UN Special Rapporteurs not the enemy

  • image
    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

    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


    Special Mission, Dirty Tricks


    AFP apologizes to 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



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.

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.



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.

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.


Duterte’s contradictions

What’s the difference between a joke and a dirty slip showing? How do you distinguish hyperbole from a person’s genuine worldview?

In the case of the Davao strongman Rodrigo Duterte, the offensive comments come too regularly to be dismissed as careless witticism.

Credit Duterte for defending indigenous peoples hounded by henchmen of corporations out to wrest their ancestral lands. Credit him for condemning the massacre of hungry folk in Kidapawan. Praise him for wanting to expand agrarian reform to ensure farmers get the support they need. Hail his commitment to resume stalled peace talks with communist rebels and provide meaningful autonomy to the Bangsamoro.

But do not ignore Duterte’s record in justifying the killings of people he considers social pests – juvenile delinquents, addicts, pushers. 

The Davao mayor has not admitted to any extrajudicial killings. He claims the criminals killed under his direct supervision were all gunned down in battles with law enforces.  No case has been filed against Duterte for these extra-judicial killings.

His supporters stress this to debunk charges of selective justice. But there is no doubt that people have been summarily executed under Duterte’s watch.

Duterte applauded these killings, encouraged these, defended these, verbally attacked and threatened those who rang alarm bells. Human Rights Watch (HRW) has doggedly reported on this for years; its country researcher Carlos Conde has received threats for his efforts.

Duterte may not have actually pulled the trigger. But speech after speech – to cheers and ovation – Duterte, a lawyer, spits on the nation’s laws, including the Constitution, presenting murder as legitimate law enforcement policy.

Who judges the innocent?

In his April 12 rally at the Amoranto stadium, Duterte said he has never killed an innocent person. But who judges innocence or guilt? The courts do, not the mayor, not the President. To deny suspects a chance to defend themselves in court does not solve the problem of injustice.

In the same rally, Duterte expressed sympathy for the plight of the Bangsamoro.

“I have to swear to the flag. My duty to the republic is to protect everybody, including the Moro people,” he promised disappointed leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

That’s impressive. But government officials swear to protect the rights of everyone, including people suspected of committing crimes.

The military routinely tramples on these rights where suspected militants are concerned, including the Lumad fighting to keep their lands free of abusive extractive industries. Officials of the Aquino government routinely justify these abuses. They are wrong. And so is Duterte in his equally selective notion of human rights.

Duterte talks about the evils of corruption, of how top leaders have made a rich, small segment of the population more equal than the rest.

digong alabang
There is no denying Rodrigo Duterte’s popularity. Whether he campaigns in Metro Manila or the provinces, the Davao strongman draws huge, ecstatic crowds.

His followers also cite the same – criminals coddled by lawmen, judges, other officials – as a reason for their impatience with legal niceties and their support for death penalty sans any check and balance, except a leader’s righteousness.

I will not disabuse them of the belief that injustice stalks the land. It does; my Facebook page is filled daily of examples, from tragi-comedy to full-blown horror.

Nor will I try to paint Davao City as the country’s crime capital. It isn’t.

But there is no excuse for murder. There is no reason on earth that justifies state-sanctioned murder.

My rights are everybody’s rights

Dutere asks, “anong mawala sa inyo kung patayin ko ang criminal?” (What would it cost you if I kill criminals?)

I have seen state security officials kill people on simple suspicion of being criminals. I have seen friends die, seen them arrested and tortured. I have seen people languish in jail even when the courts have cleared them of alleged crimes.

I cannot agree that others do not deserve the same rights I fight for, the same rights government officials are sworn to defend.

Duterte isn’t a neophyte politician. He  has had decades as local chief to provide an alternative to instant-gratification, vigilante justice.

He offers higher wages for law enforcers. They certainly need it – like the rest of the country needs it.

But Duterte should be detailing steps needed to ensure that cops and soldiers do their job right, like trainings to lessen their use of shortcuts that then lead to lost cases.

He could list steps he’s done and will do to ensure the poor – defendants and plaintiffs – are guaranteed legal aid by efficient and honest government lawyers.

He could talk about workable rehab programs for young people who fall prey to drug abuse. He could talk about imposing harsher penalties for corrupt prosecutors who throw cases, or work with citizens’ groups to keep watch on hoodlums in robes.

It’s not that he hasn’t helped drug addicts. He has, as witnessed by  Clarisse Le Neindre, who know runs a rehab facility after recovering from addiction with Duterte’s help.

Watch Le Neindre’s testimony https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fforwardwomen2016%2Fvideos%2Fvb.1671955399731080%2F1690853824507904%2F%3Ftype%3D3&show_text=0&width=560

Why then stress shortcuts as solutions to problems? Duterte is doing people a disservice by pandering to the worst of our instant gratification tendencies.

He presents the sona – the whole-scale round up of suspected addicts and community pushers – as the swift response to the scourge of drugs. That blueprint misses the fat cats who control the entry, the manufacture and the deliveries of drugs to affected areas.

Double standards, too

duterte contractualizationDuterte says poor Filipinos will come first under his presidency. He opposes contractualization.

Yet he promises to create an enclave where foreign investors can stay safe from the reach of the country’s laws.


He personally commits to keep them safe from inconvenient truths – like the fact that workers have the right to unionize.

For all Duterte’s talk about the poor’s right to prosper, he sees the struggle for economic rights as an enemy of development. And, indeed, in his first official campaign speech, he threatened to kill labor leaders who would not heed his “appeal” for a moratorium on union work.

He banners his credentials as a dear friend to the LGBT community. By all accounts, he treats them well.

Yet he uses the word “bakla” as an insult, a synonym for “coward”.

Some gay friends who support him say they see nothing wrong with it.

If he uses it as an adjective that reflects your self-identity, there is nothing wrong with it. If you slam others for using bakla as a slur, why is Duterte suddenly exempt from those standards? His use of the word only encourages the bitter, hateful homophobia that have harmed so many of your peers.

And then there’s rape and his attitude towards women. He and his wife have a unique relationship and I will not impose my standards of fidelity on them. I must also acknowledge that, unlike ousted president Joseph Estrada, no one has charged Duterte with stealing public funds to subsidise his womanising activities.

Davao also has many pro-women policies.

And yet, he opens his mouth and something else comes out.

Duterte recently shared this tale of criminals in detention twice grabbing hostages. The second incident involved a bunch of Christian prayer warriors, including an Australian woman who was raped and then had her throat slashed, according to a report by the Chicago Tribune.

Duterte used the anecdote to stress how incorrigible some criminals are and also to show his willingness to risk life for the sake of victims.

Then he debased everything that mattered. His anger towards rape was almost secondary to dismay that criminals used the woman first before the mayor did.

He was joking? Maybe. But he also used the same line earlier in his talk.

Cops who commit crimes for personal reasons deserve to be punished, he said. He made an example of a cop who kills his mistress – especially a pretty one — and implied  the mayor should have first dibs on the beauty.

It’s not the first time he used that anecdote on the hostage-taking, ending with a similar line. Watch Noemi Dado’s video at the 38:43 marker.

You can slog through the entire Duterte speech, including some moving performances by Freddie Aguilar here.


And this admittedly moving paean to change. Which, indeed, this country needs.

We all should be outraged that the haves in this country get away with all kinds of abuses while the rest of us suffer indignities daily.

Yes, innocent people get killed and innocent people rot in jail. Hungry people are left to starve; when they protest, they die.

We all should rage.

But in cheering for Duterte’s warped logic, in playing blind to his contradictions, we might just visit more of the same on this nation.


Walden Bello on Duterte: Burden of proof on us

The perversion of the law by double standards, says Walden Bello, resigned representative of Akbayan, a partylist with close ties to the Aquino government, is what attracts the disillusioned to Duterte. Those who like to talk of human rights must first convince the public that “the rule of law is not just empty rhetoric.”

Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte struts around like an urban cowboy, a gunslinger on a motorbike. He is the beloved strongman of a city famed for its surface gloss of peace and order. He talks like some TV wrestling god — threats and sexist lines galore. He even has a made-for-TVwrestling tag, “The Punisher”.

Most people either love him or hate Duterte. On both sides lie legitimate viewpoints.

Those who feel helpless amid the flood of crime and corruption say soft leaders will hand over the country to drug lords, gambling lords, smuggling lords and  those who, with finesse and elegant language, siphon off the people’s taxes and the nation’s wealth in the service of their friends.

Others believe there is a reason for the term, “basic human rights.” They note that killings ascribed to Duterte — who has never been charged for these — only involve poor sewer rats. They believe his solution to problems — the promise of a bullet going the way of the wrongdoer — will gift the country once more with the peace of the graveyard.

new - twitter image by JC GrapiX (@JCGrapiX)The din is loud and will grow louder.

Duterte knows playing nice now won’t convince the latter group. So he shuns nuance and serves up the logic of raw, desperate survival. Don’t lecture the Davao city mayor about how democracies have no place for the law of the jungle. He’ll come back with a Tarzan yell — and millions of true believers will echo back the sound.

But that is a topic for another column. Today, let’s hear from Walden Bello, former member of the House of Representatives and senatorial candidate for #Halalan2016.

walden belloBello resigned as representative of the party list Akbayan because it had become too uncritical, too subservient to the dictates of President Benigno Aquino III.

Here is a reminder from the man:

Some quarters have expressed dismay that Mayor Rodrigo Duterte is running for the presidency.  I can certainly understand their concern with Duterte’s terrible record on human rights and due process.

My response to Mayor Duterte’s candidacy, however, is to borrow from Voltaire and say to him, I may vehemently disagree with what you stand for but I will defend your right to run for office based on what you believe in.

Indeed, Duterte’s running should be seen as a challenge by human rights advocates to educate the electorate on the value of human rights and due process, which some have complacently assumed there is a national consensus on.

It will also challenge us to prove to the people that the rule of law is not empty rhetoric; that our laws can, in fact, be used to prosecute and punish the criminals and the corrupt; and that the pursuit of law and justice is blind, meaning it is not perverted by double standards.

The burden of proof, in short, is on us to prove Duterte wrong.


Lumad hold fast, defy orders to dismantle camps for APEC

So many people are calling out, “Peace! Peace!” on behalf of the thousands of Lumad forced out of homelands because of military and paramilitary offensives. Many of these would-be saviors are the same ones urging “development” of indigenous people’s lands, citing the billions of dollars waiting for Lumad and country from the proceeds of mines and plantations.

Seven hundred Lumad are in town to protest what they say is government’s deliberate neglect of their crisis. Their charge is legitimate.

Sixty of them, including 12 children have been murdered by soldiers and paramilitary troops; close to 200 schools have been attacked or closed, by or on the instigation of military officials.

Human rights violations include giving Lumad peasants only so much time to work their fields – you go past three hours and your are interrogated for being a suspected supporter of the New People’s Army.

To their plaints, the government responds thus:

  • Go back home and then we’ll discuss your problem.
  • You can’t live under these conditions. We’ll resettle you while we look for solutions to your problems. (In Lianga, where 3,000 people have evacuated, there are approved applications for mines and plantations, only pending proof of “social acceptability”. The Lumad are being hounded precisely because they reject these the entry of these projects.)
  • If you don’t want resettlement, we’ll just split you up and send you to nicer facilities.

The solutions address issues that are irrelevant to the Lumad. As one famously told Rep. Nancy Catamco during a tumultous Davao City “dialogue”: Of course, we stink, because conditions are less than ideal. But they would rather smell than die, thank you.

On the actual conditions that fuel displacement, the answer is silence or manipulations to cover up the truth. Read AFP apologizes to UN expert

Who has really acted on Surigao Sur Gov. Johnny Pimentel’s repeated statements that paramilitaries are creations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines? The perpetrators of the Lianga massacre are not just known to the military; they actually hold camps within hailing distance of AFP facilities.

The AFP claims it knows nothing of the paramilitary. Yet even as Sen. TG Guingona held hearings at the Lumad displacement camp in Tandag City, he was receiving reports of more operations by the same group – in the company of soldiers.

Army spokesman Benjamin Hao makes a claim – only the New People’s Army oppresses the Lumad. Military officials must live in a parallel universe because the Chair of the Commission on Human Rights has tagged at least two incidents as extrajudicial killings. Scout Rangers were identified as the killers in the Pangantucan massacre in Bukidnon. They even sent emissaries to broker a settlement.

The government of President Benigno Aquino III is pretty much known to ignore problems until and unless these blow up in their faces. Then they engage in spins, enough spins to make themselves dizzy. They stonewall, they dodge, they do anything but address the problems of their own making.

Yes, the Lumad crisis should be blamed on Mr. Aquino. He approved the creation of militias funded and organized by mining firms and assorted big investors, but trained and supervised by the AFP.

Even when mining firms clearly violate regulations, they are given a free pass, especially when the companies are owned by allies of Mr. Aquino. Yes, even when the Supreme Court has ruled on these violations.

Malacanang is in a tizzy now.

Mr. Aquino wants to showcase Filipino “hospitality” for the leaders of member states of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation. Aside from interrupting life as we know it in the national capital region, he sent aides at the Presidential Security Group, the Philippine National Police and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to convince Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada to rescind the permit given for the Lumad camp at Liwasang Bonifacio.

They have given the Lumad until Nov. 12 to disperse. The Lumad say, it ain’t happening. They will not be swept aside. They will not allow a cover up of the real cause of their displacement.

Bai Bibyaon Ligkayan Bigkay says the government will not drive the Lumad out of Liwasang Bonifacio.

As Bai Bibyaon Ligkayan Bigkay told professors and students of the University of the Philippines, the NPA is not the target. The Lumad are. They are the targets because what is at stake is not “peace” but that lands – their lands –which investors need for mines and plantations.

Where the Lumad have been “pacified,” the land dies, said Bai Bibi.

“They want us to go home to die. Because we will die, unless we give up our lands,” she said through an interpreter. “And when we give up our lands, we will also die.”

In Caraga, which the Philippine government is touting as Asia’s mining capital, the lands of Lumad who have capitulated are examples of environmental tragedy. Read: Profiles of Destruction 

The Lumad are bracing for more attacks, this time in the national capital. Their many supporters, who have vowed to stand with them, will be taking turns hosting activities at the Liwasang Bonifacio.

The equation is simple to Bai Bibi. They refuse to die. They refuse to yield. The only recourse is to fight back.


Maybe I should have acted like Queen Victoria. Maybe, I should have been at my grim and determined best.
davao cowboy
Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. All photos here from his Facebook page,

Because social media is a fast and furious panorama of movement, many people who saw the photo of my bald self, and the shared posts on the frenzy over Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte (including the now-closed Miriam-Duterte petition), asked if I was a Digong fan.

I am glad he isn’t running. Hopefully, that’s the last word on this issue. I do not want to see a Duterte presidency.
Davao City Rodrigo Duterte has heaps of charisma.
A beauty salon’s entire staff have pledged their votes to Duterte — never mind that they don’t know anyone who actually knows the guy.
Many taxi drivers are for Duterte, says Mae Paner, veteran of that mode of transport.
My household companions tell me staff at the nearby supermarket and the vendors at the Talipapa are mostly for Duterte, though Vice President Jejomar Binay still has some grip on these sectors.
It’s not just the poor. A Duterte stroll in Greenbelt turns into a circus — fast.
Like Imelda Marcos, he keeps you fascinated. Pretty much the same way dancing cobras attract crowds.
Like Joseph Estrada, he has mastered one-liners, the made-for-TV quips, the mercurial changes of mood.
My Davao-based friends and relatives — most of them anyway — swear fealty to Duterte. He keeps the city clean and orderly and peaceful, they say.
I am not about to dispute that sentiment, though the last two visits had me stranded in traffic jams much like what we suffer in Metro Manila.
He loves the Lumad! says a friend.
He supports the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL)! says another friend.
He defends the human rights of the Left! says a third friend.
He sent aid early to Yolanda victims! says another.
Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.
These are some things that make me like Duterte very much.
But I have said this and won’t tire of saying this.
There is a reason the phrase says, “BASIC human rights”.
I cannot campaign for the rights of the Lumad, or the rights of the Bangsamoro people, or the rights of activists and journalists, rights workers, lawyers and judges and, yes, victims of crimes …  and then shrug off the basic right to life of other folk.
I am not accusing Duterte of killing people. I am saying he has a very selective concept of justice.
I am very glad Carlos Conde, now with Human Rights Watch, documented stories for years.
Here is one of the stories, “Teenagers Perish in Davao’s Killing Fields.” 
In late September last year, Duterte described the series of killings of suspected criminals as unlawful. But he also made it clear he was hardly sorry that they were happening. “I do not have any tears for you if you die, you idiots!” he said, referring to drug pushers. “You all deserved to die.”
Last March, Duterte once again declared war against teenage gangs, which the local police say are responsible for most of the crimes committed in the city. “If they offer resistance,” the mayor told reporters here, “I will not hesitate to kill them. I don’t care about minors.”
Such declarations have upset child-rights advocates, including Councilor Angela Librado. The chair of the City Council’s committee on women and children, Librado notes that while the mayor “hasn’t really violated any law,” his statements “send the wrong signal to the public. The signal is that, it’s okay for these people to die because they are useless anyway.”
If anything, Duterte’s contempt for teenage gangs and his encouragement of extra-judicial methods to deal with them have made children in conflict with the law fair game. Two weekends ago, three minors who had had brushes with the police were killed in separate incidents by unknown assailants.
The Signal. I take that very seriously, having heard the very same line from Norberto Manero, who was convicted of killing of Italian priest Tullio Favali on April 11, 1985 in Tuluan, North Cotabato.
In an interview shortly before he was released (pardon revoked after a public outcry) by former President Macapagal-Arroyo, Manero — also a very charismatic man — said his followers, including his brother, literally took matters in their own hands, when he joked he wanted to see Tuvali gone from the face of the earth.
He was convicted because witnesses placed him at the scene of the crime. He has since changed colours, according to this poignant story. But you want to read the narrative on Favali’s death to appreciate how much one man can have the power of life and death over others:
Welcoming home soldier taken prisoner of war by the New People's Army
Welcoming home soldier taken prisoner of war by the New People’s Army
The HRW has also issued a report on the Davao death squads.
I followed those stories closely, gratified to see the groups often tagged “Left” and thus also prone to being victims of extra-judicial killings, confronting their friend Digong on the issue. I remember one very angry Duterte tirade addressed to Karapatan.
This, I think, is a principled stand. You work together on some issues but there are lines on the sand you do not cross. And there are things that brook no silence, because the latter only encourages more abuse — or deliberate neglect of situations.
Especially because we are talking of the land’s highest office.
I totally agree that systemic murders and systemic crimes should be exposed.
I also say that every line of Digong’s quotable quotes encourages these very same crimes, no matter his actions on other issues.
I can also see where Duterte fans are coming from. Too much violence, too much crime; too many state enforcement agents moonlighting as protectors or enforcers of crime gangs. Thus, the need for a tough cowboy.
My Davao friends, save a handful, love Duterte. Not all will vote for him. From them, I have heard the same arguments raised by Conde in his PCIJ article.
“The public’s tacit support for the killings is one reason local authorities, including the police, do not appear interested in finding the killers. Many Davaoeños believe that the executions are helping keep their city safe and do not seem to care that minors are among those being killed as part of a campaign against youth offenders, many of whom are petty thieves.
This is why Davaoeños support Rodrigo Duterte, their tough-talking mayor, who has made it well known that he will stop at nothing to fight criminals.
Sending off aid workers bound for Yolanda areas
Sending off aid workers bound for Yolanda areas
My personal view is this: I don’t care if they are alleged criminals. When last I checked, suspects have rights.
I can rail against a person — Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, for example — and still defend her right to due process. I can rail against a corrupt official — the former Chief Justice Renato Corona, among others — and call out the short cuts taken in the name of “justice”.
I must also point out that the onus to respect human rights weighs more on the state and its officials, precisely because they wield great power.
Murder done in the name of order and the rights of most of us peaceful citizens is still murder. It has no place in law enforcement. You cannot enforce the law by breaking the law.
Duterte’s fans say, rightly, that people should file cases against him. I agree.
And I also say, you cannot shrug off — nay, even cheer on killers. Not when you are a chief executive.
I cannot accept claims that he is just “joking,” that this is all an act.
He is an officer sworn to uphold the law. The Philippine President is the country’s most powerful man. Duterte’s words give me nightmares about the implications on the nation and our rights as citizens.
Don’t tell me only the guilty needs to be scared. That sounds like the incumbent Chief Executive. Hundreds of journalists and activists have been killed, tortured, jailed simply because some people think they make life inconvenient for the powers that be.
I take #NeverForget and #NeverAgain seriously. That is why I fight for Lumad Rights, among other things.
I still respect Government for all its faults. I cannot cast my vote with a hope that one man might just be joking.

IMELDA’S TRUTH: Martial Law returned human rights; My Ferdie, a true democrat. UPDATE LINKS TO COMPLETE SERIES


(scaRRedcat’s latest via @ABS-CBNNews)

NOT my photo. imeldamarcosfromflickerpostedatthebignm

“But there is no extravagance of beauty and love.” – Imelda Marcos at 80, quoted in the Associated Press (AP) coverage of her bash.

I wasn’t invited to that party. But in early March, 2008 I got a one-on-one with Mrs. Marcos in a condominium unit crammed with photos, clippings and paintings of a past she believes was the Philippines’ golden age. It was a sudden summons after weeks of chasing her for an interview. The result was a two-part series on “Imelda’s Truth” — photos by one very harried writer-editor.

There is no denying the Imeldific charm. It reels one in, however fierce the psyche’s resistance. So maybe I didn’t push her enough. I don’t know… but here’s the original two part series — divided into three now — where we wisely (I still think) let her ramble on rather than filter her thoughts.


“Even Mao said, ‘I love Imelda because she is so natural. And natural is perfection.’

Only Imelda Marcos of the fabled gems and gowns and shoes can don huge garish costume jewelry and have thousands of women stampeding to buy these.

Forget irony. That is lost on the former First Lady. This is the woman, after all, who’s upended every theory there is on crime and punishment.

At one point facing some 900 cases for graft — for money salting and everything and anything connected with the financial rewards of two decades of strongman rule — Mrs. Marcos has won acquittal after acquittal and, in several instances, forced the Philippine state into accepting compromise deals worth a fraction of what was being sought.

And don’t even dream of waking one day and seeing a repentant Imelda on television. She doesn’t believe there is anything to apologize for.

She and her beloved Ferdinand are the victims. EDSA I marked the death of Philippine democracy. Martial law brought back human rights. The late President Marcos not only was a true democrat; in dispatching his wife to charm Mao Tse Tung, he also single-handedly ended the Cold War.

For the latter, she says, the Marcos clan paid a high price. A jealous superpower kidnapped them at the height of the 1986 EDSA People Power revolt and dumped them in Hawaii, leaving them high and dry and, yes, penniless.

But natural law — a favorite mantra of Mr. Marcos — says life is a circle. With cosmic rays blessing the mythic couple, enemies were bound to get their comeuppance, says the Gospel of Imelda.

Mrs. Marcos won a big case on her birthday. And over lunch, she points out that the World Trade Center twin towers were bombed on Mr. Marcos’ birthday. There is no coincidence in life, says his widow.

Fiesta forever

There is plenty of the surreal in Philippines where, Imelda says, openings in the sky drizzle down rays that make for great rock and roll.

All the country’s a stage. Imelda’s advice for people waging revolutions, peaceful or otherwise: Forget it, folks. Do not even try to jolt Filipinos out of their perpetual fiesta mode. The only thing that will get them going is a love-fest. Though when they do get going, like during EDSA I, it’s because they don’t understand.

So, Joseph Estrada croons and unleashes one-liners as he walks away from conviction for plunder. And Imelda; well, Imelda was, is, and forever will be Imeldific.

Why fight it? she says with a sniff,. After all, ordinary folk from Tondo to Ilocos grow faint with ecstasy whenever she opens her arms and tells them to come home to mama.

Mama promises to share the joy represented by rooms full of gold and stock certificates, if and when those evil people tire of chasing after her beloved Ferdinand’s hard-earned wealth.

One of those ill-gotten wealth hunters had sent an emissary to Imelda, asking for P10 million to give up the chase, so he could spend the rest of life doing bad imitations of Elvis Presley.

Imelda’s reply: “Maybe my stature can coax people into coughing out P10 million but since I don’t know if I could pay back this loan, I’d be lying, a virtual thief. And Imelda doesn’t lie — or steal.”

Iron butterfly

Imelda’s flat is a kleptomaniac’s paradise. Every inch of wall and mantel space are crowded with sentimental objects d’art — the kitsch and the classic in a madcap tumble. There is so much for the eyes to follow that they fail to register that the cream walls and ceilings are beginning to turn gray.

Everywhere there is gilt. It’s apt for the widow of a man who ostensibly made his fortune in gold trading, to paint even lahar-made picture frames with gold leaf.

The public image of Mrs. Marcos is that of an imperious dowager; studied in her manners though capable of breaking out now and then into vastly entertaining theatrics.

Up close and personal and in the comfort of her sprawling Makati flat — Mrs. Marcos shows more of the abondanza that her public forays hint at.

Who cares about brawn and intellect? The war, according to the gospel of Imelda, is won by willpower.

And chutzpah, we might add. There is nothing more surreal than seeing Imelda walk into the lobby of the Cultural Center of the Philippines and have scores of other bejeweled woman — including some who screamed and cried on EDSA — fawning over her.


Photo from davidbyrne.com
Photo from davidbyrne.com

At home, there is little of the young, insecure beauty queen and much of the woman who learned early on to make capital of her beautiful bones, doe eyes and creamy skin.

Mrs. Marcos says she is both yin and yang. There is plenty of masculinity here.

She is in a navy blue pants suit with turquoise and aqua sleeves. Huge turquoise earrings are clipped on the ears. Hands now running to pudgy sport a matching ring. On her chest is a mammoth brooch with twin figures holding up spheres; very Malakas and Maganda.

Imelda sits legs akimbo, sometimes drumming both feet and even crossing limbs in the masculine de quatro.

Her talk is earthy; her lectures and analogies full of phallic symbols.

She is at turns arch and indignant — all wounded pride and smug confidence. At times, she is much like one of the boys.

And when she turns on that charm, oh boy.

With the assurance of great beauty, this 79-year-old survivor relishes re-enacting the coy approaches, the damsel-in-distress poses that disarmed strongmen from Asia to the Middle East.

She stands and leans over; a hand reaches out to caress as she recalls her blithe handling of a love-sick, macho spouse who ruefully warned of emasculation as he begged her to lose some of their arguments.

You may have fought against the Marcos dictatorship, maybe sacrificed loved ones in that fight; there is simply no escaping the Imeldific charm.

She confesses to being greedy, and needy and extravagant. Hell, you can call her vulgar and she’ll just give that sideways smile — vulgaris, she reminds you, means one’s cup overfloweth with beauty.

READ THE FIRST PART OF THE Q&A HERE — Imelda’s Truth in Her Own Words