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Families, rights groups mark Political Prisoners Day

Relatives and human rights groups led by the Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of Peoples’ Rights marched to Mendiola in Manila, December 3, to commemorate International Solidarity Day for Political Prisoners and call for the release of all political detainees.

Karapatan said that political prisoners  are proof of an unjust system as well as double standards in which “rule of law” inevitably translates to the rule of rulers.

Recent cases of illegal arrests by the police and military’s continued use of planted evidence, twisted ploys, and ridiculous narratives to jail rights activists and progressive leaders of organizations and communities [are rampant},” Karapatan added.

Karapatan said that there are 540 political prisoners all over the country as of November 2018, 203 of whom were arrested under the Duterte regime.

One hundred forty of the detainees are sickly, 40 are elderly and 56 are women, Karapatan said.

Lengua De Guzman, daughter of National Democratic Front (NDF) peace consultant Rafael Baylosis and wife of union organizer Maoj Maga, said that since November 2017 when Duterte implemented a crackdown against activists and peace consultants, fabricated cases and planting of evidences became the usual pattern of the state forces in their operations.

Aside from cases involving her father and husband, similar incidents happened to government employees organizers like Bob Reyes, the couple Oliver and Rowena Rosales, trade union organizer Ireneo Atadero, women advocate Hedda Calderon and peace consultants Adelberto Silva and Vicente Ladlad, de guzman said.

Karapatan reiterated that political prisoners should be immediately released on just and humanitarian grounds and as a matter of justice.

The Duterte government must also resume peace negotiations with the NDFP and stop the track of militarism against the people, the group said. # (Report and video by Joseph Cuevas)

Supporters demand release of political prisoners

As President Rodrigo Duterte postponed yet again the resumption of its formal peace negotiations between his government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, the chances of more than 500 political prisoners to be given general amnesty has again been put into doubt.

Human rights defenders held a protest march from Plaza Salamanca to the Department of Justice offices along Padre Faura Street in Manila last June 20 to condemn the continued incarceration of political prisoners.

CASER may be approved by July or August—Joma

Jose Maria Sison said a Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) may be approved between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) in about two months.

In response to yet another assurance from GRP President Rodrigo Duterte for his safety should he come home to the Philippines, Sison said both parties are a few weeks away from completing the most substantial of issues in the peace negotiations.

“For sure I shall return to the Philippines after the signing of the interim peace agreement, which is already being prepared for June, and the subsequent mutual approval of the comprehensive agreement on social and economic reforms by the GRP and NDFP either in July or August,” Sison said.

The NDFP and the GRP are set to meet in June in Oslo, Norway for the resumption of the fifth round of formal talks that has been cancelled by Duterte three times in the past 12 months.

The parties are reportedly set to sign an interim peace accord via a coordinated unilateral ceasefire agreement as well as a general amnesty proclamation for NDFP-listed political prisoners and the signing of the agrarian reform and rural development and national industrialization and economic development components of the CASER in late June.

Earlier, Duterte again assured Sison he will not be assassinated should he decide to come home for a face-to-face meeting between them.

“Walang [Benigno] Aquino style na patayan na barilin ko sa likod. (There will be no Aquino-style assassination where I’ll shoot someone at the back). It’s not my [style],” Duterte said Wednesday in a speech in Manila.

Aquino was assassinated on August 21, 1983 upon landing at the Manila International Airport after years of exile in the United States of America.

“I welcome the assurance of safety by President Duterte. It is much better that there is such an assurance,” Sison said in reply.

“The most important thing is that we can dialogue and agree on how best we can serve the interest of the Filipino people, especially the toiling masses of workers and peasants through the peace negotiations and cooperation under the principles of national sovereignty, democracy and social justice,” Sison added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Cagayan courts find political prisoner innocent

By NORWIN GONZALES
www.nordis.net

BAGUIO CITY– After over a year in jail, David Soriano who was facing trumped up charges was declared not guilty of arson.

Soriano was declared not guilty in a May 10 decision penned by Judge Nicanor Pascual, Jr. presiding judge of Branch 8 of the Regional Trial Court in Aparri, Cagayan.

Soriano was charged with arson related to the burning of equipment belonging to BrosTan Construction in Gattaran, Cagayan on February 14, 2016.

Pascual questioned whether Soriano was in Gattaran at the time the crime was committed and whether he was a member of the New People’s Army (NPA) and served as its commander. Pascual ruled in favor of Soriano, citing that the prosecution failed to show evidence for its claims.

“Likewise, the prosecution failed to at least present any photograph of the equipment allegedly burned by the accused or at least his alleged companions if indeed, said equipment was burned. It was only bare allegations without any documentary or object evidence to support the same,” the court ruling said.

He was also charged with two counts of attempted murder for an ambush also in Gattaran, Cagayan, this time in RTC Branch 9. Pascual also dismissed the case for lack of evidence in a March 15 ruling.

However, freedom is yet to come for Soriano as he is still currently being tried at the RTC Branch 10 in Tuguegarao City, this time for alleged illegal possession of firearms and explosives related to his arrest in May 2017 in Peñablanca. Cagayan.

He was also implicated in an ambush against Philippine National Police elements in Baggao, Cagayan on February 16, 2016.

In his affidavit, Soriano said that he was in Baguio City from February 12 to 14, 2016 attending a North Luzon summit and traveled back to Isabela on February 15, 2016.

“Let us continue to call for the release of all political prisoners amidst the tyranny of the US-Duterte regime,” Karapatan-Cagayan Valley in a statement said.# nordis.net

How can Myles Albasin be a terrorist?

Maria Karlene Shawn I. Cabaraban

At 13, she wore a bright yellow shirt on her first day of high school. Inside the school’s covered courts, hundreds of new students like her wore the same expressions of nervous anticipation. She felt like a stranger among them, a girl from Malaybalay City who had gotten an academic scholarship in an Ateneo school. Eagerly, she listened to the various speakers who welcomed the new students. When they were given a tour of the campus, she could not quell her excitement and fired question after question to the student facilitator assigned to them: “How often do we use the science labs? Do we get to handle the microscope ourselves? What books do we read in our English classes?”

Later, she was ribbed no end for her enthusiasm. Also, what’s with her insistence on speaking in English?

At 14, she joined the school publication, writing news articles as her mother had taught her. She found out however that campus journalism at the time was more focused on the form rather than substance. News pitching consisted mostly of events in school. Who will write about the science month celebration? Can anyone cover the latest interschool math contest we won over Corpus? Let’s do an interview with newly hired faculty.

At 15, she ran for the Campus Student Government presidency under the Atenean League of Leaders (ALL), an opposition party which she just founded. The decision came with much hesitation though, as her grades already suffered from her many extra-curricular preoccupations. But the call was difficult ignore. The need to challenge the status quo is, after all, integral to the Ignatian principles that she had learned from their Christian Humanism classes. “How could one be a “man and woman for others” without minding the issues which sought to normalize itself in a system that opposes opposition? How could there be cura personalis if our compassion is confined within the four corners of the Ateneo?” Ignatius seemed to have asked Myles too many times in her moments of introspection.

She lost the race. But her passion for service, ignited by her first foray into politics, could no longer be dampened.

When she took up Mass Communications at the University of the Philippines-Cebu, she let go of an opportunity at a full scholarship to study Accountancy at both Xavier University and De La Salle University. In UP, she joined the Nagkahiusang Kusog sa Estudyante or NKE where her student activism developed.

This did not come without criticism from her friends: “What’s the point in baking yourself under the sun  and on the streets, holding anti-government placards and disturbing motorists? Are you paid to go to immersions in the slums and in the provinces? Don’t you get tired of shouting speeches in the streets instead of hanging out with us, your friends”

She was undeterred and did not tire of explaining. Activism did not mean opposing the government; it is challenging a system that claims to serve the people but only serves to push the poor farther into the margins of society, she said. Activism is not grounded on hate. On the contrary, it is rooted in the calling to be a man or woman for others, to “do more” for communities in need, and to actualize one’s love for the country through genuine service. Communitas ad dispersionem, Myles explained.

Today, as she languishes in jail, she is branded an “amazon” of the New People’s Army (NPA), a university graduate brainwashed by communist rebel groups, a beautiful twenty-something whose looks will fade away in jail. She has been accused of ransacking a barangay captain’s home in Negros Oriental, threatening farmers for money, and possessing high-powered firearms and explosives. A terrorist.

Internet trolls have reduced her to a meme, a poster-girl for what happens if one had bad parents, an all-too common consequence if you send your children to UP.

 “Sayang, gwapa ra ba unta.”

“Tsk. Crush man nako ni sa una oh”

I cannot agree with them, though. How can she be a terrorist when she held my hand when I came out of my “closet”? How can she be a terrorist when she stood by my side when the rest of the class came up on stage to receive their awards while I sat on the side silently loathing myself for failing to join them? How can someone who said the solution is “not in hating, but in educating” be a terrorist?

Myles is not a saint as she, like most humans, has committed mistakes. But to call her a terrorist is to lose sight of the systemic problem she riled against—a system that fails to uphold its mandate to enact change, a system where oppression and impunity is pervasive, a system that demonizes dissent.

She is Myles Albasin, and she is not a terrorist. #

= = = =

The author is Myle’s friend. This piece was originally written for The Crusader, Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan’s official student publication. It is republished with permission.

Myles Albasin was arrested along with five other fellow activists by the Armed Forces of the Philippines soldiers in Mabinay Negros Oriental last March 3 and charged with illegal possession of firearms. Paraffin tests conducted on them came out negative, however, belying military claims the six were New People’s Army fighters caught after a firefight.

Ifugao court frees two political prisoners

By Aldwin Quitasol

BAGUIO CITY — The Regional Trial Court of Lagawe, Ifugao province today acquitted two Cagayan Valley activists, apologizing for their unjust imprisonment for nearly five years.

Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Cagayan Valley organizer Rene Boy Abiva and Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Opereytors Nationwide (Piston) Party Cagayan Valley regional coordinator Virgilio Corpuz were deemed innocent of charges of multiple murder, according to National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Randy Felix Malayao.

Abiva and Corpuz were charged with 12 counts of murder at the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Lagawe, Ifugao by the 86th Infantry Battalion and 5th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army.

The two were detained at the Bureau of Jail and Management Penology (BJMP) facility in Tiger Hills, Kiangan, Ifugao.

Abiva was an employee of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Region 2 and an ACT organizer of the in the region when nabbed on December 28, 2012 by the military.

He was tagged as one of the New People’s Army fighters who staged an ambush against the Philippine Army troopers in Tinoc , Ifugao in April 2012 that killed 10 soldiers.

Abiva’s DSWD daily time record (DTR), however, revealed during trial he reported for work on the day the Tinoc, Ifugao ambush happened.

Corpuz for his part was nabbed in his residence in Santiago City, Isabela by elements of the Philippine National Police Regional Regional Mobile Group on January 2013.

Corpuz, also a development worker of the Katinnulong Daguiti Umili ti Amianan at the time of his arrest, was accused by the Philippine Army to be a certain “Harold Castillo” who participated in another ambush.

“The State must be made accountable for the trumped-up charges and for the more than four years Abiva and Corpuz were made to suffer,” Malayao said.

Various progressive organizations also rejoiced at the acquittal of the two political prisoners.

“The Ifugao Peasant Movement, Cordillera Human Rights Alliance-Karapatan and Cagayan Valley Karapatan join the family and friends of Rene Boy Abiva and Virgilio Corpuz in their long-delayed release from BJMP Ifugao after nearly five years of detention,” the organizations said.

“The court apologized for detaining the two who have been falsely accused and jailed wrongly. The judge said if there were only a law to justly compensate the two, they would be compensated,” they added.

“Their freedom is the people’s victory. Their commitment to serve the people remains and their families are with them,” Cita Managuelod, Virgilio Corpuz’ wife, for her part, said. (With reports from Raymund B. Villanueva in Manila)

UPDATED: Duterte pardons NDFP consultant, 9 others

President Rodrigo Duterte granted pardon to 10 political prisoners including a National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) consultant today, human rights group Karapatan announced.

Peace consultant Emeterio Antalan, along with Joel Ramada, Apolonio Barado, Jose Navarro, Generoso Rolida, Arnulfo Boates, Manolito Patricio, Josue Ungsod and Sonny Marbella were ordered released today from the New Bilibid Prison (NBP), Karapatan said.

The pardon came after Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III recently announced they are conducting informal meetings with the NDFP for the possible resumption of formal negotiations in August.

Upon his election in May 2016, Duterte promised to release all political prisoners in a bid to revive the peace negotiations with the NDFP.

He released 19 NDFP consultants in August last year in time for the first round of formal negotiations in Oslo, Norway.

The presidential pardon of the 10 political detainees today is his second release of political prisoners.

Antalan was convicted with fellow NDFP consultant Leopoldo Caloza of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment in September 2015 by the Benigno Aquino administration with no possibility of parole.

A source told Kodao the pardoned detainees were released from their jail cells at four o’clock in the afternoon.

Karapatan volunteers are still on their way to NBP to fetch them as of posting time.

Too few, too late

NDFP chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili, however, said the release of the 10 prisoners is “too few and too late.”

“It is just a fraction of the 409 political prisoners still in detention whose liberty was supposed to have been given through general amnesty as offered by PRRD (President Rodrigo Roa Duterte) on 16 May 2016 as part of the package to resume the peace negotiations with the NDFP,” Agcaoili told Kodao.

Agcaoili said the release of the 10 through pardon was in fact volunteered by the GRP Panel for the Christmas season last December.

“It took more than six months for that voluntary offer to happen,” Agcaoili complained.

“This manifests the regime’s total lack of empathy and concern for the plight of political prisoners who are/have been in prison for trumped up charges in violation of the CARHRIHL (Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law),” he added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva / Featured image from Karapatan)

Ailing detainee back in jail after Duterte’s lifting of ceasefire

AN AILING political prisoner recuperating in a care facility had been taken back to jail last February 4 after President Rodrigo Duterte lifted his government’s unilateral ceasefire declaration with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

Amelia Pond, teacher and curriculum developer of the Lumad school Salugpongan Ta ‘Tanu Igkanogon Learning Center (STTICLC), was brought back to Tagum District Jail by her police guards reportedly on “orders from the top.” Read more

People’s orgs press for release of political prisoners via general amnesty

Members of peasant organizations, rights advocates and Church-based organizations today held a rally at Mendiola to call on the Duterte government to immediately release the 392 political prisoners through general amnesty. The rally came a day before the resumption of the 3rd round of formal talks between the GPH and NDFP. Read more

Third round opens amidst complaints of CARHRIHL and JASIG violations

ROME, Italy—Despite major problems before its convening, the third round of formal peace negotiations between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) opened as scheduled at ten thirty this morning local time (5:30 pm Philippine time).

Both parties expressed optimism that the six-day negotiations would achieve important agreements on socio-economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms and human rights. Read more