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Makabayan 4 blame military and police for ‘trumped-up charge’

After the dismissal of the double murder charge against them by a Nueva Ecija court, four former Makabayan Coalition representatives condemned government’s security cluster for what they call a mere case of political persecution against dissenters.

National Anti-Poverty Commission lead convenor Liza Maza and fellow former Makabayan representatives Rafael Mariano, Teddy Casiño and Satur Ocampo were welcomed in a gathering in Quezon City last August 14 after warrants of arrest against them were withdrawn.

Groups gather to defend Makabayan 4

Various groups gathered last Saturday, August 11, to defend the four former Makabayan Representatives, Satur Ocampo, Liza Maza, Teddy Casiño and Rafael Mariano.

Lawyers explained that the double murder case used as basis for the issuance of warrants against the four were baseless, as proven by two earlier decisions by a trial court and the Commission on Elections.

Family members of the accused also spoke against what they call the political persecution of political dissenters by the Rodrigo Duterte government. (Video by Joseph Cuevas)

Hinggil sa persekusyon ng Makabayan 4

“Nagaganap ang political persecution kapag iyong mga nasa kapangyarihan tulad ni Duterte at mga kasapakat niya ay gustong patigilin at supilin ang mga nagsasabi ng katotohanan.”–Prof. Jose Maria Sison, International League of Peoples’ Struggles chairperson.

 

Groups launch #DefendSecLiza campaign

Various groups launched a campaign to defend National Anti-Poverty Commission lead convenor Liza Maza in a press conference in Quezon City last Monday, August 6.

Saying they are composed of groups outside the Makabayan bloc, they said they want to show that support for Maza is wide and committed in defending the embattled Cabinet secretary from political persecution.

Maza, along with former Makabayan representatives Satur Ocampo, Teddy Casiño and Rafael Mariano were issued warrants of arrest by a Palayan City Regional Trial Court for alleged murders committed nearly two decades ago.

The accused and their supporters, however, claim that the cases were trumped up, as proven by earlier decisions by the QC RTC and the Commission on Elections. (Video by Joseph Cuevas)

Itanong mo kay Prof: Political persecution sa mga lider-aktibista

Sa episode na ito ng Itanong mo kay Prof, ipinaliwanag ang ibig sabihin ng political persecution at bakit target nito ang mga progresibong lider tulad nila Liza Maza, Satur Ocampo, Rafael Mariano at Teddy Casiño.

Judge who ordered arrest of Satur et. al. inhibits, prosecutors mum

Nueva Ecija public prosecutors refused to comment on a motion for reconsideration on double murder charges and warrants of arrests against four activist leaders at a hearing in Palayan City Friday morning, August 3.

Lawyers of National Anti-Poverty Commission lead convenor Liza Maza and fellow former Makabayan bloc representatives Satur Ocampo, Rafael Mariano and Teddy Casiño told reporters in a press briefing outside the Palayan Regional Trial Court (RTC) that the prosecutors had no comment when asked about the motions.

“When the public prosecutors were asked to comment on the motion for reconsideration, they simply submitted it to the judge’s discretion,” Public Interest Law Center (PILC) managing counsel Rachel Pastores said.

“This made the hearing very quick; travel time from Manila to here was in fact longer,” Pastores added.

Dozens of activists travelled to Nueva Ecija early Friday morning and held a picket in front of Palayan City RTC Branch 40 to support the four leaders.

August 1, 2018 inhibition order by Judge Evelyn A. Atienza-Turla.

Judge Evelyn Atienza-Turla inhibited herself from the case since last August 1 and the case was raffled off to Judge Trece Wenceslao instead.

Turla issued arrest orders against the four last July 11 stemming from a 2006 double murder charge against them.

The judge, who told the public prosecutor in July 2008 that the case did not meet her standards, reversed herself and said in an order that she now finds probable cause to proceed with the trial against the four accused.

Pastores said they are hoping that the court would decide on their motion within 10 days as the arrest order is “unjust and without legal basis.”

The double murder charge stemmed from a complaint by a Cleotilde Peralta and an Isabelita Bayudang who alleged that the four activist leaders met in 1998 to plan the assassination of former Bayan Muna (BM) members who have left the party.

Peralta said her husband was ran over and killed in 2001 while Bayudang said her husband was shot to death in 2004 upon orders of the four accused and others.

In 2016, Peralta and Bayudang were found liable for damages in a civil suit and were ordered to pay P325,000 to Ocampo by Quezon City RTC Branch 95.

The QC RTC said Peralta and Bayudang lied when they alleged BM already existed in 1998 when it was in fact created only in 2000.

Peralta and Bayudang’s petition to have Bayan Muna disqualified using the same allegations were also dismissed by the Commission on Elections in 2008. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Lawyers, groups slam arrest warrants vs Satur Ocampo, others

Groups and lawyers condemned the issuance of warrants of arrests against four well-known activists at a press conference in Quezon City Friday.

They explained that the resurrected case against Satur Ocampo, Rafael Mariano, Liza Maza and Teddy Casiño were based on lies as proven in another court and the Commission on Elections and that they blame political persecution as the real reason behind the threat against the four.

Political persecution behind arrest orders, groups say

Political persecution by militarists in the Rodrigo Duterte government and new House of Representatives Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo may be behind the issuance of arrest warrants against a Cabinet secretary and three opposition leaders by a Palayan City Regional Trial Court (RTC) last July 11, various groups said.

In a press conference in Quezon City Friday afternoon, groups including the Makabayan bloc of progressive parties, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and others said the arrest orders against National Anti-Poverty Commission chairperson Liza Maza, and former Representatives Satur Ocampo, Teddy Casiño and Rafael Mariano are pure harassment by both militarists and a resurrected Arroyo.

In a statement, Maza said the arrest order is part of a “continuing political persecution against her by the rightists and militarists who wield substantial influence within the Duterte government.”

“Almost from the beginning, the rightists and militarists have tried to make it difficult on us – myself and other progressives who have joined the Duterte government – opposing or obstructing the reforms that we pushed for and manoeuvring to have us removed, one by one,” Maza added.

Palayan City RTC Branch 40 Judge Evelyn Ancheta Turla issued arrest orders against the four last July 11 stemming from a 2006 double murder charge.

The judge, who told the public prosecutor in July 2008 that the case did not meet her standards, reversed herself and said in an order that she now finds probable cause to proceed with the trial against the four accused.

Casiño said the recycling of such trumped-up charges is part of “a desperate and reckless witch hunt against opposition.”

“This is an attempt to curtail my liberty. And the fact that it is happening under a Duterte-Marcos (family)-Arroyo alliance makes it more frightening,” Casino said.

In his statement, Mariano said he vehemently denies the accusations, saying they are “baseless, malicious and fabricated.”

 ‘It was irregular’

Atty. Rachel Pastores, counsel for the four accused, said the case is pure harassment as the complaint was not even subscribed before a public prosecutor before it was filed.

“The complainants swore before the Philippine National Police and not to a public prosecutor. It was irregular,” Pastores said.

A Cleotilde Peralta and an Isabelita Bayudang alleged Ocampo, Maza, Mariano, Casiño and 18 other activists met in 1998 to plan the assassination of former Bayan Muna (BM) members who have left the party.

Peralta said her husband was ran over and killed in 2001 while Bayudang said her husband was shot to death in 2004 upon orders of the four accused and others.

In 2016, however, Peralta and Bayudang were found liable for damages in a civil suit and were ordered to pay P325,000 to Ocampo by Quezon City RTC Branch 95.

The QC RTC said Peralta and Bayudang lied when they alleged BM was already existing in 1998 when it was in fact created only in 2000.

Peralta and Bayudang’s petition to have Bayan Muna disqualified using the same allegations was also dismissed by the Commission on Elections in 2008.

Reconsideration, remedies

Pastores said that Turla’s decision is wrong, more so that no additional information has been introduced to the case.

“We will avail of all legal remedies. We will file a motion for reconsideration,” Pastores said.

Speaking for the Makabayan bloc, ACT Teachers Representative Antonio Tinio warned of darker times ahead.

“This is a classic GMA [Arroyo] move when she was in power. And it is being revived now that she is back in power. Darker times are indeed ahead,” Tinio said.

Former BM Representative Neri Colmenares for his part called on “the professional witnesses” to not allow themselves to be used by the military.

“Time will come you will be dropped by the military and your handlers, like what happened when the court decided that you pay damages to Satur Ocampo and others,” Colmenares said.

Colmenares also called on Duterte to order the dismissal of the case through the Department of Justice.

Panawagan kay Presidente, pwede bang maghunus-dili ka muna?” Colmenares said. (I call on the President, can you please calm down for a moment?) # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Farmers condemn Mariano’s rejection as DAR secretary

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) condemned the rejection of Rafael Mariano as Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) secretary and blamed President Rodrigo Duterte for the Commission on Appointments (CA) decision Wednesday.

“The marching order to reject Ka Paeng came directly from Malacañang and President Duterte,” KMP in a statement said after the CA decision.

KMP blamed Duterte’s “fealty to landlords and oligarchs” for the CA’s decision, adding the chief executive “chose to throw away whatever reforms Mariano has started in DAR.”

The group said Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio was among those who opposed Mariano’s confirmation because her husband Atty. Maneses Carpio is a legal counsel of Lapanday Foods Corporation (LFC).

“The Lorenzo family (owners of LFC) and Lapanday strongly contested Mariano’s installation of 153 farmer-beneficiaries of the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association Inc. (MARBAI) to the lands grabbed by Lapanday in Tagum City,” KMP said.

The Lorenzos also acquired the controversial Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac from the Cojuangco family.

The farmers group also said “militarists” in the Duterte cabinet led by Department of National Defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Eduardo Año also lobbied for Mariano’s rejection.

“Lorenzana and Año connived with Mayor Duterte-Carpio in leading the governors of Davao del Norte, Compostela Valley, Davao Oriental and Davao Occidental, through the Davao region’s Regional Development Council (RDC XI) and Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC XI) in blocking the confirmation of Mariano,” KMP said.

The Davao RDC, the opposition of Lapanday and Hacienda Luisita are among the reasons of the Commission on Appointments (CA) rejection of Mariano, KMP added.

KMP said the oppositors submitted a resolution dated May 11 this year to CA chairperson Sen. Aquilino Pimentel informing him of Mariano’s alleged “involvement” in the attacks by the New People’s Army on Lapanday.

The group said the document was based on fabricated “intelligence reports (that) smacked of a witch hunt that has been a feature of the Duterte government’s dirty and bloody counter-insurgency program.”

“Landlords like the Lorenzos and the Cojuangco-Aquinos have wrestled their way to get back control of DAR to favor and protect their interests,” KMP said.

“Mariano’s rejection is another proof that pro-US and militarist hawks are intent on ensuring that genuine socio-economic reforms – including free land distribution and other pro-farmer reforms at DAR advocated by Mariano – won’t prosper,” KMP secretary general Antonio Flores said.

“It is consistent with the Duterte government’s refusal to address the socio-economic demands of farmers, and is part of the AFP’s arsenal perpetuating the people’s suffering,” Flores said.

CA committee on agrarian reform chairperson Senator Vicente Sotto III made the announcement on Mariano’s rejection, saying at least 13 members voted against the secretary.

“After an exhaustive deliberation and impartial scrutiny of the testimonies, endorsements, oppositions, and documents submitted, your committee called for a vote. In accordance with the results, in accordance with the rules, I should say, the weight of the scales ultimately tipped the balance against the confirmation of the appointee,” Sotto said.

As in the case of Mariano’s fellow National Democratic Front of the Philippines nominee to the Duterte Cabinet Judy Taguiwalo, the CA also did not announce the names of the 13 members who voted against the nomination.

Genuine peasant leader

KMP said CA’s rejection of DAR’s first genuine peasant secretary is an injustice to Filipino farmers.

“The decision of the CA to reject Mariano does not represent the demand and clamor of millions of farmers for a pro-farmer DAR,” KMP said.

“Behind Ka Paeng Mariano are two million members of KMP and their families, tens of thousands of agrarian reform beneficiaries and millions of rural poor and Filipinos aspiring for genuine agrarian reform, food sovereignty and peace,” the group said.

“Ka Paeng Mariano has staunchly stood by his position against the conversion of agricultural lands, the very policy that the elite-dominated Congress of landlords and capitalists wants to pursue and perpetuate,” it added.

KMP said Mariano is pursuing free land distribution, social services for farmers, food security for all Filipinos and significant reforms at DAR.

“There’s so much more to accomplish at DAR but militarists and pro-neoliberal elements in the Duterte regime and President Duterte himself are preventing genuine public servants like Rafael Mariano and Judy Taguiwalo to do their tasks,” KMP said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Lapanday guards threaten MARBAI farmers anew

Farmers recently installed by the Duterte Government in their agrarian reform-awarded lands are threatened anew by armed Lapanday Foods Corporation (LFC) security guards, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) reported.

Two days after the Duterte government gave back 145 hectares of land to 159 agrarian reform beneficiaries in Tagum City last May 18, armed LFC guards reoccupied foxholes, trenches and guard posts along the perimeter fence they abandoned during the farmers’ installation.

DAR said farmer-beneficiaries have expressed alarm over their security with fears of being ejected again from their government-awarded lands.

The Philippine National Police in Tagum City have withdrawn from the MARBAI farms that allowed LFC guards to reposition themselves along the perimeter fence.

WATCH this DAR-released video. Read more