Pinoy Weekly » Karapatang Pantao Philippine news, analysis, and investigative stories Mon, 07 Apr 2014 17:50:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Rights groups slam trumped-up charges vs activists, peace consultants Tue, 01 Apr 2014 16:22:45 +0000 Groups call for the resumption of GPH-NDF peace talks. <strong>Macky Macaspac</strong>

Human rights groups call for the resumption of GPH-NDF peace talks. Macky Macaspac

Human rights groups picketed the Manila Regional Trial Court to call for the junking of murder charges against former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo and some peace consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), including Randall Echanis, Rafael Baylosis, Vicente Ladlad, and the recently arrested Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria.

The clarificatory hearing was conducted after the Supreme Court on February dismissed the consolidated petitions filed by Ocampo and others contesting the charges against them.

Ocampo, in an interview, said the case is merely a revival of trumped-up charges against them during Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo’s presidency.

He said that during Arroyo’s term, the Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (Ialag) headed by then National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales and then Department of Justice Sec. Raul Gonzales filed multiple murder charges against them. Ocampo was arrested on 2007, and posted bail upon the order of the Supreme Court.

Ialag was deemed by United Nations Special Rapporteur Philip Alston as a means by which the government prosecutes and punishes “enemies of the state.” “The government was forced to abolish Ialag, but to our surprise our case remained,” Ocampo said.

Rachel Pastores of the Public Interest Law Center asked the lower court to refrain from hearing the case. “We still have pending motion for reconsideration in the Supreme Court,” she said.

Human rights group Karapatan has documented 570 cases of illegal arrests and detention from June 2010 to December 2013. The group also documented 427 political prisoners, as of December 2013, including 152 persons arrested under Aquino’s term.

Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan said that almost all of the cases, like those of detained NDFP consultants, are criminal charges spuriously filed based on highly questionable evidence and fabricated testimonies.

“Leaders of people’s organizations in Negros, for instance, are constantly threatened with fabricated criminal charges of the (military and police). Under the Aquino government, the assault on political dissenters through the filing of trumped-up charges is on the rise. In an attempt to silence opposition, they make up all sort of charges using the wildest of their imagination,” Palabay said.

The groups called on the government to free all political prisoners, and demanded that the practice of filing trumped-up cases against leaders and members of progressive organizations be stopped.

“Trumped-up charges are obviously meant to stifle the freedom of movement of political dissenters. This is the bigger crime. The Aquino government should stop silencing its critics, or his regime is bound to face bigger protests for violating human rights here and there,” Palabay said.

In a related development, Karapatan also slammed the plan of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Armed Forces to transfer Andrea Rosal, daughter of the late Roger Rosal of the Communist Party of the Phillippines, from the NBI custody to Camp Aguinaldo.

“It is inhumane to transfer the nine-month pregnant Andrea to Camp Aguinaldo, considering her condition and other gross violation of her rights, as if her arrest is not illegal enough,” Palabay said.

Karapatan fears that Rosal might suffer the fate of the two pregnant women of Morong 43 who suffered torture when they were arrested and detained in a military camp in 2010.

“We demand for her immediate release including her companions, so that her immediate admission to a hospital where her urgent needs will be addressed,” Palabay said.



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THROWBACK | Revolutionaries in enemy hands Fri, 28 Mar 2014 14:05:58 +0000 A scene from the film

A scene from the film “The Guerrilla is a Poet” (2013), recreating the military torture of Jose Maria Sison in 1977.

What happens after Philippine military and police forces arrest a leader of what it claims to be the biggest security threat to its existence?

A “tactical interrogation” ensues, said Voltaire Gazmin, Philippine defense secretary. He said this after Benito Tiamzon, alleged by the military to be the chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), and Wilma Austria, Benito’s wife and alleged CPP secretary-general, were arrested in Carcar City, Cebu, along with five others (plus cats and puppies, their lawyers say) on March 22.

A member of an underground women's revolutionary organization holds a sign calling for the release of detained revolutionary leaders Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria, with a photo Tiamzon and Austria raising their fists after their arrest. <strong>Macky Macaspac</strong>

A member of an underground women’s revolutionary organization holds a sign calling for the release of detained revolutionary leaders Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria, with a photo of Tiamzon and Austria raising their fists after their arrest. Macky Macaspac

Gazmin’s use of the term “tactical interrogation” is a curious one, as this is a term that often puts fear in the hearts of many an interogatee. Although this is largely denied, the Philippine military takes its cue from the its US counterparts in its use of “harsh interrogation techniques“, from sleep deprivation to outright physical torture, in extracting information from “high-value” detainees. A former political prisoner and the AFP’s “big fish” catch in 2007, Elizabeth Principe, once detailed her own horrific experiences while in the hands of the military. So did many political prisoners, who now languish in jails, charged with trumped-up common crimes. 

Way before the US military’s Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib jails gained notoriety for its “harsh interrogation techniques” (sometimes euphemistically called “enhanced interrogation techniques“) on prisoners, the Philippine military, of course, perfected the use of torture during Ferdinand Marcos’ Martial Law from 1972 to 1981. President Aquino, the son of the most prominent anti-Martial Law politician and Marcos’ political rival in Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr., has unfortunately carried on this shameful military practice. This is most evident in the case of the Tiamzons’ arrest, where Gazmin inadvertently admitted that the couple were “interrogated” without the benefit of legal counsel. In the next few days and months, we hope that the arrested couple will be able to recount to the public what sort of “harsh interrogation techniques” the military, under Gazmin’s and Aquino’s watch, employed on them after their arrest.

To have an idea of the torture a “big fish” experiences in the military’s hands, however, we look back at the last time Philippine state security forces boasted of catching a CPP chairman. That was way back in 1977, when Marcos’ military captured and detained Prof. Jose Maria Sison and his wife and comrade, Juliet de Lima.

In 1979, Sison was able to write to the Supreme Court his experiences during the first days of detention. Dated March 13, 1979 (or 35 years ago this month), the letter recounts, in harrowing detail, the torture he endured, as well as the heroic resistance he showed in the face of severe cruelty. Many of the details of Sison’s capture, including the lack of an arrest warrant, are eerily similar to that of the Tiamzons’ capture. Here is that letter, in full:

Photo of Jose Maria Sison, taken during one of the military commission hearings in 1981. Photo courtesy: <strong></strong>

Photo of Jose Maria Sison, taken during one of the military commission hearings in 1981. Photo courtesy:

 Most Honorable Court:

I would have liked to speak on a broad range of issues pertaining to the political charges against me. But considering the limited time allotted to me, I shall concentrate on the essential facts of my experience in captivity, as they relate to the violation of certain constitutional rights.

I point out, among others, the unjust redundancy of the charges of subversion and rebellion, with the double jeopardy involved. Most importantly, I deal with the illegitimate foundation of the autocratic government and its military commissions and the falsity of such claims as that a Republic has been saved by a monarchy and a New Society has been built by the preservation and aggravation of the same semicolonial and semifeudal society.

I was arrested together with my wife and three other persons on November 10, 1977, at Barrio Pagdalagan Norte, San Fernando, La Union.

The arresting officers did not carry and did not show any judicial warrant or an executive order specifying the persons and things to be seized, in violation of Section 3 of the Bill of Rights of the 1973 Constitution.

I take lightly the intimidatory acts and words of those who arrested me. I was pushed so hard into a vehicle that my eyeglasses were broken and destroyed at the risk of damage to my eyes. My shins were gashed and bruised.

Soon after I was brought to the C-2 office at Camp Crame, then Captain Virgilio Saldajeno, who said he was a PC legal officer, asked me to make a written statement. I said I could not make a statement until I had a lawyer of my choice. My companions and I jointly and separately asked for access to legal counsel and relatives.

Dictator Ferdinand Marcos (leftmost) met Sison (second from left) before the latter's torture in the hands of his military captors. Fourth from left is Marcos' top military man, Gen. Fabian Ver. <strong>From Boy Bagwis' photo collection</strong>

Dictator Ferdinand Marcos (leftmost) met Sison (second from left) before the latter’s torture in the hands of his military captors. Fourth from left is Marcos’ top military man, Gen. Fabian Ver. From Boy Bagwis’ photo collection

I had a chance to meet and talk with a number of generals and Mr. Marcos no less soon after my arrest.

Past 11 PM on November 10, 1977, I was blindfolded and brought to what I later found out after several months to be the Military Security Unit of the Philippine Army at Fort Bonifacio. I was pushed into a small, suffocating room with a boarded-up window.

For two days, I was subjected to relays of interrogators who kept asking me who was supposed to be my successor in the Communist Party. I refused to answer any of the questions and cited my right to legal counsel.

Events took a drastic turn between 8 and 9 PM on November 13, 1977. Alleged that I was trying to escape, I was blindfolded with my own shirt and handcuffed behind my back by Lieutenant Melchor Acosta (I came to know his real name only on June 23, 1978). Another person came in after a while and I was hit with fist blows on the chest and floating ribs.

I was asked who were the AFP officers connected to the CPP, the armed strength and disposition of the NPA, sources of funds, houses and barrios where I would go in case of successful escape and so on. I was given several blows for every question asked. The punching session must have lasted at least an hour.

Later, I was chained to a cot by one hand and one foot, with handcuffs. The room was dark when I removed my blindfold with my free hand. A large flashlight was constantly on and focused on my face. I was kept awake by two young men in their twenties who made death threats and insults while asking me questions that had been asked before. I was repeatedly told I would be killed as if I had been in the act of escaping if I did not cooperate.

A pistol was always pointed at me by one of the two men. He said from time to time that I would be disposed of the following day. He kept kicking the foot of the cot. He would make a motion of wanting to hit me and the other man would pretend to hold him back. They cursed whenever I told them to let me sleep or to learn methods of investigation from Hawaii Five-O.

Throughout the morning, noon and early afternoon of November 14, 1977, two men, apparently MSU staff officers, alternated in interrogating me, keeping me awake and making veiled threats to finish me off. I can identify these two officers again if I see them because I was not blindfolded.

At about 4 PM of November 14, I was blindfolded again as a swarm of men came into the room. I was able to seem some of them, especially the one who looked like a senior officer (he was later identified to me as Colonel Miguel Aure when he came to my room with Captain Saldajeno on July 14, 1978). I can identify at least three more of these men if I see them again.

My free hand and foot were shackled by handcuffs to the cot, completely binding me to the cot. A pail of water was brought in. A face towel was placed across my nose and mouth. I had to be pinned down by the shoulders as I kept on struggling, lifting the upper part of my body, moving my head vigorously and at times succeeding in loosening the blindfold and seeing the faces of my tormentors. Someone sat down on my stomach to hold me down as the water cure was in progress.

Water was poured into my nostrils through the towel and my mouth was held shut for strangulation effect in order to force me to seek relief and answer questions. When I did not answer or said something they didn’t like a gun barrel was poked into my mouth. They threatened to subject me to electric shocks before they killed me.

The water cure took some six hours. I was asked about 85 questions which I was later able to tabulate. These are listed in my June 23, 1978 account.

My answers or lack of answers appeared unsatisfactory to my tormentors. I had to suffer for names and pseudonyms I was completely ignorant of. I also had to suffer for the names of mountains and barrios I was not aware of. Questions were interrupted by death threats and insults.

Near the end of the water cure, when I was about to fall asleep from exhaustion, one of them tried hypnosis but failed. I was without food and sleep for about 26 hours, from the beginning of the punching session to the end of the strangulation session. Even after the water cure, two relays of interrogators still came after my meal so I was not able to rest until midnight.

Up till November 17, 1977, interrogators came into the room every morning, afternoon and evening. The first ones came at 5 or 6 AM and the last at 1 or 2 AM. I had to maintain my wits and integrity even though I was in a daze. I was not allowed to recover completely from the punching and water cure. I suffered chest pains due to the water cure and my hands were numb from the wrist down as a result of the overtightness of the handcuffs during the torture session.

It was two months before I fully recovered from my chest pains and three months before the numbness left my hands.

On the morning of November 17, someone came to offer a deal, a reunion with my wife for one regional secretary of the Communist Party of the Philippines. I merely ground my teeth at him.

Late afternoon that day, Captain Saldajeno came with another officer to make an offer. The torture and interrogation would stop if I made a statement that would incriminate myself and no others. All I was to do was declare that I am Amado Guerrero, Chairman of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

Although Captain Saldajeno and his companion conducted themselves like gentlemen it was clear that the statement was being extorted from me. In view of what I had already undergone and was still undergoing and also in view of the danger that anything could be done to me and could be claimed of me while I was in solitary confinement, I accepted the offer on the additional condition that the statement would include a part declaring that I would not be making any other statement while I did not yet have a lawyer of my choice, while I was still in the custody of the military and that I would soon be present in court.

I was actually compelled to sign a death warrant. I was not concerned with saving my life because I was aware that the death penalty would be applied under Republic Act 1700 by incriminating myself as the CPP Central Committee Chairman. My uppermost concern was to preclude the possible fabrication of a statement that would incriminate others and make me appear as one shamelessly untrue to the democratic cause.

In gross violation of Section 20 of the Bill of Rights, I was under duress and I was compelled to be witness against myself. Though Captain Saldajeno and Agent Calayag saw it fit to induce me to make such a statement, they did not see it fit to allow me to consult with a lawyer of my choice and did not inform me of my right to remain silent and to have a lawyer.

They took advantage of my forced isolation and the force, violence, threat and intimidation applied on my by offering relief in exchange for the self-incriminatory statement. A person of my educational background and political experience could not have refused to remain silent and to have a lawyer as a matter of right had he been allowed to exercise it.

After the statement on November 18, 1977, I was relieved of the frequent interrogations and I was allowed to recover physically. But I was continually subjected to what turned out to be a worse form of torture. It was mental torture through physical isolation, constantly in chains and other straining conditions. It was clear my tormentors still wanted me to break my nerves or my principles.

I repeatedly asked for access to a lawyer, my wife, others arrested with us and our relatives. My custodians never gave an answer, except some mocking remarks from inspectors who looked through a bay window of my cell door.

The days, weeks and months passed until August 7, 1978, when my mother, father, sister and lawyer were allowed to visit me.

One or two officers would come to my cell once every two weeks from December 1977 to the middle of February 1978. Then they ceased to come to complete my isolation. My guards were prohibited from speaking to me except when they say something in behalf of their superiors.

I was kept in a fully enclosed cell, a small room with a boarded-up window. From 11 AM to 5:30 PM during November to January, it was oppressively hot. In the summer months, it was practically hell during the day and even at night. During the day, a wet cloth dried up in a few hours’ time.

I was shackled to my cot by my right hand and foot from November 13, 1977 to June 23, 1978 for 24 hours a day. I consider that even more savage than the punching and strangulation sessions. I was told by an officer and guards that I had to be chained because I had refused to cooperate or because I would escape or commit suicide.

For four months I was deprived of my eyeglasses despite the unequal visual capacity of my eyes. I had to suffer eyestrain and headaches every day. I was told I did not need eyeglasses because I had nothing to read from the ceiling and walls.

I had nothing to read for four months. I was given something to read for a few days and again I had nothing to read for a longer stretch of time.

Until now, I remained in chains in the same cell. Since June 23, 1978, I have been disconnected from my cot but I am still shackled on both feet by handcuffs during my waking hours, limiting my movements. At night, I am chained to the cot. The inspectors still come often to flash a light on me.

From November 10, 1977 to January 17, 1978, I was not allowed any sunshine. The next 11 months I had just 24 hours total of sunshine. The standard prison rule is one hour daily sunning even for criminals already condemned to death. Only since December 1978 was I allowed to have some sunshine but still only three times a week for an hour each day.

Whenever I am brought out of my room for any reason, I am blindfolded. The blindfolding sometimes becomes painful when I am bumped into things by careless or mischievous escorts. I feel it is designed more to humiliate me than anything else.

I have not been allowed to read even the Marcos-controlled newspapers of Manila. Reading materials from relatives and friends are not allowed to reach me. When Attorney Joker Arroyo gave me a copy of the pamphlet “Legal Rights of Political Detainees” last February 23 during a hearing, it was immediately confiscated as soon as I was out of public view. When Attorney Juan T. David, my lawyer, gave me a copy of his Habeas Corpus petition to the Supreme Court involving my wife and me, it was also taken away as soon as he left the MSU reception room last February 28.

Sison, with his lawyers Joker Arroyo (left) and Juan T. David, during his trial by a military commission for rebellion. Photo courtesy: <strong></strong>

Sison, with his lawyers Joker Arroyo (left) and Juan T. David, during his trial by a military commission for rebellion. Photo courtesy:

Visitations by lawyers and family allowed to me since August 7, 1978, have been so restricted that in effect there is only one person in my family who can visit me.

My wife and I are detained in the same compound. After more than 15 months since our arrest, we have still not been allowed to meet and talk by ourselves at some reasonable length, despite precedents which allow not only conjugal meetings between co-accused husband and wife but even temporary release on account of children.

My mother and sister wanted my wife and me to be visited by religious people. I have agreed to welcome their visit since August 7, 1978 but my custodians do not allow them. I was told one time that communists do not talk to religious people. Another time, I was told that religious people are in collusion with communists.

My requests for medical and dental treatment from MSU medical personnel have not been attended to for periods as long as five months. Each time that my dental treatment was allowed, the attention was superficial and incomplete. The last time my two lower front teeth were treated for filling, my dentist practically busted these plus one more tooth, dealing permanent damage to them. I am also skeptical of the medical treatment I last received concerning an obstruction in the pupil of my left eye.

In isolation, minor vexations that might be dismissed as trifling can spell misery. Once I was asked to undress completely in my cell to be inspected thoroughly before meeting a visitor. When I was chained to my cot 24 hours a day I was not allowed to clean my cot and get rid of bugs. I was not allowed to have my hair or nails cut for as long as five months. While eating, my guard would tell me to hurry up because he had a loose bowel movement.

My handcuffs were replaced with new ones with sharp edges and tightened at the slightest pressure. When I complained they were replaced by handcuffs with only one chain link (usually they have two or three) to limit my movements more.

As a result of this statement, I am almost certain there will be series of retaliations against me. It has been my experience that whenever I make a request or demand and at the same time invoke a certain right my custodians or higher authorities always seem to take offense and react by not only refusing to accede to the request but also doing something to make my situation worse. It seems that in their view I have lost every right.

Upon the good counsel of my lawyer, I insist upon certain constitutional rights in this statement. In another statement, I make a comprehensive and fundamental criticism and condemnation of the antinational and antidemocratic reign of terror and greed. By actively participating in my legal defense, I try not only to expose, delay or stay the hands of injustice about to smite me but also to continue doing my bit in the defense of the people’s democratic cause.

I am aware that so far my ordeal in the hands of the fascists is slight in comparison to the torture suffered by several of my co-accused. It is also nothing in comparison to the torture and murder of thousands of revolutionary martyrs. I am determined to keep on fighting and I am prepared to undergo further brutality until my tormentors finally decide to kill me.

The broad masses of the people will eventually put the whole lot of their oppressors in their proper places. Right now, the organized democratic revolutionary forces are steadily growing in strength and advancing. U.S. imperialism and the local exploiting classes will utterly regret that the fascist regime has only served to accelerate the rise of the revolutionary forces and the doom of the already outmoded system.



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Arrests, extra-judicial killing of activists intensify Fri, 28 Mar 2014 10:22:17 +0000 Karapatan condemned the recent spat of killings and the arrests of revolutionaries and supposed sympathizers. <strong>PW File Photo / Macky Macaspac</strong>

Karapatan condemned the spate of killings and the arrests of revolutionaries and supposed sympathizers. PW File Photo / Macky Macaspac

Human rights group Karapatan condemned the recent arrest of a pregnant daughter of the late Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) spokesman Gregorio “Ka Roger” Rosal–the latest in a series of arrests and killings of supposed revolutionary leaders and sympathizers across the country.

Andrea Rosal, nine months pregnant, was arrested by elements of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (Isafp) yesterday morning in BF Homes, Brgy. 169, Caloocan City. She was arrested together with Ruben Gatchalian, a barangay captain and member of Anakpawis Party-list, as well as a certain Rafael de Guzman.

Authorities claimed Rosal is a member of the CPP in Southern Tagalog and was arrested by virtue of a warrant for kidnapping and murder. She denied the authorities’ allegations in media reports.

“Karapatan paralegals were not allowed to have access to those arrested when they arrived at the NBI at around 4:30 PM yesterday,” said Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary-general, who condemned the arrest and the denial of the right of the arrested persons to have access in legal representation.

“We demand for the immediate release of Andrea Rosal and that she be given proper medical care and attention considering her condition. We demand that the NBI and all security forces involved in this highly questionable operation respect the rights of Rosal, Gatchalian and Rosal’s companion to access to counsel, their relatives and human rights organizations,” Palabay said.

On Saturday, March 22, Wilma Austria and Benito Tiamzon, both senior leaders of the CPP, were arrested in Cebu. Lawyers and human rights groups said the arrest was illegal. Austria and Tiamzon have immunity from arrest as peace consultants, in the Joint Agreement on Immunity and Safety Guarantees (Jasig) but government officials and the military claimed otherwise.

Karapatan also raised the alarm over the spate of killings and demanded that President Aquino step down from office for the alleged escalation of human rights violations. The group said the president is accountable for the 169 victims of extra-judicial killings, from July 2010 to December 2013. And in span of 13 weeks for this year alone, 19 more victims were added.

William Bugatti <strong>Contributed photo</strong>

William Bugatti Contributed Photo

Latest additional victim of extra-judicial killings is a human rights worker in Ifugao. William Bugatti a member of Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) was gunned down on March 25, along the Ifugao Highway in Bolog, Kiangan, Ifugao.

According to Karapatan, Bugatti was also listed in a military’s order of battle together with other members of peoples organizations in Tinoc Ifugao.

The CHRA also said that posters bearing faces of members and leaders of progressive organization appeared in Ifugao and other provinces of the Cordillera regions.

Bugatti was killed more than a week after Romeo Capalla, the younger brother of Archbishop Antonio Capalla was killed in Iloilo, and two weeks after the massacre of Ligiw family in Abra.

Also in Bicol, Vince Casilihan, Karapatan-Bicol secretary general, said four small-scale farmers were killed on March 22, 2014. The victims Julio Labiano, Rene Labiano, Salem Virtus, and Jessie Brondia, were allegdely killed by Bantay Kalikasan Task Force of Camarines Sur.

“The cold-blooded murder is another chilling case of political killing in Bicol. The poor victims eke out a living by engaging in small-scale mining in their barangay. The perpetrators are members of the Civilian Security Unit (CSU) of the provincial government of Camarines Sur assigned to Task force Bantay Kalikasan. It is hard to dismiss that the killing is an isolated case and has nothing to do with the powers-that-be in Camarines Sur. Small scale mining is hot in the eyes of politicians in the province and of the military,” Casilihan stated.

Aside from this, child rights advocates in Southern Mindanao slammed the military for the alleged abduction and branding of a certain child named by the Military as “Balong”, 14, as a New People’s Army “child soldier” on March 24, 2014 in Magpet, North Cotabato. The military claimed Balong has been active for two years in the communist movement, and allegedly surrendered as an NPA guerrilla.

The alleged military Order of Battle against members of progressive groups. <strong>Contributed Photo</strong>

The alleged military Order of Battle against members of progressive groups. Contributed Photo

According to Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC), Balong’s elder brother showed up saying that he just got the Form 137 of “Balong” from Brgy. Guinoyuran Elementary School in Bukidnon in compliance with the child’s requirements for graduation. The child who transferred to Bangkal Elementary School last S.Y. 2012-2013 in Magpet and expected to garduate last March 27, 2014 as Grade 6 pupil.

The group said that the child’s adviser had his complete class records.

“This is not just a branding case but a case of abduction,as for a very long time, the military failed to turn him over to his family or assigned authorities, and even his whereabouts was only known to the family after March 24, 2014”said Rius Valle, advocacy officer of CRC Southern Mindanao Region.

Karapatan said that the latest arrests and the other human rights abuses sabotage the peace negotation between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

“Aquino’s duplicity on the issue of peace is further emphasized today. On one hand, he boasts of forging peace with the MILF, while military offensives continue in Mindanao victimizing thousands of civilians. On the other hand, he lies on his administration’s interest on peacetalks with the NDFP, while his government illegally arrests peace consultants, rights defenders and individuals and kills those who are vocal critics of his anti-people governance,” Palabay said.


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Arrest of Benito Tiamzon, Wilma Austria, violates immunity pact, says NDFP Sat, 22 Mar 2014 18:12:49 +0000 Photos of Wilma Austria and Benito Tiamzon released to media by the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Photos of Wilma Austria and Benito Tiamzon released to media by the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The chief peace negotiator of the revolutionary umbrella group National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) decried the arrest of alleged Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Chair Benito Tiamzon, his wife and alleged CPP Secretary-General Wilma Austria, and five others in Brgy. Zaragosa, Aluginsan, Cebu as a violation of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig).

Luis Jalandoni, head of the NDFP negotiating panel in the peace negotiations, said Tiamzon and Austria have been fulfilling “highly significant tasks in the peace negotiations” when they were arrested 3:15 PM on Saturday, March 22.

“The NDFP vigorously demands that Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria be immediately and unconditionally released,” stated Jalandoni. “This latest flagrant violation of the Jasig by the Aquino regime, in addition to so many other gross violations of the Jasig, most seriously prejudices the GPH-NDFP peace negotiations.”

Confirming arrest

AFP Chief-of-Staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista on Saturday evening confirmed the arrest of the Tiamzons and five others “by virtue of a warrant of arrest for their crimes against humanity that include murder, multiple murders, and frustrated murder.” They were arrested by combined teams from the AFP and the Philippine National Police (PNP), said Bautista.

Defense Sec. Voltaire Gazmin also confirmed the arrest, and said Tiamzon, Austria, and the others were then undergoing “tactical interrogation” at the headquarters of the Central Command (Centcom) of the AFP in Camp Lapu-Lapu, Cebu City.

But human rights defenders under Karapatan and the lawyers group National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) in Cebu that immediately dispatched a seven-man team to assist the arrested persons were stonewalled by soldiers at Camp Lapu-Lapu. They said that the soldiers also denied that Tiamzon, Austria and the five others were in their custody.

Dennis Abarrientos of Karapatan-Cebu said relatives of the arrested individuals contacted them to help in ascertaining the latter’s location.

Abarrientos said that in Camp Lapu-Lapu, a certain M/Sgt. Abuhan and someone in plain clothes who identified himself simply as an Army captain were the ones who denied custody of the arrested individuals.

When their lawyers asked for a written denial of custody, as per the Republic Act 10353, or the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2012, the said soldiers refused to give any, Abarrientos said.

Under RA 10353, arrested persons “deprived of liberty ” also have “absolute right…to have immediate access to any form of communication available in order for him or her to inform his or her family, relative, friend, lawyer or any human rights organization on his or her whereabouts and condition.”

Sa ilalim ng batas, dapat ina-accomodate nila kami, papapasukin para makausap (ang mga naaresto). Ni hindi sa amin pinapakausap ang superior (officer) nila (Under the law, they should have accomodated us, allowed us inside the camp to speak to those arrested. They did not even allow us to speak with their superior officer),” Abarrientos said, in a telephone interview with Pinoy Weekly.

He said that aside from allegedly violating the Jasig, the AFP Centcom also violated the right of the arrested persons to counsel.

    Wilma Austria, when she was arrested by the military in 1989. She escaped from military custody in December 1989. File Photo

Wilma Austria, when she was arrested by the military in October 1989. She escaped from military custody in December of the same year. File Photo

P5.6-Million bounty

“The arrest of Benito and Wilma Tiamzon is another victory for the combined efforts between the AFP, PNP and other stakeholders in pursuit of peace and security,” stated AFP’s Bautista, after the arrest.

But Jalandoni said that their arrest “most seriously prejudices the GPH-NDFP peace negotiations”.

“Wilma Austria is holder of NDFP Document of Identification ND978226 under her real name. She is holder of the Letter of Acknowledgment signed by then GRP Negotiating Panel Chairman Silvestre H. Bello III,” said Jalandoni.

Tiamzon, meanwhile, is a holder of NDFP Document of Identification ND 978227 under the assumed name “Crising Banaag”, and also holds a Letter of Acknowledgment from the government’s then chief negotiator Bello.

The NDFP, in November 2012, condemned the Aquino government’s announcement of placing bounties for the arrest of some 235 revolutionary leaders, including the Tiamzons who have been involved in the peace process.

“What are peace negotiations to the Aquino regime but a meaningless decorative piece when it demonizes and criminalizes the act of waging revolution and armed resistance against the oppressive and exploitative system?” the CPP said in Nov. 2012.

The Aquino administration, in Aug. 2012, announced that a P5.6-Million bounty existed for the capture of Benito Tiamzon, as well as other revolutionary leaders such as NDF-Mindanao spokesperson Jorge “Ka Oris” Madlos.

The bounty for the capture of NDFP leaders totaled P466.88-M, and was authorized under Joint Order No. 14-2012 of the Department of National Defense and Department of Interior and Local Government (DND-DILG).

“To list and target our consultants is an attack on the peace process. The NDFP wants to ensure that the JASIG is respected and not violated,” Jalandoni said in Nov. 2012.

Wilma Austria had previously been arrested in Oct. 1989. She escaped from a maximum security prison inside Camp Crame, Quezon City in Dec. of the same year.

The NDFP, which represents the revolutionary movement in the peace process, has been involved in talks with the Philippine government since the 1980s after the fall of the Marcos dictatorship. Among the landmark agreements between the two sides is Jasig, which guarantees safety and immunity from arrest and prosecution of all persons involved in the peace process.

The CPP, primarily through its armed wing the New People’s Army, has been waging an armed struggle to overthrow the existing Philippine political and economic system since its the late 1960s.

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Rising number of extra-judicial killings in 2014 alarms rights group Sat, 22 Mar 2014 01:55:07 +0000 Protesters placed symbolic “corpses” in front of the Justice Department office in Manila. Human rights groups condemned alleged military involvement and DOJ's apparent disinterest in solving in 11 cases of extra-judicial killings in 10 weeks.

Protesters placed symbolic “corpses” in front of the Justice Department office in Manila. Human rights groups condemned alleged military involvement and DOJ’s apparent disinterest in solving in 11 cases of extra-judicial killings in 10 weeks. Macky Macaspac

Eleven cases of extra-judicial killings in 10 weeks.

Human rights advocates, in a picket-protest in front of the Department of Justice (DOJ), called attention to this fact and urged the  Aquino government to find and punish the perpetrators of these killings and other human rights violations.

“If the Aquino government cannot control and stop its killing spree, BS Aquino, the commander in-chief of the armed forces, has no business staying in Malacañang,” said Karapatan secretary-general Cristina Palabay.

The group said the latest victims of extra-judicial killings were Romeo Capalla who was shot on March 15 in Oton, Iloilo province; and father and sons, Licuben, Eddie and Freddie Ligiw in Baay-Licuan, Abra province.

The Ligiws’ went missing for a few days. Their bodies were found buried in a shallow grave on March 8.

Military officials denied responsibility in the two separate incidents. In media reports, the 3rd Infantry Division of the Philippine Army based in Capiz denied the allegation of Karapatan, while the Army’s 41stInfantry Batallion in Abra accused Abra Human Rights Movement of “tampering’  evidence in the crime scene.

“The military is always in denial when it comes to extrajudicial killings,we know they are behind the killings,” said Clarizza Singson-Dagatan, regional coordinator of Karapatan-Iloilo. Dagatan stressed that Capalla was accused as a top rebel official, subjected to surveillance and was filed with a trump-up case and a clear pattern of extrajudicial killings.

Audrey Beltran, secretary general of Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA), meanwhile, described the accusation of the military as “the height of impunity and disrespect .”

Beltran said that human rights workers in Abra followed the instructions to wait for the crime scene investigators of the Philippine National Police who exhumed the bodies of the Ligiw’s. She added that human rights workers and all members of Karapatan are trained in preservation of evidences.

“The accusation of the 41st IB is baseless, (and is) meant only to intimidate human rights workers in the area,” Beltran said. The CHRA demanded the military unit to pull-out of Abra and called for an independent and impartial investigation of the Ligiws’ case.

Karapatan said that the Aquino government appears to have no intention of rendering justice to victims of extrajudicial killings.

“Just two weeks ago, we were here at the DOJ to sound the alarm bell and protest the seven reported incidents of killings in the first six weeks of 2014. In a matter of two weeks, four more incidents of extra-judicial killings happened,” said Palabay.

Palabay added that it seems the government is “running after its quota” of killings. Since December 2013, the group has documented 169 victims of extra-judicial killings across the country.

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Rights group condemns killing of Bishop Capalla’s brother Sun, 16 Mar 2014 12:55:17 +0000 ilo-iloHuman rights group Karapatan condemned the killing of Romeo Capalla, a fair trade activist and younger brother of Davao Archbishop Emeritus Fernando Capalla.

Romeo was shot early evening of March 15 in Oton Public Market, Iloilo by an unidentified gunman. He was rushed to Western Visayas Medical Center but was declared dead on arrival.

Karapatan suspects that state security forces are behind the killing. The group said that Romeo was arrested on August 3, 2005 on charges of arson, together with Fernando Baldomero who was also murdered on 2010.

The two were detained but were released a month later.

“Capalla was released and all charges against him were dismissed,” said Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan. Palabay said that Romeo was constantly tagged by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police as a commander of the rebel New People’s Army (NPA).

“This is a practice being continued by the Aquino administration through its counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan,” said Palabay. According to Karapatan, Romeo is the 11th victim of extrajudicial killing in 2014.

From July 2010 to December 2013, the group has documented 169 victims of extrajudicial killing.

Romeo worked for Panay Fair Trade Center since 1994, and was a member of Samahan ng Ex-detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (Selda), together with Fernando Baldomero, who was the first victim of extrajudicial killing under President Aquino’s term.

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Rights groups condemn ‘cover-up’ in massacre of indigenous family in Abra Wed, 12 Mar 2014 14:14:04 +0000 Youth group Anakbayan, condemned the killings of Ligiw family (contributed photo/anakbayan)

Youth group Anakbayan condemns the killing of Ligiw family Contributed Photo

Human rights groups belied the military’s claim that the killing of three family members of an indigenous people’s tribe in Abra was a handiwork of the rebel New People’s Army (NPA).

Abra Human Rights Movement, as well as militant groups, point to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) itself as the culprit.

The three victims, Freddie Ligiw, Eddie Ligiw and their father Licuben Ligiw went missing since March 2 and found dead in a shallow grave near their farm hut on March 8.

According to the Abra-based rights group, the victim’s family left Edie and Licuben in their farm hut while they went home at Sitio Sucaw, Domenglay, Licuan-Baay, Abra on March 2. On the same day, Freddie told his family that he will go to work at the small scale mining area, but will see his father first in the farm hut.

The three were expected to go home that night but they did not show up. The following day, the family of the victims went to look for them, but they were not at the farm house or the mining site.

On March 7, 2014, a search team composed of 50 residents of Domenglay, Licuan-Baay found a shallow grave near the victims’ farm hut and reported it to authorities. The victims were exhumed on the afternoon of March 8 by members of the Philippine National Police.

They were in fetal position and piled one after the other. All of them were tied -up and Freddie was gagged.

Media reports quoted military officials saying that the three victims were killed by the NPA and Freddie was a former member of the group who surrendered last March 2011.

But rights group Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) denied that the three were victims of the NPA. “We do not subscribe to the AFP’s claim that the massacre was perpetrated by the NPA,” said Audrey Beltran, deputy secretary general of CHRA.

Beltran observed that the NPA has been gaining broader support from the Cordillera peoples. “ It is a well known fact: The NPA will not massacre civilians as this would result to losing their so-called mass base, apart from being known of their strict adherence to International Humanitarian Law,” said Beltran.

The group accused the 41st Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army as behind the killings.

Military operations

Beltran said the military unit has been conducting military operations in the area around the time the three went missing.

On February 19, the 41st IB conducted a military operation in the area and took Freddie  with them to serve as a guide in the military operation against the NPA. The CHRA claimed that Freddie was due to file a human rights violation report about his ordeal on March 4.

“This is no mass grave. Rebel executions is a worn-out lie of the AFP, meant to overshadow the fact that the AFP is victimizing unarmed civilians under its counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan,” added Piya Macliing Malayao, spokesperson of Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP).

An indigenous leader herself, Malayao stressed that the three victims were civilians who were active in community struggles.

“The Ligiws are civilians, but are a thorn in (the military’s) side because of the family’s involvement in organizations that condemned the militarization and human rights violations exacted by the AFP to the people in the province,” Malayao said.

The Ligiw’s belongs to the Tingguian and Binodngan tribe and members of Anakbayan and the local peasant group Kastan.

The group added that progressive organizations in the Cordilleras were subjected to political vilification campaign of the military, accusing these organizations as fronts of the NPA and maliciously implicating the members including victims as supporters of the armed revolutionary group.

Harassing youth leaders

Vencer Crisostomo, Anakbayan chairperson, condemned the killing. “Given the recent attacks in the mainstream media by members of the military against Anakbayan, there is clearly only one group in the entire country with an interest in assassinating our members,” Crisostomo said.

Filipino youth leaders in the United States also condemned the military for its alleged involvement in the massacre of the Ligiw family.

“We know what the company line is of the US backed Arroyo administration–they will claim he was an anti-government militant or part of a communist front, and this still doesn’t justify the extra-judicial killing of youth organizers for social change that violates international law. But given that the brother a youth organizer of a legal organization, this is now a killing way beyond the boundaries of national and international law. A killing of a nation’s most vital resource: its youth,” stated Freedom Allah Siyam, community organizer and founding member of Anakbayan Seattle, the first overseas chapter of Anakbayan.

For his part, Anakbayan USA National Chairperson Yves Nibungco said, “The murder of Freddie and his family is part of a disturbing trend of state-sponsored violence against activists since Aquino came into power in 2009.”

Romeo Hebron, chairperson of Anakbayan-Los Angeles, likened the recent spate of rights violations to the abduction and physical and psychological torture of Filipino-American activist Melissa Roxas while doing community health work in Tarlac in 2009.

Roxas, who is also a member of the artists’ group Habi Arts in LA, was also accused by the military of being an NPA rebel.

Another killing

Meanwhile in Southern Tagalog, human rights group Karapatan also condemned the killing of a NPA member by the military.

Roberto Campaner, was caught alive but was wounded in an encounter between the NPA and the 85th Infantry Battalion on March 1 in Lopez, Quezon.

Later that day, the group found Campaner in a Hospital in Lopez already dead. The group said the body of Campaner bore signs of torture.

With reports from Hiyasmin Quijano in Los Angeles, USA

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On eve of Women’s Day, female political prisoner freed in Davao City Sat, 08 Mar 2014 04:16:24 +0000 Vanessa delos Reyes, after her release. <strong>Bhong Del Rosario</strong>

Vanessa delos Reyes, after her release. Bhong Del

A female hors d’combat and political prisoner, injured and in hospital arrest for almost three years at the Southern Philippines  Medical Center, has been released by a Davao court after posting bail on the eve of the International Women’s Day.

The release of Vanessa delos Reyes, 29, was greeted with applause by her supporters and human rights organizations led by Karapatan. She was allowed by the court to post a P800,000 bail, which her supporters raised through the Free Vanessa Movement

The Free Vanessa Movement spokesperson, Rocky Balili, said they will continue with their campaign until the case against Delos Reyes is dismissed. ‘”We will continue to push for her
unconditional release…(A) revolutionary woman like her is exemplary and her place is definitely not in the prison cell,” Balili said.

Delos Reyes expressed gratitude to all who helped her campaign for her freedom.

As a guerrilla of the New People’s Army (NPA), Delos Reyes was critically wounded in an encounter with soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines on May 29, 2011. She had been in hospital arrest because of her severe wounds that led to her inability to walk.

“I can no longer back to the mountains to join as NPA, but I will still continue to serve the people and be a human rights defender,” she vowed.

Delos Reyes said she is still undergoing medical treatment in hopes of being able to walk some day.

As of writing, there were 300 political prisoners in the Philippines. Human rights organizations are campaigning that they be granted “general, unconditional and omnibus amnesty”. Rights groups assert that political prisoners must be release in recognize of the fact that they are not criminals, but citizens compelled by circumstances to take up arms in furtherance of their political beliefs.

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US report on PH rights abuses ‘hypocritical’ — Karapatan Tue, 04 Mar 2014 08:28:04 +0000 Pangulong Aquino at US Pres. Barack Obama. (Malacanang Photo)

President Aquino and US Pres. Barack Obama. Malacanang Photo

The United State Department’s2014 Human Rights drew flak from human rights group Karapatan, saying the report is “hypocritical” since the US is also responsible for abuses committed by Philippine state security forces.

“It is image building. The US government is trying to soften its image among Filipinos and also in the international community as it prepares for an increased and permanent presence in the Philippines for its vaunted Asian pivot,” said Tinay Palabay, secretary-general of Karapatan.

Palabay said the blueprint of Philippine counterinsurgency program, Oplan Bayanihan, is patterned after the US counter-insurgency guide, and US military aid causes human rights abuses.

On Thursday, the US released its report regarding the human rights situation in 200 countries, including the Philippines. It said that extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances in the Philippines for the past year remains unabated.

But Karapatan said that the US government foments human rights abuses in the Philippines by filling up the military war chest of the Aquino government.

“The US military aid is used for the implementation of Oplan Bayanihan which already victimized thousands of Filipinos especially in the rural areas,” said Palabay.

She cited the $40 Million military aid to the Philippines promised by State Sec. John Kerry in December when he visited the Philippines. The report, which came out two months after Kerry’s $40-M pledge, is allegedly “deceitful” according to Palabay.

In a separate article written by Azadeh Shahshahani and Vanessa Lucas of the National Lawyers Guild in the US, they said that US military aid to the Philippines rose to $30-M in 2012, from $11.9-M in 2011.  Karapatan alleged this as as signal of US government’s renewed support for Oplan Bayanihan to end a 45-year-old insurgency led by the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army.

Palabay asserted that impunity exists because there is not one perpetrator arrested, prosecuted and jailed but rather, they are being promoted. “President Aquino always immediately dismissed documented human rights violations perpetrated by State forces as ‘communist propaganda’,” she added.

She also took a swipe at the “prompt response” of the Aquino government’s agencies after Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Commissioner Eta Rosales agreed to the US report that abuses still persist. Karapatan added that the CHR practically ignored the killings that have been going on since the Aquino’s presidency.

Etta Rosales, tagapangulo ng GPH Commission on Human Rights. (KR Guda)

Etta Rosales, CHR Commissioner. PW File Photo / KR Guda

“The Commission on Human Rights cannot simply agree to the report. It is equally accountable because it issued clearances to military officials promoted by Aquino, despite pending court cases against them,” Palabay said.

From July 2010 to December 2013, Karapatan documented 169 victims of extrajudicial killings. In the first six weeks of 2014, Karapatan said it has already documented six victims of extrajudicial killings.

“Impunity persists precisely because of US backing. For its own political and economic interests, the US propped up regimes which are human rights violators—from the time of the Marcos dictatorship up to the present,” Palabay added.

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Panggigipit sa Courage 2, nagpapatuloy Sat, 01 Mar 2014 06:47:19 +0000 Nanawagan sa harapan ng DOJ ang mga kawani ng pamahalaan na palayain ang Courage2. <strong>Pher Pasion</strong>

Nanawagan sa harapan ng DOJ ang mga kawani ng pamahalaan na palayain ang Courage2. Pher Pasion

Nadismaya ang mga kawani sa pamahalaan, kasama ang Free Randy and Raul Movement, sa desisyon ng Camarines Norte Provincial Prosecutor na ituloy ang prosekusyon laban sa dalawang organisador ng mga kawani na tinaguriang “Courage 2″.

Nagpiket ang mga kawani sa ilalim ng Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (Courage) sa harap ng Department of Justice para igiit ang kalayaan sa detinido nilang mga organisador.

Sa desisyon ng piskal, sinabi niyang may probable cause raw para ipagpatuloy ang mga kasong kinakaharap nina Randy Vegas at Raul Camposano.

Kinasuhan ang dalawa ng paglahok daw sa isang engkuwentro sa pagitan ng militar at New People’s Army noong Abril 29, 2012 sa Bikol. Sa kabila ito ng ipiniprisintang mga ebidensiya ng mga tagasuporta at kaanak nila na malayo sina Vegas at Camposano sa lugar kung saan nangyari ang engkuwentro at hindi sila mga rebelde.

Paliwanag ng Courage, malinaw na panggigipit ang desisyon ng piskal. Gawa-gawa lamang umano ang mga kasong ibinibintang sa kanilang mga kasamahan.

“Naging malisyoso at makaisang-panig ang desisyon ng prosecutor. Walang kredibilidad ang kanilang pangunahing testigo na sinasabi nito na bago ang insidente, noong 2001 pa nito huling nakita sina Vegas at Camposano,” ayon kay Ferdinand Gaite, pambansang pangulo ng Courage.

Gayunpaman, nagbigay umano ang prosecutor ng bigat sa pangalawang testigo–kahit wala naman daw ang mga pangalan nina Vegas at Camposano sa sarili nitong sworn affidavit, dagdag ni Gaite.

Nahaharap kasong six counts of murder, frustrated murder at theft sina Vegas at Camposano kasama sina Ramon Argente at Nancy Ortega parehong organisador ng mga magsasaka sa Bicol.

Pagbasura sa gawa-gawang kaso laban sa mga aktibista, ipinanawagan sa harapan ng DOJ. <strong> Pher Pasion</strong>

Pagbasura sa gawa-gawang kaso laban sa mga aktibista ang ipinanawagan ng mga tagasuporta ng Courage 2 sa harapan ng DOJ. Pher Pasion

Isinantabi din ng prosecutor ang mga testimonya ng mga testigo na may kredibilidad gaya ng mga kawani sa pamahalaan at abogado ng Public Attorney’s Office na nagpapatunay na nasa Quezon City sina Vegas at Camposano sa araw na nangyari ang sinasabing enkwentro.

Nakakulong ngayon sina Vegas at Camposano sa Camarines Norte Provincial Jail mula pa noong Disyembre 3, 2012.

Agad namang naghain ng motion for reconsideration ang kampo nina Vegas at Camposano sa naging desisyon ng piskal. Umaapela sila DOJ na itigil na pagkakamaling ginagawa sa kanilang mga kasamahan at palayin ang mga ito.

“Binigyan ng importansiya ng prosecutor ang testigo bilang isang militar. Mismong sa ganitong dahilan na militar ang testigo kaya dapat noong una pa ay naibasura na ang mga gawa-gawang kasong ito,” ayon kay Gaite.


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