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Groups condemn furlough reduction for grieving mother

By Joseph Cuevas

The Regional Trial Court in Manila reduces the supposed three-day furlough for political prisoner and activist Reina Mae Nasino after jail authorities opposed her visit to the wake and burial of her three-month old child Baby River who died last Friday due to pneumonia.

In a hearing today, Judge Paulino Quitoras Gallegos of Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 47 changed his original decision and drastically reduced Nasino’s furlough to just 1:00-4:00 in the afternoon of October 14 for the wake and October 16 from 1:00-4:00 in the afternoon at the Manila North cemetery for the burial.

Yesterday, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) sent a letter to the court requesting the visitation to be lessened citing lack of personnel for security.

The letter was signed by Jail Chief Inspector Maria Ignacia Monteron, Acting Office-in-Charge of Manila City Jail (MCJ) Female Dormitory of the BJMP.

Counsels of Nasino from the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) and her mother filed a Very Urgent Motion for Furlough last Monday, October 12, which was granted Tuesday.

In a text message forwarded to Kodao after the hearing, NUPL’s Atty. Katherine Panguban said, “Hanggang sa mga araw ng pagluluksa ng isang inang nawalan ng sanggol dahil sa mga gawa-gawang kaso laban sa kanya, hanggang sa mga huling oras na pwede pang masilayan ni Reina si River, nakuha pang makipagtawaran ng BJMP-MCJ”. (Up to these days when a mourning mother who lost her baby due to trumped-up charges, up to these last hours when Reina could see River, the BJMP-MCJ still petitioned to reduce the furlough.)

Political prisoners support group Kapatid decried the move by jail authorities who cited lack of personnel to guard Nasino and the added precautions their personnel had to implement in accordance with anti-coronavirus protocolas in opposing the original furlough.

‘Unjust, heartless’

Nasino first asked the court to be allowed to take care of her child but prison officials opposed her petition, citing lack of proper facilities inside the Manila City Jail

The court, through Branch 20’s Judge Marivic Balisi-Umali, sided with the BJMP and denied the 23-year-old political prisoner’s motion.

Kapatid decried the decision, citing rich inmates and politicians were granted privileges in jails for far less compelling reasons.

“Being an activist does not make Reina Mae less of a human being. It does not even negate her rights as a person. She deserves to stay at her child’s side until burial. Equity and compassion, simple humanity, should be standard to all,” Kapatid demanded.

In a statement, human rights group Karapatan called the new decision on Nasino’s furlough a form of torture and another enraging and callous act.

“Wala na ba talagang katapusan ang pagpapahirap, tortyur at inhustisya ng gobyernong ito sa isang ina na naghihinagpis?” the group asked. (Is there no end to the government’s torture and injustice on this grieving mother?)

Karapatan added that jail authorities use logistical issues, funding and resources as alibis to deliberately prolong the agony of many imprisoned political prisoners like Nasino.

Nasino and two other companions were arrested during a midnight raid of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) office in Tondo, Manila in November 2019 and were charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

Nasino was not named in the search warrant presented by the Manila police.

Bayan also said the guns and explosives were planted, as is the usual practice of the Philippine National Police in its operations against activists and offices of progressive and church organizations. #

CHR slams PNP’s arrest and humiliation of minor

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said it will investigate the arrest and humiliation of a 13-year old by the Philippine National Police in Malabon City last Saturday, September 26.

The CHR reported that the minor was arrested for not wearing a mask when he crossed the street to their house from a neighbor’s place.

The agency said that after taking the boy’s mugshot at the police station, officers allegedly told the minor that “he now has a profile picture for his Facebook account.”

The CHR said the remark caused distress to the boy.

 “It is concerning that this happened despite the prohibition on the arrests of minors,” CHR spokesperson Atty. Jacqueline de Guia said in a statement Monday, September 28.

While noting that Joint Task Force Covid-19 Shield Commander Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar reminded police forces and barangay law enforcers to not penalize minors for quarantine violations, the CHR said proper sanction and disciplinary actions must still be pursued to prevent a similar incident.

The CHR said the barangay chairperson also apologized for the incident.

De Guia reminded the police of the joint memorandum circular “Reiteration of Protocols on Reaching out to Children, including those in Street Situations, in need of Special Protection, Children at Risk, and Children in Conflict with the Law During the Enhanced Community Quarantine” issued by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Council on the Welfare of Children (CWC) in dealing with such cases.

“Minors who are guilty of violating quarantine rules must be turned over to their parents, guardians, and/or a social worker so that proper interventions, guidance, and/or advice are given to them,” de Guia said.

“We remind that law enforcers and barangay leaders are duty-bound to protect the rights of children. Any form of punishment that humiliates and degrades the dignity of minors is violative of this sworn obligation,” she added.

The CHR said children should be protected more so during the coronavirus pandemic,  “as they bear the brunt of the secondary effects and the measures taken to combat Covid-19.”

“Government officials and its officers should be the first ones to protect the welfare of children, not violate them,” de Guia said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Facebook removes fake accounts linked to PNP and AFP

Fake social media accounts meant to mislead Filipinos and supportive of President Rodrigo Duterte are linked to the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Facebook revealed.

In an announcement Tuesday, September 22, Facebook Head of Security Policy Nathaniel Gleicher said the company removed accounts found to have links with both government agencies.

“Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our investigation found links to Philippine military and Philippine police,” Facebook reported.

Gleicher said Facebook’s investigation found two separate networks originating from the Philippines and China that violate the company’s policy against “coordinated inauthentic behavior.”

“We removed 155 accounts, 11 Pages, 9 Groups and 6 Instagram accounts for violating our policy against foreign or government interference which is coordinated inauthentic behavior on behalf of a foreign or government entity,” Gleicher said.  

In the Philippines, Facebook removed 57 fake Facebook accounts, 31 Pages and 20 Instagram accounts with hundreds of thousands of followers.

Gleicher explained the people behind the activity coordinated with one another and used fake accounts as a central part of their operations to mislead people about who they are and what they are doing.

He said that Facebook found the full scope of the activity after civil society in the country and news organization Rappler brought it to the company’s attention.

In support of the Dutertes

Facebook said that the networks focused on posting content supportive of Duterte and her daughter and Davao City mayor Sara Carpio’s potential run in the 2022 Presidential elections.

(Malacanan photo)

They also posted in Chinese, Filipino and English about global news and current events, including Beijing’s interests in the South China Sea and Hong Kong.

The fake accounts also uploaded criticisms of Rappler, issues relevant to overseas Filipino workers as well as praise and some criticism of China.

The network in the Philippines consisted of several clusters of connected activity that relied on fake accounts to evade enforcement, post content, comment and manage pages, Facebook reported.

The operation appeared to have accelerated between 2019 and 2020, the company said.

“They posted in Filipino and English about local news and events including domestic politics, military activities against terrorism, pending anti-terrorism bill, criticism of communism, youth activists and opposition, the Communist Party of the Philippines and its military wing the New People’s Army, and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines,” Gleicher said.  

The accounts spend around $1,100 for ads on Facebook that are paid for in Philippine peso, he added.

A post by one of the removed fake accounts. (Taken from the Facebook announcement)

How much are the PNP and AFP spending?

Human rights group Karapatan welcomed Facebook’s move it said is “a damning evidence of State-sponsored online attacks, red-tagging and mass deception in the social media platform.”

“We welcome Facebook’s move as urgently-needed action to put a halt on the worsening red-tagging and State-backed disinformation campaigns on the platform and we hope that Facebook can do more,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.

Karapatan said it was among the organizations that complained to Facebook and the Commission on Human Rights through a June 9 letter.

The group said that the more pressing question, however, is whether taxpayers’ money was used to fund the fake Facebook accounts.

Karapatan said the substantial amount reported by Facebook is wasted on the Duterte government’s efforts to spread disinformation as well as undermine and vilify dissent.

“We are in the middle of a pandemic and instead, the investigation conducted by Facebook highly suggests that the government is spending our taxes to weaponize social media to spread lies online and to attack its critics — and the actual amount of money they have spent and pocketed can be much, much higher,” Palabay said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Joma: Only ‘butchers in authority’ may have killed Echanis

National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison said the brutal murder of peace consultant and veteran agrarian reform activist Randall Echanis may only be the handiwork of “butchers in authority.”

In a statement, Sison presented five “evidence” why a “gang of butchers” in the Rodrigo Duterte government are responsible for Echanis’ murder:

1. The same van used to surveil Ka Randy for one month was used to bring the murder team to kill him.

2. There were at least eight members of the murder team and they could move freely at night and after midnight to carry out their kill mission under conditions of strict lockdown.

3. On the night before the post-midnight murder, they shut off the street light and the CCTV (closed circuit television).

4. They openly used a ladder to access the second floor where Ka Randy (Echanis) was.

5. They took time to torture and knife Ka Randy and allowed sounds of torture to call the attention of neighbors until they shot him to death.

Echanis’ neighbors reported hearing someone “like being tortured” for at least an hour.

They also told ABS-CBN that it took several hours for members of the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) to arrive at the scene.

Echanis, 72, was murdered around midnight August 10 in his rented apartment, along with neighbor Louie Tagapia, 48, in Novaliches, Quezon City.

“Only butchers in authority can do all the above and get away with murder,” Sison said.

Bizarre turn of events

Echanis’ murder became even more controversial after the QCPD forcibly took away his remains from his family and colleagues at a funeral parlor Monday afternoon and held it for nearly three days “pending verification” of the cadaver’s real identity.

The local police said they found an identification card at the crime scene bearing the photo of Echanis but with the name Manuel Santiago.

The victim’s family, colleagues and lawyers protested, saying they have already identified the cadaver as Echanis and there was no need for the police to conduct verification procedures.

The lawyers added that Echanis was a publicly-known figure that even President Duterte may be able to identify, having previously met him on several occasions.

The remains were taken to Pink Petals Funeral Parlor in La Loma across Quezon City and farthest away from the crime scene.

The QCPD even arrested Anakpawis paralegal Paolo Colabres for allegedly obstructing the police investigation when they sought that Echanis’ remains be returned to his family.

Colabres has been imprisoned at QCPD’s main headquarters at Camp Karingal since.

An attempt by a Roman Catholic priest to celebrate Mass in front of the funeral parlor was also prevented by the police.

A redemptorist priest being prevented to celebrate Mass for Echanis (Altermidya photo)

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines also released an alert after a police officer, identified on his nameplate as a certain Ilao, harassed journalists covering developments at La Loma and threatened to arrest them on alleged violations of “social distancing” procedures.

A supplied photo shows the journalists were observing social distancing and were wearing masks.

NDFP Negotiating Panel legal consultant Edre Olalia said that the QCPD was either being naïve, lazy or plain incompetent on insisting on the identity of a victim based solely on an ID reportedly found in the crime scene.

“Surely the police ‘intelligence’ had a cache of pictures of him [Echanis] with all the interest on his person and activities and with all the funds for police trainings and seminars on police investigation and ‘intelligence,’” Olalia said.

“One look at his bloodied and bruised face leaves no room for any doubt, speculation, ambivalence or paucity of vision. Despite the curious divergence of the name and the photo in the ID,” he added.

Anakpawis also refuted claims by the QCPD that there was no forced entry at the crime scene.

“The police’s claim that Echanis voluntarily opened his door or knew his killers, i[s] a brazen attempt for a cover-up, but the crime scene says otherwise,” Ariel Casilao, former Anakpawis Representative said in a statement .

The group said it immediately dispatched team to look into the crime scene and found broken door knob and strike plate, indicating a brute force entry.

“Contrary to police claim, the perpetrators forced their entry into Echanis’ rented apartment. It was a clear murder and we highly believe state forces were behind it following their hostaging of his remains and twisted stories,” Casilao said.

Anakpawis photos
Anakpawis photos

Echanis’ remains was eventually given back to his family after the QCPD admitted the cadaver was of Echanis based on fingerprints taken from it.

Echanis is the third NDFP peace consultant brutally killed after its peace negotiations with the government has been cancelled by Duterte in June 2017.

In January 2019, Randy Malayao was killed in Nueva Vizcaya while Julius Giron, a high-ranking Communist Party of the Philippines leader, was killed in Baguio City last March.

Several other NDFP peace consultants have been arrested and are in jail. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Lawyers group says peaceful protests during quarantine legal

By Joseph Cuevas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Outrageous instance of double standard and selective justice’

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

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

Atty. Ephraim B. Cortez

Secretary-General,

National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers

Carlo Francisco

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Offensive posture’

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

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

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

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

On the killing of retired Corporal Winston Ragos:

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

Cristina Palabay
Secretary-General, KARAPATAN

Jo Maline Mamangun

‘We underwent through a proper process’

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

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

Fernando Hicap

Chairperson, PAMALAKAYA

Former Anakpawis Party Representative

Carlo Francisco

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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