Photos – International Day of Women Human Rights Defenders – November 29, 2012 Department of Justice, Manila, Philippines

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Indigenous women leaders Bae Adelfa Belayong (middle), Anelfa Gemilo (2nd from left) and Bebeth Calinawan Enriquez (4th from left) with Tanggol Bayi convenor Girlie Padilla (rightmost) and ECCP’s Becca Lawson (leftmost)

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Women leaders led by Kakay Tolentino of Katribu and Ka Nitz Gonzaga (from left) of Kilusang Mayo Uno

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UP Manila students joined the protest action

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Tanggol Bayi members

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Former political prisoner Mercy Castro (holding the blue cloth)

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1 December 2012: URGENT LETTER OF APPEAL FOR WOMEN HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS IN THE PHILIPPINES

December 1, 2012

Dear sisters and fellow human rights advocates,

As women all over the world recently observed the International Day of Women Human Rights Defenders, Tanggol Bayi (Defend Women) – Philippines  wish to bring to your attention the many travails and challenges being faced by women defenders in the Philippines. There are not a few instances and experiences when specific rights violations of state security forces are committed against our ranks. Many of them are being violated in the course of their defense for their rights to life and land.

Juvy Capion, an indigenous woman HRD, led her Blaan[1] community in the struggle against incursions of the Philippine government and the Australian mining company SMI-Xstrata. Juvy and her organization of Blaan peoples have resisted the various pay-offs offered by the mining company to drive them away from their ancestral lands. Her husband launched a pangayaw, a traditional form of defense of their ancestral domain.

In morning of October 18, 2012, Juvy, who was two months pregnant, and her two sons John Mark, 7 years old, and Jordan, 13 years old, were massacred by 13 members of the 27TH Infantry Battalion Philippine Army under the command of 1st Lt. Dante Jimenez. According to witnesses, despite Juvy’s pleas, bullets continued to be fired by the military. Her 5-year old daughter Juvicky Capion was wounded in the left side of her head. If not for the immediate intervention of the residents, Juvicky would have been killed by the military.[2]

The family of Julia Manlus-ag was among the families who were harassed and forcibly displaced by members of the paramilitary group NIPAR (New Indigenous Peoples’ Army for Reform) in March 2012, after the killing of the Matigsalog[3] tribal head Jimmy Liguyon. The said paramilitary group is under the 8th Infantry Battalion of the Phil. Army. Julia and her family were unable to join the rest of the members of the community who evacuated to provincial capitol grounds to seek help from the local government, and stayed in nearby village. Julia’s community has resisted the entry of Sto. Christo Mining Inc., a large-scale company.

On October 7, 2012, Julia and her four children – Jeron (9 years old), Eron (6 years old), Manilyn (4 years old), and Micel (9-months old) – passed by the village where they evacuated from to visit her parents, when they were held by members of the NIPAR. Upon hearing what happened to his family, Julia’s husband Sitoy went to the village to rescue them. He was held at gunpoint by the NIPAR members, who also told him that they will only release his wife and children if he can convince the evacuees at the provincial capitol to return to the village. He was likewise threatened to be killed. Up to this time, Julia and her children are yet to be released by the paramilitary group.[4]

Filipina human rights defenders are also subjects of threats and harassment by the Philippine military.

Sr. Stella Matutina is a Missionary Benedictine nun whose mission in the Mindanao began in 2007. Her human rights work includes community organizing, grassroots education, advocacy and lobbying with the local governments to defend communities and the environment from commercial logging and large-scale mining.  Sr. Stella is currently the secretary general of Panalipdan! Mindanao, a network of environmental advocates in the island.

She has been a subject of several incidents of threats and harassment of the Philippine Army elements, in the course of her work as a missionary and as an environmental activist. In 2009, she and her co-workers in Panalipdan were held at gunpoint, interrogated for eight hours and were accused as members of the New People’s Army (NPA). Since then, military surveillance and harassment against Sr. Stella have not stopped.[5] In March 2012, Sr. Stella joined the Philippine UPR Watch delegation at the United Nations Human Rights Council sessions in Geneva, Switzerland to discuss with foreign missions and international organizations the human rights situation in Mindanao. Since then, reports of Karapatan chapters in the island state that the military has been mentioning Sr. Stella’s name in their fora, citing her as a member of the NPA.[6]

Higaonon tribe woman leader Bae Adelfa Belayong lost her daughter, husband and brother because they refused to give up their land and community to mining. In 2005, the government, through the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) asked them to sign a contract that would pave the way for foreign mining companies to get hold of their resource rich ancestral land. The NCIP claims that the land belongs to the government and they should not resist the signing of the contract. But aware of the harm that the mining operation and the alleged ‘development’ would do to their community and their families, they insisted “This land is our ancestral land, and this land is ours long before you established that government of yours. Where will we farm if we give our lands to you?” During that time, government troops in large numbers began to operate in their area in Agusan del Sur.

Bae Adelfa vividly remembers the conduct of military operations during Martial Law in the country, especially when she recounts the pain of how her four year old child was decapitated after being shot by paramilitaries on the neck while she carried her child on her back. Her husband and her brother were killed in 2009 and in 2011 respectively by paramilitaries under the command of the Philippine Army. Other communities in the mountain area where the Belayongs came from have been permanently dislocated because of military operations and harassment. Due to threats to her life, she is unable to go back to her ancestral land and perform her duties as a leader. She is now based in Butuan City as she works with KASALO (Kahugpungan sa Lumadnong Organisasyon).[7]

Bebeth Calinawan Enriquez, a 29 year old member of the Mamanwa tribe and a mother of four, bear the scars of bullet wounds fired by government soldiers in Agusan del Norte in Mindanao last year. Her family was eating lunch at their farm when the first volley of bullets hit her in the chest and arm. Bleeding and fighting for her life, she was brought by the military to their camp and forced her to sign a paper admitting that she is an NPA rebel. When she declined, she was denied proper medical care but was given dextrose with no food for a week. She was detained for one month without charges and was finally released with the help of her father’s relentless appeal through a local radio station. Their ancestral land in Agusan is rich in copper, nickel, and gold and is being explored by numerous foreign mining companies.  The area is also being targetted for the building of a dam for the development of hydroelectric power by the First Gen Hydro Power Corporation, company owned by the Lopez family whose members are known supporters of Phil. Pres. Benigno Aquino III.[8]

According to Karapatan, out of the 114 victims of extrajudicial killings under Aquino (July 2010 to September 30, 2012 data), 15 are women and girl-children.[9] No perpetrator has been prosecuted and arrested for these violations.

We are concerned that the continuous implementation of the Philippine government’s counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan will cause more human rights violations as those inflicted on the abovementioned women human rights defenders and civilians. Specifically, the indigenous women leaders and environmental activists who stand against the entry of foreign mining corporations to protect the environment and their ancestral domain have been targeted and vilified by the state. For this reason, many of them are now under attack. They have been killed, harassed and charged with trumped-up cases. Notwithstanding the attacks, women human rights defenders in the Philippines continuously uphold the struggle of their communities for their right to ancestral domain and defense of the environment against destructive mining.

The killings, threats, harassment, and military operations and occupation of communities are all being conducted under the guise of the military’s “winning the peace” operations, when in truth and in fact, the list of violations, especially among the indigenous peoples, farmers and environmental advocates defending their right to land and life, goes on.

We appeal to you to send letters of concern to agencies of the Philippine Government calling for:

  1. Immediate action to stop the killings and attacks against women human rights defenders
  2. The pull-out of members of military troops in communities and the disbandment of paramilitaries.
  3. The military to stop the labelling and targeting of human rights defenders as “members of front organizations of the communists” and “enemies of the state.”
  4. Immediately render justice for those whose rights are violated and file cases against the perpetrators.
  5. The withdrawal of its counterinsurgency program Oplan Bayanihan, which victimizes civilians and human rights defenders.
  6. The Philippine Government to be reminded that it is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and that it is also a party to all the major Human Rights instruments, thus it is bound to observe all of these instruments’ provisions.

Also attached is a sample letter which you may use in sending these letters. Letter to Phil Government Agencies

You may send your communications to:

H.E. Benigno C. Aquino III

President of the Republic

Malacañang Palace,

JP Laurel St., San Miguel

Manila Philippines

Voice: (+632) 564 1451 to 80

Fax: (+632) 742-1641 / 929-3968

E-mail: op@president.gov.ph

Sec. Teresita Quintos-Deles

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process

Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP)

7th Floor Agustin Building I

Emerald Avenue

Pasig City 1605

Voice:+63 (2) 636 0701 to 066

Fax:+63 (2) 638 2216

stqd.papp@opapp.gov.ph

Ret. Lt. Gen. Voltaire T. Gazmin

Secretary, Department of National Defense

Room 301 DND Building, Camp Emilio Aguinaldo,

E. de los Santos Avenue, Quezon City

Voice:+63(2) 911-6193 / 911-0488 / 982-5600

Fax:+63(2) 982-5600

Email: osnd@philonline.comdnd.opla@gmail.com

Atty. Leila De Lima

Secretary, Department of Justice

Padre Faura St., Manila

Direct Line 521-1908

Trunkline  523-84-81 loc.211/214

Fax: (+632) 523-9548

Email:  lmdelima@doj.gov.phlmdelima.doj@gmail.com,lmdelima.doj@gmail.com

  1. Hon. Loretta Ann P. Rosales

Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights

SAAC Bldg., UP Complex

Commonwealth Avenue

Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines

Voice: (+632) 928-5655, 926-6188

Fax: (+632) 929 0102

Email: chair.rosales.chr@gmail.comlorettann@gmail.com

Please send us a copy of your email/mail/fax to the above-named government officials, to our address below.

 

Tanggol Bayi (Defend Women) – Philippines

2/F Erythrina Bldg., #1 Maaralin cor Matatag Sts.,

Brgy. Central, Diliman, Quezon City 1100 PHILIPPINES

Voice/Fax: (+632) 435 4146

Email: tanggolbayi@gmail.com, urgentaction@karapatan.org

Website: www.tanggolbayi.wordpress.com


[1]The Blaan are one of the indigenous peoples groups in Mindanao, Southern Philippines.

[2] You may refer to http://karapatan.org/node/648 . The fact finding mission report is available upon request.

[3]The Matigsalog are indigenous peoples in Bukidnon, Central Mindanao.

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Press statement on International Day of Women Human Rights Defenders

Women human rights defenders from Tanggol Bayi, Ecumenical Women’s Forum, BAI National Alliance of Indigenous Women, KAMP, International Women’s Alliance and Gabriela today trooped to the Department of Justice in Manila, in time for the global commemoration of the International Women Human Rights Defenders Day.

With their calls expressed in indigenous woven cloth and rituals by indigenous women, they called on Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and Pres. Noynoy Aquino to stop the killings of rights defenders and expressed skepticism over the creation of a “superbody” to investigate the killings and other rights violations.

“Women human rights defenders ask: with 15 women and girl-children killed under Aquino, what can the Aquino’s superbody do, if, by all indications, this merely looks and sounds like just another investigative body akin to former Pres. Gloria Arroyo’s parody of task forces and commissions on rights violations?” said Cristina Palabay, spokesperson of Tanggol Bayi and secretary general of Karapatan.

Palabay said human rights groups’ experience during the Arroyo administration bears out that the creation of investigative bodies did not really put a stop to the violations and were instead used as “camouflage” for the government’s posturing that it is addressing the issue. Worse, she stated, the killings have continued and the investigative bodies have not prosecuted any of the perpetrators and their masterminds.

Karapatan has documented 1,206 victims of extrajudicial killings and 206 cases of enforced disappearances under Arroyo.

“In the first place, Aquino did not have to stall and wait for the creation of this ‘superbody’ to solve the killings and violations. He could easily make use of his mandated agencies and the courts. The creation of the ‘superbody’ only benefits the government’s PR scheme and will not truly serve justice for the victims and their kin,” commented Palabay.

“How can Aquino’s superbody deliver justice for Juvy Capion, Marilou Valle, Marlina Sumera and all women human rights defenders who were killed by the state security forces, when even the barest form of justice for Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño, Benjaline Hernandez and Eden Marcellana—whose cases have received favorable recommendations from the United Nations—have not been given by the GPH?”

Palabay said women human rights defenders are violated twice with Aquino’s superbody. “The military and other state security forces have killed and threatened them. And now we are made to believe that the military will investigate their own misdeeds and come out with credible judgment?”

Women indigenous leaders Bae Adelfa Belayong, Bebeth Calinawan and Anelfa Gemilo also joined the rally, as they lead the first batch of the Manilakbayan delegates from Mindanao. The Manilakbayan is composed of some 70 indigenous peoples, farmers, church people and victims of human rights violations who are coming for the Human Rights week activities in Metro Manila.

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TANGGOL BAYI (DEFEND WOMEN) – PHILIPPINES STATEMENT ON THE INTERNATIONAL DAY OF WOMEN HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS 

November 29, 2012

Reference: Cristina Palabay, Spokesperson

Kiri Lluch Dalena, Convenor

In commemoration of the International Women Human Rights Defenders Day*, Tanggol Bayi (Defend Women) – Philippines** hails the lives and struggles of our martyred Filipina human rights defenders who have continuously inspired us to relentlessly and untiringly aspire for and to act to defend and uphold women’s and people’s rights.

We recall the life and struggle of Juvy Capion, an indigenous woman HRD, who led indigenous peoples in the struggle against incursions of the Philippine government and the Australian mining company SMI-Xstrata. Juvy and her organization of Blaan peoples have resisted the various pay-offs offered by the mining company to drive them away from their ancestral lands. Her husband launched a pangayaw, a traditional form of defense of their ancestral domain. Juvy, who was 27 years old and 2-months pregnant, was massacred together with her two children in October 18, 2012, by elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Forty days after, justice has not been served for Juvy, her children and her community.

We recall the life and struggle of Marilou Valle, an urban poor woman leader, who led their urban poor community in Tondo, Manila against the forced eviction and demolition of their homes by the Philippine government. Marilou likewise campaigned for the pull out of military troops in urban civilian communities such as her village. A day before Phil. Pres. Benigno Aquino was about to deliver his State of the Nation Address, Marilou was gunned down and killed by armed “tanods” in her village. Four months after, the perpetrators have not been arrested and justice eludes her family and her fellow urban poor.

We recall the lives and struggles of Benjaline Hernandez and Eden Marcellana, brave human rights workers, who were vocal critics of Oplan Bantay Laya (Operation Freedom Watch), the US-backed counter-insurgency program of former Pres. Arroyo. Beng and Eden exemplified the courage of Filipina human rights defenders as they documented and gathered data on rights violations against the Filipino masses during a period when killings were almost a daily fare. Nine years after their killings, the perpetrators remain free from arrest, while the Aquino government continues to ignore the United Nations Human Rights Committee recommendations on their cases.

We recall the lives and struggles of Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan, young women activists who were organizing farmers in a province to help uplift their plight amid landlessness and exploitative conditions. They were abducted, raped, tortured and disappeared by forces of ex-Maj. Gen. Jovito “The Butcher” Palparan. Six years after, Palparan and his ilk remains free from arrest, despite the charges filed by the mothers of Empeno and Cadapan.

The Filipinas’ collective memory on the struggle of our martyred sisters however goes beyond recollection and commemorative events to recall their lives, their struggles, their plight. Our collective memory moves us to seek justice for all violations against Filipino women and poor people in our country, amid a government which inflicts graver violations on civil and political rights of women. Our collective memory inspires us to study and struggle against all forms of economic oppression and social barriers that hinder the genuine uplift of poor women’s lives. Our collective memory and struggle behoove us to uphold our nation’s sovereignty amid the increasing attacks and plunder of the US and other foreign states. Our collective memory and struggles strengthen our movements, despite various means to silence us through the US-backed counter-insurgency measure, Oplan Bayanihan, of the Aquino government.

We stand in solidarity with the poor and marginalized women of the world—in Gaza and in the Arab region, in the Asia Pacific region, in the Latin Americas and Africa, in the US and Europe—as we confront imperialist globalization, state militarization and government-inspired fundamentalisms. We reaffirm our commitment to carry on the struggles of our sisters.

*29 November marks the anniversary of the opening of the First International Consultation on Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs), organized in 2005 by several human rights organizations in Colombo, Sri Lanka, and of which participants declared 29 November as the International Day on WHRDs. (http://www.defendingwomen-defendingrights.org/resources.php)

**Tanggol Bayi (Defend Women)–Philippines is a member of the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) and the International Women’s Alliance (IWA)

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On the International Day to End Violence Against Women WOMEN’S GROUP HITS AQUINO’S DEAFENING BUT PREGNANT SILENCE ON GOVT VIOLENCE VS WOMEN

Press Release | November 23, 2012

References:   

Cristina “Tinay” Palabay, Tanggol Bayi spokesperson, 0917-3162831

Angge Santos, Media Liaison, 0918-9790580

On the International Day to End Violence Against Women

WOMEN’S GROUP HITS AQUINO’S DEAFENING BUT PREGNANT SILENCE ON GOVT VIOLENCE VS WOMEN

As women all over the world commemorate today the International Day to End Violence Against Women, women’s rights group Tanggol Bayi criticized the “deafening but pregnant silence” of Pres. Benigno Aquino on the killings and other rights violations against women human rights defenders, which they said is just as “deafening and pregnant” as his silence on the issue of rendering justice for the victims of the Ampatuan massacre.

Cristina Palabay, spokesperson of Tanggol Bayi and secretary general of Karapatan, cited Aquino’s silence on the massacre of pregnant Juvy Capion, an indigenous people’s leader and anti-mining activist, and her two children in Tampakan, South Cotabato, which is an issue raised by several local and international groups.

She likened Aquino’s reaction to that of his stance on the Ampatuan massacre yesterday, when “Aquino literally ignored various calls by local and international journalist organizations for him to employ real commitment and the most expeditious means to serve justice for the Ampatuan massacre victims.”

According to Karapatan, out of the 114 victims of extrajudicial killings under Aquino (July 2010 to September 30, 2012 data), 15 are women and girl-children, with the Capion massacre as the latest in the string of killings. Karapatan also documented the cases of Marilou Valle, an urban poor leader in Tondo who was killed by barangay tanods in collusion with the police; Rodilyn Aguirre, an eight-year old  Tumandok, who was killed with a mortar from a nearby military detachment; and that of Asmayrah Usman and Gailly Miraato, Moro girl-children who were killed due to military operations in Mindanao.

“The Aquino government, with empty macho braggadocio, claims it has more than enough laws to protect and promote women’s rights and it has signed all the international instruments regarding women. These laws and treaties are nothing but mere papers if the government does not give an ounce of recognition of the rights violations of its state security forces against women and it fails to give them justice,” Palabay asserted.

Tanggol Bayi also scored the Aquino government on its “lackadaisical” stance in arresting ex-Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan for the abduction, rape and disappearance of UP students Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan, after nearly a year since the warrant of arrest was issued based on the charges filed by the mother of the two women.

“How lame can you get, Mr. President? The mothers, their lawyers, the witnesses, and human rights organizations have already done their part already in filing these charges, while you have yet to exercise your responsibility in arresting Palparan,” Palabay concluded.

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