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Statement

Cordillera ‘Tokhang’ Resolution Puts Journalists in Grave Danger

Altermidya* Network condemns the Cordillera Regional Law Enforcement Coordinating Committee (RLECC) for passing a resolution recommending a “Tokhang-style” tactic against individuals, including journalists, who are known Left-leaning personalities.

This development coincides with the ongoing international probe on the deaths linked to the administration’s drug war, with Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra admitting in a report to the United Nations Human Rights Council that “the law enforcement agents failed to follow standard protocols” in many drug war operations.

And now, the Cordillera RLECC resolution: a dangerous document that explicitly names the media as possible targets in the conduct of Tokhang.

The resolution comes amid non-stop attacks against alternative media practitioners in the Cordillera. In fact, our colleagues in community news outfit Northern Dispatch (NorDis) are facing all forms of attacks and persecution: from red-tagging and filing of cyber libel charges to attempted murder.

In 2019, Brandon Lee, a Nordis correspondent and environmentalist, was shot by unidentified gunmen in front of his home in Lagawe, Ifugao. He was seriously wounded and is continuing to recover.

In 2020, a series of complex, overlapping legal maneuvers have also been conducted against Nordis staff. A cyberlibel charge was filed against Nordis editor-in-chief Kimberlie Quitasol mere days after two courts have already dismissed libel charges filed by the same complainant, Cordillera Police Regional Director Brigadier General R’Win Pagkalinawan.

The same tactic was also employed against another Nordis journalist, Khim Abalos. The subject of the cases involves stories critical of Pagkalinawan, which were published in April 2020.

In June 2020, the La Trinidad Police Station openly red-tagged Abalos as a recruiter of the New People’s Army. Several reports of flyers red-tagging Nordis reporters have also been recorded in several instances. And as far back as 2017, Sherwin de Vera, Nordis managing editor, was also charged with rebellion, a case that was junked in October 2020 for lack of evidence.

Another colleague, Paola Espiritu, our Ilocos correspondent for Nordis, has been linked with the communists and maligned by the military since 2018. Last year, the 81st Infantry Battalion, on three different occasions, accused Paola of being an NPA member. The relentless harassment against her has taken a toll on her emotional state, and according to our Nordis colleagues, she now has to seek refuge.

We have been denouncing these incidents as attacks meant to silence the grassroots, pro-people reporting upheld by Nordis, whose stories shed light on issues that affect the communities of peasants and indigenous people in Cordillera. With the Cordillera RLECC resolution, the situation is expected to get worse, and may even expand to other practicing journalists in the region – at the expense of our freedom of expression and right to information.

Just as we fear for the lives of our colleagues in Cordillera, we also surmise that the Cordillera RLECC is a test case that government officials will use for future plans of employing Tokhang tactics to stifle dissent in other parts of the country.

We call on the national government, as well as concerned agencies to immediately stop the enforcement of the said resolution. This resolution will surely be used in tandem with the Anti-Terrorism Law and would usher in more attacks, if both were not stopped. We call on our fellow journalists, human rights advocates, and the Filipino public to denounce the Cordillera RLECC resolution. We need to jointly, resolutely fight this new attack against our fundamental freedoms.

*AlterMidya – People’s Alternative Media Network is a national network of over thirty independent media outfits in the Philippines. Formed in 2014, AlterMidya seeks to promote journalism for the people.

OMBUDSMAN ORDERS PNP AND AFP OFFICERS TO ANSWER WAR CRIMES AND MURDER CHARGES FOR ANTIQUE 7 KILLINGS

ILOILO City – Finding the complaints to be sufficient in form and substance, the Ombudsman, through the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for the Military and Other Law Enforcement Offices (MOLEO), has issued an order directing P/Col. Leo Irwin Agpangan, P/Maj. Francisco Paguia, P/Lt. Col. Mark Anthony Darroca of the Antique PNP, and a certain 1/Lt. Labrador of the 301st Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division of the Philippine Army to file their counter-affidavits in the criminal and administrative complaints brought against them by the families of 7 staff members of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines Panay killed in a joint police and military operation in a house in Brgy. Atabay, San Jose, Antique around midnight on August 15, 2018.

PNP and AFP officials claimed that Felix Salditos, Peter Mecenas, Jayson Talibo, Liezel Bandiola, Jason Sanchez, Eldie Labinghisa, and Karen Ceralvo all died during the course of a firefight against government troops who were attempting to serve a warrant of arrest. The police operatives were reportedly under the command of P/Col. Agpangan, P/Maj. Paguia, and P/Lt. Col. Darroca, while military personnel were led by 1/Lt. Labrador.

In August 2019, the victims’ next-of-kin filed the complaint for Murder and War Crimes under Republic Act 9851 after autopsy examinations conducted by the Commission on Human Rights Forensic Center revealed that at least 4 of the victims suffered physical injuries unrelated to gunshot wounds. According to the complaint, the nature of these other injuries show that these were inflicted while the victims were still alive, which is wholly inconsistent with the PNP and the AFP’s narrative.

The complainants also sought the Ombudsman’s help in securing records and official documents related to the deadly operation in order to ascertain the identities of all police and military officers and personnel involved. These records have not been disclosed despite request from the victims’ families, highlighting the lack of transparency surrounding the events of August 15, 2018.

While the investigation into the Antique 7 killings is still at an early stage, the Ombudsman’s directive to the PNP and AFP commanders involved to address these charges is a significant step in demanding accountability for the ever-increasing number of deaths resulting from police and military operations across the country.

The case of the Antique 7 also serves as a litmus test for the government’s willingness to thoroughly investigate and prosecute state security forces for possible war crimes committed during internal armed conflicts./www.panaytoday.net

NUPL-Panay Statement on the new Ombudsman’s rules (Memo Circular No. 1 s. 2020) on SALNs

ILOILO City – The Ombudsman usurps Congress’s power of legislation by issuing Memorandum Circular No. 1 series of 2020, restricting public especially, the media’s access to public officials’ statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN).

Such administrative fiat is inconsistent with the 1987 Constitution that requires transparency and public accountability.

Section 17 of Art. XI of the Constitution states that the declaration of assets, liabilities, and net worth of public officials SHALL be disclosed to the public in the manner provided by law.

Public disclosure is an obligation.

The qualification that the said obligation be done “in the manner provided by law” concerns only the procedure by which the public can access the SALNs. It does not empower the Ombudsman to bar access to these documents by the public in general, or the media in particular.

Memorandum Circular No. 1 s. 2020 permits access only for:
• The public official or his designated representative;
• A person acting on a court order in a pending case;
• An Ombudsman Investigator.

This is NOT disclosure to the public. It prevents citizens and journalists from accessing these records by imposing the additional requirements that: (a) there be a pending case in court or an investigation before the Ombudsman; and (b) even if there were such a pending case or investigation, only 2 categories of people (the person enforcing the court order and the Ombudsman investigator) can access the SALNs. The public is kept completely out of the loop, so to speak.

The memorandum cites the Ombudsman’s authority to promulgate rules under Republic Act No. 6713, the law which details government officials’ duties to file SALNs and the manner by which the public can access them.

So, what does the law actually say?

Section 8(c) of RA 6713 states that the SALNs shall be made available for inspection at reasonable hours, within 10 working days after they are filed, provided that the person requesting these documents pays a reasonable fee to cover the cost of reproduction, mailing, and certification.

The only prohibitions in relation to the access or use of these documents are stated in Sec. 8(d), i.e. when it is being done in a manner contrary to morals or public policy; or for a commercial purpose other than news reporting.

There is nothing in RA 6713 that prohibits access by the public or the media to these SALNs as a matter of course. The law imposes no requirement that there be a pending case or investigation. It certainly does not limit access to only a select group of people. Again, public access to the SALNs is a right under both the law and the Constitution.

The memorandum negates the policy of holding government officials accountable for misconduct by taking away the public’s right to know facts surrounding their wealth. Fears that these SALNs may be used improperly should not negate the constitutional obligation to disclose them. By entering into public office, government officials are supposed to be fully open and transparent to the people whom they serve.###

Reference: Atty. RENE ESTOCAPIO
Chairperson, NUPL Panay
panaynupl4@gmail.com

Blatant censorship: Altermidya condemns Guimba mayor’s charges vs. community radio station

STATEMENT

Blatant censorship: Altermidya condemns Guimba mayor’s charges vs. community radio station

Altermidya Network condemns the brazen assault on press freedom against local community radio Radyo Natin Guimba (RNG) in Nueva Ecija, which faces charges of cyberlibel and alleged violations of the Bayanihan Act.

The mayor’s charges against RNG, filed in the middle of a raging pandemic, is a form of censorship meant to intimidate the radio station into reporting issues only in a manner acceptable to the municipal government.

What is worse is that the court subpoena for the RNG, which was received by the Guimba chief of police, was not delivered to the station in time for the July 24 preliminary hearing. The RNG management only got to know of the subpoena over a month later, on August 11 — raising questions on the delay.

Guimba mayor Jose R. Dizon’s charges of cyberlibel and alleged violation of RA 11469 of the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act of 2020 stemmed from RNG’s social media posts on the municipality’s budget for cash aid, which he claimed as misleading and allegedly brought “chaos and panic” among Guimba residents. The municipal mayor also accused the radio station of making senior residents hold placards with messages like “Gutom na kami” during RNG’s relief drive in the barangays.

RNG has denied that it spread such false information, much less made any resident hold placards. In fact, the radio station has been crucial to the community in providing timely and reliable information especially amid the pandemic. Moreover, RNG was only performing its journalistic duty of reporting on the grievances of the residents aired through their local organizations.

RNG has previously reported anomalies in the cash aid distribution involving several local and barangay officials, which has apparently earned the ire of local authorities.

We in the alternative media remind local government officials that they are duty-bound to defend the rights of their constituents, which include expressing their criticism and receiving information from a free press.

The hostility of local authorities towards independent media is hurting the efficient response to the pandemic. Instead of intimidation, harassment, and consequent censorship, the local government should ensure the swift delivery of information and open communication in these urgent times./www.panaytoday.net


AlterMidya – People’s Alternative Media Network is a national network of over thirty independent media outfits in the Philippines. Formed in 2014, AlterMidya seeks to promote journalism for the people.

ABS-CBN shutdown: An assault on the people’s right to know

STATEMENT

Congress has done it again: betray the Filipino people. This time, by striking another blow to press freedom and the people’s right to know.

To say that the members of the media sector are perturbed and disappointed is an understatement: we are beyond aghast by how the supposed politicians who were thrust to create new laws for the benefit of the Filipino people only muckraked ABS-CBN and marred the franchise deliberations with egotistical gripes and weak accusations.

The Congress’ denial to grant a franchise, together with the NTC orders, are a government-orchestrated plot and nothing less than censorship. Pres. Duterte himself, who has been hostile against the network, has urged the Lopez family in December to sell the network so its franchise could be renewed.

It is clear as day that ABS-CBN is being punished for reporting and commenting on issues in a manner unacceptable to the Duterte administration. It is also a warning to other media outfits that if the Duterte regime can shut down the largest broadcasting network in the country with impunity, every journalist should think twice before it reports truthfully, or criticizes and dares hold government to account.

All these are a blow to the people’s right to information. And a public denied of its right to know is a copious climate for tyranny and impunity.

We in Altermidya are beyond enraged. But the fight for press freedom and the people’s right to know does not end with this farce in Congress. The Filipino media, and the broad section of the Filipino nation, are not backing down. We will exhaust all efforts to fight back and assert our rights./PT

A PURE-HEARTED SOUL, A PEOPLE’S MARTYR

Words of Tribute to Malvin Christian “Ka Lean” V. Cruz, 1999-2020

“To die for the people is weightier than Mount Tai, but to work for the fascists and die for the exploiters and oppressors is lighter than a feather.” – Mao Tse Tung (Serve the People, 1944)

Notwithstanding the 61st IBPA’s prattle that his is a “wasted life” after he joined the revolutionary movement, Malvin’s friends, classmates, colleagues, and mentors applauded the life he lived, they offered their highest salute to the people’s martyr.

Malvin Christian V. Cruz, who is also known by his nom de guerre Ka Lean, was slain in an unfortunate encounter with the members of the 61st IBPA at Barangay Dalije, Miagao, Iloilo last week, June 29, 2020.

When he was finally identified, many of Malvin’s friends posted on social media their objections on unfair words “wasted life” bandied the 61st IBPA, and they countered that Malvin’s life was “NOT WASTED”. His friends and colleagues said that Malvin believed in giving his life as the “highest offering” to the noble cause of the Revolution.

According to one of his best and closest friends since elementary grades, Malvin has been his guide and motivation: “He [Malvin] is a pure-hearted and smart person. I am proud that you stood up for what you believed for,” testified by his best friend.

Malvin entered the University of the Philippines Visayas in 2015 and took up Bachelor of Science in Statistics. Despite being a new student at the University, he already was aware of the lingering issues faced by the studentry especially the urgent call for free education.

He joined the League of the Filipino Students (LFS) and became the person-in-charge of its education committee. He performed his tasks with enthusiasm. In the statement released by the League of the Filipino Students–UPV, Malvin was described as a determined and persistent activist. He always takes opportunities to educate his fellow Iskos and Iskas on the commercialization of and neoliberal attacks on the educational system. “He was at the forefront in the stronger call for “Free Education for All”, said LFS-UPV.

Malvin also immersed himself in the day-to-day struggles of the workers, farmers, urban poor, PUJ drivers, and other constituents of the basic masses. He was actively present during the mobilizations to oppose the jeepney phaseout plan of the government and during the strike or untat byahe in June 2017.

According to Harley Regua, former UPV LFS Chairperson, “he [Malvin] didn’t choose to live in misery. He lived to end that misery – the reason why he was killed.” And that “Malvin is more than just an activist for he’s a revolutionary,” Regua added.

On Twitter, many of Malvin’s friends also called him the “Hero of the Masses” and lambasted the 61st IBPA, arguing that Malvin’s life is “NOT” a life wasted for Malvin died serving the people he loved, not as a paid tool of fascists and oligarchs.

“Malvin is an inspiration to and of the Filipino youth”, said LFS. “He is the epitome of a true Iskolar ng Bayan,” the group concluded.

In the end, Malvin lived the life he wanted and aimed for, and the people are indeed proud of him just as he said, “One day, you will be proud of me because your son grew up selflessly.” /PT

We will fight back reign of terror

STATEMENT

Just when we thought things could not get worse, Pesident Rodrigo Duterte signed today the “Anti-Terrorism Law of 2020,” a law that many legal pundits, human rights advocates, and no less than the United Nations Human Rights Council itself – gravely warned about. With the stroke of a pen, Duterte has unleashed a greater reign of terror that can engulf the nation speedily in the coming days.

For months, the public has raised the alarm over the severe repercussions of the overly vague definition of “terrorism” in this new law – from planning, proposing, inciting, and even supposedly serving as mere accessory or tangentially being connected to supposed terrorist activities. It essentially provides blanket authority to state forces to target virtually anyone and everyone. UN experts have jointly stated that this new piece of legislation could further escalate the already grim situation of human rights in the country.

Under this patently unconstitutional law, critical reporting of issues can and will surely be tagged as terrorist acts. The very irony lies in its name – it is not against terrorism, but rather, aids and abets in the commission of state terror. It is anti-human rights, anti-press freedom, anti-free expression, and anti-civil liberties. Passing such law betrays the desperation of those in power.

The new Anti-Terrorism Law will surely embolden state forces to commit worse acts of fascism and human rights violations. Hiding under this thin veneer of legality, those who have already been accelerating attacks against vocal critics, purveyors of truth, and even advocates of basic civil rights, will surely up the ante and use brute force to finally achieve the silence of dissent they have long wanted.

The passage of the Anti-Terrorism Law comes at a time when the surging pandemic has fully exposed the administration as a paranoid, inept, and selfish band of people who would stop at nothing to remain in power. The new law will serve as a cornerstone of that apparent self-preservation plan.

Yet we will not be cowered and forced into silence. We will continue reporting, truth-telling, and dissenting.

We call on the ranks of our colleagues in the media and the Filipino public to unite against this law. We will not stand down. We will fight back!

STATEMENT | ON THE INCLUSION OF MY NAME IN THE “TERRORIST” LIST PRESENTED BY THE 3RD ID PA AT THE REGIONAL PEACE AND ORDER COUNCIL*

ILOILO City – I vehemently condemn the inclusion of my name as a high-ranking member of the CPP KR-Panay, in the presentation of the 3rd ID PA at the meeting of the Regional Peace and Order Council at Casa Real, Iloilo City last June 19, 2020.

I fear for my life and safety as it has been the pattern of impunity in extra-judicial killings and illegal arrest and detention victims under the Duterte administration—that targets of military and police neutralization – are first subjected to spurious accusation and vilification, like linking them to the revolutionary armed underground forces to condition the public.

Previously, on December 11, 2018, I was included in posters of leaders of the legal democratic organizations alleging them as puppets of the CPP/NPA posted in strategic locations in Iloilo City by suspected state agents. This was after President Duterte issued Executive Order No. 70 creating the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). Another wave of said posters was again pasted around Iloilo City on March 16, 2019.

On the larger picture, this malicious scheme of the AFP is aimed at eliminating legal opposition in the last years of President Duterte’s term. In as much as the current administration cannot defeat the armed resistance of the New People’s Army, which is deeply rooted in our social problems and is in its 51 years of existence and spread nationwide – the tyrannical Duterte regime is targeting the legal opposition to silence critics and ease its political isolation.

Amidst the COVID 19 pandemic, Duterte, and his sycophant generals are trying to justify its huge budget by launching an all-out war against our people. We lack testing laboratories, test kits, PPEs for frontline health workers, and manpower in fighting the pandemic, while the government waste scarce resources to fund fake news, troll farms, and military operations.

Even as the Anti-Terrorism Bill of 2020 is not yet enacted into law, state troopers are acting as accusers, judges, and executioners with impunity.

I represented the Bayan Muna Partylist in the 12th Congress in the House of Representatives of the Philippines from April 2003 to June 2004. I was a founding member of Bayan Muna and the Makabayan Coalition and served in concurrent capacity as Vice President for Visayas since the founding congresses of said political organizations until now.

I was employed as a consultant to the Office of the Secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform, during the former administration of DAR Secretary Rafael Mariano in 2017.

I was a manager for five years of the Panay Fair Trade Corporation (PFTC), the biggest exporter of muscovado sugar in Panay and a major partner of the global fair trade network.

In 1998, I was the founding secretary-general of the Madia-as Ecological Movement that led the successful popular resistance against the entry of commercial mining in Panay Island.

I am a member of the human rights violations class suit against Marcos that was decided in our favor in the United States District Court in Hawaii, USA. The ruling was affirmed in 1996 by the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

I was a qualified claimant under the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013, which recognized the sufferings of those unjustly detained and tortured during the Marcos Dictatorship.

The present leadership of the AFP and PNP has not learned its lessons during the hated Marcos Martial Law and continue its martial law mentality and tradition.

I demand due process and a halt to the military’s unjust accusations and vilification against me and my fellow activists.

I demand a public apology from the 3rd ID PA for its irresponsible and baseless accusations./www.panaytoday.net

*STATEMENT OF MAKABAYAN COALITION VICE PRESIDENT FOR VISAYAS SIEGFRED DEDURO ON THE RECENT REDTAGGING BY THE PHILIPPINE ARMY.

STATEMENT | Motion to declare Frenchie Mae’s illegal warrant denied by court

STATEMENT | Altermidya Network today condemns the ruling of Tacloban City regional trial court denying the request of the Tacloban 5, including community journalist Frenchie Mae Cumpio, to quash the defective search warrant against them.

We stand by the testimonies of the Tacloban 5: they are not only innocent of the charges filed against them, but are also victims of the state forces’ now infamous tactic of planting evidence. Several eyewitness accounts have pointed how the raids were conducted in a manner that allowed the state forces to plant several guns and ammunition to frame the accused.

To detain our colleague Frenchie Mae for over four months is already a grave travesty and mockery of Philippine democracy. At a time when volunteer human rights defenders and community journalists are needed as frontliners to observe, report, and extend support to their communities in the arduous battle against COVID-19, the spurious charges that locked them up resulted in great disservice to the people. How many stories of the marginalized and underrepresented remained unreported because Frenchie Mae, the executive director of Eastern Vista and radio anchor at Lingganay han Kamatuoran, was not able to perform her duties due to her incarceration?

In issuing this ruling, not only has the Tacloban RTC trampled further on press freedom amplified the disservice that resulted from the Tacloban 5’s incarceration.

The Duterte administration’s use of legal warfare against journalists is clearly a part of its continuing attacks against its critics and truth-tellers. In Nueva Ecija, the Guimba municipal council has decided to pursue its criminal charges against the radio network Radyo Natin Guimba (RNG), whose supposed “crime” was reporting the complaints of residents over the implementation of the Social Amelioration Program (SAP).

This move is taken directly from the Duterte administration’s playbook: weaponize the law to silence critics and intimidate the media to report issues in a manner acceptable to government. These are all clear acts of tyranny, which we in the alternative media will continue resisting.

Community journalists and the alternative media throughout the nation are one in calling: junk the trumped-up charges against the Tacloban 5 and Radyo Natin Guimba! Free Cumpio and her colleagues! Defend press freedom!/www.panaytoday.net

AlterMidya – People’s Alternative Media Network is a national network of over thirty independent media outfits in the Philippines. Formed in 2014, AlterMidya seeks to promote journalism for the people.

STATEMENT | ”Detained for interviewing protester”

Altermidya denounces arrest of Radyo Ni Juan reporter!

National alternative media group, Altermidya, strongly denounces the intimidation and arrest of Davao-based reporter Glenn Jester Hitgano of Radyo ni Juan.

Hitgano was interviewing protesting workers from banana company Philippine Dream Farm Dev’t in Carmen, Davao del Norte on Jan. 21 when police cut short his interview and took him to the police station.

The police claimed that Hitgano “insulted” them by interviewing the protesters, and attempted to handcuff the reporter. They also tried to confiscate his phone and demanded him to delete the interview.

Hitgano was held for an hour, and was released only after convincing the police that he will not report on the workers’ protest. The Radyo ni Juan reporter said he covered the protest after receiving information that the workers were harassed by uniformed men the previous night.

Altermidya condemns this attack on our colleague, who was clearly being coerced into silence by state forces who were uncomfortable with the truth. The arrest and intimidation of journalists like Hitgano is a blatant violation of media’s task of exposing the truth to the public. It is pure assault not just on press freedom but on the public’s right to know.

Altermidya calls for an independent investigation to hold into immediate account the members of the Carmen police involved in this gross wrongdoing. State forces should be at the forefront of safeguarding rights such as free speech and expression, and not be the purveyors of abuse.

(For updates on the case, you may contact Kath Cortez of Davao Today: 09398475242)