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Philippines: Conflicts and Human Rights Under Duterte

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Philippines: Conflicts and Human Rights Under Duterte

Duterte Government and Rebel negotiating teams in public forum in London.

Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte has shocked the world in the last few months with an estimated 5-6,000 extrajudicial killings in his “war against drugs”. Already there are reports of political activists being killed under the cover of this campaign by local police and death squads.  Much less media coverage has been given, in the confusing reconfiguration of Philippine politics under Duterte, to the current peace talks between the government and the communist-led National Democratic Front (NDF) guerrillas to end 48 years of armed conflict. It is estimated that the armed conflict – the longest in Asia – has claimed around 40,000 lives to date.

This month will see the third round of these talks, which have been sponsored by the Royal Norwegian Government, taking place in Rome. It marks a crucial stage in the negotiations as the agenda turns to economic and social justice, and the issue of the current extra-judicial killings must come under discussion.

The Campaign for Human Rights in the Philippines (CHRP), in co-operation with the UK- based NGO Conciliation Resources and the UNISON Filipino Activist Network, is organising a public discussion in London which will involve both government and NDF negotiators who will have come straight from the Rome talks. The meeting is responding to the enormous interest among the thousands of Filipinos in the UK, many of them working in jobs in health and social services. The UK has the largest Filipino migrant population in Europe.

MEDIA COVERAGE IS REQUESTED FOR THE FOLLOWING:
PHOTO OPPORTUNITIES AVAILABLE
 

27th January 2017, Friday, 5.00pm

The UK public forum on Conflicts and Human Rights under Duterte will take place at 5.00 pm on Friday 27 January 2017 at the UNISON Centre, 130 Euston Road, London NW1 2AY. There will be a special briefing for the press at 6.30 pm where interviews can be held.

30th January 2017, Monday, 4.00pm

A meeting between the peace teams and MPs will also take place take place hosted by Nicole Piche, Coordinator/Legal Adviser, All Party Parliamentary Human Rights Group on Monday 30 January, at the Houses of Commons, Room. There will be an opportunity for press interviews after the meeting from 4.00pm.

Media liaisions:

Jamima Fagta
E: secretary@chrp.org.uk
M: +447958 389370

Rafael Joseph Maramag
E: info@chrp.org.uk
M: +447958 482753

Related links:

Eventbrite page: www.london-peace-forum.eventbrite.co.uk
Website info: www.chrp.org.uk/2017/london-peace-forum-venue-changed

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January 19, 2017   No Comments

Just & Lasting Peace PH: A Public Forum on the Ongoing Peace Talks in the Philippines

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The public forum aims to provide updates on the ongoing Peace Talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

Why are there peace talks happening in the Philippines?

A civil war has been happening in the Philippines since 1969, the longest communist insurgency in Asia. Historical and systemic injustice and oppression experienced by the majority of the Filipino people have driven many Filipinos to seek fundamental societal changes through armed struggle. That civil war continues throughout the country today.

The peace talks thus far

The first round of talks between the GRP and NDFP were successfully concluded in August 2016 wherein a six-point agreement was signed in Oslo, Norway. During the second round of talks in October also in Oslo, the GRP and NDFP were able to reach common drafts for the framework and outlines of the substantive agenda on socio-economic, political and constitutional reforms, and the end of hostilities and disposition of forces. A draft amnesty proclamation was said to be submitted to the Office of the President covering the release of 434 political prisoners, which would bring about a bilateral ceasefire agreement between the GRP and NDFP.

At present, both parties have indefinite unilateral ceasefires in place. To date, the amnesty granting the unconditional release of all political prisoners are still stalled.

The third round of talks are scheduled on 16-25 January 2017 in Rome Italy where the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER), which would address the roots of the armed conflict and would be the main framework for a just and lasting peace, would be tabled, amongst other agenda.

Filipino migrants engagement

During the opening ceremony of the first round of peace talks in Oslo, a delegation from Filipino migrants in different parts of Europe was able to present a document containing their migrants agenda — issues and demands dear to the hearts of Filipino migrants. Filipino migrants now number more than 10 million scattered in different parts of the world and their remittances have played a big role in keeping the Philippine economy afloat.

Click on the image thumbnail to make them larger.
Facebook event page here
Register with Eventbrite here

 

 

January 7, 2017   No Comments

Nine political killings in three weeks, amid AFP’s all-out-war and counter-insurgency program

Nine political killings in three weeks, amid AFP’s all-out-war and counter-insurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan
 
Dear friends,
 
Recent political developments, notably President Rodrigo Duterte’s termination of the unilateral ceasefire of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), his cancellation of the GRP-NDFP peacetalks and the military’s subsequent all-out-war declaration, have intensified the repression and attacks against the civilian populace and members and leaders of progressive organizations. In the same patterns of previous military operational plans (Oplan), State security forces target civilians and activists in an attempt to sow fear and terror among struggling communities. This pattern of State violence has remained unabated during the first six months of the Duterte administration, when it continued BS Aquino’s Oplan Bayanihan to its current counter-insurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan.
 
Most recently, on February 19, 2017, another farmer and member of a local peasant organization, Willerme Agorde, was gunned down by suspected elements of the Bagani paramilitary in North Cotabato province. This recent killing has put the number of reported political killings to nine (9) in three weeks, since February 3, 2017 when Pres. Duterte announced the termination of the unilateral ceasefire of the GRP with the NDFP. Those killed were either farmers or members of indigenous communities; six (6) of them were members of progressive organizations.
 
Let us condemn the political killings of activists and civilians and systematic and intensified military attacks against communities. We call for an end to the fascist attacks and State terror against the people, as well as the junking of declarations and counter-insurgency plans with the same effect, particularly Oplan Kapayapaan. Let us support the call for the continuation of the GRP-NDFP peace talks, and for the Government of the Philippines (GRP) to abide by previous agreements, including the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), and to sincerely address the root causes of the armed conflict.
 
 
 
ACCOUNT OF THE INCIDENTS
 
Peasant leader Willerme Agorde, 64, auditor of Mailuminado Farmers Association Incorporated (MAFAI) was shot by suspected members of Bagani paramilitary group at 5pm yesterday, February 19, 2017, in front of his house at Brgy. Ilustre, President Roxas, North Cotabato. He was declared dead on arrival at 10pm last night at the Antipas Medical Specialist Inc., where he was brought after the shooting.
 
Agorde was among the active leaders of MAFAI who were asserting the farmers’ right to own the land they have been tilling since the 1950’s. The farmers led by MAFAI have been engaged in the struggle for land ownership since former Pres. Carlos Garcia allotted some 7,200-hectare land as reservation for the University of Southern Mindanao (USM) and Cotabato Foundation College of Science and Technology  (CFCST) through Presidential Proclamation No. 428 in 1957. Data from the Department of Agrarian Reform, as of December 2016, revealed that a total of 3,277.8 hectares of land in the USM and CFCST reservation remain unused.
 
Agorde led farmers in a protest camp-out inside the CFCST campus in December 2016, when they successfully prodded university officials and local and national authorities from DAR to distribute the unused land of the university to the farmers. In a letter dated December 16, 2017, DAR Secretary Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano assured the farmers that the unused land will be awarded to its actual tillers and occupants.
 
On February 16, 2017, at around 10am, Edweno ‘Edwin’ Catog, 44, a Lumad-Mansaka, and a member of the Hugpong sa mga Mag-uuma sa Walog Compostela (HUMAWAC), was shot by two men, suspected to be linked to the 46th Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army (IBPA), onboard a white XRM motorcycle in the highway intersection of Brgy. Furentes, Pantukan, Compostela Valley. Catog was immediately brought to the Pantukan Public Hospital, where he was declared dead-on-arrival. The victim sustained four gunshot wounds – two near his jaw, in his chest, and his stomach.
 
HUMAWAC, led by Catog, supported the campaign of the Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association, Inc. (MARBAI) farmers in Madaum, Tagum City. The farmers were asserting their right to the 145-hectare land, which is part of the area utilized by the Lapanday Food Corp. (LFC) as a banana plantation. The disputed land was already awarded to farmers in 1996 under the government’s agrarian reform program but continues to remain in the control of LFC. On December 14, 2016, HUMAWAC supported the protest camp-out of the MARBAI farmers.
 
Catog’s name was said to be on the 46th IBPA’s order of battle list. On January 5, 2017, his relative advised him to seek sanctuary, after receiving information that he was targeted by the military. The 46th IBPA is under the 10th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army.
 
Agorde and Catog are latest victims of political killings this February. Two indigenous peoples’ leaders killed on February 3, while two were also gunned down on February 6. Three (3) farmers were killed on February 11.
 
On February 3, Lumad leader Matanem Lorendo Pocuan, tribe leader of the Omayam tribe in Cabanglasa, Bukidnon, and Renato Anglao, 42, a Manobo-Pulangihon and secretary-general of Tribal Indigenous Oppressed Group Association (TINDOGA), were gunned down in separate incidents. Pocuan resisted invitations from the Alamara paramilitary group to have members of their community join their ranks which earned him the ire of Alamara members. The latter tagged Pocuan and his community as NPA sympathizers. Anglao, on the other hand, was active in the fight for the defense of their ancestral domains and campaigned against military operations in his community.
 
On February 6, Emelito Rotimas, 48,  a Lumad Mansaka and leader of Purok 6, Brgy. Lapu-Lapu, Maco, Compostela Valley, was shot eight (8) times by suspected military agents while Glenn Ramos, 39, was shot dead by personnel of the Crime Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) in his house in Maa, Davao City. Rotimas is a member of Anakpawis Partylist, while Ramos was a former coordinator of Bayan Muna in Davao City.
 
On February 11, two small-scale miners, Pepito Tiambong and Jerson Bito, were killed when the 73rd IBPA sprayed bullets in a mining tunnel in Sitio Sarog, Pangailan, Santiago, Agusan del Norte, believing members of the NPA were inside. The soldiers only stopped when there was no exchange from the other end. After inspecting the tunnel, they found Tiambong and Bito dead, along with four others who were injured. In a separate incident in Roxas City, Capiz, farmer Orlando Eslana, 48,  was killed while five others were injured when armed personnel of the Tan Estate open fired at the farmers who were staging a kampuhan to assert their ownership of the land. Certificates of Land Ownership Agreement (CLOAs) had already been issued to farmer-beneficiaries but the Tans refused to distribute. The victims of the shooting were all members of the Kahublagan sang Mangunguma sa Capiz (KAMACA).
 
Recommended actions:
 
Send letters, emails or fax messages calling for:

1.       The immediate investigation of the separate incidents to be conducted by an independent body;
2.      The immediate investigation and prosecution of perpetrators which include paramilitary forces, elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the CIDG, and other State security forces;
3.      An end to the targetting and killing of activists and leaders of progressive organizations;
4.      The junking of Oplan Kapayapaan which is similar to previous counter-insurgency programs which targetted civilians and members of progressive organizations;
5.      The Philippine Government to continue the peace talks and build towards the advancement of a Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER), which includes the issue of free land distribution to farmers and farm workers;
6.      The Philippine Government to pursue its commitments under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) which includes the right to freedom of thought and expression, freedom of conscience, political and religious beliefs and practices and the right not to be punished or held accountable for the exercise of these rights, and the right to free speech, press, association and assembly; and
7.      The Philippine Government to adhere and respect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and all major Human Rights instruments that it is a party and signatory.
 
You may send your communications to:
 
You may send your communications to:
 
H.E. Rodrigo Duterte
President of the Republic
Malacañang Palace,
JP Laurel St., San Miguel
Manila Philippines
Voice: (+632) 564 1451 to 80
Fax: (+632) 742-1641 / 929-3968
E-mail: op@president.gov.ph or send message through http://president.gov.ph/contact-us/
 
Hon. Jesus Dureza
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process
Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP)
7th Floor Agustin Building I
Emerald Avenue
Pasig City 1605
Voice:+63 (2) 636 0701 to 066
Fax:+63 (2) 638 2216
Email: stqd.papp@opapp.gov.ph, feedback@opapp.net
 
Ret. Maj. Gen. Delfin Lorenzana
Secretary, Department of National Defense
Room 301 DND Building, Camp Emilio Aguinaldo,
E. de los Santos Avenue, Quezon City
Voice:+63(2) 911-6193 / 911-0488 / 982-5600
Fax:+63(2) 982-5600
Email: info@dnd.gov.ph, webmaster@dnd.gov.ph
 
Hon. Vitaliano Aguirre
Secretary, Department of Justice
Padre Faura St., Manila
Direct Line 521-8344; 5213721
Trunkline:  523-84-81 loc.214
Fax: (+632) 521-1614
Email: communications@doj.gov.ph
 
Hon. Jose Luis Martin Gascon
Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights
SAAC Bldg., UP Complex, Commonwealth Avenue
Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines
Voice: (+632) 928-5655, 926-6188
Fax: (+632) 929 0102
Email: chairgascon.chr@gmail.com
 
Please send us a copy of your email/mail/fax to the above-named government officials, to our address below:
 
 
URGENT ACTION Prepared by:
KARAPATAN Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights
National Office
2/F Erythrina Bldg., #1 Maaralin cor Matatag Sts., Brgy. Central,
Diliman, Quezon City 1100 PHILIPPINES
Voice/Fax: (+632) 435 4146
Email: urgentaction@karapatan.org; karapatan@karapatan.org
Website: www.karapatan.org

February 21, 2017   No Comments

Urgent: Continue the peace talks, Firm up reforms

Dear Friends,

On behalf of the JustPeacePH platform [http://justpeace.ph/about/], we ask for your support to campaign and push for the continuation of the peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) by:

1. Signing on to the (online) statement: Continue the peace talks, Firm up reforms.

http://justpeace.ph/continue-the-peace-talks-firm-up-reforms/

2. Issuing your own statements in support of the continuation of the talks and much needed reforms towards just and lasting peace in the country (please refer to statements below and hereby attached)

3. Conducting information dissemination activities on the issue of attaining just and lasting peace in the Philippines.

Please feel free to forward this message to your friends and network. Thank you so much!

In solidarity,
Angie M. Gonzales
Coordinator
International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines
http://www.humanrightsphilippines.net/

Co-Secretariat for JustPeacePH

Join Now

Continue the peace talks, Firm up reforms

We express our deep disappointment over the declaration of President Rodrigo Duterte to terminate the peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), especially at a time when both sides have already made substantial, accelerated and historic progress in the negotiations.
In the pursuit of the Filipino people’s aspirations for economic development, social justice, genuine democracy and lasting peace, we strongly urge Pres. Duterte to reconsider and push on with the peace talks.
The just-concluded Third Round of talks in Rome, made accelerated progress in the discussion of each panel’s versions of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER). Both sides recognized the problem of landlessness and rural poverty, and they agreed in principle to the free distribution of land to farmers and farm workers. This is a historic first in any Philippine administration and in the 30-year history of the talks. This is also a first in any peace negotiation in the world! They also agreed to continue discussions and to forge other agreements on national industrialization, economic development, and environmental protection.
During the Third Round, the two sides also exchanged complete drafts for a proposed agreement on Political and Constitutional Reforms. They exchanged views on the proposal for a federal form of government and the need for certain constitutional guarantees and safeguards demanded by the people.
The two sides then agreed to meet again for a Fourth Round of talks in April, in Oslo, Norway. They vowed to continue working on the full implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement for Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), and to unify their versions of the agreements on social and economic reforms and that on political and constitutional reforms.
The historic gains achieved thus far in the peace talks, coupled with the festering poverty, social inequity and injustice, and trampling on the rights of the Filipino people are more than sufficient compelling reasons to trudge forward on the path to peace.
We continue to hope for peace and support the Filipino people’s aspirations for peace based on justice. What is most important is that the people’s struggles for national liberation, social justice, economic development, and democratic reforms will continue, and the roots of the armed conflict will be addressed. Only then can just and lasting peace be achieved in the Philippines.
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A Call for Sobriety: No to All-Out War, Continue the Peace Talks
 
15 February 2017
Hong Kong SAR
 
 
Together with Filipino human rights, justice and peace advocates as well as different international groups standing in solidarity with the Filipino people in their struggle for just and lasting peace, the Hong Kong Campaign for the Advancement of Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines (HKCAHRPP) is unequivocally calling for the Duterte government to continue the peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and not to follow the “Marcosian tactics” of past administrations which all failed in ending the longest revolutionary armed struggle in Asia through purely military means.
 
Last year the HKCAHRPP, together with the Filipino people, were jubilant during the first few months of the Duterte administration due to the government’s decision to resume the peace negotiations between the GRP and the CPP/NPA/NDF. At long last, we thought that there is a Philippine president who expresses openness in addressing the root causes of the armed struggle in the country through a negotiated peace settlement.
 
After the first three rounds of talks between the GRP and the CPP/NPA/NDF during the period of August 2016 to January 2017, President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s administration achieved significant gains that no other administration has achieved before. These are the affirmation of previously signed agreements, respect for the status of NDF personnel and negotiators protected under JASIG (Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantee), the release of 17 NDF personnel, a common ground on the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-economic Reforms (CASER) and more than 160 days of a unilateral ceasefire.
 
But to our surprise and dismay, the Duterte government equivocally terminated the peace talks between the GRP and CCP/NPA/NDF.
 
The HKCAHRPP is also expressing its serious concern with the recent pronouncement of President Duterte that tags the CPP/NPA/NDF as “terrorists” and orders the immediate arrest of all protected personnel under JASIG. Similarly alarming is the declaration of an “all-out war” against the revolutionary movement by no less than the secretary of the Department of National Defense.
 
History has taught us that a military solution will never succeed in ending the country’s decades-old civil war. It will only aggravate the anger and worsen social unrest as the vast majority of the Filipino people continue to suffer from abject poverty, landlessness, exploitation and systemic injustice in the hands of a few and powerful elites ruling the country. Just like in previous administrations, massive militarization intensifies human rights violations in the form of abductions, extrajudicial killings, disappearances, the filing of trumped-up charges and the like against political activists, human rights defenders and justice and peace advocates among the peasants, national minorities, workers, women, youth, professionals, church people, etc.
 
Mr. President, do not let the significant gains that your administration has achieved in the past eight months of negotiation go to waste. There are many hurdles, differences and misunderstandings that both the GRP and CPP/NPA/NDF panels may encounter in pursuing the path for genuine and lasting peace. But there’s no better way to resolve such conflicts but through peace talks while both parties are resolute in addressing the root causes of the armed conflict in the Philippines.
 
The Filipino people deserve nothing but land to till, a protected environment, secure jobs and decent wages, the full protection of their rights and welfare, basic social services and a truly sovereign and developed economy that are all being tackled in CASER. Addressing these issues will pave the way for a just and lasting peace.
 
Continue the Peace Talks!
Yes to Just Peace!
No to All-Out War!
 
 
Reference:      Bruce Van Voorhis
                        Convenor, HKCAHRPP
 
                        Ma Wan-ki “Majai”
                        Convenor, HKCAHRPP
                        Deputy Sec. General, ICHRP
 
 (The HKCAHRPP is a Hong Kong-based solidarity campaign and advocacy network for just peace and human rights in the Philippines. It is composed of migrant organisations, local and regional rights NGOs, labor groups, lawyers, journalists, Church-based institutions and individual human rights advocates and defenders. It was established in 2006, two years after several striking farmers were killed by the members of the national police in what is now known as the “Hacienda Luisita Massacre”. It was also a response to the spate of extrajudicial killings of activists and human rights defenders in the Philippines.)
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Hong Kong Campaign for the Advancement of
Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines
c/o ASA, No. 4 Jordan Road, Kowloon, Hong Kong SAR
Tel. (852) 98105070, 97585935        Fax. (852) 27354559
E-mail: hkcahrpp@gmail.com

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Attachment(s) from International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines | View attachments on the web
1 of 1 File(s)
2017_12Feb_ICHRP.pdf

Posted by: International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines

February 21, 2017   No Comments

Karapatan: Civilians, progressives, inevitable casualties of AFP’s all-out-war

From: “KARAPATAN Human Rights Update on behalf of publicinfo” <karapatan-updates@googlegroups.com>
To:
Sent: 18/02/2017 5:11:23 PM
Subject: [Karapatan HR update] Civilians, progressives, inevitable casualties of AFP’s all-out-war

Press Statement

February 18, 2017

 

For reference:

Cristina Palabay, Karapatan Secretary General (09173162831)

Angge Santos, Media Liaison, (09189790580) 

 

Civilians, progressives, inevitable casualties of AFP’s all-out-war

“The cancellation of the talks and the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) subsequent declaration of an all-out-war have generated a long list of casualties in two weeks. From February 3 to February 17, 2017, Karapatan has documented at least eight (8) victims of political killings, most recently involving Edweno Catog, a farmer and member of a local peasant organization in Pantukan, Compostela Valley,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said on yesterday’s killing of Catog.

 

Edweno ‘Edwin’ Catog, 44, a Lumad-Mansaka, is a member of Hugpong sa mga Mag-uuma sa Walog Compostela (HUMAWAC). On February 16, 2017, Catog was shot in front of the public in the highway intersection of Brgy. Fuentes, by suspected State security forces. He sustained four (4) gunshot wounds and was pronounced dead-on-arrival after being rushed to the Pantukan Public Hospital. Palabay stated that “the killing of Catog puts the number of political killings in Duterte’s eight months to thirty-one (31).”

On February 3, the day Duterte announced the GRP’s withdrawal from the peacetalks, Lumad leaders Matanem Lorendo Pocuan, tribe leader of the Omayam tribe in Cabanglasan, Bukidnon and Renato Anglao, a Manobo-Pulangihon and secretary-general of Tribal Indigenous Oppressed Group Association (TINDOGA), were killed in separate incidents.

On February 6, Emelito Rotimas, a Mansaka and leader of Purok 6, Brgy. Lapu-Lapu, Maco, Compostela Valley, was shot eight (8) times by suspected military agents, while Glenn Ramos, a former coordinator of Bayan Muna in Davao City was shot dead by personnel of Crime Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) while in his house in Maa, Davao City. On February 11, two small-scale miners, Pepito Tiambong and Jerson Bito were killed when the 73rd Infantry Battalion sprayed bullets in a mining tunnel. Four others were injured, including a 15-year old boy.

In Roxas City, Capiz, farmer Orlando Eslana was killed while five others were injured in a shooting incident on February 11, while farmers were staging a Kampuhan to assert their ownership of the land occupied by the Tan Estate, despite the granting of Certificates of Land Ownership Agreement (CLOAs) to farmer-beneficiaries.

“With the intensification of attacks against the people, civilians and members of progressive organizations have inevitably been targeted. Of the eight (8) killings in the first two weeks this month, five are members and leaders of progressive organizations. The recent spate of illegal arrests also shows the trend of apprehending activists,” Palabay said, citing that the number of arrests has numbered to 19 in a span of two weeks.

“The all-out-war further exposes the fascist character of the AFP. US-driven counter-insurgency programs of several regimes, including Aquino’s Oplan Bayanihan and Duterte’s Oplan Kapayapaan, have only resulted to numerous violations against the people. The military’s blatant disregard for the rights of the people, heightened by their all-out-war declaration, will perpetuate resistance, as roots of political dissent and unrest remains,” Palabay concluded.

———————————————————————
PUBLIC INFORMATION DESK
publicinfo@karapatan.org
———————————————————————

Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights
2nd Flr. Erythrina Bldg., #1 Maaralin corner Matatag Sts., Central District
Diliman, Quezon City, PHILIPPINES 1101
Telefax: (+63 2) 4354146

KARAPATAN is an alliance of human rights organizations and programs, human rights desks and committees of people’s organizations, and individual advocates committed to the defense and promotion of people’s rights and civil liberties.  It monitors and documents cases of human rights violations, assists and defends victims and conducts education, training and campaign. 
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February 19, 2017   No Comments

Statement on the Killing of Atty. Mia Mascariñas-Green

Statement on the Killing of Atty. Mia Mascariñas-Green

We condemn the vile killing of our colleague, sister, and friend, Atty.
Mia Manuelita Mascariñas-Green last Wednesday, February 15. Attorney Mia
was shot dead in a meticulously planned crime in Tagbilaran, Bohol by
two unidentified assassins, while driving home with her three children.

Our society simply has no place for lawless killings. No one deserves to
be killed especially as how Attorney Mia was cold-bloodedly gunned down.
Nobody should be killed most especially so because of one’s advocacy and
beliefs.

As part of Alternative Law Groups, Inc. (ALG) member, Environmental
Legal Assistance Center (ELAC), Attorney Mia has been working as a
dedicated environmental lawyer, an alternative lawyer in pursuit of
public interest, respect for human rights, and promotion of social
justice for more than ten years. Her untimely death is a clear example
of why we all should strive as alternative lawyers and advocates of
human rights and social development.

This dreadful incident has strengthened our commitment to the nation. We
are, now, more than ever, encouraged and emboldened to advocate for what
is right, rather than being shakened by such cowardly acts against our
peaceful community.

We invite everyone to join us in remembering the noble life of Attorney
Mia. The Alternative Law Groups (ALG), the Environmental Legal
Assistance Center (ELAC), the Manila Observatory (MO) and the Philippine
Tropical Forest Conservation Foundation (PTFCF) have organized a requiem
which will be held on February 21, Tuesday, 6-8 PM at Heyden Hall,
Manila Observatory, Ateneo de Manila University in Quezon City. This
will also serve as an indignation gathering of environmental and human
rights lawyers and activists.

As one community, we demand justice for all the senseless killings! We
demand justice for Attorney Mia!

Atty. RAY PAOLO J. SANTIAGO

Executive Director, Ateneo Human Rights Center (AHRC)
Chairperson, Alternative Law Groups (ALG)

Atty. GRIZELDA M. MAYO-ANDA
Executive Director, Environmental Legal Assistance Center (ELAC)

Atty. MARLON J. MANUEL
National Coordinator, Alternative Law Groups (ALG)

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Environmental lawyer killed

Gunmen taunted victim’s children and their nanny before fleeing on board
two motorcycles

By: Leo Udtohan – Correspondent

Philippine Daily Inquirer

17 February 2017

TAGBILARAN CITY—What would have been a routine drive home for lawyer Mia
Manuelita Mascariñas-Green on Wednesday afternoon ended in a brutal
murder witnessed by her three young children in this city in Bohol province.

The four gunmen did not just leave after shooting Mascariñas-Green, 49,
who was driving her Toyota Innova. They also taunted her 10-year-old
daughter and 2-year-old twins and the children’s nanny, pointing their
guns at them before fleeing on board two motorcycles, police said.

“They even bullied the kids and the yaya,” said Supt. Nicomedes Olaivar,
Tagbilaran City police chief. “They made faces and then laughed at
them,” he added.

Olaivar said the gunmen had companions positioned in the area.

He admitted, though, that while the police had established the
identities of the suspects, investigators had yet to determine the
motive of the killing, which he described as “well-planned.”

Olaivar said police were not discounting the possibility that the attack
was related to Mascariñas-Green’s job as a lawyer.

“We all knew Attorney Mascariñas (Green), palaban unya (she fights) for
the poor,” he said.

Mascariñas-Green was known as an environmental lawyer and was part of
the Environmental Legal Assistance Center. She also handled civil and
criminal cases.

Olaivar said the suspects were familiar with the lawyer’s daily routine.

Mascariñas-Green left her law office in Dampas District with her
children and nanny at 4:27 p.m. on Wednesday.

“It was the usual route she was taking when going home (to Loon town) to
escape traffic jams in the city,” Olaivar said.

When her Toyota Innova reached the corner of H. Zamora and J.A. Clarin
Streets in Dao District, two motorcycles blocked her path and fired at her.

Her children were unharmed as they were seated at the back passenger seat.

Mascariñas-Green had three bullet wounds in the head and four bullet
wounds in the body. She died at Holy Name Hospital Medical Center here.

Investigators recovered at least 27 spent shells from .45 cal. and 9mm
pistols from the crime scene, Olaivar said.

Mascariñas-Green’s husband, Stuart, a British, was in Bangkok for a
conference and was expected to arrive in Bohol on Thursday. The family
had yet to issue an official statement.

Mascariñas-Green was a student leader at Divine Word College of
Tagbilaran (DWCT), now Holy Name University.

“She had excellent leadership skills and was articulate. She fought for
the rights of students,” said Rosalinda Paredes, former director for
student affairs at DWCT.

February 19, 2017   No Comments

Statement of the National Fact Finding Mission on the HTI tragedy

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AHRC-FST-001-2017
15 February 2017
A Statement from National Fact Finding Mission forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission
PHILIPPINES: Statement of the National Fact Finding Mission on the HTI tragedy
In light of the apparent information blackout concerning the fire that devoured the House Technology Industries main building (HTI) inside the Cavite Export Processing Zone, various labor institutions and people’s organization initiated a National Fact Finding Mission to probe the extent of casualties, the circumstances of the incident and possible labor standards violations that resulted in one of the worst workplace tragedies in history.

The initial findings of the Quick Response Team on February 2 and the NFFM conducted on February 4 and 5, indicate the following:

1. There remains a public doubt on the statement issued by Cavite local government as to the number of injuries and zero casualty, prior to the death of Jerome Sismaet. Majority of the survivors and witnesses interviewed by the NFFM team claimed that there were more workers trapped and feared to have died inside the HTI building. Others said that they either saw or even crawled over dead bodies of co-workers as they were escaping from the burning building. This is in consonance with the testimonials of survivors interviewed by the media. The actual number of workers trapped and feared dead inside the building remains unconfirmed as the company, the Cavite local government unit, PEZA, and DOLE have all failed to impart official records to the media and the public.
2. According to the survivors, witnesses and workers who were off-duty but were at the compound, the fire started around 6 PM when a panel machine sparked in the second floor, reached and caught fire from the sawdusts scattered in the production area.

a. The fire quickly spread as the vacuum used for absorbing sawdust, absorbs the flaming dust instead. It only took two minutes for the fire to reach the flammable chemicals inside, thick black smoke covered the entire building followed by explosions. Workers note that some of the chemicals used in the production in 2nd floor are hydraulic oil, sealant, thinner, paint, 100%alcohol, and other volatile chemicals for casting and curing. Moreover, there are also accounts of the burning fire exit close to where the fire started, while others claimed of locked exits at the other end.

b. It was also noted that during the fire, the workers got out through the two main staircases used as the regular employees’ entrance to and exit from the building. The stairs, survivors noted were 1.5-2 meters wide and too narrow to accommodate the huge number of panicking employees desperately trying to get out of the burning building. Thus, most of them were forced to break the windows and jump from the third and second floors, including a pregnant woman. There were more women workers in the third floor working the quality control/checkers and balcony. The LGU announced that all workers were accounted for, or are they only regular workers of HTI? What about the agency-hired workers?

3. There is an atmosphere of fear and intimidation among HTI workers as they remain unusually silent and hesitant to speak about the circumstances of the tragedy. The NFFM learned that HTI management asked the workers to report to one of the company building close to CEPZ Gate 5 for headcount and “orientations” on February 2, and went on until February 4. Survivors and witnesses affirm that they were indeed called to report. However, upon timing-in, they were told not to talk to anyone and withhold any information about the fire. A worker interviewed who claimed having photos of the fire and the bodies presumed dead being taken out of the building was instructed to erase the photos and videos from the mobile phone. Other workers corroborated this but requested complete anonymity for fear of losing jobs or any form of reprisal.

4. Since February 1, the management of HTI, PEZA and the LGU barred the media from entering the CEPZ. The LGU was the only one speaking about the incident. The two hospitals where the injured are confined have restricted entry and access to victims and information was limited to hospital official bulletins. On the afternoon of February 4, the NFFM team member said that media were finally allowed to enter the HTI compound but were instructed to remain inside their vehicle and barred from communicating with anyone on site. During this period, Cavite Governor Boying Remulla announced that it would take two weeks to map out the building complex and the need for more manpower and heavy equipment like cranes and bulldozers for the clearing operations, alluding that SOCO investigation will proceed afterwards. Such clearing operation will tamper the scene and cast more doubts on the credibility of their own investigation.

5. HTI management and authorities kept the public guessing about the company’s total workforce as they refuse to release the official records. Accounts gathered during the interviews, revealed that the workers are mostly young, ranging from 18-35 years old. There are around 8,000 regular out of the 13,000 employees while the remaining 5,000 are contractual, casual, or agency-hired. Most interviewees who are regular workers attest receiving mandated wage, but a contractual of three years under one of 6 manpower agencies said he is only paid P200/day and pays P180 for his uniforms.

The initial findings of the NFFM suggests that there is an apparent attempt on the part of the HTI management, the PEZA and the Cavite LGU to hide the actual number of casualties and the possible OHS and labor standards violations.

Having said the above, the NFFM recommends an immediate, transparent, truly independent and impartial investigation on the HTI tragedy free from intervention by the HTI management, PEZA and Cavite LGU to lend credence to the result. To the very least, the investigation must pave way for full and complete disclosure of casualties so that justice can find its course.

The full report of the National Fact Finding Mission will be released in the next few days. The NFFM is composed of Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR), Workers Assistance Center (WAC), Institute for Occupational Health and Safety for Development (IOHSAD), Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER), KARAPATAN, BAYAN, AlterMidya, MIGRANTE, GABRIELA, Kilusang Mayo Uno, and community volunteers.###
……………..
The views shared in this statement do not necessarily reflect that of the AHRC.
# # #
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) works towards the radical rethinking and fundamental redesigning of justice institutions in order to protect and promote human rights in Asia. Established in 1984, the Hong Kong based organisation is a Laureate of the Right Livelihood Award, 2014.

 

Read this Forwarded Statement online

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February 16, 2017   No Comments

Press freedom still under pressure journalist killings

http://www.pmc.aut.ac.nz/pacific-media-watch/philippines-press-freedom-still-under-pressure-journalist-killings-9804

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte holds a compilation of pictures of people allegedly involved in drugs as he speaks
during a meeting in Davao city in Mindanao in the southern Philippines earlier this month. Image: Lean Daval Jr/IPI/R

Monday, February 13, 2017
Item: 9804
By Florence Peschke

MANILA (International Press Institute/Asia Pacific Report/Pacific Media Watch): Seven months into the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, press freedom remains under pressure in the Philippines.
The country has been one of the most dangerous for journalists in recent years – the International Press Institute (IPI) has recorded the deaths of 128 journalists in connection with their work since 1997 – and only one week into the year it mourned the first journalist killed in 2017.
On January 6, Mario Contaoi was riding his motorbike home to Magsingal Town on a national highway when unidentified assailants on motorbikes shot him six times. The former university professor, radio announcer and environmental activist succumbed to his injuries in the early hours of January 7.
Just three weeks earlier, Larry Que, a Filipino publisher-columnist, was shot dead after alleging that local officials had ties to the manufacture of illegal drugs.
The circumstances and killers’ motives in both murders remain unclear, highlighting the impunity surrounding journalists’ killings in the country and the lingering threat it poses to their safety.
Since Duterte took office on June 30, he has gained an international reputation for his controversial statements and extreme positions. The war on crime and drugs launched in July that was a focus of his populist campaign is estimated to have taken 6000 lives, many in summary and extrajudicial killings.
Seven months into Duterte’s term, IPI spoke with journalists and civil society representatives in the Philippines to take a closer look at press freedom and journalists’ safety.
Read full report at Asia Pacific Report

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February 13, 2017   No Comments

Ailing detainee back in jail after Duterte’s lifting of ceasefire

Ailing detainee back in jail after Duterte’s lifting of ceasefire

Ailing detainee back in jail after Duterte’s lifting of ceasefire

10 February 2017

AN AILING political prisoner recuperating in a care facility had been
taken back to jail last February 4 after President Rodrigo Duterte
lifted his government’s unilateral ceasefire declaration with the
National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

Amelia Pond, teacher and curriculum developer of the Lumad school
Salugpongan Ta ‘Tanu Igkanogon Learning Center (STTICLC), was brought
back to Tagum District Jail by her police guards reportedly on “orders
from the top.”

Sr. Francis Añover, RSM of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines
(RMP) said she was told by the guards when she rushed to assist Pond
that the sudden transfer was due to Duterte’s lifting of the ceasefire
and that they were ordered by the Tagum jail warden that all political
prisoners be brought back to detention.

Pond, also the regional coordinator of RMP-Southern Mindanao Region was
arrested by the Philippine National Police when she stepped out of their
group’s national assembly in Cebu City last August 19.

The PNP said Pond was “Adelfa Toledo” but witnesses said the arresting
officers put a fake identification card in her bag. She faces murder and
attempted murder charges.

Pond reportedly presented to the guards a certification from the warden
that she is allowed to stay at the Capernaum care facility for a month
to recuperate but her pleas fell on deaf ears.

Pond was taken to the Southern Philippines Medical last November 11,
2016 for a lumbar spine operation. She was also diagnosed to be
suffering from chronic renal infection, osteoporosis, and hyperlipidemia
or abnormally high concentration of fats or lipids in the blood.

Añover said they also sought the hospital director’s help to stop the
transfer but he was out.

Añover said Pond suffered during the transfer from Davao City to Tagum
jail, repeatedly crying out in pain and asking the driver to slow down
and stop for rest.

At the jail facility, Pond was taken back to her old cell beside the
toilet, the nun said.

“She cannot bend due to her lumbar problem while the other prisoners
sleep on the floor with only cardboards and mats,” Añover said.

The missionary nun said she also sought out the warden but the jail
officer was out.

“I wanted to point out to him that he gave a certification allowing Amy
(Pond) to be transferred to Capernaum from the hospital ward while
undergoing PT (physical therapy) but it was clear that they made sure
the transfer from the hospital to the jail happened on a Saturday as the
important people with whom we can talk to and complain were not around,”
Añover said.

Humanitarian grounds

Human rights group Karapatan said Pond was among the 130 sickly
political prisoners recommended for immediate release on humanitarian
grounds under the NDFP-Duterte government peace talks.

“The release of political prisoners is a priority agenda in both the
first and second peace negotiations, with the Government of the
Philippines (GRP) continuously reaffirming its commitment towards this
end,” Karapatan, in a December 5 statement, said.

Last December, Pond appealed to Duterte for her immediate release.

“Perhaps the Duterte government would recognize that I am elderly with
poor health and that I am just a simple educator. What happened to me is
a big disregard to the efforts to alleviate the conditions of one of the
poorest, backward and oppressed sectors among the Filipinos, which are
the Lumad,” she said.

Despite repeated promises by Duterte and the GRP Negotiating Panel in
their peace negotiations with the NDFP, however, none of the 130 sickly
political detainees has been released.

Harassment

Añover also reported unusual activities around the RMP Davao
headquarters after Pond’s sudden transfer to Tagum jail.

“Two nights ago, the dog we have at the office compound had been going
around barking. And since yesterday, February 8, we noticed there are
two burly persons with a motorcycle standing at both sides of the gate,”
Añover said.

“We had a collective decision to be vigilant and not to go out alone,”
she added.

Founded by the Association of Major Women Religious Superiors of the
Philippines (AMWRSP) of the Roman Catholic Church in 1969, RMP is
national, inter-diocesan and inter-congregational organization of men
and women religious, priests and lay people who live and work with peasants.

They establish and operate Lumad and peasant schools like STTICLC which
the Armed Forces of the Philippines allege to be communist New People’s
Army-influenced schools. (Raymund B. Villanueva/Photo by Karapatan)

February 13, 2017   No Comments

Increasing opposition to Duterte’s war on drugs: UN official

Increasing opposition to Duterte’s war on drugs: UN official

Reuters – http://www.arabnews.com/node/1052056/world

10 February 2017

MANILA: A UN human rights investigator says there are signs of mounting
opposition within the Philippines to President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on
drugs, with police operations on hold and the Church getting critical of
the campaign.

Agnes Callamard, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or
arbitrary executions, however, said the thousands of killings in the
campaign had given rise to a sense of impunity, which could lead to
increased lawlessness and violence.

More than 7,600 people, mostly drug users and small-time dealers, have
been killed since Duterte took office on June 30, about a third of them
in police operations. Callamard said she knew of only four court cases
seeking justice for the victims.

“The difference between the number of reported killings and the number
of court cases is unbelievable,” she told Reuters in Bangkok. “It’s very
unusual for that degree of impunity to remain restricted to one kind of
crime or one type of community.”

The war on drugs has been a signature policy of Duterte, who remains
popular in opinion polls.

But Callamard, a human rights expert from France who took up the UN post
in August, said opposition to the drug war was increasing and had
reached a “tipping point.”

“There is an increasing awareness on the part of the Filipino people
that the war on drugs could hurt them,” she said. “The surveys that are
being done indicate support for the president…but critique the war on
drugs.”

One of the Philippines’ top polling agencies, Social Weather Stations,
said after a survey of 1,500 people in early December that most were
satisfied with Duterte’s rule. But 78 percent said they were worried
that they or someone they knew would be a victim of an extra-judicial
killing.

In a series of reports last year, Reuters showed that the police had a
97-percent kill rate in their drug operations, the strongest proof yet
that police were summarily shooting drug suspects.

Separately, the Philippines’ environment minister vowed not to buckle to
mounting pressure from a mining sector reeling from her shutting more
than half of the country’s mines on environmental protection grounds.

Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina Lopez has ordered the
closure of 23 of the country’s 41 mines, most of which produce nickel
ore, and the suspension of five more due to violations uncovered during
a lengthy environmental audit.

Mines ordered for closure include those run by Hinatuan Mining Corp, a
unit of top Philippine nickel ore producer Nickel Asia Corp, and
BenguetCorp. Nickel Mines Inc.

The decision has rocked the global nickel market as the Philippines, an
archipelago of more than 7,100 islands, is the world’s biggest exporter
of nickel ore.

In another development, the country’s defense minister said the
Philippines is certain of “very strong” links between Daesh and
home-grown militants and is concerned about regional repercussions from
tension between China and the new US administration.

Intelligence from various sources had shown rebels in the southern
Philippines had been communicating with Daesh, and funds were being sent
from the Middle East via conventional mechanisms commonly used by
overseas Filipino workers, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in an
interview.

Some statements about China by advisers to US President Donald Trump
were “very troubling,” he said, adding that defense agreements with
Washington would make US troops based temporarily in the Philippines
“magnets for retaliation.”
“We are concerned if war breaks out and it is near us we will be
involved whether we like it or not,” Lorenzana told Reuters.

February 10, 2017   No Comments

Greens urge Reds and Duterte gov’t to persevere in peace talks, accelerate negotiations on environmental reforms

Greens urge Reds and Duterte gov’t to persevere in peace talks,
accelerate negotiations on environmental reforms

Kalikasan PNE Press Statement

10 February 2017

We environmental advocates from the Kalikasan People’s Network for the
Environment (Kalikasan PNE) join the growing clamour of peace advocates
urging the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the
revolutionary forces of the National Democratic Front (NDF) to return to
the peace negotiations table, especially with the upcoming round of
talks scheduled for April aimed at forging unities between the two
parties in instituting comprehensive environmental reforms.

It is the polluters and plunderers who will rejoice over the termination
of the peace talks. The upcoming round of talks over the Comprehensive
Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) was expected to produce
a ground-breaking proposed program that would strengthen environmental
regulations, prohibit ecologically destructive practices, and ensure
judicious planning and management in the utilization of our natural
resources.

We urge the Duterte administration to tune out the mad howls of the
military’s dogs of war and listen to the people’s cries for peace and
justice. It is the environment defenders and other ordinary people who
will suffer from the military’s all-out war. In fact, we have monitored
since 2001 at least 112 environment-related killings of which 48 percent
were suspectedly perpetrated by military or paramilitary elements.

Negotiations on environmental reforms

In the third and latest round of peace talks held in Rome, Italy last
January 19 to 25, the GRP and NDF formally commenced negotiations over
the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER),
which aims to address the roots of the armed conflict by instituting
solutions for poverty, landlessness, state neglect, and other social and
economic injustices in which the revolutionary movement’s almost five
decades of civil war is rooted.

In the joint statement released by the peace panels of the GRP and the
NDF after the third round of talks last January 25, both parties
announced that the next round will begin discussing environmental
provisions alongside an accelerated track of negotiations. In the NDF
CASER draft, the only version of the agreement publicly available, a
whole section is dedicated on environmental protection, rehabilitation
and compensation.

The CASER is the most comprehensive environmental roadmap to date. It
proposes a national industrialization program that ensures efficient
planning and management of extractive and other environmentally critical
industries. It obliges companies to ensure rehabilitation and
compensation for communities affected by adverse environmental impacts
and rendered extremely vulnerable to climate change.

The CASER also affirms important policy proposals such as the
establishment of a national land use policy, the stricter prohibition of
destructive activities such as open pit mining and toxic waste dumping,
and more stringent regulations on mining, fisheries, and biodiversity.
On the other hand, it aims to reverse existing globalization policies
that are patently anti-people and anti-environment.

Attacks against environment defenders

We note that the termination of peace talks between the GRP and NDF’s
forces on the ground were triggered by the unceasing military operations
and other acts of sabotage by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)
throughout the ceasefire period, and environment defenders have been
targets of these acts of aggression.

A complaint lodged by rights group Karapatan before the two peace panels
in the last round of negotiations detailed how the AFP’s unabated
military operations and other government-instigated human rights
violations during the ceasefire period affected no less than 28,890
victims. The NDF cited the continuing militarization and the non-release
of 400 unjustly detained political prisoners in their termination of
their unilateral ceasefire.

Environment defenders clearly suffered from this utterly condemnable
militarization. At least 9 of the 11 cases of environment-related
killings we have monitored under the Duterte regime followed to the dot
the ‘riding-in-tandem’ modus operandi that was a signature of the past
two counter insurgency programs of the AFP.

A striking example is case of Jimmy Saypan, an indigenous Lumad and
peasant leader who was the secretary-general of the Compostela Farmers
Association (CFA), was murdered by a riding-in-tandem suspected to hail
from the 66th Infantry Battalion last October 10, 2016. Prior to the
killing, Saypan and other leaders of CFA were subjected to months of
systemic harassment and vilification by the AFP.

We assert that the solution to these problems is more vigorous and
earnest talks on the negotiating table, and not the termination of the
talks. Both peace panels should mobilize the joint human rights
monitoring body to investigate all filed cases of violations. Nothing
can be more important than pushing for the much-needed social, economic,
and environmental reforms that the Filipino people have long been
aspiring for.#

National Secretariat
Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment
26 Matulungin St. Central District, Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines, 1100
Tel: 02 920 90 99 | E-mail: secretariat@kalikasan.net | Site:
www.kalikasan.net

February 10, 2017   No Comments

Condemn political killings of 4 leaders in January 2017

Subject: Condemn political killings of 4 leaders in January 2017

Australian Chapter: Australian Council of Trade Unions; Justice & International Mission Unit, Uniting Church in Australia, Victoria & Tasmania; Maritime Union of Australia, Victorian Branch; SEARCH Foundation; Philippines Australia Union Link; Action for Peace & Development in the Philippines, Migrante Australia
February 9, 2017,
H.E. Rodrigo Duterte
President of the Republic
Malacañang Palace,
JP Laurel St., San Miguel
Manila Philippines
Fax: (+632) 742-1641 / 929-3968
E-mail: op@president.gov.ph or send message through http://president.gov.ph/contact-us/
Condemn political killings of 4 leaders in January 2017
Dear Excellency,
We write to vigorously protest and condemn the political murders of four farmers – Venie Diamante, Veronico Delamente, Alexander Ceballos, and Wencislao Pacquiao –who have been killed this last January 2017. Two of them were indigenous leaders in Mindanao.
Your government has replaced the obnoxious and deadly Oplan Bayanihan counter-insurgency program with Oplan Kapayapaan, but there is no change to the attacks targeting land and environmental activists, perpetrated by private armies of landed families and mining firms complicit or in connivance with State security forces.
These latest killings of four farmer leaders also reflect the ongoing dominance of big landlords and businesses in the Philippines and their use of violence against peasants struggling for genuine agrarian reform. The killings occurred before and during the third round of formal peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), when both Parties started to tackle the crafting of an agreement on socio-economic reforms including genuine agrarian reform and rural development. It seems that these tactics have now succeeded in ending the current peace talks process, and we urge your government to seriously reconsider this development and take urgent action to restore the peace talks.
Your government can restore the path to genuine peace and progress by condemning these latest political killings and taking action to end the prevailing climate of impunity. Comprehensive reforms and fundamental change to solve the root causes of injustice, landlessness and poverty in the country must remain our common goal.
Background
On January 5, 2017, around 4pm, Venie Diamante, 43, a T’boli and municipal tribal chieftain, was brutally killed by an unnamed assailant on board a motorcycle while on his way home from Koronadal City. Diamante was already near his residence in Sitio Lambusong, Brgy. Puti, Norala, South Cotabato, when the gunman opened fire, inflicting eight (8) gunshot wounds. He was left on the side of the road.
On the morning of the next day, January 6, 2017, the regional police arrived to investigate the incident. Residents from the community attested that Diamante was a good person and a respected tribal leader. The police then showed a petition to survey the area which is part of the T’boli ancestral domain, a move that Diamante strongly advocated against. The objective of this conflict in recent years has been to displace the people and to pave the way for the entry of palm oil plantations in the area.
Weeks later, on January 20, 2017, two activists in Surigao del Norte and in Negros Occidental were killed.
Katribu regional partylist coordinator Veronico Delamente, 27, a Lumad-Mamanwa and member of Kahugpungan sa Lumadnong Organisasyon (KASALO) in the CARAGA region, was shot by two unnamed assailants in Punta Naga, Brgy. Cagdianao, Claver, Surigao del Norte. Delamente, along with other council members of Asosasyon sa Madajaw na Panaghiusa sa Tribung Mamanwa sa Tag-anito ug Urbizondo (AMPANTRIMTU), an organization recognized by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), were invited for an emergency meeting with the NCIP with regard to an indigenous people survey to approve the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) proposal of the Platinum Group Metals Corp (PGMC) to expand their mining operations. Delamente had earlier rejected the FPIC proposal.
On the noon of January 20, two men on board a motorcycle – the driver wearing a hoodie with his face partially covered by a handkerchief while the person on the passenger seat was wearing a bonnet and a black jacket with the words ‘CIDG’ printed in the back – were seen in the area. By 12:37pm, while Delamente and the others were waiting in the Punta Naga gym, the motorcycle returned to the gym whereby the man in the passenger seat got off and fired his Uzi at Delamente. Delamente was hit, fell down, and was trying to crawl away when the gunman caught him by the hair and shot him at close range. The gunman also fired at Joel Buklas, 42, also a council member of AMPANTRIMTU who was against the PGMC FPIC proposal. Buklas was able to escape but Lovely Delamente, Veronico Delamente’s 4-year-old niece, was hit. After having shot Delamente, the gunman shouted out that he will finish all of Delamente’s siblings, before finally leaving. Delamente and Lovely were rushed to the Miranda Hospital. Delamente died after 5 minutes of attempts to revive him.
On the evening of the same day, around 8pm, Alexander Ceballos, 54, regional council member and district area coordinator of the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) was gunned down by two unnamed assailants near his house in Purok Tangke, Brgy. Pandanon Silos, Murcia, Negros Occidental. Ceballos was rushed to the Sanitarium Hospital in Bacolod City but was declared dead-on-arrival.
Ceballos and his family has long been the target of threats and intimidation by the Dela Cruz clan, a political clan who have controlled the town of Salvador Benedicto for more than 20 years. Ceballos’ involvement in organizing and mobilizing farmers to uphold and defend their rights had earned him the ire of the Dela Cruz family. On July 17, 2015, Alexander Ceballos’ son, Ariel Ceballos, survived an ambush when armed gunmen indiscriminately fired at the vehicle they were in. His fellow farmers suspected that Alexander was the original target. More recently, in a dialogue between the farmers, the provincial office of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), and the Dela Cruz family represented by Nehemias Dela Cruz Jr., the latter openly threatened Alexander and Ariel Ceballos with charges to be filed in court and vowed to retrieve all the lands already distributed to the farmers from the Dela Cruz clan.
On January 28, 2017, Quilina Ceballos, wife of Alexander Ceballos, received a death threat via text message. It stated: ‘You, your companions, and your two children’s place in the cemetery is ready.’ Quilina Ceballos received the threats while still mourning her husband.
In a separate incident on January 25, 2017, another farmer from Negros Occidental, Wencislao Pacquiao, 48, member of the San Benito Farmers Association- Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), was shot while doing work in the designated land cultivation area (LCA). He was with Rebeco Pabuaya, another farmer from the same organization. Around 9 in the morning, Pacquiao was approached by a gunman and was shot in the back. He was hit in the thigh and still managed to run but was pursued by the shooter and sustained more shots. Pacquiao sustained five (5) gunshot wounds. Pabuaya was also targeted but because he was working in the lower part of the LCA, he managed to escape. Pacquiao was shot at close range and was clearly targeted by the shooter.
There had been an attempt on Pacquiao’s life in 2015. His residence was strafed by the goons of then-barangay captain Nonoy Hullesa. Nonoy Hullesa is the brother of Agustilo Hullesa, the leaser of the land that farmers from San Benito are currently cultivating. In 2014, the DAR acquired the land from Angelina Bruce Laguda through the Voluntary Offer to Sell (VOS), but the department awarded Certificate of Land Ownership Awards (CLOAs) to questionable beneficiaries. Pacquiao and several farmers filed a case against DAR for conniving with Agustilo Hullesa in distributing CLOAs to ‘dummy beneficiaries’. The land distributed to these dummy beneficiaries are now under the control of Agustilo Hullesa, who uses the land for leasing. The long-standing case has yet to be resolved.
We call on your government to:
1.        Immediately appoint an independent body to investigate the separate incidents
2.        Prosecute any identified perpetrators, including from landed elites, mining firms and hired goons under the protection of said landlords and corporations
3.        End the continued harassment and intimidation of Lumads in and out of their communities
4.        Protect peasant activists and environmental defenders with regard to their work in the defense of land and the environment
5.        Direct the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to look into the petition filed by Wencislao Pacquiao and other farmers regarding the questionable awarding of CLOAs, and to resolve all agrarian cases in favour of peasants
6.        Direct the intervention of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in cases where threat, harassment, and intimidation is used to coerce tribal leaders and communities to agree to mining ventures;
7.        End the counter-insurgency programs like Oplan Bayanihan and Oplan Kapayapaan;
8.        Pursue your government’s commitment to a Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) that comprehensively tackles the deeply-rooted feudal relations in the country, and move towards free land distribution of monopolized lands;
9.        Pursue your government’s commitment to the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) which includes the right of peasants, indigenous communities, and environmental protection; and
10.    Adhere to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and all the major Human Rights instruments to which the Republic of the Philippines is a party and signatory.
Yours sincerely,
Peter Murphy

Chairperson
Global Council, ICHRP
peter_murphy1_au@bigpond.com

Cc
Hon. Jesus Dureza, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, stqd.papp@opapp.gov.ph, feedback@opapp.net
Ret. Maj. Gen. Delfin Lorenzana, Secretary, Department of National Defense, info@dnd.gov.ph, webmaster@dnd.gov.ph
Vitaliano Aguirre, Secretary, Department of Justice, communications@doj.gov.ph
Jose Luis Martin Gascon, Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights, chairgascon.chr@gmail.com
Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Hon Ms Julie Bishop MHR foreignminister2013@dfat.gov.au
Shadow Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Senator Penny Wong senator.wong@aph.gov.au
Australian Greens Foreign Affairs Spokesperson senator.ludlam@aph.gov.au
KARAPATAN karapatan@karapatan.org

February 10, 2017   No Comments