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Survivors’ tales show ‘most evil intentions’ in Negros Oriental killings

Visayas Today

MANJUYOD/CANLAON CITY –Sige na, sige na!” (Go ahead, go ahead!)

These words, followed by three shots – all she managed to count in her panic – and Angenate Acabal knew her husband Valentin, 47, was dead inside their home in Manjuyod town, Negros Oriental.

Some 125 kilometers north of there, around the same time, in Canlaon City, ordered out of her home at gunpoint, Carmela Avelino heard a shout in a mix of Tagalog and Bisaya: “Merong kalaban, nagsukol!” (There’s an enemy, he’s fighting back!)

Again, three shots and she knew Edgardo, 59, her husband, was gone.

Next door, Ismael, Edgardo’s 53-year old brother, uttered his last words, addressed to his 10-year old child, as his wife Leonora and two youngest children, the other 5, were herded out their house by armed men: “Indi pagpabay-i si Mama kag utod nimo.” (Don’t leave your mother and sister alone!)

As Leonora stepped outside their smashed door, she heard a burst of gunfire.

Contributed photo shows a masked police commando during the operation in Barangay Panciao, Manjuyod where three men, including village chairman Sonny Palagtiw, were killed.

As dawn broke on March 30, 14 men in all had died during pre-dawn raids by police commandos – eight in Canlaon, four in Manjuyod, two more in Sta. Catalina town – during what authorities initially called an “anti-crime operation” but later acknowledged was targeted against suspected communist rebels.

Even on an island beset by outbreaks of violence from an insurgency fueled by the vast gulf between the hacienderos, the planters, who own and control the vast sugarcane plantations that are Negros’ lifeblood and the landless farmers and laborers who toil for them, the single day’s toll came as a bad enough shock that Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo demanded police explain why so many needed to die.

Police claimed all the dead were rebel assassins, members of the New People’s Army Special Partisan Unit or SPARU, all supposedly wanted for carrying out attacks on government forces, who were killed when they chose to shoot it out against officers serving arrest or search warrants.

Malacanang stood by the police, insisting the operation was legitimate.

Never mind that many of the dead were in their 50s to late 60s, way too old to be the communist hitmen, who tend to be young, quick and agile, police claim they were, and two of those slain in Manjuyod were elected village chieftains – Valentin Acabal and Sonny Palactiw.Of the eight men killed in Canlaon, one was a Catholic lay minister and two – one of two father-and-son pairs – volunteer church workers.

As far as can be ascertained, only four of the dead – the Avelino brothers of Canlaon, Franklin Lariosa of Sta. Catalina, and Steve Arapoc of Manjuyod – belonged to peasant groups openly accused by state security forces of supporting or being “legal fronts” of the rebels.

And only the Avelinos appear to have been engaged in any recent activity that might have earned them the ire of authorities – the local farmers’ organization chaired by Edgardo hosted a forum about residents of neighboring Guihulngan City who had been displaced in December last year by a police operation similar to that of March 30.

Incidentally, police gave both operations the same code name – Sauron, the “dark lord” of The Lord of the Rings trilogy – with the March operation dubbed “2.0”.

And both operations involved not local police forces but units under the Central Visayas command based in Cebu City.

Aside from this, the warrants were also issued by courts in Cebu City, not in Negros Oriental. The separate but almost uniform accounts of Angenate Acabal and the Avelino widows, who do not know each other – as well as the stories the families of other victims told human rights organizations – not only belied the police accounts but, according to human rights lawyer Neri Colmenares, who visited the wakes of the three victims, showed “the most evil intentions,” the carefully coordinated “state-sponsored killings” of activists and others deemed “enemies of the state.”

All the stories begin in the dark before dawn – between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. – with the sound of doors being smashed in and then armed men in tactical gear, their faces covered in balaclavas and even dark glasses, storming in, assault rifles aimed at stunned residents.

Angelate Acabal greets a visitor at the wake of her husband, slain Barangay Candabong, Manjuyod caption Valentin Acabal

Around 20 armed men burst into the Acabal household and roused the 17-year old son who slept on a couch in the living room, ordering him to kneel, his hands clasped behind his neck. It was a position he would keep for more than two hours.

Other policemen then barged into the room where Valentin, who was sick with the flu, and Angenate slept with their 7-year old daughter, ordering them to kneel on the floor with their hands up.

“All three of us were praying and our daughter begged them not to hurt us,” Angenate said after sending the girl to another room so she would not have to listen to the retelling.

“Then they grabbed and my daughter and forced us out of the room.”The last thing she heard Valentin say was a prayer: “Gino-o, gitugyan nako kanimo ang tanan.” (Lord, I leave everything up to you.)

For two hours, Angenate said she and her children were kept under guard in the living room, not allowed near the room where her husband lay dead, and accompanied even on trips to the toilet.

It was only around 6 a.m., as curious villagers began to gather, that the policemen summoned two councilmen. Only then did they show a search warrant and the .45 caliber pistol the village chief was supposedly armed with.

Angenate said one of the policemen who guarded them asked her what her husband’s name was. When she told him, “he shook his head and said, ‘But in the blotter it was Eric’.”

A copy of the warrant, which she obtained later, did show it was for Eric, not Avelino, Acabal. Colmenares said even if Acabal used to be called by his old nickname Eric, “the warrant should reflect his real name, Avelino. This already makes it irregular.”

Shortly after, Angenate said, policemen from the town arrived “but only to take away my husband’s body to the hospital even though it was clear he was already dead” from at least seven gunshots, including one that shattered his femur and genitals.

“There was no attempt to investigate the scene of the crime. The (police) Scene of Crime Operatives only inspected his body at the hospital.”

Senatorial candidate and human rights lawyer Neri Colmenares talks to Ray and Argie, sons of slain Barangay Candabong, Manjuyod captain Valentin Acabal.

Worse, said Arcabal’s son Argie, a Qatar Airways cabin crew who flew home on learning of his father’s fate, “they took P30,000 I had just sent home for home repairs and even P7,000 that my mother was keeping for our church, of which she was treasurer.”

Meanwhile in Canlaon, Carmela Avelino was awakened by her 16-year old daughter’s shout for help and rushed out thinking a snake had crawled into their house.

As she got out of bed, “the curtains of our window parted and I saw five rifle barrels aimed at us and a voice ordered us out of the room.”

In the dirt-floor front room, “five policemen stood in line, blocking me from my husband, while others ordered me and the children outside and to go to the community center next door.”

On their way out, they heard three shots from their house and, moments later, more gunshots from Ismael’s house.

Carmela Avelino shows the spot where her husband Edgardo was killed.

Leonora said she and her two young children were awakened by the commotion from Edgardo’s house and stepped out of their room to see their door burst open as six hooded men in black entered and ordered them to lie on the floor at gunpoint.

They were then ordered out of their home and to crawl toward another house where they were kept under guard for the next three hours.

Another Avelino brother, Efraim, rushed out of his nearby house only to be grabbed by his neck and pushed back inside by a gunman in a uniform of the police Special Action Force who ordered him back inside or “you might be the first.”

Like Valentin Acabal, the bodies of the Avelino brothers would be taken from their homes hours later, after daybreak, and taken to the local hospital even though they had already been dead for hours.

A boot print can still be seen on the broken door of the home of Ismael Avelino in Barangay Panubigan, Canlaon City.

Edgardo had been shot in the forehead and right arm. Ismael suffered at least five gunshot wounds.

But unlike Acabal, who has not been autopsied, the Avelino brothers underwent a post-mortem examination and had their deaths classified as “homicide” by the Canlaon civil registrar. Only after the ambulance had left were village officials summoned and shown warrants.

Carmela said the warrant for Edgardo gave his family name as “Marquez,” which is his middle name, and not Avelino.

She said the policemen then asked her to accompany them inside the house and showed her a .45 caliber pistol lying in the pool of blood where her husband had fallen and an M16 rifle they supposedly found by a closet.

A policeman also “returned” money taken from their home, only to find out that P2,000 was missing from the original P5,000.

Post-mortem diagram showing the gunshot wounds that killed Ismael Avelino.

A sister of the Avelinos, Azucena Garubat, was arrested for allegedly possessing a .38 caliber revolver and remains detained at the Canlaon police station, together with Corazon Javier, a coordinator of activist women’s group Gabriela, who was allegedly found in possession of a rifle grenade.

The two were among 12 persons nabbed in the course of the March 30 operation.

Reacting to the accounts of the widows, Colmenares said it was “clear the operations were irregular. The fact alone that they wore masks to serve supposed warrants proves this. And there is also the total lack of an investigation after the deaths, which indicates that the police have no intention whatsoever to tell the truth about what happened.”

But while confident about the chances of successfully prosecuting the police personnel involved in the bloody operation, Colmenares said this would not be enough.

“Public uproar is crucial to send the message that enough is enough.”He also said that ultimate responsibility for the March 30 deaths, as for the December deaths, lay with President Rodrigo Duterte, who last year issued Memorandum Order No. 32, which ordered more police and military personnel to the Bicol region, Samar island and Negros to “quell lawless violence.”

Colmenares said the actions of Duterte and the police fell into the “three patterns of evidence” he said were the bases for successful prosecutions involving extrajudicial killings:

· “Public vilification, which establishes motive”;

· “The brazenness with which the crime is committed”; and

· “The complete lack of interest to investigate o prosecute”

COVER PHOTO: Leonora Avelino (partly hidden, top) talks to visitors at the wake of her husband, Ismael, and his brother, Edgardo in Barangay Panubigan, Canlaon City.

AFP and PNP lying; Red fighters only use command-detonated explosives—CPDF

By Joseph Gregorio

The Cordillera Peoples Democratic Front (CPDF) accused the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) of lying when they alleged the New People’s Army (NPA) used an unmanned improvised explosive device (IED) in their April 2 clash that killed a policeman and wounded nine others at Cabunagan, Poblacion, Tadian, Mountain Province.

“Accustomed to releasing fake news, it is not farfetched for these spinmasters to concoct a preposterous story to downgrade their defeat. They simply cannot accept that even with their superior manpower and weaponry, they are still defeated by the NPA,” CPDF Spokes person Simon “Ka Filiw” Naogsan said.

Naogsan said the AFP and the PNP vainly conjured a scenario to accuse the NPA of violating the Ottawa Treaty on the employment of unmanned IED that explodes when subjected to pressure or extreme heat.

“The NPA has long adhered to the Ottawa Treaty through banning the use of landmines in its operations and has been employing command-detonated explosives instead,” Naogsan said.

“The AFP and the PNP further show their ignorance as they do not know how to differentiate a command-detonated explosive from an unmanned landmine,” he added.

Government forces, through statements and social media posts, alleged the NPA used unmanned IEDs and landmines in their clash last Tuesday, their third fire fight with the communist guerrillas within a week.

“International humanitarian law and the Geneva Conventions have outlawed the use of landmines in warfare because of the risk of civilian casualties or collateral damage,” Police Regional office Cordillera (PROCor) Chief PBGen Israel Ephraim Dickson said.

But Leonardo Pacsi Command-NPA-Mountain Province spokesperson Magno Udyaw said their troops only used a command detonated device, exploded by an operator upon the order of the unit commander when government soldiers have entered the designated killing zone.

Udyaw clarified that there was no forest fire on the blast site at the time of the clash, adding they are not stupid to start a forest fire that can limit their combat manoeuvres. #

14 farmers executed ‘Tokhang-style’ in Negros; Duterte’s MO 32 blamed

President Rodrigo Duterte’s Memorandum Order No. 32 in November 22 deploying more soldiers and police officers in Negros Island has seen its bloodiest result last weekend in the killing of 14 farmers in three locations.

Philippine National Police operatives killed eight peasants in Canlaon City, four in Manjuyod, and two in Sta. Catalina town in separate but near simultaneous operations in Negros Oriental Province Saturday.

The Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights identified the eight Canlaon victims as Edgardo Avelino, 59, farmer and resident of Sitio Carmen, Brgy. Panubigan, Chairperson of Hukom (Hugpong Kusog Mag-uuma sa Canlaon); Ismael Avelino, 53 habal-habal (utility motorcycle) driver a resident of Sitio Carmen, Brgy. Panubigan and a member of Hukom; Melchor Pañares, 67, farmer, a resident of Sitio Tigbahi, Brgy. Bayog; Mario Pañares, 46, farmer (son of Melchor Pañares); Rogelio Ricomuno, 52, farmer, a resident of Sitio Manggata, Brgy. Masulog -1; Ricky Ricomuno, 28, farmer; Gonzalo Rosales, 47, farmer and a resident of Proper Brgy. Pula; and Genes Palmares, 54, farmer, a resident of Proper Brgy. Aquino.

In Sta. Catalina, habal-habal driver and peasant leader Franklen Lariosa and Anoj Enojo Rapada were reportedly killed.

In Manjuyod, among those killed were Velentin Acabal of Brgy. Kandabong and Sonny Palagtiw of Brgy. Pansiao, both barangay captains in their villages; Steve Arapoc and Manulo Martin.

Reports said 15 others were arrested, including local Gabriela leader Corazon Javier, who are now detained at the Canlaon City provincial police headquarters.

Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay cited Duterte’s Memorandum Order No. 32 that placed Negros Island as well as Eastern Visayas and Bicol under a state of emergency for the continuing militarization of communities as well as the Synchronized Enhanced Managing of Police Operations (SEMPO) or Oplan Sauron of the PNP in the region.

Palabay said Oplan Sauron is being implemented alongside the government’s counterinsurgency program.

‘Tokhang-style’

Negros police director P/Col. Raul Tacaca said the victims were suspected communist rebels linked to alleged assassination plots against government soldiers and police officers.

Tacaca claimed those slain fought back against arresting teams from the PNP Regional Public Safety Battalion, the PNP Special Action Force, regular police officers from various stations, and the Philippine Army.

In a press conference in Camp Crame Monday, PNP spokesperson P/Col. Bernard Banac echoed Tacaca’s claims and added the killings started as an implementation of search warrant for possible possession of firearms and explosive materials.

“We are sure that they really tried to shoot it out because our policemen will not use force if there is no threat to their lives,” Banac said.

“These were done by following the rules of engagement, respect on human rights and presumption of regularity,” he added,

But survivors of the police assault in Canlaon said the police arrived at about 2:30 in the morning, knocked once and kicked the doors open.

Victim Ismael Avelino’s wife, Leonora told human rights workers that all six police officers who assaulted their home “wore facemasks and others wore shades to cover their eyes.”

Victims’ survivors also said the nameplates on the police officers’ uniforms were covered.

Leonora said she and their four young children were ordered to lie face down and then later dragged outside of the house.

Next door, Edgardo Avelino’s household members were similarly forced to lie face down and were also dragged outside of the house.

Near simultaneously, they heard gunshots inside both houses. Nearly five hours later, at about seven o’clock in the morning, an ambulance came and Leonora’s husband was brought out of the house in a stretcher.

She found out later at the Canlaon District Hospital that they her husband Ismael was dead.

Edgardo, Hukom chairperson, was shot on his forehead, right cheek and upper torso.

In Manjuyog, survivors of Arupoc told human rights responders that the police planted a .38 caliber revolver beside his cadaver after he was killed by the police officers.

Calls for investigation

Various groups called for an immediate investigation on the incidents.

“This is unconscionable. We strongly demand an immediate and independent investigation on the incident…[W]e join our voices in the call for justice and accountability for these heinous crimes perpetrated by the government,” Karapatan’s Palabay said.

San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza, whose diocese covers the affected towns, also demanded an investigation.

“We demand a quick investigation on this and appeal to our government authorities to restore peace and order,” Alminaza said.

The Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA) for its part said March 30 was a dark day in the country’s history.

“[F]armers who feed the nation have become helpless targets of bullets from the police and military, in tokhang-style operations, forcibly entering the homes and playing the ‘nanlaban’ (fought back) scenario to justify the riddling of bullets to victims,” the group said.

“As the nation grieves, we add our voices to the call for justice for our farmers and all Filipinos who have suffered under the culture of impunity and fascism in our lands,” CPA added.

Members of the Makabayan bloc in Congress also condemned the killings and vowed to seek justice for the victims.

“State forces are on a rampage and activists and critics are in their crosshairs. We will not take this sitting down and we will seek justice for the victims and file charges against the policemen and their superiors who perpetrated this massacre,” Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate said.

Anakpawis Representative Ariel Casilao called for the scrapping of Duterte’s Memorandum No. 32, saying it is a death warrant on civilians.

The Commission on Human Rights said it has already ordered the regional sub-office of CHR-Region VII to investigate the killings. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Philippine Army holding Frank Fernandez incommunicado

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) strongly condemned what it calls the unjust arrest of another of its peace consultants and his companions last Sunday in Laguna Province.

In a statement, NDFP Negotiating Panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili demanded that the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) immediately release Francisco “Ka Frank” Fernandez and his companions “as a matter of principle, justice and humanity.”

“Frank Fernandez is a publicly known consultant of the NDFP in the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations as NDFP spokesperson in Negros,” Agcaoili said.

Agcaoili said 71-year old Fernandez has been ill for some time had to come down from Negros for medical treatment, accompanied by his wife Cleofe Lagtapon and Gee-Ann Perez.

Where are they?

The NDFP said details of where Fernandez and companions are incarcerated are still unclear.

“This poses grave danger to their health and lives. It is incumbent upon their custodial units to forthwith present Frank Fernandez and his companions to their relatives and lawyers in order for him to receive his medicines and assure that their rights and well-being are respected,” Agcaoili said.

Philippine National Police Region IV-A director Chief Superintendent Ted Carranza told reporters Monday that Fernandez was taken to the Philippine Army Hospital in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City after the arrest.

“Well, alam niyo kasi itong si Fr. Frank Fernandez ay matanda na. I just talked with an officer from the Philippine Army, nag-complain siya (Fernandez) ng chest pain after his arrest. So he was sent to the army hospital for treatment,” Carranza said.

It was not known whether Fernandez is still confined at the said hospital as human rights defenders and public interest lawyers are still being prevented from seeing the detainees.

In his press conference at Camp Crame yesterday, PNP chief Oscar Albayalde said Fernandez and his companions are under the custody of the Philippine Army’s Military Intelligence Group of Calabarzon reportedly based in Camp Eldridge in Los Baños, Laguna.

“With his unjust arrest, the Duterte regime runs the risk of adding another detainee to the list of three political prisoners who died in prison from June 2016, in violation of international humanitarian law and the minimum prison standards recognized by civilized nations,” Agcaoili said.

JASIG-protected

Agcaoili said Fernandez, a former Roman Catholic priest in the Diocese of Bacolod before becoming a rebel leader in Negros, holds Document of Identification Number PP 978544 as provided for in the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) between the GRP and the NDFP.

Agcaoili also dismissed Presidential peace adviser Carlito Galvez Junior’s claim that the JASIG is already inoperable in accordance with GRP President Rodrigo Duterte’s termination of the peace talks in November 2017.

Agcaoili said JASIG’s termination requires a protocol, a move the NDFP said Duterte failed to follow with his unilateral termination of the peace talks through Proclamation No. 360.

The NDFP Negotiating Panel earlier said the GRP has not formally given them a letter of termination through the Third Party Facilitator, the Royal Norwegian Government, rendering Duterte’s Proclamation No. 360 moot and the JASIG still operable.

“So, no matter how many times President Rodrigo Duterte unilaterally flip-flops from resuming and then terminating the peace talks, the JASIG remains in full force and effect unless otherwise terminated according to the terms of the agreement,” Agcaoili said.

“In fact the immunity guarantees of Frank Fernandez extend even after the actual termination of the peace talks,” he explained. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

PNP surfaces NDFP’s Frank Fernandez

The Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Philippine Army finally surfaced National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Francisco “Ka Frank” Fernandez after arresting him early Sunday morning and denying he was in their custody to human rights responders.

In a press conference at Camp Crame this morning, PNP chief Oscar Albayalde said Fernandez was arrested in Barangay Calumpang, Liliw, Laguna at 5:15 a.m. Sunday morning and, like five fellow NDFP consultants earlier arrested, was allegedly found to be in possession of firearms, ammunition and grenades.

Fernandez was arrested with his wife Cleofe Lagtapon and Gee-Ann Perez and are facing charges of violation of Commission on Election (Comelec) Resolution 10429 in relation to the Omnibus Election Code as well as violation of Republic Act 10591 (Illegal possession of firearms) and violation of Republic Act 9516 (Illegal possession of explosives), the PNP said.

Three caliber .45 pistols, three magazines with 15 live bullets and three grenades were allegedly found in their possession.

Fernandez also has four standing murder arrest warrants while his wife was included in one of the arrest warrants, the PNP said.

The three are under the custody of the Military Intelligence Group of Calabarzon and are set to face illegal firearms and explosives possession charges, the police added.

Fernandez, a former Roman Catholic priest, was a long-time NDFP spokesperson in Negros Island.

‘Hide and seek’

Human rights group Karapatan, however, slammed the PNP for withholding the three’s whereabouts for more than a day despite asking various police and military camps in Region IV-A and the National Capital Region.

“Legal counsel and paralegals went to Camp Vicente Lim in Canlubang, Laguna; Camp Paciano Rizal in Sta. Cruz, Laguna; Laguna Provincial Police Office and Municipal Police Office in Sta. Cruz, Laguna; Camp Crame in Quezon City; and Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City. Military and police officers denied having the three in their custody,” Karapatan said in a statement.

“This morning of March 25, legals counsels and paralegals went to the ISAFP Headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City; NBI National Office in Manila; and Camp Crame, Quezon City. The same answer was given to them,” the group added.

Karapatan said it was only after further prodding that unidentified officials revealed that the three arrested persons were in the Army General Hospital in Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City.

Karapatan said that lawyers and paralegals should have access to those arrested, particularly the elderly couple Fernandez and Lagtapon, aged 71 and 66, respectively.

Fernandez and his wife are reportedly in Laguna to seek medical treatment.

Karapatan raised the possibility that the three might be subjected to physical and psychological torture, a reported practice of state forces during arrests.

“Access of lawyers to the victims on time and ascertaining the responsible units and officers are a deterrent to the ill-treatment of arrested persons,” Karapatan said.

The group said the police and the military deliberately played a game of hide and seek, instead of directly giving the whereabouts of the detainees to their legal counsels, as mandated by Republic Act 7438 or the rights of persons arrested, detained or under custodial investigation law.

‘Ordered by Duterte’

NDFP’s chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison, for his part, condemned yet another allegation by the police that its latest arrested peace consultant and companions were in possession of guns and ammunition at the time of their arrest.

“Following the orders publicly given by their master (President Rodrigo) Duterte, the criminals in uniform always plant firearms and frame up NDFP consultants,” Sison told Kodao.

Sison said that planting such false evidence is the police’s way of violating the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) between the NDFP and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines.

Sison said that when there are no witnesses, so-called “criminals in authority” kill NDFP consultants as in the case of Randy Felix Malayao.

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

Sison said the planting of firearms is meant to justify also the arrest of people or witnesses who are in the company of the NDFP consultant.

NDFP peace consultants Rafael Baylosis, Adelberto Silva, Vicente Ladlad, Rey Claro Casambre and Reynante Gamarahave been arrested in succession from January 2018 and all were charged with illegal possession of firearms along with their respective companions.

“In the first place, they are even supposed not to surveil NDFP consultants under JASIG,” Sison explained.

New presidential adviser on the peace process Carlito Galvez Jr., however, said last Wednesday the JASIG is no longer operable since Duterte terminated the talks in November 2017.

“[T]he formal negotiation was terminated along with Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) through Proclamation 360 by President Rodrigo Duterte on November 2017,” Galvez said in a statement.

The NDFP, however, said the JASIG is still in effect.

“The safety and immunity guarantees for NDFP consultants are continuing even in case of breakdown or termination of the peace negotiations,” Sison said.

Baylosis was released last January 18 after the Quezon City Regional Trial Court dismissed charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives against him. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Groups vow to seek justice for Malayao’s assassination

Friends of National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace consultant Randy Felix Malayao gathered earlier today to commemorate the 40th day since his assasination and to commit to pursuing justice for the slain activist.

 “We take this occasion to once again look at the profound loss we suffer and to commit ourselves in seeking justice for his death,” the groups said in a statement marking the 40th day since Malayao’s murder, a widespread practice among Filipino Christians.

In a brief program, the groups, including representatives from Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN)-allied organizations and Beta Sigma Fraternity, discussed updates on investigations being conducted on Malayao’s murder.

BAYAN chairperson Carol Araullo presented highlights of a preliminary investigation conducted by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in Cagayan Valley recommending  than an “impartial and thorough probe must proceed.”

“The initial findings obtained by the family show that the CHR does not accept claims that Randy’s death was part of an internal [Communist] Party purge carried out by the New People’s Army,” the groups said.

“The initial findings point out that Randy has ‘no known enemy or personal grudge to any other plain civilian/s except for the military intelligence who usually monitor his activities,’” they added.

The CHR report also says Malayao’s killing appears to have been carried out by “experts” and may be related to his work as peace consultant of the NDF, the groups revealed.

They also condemned the Philippine National Police (PNP)  in Region II for seeking “to tarnish Randy’s memory with vile and unsupported accusations.”

“The PNP in Region II rushed to cast aspersions against the victim even before a proper investigation has been conducted,” they said.

Friends also announced that at least three publications are being produced to honor Malayao they said are hoped to be in circulation before the victim’s 50th birth anniversary in August.

“The Justice for Randy Campaign is duly formed and ready to work just as hard as our friend, colleague and brother for justice,” they said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

PNP ‘profiling’ of ACT members continues

Progressive teachers said they have monitored at least 34 visits by the Philippine National Police (PNP) to schools nationwide to look for teachers to “profile” as “communists”.

Since the start of the year, ACT said the PNP’s profiling activities have spread to 10 regions nationwide.

In a forum at the College of Education of the University of the Philippines in Diliman Thursday, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) said 13 schools in Metro Manila; four each in Regions I, III and IV-A; three in Region V (Bicol); two in the Cordillera Autonomous Region and one each in Regions IV-B, VI, X, and CARAGA were visited by the police.

School administrators were asked to give personal details of teachers who are ACT members, the group said.

In a memorandum dated December 27, the PNP ordered an inventory of ACT members the teacher’s federation said is “part and parcel of the Duterte regime’s grand fascist scheme to suppress all forms of opposition to its tyrannical rule.” 

Despite widespread condemnation of the PNP’s memorandum, ACT said police harassments continue.

In his speech, ACT secretary general Raymond Basilio condemned the PNP’s activities against ACT.

“If the police is really looking for criminals, it should look at itself, the military camps, or Malacañan Palace,” Basilio said.

ACT added that on top of police profiling, it has recorded nine cases of threats against its officers and members.

Basilio said he was among the four mentors who received death threats early this week.

“I miss my home and sleeping in my own bed. I have been staying in places other than my home because of what they may do to me,” he said.

The forum was attended by Education International (EI) officials.

In a Facebook post, ACT Teachers Party Representative Antonio Tinio said the EI visited Manila to show solidarity with ACT in its struggle against the Duterte administration’s surveillance, harassment, and terrorist-tagging.

ACT and EI launched the Teachers’ Complaint Hotline and Legal Kiosk (Teachers CHALK), a teacher’ defense system against state attacks.

Teachers’ CHALK is a hotline for teacher-victims of state violence and aims to encourage the public to support the teachers’ efforts to defend their ranks through social media campaign, rights education, legal defense, quick reaction mass activities, ACT said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

High alert or high insecurity? Police swarm Tuguegarao as activists prepare for Malayao burial

By Tonyo Cruz

TUGUEGARAO CITY–Hundreds of cops and Special Action Force personnel swarmed parts of Tuguegarao City on Wednesday as activists from across Region II started to gather for the burial of slain activist Randy Felix Malayao.

The remains of Malayao — an NDFP peace consultant, regional chair of Bayan Muna and national vice president of the Makabayan coalition — will be buried Thursday at the town cemetery of his native San Pablo, Isabela.

San Pablo is less than 30 minutes away from this regional center.

If the police and military were really innocent in Malayao’s murder, it didn’t look or feel that way.

The excessive police presence in Tuguegarao Wednesday betrays a high sense of insecurity and maybe even guilt.

Initial reports also said police and soldiers blocked several busloads of protesters from several Cagayan towns, as droves sought to join the funeral march for Malayao.

Dozens of police and SAF bearing high-powered weapons were deployed outside and inside the courtyard of the Tuguegarao Cathedral where the activists gathered.

A stone’s throw away, at the former city jail, about 50 police in full anti-riot gear could be seen practicing their moves.

Cops and intelligence officers, Some in plainclothes, followed the rallyists as they marched through downtown Tuguegarao. They brazenly took photos of the activists.

The protesters carried white placards made of rice sacks bearing the words “Hustisya kay Randy Malayao!” and “Stop the killings! Stop the crackdown!”

In a joint statement distributed during the march, Cagayan Valley groups BAYAN and DANGGAYAN accused the notorious Philippine Army 5th Infantry Division in the murder of Malayao.

They said elements of the 5th ID harassed the quick reaction team dispatched by human rights watchdogs at the PNP station in Aritao, the town where Malayao was shot dead while sleeping in a bus en route to Isabela.

Prior to Malayao’s murder, the 5th ID had identified Malayao and other activist leaders as enemies of the state.

The PNP Regional Office 2 recently released CCTV video showing Malayao boarding the bus in Quezon City for his trip back home.

Another video showed two persons mulling around the bus at the stop in Aritao, Nueva Vizcaya.

One of the two persons was later seen boarding the bus while still at the stop. Gunshots could be heard in the video.

Instead of ordering a manhunt and trying to identify the suspects, PNP’s PRO2 has accused the Malayao family of “obstruction of justice” for demanding the return of all of Malayao’s personal belongings seized by the police after the incident.

Without naming names of the suspects, PNP PRO2
spokesman Superintendent Chevalier Iriangan immediately said that “Malayao’s comrades” are the suspects in his killings.

He said that the family should give the PNP all of Malayao’s phones, laptop and iPad.

Malayao had long been tagged by the PNP and the military as a Red leader in Cagayan Valley, culminating in his 2008 abduction in Cainta, Rizal in Manila.

Five days later, the police and military surfaced him in Tuguegarao, detained him and charged him in connection with the death of a former governor.

Malayao successfully defended himself from all the trumped-up cases leveled against him, which led to his freedom.

The Malayao family has rejected police claims that their youngest brother was a corrupt activist who ran away with the movement’s money.

The PNP claimed it could be a motive for Reds to kill him.

Malayao’s elder sister Perla has told media that their family is calling for an impartial and credible investigation. #

Government covering up on Malayao murder—CPP

SAN PABLO, Isabela—The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) denounced efforts by the Rodrigo Duterte government for what it calls the “regime’s foulest move in sowing false information surrounding the murder” of National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace consultant Randy Malayao last January 30 in Aritao, Nueva Vizcaya.

In a statement, the CPP accused the Philippine National Police in Cagayan Valley of not conducting any investigation but is only engaged in “covering up, spreading intrigue and slandering the victim.”

“This aims to cover up the responsibility of state agents, specifically Rodrigo Duterte’s death squads, which he himself ordered to carry out the killing,” the CPP in a statement Sunday said.

In a press release, the PNP in Region 2 said Malayao may have been killed by his comrades, alleging that he may have kept some monies for himself and that he ran off with a woman.

The police however did not provide any proof to back up its allegations.

Malayao was single and was known to have kept a Spartan lifestyle.

Looking elsewhere

Meanwhile, PNP director general Oscar Albayalde relieved two top Nueva Vizcaya cops for allegedly mishandling the initial murder investigation.

Nueva Vizcaya provincial police director PSSupt Jeremias Aglugub and Aritao Chief of Police Police Chief Inspector Geovanni Cejes were sacked for “apparent lapses in the investigation of the slay, particularly the mishandling of evidence at the crime scene.

“Albayalde’s order was an apparent punishment to the officers who allowed Malayao’s personal belongings returned to his family.


DILG’s demand letter addressed to the victim’s family.

In a related development, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) demanded from Malayao’s family that his belongings be surrendered to the police.

PNP personnel had arrived in Malayao’s wake Friday to press the victim’s family to surrender his belongings.

Several family members are high-ranking DILG officials, raising fears they may be further harassed over the tug of war over the victim’s personal belongings.

Family members refused to issue a statement to Kodao on the issue of the victim’s belongings.

A Kodao source, a lawyer, however said the DILG needs a court order to enforce its demand.

The CPP for its part said that despite the Duterte’s efforts to blame the victim, “the revolutionary forces vow to attain justice for Ka Randy and punish the perpetrators of this fascist crime.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Makabayan files bill seeking exemption of journalists from anti-drug ops

The Makabayan Bloc at the House of Representatives filed a bill seeking the exemption of journalists from acting as witnesses in police anti-drug operations.

House Bill 8832 was filed Wednesday by ACT Teachers’ Party Reps. Antonio Tinio and France Castro, Gabriela Reps. Arlene Brosas and Emmi de Jesus, Anakpawis Party Rep. Ariel Casilao, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate and Kabataan Party Rep. Sarah Elago together with National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) officers.

The bill seeks to amend Section 1 of Republic Act 10640, otherwise known as “An Act to Further Strengthen the Anti-Drug campaign of the Government,” which orders that journalists act as “optional witnesses” to drug operations.

The law amended section 21 of Republic Act No. 9165, otherwise known as the “Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002,” which earlier ordered that journalists act as mandatory witnesses to the police inventory of seized items in drug operations, along with elected officials and members of the National Proecution Service.

HB 8832 stemmed from an ongoing NUJP campaign against ordering journalists to as witnesses to police anti-drug operations.

According to the NUJP, journalists throughout the country report that law enforcement units continue requiring them to sign on as witnesses, often as a condition for being allowed to cover anti-drug operations.

“Worse, there are reports that they are made to sign even if they did not actually witness the operation or the inventory of seized items,” the NUJP’s “Sign Against the Sign” campaign said.

Journalists who decline can find their sources or the normal channels of information no longer accessible, the media group added.

HB 8832 said that aside from the obvious coercion and attempts to control information of vital interest to the public, the media’s opposition to this practice also stems from the fact that it unnecessarily places journalists at risk of retaliation from crime syndicates, on the one hand, and exposes them to prosecution for perjury and other offenses in the event of irregularities in the conduct of anti-drug operations, on the other.

The proposed measure said that journalists must be protected from harm and the anti-drug laws must help ensure that reportage on the government’s anti-drug operations must remain objective and factual.

Rep. Tinion said the Makabayan Bloc will ask Committee on Public Information chairperson Ben Evardone of Eastern Samar to schedule a hearing on the bill as soon as possible.

The NUJP for its part will ask Senate Committee on Public Information chairperson Senator Grace Poe to file a counterpart in the Senate. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)