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VP Robredo blames Duterte’s ‘kill’ rant for massacre

Vice President Leni Robredo blamed President Rodrigo Duterte’s “finish them off” and “ignore human rights” rant for the massacre of nine civilians last Sunday, March 7.

In a statement, Robredo said she condemns the massacre she likened to the many innocents killed by the Duterte administration.

“There is no other way to describe this: it was a massacre,” Robredo said.

The Vice President noted that the incident came just two days after Duterte himself ordered the police and the military to kill suspected communists in a rant before the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict in Cagayan de Oro City last frint.

“This is the painful truth: The killing of Filipinos goes unabated,” Robredo said in Filipino.

“The Filipino people deserve better than this murderous regime,” she added.

Churh groups demand justice

Meanwhile, church groups also condemned the massacre and called on Duterte to choose the rule of law over militarization.

In separate statements, the Council of the Laity of the Philippines (CLP) and Caritas Philippines, both groups under the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, called for justice.

“The blood of these fellow Filipinos are literally crying for justice as they are wiped-off from the floor tiles of their homes,” CLP, through its president Rouquel Ponte, said.

“We call on peace-loving Filipinos to make strong statements of condemnation against these brutal and organized atrocities,” it added.

“We condemn in the strongest terms the ‘Bloody Sunday initiated by the members of the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Army,” Caritas for its part said.

Caritas called on the Supreme Court to fast-track the ongoing discussions and review of the controversial Anti-Terror Act the law’s opponents say emboldens the unnecessary use of force “which only victimizes the poor and the vulnerable. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Four other Southern Tagalog massacre victims identified

Four other massacre victims in last Sunday’s brutal police operations against activists have been identified, all of whom were accused of illegal possession of firearms and explosives like the other five.

Human rights group Karapatan Timog Katagalugan said Dumagat Sierra Madre members Puroy Berhemedo dela Cruz and Randy Berhemedo dela Cruz were shot dead by the police in Sitio Mina, Barangay Sta. Inez, Tanay, Rizal.

Urban poor activists Abner Damas Esto y Mendoza and Edward Damas Esto y Mendoza were also killed by the police in sitio Macaingalan, Barangay Puray, Rodriguez, Rizal as part of the Conduct of Simultaneous Implementation of Search Warrants dubbed COPLAN ASVAL by the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines across four provinces last March 7.

In a separate alert, Gabriela Youth Laguna said the dela Cruzes were killed separately but in a similar fashion.

Quoting Puroy’s wife Minda, Gabriela said the raiders arrived between three to four o’clock in the morning and ordered them to surrender with their alleged firearms.

But even before the dela Cruzes were able to comply the raiders shot at the victim four times and killed him, the group added.

Gabriela added that Randy’s family was violently roused from sleep an hour later when the raiders kicked their door down, ordered his wife Violy and their children out and walk 50 feet away.

As soon as the Randy’s wife and children turned their backs, the victim was shot multiple times, killing him instantly.

No details were provided as to how the Estos were killed.

Like the two others killed in Rodriguez, Rizal at what media groups dub as “Bloody Sunday”, the Esto siblings were members of the red-tagged urban poor group San Isidro Kasiglahan, Kapatiran at Damayan para sa Kabuhayan, Katarungan at Kapayapaan (SIKKAD-K3).

The PNP earlier bragged it killed nine persons last Sunday in a “big score” against alleged communists.

The five other massacre victims earlier identified by Karapatan Timog Katagalugan were:

  • Michael Dasigao and Mark “Mak Mak” Lee Coros Bacasno in Rodriguez, Rizal;
  • Manny Asuncion in Dasmarinas, Cavite; and
  • Couple Anna Mariz and Ariel Evangelista in Nasugbu, Batangas.

The police also declared it arrested six others of the same charge as illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

Karapatan Timog Katagalugan said among those arrested was Joan Ignacio Efren of Sitio Lukuang Malaki, San Isidro, Rodriguez, Rizal.

Earlier identified as arrested were:

  • Steve Mendoza and Elizabeth Camoral in Cabuyao, Laguna;
  • Nimfa Lanzanas in Calamba, Laguna;
  • Eugene Eugenio in Antipolo city.

The PNP refuses to identify the nine other target of its operations but human rights groups said one Lito Baez of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Batangas missed being killed or arrested as he was not home when the police raided his house. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

CHR: Duterte’s kill order emboldens impunity

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said President Rodrigo Duterte’s order “to shoot and kill right away” may have encouraged the massacre and mass arrest of activists in Southern Tagalog on Sunday, March 7.

CHR spokesperson Atty. Jacqueline de Guia said the national human rights institution expresses concern on Duterte’s statement on Friday, 5 March, to not only kill communists but to “ignore human rights.”

De Guia said: “Words matter and such words can embolden some to act with abuse and impunity.”

The mass killing and arrests of prominent activists and unionists in Rizal, Cavite, Laguna and Batangas in an operation called Conduct of Simultaneous Implementation of Search Warrants was launched two days after Duterte ordered the police and military at a meeting in Cagayan de Oro City of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

“If there’s an encounter and you see them armed, kill! Kill them! Don’t mind human rights! I will be the one to go to prison, I don’t have qualms,” the President said.

‘Brutal deaths’

Reacting to the brutal deaths of nine activists across three provinces, however, de Guia said, “CHR finds the number of deaths most concerning in light of the pattern of prevalent red-tagging and escalating attacks against activists,” de Guia said.

De Guia said the government is primarily obligated to respect, protect and fulfil the rights of everyone.

“Where the right to life is concerned, the government has the utmost obligation to fulfil its obligation—no matter which side of the political spectrum one belongs,” the lawyer added.

The CHR called on the government to urgently investigate, “given the brutal nature of the deaths and allegations of irregularities in the said law enforcement operations. “

De Guia also reminded the government to honor its domestic and international commitment to uphold, respect and protect human rights.

“We have yet to see concrete response to our repeated plea for tangible reduction of violence on the ground,” she said.

De Guia added that its Region IV-A (CALABARZON) office CHR is pursuing independent probes into the bloody operations. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

ASVAL is Southern Tagalog bloodbath’s name

The Philippine National Police (PNP) has revealed the name of the operation in four provinces in Southern Tagalog that massacred nine and arrested several other activists Sunday, March 7.

The police said it served search warrants in Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, and Rizal provinces in a Conduct of Simultaneous Implementation of Search Warrants dubbed COPLAN ASVAL.

The PNP in the CALABARZON (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) region bragged it “scored big time during the Simultaneous Implementation of Search Warrants” against alleged communist groups.

It said it “implemented” all 24 search warrants issued by trial courts that killed nine and arrested six activists. Nine others are still at large.

According to human rights group Karapatan-Southern Tagalog, the names of those killed include:

  • Michael Dasigao and Mark “Mak Mak” Lee Coros Bacasno in Rodriguez, Rizal;
  • Manny Asuncion in Dasmarinas, Cavite; and
  • Couple Anna Mariz and Ariel Evangelista in Nasugbu, Batangas.

Among those arrested were:

  • Steve Mendoza and Elizabeth Camoral in Cabuyao, Laguna;
  • Nimfa Lanzanas in Calamba, Laguna;
  • Eugene Eugenio in Antipolo city.

Activist Lino Baez was among those who eluded arrest.

The police refused to divulge the names of the four others killed, five others arrested and eight others at large.

The PNP said all targets are communist “terrorists” who allegedly illegally possessed guns and explosives.

In press releases and television interviews, the PNP claimed those who turned up dead “fought to the operatives (sic).”

Human rights defenders condemn the massacre and mass arrest in Southern Tagalog. (Bulatlat photo)

Legal activists as counter-insurgency targets

PNP-CALABARZON director B.Gen. Felipe Natividad admitted that the killing and arrest of the activists are part of the government’s counter-insurgency campaign.

“We have to act together to end the 51 year-old communist insurgency in the country. This is just one of the many initiatives and programs of the present government, and the Philippine National Police together with our counterparts in the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” Natividad said.

The police added ASVAL is part of “collaborative efforts” with the Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict to address insurgency.

“We have intensified our cracked down against members of CTGs (communist terrorist groups) in the region along with our counter-white area operations to convince these individuals to lay-down their arms and voluntarily surrender to authorities,” Natividad added.

COPLAN ASVAL was launched as two days after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the police and military at a meeting in Cagayan de Oro City of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

“If there’s an encounter and you see them armed, kill! Kill them! Don’t mind human rights! I will be the one to go to prison, I don’t have qualms,” the President said.

Human rights defenders call for justice for the victims of the PNP-AFP’s COPLAN ASVAL. (Bulatlat photo)

Known legal activists

COPLAN ASVAL’s victims are known legal activists, however.

Dasigao, a community organizer and an officer of a Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap-affiliate organization, led relief operations after massive floods hit Kasiglahan Village in Rodriguez, Rizal late last year.

Asunsion was a well-known Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN)-Cavite coordinator whose cadaver appear to have been dragged by the police from the upper floor of the Worker’s Assistance Center in Dasmarinas, Cavite, leaving streaks of blood on the floor and stairs.

The Evangelista couple were fisher folk rights advocates who were very much alive when dragged away by the police but later turned up dead in a funeral parlor in Nasugbu, Batangas.

Mendoza is executive vice-president of OLALIA-Kilusang Mayo Uno; Lanzanas is a paralegal of the political prisoners support group Kapatid-Southern Tagalog; Camoral is BAYAN-Laguna spokesperson; Eugenio is president of the Advancement of Rights and Responsibilities of Organized Workers LGU (ARROWS) – Antipolo City Hall; while Baez is an officer of BAYAN-Batangas. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

(Bulatlat photo)

NPA Southern Tagalog spokesperson arrested inside hospital

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in Southern Tagalog announced that Melito Glor Command-New People’s Army spokesperson Jaime Padilla had been arrested by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) forces at a hospital in Mandaluyong City Monday night, November 25.

In a post on the Communist Party of the Philippines’s official website, Patnubay de Guia, NDFP spokesperson in the region, said Padilla, also known as Ka Diego, was undergoing medical examinations at the Cardinal Santos Medical Center on his heart conditions when arrested.

De Guia said Padilla’s arrest was illegal and violates International Humanitarian Law (IHL).

“Maselan ang kundisyon ni Ka Diego Padilla at kailangan niya ng agarang medikasyon para sa kanyang nararamdamang sakit sa puso,” de Guia said. (Comrade Diego Padilla’s heart condition is serious and he needs immediate medical attention for his ailments.)

The NDFP said it vehemently condemns the arrest as it may further endanger Padilla’s life.

It pointed that that sick persons are given protection under the IHL.

The group demanded Padilla’s release to allow him to continue receiving medical care from doctors of his own choice.

Both the PNP and the AFP are silent on Padilla’s reported arrest. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Third political prisoner dies under Duterte

Another political prisoner died, bringing to three the number of activist detainees who failed to gain freedom despite repeated promises of freedom by Rodrigo Duterte earlier in his presidency.

Alex Arias, 63 years old, was declared dead on arrival at the Rizal Medical Center in Pasig City at about 7:30 Sunday night due to a heart attack, the eve of the International Human Rights Day.

Arias suffered from hypertension and diabetes mellitus type 2.

Arias was a former chairperson of Pagkakaisa at Ugnayan ng mga Magbubukid sa Laguna, an affiliate of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas.

He was arrested on April 7, 2012 on kidnapping with murder and frustrated homicide charges.

He was detained in Metro Manila District Jail Annex 4 (formerly SICA 1).

Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights said the cases were trumped up.

Karapatan added that Arias was among the 160 sickly and elderly political prisoners the Duterte government promised to release as part of goodwill measures for the peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

On November 28, 2016, peasant leader Bernabe Ocasla died of cardiac arrest. He was afflicted with hypertension and rheumatic heart disease while in prison.

On September 12, 2017, 74-year old Marcos Aggalao, who was suffering from pneumonia, dementia and hypertension, died at the Kalinga Provincial Hospital.

Karapatan said that the death of three political prisoners under the Duterte government is in stark contrast to its special treatment of convicted plunderer Imelda Marcos as well as other high government officials who have been released despite their crimes against the Filipino people.

Various group held a candle lightning and vigil in Southern Tagalog Sunday night Arias. # (Joseph Cueva/Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘Pakana ng gobyerno’

“Ang October plot ay isang pakana ng gobyerno para bigyang katwiran na harangin, i-delay at harasin ang lahat ng makiki-gunita sa araw ng mga magsasaka.”—Pido Gonzales, PAMALAKAYA Southern Tagalog

Free Ben and Rita Alliance to launch in forum on political persecution

The Free Ben and Rita Alliance that calls for the release of development workers Benito Quilloy and Rita Espinoza will have a Southern Tagalog launching this September 13 at the University of the Philippines Los Banos (UPLB) from 2 pm to 5 pm.

Benito Quilloy and Rita Espinoza were illegally arrested on October 19, 2017 in Kabankalan, Negros Occidental after conducting a series of consultations with members of the National Federation of Sugarworkers (NFSW) on appropriate development projects that the latter can undertake.

About ten members of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit (CIDG) of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) forcibly took them, handcuffed, blindfolded and brought them to the Camp Alfredo Montelibano Sr. in Bacolod City, Negros Occidental.

They were denied legal counsel and subjected to several interrogations.

None of those who interrogated them identified themselves.

They were brought to Camp Crame on October 21 without the knowledge of their lawyers.

On June 8, 2018 they were sneaked out of Camp Crame and brought to the Bayugan Police Station.

They were disallowed to bring with them their maintenance medicines and some personal belongings.

They are now detained at the Butuan City Jail in Agusan del Norte.

Quilloy and Espinoza are facing trumped-up charges.

Both are accused of illegal possession of firearms and illegal possession of explosives in Kabankalan, Negros Occidental. Quilloy has a murder and two cases of multiple murder in Bayugan, Agusan del Sur while Espinoza has robbery, arson and kidnapping charges also in Bayugan, Agusan del Sur. She also has a murder case in Zamboanga del Norte.

Quilloy is a Convenor and Senior Consultant while Espinoza is Project Staff of the Assert Socio-Economic Initiatives Network (ASCENT), a non-government organization that promotes and defends economic, social and cultural rights.

They have worked with poor peasants and indigenous peoples since their student days.

Quilloy, 64, is only a few units away from completing his Sugar Technology degree at UPLB while Espinoza, 61 is a high school graduate.

The Southern Tagalog (ST) launching of the Free Ben and Rita Alliance at UPLB is also a symbolic homecoming for Quilloy who was among the first UPLB students to work for the establishment of the student council during the Marcos years.

He also became President of the UPLB Chemical Society who eventually helped in organizing peasants in Southern Tagalog provinces.

Dubbed “Blindfolded: The Case of Ben and Rita, Forum on Political Persecution under the Duterte Regime”, the ST forum will have as speakers former Congressman Rafael Mariano, Sr. Patricia Fox, Atty. Maria Sol Taule of KARAPATAN, Professor Edward Deveza, and Atty. Filemon Nolasco of the Movement Against Tyranny – Southern Tagalog (MAT-ST).

Meanwhile, Quilloy’s family has likewise called for the release of Quilloy and Espinoza.

Millet Quilloy-Magsino, his elder sister said in a statement, “We strongly condemn the illegal arrest of Benito C. Quilloy and Rita Espinoza. Benito has been a kind and caring son and brother. We know him to be a principled man who has worked for the poor and marginalized sectors since his student days at the University of the Philippines Los Banos (UPLB).”

“Our family has been worrying about him since his arrest as he is suffering from hypertension and has difficulty in moving around due to a total hip replacement operation. He experienced chest pains when he and Rita were surreptitiously transferred from Camp Crame to Bayugan Police Station. Some of our siblings cannot stop from crying every time we think about him because he is far from us. We cannot understand why he is being punished for crimes he did not commit,” Magsino added.

“We demand for his immediate release. Free our brother Benito C. Quilloy and his colleague Rita Espinoza,” Magsino ended. #