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Human rights lawyer debunks claims of no EJKs in PH

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Human right lawyer Abel Jamal Disangcopan defines extrajudicial killings. Photo by Elizabeth Nicole Regudo/TomasinoWeb.

A human rights lawyer lambasted some public officials on Wednesday for dismissing the existence of extrajudicial killings (EJK) in the country.

Abdel Jamal Disangcopan, former coordinator on the legal issues of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, debunked claims of Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Assistant Secretary Epimaco Densing III and Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano that there are no EJKs in the country.

“For me, extrajudicial killing is ‘yung hindi talaga sumusunod sa due process ‘yung pagpatay. In the context [of] war on drugs, pinapatay ka na hindi man lang napatunayan na totoo. Kung napatunayan man, hindi ka rin naman pwedeng patayin kasi wala namang judicial killing sa Philippines,” Disangcopan said in an interview with TomasinoWeb.

He added, “Administrative order ang [ginagawa nilang] basis, pero…noong time ni Justice Secretary De Lima, [ang] extrajudicial killing talaga [ang] common understanding [ay] pinatay ka na walang paghahatol.”

Following an independent probe of the DILG last year, Densing said that such killings cannot be called as EJKs because there are no judicial killings.

Cayetano has also been justifying the bloody war on drugs, citing Administrative Order 35 under the administration of former President Benigno Aquino III. The order states that killings that involved common criminals cannot be as classified as extrajudicial.

Moreover, Disangcopan said that the public officials are forced to defend the drive against drugs to secure the reputation of the country.

“Kung hindi nila ‘yun (EJKs) ide-deny, aside sa liability, it will open a can of worms,” Disangcopan said.

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He also stated that the war on drugs has led to the culture of impunity.

“It’s true…hindi lahat ng napapatay [ay] extrajudicial killing, but now…you can always blame anybody about [a trouble],” Disangcopan said.

Commission on Human Rights and various human rights groups, such as Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates, claim at least 12,000 deaths in the campaign against drugs — including alleged vigilante-style killings.

Meanwhile, in a recent data released by Presidential Communications Operations Office, 3,967 drug personalities were reportedly killed in anti-drug operations from July 1, last year to Oct. 25 this year.

The forum titled, “WHOStisya: Mananagot ang May Sagot” was organized by the UST Sociological Society, the UST Simbahayan Community Development Office, and the Faculty of Arts and Letters Student Council.

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Protests vs charter change, ‘dictatorship’ mark People Power commemoration

Groups slammed plans to amend the constitution as a move toward another dictatorship as they commemorated the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution.

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Photo by Mark Darius Sulit/TomasinoWeb.

Thousands flocked to the People Power Monument on Saturday and Sunday to protest plans to amend the constitution and to condemn the administration’s “dictatorship” as the country commemorated the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution.

The No to Cha-cha Coalition led by Movement Against Tyranny, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and various religious formations marched to the historic monument Saturday afternoon, Feb. 24, where they decried President Rodrigo Duterte as a “budding dictator.”

“[Former dictator Ferdinand] Marcos’ (sic) ouster is a grim reminder to all budding dictators, including Pres. Rodrigo Duterte, that our people will never allow tyranny to reign,” Movement Against Tyranny in a statement.

The group further warned Duterte that “[s]hould he persist in his policies of extrajudicial killings, all-out war, dictatorial rule, and subservience to foreign powers, he will surely suffer the same fate as Marcos.”

The People Power Revolution led to the ousting of the Marcos regime and restored democracy in the country in 1986 after years marked with human rights violations and suppression of dissent.

The uprising also gave birth to the 1987 Constitution, which Duterte and his allies are now planning to amend through a charter change in order to establish a federal form of government.

Movement Against Tyranny has slammed the planned charter change as an “act of tyranny.”

Meanwhile, in the protest program led by opposition group Tindig Pilipinas Sunday evening, Feb. 25, Lanz Espacio of Kalipunan ng Kilusang Masa rejected the moves to amend the constitution.

“The basic sectors are not asking for a constitutional change, but for a change in their condition, which was not uplifted in the last 32 years,” Espacio said.

Opposition senators Francis Pangilinan, Paolo Benigno Aquino and Antonio Trillanes IV also joined the Sunday rally.

Trillanes, who has hounded Duterte with accusations of ill-gotten wealth, told reporters that he believes “na nagbabago na ang ihip ng hangin [at] nararamdaman na ng mga kababayan natin ang false promises ni Duterte, at worse, humihirap ang buhay nila ngayon.”

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The protests on Saturday and Sunday also coincided with “Dasal at Ayuno Laban sa Cha-cha, Para sa Demokrasya: Pag-amin, Pagtitika, Pagababago at Pagkakaisa,” a nine-day prayer and fasting vigil at the People Power Monument that started on Feb. 17, Saturday, led by Catholic clergy and laity group Gomburza.

In a statement, Gomburza leader Fr. Robert Reyes said the administration “seeks to cast aside this legacy, proposing to replace it with a federalist project short on social justice principles and long on authoritarian possibilities lurking beneath its extravagant promises.”

Duterte’s remarks and stand on certain issues have led to critics to tag him as a “dictator,” a label which he has seemingly acknowledged and even accepted.

In a gathering with former New People’s Army cadres last Feb. 7, the President stated, “Muingon mo’g diktador, diktador gyud ko. Kay og ‘di ko mag-diktador, putang ina, walang mangyayari sa bayan na ‘to (If you say I am a dictator, then I am. If I will not become a dictator, son of a bitch, nothing will happen to this country).

Along with charter change and threats to declare a “revolutionary government,” critics cite Duterte allowing the burial of Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, the imposition of martial law in Mindanao May last year and its subsequent extension until the end of this year, extrajudicial killings linked to the drug war, and his tirades against the media and opposition personalities as signs of the President’s dictatorial tendencies.

Duterte skipped the commemoration rites which was attended by former President Fidel Ramos and Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, but nonetheless called for “unity and solidarity.”

“May this occasion foster unity and solidarity as we pursue our hopes and aspirations for our nation. Let us further enrich our democracy by empowering our citizenry, defending their rights and strengthening the institutions that safeguard their freedoms,” the President said in a statement.—A. Ortega

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Students decry Duterte’s ‘tyranny’ in mass walkout

Students also pushed the protest on Twitter with the hashtag #WalkoutPH, which became one of the trending hashtags on Friday.

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Photo by Von Ozar/TomasinoWeb.

Students from various schools and universities in Metro Manila walked out of their classes on Friday to protest the Duterte administration’s “tyranny” and “anti-people” policies.

Around 1,000 protesters from militant student and youth groups trooped to España carrying banners and placards condemning numerous issues such as extrajudicial killings, the implementation of the free tuition policy and tuition fee hikes, the tax reform law, the phaseout of old jeepneys in the modernization program, the extension of martial law in Mindanao and charter change.

The protesters then marched to Morayta carrying an effigy of Duterte as a king holding a rod with a swastika and wearing a long red cape listing the administration’s “oppressive” policies.

The effigy was accompanied by four men wearing masks in the likeness of Police Director General Ronald dela Rosa, Armed Forces Chief of Staff Rey Leonardo Guerrero, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon.

In the program in front of the Far Eastern University, Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Jane Elago slammed “threats of dictatorship” and called on the youth to push for social reforms.

“Ang mga kabataan ay handang lumaban para sa tunay na reporma sa lupa, handang lumaban para sa pambansang industriyalisasyon, handang lumaban para sa libreng edukasyon sa lahat ng antas, handang lumaban para ang walang boses naman sa ating lipunan ang magkaroon ng boses,” Elago said.

Editors and leaders from different school publications, media organizations and student councils also decried “attacks” on press freedom during the protest in the midst of the President’s tirades against online news site Rappler and the banning of their reporters from the Malacañang.

Micah Rimando, editor-in-chief of Matanglawin Ateneo, said that despite these attacks, “kaming mga estudyanteng mamamahayag [ay patuloy na] magiging mulat at mapagmulat laban sa anumang atake sa karapatan ng sambayanan.”

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Meanwhile, Mikko Ringia, UP College of Mass Communication Student Council chairperson, urged student journalists to fight for “genuine” press freedom and to stand with marginalized sectors.

“Hindi ibig sabihin na ibinalik na ang license ng Rappler ay mayroon nang press freedom. Hindi ibig sabihin na wala nang libel case ang mga journalist ay andiyan na ang press freedom. Ang tunay na press freedom ay [ang] pagpapalaya sa uring pinagsasamantalahan,” Ringia said.

Activist fisherfolk, labor, and peasant groups joined students from the University of Santo Tomas, University of the Philippines (UP), Ateneo de Manila University, Polytechnic University of the Philippines, University of the East and the National University as they marched to Mendiola later that night, where they continued and ended the protest.

Students also pushed the protest on Twitter with the hashtag #WalkoutPH, which became one of the trending hashtags on Friday, earning more than 3,000 tweets and at least 2.6 million impressions.

Militant youth groups staged similar walkout protests in Baguio and Cebu, which came two days before the 32nd anniversary of the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution.

Various groups are expected to hold more demonstrations in the days leading to the commemoration of the uprising that toppled the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

In a press briefing on Thursday, Feb. 22, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque warned that students from state universities could face expulsion should they participate in the protests.

“Bahala po sila kung gusto nilang ma-kickout sila. Sayang po ‘yan lalong lalo na yung sa nakikinabang sa libreng tuition,” Roque said.

Nonetheless, UP Diliman Chancellor Michael Tan endorsed the demonstrations in a memorandum, encouraging student participation in the protests “as part of their education.”—P. Jamilla

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Senate passes new anti-hazing bill

Senate Bill No. 1662, which seeks to amend the Anti-Hazing Law by strengthening existing measures and regulating other forms of initiation rites, was approved with 19 affirmative votes on Monday.

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Photo courtesy of Joseph Vida/Senate PRIB.

The Senate approved on Monday on the third and final reading a bill prohibiting hazing as a prerequisite for admission into a fraternity, sorority, or organization.

Senate Bill No. 1662, which seeks to amend Republic Act No. 8049 or the Anti-Hazing Law of 1995 by strengthening the existing measures and regulating other forms of initiation rites, was approved with 19 affirmative votes, no negative votes and no abstentions.

The bill defined hazing as “any physical or psychological suffering, harm or injury inflicted on a recruit, member, neophyte, or applicant for admission or continuing membership into the fraternity, sorority or organization.”

The existing law permits hazing during an initiation rite, provided that there is a written notice addressed to the school a week before the activity.

The House approved a counterpart bill on Jan. 22.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who sponsored the bill as chair of the Senate public order committee, said the amendments would now require organizations to submit an application to school authorities, with the initiation rites outlined seven days prior to the scheduled date.

School authorities should then supervise and report that no hazing was conducted in the initiation rites.

The bill penalizes with reclusion temporal or a fine of P1 million the officers and members of a fraternity, sorority, or organization who would participate in hazing rites.

The school would be held accountable and be fined P1 million if its officials failed to prevent hazing.

Lacson added that aside from rites in schools, the measure will also cover hazing activities in the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police, Philippine Military Academy, and Philippine National Police Academy.

The filing of the bill was prompted by the fatal hazing case of freshman law student Horacio Castillo III during the  initiation rites of the Aegis Juris Fraternity September last year.C.N. Dumaua

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