Filipino botanist killed by soldiers?

The late Leonardo CoFrom ABS-CBN News in the Philippines:

‘Slain UP botanist a rare species’

By Atom Araullo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at 11/19/2010 3:48 PM | Updated as of 11/19/2010 3:48 PM

MANILA, Philippines – The family of slain botanist Leonardo Co is considering doing another autopsy on his remains to learn more about the tragedy.

Family and friends doubt the military’s version of events that left Co and 2 others dead.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) says Co and four companions were caught in a crossfire between soldiers and New People’s Army (NPA) rebels last Monday.

Co and 2 others were killed while 2 more escaped the firefight. The team was in the area doing field work in Kananga, Leyte for the Energy Development Corportaion (EDC).

But Co’s friends believe the incident may have been a case of mistaken identity, especially since botanists typically carry pole cutters and umbrellas when doing field work, which may have been mistaken for firearms.

Scientists, environmentalists, and health workers on Friday continued to press for justice for Co.

Students, teachers, and other members of the academe wore red armbands in a press conference to condemn the killing of Co.

Dr. Leni Jara lauded Co for his contributions in the field of medicine, having catalogued many medicinal plants that are invaluable to rural health workers.

“Matatawag natin siyang rare species”, says Jara. “Malawak ang kanyang kaalaman at marami siyang natulungan”.

This sentiment was echoed by Dr. Perry Ong, director of the Institute of Biology in UP Diliman. He says many members of the academe recognize how special Co was, and that a dedicated scientist like him “only comes once in a hundred years.”

Meanwhile, others say that the death of Co will make it harder for other scientists to do their job in the field.

Anthony Arbias of the Philippine Native Plants Conservation Society (PNPCS), an organization that Co founded, shares that some of their colleagues now fear for their safety when they are conducting field work.

“Kung mangyayari ito sa isang superstar botanist, paano pa kaya yung iba?” he asks.

See also here. And here.

It seems that the Armed Forces of the Philippines have learned from their United States allies the maxim: “Shoot first, think later” …

Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior arrived today in General Santos City in Mindanao, Southern Philippines to kick off the Philippine leg of her “Turn the Tide” tour of Southeast Asia. The ship, which brings with her a vision of a green and peaceful future, has been traveling the region since September and is now on its final tour stop in the Philippines: here.

A US judge approved on Thursday the distribution of $7.5 million (£4.3m) to settle a lawsuit filed by thousands of victims of torture, execution and abduction under the US-backed regime of the late former Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos: here.

13 thoughts on “Filipino botanist killed by soldiers?

  1. US bullies in Zambo

    Philippine Daily Inquirer
    First Posted 05:43:00 12/27/2010

    THE NATIONAL Union of Journalists of the Philippines condemns the arrogant and totally illegal manner by which supposedly visiting American soldiers ordered Zamboanga City-based journalists to stop taking footage while the latter were covering a visit by retired general Edilberto Adan, executive director of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) Commission, last Monday.

    Adan’s visit, which included the headquarters of the US military’s Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines inside the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), is in line with Sec. 3c of Executive Order No. 199 mandating the VFA Commission to monitor the activities of foreign military and civilian personnel covered by the defense agreement.

    NUJP director Julie Alipala, who is based in Zamboanga, quoted a local television reporter as saying that one of the six American soldiers guarding the task force headquarters told the news crew: “I am ordering you not to take footages.” When one of the reporters asked what the basis for the order was, the American replied: “I don’t understand you, but don’t make me take your camera.”

    Sought for clarification, Westmincom spokesman Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang clarified the American soldier’s actions, saying that the journalists were in a secure facility “and persons going there need clearance” to shoot video and other images.

    But as reported by Alipala, the news crew was taking footage outside the task force headquarters.

    Even granting Cabangbang’s explanation, we maintain that foreigners still have absolutely no authority to tell us Filipinos what we can or cannot do in our own country, much less threaten to confiscate our property. If they had any issue, they should have conveyed it to their local counterparts who could then have relayed the matter to the journalists concerned.

    As far as we are concerned, the task force headquarters is not sovereign American territory; it is Philippine territory that visiting foreign troops are allowed to use as part of a defense agreement.

    We believe that ultimate authority over the facility resides in the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine government, unless they have conceded this authority to what would then essentially be foreign occupiers.

    We ask the VFA Commission to conduct an investigation into this matter, for this arrogant behavior of foreign visitors goes beyond mere security concerns; it strikes at the very heart of our sovereignty as a nation and a people. We also demand that the VFA Commission put the Americans in their proper place and warn them against any repetition of this kind of arrogance. To let this incident pass would be tantamount to giving up our rights and liberties to foreigners.

    chairman; JULIE ALIPALA,
    director, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines,


  2. Botanist’s kin mull raps vs gov’t, military

    By Alcuin Papa
    Philippine Daily Inquirer
    First Posted 05:34:00 01/24/2011

    MANILA, Philippines—The family of renowned botanist Leonardo Co is mulling the filing of charges against the government and the military for his death last year in local and international courts.

    Giovanni Tapang of the “Justice for Leonard Co” movement said the family was thinking of bringing the case to the United Nations and other international human rights panels after a Department of Justice (DoJ) fact-finding committee ruled that Co did not die from bullets fired by soldiers in a supposed encounter with communist rebels on Nov. 15 last year in a forested area of Kananga, Leyte.

    “Dr. Co is known in the international scientific community so taking his death to the international community to get justice is possible,” Tapang told the Inquirer.

    He said Co’s family was discussing with their lawyer, Evelyn Ursua, the possibility of filing a case before local courts.

    Tapang blasted the DoJ findings, saying they should be junked because of “jumps in logic.”

    He said the panel disregarded the statements of survivors of the “encounter,” and that it “twisted” the statements to absolve the government troops of liability in Co’s death.

    “The DoJ erred because they did not consider the reports we submitted to them,” Tapang said.

    He was referring to an investigation his group conducted to look into the incident.

    According to Tapang, the bullet marks they found “indicate they came from the position of the military. Even if there were bullets from the opposite side there were no bullet marks to tell us that.”

    The DoJ panel had ruled that the bullets that killed Co, forest guard Sofronio Cortes and farmer Julio Borromeo could not have come from the soldiers on patrol on top of a ridge, but from a lower position, which the military said was the position of guerrillas of the New People’s Army.

    “We did not observe any return fire bullet marks from the area behind the position of Dr. Co going to the ridge,” Tapang said.


  3. Top 10 Mass Movement Moments of 2010
    by Renato Reyes, Jr., Bayan Philippines

    For two years now, I’ve come out with this year-end list of what for me are the “Top 10 Mass Movement Moments” in recognition of the efforts of various sectors and groups in advancing the struggle for genuine freedom and democracy. It’s a personal list and I encourage folks to make their own so we can look back at the year with a positive vibe and look forward to the new year with great optimism and firmer resolve.

    Here are some of the “mass movement moments” that made a huge impact on public consciousness, mobilized a great number of people and showed oustanding militancy by the struggling people.

    1. The fight to “Free the 43” is on top of my list. This campaign was a very broad fight, waged here and abroad, involving various sectors, groups, personalities, and political forces. It was a major human rights issue that tested the Aquino administration. The best part is that the campaign proved successful insofar as pressing the new government to withdraw charges against the 43. This is one campaign that should be summed up because it offers a lot of lessons both politically and legally.

    2. The struggle for land in Hacienda Luisita. This fight has been waged for two decades now but 2010 was another major high point in the struggle. For the first time, the HLI land dispute, which had the stock distribution option as the main issue, was set for oral arguments by the Supreme Court. It was also during this period that the HLI management sought to maneuver and undermine the court proceedings by issuing a bogus compromise deal. The sham compromise was immediately exposed by the farmers and their lawyers. Protests were held at the SC and in HLI. The case is yet to be resolved. The farmers have rejected the mediation being conducted by the SC.

    3. The militance of the North Triangle residents. This is one struggle where we saw the determination of the urban pooor in defending their right to housing. With no real relocation plans waiting for them, the residents of North Triangle QC relied on their own organized strength and militantly resisted the demolition teams, resulting in street battles along EDSA. The residents were able to get a reprieve and the demolition attempts appeared to have stopped for the meantime.

    4. The “kuliglig” drivers’ resistance. This is another display of militance by working people defending their right to livelihood. On the day they were to be banned form main roads, the kuliglig drivers assembled near Manila City Hall and blocked the main road with their vehicles. The protest on December 1 was violently dispersed by the police. Thirteen were arrested, many were injured. The economic crisis is so severe that people are ready to protest when their livelihood is threatened.

    5. The nationwide protests and strikes by students and teachers against budget cuts in education. The sustained protests against the budget cuts were able to mobilize thousands nationwide. The actions were laudible because aside from the numbers mobilized, the activities were broad, alliance-based actions. Students and teachers marched side by side with school administrators.

    6. Guarding the automated elections. The year 2010 was historic also because of the first automated nationwide polls. People were anxious about the reliability of the elections, especially when there is the fear of a failure of elections and a GMA-holdover. Various groups were organized, including AES Watch, Kontra Daya and the nationwide network of TFPW. There were also broad protest actions against any failure of elections and GMA’s holdover. The Jericho March at the Comelec united many groups opposed to GMA.

    7. Electoral victories – 2010 also saw gains in the electoral arena as progressive partylist groups gained more votes and a new progressive partylist entered Congress. The increase in votes however was undermined by the many bogus partylist groups that the Comelec accredited. The 2010 elections also provided valuable lessons in the conduct of a nationwide campaign for the Senate.

    8. GMA’s last days in office. Arroyo’s last days in office were marked with protest actions demanding accountability. On June 29, Bayan led protesters to a march in Mendiola. A giant mural as unveiled and dancers dressed in prison orange danced to the tune of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” and Lady Gaga’s “Telephone”.

    9. Aquino’s first SONA. The SONA march was the signal fire in challenging and exposing the new Aquino regime. The challenge revolved around economic policies, human rights, justice and national sovereignty. Nearly 10,000 marched to Batasan on that day. The SONA speech fell short of many people’s expectations and showed the main weaknesses and lack of depth of the Aquino government.

    10. Fight against impunity. This year the fight against impunity continued. We marched to condemn the extrajudicial killings under the new administration. Despite Palace claims that 3 out of the 6 cases have been prosecuted, more killings emerged reaching a total of 20 as the year ended. This year also marked the first anniversary of the Maguindanao massacre, with journalists and social activists holding activities in Mendiola and Maguindanao.

    The biggest challenge now is to arouse, mobilize and organize the Filipino people in their millions nationwide. The challenge is not without basis. The international and domestic crisis continues to worsen. The militant struggle of the residents of North Triangle and the kuliglig drivers is an indication of the readiness of the people to fight for their rights. As we take stock of our vcitories and shortcomings, we are evermore committed to the struggle for genuine freedom and democracy.

    2010 has been a great year with its share of difficulties and trials. 2011 does not promise to be less difficult. However, in remaining steadfast in our principles and in continuing to rely on the strength of the masses, our future remains bright.

    P.S. Special recognition is in order for the people behind DUKOT which won Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Cinematography in the recently concluded FAMAS Awards. Congrats to Direk Joel Lamangan, Boni Ilagan, Alen Dizon and the producers. This may just be the beginning of a renaissance of socially-relevant films getting mainstream success.

    (from Arkibong Bayan)


  4. Leonard Co family files murder raps vs 38 Army soldiers


    01/25/2011 | 11:05 AM

    (Updated 12:49 p.m.) The family of slain botanist Leonard Co on Tuesday filed a complaint accusing 38 members of the Philippine Army’s 19th Infantry Battalion of murdering Co and his two other companions in Leyte last year.

    Those who filed the complaint were Co’s wife, Glenda, and parents Lian Sing and Emelina Co.

    Co’s family had earlier protested a DOJ fact-finding panel’s report that cleared the military of any liability for the the killing of Co, forest guard Sofronio Cortez, and guide Julius Borromeo at the Energy Development Corp. (EDC) premises in Kananga, Leyte.

    The military had claimed that the three were killed in a crossfire between the 19th IB and New People’s Army (NPA) rebels.

    But Co’s family said they do not believe the military because the Army’s shooting was supposedly “specifically directed only at Co, Borromeo, Cortez and their companions.”

    “We have basis to believe that no encounter occurred between the 19th Infatnry Battalion and the communist terrorists when Co, Borromeo, Cortez were killed and that they were in fact murdered by elements of the 19th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army,” they said in their complaint.

    Those named on the charge sheet were:

    # 1Lt. Ronald Odchimar,
    # 2Lt. Cameron Perez,
    # Corporal Marlon Mores,
    # Private First Class Albert Belonte,
    # PFC Michael Babon,
    # PFC Elemer Forteza,
    # PFC Roger Fabillar,
    # PFC Gil Guimerey,
    # PFC Alex Apostol,
    # PFC WIlliam Bulic, and
    # 28 other John Does.

    Lt. Gen. Ralph Villanueva, commander of the Armed Forces Central Command, said they have yet to get a copy of the complaint but vowed to make available the soldiers involved in any investigation.

    “We are fully cooperating with all investigative bodies… our soldiers will be there so they can give their side and explain what happened. We are ready to [face] any of these [investigating] bodies,” said Villanueva, whose command has supervision over the battalion involved.


    In their complaint, Co’s family asked the DOJ to conduct a preliminary investigation to determine whether the respondents should be charged with murder for the killing of Co and his two other companions.

    Lawyer Evalyn Ursua, counsel for the family, said a review of the DOJ panel’s report would show that “the findings and the conclusions of the report are flawed and contrary to evidence.”

    Speaking to reporters, Ursua said that a scrutiny of the soldiers’ affidavits would show that they did not have personal knowledge of the supposed presence of communist rebels.

    “We examined their affidavits and we saw their statements. Some were hearsay and unreliable regarding the presence of armed communist terrorists, and the shooting was directed especially at the team of Doctor Co,” Ursua said.

    Co’s wife and parents added in their complaint: “It is understanding that these hearsay and unreliable statements about the supposed presence of three armed communist terrorists cannot give credence to the claim that Co, Borromeo, and Cortez were killed in the crossfire between government soldiers and communist terrorists.”

    They likewise said that the fact that treachery, an element of murder, was present because Co, Borromeo, and Cortez were killed defenselessly.

    “Under the law, the sudden and unexpected attack against Co, Borromeo, and Cortez when they were unarmed and completely defenseless constitutes treachery and makes their killing murder,” they said.

    Which has more weight?

    In a separate interview with reporters, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said she will assign a panel of prosecutors that will hande the Co family’s complaint.

    She added that the filing of the complaint paves the way for a preliminary investigation, which is a more formal inquiry compared with the earlier fact-finding probe done by a DOJ panel of prosecutors.

    The DOJ panel’s report blamed the deaths on the communist rebels, saying the trajectory of the bullets that killed Co and his companions came from lower grounds, where the NPA rebels were allegedly located.

    She added that the imminent preliminary investigation on the murder charges “effectively” has more weight than the fact-finding probe done by the panel.

    “In the preliminary investigation, the evidentiary rules will apply. The ultimate goal is to determine probable cause whether the respondents can be indicted. This is a different proceeding, it’s more formal and it will be done by a different panel,” she said.

    De Lima likewise vowed the DOJ’s impartiality in the upcoming preliminary investigation.

    “The panel that will be created will be presumed to be regular and diligent and efficient in the discharge of its mandate,” she said. — RSJ, GMANews.TV


  5. NY-based group dissatisfied with govt campaign vs rights abuses
    01/25/2011 | 02:34 PM

    A New York-based human rights group on Tuesday criticized President Benigno Aquino III for allegedly not doing enough to provide justice for human rights abuses, eradicate private armies and address the culture of impunity by the police and military organizations.

    In its 2011 report, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that after seven months into his presidency, Aquino “has taken insufficient steps to make perpetrators of killings and other abuses accountable.”

    “President Aquino came to office promising that human rights would be a top priority,” said HRW deputy Asia director Elaine Pearson. “But talk is cheap, so long as security forces remain unaccountable for violent abuses.”

    In its World Report 2011, HRW described the Philippines as a multiparty democracy with a thriving civil society and vibrant media, but observed that law enforcement agencies and the justice system remain weak, and the military and police commit human rights violations with impunity.

    It also noted that “no significant progress has been made in hundreds of political killings that have occurred over the past decade.”

    However, it took exception on the trial of Andal Ampatuan, Jr., a former mayor in Maguindanao province, and several others linked Nov. 23, 2009 massacre of 57 people, including 32 media workers in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao.

    The HRW said that since Aquino took office, more than 20 leftist activists have been killed, and that even the international community led by the United Nations, European Union, and the United States, had scored the Philippines’ dismal human rights record.

    A local rights group Karapatan claimed that 1,118 extrajudicial killings and more than 200 enforced disappearances were documented in the Philippines between 2001 and October 2009.

    “Aquino has not fulfilled his campaign promise to take action against other ruling families who use militias and police as their private armies,” the HRW said.

    Task forces were created to examine two private armies elsewhere in the country, but this has not resulted in any further action, the HRW said.

    HRW’s Pearson, meanwhile, hailed Aquino’s December order to drop charges against the so-called “Morong 43,” saying it “sends a proper message to the military and police that mistreatment of suspected rebels undermines counterinsurgency efforts.”

    In February 2010, the army and police arrested 43 men and women in Morong, Rizal province, and for 36 hours kept them blindfolded and refused them legal counsel. Following Aquino’s order, 35 were released in December.

    Three men who face separate criminal charges remain in jail while two men and three women who have admitted to being communist rebels and chosen to enroll in the government’s integration program are still in military custody.

    But rather than investigating the allegations of abuse, Pearson lamented that the military granted awards to two officers who led the arrests.

    Pearson also cited the two new laws on torture and war crimes that were enacted in late 2009, which will assist prosecutions of government officials implicated in criminal acts.

    “New laws on torture and war crimes provide valuable tools for combating abuses. But real progress in professionalizing the army and police will only happen if these laws are put to use,” Pearson said. — LBG/KBK, GMANews.TV


  6. Video of Soldiers Torturing Captives Riles Filipinos on Facebook

    After watching the video, which was widely circulated on Facebook, many =
    expressed shock and outrage, denouncing the Armed Forces of the =
    Philippines as human-rights violators, while others simply commented how =
    difficult it is to look at the video and not cry with anger.


    MANILA – A week ago, a video showing members of the military torturing =
    what appeared to be civilians hogtied and blindfolded shocked the =
    Facebook community in the Philippines. Four civilians were shown curled =
    in fetal position on open, grassy ground strewn with coconut husks.

    Lasting one minute and 53 seconds, the video showed soldiers in full =
    uniform and bearing long firearms alternately kicking and stomping on =
    the civilians’ abdomens and backs as they lay curled on the ground. The =
    civilians could be heard moaning as blows landed on their bodies and the =
    soldiers cursed at them. One of the civilians was hauled upright, and =
    perhaps because of the pain he suffered from the blows, was unable to =
    stand up straight. His inability to obey the soldier’s exhortations that =
    he stand up prompted the soldiers to punch him repeatedly.

    As the soldiers continued to inflict torture on their victims, they =
    could be heard saying “Dalhin na mga yan, mahirap katayin yan dito,” =
    “Wag mong anuhin yan, suntok lang!” and “Maglakad ka, animal ka!” “Gago =

    The video shows members of the military torturing civilians who were =
    hogtied and blindfolded. (Video grabs by video which =
    appeared to have been shot with a camera phone was widely circulated on =
    Facebook and those who viewed and forwarded it to their contacts =
    expressed shock and outrage. Many denounced the Armed Forces of the =
    Philippines (AFP) as human-rights violators, while others simply =
    commented how difficult it is to look at the video and not cry with =

    The video has also apparently reached the attention of the AFP =
    leadership. Last weekend, officials said military investigators were =
    already checking the identities of the uniformed men.

    AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Jose Mabanta said the military establishment =
    felt concerned about the video. “We have said that we will not do these =
    abuses, then we see it right in our faces. We want to know when and =
    where it happened – if it actually happened,” Mabanta said in an =
    interview with Agence France-Presse.

    Col. Domingo Tutaan, who heads the AFP’s human-rights office, said they =
    will also try to find out what happened to the supposed victims. He said =
    their investigation is aimed at determining the culpability of the =
    soldiers if and when there is culpability. “We will file immediately a =
    case in accordance with the military justice system,” he said.

    Navy spokesperson Capt. Giovanni Carlo Bacordo said the soldiers in the =
    video were wearing uniforms that were issued to the Philippine Marines =
    three or four years ago.

    Agence France-Presse reporter Mynardo A. Macaraig sent a request to the =
    Facebook user who posted the video, named Bautista Peter John, to give =
    more details regarding the video and where it was shot, when and by =
    whom, but Bautista apparently did not provide more information after =
    promising to do so.

    The video prompted many comments, among them throwing accusations =
    regarding the corruption in the AFP, “Kawawang mga kababayan natin =
    inosenting pubre nakakahiyang AFP/PNP wala sa kalingking ang acusasyon =
    nila sa mga kurakot na matataas na opisyal ngayon ipakita nila ang =
    tapang nila sa pag tugis ng mga bulok na sistema ng pamamalakad sa ng =
    namomono sa militar . NAKAKAHIYA!!!!!!”

    Another Facebook user said, “Di ko kayang tingnan, kahit larawan lang ng =
    mga kaawa awang tao, na walang kasalanan. wag naman nating ipakita =
    ito,napakasakiiit!!! itigil na ang walang dahilang pagpatay sa ating mga =
    mahal na kababayan na kapwa pilipino.”

    There were also comments who denounced the video as pure fabrication or =
    “propaganda,” “Let’s be fair and square and lets not conclude =
    immediately I for one had observed the Military and the NPA [New =
    People’s Army] at close range and i know for a fact na parehas ang mga =
    yan na may mga kalokohan pero wala pa rin nagsasabi until now kung ang =
    video na to ay totoo or just a propaganda video.”

    In any case, the appearance and circulation of the video has in the =
    meantime opened discussions on how the AFP treats civilians or prisoners =
    of war. A comment on Facebook made the query, “Kung ganyan tratuhin ng =
    mga sundalo ang mga sibilyan na halata naming walang kalaban-laban, =
    paano kayo nila tratuhin ang mga nahuhuli nilang NPA o MILF [Moro =
    Islamic Liberation Front] members? Paano kung suspected supporters lang? =

    Observers said that, if the video was anything to go by, the AFP treats =
    its POWs (prisoners of war) much, much worse than it does civilians.

    A few days after the video came out, the National Democratic Front of =
    the Philippines (NDFP) in Mindanao released a statement congratulating =
    the NPA in the Southern Mindanao Region , particularly those of the =
    Conrado Heredia Command-Front 20, the Front 25 Operations Command and =
    the Wilfredo Zapanta Command-Front 18, for having carried out the speedy =
    and safe release of three war prisoners.

    The three POWs, PO3 Jorge Sabatin, Pfc. El Bryan Ca=F1edo and PO2 Jerwel =
    Montecillo Tugade, were released on three separate occasions. Jorge “Ka =
    Oris” Madlos, NDFP-Mindanao spokesperson, said that all three POWs were =
    treated well.

    The previous week, the NPA in Southern Mindanao also released an army =
    sergeant after clearing him of “counter-revolutionary” activities. The =
    Herminio Alfonso Command-Front 53 Operations Command of the NPA in Davao =
    released Sgt. Mario Veluz after nine days.

    No reports came out wherein the former POWs decried how they were =
    treated by the NPA.

    A Pamphlet on Prisoners of War

    Both the AFP and the NPA declared their adherence to Protocol II of the =
    Geneva Convention; international humanitarian law (IHL); and the =
    GRP-NDFP Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and =
    International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) that was signed by the =
    Philippine government (GRP) and the NDFP in 1998. In the meantime, the =
    NPA has its own ‘Three Rules of Discipline and Eight Points of =

    The issue of prisoners of war is particularly covered by the CARHRIHL.

    Sometime last year, the Human Rights Monitoring Committee of the =
    National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP-MC) in the Joint =
    Monitoring Committee (JMC) of the Philippine government and the NDFP =
    released a pamphlet on the matter of POWs.

    It included statements and press releases concerning the capture of =
    military POWs by the NPA, as well as a table containing a list of POWs =
    of the NPA in the last two decades. The primary message that can be =
    gleaned from the publication was that the NPA’s treatment of its =
    prisoners is just and humane. The NPA, the publication said, treats its =
    POWs with kindness. In all the cases included in this book, the rights =
    of the POWs were recognized and respected by their NPA captors.

    The pamphlet released by the NDFP-MC contains summaries of POW cases.

    Before his capture, P/Insp. Rex Cuntapay believed that the NPA skinned =
    the faces of their prisoners. He also thought that the NPA killed =
    without reason. Three months after his capture and upon his release, he =
    admitted he was wrong.

    “That changed when I was held as a POW. I saw that they are principled =
    people, I saw that they follow the agreement between the NDFP and the =
    GRP, which is called the CARHRIHL,” Cuntapay said.

    Former POW Neptune Elequin said that even during his captivity, he was =
    confident that he would regain his freedom because the NPA respects =
    human rights. During the turnover ceremony that led to his release, he =
    testified as to the kind of treatment he received.

    “I was treated well. I did not suffer even a pinch. What the comrades =
    ate I also had,” he said.

    Brig. Gen. Victor Obillo, in a Manila Times report published in April =
    17, 1999, was quoted as saying that his captors treated him well, “I =
    could not have asked for more.”

    Former POW Sgt. Ramiro G. Lawas even said that he was grateful to the =
    NPA for being kind to him.

    “They treated me well and never laid a hand on me,” he said in Visayan =
    dialect during an interview with members of the press. “They treated me =
    not as an enemy, but almost like a fellow guerilla. They treated my =
    wounds. Their behavior was so different from the behavior of my fellow =
    soldiers in the military.”

    Lawas shared that he was allowed to move freely around the NPA camp and =
    share experiences with the red fighters. He was even allowed to keep =
    three pet birds. When he developed allergies from eating dried fish and =
    sardines, the usual staple of the guerrillas, he was given corned beef =
    and other suitable canned goods. Once in a while, they would have meat =
    from deer and wild pig. He even had a regular supply of juice and =
    chocolate malt drink; and occasionally he enjoyed a bottle of soda.

    “They fed me, gave me lectures on my rights,” Lawas said.

    Former POW and CAFGU Eduardo Raya also said that he was treated well. =
    “They did not harass me, they even fed me well, bathed me, and gave me =
    lectures on my rights and violations.”

    Cuntapay and his fellow ex-POWs, PO1 Marvin Agasen and PO1 Alberto =
    Umali, in the meantime said there was not a single incident wherein =
    their custodians hurt or threatened them. Agasen said the NPA recognized =
    their rights as humans. They also shared that their nearly three months =
    in the guerrillas’ custody gave them insight into why groups like the =
    NPA exist.

    “They wanted equality. They are fighting for the peasantry, the poor,” =
    Umali said.

    The GRP has historically taken a hardline stance against negotiating for =
    the release of POWs in the custody of the revolutionary forces. In some =
    instances, it has even denied the existence of POWs and instead accused =
    the revolutionary forces of kidnapping. This is a clear attempt to =
    criminalize the revolutionary forces by charging them of common crimes =
    and dismiss the political implications and worth of the issue of POWs. =
    Instead of entering negotiations, the GRP often demands that =
    unconditional release of POWs in the care of the NPA.

    What is worse is that to ensure that no negotiations for the release of =
    the NPA’s POWs takes place, the GRP sometimes launches intense military =
    operations in the areas where the POWs are believed to be held; or =
    launches rescue operations that directly endanger the security and =
    safety of the POWs.

    Police Chief Inspector Abelardo Martin was captured by the NPA’s =
    Apolonio Mendoza Command on December 3, 1999, after a raid of the police =
    station which he headed in Dolores, Quezon province.

    Because of initial GRP refusal to negotiate and to implement a =
    suspension of offensive military operations (SOMO), Martin’s release was =
    delayed until his captivity reached 16 months.

    >From the onset, the NPA had expressed its readiness to release Martin =
    but the GRP refused to negotiate. For the more than one year that Martin =
    spent in the custody of the NPA, he experienced humane and lenient =
    treatment. In the last months of his captivity, Martin was allowed to =
    freely mingle with the masses in the barrio. He was also often seen =
    jogging along the seashore and bathing in the sea. He was also given =
    medical attention: a cataract in one of his eyes was surgically removed =
    by NPA medics.

    Martin was killed in a disastrous rescue operation by the PNP.


  7. Rights, Church Groups Bring Case of Killing of Botanist to the UN

    The families of the victims and their supporters have expressed fear of a possible whitewash with the report of the Department of Justice and National Bureau of Investigation clearing the military of any responsibility.

    By RONALYN V. OLEA [1]

    MANILA – Human rights groups in the Philippines filed a complaint against the Philippine government for the killing of botanist Leonard Co and two others before the United Nations, March 14. The groups also called the attention of the international community on the ongoing trial of the Maguindanao massacre and continuing human rights violations under the new administration.

    Co, Sofronio Cortez and Julius Borromeo were killed on November 15, 2010 while conducting a research inside the Energy Development Corporation (EDC) compound in Kananga, Leyte. A survivor, Ronino Gibe and other witnesses pointed to the elements of the 19th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army as perpetrators [2].

    Members of the Ecumenical Voice for Peace and Human Rights in the Philippines (Ecumenical Voice) handed over the complaint of scientist group Agham (not the party list) to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Christof Heyns. Co was a member of Agham. The group also submitted a copy of the report [3] of an independent fact finding mission on the incident.

    Agham urged Heyns to investigate the killing of Co, Cortez and Borromeo, “up to and including all levels of the military command concerned with their shooting.” The families of the victims and their supporters have expressed fear of a possible whitewash with the report of the Department of Justice [4] and National Bureau of Investigation clearing the military of any responsibility.

    According to Karapatan, the killings of Co, Cortez and Borromeo were among the first 30 cases of extrajudicial killings committed under the administration of President Benigno Aquino III.

    Members of the Ecumenical Voice went to Geneva, Switzerland for the 16th session of the United National Human Rights Council. The delegation is headed by Philippine Independent Church Bishop Bishop Felixberto Calang and Marie Hilao Enriquez, Karapatan chairwoman.

    Maguindanao Massacre, Mindanao Killings

    In an oral statement, Calang, also of the Initiatives for Peace in Mindanao (InPeace Mindanao), highlighted the “slow pace of the trial on the Maguindanao massacre” and cases of extrajudicial killings in Mindanao.

    Calang expressed concern over the conduct of the prosecution in the Maguindanao massacre. The massacre of November 23, 2009 claimed the lives of 58 individuals, including 32 journalists and two lawyers. Members of an alleged warlord political family in Maguindanao province are suspected to be the perpetrators.

    “The victims’ kin are apprehensive of attempts to bribe witnesses and prosecutors in apparent moves to weaken the ongoing legal case against the powerful Ampatuan family. The victims’ families complain of the slow pace of the judicial processes while witnesses remain unprotected and some have already been killed,” Calang said.

    Calang called on the UN Human Rights Council to monitor the prosecution of the accused in the Maguindanao massacre. He also urged the international community to call for the adequate protection of witnesses and for a speedy and public trial of the case.

    Calang’s statement was read by Ephraim Cortez of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) during the general debate on Item 3 at the 16th session of the UN Human Rights Council.

    Calang also said that of the 1,206 documented cases of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines under former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, 375 of the victims were from Mindanao. He cited the recent murder of B’laan chieftain Rudy Dejos [5] and his son Rody Rick in Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur and the killing of Benjamin Bayles [6] , a member of the Philippine Independent Church. Calang said the incidents “show that extrajudicial killings continue under the prevailing climate of impunity in the country.”

    Other members of the Ecumenical Voice are Dr. Merry Mia Clamor, one of the Morong 43, Cristina Palabay of Karapatan; Girlie Padilla of the Ecumenical Movement for Justice and Peace and Rhonda Ramiro of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-USA chapter. (


  8. Italian priest shot dead in North Cotabato

    KIDAPAWAN CITY, Philippines—A still unidentified man shot dead Italian priest Fausto Tentorio in Arakan town in North Cotabato on Monday morning, a local official said.

    Arakan Councilor Leonardo Reovoca said Fr. Tentorio, parish priest of Arakan town, was about to open his vehicle when a man shot him shortly before 8 a.m.

    Tentorio was to attend a clergy meeting in Kidapawan City when he was shot by the helmet-wearing man.

    The priest was immediately brought to the Antipas Medical Specialist but was declared dead.

    Reovoca said some parish workers rushed out when they heard a series of shots and noticed the gunman walking to a waiting motorcycle.

    “I cannot imagine it would happen to him. We don’t have an idea as to the motive of the killing,” Reovoca said.
    October 17, 2011

    Reference: Cristina Palabay, Convenor, End Impunity Alliance (0917-5003879)
    Angge Santos, Media Liaison, End Impunity Alliance (0915-2117610)


    The human rights network End Impunity Alliance today condemned the most recent killing of Italian priest Fr. Fausto Tentorio, PIME, parish priest of Arakan Valley in North Cotabato and a known advocate of the rights of lumads and farmers in the province.

    According to initial news reports, Fr. Tentorio, who had been serving Mindanao since 1978 and was head of the Tribal Filipinos Apostolate of the Diocese of Kidapawan, was gunned down at around 8:30 Monday morning just as he was preparing to leave his convent in Arakan Valley, North Cotabato, for the 9 a.m. clergy meeting in Kidapawan City.

    “We extend our deepest condolences for the love ones of Fr. Tentorio and for all the people whose lives were touched by him. We condemn in highest terms the recent killing of a beloved, committed and pro-poor priest who has served our poor kababayans in Mindanao, despite several threats to his life. His public position against big corporate mining in the province and his advocacy for the rights of farmers and indigenous peoples is a testament to his selflessness,” Cristina Palabay, End Impunity Alliance convenor, said.

    Fr. Tentorio was a compatriot of Fr. Tulio Favali, who was murderd in 1985 in Tulunan town by the vigilante group Ilaga, led by Norberto Manero. Fr. Tentorio experienced a near-death experience on October 6, 2003 during one of his visits to the Lumads of Kitaotao, Bukidnon, portions of which are part of the parish of Arakan, where he had organized the tribal organization called the Tinananon-Kulamanon Lumadnong Panaghiusa or TIKULPA.

    Fr. Tentorio’s killing came after the declaration of Major General Jorge Segovia, 10th Infantry Division commander, that Southern Mindanao is the new epicenter of the New People’s Army.

    “Justice should be immediately rendered for Fr. Tentorio and all victims of summary executions. Such climate of impunity exists to this day, thus victimizing anti-mining advocates such as Fr. Tentorio because of the non-prosecution of those accountable for the previous cases of human rights violations and the existing counter-insurgency plan Oplan Bayamihan of the Aquino administration,” Palabay said.


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  10. Elke week wordt een milieuactivist vermoord

    De meeste moorden gebeuren in Brazilië, Colombia, de Filippijnen en Peru

    Door: Annelies De Becker

    In het voorbije decennium zijn 711 activisten en journalisten gedood, die zich inzetten voor landrechten en de bescherming van wouden. Dat zijn er meer dan één per week. Uit een rapport van de ngo Global Witness blijkt bovendien, dat het jaarlijkse aantal slachtoffers in de voorbije drie jaar is verdubbeld.

    Global Witness spreekt van een “verborgen crisis” in milieubescherming. Die is het gevolg van een straffeloosheid voor de daders, een gebrek aan informatie en rapportering op nationaal en internationaal niveau, en de betrokkenheid van regeringen en privébedrijven in veel van de moorden.

    “Deze trend is een symptoom van de steeds hardere strijd om natuurlijke rijkdommen overal ter wereld”, zegt Billy Kyte van Global Witness. “Meer dan één persoon per week wordt vermoord, omdat hij de rechten op land of bossen verdedigt.” De meeste moorden gebeuren in Brazilië, Colombia, de Filippijnen en Peru. De landrechten worden er vooral bedreigd door de grootschalige landbouw, mijnbouw en waterkrachtcentrales.


    “Overheden moeten erop toezien, dat burgers vrijuit kunnen spreken, zonder angst voor vervolging, als ze bezorgd zijn over de manier waarop land of bos beheerd wordt,” zegt Global Witness. “Voor er akkoorden worden afgesproken, moeten er vrije, voorafgaande en geïnformeerde gesprekken plaatsvinden met de betrokken gemeenschappen.” Moorden moeten onderzocht worden en de daders mogen niet vrijuit gaan, besluit de organisatie.

    “De internationale gemeenschap moet deze misdadige strijd om wouden en land stoppen,” zegt Kyte. “Het is belangrijker dan ooit om het milieu te beschermen, maar het is ook nooit gevaarlijker geweest dan nu.”

    Bron: De Morgen


  11. Do Not Vilify People’s Scientists! Release Kim Gargar Now!

    The AGHAM-Advocates of Science and Technology for the People strongly condemns the illegal arrest and detention of its member, physicist Kim Gargar, by the elements of the 67th Infantry Battalion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Gargar was caught in a crossfire between government soldiers and NPA rebels, while undertaking a research in connection with rehabilitation efforts on the impacts of Typhoon Pablo in Cateel, Davao Oriental. He was then arrested and charged with trumped up cases.

    Gargar is a true blue scientist of the people. When he personally witnessed the plight of his fellow Mindanaoenos when he was sent to join a humanitarian and fact finding mission last April 18-20, 2013, he was definite he will return to Davao. He lamented the inaction and lack of support for the devastated communities, five months after Typhoon Pablo. He talked of the immense need to rehabilitate the forests and the environment to reduce the risks of disasters and help the people regain their source of water and life. In his return to Manila, Gargar immediately requested to be temporarily seconded to Panalipdan Southern Mindanao to be allowed to directly contribute to restoration efforts.

    The military’s claims are all incredible. Kim Gargar is not and has never been a member of the New People’s Army. He planned to work in Davao for six months with the communities in their efforts to rise up from the devastation of Typhoon Pablo. He planned to bring his family to his home province in Iligan this Christmas, before returning to work in Manila.

    Kim Gargar graduated as Magna Cum Laude with a degree in BS Physics. After graduation, he taught at the University of the Philippines Diliman. He also pursued his passion for teaching aspiring physicists at the MAPUA Institute of Technology and the Polytechnic University of the Philippines. As a bright boy from an underprivileged family in Iligan, Kim treasured scientific education and viewed it not just as a tool to further his personal gains but as a critical element in developing technologies for national development. He continued his studies as a doctorate student specializing in Chronobiology, a branch of science dealing with biological rhythms and cyclic processes in living organisms, at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands.

    Carrying out AGHAM’s advocacy of making science and technology for the people, Kim decided to devote his time to volunteer work in AGHAM. As a scientist for the people, he unselfishly shared his technical expertise and energy in explaining scientific concepts to local communities to help sharpen their analysis in confronting issues that affect them.

    His involvement with AGHAM includes the promotion of the People’s Science School in urban poor communities and the Science for the People Colloquium, a venue for scientists to share their research outputs on appropriate technology for community development. In the universities he worked, he institutionalized research groups inside science organizations with the aim of matching the subject of researches with the needs of marginalized communities.

    As an environmental advocate, he was part of environmental investigative missions on various issues such as the impacts of cassava monocrop plantation in Isabela, the flooding study of the Buawaya River in Cordillera. Kim was an active member of a citizens’ watchdog group that monitored the issue of the huge mine spill caused by the failure of the tailings impoundment of Philex Mines in Benguet.

    AGHAM calls for the immediate release of Kim Gargar and demands that all trumped-up charges be dropped so he could continue practicing his life-long commitment as a scientist for the people.

    Kim is currently helping in the rainforestation efforts to bring back the life of the forests of Cateel. Lives and livelihoods of hundreds of families in Cateel are dependent on the healthy functioning of this ecosystem, and Kim’s ongoing research is vital to the realization of the ongoing rainforestation and rehabilitation process.

    As such, AGHAM calls for the immediate release of Kim Gargar and demands that all trumped-charges be dropped so he could continue practicing his life-long commitment as a scientist for the people.#

    Maria Finesa Cosico
    Contact details:
    Secretary General, AGHAM
    0917 811 5445


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