Tag Archives: DILG

[Featured Article] 28 killed in alleged political killings in Escalante under mayor’s term By Merck Maguddayao

28 killed in alleged political killings in Escalante under mayor’s term
By Merck Maguddayao

escalante poster

They always left their gates open.

In this rural village of Libertad in Escalante City, Negros Occidental, the only forbidding entity for village chief Fernando and wife Teresita Damalerio were the neighborhood drunks who, after long drunken stupors would engage in shouting matches, chases, and fistfights. Being the elected peace maker, Fernando would step in to settle the tipsy men, most of the time within the gates of his home.

Other than those occasional fracases, the people of Libertad lived their life slowly by tending their own farm or construct projects in good old bayanihan (collective labor) fashion, unlike the atomized atmosphere of the Metro. That’s why in the peripheries of urbanizing Escalante, it is okay to leave the gates open.

But not until November 8, 2007. Elected a month earlier as barangay captain, Fernando, together with his son Ferjun and kagawad (village councilor) Neptali Narvasa, went to the Commission on Elections branch office in downtown Escalante to file his statement of campaign expenses. At nightfall, as they approached home, violence occurred, but not the type carried out by drunkards.

In an interview, Teresita Demalerio narrated in a mix of Cebuano and Filipino that six armed men emerged from a curve at the corner of their house.

“One person approached our gates, went straight to Fernando who was on his way home, aimed his gun at him while shouting ‘Hapa! Hapa!’ (lie down) My husband raised his two arms and tried to thresh the matter out with the gunman. A second man entered our gate,” Teresita narrated.

Moments later, Teresita witnessed the first gunshot. It felled her son, Ferjun.

April 20 mobilization against killings in Escalante. Photo from Merck Maguddayao

April 20 mobilization against killings in Escalante. Photo from Merck Maguddayao

“Ferjun went out of the gate with his arms raised and uttered ‘Unsa may problema?’ (What’s the problem?) but was unable to finish his question when he was shot on the chest,” she continued.

In a snap, Fernando shoved the gunman who was aiming at him, and ran for cover inside his compound to his house. He was shot on the waist but the wound was miraculously shallow as his belt seemed to have dissipated the impact of the bullet.

Teresita followed her husband and while on her way, she noticed one of the gunmen lying down on the ground, who most probably was accidentally shot by his comrades during their attack, according to her account. She noticed a grenade in the hands of the felled assailant, picked it up, ran inside the house through a backdoor, and handed it to Fernando, who threw the grenade at the three other assailants. They disappeared after the blast.

The couple survived the ordeal, but not their youngest son Ferjun, who was a fresh college graduate with a degree in customs administration. He was felled down by a seemingly emerging gang of vigilantes, who would kill 27 other men in a span of six years leading to the May 2013 elections, which included Teresita’s brother Sergio Villador, who was killed a few months later.

September 21, 2013 Mobilization against killings in Escalante. Photo from Merck Maguddayao

September 21, 2013 Mobilization against killings in Escalante. Photo from Merck Maguddayao

28 felled men in six years, under two consecutive terms of incumbent and newly-elected mayor of Escalante City, Melecio “Beboy” Yap. The common denominator of the killings is that 18 of the felled men, as well as their surviving immediate relatives, were supporters of former mayor Santiago “May-May” Barcelona, whose term expired in 2007 but ran and lost in 2010 and 2013. Ferjun, though not an active supporter of Barcelona—his parents are—was an unfortunate fatality who absorbed a cheap but fatal shot from a trigger-happy gunman. Nine other victims were para-military volunteers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, locally known as Cafgu, who were likewise killed in an organized manner.
Yap has continuously denied responsibility of the killings, repeatedly saying in local news reports that it is mere demolition job against him.

Such bloodbath last occurred in the City last September 20, 1985, when at least 20 farmer-activists were killed allegedly by state agents in a protest rally in commemoration of Martial Law in front of the town hall. It is forever immortalized in history as theEscalante Massacre. However, this seemingly second version of Escalante Massacre did not happen in a single event–the killings were organized and followed a pattern.

Activist Luke Espiritu of the socialist Partido Lakas ng Masa (PLM), who documented the killings and
assisted the victims’ families in filing criminal charges against Yap and his alleged henchmen, explained that this constituted “circumstantial evidence” to charge Yap for murder and frustrated
murder before the prosecutor’s office of Escalante.

“There is a pattern to the killings. Most victims were from the camp of Barcelona,” Espiritu said.

“The victims’ family will first receive a warning from an unknown source: Switch allegiance or death,” he continued. “And indeed, the victims followed this pattern of threat followed by actual execution.”

“You think those who killed my son were common village drunkards? They were armed, and most of them attacked in groups. The killing operations seemed to be organized,” he concluded.

From their end, Espiritu assisted four other families in filing multiple murder charges against Yap, retired Army Major Tupas, Angel Sinadjan, Santiago Rapiz, and several John Does.

As the killings escalated, some families of the murdered men and some survivors brought the issue to then Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) secretary Jesse Robredo, who in 2011 created Task Force Escalante, an inter-government effort to investigate the killings and prevent possible killings. During this time, Yap was stripped of his police powers which he strongly opposed, claiming that the DILG’s measure was against his human rights. His allies from the pro-Maoist Bayan Muna even staged a rally in that year in support of Yap, branding Robredo’s order as a violation of Yap’s rights.

Task Force Escalante, though, withered away after Robredo’s untimely death in 2012 as current DILG secretary Mar Roxas seemed to have backpedalled in the investigation of the cases.

“We have sent follow-up letters to Secretary Roxas and even to PNoy (President Benigno Aquino III) but we have not received any action from the national government,” Teresita Damalerio lamented. “It was a far cry from Robredo’s response to our ordeal.”

Hopeless that their appeals for help fell on deaf ears, the victims’ families stumbled upon Bacolod-native Espiritu, who was busy in campaigning for PLM’s electoral bid in Negros Occidental.

“I think we were blessed to meet a man who took us seriously,” Teresita said.

News about the killings infuriated Espiritu as the number was alarming. But what made him angrier was the fact that the DILG and Malacanang seemed to have discontinued Task Force Escalante after the death of its initiator. Worse, he heard a common notion blaming the insurgent New People’s Army as the perpetrators of the killings.

“Many of these killings were dismissed as insurgency-related. Then case closed. This is an excuse not to undertake further investigation,” he lamented.

The new collaboration resulted in the formation of the local human rights formation Save Negros Movement (Save Negros), which held its first rally in front of Escalante City Hall last April 20 attended by at least 8,000 angry citizens of Escalante denouncing the purported atrocities of Yap and his men.

The gathered crowd called for the continuation of the pending investigation of the killings, the quick prosecution of Yap and the other suspects, and placing Escalante under the control of the
Commission on Elections.

“It seemed like People Power,” Espiritu recalled. “The people were angry, they seemed to want to barge in City Hall and take over the city.”

“They want Mayor Yap to answer the allegations, at the very least, air his side. But he didn’t, which made us angrier,” he said.

Despite this seemingly popular discontent against him, Yap won by a comfortable margin on 9,000 votes over Barcelona in the elections a month after the rally.

It seemed to have been a reaffirmation of the Escalante people’s trust to their mayor, but Damalerio begs to differ.

“We believe Barcelona’s machinery was severely weakened by the killings since 2007, so what do you expect? He became politically dead,” Damalerio explained.

Damalerio insists that his family’s support for Barcelona was because the mayor simply addressed their basic demands—agricultural infrastructure, healthcare, school buildings, and scholarship for
their children. This, she believes, was the reason for Barcelona’s erstwhile political success, having served for three terms from 1998 to 2007.

However, she and the victims, she asserts, have gone beyond being supporters of an ex-mayor. Currently the spokesperson of the Save Negros Movement and PLM-Escalante, she believes that the most viable way to end institutionalized violence in Escalante a movement independent from
traditional political rivals in their city.
Thus, she, along with more than a hundred relatives of EJK victims and some survivors, went beyond the human rights alliance Save Negros and joined PLM, as they believed that justice is served not in the courtroom, but through the direct empowerment of the Escalante masses. In a rally to commemorate the 1985 Escalante Massacre last September 21, the now PLM-Escalante chapter mobilized 300 of its members in front of the City Hall, calling for empowerment and direct democracy as the replacement of warlordist rule in the city. Still fearing for their lives, they braved the scorching weather and a possible rain of bullets.

“We still love Mayor May-May, and we are forever indebted to him,” Damalerio said, recalling her days as supporter of the former mayor. “But we victims have to unite as an independent force
in this city. The issue has gone beyond politics for our lives are at stake. The only way for us to move forward is to organize, no longer perceived as simply Barcelona supporters, but as an independent force of the oppressed.”

She still fears for her life and that of her husband and relatives, though.

“Heaven forbid, but when I return to Escalante, I might be a dead woman. Or maybe, one or two more will be killed.”

She concluded her story with these simple words: “Sending Yap to jail is not enough. Real justice is achieved by changing the system. Leave the masses alone to decide on their own fate, to decide on the fate of our beloved city, for we are the builders of this city.”

Six years may have passed since the death of Teresita Damalerio’s son and brother and the death of 27 others, but for the families of the victims of extra-judicial killings in Escalante, the fight has just begun. They continue to knock on the locked gate of justice while literally dodging bullets fired behind them.

All submissions are republished and redistributed in the same way that it was originally published online and sent to us. We may edit submission in a way that does not alter or change the original material.

Human Rights Online Philippines does not hold copyright over these materials. Author/s and original source/s of information are retained including the URL contained within the tagline and byline of the articles, news information, photos etc.

[Press Release] Amnesty International called on PNOy and new DILG Secretary Mar Roxas to investigate the killings of Indigenous Peoples in Zamboanga

Amnesty International called on PNOy and new DILG Secretary Mar Roxas to investigate the killings of Indigenous Peoples in Zamboanga

Amnesty International Philippines called on President Aquino and newly appointed DILG Secretary Mar Roxas to investigate the killing of 11 year old, Jordan Manda, eldest son of Timuay Lucenio Manda, a Subanen tribe chieftain in Bayog, Zamboanga del Sur, also wounded during an ambush attack by unidentified assailants early today, 4 September 2012.

“The killing of Jordan Manda and wounding of Timuay Lucenio Manda must be rigorously investigated so that the perpetrators of the crime will be brought to justice. The killing of Jordan Manda, groomed to be a next Timuay, is a painful reminder that Indigenous Peoples are not protected. Timuay Manda’s care for the Subanen’s ancestral domain and his position for a moratorium on mining concessions in Bayog might have led to the attack on him and his son. His family has continuously experienced violence even before the assassination of his cousin, Timuay Giovanni Umbang Manda ten years earlier. This is grave proof that the indigenous peoples rights have been left behind not only by the Aquino government but in the previous Arroyo administration. The lumads have been invisible in the eyes of the government and local authorities despite human rights abuses they experience in defense of their lands,” said Dr. Aurora Parong, Director of Amnesty International Philippines.

According to reports, the Subanen leader, also a member Amnesty International Philippines, was ambushed on his way to take his son to school. Unidentified assailants fired at the leader and led to the death of his son.

“Amnesty International supports Timuay Manda in calling for justice for his son and his people. He is highly involved in efforts against the destruction of their ancestral lands by logging and mining and has been working for the cooperation among Subanens in the Central Zamboanga Peninsula to protect their remaining contiguous ancestral domain. Together with other concerned groups, he joined the filing of a petition for the Writ of Kalikasan to protect the Pinukis Range Forest, among the last untouched forest region in the Zamboanga Peninsula which is unfortunately included in the mining claims of several companies. Mt. Pinukis is considered by the Subanen people of Zamboanga Peninsula as among their Sacred Mountains,” added Dr. Parong.

Reports of harassments allegedly by personnel of Toronto Ventures Inc. Resource Development (TVIRD) have been recorded in July. It was reported by the police that Wilbert Catampungan was fatally wounded by gun fires coming from TVIRD blue guards. TVIRD arrived on site in 2006 and has been exploring the area for a project of gold and silver extraction and allegedly resorts to various forms of violence against other small-scale IP miners established in the domain.

“Less than a month after the International day for Indigenous Peoples, a lumad boy is killed. Amnesty International Philippines is deeply concerned on reports that the local police do not act even when the Subanens seek for protection from multiple threats coming from the armed guards of the mining company. The killings in Bayog, and other parts affected by mining conflicts, must stop now! An immediate impartial investigation is urgently needed,” said Dr. Parong.

Amnesty International urges the government, especially the Philippine National Police (PNP), National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) and more importantly the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to investigate the incident and bring the perpetrators to justice.

“Amnesty International calls on DILG Secretary Mar Roxas to lead the DILG including the police forces to stop the culture of impunity – the LGU and local police must address threats on the safety of IPs in mining-affected areas. The DILG must work with the Commission on Human Rights to conduct investigations on the reported extra-judicial killings and harassments. We call on President Benigno Aquino to pay attention to the resolution of the 36 killings of IP human rights defenders in his term as reported by CHR Pagadian. The Indigenous Peoples’ future depend on genuine efforts and concrete actions by the government to fulfill their duties in holding mining corporations accountable for any human rights abuses against the indigenous peoples or anyone. Respect and protect IP right must come first! People before profit!” Dr. Parong concluded.

Maria Edilyd P. Orias
Program Coordinator
Media Communication and Publications
+63 917 885 8634

http://www.amnesty.org.ph/news.php?item=news&id=268

Amnesty International Philippines
Press Release

4 September 2012

All submissions are republished and redistributed in the same way that it was originally published online and sent to us. We may edit submission in a way that does not alter or change the original material.

Human Rights Online Philippines does not hold copyright over these materials. Author/s and original source/s of information are retained including the URL contained within the tagline and byline of the articles, news information, photos etc.

[Press Release] Death of Sec. Robredo a big loss to urban poor cause – Kilos Maralita

Death of Sec. Robredo a big loss to urban poor cause – Kilos Maralita

Urban poor groups will be missing a man who stirred the process of involving grassroots organizations in the formulation of a more humane policy in addressing the housing problems of informal settlers. The death Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary (DILG) Secretary Jessie Robredo, the groups said, is a big loss to the cause of the urban poor.

As DILG Secretary, Robredo also heads the inter-agency Technical Working Group created by President Aquino in 2010 tasked to formulate recommendations on how to address problems of the urban poor sector. With participation of Kilos Maralita and other urban poor groups, the TWG was able to formulate a new housing policy contained in a memorandum submitted to the President on March 15, 2011.

Said memorandum covers proposals for on-site/in-city relocation with people’s participation as a major element in formulating concrete
proposals for socialized housing projects. Unfortunately said memo has not yet been approved by Malacanang.

“Kumpara sa nakaraan, kakaiba ang naging karanasan ng maralita sa pamumuno ni Sec. Robredo. Nasa kanya ang senseridad at matibay na
paninindigan na malutas ang problema sa pabahay ng mga maralita sa mas makatao at maayos na paraan. Kaya naman napakataas ng respeto ng mga maralita sa kanya,” stated Kilos Maralita spokesperson Teody Gacer.

Kilos Maralita joined the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC), the Caritas of Novaliches and other informal settlers in the 5:00 pm mass offering held at the St. Parish Cathedral in Commonwealth Quezon City.

Kilos Maralita and the Kampanya para sa Makataong Pamumuhay (KAMP) opted to engage the TWG when it was formed on the ground that a new housing policy must depart from the previous policy of off-site relocation that denies informal settlers the right to the city.

At the moment and before the flooding and the untimely death of Sec. Robredo, urban poor groups under Kilos Maralita were in the thick of
preparing people’s proposals for in-city relocations of informal settler families living in the danger zones.

“Nakakapanghinayang lang na nawala si Sec. Robredo sa panahong ang proseso sa paglutas sa problema sa pabahay ng maralita ay umaandar na sa tamang direksyon”, added Gacer.

Gacer said urban poor groups do not want to see the TWG–led process stalled with the absence of Robredo. They appealed to the President
to assure the continuity of this process by approving the March 15 TWG recommendations and by assigning a likely-minded official in charge of the urban poor.

PRESS RELEASE
Kilos Maralita
21 August 2012
Contact: Bubuy Magahis
Coordinator, Kilos Maralita
09228877634

All submissions are republished and redistributed in the same way that it was originally published online and sent to us. We may edit submission in a way that does not alter or change the original material.

Human Rights Online Philippines does not hold copyright over these materials. Author/s and original source/s of information are retained including the URL contained within the tagline and byline of the articles, news information, photos etc.

[In the news] Robredo: No more cops at demolitions -PhilStar.com

Robredo: No more cops at demolitions
By Cecille Suerte Felipe, The Philippine
April 30, 2012

MANILA, Philippines – After the violent demolition at the Silverio Compound in Paranaque City last week, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Robredo ordered the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) to refrain from extending police assistance to any demolition, pending a review of the law on informal settlers.

Robredo admitted that as DILG chief, he cannot stop any court from issuing demolition or eviction orders of informal settlers but he has the power to give orders to personnel of the Philippine National Police (PNP).

“For the meantime, I ordered NCRPO chief Director Alan Purisima not to extend any police assistance to plan demolition while a review on policy and law on demolition are being reviewed,” he said.

Read full article @ www.philstar.com

Human Rights Online Philippines does not hold copyright over these materials. Author/s and original source/s of information are retained including the URL contained within the tagline and byline of the articles, news information, photos etc.

[In the news] Demolisyon ng mga bahay sa Metro Manila, ipinatigil muna ni Robredo -GMA News

Demolisyon ng mga bahay sa Metro Manila, ipinatigil muna ni Robredo.

April 28, 2012

Nagpatupad ng pansamantalang moratorium nitong Biyernes si Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Jesse Robredo sa paggiba ng mga bahay ng mga informal settler sa Metro Manila.

Sa isang pahayag, sinabi ng kalihim na mananatili ang moratorium habang isinasagawa ang pagrebisa sa lahat ng patakaran ng mga kinauukulang ahensiya na may kinalaman sa demolisyon kasama na ang Philippine National Police at local government units (LGUs).

Matapos ang isasagawang pagrepaso, kailangang magkaroon ng a “pre-demolition meeting” ang PNP, LGUs, National Housing Authority, mga may-ari ng gigibaing bahay, at iba pang stakeholders bago ipatupad ang anumang kautusan ng korte.

Ang kautusan ay ipinalabas ni Robredo upang maiwasan umano na maulit ang marahas na demolisyon na naganap sa Silverio compound sa Paranaque City nitong Lunes.

Read full article @ www.gmanetwork.com

Human Rights Online Philippines does not hold copyright over these materials. Author/s and original source/s of information are retained including the URL contained within the tagline and byline of the articles, news information, photos etc.