CONTAK Philippines Weekly



Free Labor Lawyer - Int'l Human Rights Group

New York-based Human Rights Watch has called on Philippine authorities to immediately release labor lawyer Atty. Remigio Saladero.

Saladero, legal counsel of Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU-May First Movement) was arrested October 23 by combined elements of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Military Intelligence Group of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. He was accused of multiple murder and attempted murder in Mindoro Oriental.

Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch said, “Suddenly arresting a well-established activist lawyer for a two-year-old multiple murder case in another province should set off alarm bells.” “This smacks of harassment, pure and simple.”

The group expressed concern that Saladero was arrested because of the groups and individuals he has represented.

Pearson added, “Saladero’s arrest shows the Philippine government is not sincere in its pledges to stop harassing lawyers and activists.” “It’s not just Saladero’s rights that are undermined, but the rights of all Filipinos ever in need of a lawyer.”

The Human Rights Watch recalled several other cases that ‘bear similarities to Saladero’s arrest” which the courts have subsequently declared illegal. The group cited the case of the Tagaytay Five- Riel Custodio, Axel Pinpin, Aristides Sarmiento, Enrico Ybanez and Michael Masayes - advocates of farmers’ rights and the case of Pastor Berlin Guerrero of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP).

The group has also called on the United States and the European Union to monitor Saladero’s case closely and to call for his immediate release.

PUBLISHED ON October 29, 2008 AT 8:13 PM                            




HK group scores prosecution procedure in arrest of RP activists

MANILA, Philippines — A Hong Kong-based group questioned Tuesday the irregularities in prosecution in the arrest and detention of four activists, including a labor lawyer, in recent weeks.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) said the irregularities in the filing of charges in court raises questions on whether they adhere to procedure or if they have become a political tool.

"Today, observers have perceived that prosecutors act as accomplices of the police in the filing of fabricated charges in court, their judgment and reasoning are incomprehensible; they are neglecting and are abusing their authority. The costly price of this abuse and their complicity to being used as a de facto political tool is the security, life and liberty of those persons falsely accused," it said in a statement on its website (

It reminded prosecutors of their huge responsibility, not only in prosecuting criminal offenses or of violation of laws, but also upon the accused whom they are prosecuting.

AHRC cited the arrest of labor lawyer Remigio Saladero Jr., a member of the Pro-Labor Legal Assistance Center (Place), from his house in Antipolo City last October 23.

"He never knew that he had been charged until police arrested him. He also had no idea of the nature of the charges laid against him. He briefly disappeared after the police refused him permission to contact his family and his arrest also illustrated the manner of arrest by the police; arbitrary and irregular," it said.

The warrant of arrest shown to him was in connection with a murder case that took place in March 2006 in Puerto Galera, Mindoro Oriental.

But the warrant that was shown to Saladero bore a name and address different from his own, AHRC said.

"In these circumstances, Saladero had been obviously deprived of any means to defend himself. Even if the person in the warrant was him, but with the wrong postal address he would still not be able to learn about the charges to defend himself or to reply to the allegations in his defense. In fact, he never received a subpoena," it said.

Apart from the murder charges, Saladero was also being accused with the crimes of arson and conspiracy to commit rebellion, in connection with an incident in Lemery, Batangas last Aug. 2.

On the other hand, AHRC said two of Saladero's co-accused, namely Romeo Aguilar, the coordinator of Katipunang Damayan ng Mahihirap (Kadamay); and Rogelio Galit, the spokesperson of Katipunan ng mga Magbubukid sa Kabite (Kamagsasaka-Ka), are unwell and suffer from diabetes.

Aguilar and Galit were charged with arson and murder charges respectively. "As to how the prosecutors have been able to establish the sufficient ground and probable cause that they are involved in the crime once again requires rational explanation," the group said.

It said Aguilar was in his wheelchair when he came out in public to give an interview to the media on late October in which he denied that he took part in the burning of the cell site.

Aguilar said he was confined at the hospital the same day the arson allegedly took place. At the time he was suffering swollen feet due to diabetes.

When police arrested Galit from his house in Silang, Cavite, on Nov.
3, he was reportedly bedridden. Due to his diabetes, Galit's leg requires amputation and this was scheduled in the coming days.

They are part of the reported 72 people, 30 of whom are activists and leaders of progressive organizations, charged with murder cases for the March 2006 incident. The allegation put forward on these persons and the stories of some of the accused raised serious questions as to how prosecutors are able to determine elements of crime; and how they have substantiated the factual evidence of the involvement of these persons, directly or otherwise in these crimes," AHRC said.

It added the profile of these persons charged and those subject to arrest, affiliation and background of their work, illustrates the continued pattern of targeted attacks against the activists in the country.

"The use of the prosecution service, by way of filing highly questionable and incomprehensible charges in court, has increased although extrajudicial killings have sharply dropped there. This illustrates the de facto use of the prosecution system against those critical of the government," it said.

AHRC added the plight of these activists and their colleagues who are forced to endure trial in questionable charges; or maybe to go in hiding, illustrates the complete contradiction to how a prosecution service should function.

"It has become an adversary of the accused," it lamented.


11/04/2008 | 09:12 PM

SC grants farmer-brothers amparo writ

MANILA, Philippines -- The Supreme Court granted two brothers their petition for a writ of amparo, upholding the Court of Appeals’ ruling that military involvement in their abduction had been established.

In a 49-page decision, the high court said the possibility that Reynaldo and Raymond Manalo might be "executed stared them in the eye while they were in detention.”

The Manalos, who are farmers, said they were abducted by soldiers on February 14, 2006 on suspicion of being communist rebels and held until they managed to escape their military captors on August 12, 2007.

“With their escape, this continuing threat to their life is apparent, moreso now that they have surfaced and implicated specific officers in the military not only in their own abduction and torture, but also in those of other persons known to have disappeared such as Sherlyn Cadapan, Karen Empeño and Manuel Merino, among others," the high court said.

Cadapan and Empeño are students form the University of the Philippines who were said to have been abducted in Bulacan, with Merino, a farmer, by soldiers.

The Manalos have testified to witnessing the torture of the three in a military camp where they were detained together.

The high court also said the military failed to conduct an extensive investigation into the allegations of soldiers’ participation in the Manalos’ abduction.

"Apart from failure of military elements to provide protection to respondents by themselves perpetrating the abduction, detention and torture, they also miserably failed in conducting an effective investigation of respondents' abduction."

"The one day investigation by the military was very limited, superficial, and one-sided," it added.

In granting the writ of amparo to the Manalos, the appeals court directed the the military leadership to produce "all medical reports, records and charts, reports of any treatment given or recommended and medicines prescribed" to the Manalos .

It also ordered the secretary of national defense and the Armed Forces chief of staff to confirm in writing the places of assignment of Master Sergeants Hilario, alias Rollie Castillo, and Donald Caigas within five days from notice.

The two were among the six master sergeants who, along with members of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU), allegedly abducted and interrogated the brothers.

First posted 18:27:42 (Mla time) October 07, 2008
Tetch Torres


Groups seek CBCP help over rebellion raps vs activists

Militant groups appealed on Monday to the Catholic Bishop Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) to look into the case of the 27 activists who have been "falsely" implicated in the Globe cellular site bombing in Batangas last month.

Also, leaders of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) asked the CBCP to join them in denouncing the government’s “well-planned" violation of human rights.

“We ask the good Archbishop of Jaro (CBCP Prsident Angel Lagdameo) and other prelates to add their voice against this well-planned attack of the government against the cause of human rights and civil liberties done in the name of Mrs. Arroyo’s political survival and the military’s anti-insurgency campaign," KMP secretary general Danilo Ramos and Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said in joint statement.

The group said, implicating activists was proof that the government would not stop until all activists are wiped out from the political scene, adding that members of the New People’s Army (NPA) have owned up to the crime.

“After killing 901 activists and abducting 200 of their colleagues beginning 2001, the Macapagal-Arroyo government made another spin off on its campaign to silence critics by deluding them with scores of politically motivated charges to effectively keep them away from exposing and opposing Arroyo’s crimes against the people," the statement added.

KMP and Pamalakaya clarified that the 27 activists, who were charged with arson, crimes involving destruction and conspiracy to commit rebellion, were ordinary activists and leaders of mass organizations.

They added that the records of these leaders in upholding human rights and civil liberties were well known to the public.

The groups said the government, through the Inter-Agency Legal Action Group, has been spearheading the mass production of criminal charges against leaders of cause-oriented groups in the name of the government’s counter-insurgency program under Oplan Bantay Laya II.

“We know the CBCP is fully aware of this issue, but just the same, we appeal for the prelates’ divine intervention. The Roman Catholic Church’s pastoral statement regarding this latest attack on people’s rights and freedom is legally, morally and politically necessary," the statement added.

Aie Balagtas See, GMANews.TV 10/07/2008 | 02:58 AM


CA stops murder trial of tortured pastor


The Court of Appeals (CA) has stopped the murder trial of a pastor of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines and ordered the dismissal of the case against him after he was abducted, detained and tortured by his police captors.

Noting the judiciary’s “renewed vigilance” in the face of an upsurge in human rights violations, the CA ordered Bacoor Regional Trial Court Judge Matias Garcia to dismiss the charge against pastor Berlin Guerrero for the 1990 murder of Noli Yatco.

It criticized Carmona Municipal Circuit Trial Court Judge Myrna Lim-Verano, who handled the preliminary investigation, for not giving Guerrero the chance to defend himself and allowing the case to proceed despite weak evidence.

The appellate court also pointed out that Guerrero had been living normally and publicly as pastor when the charge was revived after 15 years and the pastor was abducted by police, tortured, interrogated and accused of being a communist.

Initial inquiries into the gun-slaying of Yatco was conducted in 1991 and 1992, but no action was taken on Guerrerro.

“The court cannot condone such injustice and travesty of the rights of an ordinary citizen charged with a serious crime during and after preliminary investigation when the information based on an invalid proceeding had been filed in court,” the appellate court said.

“The patent disregard of the laws and rules in the conduct of preliminary investigation by the investigating judge clearly constitutes grave abuse of discretion that warrants the exercise of this Court’s corrective power,” it said in a Sept. 23 ruling.

The CA decision, penned by Justice Martin Villarama Jr. and concurred in by Justices Noel Tijam and Arturo Tayag of the Third Division, came after it ordered Guerrero’s provisional release to former Sen. Jovito Salonga and his lawyer Emilio Capulong earlier this month.

Guerrero had been in detention for more than a year following his May 2007 arrest. He subsequently accused his police captors of torturing him as they interrogated him and forced him to give information on labor and peasant groups.

Guerrero had asked the Supreme Court for help after Garcia refused to junk the case, which was elevated to the Court of Appeals.

The appellate court said Verano violated the 1985 Rules of Procedure when she failed to subpoena Guerrero so that he could study the case and refute the allegations against him.

Such action, it said, betrayed Verano’s “disregard of the accused’s basic right to due process, which is particularly appalling considering her awareness of the weak evidentiary basis for probable cause against accused Berlin Guerrero.”

What was “worse” was that Verano had accepted the witness’ sworn statement as sufficient to proceed with the case against Guerrero, even though she said the witness should be brought before her, it added.

The appellate court also cited the Supreme Court decision that earlier dismissed the government’s rebellion cases against militant lawmakers because political considerations had tainted the Department of Justice’s preliminary investigation of the complaints.

It said the ruling stressed that procedures for preliminary investigations should be followed scrupulously to protect the people’s rights.

The court further said that though generally, criminal proceedings could not be stopped, exceptions were allowed when the proceedings turned into a case of prosecution.

“The foregoing applies with equal significance to the present case at a time when the judiciary leadership was impelled into action by taking more concrete measures in response to the recent emergence of human rights violations committed in the course of anti-insurgency operations by the military and often involving or carried out with the cooperation of police authorities,” it said.

By Leila Salaverria
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:33:00 09/29/2008



Another activist missing

Another activist has been reported missing by his family.   James Balao, a member of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), was reported missing since Sept. 17.  In a statement, the CPA said the family was expecting Balao’s arrival that day but he never came.

“The family was informed that he had left his residence in Fairview, Baguio City at around 7:00 a.m on the said date. Since then, he, unusually, has not been in contact with his friends or members of his family; nor can they contact him,” CPA said.

Balao, 47, is of medium-built, 5’7” to 5’9” tall. He was last seen wearing a black jacket, brown pants, visor, black hiking boots and eyeglasses. He was carrying a yellow and blue backpack and red traveling bag.

“He was going to spend the following days at the family residence in La Trinidad,” his younger sister told CPA officers.

CPA Chairperson Beverly Longid said Balao’s absence is ‘very alarming.’ Longid said Balao had reported regular surveillance to his family that started on the week of June and has increasingly heightened until his disappearance. “He has even observed white and blue vans that regularly tail him from his residence to his daily chores,” she added.

Vio Hidalgo of the Baguio City Police Office (BCPO) said there have been no reported arrests named Balao since Sept. 17.

The Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) said this is the first case of enforced disappearance in the Cordillera under the Macapagal-Arroyo administration.

Family members and friends called on the authorities, particularly the Philippine National Police, (PNP) the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the public to assist them in their search for Balao.

The CPA and the Balao family may be reached through 09175069404; the offices of the CPA (442-2115); or the CHRA (445-2586 and 09189199007) for any information about the missing activist. 

 (Northern Dispatch/Posted by Bulatlat)_____________________________________________________________________________________

Number of Political Prisoners Swells Under Arroyo Gov’t

Even without martial law, the Macapagal-Arroyo government has arrested and detained hundreds of activists. Worse, most political prisoners have been slapped with trumped-up criminal charges.

Human rights group Karapatan’s (Alliance for the Advancement of Human Rights) records show that there are 218 political prisoners in the country as of this month. Of this, 191 were arrested during the Macapagal-Arroyo government.

Not included in the figure are seven political prisoners who have been recently freed – Pastor Berlin Guerrero, Tagaytay 5 and Antonio Cano.

The Tagaytay 5 were Axel Pinpin, Ariel Custodio, Aristedes Sarmiento, Enrico Ybañez, and Michael Masayes.

Cano, meanwhile, was released after serving a five-year sentence for violation of the gun ban.


Donato Continente, spokesperson of Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Para sa Amnestiya (SELDA) said that while they are happy about the release of seven political prisoners, they are also enraged.

All of them, Continente said, were made to suffer for crimes they did not commit.

He said Guerrero should have been released a long time ago for there was no concrete evidence linking him to the murder charge. The Tagaytay 5, he said, was made to languish for two years and four months for a charge without any basis.

The gun found in Cano’s possession was “planted.”


Farmers, NDF consultants

Continente noted that majority of political detainees are ordinary farmers.

He said that most of them were picked up by soldiers and presented as members of the New People’s Army (NPA).

Five of the political detainees are consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). They are Elizabeth Principe, Eduardo Serrano, Randall Echanis, Angie Ipong and Randy Felix Malayao.

The arrest and detention of NDFP consultants violate the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), which was signed by the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the NDFP on February 24, 1995. In sum, the JASIG guarantees the security and immunity from arrest of all those listed as involved in the peace negotiations.

Criminalization of political offense

Continente also revealed that most political prisoners are charged with common crimes, in violation of the

Amado V. Hernandez doctrine. The Hernandez doctrine became part of Philippine jurisprudence when, in 1956, the Supreme Court ruled in the case People of the Philippines vs. Hernandez that a person who commits a political offense could be charged with rebellion but not with common crimes such as murder, arson, robbery, etc. It ruled that the act of rebellion would already include and absorb these crimes.

Only three where charged with rebellion, two of whom are women. Lucy Canda and Juvelyn Tawaay were convicted of rebellion after three months of court hearings.

He said that the practice of the government of filing criminal charges such as murder, kidnapping, robbery, arson, etc. against persons suspected of committing acts of rebellion are meant to destroy the credibility of and demonize political prisoners.

Continente added that with this way, too, the Arroyo government thinks it could hide the actual number of political detainees from the international community.

He cited as examples the five NDF consultants who have all been charged with a string of common crimes including murder. “Malinaw na political detainees sila.” (It is clear that they are political detainees.)

A protester holds a unique placard in front of the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) headquarters in Quezon City.

Continente said that progressive party-list representatives have been charged anew with multiple counts of murder. Bayan Muna Representative Satur Ocampo, Teddy Casiño, Gabriela Women’s Party List Representative Liza Maza and Anakpawis Representative Rafael Mariano are facing criminal charges months after the Supreme Court dismissed the rebellion charges against them.

Prison conditions

Continente was himself a former political prisoner. He was imprisoned for 16 years and eight months. He knows well the situation of political prisoners.

Political prisoners are detained in overcrowded prison cells. The National Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa has a 4,700-capacity but regularly houses 12,000 prisoners, including political prisoners.

At the Manila City Jail, a cell is good for 75 people but there are 250 detainees in one cell. Randall Echanis, deputy secretary general for external affairs of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP or Peasant Movement of the Philippines) is detained there.

Continente said political prisoners are mixed with suspects of common crimes. He said this practice aims to inflict psychological torture on the victims. While inside prison, Continente said, the biggest enemy is one’s self. “You would ask why you have been charged with such crimes but you’ll get over it,” said Continente.

At the Bohol Provincial Jail, Continente said the police fired at the detention cells of political prisoners sometime in January this year. The eleven political prisoners were protesting the replacement of the jail warden when the incident happened. Luckily, nobody got hurt.

Continente said that Ipong was sexually molested at the age of 65. He said another prisoner in Bicol is suffering from mental disorder due to physical and psychological torture.


Continente said the lack of pro-bono lawyers for political prisoners has been a problem. There are three political prisoners who still don’t have lawyers.

He said that some lawyers are not keen on handling cases of common crimes. If the charge was rebellion, Continente said, more lawyers volunteer to handle the case.

Moreover, Continente said that human rights lawyers have also been targets of the military.
He cited the killing of Gil Gojol, a human rights lawyer in Bicol.


Continente said today’s situation is worse than martial law. “Sa maikling panahon, ipinakita ni GMA ang pangil niya at naghasik ng todo-todong terorismo.” (In a short period of time, GMA showed her fangs and sowed all out terror.)

He denounced the creation of the Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG). National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales and Justice Sec. Raul Gonzalez are part of the IALAG.

“Sila ang nagtatakda kung sino ang kaaway ng gobyerno. Sila rin ang nasa likod ng extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances.” (They are the ones who decide who is to be treated as enemy of the state. They are also the ones behind the extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances).

He said that fascist measures being implemented by the Arroyo government intensify as the Filipino people rise up against it.

PUBLISHED ON September 20, 2008 AT 6:50 PM  


7 PUP studes file complaints vs military before CHR

Seven students from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) on Tuesday trooped to the Commission on Human Rights office in Quezon City and filed complaints against the alleged militarization of their campuses.

The students who filed their grievances before the CHR were from the PUP campuses in Sta. Mesa, Manila and Lopez, Quezon province. They were accompanied by the College Editors Guild of the Philippines CEGP, together with the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) and Student Christian Movement (SCM).

The complainants, in separate cases, complained of harassment by the military, the existence of military and intelligence forces inside their respective campuses, the setting up of military camps in nearby areas, and the baseless red-baiting of student leaders as alleged “New People's Army (NPA) infiltrators.”

CEGP national president Vijae Alquisola said these harassments “are clearly attempts to silence students and meant to send a chilling message to youth and student leaders.”

"These have got to stop. Not only are the students' schooling and futures affected but, more importantly, their rights to freedom of expression and to organize among themselves infringed. These are clear violations of students' rights,” Alquisola said in a statement.

To recall, five military intelligence officers were apprehended by PUP students last August 29 for allegedly spying on students.

GMANews.TV 09/16/2008 | 11:21 PM 


Activists mark Martial Law anniversary in Mendiola

Activists spanning several generations converged at the foot of the Don Chino Roces (Mendiol) Bridge on Saturday to commemorate the 36th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law by the dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

The groups demanded justice for the victims of the Marcos dictatorship and as well as the human rights victims under the Arroyo administration.

In particular, the protesters called for the release of 218 political prisoners, 198 of whom were arrested under the Arroyo regime according to human rights group SELDA.

“The Arroyo regime has gained the sole distinction of being the regime closest to the Marcos dictatorship in terms of its human rights record, corruption and foreign policy. The Arroyo regime is the best argument that we should never allow a return to a fascist dictatorship, no matter what the pretext is," said Bayan secretary-general Renato M. Reyes Jr said in a statement.

“Despite its claims of an improving human rights climate in the country, hundreds of victims are still being denied justice. Scores of activists are incarcerated in jails all over the country, a grim reminder that the vestiges of Martial Rule are still here," Reyes said.

The militant group cited the case of detained peasant leader Randall Echanis who was also jailed during Martial Law and is now facing murder charges under the Arroyo regime. Echanis has been in detention since January.

“It is a basic feature of a fascist dictatorship that all those who disagree with it are treated as enemies and criminals. This explains the huge rise in the number of political detainees under Mrs. Arroyo's watch," Reyes said.

Bayan and human rights groups Karapatan, SELDA and Hustisya converged on Mendiola Bridge for a wreath-laying activity and a short program. The veterans of Martial Law marched from Lepanto Recto while the younger generation of activists marched from the Bustillos Church.

“The fear of a return to Martial Rule by any name is not unfounded. We see the desperation of the regime to stay in power at all costs. We see the unrestrained role of the military in government. We see the continued backing of the United States for an unpopular regime," Reyes said.

“The only thing that stands in their way is the people. Our people have learned enough from Marcos and they will never allow such a monstrosity to return. Our people will resist," Reyes added.


09/20/2008 | 12:57 PM


Terrorizing Communities: The Oplan Bantay Laya II in Guihulngan, Negros Oriental

As the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) noted a decline in the incidence of extrajudicial killings in the country, another face of the government’s counter-insurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya II emerges. In Guihulngan, Negros Oriental, terror has gripped the hearts and minds of the people.

Since the latter part of 2007, the Central Command (CenCom) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) had declared Negros as its priority area in its counter-insurgency campaign. The CenCom specifically identified Central Negros, which includes Guihulngan, La Libertad, Vallehermoso and Canlaon in Negros Oriental and Magallon, Isabela, La Castallena, Himamaylan and Binalbagan in Negros Occidental.

Documentation by Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights)-Negros shows varying degrees of human rights violations.

Detachments in populated areas

In Barangay (village) Linantuyan, Negros Oriental, more than 160 soldiers are encamped inside the barangay hall and the public market. They belong to the 11th Infantry Battalion (IBPA) and 32nd Division Reconnaissance Company (DRC) under the command of 1Lt. Joseph Buencamino.

Thirty more soldiers under the command of Sgt. Jerome Espino are encamped inside the barangay hall of Brgy. Banwague.

In Brgy. Magsaysay, a squad of soldiers belonging to 79th Battalion Philippine Army and 1st Scout Ranger Battalion also occupied the barangay hall. In Brgy. Tinayunan Hill, a platoon-size military unit stayed inside the compound of an elementary school.

The occupation of barangay halls was documented by Karapatan-Negros in July this year.

On Aug. 7, a platoon-size segment of the 11th Infantry Battalion entered the St. Francis College in Guihulngan. When asked by school authorities, the soldiers said they were looking for water and a place to take their lunch.

A teacher in one of the elementary schools in Guihulngan revealed that the soldiers go in and out of their school without permission. Their pupils, the source said, are afraid of the military’s presence.

Cedula, ID system

Since March, the soldiers have ordered all residents of Brgy. Linantuyan aged 15 and above to acquire a cedula (community tax certificate).

The soldiers imposed a virtual identification (ID) system; cedulas served as the resident’s tag number.

After acquiring cedulas, residents are forced to report to the Army barracks for picture-taking, census and interrogation. The interrogations would last for one to four hours. Others are threatened and intimidated.

Interrogation, red baiting

In Brgy. Linantuyan, Karapatan revealed that residents are presumed as supporters of the New People’s Army (NPA).

A resident of Sitio (sub-village) Pinasagan was interrogated sometime in April. He was accused of carrying an M-14 rifle sometime in May 2004. One of the soldiers, who the victim identified as Silpao, cocked his .45 caliber pistol while conducting the interrogation.

Another farmer, 53, of the same sitio was accused of collecting food and P5.00 each from his neighbors for the NPA.

A 29-year old farmer was accused of being an NPA hitman.

A 47-year-old woman, resident of Sitio Alamag, said she was interrogated for two hours inside the barangay hall. A soldier, identified only as Silpao, told her that if she refuses to admit they support the NPA, it would be better for the Army to bomb her village.

There are more than 50 farmers who have been subjected to one to two hours of interrogation since the first week of April.

On May 14, the soldiers fetched eight farmers from their houses. The farmers were brought to the “Bravo” Company headquarters in Brgy. McKinley. They were made to sign a complaint of grave coercion against Lourdes Baloy, a member of the local peasant organization Kaugmaon.

Fake rebel returnees

A former barangay kagawad (village councilor) was accused of being a leader of the militia unit of the NPA. A news report said he surrendered to the Philippine Army. He denied the report.

On May 16, the Philippine Army called on all barangay officials to an assembly at the Hilaitan National High School –Trinidad Annex. The soldiers conducted lectures. They also said that all participants were ‘rebel returnees.’

The soldiers also ordered the barangay council to hold assemblies. In these meetings, the soldiers conducted lectures on anti-communist doctrines, and at times, threatened certain individuals.

In the same barangay, the soldiers coerced the barangay council to “pass” a resolution banning Karapatan and “supporting” the establishment of an Army detachment in the barangay hall.

Barangay Defense System

The soldiers also set up the Barangay Defense System (BDS), which they tout as their counter political infrastructure and as proof that they have “mass support”.

The soldiers used some members of the barangay council to list down the members of the BDS. Under this system, every able-bodied person is forced to perform the duty of “guarding” their detachment. Men are assigned in the evening and the women during the day.

Mock rallies

Karapatan-Negros said that the soldiers also staged fake rallies against Karapatan and Kaugmaon.

On June 9, some 50 members of the BDS and soldiers in full battle gear picketed the house of Kaugmaon’s Baloy.

On June 14, the military brought their assets and informers from the towns of Isabela and Magallon and staged a rally in the poblacion of Guihulngan. The “protesters” were accompanied by two trucks of fully armed soldiers. They burned the effigies of Fred Cana, secretary-general of Karapatan-Negros and Erwin Sabijon, chair of Kaugmaon.

While the Arroyo government claims that the human rights situation has improved, the people of Guihulngan, a city 30 kilometers from Dumaguete, continue to live in fear as soldiers who are supposedly conducting operations against the NPA subject them to constant threats and harassments. Bulatlat

Volume VIII, No. 31, September 7-13, 2008


Farmer files complaint vs Palparan, Esperon

MANILA, Philippines -- A farmer abducted by the military two years ago filed criminal, administrative and civil complaint against retired Major General Jovito Palparan and Presidential Adviser for the Peace Process retired General Hermogenes Esperon and several others before the Office of the Ombudsman.

Raymond Manalo cited several violations of the provisions of the Revised Penal Code, including kidnapping and serious illegal detention.

Also cited in the complaint are Major General Juanito Gomez, Technical Master Sergeant Rizal Hilario alias Rolly Castillo, Donald "Allan" Caigas from the 24th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, a certain Michael Dela Cruz, Randy and Rudy Mendoza, Pablo Cunanan, Junior Linggasa, Marti Adriano, a certain captain Parungao, Amang Ramirez and a certain alias PJ and Kayat.

He also asked the Ombudsman that the respondents be administratively held liable for gross misconduct.

A separate civil case was also filed this Friday with the Quezon City regional trial court where Manalo sought moral, physical, and exemplary damages amounting to more than P650,000.

Raymond Manalo accused Esperon, Palparan, and 20 other military officials for allegedly abducting and torturing him and his brother, Reynaldo, for more than a year in February 2006.

During torture, the supposed soldiers asked Raymond if he was a member of the New People’s Army; where his comrades were, how many soldiers he had killed and how (many) NPA members he had helped.

They said that Palparan even told them to ask their parents not to attend the hearing on the Petition for Habeas Corpus, rallies and not to seek help from human rights organizations like Karapatan and the “Human Right.”

Raymond said he was brought to Palparan’s house so that he could talk to his parents. Another captive, identified only as Hilario, also told his parents that if they disobeyed, they would not see their children again.

On Aug. 13, 2007, the brothers escaped from detention and were granted protection under the writ of amparo last Oct. 24, 2007.

“The Manalo brothers and all other victims of human rights violations deserve all possible support for combating impunity. Karapatan and relatives of victims of human rights violations strongly support the courageous effort of Raymond Manalo to file charges against the human rights violators,” said Marie Hilao-Enriquez, Karapatan secretary general, a human rights organization.

First posted 17:04:58 (Mla time) September 12, 2008
Tetch Torres Abigail Kwok


Army rockets kill 3 children, 3 others in south

MANILA - At least six civilians, including a pregnant woman and three children, were killed on Monday when Philippine army planes strafed and bombed Muslim rebel positions in the south a week after a peace deal collapsed, officials said.

Army helicopters and planes attacked rebel positions near a marshland after renegade members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) had fired at helicopters searching for rebels on the southern island of Mindanao, army officials said.

Musib Uy Tan, a local official, told reporters the civilians had been on their way to a temporary shelter area when their boat was hit by rockets fired from helicopter gunships.
"The boat was a total wreck," Tan said, adding that the bodies of a 53-year old farmer and his family, including a pregnant 17-year old girl, had been pulled from the water.

Colonel Marlou Salazar, an army brigade commander, said he was unaware of civilian casualties but reported that seven MILF rebels had been killed in the air strikes.

But army spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Julieto Ando said collateral damage in armed encounters was possible. 

"We're investigating that incident now," Ando told reporters.
Earlier on Monday, a crude bomb went off in a public market in Mindanao's Isulan town while another was defused near a hospital in nearby Tacurong City. Both are Catholic-dominated areas and thus potential MILF targets. 
Identical bombs

"Our investigators believed it was supposed to go off at the same time as the second bomb because the two explosive devices were almost identical," Major Armand Rico, another military spokesman, told reporters. "They were made from 81mm mortar rounds and remotely detonated by a cellphone."

Military chief General Alexander Yano warned of more bombings in Catholic-dominated areas in Mindanao even as fighting subsided since Ramadan started last week. He said the rebels had broken into smaller groups to avoid head-on confrontations.

More than 200 people, including 21 soldiers, were killed in August in fighting between troops and renegade members of the MILF blamed for attacking Christian-majority southern towns after the peace deal fell apart.

The government has been in on-off talks with the MILF since 1997 to end a rebellion that has killed 120,000 people and stunted growth in a region said to be sitting on huge deposits of minerals, oil and natural gas.

About half a million people have been displaced by fighting since Aug. 18 as troops bombed and shelled rebel positions.

On Monday, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) asked for more donations so it could continue providing food to around 70,000 people at refugee camps on Mindanao, adding that there could be more uncertainty after the end of Ramadan.

by MANNY MOGATO, Reuters | 09/08/2008 6:24 PM as of 09/08/2008 6:56 PM


SC studying expansion of ‘writ of amparo’--Chief Justice

MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE 2) The Supreme Court is studying the expansion of the powers of the writ of amparo to cover not only extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances but also to protect the economic, social, and cultural rights of the poor, Chief Justice Reynato Puno said Thursday.

Puno disclosed this in his speech at the “Kabuhayan, Karapatan, Katarungan,” a forum on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights: Violations and Remedies at the College of Law of the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City.

Puno said that in Latin American countries, the writ of amparo also covered other rights in order to protect the poor.

“We are also studying the possibility of widening the coverage of the writ of amparo by providing protection to economic, social, and cultural rights, including protection against demolitions and bringing the judiciary closer to the poor,” Puno said in Filipino.

He also cited the report released Wednesday by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), which stated that the number of extrajudicial killings has “significantly dropped” by as much as 70 percent compared to that of 2005.

“Marahil ay dapat talagang pag-aralan na palawigin pa ang proteksyon ng writ of amparo [Perhaps there is really a need to study the expansion of the coverage of protection provided by the writ of amparo],” Puno said.

The writ of amparo, which took effect on Oct. 24, 2007 is the judicial remedy available to any person whose right to life, liberty and security has been violated or is threatened with violation by an unlawful act or omission of a public official or employee, or of a private individual. Under Administrative Matter No. 07-9-12-SC, the writ of amparo covers existing extra-legal killings and enforced disappearances or threats thereof.

Puno said, the high tribunal was exerting all efforts to make justice more accessible to the people.

"We will see how we can extend further the Philippine Writ of Amparo," Puno said.

Aside from expanding the writ of amparo, Puno said the high court was also studying all the recommendations that were given to them in a forum last July 9 on Increasing Access to Justice.

These include exemption to pay bailbonds on special cases involving the marginalized sector like the indigenous people, reducing payment of docket fees for poor litigants, reducing copy of pleadings required by the courts, prohibiting the sale of transcript of stenographic notes, creating legal clinics to familiarize the marginalized sectors on the judiciary.

He added that the Supreme Court's Technical Working Group has also finished its outline on the Rule of Procedure for Small Claims Cases where there would be special courts to hear cases involving amounts less than P100,000 without any more need for any legal representation and would involve a faster process.

During the forum, militant groups from the children, labor, agricultural, and environmental sectors presented their problems and recommendations to Puno, underscoring the need for accessible justice to the poor.

Lawyer Jules Matibag from the National Union of People's Lawyers (NUPL) said there was a need to protect the poor from SLAPP, or Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation. These SLAPP cases, he said, were particularly targeted towards the poor and marginalized sectors in society, prohibiting them from practicing their basic constitutional rights.

“Ang mga SLAPP cases na ito ay may layuning manakot, manggipit, at magpahirap sa publiko tulad na lang nga mga [These SLAPP cases are meant to sow fear, pressure, and make it difficult for the public like the] multimillion libel cases, slander...that people feel it difficult to pursue justice,” Matibag said.

He added that the usual victims of SLAPP cases were students, media, residents, and indigenous groups.

Matibag proposed “SLAPP back” cases where the subject of the complaint could file countersuits that would seek appropriate actions on damages caused by the SLAPP complaint.

Puno also assured militant groups in the forum that he would give attention to their problems and recommendations, “to respond to the SLAPP cases that are being used to confuse and stop the upholding of economic, social, and cultural rights under the Constitution. Part of this will also be the SLAPP back action for damages against those filing senseless SLAPP cases. We will also study processes that are being implemented in Canada, US, and Europe where SLAPP cases and SLAPP back actions originated.”

“I will give attention to your proposals. Everything that you’ve said were true… especially about the elite-dominated constitutional government system. Only those who are blind and deaf cannot see the truth and that truth has been taught long ago,” Puno said in Filipino.

First posted 14:19:29 (Mla time) August 28, 2008
Abigail Kwok Tetch Torres

Families of disappeared protest at Plaza Miranda

MANILA, Philippines -- Families of victims of alleged "enforced disappearances" held a protest at the historic Plaza Miranda outside the Quiapo Church on Saturday calling for justice for their loved ones.

The rally is in line with the celebration of the International Day of the Disappeared which was declared in Costa Rica on August 30, 1981, Desaparecidos said.

Various artists performed songs and read poems during the program which was attended by some 100 members of various militant groups like AnakBayan, Alliance of Concerned Teachers, National Federation of Peasant Women Philippines, and AnakPawis.

Bayan Muna party-list Representative Teddy Casino also issued his support for the cause of Desaparecidos.

"Ang bawat iyak, hinagpis at ngitngit ng pamilya ng mga nawawala ay galit, hinagpis at ngitngit ng sambayanang Pilipino dahil sa isang sibilisadong lipunan, hindi puwedeng payagan ang isang karumaldumal na krimen gaya ng sapilitang pagkawala (Every cry, sob, and anger of the family of the missing is the cry, sob, and anger of the Filipino people, because in a civilized society, this crime is not allowed)," Casino said in his speech during the program.

The protesters demanded for the resurfacing of their loved ones and for the punishment for "state perpetrators of enforced disappearance."

The group slammed the government's Oplan Bantay Laya projects which they blame for the disappearance of their relatives.

"Even as we remember and give tribute to our missing loved ones, we also demand that Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's regime be punished for its implementation of enforced disappearance," said Mary Guy Portajada, spokesperson of Desaparesidos.

Almost 2,000 disappeared have been recorded beginning the term of former President Ferdinand Marcos until the present regime, Desaparesidos said.

Since the beginning of President Gloria Arroyos's term in 2001, some 193 victims have been reported missing or were victims of extrajudicial killings, the group added.

"Enforced disappearance is the worst kind of repression. It must be stopped, and heads of State which implement this must be punished," Portajada said.

The group added that disappearance "violates the right to life, liberty and dignity, and the right to trial and due process, the right against torture and illegal detention, the rights of persons in detention, and even the right against the desecration of one's body."

The relatives of the desaparecidos said they no longer expect to receive justice from the courts since the Court of Appeals and lower courts have continuously denied their petitions for writs of habeas corpus and amparo.

Nevertheless, the group appealed for the ratification of the 2006 International Convention for the Protection of all Persons against Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance and the passing of a pending bill which criminalizes enforced disappearance.

"The proposed bill has been gathering dust in Congress and in spite of the continued cases of disappearance, no one has been punished," Portajada said.

House Bill 2236 or the "Anti-enforced disappearance Act" is a popular bill and has been signed by 132 congressmen but objections were raised by the Technical Working Group tasked to polish the bill, Casino said.

The party-list congressman said the representatives of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police are opposed to the bill.

"Ang mismong mga tao, mga opisyal na may tungkulin na pigilan ang sapilitang pagkawala ang siya mismong mga gumagawa ng krimen. Mismong mga pulis at mga militar ang siya mismong dumudukot sa mga aktibista, organisador at mga pinaghihinalaang kalaban ng pamahalaan (The same people who are responsible for stopping the crime are the same people who are committing it. The police and the military are themselves abducting activists, organizers, and anti-government oppositionists," Casino said.

Progressive party-list members in the Congress will lobby for the passing of the HB 2236 by the end of this year, he said.

Meanwhile, after the program in Plaza Miranda the protesters marched to Mendiola Bridge bearing lit lanterns which symbolized the lighting of the way for justice for the victims of enforced disappearances during the Arroyo administration.

First posted 22:01:45 (Mla time) August 30, 2008
Katherine Evangelista

2 ‘Tagaytay 5’ members fear revival of anti-subversion law

MANILA, Philippines—The series of legal setbacks of the government against the critics of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo may lead to the revival of the anti-subversion law to silence militant organizations, members of the so-called “Tagaytay 5” warned Friday.

A day after they were released from detention, Aristedes Sarmiento, Riel Custodio and Axel Pinpin took turns in lambasting the police and other government agencies responsible for their two-year imprisonment.

“The Merlins at the DOJ (Department of Justice), in collusion with the hoodlums in uniform, tried vainly to legitimize classic illegal acts ... by charging us with a nonbailable rebellion charge,” Sarmiento read from a prepared statement during a news conference in Quezon City on Friday noon.

Two other members of the group, Michael Mesayes and Enrico Ybañez, who immediately went home to their respective families in Tagaytay, were not present at the news briefing.

Collectively known as “Tagaytay 5,” Sarmiento, Custodio, Pinpin, Mesayes and Ybañez were seized by plainclothes policemen and agents of Naval Intelligence and Security Force in Tagaytay City on April 28, 2006.

After being held incommunicado for three days, the five were presented to the media as members of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) who were supposedly tasked to sow terror on the celebration of May 1 rally in Manila.

On Thursday, the group was ordered released by a Tagaytay court after ruling that the five were detained for a “nonexistent crime.”

Speaking for the group, Sarmiento said while they were happy with their release, they fear that their legal victory might force the government to resurrect the anti-subversion law which was extensively used by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos to legitimize the arrest of government critics and activists in the 1970s.

He likened the government’s actions to link cause-oriented groups to the communist movement as similar to the anti-communist tactic of the US government to pin down legitimate people’s organizations during the Cold War.

“Given the successive legal defeats of the government’s legal Merlins in political cases such as rebellion, it is not far-fetched that the [Arroyo] regime will ultimately revive anti-subversion law or an Internal Security Act in order to crackdown on legitimate dissent and criticisms,” Sarmiento said.

Meanwhile, human rights lawyer Jose Manuel Diokno, one of the counsels of the group, urged the Arroyo administration to stop the “indiscriminate filing” of criminal cases against leaders and members of militant groups.

Diokno, son of the late nationalist and Senator Jose “Pepe” Diokno, also called on the Philippine National Police and the DOJ to reprimand their personnel behind the unlawful detention of his clients.

“We don’t have to file a case because the CHR (Commission on Human Rights) ruled there were human rights violations in this case. The records are already available. It’s up to them to hold their personnel responsible,” he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer, parent company of

Diokno said they are now preparing administrative, criminal and civil cases against members of the NISF and Calabarzon police who arrested his clients.

First posted 17:29:19 (Mla time) August 29, 2008
Marlon Ramos
Philippine Daily Inquirer

UCCP Bishop Council appeals release of UCCP pastor

MANILA, August 22, 2008—Members of the United Churches of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) Council of Bishops marched to the Court of Appeals last August 20 to appeal the immediate release of Pastor Berlin Guerrero, the UCCP pastor who was “abducted” by the elements of Philippine National Police (PNP) and now charged with murder.

Dubbed as the “Pilgrimage Walk for Justice and Freedom of Pastor Berlin Guerrero,” bishops who joined the said march and prayer vigil were Bishop Eliezer M. Pascua, UCCP’s secretary-general; Bishop Dulce Pia Rose; Bishops Emeritus Anacleto Serafica, Isaias Bingtan, Bishop Osias Jaim, Erme R. Camba, Elmer M. Bolocon, Gabriel Garol and Rizalino Taganas; Bishop Marino I. Inong; Bishop Ebenezer C. Camino; and Bishop Jessie Suarez, as well as other members and pastors of the UCCP.

“We believe that God is just and that our lives are in God's hands; so we are praying for the freedom of Pastor [Berlin] Guerrero. However, we are also very concerned that with the recent corruption allegations in the Court of Appeals, Pastor Berlin may not get a fair hearing on his pending case. We are here to remind justices and citizens alike that we remain vigilant in Pastor Berlin's case and that all are accountable to God for our conduct," says Pascua in a statement sent to CBCP News.

Guerrero, who has been detained for more than a year because of the murder case filed against him, was said to be abducted on May 27, 2007—a Sunday—after leading a worship service in his church in Malaban, Biñan, Laguna.

According to Guerrero’s own account, he was blindfolded, handcuffed and then beaten after he was brought to a so-called safe house where he had been tortured for days, forcing him to admit that he is a high-ranking official of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) chapter in Cavite, which he denied.

After the torture, Guerrero was brought to the PNP Camp Pantaleon Garcia in Imus, Cavite and only when his lawyer arrived was a faxed copy of a warrant of arrest shown.

It was later ascertained from the PNP that elements of the Naval Intelligence Security Forces handed the preacher to them at the camp.

Guerrero, who remains under detention, is currently in the Cavite Provincial Jail awaiting a decision on the quashing (throwing-out) of the trumped-up murder charge against him.

Arriving at the Court of Appeals, the bishops gave a letter of appeal to the CA magistrates asking for a speedy trial for Guerrero’s case.

However, after Justice Matias M. Garcia II of the Bacoor, Cavite Regional Trial Court denied a Motion to Quash the murder charge, the UCCP, National Council of Churches in the Philippines, Ecumenical Bishops Forum, Union Theological Seminary, the Kilosbayan Foundation and Bantay Katarungan Foundation now took the case to the Supreme Court.

Due to the lack of probable cause in the murder case and the human rights that have been violated, we joined together to bring the matter directly to the Supreme Court for the sake of Pastor Berlin Guerrero. Senator Jovito R. Salonga joined as lead counsel. We all feel that this case is a worthy struggle; the human and civil rights of all Filipino people are at stake,” asserts Bishop Pascua.

The case was before the Supreme Court for ten months, after which they remanded it to the Court of Appeals on the basis that facts must be adduced and that the Supreme Court is not a " Trier of facts." It is currently under Justice Romeo Barza, 12th Division.

“We are dismayed that the process is taking so long. Every day that Pastor Berlin is detained is another day that justice is denied to him. We understand in new ways what languishing in jail is—one of our vibrant church workers is doing his best to minister to other prisoners in the jail, but he could be more productive if he were given his due freedom. His family and church members are unduly suffering his absence as well. Justice delayed is justice denied,” comments Bishop Dulce Pia Rose.

“And now we have to worry about the corruption scandal allegations facing the Court of Appeals and the potential distraction or implications this may have on Pastor Berlin's case. It is very hard to attain justice, but we will do our utmost to keep the attention of the court on his case. Our prayer for Pastor Berlin's freedom must be matched by our best actions to appeal for justice," said Bishop Jessie Suarez.

If the Court of Appeals will decide to dismiss the Information for murder against Pastor Berlin Guerrero, he can be immediately released. This is the hope and prayer of the Council of Bishops of the UCCP. However, if the Court of Appeals does not decide in favor of Pastor Berlin he will stand trial on the trumped-up murder charge, Suarez explained.

“It will be very disturbing seeing a pastor, who has committed his life to God in the service of God's people, standing trial for murder. But, it's really not so different than the story of Jesus and His disciples in the Bible. We hope and pray the case of murder will be quashed and that justice will prevail,” Pascua said.

Noel Sales Barcelona


IFI Priest Receives Death Threat

A priest of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) received a death threat from suspected state agents.

Reverend Father Romeo Tagud of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) received an envelope containing an M16 bullet around 6:30 a.m after his first mass last August 3, 2008.

Tagud is the secretary-general of Promotion of Church Peoples’ Response (PCPR) in Negros.

In a statement, the PCPR said, “We strongly condemn this desperate and evil act as this is clearly a handiwork of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Oplan Bantay Laya 2 that uses unjust, brutal, destructive and anti-people instruments to sow fascism and terror against legitimate, legal, progressive and democratic personalities and consistent anti-Arroyo oppositionists like Fr. Romeo Tagud.

Oplan Bantay Laya 2 is the counter-insurgency program of the Arroyo government.

Tagud recently joined the eight-member delegation of Filipino-Americans from the California-Nevada Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, USA who visited Guihulngan, Negros Oriental last June 30 to July 2.

The PCPR said, “It is in this pastoral visit that Fr. Romeo Tagud bonded himself with the delegation’s expressed serious concern on the continuing deterioration in the observance of human rights in Negros, the existence of pervasive climate of fear and the lack of care and respect by government and the military towards the Filipino people who live in extreme poverty.”

The PCPR deemed that the harassment against the priest is a ‘wicked, immoral and unjust act aimed to silence him in pursuing his sincere advocacy for the defense of human rights.’

The PCPR added, “As a church worker, Fr. Romeo Tagud adheres to the Christian tenet of ‘Love the least of thy brethren’ and uphold the democratic rights of the poor and the oppressed to assert and exercise their basic right to life.”

Under the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo government, 27 church workers have already been killed, according to the PCPR. These include the former IFI Supreme Bishop Alberto Ramento and IFI priest Fr. William Tadena.

The PCPR called on all peace-loving church workers, priests, religious sisters, brothers, formandi, pastors, deacons, deaconesses, bishops, lay workers and to all the Filipino people to help defend and advocate human rights.

“…the Christian Church urged us to courageously defend and vindicate the rights of the poor and the oppressed, even when doing so will mean alienation or persecution from the rich and powerful,” said PCPR. Bulatlat

Volume VIII, Number 28, August 20-26, 2008


Bayan Muna Member Slain in Compostela

Bayan Muna (People First) organizer Wawie Dutarot was shot to death, around 1:00 p.m. yesterday by two armed men on board a motorcycle in Monkayo, Compostella Valley.

Dutarot is the 132nd Bayan Muna member killed under the Arroyo government.

In a statement, Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo condemned the killing and called on the Arroyo government to abandon its Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL or Operation Freedom Watch) counter-insurgency program which has resulted in the killings and abductions of scores of activists. 

"We directly hold the Macapagal-Arroyo government responsible for this latest atrocity   attributed to troops and militias under her control as commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines," Ocampo said.

He said that Arroyo has not adhered to the recommendations of United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions Philip Alston who visited the country in February 2007.

In his final report, Alston said, “As Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, the President must take concrete steps to put an end to those aspects of counterinsurgency operations which have led to the targeting and execution of many individuals working with civil society organizations.”

Ocampo said, "The AFP's continued implementation of OBL bodes ill for activists and poses more grave abuses of human rights," he said.    

The human rights group Karapatan has documented 910 victims of extrajudicial killings, 193 victims of enforced disappearances, and 331 cases of frustrated killings since Arroyo's presidency in 2001.

Posted 6:43 p.m., Aug. 16, 2008


Indigenous Peoples: More Marginalized, Impoverished Under GMA

The Philippines’ indigenous peoples – who comprise some 15 percent of the population and who are among the country’s poorest – have become more marginalized and impoverished under this government.

When Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo delivered her State of the Nation Address (SONA) last July 28, there was one man in the House of Representatives gallery who, upon being acknowledged, stood up. He was wearing a G-string, his tribe’s traditional male attire, and for a moment he threatened to upstage the Malacañang occupant.

That man is Rosario Camma, the overall chieftain of the Bugkalot tribe of Quirino, Nueva Vizcaya, and Aurora. He is also the mayor of Nagtipunan, Quirino.

Arroyo cited him as one of the country’s local heroes. She credited him for his supposed work at improving his tribe’s livelihood following the release of their Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT), which covers 100,000 hectares.

“After the release of their CADT, Rosario Camma, Bugkalot chieftain, and now mayor of Nagtipunan, helped his 15,000-member tribe develop irrigation, plant vegetables and corn and achieve food sufficiency,” Arroyo said. “Mabuhay (Long live), Chief!”

Himpad Mangumalas, a member of North-Central Mindanao’s Higaonon tribe and the spokesperson of the Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayang Pilipino (KAMP or National Federation of Indigenous Peoples of the Philippines), said Camma was merely used by the Arroyo government for its propaganda purposes. “Mrs. Arroyo just used him so she could look good, so she could have something to show that would make her look like she is doing something to improve the lot of the indigenous peoples,” he said in an interview.

Mangumalas recounted his encounter with Camma in a recent congressional hearing. “He is one of the pro-mining mayors, one of those who really work hard so that prospective mining projects in his area could push through,” Mangumalas shared.

“Development” aggression

The KAMP spokesperson finds it regrettable that a pro-mining mayor could be declared as one of the country’s local heroes, because large-scale mining, he says, has been and continues to be the biggest problem facing indigenous peoples’ communities. He says mining – that is, the large-scale mining conducted by multinational corporations – has led to the destruction of resources in indigenous peoples’ ancestral lands – and, in the worst cases, has led to displacement.

Data gathered by KAMP show that of the 24 “priority mining areas” marked by the Arroyo administration, 18 are in indigenous peoples’ territories. Ten of these, Mangumalas said, are in Mindanao; the rest are in Palawan, the Mindoro provinces, the Cordillera region, and the provinces of Quezon and Rizal.

Aside from corporate mining, another major issue that directly affecting indigenous peoples is the construction of large dams and other energy projects, mostly funded by multilateral institutions like the World Bank (WB) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB). A document submitted by the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Monitor (IPR-Monitor), the Tebtebba Foundation, and the Philippine Indigenous Peoples Link (PIPLinks) to the Universal Periodic Review (UPR)* earlier this year, “The Human Rights Situation of Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines,” states that “seven ‘priority’ large dams are to be built in locations that will directly affect indigenous communities.”

Mangumalas, meanwhile, cited the construction of the Sibulan Hydro-Electric Power Plant within the territory of Davao del Sur’s Bagobo tribe as one of the major energy projects adversely affecting indigenous communities.

“Development” aggression also takes the form of big agri-business projects, the creation of industrial zones, and so-called “eco-tourism,” among others. One major eco-tourism project cited by Mangumalas is the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway Project (SCTEP), which he said “has seized some land from Aeta communities.”

The document submitted by IPR-Monitor, Tebtebba Foundation, and PIPLinks describes the effects of development aggression thus:

“The widespread implementation of extractive industries and other development projects in indigenous territories without their consent is violating their collective rights and is worsening their marginalized situation... Their adverse impact (includes) the destruction of livelihoods, the environment, land, resources and properties and has also caused conflicts, divisions and the erosion of indigenous socio-political systems.”

Indigenous peoples’ rights

The enactment of the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997 was supposed to serve the purpose of protecting indigenous peoples’ rights to self-determination, economic and social well-being, and cultural integrity. The IPRA, in particular, includes several provisions on the protection of ancestral domain and land rights, as well as the requirement of indigenous communities’ free and prior informed consent (FPIC) for any project to be implemented within their territories, particularly those which may affect them adversely.

Shortly after its enactment, the IPRA’s constitutionality was challenged before the Supreme Court. In 2000, the High Tribunal – then led by Chief Justice Hilario Davide, Jr. – ruled in favor of the IPRA but affirmed the State’s “prior right” over natural resources while giving indigenous peoples stewardship “rights” over their land and resources.

Meanwhile there are laws that run contrary to indigenous peoples’ rights. The Mining Act of 1995 allows 100-percent ownership of land even in indigenous areas, paving the way for displacements. The National Integrated Protected Area Systems (NIPAS) imposes restrictions on indigenous communities in their own territories. The Forestry Code of the Philippines declares lands with 18-percent slope as “public lands” – making many indigenous peoples “squatters in their own land,” as the document submitted by IPR-Monitor, Tebtebba Foundation, and PIPLinks to the UPR puts it.

Militarization and killings

Mangumalas said that the destructive effects of what he described as “pseudo-development projects” are aggravated by militarization. Militarization, he said, facilitates the implementation of “development” projects that adversely affect indigenous communities. “The military are normally used to quell any sign of local opposition,” he said.

“The entry of these so-called development programs is facilitated by military deployment and operations,” he explained. “The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) even resorts to recruitment for paramilitary troops from among IP civilians, just to ‘secure’ the current government’s economic targets in the rural areas,” he said.

In not a few cases, militarization in furtherance of “development” projects have led to the killings of indigenous people who have dared to resist for the sake of preserving their way of life.

KAMP has documented a total of 130 indigenous people killed since 2001 – when Arroyo was catapulted to power through a popular uprising. Thirty-six of them are massacre victims, Mangumalas said, while eight are leaders of indigenous communities.

“Most of these killings happened in Mindanao, where there are a lot of ‘development’ projects,” Mangumalas said. “Several of these killings also occurred in Cordillera, where there are many large-scale mining projects.”


The Philippines’ indigenous peoples – who comprise some 15 percent of the population and who are among the country’s poorest – have become more marginalized and impoverished under the Arroyo administration, Mangumalas said. He said this leaves them no choice but to unite with other sectors pushing for Arroyo’s removal from office.

“We are not saying that her removal would immediately change things,” he said. “But that could pave the way for changing things, for the improvement of the lot of indigenous peoples and the rest of the population.” Bulatlat

*The UPR is a new mechanism that was established under General Assembly Resolution 60/251, which established the UNHRC (United Nations Human Rights Council) on March 15, 2006. The said resolution provides that the UNHRC shall “undertake a universal periodic review, based on objective and reliable information, of the fulfillment by each State of its human rights obligations and commitments in a manner which ensures universality of coverage and equal treatment with respect to all States; the review shall be a cooperative mechanism, based on an interactive dialogue, with the full involvement of the country concerned and with consideration given to its capacity-building needs; such a mechanism shall complement and not duplicate the work of treaty bodies…”

Vol. VIII, No. 27, August 10-16, 2008

Delegation decries human rights violations

Killings and abductions in the Philippines "continue without let-up," according to a United Methodist delegation from the U.S. that recently visited the country.

The visit was the second time a delegation from The United Methodist Church's California-Nevada Annual (regional) Conference has traveled to the Philippines to hear about human rights violations, which have been ongoing since 2001. The conference's first visit in February 2007 led to a meeting with U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer in which the group advocated for a U.S. inquiry into the issue.

Eighteen delegates, including seven young adults, traveled to three regions of the country June 24-July 7. The California-Nevada Conference has sent more than $12,000 to the Philippines to support families of victims of human rights violations.

Karapatan, a human rights group in the Philippines that tracks the violations, reports that from Jan. 21, 2001, to March 31, 2008, 903 people have been victims of extrajudicial killings. The government of President Gloria Arroyo has been criticized for its inaction and for possible ties to groups carrying out the extrajudicial killings. In that same time period, 193 people have "disappeared. "

"We heard from victims and survivors, human rights advocates, and a variety of persons from these militarized communities, " said the Rev. Michael Yoshii, co-chairperson of the delegation and pastor of Buena Vista (Calif.) United Methodist Church. "The testimonies of the people, and what we witnessed helped us in drawing this conclusion: The impunity of human rights violations under the present administration continues without let-up."

The National Council on Churches in the Philippines hosted the group and took the delegation to Guihulnga, Negros Oriental; Pananuman, Abra; and Nueva Ecija. The group also met with victims and survivors at the NCCP office in Manila.


'I am them too!'

Laddie Perez-Galang, a member of South Hayward (Calif.) United Methodist Church, led the group that went to Nueva Ecija.

The group met with two brothers in Pantabanga whose parents, United Methodist lay leaders, were tortured and forced to commit suicide.

"They were given two choices: their lives or the lives of their children," she said. "They already lost one of their older sons in a massacre that happened earlier. We were informed that there were other forced suicides in that area."

Perez-Galang lived in the Philippines until 1974 and was 13 when she left with her parents. She was also part of the first delegation that visited in 2007.

"I thought I was prepared and ready to actually see with my own eyes what I was reading and hearing about what is going on in the Philippines, " she said. "When we talked with the survivors and families of the victims, I felt their pain, their sorrows, their anger. I am them too!"

Victims speak out

Edith Burgos told the group her son, Jonas, was abducted and has been missing for more than a year. Jonas was an organizer among the poor farmers and fishers. The Rev. Melchor Abesamis, a student at Union Theological Seminary, was abducted, tortured and imprisoned for a litany of offenses. He was released and shared his story with the delegation for the first time in public.

Some of the delegation members visited a village recently occupied by AFP forces.

"At the village we were shown the empty bomb casings left behind after a monthlong intensive bombing raid," Yoshii said. "While there were no physical casualties as a result of the military activities, the daily bombing left the villagers in trauma, shock and disbelief that their homes could be taken over by their own military forces."

The group also visited a United Church of Christ pastor, the Rev. Berlin Guerrero, in the Cavite prison where he has been under arrest on charges of murder since May 27, 2007. He was abducted in front of his wife and three children and has been subjected to torture. Guerrero has maintained his innocence and said he has been a target of the state.

Guerrero has begun a prison ministry providing worship services and Bible studies, and he has organized a choir, Yoshii said. Mylene Guerrero, his wife, has been trying to get a visa to go to the United States for a speaking tour with Bishop Eliezar Pascua, but so far she has been unsuccessful.

"We told her that in spite of not making the trip to the U.S., her husband's case was becoming well known just through her attempt to visit," Yoshii said.

Perez-Galang said the group was told many fact-finding teams had come to the country but nothing had changed.

"They asked, 'What's the difference between them and us?'" she said. "We told them we made a commitment and a promise to the survivors, families of victims, human rights advocates and workers that we will tell their stories to our church members, our congressional leaders and representatives and everybody."


*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.


A UMNS Report 
By Kathy L. Gilbert*
July 25, 2008



State of Philippine media like state of nation--journalists

MANILA, Philippines -- “The state of the media is the state of the nation,” an official of a media group said Wednesday.

When asked to assess the situation of the country's journalists, Joe Pavia, executive director of the Philippine Press Institute (PPI), gave this reply, two days after President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo gave her own assessment on the country's situation last Monday.

Other journalists agreed.

During a forum titled PRESSing times organized by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), various media professionals and leaders said Philippines media was not faring very well.

Isagani Yambot, publisher of the Philippine Daily Inquirer (parent company of, pointed out some of the problems plaguing media today.

First, Yambot said, was the problem of harassments and killings of journalists. Based on PDI research, Yambot said that in 2007, the Philippines ranked only second as the most dangerous place for journalists, with 13 incidents of journalist killings. Iraq ranked first with 24 cases of journalist killings.

What was disturbing, Yambot said, was that those arrested or killed were just gunmen and not the masterminds behind the killings.

“They were not even the masterminds but only the assassins or the gunmen. This shows the culture of impunity or disregard for the killings of journalists has emboldened the killers,” Yambot said in Filipino.

Yambot also cited the journalist's lack of access to information, saying the country is “partly free” when it comes to media freedom.

Another main problem journalists here were experiencing was economical, such as low salary rates, increasing prices of oil, newsprint, and even the falling peso-dollar exchange rate. These problems affect the income of journalists and media organizations alike, Yambot said.

“The continuous rise in the price of newsprint, along with the rise in the price of oil and lower exchange rate of the peso to the dollar … That’s why there are papers that have raised their cover price,” Yambot said.

Finally, Yambot said, journalists often have difficulty in grammar.

“May mga nag-iisip sa Tagalog at nagsusulat sa Ingles [There are those who think in Tagalog and write in English],” he said.

Pavia said these problems were not only felt locally but also globally as well.

“These are global trends in the problem of media,” he said.

That is why journalists have to constantly review their craft and develop their skills, Pavia said.

Complicating things is the introduction of online media, which Yambot said, has posed a challenge to journalists to practice “convergence.”

“Hindi pwedeng humiwalay ang lumang media at bagong media [Old media cannot separate from new media],” he said.

Meanwhile, Joe Torres, chairman of the NUJP, said online journalism has tranformed “jologs” journalism to multimedia journalism, making it a challenge for journalists to transform their content and to learn technology.

“Habang lumalago ngayon ang technology, nandyan ang challenge [While technology is growing, there is the challenge] to be fair, accurate, and balanced, as journalists,” Torres added.

First posted 14:31:21 (Mla time) July 30, 2008
Abigail Kwok


SC tells appeals court to hear pastor’s plea

MANILA, Philippines -- The Supreme Court has directed the Court of Appeals to hear the petition of a detained Protestant pastor who had alleged that he was tortured by police and charged with murder without basis.

Pastor Berlin Guerrero of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, joined by former senator Jovito Salonga, among others, had sought the high court’s help to secure his release and stop court proceedings on what he claimed was a baseless murder charge.

The high tribunal said the allegations raised in the pleading contained issues of facts that it could not take cognizance of because it was not “a trier of facts.”

But instead of dismissing Guerrero’s plea, the high court said it should be brought to the appellate court, considering the gravity of his allegations.

“In view of the seriousness of the allegations of the violations of the liberty and dignity of a citizen who is said to be under detention, and in order that this case be acted upon with dispatch, the court, instead of dismissing this petition outright, hereby resolves to remand the case to the Court of Appeals,” it said in an en banc resolution released last month.

Guerrero was allegedly abducted on May 27, 2007 and tortured by men in civilian clothes. Later, he was informed by police that he had been arrested for the murder of a certain Noli Yatco.

He petitioned the Bacoor, Cavite regional trial court to have the charge against him dismissed, but his motion was denied, prompting him to run to the high court for help.

In the petition filed with the Supreme Court, Guerrero, with Salonga as well as other church groups and a Catholic Bishop, said there was no probable cause to try the accused for Yatco’s death.

The petition said Guerrero was never informed of the charges against him and that the witness who had implicated him never appeared before the judge who had conducted the preliminary investigation.

It also said the RTC disregarded the facts. It pointed out that during the preliminary investigation, the judge had stated that without the testimony and examination of the eyewitness, whom she acknowledged of failing to examine, there would be nothing to link the pastor to the alleged murder.

But the judge still allowed the murder charge to be filed, the petition said.

First posted 23:10:49 (Mla time) July 08, 2008
Leila Salaverria

Philippine Daily Inquirer


PNP top violator of human rights in RP--CHR chief

MANILA, Philippines-- Commission on Human Rights (CHR) head Leila de Lima chided the Philippine National Police (PNP) on Monday for still being the number one human rights violator in the country.

In a speech during Monday's flag-raising ceremonies at police national headquarters in Camp Crame, De Lima enumerated the various cases of human rights violations allegedly committed by police such as the Kuratong Baleleng rubout case, the Ortigas rubout of alleged car thieves and the alleged rubout of suspects in the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. robbery in Cabuyao, Laguna.

De Lima also criticized police for making media presentations of suspects who are usually wearing orange t-shirts with the word "detainee" printed on them, even if the suspects should be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

De Lima also warned the police the CHR would continue investigating cases of human rights violations and would file the appropriate cases against police officers involved.

"They (PNP) are still leading (the list of human rights violators)," De Lima told reporters after her speech.

National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief, Director Geary Barias told reporters that De Lima's assessment of the PNP "is to be expected."

"When you implement the law, there will be those who are hurt when they are at the receiving end when you impose the law," Barias said.

He said that when complaints were filed against policemen, these were immediately counted as human rights cases. "But these are not outright human rights violations. They are meant to harass our law enforcers," Barias said in defense of the PNP.

Barias said they have been implementing moves to integrate human rights in the training of police recruits. "We have a series of seminars as part of the recruitment where we pound this into the recruits."

First posted 15:40:47 (Mla time) July 14, 2008
Alcuin Papa

Philippine Daily Inquirer


 Despite drop in rights abuses, still no ‘vibrant democracy’

MANILA, Philippines -- While the incidence of extrajudicial killings may have decreased in the second quarter of this year, the human rights group Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights) maintains that the country still does not enjoy a “vibrant democracy.”

The right group released its second quarter Karapatan Monitor on Monday, which acknowledged that extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances committed against activists have decreased from April to June.

But the group said the government is no “human rights advocate.”

“Karapatan condemns the continuation of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, illegal detention, torture, hamletting, forced evacuation and other human rights violations against men, women and children,” the group said.

From April to June, Karapatan monitored seven cases of extrajudicial killings, 11 frustrated killings and two abductions.

But Karapatan gave credit for this to “UN special rapporteurs, representatives of international NGOs [nongovernmental organizations], foreign lawmakers…and to Chief Justice Reynato Puno who supported us in our defense of human rights in the Philippines.”

The human rights violations reported by Karapatan include the alleged abduction and “psychological torture” committed against Rose Ann Gumanoy, the daughter of slain peasant leader Eduardo Gumanoy.

Rose Ann was presented to the media last July 10 and denied allegations she and her sister Fatima were kidnapped by military men. But Rose Ann’s mother maintained her daughter was kidnapped.

Last May 15, peasant leader Celso Pojas, 45, was gunned down by unidentified men in Davao City allegedly by “military death squads as part of the government’s counter-insurgency program, Oplan Bantay Laya [Freedom Watch] I and II,” Karapatan said.

On the same day, Randy Malayao, 39, was abducted by unidentified men. Malayao, who was former vice president of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), was also a consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines in Cagayan Valley.

First posted 18:38:15 (Mla time) July 21, 2008
Abigail Kwok


More journalists ask SC to stop gov’t ‘prior restraint’

MANILA, Philippines -- More journalists have asked the Supreme Court to prevent the executive department from imposing prior restraint on the media during national emergencies.

Philippine Daily Inquirer publisher Isagani Yambot, editor-in-chief, Letty Jimenez-Magsanoc, reporter Volt Contreras, and columnist Solita "Winnie" Monsod, were among the journalists who filed a motion to intervene asking that they be included as petitioners in a pending case before the high court in connection with the mass arrest of journalists who covered the occupation of the Manila Peninsula Hotel by renegade soldiers last year.

The original petitioners in the pending case, among them a number of the arrested journalists, said government officials have continued to issue threats against them, citing the statement of Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez that in similar situations, media practitioners would be held criminally liable if they to "disobey lawful orders from duly authorized government officials."

Those who filed the motion to intervene also asked the high court to order government to stop branding journalists as protectors or co-conspirators of rebels.

The other petitioners are Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication (AIJC) president Ramon Tuazon, AIJC senior adviser Dr. Florangel Rosario-Braid, AIJC editor Nimfa D. Camua and BizNews Asia president Tony Lopez and more than 16 Baguio City-based journalists.

Aside from Gonzalez, the respondents in the case are Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr., Armed Forces of the Philippines' chief of staff General Hermogenes Esperon Jr., Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Avelino Razon Jr., National Capitol Region Police Office Director Geary Barias, and Criminal Investigation and Detection Group director Chief Superintendent Asher Dolina.

First posted 17:36:45 (Mla time) May 07, 2008
Tetch Torres

Kidnapped Albay militant released prior to ‘amparo’


LEGAZPI CITY – Surviving what could have been another extrajudicial slaying, former Bayan Muna Albay coordinator Noel Samar, 33, who was abducted by suspected soldiers Tuesday, was dropped off on a highway in Guinobatan, Albay Wednesday by his abductors, who even gave him P100 “so he can take a ride home.”


Vic Mirafuentes, spokesperson of human rights group Karapatan in Albay, said Thursday that Samar was released in Barangay Banao blindfolded, with no traces of physical torture but in a state of shock.


After his release, Samar refused to be interviewed for security reasons, Mirafuentes added.


The victim’s wife, Rogelyn Samar, 30, had earlier tagged the military as responsible for the abduction, quoting eyewitnesses in the neighborhood, prior to her husband’s release.


Rogelyn told the Inquirer earlier that the family would file a writ of amparo if her husband was not surfaced in two days.


Mirafuentes said the presence of witnesses, the support of militant groups for the victim’s family, and media coverage could have been important factors in Samar’s release.


Samar was an active leader of the League of Filipino Students and became a Bayan Muna coordinator for Albay in 2001.


He was abducted by eight to nine armed men while tending his retail store in Barangay Layon, Ligao City.


Rogelyn said that, according to witnesses, two men with closely cropped hair were seen buying soft drinks from her husband.


She said the same men grabbed Samar and hit him in the head with a .45 cal. pistol.


She added that when her husband lost consciousness, he was handcuffed and carried to an L-300 white Mitsubishi van that fled while being followed by two motorcycles.


First posted 05:04:22 (Mla time) April 18, 2008
Ephraim Aguilar

Philippine Daily Inquirer


Cheers greet RP report to human rights council but …


MANILA, Philippines—“We felt that we were on Cloud 9,” Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said in reporting the applause accorded the Philippine human rights presentation at the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on Friday in Geneva.


“It was very encouraging. I didn’t expect it. Pambihira (Unusual). I was told that presenters are not usually accorded that privilege,” Ermita told the Inquirer on Saturday in a long-distance phone call. “They all praised our report.”


But in a statement, Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro Casiño said he “nearly fell” off his seat after hearing Ermita deliver a report that he described as a self-serving, selective and “totally one-sided depiction” of the human rights situation back home.


Casiño, who is taking part in the UNHRC’s Universal Periodic Review as an observer, said that after Ermita read out the report, 16 member-countries expressed concern over the rights situation in the Philippines.


Earlier, a report e-mailed to Malacañang by Undersecretary Edwin Enrile, a member of the high-ranking delegation led by Ermita, described the Philippine human rights presentation as “quite successful,” as gauged from the applause.

Enrile said the Philippines was “praised by most [of the 47] UPR member-countries for having given a comprehensive and candid picture of the human rights situation in the country.”



As a whole, the report was designed to portray the Arroyo administration as a “vanguard defender” of human rights and good governance in the country, Casiño said.


“I was particularly flabbergasted to hear Secretary Ermita boast of the government’s superlative gains in fighting graft and corruption in the Philippines,” he said.


First-ever review

The UNHRC is meeting for the first-ever Universal Periodic Review, a mechanism devised by the council based on objective and reliable information to monitor the 192 UN member-states’ fulfillment of their human rights obligations and commitments.


The Philippines is among the 15 countries undergoing the review in the first two-week session.


Ermita’s 18-minute “opening presentation” followed by reports from other Philippine officials before an audience of about 300 composed of representatives of UNHRC member-countries, observers and participants was followed by a question-and-answer portion in which 44 countries had a chance to ask questions. The whole process took three hours.


Ermita said officials from the 11 Philippine agencies who flew with him to Geneva from Manila last Wednesday “helped” him “answer questions ranging from extrajudicial killings, protection of children and women, role of indigenous peoples and our migrant workers.”


He said the issue of human rights was “a wide-ranging subject.”

On the killings, Ermita said questions were asked on the Philippine government’s progress in following the recommendations by the Melo Commission and UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston.


The UNHRC member-countries were also curious about the writs of amparo and habeas data issued by the Supreme Court.


“They wanted to know how fast and what measures we have undertaken to stop extrajudicial killings,” Ermita said.


He said the council members were “very appreciative of our report that since November 2007, there has been an 83-percent drop in the killings.”



Enrile said that in its presentation, the Philippine delegation highlighted the country’s achievements in human rights and the reforms and measures it continued to pursue.


He said it also acknowledged the challenges that the Philippines was facing, including the extrajudicial killings that had been largely blamed on the military—an accusation denied by both the Armed Forces and Malacañang.

“And we welcomed the recommendations and all forms of cooperation from the international community,” Enrile said.


Ermita said that while “critical questions” were asked, “more than 90 percent of the [UNHRC] members said they are very appreciative of our report, and the fact that the Philippine government has welcomed Alston and given enough cooperation in the conduct of investigations.”


“They appreciated the forthrightness of the Philippines in discussing other human rights issues, not only on extrajudicial killings,” he said, adding that the council was “very happy to know our advances in the anticorruption drive.”


They were also “impressed” that the Philippines had an independent Ombudsman and a Commission on Human Rights, Ermita said.



But in a statement, human rights lawyer Edre Olalia said delegates from 17 countries grilled Ermita on the extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances of militant activists, rights of women, children, migrants and indigenous peoples, corruption, and the Philippine government’s failure to ratify instruments against torture and disappearances.


Olalia, a member of the UPR Watch delegation and the president of the International Association of People’s Lawyers, said the delegates were from France, Norway, Slovenia, Japan, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Canada, Latvia, Azerbaijan, Brazil, Algeria, Korea, Australia, Switzerland, Netherlands, Mexico and the United States.


“Stripped of the usual diplomatic courtesies, this sizable number sends a strong message that the Philippine human rights record is both under the microscope and within the radar of the international community,” he said.


Olalia said questions were also raised on the “absence of convictions of perpetrators” in 901 political killings since 2001.


He said the Canadian representative indicated that his country “remains concerned [about the] few convictions.”


The British, on the other hand, “said that the Philippine government’s implementation of international rights instruments was ‘delayed and problematic,’ and that their government sees ‘no impact’ from measures against corruption,” he said.



Olalia said many Filipinos who witnessed Ermita’s presentation were “appalled by the ebullient presentation of barefaced lies, spins, and out-of-this world razzle-dazzle ... ”


“Ermita and his delegation gave unsatisfactory and even formulaic answers to questions they chose to answer and totally ignored the rest, like those regarding concrete steps on the recommendations of UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston,” he said.


Casiño said what was even more incredible was the Philippine government’s claim that it was implementing anticorruption measures, including strengthening the Ombudsman’s investigation and prosecution powers, holding continuous trials in antigraft courts, and installing electronic case management and information systems.


Fresh cases

“I almost fell from my seat listening to him (Ermita) expound on government efforts to strengthen the Ombudsman and Sandiganbayan, the success of its electronic procurement system, and effectivity of its lifestyle checks,” Casiño said.


“Fortunately, not all countries took this line, hook and sinker,” the lawmaker said.

Casiño had earlier vowed to lobby the UN to strip the Philippines of its membership in the UNHRC in view of the fresh cases of extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances this year.


By Michael Lim Ubac, TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Posted date: April 13, 2008



RP urged to tell truth on rights situation before UN review


MANILA, Philippines -- Stop the lies, tell the world the truth about the human rights situation in the country, Bayan Muna Representative Teodoro Casiño told the government on Monday ahead of the United Nations Council’s (UNC) first Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in Geneva this Friday.


Casiño, who will leave the country on Tuesday to join the Geneva trip, said the whole UPR process might be rendered useless if the Arroyo government would continue with its “lies” and “cover-ups.”


The UPR is a new mechanism by the UNC to ensure the fulfillment by each state member’s human rights obligations and commitments.


“Paano magiging effective yung UPR ng UN kung ang Pilipinas mismo ay magsa-submit ng isang report na hindi nagsasabi ng tunay na kalagayan [How will the UPR of the UN be effective if the Philippines itself will submit a report that does not tell the real situation]? That will render the whole process useless. Nakakapanghinayang at sayang naman [It’s a pity and a waste],” Casiño said at a press conference.


“Ang panawagan namin sa gobyerno ng Pilipinas, sana naman magsabi kayo ng katotohanan sa [Our appeal to the government of the Philippines is to tell the truth before the] international community,” he said.


Casiño further said, “If the Arroyo government can get away with its lies and its cover-up in the Senate or in the House of Representatives, hindi nila magagawa yan sa UN at sa [they cannot do that in the UN and before the] international community. Nakakahiya naman [It will be embarrassing].”


The lawmaker branded as an “outright lie” the Philippine National Report (PNR) on the country’s human rights condition, especially its claim that the report was created through a series of consultations with various groups.


He also criticized the PNR for its failure to include the findings and recommendations of UN special rapporteur Philip Alston about the alleged involvement of the military to most of the extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances in the Philippines.


Casiño, who will sit as observer in the UPR, said he would also press for the removal of the Philippine membership in the UNC or “other less drastic ways” of sanctioning the country for “its failure to live up to its international human rights commitments.”


“Yung sanctions na yan [Those sanctions have], maraming [many] forms. One form could be probably the revocation of the Philippine membership in the UNC or other less drastic ways of sanctioning the Philippines,” he said.


“Pangalawa, i-compel ng UN na ipatupad ng Pilipinas ang lahat ng recommendations ni [Second, the UN should compel the Philippines to enforce all the recommendations of] Prof Alston because these are very sound recommendations,” he pointed out.


By joining the Geneva trip, Casiño also hopes that they will be able to sustain the international pressure on the Arroyo government, which he credits for the slight reduction of human rights abuses under this present administration.


By Maila Ager
First Posted 15:07:00 04/07/2008



Families of desaparecidos pin hopes of justice on UN

'Token moves' of gov't part of 'cover-up'-- Burgos


MANILA, Philippines -- Acknowledging that the chances of recovering their missing kin are getting "slimmer and slimmer," the families of victims of enforced disappearances have pinned their hopes for justice on the United Nations (UN).


At a forum in Quezon City, Edita Burgos, mother of missing activist Jonas Burgos, said "token moves" by the government -- such as the creation of Task Force Usig, the special police unit tasked to investigate extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, and investigations by the Commission on Human Rights -- are all part of a "cover-up" by the Arroyo government.


Although she agreed with the observation of the European Union that the incidence of human rights violations in the country has gone down, Burgos said credit for this should not go to the government but to the efforts of non-government organizations and human rights advocates.


"In short, the token moves of the government have not really helped. In fact, they are part of a cover-up, and I say this because it's true to the case of Jonas and I think it's also true to the case of the others here," she said.


Burgos lamented that, almost a year after her son's disappearance, their family is still searching for Jonas, haunted by the thought of his being tortured, hungry, and cold.


The young Burgos went missing April 28 last year after he was abducted from a Quezon City mall by what his family and human rights groups believe were military agents.


"It will be one year in April 28, I have not found my Jonas. We've exhausted all the means available to us in this democratic country. And so what is left to us? To look for relief from outside the Philippines. And that's not only true to Jonas but also true to the other victims," said Burgos, who elevated her son's case before the UN.


"Now why do we go to the UN? Because we hope that eventually, we would find justice. We know that after sometime, our chances of recovering our loved ones alive gets slimmer and slimmer," she said.


Burgos also hoped the UN would be able to help the victims' families pressure the government into not only returning their loved ones but also get those responsible for their abductions, torture and captivity, "to pay for what they have done, to right the wrong that they have done."


"That's why we keep on talking. To give them [perpetrators] a chance to follow their conscience and come clean, return our loved ones back to us, or we will not go away. We will say we will be a sore in your sight," she added.


Burgos said they can only find their loved ones once the truth comes out.

"Yes. We demand the truth. We want truth to come out. That's the only way we can find our loved ones," she said.


By Maila Ager
First Posted 17:53:00 04/03/2008



Remove RP from UN rights body--activists


MANILA, Philippines -- Human rights advocates are pushing for the removal of the Philippines from membership in the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNCHR) and the imposition of sanctions for what they called unabated extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances under the Aroryo administration.


Bayan Muna (People First) party list Representative Teodoro Casiño and the Reverend Rex Reyes, general-secretary of the National Council of Churches of the Philippines (NCCP), made the call Tuesday ahead of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the country's human rights record by the UNHCR on April 18.

The Philippines is among the first batch of 16 UN members up for review in accordance with a resolution issued by the UNCHR.


The resolution provides for "a universal periodic review, based on objective and reliable information, of the fulfillment by each state of its human rights obligations and commitments in a manner which ensures universality of coverage and equal treatment with respect to all states."


The so-called Troika of Rapporteurs will facilitate the review of the human rights situation in the Philippines based on three documents that would be required of each state: a nation report or national information prepared by the state under review; a compilation done by the Office of the Higher Commission on Human Rights (OCHR); and a summary prepared by the OCHR of reliable information submitted by other stakeholders, including non-government organizations and national human rights institutions.


After the review, the Troika will then submit a report to the Human Rights Council plenary.


Casiño called the UPR a "logical next step to muster broader international support after the government's failure to stop the killings in many parts of the country."


In early 2008 alone, the human rights group Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People's Right) recorded 14 extrajudicial killings and two enforced disappearances.


"We need to engage in the UPR process in order to tell the world the truth about the human rights situation under the Arroyo regime and to make the Arroyo regime accountable to its international human rights obligations," Casiño said at a forum in Quezon City.


"In this way, we hope to sustain and even increase local and, especially, international pressure on the Philippine government to put a stop to the human rights atrocities and the impunity by which these are committed," he said.

The leftist solon expressed hopes that, after reviewing the country's human rights record, the UNCHR would reprimand and, if possible, sanction the Philippines for the extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances.


"It would be a start, for example, if the Philippine membership in the UNCHR would be revoked," he said.


The UNCHR, Casiño said, must also ask the Philippines to immediately

implement the recommendations of UN special rapporteur Philip Alston on the killings and disappearances.


Speaking at the same forum as Casiño, Reyes also said the country no longer deserves to sit in the UNCHR because of its human rights record.


"The Philippine government does not deserve to sit in the UNHRC," he said.

Referring to an earlier finding by the Permanent People's Tribunal Second Session on the Philippines, Reyes said it is unacceptable for the Philippines to be a member of the UNHRC "because it undermines the credibility of the UN in this field; is an intolerable offense to the victims; and is a denial of the many well-documented denunciations of the dramatic violations of human rights in the Philippines."


"It is a source of inordinate embarrassment that the Philippine government is churning all these lies and hypocrisy masquerading through an idyllic, rosy image of the country's rights record before the international community of nations," Reyes pointed out.


Former vice president Teofosito Guingona, Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iñiquez, Bishop Julio Labayen, and families of human rights victims were also present at the forum.


By Maila Ager
First Posted 15:15:00 04/03/2008


Abducted Couple Transferred to Leyte

A couple abducted by soldiers and alleged as communist leaders in Leyte province have been transferred to the Leyte Provincial Jail after being surfaced around 3 p.m., March 24 in the PNP's Camp Vicente Lim in Calamba City, Laguna.  read more

After four days of disappearance, Jaime Doria Soldedad, 58, and Clarita Luego-Soledad, 50, were surfaced to their family around 3 p.m. yesterday, March 24. The couple, who were alleged by the Army as leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) in Leyte province, were abducted by government intelligence agents on March 20 in Bacoor, Cavite.

They were transferred to the Leyte Provincial Jail in Palo town today, March 25.

Upon their transfer, Luego-Soledad was subsequently released as the police found out she had no case in the province.

However, Jaime Soledad remains in jail as he is being implicated in the multiple murder case filed against CPP and New People's Army (NPA) leaders for the alleged purge of hundreds of civilians believed to be military intelligence agents who penetrated the ranks of the CPP-NPA in the 1980s. In August 2006, Army Chief Hermogenes Esperon presented to the media an alleged mass grave in the town of Inopacan, Leyte.

He is facing multiple murder charges in relation to the Inopacan "mass grave."

The couple was presented to the media on March 22. Newspaper reports said the couple was in the custody of Region IV police intelligence Chief Supt. Ricardo Ilagan Padilla in Camp Vicente Lim in Calamba City, Laguna. However, when the family and some members of Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of Peoples' Rights) searched for the couple on March 23, police officials denied they had the couple in their custody.


Luego-Soledad's cousin, Vilma Madrazo, reported the incident to Karapatan on March 22. Madrazo said she was abducted together with the couple but was immediately released when their abductors realized that her name was not in the list of those charged in connection to the Inopacan case.

In an interview, Madrazo said she was about to meet the couple in front of the 7-11 convenience store along Daang Hari in Molino 3 subdivision, Bacoor, Cavite at 4:30 p.m. on March 20, when around 10 unidentified men accosted them and hurled them separately inside a silver Adventure-type van, a white car, and another brown vehicle.

Madrazo said she was released somewhere in Alabang, Muntinlupa City after a ride lasting several hours.

Bayan Muna (People First) Rep. Satur Ocampo and Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) leader Randall Echanis have been arrested in separate occasions for the same case. Ocampo was released after the Supreme Court granted him bail while Echanis is still detained in the provincial jail in Palo, Leyte. Bulatlat

Vol. VIII, No. 8, March 16-29, 2008


Methodist pastor nabbed in Mindoro


CAMP VICENTE LIM, LAGUNA – A former militant leader who is now a pastor of the United Methodist Church (UMC) in Mamburao town in Occidental Mindoro was arrested Sunday night on murder charges, police said.

Charged with four counts of murder and theft, Rev. Melchor Abesamis is now detained at the provincial jail in San Jose town, Chief Supt. Luisito Palmera, Mimaropa police director, told the Inquirer.

Palmera said Abesamis was the secretary general of the united front bureau in Southern Tagalog of the Communist Party of the Philippines’ regional party committee. “He is a big fish,” he said.

Abesamis was implicated in the ambuscade allegedly staged by New People’s Army rebels on May 10, 2007, in Sitio Zigsag, Barangay Batasan, San Jose, which claimed the lives of four policemen.

“We are alarmed with incidents like (these in which) officials of human rights groups are either arrested or killed. Pastor Melchor is still fortunate because he was arrested and was not abandoned by his parishioners,” said Candace Ruedas, UMC district superintendent, in an e-mail to the Inquirer.

Cuario said what happened to Abesamis was similar to other cases of abduction and detention of church people who had worked with militant groups. “The government is again creating trumped-up charges against present and former militant leaders to cause fear among people and prevent them from joining progressive organizations,” she said.

Dorris Cuario, secretary general of the human rights group Karapatan in Southern Tagalog, said, quoting Abesamis’ wife, that the arresting officers were in plain clothes and did not present a warrant.

Palmera said, however, that police had a warrant issued by Regional Trial Court Judge Jose Jacinto Jr. in Occidental Mindoro.

There were 23 other names on the warrant, the Inquirer learned.

Abesamis had headed Karapatan in Occidental Mindoro before he became a pastor.


By Niña Catherine Calleja, Madonna Virola
Philippine Daily Inquirer

First Posted 03:25:00 03/18/2008


House panel OKs resolution on comfort women


MANILA, Philippines -- A resolution has been passed by a committee at the House of Representatives urging the Philippine government to ask Japan to formally acknowledge, “apologize and accept” its responsibility over the sexual slavery of young women, also known as “comfort women,” during World War II.


The committee on foreign affairs, chaired by Cebu Representative Antonio Cuenco, unanimously passed on Tuesday House Resolution 124 filed by Gabriela Women’s Partylist Representatives Liza Maza and Luzviminda Ilagan; Bayan Muna Representatives Satur Ocampo and Teodoro Casiño; Anakpawis Representative Crispin Beltran; and Parañaque Representative Eduardo Zialcita, an administration ally.


The approval came despite the warning issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs against the compensation provision in the measure.


Marcial Louis Alferez, acting director of DFA’s Asian and Pacific Affairs, said the specific call for compensation and claims contained in the resolution was a “reversal of the long-standing Philippine position on war claims and the prevailing understanding between the governments of the Philippines and of Japan.”


“All claims related to the war are understood to have been covered by the bilateral reparations agreement of 1996 and the San Francisco treaty of 1951. Other Asian countries have also received reparations after the war and they have made no claims afterwards,” Alferez said during the hearing.


“In all high level meetings between Japan and several other countries, no government has sought claims on behalf of comfort women,” he pointed out.


Alferez clarified that the department would not be an obstacle for claims made on individual or private capacity as well as to the chamber’s move to articulate its support for the comfort women.


“We are prepared, nonetheless, to explore ways to best assist in this endeavor of the House and of the lolas [grandmothers],” the official said.


Representatives of the Department of Justice and the Department of Social Welfare and Development also expressed support for the immediate approval of the measure.


Harry Roque, legal counsel for the group “Malaya, Lola [Free, Grandmother],” insisted, however, that the compensation call in the resolution was not a violation of the San Francisco peace pact, citing an “obligation entered into by Japan itself, which conditioned its surrender to its continuing compliance with modern human rights law.”


“Already, the resolution that we are discussing today specified at least breaches two human rights norms committed by Japan as a result of the comfort women situation and that’s a breach of an international law against trafficking of women and secondly, a breach of an obligation against slavery,” Roque explained.


Upon Maza’s motion, the committee proceeded with the approval of the resolution.


Cuenco said his committee would immediately make a report on the resolution so that the House could approve it at the plenary before Congress goes on recess on Wednesday.


First posted 13:41:32 (Mla time) March 11, 2008
Maila Ager


Jonas Burgos ma appeals to US-based Pinoys

The mother of abducted activist Jonas Burgos is now appealing to Filipinos in the United States in the hope of finding her son, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau reported Thursday.

Mrs. Edith Burgos, the widow of press freedom icon Joe Burgos, first met with the Filipino community in New York before heading to Washington D.C. this weekend for a speaking engagement arranged by the Ecumenical Advocacy Network, correspondent Len Thornhill said.

“I will speak there on human rights especially on the disappearance of my son and in behalf of the disappeared in the Philippines,” Mrs. Burgos said before her audience in New York.  

Mrs. Burgos said she hopes to meet US politicians. She believes that political pressure from the US government may help bring her son back home.  

She is also calling on her fellow Filipinos for help.

"I know that all of you here are educated, please help us. You're could provide a big help, not in the form of money but appeals to your congressmen to stop from sending aid to the Philippines that is used by the government to kill Filipinos and oppress us," she said.

The mother of the missing activist said she believe that the military was behind the abduction of her son who worked as a farmers’ organizer.

Witnesses said armed men forcibly took the activist while eating alone in a restaurant in Quezon City on April 28, 2007.  

“At the end of the day, I think that Jonas was able to do the mission he was asked to do by being lost, by being disappeared because now he is the face of the disappeared in the Philippines,” she said.

Army report on Jonas
Before leaving for the US, was able to interview Mrs. Burgos who submitted to the Court of Appeals a confidential Army report that indicates the military’s involvement in the abduction of her son.

The 11-page report made by 1Lt. Jaime M. Mendaros Jr., acting battalion intelligence officer. His signature, however, was not affixed to the document.

The 56th IB has been linked to Burgos's disappearance because the license plate of the vehicle used in the abduction on April 28, 2007 was traced to an impounded Asian utility vehicle at the Army camp in Norzagaray, Bulacan.

Mrs. Burgos did not name the source of the report. She said that the report, like all the other information the family has received, including the vehicle's license plate and the identities of those involved, were all given to them voluntarily.

"Nakakatuwa kasi ang mga major information na natatanggap namin ay nai-volunteer sa amin, hindi namin hinanap," Mrs. Burgos told in the telephone interview. With a report from Maria Aleta Nieva

ABS-CBN  News as of of 3/6/2008 5:30 PM

Army official changes tune on Sulu killings report

ZAMBOANGA CITY -- The military Sunday said the report about the deaths of eight people, including two children and a pregnant woman in Maimbung, Sulu that it released last month was not yet final.

In a hastily conducted press conference here, Lt. Gen. Nelson Allaga, chief of the Western Mindanao Command, said the report only covered the initial investigation and that the military had never cleared those involved.

The eight victims, one of them a vacationing soldier, were rounded up by the soldiers and deliberately killed, according to residents.

In its report, the military’s Inspector General (IG) said the operation conducted by the Navy’s special forces and the US-trained Light Reaction Co. in Barangay Ipil in Maimbung was legitimate.

“[The] ensuing gunbattle was a legitimate encounter between the enemies of the state and the government troops,” the IG said.

Sulu Gov. Abdusakur Tan said the findings had acquitted the soldiers involved in the massacre.

“The reports coming out were inaccurate,” Allaga said, stressing they never cleared the soldiers.

The report triggered outrage among officials and human rights groups.

A Moro human rights group based in Cotabato City said it was submitting the issue before the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

Tan said the big number of civilian casualties during the raid was unacceptable.

But Allaga said the soldiers took so much care when they conducted the operation against the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group in the area.

“The military operation was selective and deliberate and our troops were highly trained and properly equipped. There could have been more civilian casualties had [the] troops failed to follow the rules of engagement during the encounter,” he said.

Allaga also said two of the supposed civilians killed were actually Abu Sayyaf members Abu Baying and Abu Dyango. Baying was Ipil village councilor Eldisin Lahim.

Octavio Dinampo of the Tulong Lupah Sug said he had received reports that the military was trying to bribe the families of some of the victims to corroborate its claim about the encounter. Julie Alipala, Inquirer Mindanao

First posted 05:34:34 (Mla time) March 03, 2008
Philippine Daily Inquirer



Labor groups stage anti-Arroyo march in Makati

MANILA, Philippines -- Various labor groups converged at the Ninoy Aquino Monument in Paseo de Roxas, Makati City 12 noon Wednesday to call for the resignation of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and to denounce unfair labor practices in different companies.

Labor leaders estimated that about 200 members from the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), Nestle Philippines, and Yarn Venture Resources, Inc. from Cabuyao town in Laguna participated in the protest action that they said would go all the way to Mendiola in Manila.

Yarn Venture is a textile company owned by Donald Dee, who is also president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI).

Nestle workers who have been laid off complained that they have not received their retirement pay or their separation pay.

Meanwhile, workers from Yarn Venture expressed disgust over their termination that followed the sudden closure of the company in Laguna, without any separation pay.

Makati Police said the protesters had no permit to rally but nonetheless allowed them to stay until after lunch.

First posted 13:07:13 (Mla time) March 05, 2008
Abigail Kwok


US troop presence nightmare for hospital chief

JOLO, SULU -- THE CHIEF OF THE PANAMAO district hospital has joined calls for a review of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), the treaty that governs the conduct of the Balikatan between the Philippines and the United States.


But Dr. Silak Lakkian clarified she was not anti-American.


“The people could speak pretty well that I am not anti-American. In fact I like most of them, although like cholesterol, there is bad cholesterol and there’s good cholesterol,” she said.


Lakkian said she based her call on her experience following the Nov. 30 order from US troops to close the Panamao hospital at night.


She said much as she wanted to open the hospital at night, they feared for their lives because US troops, led by a Master Sgt. Ron Berg, threatened to shoot them.


Lakkian said the closure order did not only violate medical rules but also deprived residents of their right to medication.


She said what really made her firm up support for calls for the review of VFA was the death of an infant during the time the closure order was in place.


“In fact a baby suffering from fever and (diarrhea) was brought to the hospital at night and we cannot attend (to the case) because of the said order, the hospital was closed, we were informed the infant expired,” Lakkian said.


Lakkian admitted it took her some time to come out in the open because she was nurturing some sort of a “trauma.”


As hospital director, Lakkian said she felt bad about the infant’s death and the failure of patients to receive treatment.


The hospital was only re-opened after the “will be shot at” controversy came to the attention of government officials through the Inquirer.


“Personally, I don’t trust them anymore. It’s as if we have no rights, like we were animals that could be shot anytime,” she said.


In Midsayap, North Cotabato, despite the anti-Balikatan protests mounted by militants, American soldiers—joined by their Filipino counterparts—began construction of a grade-school building as the humanitarian aspect of the joint exercises started on Feb. 18.


Ian Doyle of the US army engineering team said they were using “American Standard” in constructing the small building in Kadingilan village.



Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 22:33:00 02/23/2008

Julie S. Alipala with a report from Dennis Santos, Inquirer Mindanao




17 Mindanao solons urge suspension of Lanao Balikatan


MANILA, Philippines -- Seventeen representatives from Mindanao have filed a resolution urging the United States and Philippine governments to suspend the Balikatan (shoulder-to-shoulder) joint military exercises in Marawi City and other areas in Lanao del Sur.

In House Resolution 467, the solons, led by deputy speaker for Mindanao Representative Simeon Datumanong of Maguindanao, cited the ongoing peace negotiations between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to justify the Balikatan's suspension.

They said the military exercises, which begin Monday, should be suspended "pending conclusions of the [government]-MILF peace negotiations."

The resolution also cited the strong opposition and condemnation from Mindanao residents , who fear the military exercises might lead to abuses, especially against Muslim women, and threats to life and destruction of property.

But one of the resolution's co-authors, Gabriela Representative Luzviminda Ilagan, in a separate statement, pushed not only for the Balikatan's suspension but the scrapping of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), the US-Philippine treaty that allows the military exercises.

Ilagan said the threats against the country's sovereignty presented by the VFA were reason enough to abrogate the agreement.

She claimed the military exercises are in obvious violation of the Constitution and should give people all the more reason to call for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's resignation.

"For several years now, since US troops have begun to inhabit Mindanao, they have left a trail of human rights violations that remain unresolved," Ilagan said. "We join the people of Mindanao in calling for an end to the Balikatan 2008 and the Visiting Forces Agreement."


Maila Ager

First posted 15:52:48 (Mla time)

February 18, 2008




Return to sender: Edita’s love letter to ‘Jay’


MANILA, Philippines -- A few days before Christmas last year, Edita Burgos, the mother of missing activist Jonas Burgos, found an old letter while tidying up her son’s bedroom.


The unexpected find sent Edita back in time, summoning emotions that resonated with the anguish that have filled her days since her 37-year-old son disappeared 10 months ago.


Back in her hands was a letter she wrote Jonas in December 1997 conveying her “helplessness” and “anxieties” about her son’s decision to leave his full-time job managing the family farm in Bulacan so he could “live” with the Igorot tribesmen of the Cordilleras.


“Knowing him, he might not come back. He was not only going to live with them, but live like them,” recalled Edita, 64, in an interview with the Inquirer on Friday.


Jonas, or “Jay” to the family, took up agriculture at Benguet State University in the early 1990s. At the time, he often communed with the Igorots. He found them to be a “very sincere people,” and considered their way of life “simple.” He even ate their food and learned their dances, Edita said.


She initially described Jonas’ purpose for leaving as “research,” but later said her son was out “to discern the kind of life he really liked.”


Her husband, journalist and press freedom advocate Joe Burgos (now deceased), was “proud of his son’s decision,” but Edita wrote Jonas the letter because “I was afraid that he will be away from us for good.


“Whenever I cannot tell things straight to my children, I say it through love letters,” said Edita, herself a retired educator and journalist.


In her letter, the mother of five sensed an impending loss and a growing distance between the family and her “unique” middle child, one who was “eager to live life to the fullest, impatient with the strings that kept [him] bound to heart and hearth.”


Toward the end of that December, Jonas did leave. He spent about four years with the Igorots and rarely saw his family in Quezon City. “That’s the part of his life his friends don’t know much about,” his mother said.


On April 28, 2007, Jonas, then active in training a farmers group affiliated with the leftist Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas in Bulacan, was seized along with his two companions by unidentified men from a Quezon City mall.


Edita has since accused the military, particularly the Army’s 56th Infantry Battalion based in Bulacan, to be behind the abduction, and the high command to be party to a cover-up. The Armed Forces denied this, but three months after the incident it tagged Jonas as a member of the communist New People’s Army.

‘I love you’


The letter turned up two months ago and days after Edita had filed at the Court of Appeals a petition for the issuance of a writ of amparo, a legal instrument recently devised by the Supreme Court to further compel the cooperation of the military and police in the investigation of extrajudicial killings and disappearances.


“I have mood swings, you know, given the state I’m in. [I found the letter] the day I was praying for [the writ of amparo] to be effective, at the same time [I got] this feedback that it was unlikely to be of any help,” she said.


Such were the times “when you feel nothing could help you except divine intervention,” she said.


But on top of these doubts about the justice system, there was a deeper, more personal question unsettling her that day: “I was feeling so low, wondering if I ever said ‘I love you’ to Jay in clear and unconditional terms. Nasabi ka nga ba sa kanya na mahal ko siya (Was I able to tell him I love him)?


“I already forgot about that letter. But I guess [finding it again] was a special grace in answer to my thoughts,” she said. “I didn’t just ‘tell’ Jay that I love him—I even put it in writing.”


Read and reread


She added: “Rereading this helped me regain my belief that Jay knows he is loved.”


Edita said she found the letter “inserted in a prayer book” that Jonas had always kept within reach during trips. It was among other personal items—a rosary, a set of shirts and hankies—that Jonas had stuffed in one of his old traveling bags.


Edita recalled handing the letter to Jonas just before she and Joe left for an overseas trip that December. It was handwritten on a single, extra-thin sheet of paper, usually called “onion skin.”


She found the paper already brownish with age and folded about five times so it could fit snuggly in one’s wallet or even in a matchbox.


And it looked as though it had been reopened several times, Edita said.


Not giving up


The letter, along with the prayer book that helped protect it from the elements, now graces her altar.


Edita said she had decided to make the letter public with a simple purpose in mind: “Many have asked how long I would keep looking for my son, how I could sustain this, to think that I’m all but out of resources and I’m growing old.


“But I guess it’s the mystery of love that makes you willing to do everything as long as you live, that tells you that you cannot give up,” she said.


Having the letter published, she said, “might help other mothers [and] show the world that there is a bond that cannot be shattered by anything in the world—and that is love.”


* * *

Following is the full text of the letter:


My dearest Jay,


I feel this restlessness in you and I am afraid you would be gone before we are back. If this happens, I cannot let you go without letting you know all the unspoken words that are haunting me.


I shall not dwell on my fears ... the dangers to your soul, the apprehensions of a mother ... the anxieties for a loved one. You already know these for I have told you so at our family council.


The mother in me feels this complete helplessness ... one I have never felt before ... not even when your ate told us she was getting married, nor when your kuya had his own share of problems. I knew somehow I would always be able to reach out and offer my hand if they needed me. But in your case, I feel that if a time comes when somehow there would be a need for a helping hand, I would not be near enough to let that hand be mine.


You were always the unique son ... eager to live life the fullest, impatient with the strings that kept you bound to heart and hearth. You showed this even when you first came out into this world ... in not more than 40 minutes that Easter Sunday.


Through your childhood, at play, in school and with your peers, you were always restless ... as if in search of a missing treasure. I know I cannot hold you any longer. But it pains me so much to let you go. If only I could get an assurance that you would remain faithful to the faith you grew up with in the family, somehow the pain would be lessened. But as I said earlier, I shall not dwell on fears.


If you must go in search of the truth, I pray that your search would be guided by the light and not by the darkness that breeds on distortions and errors.


The agony a mother must go through for love of her children is indescribable. I have no complaints. I shall not even mind for as long as you know that I am always here ready to welcome you back.


Bring this love with you and know that for as long as you are away from home, I shall be praying for you.


Life must go on in our family. Your brothers and sisters need our care still. The small ones need more than our care. I will always have that void and I shall be missing you.


But I cannot allow you to leave with a heavy heart. So take my blessings with you. May the angels keep you safe wherever you go. May the good Lord bless you and keep you always.


Remember, I love you very much.




By Volt Contreras
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:03am (Mla time) 02/17/2008





Sulu gov: Military 'massacred' villagers


JOLO, Sulu -- Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan ordered the national colors at the provincial capitol in Patikul town flown at half mast as he accused government troops of killing eight civilians, including two children and a pregnant woman, in an island village of Maimbung town on Monday.


"We cannot tolerate these acts. We are condemning in the strongest terms these dastardly and barbaric acts by supposedly elite forces of the Armed Forces for killing innocent civilians," Tan said.


"We not only condemn the killings of innocent civilians, but criminal charges should be filed against the perpetrators of this heinous crime," he said.


The military had earlier claimed the civilians might have died in the crossfire of a “legitimate encounter” with Abu Sayyaf fighters in which three extremist and two soldiers were also killed.


The eight civilians who died in barangay (village) Ipil were identified as Marisa Fayian, 4; Rismi Lahim, 9; Narsiya Lahim, 24, who was pregnant; Arnalyn Lahim, 19; Sulaiman Acob, 24; Jamiri Lahim, 37; Ipil barangay kagawad (councilman) Eldishin Lahim, 37; and former Moro National Liberation Front rebel turned Army sergeant Ibnul Wahid, 35, who was off duty at the time.


"It was a legitimate encounter," said Major General Ruben Rafael, commander of Task Force Comet, the regional anti-terror task force. "As far as we are concerned, troops clashed with the Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah."


On Monday, Lt. Gen. Nelson Allaga, chief of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) identified two soldiers slain in the supposed encounter as Sergent Luis Veloso of the 3rd Light Reaction Company (LRC) and SN2 Joel Morillo of the Navy SWAG8. Both belonged to Task Force Comet.


But Tan also questioned the military report that the three killed in the supposed clash were members of the Abu Sayyaf.


But during a visit to Maimbung, the Philippine Daily Inquirer [parent company of] learned that four bodies earlier presented by the military as Abu Sayyaf members were the civilians Wahid, Eldishin and Jamiri Lahim and Narsiya, the pregnant woman.


"Do you call those cadavers of Abu Sayyaf [members] when one of the victims brought to Jolo town proper was clad only in her underwear? Do you simply claim that it was an encounter when one of the victims is an Army sergeant made to lie flat on his stomach and shot twice in the head in front of his wife?" Tan asked.

Tan urged other local government offices in Sulu to fly their flags at half mast "to mourn the senseless killing of our people."


Allaga flew to Sulu Tuesday to meet the governor, who told him: "I cannot tolerate this incident."


The Wesmincom chief said he had ordered an investigation "to determine the facts and the truth" and gave assurances that there would be no "cover-up."


Ipil is a small island village of seaweed farmers where most of the houses stand on stilts.


The soldiers allegedly arrived at the island village early Monday.


Sandrawina Wahid, wife of the slain Army sergeant, said her husband was killed in front of her. She said her husband had explained to the soldiers that he was on vacation and that the firearms recovered from his house were government-issued, but to no avail.


"Hindi kami pinakinggan. Tinalian pa asawa ko tapos binaril [They refused to listen to us. They tied up my husband then shot him]," Sandrawina said.


Myrna Lahim, wife of Jamiri, said they were asleep when they heard a loud thud and the screeching of a bamboo bridge, indicating several people were outside the house.


Thinking they were under attack by his political enemies, Jamiri instructed his family to find a safe place to hide.


Myrna said she and her children Marisa and Rismi went to a mangrove swamp to hide when they heard gunshots. She tried to duck for cover only to realize that her children had been hit in the head. Myrna was hit in the left ear.


Rhafy Agas, chair of the neighboring village of Kandang, immediately had the bodies of the dead brought to his village.


Kandang, which is on the mainland part of Maimbung, is 15 minutes away by boat from Ipil.


Agas said those killed "were not Abu Sayyaf. There is no Abu Sayyaf here."


Allaga said government troops earlier received reports that Abu Sayyaf bandits led by Abu Pula were sighted in the area, hence the operation.


But the governor said there was something wrong with the military's intelligence gathering. "They should have validated the information first from informants before reacting that way."


Tan vowed there would be "no settlement."


"We want justice and somebody has to pay a dear price or else trouble will spark," he warned.


Allaga insisted that Abu Sayyaf bandits were in the village, which is whyt two soldiers died in the firefight.

However, Agas stood by his contention that there are no Abu Sayyaf in Ipil. He said it was possible Wahid was able to fight back and kills the two soldiers before he died. AFP


By Julie Alipala
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 11:56am (Mla time) 02/05/2008


U.S. Troops Sighted During Sulu Massacre

U.S. troops were present during the Feb. 4 assault by combined Army and Navy elite forces on Barangay (village) Ipil, Maimbung, Sulu that killed eight non-combatants, including an Army soldier on vacation. Worse, they tolerated what had taken place.


Soldiers from the Army’s Light Reaction Company (LRC) – a unit composed of Philippine soldiers who had received training from U.S. troops during the RP-U.S. joint military exercises –and the Navy’s Special Weapons Group (Swag) attacked Brgy. Ipil early morning, while most villagers were still sleeping, on Feb. 4, said Concerned Citizens of Sulu convener and former Jolo councilor Temogen “Cocoy” Tulawie in an interview with Bulatlat.


Killed in the attack were Marisa Payian, 4; Wedme Lahim, 9; Alnalyn Lahim, 15; Sulayman Hakob, 17; Kirah Lahim, 45; Eldisim Lahim, 43; Narcia Abon, 24 – all civilians. Also killed was Pfc. Ibnul Wahid of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, who was then on vacation.


“Wahid’s hands were even tied behind his back,” Tulawie said, citing an account by Sandrawina Wahid, the slain soldier’s wife. “He was forced to lie face down on the ground and they stepped on his back. His wife ran into their hut and back out, showing the soldiers his Army ID and bag, begging them to not hurt him. But still, they shot him.”


One of the victims, Kirah Lahim, was even mutilated. “They took out his eyes and cut off his fingers and ears,” Tulawie said.


Military officials have given varying explanations of the incident. One explanation was that the non-combatants were killed in a firefight between soldiers and “terrorists,” while another points to a “family feud” as having triggered the killings.


One Army general said what happened on Feb. 4 was a “legitimate encounter,” claiming that troops searching for kidnapped trader Rosalie Lao clashed with Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandits and members of the terrorist Jema’ah Islamiyah.


The military did not say whether Lao, who was kidnapped on Jan. 28 while on the way home from her store, was being held in Sulu.


Maj. Gen. Ruben Rafael, commander of an anti-“terrorist” task force in Sulu, said two soldiers and three bandits – including ASG leader Abu Muktadil – were killed in the “encounter.”


“It was a legitimate encounter,” Rafael told media. “As far as we are concerned, troops clashed with the Abu Sayyaf and Jema’ah Islamiyah. We have recovered the bodies of Muktadil, but soldiers also found eight more bodies in the area and we are trying to find out whether they were caught in the crossfire or slain by terrorists.”


Tulawie, however, said this was not true.


“That’s a lie,” Tulawie said. “Most of these people (who were killed) are just seaweed farmers. There is no ASG there. In the case of Wahid, they killed their own fellow soldier.”


“They were quiet people who had no enemies,” Tulawie said of the victims.


Meanwhile, Maj. Eugene Batara, spokesman of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), said authorities are presently investigating reports that the killings were sparked by a family feud.


As the killings were taking place, there were U.S. troops nearby. Tulawie said Sandrawina was taken into a Navy boat, where she saw four U.S. soldiers.


“They were just nearby and they tolerated what was happening,” Tulawie said. “There was only one who was heard shouting, ‘Hold your fire!’ but that was all. They tolerated these human rights violations committed by the soldiers they had trained.”


Westmincom chief Maj. Gen. Nelson Allaga said there were no U.S. troops involved in the operation.

“There was no direct involvement of the Americans,” Allaga said. “It is strictly prohibited.”


Not the first time


Sulu Gov. Abdulsakur Tan said this was not the first time that U.S. troops were reported to have taken part in Philippine military operations in Sulu. With this, he corroborated what Tulawie had said in an earlier interview with Bulatlat.


When an encounter between the AFP and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) broke out in Brgy. Buansa, Indanan, Sulu in early 2007, U.S. troops who were a few kilometers away were seen running toward the direction of the gunfire. They were carrying their guns.


Military spokespersons said the attack was brought about by reports that members of the ASG were in the MNLF camp. The MNLF – with which the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) signed a Final Peace Agreement in 1996 – has repeatedly denied that it coddles ASG members.


During that same period, U.S. troops were busy with a road construction project in Brgy. Bato-Bato, Indanan. At that time, the area was the center of Philippine military operations in Sulu.


These were gathered by Bulatlat in its interview with Tulawie in March last year.


This, Tulawie said, is just part of a larger picture that has been developing in Sulu since 2004.


“Military operations always take place not far from where U.S. troops are,” said Tulawie. “The presence of U.S. troops has been visible in areas where military operations have taken place.”


While Tulawie says there is yet no evidence that U.S. troops have actually participated in combat operations, their visibility in areas where AFP operations have been conducted raises questions on the real reasons behind their presence in the country’s southernmost province.


U.S. military presence in Sulu


The presence of U.S. troops in Sulu started in 2004 and has been continuous since then.


U.S. troops would have entered Sulu as early as February 2003. The AFP and the U.S. Armed Forces had both announced that the Balikatan military exercises for that year would be held in Sulu.


This provoked a wave of protest from the people of Sulu, who had not yet forgotten what has come to be known as the Bud Dajo Massacre.


The Bud Dajo massacre, which took place in 1906, is described in some history texts as the “First Battle of Bud Dajo.” It was an operation against Moro fighters resisting the American occupation.


The description of the incident as a “battle,” however, is disputed considering the sheer mismatch in firepower between U.S. forces and the Moro resistance fighters. The 790 U.S. troops who assaulted Bud Dajo used naval cannons against the 800-1,000 Moro resistance fighters who were mostly armed only with melee weapons.


In the end, only six of the hundreds of Moro resistance fighters holding Bud Dajo as a stronghold survived, while there were 15-20 casualties among the U.S. troops.


The announcement in February 2003 that the year’s Balikatan military exercises would be held in Sulu summoned bitter memories of the Bud Dajo Massacre and led to protest actions where thousands of Sulu residents participated.


The next year, however, U.S. troops came up with ingenious ways to find their way into Sulu – coming in small groups and bringing relief goods. This “neutralized” the residents’ resistance to their presence.


“Unconventional warfare”


The U.S. troops in Sulu are part of the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P). Based on several news items from the Philippine Information Agency (PIA), the JSOTF-P are in Sulu to train the AFP’s Southern Command (Southcom) and to conduct civic actions.


However, an article written by Command Sgt. Maj. William Eckert of the JSOTF-P, “Defeating the Idea: Unconventional Warfare in Southern Philippines,” hints that there is more to the task force’s work than training AFP troops and embarking on “humanitarian actions.” Wrote Eckert:


“Working in close coordination with the U.S. Embassy, JSOTF-P uses Special Forces, Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations forces to conduct deliberate intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance in very focused areas, and based on collection plans, to perform tasks to prepare the environment and obtain critical information requirements. The information is used to determine the capabilities, intentions and activities of threat groups that exist within the local population and to focus U.S. forces – and the AFP – on providing security to the local populace. It is truly a joint operation, in which Navy SEALs and SOF aviators work with their AFP counterparts to enhance the AFP’s capacities.”


These U.S. troops have always been seen near the sites of Philippine military operations in Sulu. The latest sighting was during the Feb. 4 attack on Brgy. Ipil, Maimbung where seven civilians and one Army soldier on vacation were killed. Bulatlat


Vol. VIII, No. 2, February 10-16, 2008






100 provincial journalists join class suit vs gov't


MANILA, Philippines -- Saying province-based reporters are more prone to harassment and threats, at least 100 journalists from six provinces have added their names as petitioners in the P10-million class suit filed by the media against top government officials.


The new signatories are mostly members of the provincial chapters of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), the biggest such alliance in the country.


NUJP secretary general Rowena Paraan Wednesday said more journalists from Metro Manila and other provinces were expected to sign on as petitioners.


The NUJP will submit an amendment to the 14-page petition that it filed before the Makati City Regional Trial Court once it receives all the copies of the petition from its provincial chapters, Paraan told the Philippine Daily Inquirer, parent company of


"The overwhelming support of our colleagues from all over the country is proof that journalists are not just seeking publicity for themselves [by filing this class suit]," she said, adding:


"There are clear threats to press freedom and the right of the people to information. Journalists will not sit in their newsrooms while unscrupulous government officials trample on our basic civil liberties." 


Timely act


The new petitioners are members of the NUJP in Batangas, Quezon, Zambales, Davao, Kidapawan, Sorsogon and Zamboanga.  Arnell Ozaeta, chair of NUJP-Batangas, said the filing of the class suit was a timely act because journalists continued to be subjected to intimidation and other threats.


He said province-based journalists were more prone to pressure and threats from the authorities.


"In fact, most of the more than 80 journalists murdered since 1986 were based in the provinces," Ozaeta said on the phone.


He added: "I think it's high time we set aside our petty differences and showed the authorities that we are united in the fight for our civil rights.


Arrests and warnings


"But we should also understand that this is not just an issue of the freedom of the media. We are also defending the people's right to know."


The class suit filed on Monday stemmed from the arrest of some 50 journalists who covered the standoff between government troops and Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV et al. at the Peninsula Manila hotel on Nov. 29, 2007, and the subsequent government advisories warning reporters of criminal liability if they disobey orders from authorities.


Makati Judge Winlove Dumayas immediately granted the journalists' appeal for a 72-hour temporary restraining order to stop police and other government officials from threatening the media.


Those named respondents in the case were Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr., Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Hermogenes Esperon Jr., Philippine National Police Director General Avelino Razon Jr., Director Geary Barias of the National Capital Region Police Office, Chief Supt. Leocadio Santiago of the PNP Special Action Force, and Senior Supt. Asher Dolina of the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group.


First posted 04:41:08 (Mla time) January 31, 2008
Marlon Ramos
Philippine Daily Inquirer




50 solons sign resolution for govt to uphold press freedom


MANILA, Philippines -- 50 lawmakers at the House of Representatives have signed a resolution urging the government to uphold the freedom of the press, speech, and expression at all times.


House Resolution 431 "expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the Philippine government should uphold the freedom of the press, speech and expression at all times in the light of numerous attempts to control the flow of news and information, criminalize the exercise of press freedom and curtail this basic rights especially in times of crisis and state emergencies" was filed Thursday by Gabriela Women Partylist Representatives Liza Maza and Luzviminda Ilagan, Bayan Muna Representatives Satur Ocampo and Teodoro Casiño, and Anakpawis Representative Crispin Beltran.


Those who attached their signatures as co-authors included House Minority Floor Leader Ronaldo Zamora, Deputy Minority Floor Leader Roilo Golez and CIBAC Representative Joel Villanueva from the opposition and Marikina Representative Del de Guzman, Manila Representative Bienvenido Abante, and Batangas Representative Hermilando Mandanas, among others from the majority bloc.


"It is high time that the House of Representatives speak on the issue of press freedom, a fundamental ingredient in a democratic state. We commend members of the press and media organizations that immediately stood in the face of repression," Maza said in a statement.


The resolution is Congress' contribution in defending press freedom and civil liberties, Maza said.


"Certainly, any attempt to curtail or repress the mass media should be met upfront and nipped at the bud," she said.


First posted 15:24:49 (Mla time) January 31, 2008
Maila Ager






Protestant minister shot dead in Leyte

TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines--A man on a motorcycle shot dead a Protestant pastor in Leyte, the second member of the Philippine clergy to die violently in nine days, police said Friday.


Felicisimo Catambis, 60, who belonged to the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), was himself riding on a motorcyle when he was shot in Abuyog town on Wednesday morning.


Pastor Noel Balo, chief of UCCP-Leyte, expressed shock at the death of Catambis, the third member from his church to be murdered in the last three years.


Catambis sustained nine gunshot wounds in the back, Abuyog town police chief Senior Insp. Ismael Lantajo said.


The motive for the killing was not immediately clear.


Another member of the clergy, Roman Catholic priest Rey Roda, was killed in Tawi-Tawi on Jan. 15 by gunmen believed to be Abu Sayyaf terrorists, who had tried to kidnap him.


Catambis, assigned to the UCCP church in Abuyog, was on his way to the town proper when one of two motorcycle-riding men shot him in Barangay Balucawe at 7:30 a.m., Lantajo said.


The police recovered nine empty shells of a 9mm pistol from the scene.


A good man

"We are still conducting our investigation as to the motive of the killing ... We just hope that those who witnessed the incident would come out so they can help us solve the crime," Lantajo said in a telephone interview.


"He was a good man. We just hope that our authorities solve the killing," Balo said.          

In 2005, unidentified armed men shot dead church members Alfred Davis and Edison Lapuz. The killings remain unsolved up to today.


22 church workers killed

Catambis is survived by his wife Linda and six children.


Lantajo said that Catambis was not known to be a member of or involved with any militant group, based on initial investigation.


"This really puzzles us. Based on our initial talk with the family, they don't know of any enemy of Pastor Catambis," he said.


At least 22 church workers were among the nearly 900 victims of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines since President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo took office in 2001, according to a list compiled by the human rights group Karapatan.


The Inquirer's total number of victims of extrajudicial killings during the same period stands at 300.


Sorsogon killing

In Sorsogon City, a court ordered the arrest of an Army intelligence agent tagged by the police as behind the killing of peasant leader Willy Jeruz.


Judge Boanerges Candolea of Regional Trial Court Branch 53 issued the arrest warrant against Randy Ogad, an enlisted personnel of the Philippine Army from Daet, Camarines Norte.


The warrant was based on a complaint filed by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, which identified Ogad as the alleged killer of Jeruz, a leader of the Samahang Magsasaka ng Sorsogon-Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (Samasor-KMP).


Motorcycle owner

The police claim was based on the testimony of two eyewitnesses and on Land Transportation Office records showing that a motorcycle used as getaway vehicle in the killing was registered in Ogad's name.

Jeruz was shot dead in April 2007 near his house, a week after an Army intelligence officer and his driver were ambushed by suspected New People's Army rebels.

Jeruz was among 52 members of militant groups killed in Sorsogon who have yet to get justice, according to Karapatan.


By Joey A. Gabieta
With reports from Bobby Q. Labalan, Inquirer Southern Luzon and PDI Rese

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:04:00 01/26/2008






We, the community of faith of the UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST IN THE PHILIPPINES, appalled and aghast at this another tragic and unnecessary loss of precious human life, namely the murder of the Reverend Filomeno Catambis of Northeastern Leyte Conference 

  • Condemn this barbaric and inhuman act.
  • Call on the authorities to, without delay, conduct an impartial and thorough investigation and to bring the perpetrator/s to justice.
  • Express our solidarity, even as we lament this killing, to the immediate family of Pastor Catambis as well as to the congregation and community he served for their immediate comfort and consolation and continuing hope that life is still more powerful than the forces of death. 
  • Pray and work together for the building of undisturbed and concrete peace in our long-suffering, bleeding and threatened land and people. 
  • Continue to uphold and defend the sanctity and fullness of life.

Even as we do all these, we shall neither relax our vigilance nor be remiss in our duties as befit our obedience to the call of Christ. With high hopes and unwavering faith, we shall await the resolution of this case, not in cowed silence but with loud prophetic and pastoral voices.


Signed: January 24, 2008


Bishop Eliezer M. Pascua

General Secretary


Bishop Marino I. Inong

Bishop Assigned to North Luzon Jurisdiction


Bishop Jessie S. Suarez

Bishop Assigned to South Luzon Jurisdiction


Bishop Ebenezer C. Camino

Bishop Assigned to West Visayas Jurisdiction


Bishop Dulce P. Rose

Bishop Assigned to East Visayas Jurisdiction


Bishop Anacleto G. Serafica

Caretaker-Bishop, Southeast Mindanao Jurisdiction







Watchdog urges Philippines to withdraw press warning

MANILA, Philippines--A New York-based media watchdog on Sunday called on the Philippine government to withdraw a threat to prosecute journalists who get in the way of police operations.


The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said that reporters in the politically volatile Philippines have long covered "dangerous emergencies without the threat of being charged as criminals."


"We urge the government to withdraw this advisory," the group's Asia coordinator, Bob Dietz, said in a statement.


The advisory warned all media outfits that reporters, photographers and cameramen "may incur criminal liabilities" if they disobeyed lawful orders from authorities during emergencies.


It said failure to clear an area when ordered to amounted to "obstruction of justice."


The warning followed a bitter row between government and the press stemming from the coverage of a brief takeover of a Manila hotel in November by a group of rogue military officers pressing for President Gloria Arroyo's ouster.


Several journalists who stayed inside the hotel to cover the unfolding events were briefly detained but released without charge.


Troops retook the hotel and captured the conspirators, but in the process also roughed up members of the press.


The event led to a heated debate on press freedom, which was restored when the 20-year regime of dictator Ferdinand Marcos was ousted in a popular revolt in 1986.


"One wonders what sort of effect this directive would have had on reporters covering the dramatic events which ousted the Marcos regime and paved the way for what were supposed to be more democratic governments," Dietz said.


Agence France-Presse
First Posted 13:36:00 01/13/2008

AFP, PNP revives proposal for national ID system


MANILA, Philippines -- The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has revived a proposal to implement a national ID system to curb threats to national security, and President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was "in favor" of it, officials said.


Director General Avelino Razon Jr., chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), and Lieutenant Colonel Bartolome Bacarro, the AFP spokesman, who were both present at the AFP leadership's briefing on internal security operations in Camp Aguinaldo, disclosed the proposal on Monday.


The President presided over the briefing, which AFP Chief Hermogenes Esperon Jr. and Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. also attended.


"We should really establish an ID system. The people have no reason to fear. The ID system is not a way to infringe on basic human rights, but to provide service to the people, just like PhilHealth and SSS [Social Security System]," Razon told reporters.


"She's in favor of having a national ID system, in the vein that it is an ID system that would provide services to our citizens," the PNP chief added.


"That recommendation was made by the Armed Forces of the Philippines but we would like to highlight that it is subject to a very tedious study and should be within the purview of law," Bacarro said.


The President, according to Razon, ordered Teodoro to "study how we could implement the national ID system."


Asked if security forces want to implement the ID system this year, Razon said: "Yes, as soon as possible, so that insurgents, terrorists, and criminal elements could not hide behind the cloak of anonymity."


Razon said the national ID could include the holder's fingerprints, along with personal data. He said this was meant only to "identify" a person, and not to know his "inner secrets."


The President, Esperon, and Teodoro did not issue statements to media after the meeting.


The AFP also proposed amendments to the Human Security Act, including making illegal possession of explosives a non-bailable offense, Razon said.


The AFP also asked for additional funding for its militiamen or the Civilian Armed Forces Geographic Unit (CAFGU).

"The main point is greater coordination of all the government agencies to defeat the threat to our internal security," Razon said.


During the briefing, Arroyo directed the AFP to "accelerate its momentum of successes against threats to national security," Bacarro said.


The AFP reported to the president that at the end of 2007, the strength of the al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf was down to 383 from 452 at the start of the same year.


The strength of the communist New People's Army (NPA), meanwhile, was at its lowest in 20 years, with 5,760 fighters at the end of 2007, down 1,400 fighters or 20 percent from the start of the same year.


The military noted a "reduced" number of engagements with the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), with both sides observing a ceasefire and giving primacy to the peace process.


Bacarro said the President also directed the AFP to sustain humanitarian efforts and respect human rights.


The President also ordered troops to continue displaying "professionalism by adhering to the chain of command."


By Joel Guinto
First Posted 10:36:00 01/07/2008



Another Jab at Civil Liberties


In late 2005 up to 2006 the Arroyo government tried to curtail the freedom of speech and assembly through the Calibrated Preemptive Response, silence the media through the issuance of guidelines by the PNP, and twist and bend its laws and legal procedures to run after its critics especially from the legal Left. It also tried to impose an illegal curfew in 2007.  And now, with the Anti-Terrorism Law, euphemistically called Human Security Act of 2007, in place, a National ID system would be the last nail that would seal the fate of our civil liberties and human rights.


The Macapagal-Arroyo administration is at it again.  It can never really resist the temptation to curtail civil liberties.  Remember its failed efforts at curtailing the freedom of speech and assembly via the Calibrated Preemptive Response policy; its attempts at silencing the media through so-called guidelines issued by the Philippine National Police (PNP); its martial law-like declaration of a state of national emergency; its illegal declaration of a curfew; and the way it twisted in its own laws and legal procedures in running after its critics especially from the legal Left?   


After receiving a lot of flak for its plan to revive the obsolete anti-subversion law, it now wants to monitor and control the people’s movements and violate the right to privacy via enforcing a National ID system. Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Hermogenes Esperon is not hiding the real reasons behind the government’s moves to implement the National ID system, it is for counter-insurgency. And when the Arroyo government implements something in the name of counter-insurgency, we might as well kiss our human rights and civil liberties goodbye.


The spate of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, which victimized more than a thousand unarmed legal activists, was the product of the counter-insurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya I and II (Operation Freedom Watch). Likewise was the creation of the Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG), an insidious task force the mission of which was to twist and bend laws and legal procedures, and to manufacture evidences and rehash witnesses to run after personalities from the legal Left.


It is true that the concept of a national ID system is not new. The U.S. has its system revolving around the social security number and ID, and so do many European countries.  But there are two things that make the implementation of an ID system in the Philippines  useless and dangerous.  


For one, the social security system in the Philippines is practically nil especially for those without jobs; and they are the ones who are most in need of social benefits and services.  Those with jobs, on the other hand, do not need another ID.  What they need is an increase in the social benefits that they are entitled to. Actually, those who can and do avail of sickness and disability benefits, pensions, and other social security benefits, do not encounter problems with identification, their main problem is the insufficiency of what they can avail of. Likewise, those who access health centers and enroll in public schools do not need an ID, a certification from barangay (village) officials is enough. Their main problem is the lack in health service providers, medicines, and equipment in centers, and the lack in teachers, learning materials and classrooms in public schools.         


Second, the National ID system being contemplated in the Philippine is going to be used primarily for counter-insurgency.  And when the AFP and PNP conduct counter-insurgency operations, they wreak havoc on the people’s rights.

The first time a national ID system was used for counter-insurgency operations was in Vietnam during the late 60s and early 70s. It was introduced by U.S. military advisers and was implemented by joint units of U.S. and South Vietnamese forces. It was used for controlling the movement of the population to deny local support for the Vietcong. Well, as history has shown, it did not diminish local support for the Vietcong; but it did result in extinguishing of a lot of lives of the rural folk.   


Actually, a rudimentary form of ID system is already in place in rural communities, most probably introduced by U.S. military advisers to their AFP counterparts.  AFP troops conduct a census of communities where they operate.  The names of household members are posted on the doors or walls of houses and anybody they chance upon who are not in the list are abducted or immediately executed. The fate suffered by UP students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno, and farmer Manuel Merino at the hands of soldiers is a grim example of what would befall visitors in communities where AFP troops are conducting military operations.  


With a more systematic and comprehensive ID system, we could expect a more systematic neutralization (read: killings) of those whom the government and the AFP suspect as supporters and members of “insurgents and rebel groups.” And what would also prevent the Arroyo government from using the same ID system in running after its critics just like it did to progressive representatives of Bayan Muna (People First), Anakpawis (Toiling Masses), and Gabriela Women’s Party? Don’t you notice that the Macapagal-Arroyo administration is wont to take a jab at our civil liberties and human rights every time it is deeply enmeshed in a political crisis?  With the Anti-Terrorism Law, euphemistically called Human Security Act of 2007, in place, a National ID system would be the last nail that would seal the fate of our civil liberties and human rights.


VII No. VII, No. 48, January 13-19, 2008



 CONTAK Philippines
CONTAK Philippines is committed to building solidarity linkages between
the Filipino masses and ecumenical communities here
and faith-based groups abroad for coordinated support
to the Filipino people's struggle against exploitation and oppression
hoping thereby to contribute to the development
of an international network for global transformation.