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Anti-dam activist’s abductors wanted him to turn gov’t spy

Tauli’s colleagues said kidnappers were state security forces

The abductors of anti-dam campaigner Stephen “Steve” Tauli wanted him to turn government spy and tried to force him to confirm fellow activists’ alleged links with underground revolutionary groups.

The Cordillera Peoples’ Alliance (CPA) and the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) on Monday, August 29, said the Kankanaey Igorot activist was also forced to sign a sworn statement admitting he was a leader of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA).

“The whole time, Steve was blindfolded and handcuffed, while being threatened that they could kill him anytime if he would not cooperate,” the groups said.

Tauli, CPA regional council member, was assaulted and abducted by five men at a store near the CPA office in Barangay Appas in Tabuk City, Kalinga province at around 6:45 in the evening.

“As he was leaving, five men suddenly grabbed him, blindfolded and handcuffed him, then mauled him and forced him into a black van while he was desperately struggling and screaming for help,” the groups’ joint statement said.

–cORDILLERA PEOPLES’ ALLIANCE AND CORDILLERA HUMAN RIGHTS ALLIANCE

While inside a black van he was forced into, Tauli was blindfolded, handcuffed and mauled while he desperately struggled and screamed for help, the two organizations reported.

The victim immediately and repeatedly demanded for his captors to identify themselves and their units as well as to bring to either a police station or a military camp, instead of an unknown location. Tauli also told his abductors to file charges against him in court if they thought he had committed a crime, the CPA and the CHRA narrated.

“Here, the men started to lecture Steve about the NTF-ELCAC (National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, the government anti-insurgency program) and its objective of stopping the insurgency problem in the country. They interrogated him about his work and some people he allegedly has links with,” their statement said.

‘Under duress’

After an hour of interrogation, the van drove for another two hours, stopping on what Tauli reportedly thought was a secluded area and where the interrogation continued for several more hours.

“They said that he could help them by neutralizing certain persons they identified as leaders of the CPP-NPA in the Cordillera region,” the groups’ statement said.

–cORDILLERA PEOPLES’ ALLIANCE AND CORDILLERA HUMAN RIGHTS ALLIANCE

The CPA and CHRA said Tauli feared for his life, knowing what had happened to his friend and fellow activist James Balao who was abducted in Baguio City in 2008 and was never surfaced.

After repeated threats to his life and thoughts of distress to his family for suddenly going missing, Tauli agreed to sign a prepared sworn statement. His kidnappers then removed his blindfold to sign the document and read it while being recorded on video.

 “They then threatened him not to report what had happened and to comply with what he had signed, otherwise they would harm him, his family, and his colleagues,” the CPA and CHRA narrated.

Tauli reportedly told the groups his wearing masks the entire time.

Tauli was released by his kidnappers the next evening, August 21, near where he was abducted and was made to walk to the CPA-Kalinga office. His colleagues, who were about to continue to search for him that night, found the victim dazed and in shock, the organizations said.

Red-tagged anti-dam activist

The groups said that Tauli, like fellow CPA leaders and members, were subject to red-tagging, surveillance and harassment before the incident.

Tauli’s abduction came at a time while CPA-Kalinga launched a campaign against the Saltan Dam and right after his group filed a petition for a Writ of Amparo at the Court of Appeals because of the continuing red-tagging and attacks against human rights defenders.

Saltan River as seen from below a Balbalan, Kalinga Bridge. (R. Villanueva)

Saltan River in upper Kalinga province is considered one of the country’s cleanest inland waterway. It is a major tributary of the Chico River system and passes through the famed Balbalasang Balbalan National Park, “the green heart of the Cordillera.”

The Saltan D River Hydroelectric Power Project is listed to be on its pre-development stage and awarded by the government to a company called the JBD Management and Consulting Services, Inc.

“We are of the firm belief that the swift response of family, colleagues and the wider community to immediately search for him, government officials who stood by their mandate to protect their constituents, and the public outcry forced his abductors to release Steve Tauli,” the CPA and CHRA said.

“His was a near-death experience in the hands of his abductors who clearly were part of the State security forces,” they added.

The groups said Tauli and his family are still reeling from the deep trauma caused by his abduction and threats to his life are still continuing. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Abducted activist found, regional human rights group announces

Abducted activist Stephen “Steve” Tauli had been found Sunday evening after a search by his organization, the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) announced.

“After the search initiated by [the] CPA (Cordillera Peoples’ Alliance) in Kalinga, including persistent calls made to the local government units, PNP (Philippine National Police), and AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines), Steve Tauli was found at around 10 pm today,” CHRA said in an update Sunday evening.

The group has yet to disclose exactly where Tauli is and who was responsible in his disappearance for more than 24 hours since he was reportedly beaten up and abducted by five men along five men along Ag-a Road in Tabuk City.

National human rights group Karapatan said CCTV footage showed the abductors entering and leaving the CPA-Kalinga office prior to the assault Saturday evening between 6 to 9 in the evening.

“He is still in shock and needs to recover to be able to state the full accounts of what took place since the assault on him yesterday (Saturday evening), CHRA said.

Tauli is a CPA regional council member and husband to CPA vice chairperson Jill Cariño.

He, along with several other CPA leaders and members, had been victims to red-tagging, surveillance and harassment by government agents, the group added.

Last week, alleged drug personality turned government anti-insurgency spokesperson Jeffry Celis reportedly red-tagged the CPA in a forum at the Kalinga State University, the CHRA said.

A Kankanaey indigenous activist in the Cordilleras, Tauli is a staunch defender of the indigenous people’s right to ancestral domain and self-determination proven by his years of involvement in many land rights campaigns against destructive energy and mining projects, the CHRA said.

Tauli is also connected with farmers’ group Timpuyog Dagiti Mannalon ti Kalinga, the group said.

“At present, Steve is active in the Kalinga peoples’ struggle against the proposed two big hydropower projects of JBD Water Power Inc. (JWPI)- the 49 MW Saltan D and 45 MW Saltan E Dams along the Saltan River,” CHRA said.

Prior to becoming a full-time activist, Tauli graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Forestry degree from the University of the Philippines-Los Baños and was active in the university’s Green Mountain Circle.

The 63-year old activist is also a member of the Alpha Phi Omega Fraternity.

Tauli had been an activist since the Cordillera peoples’ struggle against the Chico Dam project during the Ferdinand Marcos Sr. government and has “persistently campaigned against dams, mines, and other forms of development aggression against the Cordillera peoples,” Karapatan said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

KWF bans publication-distribution of 5 new books

Commission succumbed to red-tagging?

The Komisyon ng Wikang Filipino (KWF) stopped the publication and distribution of five books by well-known writers and academicians, including a book on National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera.

In a memoramdum dated Thursday, August 9, KWF Commissioner for Programs and Projects Carmelita Abdurahman and Commissioner for Operations and Finance Benjamin Mendillo said the following books contain subversive and anti-government themes:

  1. Teatro Politikal Dos by Malou Jacob;
  2. Kalatas: Mga Kwentong Bayan at Kwentong Buhay by Rommel B. Rodriguez;
  3. Tawid-diwa sa Pananagisag ni Bienvenido Lumbera: Ang Bayan, ang Manunulat, at ang Magasing Sagisag sa Imahinatibong Yugto ng Batas Militar 1975-1979 by Dexter B. Cayanes;
  4. May Hadlang ang Umaga by Don Pagusara; and
  5. Labas: Mga Palabas sa Labas ng Sentro by Reuel M. Aguila.

The KWF also ordered its officer-in-charge director general to explain to mass media entities, libraries and schools given copies of said books that the commission wishes not to be charged under the Anti-Terrorism Law – Republic Act 11479 – particularly its Section 9 on inciting to commit terrorism.

‘Are they literary critics now?’

Kalatas author and University of the Philippines faculty member Rodriguez denounced the withdrawal of his book’s publication by the KWF and called on fellow writers and artists to defend the arts.

The Komisyon ng Wikang Filipino memorandum banning the publication and distribution of the five new books. (Supplied images)

The academic blamed former communications undersecretary Lorraine Badoy and fellow Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI) presenters Jeffry Celis and a certain Frank he said are connected with the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) for KWF’s decision.

“Let us not allow this cabal to dictate on how we create art! They have no place in free speech! They have no right to prevent our right to create free art!” Rodriguez wrote.

The trio had alleged on their SMNI program “Laban Kasama ang Bayan” last August 9 that the books were instigated by the Communist Party of the Philippines which the KWF, an attached agency of the Office of the President, inadvertently allowed print.

The University of the Philippines Department of Filipino and Philippine Literature also condemned Badoy for red-tagging two of its faculty members who are “highly-regarded writers.”

The Department said that SMNI and the NTF-ELCAC had no right censuring the new books whatever are their themes, coming as it did this month, the country’s Buwan ng Wika – Month of Language. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

The UP Departamento ng Filipino at Panitikang Pilipino statement. (Supplied image)

Environment defenders reveal new wave of surveillance, red-tagging

Environmental groups complain of being targets of a new wave of surveillance and red-tagging activities they say come amid arrests of environment defenders and land rights activists.

In an alert, the Center for Environmental Concerns-Philippines (CEC) and the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment said posters were thrown at their Quezon City office Monday evening, June 13, red-tagging other progressive groups such as Gabriela, ACT Teachers Party and Bayan Muna Party.

The posters, still freshly-painted in red, were dumped in front of their gate as well as in front of their neighbors at Barangay Central, CEC and Kalikasan said.

The organizations share offices.

“Earlier today (Monday), one of our staff members reported seeing two uniformed policemen taking pictures in the direction of our office gate,” the groups said.

CEC and Kalikasan said that on Thursday, June 9, police officers in civilian clothes went to their office, looking for an individual not familiar with their staff.

“They took a picture of our staffer without consent and they did not present any warrant to search,” the groups said.

Thursday’s incident coincided with the mass arrest of 83 farmers and land reform advocates in Concepcion, Tarlac.

While the farmers and advocates were about to be released on bail on Sunday, June 12, an anti-dam activist was also abducted by the police in Pakil, Laguna.

The police dragged anti-Kaliwa Dam campaigner Daisy Macapanpan from her home into jail without presenting a court-issued warrant of arrest.

“The arrest of Daisy Macapanpan, reeks of many irregularities. Why send around 40 members of the Special Action Force to arrest a 68 year-old woman? That’s overkill. This is a clear reprisal against her for standing up against a potentially destructive dam project,” Kalikasan PNE  national coordinator Leon Dulce said in an earlier statement.

CEC and Kalikasan said they fear the threats and arrests may be the beginning of another crackdown against land and environmental defenders.

The groups revealed that their office has been repeatedly targeted by surveillance, red-tagging, and even an attempted raid since 2018.

They said they have reported the incidents with the Commission on Human Rights, the United Nations Human Rights System, and international NGOs such as Global Witness and the International Union for Conservation of Nature. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Rights group hails Doc Naty’s release

Court said her arrest was ‘offensive’ and ‘repugnant’ to due process

Human rights group Karapatan welcomed the release of Dr. Natividad “Naty” Castro after an Agusan del Sur Regional Trial Court (RTC) junked the kidnapping charge against the red-tagged community doctor.

The doctor’s family announced she walked out of detention on Wednesday and has reunited with her siblings.

“We in Karapatan welcome the release of Dr. Natividad Castro based on the court’s decision on her motion to dismiss,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said in a statement.

Castro was arrested at their home in San Juan City last February 18 in a commando-style raid by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group of the Philippine National Police.

Karapatan said Castro was denied due process and her arrest and imprisonment were arbitrary.

Branch 7 of the Bayugan City RTC in a March 25 resolution said it found no probable cause against Castro and ordered her release from the Agusan del Sur provincial jail.

“Without probable cause, the court did not acquire jurisdiction over the accused, which warrants the dismissal of this case,” Presiding Judge Fernando Fudalan Jr. said.

Judge Fudalan ruled that Castro was not properly identified in the warrant the police presented to her family during the raid, which only listed a certain “Dra. Maria Natividad.”

 “A preliminary investigation without a subpoena being issued to the respondent is offensive to due process. Either intentional or a product of omission, the same produces a serious effect repugnant to respondent’s right to liberty,” Judge Fudalan said.

Karapatan said the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict’s (NTF-ELCAC) “malicious and baseless statements” against the red-tagged community doctor are all lies.

“We extend our hugs of solidarity to Doc Naty and her family, as we enjoin her to continue doing her work as a community health and human rights worker and to exact justice and accountability from those who violated her rights,” Karapatan said.

Castro’s arrest drew widespread condemnation from the medical community that demanded her immediate release.

Castro spent 40 days in jail. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Canadian Parliament denounces attacks on Karapatan’s Palabay

Canadian parliamentarians called on the Philippines government to stop its officials from harassing and threatening the lives of human rights defenders.

In a statement, the Canadian House of Commons Subcommittee on International Human Rights said it is appalled that Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay was harassed and threatened by a top intelligence official after appearing as a resource person in its hearing earlier this month.

“After sharing her traumatic experiences defending human rights in the Philippines, Cristina Palabay’s life was threatened by agents of the Philippines government as a direct result of her appearance before the Subcommittee,” it said from Ottawa.

“The Subcommittee is appalled by the situation Ms. Palabay finds herself in,” the Subcommittee added.

Palabay and Rappler executive editor Maria Ressa narrated human rights abuses by the Rodrigo Duterte government in a hearing conducted by the Subcommittee last May 4.

The Canadian parliamentarians said Palabay’s “brave” testimony described the crumbling state of human rights in the Philippines, for which is continuously being persecuted.

Immediately after, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency Alex Paul Monteagudo posted images online alleging Palabay’s connections with the underground Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army.

Just last month, Monteagudo earned the ire of Philippine Senators and the employees union of the Philippine Senate for his “malicious, baseless and dangerous” red-tagging activities of public sector unionists.

The Subcommittee said it will take “additional measures” to mitigate risks Palabay and other resource persons face.

“The personal safety and wellbeing of all those who appear before the Subcommittee are of the utmost concern to its members,” the Subcommittee said.

Red-tagging memes posted by NICA director general Alex Paul Monteagudo. (Karapatan-supplied images)

It also called on the Canadian government to denounce the attacks, especially against human rights defenders such as Palabay.

“The Subcommittee reminds states that have ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, such as the Philippines, that when attacking human rights defenders, they are violating their international human rights obligations,” it said.

Palabay also denounced the attacks, saying Monteagudo’s posts show the Duterte government’s “disdain for independent justice-seeking efforts.”

Palabay said reprisals by government officials against defenders who provide testimonies and information to governmental or inter-governmental bodies on the human rights situation in the Philippines should stop. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘Preparasyon na nila ‘yan sa eleksyon’

“Itong bira nila sa Makabayan, lalo na sa oposisyon, preparasyon na nila ‘yan sa eleksyon. Gustong lumpuhin ng gobyerno ang oposisyon bago pa man mag-halalan. Hindi na lang ito red-tagging kundi using the government funds for electoral purposes to defend the administration. May tulog talaga ang Duterte candidates at para ma-ensure na manalo sila, lulumphin nila ang oposisyon long before 2022. It’s a combination of red-tagging and electioneering using public funds.”Atty. Neri Colmenares, Chairman, Bayan Muna

Hijack

Cartoon by Crisby Delgado, PUP/Kodao

After red-tagging the community pantry phenomenon, the Philippine National Police ordered its station commanders to put up their own versions. The PNP said their pantries must employ pre-designated beneficiaries in the rollout of their Barangayanihan initiative. “Respective beneficiaries will take pictures of the activity and post in their respective FB accounts. These netizens can be planted beneficiary civilians so as to manifest community’s appreciation,” read the police project brief. #

Red-tagging halts kindness: Maginhawa community pantry suspends operations

Red-tagging and police harassment has forced the phenomenal Maginhawa Community Pantry to suspend operations, one of its initiators announced late Monday evening.

“Bad news. The #MaginhawaCommunityPantry is temporarily taking a pause for the safety of its volunteers. This is sad as we will not be able to distribute the goods we prepared all day because of the #RedTagging that is happening,” Anna Patricia Non said on her Facebook account.

The Maginhawa Community Pantry that inspired 300 similar initiatives throughout Luzon.

Non said she was sure there would be more poor people who are expected to line up on Tuesday morning but the pantry’s operations would have to wait, more so that other pantries were also having problems with the police.

As of seven o’clock Tuesday morning, intended beneficiaries who started lining up at three o’clock, were walking home to nearby Barangay Krus na Ligas with empty bags.

Non’s community pantry initiative at Barangay Teachers’ Village East spread like wildfire throughout Luzon with at least 300 similar efforts from as far north as Ilagan City in Isabela, as far south as Legazpi City in Albay and as remotely as Odiongan in Romblon.

Other community pantries are also being planned in the Visayas.

Non revealed that three police officers have demanded to be given her phone number and have interrogated her as to her affiliations.

(Screenshot from PA Non’s FB account)

“I am afraid to walk to the community pantry alone at five o’clock in the morning because of the baseless accusations against us,” Non said.

The police have started visiting community pantries in Quezon City and Manila on Monday afternoon, asking its organizers to fill up forms and interrogating the organizers.

(Screenshot from PA Non’s FB account)

Both the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict and the Quezon City Police District of the Philippine National Police also shared a post by the Facebook page called Peace Philippines alleging the community pantries were organized to recruit and gather funds for the communist New People’s Army.

The move earned swift and wide condemnation on social media.

Bayan Muna Representative Ferdinand Gaite also slammed the police’s operations against the pantries, saying these were unnecessarily causing anxiety to the organizers.

“Have you no decency? Why are you intimidating those who only wish to help?” Gaite asked. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

ACT, TDC express alarm as DepEd gathers numbers of members

Two teachers’ organizations oppose a Department of Education (DepEd) order to gather numbers of their members in several regions throughout the country.

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) and the Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC) expressed alarm at the directive to division level officials on orders from DepEd Undersecretary for Field Operations Revsee Escobedo.

“As per reports, our union leaders in regions 1, 3, 4A, 4B, 6, 10, and CAR have been asked by their division offices to provide the number of ACT members in their area as per orders from Usec. Revsee,” ACT said in a statement Saturday, April 17.

TDC for its part bared that one notice sent through a Facebook chat group in one of the divisions in Region II reads: “Good morning everyone, the DepEd Central Office is surveying thru this online form, teachers, who are currently members of the (TDC) and (ACT). We appreciate receiving your feedback by filling out this Google form today until 12:00 Noon. All PSDS/Districts In-charge are requested to disseminate to all School Heads and Teachers in AOR (area of responsibility).”

Both organizations, victims of red-tagging operations by the police and military, said the order may be another profiling drive against their members.

‘For possible dialogues’

Escobedo confirmed to Kodao he issued the order but said it is in preparation for possible dialogues with both organizations and other teachers’ groups.

Department of Education Undersecretary for Field Operations, Atty. Revsee Escobedo. (Phjoto from DepEd Tayo FB page)

“I only asked for numbers, not names. How can we red-tag numbers?” Escobedo, also DepEd Employees Association Coordinating Office supervising official, said in a phone interview.

The official said they want to know the number of members of teachers’ groups to identify which organizations to initiate dialogues with on various issues such as salary increases.

He said the groups’ statements are overreactions.

‘No clear explanation’

Both teachers’ organizations however said the order, sent only through text and social media messages, lack explanation that gives rise to doubts as to its real intent.

ACT recalled that the Philippine National Police earlier asked school officials for the names of its members, several of whom were later accused of being communists or communist sympathizers.

“This is eerily reminiscent of the 2019 police profiling of our members, which precluded worse attacks on our members and on our very organization,” ACT said.

The group said its members Nestor Ada and Lai Consad have been arrested and charged with trumped-up charges after being profiled and subsequently red-tagged.

Ada, a high school principal, is still in jail in Northern Samar three months after being arrested on charges of illegal possession of guns and explosives in campus.

Assistant Principal Consad was also arrested at her school in Butuan City last November after being red-tagged by the police and the military.

“So we’re understandably alarmed at (the) sudden interest with our members,” ACT secretary general Raymond Basilio said.

TDC for its part said it will instruct its members not to participate in the “survey, profiling and inventory” of its members that “has no clear objectives and hastily done through Google Forms, text messages, Facebook messages or phone calls.”

ACT said DepEd has never defended teachers and school officials who fell victim to red-tagging and persecution by other government agencies.

The DepEd is a member of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)