Posts Tagged ‘philippines’

WikiLeaks today began the release of some 251,287 cable transmissions and memos from some 274 US embassies worldwide. The release is being described as a diplomatic bombshell for US diplomacy. It exposes many of the ‘behind-closed-doors’ activities of the US in the conduct of its foreign relations with its allies and rivals.

According to WikiLeaks’ website “The cables show the extent of US spying on its allies and the UN; turning a blind eye to corruption and human rights abuse in “client states”; backroom deals with supposedly neutral countries; lobbying for US corporations; and the measures US diplomats take to advance those who have access to them.” The WikiLeaks site has reportedly been subjected to a Denial of Service attack (hacking) on its first day of release.

Five international media outfits were given access to the complete files. You can check out The Guardian (UK), The New York Times (US), Der Spiegel (Germany), Le Monde (France) and El Pais (Spain). The Guardian has a very informative guide which includes headings and tags but not the full text of the memos. The New York Times meanwhile gives a selection of the transmissions.

Some of the more controversial memos come from the US Secretary of State. In one memo dated July 2009, Sec. of State Hilary Clinton ordered US officials to spy on members of the UN Security Council and the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon. All permanent members of the security council – including Russia, China, France and the UK – were targeted by the secret spying mission, according to the UK’s Daily Mail. Information the US wanted included biometrics, internet passwords and even credit card numbers.

Another leaked file gave a detailed profile of Libyan leader Mohammar Qadafi, citing some of his ‘quirks’ during air travel, choice of hotel accommodation and a description of his Ukrainian nurse as a “voluptuous blonde”.

There’s also the Saudi King pressing the US to attack Iran, and the Yemeni cover-up of US attacks where the Yemeni President said that his government will continue to claim the US airstrikes vs Al Qaeda as Yemen’s own.

The complete files will be released in stages over the next few months.

Focus on the Philippines

Around 1,796 leaked files and transmissions from the total cache are from the US embassy in Manila. The Wikileaks website indicates that there are some 65 “secret” and “749” confidential files included in the cache. Some 982 files are described as “unclassified”.

Except for two files, all the rest of the Manila files cover the period of January 2005 to February 2010, during the regime of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.  The files include “tags” or descriptions of topics such as terrorism, human rights, foreign relations, military operations, military assistance, internal governmental affairs and external affairs.

The period of 2005-2010 was the most tumultuous for Arroyo since it was during this time that protest movements for her ouster reached their peak. Many wondered how the US government treated Arroyo in the face of public clamor for her removal from office. It was also during the same period that the controversies in the VFA came to the fore with the Subic rape case and the decisions of the Supreme Court in relation to the custody of then convicted rapist Lance Corporal Daniel Smith.

It is no secret that the US embassy in Manila is actually a post for US intelligence gathering and US intervention in Philippine affairs. In the US Counter-Insurgency Guide released in 2009, the US embassy is the command center for US military operations in any country. The US ambassador is also considered a very powerful individual.

To quote the US COIN Guide, “All United States Government COIN strategies, plans, programs, and activities are undertaken in support of the affected government and managed through the U.S. Mission’s Country Team, led by the Chief of Mission (COM) in coordination with the Department of State. As the U.S. Ambassador, the Chief of Mission is the President’s personal representative to the host nation and is responsible for recommending and implementing U.S. policy regarding that country, as well as overseeing all executive branch employees there and the activities of such employees with limited exceptions. Appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate, the Ambassador has extraordinary decision-making authority as the senior U.S. official present during periods of instability and crises. Where a confirmed ambassador is not present, the Charge d’Affaires represents the Secretary of State as the senior diplomat accredited to the foreign government.”

The WikiLeaks files may help us better understand how the US exerts its influence on our country in light of several domestic controversies over the past nine years.

The Philippine government should at the very least be alarmed if it is shown that the US government is actively spying on us, undermining our sovereignty and interfering in our internal affairs. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s dealings with the US government should also be looked into.

The release of the files comes at a crucial moment for PH-US relations when the Visiting Forces Agreement is being reviewed by Malacanang.

The logic of US imperialism is that it thinks it can have its way with anyone. No one, not even the United Nations, is safe from their surveillance operations. And as WikiLeaks pointed out, the US employs a two-faced foreign policy. Things are not always as they seem. Official pronouncements are not always synonymous with official policy.

Maybe through these files, we can better understand the US positions on the VFA and the US troops in Mindanao. We would also like to know why the US has solidly supported the Arroyo government despite widespread calls for her ouster. The US has long been considered one of the main pillars of support of the Arroyo government, even during the most difficult period of Arroyo’s presidency.

It would also be interesting to know what really went on during the visits of US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, US CIA Director Leon Panneta and US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, all of whom visited during 2009. Prior to them, US intel czar and former Philippine ambassador John Negroponte also paid the Philippine a visit.

We will have to wait though for the release of the complete files in the coming weeks. In the meantime, we should closely monitor how other countries are reacting to the potentially damaging expose of US “diplomacy”.

Australia has expressed support for any US action against WikiLeaks and Australian founder Julian Assange. US allies in the Middle East have remained silent on the matter. At any rate, the leak is considered a diplomatic nightmare for the US, and were just scratching the tip of the iceberg.

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Despite the setback faced by the 43 before the Court of Appeals (when the petition for habeas corpus was denied by a vote of 3-2), the Commission on Human Rights has announced that it will pursue its own investigation into the complaints of rights abuses filed by the 43 health workers who were arrested last February 6 in Morong, Rizal.

The CHR is set to hear the complaint of the 43 health workers on March 18 at 9am. It is not yet clear if the Armed Forces of the Philippines will comply with the CHR order to present the 43 on the said date. It is also not clear if the officials summoned to attend the hearing, Gen. Jorge Segovia, Col. Aurelio Baladad, Prosecutor Senson and Judge Mangrobang will attend.

There should be no reason for them not to attend since there is ample time for them to prepare all the necessary logistics for the 43. We surely don’t want a repeat of what they did last February 12 when the AFP defied a Supreme Court order.

Let’s show our support for the 43 by joining the mass action on March 18. Let’s show the 43 that the number of advocates is growing everyday . See you at the CHR at 8am.

Next week, we also hope for some positive updates in the appeal filed by lawyers before the Court of Appeals. The CA is supposed to elevate the appeal to the Supreme Court. This should get the ball rolling in our quest to free the 43 and have the Martial Law relic known as the Ilagan doctrine forever removed from our jurisprudence.

The 43 detained health workers went on the offensive today as they filed a complaint before the CHR, asking the commission to look into gross human rights violations in the arrest and detention of the 43 health workers last February 6 in Morong, Rizal.

The counsels for the 43, the Public Interest Law Center and the National Union of People’s lawyers submitted a letter complaint and the affidavits of the 43 which detail the various rights violations and accounts of torture during detention.

Among those being held responsible were Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, commander-in-chief of the AFP who did not do anything will the violations were ongoing, AFP chief of staff Victor Ibrado, 2nd ID Chief Maj. Gen. Jorge Segovia, 202nd IB chief Col. Aurelio Baladad and other officers who were involved in the military operation against the 43. The lawyers were also joined by the relatives of the 43 and the various groups supporting the campaign.

For her part, CHR chair Leila de Lima said that the Commission was already preparing an order for the AFP to explain the various allegations of torture, ill-treatment and violations of human rights.

The CHR will also ask the Department of Justice in particular why the 43 were denied counsel during the inquest proceedings held in Camp Capinpin on February 7. Based on the testimonies of the 43, it was only on the day of inquest that their blindfolds and handcuffs were removed. They were asked to line up and their names called. They were then informed of the charges against them. After this, the DOJ prosecutor Romeo Senson left the camp. The 43 were not allowed counsel during the inquest proceedings.

This seems to be the first time a prosecutor of the DOJ is being investigated for human rights violations. This is should serve as a warning to other prosecutors who will undertake similar legal short-cuts, denial of rights and denial of due process.

Atty. Romeo Capulong, lead counsel for the 43, said that the lawyers will also file a motion to transfer the detention of the 43 from Camp Capinpin to Camp Aguinaldo. Both lawyers and doctors contend that the continued stay of the 43 in the military camp places them at risk of torture.

Families of the 43 were also allowed to air their concerns to CHR chair de Lima. Doctors also complained that those of them identified with any of the cause-oriented groups are barred from entering the Camp.

The CHR hopes to schedule a hearing once the necessary papers are submitted.

February 27, Saturday, will mark three weeks since the 43 health workers were arrested and detained. We must press on with the campaign to FREE THE 43.

Last Wednesday was the deadline for the submission of memorandum ordered by the Court of Appeals in the petition for the writ of habeas corpus. The decision can come out on or before Wednesday next week. We must be ready.

Doctors have found it increasingly difficult to access the detainees at Camp Capinpin. Families have also complained of delays during visits to the detainees. These restrictions come at a time when the AFP is desperately trying to cover up allegations of torture and ill-treatment against the 43.

Members of the United Methodist Church Cal-Pacific delegation from the United States were first hand witnesses to the suffering of families trying to visit their relatives in Camp Capinpin.

The UMC delegation is just the latest among many international formations that have expressed support for the 43. International pressure continues to snowball with protestant churches, health workers associations, and recently, the sister of the president of the European Union adding their voices to the growing clamor for the release of the 43. The campaign to free the 43 is now global.

Local political leaders have also crossed party lines on the issue of the 43. Almost all candidates for president and vice-president have spoken out on the issue of the health workers. Senator and vice-presidential candidate Loren Legarda has called on President Arroyo to speak out on the issue. Malacanang has responded that the president does not need to speak on the issue because it is already in the courts.

Senatorial candidate and former justice secretary Frank Drilon has also given the opinion that mere membership in the NPA cannot a be basis for arrests, and that an overt act or crime must first be committed to justify the arrests of the 43. That is why the AFP has repeatedly said that they caught the 43 “in the act” of making bombs (despite the fact that the arrests were done at 6am.)

Protests have also been held the past week. Last Saturday, relatives and supporters of the 43 witnessed firsthand state fascism when they were hosed down at the gates of Camp Aguinaldo. The protesters which included the human rights group Hustisya, Health Alliance for Democracy, Bayan, Katribu and Bayan Muna merely wanted to post paper doves with the names of the 43 on the walls of Camp Aguinaldo. The disproportionate use of force was indeed condemnable.

Later that day, different artists converged in Kamuning, Quezon City for a solidarity night and fund raising for the campaign to free the 43. “Taumbayan” was the venue for Hilom, a cultural event which gathered poets, musicians and other advocates to lend their talents for the campaign. The place was packed and folks spilled over in the sidewalks. We did a re-worked version of “The Forty-Three”, a song written by Carl Lopez of Cebu, which was among the new works that have come out because of the campaign. Also look out for the new poems by Stum Casia and Kislap Alitaptap. More artists are expressing their support, through their works, for the 43.

Let’s keep those support statements, mass actions and contributions coming. On the third week of the campaign to free the 43, we thank all those who have given their all-out support. We give recognition to the families of the 43 who have been patient and unwavering through all the difficulties of this struggle. They need our support more than ever.

On the sixth day of their detention, the 43 health workers were visited by lawyers, doctors, the Commission on Human Rights and the Office of Sen. Pia Cayetano. Initial reports say their morale was boosted by the visit.

The Department of Justice today also filed cases of illegal possession of fire arms and explosives against the 43 health workers. The case was filed in Morong, Rizal. No bail was recommended.

Meanwhile, in what could be the best news so far, the Supreme Court gave due course to the petition for the writ of habeas corpus filed by the families of the victims. A hearing has been set for tomorrow, Friday at 2pm at the Court of Appeals in Manila.

The AFP continues to deny that they are subjecting the detainees to torture, calling it instead reasonable restraint. Bayan called on the Arroyo government to comply with the United Nations Convention Against Torture and the Philippines’ own anti-torture law. the Arroyo government has not done anything to address the findings of torture made by the Commission on Human Rights and the Health Alliance for Democracy.

The fight is not yet over. We still need to do all we can, here and abroad, in the courts and in the streets, to free the 43.

Health workers, including the wife of Karapatan Deputy Secretary General,

illegally arrested in military raid in Rizal province

submitted on Sun, 02/07/2010 – 14:59

* http://www.karapatan.org/print/

UA case type:

Violation of Domicile; Destruction of property;
Divestment of Property; Illegal Search and Seizure;

Illegal Arrest; Illegal Detention; Threat, Harassment and Intimidation, Fear for Safety

Victim(s):

Illegally Arrested and illegally detained (partial list)

* Dr. Mary Mia, Health Education and Training Services coordinator for Council for Health and Development (CHD)
* Dr. Alexis Montes
* Gary Liberal, Registered Nurse (Jose Reyes Medical Memorial Center)
* Teresa Quinawayan, Midwife
* Lydia Ubera, health worker
* Reynaldo Makabenta, health worker
* Delia Ocasla, health worker
* Jane Balleta, health worker
* Janice Javier, health worker
* Franco Remoroso, health worker
* Ailene Monasteryo, health worker
* Pearl Irene Martinez, health worker
* Ellen Carandang, health worker
* Dany Panero, health worker
* Rayom Among, health worker
* Emily Marquez, health worker

Threat, harassment and intimidation; Violation of domicile

* Dr. Melecia Velmonte
* Bob Velmonte
* Bernardo Landag
* Two caretakers

Place of the incident:

Residential compound of Dr. Melecia Velmonte in Bgy. Maybangcal, Morong, Rizal

Date of the incident:

06 February 2010, at 6:15 in the morning

Alleged perpetrator(s):

Joint elements of the 202nd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army (202nd IBPA), and Rizal Philippine National Police (PNP) headed by Colonel Aurelio Baladad, commander of the 202nd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army based in Tanay, Rizal and Police Superintendent Marion Balonglong of the Rizal PNP.

On February 1, around 40 medical practitioners and health workers participated in a First Responders Training, sponsored by the Community Medicine Foundation, Inc. (COMMED) and Council for Health and Development (CHD) at Dr. Melecia Velmonte’s Farm, a conference and training facility in Morong, Rizal.

Dr. Velmonte is a renowned and respected infectious disease specialist and a consultant at the Philippine General Hospital. Her farm is a regular venue of health trainings, with participants coming from both the communities and the academe.

According to initial reports gathered by Karapatan, at 6:15 am on February 6, 2010, around 300 heavily armed elements of the military and police forced their way into the farm of Dr. Melecia Velmonte in Bgy. Maybangcal, Morong, Rizal. At gunpoint, the military forced

the caretaker to open the gates. Inside, the soldiers fanned out to different directions. They also kicked the main door to get into the building.

When Dr. Velmonte and her son, Bob demanded for a search warrant, they were merely brushed aside by the military.

All medical practitioners and health workers, were ordered to line up at the garage, frisked, and handcuffed. The victims were also questioned and photographed by the military, while another took a video recording of the interrogation. The male victims were then blindfolded with old
shirts brought in by the soldiers and secured with packaging tape. All of the personal belongings of the victims were also taken by the military.

When the participants were already handcuffed, it was only then that Police Superintendent Marion P. Balonglong showed Bob a search warrant for a certain Mario Condes of Bgy. Maybangcal, Morong, Rizal, charged with illegal possession of firearms. The search warrant dated February 5, 2010 and issued by Judge Cesar A. Mangrobang of Branch 22 of the Imus, Cavite Regional Trial Court, did not indicate the exact address of the Velmonte compound.

Bob asserted that the warrant did not specify their address, and that Mario Condes, who is subject of the warrant, is not even the owner of the house, but he was ignored by the authorities.

Outside the compound, were eight (8) vehicles. Along with the four (4) 6 x 6 military trucks were two (2) Armored Personnel Carriers (APC), a KIA Pride car, and an ambulance. Some of the vehicles had no plate numbers while the rest of the license plates were either covered, or smeared with mud.

The health workers were forced into the military trucks and were brought to Camp Capinpin in Tanay, Rizal, headquarters of the 202nd Infantry Brigade of Philippine Army.

The military declared that the victims were members of the New People’s Army because of the explosives allegedly found inside the compound. However, according to witnesses, the military conducted the search of the compound’s premises only after all of the victims, as well as the residents, were already outside the buildings. Witnesses also said that the military have brought in with them plastic bags with the GMA Kapuso logo printed on it.

Allegedly found were C4 explosives, a pistol with seven bullets, 3 grenades (one allegedly found under a pillow); beside the grenade were some improvised landmines. However, Bob said that they were not issued a receipt of the inventory of the said firearms and explosives.

The illegal search of the Velmonte compound ended at past 9:00 in the morning of Saturday, February 6, 2010.

The military and police arresting team were led by Col. Aurelio Baladad and Police Superintendent Marion Balonglong.

In the afternoon of the same day, Karapatan Deputy Secretary General Roneo Clamor, husband of Dr. Merry Mia, Olive Bernardo, Karapatan Services Head, along with Karapatan counsel, Atty. Ephraim Cortez, Dr. Geneve Rivera and Dr. Edelina De La Paz, chairperson of Health Action for Human Rights (HAHR), went to Camp Capinpin to inquire about the victims. They were not allowed to enter the camp premises.

As of this writing, the military has not allowed any of the relatives of the victims to see anyone of them.

Recommended action:

Send letters, emails or fax messages calling for:

1. The immediate release of the health workers who are illegally arrested and illegally detained at Camp Capinpin, Tanay, Rizal.

2. The government to ensure the safety of the victims and that they are not harmed; their belongings be returned immediately to them.

3. The immediate formation of an independent fact-finding and investigation team composed of representatives from human rights groups, the Church, local government, and the Commission on Human Rights that will look into raid and illegal arrest of the health workers conducting health skills training in Morong, Rizal.

4. The military to stop the labeling and targeting of human rights defenders as “members of front organizations of the communists” and “enemies of the state.”

5. 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.