Thursday, October 26, 2017

Nun wrote diary on drug killings

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

With residents of San Andres Bukid filing for a writ of amparo from the Supreme Court against the Philippine National Police to protect their community from more drug-related extrajudicial killings and deadly police operations, focus is now trained on that densely populated area in Manila. This move could become a template for similarly situated communities whose residents tremble when they hear the sound of gunfire in the dead of night.

Singled out in the petition is Manila Police District’s Station 6 which, the petitioners said, has turned that area of police jurisdiction into a “killing field.” The petitioners also sought the relief of those assigned to Station 6.
According to an Inquirer news report, this is the fifth petition filed in the Supreme Court questioning President Duterte’s war on drugs which has left at least 4,000 dead in police operations and thousands in so-called EJKs (“PNP faces class suit in SC over drug killings” by Marlon Ramos, 10/19/17).

Aiding the petitioners is the Center for International Law or Centerlaw. Some weeks ago, groups of human rights lawyers held a press conference to announce the filing and related moves to counter the endless killings.

Here is a text message from Sr. Nenet Dano, a Good Shepherd sister who works in San Andres Bukid and who has been supporting the community’s plea against the killings. She is among those behind the writ of amparo petition. “After the writ was filed, one lady tanod of Barangay 770 was asked to write a tokhang salaysay (statement on the killings) by MPD Station 6 to counter what she had written… Three petitioners were called by barangay chair Enales of 775 to ask if they want to withdraw. That resulted in pangamba (fears). I pacified them.

“My personal experience: Six barangay chairs forced me to talk with them last Saturday evening as they thought they were in the complaint even though they were not. I told them to read the petition thoroughly and if they cannot understand, to have it translated in Filipino…

“Over the phone the chair of 787 asked: What if Mayor Erap calls him and asks questions? Most of the heads are scared because they have no knowledge of the petition.”

While I was writing this column, I received this added information: “Victoria Factor (one of the petitioners) was also called by Barangay 770. She was in panic as the barangay head told her to get a lawyer so she could reverse her statement. She calmed down after our lawyers assured her [that there was no cause for worry].”

I have in my possession this nun’s diary on the drug killings which she began writing several months ago. Here are excerpts:

“When the second killings happened on July 28, 2016, which involved three young men, I asked: ‘Is killing the only solution to solve the problem of illegal drugs?’ I was very disturbed and restless. Something should be done, I thought, and I should do something as a personal advocacy.”

As months passed, the body count increased. Sister Nenet provides a list of names, ages, dates when killed (for lack of space, I did not include the action taken):

Edwin D. Eduardo, 47, 7/7/17; Ernesto Martinez Cruz, 49, 6/21/17; Ramon Rodriguez, 55, 6/10/17; SPO Dennis Padpad, 47, 5/29/17; Reynaldo T. Javier, 35, 5/25/17; Ryan Dimacali, 31, 5/6/17; Bimbo Merced, 37, 1/25/17; Joshua Merced, 22, 1/25/17; Leo Merced, 25, 1/25/17; Eduardo M. Gores, 29, 1/18/17; Ramil Gallo 22, 1/4/17; Randy Concordia 34, 12/15/17; Jay R. Estreller, 30, 12/15/17; Emiliano Blanco, 36, 11/30/16; Joseph Baculi, 32, no date; Gilbert Beguelme, 31, 11/9/16; Alvin Mnedoza, 23, 10/11/16; Ryan Eder, 28, 7/28/16; Willy de Leon, 42, 9/30/16; Jomar Manaois, 20, 7/18/16; Jefferson Bonoan 20, 7/18/16; Mark Anthony Bonoan, 18, 7/18/16; Conrado Berona (the very first one to die, not fully documented) 7/05/16; Manuel Roy Manalac, John Paul Martinez, Rollyn C. Frias, a certain Patricia, Jerson Colaba, Josing Colaban (all six cases not fully documented).

The nun’s diary is long and covers more than one year; the list of the dead covers July 2016-July 2017. Total number of recorded drug kills in that neck of San Andres Bukid: 29.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

They know where Jonas Burgos is

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

Inquirer photo
What a heartbreaking moment it was for Edita Burgos, mother of Jonas Burgos who has been missing for 10 years, when a Quezon City court acquitted Army Maj. Harry Baliaga of arbitrary detention charges last Oct. 12. Baliaga was one of those suspected of involvement in Jonas’ abduction in 2007. Jonas has not been found or heard from since then. His whereabouts are unknown and no one has come forward to say with certainty what has happened to him.

Jonas’ father, the late Jose Burgos, was a press freedom icon who suffered detention. He was the publisher of We Forum and, later, Malaya, stalwarts of the so-called alternative press that challenged the Marcos dictatorship during its waning years and precipitated its downfall.

From the Burgos family’s timeline on Jonas’ disappearance:

April 28, 2007: Jonas Burgos was abducted at about 1:30 p.m. by four armed men and a woman in civilian clothes while he was having lunch at the Hapag Kainan restaurant in Ever Gotesco Mall, Quezon City. Jonas was alone and unarmed. A waitress who saw the forcible abduction positively identified Jonas from a picture shown to her. Jonas is a farmer who manages the family organic farm in Bulacan. Jonas has been giving technical training to members of the Alyansang Magbubukid ng Bulacan (Peasant Alliance of Bulacan), a local chapter of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, since 1999. The Philippine government and the Armed Forces of the Philippines have labeled the KMP a “front” organization for the Communist Party of the Philippines.

May 2, 2007: Larry Marquez, a security guard on duty at Ever Gotesco Mall, from where Jonas was abducted, told police that Burgos was dragged by the suspects to a maroon Toyota Revo with plate number TAB 194, as Burgos shouted for help.

May 2, 2007: The Burgos family filed a missing person complaint with the Philippine National Police.

May 4, 2007: In an investigation by the PNP, and through the efforts of the family, the license plate number was traced to a vehicle that was in the custody of the 56th Infantry Battalion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Bulacan. It was impounded from illegal loggers on June 24, 2006. Senior Supt. Joel Coronel, who led the police investigation, was relieved of his post shortly after he traced the vehicle in Burgos’ abduction to the Army.

The timeline covers almost a decade and tells about the roller-coaster ride that the Burgos family has been through. The family’s experience includes a habeas corpus petition, court hearings, subpoenas, and investigations.

Significantly, in 2013 President Benigno Aquino III ordered a thorough inquiry involving the Department of Justice and the National Bureau of Investigation. Still no Jonas. The search and hearings continued. Last Oct. 12, the acquittal was handed down.

From where I watch, the frustration is not so much about the acquittal of someone suspected of having to do with Jonas’ disappearance as it is about seeing all efforts to find him seemingly hitting a dead end. Where to next?

Right after his acquittal, Baliaga sidled up to Jonas’ mother Edita who was in the courtroom. It must have been a discomfiting moment for both, but I want to see a ray of hope in that courtroom moment. With Baliaga free of his legal burdens, might he — innocent or not before God Almighty — want to help find Jonas, as Edita dared to propose?

If not Baliaga, there are other people out there who had something to do with Jonas’ abduction and disappearance. Jonas could not have been taken by aliens from outer space, but by human beings. Who are they, where are they? They, too, have families, so can they not find it in their hearts to send Edita leads, anonymously if need be, so that she may find her son, alive or dead?

It is not too late to make things right, if not legally, at least for the peace of mind of those who are concerned, to lighten the weight on their consciences, but most of all, for the sake of Edita, a widow and mother in search of a missing son.

Try me. In the past, through this column I had made suntok sa buwan (a stab at the moon) calls for one thing or other, and got unexpected results. To borrow the last line from “The Little Prince” of Antoine de Saint-Exupery: “Send me word…” #

Thursday, October 12, 2017

IPs are us

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

This month is National Indigenous Peoples (IP) Month in the Philippines. The National Commission for Culture and the Arts is taking the lead with “Dayaw,” a festival.

Note, too, that the Catholic Church in the Philippines designates the second Sunday of October as Indigenous Peoples Sunday, with the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) encouraging the clergy and lay faithful to observe the day in various creative ways. The CBCP’s Episcopal Commission on Indigenous Peoples (Ecip) is supposed to oversee various ministries among IPs.

Redemptorist Bro. Karl Gaspar has written about how the Ecip came to be in 1978. It would be safe to say that the government’s designation of October as National IP Month might have been a way to sync with the Church’s practice.

Although it was on Aug. 9 that the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples was celebrated, our national celebration this month should take cognizance of our IPs’ foreign counterparts. Worth mentioning is that Sept. 13 was the 10th anniversary of the United Nations’ Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The declaration, a UN statement said, “is the most comprehensive international instrument on the rights of indigenous peoples. It embodies global consensus on the rights of indigenous peoples and establishes a universal framework of minimum standards for their survival, dignity and well-being.”

(Note that we use the double plural “peoples” to refer to the various distinct groupings, and the regular plural “people” in referring to IP individuals.)

The UN reminds that: “There are an estimated 370 million indigenous people in the world, living across 90 countries. They make up less than five percent of the world’s population, but account for 15 percent of the poorest. They speak an overwhelming majority of the world’s estimated 7,000 languages and represent 5,000 different cultures.

“Indigenous peoples are inheritors and practitioners of unique cultures and ways of relating to people and the environment. They have retained social, cultural, economic and political characteristics that are distinct from those of the dominant societies in which they live…

“Indigenous peoples have sought recognition of their identities, way of life and their right to traditional lands, territories and natural resources for years, yet throughout history their rights have always been violated. Indigenous peoples today are arguably among the most disadvantaged and vulnerable groups of people in the world. The international community now recognizes that special measures are required to protect their rights and maintain their distinct cultures and way of life.”

I am pleased to say that over the years, I have written a good number of long feature articles and column pieces on the Philippines’ IPs (Mangyan, Kalinga, Tingguian, T’boli, B’laan, Aeta) and I even thought of putting these together in one book. (Some have found their way into my anthologies.) They might sound dated, I thought, but they are also a slice of the IPs’ history (with photographs and all). As in once upon a time…

Immersing oneself among IPs, even for a very short while, and learning about their struggles and dreams, have been very unforgettable and enriching, and sitting down in solitude to write about them a profound contemplative experience.

Don’t we all have IP roots? When do we cease to be IPs?

Speaking of tattoos that make our IPs culturally distinct, University of the Philippines Baguio anthropology professor Analyn V. Salvador-Amores has written an award-winning book, “Tapping Ink, Tattooing Identities” (UP Press, Cordillera Studies Center), which tackles “tradition and modernity in contemporary Kalinga society, North Luzon, Philippines.” It is thick and rich with well-researched information, made richer by old and recent color photographs plus illustrations.

Much has been said recently about tattoos, in reference to whether or not Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte, a son of the President, has on his back a dragon tattoo signifying membership in the so-called Chinese drug triad. At a Senate hearing, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV had dared the vice mayor to bare it for all to see. No way, the vice mayor said.

And what was that about—the House’s proposing an insult of a P1,000 budget for the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples for 2018? #