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ASVAL is Southern Tagalog bloodbath’s name

The Philippine National Police (PNP) has revealed the name of the operation in four provinces in Southern Tagalog that massacred nine and arrested several other activists Sunday, March 7.

The police said it served search warrants in Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, and Rizal provinces in a Conduct of Simultaneous Implementation of Search Warrants dubbed COPLAN ASVAL.

The PNP in the CALABARZON (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) region bragged it “scored big time during the Simultaneous Implementation of Search Warrants” against alleged communist groups.

It said it “implemented” all 24 search warrants issued by trial courts that killed nine and arrested six activists. Nine others are still at large.

According to human rights group Karapatan-Southern Tagalog, the names of those killed include:

  • Michael Dasigao and Mark “Mak Mak” Lee Coros Bacasno in Rodriguez, Rizal;
  • Manny Asuncion in Dasmarinas, Cavite; and
  • Couple Anna Mariz and Ariel Evangelista in Nasugbu, Batangas.

Among those arrested were:

  • Steve Mendoza and Elizabeth Camoral in Cabuyao, Laguna;
  • Nimfa Lanzanas in Calamba, Laguna;
  • Eugene Eugenio in Antipolo city.

Activist Lino Baez was among those who eluded arrest.

The police refused to divulge the names of the four others killed, five others arrested and eight others at large.

The PNP said all targets are communist “terrorists” who allegedly illegally possessed guns and explosives.

In press releases and television interviews, the PNP claimed those who turned up dead “fought to the operatives (sic).”

Human rights defenders condemn the massacre and mass arrest in Southern Tagalog. (Bulatlat photo)

Legal activists as counter-insurgency targets

PNP-CALABARZON director B.Gen. Felipe Natividad admitted that the killing and arrest of the activists are part of the government’s counter-insurgency campaign.

“We have to act together to end the 51 year-old communist insurgency in the country. This is just one of the many initiatives and programs of the present government, and the Philippine National Police together with our counterparts in the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” Natividad said.

The police added ASVAL is part of “collaborative efforts” with the Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict to address insurgency.

“We have intensified our cracked down against members of CTGs (communist terrorist groups) in the region along with our counter-white area operations to convince these individuals to lay-down their arms and voluntarily surrender to authorities,” Natividad added.

COPLAN ASVAL was launched as two days after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the police and military at a meeting in Cagayan de Oro City of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

“If there’s an encounter and you see them armed, kill! Kill them! Don’t mind human rights! I will be the one to go to prison, I don’t have qualms,” the President said.

Human rights defenders call for justice for the victims of the PNP-AFP’s COPLAN ASVAL. (Bulatlat photo)

Known legal activists

COPLAN ASVAL’s victims are known legal activists, however.

Dasigao, a community organizer and an officer of a Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap-affiliate organization, led relief operations after massive floods hit Kasiglahan Village in Rodriguez, Rizal late last year.

Asunsion was a well-known Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN)-Cavite coordinator whose cadaver appear to have been dragged by the police from the upper floor of the Worker’s Assistance Center in Dasmarinas, Cavite, leaving streaks of blood on the floor and stairs.

The Evangelista couple were fisher folk rights advocates who were very much alive when dragged away by the police but later turned up dead in a funeral parlor in Nasugbu, Batangas.

Mendoza is executive vice-president of OLALIA-Kilusang Mayo Uno; Lanzanas is a paralegal of the political prisoners support group Kapatid-Southern Tagalog; Camoral is BAYAN-Laguna spokesperson; Eugenio is president of the Advancement of Rights and Responsibilities of Organized Workers LGU (ARROWS) – Antipolo City Hall; while Baez is an officer of BAYAN-Batangas. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

(Bulatlat photo)

Another activist arrested with same warrant, same allegation and same judge

A second unionist was arrested on Thursday, March 4, with a search warrant of the same allegation and from the same judge, leading a human rights organization to ask if the country’s courts have become factories of “bogus search warrants.”

Lakas ng Manggagawang Nagkakaisa sa Honda and Alyansa ng Manggagawa sa Enklabo member Arnedo Laguinias was arrested at his house in Barangay Pulong, Sta. Rosa, Laguna by Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) operatives.

Like Confederation for the Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees National Council member Ramir Corcolon who was arrested at 4:30 AM at his home in San Pablo City, Laguna yesterday, Laguinias is alleged to have illegally possessed a rifle grenade.

Instead of rifle grenades, however, the police claimed they found identical .45 caliber handguns at both raids.

Laguinias was an illegal surveillance, harassment and red-tagging victim of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict last year that alleged the unionist is a high-ranking official of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army, human rights group Karapatan Southern Tagalog said

Laguinias and Corcolon are detained at the PNP-CIDG Southern Luzon headquarters at Camp Vicente Lim in Canlubang, Laguna.

The search warrant used to raid the unionist’s home was also issued by Sta. Cruz (Laguna) Regional Trial Court (RTC) Presiding Judge Divinagracia Bustos-Ongkeko.

‘Factories of bogus search warrants’

Karapatan said the Judge and her Court are “notorious” for issuing “bogus search warrants.”

Sta. Cruz (Laguna) Regional Trial Court Judge Divinagracia Burgos-Ongkeko delivering a speech before the Laguna Provincial Police office. (Photo from Judge Burgos-Ongkeko’s Facebook page)

The group likened Burgos-Ongkeko with fellow Sta. Cruz, Laguna Judge Cynthia Mariño-Ricablanca and Quezon City Regional Trial Presiding Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert as “factories” of orders that inevitably result in planted evidence.

Karapatan revealed that Mariño-Ricablanca have in the past issued invalid warrants against Calaca, Batangas  sugar cane farm workers who the police accused to have illegally possessed guns and explosives.

The charges against the farm workers were later dismissed because the search warrant, aside from its inherent irregularities, violated due process, the group said.

Burgos-Villavert’s search warrant against journalist Lady Ann Salem and labor union organizer Rodrigo Esparago was also dismissed by the Mandaluyong City RTC as it violated due process and inconsistencies in the testimonies provided by the police.

Karapatan accused Burgos-Villavert as the most notorious among the three, having issued the most warrants that arrested activists in Metro Manila and Negros island with the same allegations: illegal possession of guns and explosives.

One such order by Burgos-Villavert resulted in last year’s arrest of women’s rights activist Reina Mae Nasino who was seven months pregnant when Bagong Alyansang Makabayan’s Tondo, Manila office was raided by the same police unit: the CIDG.

Nasino was forced to give birth while in custody, but was denied the chance to nurse her infant.

The child’s death became an international scandal because of the “inhumane” manner jail guards conducted his internment.

Karapatan said it appears that some judges have become accomplices in the Rodrigo Duterte’s “witch hunt” against activists. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Priests deny police story: ‘USC Lumad needed no rescuing’

Priests hosting Lumad students and elders denied the police operation inside a Catholic-run university in Cebu City Monday morning was a rescue mission.

Societas Verbi Divini (SVD) Philippines Southern Province Provincial Fr. Rogelio Bag-ao, SVD and University of San Carlos (USC) President Fr. Narciso Cellan Jr, SVD said they are seriously concerned and surprised that the police alleged the incident was a rescue operation.

“[It] came as a surprise that reports about minors being ‘rescued’ surfaced today. While COSA (Cebu-Commission on Social Advocacies) mentioned that some parents were coming over to fetch their children, it did not dawn on us that the parents’ visit will necessitate the presence of policemen,” the priests in a joint statement said.

Bag-ao and Cellan denied the 24 Lumad as well as two volunteer teachers forcibly hauled from a retreat house inside USC’s Talamban campus to a police camp needed rescuing.

“Here, no rescue need ever be conducted because the presence of the lumads in the retreat house was for their welfare and well-being, and all throughout, they were nurtured, cared for, and treated with their best interest in mind,” they said.

Both explained that their hosting of the Lumad was in support of the bakwit (refugee) school program of the Save Our School’s (SOS) Network, along with Archdiocese of Cebu’s COSA.

President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the closure and destruction of indigenous peoples’ schools since 2017, forcing hundreds of their students as well as their teachers to seek refuge in Metro Manila, Cebu and Davao cities.

The priests pointed out that the four other schools within the archdiocese have hosted as many as 42 Lumad students, five teachers and three community elders (Datu) in the past two years.

The refugees were welcomed at USC-Talamban on May 11, 2020 where they were supposed to complete their modular schooling on April 3, 2020 after which, they would have returned to their respective indigenous communities.

The Lumad were forced to extend their stay since the Cebu City government imposed travel restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic, the priests said.

“After being locked down, the SVD Community has since sheltered the delegation at its retreat house, providing them with comfortable accommodation, and allowing them the use of its facilities for the lumad’s recreation,” Bag-ao and Cellan narrated.

The priests said that four of the delegates have since returned home after quarantine restrictions have loosened while more are scheduled to leave this week.

In videos and photos posted on social media platforms, the Lumad students were shown to have been roughly treated by the police during its operation Monday.

WATCH SOS’ LIVE VIDEO OF THE INCIDENT HERE.

Some were strangled from behind while some were handcuffed as they were hauled to the regional police camp.

‘NPA training inside a Catholic university’

In its News Brief No. 21-0261, the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Central Visayas bragged it rescued the minors from a “child warrior training” inside the university.

“Twenty-one Lumad children were reunited with their parents two years after they were ‘recruited’ by community organizers in Davao del Norte and brought to Cebu City to undergo revolutionary training as future armed combatants,” the police said.

PNP chief Debold Sinas further alleged that the Lumad children belonged to a New People’s Army front based in Talaingod, Davao del Norte.

“Police Regional Office 7 investigators are eyeing serious illegal detention, human trafficking, and violations of RA 9851 (IHL Act) and RA 11188 (Special Protection of Children in Situations of Armed Conflict) charges against the arrested suspects,” the PNP added.

The police has yet to allow human rights lawyers to meet with the detainees, a full day after the arrests.

Lumad school children call for the release of those arrested in Cebu at a rally in Quezon City. (Photo by Jo Maline Mamangun/Kodao)

Demands for immediate release

The SOS in Cebu meanwhile called for the immediate release of the detained Lumad and their teachers, denying the students were coerced.

“The parents of the students provided authorization to the volunteer teachers to allow their children to join the Bakwit School. It is also the decision of the students themselves to take part in the Bakwit School,” SOS-Cebu said in a statement.

The group recalled the refugee schools hosted by schools and churches across the country were in response to the closure of 176 indigenous peoples’ school across Mindanao upon Duterte’s orders.

“It is then ironic for the police to claim to ‘rescue’ the Lumad when it is a truth that is widely known that it is the state forces that continuously harass and red-tag them. It is state forces themselves that continue to harm the Lumad,” SOS-Cebu said.

In Quezon City, the SOS Bakwit School at the University of the Philippines in Diliman led an indignation rally in front of the Commission on Human Rights along with indigenous peoples’ rights advocates Monday afternoon. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Sorsogon media slams PNP for ‘comical’ allegations on broadcaster’s death

Journalists in Sorsogon expressed dismay and disbelief over police claims it was the New People’s Army (NPA) that killed a former radio reporter on September 14 last year.

In a statement, the Sorsogon media condemned allegations made by Sorsogon City police chief Lt. Col. Benito Dipad and Sorsogon provincial police head Col. Arturo Brual that two NPA members killed broadcaster Jobert Bercasio.

The journalists said the police press conference last January 21 failed to merit praises and jubilation from the victim’s family and friends as it lacked credibility and plausibility and was even comical.

“That the police relied on a ‘walk-in’ witness who was not even sure of his role in the conspiracy should be a cause for concern on the credibility of the case,” the statement said.

The journalists expressed further incredulity when Dipad said the victim may have been suspected by the NPA as a government informer.

“Obviously, the police have failed, again, to check, despite its constant stalking, that as early as September 20 of last year, the regional spokesperson of the National Democratic Front-Bicol, Maria Roja Banua, had already made a statement that refutes such theory,” the journalists said.

The reporters revealed that the NPA had been a convenient escape for the PNP to attribute crimes to the NPA whenever they fail to solve them.

“[W]hen police attribute(s) a crime to the NPAs, it’s tantamount to saying they could not solve the case. It’s a subtle admission of utter failure,” they added.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said it shares the dismay and incredulity of its Sorsogon colleagues.

“We commend our Sorsogon colleagues and are one with them in insisting that the investigation into Jobert Bercasio’s murder be credible because what he deserves – as do all of our fallen colleagues – is justice, not made into a pawn for anyone’s agenda or the subject of cheap propaganda,” the NUJP said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Bolinget seeks NBI protection vs PNP shoot-to-kill order

Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA) chairperson Windel Bolinget has sought the protection of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) against a shoot-to-kill order against him by the Philippine National Police (PNP) in the region, his group announced.

“Bolinget has voluntarily submitted to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) earlier today, Jan. 21, for security while proving his innocence from the fabricated case he is charged with,” the CPA said Thursday.

A shoot-to-kill order had been issued against the prominent Igorot activist by PNP Cordillera commander R’win Pagkalinawan last Wednesday.

“Shoot to kill if nanlaban (he fights back),” Pagkalinawan said in a text message to reporters.

The PNP in Kalinga also announced a PhP100,000 bounty for information on the activist’s whereabouts.

The CPA said Bolinget’s decision to submit himself to the NBI was made as it was clear the police and Pagkalinawan “didn’t have any intention to observe due process.”

The CPA said Bolinget is not admitting guilt for the “fabricated charge” but to have full access to all legal services in challenging the charge while under NBI’s protective custody.

“We challenge the state security forces to show the same integrity and adhere to the rule of law,” the CPA said.

Bolinget and 10 others had been charged with murder by the Office of the Provincial prosecutor of Davao del Norte, at the southern part of the country, for their alleged involvement in the killing of Garito Malibato, a member of a local indigenous peoples’ organization called Karadyawan, in March 2018.

The CPA and human rights group Front Line Defenders earlier said the murder charge appears to be fabricated as Bolinget has never been to Barangay Gupitan, Kapalong, Davao del Norte where Malibato was murdered.

The group added that local indigenous organizations pointed to the paramilitary group Alamara as the real perpetrators of the murder.

“Further, a relative of the victim also expressed that Malibato had received several death threats from the same paramilitary group before he was killed,” FLD said.

Other groups also denounced Pagkalinawan’s order against Bolinget.

“Again the militarists are operating with trigger happy fingers with this kind of order.  They are now trying to condition the minds of the people that Windel will most likely resist arrest or ‘manlaban.’ Thus, such an order is justified,” the Bayan Muna Party said in a statement.

The National Council of Churches of the Philippines for its part called for the withdrawal of the charges against Bolinget as well as an end to the harassment and red tagging of indigenous activists.

“This most recent manufactured case against Mr Bolinget is part of a long history of harassment and intimidation including red-tagging, that is being conducted by elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and PNP against Mr Bolinget and other indigenous activists and human rights defenders,” NCCP said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Huling Yakap ni Nanay Sonya

By Carlos Isagani T. Zarate

Namanhid na ang aking mga alaala:

mabilis na nag-agaw ang liwanag

at dilim sa aking gunita — sigaw

ng umalingawngaw na takot

at hambalos ng mainit na mga tingga!


Handa nang manibasib ang mga halimaw;

iwinawasiwas ang pabaong birtud ng poon!

Tanging sandata ay imbing mga kataga,

pananggalang ang mahigpit, mainit,

walang bitiw na mga yakap mo, Nanay!


Subalit sa pagitan ng isang kisapmata,

ang iyong mahigpit na yakap – ang tila pusod

na muling sa ati’y nag-ugnay, sa aki’y

nagbigay ng lakas at buhay — ay pinasabog

ng abuso, kahayupan at kalupitan!


Sa isang kisapmata, ang iyong humulagpos na yakap

at nabubuwal na hapong katawan aking nasilayan;

gusto kung sumigaw: ‘Wag mo akong bitawan, Nanay,

higpitan mo pa ang iyong mapag-aruga , mapag-adyang

mga yakap — labanan natin. Ang dilim!


caritaz. 21 disyembre 2020

(The poet is a third-term Bayan Muna Representative to the Philippine Congress)

Artwork by Aurelio Castro III (Used with permission)

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.

Rights activist frustrates new PNP modus in serving arrest warrants

A Philippine National Police (PNP) operative dressed and presented himself to be a delivery boy in a failed attempt to arrest Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay Wednesday, June 7.

Police Master Sergeant (SPOI) Joelon de Tomas Rafael was dressed as an LBC courier when he arrived at Karapatan’s office in Quezon City and introduced himself as an employee of the delivery company.

“I was served a warrant of arrest this afternoon by a guy who introduced himself as an LBC courier. He was wearing the uniform/t-shirt and had an ID. Is this the usual procedure now?” Palabay wrote in a Facebook post.

Palabay said she was surprised when Rafael introduced himself as an LBC courier when he served the arrest warrant. 

She added that another person in civilian clothes accompanying Rafael introduced himself as a police officer from the Quezon City Police District’s headquarters in nearby Camp Karingal. 

Palabay told Kodao that the undercover officer was Police Chief Master Sergeant (SPO3) Luisito Johnson Ubias

“I asked for their IDs. The guy in plainclothes easily gave his and said, after I badgered the ‘LBC guy’ for his ID, that the LBC guy is also a cop,” Palabay revealed.

The prominent human rights activist said she reminded the two police officers that the manner they were serving the arrest warrant violated the PNP’s manual on such operations.

“[W]hen you’re serving warrants of arrests, you should introduce yourself as policemen/arresting officers. You should be in uniform. In fact, you should have read to me my Miranda rights,” Palabay told Ubias and Rafael. 

Rafael also lied when asked for his identification card, saying he left it in the car. He eventually took it from his pocket when pressed, Palabay said.

The officers tried to justify their ruse by saying they would not be able to arrest respondents if they stick to legal procedures, she added. 

Ubias and Rafael apologized and left after their identification cards and documents were photocopied, Palabay said. 

Perjury complaint by Esperon

Palabay said the arrest warrant stemmed from a perjury case filed by national security adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. in retaliation for the Writ of Amparo and Habeas Data petition Karapatan, the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines and Gabriela filed with the Supreme Court in May 2019.

Esperon was among the respondents named in the petition of having threatened and red-baited officers and members of the three organizations.

“This (the perjury case) was initially dismissed by a Quezon City prosecutor, and then revived and filed in court by another prosecutor, after Esperon’s motion for reconsideration,” Palabay explained.

Palabay said she showed Ubias and Rafael the recall order for the arrest warrant against her.

The recall order of Palabay’s arrest warrant.

“They said they only received the arrest warrant yesterday and they haven’t received the recall order (issued on April 29, 2020! More than two months ago!),” Palabay said, adding she has posted bail and presented myself to an executive judge via online channels to secure the recall of the arrest warrant against her.

‘Does LBC know?’

In a Facebook post, Karapatan lawyer Ma. Sol Taule asked if the courier company knows its identity is being used by the PNP for undercover operations.

 “Alam ba ng LBC Express Inc na ginagamit niyo ang pangalan ng kompanya nila para mang-harass ng mga tao?” Taule asked. (Does LBC Express Inc. know that you [PNP] use their company to harass people?)

At ano naman kaya ang susunod niyong costume? Grab, Food Panda, Lala Move Delivery?” she asked, referring to other courier service companies in the country. (What costume would you be using next?)

Taule also asked the police if donning LBC uniforms is part of Rule 6.1 of the PNP’s operations manual.

The manual orders that arrest, search and seizure, checkpoint, roadblocks, demolition and civil disturbance management operations shall be conducted with a marked police vehicle, led by a Police Commissioned Officer (PCO), and with personnel in prescribed police uniform or attire.

Ubias and Rafael are non-commissioned officers. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Students vow to fight police presence inside schools

Students held a rally at the University of the Philippines in Diliman last August 14 to condemn attempts by state security forces to place police and military forces in campuses. They were joined by other organizations from marginalized sectors.

Following Senator Ronald dela Rosa and interior secretary Eduardo Año’s demands that police and military presence be allowed in state universities and colleges to combat student activism, the students said such moves are in violation of their Constitutionally-guaranteed rights. (Video by Jek Alcaraz)

Black propaganda ng PNP sa halalan

“Mali. Kasagsagan pa lang ng eleksiyon, gumagawa na sila ng black propaganda para wala nang bumoto sa partido namin.”–Teodora Tañola, Bayan Muna member.