nalundan, Bindoy, Negros Oriental and launched a counter offensive that killed 10 and wounded six government troopers. 

“The series of successful tactical offensive was conducted by MCC-NPA to need the call for justice for the victims of extrajudicial killings especially for the innocent victim’s of Oplan Sauron 1 and 2,” Magbuelas said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Again, possession of guns and explosives charges vs NDFP peace panel staff members

The Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) alleged that arrested National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Negotiating Panel staff members Alexander and Winona Birondo kept guns, ammunition and explosives when they were arrested early Tuesday morning, July 23.

As they did with the five NDFP peace consultants arrested since President Rodrigo Duterte cancelled the peace negotiations in November 2017, the PNP and AFP charged the couple with violations of anti-gun and anti-explosives laws.

The couple were arrested in an apartment building in Barangay Mariblo, San Francisco del Monte, Quezon City despite protesting that the warrant of arrest shown them was from a case that was already dismissed last year.

After the couple were brought and detained at Camp Caringal, headquarters of the Quezon City Police District early yesterday morning, the police and the military conducted a search of their apartment  more than 16 hours after their arrest.

“[A]t about 10:00 PM, July 23, 2019, the same personnel from AFP and PNP implemented search warrant No. 5898 (19) and 5899 (19) issued by Hon. Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert for violation of RA (Republic Act) 10591 and RA 9516 at the safe house of the arrested couple after validated information that they are keeping firearms, explosives and ammunition in the said place,” the police and military press release said.

RA 10591 is the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act while RA 9516 is the Unlawful Manufacture, Sales, Acquisition, Disposition, Importation or Possession of an Explosive or Incendiary Device law, violations of which are non-bailable.

The police and the military said they seized a .45 caliber pistol, a magazine with seven live ammunition, a holster, a hand grenade, a 40mm high explosive rifkle grenade, and a roll of detonating cord from the couple’s apartment.

They further alleged that Alexander is a staff of the Communist Party of the Philippines’ (CPP) “National Education Commission” while Winona is the secretary of the CPP-New People’s Army’s “National Propaganda Commission”.

The Birondos were also arrested for obstruction of justice and direct assault after they allegedly blocked police officers from arresting a certain Rolando Caballero, alias Jet, who was reportedly wanted for murder.

This morning, however, the Birondo’s lawyers said the charges against thje couple were contrived “eerily similar to imaginary ‘buy-bust’ operations” of the police.

“Having verified that there are no standing warrants against the two, the police in an ill-prepared complaint, said that they did have one against a third person totally unknown to the Birondo spouses,” Public Interest Law Center managing counsel Rachel Pastores said in a statemet.

Pastores said there was no trace or evidence of a third person in the small studio-type apartment.

“This premise is dangerous; the police concocted the charges on the claims of a confidential informant, who may not be compelled to show up in court and may not exist at all,” Pastores said.

Since January 2018, the police have filed the same charges against NDFP peace consultants Rafael Baylosis, Adelberto Silva, Vicente Ladlad, Rey Claro Casambre and Frank Fernandez.

Baylosis, however, was freed last January after being cleared by the Quezon City Regional Trial Court of the charges.

NDFP Negotiating Panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili demanded the release of the NDFP peace panel consultants and staff members, saying all should be immune from surveillance and arrests under their Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

GRP arrests NDFP staff Alex and Nona Birondo

Two National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Negotiating Panel staff members were arrested early Tuesday morning, July 23, human rights lawyers of the Public Interest Law Center (PILC) announced today.

Couple Alexander and Winona Birondo were arrested by combined elements of the District Special Operations Unit and the Criminal Investigation Detection Unit of the Quezon City Police District of the Philippine National Police at an apartment building in Barangay Mariblo, San Francisco del Monte, Quezon City at around 5:30 in the morning.

Alex and Nona served as members of the NDFP’s peace talks secretariat from the second round of formal talks in 2016 up to the time the Rodrigo Duterte walked away from the negotiations in 2018.

They were supposed to join the NDFP delegation as early as August 2016 but the Department of Foreign Affairs failed to provide them new passports in time for the resumption of the negotiations in Oslo, Norway.

Before their arrest Tuesday, the couple were charged illegal possession of firearms and explosives, but released in August 2016 for the peace talks. Their case was eventually dismissed in June 2018.

The police made the couple believe they had warrants of arrest and brought them to Camp Caringal, the PILC said.

Winona Birondo at Camp Caringal. (PILC photo)

“Even after they argued that the warrant was outdated and showed the dismissal order, they were taken to Camp Caringal where the Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit and the District Special Operations Unit desperately scrambled to add charges,” PILC managing counsel Rachel Pastores said in a statement.

Pastores said that new and unfounded cases of obstruction of justice and direct assault were filed against the Birondos at the Quezon City Prosecutors’ Office.

“Having verified that there are no standing warrants against the two, the police in an ill-prepared complaint, said that they did have one against a third person totally unknown to the Birondo spouses,” Pastores said.

The police said that the Birondos were harboring a fugitive in their apartment and allowed him to escape when the police were about to arrive.

Pastores said there was no trace or evidence of a third person in the small studio-type apartment.

“This type of contrivance is eerily similar to imaginary ‘buy-bust’ operations. This premise is dangerous; the police concocted the charges on the claims of a confidential informant, who may not be compelled to show up in court and may not exist at all,” Pastores said.

Alex Birondo preparing his medicines at Camp Caringal yesterday. (PILC photo)

The Birondos are the sixth and seventh who participated in the peace talks in 2016 to be arrested and charged by the Duterte government.

NDFP Negotiating Panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili condemned the latest arrests, saying the couple should be immune from surveillance and arrests under the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).

“Alex and Nona acquired JASIG protection because of their stint as NDFP staff in the peace talks,” Agcaoili told Kodao.

“We condemn the government’s arrest of persons without warrants and whose cases have been dropped, as in the case of the Birondos,” he added.

Both in their 60s, the Birondos are known to be suffering from illnesses. Alex takes insulin shots for his severe diabetes. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Miradel walks free, unites with son she gave birth to under detention

After five years behind bars, Maria Miradel Torres will finally reunite with her son she gave birth to in prison.

Miradel walked out from Camp Bagong Diwa Tuesday afternoon, July 23, no longer wearing an inmate’s orange garb but an aquamarine shirt and a huge smile.

Miradel while leaving Camp Bagong Diwa yesterday. (Photo by Jose Mari Callueng/Karapatan)

She was acquitted of murder and frustrated murder charges her lawyers and supporters said are trumped up.

Miradel was four-months pregnant when she was arrested by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) and the Southern Luzon Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on June 20, 2014.

The police and the soldiers did not present a warrant of arrest and searched the entire house without a search warrant when she was snatched.

Later, an alias warrant of arrest was presented,  issued by the court on the very day of her so-called arrest.

A Gabriela member in Mauban town, Miradel was charged with murder and frustrated murder at the Infanta Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Quezon.

Miradel denied that she was a murderer.

 “I cannot even kill a mosquito. There is no truth to the crime they are accusing me of,” she told Bulatlat.com in 2014.

When the police swooped down on her relatives’ house where she was staying, Miradel was suffering from profuse bleeding and was seeking medical treatment.

Her difficult pregnancy was exacerbated by the poor maternal and pre-natal health care inside the country’s prisons.

Miradel and her then newly-born son Payter. (Bulatlat file photo)

Miradel gave birth to her son Payter on November 17, 2014, at the Philippine General Hospital. She was only allowed to be with her child for six months, two months in the hospital and four months in jail thereafter.

Miradel’s bail petitions to allow her to take care of her infant had been repeatedly denied by the Infanta RTC.

When her infant son was taken away from her, what followed was five years of agony.

Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay witnessed how Miradel suffered but chose to fight her unjust imprisonment.

“We saw her pain with her difficult pregnancy while in detention, her joy when she nursed little Payter in the hospital, their heartbreaking separation when jail officials decided to disallow Payter’s stay in jail despite his need for his mother’s breastmilk and care, her parents’ unbending determination to support their daughter, and Miradel’s own resolve to fight on,” Palabay said.

Human rights worker Jose Mari Callueng visited Miradel at Bagong Diwa’s “female dormitory” several times.

“[During]…the many times I visited Miradel at the female dorm of Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig, she would always talk about her son and how she looked forward to the day when she can give him countless hugs and kisses,” Callueng said.

Finally, though, Miradel is reunited with her son. But many women political prisoners, some of whom mothers with little children, still languish in jail.

“There are 545 political prisoners in the Philippines, 65 of them are women, some are mothers with little children. There are 13 couples who are political prisoners, with children and/or grandchildren longing for their immediate release,” Palabay said.

Miradel’s freedom, however, is a cause for celebration for human rights workers.

“At most times, we witness the sorrows of the families of political prisoners when their loved ones get arrested, tortured, and detained for years. It is excruciatingly painful to see how they are given the run-around by the police and military to locate their loved ones, how they have to work doubly hard to have enough money for pamasahe (fare money) to see them in jail and to bring some bread or medicine that they need, how they hear the false testimonies in court accusing these dedicated and courageous individuals of crimes they did not commit, how their loved ones are maliciously painted as common criminals and terrorists,” Palabay said.

“But there are times that we witness big smiles, hearty thank you’s, joyful tears and pleasant hellos and goodbyes. Since yesterday, we witnessed these big smiles, hearty thank you’s, joyful tears and pleasant hellos and goodbyes,” she added of Miradel’s release.

“Let us not allow another good mother or father, or son or daughter, them who fight for the rights of the people, to be separated from their families again, and suffer anguish as the state imprison them on baseless trumped-up charges,” Callueng added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

PNP putting words in Cardinal Tagle’s mouth, Sison says

National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison said the Philippine National Police (PNP) is putting words in Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle’s mouth when it claimed the Manila Archbishop agreed to collaborate with the Rodrigo Duterte administration in staging localized “peace talks” between the government and the revolutionary movement.

Reacting to the press release published on the PNP’s official Facebook page entitled “POLICE AND CHURCH BAT FOR LOCALIZED PEACETALKS TO END INSURGENCY,” Sison said the police’s claim is misleading.

“I do not read anything which quotes Tagle directly as joining hands with the police for localized peace talks,” Sison said.

Sison initially reacted to an Inq.net report but told Kodao he is also referring to the PNP press release, “which is obviously the basis of the Inquirer report.”

“Because it quotes extensively from PNP chief Albayalde, the news story…especially its title, tends to make it appear that Cardinal Tagle has agreed to collaborate with the tyrannical Duterte regime in staging sham localized peace talks and in carrying out a campaign of psy-war (psychological warfare) and military suppression against the revolutionary movement of the people,” Sison said.

The press release said the PNP and the Roman Catholic clergy “are joining hands to explore and reaffirm the collaboration of the church and security sector to end the decades-old local insurgency.”

PNP chief Gen. Oscar Albayalde and Tagle met Tuesday in Manila to discuss the pursuit of localized peace talks with members of the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the report said.

Sison however pointed out that Tagle was clear enough with his reported statement that any call for peace talks must come from the broad sector of society and not just a unilateral declaration from either government or underground movement.

Sison pointed out that the PNP’s press release reflects the one-sided presumption and talk of Albayalde that he has hoodwinked the Cardinal into siding with the “tyrannical Duterte government” on the issue.

He said he does not see Tagle as becoming an endorser of the localized “peace talks” being staged by the military and police.

“I think that Cardinal Tagle is sufficiently informed that the sham localized ‘peace talks’ are being staged by the military and police and have been condemned by the leading political organs of the NDFP and CPP and commands of the NPA at every level, from the national to the local level,” Sison said.

Sison said that the police and military’s localized peace talks activities have been exposed as a “mere psy-war and red-tagging device…in a futile attempt to divide and destroy the revolutionary movement.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva)