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What’s in a name?: Take 2

Why Torture Is Wrong?

Torturers and their victims: how the Anti-torture law is failing, and why

PCID Statement on the signing of the Annex on Revenue Generation and Wealth Sharing

Professional independence of judges and lawyers central to the protection and promotion of human rights, the rule of law and democracy in Asia

MPC Statement on the 45th Anniversary of the Jabidah Massacre

Statement on the Lahad Datu situation

Problems in enforcing Anti-Torture and Cybercrime Laws

The Express Publications, completing a Silver Jubilee of media service

Effectiveness of divine healing





Rizal Park is not for sale

A Statement from Defend Job Philippines forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)
February 24, 2014

"RIZAL Park is not for sale. RIZAL Park is for the people." This is the statement of Defend Job Philippines in the midst of a looming privatization plan for Luneta Park.

On February 6, 2014, a Public consultation on the Master Planning of the Rizal Park Complex, Manila (Luneta Park) as a flagship Tourism Enterprise Zone was conducted and facilitated by BERKMAN International Inc. – a global service provider and consultancy firm.

Joel Miralpes of the Peoples Democratic Vendors and Hawkers Alliance-KADAMAY who attended the meeting said that the attendees talked about the plan for a tourism enterprise in the area such as the construction of establishments like grocery stores inside the park. The major agenda of the meeting involved big businesses and the looming privatization of Rizal Park. In this development, not only are the vendors affected but the rights of everyone to the Park because it is a national, public and historical place.

"Rizal Park (also Luneta Park or colloquially Luneta; Filipino: Liwasang Rizal), is an historical urban park located along Roxas Boulevard, City of Manila, the Philippines, adjacent to the old walled city of Intramuros. Since the Spanish Colonial Era, the Park has been a favourite leisure spot, and is frequented on Sundays and national holidays. It is one of the major tourist attractions of the City of Manila." (Wikipedia)

Luneta Privatization is against the law. The 2000 Supreme Court decision stated that "Rizal Park is beyond the commerce of man and, thus, could not be the subject of a lease contract." Yet, what the Philippine government is doing is privatizing the park in the hands of foreign and giant corporations. Right now, there have been already private companies doing business in the park both long term and short term such as 2GO, Ocean Park, Shell Eco Marathon, Wendys, Jollibee, Korean KSquared Foodbox and other various traders.

Defend Job Philippines also stressed that the Rizal park privatization is an integral part of the Manila Bay Reclamation and privatization of the BS Aquino government which plans to reclaim more than 26000 hectares of seawater and sell them to giant foreign companies with their local business partners such as Henry Sy, Ayala, Andrew Tan, George Ty and the Tieng family. The project will affect more than 9 million people living along the coastlines of Manila Bay in terms of their right to work, livelihood, food, homes, education and other economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights, impact on the environment and make the area more vulnerability to the effects of climate change.

Defend Job Philippines also stressed that this program of the Philippine government runs counter to the constitution, national laws and to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Thus, Defend Job Philippines with the small Luneta Vendors through the People's Democratic Hawkers and Vendors Alliance-KADAMAY call for a broad unity of Filipino families, park goers, students, church people, workers, professionals, artists, historians, environmentalists and other sectors to oppose the continued and all out privatization of Rizal Park.





SELDA forms People's Claims Board, demands recall in BS Aquino's appointment of PNP general to recognize ML victims

A Statement from The Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA) forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)
February 18, 2014

SELDA announces the formation of the People's Claim Board, in protest of the Pres. Benigno Aquino III's appointment of a PNP general in the Human Rights Victims' Claims Board (HRVCB) to implement the law.

The Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA) has repeatedly urged the BS Aquino government to immediately form the claims board. On February 13, more than a week before the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013 or RA 10368 turns a year old, the Aquino government through the Commission on Human Rights announced the appointment of PNP Retired General Lina Sarmiento as chairperson of the HRVCB. After a year of shutting off Martial Law victims, the Aquino government arbitrarily appoints a former police general.

BS Aquino's appointment of Sarmiento is a clear affront to martial law victims. Furthermore, it asserts that the appointment of an ex-PC officer to head the martial law claims board is tantamount to a shameless honoring of an atrocious martial law apparatus. The defunct Philippine Constabulary is the forerunner of the current Philippine National Police that has records of the gravest human rights violations during the dark days of Marcos dictatorship.

Pres. Aquino clearly disregards the provisions of the law which enumerated the qualifications of members of the HRVCB. Gen Sarmiento is bereft of credibility, much more, her deep knowledge of martial law atrocities and empathy to its victims is put into question since she is part of the institution accused of rampant human rights abuses during that period.

Apart from being a PC officer under Marcos, Sarmiento was the former head of the PNP's Human Rights Affairs Office during the Arroyo regime, which has the gravest post-martial law record of human rights abuses. This does nothing to merit her appointment. We express doubts that under Sarmiento's chairpersonship of Human Rights Victims' Claims Board will become an independent body.

In forming the People's Claims Board, SELDA makes this as a parallel body to act both as a watchdog and a monitoring body of Aquino's HRVCB. The People's Claims Board priority is to ensure that real and legitimate martial law victims will not be marginalized.

The members of the People's Claim Board are the following:

1. Saturnino "Satur" Ocampo – Satur was a former Representative of Bayan Muna Partylist and a co-author of House Bill 5990 or the Marcos Victims Compensation Bill, which would subsequently be enacted into law as RA 10368. He is currently the President of the Makabayan Coalition, a political coalition of Philippine progressive parties. He was among the thousands who suffered from various human rights violations during the Marcos dictatorship.

2. Ms. Amaryllis "Marie" Hilao-Enriquez – Marie, Chairperson of both SELDA and Karapatan, is a survivor of martial law. From her student days at the University of the Philippines up to the present, she has remained a staunch human rights defender. Marie, as a prominent leader of SELDA, led the organization of former political prisoners in the filing and proceedings of the class action suit against the former dictator Marcos in the US Federal Court in Honolulu, Hawaii. She is the daughter of one of the original plaintiffs in the Hawaii class suit. She likewise led the victims and their kin in the active lobby work for the enactment into law of the compensation bill that would indemnify and recognize the victims of martial law. She is a tireless human rights worker in engaging the various mechanisms of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.

3. Mr. Bonifacio P. Ilagan – Boni, a multi-awarded writer, was twice arrested (1974 and 1994), tortured, and imprisoned. Boni's political activism is expressed, among others, through his writings. He is currently the Vice Chairperson of SELDA, one of the mandated organizations under RA 10368 to submit nominations for the Human Rights Claims Board.

4. Former Representative Liza L. Maza – As a member of the House of Representatives for nine years, Liza introduced and advocated for the legislation of a law recognizing and indemnifying victims of Martial Law. Ms. Maza, together with representatives Satur Ocampo and the late Crispin Beltran, filed the bill for victims of martial law, with due consultations with the victims, their relatives and lawyers.

5. Prof. Judy Taguiwalo – Judy teaches at the University of the Philippines. She heads the Department of Women and Development Studies of the College of Social Work and Community Development. She was a member of the UP Board of Regents from 2009-2010. She is the recipient of an outstanding alumna award from the UP Alumni Association. She was detained twice, in 1973 and in 1984, where she gave birth inside prison. She is a board member of SELDA.

6. Dr. Edelina P. De la Paz – Dr. Delen de la Paz is Associate Professor in the Dept. of Family Medicine at the UP College of Medicine. She is also the Vice Chief of the Social Medicine Unit at the same university. Dr. Delen de la Paz has been involved in various health and human rights related institutions and non-government organizations. She is a respected alumna of the UP College of Medicine.

7. Atty. Kit S. Enriquez – Atty. Kit is the President of the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers-Cebu Chapter and a member of the Board of Directors of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines-Cebu from 2005-2011. Atty. Kit was arrested twice during martial law (1972 and 1975) and was heavily tortured by the military.

8. Atty. Dominador A. Lagare, Sr. – hails from General Santos in Mindanao and has been a practicing lawyer since 1973. He was appointed OIC Mayor of General Santos during President Cory Aquino's time. He has also served General Santos as city councilor for four terms. Atty. Lagare has been doing pro bono work for victims of human rights violations in the General Santos and Saranggani provinces. He teaches labor laws and negotiable instruments at the Mindanao State University.

They possess the qualifications to represent the Martial Law victims. We believe that they will work for the interests of the victims and continue to assert that they be rendered justice. We are not backing out for justice.





Open Letter to President Benigno Simeon Aquino

A (Heartbreak) Valentine for President Benigno Simeon Aquino III

February 14, 2014

Dear Mr. President,

This is not a letter of love, but of its disappointments on the side of those devastated by Yolanda. You shouldn't be surprised – it adds to the heartache. You didn't even warn enough about Yolanda, or fought to spare the innocents, who if they did not lose their lives, will forever be haunted by the howling terror and the icy waves of death. Perhaps you failed to understand. Others looking into your eyes do too, and much time has passed. Where are the images of homes and schools and churches smashed to pieces? Of lifeless children in the arms of their loved ones? Of the wounded in body and spirit who struggled to stay alive wihout food, without water, without a government?

In your eyes we see instead the cold calculation so enamored of corrupt officials and big businessmen who see opportunity in the plight of the people. Millions of peasants lost their crops and their granaries are empty; hunger stalks urban and rural areas. Yet the outpouring of aid from around the world is disappearing into the pockets of the venal officialdom. Others pretend to help but violate our dignity and national sovereignty, such as the US military and its allies who seem to want to garrison in the country. Meanwhile, the post-Yolanda reconstruction is geared towards infrastructure, not the real needs of the majority who rely on the land, and a sure bonanza for big business, not the poor. Even the buildings and resorts that would tower, for that is what the government and its cronies plan, will make graveyards of the communities of the urban poor who are banned by the No Build Zone policy.

Know this, Mr. President. We who survived Yolanda are not courting your attention. We do not even want your love, only your sense of responsibility. You should have reassured us of your love in saving the lives of the many before Yolanda came, and in staying with us in the nightmarish months of trying to pick up the pieces after the catastrophe. Today we refuse to offer you our hands, for we no longer feel the ties that bind you and the people, and you must prove you are still worthy of us because the music died last November 8.

You are not a stranger to the irreparable strain that could occur between a government and the people. When your father was assassinated, the people stood by his side and said that he was not alone, it was the government that killed him that was alone and had to go. Now it has been so many months and you refuse to stand by the side of the people who suffered Yolanda. You turn away from the needy who press for food, jobs, housing and social services. Monumentally, irredeemably, inexorably unmoved by more than ten thousand dead, hundreds of thousands displaced, millions who face starvation! You are increasingly alone.

You probably know, too, Mr. President, that the time comes when the tears stop and the spurned becomes the unforgiving. Maybe you already know all too well that after the tears, love ends with a departure for the offending party.

No love lost,

People Surge





"Wheel of torture” symbolizes culture of torture impunity in the Philippines

A Statement from United Against Torture Coalition (UATC)-Philippines forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission
February 4, 2014

The existence of “wheel of torture” game at a Philippine National Police (PNP) detention facility in Biñan, Laguna where detainees are reportedly tortured by authorities and its discovery by the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHRP) last week only shows of what it seems everywhere before you is a sight of impunity.

The United Against Torture Coalition (UATC)-Philippines, while noting the action by the CHRP in its inspection of the PNP lock-up cell in Laguna, is deeply concerned on the existence of such detention facility which only confirms the consistent and on-going allegations of routine and widespread use of torture and ill-treatment of suspects in police custody.

In light of this situation, the government and even the CHRP seemed to have overlooked one thing: zero-tolerance of torture and full implementation of the Anti-Torture Law. More importantly, the discovery of the secret detention facility has further set the stage of existing culture of torture impunity in the Philippines.

The UATC-Philippines stressed that this lamentable situation reinforces the need for a more systematic and diligent implementation of the Anti-Torture Law to ensure perpetrators are brought to justice, that torture survivors receive medical and legal services and other forms of redress, and that the authorities and the public are made aware of such practices in order to ensure zero-tolerance of torture.

When all we have to go by to measure the effects of authorities’ periodic boasting of “zero-tolerance” of torture and other forms of human rights violations, one must be doubtful about this message when one considers the existence of “wheel of torture” and secret detention facility. Likewise, one wonders in light of this if the policy of “zero tolerance” is just all for show to draw away the attention of the public and international community of the government’s failure to eliminate torture in the country.

The existence of secret detention facility indicates the government’s reluctance to ensure full implementation of the Anti-Torture Law. In this case, the CHRP should carry out random inspection of police station lock-up cells and conduct unannounced inspection of all detention facilities as mandated by law and ensure implementation of the PNP Memorandum-Directive of 4 November 2008 concerning inspection of lock-cells.

The UATC-Philippines emphasized that “suspension and dismissal of from service of the 10 suspected torturers are not enough. Cases should be filed against the alleged perpetrators under the Anti-Torture Law and prosecute perpetrators.”

The adoption of the Anti-Torture Law in 2009 is a significant improvement to the legal environment in torture prevention in the Philippines. However, four years since the law took effect the number of cases brought to court against perpetrators remains a drop in the bucket.

The experiences of members of the UATC-Philippines and other human rights groups from documented torture cases e.g. Lenin Salas et al., Ronnel Victor R. Cabais and Abdul-Khan Ajid, provides valuable information on some of the obstacles faced by the authorities in implementing the Anti-Torture Law. While some of the problems appear to be systemic others differ from case to case. The main obstacles identified by the UATC-Philippines are: delayed and ineffective investigations; problems in identifying and locating perpetrators; access to prompt, thorough, impartial and independent medical evaluation; and the risk of reprisals against victims, witnesses and investigators.

These problems are highlighted when one looks at the practical situation on the grounds where there is lack of effective monitoring and reporting of cases of torture cases and the lack of competence of authorities to effectively investigate and prosecute these cases.

While the UATC-Philippines recognizes the number of policy actions which the government had undertaken such as the enactment of the Anti-Torture Law and the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT), but none of these measures stands alone which requires changes need to be made both at the legal and political levels in order for the proper mechanism to be in place to prevent torture and for survivors to even begin their pursuit of justice.

The UATC-Philippines urges the CHRP to immediately convene the Oversight Committee (as mandated by the Anti-Torture Law, Sec.20) in order to initiate reform in ensuring effective implementation of the Anti-Torture Law, and to take all necessary measures to implement its visitation mandate which include unhampered and unrestrained access to all PNP detention facilities, including those under the jurisdiction of the military.

The UATC-Philippines calls on the PNP to fully comply with the Anti-Torture Law and to comply with its “zero-tolerance” policy on the use of torture among all its rank and file, and conduct inventory and inspection of all PNP custodial facilities from regional, provincial, city to municipal police units and lock-up cells nationwide.

The UATC-Philippines is composed of more than thirty (30) human rights organizations led by Amnesty International-Philippines, Balay Rehabilitation Center, Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND), Medical Action Group (MAG), and Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP).





Forgive and be forgiven

January 28, 2014

WE are all familiar with the Lord’s Prayer or the “Our Father.” It’s the prayer Christ told his apostles when they asked him to teach them how to pray. Since it contains all the basic elements and purposes of prayer, it is considered the model prayer. Our personal prayers should reflect at least some aspects of this paradigmatic prayer.

A part of it is most relevant in guiding us in our relationship with one another. It’s when Christ said, “Forgive us our sins (trespasses) as we forgive those who sin (trespass) against us.”

As if to underscore the importance of this point, Christ reiterated: “For if you will forgive men their offences, your heavenly Father will forgive you also your offences. But if you will not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive you your offences.” (Mt 6,14-15) It’s clear therefore that we can only be forgiven if we also forgive others.

We have to be clear that his injunction is meant for everyone, and not only for a few whom we may consider to be religiously inclined. That’s why when asked how many times we should forgive, he said not only seven times, but seventy times seven, meaning always.

That’s also why he easily forgave the woman caught in adultery. And to those whom he cured of their illnesses, it was actually the forgiveness of their sins that he was more interested in.

To top it all, Christ allowed himself to die on the cross as a way to forgive all of our sins, and to convert our sins through his resurrection as a way to our own redemption. What he did for us he also expects, nay, commands that we also do for everybody else.

Thus that indication that if we want to follow him, we have to deny ourselves, carry the cross and follow him.

It is presumed that all of us sin one way or another. That’s why St. John said: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 Jn 1,8) I am sure that our personal experience can bear that out easily.

No matter how saintly we try ourselves to be, sin always manages to come in because of our wounded humanity and the many temptations within and around us. As St. John said, we have to contend with three main enemies: our own wounded flesh, the devil and the world corrupted by sin.

The awareness of this truth is not meant to depress us but rather to keep us humble and always feeling in need of God. We should be wary when we would just depend solely on our own resources to tackle this predicament. We need God.

The awareness of this truth should also help us to develop the attitude to forgive one another as quickly as possible, since that is the only way we can be forgiven. When we find it hard to forgive others, it is a clear sign that we are full of ourselves, are self-righteous, proud and vain.

We have to continually check on our attitude towards others because today’s dominant culture is filled precisely by the viruses of self-righteousness, that feeling that we are superior to others, etc. We have to do constant battle against that culture.

That’s why we need to douse immediately any flame of pride and egoism that can come to us anytime. We have to learn to understand others, to accept them as they are, warts and all, while praying and doing whatever we can to help them. It’s not for us to judge their motives which will always be a mystery to us.

In fact, as St. Paul once said, we have to consider others as always better than us. Only peace and harmony can result with such attitude. The abuses that can arise will soon be overcome if we are consistent with this attitude.

We should not fall into the trap of putting justice and mercy in conflict. Both have to go together. Their distinction does not mean they are opposed to each other. Any appearance of conflict is only apparent.

But obviously the way to blend them together is to follow the example of Christ, and not just to rely on our own lights, no matter how brilliant these lights may appear. We can always forgive, and forgive from the heart, even if the requirements of justice still have to be met.

We need to be clear about the intimate relationship between justice and mercy. One cannot go without the other.





PCID Statement on the signing of the Annex on Normalization

January 27, 2014

The Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy welcomes the much anticipated conclusion of the 43rd round of exploratory talks in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The signing of the Annex on Normalization and the resolution of the issue of Bangsamoro Waters brings the attainment of a just peace and inclusive development for our Bangsamoro citizens closer to realization.

The signing of Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) is a reality, with the agreement on the four annexes. With the engagement of the public in a genuine, transparent and inclusive consultative process, there should be no impediment to the drafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) by the Transition Commission as well as the Bangsamoro Development Plan by the Bangsamoro Development Agency. As the foundation for a vibrant autonomous region, these critical documents must be truly reflective of the aspirations of all of the Bangsamoro.

The PCID looks forward to the completion of the Peace Agreement between the GPH and the MILF.

The integration of the 1996 GRP-MNLF FPA and the GPH-MILF Comprehensive Agreement is crucial to lasting peace in Mindanao.

Towards this end, the PCID hopes that the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the MILF will be able to cooperate and work for the convergence of the two peace processes. The Islamic Conference (OIC) has a crucial role to play in brokering a dialogue process between the MNLF and MILF.

Acknowledging their perseverance and dedication, the PCID expresses its appreciation to all the committed men and women who have unstintingly given their time and effort towards the successful conclusion of the exploratory talks.

The PCID joins all Filipinos and peace advocates in praying that peace, which has remained elusive despite four decades of struggle and conflict, will finally be attained.

There are still spoilers of peace. Let us call on all sectors to once and for all give peace a chance.





Discernment and discretion

January 14, 2014

An architect-friend approached me one day to ask if it’s ok to build a modern-designed church to replace a centuries-old one, Baroque in style, that was flattened during the earthquake in Bohol last year.

I immediately told him his question simply cannot be answered with either a yes or no. A lot of discussion is unavoidable. But if he wanted a quick answer, I told him that he has to get some kind of consensus from the constituents and the approval of the bishop.

He showed me his design, and I must say that it was good. In fact, it was very beautiful yet simple, the lines very easy and pleasant to the eyes, and yet they still evoke what I call a churchy character.

I congratulated him for his concept. And when I saw the interior design, I was even more amazed. The suggested images for sure could arouse piety, and the placement of the different elements of the church structure was proper and in order.

When I asked him about the costing, he assured me that the design has the lowest cost compared to the other alternatives that he was also considering. Still, the whole thing would run to millions. But, he said, many benefactors have already pledged to help.

So I told him I was for it and promised to pray that his plans get carried out. It made me think a little about how churches should be at these times when even a remote town cannot anymore be unaffected by the world trend of constant flux and dynamism.

There’s indeed a great need to be discerning and prudent in this very delicate venture. Of utmost importance is that the church structure should try its best to embody the true spirit of religion taken individually and collectively, and also in terms of the culture and history of the people involved.

As if that is not enough, even more important is for the church structure to somehow be able to convey and exude the transcendent quality of a church. While rooted on the here and now, it has to lead people to eternity, to things spiritual and supernatural.

In other words, it should not just be an expression of the social and cultural status of the people. It has to have a strong, pervasive atmosphere of prayer and adoration, a place where people would immediately see the value of sacrifice and asceticism, of taking their spiritual life seriously, of making their spiritual life relevant to all other aspects of their lives, etc.

For sure, a lot depends on the people taking care of the church and running its activities. But insofar as the church structure is concerned, I just hope that first of all, it is so strong as to be earthquake and Yolanda-proof, that it is beautiful and piety-provoking, that while it keeps the traditional judiciously, it is also open to innovations and renovation, etc.

I remember my reaction when I recently saw the new chapel of the seminary where I had my first assignment in Spain in the 90s. I must confess that I am more at home with Baroque chapels, with gilded retablos. What I saw instead was what I thought at first was a messy artwork that looked like an inverted tree, with the roots up and the foliage down.

When I asked what the whole thing was all about, I was floored by the explanation. I was told that the theme was the tree of life with roots in heaven and the fruits and leaves on earth. And that’s when I started to see the beauty of it all.

When I looked at the seminarians, obviously a much younger generation, I could see that they were praying. In fact, the place literally breathed with piety, and I was happy, and made my own adjustments to conform my mind and heart to the spirit of the place.

We all need to be discerning and discreet in flowing with the times and in coping with the ever-changing circumstances and challenges. We have to be wary when we get stuck to a certain form or way of doing things, confusing the merely incidental with the essential.

We should be aware that we tend to impose our own tastes and preferences, our own views and biases on others, absolutizing what are merely relative. Let’s be guarded always against this tendency to be bigoted.

A certain openness of mind is necessary. And also the attitude of consulting, studying, praying, etc., to be prudent and to effectively discern the promptings of the Spirit.



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