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Thomasians, progressive youth groups welcome Lakbayan delegates

The University will host a Lakbayan satellite camp at the Central Seminary Gym from Sept. 11 to 21.

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Photo by Mark Darius Sulit/TomasinoWeb.

Various groups of indigenous peoples and cultural minorities trooped to Mendiola and Liwasang Bonifacio last Thursday for the third year of the Lakbayan ng Pambansang Minorya.

Under the banner of Sandugo, the groups marched through the streets of Manila despite scattered rain showers to demand an end to the attacks on their communities and to lobby their right to self-determination

“Kami ay pagod, gutom, at pinipigilan sa aming pagpunta dito [sa Maynila],” said Windell Bolinget, leader of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), regarding their struggle.

Several students and progressive youth groups welcomed and joined the protest of more than 3,000 members of national minorities as contingents marched from Blumentritt and Vito Cruz before converging at Mendiola and Liwasang Bonifacio.

Progressive groups from the University joined the mass mobilization at Mendiola and led the Thomasian community in welcoming delegates from CPA along España.

They were joined by the UST Yellow Jackets, the Central Student Council (CSC), UST SIMBAHAYAN, various University student organizations, and progressive student groups from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines in front of the Arch of the Centuries, where they held a short program.

Bolinget expressed gratitude for students that welcomed their delegation.

“Kapag may sumasalubong tulad ninyo at may maalab na pag-welcome sa amin, nakakatulong ‘yun para matagumpay naming maisulong [ang] Lakbayan 2017 para sa makatarungang kapayapaan at sariling pagpasya ng pambansang minorya,” he said in an interview with TomasinoWeb.

“We are happy at nagagalak na may kumikilos na kabataang estudyante sa loob ng University of Santo Tomas,” Bolinget added, “sana tuloy-tuloy ito.”

The Igorot delegation will be hosted by the University in a satellite camp at the Central Seminary Gym from Sept. 11 to 21, where programs and discussions will be held as part of the month-long caravan.

University of the Philippines (UP) — Diliman will continue to host the Lakbayan main camp.

CSC Public Relations Officer Francis Santos said that the satellite camp will be enlightening for the Thomasian community.

“Para sa akin, malaking tulong ito para sa ating [mga] Tomasino para mamulat [tayo sa] kung ano ba talaga ‘yung sinisigaw ng pambansang minorya at kung bakit kinakailangan pa nilang pumunta dito sa Maynila,” Santos stated in an interview with TomasinoWeb.

CSC Secretary Therese Gorospe delivered a solidarity message on behalf of the Council in an earlier program.

Kabataan Partylist Representative Sarah Jane Elago, who was present during the program, told TomasinoWeb that she was pleased with the welcome of the students.

“Nagagalak ang Kabataan [na] ang University of Santo Tomas ay nagbukas ng pintuan para salubungin ang pambansang minorya, partikular ang delegasyon ng Cordillera,” said Elago.

She added, “Malaking bagay na makita ng mga estudyante na meron tayong mga mamamayan na naglakbay pa nang malayo upang mapagtanggol [ang] kanilang isyu at kanilang panawagan for their right to self-determination and just peace.”

Nicolo Bongolan, Tanggulan Youth Network – UST convenor, also called for the resumption of peace talks between the government and the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).

According to Bongolan, indigenous peoples and minority groups are often red-tagged and harassed by the military for demanding and fighting for their rights.

“[The peace talks are] already part of [the minorities’] struggle for just and lasting peace because, in the first place, all the things they ask for are clearly stated: Land, [fair] salary, work, education and rights,” he said in an interview with TomasinoWeb.

However, Bongolan acknowledged that the hope of resuming the talks with the CPP-NPA-NDF “is low right now,” given that Mindanao is currently under martial law.

Nonetheless, Bongolan stressed that the peace talks are a necessity to end poverty in the country, which he deems as “the main root of our nation’s woes.”

Since 2015, national minority groups have conducted and organized the Lakbayan to protest the spate of harassment, killings, red-tagging and intensified militarization in their communities.

Last May, Lumad communities fled to camp in the UP International Center following President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao on May 23 and its subsequent extension until Dec. 31.

The said communities are planning to continue camping in UP beyond the Lakbayan due to intensified military and paramilitary threat in their areas, and threats of bombing Lumad schools coming from the President himself.

They expect to return to their communities by the end of the year, when martial law is expected to be lifted.— A. Ortega, with reports from P. Jamilla and T.D. Aquino

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CHR, Church opposes Duterte’s call to revive death penalty

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and the Church slammed President Duterte’s call to revive death penalty for crimes related to illegal drugs in his fifth and penultimate State of the Nation Address. 

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Photo courtesy of Manila Bulletin

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and the Church slammed President Duterte’s call to revive death penalty for crimes related to illegal drugs in his fifth and penultimate State of the Nation Address. 

“We believe in the need for a comprehensive approach in addressing drug sale and use, as well as other crimes anchored on restorative justice,” CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said in a statement. 

While the commission agrees to punish crimes, de Guia stressed that it should not result in further violations of human rights. 

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines – Commission on Prison Pastoral Care chairman and Legazpi bishop Joel Baylon and Balanga bishop Ruperto Santos cited that studies proved that capital punishment does not deter crimes. 

“The country will also lose the honor of one of the nations which condemned death penalty if capital punishment is revived,” Sorsogon bishop Arturo Bastes said. 

According to CHR, Duterte’s vow to uphold human rights above all does not coincide with restoring death penalty through lethal injection. 

The Commission also cited that it would breach the international agreement to abolish capital punishment, which the country ratified in 2007. 

“[A]ny moves to reinstate capital punishment in the country conflicts with the tenets of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” de Guia said.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Monday, July 27, said the revival of death penalty for drug-related offenses now has a better chance of being passed in the 18th Congress. Raheema Velasco

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‘Have we really achieved acceptance?’—gender lawyer

Twenty years into the fight for an anti-discrimination legislation, gender equality and human rights lawyers stressed the need for a law that would protect the LGBTQI+ community from sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression (SOGIE) discrimination.

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Screengrab from #PrideHangouts 02: Tuloy ang Laban para sa SOGIE Equality webinar

Twenty years into the fight for an anti-discrimination legislation, gender equality and human rights lawyers stressed the need for a law that would protect the LGBTQI+ community from sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression (SOGIE) discrimination. 

“[J]ust last year, Metro Manila Pride recorded 70,000 attendees. For the most part we thought that it’s a sign of society’s increased support for the community…[b]ut have we really achieved acceptance?” Atty. Claire de Leon said yesterday, June 27. 

The Gretchen Diez incident last year, according to Atty. De Leon, “drastically” shifted the perception of the public toward the LGBTQI+ community and the ongoing fight for the SOGIE Equality bill. 

Misconceptions surfaced after the incident that was followed by a “massive” misinformation campaign against the bill. 

“[N]akakalungkot na marami ding nagbabangga ng mga karapatan natin sa karapatan ng ibang sector. Nakakalungkot na ang ibang tao iniisip nila na this bill would take away rights from heterosexuals or cisgender persons,” Atty. De Leon said. 

However, she stressed that protecting the rights of a marginalized sector does not take away the rights of another.

“[I]f you think that allowing a sector to exercise their rights would take away the rights of others, [then] we must rethink how we see rights [and] how we understand rights,” she said. 

Anti-discrimination ordinances in LGUs

The lack of SOGIE-based national laws pushed LGBTQI+ groups to fight for anti-discrimination ordinances (ADO) within the local government units. 

Marikina Mayor Marcelino Teodoro announced last year, June 29, the passage of the city’s ADO during the Metro Manila Pride March. 

Quezon City on the other hand passed on November 28, 2014 the Gender Fair Ordinance, which was authored by Councilor Mayen Juico and was signed by the then-mayor Herbert Bautista.

Despite having implementing rules and regulations (IRRs) and ordinances, Atty. De Leon said that the process is not entirely implemented and effective. 

“May council [at] may members of the council pero walang office…[N]a-highlight lang nito na hindi natatapos ang lobbying, hindi natatapos ang laban natin sa pagpasa ng ordinance,” De Leon said. 

“Kailangan nating ma-push na meron IRRs at also kailangan nating ma-make sure na nai-implement talaga ang mga ordinances na ‘to,” she added. 

De Leon said that laws and initiatives against anti-discrimination, whether from the national government, LGUs, or private sectors, are necessary to build a more inclusive community.

“Discrimination still occurs and as long as discrimination under the basis of SOGIE persists, we need a law that would give us protection…[p]rotection must be available and accessible to each of us regardless of our SOGIE,” she said. 

SOGIE and Anti-terror bills

According to Atty. Eljay Bernardo, the “vagueness” of the provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Bill can directly affect the LGBTQI+ community as a marginalized sector fighting for SOGIE bill. 

“If we request government, demand government of our rights, it could be construed as terrorism, as destabilization,” Atty. Bernardo said.

The imprisonment of the Pride20, according to him, uncovered how the law can be “twisted” against freedom of speech and assembly. 

Last Friday, June 26, 10 members of LGBTQI+ rights group Bahaghari along with eight from other progressive groups, and two drivers were detained at the Manila Police District. 

They were being charged with disobedience of persons in authority in relation to Republic Act 11332, or the Law on Reporting of Communicable Disease and Batas Pambansa 880, or the Public Assembly Act.

Atty. Bernardo said that the bill could put burden in LGBTQI+ groups, which could be an excuse to put the members of these groups under the surveillance of an anti-terrorism council. 

According to Atty. De Leon, the Anti-Terror bill could “silence all of us,” especially the marginalized sector. 

“[F]or us when activism is the only way of asserting our narratives, this can further render us voiceless. It seems like wala naman siyang direct effect, pero the dangers of it ay nararamdaman na natin ngayon,” she said. 

The webinar #PrideHangouts 02: Tuloy ang Laban para sa SOGIE Equality was hosted by Pat Bringas and was organized by Metro Manila Pride.

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Human rights lawyers pan anti-terror bill’s ‘vague’ definition

Former Department of Social Welfare and Development secretary Prof. Judy Taguiwalo said that the “new normal” today is somewhat similar to the Marcosian “new society.” 

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Screengrab from the Martial Law Noon, Terror Bill Ngayon webinar

Human rights lawyer and former Bayan Muna representative Neri Colmenares put emphasis on the vague definitions included in the Anti-Terror Bill in an online forum held Saturday, June 6.

These broad definitions, according to Colmenares, could be dangerous, especially that Section 26 requires the formation of an Anti-Terror Council (ATC). 

“[I]t’s an executive body eh at ang mga members niyan ay mga executive officials, mga bataan ni President Duterte. Puwede kang i-designate na terorista,” he said during the Martial Law Noon, Terror Bill Ngayon webinar.

The Section 29 of the bill, as explained by Colmenares, will allow the ATC to “issue a written authorization that allows the police to arrest an alleged suspect” and detain him up to 24 days. 

“Ang term nila sa batas written authorization, but essentially it’s a warrant. It grants the police the power and the authority to arrest you eh…[H]indi naman judiciary ‘yun,” Colmenares said. 

Lawyer Tony La Viña believes these provisions to be “unconstitutional” and could go after legitimate movements and actions and be colored or linked to terrorism.

“‘Yung terrorist, ‘yun ‘yung nagbobomba, nagpapatay ng walang kahulugan. The violence is simply intended for chaos, simply for destruction of the society. The old definition [in Human Security Act] did not respect that distinction. Mas lalo na ngayon [sa Anti-Terror Bill], 

“Nagdagdag ng mga crimes tulad ng inciting to terrorism, support of terrorism, proposal to commit terrorism—lahat ‘yan are all acts that we can actually do on a day to day basis sa pakikibaka…[P]uwedeng kulayin at kulayan ng gobyerno at sabihing ‘terrorism ‘yan’ or ‘inciting to terrorism ‘yan,” La Viña said.

The judicial authority in the Anti-Terror Bill, according to La Viña, is “much less rigorous”  in safeguarding on abuses, rights to privacy in communication, personal security, and unreasonable searches and seizures. 

The bill will also remove the jurisdiction of the Commission on Human Rights to prosecute human rights-related crimes. 

Colmenares sees the recent protests against the passage of the bill as “reasonable” despite being in the middle of a pandemic, as it shows the disapproval of many Filipinos to the bill. 

“[T]andaan natin na sa kasaysayan natin, ang pinakamalaking tagumpay ng sambayanang Pilipino ay nakamit natin sa gitna ng pinakamasidhing krisis. Kaya tama lang ang ginagawa nating paglaban. Resonable ito [upang] maipanaig ang pagtutol ng sambayanang Pilipino na maisabatas itong new Terror Law,” Colmenares said.

Marcos’ ‘new society’ now the ‘new normal’

Martial law survivors warned the public of the parallelism between the provisions of the Anti-Terror Bill and the abuses during the martial law period in the Philippines. 

Former Department of Social Welfare and Development secretary Prof. Judy Taguiwalo said that the “new normal” today is somewhat similar to the Marcosian “new society.”

“[Sa] new normal makikita natin [ang] mas matinding kawalan ng trabaho, mas matinding kakulangan sa kalusugan, mas hirap sa edukasyon, at milyong mga OFWs ang babalik. So paano ‘yan haharapin?,

“[N]andyan na [ang] undeclared martial law…[N]gayon kahit walang kaso hinuhuli, ikinukulong,” Taguiwalo said. 

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Chairperson Dr. Karol Araullo said that the bill intends “to silence criticism, critical thinking, and opposition.”

“Ayokong tawaging Anti-Terror Bill eh kasi sa totoo lang, it is a bill intended to terrorize the people into submission sa mga patakaran na hindi makabubuti sa kanila,” Araullo said.

To avoid the repetition of the 1972 martial law, Araullo said the limitations in the imposition of martial law was included in the 1987 Constitution.

“[T]hey want to carry out ‘yung ganyang klaseng panunupil on a wider scale which they are unable to do under the current laws…[S]o inimbento nilang itong Anti-Terror Bill,” she said. John Aaron Pangilinan

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