November, 2018

URGENT APPEAL FOR SOLIDARITY AND ACTION: 9 farm workers massacred, their lawyer murdered

Dear friends and colleagues,

 

Interests backed by government arsenal ravaged the Negros region in the past weeks. The entire country woke up to the news of the massacre of nine (9) individuals, eight of them sugar workers and two are minors, in Sagay City, Negros Occidental on October 20, 2018. The issue was muddled with government pronouncements to mislead the public from getting to the root cause of the problem – landlessness and the dire situation of peasants in the Philippines. To further aggravate the situation, those who openly supported the relatives of the victims were subjected to threats and intimidation, even murder. On November 6, 2018, Atty. Benjamin Ramos, Secretary General of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) chapter in Negros and one of the legal counsels of the murdered peasants, was gunned down while on his way home. As of this writing, members of organizations such as Karapatan, National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW), among others, continue to be threatened and harassed by State forces of the Duterte regime and by Duterte himself. The climate of impunity is very much alive in the country, preserved by the Duterte regime and those with big business interests who have much to gain from the intensifying repression of the poor and exploited sectors.

Statement: APWLD Condemns Unsubstantiated Charges against NUPL Attorney Katherine Panguban

Dear friends and colleagues,

We are sharing with you the statement of the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) on the unsubstantiated charges against Atty. Katherine Panguban, a lawyer of the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers (NUPL). Atty. Panguban is among the legal counsel of the relatives of the victims of the Sagay 9 massacre in Sagay City, Negros Occidental. Her involvement and commitment to bring justice to the victims and their relatives have made her a target of threat and harassment perpetrated by state security forces. 

We ask you to widely share the statement and stand in solidarity with Atty. Panguban, along with other human rights defenders who continue to advocate for the promotion and protection of people's rights amid a repressive regime. 

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13 November 2018
Chiang Mai, Thailand

The Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) condemns the Philippines state security forces for filing unsubstantiated criminal charges against  human rights lawyer Attorney Katherine Panguban, in the wake of the 20 October killing of nine farmers in Sagay City, Negros Occidental Province, widely referred to as the ‘Sagay 9 massacre’. APWLD also condemns the 6 November extrajudicial killing of Attorney Benjamin Ramos, another human rights lawyer who worked with the farmers.

9 farm workers massacred, their lawyer murdered

Dear friends and colleagues, 

Interests backed by government arsenal ravaged the Negros region in the past weeks. The entire country woke up to the news of the massacre of nine (9) sugarcane workers in Sagay City, Negros Occidental on October 20, 2018. The issue was muddled with government pronouncements to mislead the public from getting to the root cause of the problem – landlessness and the dire situation of peasants in the Philippines. To further aggravate the situation, those who openly supported the relatives of the victims were subjected to threats and intimidation, even murder. On November 6, 2018, Atty. Benjamin Ramos, Secretary General of the National Union of Peoples Lawyers (NUPL) chapter in Negros and one of the legal counsels of the murdered peasants, was gunned down while on his way home.  As of this writing, members of organizations such as Karapatan, National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW), among others, continue to be threatened and harassed by State forces of the Duterte regime and by Duterte himself. The climate of impunity is very much alive in the country, preserved by the Duterte regime and those with big business interests who have much to gain from the intensifying repression of the poor and exploited sectors.
 
Though it is with both grief and rage that we inform you of these incidents, we ask you to join us to demand an end to these attacks against the Filipino people. Stand with us in solidarity as we show the monsters behind these killings that impunity is not forever. We will not be silenced nor cowed. We will not waver in our struggle for people’s rights and for genuine freedom and democracy. We remain resolute in our commitment to exact accountability from the perpetrators and bring justice to the victims. 
 

Arrest the thief and murderer Imelda Marcos! Release all political prisoners!

When peasant Bernabe Ocasla, 66, was brought to a hospital in November 2016, he had already been detained for nine years for fabricated charges. He had a cardiac arrest while incarcerated at the Manila City Jail, and yet even in the hospital, his jail guards kept him handcuffed to his bed and didn’t allow the nurses and his relatives to change his yellow shirt for “fear” that he might escape. Ocasla died on November 30, 2016, after he suffered another cardiac arrest and had been in a coma.  

Human rights worker and peasant Gerardo dela Pena was 74 when he was wrongly convicted in a Bicol court. He was arrested by the 49th Infantry Battalion in Brgy. Matango, Vinzons, Camarines Norte on March 21, 2013 and charged with false cases of murder along with five other John Does. He was detained at the provincial jail for more than a year and was immediately brought to the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City on July 2014 after his conviction. He said he was given only one chance to speak in court and was convicted shortly after his case was heard. He is enduring hypertension and cataract while in detention. 

Karapatan on the recent Sandiganbayan ruling on Imelda Marcos

We welcome the recent Sandiganbayan ruling finding Imelda Marcos guilty under the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act as among the victories by the Filipino people in obtaining justice and accountability against the Marcos dictatorship. We however lament that it had to take 22 long years since the ouster of Marcos to attain such a ruling under the Philippine justice system. We are also ambivalent on the implementation of such a ruling based on two issues: 1) the current regime’s coddling and political rehabilitation of the Marcoses and 2) the machinations of the Marcoses to evade accountability. 

On the arrest of peace consultant Vicente Ladlad and his companions

Peace consultant Vicente Ladlad was arrested last night, November 7, 2018 with elderly couple Alberto and Virginia Villamor in Brgy. San Bartolome, Novaliches, Quezon City. Lawyers from the Public Interest Law Center (PILC), Ladlad’s wife Fides Lim, doctor from the Health Action for Human Rights and Karapatan are on our way to verify their whereabouts and to gain access to him and his companions. 

Justice for Atty. Benjamin Ramos! - Karapatan

Karapatan strongly denounces the killing of Atty. Benjamin Ramos, a people’s lawyer who inflinchingly stood alongside the poor and oppressed in Negros and a feisty human rights defender who dedicated his life to selfless service for the downtrodden. While we grieve with the family of Atty. Ben, his friends and colleagues, and the communities he served, we are enraged with this dastardly and unspeakable act of cowards who hide behind the cloak of anonymity through their usual modus operandi, the riding-in-tandem groups. 

October ends with a new set of rights violations in Compostela Valley

“The people of Compostela Valley in Mindanao is consistently being met with State repression as the Duterte regime continues to terrorize the communities and residents who are defending their rights. Peasant activists are considered threats by a government who wants to preserve itself amid widespread clamor for justice and systemic change,” said Karapatan secretary Cristina Palabay, mentioning the recent cases of political killing and disappearance in the said province. 
 

Duterte’s statement, charges vs 2 NFSW leaders absolve real perpetrators in Sagay 9 massacre - Karapatan

President Duterte’s order to arrest or kill farmers who occupy land is reflective of the government’s long-existing practice of maintaining the feudal exploitation of peasants to maintain the interests of landlords and hacienderos in the Philippines. It shows how the government is complicit in the killings and rights violations against the peasants perpetrated by landlords and their private armies acting in cahoots with the military and police. Instead of implementing genuine agrarian reform to pave the way for land distribution to peasants, the government chooses to kill and arrest those who act to air their grievances and uphold their right to the land they have tilled and made productive for years.

Karapatan condemns kidnapping, serious illegal detention charges vs NUPL lawyer

Karapatan strongly condemns the kidnapping and serious illegal detention charges reportedly filed by Vic Pedaso, the biological father of “Lester”, a 14-year old witness-survivor of the Sagay massacre, against Atty. Katherine Panguban, National Union of Peoples Lawyers (NUPL) Women and Children's Committee Head.

We stand with Sr. Patricia Fox - Karapatan

As Australian missionary Sr. Patricia Fox is compelled to leave today under protest, Karapatan denounces the nearly seven-month ordeal of Fox as one that illustrates the Duterte regime’s contempt for those who promote genuine peace and social justice in the Philippines.