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Lawyers group says peaceful protests during quarantine legal

By Joseph Cuevas

A group of human rights lawyers reminded authorities there is no law prohibiting rallies under the government’s Covid19 quarantine.

Reacting to a Philippine National Police (PNP) warning that protesters may be arrested if they join planned Philippine Independence Day protests Friday, June 12, the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) said the anti-coronavirus law does not authorize the arrest of citizens exercising their freedom of expression.

In a statement, NUPL said Republic Act (RA) No. 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act and RA) 11332 or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases do not prohibit rallies.

“They do not have provisions allowing arrests simply on alleged violation of mass gathering or quarantine rules,” NUPL said.

The PNP is reported to have issued threats to arrest protesters against the controversial anti-terrorism bill due for signing into law by President Rodrigo Duterte.

Various groups have announced a protest event dubbed the “Grand Mañanita”, in clear reference to PNP National Capital Region Police office commander Debold Sinas’ controversial party last May.

The police general’s birthday popularly is perceived as a blatant violation of the government’s own prohibitions against mass gatherings during the coronavirus lockdown.

The Department of Interior and Local Government also said public gatherings during the current General Community Quarantine (GCQ) are prohibited while Malacanang yesterday said that mass gatherings are only limited to 10 persons.

NUPL however pointed out that arrests of protesters, such as those that happened against Bulacan and Marikina relief workers, Caloocan jeepney drivers and anti-terrorism bill protesters in Cebu City, are not prohibited by the Bayanihan law as well as various Inter-Agency Task Force rules and executive orders on the ongoing quarantines.

The group added that the Bayanihan law and the orders are not criminal laws that allow the arrests of protesters.

The NUPL also pointed out relevant laws and statutes such as Article III of the 1987 Constitution, the 1985 Public Assembly Act or B.P. 880, Article 21 of 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights safeguarding the rights of citizens to air grievances.

Various groups all over the country are planning on coordinated rallies as opposition to the prospective anti-terrorism law snowballs. #

‘Outrageous instance of double standard and selective justice’

“BGEN Sinas has the gall to violate quarantine rules and publicly display thoughtless extravagance at a time when many people are jobless, hungry and desperately waiting for government aid.

The PNP is unrelenting in its crackdown on ordinary people for purported violations of the law and quarantine rules, which its officials and personnel are themselves breaking. This is nothing but a glaring, shameless and outrageous instance of double standard and selective justice.”

Atty. Ephraim B. Cortez

Secretary-General,

National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers

Carlo Francisco

CPP orders NPA to shift to ‘offensive posture’ after ceasefire order ends

There is no more ceasefire in effect in the country after the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) announced it has decided against re-extending its truce order that expired midnight Thursday.

“The refusal of the Duterte regime to relent in its attacks against the NPA (New People’s Army), despite calls for a ‘global ceasefire’ has made the further extension of the NPA ceasefire impossible,” the CPP said in a statement.

The CPP’s 36-day ceasefire was first declared last March 24 and was extended when it ended last April 15. The government’s first and only ceasefire declaration under the ongoing coronavirus pandemic started last March 19 and ended on April 15.

In a recorded address aired last Monday, President Rodrigo Duterte said he will never be ready for any round of peace talks with the CPP, accusing the NPA of attacking soldiers in Ma. Aurora Town in Aurora Province who were escorting a relief operation connected with the government’s Luzon-wide lockdown.

The CPP however denied the allegation, saying the AFP was in fact conducting a counter-insurgency operation, as it did throughout the ceasefire periods.

“Since Duterte called for a ceasefire on March 16, AFP counterinsurgency operations remain unabated, deploying its units in at least 396 villages in 148 towns, ceaselessly conducting combat operations, aerial bombardments and artillery shelling, aerial surveillance and ground intelligence operations, arresting civilians, and violating people’s rights with impunity,” the CPP said.

The CPP said that in more than a month since both parties declared their unilateral ceasefire orders, the AFP mounted at least 36 raids against NPA encampments in 23 provinces that resulted in at least 11 armed encounters.

The group claimed the AFP suffered at least 56 casualties, 31 of whom were killed in action.

On the part of the NPA, 18 Red fighters were killed while eight were wounded, the CPP reported.

The military operations happened in Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Antique, Bohol, Bukidnon, Compostela Valley, Davao Oriental, Davao del Norte, Iloilo, Lanao del Sur, Masbate, Negros Occidental, Northern Samar, Quezon, Rizal, Samar, Sorsogon, South Cotabato, Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay, Zamboanga del Norte and Zamboanga del Sur provinces, the group added.

The CPP commended its armed wing for “successfully defending themselves and the masses and thwarting the raids and treacherous attacks mounted by the AFP in their relentless counterinsurgency operations.”

Starting today, Friday, May 1, the CPP has ordered the NPA to shift from “active defense” to an “offensive posture” in anticipation of more attacks against its forces.

‘Offensive posture’

In shifting to an offensive posture, the CPP urged the NPA to be always ready to strike against the AFP, Philippine National Police and the paramilitary forces under the Civilian Auxiliary Force Geographical Unit as well as other armed groups of the government.

“The NPA must mount tactical offensives especially against the most notorious human rights violators and those who have subjected people to abuse. The NPA must target the isolated and weak units and detachments of the AFP and its armed auxiliaries,” the CPP ordered.

While getting ready to meet the AFP’s counter-insurgency operations, the CPP also urged the NPA to continue its anti-COVID health services and information drives in various communities. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘Our basic rights are not on lockdown amid this pandemic’

On the killing of retired Corporal Winston Ragos:

“Our basic rights are not on lockdown amid this pandemic — and to effectively combat this pandemic, the government needs to implement the needed public health measures, to address the people’s legitimate demands especially the poor and marginalized, and to uphold people’s rights, welfare, and dignity. We demand justice, and we will hold the government accountable.”

Cristina Palabay
Secretary-General, KARAPATAN

Jo Maline Mamangun

‘We underwent through a proper process’

On the arrest of former Anakpawis Representative Ariel Casilao and Sagip Kanayunan volunteers:

This illegal and immoral arrest could be one of the major blunders of the Duterte government’s continued effort to red-tag progressives, reaching to the point where one agency refuses to recognize the authority of another agency to issue food passes. Contrary to the statement of Usec. Malaya, we underwent through a proper process in applying for the food pass, so that our delivery of relief packs to the distressed fishing and farming communities will not be hampered.

Fernando Hicap

Chairperson, PAMALAKAYA

Former Anakpawis Party Representative

Carlo Francisco

NPA-Panay unit attacked by AFP was conducting Covid info drive, CPP reports

The New People’s Army unit attacked in Iloilo province Wednesday morning, April 8, was conducting a corona virus disease (Covid-19) information drive when attacked by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) troopers, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) said.

In a statement, the CPP said Jose Percival Estocada Jr. Command guerrillas were distributing flyers about Covid-19 and explaining the disease to the villagers of Sitio Agilan, Barangay Panuran, Lambunao town when fired upon by troopers of the AFP’s 301st Infantry Brigade.

“The NPA and its medical officers were conducting an information drive in the said area,” the group said.

According to the CPP, the NPA in Central Panay reported that they were also discussing problems posed by the “military lockdown” and possible collective production in anticipation of the widespread effect of the health crisis when a Philippine Army unit arrived and fired at them.

 “Forced to defend themselves and the villagers, the NPA fired counter-shots and safely withdrew from the incident,” the CPP said.

In a radio interview in Iloilo City a few hours after the fire fight, 3rd Infantry Division spokesperson Captain Cenon Pancito III said their soldiers were patrolling the area when the encounter happened.

A spot report on the incident says soldiers led by one 2Lt. Roel Duran were conducting “pre-emptive security patrol” when they encountered more or less 20 NPA guerrillas.

The CPP however said the incident is another ceasefire violation, the ninth since President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the government’s unilateral ceasefire declaration last March 19 to enable the AFP and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to focus on containing the Covid-19 pandemic.

Heeding the plea of United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres and upon the recommendation of National Democratic Front of the Philippines chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison, the CPP issued its own unilateral ceasefire agreement last March 23.

The CPP said that its ceasefire order, to end alongside the government’s on April 15, is its contribution to the nationwide campaign to defeat the dreaded virus.

CPP’s truce order was welcomed by Malacañang Palace as a “positive development.”

The AFP however has launched military operations in Rizal, Quezon, Davao del Norte Bukidnon, Zamboanga Sibugay and Iloilo provinces after the two ceasefire declarations.

The operations have resulted in the death of two NPA guerrillas and two AFP soldiers and the wounding of two others on the government side.

“While [we] strictly cease launching tactical offensives in accordance with the ceasefire declared by the CPP, we are prepared to defend against AFP and PNP attacks,” the NPA in Central Panay said.

 “Our units will continue efforts to help the people against Covid-19, whatever the 301st Brigade does,” the NPA said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Police harass Sitio San Roque community kitchens

Residents of Sitio San Roque cannot seem to catch a break after the police harassed the community kitchen they have been operating for three days.

In an urgent alert, the group Save San Roque said about 15 Quezon City Police District officers arrived at two areas in their community to tear down placards asking the government for more help.

“Despite the peaceful volunteerism at our community kitchen, about 15 police officers descended upon us to tear down our placards asking for help,” the group said on its Facebook page.

QCPD officers descend on Sitio San Roque anew to tear down placards asking government for more help. (Save San Roque photo)

Save San Roque said the police arrived at around 10 o’clock in the morning and left after an hour.

The police action was upon the directive of the QCPD Station 2 commander, the group said.

The Philippine National Police-National Capital Region Command website identifies Lt. Colonel Rodrigo Soriano as Station 2 commander.

Save San Roque had been operating community kitchens after the community started receiving relief donations from private individuals following the arrest of 21 residents accused by the police and government officials, including President Rodrigo Duterte, of holding a rally last April 1.

It turned out that the residents only massed up along Epifanio delos Santos Avenue upon hearing that local and national government officials were about to hand out relief items.

Despite Quezon City mayor Joy Belmonte’s request to the QCPD not to press charges, the Department of Interior and Local Government announced it will push ahead in filing charges against those arrested.

QCPD officers tearing down placards asking government for more help. (Save San Roque photo)

In a surprise address later that evening, Duterte threatened to kill participants of protest actions in direct reference to those arrested.

The arrests and Duterte’s threats have resulted in an outpouring of help to the beleaguered residents, with private individuals offering to pay the bail for those arrested.

Groups have also started to give food packs to the residents, allowing Save San Roque and the Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap to operate two community kitchens in the area.

The Sitio San Roque incident inspired #OustDuterteNow tweets on social media that trended for days since the incident. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

CPP: Gov’t in contempt of UN’s global ceasefire plea with ‘non-stop combat operations’

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) accused the Rodrigo Duterte government of violating its unilateral ceasefire declaration and is “in direct contempt” of the United Nations request for a global ceasefire amid the corona virus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

In a statement, the CPP said state armed forces continue to mount “non-stop combat operations” against the New People’s Army in at least 63 towns and cities, covering 97 rural villages across the country.

“[Government] Military and police units across the country have continued to carry out relentless offensives despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s unilateral ceasefire declaration which covers the period March 19 to April 15,” Marco Valbuena, CPP chief information officer, said.

The government’s counterinsurgency operations has resulted in a series of armed encounters and widespread violation of human rights violations, Valbuena added.

“Over the past three weeks, state forces attacked and raided at least seven NPA encampments in the provinces of Rizal, Quezon, Bukidnon and Zamboanga Sibugay,” Valbuena said.

The AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) also conducted airstrikes and artillery shelling in Davao del Norte, Davao de Oro and Bukidnon, Valbuena reported.

In a separate statement last Saturday, the CPP said there have been at least seven clashes since the separate ceasefire declarations by the CPP and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines, all reportedly instigated by the military.

On March 17, an NPA unit in Sitio Bendum, Barangay Busdi, Malaybalay City, Bukidnon province was reportedly attacked by the elements of the 85th Infantry Battalion (IP) of the Philippine Army.

On the same day, another unit of the NPA was attacked by a units of the AFP 1st Special Forces Battalion in Mt. Kitanglad, Bukidnon.

On March 28, an NPA unit encamped in the mountainous part of Barangay Pungay, Rodriguez, Rizal was attacked by a unit of the 80th IB.

On March 31, another NPA unit in Barangay Mabunga, Gumaca, Quezon was attacked by a unit of the AFP’s 59th IB. The CPP said the government military unit has been conducting non-stop combat operations in at least five towns in Quezon province.

On April 1, another NPA unit was attacked by the 85th IB in Barangay Ilayang Yuni, Mulanay, Quezon.

Last Thursday, April 2, another NPA encampment unit in Barangay Balagon, Silay, Zamboanga Sibugay was raided by troops of the 44th IB. The same AFP unit raided another NPA camp in Barangay Peñaranda, Kabasalan in the same province.

On the other hand, all NPA units have complied with the CPP declaration, Valbuena said, adding however the guerrilla units are on “extra alert” in the face of the attacks from state forces.

The CPP issued its unilateral ceasefire declaration in response to the call of the United Nations for a global ceasefire that took effect on March 26 and will last until April 15.

According to the CPP, the ceasefire should give all NPA units the opportunity to carry out a public health campaign to help the masses surmount the Covid-19 epidemic.

Units of the NPA are conducting information drives, and campaigns for sanitation and personal hygiene, the CPP said.

Duterte said his government’s unilateral ceasefire order would allow the AFP and the Philippine National Police to focus on defeating the Covid-19 pandemic. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Kadamay chides officials for telling lies about hungry protesters

The Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) chided government officials for telling lies about the violent dispersal of protesting and hungry residents of Sitio San Roque in Barangay Bagong Pag-Asa in Quezon City Tuesday morning, April 1.

The urban poor group slammed interior and local government undersecretary Jonathan Malaya for alleging that Kadamay instigated the protest action along Epifanio delos Santos Avenue when the protesters were in fact members of a different group called the Sandigan ng Maralitang Nagkakaisa (SaMaNa).

“Saan naman galing ang impormasyon ni Malaya? Napakabilis naman niyang magimbento ng kuwento,” Kadamay chairperson Gloria Arellano said in a statement. (Where did Malaya get his information? He is so quick in inventing stories.)

Kadamay said Malaya accused the group of “fooling the residents to merely dramatize issues and make the government look bad as part of Leftist propaganda.”

But Arellano said Malaya’s allegation is false and is an attempt to misdirect the issue of hunger among urban poor communities during the government’s enhanced community quarantine order due to the corona virus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

“Ang usapin dito, kagutuman at panganib sa kalusugan ng mahihirap habang abusado ang sundalo, pulis at emergency powers ni Duterte, kaya inaresto sila at di tinulungan,” Arellano said. (The issue here is hunger and the danger to people’s health, while the military, police and President Rodrigo Duterte’s emergency powers are abusive. That is why the victims were arrested, instead of being helped.)

Arellano also rebuked Philippine National Police (PNP) deputy chief Guillermo Eleazar who hinted at the possibility that the action was spurred by Kadamay members from Pandi, Bulacan “looking to incite chaos.”

“Paano naman makakarating ng Quezon City ang mga taga Bulacan sa ganitong panahon?” Arellano asked. (How can those from Bulacan reach Quezon City at this time?)

Kadamay said Tuesday’s protest action was a spontaneous act by hungry residents demanding food and social services promised by President Duterte when he ordered the lockdown last March 15.

The urban poor group said that mass arrests and the gross lack of social services has been the defining feature of how the administration has handled the COVID 19 pandemic. 

As of March 30, the PNP has tallied around 17,000 arrests while only 3,000 Filipinos have been tested for the virus. 

“Simula pa lamang ng pandemic, dahas, aksyong military at tila martial law na ang naging tugon ng administrasyong Duterte. Hindi nakakagulat kung bakit biglaang kumikilos ang tao pagkat hindi na nila matiis ang gutom na hindi pinapansin ng mga nasa Malacañang,” Arellano said. (Since the pandemic start, violence, militarism and virtual martial law characterized the Duterte administration’s actions. We are not surprised that spontaneous actions are being held by hungry residents who are being ignored by the Palace.) 

Arellano also stressed that the Duterte government should stop delaying and immediately release the social assistance it promised to low income families who are subjected to risks posed by the virus. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDFP may respond to UN appeal for ceasefire, Joma advises

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Negotiating Panel may recommend for a unilateral ceasefire declaration in response to the United Nation’s (UN) appeal for a global truce during the corona virus disease (Covid-19) pandemic, Jose Maria Sison said.

Sison said he is advising the NDFP peace panel to recommend to its principal, the NDFP National Council, the issuance of a unilateral ceasefire declaration by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) to the New People’s Army (NPA) in response to UN secretary general Antonio Guterres’ call for a global ceasefire.

“The NDFP and the broad masses of the people themselves need to refrain from launching tactical offensives to gain more time and opportunity to fight the Covid-19 pandemic and to look after the health and over-all welfare of the people in both urban and rural areas,” Sison said.

“The world must know that long before the belated quarantine declarations and repressive measures of the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines), the NDFP and the revolutionary forces have been informing, training and mobilizing the people on how to fight the pandemic,” he added.

Guterres called for an immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world last Monday, March 23, saying it is time for humankind to put armed conflict on lockdown and focus together “on the true fight of our lives.” 

Guterres asked the warring parties to pull back from hostilities, silence the guns, stop the artillery and end the airstrikes. “This is crucial to help create corridors for life-saving aid, open windows for diplomacy and bring hope to places among the most vulnerable to #COVID19,” he said.

Sison said the UN’s appeal is what the revolutionary forces in the Philippines may respond to, instead of the “bogus unilateral ceasefire declaration of the GRP.”

He warned that reciprocating President Rodrigo Duterte’s ceasefire order may appear as “directly condoning and becoming complicit in the criminal culpabilities of the Duterte regime for allowing the Covid-19 to spread nationwide since January, for making no preparations against the pandemic and for making lockdowns on communities and yet failing to provide mass testing and treatment of the sick, food assistance and compensation for those prevented from work.”

The GRP declared a unilateral ceasefire against the CPP, the NPA, and the NDFP effective 00:00 hour of March 19 to 24:00 hours of April 15, Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo announced Wednesday evening, March 18.

Sison further advised that while the NPA can cease and desist from launching tactical offensives, it must be vigilant and be ready to act in self-defense against any tactical offensive launched by GRP military, police and paramilitary forces against its own guerrilla fronts.

He added that the GRP has persisted in launching tactical offensives and bombing of communities in the countryside as well as campaigns of red tagging, abductions and murder in the urban areas against civilians, justifying NDFP’s desistance from reciprocating Duterte’s ceasefire offer.

NDFP Negotiating Panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili told Kodao that they shall submit their recommendation to their National Council soon. # (Raymund Villanueva)