‘Hello, Big Brother’: Ex-ISAFP officer named pres’l adviser on
23 April 2018
MANILA – A former officer of the Intelligence Service of the Armed
Forces of the Philippines linked to both the “Hello, Garci” wiretapping
scandal and a P6.4 billion shabu shipment has been named presidential
adviser for indigenous peoples’ concerns.
President Rodrigo Duterte has appointed retired colonel Allen Capuyan as
his adviser for indigenous peoples’ concerns, an appointment paper
released by the Palace on Monday showed.
Capuyan will have the rank of undersecretary, according to his
appointment paper dated April 18.
Capuyan’s appointment as presidential adviser comes over a month after
he resigned as Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) assistant
general manager because of allegations he accepted grease money from
Customs fixer Mark Taguba earlier claimed during a Senate investigation
that Capuyan, alias “Big Brother”, sent him an e-mail containing tariff
codes that would give him access to the green lane, where shipments
undergo minimal inspection.
Taguba said he remained with Capuyan’s group until the Senate and House
of Representatives launched separate inquiries into the smuggling of
P6.4 billion worth of shabu through the Manila port in May 2017.
Capuyan, a former ISAFP operation intelligence division chief was also
identified by a witness as having ordered wiretaps on several
personalities during the 2004 elections.
One of the wiretaps contained the conversation of 2 people believed to
be then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and poll commissioner Virgilio
Arroyo allegedly ordered the poll official to manipulate election
results in her favor. Arroyo and Garcillano both denied cheating in the
With pink vests and protests, Philippine clergy bless land rights struggle
Thomson Reuters Foundation –
26 April 2018
KORONADAL, Philippines – For some years now, people in bright pink vests
have become as familiar a sight in parts of Mindanao in the southern
Philippines as gun-toting soldiers, a ray of hope for the indigenous
peoples who have been forced off their lands by armed conflict.
The pink vests are a mark of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI),
or the Philippine Independent Church, where members of the clergy and
lay volunteers trained in conflict resolution help protect vulnerable
The teams live in communities of Lumads – which refers to indigenous
peoples in Mindanao – accompanying them on their daily tasks, and
recording and reporting any rights abuses.
“The struggle of the Lumad has truly become our struggle. Their
aspirations are our aspiration,” said Father Christopher Ablon of the
Lumad Accompaniment Program, which was launched in 2015 following a
spike in violence against them.
“Sometimes all they need from the Church to feel safer is our mere
presence. In accompaniment, our presence is felt by the community under
threat, the perpetrators who threaten them and the government that is
supposed to protect them,” he said.
In the Philippines, the only Christian-majority nation in Asia, members
of the Church have long been involved in politics, and in the struggles
of women, farmers and indigenous people.
More recently, they have clashed with President Rodrigo Duterte,
opposing his war on drugs that has led to thousands of killings, and a
crackdown on rural communities that activists say is forcing thousands
off their lands.
Ablon said he was inspired by the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in
Palestine and Israel, where he was among the first Filipino priests in
2011, spending three months in Palestine.
The Lumad program aims to draw attention to the plight of the
communities, document and report rights abuses, and help them keep their
ancestral lands from being taken for mining and industry, through
lobbying and legal efforts, Ablon said.
The IFI has also been involved in peace talks between communist rebels
and the government, and their presence is particularly critical after
Mindanao was placed under martial law last year, he said.
“My faith inspires me to serve the poor and marginalized. It also gives
me leeway to utilize resources and influences in serving farmers and
indigenous peoples,” he said.
Churches in the Philippines have long had an active role in politics,
including the “People Power” revolution that drove dictator Ferdinand
Marcos into exile more than 30 years ago. Church members have even
More than 80 percent of the Philippines’ population is Catholic, and
unlike many other countries where faith has waned, the majority still
practise with enthusiasm.
Their popular support has given the Church enormous political and social
“The Catholic Church has been politically influential since the Spanish
times,” said Ramon Casiple at the Institute for Political and Electoral
Reform think tank in Manila.
“Their influence has lessened considerably, but they are still able to
shape public opinion, and the bishops still have the ear of the
government, even if their recommendations do not always result in policy
action,” he said.
On land rights, which are more of a concern for rural people, the Church
still wields influence, he said.
It is not the only religious institution in the region to do so:
Buddhist monks in Cambodia have also thrown themselves into the fight
over land and resources, risking imprisonment and banishment from their
In the Philippines, the Catholic Bishops Conference (CBC) has organized
peasant farmers, helped them apply for land allotments under the
government’s agrarian reform program, and ensures they receive the lands
and are able to settle there.
It also lobbies against the mining and logging industries, and supports
environmental groups in efforts to combat climate-change threats and
promote sustainable agriculture, said Father Edwin Gariguez, an
executive secretary of CBC.
“Our engagements with farmers and indigenous peoples are based on the
Catholic principles of human dignity, common good, and care for the
Earth,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“It is about their rights and also improving livelihoods and the food
security of communities,” he said.
Their actions are not without risks.
According to advocacy group Promotion of Church People’s Response, more
than 31 church workers have been killed in the Philippines since 2000.
Many more have been arrested on various charges.
The department of justice did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment
on the arrests and killings.
Last week, Sister Patricia Fox, a 71-year-old Australian nun, was taken
from her home and detained at the immigration bureau in Manila for
almost a day. She was released pending further investigation.
Duterte said he had ordered the investigation for “disorderly conduct”,
and accused Fox of badmouthing his administration.
Fox, who has worked in the Philippines for 27 years, said her
humanitarian work in Mindanao was consistent with the teachings of the
Church, and denied engaging in politicking.
Earlier this week, she was ordered to leave the country within 30 days
for her involvement in political activities.
For Arlon Beato, a lay minister in Koronadal city in Mindanao, the
threat of arrest is a daily reality as he helps indigenous people in his
parish of about 100,000 hold on to their ancestral lands.
Beato’s task is made more challenging after Duterte said he would open
up resource-rich indigenous lands in Mindanao to investors, to generate
wealth for its people.
“The lands belong to these people, and they cannot be given over to
industry. Yes, these are poor people who need jobs and incomes, but
mining and logging are not sustainable,” he said.
“As Christians we have a duty to protect the forests, the mountains, the
rivers that sustain the people,” he said.