Skip navigation

Category Archives: NEWS/HEADLINES

2 bets accuse military of electioneering
Nation
Written by Fernan Marasigan / Reporter
Tuesday, 13 April 2010 22:12
TWO militant legislators seeking Senate seats accused the Armed Forces on Monday of engaging in partisan politics by campaigning against them.

Party-list Rep. Satur Ocampo of Bayan Muna  is asking the Commission on Elections to look into the alleged military operation codenamed “Zero Campaign” against him and Party-list Rep. Liza Maza of Gabriela. Both are senatorial guest candidates of Nacionalista Party of Sen. Manuel Villar.

“Members of the Armed Forces is violating a host of laws, including provisions in the Constitution, by their partisan activities. Soldiers have been photographed and documented to be actively campaigning against progressive party-list groups and senatorial candidates,” Ocampo said.

He said in Davao, Agusan del Norte and surrounding provinces, the National Police and the Armed Forces are claiming that the massive deployment of troops is meant “to ensure peace and order during the elections,” but reports revealed that the police and the military are conducting house-to-house campaigning against him and Maza.

“The military troops are also flagrantly distributing black-propaganda materials against us such as fliers and miniposters. They are also calling for mass meetings on a weekly basis where we are specifically being named as those who should not be voted for,” Ocampo said.

He said the Constitution expressly prohibits civil-service officers and employees from engaging in any electioneering or partisan political activity. Section 2 (4), Article IX-B of the 1987 Constitution provides: No officer or employee in the civil service shall engage, directly or indirectly, in any electioneering or partisan political activity.

He also said the civil-service laws, as well as the Omnibus Election Code, have provisions banning government personnel from involvement in partisan political activities.

“The operation is called ‘Zero Campaign’ which clearly means that the Armed Forces is plotting to ensure that we get zero votes in the provinces. Among the areas where the Zero Campaign is already being implemented are Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, Lanao del Norte and some parts of Bukidnon, Misamis Oriental and Agusan del Sur,” Ocampo said.

He said the attempts of the military to demonize him and undermine his chances to win in the senatorial elections were not surprising.

“But we will not take this sitting down. We will work hard to frustrate these military operations that aim to stop progressive candidates from winning in the polls. In the meantime, the Comelec should take immediate action and initiate sanctions against the Armed Forces,” he said.

A Primer on the Illegal Arrest, Detention and Torture of 43 Health Workers

Who are the 43 health workers?

The 43 health workers, also known as “Morong 43”, are health professionals and volunteer community health workers who were arrested in Rizal on February 6, following a raid by the combined forces of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP).

The 43 were part of a Community First Responders’ Health Training sponsored jointly by the Community Medicine Development Foundation (COMMED) and the Council for Health and Development (CHD). The training was held at the residential compound located at 266 E. Dela Paz St., Brgy. Maybangcal, Morong, Rizal. The compound is owned by Dr. Melecia Velmonte, chairperson of COMMED’s Board of Directors and a renowned and respected infectious disease specialist and a professor emeritus of the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Medicine.

On February 6, 2010 at 6:15 am, joint elements of the 202nd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army (202nd IBPA) headed by its commander, Colonel Aurelio Baladad and the Rizal Provincial Police (PNP) headed by Police Superintendent Marion Balonglong raided the l compound of Dr. Velmonte.

Among those arrested were 2 doctors, 1 registered nurse and 2 midwives and 38 volunteer community health workers.

They are :

1. Merry Clamor y Mia, 33 y/o, medical doctor, CHD staff
2. Alexis Montes y Sulinap, 62 y/o, medical doctor, Commed volunteer
3. Gary Liberal y Apuhin, 43 y/o, registered nurse, AHW
4. Ma. Teresa Quinawayan y Roncales, 26 y/o midwife, CHD staff
5. Lydia “Del” Ayo Obera, 61 y/o, AHW staff & health educator
6. Reynaldo Macabenta y Torres, 30 y/o, CHD staff
7. Angela Doloricon y Manogon, 50 y/o, health educator
8. Delia Ocasla y Medrano, 46 y/o, community health worker
9. Janice Javier y Quiatchon, 22 y/o, community health worker
10. Franco Remoroso y Bilugan, 28 y/o community health worker
11. Linda Racel Otanez community health worker
12. Pearl Irene Martinez y de los Reyes, 25 y/o community health worker
13. Eleonor Carandang y Orgena, 30 y/o community health worker
14. Danny Pi�ero, community health worker
15. Ray-om Among, community health worker
16. Emily Marquez y Manguba, 23 y/ocommunity health worker
17. Emilia Marquez y Manguba,20 y/o, community health worker
18. Jane Balleta y Beltran 27 y/o, community health worker
19. Glenda Murillo y Cervantes, 26 y/o, community health worker
20. Eulogio “Ely” Castillo, community health worker
21. Jovy Ortiz y Quidor, 23 y/o, community health worker
22. Samson Castillo y Mayuga, 42 y/o, community health worker
23. Miann Oseo y Edjao, 31 y/o, community health worker
24. Sylvia Labrador y Pajanustan, 43 y/o, community health worker
25. Lilibeth Donasco, 24 y/o, community health worker
26. Jenilyn Vatar y Pizarro, 19 y/o, community health worker
27. Ramon de la Cruz y Santos, 21 y/o, community health worker
28. Jaqueline Gonzales, community health worker
29. Maria Elena Serato y Edeo, 35 y/o, community health worker
30. Ma. Mercedes Castro y Icban, 27 y/o, community health worker
31. Leah de Luna y Bautista, 28 y/o, community health worker
32. Judilyn Oliveros Y Abuyan, 26 y/o, community health worker
33. Yolanda Yaun y Bellesa, 51 y/o, registered midwife
34. Edwin Dematera y Bustamante, 37 y/o, community health worker
35. Cherielyn Riocasa Tawagon, 31 y/o, community health worker
36. John Mark Barrientos y Roldan, 20 y/o, community health worker
37. Mark Escartin y Esperida, 20 y/o, community health worker
38. Julius Duano, 30 y/o, community health worker
39. Ronilo Espera, 31 y/o, community health worker
40.Romeo de la Cruz, 53 y/o, community health worker
41. Valentino Paulino y Abale, 35 y/o, community health worker
42. Ace Millena, community health worker
43. Lorelyn Saligumba, community health worker

Why were they arrested?

The arresting authorities claim that the 43 health workers were caught in the act of undergoing training on bomb-making and that they are members of the New People’s Army (NPA). The arresting authorities claim to have found firearms and explosives in the premises where the 43 were staying.

The military allege that they found C4 explosives, a pistol with seven bullets, three grenades (one allegedly found under a pillow) and some improvised landmines beside the grenade. However the search was conducted without being witnessed by Dr. Velmonte, any other house occupant, or independent witnesses such as baranggay officials. According to witnesses, the military conducted the search in the compound premises only after all the victims as well as the house owners and their house help were already outside the buildings.

Were the arrests legal?

No, the arrests were illegal. These were based on a patently defective February 5, 2010 search warrant issued by Judge Cesar Mangrobang of Branch 22 of the Imus, Cavite Regional Trial Court. The warrant was issued against a certain Mario Condes of Barangay Maybangcal, Morong, Rizal on allegations of illegal possession of firearms. It did not specify any address except for the name of the barangay. The house raided was not that of Mario Condes but that of Dr. Velmonte. There is no Mario Condes among the 43 arrested.

Were there violations of the rights of the 43 health workers?

Yes, there were gross violations of the right to due process, the right against illegal searches and seizures and the right against torture.

1. Violations in securing the search warrant

As stated earlier, the search warrant was patently defective and issued with grave abuse of discretion. The warrant did not indicate any exact address and in effect covered the entire baranggay, thus violating the rights of the accused against unreasonable searches and seizures. The house that was searched was not indicated in the warrant and did not belong to “Mario Condes”.

2. Violations during arrest

The 43 were arrested without any warrants of arrest; they were not informed of the reasons for their arrest nor where they were being taken. All throughout they were denied the right to call a lawyer.

All the training participants were frisked and ordered to line up outside the house. They were immediately handcuffed, interrogated and photographed by the military. Their personal belongings were confiscated. The military used old shirts and packaging tape which they brought with them to blindfold all the participants before loading them onto several trucks.

3. Violations during detention

For five days, the 43 were denied their right to counsel During the first 36 hours of their detention, the 43 were not informed of the reasons why they were being held. They were subjected to continuous interrogation and were being forced to admit that they were members of the NPA. Their fingerprints were taken while they were blindfolded.

Only during the inquest proceedings on the second day were they finally informed of the charges being levelled against them. The prosecutor from the Department of Justice (DOJ), State Prosecutor II Romeo Senson, simply called out their names, then read the charges against them. The 43 were denied their right to counsel even during the inquest proceedings.

There were several accounts of torture and ill-treatment as attested to by the detainees and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR). The AFP violated several provisions of Republic Act No. 9745 or the Anti-Torture Law: both physical and psychological torture were inflicted on the 43. These include: being blindfolded and handcuffed for 36 hours; being subjected to multiple and prolonged tactical interrogation with death threats, harassment and intimidation; being deprived of sleep and urgent medication; being manhandled and beaten; being denied legal counsel for days; being denied medical treatment; being coerced to wrongly make admissions and implicate others; and being subjected to various indignities during their captivity. Some were held incommunicado and some remain in solitary confinement up to now.

Some detainees who were blindfolded and handcuffed were also subjected to the indignity of having their captors lower their pants and underwear just so they could relieve themselves.

The 43 remain detained in a military camp when they should have been transferred to a civilian detention facility especially after charges were filed against them in court.

Have the 43 health workers been charged in court?

Despite all the violations of due process committed by the AFP, PNP and the DOJ, charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives and violations of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) gun ban were filed against the 43 at Branch 78 of the Rizal Regional Trial Court in Morong. The charges were only filed on February 11, five days after they were arrested. Forty of the accused face non-bailable offenses (illegal possession of explosives). Clearly, the purpose of the hasty filing of said charges is to attempt to cure violations of due process and justify the continued illegal detention of the 43.

Were the health workers really members of the NPA? Were they really making bombs at the time of their arrest?

The military has made the sweeping accusation that the 43 are members of the NPA. Their proof consists of the firearms and explosives allegedly found in the premises of Dr. Velmonte. But the accounts of Dr. Velmonte and her household give sufficient ground to believe that the firearms and explosives were planted by the military/police.

Mere membership in the NPA cannot be used as basis for a warrantless arrest. Jurisprudence tells us that an overt act or an actual crime (in this case, taking up arms against the government) must first be committed to justify an arrest. There was no shoot-out at the time of the arrest; the 43 and Dr. Velmonte’s household were either doing their morning ablutions or getting ready for breakfast. It is a stretch of the imagination to claim that the 43 health workers were caught in the act of making bombs as early as 6:00 am when they were arrested.

What the military did was to fabricate and plant evidence and then accuse the health workers as NPA members, to justify their warrantless arrest and illegal detention.

The military has since concocted many versions of who the 43 really are. At first, the military alleged that the 43 were not health workers but bomb-makers. Later, the military would allege that the 43 were indeed health workers but were also undergoing training in making explosives. The military now calls them “medics” of the NPA.

The military also goes on to make the preposterous claim that Dr. Alexis Montes, a 62-year old surgeon, is a member of the NPA Special Operations Group tasked to assassinate Gen. Jovito Palparan.

According to CHR Chair Leila de Lima, even assuming for the sake of argument that the 43 health workers are NPA members, they still have the right to due process, including the presumption of innocence and the right to be free from torture and other degrading treatment.

Have the 43 health workers taken legal action? What has been done to secure their release?

The health workers through their relatives and their organizations have filed before the Supreme Court a petition for the writ of habeas corpus last February 9. The Supreme Court ordered the AFP to produce the 43 at the hearing at the Court of Appeals on February 12, 2010. The military defied the SC by not bringing the 43 to the scheduled hearing citing alleged security reasons and lack of time to prepare. The AFP received a strong rebuke from the CA and was ordered to produce the 43 at another hearing on February 15. As of this writing, the CA has yet to issue its decision on the petition.

A complaint has also been filed before the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), asking it to investigate the allegations of rights abuses committed against the 43. The CHR has issued the order for the AFP to present the Morong 43 before the Commission in a scheduled hearing on March 18.

Who are supporting campaign to free the 43?

The campaign “Free the 43” is supported by a broad range of sectors of society, from colleagues in the health professions, lawyers, lawmakers, political leaders across party lines, religious formations, human rights advocates, artists, and advocates and beneficiaries of community-based health programs where the community health workers render their services. It is a national and international campaign calling on the Arroyo government to immediately release the Morong 43 and drop all charges against them. It is a campaign that supports the legal defense of the 43 and undertakes advocacy work and mobilizations. The campaign also supports the immediate needs of the families of the 43 in terms of visits, psycho-social counseling and other forms of concrete assistance.

Why are there volunteer community health workers?

In the Philippines, where seven out of 10 Filipinos die without ever seeing a doctor and where public health services are sorely lacking or inaccessible, non-government organizations (NGOs) like CHD and COMMED play an important role by bringing health services to the people. This means that these non-government organizations try to reach poor and underserved communities, set up community-based health programs, organize health committees, and train community health workers (CHWs). This way, the poor people living in urban and rural areas can attend to their health needs in the absence or dearth of government services.

For 37 years, community-based health program practitioners have been training volunteers who would like to become CHWs regardless of their educational attainment. CHD, for example, has trained tens of thousands of community health workers nationwide. Training participants are selected by the people themselves with little regard to their educational and socio-economic background nor their religious or political beliefs, so as long as they commit themselves to serving the people in their communities.

The Community First Responders’ Health Training is one of the courses CHD offers to community health workers. The training is in response to the assessed needs of the communities after the disastrous effects of the lack of disaster preparedness in the wake of tropical storms “Ondoy” and “Pepeng”. The community health workers are also the frontliners in providing health services during disasters, so additional health skills are needed for them to be able to respond adequately, especially since many communities have no access to government health services.

Is this the first time doctors, health workers and volunteers have become victims of human rights abuse?

No, there have been similar attacks against health workers in the past. These can be better understood in the context of the government’s counterinsurgency programs, most especially the Arroyo regime’s US-supported Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL) or Operation Freedom Watch.

The illegal arrest and detention of 43 doctors and health workers is directly linked to OBL. The latter has given rise to a rash of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture, illegal arrests and detention and mass displacement of poor communities. Under OBL the military has been given a carte blanche by the Arroyo regime to disregard the most basic tenets of due process and human rights. For the AFP, once a person is accused of being an “insurgent” or “terrorist”, he or she is guilty until proven innocent. This is the kind of militarist mindset that the Arroyo regime has in pursuing its counter-insurgency program.

The military has a track record of targeting several other doctors and health personnel.

Just recently, on February 23, 2010, Ronald Capitania, a community health worker of Sipalay, Negros Occidental was shot by two unidentified bonnet-clad men on a motorcycle. Luckily, he survived the attack.

On February 11, 2010, Benjei Faldas, a community health worker in Davao del Sur was reportedly charged with frustrated murder following the wounding of a CAFGU member in an encounter with the New People’s Army. He is prevented from performing his duties as a community health worker.

In July last year, Dr. Reynaldo Lesaca Jr., a respected psychiatrist at the National Kidney and Transplant Institute and chairperson emeritus of the Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD), filed a complaint before the CHR regarding his inclusion, together with four Davao-based doctors, in the military’s “Order of Battle” thus making him vulnerable to being targeted for “neutralization” by military and paramilitary “death squads”.

This was a month after another Davao-based physician, Dr. Rogelio Pe�era, was shot and killed by motorcycle-riding assailants near his house in Davao City.

In 2008, Dr. Oliver Gimenes, a community-based doctor serving farmers’ communities in Cebu and Bohol, was placed under surveillance by the military and was vilified as a “rebel sympathizer”. He was later charged with murder in a questionable criminal case stemming from an NPA raid of a military detachment.

In 2007, sisters Emilia and Maricris Quirante, both community health workers of Guihulngan Mountain Clinic in Negros Oriental were arrested for trumped-up charges of child abuse and rebellion.

In July 2006, unidentified armed men ambushed Dr. Chandu Claver and his family in Kalinga province. The attack killed Dr. Claver’s wife, Alyce, seriously injured Dr. Claver himself, and traumatized their young daughter.

These attacks share several characteristics: they are politically-motivated; they are directed against those who serve poor communities or underserved sectors; the government attempts to justify these attacks by red-baiting the victims; and they have all been all perpetrated with impunity.

As the government’s self-imposed deadline to defeat or “render inconsequential” the communist-led armed revolutionary movement draws near, the military will even be more hard-pressed to show results. Thus, human rights violations are bound to continue and even escalate.

What are the implications of the arrest of the 43 health workers?

The illegal arrest, illegal detention and torture committed against the 43 health workers by the AFP are clear violations of human rights. The methods resorted to by the military are clearly unconstitutional, show a blatant disregard for the rule of law and pose a grave threat to ordinary Filipinos everywhere.

This incident is disturbing for health professionals and health science students as it imperils the people’s initiatives and efforts to build their own capacity and capability to manage their health needs in the absence of adequate public service.

For health professionals who may be considering the option of public service, this incident has a chilling effect. For the community-oriented academe, this single act of the military could undo decades of encouraging graduates to stay in the Philippines and create the necessary exposure and experience in community-based health trainings

This will deprive the people of much needed health services which will worsen the already deplorable state of health.

What are our demands and calls?

The campaign “FREE THE 43” demands the immediate and unconditional release of the 43 health workers who were illegally arrested in Morong, Rizal and are currently illegally detained in Camp Capinpin, Tanay, Rizal. We also demand that all the false charges against them be dropped.

We hold to account all the government officials involved in the illegal arrest, detention and torture of the 43 including those who have command responsibility over the military and police forces directly involved in the incident.

The complaint filed before the CHR states those responsible as:

“The President of the Republic of the Philippines herself, Her Excellency Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is primarily responsible as Commander-in-Chief under the principle of command responsibility because she knew or, owing to the circumstances at the time, should have known that the state forces were committing or about to commit the crimes stated in this complaint.

The public officials and cabinet secretaries also responsible for gross violations of Constitutional rights following the doctrine of command responsibility include National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales, the Department of the Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno.

Meanwhile, the public officers who are also exercising command responsibility over the 202nd IB, 2nd ID PA and the Rizal Provincial Police, PNP and directly responsible for the illegal search, illegal arrests, physical and mental torture and other blatant violations of the Constitutional rights of the 43 doctors and health workers are Gen. Victor Ibrado, the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines; Lt. Gen. Delfin Bangit, the Commanding General of the Philippine Army; Lt. Gen. Roland Detabali, Commanding General, SOLCOM, Philippine Army; Brig. Gen. Jorge Segovia, Chief of the 2nd Infantry Division, Philippine Army; Col. Aurelio Baladad, Commander of the 202nd Infantry Brigade, Philippine Army; Lt. Col. Jaime Abawag, Commander of the 16th Infantry Battalion; Philippine National Police Director General Jesus Verzosa; and P/Supt. Marion Balonglong of the Rizal Provincial Police.

In the same vein, the Honorable Judge Cesar Mangrobang is also responsible for the issuance of the bogus and constitutionally defective Search Warrant that the military and police officers used to justify the raid of the farmhouse located at 266 Dela Paz St., Brgy. Maybangcal, Morong, Rizal.

State Prosecutor II Romeo Senson, the Department of Justice Prosecutor who conducted the defective inquest of the 43 doctors, nurses and medical workers and issued the Resolution indicting them with trumped-up charges, and Senior Assistant Chief State Prosecutor Severino Ga�a, the reviewing prosecutor who signed the findings of Prosecutor Romeo Senson, and Department of Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera are accountable for their complicity in the efforts to legitimize the military and police’s commission of human rights violations.”

We demand an end to the counter-insurgency program OBL, which has targeted unarmed civilians accused of supporting the NPA, in the name of fighting insurgency.

We call on freedom-loving people to make a stand for human rights and condemn in the strongest terms the human rights violations perpetrated with impunity by the Arroyo government.

(This primer was prepared by Free the 43 Health Workers)

Article printed from Bulatlat: http://www.bulatlat.com/main

Staff of US solon seek information on ‘Morong 43’ case

By Alcuin Papa
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:46:00 04/10/2010

Filed Under: Congress, Military, Human Rights

THE CASE OF THE “MORONG 43” HAS gotten the attention of a United States congressman.

According to two independent sources, two senior members of the staff of US Rep. Howard Berman were in the country recently to look into the Maguindanao massacre when they learned about the case of the Morong 43.

Berman, a Democrat representing the 28th District of California, was recently named chair of the influential House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

His two staff members, a man and a woman, spent two days in Davao and one day in Manila gathering information on the election-related killing of 57 people, half of them journalists, in Ampatuan town in Maguindanao last year.

Later, the two staffers, sought more information about the continued detention of the Morong 43 and the allegations that they had been tortured.

“They were very surprised to find out all these things about the case,” said one source, who declined to identify the persons who briefed the congressional staff members on the case.

Berman’s staff reportedly said that they would brief Berman and review the Morong 43 case with the congressman.

The 43 health workers were arrested by the military on Feb. 6 in a rest house in Morong, Rizal, where they were purportedly attending a seminar on community health care.

The military, however, said they found guns and explosives at the seminar site. The military claimed the health workers were members of the outlawed New People’s Army (NPA), the guerrilla arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

Charges of illegal possession of firearms have been filed against them.

Earlier, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said it had found evidence to support claims of torture.

Five of the 43 detainees have reportedly admitted to being members of the NPA.

The military transported 38 of the 43 detainees to Camp Crame in Quezon City from Camp Capinpin in Tanay, Rizal, on Friday in line with a Morong court order. But the police refused to take them in, saying that their detention facility was full.

In a statement yesterday, CHR Chair Leila de Lima criticized the failed hand-over of the detainees by the military to the police, saying that both uniformed agencies were below par “in terms of criminal procedure and respect for human rights.”

“These two institutions are demonstrating a serious deficiency of coordination,” De Lima said.

She said there was no legal basis for the continued detention of the 43 in a military camp nor was there a legal basis for the PNP to refuse to take them into custody.


Posted date: December 04, 2009
GENEVA — Investigations into the deaths of 57 people in an election-related massacre in southern Philippines must be the start of a major reform process in the country, two United Nations human rights experts said on Wednesday.
The two experts called for the “effective” prosecution of those behind the killings and an end to manipulation by the elite of the country’s election process.
The authorities must also put in place immediate measures to prevent similar murders in the run-up to elections next May, said the experts, who report to the UN Human Rights Council on extrajudicial killings and on freedom of expression.
“The premeditated killing of political opponents, combined with a massive assault on the media, must be tackled at various levels that go well beyond standard murder investigations,” declared the two experts, Philip Alston and Frank La Rue.
The massacre took place in Maguindanao province on Nov. 23 in the Philippines’ deadliest ever election-related crime. The killings were blamed on members of the Ampatuan family, whom President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has in the past called valuable political allies.
Threat to democracy
Alston and La Rue said the inquiry “must be followed by effective prosecutions of all those responsible for the killings.”
But the massacre should also spark extensive reflection “on the elite family-dominated manipulation of the political processes and the need to eliminate such practices in order to assure the future of democracy in the Philippines,” they said.
The two UN experts—Alston from the United States and La Rue from Guatemala—said any broad inquiry into the country’s political system would have to focus on how to improve protection for journalists, 30 of whom died in the massacre.
Even more urgent was the creation of a task force to prevent more election-related killings.
“There is every indication that the run-up to the May elections will sound the death knell for many political activists,” the two added.
UN intervention
In Manila, journalists said Philippine media groups might ask the United Nations to intervene in the probe of the massacre.
“We’re considering all options, including asking the UN rights body to step into the massacre,” Melinda Quintos de Jesus, executive director of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, told reporters, adding the local press must “not drop the ball to allow the suspects to get away with the murders.”
Int’l press group’s mission
International press groups were also sending a mission to the Philippines to look into the massacre.
Around 15 delegates from groups like the International Federation of Journalists, the Southeast Asian Press Alliance, and the Committee to Protect Journalists were expected to arrive in Manila this weekend, according to National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) board member Rowena Paraan.
“This shows that there is international attention on the incident, as it should be. The trip will also be an expression of solidarity with local journalists,” Paraan said.
Paraan said members of the media would march on the Don China Roces Bridge (formerly Mendiola) on Dec. 9 as part of the Global Day of Action for the slain journalists.
In a report released Thursday, a fact-finding team that went to Maguindanao observed that police had handled evidence poorly, leading to its possible contamination.
“There was little or no consideration given to preserving the evidence. There was little or no consideration given to avoid the contamination of the crime scene,” the report said.
The group said the vehicles used by the suspects in stopping a convoy carrying journalists and relatives of a clan opposed to the Ampatuans were still unaccounted for.
“Investigators said the suspects also used a Nissan Frontier pickup with police markings. One such police vehicle issued to the Maguindanao police is still unaccounted for. This jibes with claims by (witnesses) that police vehicles were involved in the blockade,” the team said.
‘Culture of fear and silence’
The killings have stoked fear among students in some areas of Mindanao.
Fr. Edgardo Tanudtanud, OMI, director of the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP) for Central Mindanao, cited a recent incident in which several students, out of fear, canceled their participation in a march for peace in Cotabato.
“It has created a culture of fear and silence among the people, including the students, Christians and Muslims alike. But that fear did not stem from that massacre incident alone, but because of the history of violence in the area,” Tanudtanud said.
In a statement, the association of 1,272 member schools, colleges and universities said: “This mass murder … has showcased the extent corrupt individuals are willing to go in order to arrogate the power to themselves.”
Msgr. Gerry Santos, president of the CEAP, said the group was demanding long-term solutions to the decades-old conflict that had forced Maguindanaoans to live in fear and subhuman conditions.
“We ask the government to dismantle private armies and put an end to the anarchy of clans in the region,” Santos said. Reports from Reuters, Alcuin Papa and Tina G. Santos

(The Philippine Star) Updated December 07, 2009 12:00 AM

ANGELES CITY, Philippines – President Arroyo can reassume the presidency after she is elected a member of the House of Representatives through a 1947 law on presidential succession, according to a lawyer.

Lawyer Ernesto Franciso said under Republic Act No. 181, when neither the president-elect nor the vice president-elect shall have qualified, and the Senate president and the speaker have not yet been elected, Congress shall elect an acting president from among the senators and members of the House.

That acting president shall remain in office until the president-elect or the vice president-elect shall have been qualified, he added.

Francisco said Mrs. Arroyo’s allies in Congress can elect her as acting president after she wins a seat in the House when the people fail to elect a president or vice president because of some events like the breakdown of poll automation, vacancy in the post of Senate president and the speaker on June 30 next year.

“RA 181 was not expressly repealed by the 1973 Constitution, and its provisions are not inconsistent with the provisions of the 1987 Constitution on presidential succession,” he said.

Francisco said that since the Constitution provides that Congress can choose who can act as president in case of permanent incapacity of the president until a new president is elected, any doubt on the validity of RA 181 may be remedied through a new law with exactly the same provisions.

Mrs. Arroyo’s election as acting president would be easy because under RA 181, the election shall be done by Congress in joint session, not necessarily with the Senate and the House of Representatives voting separately, he added.

Francisco said Mrs. Arroyo could remain president while the president-elect and the vice president-elect have not qualified.

“Also, it must be considered that any legal question on the matter of presidential succession that may arise on June 30, 2010 will be resolved by a Supreme Court filled with GMA appointees,” he said.

‘GMA can do an Adams’

Mrs. Arroyo can do what US President John Quincy Adams had done in the 19th century when he ran for Congress and won after completing his term as president, a lawmaker said yesterday.

Cebu Rep. Eduardo Gullas said the sixth US president was elected representative from Massachusetts after leaving the White House.

Adams served as a member of Congress for the last 17 years of his life, he added.

Gullas said Andrew Johnson, the 17th US president, was elected senator six years after his presidency.

“If Mrs. Arroyo does not wish to retire from active public service, that is her prerogative,” he said.

Gullas said suggestions that as a lawmaker Mrs. Arroyo could work on Charter change to shift to a parliamentary system of government so she could become prime minister are “overly speculative.”

“Once the people elect a new president next year, there will be a totally new order,” he said.

“Everyone will revolve around the new president. Mrs. Arroyo will just be one of 282 members of the House. Her vote will be as good as mine.”

Mrs. Arroyo has filed her certificate of candidacy for representative of Pampanga’s second district.

She joined three other Arroyos aspiring for congressional seats: her younger son Diosdado of Camarines Sur’s second district, brother-in-law Jose Ignacio of Negros Occidental’s fifth district, and sister-in-law Ma. Lourdes of the party-list group Ang Kasangga. – Ding Cervantes, Jess Diaz

Philippine Official Says Victims Were Sexually Mutilated

By CARLOS H. CONDE
The New York Times
Published: November 27, 2009

DAVAO CITY, the Philippines — Most or all of the 22 women among the 57 people massacred Monday in the southern Philippines were sexually mutilated, the authorities said Friday, adding grim details to the catalog of horrors that has already emerged.

“Even the private parts of the women were shot at,” the justice secretary, Agnes Devanadera, said on national television. “It was horrible. It was not done to just one. It was done practically to all the women.”

While work continued to identify all the dead, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said that it appeared that 30 journalists and their assistants had been killed. About a dozen of the victims were the relatives, lawyers or supporters of Esmael Mangudadatu, a local politician whose determination to challenge the entrenched Ampatuan clan in a gubernatorial election apparently touched off the violence.

Investigators said that the rest of the victims, perhaps as many as 15, happened to be stopped at a checkpoint along the highway in Ampatuan, a town in Maguindanao Province, when the convoy of Mangudadatu supporters and journalists was stopped by police officers and militiamen loyal to the Ampatuans. They were killed to eliminate witnesses, investigators said.

Ms. Devanadera said that several of the men accused of taking part in the slaughter had surrendered and offered to testify. Though the killings violated a traditional custom against harming women, the men seemed to be troubled more by the deaths of the journalists and the bystanders.

“They are bothered by their conscience because they thought that only the Mangudadatus would be shot,” Ms. Devanadera said.

Andal Ampatuan Jr., a local mayor who is suspected of having ordered the killings, turned himself in Thursday, protesting his innocence. He is expected to be charged with murder next week. Ms. Devanadera told The Philippine Daily Inquirer that Mr. Ampatuan’s brother Zaldy and his father, Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr., the clan patriarch, were also under investigation.

Mr. Mangudadatu’s wife, Genalyn, his two sisters and two lawyers working for him were among the women who were mutilated and murdered. He said on Thursday that his wife had been shot “in her private parts.”

Ms. Devanadera said that the zippers of the women’s pants had been undone and that some of the women had had their pants pulled down. She said the authorities were still trying to determine whether the women had been raped, but “it is certain that something bad was done to them.”

Felicisimo Khu, a police superintendent, said Wednesday that the women’s bodies had been found separate from the men’s.

At least one witness, according to Ms. Devanadera, told investigators that Andal Ampatuan Jr. was on the scene giving commands but that it was not clear whether he fired a gun.

On Friday, Mr. Mangudadatu, leading a 50-vehicle convoy guarded by soldiers and heavily armed police officers, finally filed his certificate of candidacy to run for governor of Maguindanao — precisely what the others were on their way to do when they were murdered. “I had to do it,” he said in a telephone interview on Friday. “I owe it to my dear wife, to my family, to my supporters and to all those journalists who died while doing their job.”

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has been under intense pressure to pursue and prosecute the killers. The Ampatuan family is her closest political ally in the southern Philippines and played a critical role in her 2004 election victory. Her government has assisted the Ampatuans and other area clans in building potent militias to combat the secessionist and Islamist insurgencies that have plagued the region.

On Friday, she ordered Interior Secretary Reynaldo Puno to take direct control of the autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao, a collection of provinces on and near the island of Mindanao, and to suspend local, police and military officials if necessary to proceed with the investigation.

A military spokesman said Friday that two ground commanders of the armed forces in Maguindanao had been relieved of their commands. The military on Thursday took control of the provincial capital, Shariff Aguak, and other towns, a day after disarming dozens of militiamen employed by the Ampatuans.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, the largest media group in the country, urged the government on Friday to form a special court to try the suspects. “This is to help ensure that no whitewash will happen and to identify the roots and those responsible for this unimaginable crime,” said Nestor Burgos Jr., the group’s chairman.
http://carlosconde.com/2009/11/28/philippine-official-says-victims-were-sexually-mutilated/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+carlosconde+%28Carlos+Conde%29&utm_content=Twitter

__._,_.___

By CHERYLL D. FIEL
Davao Today

DAVAO CITY — Election violence erupted this early right in the heart of Maguindanao, a province long wrought by political killings.

Forty persons, including lawyers and journalists on their way to Maguindanao’s capital town of Shariff Aguak, were reportedly taken by armed men at around 9:30 am on Monday, November 23.

Combined military and police search team recovered 21 bodies in Barangay Salman, Ampatuan town later in the afternoon, according to Colonel Jonathan Ponce, 6th Infantry Division spokesperson.

Ponce said the bodies were believed to be part of the convoy led by Genalyn Mangudadatu, on her way to Shariff Aguak town to file the certificate of candidacy of her husband, Buluan town Vice Mayor Ismael Mangudadatu.

The Buluan vice mayor is running for governor in Maguindanao, a post currently held by incumbent governor Andal Ampatuan, Sr. a close ally of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Maguindanao, one of the provinces of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, is about 160 kilometers from this city.

Ponce, however, said the bodies have not yet been positively identified. He also believed there could still be more.

Buluan Mayor Ibrahim “Jong” Mangudadatu, brother of the Buluan vice mayor, earlier told the media that among those killed were his relatives, two women lawyers and some media persons. The Buluan mayor earlier went on air over a Cotabato City station to report that six members of the party led by his wife, Genalyn, had been beheaded.

Among the persons initially identified in media reports as missing are Genalyn Tiamzon-Mangudadatu, wife of Buluan vice-mayor, Bai Eden Mangudadatu, vice mayor of Mangudadatu town and sister of the Buluan vice mayor and Lawyers Connie Brizuela and Cynthia Oquindo. NUJP confirmed 12 of their colleagues to have died but did not yet identify the names.

Reports from the NUJP local chapters in Mindanao named the journalists abducted to include a certain Ian Subang, president of a broadcasters’ association in General Santos City; Leah Dalmacio, Gina dela Cruz from General Santos City; Marites Cabutas, print reporter from General Santos City; Bart Maravilla, Bombo Radyo Koronadal chief reporter; Joy Duhay; Henry Araneta of DZRH Cotabato; Andy Teodoro, publisher of a local paper based in Tacurong, Sultan Kudarat; Bong Reblando, reporter of Manila Bulletin; Mac-Mac Areola, Jimmy Cabillo and Neneng Montano of radio station DXCP.

“There are still persons who have not been identified, so we are not sure yet if this is the complete list of journalists abducted and beheaded,” the NUJP said.

The Mangudadatus are also a powerful political family in Sultan Kudarat and Maguindanao provinces while the Ampatuans have closely been identified with Arroyo.

Governor Datu Zaldy Ampatuan of ARMM has recently been appointed as regional chairman of Arroyo’s newly-merged Lakas-Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino-Christian Muslim Democrat (Lakas-Kampi-CMD) political party. He is the son of Andal Ampatuan, the Maguindanao governor.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) condemned the abduction and killing, calling it “a brazen challenge” to efforts in strengthening the country’s fragile democracy.

“Running for office and voting are as much exercises of free will and expression as covering and reporting the news,” the NUJP statement said.

NUJP’s statement said the military confirmed the involvement of a mayor and a police officer in the abduction.

“The Ampatuan massacre goes beyond the issue of freedom of the press and of expression and strikes at the very foundations of democracy,” the NUJP statement said. “This incident not only erases all doubts about the Philippines being the most dangerous country for journalists in the world, outside of Iraq, it could very well place the country on the map as a candidate for a failed democracy.”

Buluan mayor Mangudadatu confirmed in a radio interview with the Notre Dame Broadcasting Corporation that 12 journalists were killed. He also said that six of those abducted were beheaded.

“If it is true that a local government official and a police officer are involved, then it says a lot about how far government has gone to eradicate the warlord politics that continues to reign over many of our provinces,” the NUJP statement said.

The media group called the hostaging of journalists an “assault to the Constitution” and demanded swift action from the government to resolve the crisis.

“We expect nothing less from this government than the swift apprehension and punishment of everyone involved in this gruesome assault on the national body politic, including the masterminds, regardless of who they might be,” the statement said.

“Anything less would mean that the impunity that has emboldened those who would silence the press has spread to embolden those who would subvert our democracy for their own selfish interests.”

The NUJP demands that the abductors release the hostages, including the journalists, unconditionally.

“Should any harm befall our colleagues, we will hold accountable the civil and security officials of Maguindanao, the ARMM and the national government for their failure to end the culture of violence and warlordism,” the NUJP said. (Cheryll D. Fiel, davaotoday.com)

Anti-VFA protests ahead Clinton’s visit to Manila

MANILA – At least 100 members of a students’ activist group on Wednesday held a lightning protest in front of the United States embassy in Manila, signalling a series of demonstrations during US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit in the Philippines.

Terry Ridon, secretary-general of the League of Filipino Students, led at least 100 youth activists protesting the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) in front of the US embassy along Roxas Boulevard.

“Bumabati ang mga estudyante, ang mga kabataan (The students, the youth are greeting [Mrs. Clinton],” Ridon said, adding that they will be holding similar protests against VFA while Clinton is in the country.

Clinton will stay in Manila on Thursday noon until Friday before attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit (APEC) in Singapore.

Clinton is set to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Ministerial Meeting and will stop by the Philippines on Thursday noon until Friday. It will be Clinton’s first visit to the Philippines as US Secretary of State.

Clinton’s spokesman Ian Kelly said in a statement released Saturday that the US secretary of state will hold consultations with senior Philippine officials and tackle US-Philippines treaty alliance.

Malacañang said that aside from discussing US-RP treaties, Mrs. Arroyo will also discuss with Clinton next year’s elections and the “smooth turnover of power” in 2010.

Ridon said student activists will return to the US embassy on Thursday to welcome Clinton and make her hear their sentiments against the VFA.

as of 11/11/2009 3:04 PM

Hacienda Luisita. Comprises  of  6400 hectares (15,814 acres), Hacienda Luisita is the second largest single piece of contiguous land in the Philippines (after the 20,000-hectare Canlubang Sugar Estate of the Yulos in Laguna.) In 1957 by Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. advised to convince his father-in-law Jose Cojuangco Sr. to purchase the estate.With loans from the Manufacturer’s Trust Company of New York, the Chase Manhattan Bank, and the Government Service Insurance System, Cojuangco purchased the land. The GSIS loan carried a stipulation that the land would be distributed to the tenants and farm workers by 1967.

Fifty-two years later, Hacienda Luisita has yet to be redistributed. Corazon Aquino took pride in the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) , but exempted the hacienda from its coverage, instead placing it under a “stock distribution option” that supposedly made the farmers investors in -– as opposed to owners of — the hacienda, which was never the intention of a genuine land reform program.

With the running for presidency in 2010, Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III will need to untangle  what his mother has done to the agrarian reform. The selling the 6,400 hectares serves no social justice for the farmers, tenants and especially  the massacre of 14 workers in a violent dispersal on November 16, 2004  Hacienda Luisita Strike . The workers fought for a wage increase, hospitalization benefits and land distribution which still remains to be the major demand. Noynoy uses good over evil when in fact selling the land to gain profit or to regain the loss of it due to bad debts, is more evil than, say, corruption because he is depriving thousands of families of their basic human rights(land, food, dignity, etc.)

It will be interesting to see what change he will bring.

A CounterPunch Exclusive

The Denial of My Parole

I Am Barack Obama’s Political Prisoner Now

By LEONARD PELTIER

The United States Department of Justice has once again made a mockery of its lofty and pretentious title.

After releasing an original and continuing disciple of death cult leader Charles Manson who attempted to shoot President Gerald Ford, an admitted Croatian terrorist, and another attempted assassin of President Ford under the mandatory 30-year parole law, the U.S. Parole Commission deemed that my release would “promote disrespect for the law.”

If only the federal government would have respected its own laws, not to mention the treaties that are, under the U.S. Constitution, the supreme law of the land, I would never have been convicted nor forced to spend more than half my life in captivity. Not to mention the fact that every law in this country was created without the consent of Native peoples and is applied unequally at our expense. If nothing else, my experience should raise serious questions about the FBI’s supposed jurisdiction in Indian Country.

The parole commission’s phrase was lifted from soon-to-be former U.S. Attorney Drew Wrigley, who apparently hopes to ride with the FBI cavalry into the office of North Dakota governor. In this Wrigley is following in the footsteps of William Janklow, who built his political career on his reputation as an Indian fighter, moving on up from tribal attorney (and alleged rapist of a Native minor) to state attorney general, South Dakota governor, and U.S. Congressman. Some might recall that Janklow claimed responsibility for dissuading President Clinton from pardoning me before he was convicted of manslaughter. Janklow’s historical predecessor, George Armstrong Custer, similarly hoped that a glorious massacre of the Sioux would propel him to the White House, and we all know what happened to him.

Unlike the barbarians that bay for my blood in the corridors of power, however, Native people are true humanitarians who pray for our enemies. Yet we must be realistic enough to organize for our own freedom and equality as nations. We constitute 5% of the population of North Dakota and 10% of South Dakota and we could utilize that influence to promote our own power on the reservations, where our focus should be. If we organized as a voting bloc, we could defeat the entire premise of the competition between the Dakotas as to which is the most racist. In the 1970s we were forced to take up arms to affirm our right to survival and self-defense, but today the war is one of ideas. We must now stand up to armed oppression and colonization with our bodies and our minds. International law is on our side.

Given the complexion of the three recent federal parolees, it might seem that my greatest crime was being Indian. But the truth is that my gravest offense is my innocence. In Iran, political prisoners are occasionally released if they confess to the ridiculous charges on which they are dragged into court, in order to discredit and intimidate them and other like-minded citizens. The FBI and its mouthpieces have suggested the same, as did the parole commission in 1993, when it ruled that my refusal to confess was grounds for denial of parole.

To claim innocence is to suggest that the government is wrong, if not guilty itself. The American judicial system is set up so that the defendant is not punished for the crime itself, but for refusing to accept whatever plea arrangement is offered and for daring to compel the judicial system to grant the accused the right to right to rebut the charges leveled by the state in an actual trial. Such insolence is punished invariably with prosecution requests for the steepest possible sentence, if not an upward departure from sentencing guidelines that are being gradually discarded, along with the possibility of parole.

As much as non-Natives might hate Indians, we are all in the same boat. To attempt to emulate this system in tribal government is pitiful, to say the least.

It was only this year, in the Troy Davis, case, that the U.S. Supreme Court recognized innocence as a legitimate legal defense. Like the witnesses that were coerced into testifying against me, those that testified against Davis renounced their statements, yet Davis was very nearly put to death. I might have been executed myself by now, had not the government of Canada required a waiver of the death penalty as a condition of extradition.

The old order is aptly represented by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who stated in his dissenting opinion in the Davis case, “This Court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is ‘actually’ innocent. Quite to the contrary, we have repeatedly left that question unresolved, while expressing considerable doubt that any claim based on alleged ‘actual innocence’ is constitutionally cognizable.”

The esteemed Senator from North Dakota, Byron Dorgan, who is now the chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, used much the same reasoning in writing that “our legal system has found Leonard Peltier guilty of the crime for which he was charged. I have reviewed the material from the trial, and I believe the verdict was fair and just.”

It is a bizarre and incomprehensible statement to Natives, as well it should be, that innocence and guilt is a mere legal status, not necessarily rooted in material fact. It is a truism that all political prisoners were convicted of the crimes for which they were charged.

The truth is the government wants me to falsely confess in order to validate a rather sloppy frame-up operation, one whose exposure would open the door to an investigation of the United States’ role in training and equipping goon squads to suppress a grassroots movement on Pine Ridge against a puppet dictatorship.

In America, there can by definition be no political prisoners, only those duly judged guilty in a court of law. It is deemed too controversial to even publicly contemplate that the federal government might fabricate and suppress evidence to defeat those deemed political enemies. But it is a demonstrable fact at every stage of my case.

I am Barack Obama’s political prisoner now, and I hope and pray that he will adhere to the ideals that impelled him to run for president. But as Obama himself would acknowledge, if we are expecting him to solve our problems, we missed the point of his campaign. Only by organizing in our own communities and pressuring our supposed leaders can we bring about the changes that we all so desperately need. Please support the Leonard Peltier Defense Offense Committee in our effort to hold the United States government to its own words.

I thank you all who have stood by me all these years, but to name anyone would be to exclude many more. We must never lose hope in our struggle for freedom.

In the Spirit of Crazy Horse,

Leonard Peltier
Leonard Peltier #89637-132
USP-Lewisburg
US Penitentiary
PO Box 1000
Lewisburg, PA 17837

For more information on Leonard Peltier visit the Leonard Peltier Defense-Offense Committee website. http://www.whoisleonardpeltier.info/