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Tribunal finds Marcos, Duterte, Biden ‘guilty’ of war crimes

The International People’s Tribunal (IPT) found President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., former president Rodrigo Duterte, the Government of the Philippines as well as President Joseph Biden and the Government of the United States of America (USA) guilty of war crimes in Philippines.

In an hour-long presentation of its verdict in Brussels, Belgium Saturday afternoon (local time), the IPT said the respondents are guilty of willfully killing civilians, intentionally directing attacks against civilians and property, as well as using indiscriminate means and methods of warfare that cause injury or unnecessary suffering.

Aside from causing widespread, long-term and severe damage to the natural environment, the Manila government’s military operations cause displacement of the civilian population, impede humanitarian aid, and commit acts or threats of violence and terror among civilians, the IPT said.

“These acts constitute serious violations of treaty and customary international law applicable in armed conflicts. In view of the foregoing factual and legal findings, the tribunal unanimously finds the defendants…guilty of all crimes and charges, including war crimes and violations of the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) alleged in the indictment,” the IPT’s panel of jurors declared.

The Tribunal added that the respondents are guilty of willful killing of New People’s Army (NPA) fighters already rendered hors d’combat (French for “unable to fight”). It also found them guilty of torture and other forms of cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment as well as “outrages against personal dignity and humiliating and degrading treatment and desecration of bodies of slain NPA fighters.”

In addition, the Philippine armed forces also “committed abduction and enforced disappearance, the arbitrary arrest and detention and deliberate attacks against civilians merely suspected of having links with a belligerent party, including the filing of trumped-up charges, red-tagging, terrorist labeling and designation, threats and harassments and intimidation,” the Tribunal said.

The jurors said the prosecutors proved with “clear, convincing, credible, consistent and relevant evidence” their allegations, leading to a unanimous verdict.

The Tribunal said it heard oral evidence from victims and families, expert witnesses and resource persons. It also read affidavits, letters, written statements, reports, publications, resolutions, and similar documents, as well as saw photographs and images, watched and heard audio-video recordings in the course of its two-day deliberations that started last Friday.

“[There were] 15 witnesses in the proceedings, eight in person and seven through video depositions, who delivered in clear and coherent manner. Eleven were victims, families or colleagues while four were experts or resources persons who testified on the context, nature and scale of IHL and human rights violations,” it said.

Policy and practice

The IPT cited the massacre of the Fausto family in Negros Island, the massacre of Tumandok tribespeople across Panay Island, and the killing and persecution of the Save Our School tribal school volunteers across Mindanao as examples of the “willful killing of civilians by GRP (Government of Republic of the Philippines) forces.”

READ:

  1. Mission reports AFP responsible for Fausto massacre, other killings
  2. Gov’t troops massacre 9 Tumandok in Panay
  3. ‘Chad Booc and 4 others were massacred’ – Save Our Schools Network

It said that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) uniformly claimed the victims were NPA fighters and planted evidence to bolster their canard.

The IPT also said that government air strikes and use of heavy ordnance in various places across the country were “indiscriminate.”

Many captured NPA fighters, including those already rendered hors d’combat have been summarily executed as a “matter of practice,” the jurors added, citing the cases of the five recently killed in Bilar, Bohol and of the 22-year old Jevilyn Cullamat

READ:

  1. Rep. Cullamat pays tribute to martyred daughter; condemns desecration of remains by gov’t soldiers
  2. NDFP peace consultant Randall Echanis murdered
  3. Group reports continuing surveillance on wounded journalist

“That these happened in various regions has rendered this as a matter of policy for state armed forces…The scale and frequency of these practices indicate they were deliberate and undertaken as a matter of policy by the GRP,” the jurors said.

The Tribunal also found the defendants guilty of “sustained nationwide attacks against individuals and organizations led by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict through red-tagging campaigns and terrorist proscription.

Victims of such vilification campaigns often end up dead like NDFP peace consultant and peasant leader Randall Echanis, or permanently disabled such as paralegal and community journalist Beandon Lee, the jurors said.

The jurors also noted that there has been a steady rise of abduction and enforced disappearance under Marcos Jr. and his government, such as in the case of Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano, as well as Dexter Capuyan and Gene Roz Jamil de Jesus last year.

The witnesses gave “astoundingly credible detail” of the systematic nature of the abductions,” the Tribunal said.

Witnesses to include former Bayan Muna Rep. Eufemia Cullamat whose daughter, slain NPA fighter Juvilyn, was desecrated by government soldiers. (IPT photo)

“The lack of genuine investigations into these cases and the impunity that characterize these cases all point to to the GRP as the author,” it said.

The Philippine government could not rely on its national laws to violate IHL and human rights, it said, also noting the lack of genuine police investigations or reports of violations, “even passing the blame on the victims.”

US equally guilty

The Tribunal said Biden and the US government are similarly guilty of the said war crimes and human rights violations.

It said the US places large resources at Manila government’s disposal, including USD1.14 billion worth of military equipment.

Presidents Marcos and Biden at the White House in 2023. (Malacanang photo)

The US is also building military facilities across the country and sends thousands of troops to train the AFP and participate in war games called the Balikatan, the Tribunal noted.

It added that the Philippine counter-insurgency strategy is adopted from US doctrine.

“The US is responsible for directing, training and operating the GRP…[playing an] indispensible role in the atrocities,” he tribunal said.

International jurors and prosecutors

IPT 2024 was presided by a panel of international jurors of lawyers, parliamentarians, professors, and a Bishop.

Julen Arzuaga Gumuzio is a Basque politician, writer and lawyer, member of the Euskal Herria Bildu coalition in the Basque Parliament since 2012. He is part of the European Association of Democratic Lawyers.

Lennox Hinds is founder of the National Conference of Black Lawyers and former counsel for the African National Congress. He currently teaches in the Criminal Justice Program at Rutgers University.

Suzanne Adely is a founder of the Middle East, North Africa Labor Solidarity Network in the United States. She is a long-time member of Al-Awda-NY, the National Lawyers Guild, and the Defend the Egyptian Revolution Committee of New York.

Joris Vercammen is a Belgian cleric and archbishop of the Old Catholic Church, active in the Netherlands. Vercammen was elected to the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches in 2006.

Séverine de Laveleye is a Belgian politician active for Ecolo. In 2018 she was elected as a municipal councilor of Vorst for Ecolo and was elected as as a member of the Belgian Chamber of Representatives in 2019.

The prosecutors meanwhile were Belgian human rights lawyer Jan Fermon and his German colleagueRoland Meister.

The jurors said copies of their verdict shall be sent to the Philippine Embassy in Brussels, the US Embassy in Brussels, the European External Action Service, the European Parliament, the International Criminal Court, the International Court of Justice, the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council, the UN High Commission on Human Rights, the International Committee of the Red Cross/Crescent, the UN Secretary General, and the Permanent People’s Tribunal. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

DOJ lied to UN expert on red-tagging—Karapatan, NUJP

A human rights organization and a media group called claims by the Department of Justice (DOJ)  that red-tagging is not official government policy is, simply, lying.

“Simply doublespeak,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said in reaction to DOJ’s reply to United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Opinion Irene Khan’s question if red-tagging is a policy of the Philippine government.

“We are aghast when the DOJ said that it has sufficient mechanisms to address red-tagging. What are they talking about? Either these are nowhere to be found, or if these mechanisms indeed exist, are rendered useless for victims of rights violations,” Palabay said.

Palabay pointed out that the Office of the Ombudsman found former National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTFELCAC) spokespersons retired Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. and former undersecretary Lorraine Badoy guilty of red-tagging activists and organizations.

In a decision signed by Ombudsman Samuel Martires last August 9, Parlade and Badoy were reprimanded after finding merit in the complaint filed by the National Union of People’s Lawyers.

Other complaints filed as early as 2020 by Karapatan, alternative media organizations, youth leaders, health workers, community pantry organizers, journalists, and civil libertarians remain pending at the Ombudsman, proof that red-tagging is practiced widely by government agencies, Palabay said.

Palabay also recalled that Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla told the UN Human Rights Committee in November 2022 that “red-tagging is a part of democracy.”

“The DOJ secretary himself attempted to justify red-tagging before the UN HR Committee. Using his warped logic, Remulla also said in interviews that red-tagging is truth-telling, and that it is their right to ‘criticize’ those who criticize them,” Palabay added.

DOJ’s barefaced denial

In a press release following its meeting with Khan last Wednesday, the DOJ said it told the UN expert red-tagging is not an official policy of the government.

“We were also explaining the many cases that show that we have sufficient mechanisms to address this matter of red-tagging. There is an ongoing effort, proactive effort on the part of the DOJ where we have been engaging civil society organizations,” Justice Undersecretary Jessie Andres also told Khan.

Already criticized in 2007 by UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings Phillip Alston, red-tagging is described as the malicious act of branding individuals or organizations as supporters or members of terrorist or communist groups simply for being critical of government policies.

Rights groups said victims of red-tagging are being set up for arrests, trumped-up charges or assassination.

While the UN is here

In a separate statement, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said government’s denial of a red-tagging policy is meaningless as it is being done even while a UN expert is in the country conducting her investigations on the allegations.

“We condemn the red-tagging on Facebook of NUJP director Reynard Magtoto and Gabriela local leader Jen Nagrampa, who have been accused by anonymously-run page Green Spark of being “kampon” or underlings of the CPP-NPA-NDF,” NUJP said.

Green Spark alleged on Thursday that along with Magtoto and Nagrampa, alternative news outfits Bulatlat and Baretang Bikolnon as well as women’s group Gabriela are front organizations of underground Communist organizations.

“We believe this latest post is an attempt at retaliation for Magtoto’s December 2023 report on fake New People’s Army surrenderees and on how some — activists and citizens — were made to sign declarations of surrender under false pretenses of government aid distribution or under duress,” NUJP said.

Magtoto was subjected to surveillance while working on a report on fake surrenderees in Bicol and was also called to a meeting with the military on his activities with NUJP, which they called a “sectoral front organization, the group reported.

Under the Marcos Jr. administration, NUJP said it recorded 20 incidents of red-tagging against journalists and media outlets and organizations.

“Like Magtoto, the majority of those red-tagged published stories critical of the government, or that veered away from the official narratives,” NUJP said.

Karapatan and the NUJP were among dozens of civil society organizations that met with Khan on her first day of investigations last Tuesday.

“Malicious labeling by government agencies, officials and their affiliates intrudes on our constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of association, of the press, and of expression. The continuous red-tagging puts the security of journalists at risk, and should not be taken lightly, the NUJP said.

“We challenge the Marcos Jr. administration to disband the NTFELCAC to prove that red-tagging is not a policy, the group added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Groups denounce Remulla’s red-tagging justification before UN

A network of church and human rights groups condemned justice secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla’s justification of government’s red-tagging of critics before the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC), saying the practice is against the values of a democratic and civilized society.

The Philippine Universal Periodic Review Watch said they take strong exception to Remulla’s remark at the 136th session of the UNHRC in Geneva, Switzerland last Tuesday that red-tagging is “part of democracy.”

“It’s par for the course. If you can dish it out, you should be able to take it,” Remulla said.

“That, for me, is probably the essence of democracy. Are we not allowed to criticize our critics too? Is it a one-way street?” he added.

But the Philippine UPR Watch pointed out that Remulla made his remarks just as the UNHRC is discussing the dangers of red-tagging on the lives of people who raise legitimate issues on government policy.

“His remarks, while a brazen official admission of the practice, do not only encourage and normalize red-tagging but also brandish it as an institutionalized and orchestrated method of the government in dealing with perceived political critics,” Philippine UPR Watch said.

“Redtagging especially of State forces and their adjuncts has dire consequences on persons, families, organizations and communities,” the network said.

The network revealed that there were 801 political prisoners as well 442 human rights defenders who became victims of extra-judicial killings at the end of the Rodrigo Duterte government, most, if not all, were red tagging victims.

In Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s first 100 days in office, there have been 10 civilians killed while four have been abducted and forcibly disappeared, the network reported. At least 37 have been arbitrarily arrested and detained, it added.

 “Feigning ignorance on these consequences and packaging these threats as mere exercise of freedom of expression are clear signals of a policy of tolerance for human rights violations and impunity,” the network said.

Red tagging explained, again

Former UN special rapporteur Phillip Alston first called the world’s attention on the practice of red tagging by the Philippine government in 2007, describing it as a classification of a wide range of groups – including human rights advocates, labour union organizations, journalists,
teachers, unions, women’s groups, indigenous organizations, religious groups, student
groups, agrarian reform advocates and others –as ‘fronts’ and then as
enemies of the State’ that are accordingly considered to be legitimate targets.”

The practice is a continuation of the McCarthyist red-baiting strategy in the 1950s employed against United States of America government critics.

At least one Philippine Supreme Court Associate Justice, Marvic Leonen, has opined that red-tagging causes human rights violations.

“To make it easy for military and paramilitary units to silence or cause untold human rights abuses on vocal dissenters, government agents usually resort to stereotyping or caricaturing individuals. This is accomplished by providing witnesses who, under coercive and intimidating conditions, identify the leaders of organizations critical of the administration as masterminds of ordinary criminal acts. Not only does this make these leaders’ lives and liberties vulnerable, a chilling effect on dissent is also generated among similar-minded individuals,” Justice Leonen wrote.

In March 2021, then Senator Franklin Drilon proposed a law defining and penalizing red-tagging as “State’s malicious labeling and stereotyping of individuals or groups as communists or terrorists. It has not been passed.

Standing ground

Following Remulla’s apparent admission of the practice, the Philippine UPR Watch called on members of the UNHRC to further denounce government’s red-tagging.

The network also voiced fears that justice for victims of red-tagging will remain elusive and human rights violations continue during the Marcos government as under the past Duterte regime.

“[W]ith an administration that has not indicated any commitment, sincerity and political will to commit to justice and accountability, it is imperative to hold our ground, push back and demand for the protection of our rights,” the network said.

Philippine UPR Watch representatives are set to travel to Geneva in November to personally deliver their statements before the UNHRC assembly. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Red-tagging of 1st IFI woman bishop, 3 priests go unabated in Ilocos Norte

A bishop, Iglesia Filipina Independiente’s (IFI) first-ever woman prelate, is being red-tagged in Ilocos Norte, along with three priests.

Bishop Emelyn Gasco-Dacuycuy and IFI priests Noel Dacuycuy, Randy Manicap and Arvin Mangrobang were accused by a shadowy group calling itself the Tagapagtanggol ng Bayan Laban sa Terorismo as New People’s Army (NPA) recruiters.

Posters and streamers bearing the victim’s pictures and alleging the priests and the bishop were NPA recruiters were found at the IFI Parish in Batac town Thursday morning, June 2.

The bishop also disclosed that more such flyers were distributed this morning at the IFI Cathedral in Laoag City and the Parish of Banna where she pastorally resides.

The posters ordered the priests to surrender at a police station to clear their names.

In a press conference Friday, Rev. Mangrobang said he does not need to have his name cleared again after already talking to the Vintar chief of police earlier.

Mangrobang revealed that a hand-painted streamer made from a rice sack had already been hung in Vintar last May 8 accusing him of being a NPA supporter.

“The new posters bearing our photos are worse. I have not even seen a NPA member,” Mangrobang said.

The priest said he only recruits sacristans to assist in the altar during Masses and to help in doing God’s work.

“They must know that I am a full-time priest and that I stay in the convent,” he added.

Rev. Dacuycuy for his part blamed President Rodrigo Duterte’ anti-terror law for the red-tagging activities against them.

“They insist that those who speak out in behalf of the people are automatically leftists or terrorists,” Dacuycuy explained.

In a statement Friday, Bishop Dacuycuy said she strongly condemns the “malicious accusations” and denied she ever recruited or is involved with the NPA.

The prelate said she met with Ilocos Norte police director Julius Sibaen Thursday who, she said, assured them of their security.

“Today, we will go to Batac PNP to file a blotter about the hanging of the tarpaulin at the gate of [the] Batac convent and scattered flyers bearing our faces with false accusation that happened yesterday morning,” Bishop Dacuycuy said.

Dacuycuy said her diocese is ready to hold a dialogue with government agencies and the military in the area.

Dacuycuy made history when she was consecrated IFI’s first woman bishop in May 5, 2017 whose diocesan see was the birthplace of IFI co-founder and first supreme bishop Gregorio Aglipay.

Ilocos Norte is also the home province of president-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. whose family also dominated the local elections in the province earlier this month. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

(This report earlier mistakenly said the Rt. Rev. Dacuycuy was the country’s first-ever woman bishop. Two United Church of Christ in the Philippines woman bishops in fact preceded her.)

Out of order

Cartoon by Crisby Delgado, PUP/Kodao

At last week’s hearing by the House of Representatives hearing on the raid conducted by the police and the social work department on the Bakwit School at the University of San Carlos in Cebu City last February, Presidential Communications Operations Office undersecretary and National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict co-spokesperson Lorraine Badoy showed ignorance of parliamentary procedures and attempted to interrogate other resource persons. She was promptly told that she told that she could not ask questions as she is not a member of Congress. #

Putting Back the “Community” in Community Pantry

By L. S. Mendizabal

On the seventh day since the first community pantry on Maginhawa St., Quezon City was erected, one of its initiators, Ana Patricia Non, took a break but did not rest. The 26-year-old small entrepreneur, “Patreng” to many, gave a press conference via Facebook Live, explaining why she and her fellow organizers ceased operations temporarily: They did not feel safe after the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict accused her of being a “communist,” a brand the Duterte administration has proclaimed to be synonymous with “criminal,” “terrorist,” “a menace to society.”

“People are grateful because the community pantry revived their spirits to help one another in times of crisis . . . But even that had to stop. It hurts that we were forced to close even for just a day. Think of how many families, how many meals the community pantry would have provided,” Patreng said in Filipino, her voice cracking, barely able to hold back tears. “We had to stop for the time being to ensure our safety and to clear the allegations.”

On the same day, Metro Manila Eastern Police District set up its own community pantry with rice, canned goods, face masks and face shields. Also stacked are copies of the Gideon Bible and the police journal magazine replete with red-tagging propaganda because, y’know, “Communism is bad.” Throughout the Duterte regime alone, PNP is notorious for tens of thousands of extrajudicial killings in the war against drugs and anti-terror campaign. From accessorizing dead bodies with pieces of cardboard that said, “Pusher ako, huwag tularan (I am a drug pusher, do not emulate)” to giving away food and bibles under cardboard signs stating a rather interesting iteration of the Maginhawa Community Pantry slogan,

“Magbigay nang naaayon sa kakayahan, dumampot ayon sa inyong pangangailangan (Give what you can, seize what you need)”—their altruism is of the violent kind.

Ana Patricia Non (Photo from Altermidya)

Death, hunger, gloom and doom

Since the novel coronavirus claimed its first victim in the Philippines when the government failed to promptly close our borders, there’s been no mass testing or contact tracing. Hospitals are full. Frontliners are grossly underpaid, overworked and dying. COVID funds amounting to a trillion pesos have yet to be felt by 18 million beneficiaries still waiting for a second cash dole-out.

Unemployment is at an all-time record high. According to IBON Foundation, the total number of unemployed and underemployed soared to a staggering 12 million in February 2021. With the absence of food subsidy and the disruption of food systems, the poor are the hardest hit by draconian lockdowns, or this administration’s single palpable response to the pandemic. Minimum wage earners must go out to work or find work every day, risking COVID exposure. Staying home is a luxury the poor simply can’t afford. To them, dying from hunger is a more immediate concern than dying from the virus.

Academics of the Philippine Sociological Society in a study on the community pantry initiative claim that Filipinos have also been experiencing feelings of “gloom and doom.” WHO says that isolation, bereavement, fear and loss of income during the pandemic have been detrimental to individual mental health. Constant news of human rights violations may cause gloom and doom as well, for how can you sleep soundly at night knowing a 12-year-old boy just died after barangay tanods chased him when he was “caught playing outside?”

Omega Avenue community pantry. (Photo by Roberto de Castro)

A social phenomenon bred by state abandonment

On April 14, Patreng and her little bamboo trolley of free vegetables with a signboard bearing the words, “Magbigay ayon sa kakayahan, kumuha batay sa pangangailangan (Give what you can, take what you need),” first stood on a street corner in the city with the most COVID cases and deaths in the country. Small vendors and tricycle drivers nearby have since helped Patreng repack and distribute goods as well as facilitate the daily queue of neighbors they’ve invited themselves. And just like that, a movement was born.

Within three days, PSS identified 44 community pantries nationwide with majority in NCR. As of this writing, there are 500 from as far up north as Cagayan all the way south to “DDS Country,” Davao City. PSS in its initial analysis of the community pantry calls it an “emergent agency”—an independent initiative taken by stakeholders to effect changes on their situation. Emergent collective behaviors rise when preexisting structures fail to meet people’s demands. Notably, a good chunk of the community pantries that swiftly followed Maginhawa’s example are of organized masses from marginalized sectors who initiated community kitchens and collective gardening since the first enhanced community quarantine. PSS notes that these earlier emergent agencies didn’t quite capture the people’s imagination the way community pantries have.

Although they’re not the cure to end food insecurity, the viral spread of community pantries is but a symptom of the true state of the nation: Like Patreng, Filipinos are “tired of complaining and fed up with government inaction.”

Fish on their way from Laguna de Bai to community pantries in Quezon City. (Pamalakaya photo)

Half a piece of ginger, cups of taho and a tale of two oranges

Community pantries have been practiced in the US and other parts of the world. When COVID hit Thailand, locals installed cupboards filled with food, medicines and other necessities in public spaces in Bangkok to help one another. Called “happiness-sharing pantries,” they spread all over the country, reaching a total of 1 400 by the end of 2020. As lockdown restrictions were lifted in Thailand and stores reopened, the pantries were later abandoned.

In the Philippines, community pantries show no signs of slowing down as Duterte stays in power, hoarding public funds for his election war chest. (The original Maginhawa Community Pantry announced Monday night it will cease to be a distribution center starting today, Tuesday, April 27. It will instead be a donation center from which nearby community pantries shall be replesnished.—Ed. ) A viral element of the phenomenon is its slogan which people have adopted and translated into many different languages and dialects, my favorite being LGBTQ+ organization Bahaghari’s “Gumib luv offering ayern sa kerichinabels, gumeching vatai sa needine lustre.” More than just a catchphrase, Filipinos from all walks of life have been unified by the idea and practice of a mutual aid grounded on giving what they can and taking only what they need.

In contrast to donation drives where the same prepacked goods are given to households without taking into account household size, you have the freedom to get what your family specifically needs from a community pantry regardless of what you donate. How much one takes / gives is a non-issue. In a Bulatlat article, University of the Philippines Professor Sarah Raymundo says that community pantries defy the capitalist market because they highlight products’ utility (use value) over their monetary worth (exchange value).

This encourages people to prioritize the needs of others over their own. For instance, a resident in a resettlement area in San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan only needed a small slice of ginger, so she broke one into two pieces “para makakuha rin ang iba (so others may have as well).” In Kawit, Cavite, a taho vendor gave out free cups of his own product by a small roadside table. Inspiring passersby, they bought more cups of taho for his little pantry. Patreng also shared in the press conference how an old beggar picked up two oranges. When he was told to get more, he said two were enough to get him by for the day.

The community pantry is a utopian space where the destitute and benevolent converge, often one and the same. More than bayanihan and volunteerism, it advocates collectivism. This boggles the minds of the rich because they only understand an individualist way of life, not unlike that of a barangay captain in Los Baños, Laguna who threw a fit, accusing organizers of profiting off their pantry. His angry constituents later exposed him on social media for using personal connections to get vaccinated ahead of frontliners.

The Maginhawa Community Pantry. (Photo by Roberto de Castro)

“Communist Pantry,” “just bayanihan” and other anti-people takes

Once the community pantry became a phenomenon, anyone who knows this administration damn well would’ve seen red-tagging from a mile away. Historically, emergent agencies or relief efforts that expose government incompetence are met with hostility. Last year alone, cops destroyed Sitio San Roque’s community kitchen and apprehended youth volunteers distributing food packs to impoverished communities in QC, Malate, Marikina, Bulacan, etc. Armed men killed activist Jory Porquia while conducting relief operations in Iloilo City.

According to UP Prof. Danilo Arao in an online forum on journalism ethics and community pantries, red-baiting is the “highest form of fake news” because it endangers lives. It is the state’s go-to tactic in discrediting and demonizing personalities and organizations so that hurting them is justified. Another objective of red-tagging, Arao explained, is to challenge its target/s to denounce Communist links. Sounds familiar? Mainstream media, GMA Network being the biggest offender of late, has become nothing more than a mouthpiece of a regime that persecutes people like Patreng whose only fault is facilitating change.

Neoliberalism has so deprived us of basic social services and turned everything into a capitalist commodity that Filipinos sharing goods among themselves has become quite the spectacle. That said, what really frightens the state is not its “phenomenal” or “bayanihan” aspect, or Patreng’s political affiliations. The community pantry is not just a place of sharing and caring but sharing and caring between the middle and lower social classes with similar traumas caused by the pandemic and exacerbated by state inutility and terrorism. Some might’ve lost jobs, others loved ones, most of them hope. Now, they find solace and strength in being able to not only take but give, whether it’s 50 kilos of fish from small fisherfolk alliance PAMALAKAYA; sacks of sweet potatoes from a farmer in Paniqui, Tarlac; or three packs of noodles from the kind balut vendor at Maginhawa. The community pantry feeds people for a day but empowers them for much longer as they continue to struggle in a society that takes jobs, loved ones and children’s lives, and thrives on widespread hunger, doom and gloom.

Community pantries as a collective refusal to not starve are a protest whether you like it or not. And it’s disturbing how Malacañang, NTF-ELCAC, some journalists and centrist liberals all sound the same: “It’s just bayanihan and should be free of any politics.” Keep calm and share gulay, they say. A bishop went as far as declaring that these pantries with their signboards will “forever erase the shame” of cardboard justice in the drug war. Great. When they’re not red-baiting whole movements, they’re whitewashing or romanticizing them. Why do we celebrate bayanihan yet balk at the idea of hopeful, empowered masses who feed one another and understand why they starve in the first place?

“Everything is political,” says PAMALAKAYA – Southern Tagalog Spokesperson Ronnel Arambulo. “Widespread hunger is a result of government inadequacy in responding to the health crisis. The national situation should not be seen as a separate picture from community pantries.”

Meanwhile, mayors have expressed support and assured organizers of their safety. A resignation was tendered. Gag orders were issued. These are little victories, indeed, but we must not be complacent. Patreng is right: She may be safe for now but entire communities are not. Believing that community pantries are red-tagged because some have given political meaning to them is only blaming the victim. It says outright, “They deserve to be red-tagged for not submitting to the status quo.” This fascist thinking is harmful to the people.

The Iloilo City mobile community pantry by a local LGBTQIA+ group. (Photo by Irish Granada)

From the masses, to the masses

An organizer posted on FB about buying vegetables from a peasant in Nueva Ecija. Upon knowing they were for a community pantry, she said, “Napanood ko sa TV kanina. Nagugutom ang tao, pinapasara pa nila! Komunista raw. E ano naman? Namimigay lang naman! (I learned about it on TV. People are starving yet the government wants to close them! They call them communists. What about it? They’re only giving out food!)” After donating 200 pesos, she added, “Maganda ‘yang ginagawa ninyo. Pipila kami mamaya pero hindi na gulay ‘yung kukunin namin. Bigas sana (What you’re doing is noble. We’re going to line up at the pantry later but we won’t be getting vegetables. I hope there’s rice).”

It isn’t hard for the poor to understand and embrace the community pantry as their own because they struggle the most and have been quite vocal about their grievances. Instead of calling them “komunista,” “reklamador” or “pasaway,” Patreng listened. If the masses are not afraid to voice out their demands and work towards social change, why should we be? Let’s stop telling them what to do and as them instead what must be done. Let communities lead the way for community pantries. #

References:

Altermidya (2021, April 23). To ask or not to ask: Lessons on red-tagging & community pantry [Video]. Facebook. https://fb.watch/56UyZvIOhF/

Bolledo, J. (2021). “12-year-old boy chased by Pasay tanods loses consciousness, dies”. Rappler. Retrieved from https://www.rappler.com/nation/minor-chased-by-pasay-tanods-loses-consciousness-dies-april-2021

Chatinakrob. T. (2020). “Happiness-sharing Pantries: an effective weapon to ease hunger for the needy during the pandemic in Thailand”. Retrieved from https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/seac/2020/09/16/happiness-sharing-pantries/

Dionisio, J. et al (2021). “Contagion of Mutual Aid in the Philippines: An Initial Analysis of the Viral Community Pantry Initiative as Emergent Agency in Times of Covid-19”. Retrieved from https://philippinesociology.com/contagion-of-mutual-aid-in-the-philippines/

IBON Foundation (2021). “Joblessness worsens in February and will get worse with ECQ”. Retrieved from https://www.ibon.org/joblessness-worsens-in-february-and-will-get-worse-with-ecq-ibon/

Raymundo, S. (2021). “Community Pantry Ph: Hugpungan ng ginhawa at pag-iral ng use value”. Bulatlat. Retrieved from https://www.bulatlat.com/2021/04/22/community-pantry-ph-hugpungan-ng-ginhawa-at-pag-iral-ng-use-value/

UP department urges action vs red-tagging university exec

A University of the Philippines (UP) department slammed a university executive for his red-tagging posts against the community pantries.

The Department of English and Comparative Literature (DECL) in a statement said recent remarks by UP executive vice president Teodoro Herbosa regarding the community pantries are “dangerous and malignant.”

On its official Facebook page, the DECL condemned Herbosa’s remarks as a baseless insinuation that UP alumna Ana Patricia Non co-started the Maginhawa community pantry because she is a member of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

Herbosa also referred to Non as “Ka Patreng.”

“This is clearly a form of red-tagging, a deplorable practice that our own (UP Diliman) Chancellor Fidel Nemenzo asked the University community to denounce in no uncertain terms,” the DECL said.

The department added Herbosa’s other remarks against the community pantry phenomenon such as “Fake kindness is hate disguised as good,” and “Death by ‘Community Pantry’. I told you so!” are not reflective of the public service thrust of UP.

UP executive vice president Teodoro Herbosa’s latest controversial remark before setting his Twitter account to private. (Image from Prof. Judy Taguiwalo’s Facebook post)

The last remark by Hermosa was in reference to the death of Orlando dela Cruz who collapsed while queuing for actor Angel Locsin’s community pantry in Quezon City on Friday, April 23.

The DECL said Herbosa must be held accountable for his dangerous allegations as one of UP’s highest officials.

“We would be quick to call out such ludicrous illogical leaps in any of our classes; we cannot let this pass in an even more crucial and potentially life-threatening context,” the DECL said.

“As a department, we hold steadfast to the values of the humanities. We teach our students tolerance and understanding, critical thinking and vigilance. We reiterate that ACTIVISM IS NOT TERRORISM,” it added.

The department said that Herbosa’s statement endanger Non and all other UP students, faculty, staff and alumni who participate and contribute to the nearly 400 community pantries nationwide.

“Therefore, we strongly denounce the statements made by EVP Teodoro Herbosa and urge the UP administration to take action,” the DECL said.

Herbosa earlier gained public attention in October 2020 when he described the widespread condemnation of infant River Nasino’s death as “cadaver politics”.

Former UP Faculty Regent Judy Taguiwalo described Herbosa, a medical doctor, as a zealous supporter of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Herbosa’s Twitter (@Teddybird) account had since been set to private following a whirlwind of condemnations following his controversial remarks. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Teachers condemn arrest of Butuan City vice principal

By Joseph Cuevas

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) condemned the arrest of a union leader in Butuan City and called for her immediate release.

Rosanilla “Teacher Lai” Consad, ACT secretary in Region XIII, a special education teacher and an assistant principal of San Vicente National High School, was arrested yesterday, March 17, at around 4:30 pm in Butuan City by Regional Intelligence Unit 13 of National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA), the police and military.

Consad is also a member of ACT’s National Council.

Consad is being charged with attempted homicide in relation to a New People’s Army ambush in Sitio Manhupaw, Brgy. Poblacion 2, Santiago in Agusan del Norte last November 21.

ACT secretary-general Raymond Basilio said that Consad had been a victim of state vilification and repression since 2018.

In November 2019, she reported about intelligence agents visiting her school to inform her that she and her husband are part of a certain hit list supposedly for being activists.

“Teacher Lai’s case only proves that terrorist-tagging serves as a prelude to worse, more fascist attacks on rights, freedoms, and lives. All of which are part of the Duterte regime’s systematic attack on the Filipino people as it desperately seeks to silence all dissent and establish its tyrannical rule,” Basilio said.

ACT Teachers Party slams DILG memo

Meanwhile, ACT Teachers Party Rep. France Castro said that teacher Lai has been a victim of harassment, threats and red-tagging by state security forces for standing up for the rights and welfare of her fellow public school teachers in Caraga.

“The arrest came days after the DILG release a memorandum tagging ACT and other progressive groups in the public sector as a communist terrorist groups. These are the real threats of red-tagging to the safety, security and freedoms of activists, human rights defenders and union leaders who have been vocal about the failure of the Duterte administration in addressing the perennial crisis of the country’s health system, education system and economy,” Castro said.

ACT Teachers Party will file a house resolution in Congress to investigate Consad’s arrest, Castro added

Consad is expected to file a petition today to be allowed post bail. #

‘Maling-mali ang paratang ng NTF-ELCAC na kami ay terorista’

“Maling-mali ang paratang ng National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict o NTF-ELCAC at ibang opisyal publiko na kami ay terorista. Ito ay labag sa karapatang pantao, labag sa sinumpaang mandato ng gobyerno sa mamamayan. Ang ganitong pananakot at pagsiil ay pagpapahamak sa aming women’s rights advocates, at pagkakait sa kababaihan na nangangailangan ng tulong at pag-agapay.” Joms Salvador, Secretary General, Gabriela

‘Red-tagging is anathema to a democracy’

“We emphasize – red-tagging is anathema to a democracy. The promotion and conduct of such acts attempt to invalidate, muffle and silence the views and work of human rights defenders, activists, and advocates of social causes, and the peoples’ exercise of basic rights and fundamental freedoms.”Cristina Palabay, Secretary General, Karapatan