Rizal Park is not
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
"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
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.
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
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
ROY CIMAGALA, email@example.com
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
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
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
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
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.
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
There are still spoilers of
peace. Let us call on all sectors to once and for all give peace a
Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, firstname.lastname@example.org
January 14, 2014
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
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
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
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