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Opposition ‘counter-SONA’ takes jabs at Duterte’s first year



Opposition leaders and sectoral groups staged their own State of the Nation Address (SONA) yesterday, July 16, a week ahead of President Rodrigo Duterte’s second SONA on July 24.

In the multi-sectoral “So Ano Na” forum held at UP Diliman, Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat Jr., Magdalo Partylist Representative Gary Alejano, and Senators Antonio Trillanes IV, Benigno Aquino IV and Risa Hontiveros represented various sectors as they gave their respective assessments of Duterte’s first year in office.

Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat Jr., raises the issues of basic sectors. Photo by Philip Jamilla/TomasinoWeb.

Unfulfilled promises

Baguilat slammed Duterte for not delivering on his electoral promises such as ending contractualization, land distribution and the granting of titles to indigenous peoples for ancestral lands.

He also condemned Duterte’s ruthless drug war, claiming “ang karamihan ng namamatay ay mga mahihirap.”

Alejano, meanwhile, raised concerns regarding the administration’s fixation on the drug war and criticized Duterte’s stance on foreign relations and national security.

“Masyadong nag-focus ang Pangulong Duterte sa ‘war on drugs’ na nakalimutan na niyang pagtuunan ng pansin ang ibang isyu,” Alejano said.

He cited the Marawi insurgency crisis as an example, saying that the military already had acquired intelligence reports but failed to suppress the now Islamic State-backed group.

Alejano also believed that Duterte is merely using the Marawi siege, along with the drug war, to justify his declaration of martial law in Mindanao.

“Naghihintay lang ba ng pagkakataon ang President Dutere na maipatupad ang kanyang pinakaaasam-asam na martial law?” he asked.

Senator Antonio Trillanes IV delivers Senator Leila De Lima’s speech. Photo by Philip Jamilla/TomasinoWeb.

‘Dangerous year to be a woman’

Trillanes read Senator Leila De Lima’s speech while hitting back on Duterte for detaining De Lima on her alleged involvement in the Bilibid drug trade.

He claimed that the charges against De Lima were unfounded, stating that “Duterte [only] did this to instill fear, not only to silence De Lima, in the opposition and ordinary people.”

In her speech, De Lima lamented the public’s indifference on the widespread human rights violations and extrajudicial killings.

Furthermore, Hontiveros, a women’s rights advocate, was also concerned with Duterte’s “male chauvinism and misogyny” with his regular use of rape jokes and sexist remarks during speeches and press conferences.

“It was a dangerous year to be a woman,” she said. “It’s a year of resurgent misogyny, and endless killings. It is a dangerous year for ordinary Filipinos. It’s a year of living dangerously.”

Hontiveros also urged the youth to join and support the upcoming ‘alternative’ youth SONA tomorrow, July 18, in protest of the various victims slain for the administration’s relentless anti-drug campaign. — P. Jamilla




DOJ reopens investigation on Atio’s hazing case

The Department of Justice reopened the investigation on the death of freshman law student Horacio Castillo III after the witness Marc Anthony Ventura submitted his affidavit.



Photo grabbed from Horacio Castillo III's Facebook account.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) panel of prosecutors reopened the preliminary investigation on the death of hazing victim and UST freshman law student Horacio “Atio” Castillo III after suspect-turned-state witness Marc Anthony Ventura submitted his affidavit. 

The panel received Ventura’s affidavit last Jan. 3 and was not taken into consideration in the preliminary investigations of the case. The affidavit contained the names of Aegis Juris Fraternity members who executed the hazing rites on Castillo.

“In the interest of justice and in observance of due process, the Panel hereby motu propio reopens the preliminary investigation of these complaints in order to give them the opportunity to submit their countervailing evidence,” the order issued by the panel said.

Fratman John Paul Solano submitted an affidavit stating that the death of Atio was not due to hazing but instead of a pre-existing heart condition.

Ventura is the only fraternity member who has admitted participation in the hazing rites which Atio’s mother, Carmina, considers as a “breakthrough.”  

“As I understand they are already accepting the testimony of Ventura as part of the evidence, strengthening our case against the many respondents in our anti-hazing complaints,” Carmina said.

She added,“This breakthrough can definitely speed up the case when filed in the proper courts. They cannot deny the fact that a crime was committed and there is a vital witness to the crime.”

Carmina attended the hearing yesterday, Jan. 12.


In his affidavit, Ventura said that he only participated in the rites when they were thumping Atio’s arm with a spatula to ease the swelling.

Ventura then revealed the members who hit Atio. They were Zach Abulencia, Daniel Ragos, Sam Cagalingan, Alex Cairo, Luis Kapulong, Edric Pilapil, and one unidentified member, who he couldn’t remember because the lights were turned off during that time.

In addition, Ventura said that the spatula round was composed of the same people with the addition of Miguel Salamat, Robin Ramos, Mhin Wei Chan, Oliver Onofre, Marcelino Bagtang, Hans Rodrigo, Ralph Trangia, Joriel Macabali, Grand Praefectus Arvin Balag, and Master Initiator Axel Hipe, and with the exemption of Kapulong.

The paddling, or the final stage of the hazing rites, was done by Hipe, Trangia, Balag, and an unidentified member whom Ventura cannot recall. According to Ventura, Atio went down on his knees after the third hit.

Atio was given time to rest before being hit by the unidentified member and Balag. Yet he already collapsed but was still making sounds as he was unable to speak.

Ventura said that Balag was the one who was giving orders, including the decision not to immediately bring Atio to the hospital.

Atio was already loaded inside Trangia’s truck, but he was taken back to the fraternity library where the medical technologist Solano tried to revive him.

After his testimonies, Ventura has been admitted to the Witness Protection Program run by the DOJ.

by Heather Marian Amoroso



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Student, youth groups condemn activist crackdown, Lumad food blockade in walkout protest

Progressive student groups marched to Mendiola to condemn the intimidation, harassment, and deaths of student-activists as well as the military food blockade and attacks on Lumad communities in Mindanao.



Progressive groups from different schools and universities stage a walkout protest against the government’s crackdown on activists at España and Mendiola, Thursday, Dec. 7. Photo by Von Ozar/TomasinoWeb.

Militant youth and student groups once again stormed to Mendiola last Thursday, Dec. 7, to decry the government’s intensified crackdown on civilians and progressive groups, as well as other “fascist attacks” on the youth.

Unfazed by recent cases of intimidation and harassment of student activists, students walked out of their classes to stage local actions in their respective schools before gathering along España at noon.

“Kung nagkacrackdown si Duterte, dapat magkaisa ang kabataan,” urged John Paul Rosos, national spokesperson of the League of Filipino Students (LFS).

Last Tuesday, Dec. 5, President Rodrigo Duterte declared the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), as terrorist organizations due to the NPA’s recent skirmishes.

With it, he also threatened to arrest members of progressive groups — which he referred to as the CPP’s “legal fronts” — for terrorism and conspiracy.

The military had reportedly completed their list of targeted individuals and personalities, and were merely awaiting directives from the Malacañang to conduct the arrests.

Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Jane Elago retorted in a statement: “If anyone’s a terrorist here, it is the US-Duterte fascist dictatorship,” as she pointed at the spate of extrajudicial killings (EJK) and human rights violations committed by police and vigilante forces under the government’s vicious war on drugs.

Elago continued that the government’s attacks on progressive groups would be “the new drug war,” warning the public to “expect not just activists but [also] civilians to be affected and victimized.”

“Justice for all the victims of extrajudicial killings!” reads a placard from Anakbayan. Photo by Kennelf Monteza/TomasinoWeb.

Harassment, intimidation, red-tagging

Over the past few months, progressive groups from different schools and universities have reported cases of harassment and intimidation of their members and leaders.

Last Sept. 28, a member of Anakbayan — Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) was attacked and robbed by suspected military agents just outside the PUP campus.

Meanwhile, Tanggulan Youth Network— Vito Cruz reported last October that two policemen in plainclothes visited the house of one of its conveners to inform the convener’s parents that their child was under surveillance.

The College Editors Guild of the Philippines had also denounced the red-tagging of its member publications in Bicol, which are allegedly being included in the “watchlist” of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

However, a few days after the declaration of the CPP-NPA as terrorist groups, National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) National Spokesperson Mark Vincent Lim stated they began receiving “numerous reports of harassment towards student leaders.”

Last Dec. 4, Monday, a senior high school member of LFS-UST received a death through a phone call. The same number also sent threats to a member of poetry collective KM64 (READ: Militant student group decries death threat on SHS student amid activist crackdown).

Lim also slammed the recent death threats and harassment of the chairperson of Anakbayan — UP Diliman and the chairperson of the UP Manila College of Arts and Sciences Student Council.

Lumad student Beverly Gofredo condemns the ongoing military food blockade and intensified attacks on Lumad communities. Photo by Mark Darius Sulit/TomasinoWeb.

Lumad schools, food blockade

Meanwhile, Lumad student Beverly Gofredo said the resumption of intensified counterinsurgency operations in their communities were merely excuses by the military to drive the Lumad away from their ancestral lands.

“[K]ung nasaan ang presensya ng malalaking kumpanya ng mina, nandoon din ang presensya ng Armed Forces of the Philippines dahil sila ang protektor at nagseserbisyo hindi sa mga mamamayang Pilipino kundi sa mga malalaking kumpanya ng minang [nandoon] sa Mindanao,” Gofredo said.

Lumad schools — along with its students and teachers — have been persistently tagged by the AFP as “training grounds of the NPA” and their communities have been accused of harboring communists.

However, Gofredo denounced these tags as attempts to justify the military attacks and atrocities on their schools and communities.

“Winawalan nila kami ng karapatan na makapag-aral. Wala na ngang ibinigay ang gobyerno ni piso sa mga eskwelahang Lumad, pinapatuloy pa ang pang-aatake dito,” she exclaimed.

Last Sunday, Dec. 3, militant human rights group Karapatan reported the killing of eight Lumad farmers in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato, allegedly by military forces. Gofredo, along with the activist groups, decried the killings.

They also condemned the reported food blockade on 345 displaced Lumad families that were forced to relocated to an evacuation center in Lianga, Surgiao del Sur due to the counterinsurgency operations.

Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV) said military checkpoints were restricting the entry of food and relief goods being sent by non-government organizations and civil society groups to the families in the evacuation center.

The families were also barred by the military from returning to their communities, according to ALCADEV. AFP Spokesperson Maj. Gen. Restituto Padilla, however, denied the military food blockade.

Protesters carry a bloodied portrait of Duterte. Photo by Kennelf Monteza/TomasinoWeb.

Youth wasting time on ideology

While the protest was being conducted, Duterte mocked the progressive youth groups in a speech before a food festival in Pampanga, saying they were offering their lives and dying for “useless ideologues.”

“Mga bata, nagpakamatay for the belief, for the ideals, for the ideologues na wala naman talagang macontribute,” Duterte said.

His remarks came in the midst of the death of student activists from UP and PUP, who were killed in a military clash in Nasugbu, Batangas last Nov. 28, five days after the government terminated the peace talks with the CPP-NPA.

The AFP tagged all 15 casualties in the Nasugbu clash — including the students — as members of the NPA, based, supposedly, on the high-power firearms recovered from their personal belongings.

However, Youth Act Now Against Tyranny Convenor Raoul Manuel lambasted these claims during the protest as futile attempts by Duterte and the AFP to further accuse activists of “terrorism” and justify his crackdown.

“[K]ahit na bansagan na mga terorista itong mga kabataang ito na wala naman palang mga armas at ang tanging armas ay paninidigian at mga placard, hindi kami natatakot na ipagtuloy ang paglaban para sa ating mga karapatan,” Manuel said.

Anakbayan National Chairperson Vencer Crisostomo also slammed the President’s remarks in a statement posted Dec. 8, saying: “As always, our hope lies in the idealism and activism of the youth who, open to new ideas and filled with optimism for a better future, are willing to serve the people and fight injustice even it means risking their very lives.”

Crisostomo also warned the President that “[his] repression will only compel more and more Filipino youth to join the Filipino people in struggling against his tyrannical and terrorist regime.”

As of Dec. 3, Karapatan had recorded 25 alleged EJK cases related to various counterinsurgency operations in the country during Duterte’s first year as president.

The group is now looking into the case of the Lake Sebu killings as well as the deaths of pastor Lovelito Quiñones, who was killed by military forces in Mansalay, Oriental Mindoro last Sunday, and activist-priest Marcelito Paez, who was shot down by unknown assailants in Jaen, Nueva Ecija last Monday.

With the proposed extension of martial law in Mindanao and the recent declaration of the CPP-NPA as terrorists groups, Karapatan expects the numbers to rise.— P.J.



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Transport group cancels two-day strike, promises bigger strike in January

PISTON will instead conduct a transport caravan on Dec. 4 and march with other militant groups from Welcome Rotonda to Mendiola.



PISTON led a nationwide transport strike last Oct. 16 and 17 in protest of the jeepney modernization program, prompting Malacañang to suspend classes and government work nationwide.Photo by Genelaine Urbano/TomasinoWeb.

Transport groups Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (PISTON) and No to Jeepney Phaseout Coalition called off their strike set tomorrow, Dec. 4 and on Tuesday, Dec. 5.

In a press briefing earlier today, Dec. 3, PISTON National President George San Mateo stated that they decided to cancel the strike “nang sa gayon [ay] mabigyan din, maharap namin yung public hearing sa December 7.”

Yesterday, Sen. Grace Poe, chair of the Senate Committee on Public Services, appealed for the group to cancel the strike, vowing to file a resolution tomorrow to call for the said hearing on Thursday for concerned parties to discuss the proposed jeepney modernization program.

“I understand that certain issues in the modernization program still need to be carefully studied and threshed out with the concerned government agencies. We hope this can be done during the committee hearing,” Poe said.

In a statement released today, the senator welcomed the group’s decision, saying: “Issues can be better discussed and resolved when sobriety and judiciousness are exercised, in pursuit of the highest public good.”

Despite Thursday’s hearing, San Mateo still hopes that the modernization program will not push through, claiming “Ito ay isang malaking marketing program [ng] mga mamahaling sasakyan na nais nilang ipilit sa ‘tin.”

PISTON will instead conduct a transport caravan to UST tomorrow and march with other militant groups from UST to Mendiola, where they will hold a vigil in preparation for Thursday’s hearing.

San Mateo also promised that PISTON and No to Jeepney Phaseout Coalition will stage a bigger transport strike January next year, in time for the government’s rollout of modernized jeepneys.

Nonetheless, the Land Transportation Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB) will continue to monitor PISTON’s terminals and routes tomorrow morning.

“We will not rely on the [press conference]. We cannot afford surprises for the riding public,” LTFRB board member Atty. Aileen Lizada said.

The groups recently led a nationwide transport strike last Oct. 16 and 17 in protest of the jeepney modernization program, prompting the Malacañang to suspend classes and government work nationwide on both days.

The proposed jeepney modernization program aims to phase out 15-year old units and replace them with “more convenient, more comfortable, and environment-friendly” units, according to the Department of Transportation.

Changes in the public transport franchising system, routes, and training for drivers are also eyed by the program.

Nonetheless, several transport groups have slammed the program as “anti-poor,” saying that drivers cannot afford the costly price tag of the new units, and that the program will lead to loss of jobs for drivers and operators, as well as higher fares for commuters.



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