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By Pagbabago! People’s Movement for Change

First 100 days agenda: GMA, Luisita, human rights abuses. With the presidential elections now over save for the official proclamation of Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, we ask what is perhaps the same question in the mind of most Filipinos today: what can our forlorn people expect from an Aquino presidency?

The first 100 days of the Aquino administration will be crucial. This period will reveal and set the tone on the priorities of the new government as well as demonstrate the intent, if not ability, of Aquino to address the injustices that our people have long been suffering.

Thus, for the first 100 days of Aquino as President, we strongly believe that he must make considerable headway in resolving three of the gravest injustices that we face: the plunder perpetrated by Mrs. Gloria Arroyo and her cohorts; social injustice such as at the Hacienda Luisita; and the extrajudicial killings, abductions, and other human rights violations under the brutal Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL) military campaign of the Arroyo administration.

By depicting himself as the bearer of genuine change, indeed as the anti-thesis of Arroyo, Aquino has raised people’s expectations of his administration. Invoking the legacy of his parents, the martyred Ninoy Aquino and former President Cory, it is reasonable to ask for tangible steps in his first three months – when and how will he investigate and prosecute Mrs. Arroyo and her cohorts in crime?

As president who claims to have the high moral ground compared to other presidentiables, how will he pro-actively ensure that the Cojuanco-Aquino clan will give up Hacienda Luisita in favor of the poor peasants and farm workers? What will he do with regard to the case of the Morong 43, Jonas Burgos, and many other victims of human rights violation under Arroyo? What will he do to make the likes of Gen. Jovito Palparan accountable for his bloody crimes against the people? Will he dismantle the oppressive Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL) 2 or will he embark on an OBL 3 or similar “Internal Security Plan” that tramples on constitutionally-guaranteed rights in the name of so-called national security?

Aquino built his successful bid for the presidency on a strong advocacy against Arroyo and all that her administration represents, encapsulized in his political ads enticing Filipino voters to take the “daang matuwid” (righteous path) with him. Many Filipinos, disgruntled by nine years of grand scale corruption, abuses, and poverty under the despised Arroyo presidency, responded to his call and gave him a strong mandate to lead.

However, while corruption aggravates the people’s poverty and suffering, the basic premise of Aquino’s advocacy – that corruption is the root cause of poverty (“kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap”) – must be challenged. This premise glosses over the fundamental truth that poverty is bred by age-old unjust social structures strengthened through the years by anti-people economic policies allowing a few to monopolize society’s wealth.

Such situation is clearly illustrated, for instance, at the Hacienda Luisita. Poverty will not be solved without substantial reforms in these structures and policies, e.g. genuine agrarian reform that will truly distribute vast landholdings like Hacienda Luisita to farmers and farm workers, as Pagbabago! articulated in our People’s Agenda.

The time for mere rhetoric about change and justice is now over. We who come from people’s organizations, sectoral formations and non-government organizations, who have long been fighting for genuine reforms in the country’s misshapen and undemocratic political and economic system, want to see whether Aquino’s “daang matuwid” will lead to redemption or greater perdition.

source: http://kodao.org/blog/contributor/noynoy-must-show-what-%E2%80%9Cdaang-matuwid%E2%80%9D-concretely-means

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The FACT SHEET exhibit is a collection of the piece reflects a few of the endless cases of human rights violations in the Philippines. Each of the pieces are based on Fact Sheets that contain important information on these cases. Artists’ ARREST in collaboration with the KARAPATAN (RIGHT) collected works from artists as part of CineVeritas 2008.

Currently, the  FACT SHEET exhibit has crossed the Pacific Ocean  and presenting  30 posters about human rights violations in the Philippines. It is inspired by Bay Area’s Social Serigraphy movement that started in the 1960s, 20 works and ideas of Artists’ ARREST, an art collective in the Philippines.  In addition 10 pieces from Kwatro Kanto collective, Lainerz, KA68, and others artists from the U.S.  The exhibition will show how art can be used as a social practice by forming alliances and mobilizations, from a single person to an entire nation.

Media Contact: Lian Ladia, lian_ladia@yahoo.com

MHF Contact: DiAnne Bueno, dianne.bueno@manilatown.org

MHF: 415-777-1130, 415-399-9580

www.manilatown.org

Political Poster Exhibition on Human Rights at Manilatown

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – San Francisco – January 11, 2010

EVENT: Manilatown Heritage Foundation (MHF), a Filipino American community arts organization based in San Francisco, will host “FACTSHEET: Activism is Not a Crime,” an exhibition of 30 posters by artists in the U.S. and the Philippines about human rights violations in the Philippines, curated by Lian Ladia and Con Cabrera and co-presented with SF Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines.

WHEN: Exhibit runs from February 6-April 24, 2010

Opening reception: Saturday, February 6, 4-6  PM, with live performances and special guest,  Marie Hilo from KARAPATAN, a human rights organization in the Philippines. FREE, donations appreciated

Film & Discussion: Saturday, March 27, 4-6 PM

Film shorts about human rights in the Philippines from the Southern Tagalog Exposure, followed by a panel discussion with Bay Area community organizers. $5-$10, no one turned away for lack of funds

Closing Reception: Saturday, April 24, 4-6 PM

FREE, donations appreciated

WHERE: International Hotel Manilatown Center, 868 Kearny Street (and Jackson), SF

ABOUT THE EXHIBITION: “FACTSHEET: Activism is Not a Crime,” showcases 30 posters by artists in the U.S. and the Philippines about human rights violations in the Philippines. It is inspired by Bay Area’s Social Serigraphy movement that started in the 1960s, as well as by the works and ideas of Artist Arrest, an art collective in the Philippines. FACTSHEET shows how art can be used as a social practice to form alliances and mobilize, from a single person to an entire nation.

ABOUT MANILATOWN HERITAGE FOUNDATION: The Manilatown Heritage Foundation is a non-profit community-based organization formed in 1994 and incorporated in 1998, to advocate for the rebuilding of the International Hotel (I-Hotel) and the preservation of the Filipino legacy in the San Francisco Bay Area. Its mission is to promote social and economic justice for Filipinos in America by preserving our history, advocating for equal access, and advancing our arts and culture. The I-Hotel was the last vestige of a vibrant 10-block area known as Manilatown. Manilatown Heritage Foundation emerged out of the struggle to defend the tenants’ rights to their homes and to preserve the Manilatown District. 28 years after the brutal eviction of the tenants, the new International Hotel Senior Housing opened its doors in August 2005. The Manilatown Center has now come alive with exhibits, weekly events and activities.

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News Release

December 13, 2009


Reference: Atty. Arnedo Valera, Never Again to Martial Law (NAML), email: neveragaintomartiallaw@gmail.com


US COALITION AGAINST MARTIAL LAW CLAIMS VICTORY WITH LIFTING OF PROCLAMATION 1959 AND VOWS TO PURSUE ALL DEMANDS


Never Again to Martial Law (NAML), a US coalition launched on Human Rights Day opposing martial law in Maguindanao, is calling the lifting of Proclamation 1959 a victory for all those who condemned President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s declaration. NAML will continue to build its network on the ground nationally to call for a full restoration of civilian authority and the removal of all vestiges of martial rule in Maguindanao and other parts of the Philippines.

NAML believes the building pressure in the Philippines and internationally on Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) to lift martial law played a part in her decision.

“The lifting of Proclamation 1959 is a way for GMA to save face. International awareness about GMA’s arming of her warlord allies and the illegality of her declaration of martial law is growing. She may have lifted martial law to avoid embarrassment and questions at the upcoming Copenhagen conference and other international fora,” said Dr. Dante Simbulan, an NAML convenor and former political prisoner under Marcos.

In addition, NAML will remain on guard, preparing for the possibility of the re-imposition of martial law in Maguindanao or in other parts of the Philippines. “We believe GMA may have declared martial law to ‘test the tolerance,’ so to speak, of the Filipino people and the international community for it. For all we know, we could see it re-emerge in another form in the future. We must remember Marcos also lifted martial law temporarily in 1981 around the visit of the Pope to the Philippines,” said Atty. Arnedo Valera, international human rights lawyer.

NAML convenors    will also focus efforts on ensuring a clean and honest elections throughout the Philippines in May 2010 and lobbying within the US given the attention drawn to the Arroyo administration’s practice of arming “death squads.”

According to Professor Ligaya McGovern of Indiana University, “We must remember that with or without martial law, there exists a climate of repression and impunity in the Philippines that allows for gruesome acts like the Maguindanao massacre to occur. We will continue to do what is needed to stop human rights violations and to achieve justice for the victims of the massacre and all other victims of human rights in the Philippines.”

NAML will continue to generate signatures on its petition and to build local NAML chapters.

To view the petition, go to http://www.gopetition.com/online/32771.html

“Unless we take steps to address the root problems of our society, more young people will follow Kemberly’s footsteps in the days to come”

— From a tribute of the League of Filipino Students (Lanao) to Kemberly Jul Luna who died in Decmber 2009 in Bukidnon

IN MEMORY OF KEMBERLY JUL LUNA:  ISKOLAR NG BAYAN, FREEDOM FIGHTER

January 4, 2010


“Umaalis ang mga anak upang habulin ang kanilang mga pangarap, at malao’t madali, maraming magulang ang tumutunton sa duguang bakas ng kanilang mga anak…upang sunduin ang kanilang bangkay at iuwi ang pinakadakilang katibayan ng kanilang pagkatao.” – Lualhati Bautista

We, from the League of Filipino Students (LFS) and the Student Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights (STAND) in MSU-IIT, express our utmost grief and sorrow over the death of our beloved comrade Kemberly Jul Luna.

Kemberly, or “Kimay,” as she was known to her friends and comrades, was an AB English student in MSU-IIT. Known for her beauty and intellect, Kimay showed a lot of talent and  gained many friends inside and outside of the school . She was a high school valedictorian and participated in many academic and cultural events. She was, for a time, a member of MSU-IIT’s Kalimulan, a cultural dance group.

She was also an active member of the Catholic Center Campus Ministry  where she became a leader of the Educational Committee. There, amidst the daily masses, boarding house meetings and other activities, she concluded that faith without action is dead. She always sought for ways to show that her Christian faith will not be confined to empty words and prayers, but will be brought out to the real world and be coupled by relevant action based on concrete conditions. She believed that faith should not be a lifeless dogma. She believed that just like Jesus, one must bring faith to serving the people— without thought of oneself. And just like Jesus, to die in service of the poor and oppressed.

She joined LFS in early 2008 and was an active participant in the League’s many activities, including the National Interfaith Humanitarian Mission (NIHM) of October 2008 in the face of humanitarian crises plaguing the war-stricken Moroland. She was part of the local secretariat and headed the area preparation committee in Poona Piagapo, one of the target municipalities for the Mission. Daring as always, Kimay did not hesitate entering the war-torn village of Tagoranao to uncover the effects of indiscriminate aerial bombing and militarization in the area. She also convinced one of the victims to make a testimony openly on the events in the affected areas in Lanao.

She actively joined the “No to All-Out War” campaign and various other campaigns, including the campaign against US intervention in the country and militarization of peasant and Moro communities.


At the opening of the first semester, she was chosen as the ad hoc chairperson of STAND-IIT. From then on she brought the cry of the youth and student sector in classroom and group discussions and out to the streets in rallies where she acted as STAND-IIT’s official spokesperson.

Kemberly was a very good example to her comrades and to the people around her. She showed youthful fervor and gave her heart to everything she did inside the organization. As an ordinary student, she was once quite a heavy drinker and a late riser, but when after she joined the League, she showed exemplary effort to remould herself  and do away with her old habits. She shed herself off of all the petty-bourgeois individualism.

At the opening of the second semester, we found out that she did not enroll. Later, she requested to be relieved as STAND-IIT chairperson, saying that she would stop school and do full-time peasant organizing work with KASAMA-Bukidnon, a province-wide peasant organization. She stood firm with her decision, saying she would like to do more in service of the poor, and that she could only do that in the countryside, where the majority of the poorest people live. On January 2009, after a short Christmas visit to her family in Surigao, Kemberly went off to Bukidnon to start her community work. She promised however that she would maintain correspondence with us.

On August 2009, we received a letter from her saying that she left KASAMA-Bukidnon but did not say where she went to and that she is happy where she was at that time, and that she has learned to love the peasant masses more with each day she lives with them. Kimay also happily shared to us her experiences in the peasant communities, from helping the peasants harvest corn to teaching them to read and write and do a little arithmetic, since literacy in the area is extremely low. She was also known to the people in the community as a health worker, often called as “Ma’am Nurse.”

Kimay is a true “iskolar ng bayan,” who did not waste the people’s tax money spent for her education only for personal ambitions, but used her time, talent and intellect in service of the people. She traded her comfortable life of night parties and hangovers for the cold, harsh and mosquito-ridden mountains of Bukidnon because she knew that she was on the right path.

In mid-December last year, we learned that Kemberly was missing through a report from Karapatan-Bukidnon Chapter, a human rights organization. A number of LFS and STAND-IIT members went to Bukidnon to join the search. We searched for her in the camp of the 403rd Inf Bde, 4th ID, PA but the officials of the brigade prevented us from entering the camp and denied that Kemberly was in their hands. During the middle of the search however, we learned that Kemberly died in an encounter with elements of the Philippine Army in Sitio Bulacao, Brgy. Concepcion, Valencia City. She was a member of the New People’s Army (NPA).


We found Kimay’s corpse lying with a few others in the middle of the forest of Bulacao, unattended by the state forces who were bound by agreement to respect the casualties of war, combatant or not.

But Kimay died an honorable death. She died because she fought for what she believed in until the very last minute of her life. She chose the path of armed struggle, firmly believing that there is no greater form of struggle to advance the interests of the toiling masses.

She broke the stereotype that the New People’s Army is a pack of delinquents— of tramps who lack a better future.

We salute Kimay for her determination. She was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice— all for the interest of the people without thinking of herself. She has proven that this rotten social system breeds unrest and many of the younger generation long for a better society that is based on social justice. This system pushes many of our youth to take up arms to achieve the national democratic goal. We believe that her death poses a challenge to all of us— that unless we take steps to address the root problems of our society, more and more young people will follow Kemberly’s footsteps in the days to come.

We also salute her parents, who were in deep pain, but calmly accepted her fate. They respected her decision to choose the path less traveled.

The League of Filipino Students and STAND-IIT vow to pursue the national democratic struggle, not just because this is precious to Kemberly, but because we believe in its relevance in answering today’s basic social problems. We stand firm, as Kimay did, that a true people’s scholar should not confine himself/herself inside the four walls of the classroom and study empty theories on the chalkboard. A true scholar uses his/her talents and intellect to serve the studentry, as well as the broad masses of the people. A true scholar like Kemberly never allows one;s schooling to interfere with one’s education.

Long live the memory of Kemberly Jul Luna!

Long live the national democratic struggle!


–Atty. Theodore Te, UP College of Law

Which part of “Never Again” did you fail to understand?

The decretal portion of Proc 1959, as read by the Executive Secretary:

THEREFORE, I, GLORIA MACAPAGAL-ARROYO, PRESIDENT OF RP, DO HEREBY PROCLAIM AS FOLLOWS:

SEC. 1 – THERE IS HEREBY DECLARED A STATE OF MARTIAL LAW IN THE PROVINCE OF MAGUINDANAO
EXCEPT FOR THE IDENTIFIED AREAS OF THE MORO ISLAMIC LIBERATION FRONT AS REFERRED TO IN THE
IMPLEMENTING OPERATIONAL GUIDELINES OF THE GRP-MILF AGREEMENT ON THE GENERAL CESSATION OF HOSTLITIES.

SEC. 2 – THE PRIVILEGE OF THE WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS WILL LIKEWISE BE SUSPENDED IN THE SAID AREAS FOR THE DURATION OF THE STATE OF MARTIAL LAW.

DONE IN THE CITY OF MANILA, THIS 4TH DAY OF DECEMEBER, 2009. SIGNED, GLORIA M. ARROYO.

What is immediately apparent is that there is no period specified and none of the grounds in the Constitution would fit–unless these grounds are yet to happen according to good old military inteligence.

Meantime, it is left to both Houses of Congress–this time clearly voting jointly (ehem ehem ehem, can you say “cha cha” as well as “choo choo”?)–and the 93% Gloria-appointed Court to decide on this issue.

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The relevant portion of the 1987 Constitution (which, if you put side by side with the proclamation, will clearly show the infirmity of the declaration) —

“ART. VI, SECTION 18. The President shall be the Commander-in-Chief of all armed forces of the Philippines and whenever it becomes necessary, he may call out such armed forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion. In case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it, he may, for a period not exceeding sixty days, suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law. Within forty-eight hours from the proclamation of martial law or the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, the President shall submit a report in person or in writing to the Congress. The Congress, voting jointly, by a vote of at least a majority of all its Members in regular or special session, may revoke such proclamation or suspension, which revocation shall not be set aside by the President. Upon the initiative of the President, the Congress may, in the same manner, extend such proclamation or suspension for a period to be determined by the Congress, if the invasion or rebellion shall persist and public safety requires it.

The Congress, if not in session, shall, within twenty-four hours following such proclamation or suspension, convene in accordance with its rules without any need of a call.

The Supreme Court may review, in an appropriate proceeding filed by any citizen, the sufficiency of the factual basis of the proclamation of martial law or the suspension of the privilege of the writ or the extension thereof, and must promulgate its decision thereon within thirty days from its filing.

A state of martial law does not suspend the operation of the Constitution, nor supplant the functioning of the civil courts or legislative assemblies, nor authorize the conferment of jurisdiction on military courts and agencies over civilians where civil courts are able to function, nor automatically suspend the privilege of the writ.

The suspension of the privilege of the writ shall apply only to persons judicially charged for rebellion or offenses inherent in or directly connected with the invasion.

During the suspension of the privilege of the writ, any person thus arrested or detained shall be judicially charged within three days, otherwise he shall be released.”


Press Statement

December 5, 2009

Statement on the declaration of Martial Law in Maguindanao

The declaration of a state of Martial Law in Maguindanao sets a most dangerous precedent for the nation. Not since September 21, 1972 has there been any declaration of Martial Law, not even during the years of tumult under the Aquino, Estrada and, prior to this, the Arroyo regime. For the first time since 1972, the writ of habeas corpus has been suspended in an area in the Philippines.

We reiterate our call for justice for the victims of the Ampatuan Massacre but we cannot support measures that are both dangerous and questionable.

The alleged purpose of Proclamation 1959 is the arrest of the Ampatuan family members who are implicated in the November 23 Ampatuan, Maguindanao massacre. The regime justifies the declaration in saying that civilian institutions, especially the courts, are no longer functioning and that the dispensation of justice would not be possible.

The Constitution says Martial Law can only be declared during an invasion or during a rebellion. The failure of civilian government institutions, as in the case of the local government offices and courts in Maguindanao, cannot be used as a pretext for declaring Martial Law. The difficulty of gathering evidence, securing warrants and enforcing arrests also cannot be used as a basis for the declaration.

We demand the lifting of Martial Law in Maguindanao and the restoration of the civilian government institutions. Martial Law cannot solve the problem of state-sponsored warlordism and violence in the province. Martial Law will always lead to abuses because those implementing it, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police, have very poor human rights records.

The national government must endeavor to restore the civilian administrative and judicial institutions in the province.

If Mrs. Arroyo refuses to lift the declaration, we call on Congress to exercise its powers to revoke Martial Law. Mrs. Arroyo is required by the Constitution to report to Congress within 48 hours. It falls on Congress, though dominated by Arroyo loyalists, to revoke this dangerous declaration. We must not wait for the maximum 60-day period allowed by the Constitution for the enforcement of martial rule. The leaders of the Lower House and Senate must convene within 24 hours to address this issue.

That Martial Law has been declared in a province less than six months before the national elections raises fresh fears that similar scenarios can also follow, thus severely undermining the conduct of the 2010 polls to benefit the incumbent president. We must not allow this scenario to be replicated in other regions for whatever pretexts. If Arroyo can declare martial law for reasons not defined in the constitution, imagine what she can do before the 2010 elections.

The Arroyo regime and its police and military have to be made accountable for its role in arming the Ampatuan family. The recently discovered arms cache in the Ampatuan residence shows the complicity of the AFP, PNP and the regime in supplying weapons to the local warlords. With this kind of track record, how do you trust the AFP and PNP with the vast powers of Martial rule? This kind of corruption and complicity cannot be solved by the declaration of Martial rule. l

We have learned the bitter lessons of Martial Law even as we are acutely aware of the propensity for abuse by the current regime. As we continue to demand justice for the victims of the Ampatuan massacre, we call on the public to remain vigilant at this time against possible abuses on civilians that may stem from this declaration. ###

PRESS STATEMENT Reference:  Marie Hilao-Enriquez

November 26, 2009                                            Chairperson, Mobile No. 09175616800

Inaction on and tolerating human rights violations abet crimes such as the Maguindanao massacre

KARAPATAN condemns, in the strongest possible terms, the massacre of 57 civilians which included media persons and two women lawyers in Maguindanao, on November 23, 2009.

Early this year, the human rights alliance has warned of escalating violence as extrajudicial killings have continued despite declarations from the Arroyo government that it is adhering to the recommendations of the UNSR on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Prof. Philip Alston; and as the government-pronounced deadline of ending the insurgency comes to a close in 2010, which is also an election year..

The Maguindanao massacre was an event waiting to happen with the continued implementation of this criminal government’s anti-insurgency program, Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL).  Under OBL, the recruitment of para-military groups such as the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU), CAFGU Active Auxiliary (CAA) and Civilian Volunteer Organization (CVO’s) as well as the arming of these individuals have persisted and in fact have been resorted to by the government in its mad design of purportedly “ending the insurgency by 2010.”  Such groups, which have been placed under the supervision and effective control of the military, have been tagged, together with the latter and the police, as responsible for various human rights violations happening around the country.

With this counter-insurgency program, so many victims, easily labeled as “fronts”  of “communist organizations”  and “enemies of the state”  have turned up dead, killed in a brutal manner and some disappeared; with the Arroyo government doing nothing to stop the killings, disappearances and other human rights violations.  In fact, it even heaped praises for known perpetrators identified with these crimes.  Under this counter-insurgency scheme, the Arroyo government has become the biggest warlord in the land.

Now the country is jolted by a brutal crime ostensibly committed by a private army of a warlord in one of the so-called election hotspots in the country.  The public is now witness to the barbaric impunity by which the perpetrators can kill and even try to hide the crime as if no law can be applied to prevent them from committing such a brutal act in broad daylight, hiding even such evidences as vehicles with the use of government properties!

For far too long has this regime considered itself a law above the citizens, contravening the laws laid out in the legal instruments of the land so much so that its coddled political allies have imbibed the mindset that they, too, can commit such transgressions with impunity.  Thus, on Monday, these perpetrators have been emboldened to commit the carnage that shocked the world. Such is the result of condoning and tolerating human rights violations.

The public must not allow this government to just relegate such a heinous crime as this massacre of civilians into a mere election-related offense. We must not allow a whitewash of the investigation on this dastardly act especially in the face of the declarations of this regime to get the perpetrators of the crime. We demand for a thorough, diligent investigation, arresting and initiating prosecution proceedings against the known perpetrators of this crime.

We call on the Arroyo government to immediately disband the paramilitary units of the AFP and private armies of warlords and politicians and stop the Oplan Bantay Laya counter-insurgency program as its method to eradicate the festering insurgency in the land.  This strategy is only engendering crimes against humanity.

JUSTICE FOR THE VICTIMS OF THE MAGUINDANAO MASSACRE!

JUSTICE FOR ALL VICTIMS OF HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS UNDER THE ARROYO REGIME!

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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.  It was established in 1995.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Reference: Raquel Redondiez, Chair, GABRIELA USA, gabrielawomen@gmail.com

GABRIELA USA CONDEMNS PERPETRATORS OF THE AMPATUAN MASSACRE, AND HOLDS GMA ACCOUNTABLE FOR THE STATE OF WARLORDISM AND CLIMATE OF IMPUNITY IN THE PHILIPPINES

The election-related carnage on the eve of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (IDEVAW) took the lives of 57 people, 14 women including
2 women lawyers and 17 journalists

San Francisco, CA–10 years ago, a United Nations Assembly resolved to recognize November 25 as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (IDEVAW) to work towards the end of violence affecting women all over the world. GABRIELA USA members from San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles and New York are taking this day to remember the significance of this international effort to raise awareness about women’s issues in the light of the horrific massacre which took place in Ampatuan, Maguindanao, in the island of Mindanao.

The death toll is rising in the massacre of unarmed civilians included lawyers, journalists, and at least 14 women who were not only murdered but also raped, mutilated and beheaded. The bodies were found buried on shallow ground on the side of the road where the 6 vehicle convoy carrying the victims were stopped in broad daylight on November 23rd. The victims where on their way to file election paperwork with the Commission on Elections to challenge the ruling political clan in the upcoming elections.

This incident cannot be separated from the thousands of other human rights violations committed under the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) regime, wherein hundreds of women activists, leaders and community members have been killed, abducted, tortured and disappeared with impunity.

Arroyo’s share of responsibility for this massacre is certain as she has repeatedly facilitated and funded armed clan-based militias, utilizing US military aid, and has created the state of impunity in the Philippines where her close political allies could conceive of
carrying out such a heinous crime in broad daylight.  In fact, until today, no arrests has been made in the horrific crime, despite the
fact, or because of the fact, that the tractor used to hide the bodies belongs to the local government, controlled by the Ampatuans, GMA’s close allies.

The UN Declaration for the Elimination of Violence Against Women calls for all forms violence, including those condoned by the State. GMA must be held accountable, and we must be vigilant in continuing to demand the arrest, thorough investigation, and prosecution of the perpetrators of the Maguindanao massacre. Many believe that the massacre was perpetrated by 100 men led by Datu Unsay Mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., of the Ampatuan clan, which delivered what has been dubbed as the “Maguindanao Miracle” a 100% of the votes for GMA’s slate in the 2007 elections.

Moreover, we must continue to struggle against GMA’s anti-insurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya II, which provides license for state-sponsored violence against anyone who asserts their democratic rights.  This U.S.-sponsored plan, which calls for the extermination of the “communist insurgency” by 2010, is a formula for continuing impunity for the military and military-sponsored civilian militias to commit human rights violations, especially against those they label as “community-fronts”.

On this 10th anniversary of IDEVAW, GABRIELA- USA recommits to demand an end to U.S. military and financial aid to the GMA regime, who we hold accountable for the illegal abduction and torture of Filipino American woman Melissa Roxas in May of this year, and hundreds of other human rights violations against women and children.

The women of GABRIELA-USA believe that the Ampatuan Massacre is a foreshadow of an escalation in the violence and human rights violations to be expected this election season, and should be a reminder for all, including the international community, to
participate in ensuring clean and honest elections.

This IDEVAW, GABRIELA USA condemns the relentless violence of the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo regime against the Filipino people, especially women and children.  We stand in solidarity with women worldwide who are facing violence and will continue fighting for the day in which aggression towards women will no longer be tolerated.  And we will work pro-actively to support the election of genuine women’s representatives who will be our partners in this effort.

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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/

Quo usque tandem abutere, Gloria, patientia nostra?

(How  long will you, Gloria, abuse our patience?)

Statement on the Killing of Fr. Cecilio Lucero

By the National Ecumenical Forum for Filipino Concerns

We, of the National Ecumenical Forum for Filipino Concerns (NEFFCON), an alliance of Church-based individuals and groups in the United States of America, condemn the killing of Fr. Cecilio Lucero as an evil deed by an evil regime in the Philippines.  With our fraternal organization in the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns in the US (NAFCON), the SanDiwa National Alliance of Fil-Am Youth, we express our vehement moral indignation at the murder of Fr. Lucero.

What has Fr. Lucero done so as to provoke the vile regime of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to aim its guns, reportedly held by some thirty people in ambush, on an early Sunday morning, against a priest-minister of God and servant-minister of the people?

Fr. Cecilio Lucero was a Roman Catholic priest, and pastor of St. Joseph the Worker Parish of Catubig, Samar in Eastern Visayas.  His life and work mirrored his deep convictions as Minister of God, disciple of Jesus and servant of the people! As a justice and peace and human rights advocate, he headed the Catarman Diocesan Human Rights and Social Action Desk, chaired the Committee on Human Rights and the Task Force Peace and Order of the Diocese of Catarman.  Fr. Lucero was also an outstanding member of the Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR), an ecumenical national organization of church people dedicated to the promotion and defense of justice, peace, human rights and integrity of creation.  PCPR itself is listed as a legal front of the Communist Party of the Philippines in the Trinity of War, Book III, of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and as “one of the enemies of the State” in the Order of Battle of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in its Oplan Bantay Laya II counter-insurgency campaigns.

According to reports, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo herself was engaged in anti-communist witch-hunting when she labeled Fr. Lucero as ‘that communist priest’ before a civilian crowd and in front of her military officers at the inauguration of the Catubig Bridge last June 16, 2009.  By that act, the so-called President of the Philippines and Commander In-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines sealed the death sentence of Fr. Lucero.

The brutal ambush of Fr. Lucero once again speaks of the wanton violations of human rights committed with impunity in the Philippines.  Backed by the record of more than 1,100 extra-judicial killings under the GMA regime, Fr. Lucero’s killing should by now convince the Bishops and the Christian churches in the Philippines to openly withdraw their support to the GMA regime.  Fr. Lucero’s inhuman death should by now prick the conscience of this priest-ideologue and his partner in the defense department of the GMA regime that their moral interpretation to justify GMA’s anti-communist war has shed the blood of a civilian fellow-priest.

We of NEFFCON and SanDiwa, with our fraternal organizations in NAFCON, remember the heroism of Fr. Lucero and his dedicated service to the poor and the victims of human rights abuses.  His martyrdom adds one more candle to the Light that is guiding the struggle of the Filipino people for Jobs and Justice, Food and Freedom, Land and Liberation.  With Fr. Lucero’s interment on September 14, Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross in the Catholic Tradition, we celebrate his 22nd sacerdotal anniversary and his share of Christ’s gift of the Resurrection.  We pledge to carry on his cause and the struggle of the Filipino people by urging the US government to withhold military aid to the Philippines until the GMA regime prosecute these human rights violators, indemnify their victims, and create a climate for genuine peace talks that shall usher in a transformed society of justice and peace.  We exhort the Filipino Youth in the Philippines, and the FilAm Youth in the United States of America to take inspiration from the life and death of Fr. Lucero in the vigorous defense of human rights.  We call on the Filipino and the American peoples to withdraw their recognition of the GMA regime, for we cannot tolerate its abuses anymore.

Fr. Cecilio Lucero’s blood cries out from the depth of the earth:  How long will you, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, abuse our patience?

“Blessed are they who are persecuted for the cause of justice, for theirs is the Reign of Heaven!” (Matt 5, 10).

Signed:

For the National Ecumenical Forum for Filipino Concerns (NEFFCON)

Bishop Val Lorejo, IFI

Pastor Roy Padilla, United Methodist Church

For the SanDiwa National Alliance of FilAm Youth

Ryan Leano, SanDiwa Secretary General and Northern California Regional Coordinator

For the National Alliance of Filipino Concerns (NAFCON)

Fr. Benjamin E. Alforque, MSC