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Tag Archives: Human Rights Violations


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Dr. Alex Montes and patient
We need money for healthcare and education! So why is the US sending over $30 million taxpayer dollars each year to arrest, jail and torture health care workers and other innocent civilians in the Philippines?

Every year, the US sends tens of millions of dollars in military aid to the Philippines–and it’s added up to a whopping $1 billion US taxpayer dollars since 1999.  What has been the result? Record-high numbers of human rights violations have been committed against innocent civilians, including: 1,118 killings  • 1,026 cases of torture • 204 forced disappearances • 1,983 illegal arrests. Who is perpetrating these human rights violations?  Reports by the United Nations, Amnesty International, and KARAPATAN all conclude that the Philippine military, police and paramilitary units are the perpetrators, and are targeting pastors, teachers, union leaders, students, lawyers, journalists, healthcare workers, artists and others whose only “crime” is voicing criticism of the government for neglecting and exploiting the Filipino people. They are being arrested, tortured and killed for doing what the government should be doing–serving the poor and oppressed.

The arrest, detention and torture of 43 healthcare workers is the latest outrageous case of human rights abuse. On Saturday, Feb. 6, the Philippine military and police used a bogus search warrant to raid a First Responders healthcare skills training in Rizal, where they violently arrested and jailed 43 community healthcare workers, including two renowned doctors, a nurse, and midwives. The military has inflicted physical and psychological torture on the healthcare workers, including: sleep deprivation, prolonged tactical interrogation with death threats, 36+ hours of being blindfolded and handcuffed, solitary confinement, and denial of legal counsel and medical treatment.  The health workers are still being held in jail on trumped up charges of being rebels, and the military has even defied a Supreme Court order to produce the 43 health workers at a court hearing.

The 43 health workers and doctors were undergoing health training to serve the vast majority of Filipino people who do not have access to healthcare. They should be treated like heroes!  But instead, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her military are persecuting them.

You can help.  Join the growing movement of grassroots organizations, churches, individuals, and labor organizations and unions such as the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), National Nurses United (NNU), and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) to demand the release of the 43 healthcare workers.

Sign the petition at http://www.PetitionOnline.com/Free43/petition.html so you can
1.    Tell Congress and the Obama administration to end all US military aid to the Philippines. No US tax dollars for torture!
2.    Tell President Arroyo to Free the 43 health care workers and end all human rights violations being committed by her military.

For more info: www.bayan.ph/freethe43.php or http://freethehealthworkers.blogspot.com or www.bayanusa.org.

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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

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

A peep of my submission  for Factsheet art show. Come through, check out the dope pieces from the Philippines and here, and learn something new!!!

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

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.

###

Press Statement
July 31, 2009

References:
Katrina Abarcar, Katarungan: Center for Peace, Justice, and Human Rights in the Philippines, email: katarungan@comcast.net;
Peter Arvin Jabido, NY Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP), email: nychrp@gmail.com

Filipino-American Rights Groups Disappointed in Obama for Standing with Leader on Wrong Side of History

See Related Photos:
http://www.katarungan-dc.org/gma-white-house-visit-picket-and-vigil/

US-based rights groups are registering disappointment over the outcome of US President Barack Obama’s meeting with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of the Philippines yesterday at the White House.

“Yesterday, Obama shook hands with a leader who stands on the wrong side of history,” states Gary Labao of the NY Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP), a New York City-based human rights advocacy organization. “Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo fits the description of one who clings to power though deceit, corruption, and the silencing of dissent to a tee.”

A few hours before Arroyo’s arrival on the White House driveway, DC-rights group Katarungan: Center for Peace, Justice, and Human Rights in the Philippines and the Columban Center for Outreach and Advocacy sponsored a prayer vigil for the victims of extrajudicial killings and abductions by the Philippine military in front of the White House gate. Other sponsors of the vigil included the Ecumenical Advocacy Network for the Philippines, the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church-USA Washington DC Office, the United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries, the Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ, the International Labor Rights Forum, and NYCHRP.

Members of NYCHRP, Anakbayan NY/NJ, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment, and Sandiwa Fil-Am Youth Alliance traveled from New York to join the vigil, in which around 50 advocates stood in a circle in front of the White House gates and renewed their call for US Congress to cut a greater amount of US military aid to the Philippines and tag greater human rights conditions. Also discussed was the case of Melissa Roxas, an American abducted and tortured in the Philippines last May. It is widely-believed that Roxas was taken by elements of the 7th Infantry Division of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) based in Central Luzon.

Katrina Abarcar of Katarungan spoke on Roxas’ behalf and reiterated the words from a statement of Roxas, who is currently in the Philippines testifying against the Philippine military– “I can no longer count how many times I have narrated the incident and my ordeal. But I will not tire to tell the truth about what happened for I seek justice, not only for myself, but for others who have gone through the same. I seek justice, not only for what they did to me, but for other victims of human rights violations.”

Arroyo’s White House Arrival Met with Protest

After the vigil, the rights groups staged a protest in front of the White House gates in anticipation of Arroyo’s arrival.
Chanting “Gloria Tuta, Diktador Pasista!” (Gloria, Puppet! Fascist Dictator!) and “Inutang na Dugo, Singilin, Siniglin, Pagbayarin!” (Blood Debt, Payback Now!) and “Gloria, Don’t Lie to Me. Torture Don’t Make Democracy!”, as Arroyo’s car entourage drove into the White House driveway, protestors marched to and straddled the White House front gate with banners and signs reading “Justice for Melissa Roxas!” and “Obama: Say to No to Torture! Say No to Arroyo!”

During the 45-minute meeting between Obama and Arroyo, the groups stayed outside the White House holding picket-protest, explaining to tourists and passersby the state of unequal relations between the US and the Philippines, and why more Americans should demand that US Congress withdraw all forms of support to the Arroyo government.

Prior to the meeting, US human rights advocates were pushing for Obama to include raising the case of Roxas and human rights with Arroyo in person.

No Public Mention of Roxas or Human Rights in the Philippines

But the subsequent post-meeting press conference did not indicate whether or not the issues of Roxas or Arroyo’s human rights track record were raised behind closed doors. Instead, the only reference to human rights was Obama’s praise for Arroyo’s so-called efforts to address the human rights situation in Burma, as well as eagerness to work with the Arroyo government by appointing the Philippines as the coordinator of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), an economic organization of countries in the region framed to promote economic, social, and cultural progress.

“We assume his silence means he is more committed to continuing Bush’s foreign policy on the Philippines, which includes maintaining and even increasing US troop presence on the island nation, and using the Arroyo government as a proxy to uphold US economic and political interests in the region,” Abarcar said. “So much for standing ‘against torture wherever it takes place.’ ”

Arroyo critics continued with the picket until Arroyo’s departure, in which the chanting resumed until the car entourage was off the White House premises.

Katarungan and NYCHRP, along with other US-based groups and churches, have been actively lobbying the members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to cut a greater portion of US military aid to the Philippines. They expect a final decision on the 2010 military aid package released by September.

###

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 26, 2009

Contact: Rhonda Ramiro, 415-377-2599, secgen@bayanusa.org

U.S. CITIZEN ABDUCTED AND TORTURED BY SUSPECTED PHILIPPINE MILITARY AGENTS TO SPEAK PUBLICLY FOR FIRST TIME

U.N. Day in Support of Torture Victims Marked with Press Conference by Torture Survivor Melissa Roxas

What: Press Conference of Melissa Roxas, recent victim of abduction and torture

When: Saturday, June 27, 2009

Time: 4-5:30 PM

Where: Echo Park United Methodist Church

1226 N. Alvarado St.

Los Angeles, CA 90026

Live Web Stream: www.bayan.ph

LOS ANGELES, CA – In her first public appearance since being released from captivity, Melissa Roxas, a U.S. citizen abducted and tortured in the Philippines from May 19-25, will hold a press conference to describe the human rights abuses she endured while held for six days in an alleged military camp. Ms. Roxas, an American human rights advocate of Filipino descent, is the first known American citizen to have become a victim of abduction and torture in the Philippines, a country which has drawn international condemnation for state-sponsored human rights atrocities.

In a sworn affidavit submitted to the Philippine Supreme Court, Ms. Roxas described being abducted at gunpoint by several heavily armed men, brought to what she believed is a military camp, held against her will, questioned without the presence of an attorney, beaten repeatedly, and asphyxiated using plastic bags before being released. During the press conference, Ms. Roxas is expected to demand accountability from the Philippine government and military, who she holds responsible for her ordeal, as well as the U.S. government for providing funding and training to the Philippine military. Reports by the United Nations, Amnesty International, Philippine-based human rights organization Karapatan, and Human Rights Watch have overwhelmingly concluded that the Philippine military is responsible for systematically carrying out human rights violations such as abduction, torture and extra-judicial killings against innocent civilians. Nearly $1 billion worth of U.S. military aid and materiel has been granted to the Philippines since 1999, the year the U.S.- Philippines Visiting Forces Agreement was enacted.

The experience of Ms. Roxas is considered typical for the 200 cases of abduction and 1,010 cases of torture recorded since Gloria Macapagal Arroyo became president of the Philippines in 2001. The Philippine government’s quick denial of responsibility for Ms. Roxas’ abduction and torture is also considered a typical response; in his 2007 report on the Philippines, U.N. Special Rapporteur Philip Alston cited such systematic denial by the government as one of the primary obstacles to stopping the rampant human rights violations plaguing the country. In his 2009 follow-up report, Alston indicated a general failure of the Arroyo government to stop the persistent human rights violations. In April 2009, the UN Committee Against Torture (UNCAT) also released a report detailing the use of torture by the Philippine military.

At the press conference, Ms. Roxas’ legal counsel, Attorney Arnedo Valera, will explain the potential legal remedies that are being explored, including the filing of a tort action in U.S. Federal Court for punitive and compensatory damages against her identified assailants or the Arroyo government in the absence of named assailants; the lodging of a private complaint before the U.S. Department of State, Human Rights Desk against the Philippine government for the violation of the fundamental rights of a U.S. citizen; and the filing of a complaints before the appropriate U.N. agencies for violations of the International Covenant Against Torture, the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights.

The press conference will be held in Los Angeles, CA and broadcast live on the website www.bayan.ph. Media in the Philippines will be hosted simultaneously by Bayan Philippines and will be able to ask questions in real time. The U.S.-based press conference is sponsored by the Justice for Melissa Roxas Campaign, whose membership includes Ms. Roxas’ legal counsel, BAYAN-USA, GABRIELA USA, Katarungan Center for Peace, Justice and Human Rights, and the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns. ###

For those who have missed the live feed of Melissa’s Press Conference here are the recorded videos:

**URGENT ACTION ALERT!**
* STAND AGAINST TORTURE ON JUNE 26, THE UN INTERNATIONAL DAY IN SUPPORT OF VICTIMS OF TORTURE


SIGN THE EMERGENCY ONLINE PETITION


*ASK THE US APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE TO CUT US MILITARY AID TO THE PHILIPPINES AND TO REQUIRE THE PHILIPPINE GOVERNMENT TO FULLY COMPLY WITH INVESTIGATIONS INTO THE CASE OF MELISSA ROXAS!


June 26 is the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, a particularly significant day for those of us concerned about the continued use of this criminal act worldwide. Most recently, a US citizen of Filipino descent has fallen victim to this cruel and degrading act in the Philippines.
Her case is one of thousands of documented cases of torture, assassinations, kidnappings, and other forms of human rights violations that have gone uninvestigated and unresolved in the Philippines. Just last month the United Nations Committee Against Torture (UNCAT) expressed grave concern at the routine, widespread, and unpunished use of torture by military, police, and other state officials in their country report on the Philippines. As reported by United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings Philip Alston, in his 2007 report, although credible evidence points to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as the main culprits behind these human rights violations, they are protected by the Philippine government’s culture of impunity which allows them to roam free. The Philippine government denies any responsibility for and frequently attempts to cover up these human rights violations, as they are also attempting to do in the case of Melissa Roxas despite her sworn testimony about her experience.
The Philippines is one of the largest recipients of US military aid in Southeast Asia. This means US tax dollars are being used as resources by the AFP to continue to perpetrate these human rights violations against innocent civilians. As US taxpayers, we need to tell our government that we DO NOT want the blood of the Filipino people on our hands.
At present, the US Senate Appropriations Committee is in the process of shaping the next US military aid package to the Philippines, and could come out with a decision as early as mid-July. Our Senators and Representatives have an influence on how our tax dollars are spent abroad. They have a responsibility to represent our concerns about how US military aid is being used to commit—and cover up—human rights atrocities in the Philippines, and to express our desire that NOT 1 CENT of our tax dollars support human rights violations in the Philippines.
In addition, a request has been made of the Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee Patrick Leahy to introduce language into this year’s Appropriations bill that would require the Philippine military to full comply with the Writ of Amparo proceedings and any investigation into the case of Melissa Roxas. Please call your Senator/Representative to express your support for a thorough and impartial investigation into Melissa Roxas’ case.
SIGN THE EMERGENCY ONLINE PETITION
Below is a sample text you can use as an email, phone script, or fax to your member of Congress. You can also draft your own language.
*************************
(SAMPLE TEXT)
Dear Member of the US Appropriations Committee,
The recent abduction, detainment, and torture of an American, Melissa Roxas, in the Philippines last May has me extremely concerned about the US government’s financial allocations to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
Roxas, 31, is US citizen of Filipino descent and human rights advocate who was in the middle of a medical relief mission in La Paz, Tarlac, when she and her two companions– Juanito Carabeo and John Edward Jandoc– were kidnapped on May 19th, 2009. In a sworn statement, Roxas describes being abducted by approximately 15 armed men, thrown in a van, handcuffed and blindfolded for six days, and dragged from jail cell to jail cell. She recounts being subjected to torture via asphyxiation using a doubled-up plastic bag, repeated beatings to the face and body, and having her head banged repeatedly against the wall by her interrogators. She was denied legal counsel despite her persistent requests. Roxas was dropped off near her relative’s house around 6:30 AM on May 25 and warned not to go to Karapatan, the human rights alliance that handles cases like hers. Her captors left her with a SIM card and phone, which one of her interrogators used to contact her after she was released.
Today, fortunately, Roxas is back safe in her hometown of Los Angeles with her family. Credible sources, including Roxas herself, believe the detainment took place in nearby Fort Magsaysay, a military camp near the town Roxas and her companions were abducted.
As my Senator or Representative, I urge you to remember Melissa and all who have suffered the epidemic of torture, kidnappings, and unlawful detainment at the hands of the Philippine military. I am concerned that US military aid may be providing the “ammunition” (in both a literal and figurative sense) being used to pursue unarmed civilians whom the Arroyo administration has tagged as “Communists.”
I urge you to keep in mind my strong support for a full, impartial investigation into Melissa’s abduction and torture by the Philippine government. I urge you to impress on the US Congress and especially the House and Senate Appropriations Committee that you belong to that *I do not want one cent of my tax dollars going to human rights abuses in the Philippines, and that the Philippine military must fully cooperate with the Writ of Amparo proceedings as well any investigation by the Commission on Human Rights into the case of Melissa Roxas. * I hope you will do everything in your power to ensure that the Philippine government cooperates to the fullest extent in resolving Melissa’s case and in stopping all human rights violations in the Philippines.
As my US Senator/Representative, I urge you to raise your voice on my behalf. Please be a voice of conscience and human rights when your committee and Congress as a whole decides on the next US military aid package to the Philippines. In these tough economic times, many government budget choices are hard. This one shouldn’t be. Our hard-earned tax dollars should be used towards the betterment of society and for public service, not for human rights violations overseas. Please be the change America needs and help the Congress achieve this.
I hope to receive a response from you outlining your position on the human rights crisis in the Philippines and on the case of Melissa Roxas.
Sincerely,

—–
SIGN THE EMERGENCY ONLINE PETITION

Repost:

ACT condemns killing of anti-chacha peasant leader

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers today denounced the killing of peasant leader Fermin Lorico in Dumaguete City yesterday.

Lorico was shot in the back of the head by unidentified gunmen soon after speaking at an anti-charter change rally at 4 p.m. yesterday. He was the leader of the Kahugpongan alang sa Ugma sa Gagmay’ng Mag-uuma sa Oriental Negros (Kaugmaon), a militant peasant group affiliated with the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP). Lorico was a national council member of the KMP.

In April, Lorico was in Manila to participate in the 54-day camp-out held by the KMP outside the Batasang Pambansa to push for the passage of the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill.

“We denounce the assassination of Ka Fermin Lorico. We hold the Mrs. Gloria Arroyo and her government responsible for this horrendous act targeting a prominent critic of Malacañang, committed on the very day of nationwide protests against her administration’s move to change the Constitution. It shows once again that this regime will stop at nothing to maintain its hold on power,” said ACT national chairperson Antonio Tinio.

“Ka Fermin is a martyr of the peasants’ struggle for land as well as the people’s struggle against the establishment of an Arroyo dictatorship through Charter change. We call on all those opposed to Arroyo’s cha-cha to join us in demanding justice for Ka Fermin and all other victims of extrajudicial killings, disappearances, and torture under this regime,” he added.

Tinio pointed out that two national officers of ACT have also been victimized by extrajudicial killings in recent years, Vitoria Samonte of Surigao del Sur in 2005 and Napoleon Pornasdoro of Quezon in 2006. Their murderers have yet to be brought to justice. #

Goodbye, Ka Fermin

Fellow farmers and supporters pay tribute to slain peasant leader Ka Fermin Lorico as he was brought to his final resting place in Bayawan City, Oriental Negros, Saturday. “Ang pagkamatay sa isang bayani tulad ni Ka Fermin ay nagpapasiga ng sulo, isang libong sulo na lumiliyab sa bawat isa sa atin sa paghahanap ng katarungan at pagpapatuloy ng pakikibakang kanyang nasimulan,” Danilo “Ka Daning” Ramos, secretary-general of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, tearfully said during Lorico’s tribute.
(Photo courtesy of Kaugmaon-KMP)
(Bulatlat.com)