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Abolish IACoLA, trumped-up charges—Makabayan 4

Activists called on the abolition of the government’s Inter-Agency Committee on Legal Action (IACoLA) in a gathering celebrating the dismissal of double murder charges against their four leaders in Quezon City Tuesday, August 14.

In a packed hall at the Quezon City Sports Club, National Anti-Poverty Commission lead convenor Liza Maza and fellow former Makabayan bloc representatives Satur Ocampo, Rafael Mariano and Teddy Casiño condemned the IACoLA as an attack mechanism resurrected from the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo era.

The four said IACoLA was the resurrected form of the Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG) that persecuted the four, along with former Anakpawis Representative Joel Virador and the late Crispin Beltran who were then collectively known as the Batasan 6 who sought refuge at the House of Representatives for many weeks.

“If these are truly the handiwork of the reconstituted (IALAG) as some quarters have alleged, then this body requires the reexamination as they did with its predecessor, the (AILAG) under the time of Arroyo, which was abolished upon the recommendation of the UN,” Maza said.

The IACoLA was created through a joint resolution signed by former Philippine National Police Director General Ronald Dela Rosa and Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Eduardo Año last October 9, 2017.

The PNP and the AFP said the resolution aims to strengthen the intelligence gathering and cooperation, investigation, prosecution and monitoring of cases against threat groups by establishing stronger coordination of ongoing and future efforts of the government in addressing cases.

The activists, however, said IACoLA is being used to persecute perceived dissenters using trumped up charges.

Human rights group Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights cited the abduction of couple Rowena and Oliver Rosales last Saturday in Bulacan as another handiwork of IACoLA.

Karapatan said the Rosaleses, former Confederation for the Unity, Advancement and Recognition of Government Employees (Courage) organizers, were forcibly taken while onboard their privately-owned tricycle at Barangay Wawa, Balagtas, Bulacan, and were later taken to Camp Crame, Quezon City.

Rowena was later shown a warrant of arrest for trumped-up charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives, the same warrant used against Courage member Juan Alexander Reyes on June 2, 2018, the group said.

“The Duterte regime is tying up loose ends left by past repressive governments. Taking off from the atrocious handiwork of previous regimes, foremost that of Marcos’, Arroyo’s and Aquino’s, Duterte has escalated attacks against rights defenders,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.

“Many of such violations are orchestrated by the police and the military in line with the IACoLA in particular, and counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan in general,” Palabay said, adding that at least 129 rights defenders and political dissenters have already been arrested and filed with trumped-up charges since IACLA’s creation in October 2017.

“It is time to review, reexamine at dismantle this group as AILAG was dismantled before. This is a grave concern for all of us. These trumped-up charges against all of us activists and individuals who are working for genuine change in society,” Maza said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

3 CAFGUs die in Masbate encounter

Three government troopers under the 2nd Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army were killed in an encounter in Masbate Province Friday morning, a spot report from the Philippine National Police said.

The soldiers figured in a fire fight with suspected members of the New People’s Army at Barangay Mactan, Cawayan town at about 8:30 in the morning that resulted in the deaths of three Civilian Armed Force Geographical Unit auxiliary troopers, the police added.

The Masbate Provincial Police Office (MASPPO) said that soldiers of the Philippine Army detachment based in Barangay Del Carmen in Uson town were conducting combat patrol operations when they encountered NPA fighters in the area.

The MASPPO did not reveal the names of the casualties.

The PNP said they have yet to determine if the NPA also suffered casualties.

The Romulo Jallores Command of the NPA in the Bicol Region has yet to issue a statement on the incident. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘Mas maraming human rights violation’

“Sa pagtalikod ni Duterte sa usapang pangkapayapaan sa CPP at NDF ay mas lalong nagkakaroon ng kalayaan ang mga State Security Forces para magkomit ng samu’t-saring human rights violation.”—Joms Salvador, Secretary General, Gabriela

Magsasaka sa Negros, itinuro ang militar sa mga pagpatay

Ni Jo Maline D. Mamangun

Lungsod ng Bacolod—Nagharap ang mga magsasaka at mga lokal na opisyal ng Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental noong Miyerkules, July 18, kaugnay sa mga pagpatay sa naturang bayan mula pa noong Oktubre 2010.

Bilang bahagi ng isinasagawang International Solidarity Mission hinggil sa mga paglabag sa karapatang pantao sa  ilalim ng gubyerno ni Rodrigo Duterte, nag-usap ang grupo ng mga magsasaka na KAUGMA-ON  (Kapunongan alang sa Ugma sa Gagmay nga Mag-uuma sa Oriental Negros) at  Guihulngan City Mayor Carlo Reyes sa tanggapan ng huli.

Inireklamo rin ng mga magsasaka ang malalakihang  operasyong militar sa kanilang mga pamayanan sa ilalim ng “Oplan Kapayapaan” ng pamahalaan na anila’y nagdudulot ng takot sa mga mamamayan.

Ayon sa kanila, walang tigil ang militar sa pang-uupat (harassment), pagsasampa ng gawa-gawang kaso at mga extra-judicial killings sa mga lider at miyembro ng nasabing organisasyon.

Ayon sa KAUGMA-ON, may 23 kaso ng extra-judicial killing sa kanilang lugar simula noong 2016.

Chief of Police Baquiran (left) and Mayor Reyes (right). (Photo by JoMaline Diones-Mamangun)

Subalit itinanggi ni Reyes na may nalalaman siya sa mga pagpatay.

“You’re talking about killings in Guihulngan. Wala akong alam diyan. Only the PNP can answer your question,” ani Reyes sa mga magsasaka.

Dagdag ng alkalde na, ayon sa mga naririnig daw niya, ang mga namamaril ay pawang naka-bonet o naka-helmetkung kaya mahirap makapagtukoy ng pinaghihinalaan ang pulisya.

Ayon naman kay Guihulngan Police officer-in-charge Mario Baquiran na 44 na araw pa lamang siya sa kanyang destino at inaaral niya pa lamang ang mga naitalang pagpatay.

“It’s very hard for us in conducting these investigations because we could not just identify them,” ani ng hepe.

Ngunit ayon sa Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA), tanging ang militar ang nagkakainteres na dahasin ang mga magsasaka dahil sa kanilang paglaban na magkaroon ng sariling lupa.

Ikinwento ni John Milton Lozande, Secretary General ng UMA, ang kaso ng brutal na pagpatay kina Endric and Rosalie Calago noong Mayo 2015 na namatay matapos pagbabarilin ang kanilang bahay ng mga pinaghihinalaang sundalo ng 11th Infantry Battalion.

“Merong mga circumstances, circumstantial happenings na nagtuturo sa militar sa pagpatay sa biktimang ito,” ani Lozande.

(Photo by JoMaline Diones-Mamangun)

Dagdag ng lider-magsasaka, mahihirapan ngang mag-imbestiga ang pulisya kung ang militar ang nasa likod ng mga pagpatay.

Siniguro ni Baquiran na ipakukulong niya maging ang mga sundalo kung mapatunayang ang mga ito ang naghahasik ng takot sa mamamayan ng Guihulngan/

Nagkasundo ang mga magsasaka at ang mga opisyal ng lokal na pamahalaan na magsasagawa ng ibayong dayalogo upang maisiwalat ang iba pang kaso ng paglabag sa karapatang pantao sa naturang bayan.

Kasali ang mga magsasaka, taong-simbahan, misya at iba pang sektong sa naturang ISM na may panawagang “Save Life, Save Guihulngan.” #

AFP, PNP enforce another food blockade against Lianga evacuees

The Philippine Army and the Philippine National Police (PNP) are enforcing another food blockade against the Lumad evacuees in Lianga, Surigao del Sur, a human rights group reported.

The 75th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (75th IBPA) as well as the local PNP blocked food aid brought by Church groups at around 11:30 AM, Karapatan Caraga said in an alert Wednesday, July 18.

Troopers have also been deployed around the Barangay Diatagon Gymnasium where the evacuees have stayed since their forced evacuation Monday, the group said.

“We should not tolerate the bakwit (evacuees) so that they will be forced to go back to their community,” the soldiers reportedly told the donors in Cebuano.

The soldiers erected a checkpoint by the national highway leading to Diatagon gym to prevent motorcycles carrying food items bought from the town market passing through the blockade, the group added.

“[The 75th IBPA and the PNP] threaten(ed) to arrest non-Lianga residents who are extending humanitarian support for about 1600 Manobo evacuees [are],” the group said.

The same army unit has also implemented a similar blockade when the Lumad evacuated last January.

The Lumad were forced to evacuate from their communities 33 days after the military put up detachments and encamped at Kilometer 9 of the said barangay.

Tandag Bishop Raul Dael (center, with pectoral cross) visit the Lumad evacuees at Diatagon. (Kasalo Caraga photo)

Bishop visits evacuees

In a separate announcement, Lumad organization Kasalo Caraga said Roman Catholic Bishop Raul Dael as well as nuns of the Diocese of Tandag visited Diatagon Wednesday night to offer support to the evacuees.

Kasalo said the prelate were able to talk to Barangay Diatagon Chairperson Metong and leaders of the local Lumad organization Mapasu during their visit.

The barangay captain admitted he was pressured by the military to sign Barangay Resolution 11-2018 allowing the establishment of a military detachment in Km 9, forcing the Lumad to eventually evacuate, Kasalo said.

The barangay leader promised to review the said resolution, the group added.

Lumad evacuees sleeping in very crowded conditions. (Photo by Chad Booc)

Harassments

Karapatan Caraga said that aside from intimidating the evacuees, the army troopers also harassed the Manobo women, asking “Kinsa ang mga ababe nga pwedeng bayran diri?” (Who are the women that we can buy here?)

The evacuees also complain of lack of water and sanitation facilities at the gym arousing fears of a health crisis.

The Lumad said their resistance to five coal mining contracts in the Andap Valley Complex have made them targets of intense militarization of their communities. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Human rights groups slam woman’s strip search

By April Burcer

Various human rights groups are calling for the investigation of the reported strip search of a female drug suspect in a police station in Makati City that went viral last week.

Gabriela and Karapatan released separate statements condemning the act as despicable, cruel and degrading.

“What the Makati Police did to the arrested drug suspects was despicable, including the act of doing a strip search on a woman and having her bend over in front of the male and female police officers. This is another case of abuse of police authority to trample upon the rights of the oppressed,” Gabriela said.

Karapatan also said that the superiors of those involved “should be investigated as well to look into their accountability, considering the principle of command responsibility under the said law.”

Both groups are calling for the investigation of the incident and to hold the involved police officers accountable, and should be meted out with punishment under the Anti-Torture Law.

Makati City police chief Rogelio Simon, however, claimed that the video was just a demo and that the drug suspect involved consented to the procedure because of monetary benefits.

The Commission on Human Rights also launched its own investigation of the case and categorizes this as a form of psychological torture, which is prohibited under Republic Act (RA) No. 9745 or the Anti-Torture Act signed in 2009.

Culture of torture

The incident was not an isolated case according to Karapatan as the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency in Central Visayas (PDEA-7) also conducted strip searches of drug suspects during its so-called Greyhound operations in jail facilities in the region in May 2017.

“Despite these previous incidents, the practice continues. It is lamentable and infuriating that strip search is considered as “standard operating procedure” by the Philippine National Police and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP),” Karapatan’s statement said.

The practice should have been deemed illegal because of the Anti-Torture Law but authorities think that such acts are justifiable as long as they do it according to the guidelines and manual of operations, the group added.

Gabriela, on the other hand, blames this culture of “disrespect  and disregard of women’s rights” on President Rodrigo Duterte, ading  “it is not surprising that the fascist and anti-women culture among the police and the military also increases. “

In fact, even with the Anti-Torture Law, Karapatan has documented 248 victims of torture under the Benigno S. Aquino III administration and 94 victims of torture within the two years of the Duterte regime.

Gabriela is also appealing to other women who were victims of police abuse to come out and reveal whatever human rights injustices they have suffered in the hands of the police and military. #

 

KMP: AFP-PNP ‘misencounter’ bound to happen

Farmer’s group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said the so-called mis-encounter between government troops earlier this week in Sta. Rita, Samar is inevitable under President Rodrigo Duterte’s counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan.

“The government’s own policy Oplan Kapayapaan and not Murphy’s Law is responsible for the mis-encounter between the 1st Platoon, 805th Company, Regional Mobile Force Battalion 8 of the Philippine National Police and the 87th Infantry Battalion Philippine Army troops in Sitio Lonoy, Barangay San Roque, Sta Rita, Samar,” KMP said in a statement.

Six police were killed and nine were wounded in the incident both the Armed forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) blamed on improper coordination.

“There was coordination. We just do not know down to what level the coordination reached,” PNP director general Oscar Albayalde said Wednesday.

The AFP said its troopers suffered no casualties.

According to news reports, the AFP’s 87th IBPA have mistaken the police troops as New People’s Army guerillas. Both units were conducting counterinsurgency operations.

The KMP, whose members have complained of being target of the government’s counterinsurgency operations said such occurrences are bound to happen.

“Wala nang sini-sino ang mga tropa ng gobyerno, kahit sila-sila nagpapatayan na. Government troops are ready to fire a gun at the least provocation, regardless of the situation or probable consequences,” KMP said.

The mis-encounter shows how indiscriminate government troops are in their conduct of military operations, particularly the Community Operations for Peace and Development (COPD) and Peace and Development Outreach Program (PDOP). No more protocols, no more observance of international humanitarian laws, the group added.

Kahit sino na lang pinaghihinalaan na NPA. Lalo na ang mga magsasaka, pinagbibintangang NPA, saka huhulihin at ito-tortyur ng militar. Ang AFP kapag may nasalubong na magsasaka sa bundok, pagbibintangan agad na NPA. With the heightened militarization and military operations in rural areas, misencounters among government troops are likely to happen,” KMP chairperson Danilo Ramos said.

At present, there are seven AFP battalions in Eastern Visayas – 20th, 43rd, 14th, 87th, 52nd, 19th and 78th Infantry Battalions under the 8th Infantry Division, KMP revealed.

SAGUPA-SB, KMP’s chapter in Eastern Visayas said it is common for Community Support Programs (CSP) and Peace and Development Teams (PDT) of the AFP, under Oplan Kapayapaan, to ‘loiter’ and conduct counterinsurgency operations in the hinterlands.

“Government troops encamp and operate in civilian areas,” SAGUPA-SB said.

KMP called on the Duterte government to resume the cancelled peace talks with the NDFP and make way for a possible stand down of forces to deescalate heavy military presence in peasant communities. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Only spoilers are happy with peace talks postponement—Bayan Muna

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate expressed dismay in the delay of the resumption of formal talks between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

Reacting to Presidential Peace Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza’s announcement Thursday that the scheduled formal talks on June 28 is postponed by President Rodrigo Duterte, Zarate said the issue of public consultations can be addressed while the negotiations are ongoing.

“They should not be used as stumbling blocks or preconditions for the resumption of the negotiations,” Zarate said.

The progressive solon added the Filipino people have long supported the peace talks for a just and lasting peace.

“Indeed, addressing the root causes of the armed conflict like landlessness, oppression and exploitation, among others, will certainly get the continued support of the majority of Filipinos,” Zarate explained.

Meanwhile, defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana admitted military and police authorities expressed concerns the New People’s Army will only use the resumption of the peace talks to strengthen their forces, media outfit Rappler reported.

Lorenzana confirmed this were among the issues GRP security forces raised when GRP negotiators briefed Duterte Wednesday, June 13, on the results of the four round of informal talks in The Netherlands.

“The AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and PNP (Philippine National Police) wholly support the President’s peace initiative. But they also raised the alarm that the peace process could be used by the CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines) to regroup and strengthen their mass base as they have done numerous times before,” Lorenzana told Rappler.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque also said this was among the matters raised by security officials during the meeting, Rappler said.

Zarate, however, said such delays will only give “peace spoilers and saboteurs” longer time to sabotage the peace process.

“Resume the talks now. It is only those who benefit and profit from the current inequitable and unjust system will not support the peace talks and will do all they can to sabotage it,” Zarate said.# (Raymund B. Villanueva)

GRP forces take ‘hors de combat’ from hospital ICU

[UPDATED] The Philippine National Police (PNP) arrested a badly-injured New People’s Army (NPA) leader from the intensive care unit (ICU) of a local hospital despite protests from paralegals and human rights workers.

In an urgent alert, human rights groups Karapatan-Southern Mindanao Region and the Exodus for Justice and Peace said a combined force of PNP officers and military intelligence agents in civilian clothing have taken NPA’s 1st Pulang Bagani Company leader Elizalde Cañete to the Don Carlos Police Station at about 8:30 Monday evening.

“Zaldy Cañete, an hors de combat, who suffered traumatic head injury and presently recuperating at Don Carlos Doctors Hospital (DCDH) was taken by military and police elements around 6:48 tonight,” Karapatan-SMR’s alert said.

“PO3 Rico Manuel along with several military intelligence and police elements appeared and served an outdated warrant of arrest [against Cañete],” Karapatan added.

Cañete, identified by President Rodrigo Duterte himself as the successor of famed Southern Mindanao NPA leader Leoncio “Kumander Parago” Pitao, was injured in a battallion-sized military operation in Kitaotao, Bukidnon Province last month.

He suffered a bullet wound to the head that needed an 11-hour brain surgery and was still at the hospital’s ICU at the time of his arrest.

Cañete is reported to be suffering from memory loss and loss of speech resulting from his injuries.

“We contest this arrest, as Cañete is an hors de combat, a wounded combatant that should be tended first for his critical medical condition as stipulated under the CARHRIHL (Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law) signed by the government and the NDF (National Democratic Front of the Philippines),” the EJP for its part said.

The EJP is a Church-based peace advocacy group that regularly serves as third party facilitator to the release of NPA prisoners of war.

Photos released by Karapatan SMR showed an obviously weak Cañete on a wheelchair surrounded by police officers in full battle gear inside the hospital.

Canete inside the Don Carlos (Bukidnon) jail facility. (Karapatan-SMR photo)

The group later posted photos of Cañete inside a jail facility and said he has been complaining of head pains since last night.

No doctor or health professional has been asked to check on Cañete’s condition since his arrest, Karaparan-SMR added,

Karapatan-SMR secretary general Jay Apiag said the PNP in Don Carlos along with the military under the Philippine Army’s 3rd Infantry Battalion must be held liable should something untoward happen to Cañete under their custody.

Earlier, the NDFP called on the Duterte government to respect Cañete’s hors de combat status and release him as the NPA releases its POWs. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Group accuses police, military of massacre in Matalam

A Bangsamoro group has accused the Philippine National Police (PNP) of the “massacre” of nine Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters who have reportedly already surrendered before being mercilessly mowed down with automatic gunfire last May 25 in North Cotabato.

The Suara Bangsamoro said that in the guise of an anti-drug operation in Sitio Biao, Kilada Village, Matalam, North Cotabato, a combined PNP and military team swooped down on the victims who are members of the 105th Base Command of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF).

The nine victims reportedly surrendered during the raid and were disarmed by state forces who then fired at them, killing all on the spot.

“This is not an isolated case of massacre and extra-judicial killings. On December 8, 2017, three members of the MILF were killed by joint anti-drug operations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the PNP in Brgy. Koronadal Proper, Polomolok, South Cotabato,” Suara Bangsamoro chairperson Jerome Succor Aba in a statement said.

On May 19, 2018, Mindatu Aminola, another MILF member from Brgy. Olonoling, Tupi, South Cotabato was also killed by state forces under the same pretext – anti-drug operation, Aba added.

Suara Bangsamoro said it believes the recent spate of killings and massacre were committed by state forces under the guise of ‘anti-drug’ operations.

Earlier, Police Superintendent Bernard Tayong, North Cotabato Police Office spokesperson said police and military operatives were serving a search warrant on suspected drug suspects Dadting Kasan and Intan Aban in Sitio Biao at about 11:15 p.m. on Friday when they were fired upon by the victims.

Kasan and Aban were among those killed in the incident.

The MILF, however, said the victims were their legitimate members.

MILF Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) head Butch Malang said the nine fatalities were disarmed before they were shot at close range by policemen and soldiers on Friday and Saturday.

BIAF spokesperson, Von Al-Haq added the MILF aims to file a “strong protest” with the government section of the CCCH.

“Clearly, the Duterte administration, through its US-influenced military lapdogs, are using the ‘anti-drug’ campaign to pursue and cloak its counter-insurgency program – the ‘Oplan Kapayapaan,’” Aba said.

Peace spoilers

Aba added the Rodrigo Duterte administration is jeopardizing the hard-earned gains of the peace process between the government and various Bangsamoro groups such as the MILF.

“While the Congress is discussing the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, the military and the police are also busy killing the primary stakeholders of its approval,” Aba said.

Aba said that like his predecessors, Duterte lacks sincerity in upholding peace agreements with its duplicity.

“While they talk about peace, they are also committing grave human rights violations, killings and massacres pursuant to its counter-insurgency programs,” Aba said.

Suara Bangsamoro urged the Moro people and the MILF to demand justice to their fallen comrades.# (Raymund B. Villanueva)