UN Special Rapporteurs not the enemy


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    Screengrab of the Diwata’s comeuppance

    Do you remember Chaloka Beyani and the Lumad at Haran?

    Beyani is the UN Special Rapporteur for Internally Displaced Persons. He helped bring to the world the truth about the displaced Lumad and their supporters. He helped demolish  
    the drama and the lies staged by Nancy Catamco — who wanted to forcibly drag back the Lumad to the mountain villages where the Alamara lay in wait to mow them down.

    Do you remember how the Armed Forces tried to twist Beyani’s words, how the AFP lied to make it look like a UN expert was extolling their human rights violations and validating Catamco’s lies?

    Read: UN special rapporteur’s office hits AFP for ‘gross misrepresentation’ 

    Read: Fiery Chieftain Takes Down Catamco

    Do you know that Michelle Campos, the brave orphaned daughter of Lianga’s Dionel Campos, spoke before UN experts who urged the Aquino government to stop the persecution of the Lumad?

    We hailed the UN experts then because they stood for people who needed as much help as they could get — even while we were already helping them.

    President Rodrigo Duterte, with his long time affinity with the Lumad, knows more than most people that UN Special Rapporteurs are NOT enemies of the Filipino people. They’re not stooges, not agents by foreign powers.

    Some background

    Special Rapporteurs — independent experts and working group members – work on behalf of the United Nations within the scope of “special procedures” and they bear a specific mandate from the UN Human Rights Council.

    There are two kinds of mandates from the council – a country mandate or a thematic mandate. As of 27 March 2015, there are 41 thematic and 14 country mandates (List below)

    Special Rapporteurs need permission from a country to visit. (“At the invitation of States..”) To shorten the process, some countries have issued “STANDING INVITATIONS”. The Philippines is NOT among these countries.

    UN Special Rapporteurs are NOT paid UN staff.

    “They undertake to uphold independence, efficiency, competence and integrity through probity, impartiality, honesty and good faith. The independent status of the mandate-holders is crucial for them to be able to fulfil their functions in all impartiality. A mandate-holder’s tenure in a given function, whether it is a thematic or country mandate, is limited to a maximum of six years.”

    They receive logistical support from UN Office of the High Commissioners on Human Rights. They also get funding from charities and corporations. (arguably, problematic for critics of the system) http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/Pages/Introduction.aspx

    PH Mission

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    photo from http://www.humanrightsphilippines.net

    The last mission to the Philippines to by a Special Rapporteur on extra judicial executions was by Philip Alston in 2007, during former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s administration. (His reports came out the following year and in 2009. He is now special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights.)

    alstonalston2I covered that visit and saw how tense the situation was to get witnesses safely to Alston, given the murders committed by Mrs. Arroyo’s heroes.

    Here’s a story from that time: Kin, Colleagues brave risks to join UN probe into extrajudicial killings

    Media killings were also part of Alston’s probe

    Other UN experts

    In 2015, UN Special Rapporteur for Internally-Displaced Persons, Chaloka Beyani, came to investigate the plight of the Lumad of Mindanao. Among the places he visited was the Haran sanctuary in Davao City. Here are some stories on that interesting episode:

    UN special rapporteur’s office hits AFP for ‘gross misrepresentation’ http://news.abs-cbn.com/focus/08/11/15/un-special-rapporteurs-office-hits-afp-gross-misrepresentation

    “THE AFP STATEMENT PROVIDED IS CONSEQUENTLY A GROSS MISREPRESENTATION OF THE POSITION OF THE SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR” — Graham Fox, media officer of Dr. Chaloka Beyani, UN Special Rapporteur on Internally Displaced Peoples

    https://www.facebook.com/inday.espinavarona/posts/10153105194707507

    Special Mission, Dirty Tricks

    https://indayvarona.com/2015/08/11/special-mission-harold-cabunocs-truth/

    AFP apologizes to UN Special Rapporteur, officer resigns

    http://news.abs-cbn.com/nation/regions/08/13/15/afp-apologizes-un-special-rapporteur-officer-resigns

     Additional background

    The earliest such appointment under these UN Special Procedures was the 1980 Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances.

    This came after passage of the Commission on Human Rights resolution 20 (XXXVI). The first Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions reporting to Commission on Human Rights resolution 1982/35 begun work in 1982.

    There are five United Nations regional work groupings: Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Eastern Europe and the Western group.

    What do special rapporteurs do?

    “They can act on individual cases of alleged violations and concerns of a broader, structural nature by sending communications to States; conduct thematic studies and convene expert consultations, contributing to the development of international human rights standards ; engage in advocacy and raise public awareness ; and provide advice for technical cooperation. Special Procedures report annually to the Human Rights Council and the majority of the mandates also report to the General Assembly.”

     

    Country visits

    So, yes, UN experts need an invitation — and can request for one — from states to visit.

    Countries issue “standing invitations” to signify they are prepared to receive a visit from Special Rapporteurs.

    What does it mean that Special Rapporteurs “act independently of governments and as such are free to circumvent sovereign nations and democratically elected governments and policies”?

    They are not answerable to governments precisely because they are independent. Meaning, governments are not shown their notes (security of witnesses, etc). Governments do not sign off on their reports — because they are not employees of government.

    However, there are mechanisms to follow, including the fact that they do talk extensively with government. “At the end of their visits, special procedures’ mandate-holders engage in dialogue with the State on their findings and recommendations and present a report to the Human Rights Council,” says the OHCHR.

    There’s nothing sinister about Special Rapporteurs.

    At the invitation of States, mandate-holders carry out country visits to analyse the human rights situation at the national level. Some countries have issued “standing invitations” to the Special Procedures, which means that they are prepared to receive a visit from any thematic mandate-holder. As of 1 January 2015, 109 Member States and one non-Member Observer State have extended a standing invitation to thematic special procedures. At the end of their visits, special procedures’ mandate-holders engage in dialogue with the State on their findings and recommendations and present a report to the Human Rights Council.

    Read more: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/Pages/Introduction.aspx

 

‘Dialogue’

UN experts newThere’s absolutely no reason to go ballistic over UN experts. Of course, they will speak up against human rights violations. That is their mandate. Of course, local groups with grave concerns about the rights situations here can approach UN experts.

There is no reason to be scared of these experts. They won’t allow themselves to be used by any political party or any foreign power out to rock Digong. That’s where you — believers — can come in and clearly show why you support the President.

President Duterte has strong support — 90% of the population. I oppose many of his methods on the war on drugs but recognize that majority support it, right or wrong.

Disabuse yourself of the notion that “dialogue” needs to be strictly internal.
When you impose those conditions, it’s no longer called dialogue. Only North Korea and a few other weird countries have that kind of set up and their citizens continuously try to find ways around the blockade.

Reds declare unilateral 7-day ceasefire


CPP-NPA ceasefire declaration orders a halt to all offensives but mandates guerrilla units to take “active defense” when faced with hostile actions by state security forces. The ceasefire order also defines “hostile actions.” But it is silent on paramilitary forces known to be trained and supervised by units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

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New People’s Army rebels in Northern Samar during the 44th anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines. Photo courtesy of http://www.philippinerevolution.net

The Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the National Operational Command of the New People’s Army (NPA) has declared a seven-day ceasefire “to celebrate and bolster the resumption of formal GRP-NDFP peace talks.”

The ceasefire will take effect starting 12:01 a.m. of August 21 and will last until 11:59 p.m. of August 27.

The CPP central committee said the NDF negotiating panel to peace talks with President Rodrigo Duterte’s government recommended the ceasefire. It said the ceasefire will take effect with or without reciprocal action from the government.

The directive came after an announcement that the NPA would release prisoners of war. NDF negotiating panel member Fidel Agcaoili said the NDF has six prisoners of war, all in Mindanao. Four are in the Caraga and Surigao regions; two, in the Southern Mindanao region.

The formal talks between the negotiating panels of the NDFP and GRP are scheduled for August 22-26 and will be held in Oslo, Norway.

“This ceasefire declaration is encouraged by the GRP’s facilitation of the release of nearly all NDFP consultants who are set to participate in peace negotiations in the course of the next several months,” said the CPP and NPA.

“With or without reciprocation by the GRP, the NPA must maintain a high-level of alertness against enemy troop movements,” said the CPP. “Even while ready to engage in defensive action, the NPA will exert efforts to carry out early counter-maneuvers to avoid armed encounters during the specified ceasefire period.

When Duterte met with consultants of the NDF in Malacanang last week, he told them to ignore the angry words unleashed in the last few weeks, whether in tit-for-tat exchanges with exiled communist leader Jose Maria Sison or during a round of visits to military camps.

NDF consultants interviewed following their release from prison acknowledged concern at Duterte’s rantings.

But speaking for his comrades, Adelberto Silva said they learned to tune out the President’s words and instead “focus on the actions moving the peace talks forward.”

The consultants seem to have gotten that right.

Active defense

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The CPP-NPA ceasefire directive mandates guerrilla units to main ‘active defense’ of their territories.

The ceasefire directive, which was furnished to media, ordered regular guerrilla units and people’s militia to cease offensive military operations against personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP).

But the communist leadership also told rebel units to “remain on defensive mode at both the strategic and tactical levels.”

Local commands, the statement said, should maintain a high degree of militancy and vigilance against any hostile actions or movements by enemy armed forces with the aim of encirclement and suppression.”

It defined hostile actions thus:

“The NPA shall consider as hostile action encroachments on the territory of the people’s democratic government by operating troops of the AFP and its paramilitaries to conduct surveillance, psywar and other offensive operations that are labelled as “peace and development”, “civil-military”, “peace and order” and “law enforcement” operations.

Active-defense operations by the NPA shall be undertaken only in the face of clear and imminent danger and actual armed attack by the enemy forces and only after exhausting counter-maneuvers to avoid armed encounters.”

It ordered local units to report hostile actions, provocations or movements to the concerned NPA commands and CPP leadership.

The ceasefire directive told NPA units not to arrest individual cops and soldiers with “no serious liabilities other than their membership in their armed units”  and allow them to “enter the territory of the people’s democratic government to make personal visits to relatives and friends.”

Silence on paramilitary groups

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The ceasefire order was markedly silent on paramilitary groups that abound in Mindanao. While officially not part of the AFP organisational structure, local government officials across Mindanao have exposed the military as the organiser, trainer and supervisor of these armed groups.

Human rights advocates and indigenous people’s organisations across Mindanao say the paramilitary are the AFP’s dirty tricks department. Partly funded by big mining and plantation firms under an executive order signed by former President Benigno Aquino III, these groups have killed dozens of indigenous leaders.

Paramilitary forces have also and stepped up their attacks since the proclamation of Duterte as winner of the 2016 presidential elections.

Read: EVEN AS PEACE TALKS POISED TO RESUME, ATTACKS ON LEGAL ACTIVISTS HEIGHTEN

Consultants released

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Wilma Tiamzon and Concha Araneta-Bocala embrace with joy  following their release from separate places of detention.

The CPP information bureau emailed journalists the statement a few hours after the National Democratic Front – Southern Mindanao said it was set to release some prisoners of war as a goodwill measure.

Read: NPA to release POWs as gesture of goodwill

As of press time, Karapatan executive director Christina Palabay said 19 of 22 declared NDF consultants have been freed from detention.

1. Ma. Concepcion Araneta-Bocala
2. Tirso Alcantara
3. Ariel Arbitrario
4. Kennedy Bangibang
5. Alex Birondo
6. Winona Birondo
7. Pedro Codaste
8. Renante Gamara
9. Eddie Genelsa
10. Alan Jazmines
11. Ernesto Lorenzo
12. Alfredo Mapano
13. Ruben Saluta
14. Jaime Soledad
15. Adelberto Silva
16. Loida Magpatoc
17. Benito Tiamzon
18. Wilma Tiamzon
19. Porferio Tuna

Three others have been convicted. Lawyer Edre Olalia, who helps the NDF panel in the peace talks, said they would be moving soon to help facilitate the release of the remaining consultants.

Read: Tears, hugs and NDF consultants walk free

The CPP stated  cited the case of Ka Eduardo Sarmiento,  arrested in February 2009, convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment in December 2013.

The CPP reiterated its “deep appreciation of the determined efforts of GRP President Duterte to push forward and accelerate the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations as a means of addressing the roots of the civil war in the Philippines.”

“We hope that this ceasefire declaration will be reciprocated by the GRP as a show of all-out determination to move forward with peace negotiations,” said the CPP.

Captured cops

NDF peace negotiator Fidel Agcaoili shared the POW release announcement as top underground leaders Benito and Wilma Tiamzon walked out of Camp Crame, the headquarters of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and their place of detention since their capture in June 2015.

The POW release statement mentioned only two by name. One of them was Governor Generoso Police Chief Insp. Arnold Ongachen, captured during an NPA raid on their police station on May 28, before President Rodrigo Duterte’s assumption of power.

Agcaoili said the NPA was ready to release  POWs in Caraga but facilitation was delayed by military operations.

“The GRP panel wanted to be at the turnover but as they’re here, maybe other officials can do it. Actually, those four were to have been released earlier but the big AFP operations delayed the release. Even the GRP panel said there was very heavy fighting and so they did not want to enter the area that time.”

Then still mayor of Davao City, Duterte immediately asked rebels to release the police officer. Duterte has accepted turnovers of captured cops and soldiers in the past.

But on June 2, citing a rebel report on the seizure of some drugs from Ongachen’s office, Duterte said he was leaving the cop to the mercy of the NPA and suggested, half in jest, a sentence of 20 years of hard labor.

The PNP and the AFP mounted operations to get the captured police officers and other soldiers captured in Agusan but have failed to make headway so far.

Ceasefire woes

Duterte declared a unilateral ceasefire during his first State of the Nation Address. While rebels welcomed it, they sought clearer details of its implementation.

Three days after, the NPA ambushed a joint paramilitary and AFP team. The action, which the NPA explained as part of its active defense measure, killed some soldiers and wounded others.

An angry Duterte rescinded his ceasefire order amid a series of angry exchanges with senior NDF consultant and CPP founder, Jose Maria Sison.

Later, in several visits to military camps across the country, Duterte would unleash diatribes on the NPA, insisting the use of command-detonated mines is a violation of the Genera Convention. The rebels insist the treaty only covers contact-activated mines.

NDF consultants acknowledged concern at Duterte’s tirades. But speaking for his comrades, Adelberto Silva said they learned to tune out the President’s rants and instead “focus on the actions moving the peace talks forward.”

The CPP statement said rebels will push their call for Duterte to “issue a general amnesty to pave the way for the release of all political prisoners.” Militant party-list groups have filed a measure in the House of Representatives. The President earlier said he will declare amnesty after a final peace agreement.

Rebels said they are also open to discussing a longer ceasefire “upon completion of the release of all political prisoners.”

 

NPA to release POWs as goodwill measure (Breaking news)


 

tiamzons
Wilma Tiamzon ( far left) and Benito Tiamzon (right) thank supporters after being released from their detention centre in Camp Crame. Photo by Obet de Castro

The New People’s Army will release some prisoners of war as a goodwill gesture for the resumption of peace talks between the Philippine government and Asia’s longest-running insurgency.

National Democratic Front peace negotiator Fidel Agcaoili told ABS-CBNNews in an email exchange that the NPA Command in Aguusan is now working out “the safe and orderly release of four POWs captured during rebel raids and ambuscades.

He also said the government negotiating panel had wanted to be present for the release.

Agcaoili has clarified there are a total of six prisoners of war across Mindanao.

The two officers named in the NDF statement below are in the Southern Mindanao area; the rest are in the Caraga and Surigao area and the subject of Agcaoili’s remarks.

Agcaoili bared the news as the Timazons dropped by to thank peace advocates holding a rally in front of Camp Crame, their detention centre.

But even as Agcaoili was sharing the POW release news, the Rural Missionaries of thePhilippines reported the arrest today (August 19), around noon, of 64-year old Amelia pond, the order’s regional coordinator for Southern Mindanao.

“Gusto sana ng GRP Panel sila ang tatanggap pero nandito sila for the talks. Possibleng sa ibang officials na lang. Actually matagal na dapat na-release pero inabutan ng malaking mil operations. Kahit GRP Panel nagsabi matindi ang labanan dun, ayaw nilang pumasok,” Agcaoili added. (The GRP panel wanted to be at the turnover but as they’re here, maybe other officials can do it. Actually, those four were to have been released earlier but the big AFP operations delayed the release. Even the GRP panel said there was very heavy fighting and so they did not want to enter the area that time.)

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fdqdevera%2Fvideos%2Fvb.1558711017%2F10206358545153338%2F%3Ftype%3D3&show_text=1&width=560

A few minutes later, Agcaoili sent a press statement by the NDFP-southern mindanao region.

Read Full Statement:

NDFP-SMR orders release of POWs as goodwill for peace talks

“The National Democratic Front of the Philippines in Southern Mindanao Region today ordered the release of the two Prisoners of War currently in separate custody of the units under the NPA ComVal Davao Gulf Sub-Regional Command as goodwill measure for the formal resumption of the peace negotiations on August 22,” the statement said.

Earlier today, the GRP released NDFP consultants Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria Tiamzon, who were leading members of the CPP and key consultants of the NDFP when they were arrested in March 2014.

Custodial units of POW Arnold S. Ongachen and POW Michael B. Grande have reported the good state of health and lenient treatment of the two prisoners despite persistent attacks of AFP troops in Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley. They have likewise assured that an orderly and safe turn-over of the prisoners of war may be conducted pending a GPH undertaking of suspension of military and police offensives.

The People’s Democratic Government’s judicial proceedings and investigations into POW Ongachen and POW Grande’s possible war crimes and violation of people’s rights have been effectively suspended in deference to appeals of their families and peace advocates. POW Ongachen and POW Grande have apologized for their violations against the people.

The NDFP-SMR likewise acknowledges GPH Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s efforts that resulted to the on-going process of release of the 22 NDFP peace consultants. This is definitely a positive development in the long-sought justice for these political prisoners and a welcome deviation from the previous reactionary regimes’ militarist approach and despicable contravention of the Comprehensive Agreement for Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) and the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).

While the CPP, NPA and the NDFP have consistently adhered to international conventions and mutually-agreed upon accords between the GPH and the NDFP, the AFP and the PNP continue to file trumped-up charges to ensure that political prisoners such as NDFP consultants, Red fighters, even civilians and legal activists languish in jail for common crimes they did not commit. Some were even tortured, raped or summarily executed. This is a far cry from the lenient policy of the NPA towards Prisoners of War and are later released in recognition of appeals of families and well-meaning parties.

The NDFP-SMR expects the immediate release of the remaining 540 political prisoners in compliance of the Duterte government to the CARHRIHL and the JASIG. The success of the talks en route to a viable peace accord between the two governments in the Philippines rests in the main on GPH’s—especially the AFP, PNP and their paramilitaries’—adherence to previous agreements and the serious deliberation of the roots of the civil war. In these objectives, the NDFP and the entire revolutionary movement have been and continue to be firmly resolute.

Rubi del mundo
Spokesperson
National Democratic Front of the Philippines
Southern Mindanao Region

Even as peace talks poised to resume, attacks on legal activists heighten


(First of five parts)

amelia pond  Even as National Democratic Front (NDF) consultants Wilma and Benito Tiamzon finally walked out of detention from Camp Crame today, reports from regions indicate that state security agencies are stepping up attacks against legal activists.

The Rural Missionaries of thePhilippines reported the arrest today (August 19), around noon, of 64-year old Amelia pond, the order’s regional coordinator for Southern Mindanao.

Pond is also the research and documentation officer for the Salugpungan School Network in Mindanao, which remain the only available opportunities for education of indigenous children.

The attack happened as peace panels of the government and the NDF were preparing for the resumption of long-stalled peace talks in Oslo, Norway.

Read: Tears, hugs as NDF consultants walk free

Pond was accosted by members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) criminal instigation and detection group (CIDG) after a three day RMP assembly at the Living the Gospel Renewal Center on Archbishop Reyes Avenue, in Cebu City’s Lahug district.

Her arrest came as activists and peace advocates were hailing the release of the Tiamzon couple, which brought the number of freed National Democratic Front (NDF) political prisoners to 17.

 

 

tiamzons
Wilma Tiamzon (left) and husband, Benito (right) talk to supporters and peace advocates following their release from detention. They are flying  with 12 other consultants to join the National Democratic Front (NDF) peace panel in Oslo, Norway, where peace talks are set to resume on August 22. Photo by Obet de Castro

“They will join 15 others so far released in peace talks in Oslo on August 22 and for consultations with the NDF Negotiating Panel,” lawyer Edre Olalia said. Two of the released consultants are not joining the Oslo talks as they need urgent medical care, NDF sources said.

Planted evidence?

The RMP report said Pond was in a taxi with three other people when CIDG cops blocked them. They forced her out of the vehicle.

“The female CIDG held her by the arm and asked her with different names but she denied. This was followed by more questions showed photographs, and a supposed warrant of arrest, but they did not make her read the warrant,” the report said.

“One of Amy’s companion insisted that she should read the warrant for her to know what her case is but despite Amy and her companion’s insistence they failed to let Amy read the warrant. Amy vehemently resisted this illegal arrest.”

The witnesses said one of the CIDG men went near Amy and inserted two ID’s in her bag.

“Then they asked her to alight the car. She refused to go with them but they forced her. In this instance, Sr. Francis Anover and Sr. Marisol Garduno who were also in the center immediately went to her rescue.”

Pond was brought to Camp Sotero in Cebu City. and charged with double murder and frustrated murder in Compostela Valley under the name of Adelfa Toledo.

Increasing attacks

pajallaBefore Pond’s arrest, Quezon province cops nabbed a peasant leader identified with the military party-list group, Anakpawis.

Karapatan-Quezon spokesperson Alex Pacalda told Bulatlat.com that the arrest of Antonio Pajalla was illegal as, “the rebellion charge against him was long extinguished when he was granted amnesty under former President Fidel Ramos.”

Bulatlat quoted Pacalda as saying the peasant leader held with him his copy of the certificate from the National Amnesty Commission when he was arrested at around 9 a.m. Aug. 12. He was on a jeepney en route to the Anakpawis Partylist’s office in Catanauan town.

The rebellion charge against Pajalla, which is the ground for his arrest, was first filed in 1995. But Pajalla was granted amnesty by President Ramos in 1997, said Pacalda.

Karapatan and other rights groups  have warned that the continuing presence of paramilitary troops — trained and supervised by the military — represents a major threat to the peace process.

“We must watch out for saboteurs,” said Catholic Bishop (Caloocan City)  Deogracias Yñiguez on the eve of the Tiamzons’ release. He said church workers and civil society and people’s organizations must remain vigilant on human rights violations and other abuses, which could wreak havoc on the peace process.

The Ecumenical Bishops Forum and the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform, Yñiguez said, worked hard with other groups “to find many ways to ensure that the crucial peace process resumes.”

Lumad victims

Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Judy M. Taguiwalo confirmed that paramilitary troops strafed a lumad community on July 30 during holding a wedding in  San Fernando, Bukidnon, killing a pregnant woman and wounding seven other people, including five children.

lumad333
Maytas Gauyran, chieftain of the Tigwahanon tribe, grieves at the coffin of his daughter, Marikit Gayoran, who was pregnant when shot dead during a community wedding. Photo courtesy of Kilab multimedia

A DSWD report said  a paramilitary group associated with the 8th Infantry Batallion of the Philippine Army. Taguiwalo said all victims beneficiaries of the DSWD’s 4Ps and Modified Conditional Cash Transfer Program (MCCT).

Taguiwalo also ordered an investigation into the provision of projects for suspected mastermind ‘Alde Salusad’ or ‘Butsoy’ despite a warrant of arrest for a previous killing of a lumad datu, Jimmy Liguyon, in front of his small children.

 

 

 

Vulnerable communities

The Save Our Schools  (SOS) network said attacks on indigenous schools in Mindanao have increased following then assumption of Duterte. The tough talking leader has close links to restive indigenous groups fighting against the entry of big mining firms and plantations into their ancestral lands.

In the areas around Duterte’s home city of Davao, teachers were forced to close down some schools because of death threats, according to SOS executive director Rius Valle.

He said paramilitary forces trained and supervised by military officials were hunting the teachers in the Pacquibato district of Davao City.

“They documented attempts to kill them,” Valle said in an interview.”The two teachers had to close down the school and seek sanctuary in Davao City.”

After the Paquibato incident, which happened just before Duterte’s  first State of the Nation Address (Sona), paramilitary troops also killed the leader of a parents’ association in a lumad school on the outskirts of Davao City. The community in the area have a long running feud with religious leader Apollo Quiboloy of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, a known supporter and friend of Duterte.

lumad444On August 13, six men, riding in tandem on three motorcycles, also strafed a group of lumad in Barangay Zillovia, Talacogon, Agusan del Sur. A woman, shot in the chest, had to be placed under intensive care.

The victims are indigenous claimants to land now covered by an forestry agreement granted to  Provident Tree Farms, INc.
The RMP said the incident is connected to an earlier series of attacks, including the murder of  Datu Mansulbadan, the former supreme datu of the Manobo community in the area.

Four other Manobo — including a 13-year old boy — who were the apparent target of the gunmen suffered less serious injuries. The attack also prompted an evacuation of residents.

 

Life behind bars for NDF consultants: Pets,stolen moments, cramped cells


consultants final raymund
FREE AT LAST, albeit temporarily. The first batch of political prisoners released as part of preparations for the resumption of long-stalled peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front.

Alexander and Winona Birondo have spent the last year gazing and waving at each other through a small opening that allows sightings among residents of different detention blocks in Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City.

For seven months after their March 2015 arrest, the couple managed to share soft-diet weekend breakfast meals in Camp Crame. Once they were transferred to Bagong Diwa, however, court hearings were the only opportunities for the couple to see and briefly touch each other.

“Aldub na aldub ang dating namin,” jokes Alexander, following their release as the Philippine government and Asia’s longest running insurgency prepare to resume stalled peace talks.

ALDUBAlexander and Winona Birondo have spent a year waving and gazing each other across rooftops, with court hearings providing their only opportunity for physical closeness. Photo by Obet de Castro

The Birondos are middle-aged. Both suffer from diabetes and have been released on humanitarian grounds.

Hardly the spry, coy youngsters of the country’s most popular television variety show segment.

But Alexander says he identifies with the young lovers’ frustration at obstacles that stand in their way.

“Nasa magkabilang building lang kami, pero bawal kaming magkita,” he said. “Sa rooftop lang kami nagkikita, kaway, kaway.” (We were assigned to adjoining buildings but refused to let us meet. We could see each other only on the rooftop, waving at each other.)

“Ito yung masasabi mong napakalapit pero malayo,” he adds. “Talagang aldub na aldub ang dating.” (We were so near, yet so far. We could have been the stars of Aldub.)

In his excitement to finally see his wife, Alex’s blood pressure shot up. The reading during the mandatory medical examination required for release was 180/90.

“I had to reassure the doctor that it would easily do down,” said Alex , whose affectionate gestures towards wife draw grins from comrades.

Pet — and food taster

alcantaraMid-afternoon of Wednesday, August 17, Christina Palabay holds up a two-page document filled with dense text that detail the 46 criminal raps filed against Tirso Alcantara.

The secretary general of human rights group Karapatan is checking several mobile phone units for blow by blow updates on efforts to secure the 22 political prisoners who are covered by safety and immunity guarantees.

It is the third, nerve-wrecking day for Palabay and an estimated 100 lawyers and para-legal workers tasked with ensuring the releases. The hard work started on August 5, when the Supreme Court ruled that lower courts had jurisdiction on arrest proceedings.

“They actually camped out in the courts,” jokes Alcantara.

The military calls the 62-year-old detainee the deputy of Gregorio “Ka Roger” Rosal, the late chief of the Southern Tagalog Melito Glor Command of the New People’s Army.

Arrested on Feb. 14, 2011, Alcantara was incarcerated in isolation at the Philippine Army’s maximum security area at Fort Bonifacio.

He was eventually transferred to Bagong Diwa. There, he adopted a cat that once reportedly belonged to Rizal Alih, a leader of a rebellious separatist faction.

.”It’s my child,” says Alcantara. “It’s also my food taster,” he quips with black humor.

But the wisecracking Southern Tagalog rebel leader could not have imagined the coincidence that allowed him to reunite Wednesday with a grand-daughter he hadn’t seen in 12 years.

lolo and grandkidThe last time Alcantara saw Nica, she was a rambunctious four-year-old visitor to the guerrilla front.

The revolution, however, separated him from family. His daughter, based in Palawan, spent eight years in jail. Alcantara lost touch with the child.

Nica grew up with an aunt with very little affinity for politics. She doesn’t even know  about the peace talks. But on the wayto school at dawn, Wednesday, she saw a banner with a familiar name.

“She went up to the speaker. She said, ‘lolo ko yan’.”

It was dusk when Nica saw the tall, sturdy figure of her grandfather alight from a the van.

She charged at him, past alarmed security escorts, hurling herself into his arms with the cThere are some 500 political prisoners nationwide. Membership in the Communist Party of the Philippines is no longer outlawed, but most detainees are charged with common crimes.

SALUTACamp Bagong Diwa hosts the most number of political prisoners.

Ruben Saluta says conditions there are not much different from shocking photos of the Quezon City jail.

“Sometimes it gets so hot that my blood pressures goes up to 170/90,” Saluta noted. “We’re mixed with common criminals in areas that are so congested that we take turns sleeping or resting. If one of us stands up to use bathroom, someone will take our place.”

 

 

#HindiManhid: Bring Them Home mission for stranded OFWs in Saudi


“Our kababayans are in serious crisis because their employers did not pay their salaries. They are also confronted by many difficulties caused by the expiry of their end-of-services benefits. Many were not given exit visas after they completed their contracts, and are being delayed for repatriation.”
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Photo from abs-cbnnews.com
More than 11,000 stranded overseas Filipino workers (OFWS) in Saudi Arabia are the subjects of an urgent government mission to bring them home by September 10, according to Department of Social Welfare and Development Secretary Judy Taguiwalo.
Taguiwalo detailed her department’s participation in the multi-agency mission headed by Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III as the latter announced a giant step in efforts to ease the crisis of 11,000 workers affected by setbacks in the Middle East country’s oil industry, the backbone of its economy.
Bello said the Saudi monarch has instructed the Ministry of Labor to waive immigration penalties for workers with expired working visas. The King has also directed Kingdom officials to provide food aid and start processing the money claims of the workers.
Taguiwalo said “Operation Bring Them Home” also aims to document situations of undocumented OFWs in crisis like women and children,  facilitate provision of appropriate services and referral to their respective regions for the needed services. The DSWD is earmarking P50 million to help the OFWs in crisis.
OPTIONS
The labor secretary said the King has offered workers options: plane fare for those who want to return to the Philippines and re-employment aid for those willing to transfer to other firms.
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Labor Secretary Silvestro III and Social Welfare and Development Secretary Judy Taguiwalo
Taguiwalo said the DSWD would provide psychosocial interventions like counseling and debriefing, help distressed OFWs in reintegration with families and communities and provide after-care and other material services.
The Foreign Affairs and Health departments are also part of the mission ordered by President Rodrigo Duterte.
Many Filipino workers have said they are willing to stay on and be absorbed in other industries to going home and facing unemployment. But complex legal requirements and unhelpful employers have made for a difficult process.
While Saudi Arabia has some of the most onerous labor policies in the Middle East, the government of President Duterte has managed to wrest concessions from the Kindgom, in contrast to the performance of former president Benigno Aquino III’s administration.
The Saudi labor ministry has confirmed the King’s instructions “to guarantee and protect the rights of foreign workers,” according to Bello.
Taguiwalo appointed DSWD Undersecretary Vilma B. Cabrera, Assistant Secretary Hope V. Hervilla, Social Welfare officers Perlita V. Panganiban, Mely S. Pangilinan, Teresita L. Valentino, Victoria N. NAvida, Marygrail B. Dong-as, Franco V. Lopez, Bienvenido V. Barbosa and Ali B. Namia to the mission
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Urgent queries from OFWS in crisis. Photo by abs-cbnnews
The affected OFWs were  previously employed by three multinational companies: Bin Laden, Saudi Oger, and Mohammad  Al Mojil, as well as by six (6) sub-contracting companies.
“Our kababayans are in serious crisis because their employers did not pay their salaries. They are also confronted by many difficulties caused by the expiry of their end-of-services benefits. Many were not given exit visas after they completed their contracts, and are being delayed for repatriation,” she explained.
The focus of the mission is the stranded OFWs in three major KSA cities, namely Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dammam/Al-Khobar.
“This is not the first time that Filipinos working overseas such as in the KSA have experienced severe crisis because of questionable labor policies imposed by their employers and because of the neglect of their contracting agencies,” Taguiwalo said.
“The DSWD sees it important to take part in this humanitarian mission so we can gauge the impact of such policies on the lives and welfare of our OFWs. We hope to come up with findings that can help guide us in the future when it comes to the implementation of the country’s export labor policy,” she stressed.
“As the government agency that’s primarily tasked to look after the welfare of Filipinos, the DSWD wants to also provide assistance to our OFWs the same way we also aim to help their families here at home when it comes to their emergency  needs,” Taguiwalo said.

Keep those hands off the phone while driving — or else


You’re napping. Suddenly horns start blaring. You sit up, rub your eyes and see your car is not moving while the lanes on both sides stream forward.

Your best buddy is oblivious, sending a text to a beloved.

Call them intexticated.

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http://www.textinganddrivingsafety.com

Most of us have probably experienced riding with kin or friends who text or check their social media pages or email stream while driving. We grasp our seat belts and pray for deliverance as the one-handed drivers struggle with multi-tasking.

The Philippine Council for Health, Research and Development (PCHRD) cites studies showing that drivers are four times as likely to cause a crash when using their phones.

“The likelihood that they will crash is equal to that of someone with a 0.8 percent blood alcohol level, the point at which drivers are generally considered intoxicated. Research also shows that hands-free devices do not eliminate the risks, and may worsen them by suggesting the behavior is safe,” the agency notes.

In the United States, the Colorado-based website Texting and Driving Safety.com says 23% of all car crashes recorded in 2011 were caused by drivers who were texting. 

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Graphic from http://www.textinganddrivingsafety.com

Slap on the wrist

We all scream at drunk drivers. Social media-crazy Filipinos, however, seem to shrug off an already existing ban on mobile phone use while driving. 

The penalty is a joke — P200 from first to third offense. Driving without slippers gets more than double the penalty for driving while using a handheld phone or mobile radio.

Only when you’ve actually caused an accident does reckless driving come into play.

 

 

INTEXTICATED3

Well, brace yourselves. Change is coming. The House of Representatives adopted en toto the Senate’s version of the “Anti-distracted Driving Act” Monday, during the last session of the 16th Congress.

This means the measure doesn’t need bicameral committee proceedings to consolidate versions by both chambers, doing a way for the ratification requirement.

In 2011, former President and Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo shepherded her bill to approval, but it lacked a similar Senate push.

The measure should  now be on its way to President Benigno Aquino III’s desk.

It’s highly unlikely he’ll veto it — but you never know with him. Unless vetoed, an approved bill that has been transmitted to the Chief Executive will lapse into law within a month.

President-elect Rodrigo Duterte also comes into office on July 1 with enough time to sign it. If I were a betting gal, I’d put my money on Mr. Duterte — who’s allowed himself to be ticketed for traffic violations — taking the law very seriously.

davao cowboy

The measure covers the gamut of distracted driving. This includes the use of mobile devices as a means of communication either through texts or calls and the use of electronic gadgets for playing games, internet browsing and watching movies.

Because drivers of public utility vehicles have crashed while using cell phones, the measure now includes the owner or operator of the vehicle as a liable party.

Also covered are wheeled agricultural machineries, construction vehicles and other forms of transportation such as bicycles, pedicabs, trolleys, “habal-habal”, “kuliglig”, human and animal-powered carriages.

The penalty:  P5,000 for the first offense, P10,000 for the second offense and P15,000 for the third offense. Higher than for drag racing, one of Mr. Duterte’s pet peeves.

The final offense shall mean cancellation of the driver’s license and a penalty of P20,000.

The bill exempts drivers using the aid of a hands-free function and vehicles that are not in motion except those who are temporarily halted by the red light and by traffic enforcers.

The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), Land Transportation Office (LTO), Philippine Information Agency (PIA), Department of Education (DepEd), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and Philippine National Police (PNP) shall initiate a six-month, nationwide information, education and campaign.

Don’t say you weren’t warned.