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Bishop calls on faithful to wear white to end extrajudicial killings in Negros

A Roman Catholic Bishop appealed to members of his diocese to wear white when they hear Mass on December 24 and 25 as well as on December 31 and January 1 to demand for an end to extrajudicial killings in Negros.

Towards the end of his homily at the funeral Mass for slain red-tagged community doctor Mary Rose Sancelan and husband Edwin in Guihulgan City, Tuesday, December 22, San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza called on his Church’s faithful to collectively act for justice for the victims of extrajudicial killings in the island.

“As your Bishop, I encourage you all who will come for Mass to wear white on Christmas eve (December 24) and Christmas day (December 25), as well as on new year’s eve (December 31) and new year’s day (January 1) – Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God and 54th World Day of Peace, both are Holy Days of Obligation – to express our desire for and commitment to peace, sanctity of life, human dignity and human rights and our collective call to end the killings,  the Covid pandemic and abuse of our common home,” Alminaza said.

Alminaza called for justice for the doctor and her husband who were shot dead at past five o’clock in the afternoon of December 15 near their home in Carmen Ville Subdivision, Barangay Poblacion, Guihulngan City.

Sancelan, Guihulgan City health officer and Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) chief, was previously included in the hit list of the anti-communist vigilante group Kawsa Guihulnganon Batok Komunista (Kagubak) in 2019.

Kagubak mistakenly named her as JB Regalado, Central Negros New People’s Army spokesperson.

Sancelan was among the five in the Kagubak hit list who have since been killed, including lawyer Anthony Trinidad, Heidi Malalay Flores, and Boy Litong and his son.

All victims have sought police assistance and protection against the vigilante group after the list has been made public, to no avail.

The Philippine National Police promised before a Senate inquiry last August 28, 2019 that it will conduct investigations on Kagubak.

“Dr. Mary Rose Sancelan feared her death, apprehensive that the hit list of KAGUBAK would soon be realized. These were her words last year: ‘I felt helpless and paranoid when I go out to work. Of course we are afraid to die…’”–Bishop Gerardo Alminaza (Photo of the Sanselan couple’s funeral Mass from the Bishop’s Facebook account)

“Our beloved martyr, Dr. Mary Rose, took eight bullets on our behalf,” Alminaza said, adding that Sancelan dedicated her life to end both the Covid pandemic and “the pandemic of injustice.”

“Committed to social justice, she tirelessly and prophetically spoke against human rights violations, militarization, and the political imbalance in our locality—consistently insisting on the need to address the roots of our social crisis to achieve just peace,” he said.

The prelate asked that for awareness-raising purposes and as display of solidarity that parishioners take photographs of themselves in white as they did last year.

He also announced that the ringing of church bells at eight o’clock every night throughout the Diocese shall continue to call to an end to the killings in Negros that human rights groups said are perpetrated by suspected state agents. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘The killings in Tarlac are part of a pattern of abuse’

“The killings in Tarlac are not isolated incidents but are part of a pattern of abuse and impunity among the police, enabled by the current regime. From the drug war, war on critics, to quarantine enforcement, we reap the horrors today. #StopTheKillingsPH #EndPoliceBrutality”Renato Reyes, Jr., Secretary General, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan

QCPD violates rule on firearms during rallies

The police contingent that blocked the indignation rally at the corner of Maginhawa and Makadiyos streets leading to Camp Karingal appears to have violated Item a, Section 3, Rule 23 on Rallies and Demonstrations of the Philippine National Police’s operational procedures that prohibit civil disturbance management operatives from carrying firearms during rallies and demonstrations.

While the police personnel were forming a line to block the protesters, an officer was heard shouting, “O, ang mga baril!” He did not order the firearms collected and brought back to the camp however. His troops just unholstered the guns and tucked them in their pants where these remained throughout the rally.

Progressive groups and media organizations held an indignation rally last Friday, December 11, to protest the arrest of journalist Lady Ann Salem and six trade union organizers last Thursday, December 10, International Human Rights Day, the police allege are members of a criminal gang in possession of various guns, explosives and ammunition. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

The police arrive, most with their sidearms still in their holsters.
After the ground commander barked, “O, ang mga baril!” many of the police officers unholstered their guns and tucked them inside their uniforms.
This police officer did not care about the PNP’s operational procedures at all.

Lawyer: Police harassing Amanda Echanis in detention

Amanda Lacaba Echanis is being harassed by the police even in detention, the lawyer of the playwright and peasant women organizer said.

Atty. Luz Perez, counsel of detained AMIHAN organizer Echanis, reminded the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) to refrain from harassing her client who is detained at Camp Melchor Adduru in Tuguegarao City. 

“May we remind the CIDG Region 2 to refrain from ‘interviewing or attempting to interview’ our client,” Perez said in a statement.

“The case is now pending before the court. Hands off Amanda!” Perez added, revealing the police intelligence agents’ attempts to interrogate the political detainee. 

“Amanda remains innocent until proven guilty. Her arrest was illegal and baseless as shown in the manner and course of serving the warrant and carrying out of the search,” Perez explained.

The police arrested Echanis and her month-old son in Barangay Carupian in Baggao town before dawn of December 2. The police alleged that the young mother had an old M16 assault rifle, two hand grenades and assorted ammunition with her when arrested.

‘Shocked ako’

Echanis, however, denied ownership of the guns and explosives.

“Nashock ako, mads! Dami ko daw baril at granada? Hahahaha! Saan ko naman kukunin mga iyon, e bitbit ko lang naman si baby Randall Eman at mga relief goods,” Echanis told supporters in a phone call.

(I was shocked, friend. Do I that many guns and grenades? Hahaha! Where will I get those when I had been only been carrying Randall Eman and relief goods?)

About a hundred police operatives raided Echanis’ house while another hundred surrounded and forcibly entered the house of Danggayan ti Mannalon ti Cagayan Valley (Danggayan) chairperson Isabelo Adviento nearby before dawn of Wednesday.

Witnesses said the police also put guns and explosives inside Adviento’s house during the raid. Adviento was not present during the raid.

Dozens of activists arrested by the police had been similarly charged by the police.

Perez said the police should respect the rights of the young mother and her infant, adding that Echanis must be assisted by her counsel at all times during interrogation.
  
“Amanda is still recovering from childbirth and any undue stress caused by her captors might affect her and the baby’s health,” Perez said.

Echanis’ lawyers also appealed Friday that her case be raffled for the issuance of a commitment order to facilitate her transfer to a real jail facility as the CIDG has no facilities for breastfeeding.

Echanis’ supporters also claim that the search of her house came before the warrant, making the arrest highly irregular and questionable.

“There was first an invalid, illegal search that was conducted by the military before the supposed legal search by the CIDG,” Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas chairperson Danilo Ramos said.

Broad calls for release

Meanwhile, Echanis’ former classmates, friends and fellow artists have organized the Free Amanda Echanis Network.

University of the Philippines (UP) students, faculty, alumni, and other community members started an online petition calling for Echanis and her baby’s immediate release and the junking of the charges.

Read the full petition here  – https://www.change.org/p/duterte-administration-up-community-calls-for-release-of-amanda-echanis

Echanis was a UP College of Arts and Letters student and a graduate of the Philippine High School for the Arts in Makiling.

She was also among the youngest Filipino writers whose full-length play, Nanay Mameng (2016), had been staged.

Senators Francis Pangilinan, Risa Hontiveros and Franklin Drilon also called for Echanis’ release on humanitarian grounds.

The Commission on Human Rights for its part reminded concerned authorities to give primordial consideration to the welfare of Echanis’ infant “as required by the United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-Custodial Measures for Women Offenders or the Bangkok Rules.”

Echanis was the daughter of National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace consultant Randall Echanis who was brutally murdered last August.

She was also the niece of famed poet Emmanuel Lacaba who was martyred during Ferdinand Marcos’ martial law in 1976.

She named her 21-day old son Randall Emmanuel. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

AFP, PNP raid Cagayan peasant leaders’ house

The military and police raided the house of Anakpawis regional coordinator and Danggayan ti Mannalon ti Cagayan Valley (Danggayan) chairperson Isabelo Adviento midnight of Wednesday, December 2, but failed to find the peasant leader, a Cagayan Valley support group reported.

About 100 soldiers swooped down on Adviento’s house at Barangay Carupian, Baggao, Cagayan and, at about 3:30 AM, forced their way in to search for him, the group Taripnong Cagayan Valley said.

The group did not identify the soldiers’ unit.

Adviento, however, was not home as he was leading relief operations elsewhere to help victims of the massive floods that hit the region the past weeks, Taripnong added.

Frustrated at missing their target, the government troops tried to intimidate the household by placing a grenade and a loaded gun underneath a chair at the house’s living area.

The soldiers also accosted and handcuffed Adviento’s neighbor and Baggao Farmers’ Association (BFA) member Richard Dagohoy, Taripnong added.

The group said the local police arrived after two hours with a warrant and proceeded to search the entire house.

The police warned the people in the house, including Adviento’s mother, that the next to be raided are the houses of BFA members Ranchi Billones and Ronald Reyes.

“Here I am helping to bring relief to flood victims daily and they planted evidence so they can arrest me,” Adviento said in this post on his Facebook page hours after the raid on his house.

“While Adviento’s group is busy raising and distributing relief goods in the entire region, the soldiers and the police chose to threaten them,” Taripnong said.

“Taripnong Cagayan Valley condemns the grave intimidation the farmer-leaders and activists suffer from the government,” it added.

Adviento, a long-time peasant leader, is a repeated victim of red-tagging, harassment and surveillance by armed state forces.

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) also condemned the raid, saying the “fascist act” is the “height of inhumanity” occurring amid a health crisis and right after a disaster in the region.

“We condemn the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) who has wasted public funds and resources, much needed by disaster-stricken Filipinos, into terrorizing the rural poor,” KMP chairperson Danilo Ramos said in a statement. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

PNP arrests ‘ex-NDFP consultant’ and gov’t employee Mapano

The Rodrigo Duterte government’s all-out offensive against National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultants is not sparing even those who have already chosen to live above ground.

In a curious turn of events, the police arrested peace negotiator Alfredo Mapano who newspaper reports describe is an “ex- NDFP consultant” and who currently works as a government employee.

Mapano, known in Northern Mindanao as the legendary New People’s Army leader “Ka Paris”, was arrested by the Bayugan City (Agusan del Sur) police while at work in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental last Friday, November 27.

Bayugan is 200 kilometers away from Tagoloan and under a different Philippine National Police (PNP) Regional Command.

A participant in at least three Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP)-NDFP formal peace negotiations from August 2016 in Oslo, Norway to January 2017 in Rome, Italy, Mapano is currently an employee of the government-owned Phividec Industrial Authority.

The former Red commander reportedly “surrendered” to President Duterte after Rome, brokered by former cabinet secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr. who also recommended his employment as Phividec corporate social responsibility officer and, later, as security officer.

Mapano was allowed to post bail in August 2016 to participate in the first round of formal peace negotiations between the GRP and the NDFP.

Previously, he had been in jail for seven years for various crimes he allegedly committed as NPA leader.

A Kodao source said that Mapano had been “roaming around freely” in Northern Mindanao since his supposed surrender and living a “normal” life.

Surprised

Mapano’s re-arrest surprised everyone, including Mapano’s wife, employer and local police chief, Alternative news outfit Davao Today (DT) reported.

Wife Chona told DT  she is concerned if her husband is indeed under the custody of the Bayugan police.

“Our family is trying to locate him and ensure that he is safe…[The arrest] was unexpected. He is now living a normal life,” Chona said.

DT also reported that Talogoan police chief Captain Mark Dungca said the arresting team only informed him that they will be serving an arrest warrant but did not specify who.

Mapano was arrested two days after his 67th birthday.

Killings, convictions

Mapano’s arrest followed the “mafia-style executions” of fellow NDFP peace consultants Eugenia Magpantay and Agaton Topacio in the early hours of November 25 in Angono, Rizal and the conviction by the Quezon City Regional Trial Court for kidnapping and serious illegal detention of NDFP Negotiating Panel member Benito Tiamzon and peace consultant Wilma Austria, also last November 27.

Earlier this year, NDFP peace consultants Julius Giron and Randall Echanis were brutally killed in Baguio City and Quezon City, respectively.

In January 2019, NDFP peace consultant Randy Malayao was killed in his sleep while on board a bus in Nueva Vizcaya.

A number of other NDFP consultants have been arrested since formal peace negotiations between the NDFP and the GRP broke down in November 2017, all on allegations of possession of firearms and explosives.

The NDFP also reported that some of its peace consultants are missing, abducted by suspected government agents. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

2 more NDFP peace consultants killed; CPP condemns ‘mafia-style executions’ by police

Two more National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultants died in a pre-dawn police raid last Wednesday, November 25, in Angono, Rizal.

In what the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) said was a “mafia-style execution,” a composite police team killed elderly couple Eugenia Magpantay and Agaton Topacio, former members of its Central Committee.

Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) director, Major Gen. Joel Napoleon M. Coronel, said a raiding team composed of CIDG Regional Field Unit 4-A, Rizal Provincial Police Office and the Angono Municipal Police Station personnel was about to serve search and arrest warrants against the victims when fired upon.

The police said the 3:30 am incident became an “encounter” that resulted in the death of the 69-year old victims.

The PNP also said a Colt M-16 automatic rifle, a caliber .45 Rock Island pistol, a caliber .45 Federal pistol, two MK2 grenades, various gun magazines and several bullets were “recovered” from the sexagenarian couple.

The CPP however said the incident was simply a “cold-blooded murder” similar to the treacherous early morning killings of NDFP peace consultants Julius Giron in Baguio City and Randall Echanis in Quezon City earlier this year as well as Randy Malayao’s execution in Nueva Vizcaya province last year.

“We reject the claims of the police that the couple resisted arrest and were killed in a firefight. In their physical state, the couple would not have been able to manage the sheer number of weapons said to be found in the scene, much less put up a rigorous gun battle,” CPP spokesperson Marco Valbuena said in a statement.

Valbuena said Magpantay suffered from diabetes and severe arthritis and have in fact “recently retired from active service in the revolutionary movement due to infirmities of old age.”

The CPP spokesperson said the raid was carried out when the elderly couple were “surely fast asleep.”

Valbuena said the “police liquidation” of the couple is the most recent in the string of killings and legal persecution against peace consultants of the NDFP in violation of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees.

“We hold Duterte, his National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict and PNP Chief Debold Sinas as the masterminds behind the killing of Magpantay and Topacio,” Valbuena said.

‘Decades of service’

Valbuena said the CPP pays tribute to Magpantay and Topacio “for their decades of service to the revolutionary cause and service to the oppressed and exploited masses.”

Aside from their stint as CPP Central Committee members, Magpantay was also a former member of the CPP Political Bureau, Valbuena said.

Police reports also identified Magpantay as a former Central Luzon Regional Party Group secretary.

Magpantay and Topacio were first arrested and detained at the Bicutan detention facility under President Ferdinand Marcos’ Martial Law between 1977 and 1979.

Since their release, the couple had been the subject of intense manhunt by the police who even mistakenly arrested one Lourdes Quioc and one Reynaldo Ingal in October 1, 2014.

Quioc and Ingal were released after spending 17 months in jail. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Peace advocates slam red-tagging as a ‘work of evil’; call for peace talks resumption

By Joseph Cuevas

Peace advocates held a media briefing last Wednesday, November 11, to condemn red and terror-tagging activities they say undermine efforts to resume peace negotiations between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP).

The group Pilgrims for Peace pointed out that if the GRP still wants to resume negotiations with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and New People’s Army (NPA), it should stop calling the underground groups as terrorists.

It also pointed out that the NDFP is not classified as a terrorist organization even in the government’s own official pronouncements.

The advocates are dismayed that “war and terror-mongering are rearing their ugly heads once again, as a dominant trend in the current conduct by the GRP.”

Fr. Christopher Ablon of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente described the red-tagging activities of government agencies such as the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police and some officials of the government as a “work of evil” that directly hurts peace efforts.

Ablon cited that six out of seven victims of extra-judicial killings of church workers and peace advocates red-tagged.

Not terrorist organizations

Atty. Edre Olalia, legal consultant of the NDFP, said that red-tagging and vilification violates the presumption of innocence and human rights of target, especially the right to association.

The practice of red-tagging, especially by the state forces and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, has no other real purpose but to silence dissent and criticism and repress opposition and counter-narratives against government policies and actions, Olalia explained.

“Red-tagging together with the draconian measures like the newly signed Anti-Terrorism Law turn the state forces and machinery against such unarmed civilians and groups who are exercising their basic rights and fundamental freedoms in a democratic society,” Olalia said.

Olalia pointed-out that the CPP-NPA-NDF possesses a level of legitimacy while their armed resistance abide by standards set by the United Nations resolutions and conventions.

“The CPP and NPA have not been listed as a terrorist organizations by the United Nations and the NDFP has never been [listed as] a terrorist organizations in any country,” Olalia added.

Olalia said that red-tagging conditions the mind of the public to eventually designate legal organizations and individuals as terrorists by the Anti-Terrorism Council.

NDFP peace consultant and long-time activist Rafael Baylosis stressed that CPP-NPA-NDF must not be called terrorist organizations but entities fighting for national liberation and democracy for the people.

Talks resumption

Baylosis said that peace negotiations must be resumed and the Duterte government should rescind its terrorist proclamation of the CPP and the NPA.

He also called on the government to respect previous agreements signed by both parties.

Baylosis recalled the cancelled fifth round of peace talks last 2018 that was set to sign the Interim Peace Agreement that included the common draft on social and economic reforms, the coordinated and unilateral ceasefire, and release of all political prisoners thru general amnesty.

Pilgrims for Peace encouraged the GRP to consider resuming the peace talks anew in order to address the root cause of armed conflict through peace negotiations. #

More rights violations with Sinas as top cop, groups warn

A farmers’ group and a human rights organization warned that more rights abuses will follow National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) commander Major General Debold Sinas’s appointment as the next Philippine National Police (PNP) chief.

Following the announcement by Malacanan Palace that the controversial officer is the country’s next top cop, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said Sinas’ record is enough proof that the police would be further tainted with more human rights violations once he assumes command.

The group said Sinas is accountable for Oplan Sauron in Negros it blames for the deaths,   arrests, and detention of farmers and activists during his stint as Central Visayas Regional Police Office chief.

“Sinas is also behind the arrests of Manila-based activists including Reina Mae Nasino. Sinas is also on the hook for the still unresolved brutal killing of peasant leader and peace consultant Randy Echanis last August 10,” the KMP said in a statement.

Sinas, described by the KMP as an “attack dog” of President Rodrigo Duterte, will replace outgoing PNP Chief Lt. Gen. Camilo Cascolan.

The police general also courted widespread condemnation by celebrating his birthday last March with a party at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City despite a government-imposed ban on gatherings.

The KMP said that with Sinas at the PNP’s helm the public must expect for the worst from the police and remain vigilant at all times.

“The PNP only serves at the pleasure of the President who terrorizes the people on a daily basis,” KMP chairperson Danilo Ramos said.

Human rights group Karapatan for its part said it is not surprised at Sinas’ appointment as PNP chief as Duterte has a clear penchant for rewarding the most notorious of human rights violators with rank promotions.

Karapatan warned that with Sinas’s appointment, ”a bloody party of human rights violations” is sure to follow.

“Duterte’s most rabid and murderous lapdogs are given freer rein to merrily kill, kill, and kill with wanton impunity,” the group said in a statement.

Karapatan said it fears Sinas will continue the Duterte government’s “sham and bloody drug war and the repression of critics and activists.”

The group recalled that the Commission on Human Rights reported the increase of drug-related killings in Central Visayas from July 2018 to October 2019 when he was police chief in the region.

“Karapatan has nothing but indignation and disgust for Sinas’ appointment. The messages being sent are clear as day: follow the president’s orders and you will be protected and promoted,” Karapatan said.

“[T]his fascist regime is gearing up for an intensified crackdown on dissent and assault on human rights by appointing one of its most loyal butchers as the country’s top cop,” the group added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

“Go home and tell them what you did today and why.”

“a) grotesque; b) merciless; c) heartless; d) callous; e) inhuman; f) shocking; g) unbelievable; h) overkill; i) all of the above & more.

Go home to your spouses, children, parents, friends, neighbors and classmates and tell them what you did today and why. Then pause and tell yourself in silence if they deserve to be proud of you.”Atty. Edre U. Olalia, President, National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers