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National minority groups hold national assembly

National minority groups from all over the country gathered at the University of the Philippines in Diliman Quezon City last October 26 for the Second National Political Assembly of Sandugo (Movement of Moro and Indigenous People for Self-Determination).

They held a mass action in Mendiola in Manila in the afternoon.

Sandugo called for the ouster of President Rodrigo Duterte as they assailed the widespread human rights violations perpetrated by the state forces.

They cited the martial law in Mindanao that caused Marawi City’s destruction, the escalated number of killings of their leaders and organizers, as well as red-tagging, forced surrenders and illegal arrest.

They also condemned the continuous bombings and militarization of state forces that cause forced evacuation of Lumad and Moro communities.

The groups also scored the intensified plunder of ancestral lands of big foreign agricultural corporations and mining.

According to Sandugo, Duterte is subservient to the policies of imperialist countries such as US and China and surrendered the country for foreign plunder, including ancestral lands of minorities. # (Video and report by Joseph Cuevas and Maricon Montajes)

Duterte insincere on talks – peace groups

By April Burcer

June 21 should have been the day “Stand Down Agreement” between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) is signed, but the ceasefire did not push through because of the government’s decision to cancel formal talks between the parties.

In the “Are GRP-NDFP Peace Talks Still Possible with Pres. Duterte?” forum Thursday hosted by the group Pilgrims for Peace, Rey Casambre of the Philippine Peace Center said the Rodrigo Duterte government’s cancellation of the signing and implementation of the stand down agreement as well as the resumption of formal negotiations next week shows its insincerity in pursuing peace.

According to Casambre, another backchannel session is supposed to be the held as a final preparatory meeting being the government panel and NDFP finally resume formal negotiations.

Casambre also recalled that Duterte cancelled the fifth round of talks in May 2017 even as “all members of both panels as well third-party facilitators are already in The Netherlands.”

There have been three other attempts to hold the fifth round of formal talks in Europe, but were all cancelled by Duterte.

Last November, Duterte again cancelled at the 11th hours even after his negotiators have assembled in Europe for their third attempt at a fifth round of formal talks with the NDFP.

Duterte subsequently issued his Proclamation 360 on November 23 declaring the unilateral termination of the peace negotiations.

Even then, Duterte’s Proclamation 360 failed to follow the agreed process of talks termination, said Casambre.

“Any party can terminate the peace talks but there is a proper procedure. A written notice should be sent by the party who wants to terminate the peace talks. And there is another 30 days after receipt before the agreement is officially terminated. There was no written notice, it’s [just] a public declaration,” Casambre explained.

Duterte later added the issuance of Proclamation 374 declaring NDFP allied organizations, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA), as terrorist organizations.

Six hundred personalities were later listed by the Department of Justice as people behind the CPP and the NPA, including United Nations rapporteurs.

Bad Signal

It is not only with the NDFP that Duterte is insincere in talking peace, a Bangsamoro group said.

“For example, with the BBL (Bangsamoro Basic Law), even though it has been signed, we can only describe it as mangled, a sham, because the government can change it anytime. So the sincerity is a big question,”Jerome Succor Aba of SANDUGO and Moro Christian People’s Alliance (MCPA) said.

“The postponement of the peace talks brings a bad signal to the people of Mindanao. If there’s no peace talks, the human rights violations will double,” Aba said.

As the center of the armed conflict, Mindanao “calls for the resumption of the peace talks and honoring the agreements because what is happening in the peace talks have impact on the people,” Aba added.

He said, “We noticed that the time when the Proclamations 360 and 374 were issued were also the times when the military attacks in Mindanao were heightened. Since Martial Law was declared, more than 500,000 civilians evacuated from the area of conflict. Every week, farmers, Lumads and Moro are being killed.”

“What the AFP and Duterte government doesn’t realize is that Martial Law, in history, is what prompted the people to fight for freedom,” warned SANDUGO’s Kerlan Fanagel.

Disappointment and hope

Pilgrims for Peace and other peace advocates also expressed disappointment with the repeated postponement of the resumption of the formal talks.

“We want the peace negotiations to continue, to resolve the roots of the armed conflict. The bigger peace table with the Philippine citizenry has been on-going throughout the negotiations. The Filipino people want peace: both the peace that is the absence of armed conflict and, more importantly, peace that can be aided through agreeemnts like the anticipated Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforems (CASER),” the PFP statement said.

Casambre, however, said there is still hope for the peace talks.

“Yes, because there’s a people. Because when there’s a crisis, the people would make the parties go back to the peace negotiations,” Casambre said. #

Sultan: Relationship-building more than infrastructure rehab in Marawi

By April Burcer

“We want a rehabilitation that is anchored on cultural sensitivity and respect to religion, which we still don’t see until now,” Marawi City Sultan Abdul Hamidullah Atar during an Eid’l Fit’r Solidarity Affair Wednesday evening at the University of the Philippines in Diliman said.

Atar said that what they want is simple – to just be allowed to go back to Marawi while it is undergoing rehabilitation instead of having to wait three to four years as proposed by the government.

The solidarity affair, organized by Sandugo Movement of Moro and Indigenous Peoples for Self-Determination and the Moro-Christian People’s Alliance (MCPA) in time for the end of the month-long Ramadan was held in support of the “Balik Marawi Now!” campaign that aims to help displaced Marawi residents to return to their homes.

The Sultan also expressed his concern over the proposed debris management that plans to dump millions of tons of debris into Lake Lanao for reclamation purposes.

“This is not only an issue of development but also an issue of the environment. The rehabilitation of Marawi should not only serve this generation but the next and the next. If the debris destroys Lake Lanao, what can we give to the future generation?” he asked.

Various organizations expressed their support, including Australian missionary Sr Patricia Fox who said that this problem is not isolated to the Philippines, but is also happening around the world “because of a system that does not recognize the rights of the people.”

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate promised that “the Makabayan bloc will file a resolution to investigate the increasing human rights violation in Marawi and the complaints surrounding the rehabilitation of the city, as we all know that this rehabilitation is not culturally insensitive.”

Arlene Brosas of the Gabriela Women’s Party, on the other hand,  encouraged people in Luzon and Visayas to speak out and stand up for the Mindanaoans who suffer militarization.

Other groups present during the solidarity event included the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), the Let’s Organize for Democracy and Integrity, Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, Anakpawis, Gabriela, Alliance of Concerned Teachers, Musikang Bayan, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, the Confederation for Unity Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees, Kadamay, among others. #

Jerome Aba narrates ordeal in US

Jerome Aba, Sandugo co-chairperson, narrates his ordeal at the San Francisco International Airport when denied entry and interrogated by US immigration and homeland security agents for nearly 30-hours.

He was invited by Church groups to talk about the human rights situation in the Philippines.

Rally held at San Francisco airport in support of detained Filipino activist

Dozens of supporters held a rally at the arrival area of the San Francisco International Airport upon learning that Sandugo co-chairperson Jerome Aladdin Succor Aba was held by the United States Immigration Service and denied entry despite a valid 10-year multiple entry visa.

Aba was supposed to address church groups and go on a speaking tour about human rights violations in the Philippines.

Aba was nonetheless deported back to the Philippines on board Philippine Airlines at 12:30, San Francisco time.

He is expected to land in Manila on Friday, April 20, at six o’clock in the morning.

US holds Filipino activist, denies entry

A prominent Mindanao activist is being held by US immigration authorities at the San Francisco International Airport, various human rights organizations and individuals said.

Sandugo – Movement of Moro and Indigenous Peoples for Self-Determination co-chairperson Jerome Aladdin Succor Aba has been denied entry to the US and is being held at the airport, the alerts said.

Aba is scheduled for deportation back to the Philippines Wednesday night, April 18, US time, the alerts added.

US immigration authorities have not released the basis for the denial of entry against the Filipino activist.

Fellow Moro advocate Amirah Ali Lidasan said Aba’s travel papers are in order, including a 10-year multiple entry visa to the US.

Lidasan added that no lawyer has been allowed to see Aba even after 15 hours of detention and they do not know if he has been treated well and fed.

A well-known critic of the Rodrigo Duterte government’s war in Marawi and elsewhere the Philippines, Aba was invited to the US by several church institutions, including the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Sisters of Mercy, and the General Board of Global Ministries-United Methodist Church to serve as a resource speaker at their respective events.

Aba was to speak on the human rights situation in the Philippines under the Duterte government during the Sixteenth National Ecumenical Advocacy Days (EAD) for Global Peace with Justice in Washington D.C. on April 20 to 23.

The EAD is an annual national gathering of churches on peace and social justice issues that includes lobbying visits to Capitol Hill.

He was also scheduled to go on a speaking tour elsewhere in the US to campaign for a stop to the killings in the Philippines sponsored by the US Chapter of International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines.

Filipino-Americans and other supporters including Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-USA have picketed the airport to demand Aba’s release and for him to be allowed entry to the US.

Advocates from outside the San Francisco/Bay Area have also launched a phone barrage to the US Customs and Border Protection Agency, the alert said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

74-year political prisoner dies while in hospital detention

BANGKOK, Thailand–A 74-year old political detainee arrested under President Rodrigo Duterte died in a Philippine hospital Tuesday.

Marcos Aggalao, a veteran of the struggle against Ferdinand Marcos’ Chico Dam project, died while on hospital arrest at the Kalinga Provincial Hospital in Tabuk September 12 from complications arising from multiple strokes he suffered in detention.

The victim suffered his third stroke in prison last August 29. He also suffered dementia.

Aggalao is the second political prisoner who had died in detention under the Duterte regime. Both were elderly and sickly.

On November 2016, Bernabe Ocasla, 66, a peasant organizer detained in Metro Manila City Jail also died after being in a coma for three days and subsequently suffered a heart attack.

Aggalao was arrested September 10, 2016 by the Kalinga Philippine National Police on charges of frustrated murder and murder, among others.

Aggalao hailed from Balbalan, Kalinga province, one of the many communities in the Cordilleras that fought the Marcos dictatorship.

“Sandugo holds the Duterte regime accountable for the death of 74-year old political prisoner because he failed to fullfill his commitment to release all political prisoners, especially the elderly and the ailing,” national minorities group Sandugo in a statement said.

“To him [Duterte], political prisoners are simply trump cards he can use to force the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) into a bilateral and permanent ceasefire agreement ahead of the agreement on social and economic reforms that includes guarantees on the rights of the national minorities to their ancestral lands and territories,” Sandugo added.

The group said Aggalao is another addition to a long list of those who have given their lives and prime years “to fight tyranny.”

“But Duterte, in complete disregard [of history], acts to reverse this…He has consistently moved towards the political rehabilitation of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who was responsible for the multiple crimes of genocide against the Bangsamoro and the widespread dispossession of the national minorities of their ancestral lands,” Sandugo said.

Human rights group Karapatan for its part said Aggalao’s death is “enraging.”

Karapatan said Duterte’s “cheap tricks” to turn political prisoners into trump cards and deny them freedom have cost them their lives.

“It is not only their illness that have caused their deaths, but this government’s injustice and inaction. For every political prisoner who dies, ultimately, the GRP is accountable,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay in a statement said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

 

Sitio Sandugo as a cultural center

Sitio Sandugo is what the national minority groups participating in Lakbayan 2017 call their camp at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City.

On most days and nights, the camp is a bevy of activities that include those who visit them such as students, artists, medical workshops and others.

Watch this slideshow of how Sitio Sandugo becomes a center of cultural activities.

(Photos by Raymund and Pom Villanueva)

Sandugo blames Duterte on death of 19 year old Lumad student

National minority groups camped out at the University of the Philippines in Diliman blamed President Rodrigo Duterte for the death of a Lumad teenager in Davao del Norte Tuesday.

In a press conference on their sixth day in Metro Manila, Sandugo (Movement of Moros and Indigenous Peoples for Self Determination) said the killing of LUmad youth Obillo Bay-ao, 19, by a paramilitary trooper is on Duterte’s hand.

“We mark Obillo Bay-ao’s death with rage. It is another testimony to the mounting crimes of the US-Duterte regime against the national minorities,” Datu Jerome Succor Aba, Suara Bangsamoro chairperson and Sandugo co-chairperson said.

Bay-ao died Tuesday evening at the Davao Regional Hospital in Tagum City eight hours after being shot dead by a certain Ben Salangani of the Armed Forces of the Philippines auxiliary group Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit.

The victim was a grade six pupil of Salugpongan Ta ‘Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center in Sitio Dulyan, Brgy. Palma Gil, Talaingod, Davao Del Norte.

Sandugo said it holds the Duterte regime accountable for the escalation of attacks against the national minorities as part of its all-out war and counterinsurgency policies and martial law declaration.

“The national minorities—the Moro and indigenous peoples—are the hardest hit by Duterte’s martial law and all-out war,” it said during the press conference.

Sandugo said there are at least 29 documented victims of extrajudicial killings among the national minorities from June 2016 to June 2017, excluding those killed in the Marawi siege.

“Our people are being killed, harassed, and almost wiped out by state attacks,” Sandugo said.

The Sandugo second assembly at the camp out Tuesday indicted the Duterte for “the intensifying fascist attacks against the national minorities and the worsening land-grabbing and plunder of resources in ancestral lands and territories, which may now lead to ethnocide.”

“The President—who earlier recognized and promised to correct the hundreds of years of injustice against  the national minorities—now embodies national oppression, which has caused the injustices to and oppression of the national minorities,” the assembly declaration said.

Some 2,500 national minorities from the Cordilleras, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Mindoro, Quezon, Rizal, Palawan, Panay and the island of Mindanao are in Metro Manila for the assembly and Lakbayan. # (Raymund B. Villanueva/Featured image by Alcadev)