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Despite filing of charges, military refuses civilian jail for Alexa Pacalda

They could not force her to say she indeed is a surrendered New People’s Army (NPA) fighter, so criminal charges were finally filed against human rights worker Alexa Pacalda at the Quezon Provincial Prosecutor’s Office last Saturday.

Seven days after her supposed arrest last September 14 in General Luna town and long before the 36-hour deadline for filing of criminal charges, the 201st Infantry Brigade-Philippine Army (IBPA) charged Alexa with illegal possession of firearms and ammunition in what the military obviously planned to be a secret inquest proceeding last September 21. Her lawyer and family were not informed.

But it did not turn out exactly the way the military wanted it.

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers’ (NUPL) Atty. Kristina Conti was nearby, giving a lecture on human rights reporting to dozens of Southern Tagalog journalists, when she found about the inquest proceeding. Journalists who attended the training received a tip that the young human rights defender would be taken to Lucena City from the military camp in Calauag town where she is detained. After a phone call from her NUPL colleague and Alexa’s lawyer Maria Sol Taule, Conti rushed to the Quezon Provincial Capitol compound where the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office is located.

She was met by Alexa’s father Arnulfo and Karapatan-Quezon Chapter colleagues, gratitude and relief on their faces. Conti’s entrance at the fiscal’s office, however, was different. The three lawyers from the Judge Advocate General’s Office (JAGO) tried to hide it but betrayed their surprise by asking where she came from, appearing all of a sudden when the inquest should have been secret.

A local activist (left) takes a selfie with a military intelligence operative (second from left) at the Quezon Provincial Prosecutor’s Office)

The mood inside the old and stuffy building became tenser when Alexa’s fellow activists called out the many intelligence operatives who kept on taking photos and videos of them. “Kanina ka pa kuha nang kuha ng photo ko, a. Para di ka na mahirapan, selfie na lang tayo,” said one to an intelligence officer in civilian clothes. (You’ve been taking lots of photos of me. Why don’t we take a selfie to make it easier for you?) The latter tried to play it cool and obliged but the mood did not lighten. Pretty quickly, more intelligence operatives, four of them, entered the building, apparently to assist their comrades.

Arnulfo Pacalda (left) listening to military personnel inside the Quezon Provincial Prosecutor’s Office.

All the while, Arnulfo and his young son with him kept their cool. As the lawyers were wrangling inside the fiscal’s room, they were seated at a distance. At exactly three o’clock, Arnulfo’s phone sounded, reciting the Catholic’s Three O’Clock Prayer. He stepped out of the room, went to a corner and finished the prayer with his head bowed.

Inside the prosecutor’s office, Conti was still being quizzed by the most senior of the three JAGO officers. She was asked if she is a local lawyer, explaining her sudden appearance. She in turn badgered her counterpart where Alexa was so she could consult with her client. The soldiers refused, even when the fiscal herself asked. “She is nearby. But there are security concerns,” the soldiers cryptically said. “But a lawyer must have access to her client, doesn’t she?” Conti shot back. The fiscal agreed and Alexa was finally brought inside.

Arnulfo and Alexa embrace at the Lucena City Regional Trial Court lobby.

Arnulfo and Alexa’s younger brother rushed to hug her as she entered the building. The embraces were long and tight. Beside them, Conti was smiling. When it was her time to speak to her, Conti asked, “Naaalala mo ako?” to which Alexa replied “Yes” and smiled back. Alexa had been Conti’s paralegal on some human rights cases they both collaborated on in the recent past.

Alexa and her younger brother embrace inside the Lucena RTC building.

Alexa looks nowhere near that of the female NPA fighter toting an AK-47 assault rifle and undergoing military training on the photos being shared on social media. (The photos appeared online only when Alexa’s video was released by her lawyer refuting giddy claims by her captors they had another surrenderee.) Alexa is hardly five feet tall and is very slight of built.

Arnulfo and Alexa Pacalda outside the prosecutor’s office.

Even with Alexa already inside the prosecutor’s office, the JAGO and the soldiers still refused to give Conti time to consult with her and her family in private. What followed were argumentations that went in circles. Finally, with the public prosecutor’s prodding, the JAGO relented and Conti and the Pacaldas were given 15 minutes at a dark corner of the building, surrounded by file cabinets outside of the female toilet.

Atty. Conti and the Pacaldas in a private consultation.

Back at the prosecutor’s office, Alexa was asked by Conti if she indeed signed the so-called surrender papers the JAGO submitted as part of its evidentiary documents. The young prisoner replied, “I do not remember anything.” Conti later told Kodao that even if she did, Alexa was obviously under extreme duress after being captured by the soldiers, tortured with sleep and food deprivation for 30 hours and forced to sign the proffered papers they told her would lead to her freedom. The same was true when her father Arnulfo was made to sign a document the Philippine Army said would help his daughter regain her freedom.

Conti asked the prosecutor if Alexa could already be committed to a civilian jail facility. The soldiers objected. The fiscal asked police officers present on who had authority over the prisoner. The police said the soldiers merely informed them two days after the abduction that Alexa had been in their custody but was never in the PNP’s. The fiscal then said Alexa’s lawyers had to file a motion first before deciding on Conti’s request. (Alexa’s lawyer and family filed a Petition for Habeas Corpus at the Supreme Court Monday, September 23.)

Military intelligence operatives taking photos and videos of the proceedings and the activists present.

Alexa’s other lawyer, Taule, told Inquirer.net Saturday that the criminal charges filed against her proves the soldiers were lying.  “They can’t win over Alexa despite detention of seven days in their camp so their game now is to file charges,” she said. The military for its part said they still consider Alexa as a surrenderee, admitting, however, that things have changed since they made public Alexa’s so-called surrender document. Lt. Col. Dennis Cana, public information officer of the Philippine Army’s Southern Luzon Command, told Inquirer.net that Pacalda’s video message refuting the military’s claim “will have a very strong effect on her surrender status” as her sincerity to lay down her arms “is put into question.”

After the inquest proceeding, Alexa was quickly brought outside to a parked black pick-up truck with darkened windows. The Pacaldas were allowed the quickest of goodbyes. By then, more fellow human rights defenders from all over the province had gathered at the gate and managed to chant, “Alexa Pacalda, palayain!” as the soldiers’ convoy sped off back to their camp in Calauag.

Alexa’s family and colleagues shouted “Alexa Pacalda, palayain!” as the military convoy taking her back to Calauag, Quezon sped by.

Conti said she was glad to have assisted Alexa during the inquest. “She really did not surrender as the military claimed,” she said. She also pointed out that if indeed Alexa was in possession of a firearm and blasting caps, it was not the 201st IBPA’s role to arrest her. It was the PNP’s. Alexa’s case is obviously a case of unlawful arrest or abduction, she said. # (Report and photos by Raymund B. Villanueva)

COURAGE condemns arrest of former official

The country’s biggest public sector union confederation condemned the arrest of its former officer accused by the police as a high-ranking officer of the underground communist movement.

The Confederation for the Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE) said Dizon’s arrest is illegal and is a direct attack on the essence of public sector unionism.

“Dizon was illegally arrested based on trumped up charges like murder in Bayugan, Agusan Del Sur and linking her to the CPP-NPA (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army) by planting files such as ‘communist’ paraphernalia, flash drives and the like…[A]lso caught in her supposed possession are gun and explosives which are pure desperate moves by the state forces,” COURAGE president Santiago Dasmariñas said in a statement.

Dizon was arrested by the San Pedro Police Department at her home in San Pedro, Laguna at 3 A.M. today on the basis of a warrant of arrest for murder issued by Branch 7 of the Bayugan City Regional Trial Court,

COURAGE said Dizon is currently detained at the San Pedro police precinct.

“[T]he state has been aggressive in witch-hunting its critics primarily in the government sector,” Santiago said, adding many of their leaders, who are government workers, have been receiving threats and intimidation and even given trumped-up charges as well as suspension from their work only because of their assertion of their rights for a national minimum wage and ending contractualization in civil service.

Santiago revealed that Dizon were among those who petition the Supreme Court for a Writ of Amparo and Writ of Habeas Data following the several incidents of tailing she suffered from suspected military intelligence operatives in 2015.

In July 11 of that year, Dizon sought refuge and spent the night at the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) in Ortigas, Mandaluyong City for fear of being abducted or assassinated by the men who she said had been tailing her.

“Progressive organizations, individuals, and leaders said they have been receiving threats and forms of harassment from the military agents for their affiliation and organizing work, and the case of Dizon is not new as the state has been relentlessly silencing them for their tireless contribution in advancing people’s rights,” Santiago said.

Laguna police director Eleazar Matta also reportedly alleged that Dizon currently acts as secretary of the Communist Party of the Philippines’ National Organizing Department, replacing National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace consultants Rafael Baylosis and Adelberto Silva.

Santiago, however, said the red-tagging of progressive individuals and organizations is no different as during former dictator Marcos’s martial rule. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Police arrest red-baited public union organizer

Police operatives arrested a public sector unionizing advocate in Laguna early Wednesday, September 18, accusing her of being the replacement of arrested National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultants.

Antonietta Setias Dizon was arrested in her house in Barangay Rosario, San Pedro City on the basis of a warrant of arrest issued by Branch 7 of the Bayugan City Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Agusan del Sur.

News reports said that a .38 caliber revolver, ammunition and blasting caps were found in Dizon’s possession at the time of her arrest.

Laguna police director Eleazar Matta also reportedly alleged that Dizon currently acts as secretary of the Communist Party of the Philippines’ National Organizing Department, replacing NDFP consultants Rafael Baylosis and Adelberto Silva.

Baylosis and Silva were separately arrested in 2018 and were also charged with murder and illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

Baylosis however was freed early this year after the Quezon City RTC said there was insufficient evidence to prosecute him.

A former deputy secretary general of the Confederation for the Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE), Dizon earlier complained of being tailed by military operatives, forcing her to temporarily seek sanctuary inside the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) offices in Pasig City last July 14, 2015.

It resulted in a 10-hour standoff between Dizon and her pursuers that only ended when lawyers and progressive lawmakers fetched her from the building.

Dizon’s photo of the vehicle that repeatedly tailed her in July 2015.

Prior to the standoff, Dizon told Pinoy Weekly that she had been tailed in succession on July 6, 10 and 11 by a Toyota Innova vehicle that was later traced by an IBP official to one Norberto delos Reyes, of Room 83, Condo B, Camp Crame, general headquarters of the Philippine National Police.

Public servant, public sector unionizing advocate

Before being elected as a COURAGE officer, Dizon was an official of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).

“I came into government, ironically, because of Cory Aquino,” she told Pinoy Weekly in 2016. It was Cory, Dizon said, who first inspired her to enter public service in 1986.

“I even recruited my fellow members of UPSCA (University of the Philippines Student Catholic Action, the university’s largest Catholic organization) in UP Manila to join me in OWWA,” Dizon said.

“As part of OWWA, I was able to travel all over the world to meet migrant Filipinos in need,” she said. “That is how I began developing a deeper understanding of their plight.”

Later, Dizon was appointed as executive director of one of DOLE’s staff agencies, the Bureau of Rural Workers, where she was exposed to the plight of rural-based workers and peasants.

Barely a year into public service, Dizon recounted that she realized the need to organize government employees and unite them to fight for their rights and contribute to social change.

Dizon said she came to understand the connections between public-sector workers’ struggles and the overall people’s struggle for democratic rights. She even began organizing fellow middle managers.

 “We became involved in the campaign against the privatization of Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS). We picketed Malacañan as well as the Senate in 1989,” she said.

 “I availed of early retirement in 2003. I no longer wanted to be tied up with government as I criticized its policies,” she added.

Since her retirement, Dizon told Pinoy Weekly that she devoted much of her time advocating for public-sector organizing. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Pagtatakip ng gubyerno sa paglabag ng karapatang pantao, kinondena

Sa pagharap ng ilang representante ng gubyerno, militar at pulis sa isinasagawang public inquiry ng Commission on Human Rights (CHR), nagdaos ng kilos protesta ang mga human rights advocates sa pangunguna ng KARAPATAN National upang pabulaanan ang pagtatakip ng pamahalaan sa maraming paglabag sa karapatang pantao sa bansa. (Arrem Alcaraz/Kodao)

Commission on Human Rights, Quezon City

September 12, 2019

‘Return Vic’s hearing aid,’ wife demands from police

Fides Lim, wife of detained National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace consultant Vicente Ladlad, again demanded the return of her husband’s hearing aid she said was taken by the police arresting team.

“[T]hat Oticon pair cost me a lot, we’re still waiting for the police team to return these. It’s fitted just for Vic’s ear canal, what use is it to you?” Lim wrote on her Facebook account following the first hearing on the illegal possession of firearms and explosives case against Ladlad and companions Alberto and Virginia Villamor at the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Thursday, September 12.

Lim was actually commenting on Police Major Raleigh Herbert Ampuan’s testimony that medical examinations on Ladlad and the Villamors were duly performed and that their arrest was lawful.

Ampuan is a Philippine National Police (PNP) Crime Laboratory personnel at Camp Crame.

Lim said Ampuan should have noted in his report that Ladlad had difficulty of hearing he wasn’t wearing his hearing aid during their arrest.

Doctor doctoran,” (playing doctor) Lim said of the police doctor who testified he was limited to looking for just physical injuries on the three “as he was not in a hospital.”

‘Irregular’

In his testimony, Ampuan admitted those arrested last November 8 should have been brought to the nearest government hospital.

“I asked them why did they not bring those arrested to the nearest government hospital. They insisted that I should be the one to examine the three,” Ampuan said during the cross examination.

Ampuan explained it was the command of the Chief of PNP [Police Director General Oscar Albayalde].

Ampuan also admitted there was no written request for the PNP Crime Laboratory to do the physical examination.

“When I asked them [QCPD] for the request, they just told me they would give it later,” he explained.

In his medico-legal reports, Ampuan noted that the three had the same blood pressure of 140/90. He also said he did not note of any “external findings [injuries].”

‘Lies’

Lim, however, said “Ampuan’s testimony was “sapped/zapped by a miasma of untruths,” insisting that no physical examination were conducted on the arrested persons.

She pointed out that while that Ampuan’s medical report was time-stamped “7:11 AM”, the “Request for Physical Examination” by the QCPD superintendent, based on the “Received” stamp marks of the PC Crime Laboratory, indicate the times of “8:30 AM” and “8:35 AM.”

“Why would a police doctor do something without first awaiting the order of his superior?” Lim asked.

Lim also pointed out that the blood pressure of all three was a uniform “140/90” on the three exam sheets she said is an unlikely occurrence.

She added that Virginia told her that no medical examination was performed on them.

“More peculiar is, why didn’t the doctor note down that Virginia had difficulty standing up and that walking was even more excruciatingly difficult? Wasn’t he supposed to have done a ‘physical examination’ to determine the presence of superficial injuries?” Lim asked.

Virginia’s hip and leg injuries were aggravated when the arresting officers forcibly forced her to lie face down on the floor during the arrest, Lim explained.

“It’s symptomatic of the entirety of this Case of Planted Firearms vs. Vic Ladlad and the Villamors – TRUMPED UP as with other fabricated cases against other activists and critics of the Duterte government,” Lim said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDF accuses AFP officers of profiteering from ‘fake NPA surrenderees’

The National Democratic Front (NDF) in North East Mindanao accused top officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) of earning millions of pesos from fake New People’s Army (NPA) surrenders.

Reacting to AFP’s announcement of re-focusing its E-CLIP (Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program) on some barrios in the four provinces of Caraga, the NDF said that the move will yet be a new source of corruption of millions of pesos of public funds.

“Moreover, it is also a capital for the promotion of AFP officials and their impossible dream of demonizing the (NPA) and revolutionary movement through the parading of fake-forced-to-surrenders,” NDF North Eat Mindanao spokesperson Maria Malaya said in a statement.

The NDF said that based on reports it received from various barangays and communities in the region, those impelled to surrender were promised Php65,000 each. Some of the “surrenderees”, however, only received Php5,000 while majority were left empty-handed.

“In other cases, the Php5,000 was paid in the form of ‘down payment’ for a motorcycle, and the ‘surrenderee’ is then obliged to pay in installment the total amount of Php65,000 for said motorcycle,” Malaya revealed.

Malaya accused the AFP officials of cunningly doubling their kickbacks from the E-CLIP budget and from commissions by acting as sales agents for the motorcycle companies.

Since the collapse of the formal peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Negotiating Panel in November 2017, the Rodrigo Duterte government had been active in parading “NPA surrenderees” and promising them financial enticements through the E-CLIP.

 ‘Jobs, houses’

Duterte himself met with hundreds of the so-called surrenderees since he ordered the termination of his government’s peace talks with the NDFP through Proclamation No. 360 in November 23, 2017.

“Look, I am addressing myself to all the soldiers of the New People’s Army. Surrender now and lay down your arms. There are jobs waiting for you and I am building, all throughout the country, almost 5,000 [houses] with at the National Housing Authority,” Duterte said in November 2017.

Shortly after, in December 2017, the government proscribed the Communist Party of the Philippines and the NPA as terrorist groups through Duterte‘s Proclamation No. 374.

From January to May 2018, AFP claimed that a total of 7,194 NPA members and supporters have surrendered.

Former AFP chief of staff Rey Guerrero, however, clarified in February 2018, that at least 80 percent of the so-called surrenderees are non-combatants.

“Out of about a thousand, 980 are surrenderees. About 800 of them are not regular combatants. They are part of the underground organization, the political structures,” Guerrero said.

In the same period, Duterte welcomed batches of so-called surrenderees in Malacañan and reportedly gave them food packs and smart phones.

Last July 30 to early August, 88 so-called former NPA members enjoyed an all-expense-paid tour of Hong Kong in fulfilment of Duterte’s promise in December 21, 2017 that he would let the former rebels experience life in a developed country.

Duterte also promised to make rebel returnees members of the AFP and even allowed them to keep their firearms.

Forced enlistment

But not all so-called surrenderees are willing conscripts and have become regular troopers of the AFP, the NDF said.

Malaya said there are cases of fake or forced surrenderees who were compelled to enlist and undergo Citizens Auxiliary Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU) training and were promised bigger amounts of cash after they have been presented to the media in the cities or in Malacañang.

“Only a handful was able to receive a small amount of cash. Most of them only got some kilos of rice, noodles and sardines. In short, none of them were able to receive the actual amount promised,” Malaya said.

In the case of the 96 “surrenderees” presented by the AFP’s 401st and 402nd Infantry Brigade in Surigao del Sur in November 10, 2018, AFP officers pocketed Php5.8 million, the rebel spokesperson revealed.

Malaya said that a total of Php480 million had been pocketed by AFP, police and Office of the Presidential Peace Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) from the supposed 8,000 NPA surrenders since 2018.

 “This modus by the military is hardly new, and has long been exposed as a scheme for deception and corruption by AFP officials through the E-CLIP,” she added.

Former Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza resigned in November 27, 2018 for reportedly failing to curb corruption at his agency following Duterte public sacking of OPAPP officials who allegedly pocketed funds for the E-CLIP and the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) program. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Suaybaguio’s arrest another obstacle to peace talks resumption–NDFP

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) condemned the arrest of another of its peace consultant Monday, calling it “another obstacle to peace.”

“The Duterte regime remains on a fascist rampage that adds more and more obstacles to the resumption of the peace negotiations with the NDFP,” its negotiating panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili said.

In a statement, Agcaoili said Esterlita Suaybaguio, arrested by police operatives in an apartment building in Quezon City Monday, August 26, is covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) with Document of Identification (DI) Number ND 978447 as second consultant for Mindanao.

Under JASIG, peace consultants and staff from both the NDFP and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) enjoy “immunity from surveillance, harassment, search, arrest, detention, prosecution and interrogation or any other similar punitive actions due to any involvement and participation in the peace negotiations.”

“A copy of her DI is deposited in the safety deposit box under the name of Archbishop Joris A.O.L. Vercammen,” Agcaoili said. Vercammen belongs to The Old Catholic Church of The Netherlands.

In July 12, 2017, former government peace negotiators Hernani Braganza and Angela L. Trinidad and Philippine Ambassador to The Netherlands Jamie Ledda witnessed the consignment of the NDFP list with Vercammen.

In July 2017, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process said that then GRP chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III issued Letters of Authority (LA) to the JASIG-covered rebel consultants they could present to police authorities and military in case they are held or arrested.

The Philippine National Police said they confiscated a handgun, bullets and grenade from Suaybaguio’s apartment, an offense it charged all other arrested NDFP peace consultants and staff with since the GRP walked away from the peace negotiations in June 2017.

“Instead of promoting just peace, the Duterte regime and its military even send psywar (psychological warfare) and spy teams in schools and communities and even abroad to muddle the facts about the peace talks, sow disinformation on activist organizations and NGOs, and hide the widespread extrajudicial killings and rampant human rights violations in the country,” Agcaoili said.

“The NDFP Negotiating Panel calls for the immediate release of Suaybaguio and the dropping of false charges against her, as well as the scores of other detained NDFP consultants and personnel,” Agcaoili added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDFP peace consultant arrested, charged with possession of firearms and grenade

Philippine National Police (PNP) operatives arrested a National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant at 1:50 AM Monday, August  26, in an apartment building in Cubao, Quezon City.

Esterlita Suaybaguio is currently being held at Camp Karingal, headquarters of the Quezon City Police District.

An Abante report said the raid was by virtue of a search warrant issued by QC Regional Trial Court Branch 89 Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert against Suaybaguio for alleged violations of the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act and the Unlawful Manufacture, Sales, Acquisition, Disposition, Importation or Possession of an Explosive or Incendiary Device Act.

The same charges have been filed against arrested NDFP peace consultants and staff, including  Rafael Baylosis, Vicente Ladlad, Adelberto Silva, Renante Gamara, Rey Claro Casambre, Frank Fernandez and Alexander and Winona Birondo.

Persons arrested with the said peace consultants and staff were also similarly charged.

Abante reported the police confiscated a 9mm handgun, a magazine with seven bullets, a hand grenade and so-called subversive documents from Suaybaguio.

Kodao sources said Suaybaguio is in possession of a Document of Identification as NDFP peace consultant.

As a peace consultant, Suaybaguio is supposedly exempt from surveillance and arrest under the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) between the NDFP and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines.

Her arrest happened on the third anniversary of the end of the first round of formal talks between the NDFP and the Rodrigo Duterte government when all previously signed agreements were reaffirmed by both parties, including the JASIG. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘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)