Thursday, March 29, 2007

Alston: Philippine military responsible for a significant number of killings

Alston: Govt reaction to visit ‘deeply schizophrenic’, Unoptimistic military will see problem’s gravity

By Veronica Uy
Last updated 05:45pm (Mla time) 03/28/2007

MANILA , Philippines -- (UPDATE) United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings Philip Alston described the Arroyo administration’s reaction to his 10-day visit to the country in February to investigate extrajudicial killings “deeply schizophrenic.”

Click here to download the report.

The comments, contained in a transcript of Alston’s oral report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on his investigation, a copy of which was provided by the office of Senator Ana Consuelo “Jamby” Madrigal, was more biting than the description of the special rapporteur’s speech given by undersecretary Cecilia “Coco” Quisumbing of the Presidential Human Rights Committee.

Madrigal was also in Geneva to witness Alston’s submission of his preliminary report on his investigation of the extrajudicial killings. The report is also accessible on the UN website.

Earlier Wednesday, Quisumbing, quoting from accounts relayed to her by Philippine envoys who listened to Alston’s speech, said the report included impromptu comments that made his report “harsher” on the military than a draft received by the government.

In his speech, Alston noted that while President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was “taking positive initiatives” in response to recommendations he made, military and other key officials “have buried their collective heads in the sand and announced that business will continue as usual.”

At the same time, although Alston said killings by the New People’s Army are reprehensible and to be condemned,” he stressed that “there is absolutely no evidence that the recent surge in killings of leftist activists is due to a communist purge.”

“On the contrary, strong and consistent evidence leads to the conclusion that a significant number of these killings are due to the actions of the military,” he said.

He also noted that the NPA, Communist Party of the Philippines and National Democratic Front own responsibility for their own killings, and that the purges that rocked the ranks of the rebel movement happened two decades ago.

The UN expert, who made several recommendations to the Philippine government in his report, said these “will make little difference unless there is a fundamental change of heart on the part of the military or the emergence of civilian resolve to compel the military to change its ways.”

“Then, and only then, will it be possible to make real progress in ending the killings,” he stressed.

Quoting from his own statement before leaving the Philippines , Alston said the military continued to “remain in a state of almost total denial” over the killings.

Thus, a month after his visit, he said, “I have little reason for optimism.”

He cited a “colorful” statement of Defense Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane, who said last week that, “Alston won’t pay attention. He is blind, mute, and deaf. We can’t do anything about that,” reacting to the UN expert’s dismissal of military claims about a communist purge.

“Part of me appreciates the substitution of frank insults for the usual diplomatic platitudes, but anyone reading between the lines will receive a far more disturbing message: Those government officials who must act decisively if the killings are to end still refuse to accept that there is even a problem,” he told the UNHRC.

Alston said the military never substantiated its list the 1,227 names, dates, and places of individuals alleged to have been killed by communist rebels “despite numerous requests.”

He also accused the military of “disinformation” and dismissed as a “fabrication” Operation Bushfire, a purported rebel document the military claimed to have captured in May last year and which is supposed to detail a plan by the communists to kill their own members and pin the blame on the military.

“In the absence of strong supporting evidence, which I requested, this document bears all the hallmarks of a fabrication and cannot be taken as evidence of anything other than disinformation,” he said.

Alston insisted that his initial impression about the military being principally responsible for the killings remains true.

“I would repeat today that based on my fact-finding there is no reasonable doubt that the military is responsible for a significant number of killings. Subsequent evidence points to the continuing nature of that practice,” he said.

In his written report, Alston noted “a passivity, bordering on an abdication of responsibility,” in the way the government and its officials “approach their responsibilities in relation to such human rights concerns” as the extrajudicial killings as he warned that failure to end the bloodshed would lead to “dire” consequences.

Quoting a member of the Philippine Mission to the UNHRC in Geneva , Quisumbing said Ambassador Enrique Manalo, as is allowed by Council rules, countered Alston’s report and told the body of the country’s efforts to end the killings.

But asked to react to Alston’s impromptu comments, Quisumbing did not actually contradict the UN special rapporteur.

“The government has to take a united stand because this is a multi-faceted problem that requires a multi-faceted solution. This is not a race. It is not helpful to have a comparison [of actions] among branches of government,” she said.

However, Quisumbing said the government cannot comply with Alston’s request for a copy of a military “order of battle relating to one of the zones in the country in which significant conflict is currently occurring.”

She did say part of the Philippine response to the Alston report was a request for him to give the government a copy of a “leaked” order of battle he obtained while in the country and described as a 110-page document containing the names of hundreds of groups and individuals who have been classified by the military as “illegitimate” so the authenticity of the document may be ascertained.

During his visit to the country, Alston interviewed relatives of the murder victims, witnesses, and various government officials.

One of those he interviewed, Siche Gandinao, a Bayan Muna official from Misamis in Mindanao , was killed in front of her daughter on March 10. Gandinao testified about her father-in-law’s death in February.

The unabated political killings in the country, which human rights groups say have claimed more than 830 lives since 2001, have attracted international concern. Aside from the UN, the United States Congress and the European Union have offered to help solve the problem.

On Tuesday, Quisumbing said Alston’s preliminary report to the UNHRC is unlikely to endanger the Philippines ’ standing in the Council, much less result in a sanction, or lead to cutbacks in aid.

While Alston’s report does not carry an executive weight, many recognize the moral effect it has. Alston is expected to submit a final report on the extrajudicial killings in the Philippines in June.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Bayan Muna nangunguna!!!

Ang ganda ng headline ng PDI ngayon.

Bayan Muna tops recent SWS survey again

By Erwin Oliva
Last updated 00:22am (Mla time) 03/28/2007

MANILA, Philippines -- Despite persistent efforts to disqualify and discredit Bayan Muna (People First), the left-wing party-list group remained on top of a recent survey of the Social Weather Stations (SWS) and the Philippine Daily Inquirer, parent company of

Its standing rose to 28 percent of the votes in the latest survey done from March 15 to 18 from its 19 percent showing in a February 24 to 27survey.

Bayan Muna was "assured of keeping its current 3 seats" in Congress, the SWS said.

Basahin ang buong story dito.

Sympathy and solidarity for Bayan Muna and Ka Satur accelerating

A solidarity group in Switzerland launched a blog site as requested by migrant Filipinos, friends, and people whom Ka Satur has touched their lives during his several visits in Geneva, Switzerland.

We stand for JUSTICE. Defend BAYAN MUNA from Fraud, Violence and Repression!

Cardinal Rosales nasasapian na rin?

The devil’s pulpit


Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales would be better situated as a member of Gloria Arroyo’s Cabinet than in the local Catholic Church as the prime “moral teacher” since he appears not only to echo the Malacañang line, but also comes to Gloria and her administration’s defense, while keeping silent over issues such as hunger, poverty and corruption, not to mention the sins of lying, cheating and stealing. Even on the matter of elections, Rosales pushes “clean” but by way of environmental cleanliness.

Earlier, he turned off a lot of the Filipino faithful when he doused their indignation over the congressional railroading of Charter change through the one-House Constituent Assembly and announced that instead of a protest prayer-rally on Cha-cha, the rally would instead be a “Thanksgiving Mass” as Gloria had already stepped back and placed the Cha-cha in the back burner.

This time around, with the local and international community outraged at the unabated extra-judicial executions, the cardinal tells reporters in a chance interview Monday that the political murders and other human rights abuses that have occurred during Gloria’s term are but a mere speck of blood, compared to the human rights abuses committed under the rule of the late strongman, Ferdinand Marcos.

He then tells the reporters that they are too young to remember the human rights abuses committed during the Marcos years, insinuating that it is this inability to remember the Marcos past that makes the media today see these abuses under the Gloria regime as worse than the past regimes.

He stressed that the killings have been going on for decades. “We went through this during the time of Marcos, and even after Marcos,” he said. “What is happening today by way of human rights abuses is nothing compared to what we have experienced. What is happening under the Arroyo regime today is so tiny that it is a mere speck” of the human rights abuses committed then under Marcos, he said.

He adds it is also the rebels who kill, not just the military.

As he said: “Sorry for saying this, but our (rebel) brothers are involved in the killings. But I think what we should do now is to do away with the sin and killings and that all will commit to stop the killings and I think we would all be at peace.”

Not once did he speak of the responsibility of the Arroyo government to protect its citizens from these political murders. Not once did he call on Gloria to show political will and order the military to stop these killings. Not once did he hold her, as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, responsible and accountable for the spate of political murders in the country. Instead, he says these extra-judicial killings happening under the Gloria regime, are just a tiny blood speck and that we have been through this before.

Does the good cardinal then intimate that these killings, being merely a speck in the bloody horizon, should be ignored, as they are not as bad as the killings under the Marcos regime?

Should men of the cloth even take this stand, considering the fact that not only criminality, but also immorality, is at play?

Did not Rosales’ God punish and banish the biblical Cain to Nod, after he slew his brother Abel?

But apparently, Rosales does not even want these political killings investigated by international bodies.

Also echoing the Gloria allies’ spiel, Rosales scored the US Senate panel that held a hearing on the human rights situation in the country, saying the Americans have no right to look into our affairs since they also commit human rights abuses.

Yet he says nothing about the fact that it has become impossible for the local bodies such as the Senate to look into these political murders, because Rosales’ anointed, Gloria Arroyo, has ordered the gagging of all officers and personnel of the executive department — which includes the military and police, from appearing and testifying before congressional bodies.

Rosales is a total disappointment, and like his patroness Gloria, he too, is in denial, for him to come up with such a position absolving the administration.

The international bodies, such as the United Nations, through its special rapporteur, the US, through its Senate and now its State Department, and even the European Union, along with the Methodist bishops, have expressed alarm and concern over these unabated political murders of journalists, activists, leftists, church workers, lawyers, peasants and even priests and bishops. And the Philippine cardinal says these killings are but a speck of what went on before.

Rosales is in the wrong place. He should join the Intengan-Bert Gonzales-Esperon Club. There he really will feel at home.

Monday, March 26, 2007

RP gov’t responsible for slays

RP gov’t responsible for slays

By Jocelyn Uy
Posted date: March 26, 2007

Related news: Malacañang snub of rights tribunal inquiry scored

MANILA, Philippines -- A forum of lawyers and human rights activists meeting in The Hague found the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo responsible for unsolved killings and disappearances in the Philippines, according to a copy of its verdict sent to the Philippine Daily Inquirer late Sunday night.

Malacañang allies in the House of Representatives slammed the verdict as unfair and biased.

“The wealth and consistency of the oral and written documentation made available through witnesses and expert reports, has convinced the [tribunal] that each and all of the three charges presented against [Ms Arroyo] and her government and against [US President] George Walker Bush and his government are substantiated,” said the decision of the group called the Permanent People’s Tribunal.

“The tribunal, having considered the evidence before it, is of the opinion that the reported killings, torture and forced disappearances fall under the responsibility of the Philippine government and are by no means justified in terms of necessary measures against terrorism,” it added.

A copy of the decision was e-mailed to the Inquirer Sunday night by the Philippine chapter of the tribunal secretariat through the human rights alliance Karapatan. Its secretary general, Marie Hilao-Enriquez, testified on the human rights situation in the country.

A seven-member jury of the tribunal heard charges against both the Philippine and US governments which, the verdict said, “colluded with each other in implementing the US’ so-called ‘war on terror’ in Southeast Asia.”

Leaders of the House majority said the Hague forum showed its “biased nature” by asking Sen. Jamby Madrigal to testify before the group.

House Majority Leader Prospero Nograles and Antique Rep. Exequiel Javier said in a statement that Madrigal’s testimony “was part of the intensified opposition black propaganda against the President.”

The tribunal, an independent body founded in 1979 in Italy by lawyers, writers and intellectuals, examines and judges complaints regarding violations of human rights submitted by the victims themselves or groups representing them.

The hearings were held in a church in The Hague.

The Philippine government has blamed the communist New People’s Army for most of the murders, saying the group was purging its own ranks.

The international community has voiced concern over the unresolved killings of hundreds of political activists in the country since Ms Arroyo took office in 2001.

The charges presented against both the Arroyo and Bush administrations included:

  • Gross and systematic violations of civil and political rights: extrajudicial killings, abduction and disappearances, massacre, torture.
  • Gross and systematic violation of economic, social and cultural rights.
  • Gross and systematic violations of the rights to national self-determination and liberation.

Malacañang snub of rights tribunal inquiry scored

ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau

The secretary-general of the Permanent People's Tribunal scored Malacañang for snubbing the PPT’s invitation to attend its hearings in The Hague, The Netherlands, ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau reported Friday.

Gianni Tognoni told ABS-CBN's Balitang Europe that the PPT sent invitations to the the Philippine embassies in Rome and in The Hague on March 8, asking for a representative to attend the hearings.

The PPT is hearings complaints on human rights violations allegedly committed by the Arroyo administration.

"I think that in this situation, the Manila government is acting even worse because they do not know how to react and in fact, they cannot deny that something that was given to the embassy was unknown and they were not receiving an invitation," Tognoni said.

"On the other side, we have evidence that they know very well everything that is going on over here," he added.

He cited a news item from Manila which quoted Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita as stating that the Philippine government was willing to attend the tribunal's session on rights violations in the Philippines.

"I hope for the sake of the Filipino people that a representative of the government would at least show up in order to show the reality, instead of the government's persistent denial of the facts," he said.

Tognoni scored Ermita who was reported to have laughed off the subpoena from the PPT.

"We have heard in fact that when they were receiving the subpoena that it is a joke because they cannot recognize the people's rights and that they are above those things. So I think again this is another indicator of this contradiction that they recognize and then deny," he said.

The tribunal wrapped up its last day of hearings with testimonies from witnesses, complainants and expert witnesses, despite the absence of a representative for the government's defense.

President Arroyo, together with US President George W. Bush, has been charged before the tribunal with crimes ranging from systematic violations of civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights to violations of national self-determination and liberation committed against the Filipino people.

Tognoni said that while the tribunal has given the Philippine government the opportunity to defend itself, the absence of a representative might be assumed to mean that the government has chosen to waive that right.

"In that case, we have to simply withdraw the position of the defense. We have assumed this position because the fact of mimicking defense of the government in policy which is testified by so many acts would just be a ritual which would be purely artificial so we prefer to have open confrontation and if the open confrontation is refused, everybody takes its own responsibility," Tognoni explained.

The PPT is expected to deliver its verdict on Mrs. Arroyo on Sunday after a closed-door deliberation by the jury on Saturday.

In 1980, the tribunal heard a case filed by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and the Moro National Liberation Front against former president Ferdinand Marcos. PPT was the first international juridical body to condemn the Marcos dictatorship.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Nagpakita na si Ka Satur!

March 15, 2007
Ka Satur comes out for US Senate hearing – on YouTube

House Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna Representative Satur Ocampo made true his promise to participate in the US Senate hearing on extrajudicial killings besetting the Philippines.

While Philippine officials are spending undetermined amounts of precious taxpayers' money, Ocampo preferred the less expensive and modern way – by coming out with two videotaped messages addressed to US citizens and the international community.

The videos were posted on -- Bayan Muna's newly-formed YouTube channel – at around 2:30 am this morning or about the same time the US Senate foreign relations subcommittee began its hearing in Washington DC.

In his two videotaped messages, Ocampo urged the international community to reject the lies of the Arroyo government and look into the role of the counter-insurgency Oplan Bantay Laya approved by the President.

He also took the opportunity to explain at length the legal shortcuts and violations to due process in the concocted multiple-murder case against him, for which he asked the international community for support.

Ocampo said that Oplan Bantay Laya's targeting of both armed combatants and unarmed activists, and the tagging of Bayan Muna as a communist front explains both the political slays and the political persecution of anti-Arroyo Members of Congress.

He stressed that the Arroyo government's own Melo Commission and the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings have rejected authorities' claims of an ongoing communist purge as the supposed culprit for the murders that have victimized more than 830 Filipinos including 129 Bayan Muna members.

Ocampo thanked the US organizations and churches for their lobby efforts that have successfully compelled the powerful foreign relations committees of both houses of the US Congress to take on the issue of unresolved and continuing political killings under Arroyo.

Ocampo urged them to undertake more fact-finding missions so they themselves will find out the real situation.

As he expressed gratitude for the groundswell of support, the former political detainee and peace negotiator called on the international community to strengthen solidarity with Filipinos especially activists and partylist representatives such as himself.

Bayan Muna's Media Bureau said that more videos will be posted today March 15.

"There are at least three more videos which we will upload within the day. These videos are addressed to Bayan Muna members and the millions who have made Bayan Muna the Number One partylist in surveys and actual elections," said a statement from the party's media bureau. "We intend to show and play these videos and their audio versions in sorties, forums and in our mobile electoral campaign vehicles."

The statement added that "the videos will be an addition to Bayan Muna's public information arsenal as we wage battle against the black propaganda emanating from Malacanang, Camp Crame and Camp Aguinaldo. We intend to maximize our YouTube channel for our national and international reelection campaign."

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

UN: Change Anti-Terror Act

12 March 2007

The Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Martin Scheinin, issued the following statement today:

“On 6 March the bill, titled “The Act to Secure the State and Protect our People from Terrorism”, otherwise known as the “Human Security Act of 2007” was signed into law by the President of the Philippines. This law is scheduled to take effect in July 2007, two months after the May elections. During this interim period, I encourage the legislative branch of Government in the Philippines to reconsider this new counter-terrorism law which was approved by Congress in a Special Session of Parliament on 19 February 2007. It is my hope that there will be further debate which may result in the introduction of specific amendments or repeal of the entire Act by the new Congress elected this spring, since implementation of this law could have a negative impact on human rights in the country and undermines the rule of law.

There are some positive aspects of the definition of terrorist acts in the Human Security Act but the end result is an overly broad definition which is seen to be at variance with the principle of legality and thus incompatible with Article 15 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Further, the strict application of a penalty of forty years’ imprisonment undermines judicial discretion in individual cases and may result in a disproportionate punishment due to the broad definition of terrorist acts.

While there has been some improvement regarding the length of pre-charge detention in the final version of this law, there is a further concern regarding the competence of various bodies authorized to review detention of an individual since some of these are members of the executive rather than an independent judicial body. Thus, section 19 of the Human Security Act appears to lack the procedural guarantees provided by Article 9 of the ICCPR.

Another area of concern is that the Act provides for restrictions on movement including the imposition of house arrest where the legal basis is simply “in cases where evidence of guilt is not strong” rather than positive suspicion or a higher evidentiary threshold.

The Philippines is a country facing many challenging issues and I wish to reaffirm that I am fully conscious of the need to take effective measures to prevent and counter terrorism, and of the difficulties of States in doing so without compromising the freedoms of a civil society. However, I am concerned that many provisions of the Human Security Act are not in accordance with international human rights standards”.

The Special Rapporteur wrote to the Government back in September 2005 and addressed several concerns regarding the draft version of this legislation on counter terrorism which was under consideration by the Parliament at that time. He also communicated his concerns to the Government regarding the most recent version of the bill just before it was due to become law.

Mr. Scheinin accepted the appointment of Special Rapporteur by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights on 7 August 2005. The mandate, established by Resolution 2005/80, has since been assumed by the Human Rights Council. In this capacity, the Special Rapporteur is mandated to develop a regular dialogue and to cooperate with all relevant actors, including Governments, to exchange information, make recommendations and to identify and promote best practices on measures to counter terrorism that respect human rights and fundamental freedoms. As Special Rapporteur, he is independent from any Government and serves in his individual capacity.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Bayan Muna, Anakpawis, and Gabriela lead SWS poll

March 9, 2007

Crackdown fails: Bayan Muna Anakpawis and Gabriela lead SWS poll

Despite the Arroyo government's crackdown against them, Bayan Muna and two of its allied parties are set to attain the top three spots in the May 2007 partylist elections, leaving far behind other partylist groups, mostly supported or organized by authorities.

Results of the Social Weather Stations survey for Feb. 24-27 revealed that Bayan Muna is set to recapture the top spot with 17% percent.

Bayan Muna was the topnotcher in the 2001 and 2004 elections.

In the same survey, Anakpawis captured second place with 9.4 percent, with Gabriela Women's Party at third place with 8.1 percent.

If the SWS poll holds until election day, the three partylists will each have three seats in the next House of Representatives.

In a statement, Bayan Muna General Counsel and third partylist nominee Neri Javier Colmenares said that "besides the harasssment suits and the military infestation in Metro Manila bailiwicks, massive fraud and intimidation of a Hello Garci scale remain the only stumbling blocks to Bayan Muna's becoming partylist topnotcher for the third straight time."

"The survey results confirm the high level of trust and confidence of the electorate in Bayan Muna. Its reputation as a fighter and champion of the poor and the oppressed has worked like magic over the black propaganda, harassments and extrajudicial killings against the party," said Colmenares. "The people are set to honor our martyrs and heroes by electing Bayan Muna with an overwhelming electoral mandate."

"Even the questionable issuance of an arrest warrant on House Deputy Minority Leader Satur Ocampo is not a downer. It raises Bayan Muna's standing in the eyes of the electorate. We are proud to be dubbed an enemy of the lying, cheating and stealing Arroyo government," said Colmenares.

According to Colmenares, "even the worst scenario that Malacañang may now be working hard to happen -- which is to capture Ka Satur in a high-profile yet humiliating manner -- is bound to boomerang on them and result in more sympathy votes for Bayan Muna."

"Only Mrs. Arroyo and the far-right militarists think bad about leftist parties fighting fair and square and winning elections," said Colmenares.

Two other partylists groups – Kabataan and Suara Bangsamoro – are within striking distance to get at least two percent each, enough to be able to position one representative each for the House.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Gloria Arroyo, pinagtawanan ng mga kababaihan

Arroyo heckled during Women's Day rites in Pasay

President Arroyo was heckled by government employees several times while delivering a speech during the celebration of International Women's Day at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium in Pasay, Manila Thursday morning.

The President told the crowd at the stadium that the government's microfinance project seeks to grant loans to the poor so they can start small businesses.
She added that the government signed a memorandum of agreement with the Canadian government, which allocates P300 million for women transformation.

She then asked the audience, composed mostly of government employees, who among them had benefited from microfinance.

"Wala (None)!" shouted the audience.

The President then asked Myrna Yao, chairwoman of the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women, to explain why the women did not receive financial aid when they should have been the first ones to benefit from it. Yao said the women who had benefited from the project were not invited.

Mrs. Arroyo asked Yao why the beneficiaries were not invited. She then turned to the audience and asked: "Who among you are conduits to microfinance?"

The crowd again shouted in the negative and started heckling the President.

Yao then explained that most of the beneficiaries attended last year's Women's Day rally and that this year's attendees were all new.

Mrs. Arroyo then asked the audience in Tagalog: "Maybe this is the first time you attended Women's Day?" She added that nongovernment organizations and government employees should coordinate with the Deparment of Social Welfare and Development, which is managing the microfinance project.

The President also asked the government employees if they received an additional P1,000 monthly allowance, which was implemented last year. The attendees again shouted "None!" and started laughing. Some attendees later realized that they were actually receiving the allowance on top of their regular pay, DZMM reported.

After her speech, Mrs. Arroyo attended a closed-door meeting with Yao and DSWD officials.