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Lessons for 2019: What a year taught young activists

Bulatlat Contributors January 15, 2019 nFilipino youth activistsyouth activism

While the domestic and international currents tend to make a person pessimistic, hope abounds. For young activists, the previous year has three lessons that may be used to further uphold people’s rights, interests, and welfare.


Why does the new year feel like the old one? A quick review of the issues that hog the headlines shows a familiar theme of death, deception, repression and economic malaise, often annotated by rancid comments from the President.

With a lower 5.1 percent inflation rate in December 2018, the Duterte administration imposed fuel tax hikes that resulted in roughly a four-peso increase in petroleum prices. Such increases happened for much of 2018. Meanwhile, labor-related issues like low wages and contractualization remain unaddressed. Violence remains unabated with assassinations like the case of Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe and massacres like the ones that happened in Sagay and Patikul.

The President is currently in a word war with the Catholic Church while the police and military are accusing activist teachers and students of being part of the Communist insurgency. Furthermore, the government continues to push for the worst possible version of shifting to federalism while Martial Law in Mindanao tramples on the lives of the already vulnerable sectors of society.

In other parts of the world the news is also grim. The new year is ushered in by the worst performance since 2008 as the World Bank cut economic growth forecasts to 2.9 percent this year in the wake of the trade war between China and the United States.

The shutdown of the US government for more than three weeks as of this writing has also resulted in widespread uncertainty. There is also a decline in manufacturing data from China as figures have hit a two-year low. Bleak macroeconomic data include the growing gap between the world’s richest and poorest where, according to 2017 data from the Swiss financial firm Credit Suisse, the world’s wealthiest one percent own as much as 50 percent of global wealth.

As if these economic problems are not enough, global politics veer toward authoritarianism as more countries elect right-wing populist leaders like Brazil’s Jair Bolosnaro and Hungary’s Victor Orban while conflicts continue in the Middle East and new hotspots emerge in South America and the West Philippine Sea.

While the domestic and international currents tend to make a person pessimistic, hope abounds. For young activists, the previous year has three lessons that may be used to further uphold people’s rights, interests, and welfare.

Youth protest Martial Law in Mindanao

The first lesson is the necessity to immerse with the marginalized sectors of society. Young activists know that in order to genuinely advance the people’s interests, they must be with them. In other words, young activists have learned the importance to sharing the reality lived by the poor like jeepney drivers, workers, farmers and indigenous peoples. Such a drive to share the conditions and aspirations of the working class has led students and youth activists to organize numerous protest actions last year. For example, young activists played a significant role in the strike of NutriAsia’s workersas they provided material support, gave paralegal advice and used the Internet to disseminate relevant information. Student and youth activists also helped set up many workers’ networks, associations and even unions such as those at Hanjin Heavy Industries, PLDT, Jollibee and Liwayway Marketing Corporation. Progressive student organizations and their schools have also helped establish the Lumad school in Metro Manila and the campout of the striking workers of the Sumifru company.

The second lesson is the importance of reaching out to more people and explaining the efficacy and viability of activism in effecting genuine social change. Activism has always been demonized by the state to discourage change but this baseless strategy was exposed when the Red October hysterics of the police and military were soundly debunked. Such a success may be attributed to the expansion of progressive organizations and their growing appeal to the disaffected, dissatisfied and discontented. Individual professors and even universities like the De La Salle University and the University of the East had criticized the sweeping accusations of the government. In addition, education is a crucial component in explaining dissent and activism as essential for the creation of alternatives to our present condition. Activists have multiple fora, alternative classes and group discussions on topics like philosophy, economics, politics, history, culture and current events. Furthermore, the drive to educate is complemented by a strong publicity effort both on the ground and online.

The third lesson is bravery. The year 2018 saw various attacks against activists ranging from defamation to imprisonment, and even murder. Internet trolls continue to harass and intimidate activists using lines and reasoning oft-repeated by the government. Meanwhile, trumped-up charges have been filed against prominent youth leaders like Einstein Recedes and Vencer Crisostomo. A fair number of activists have also been detained, with the youth caught in the violent dispersal at NutriAsia serving as a somber example. More youth leaders are also subjected to surveillance and various forms of harassment.

It takes bravery to challenge injustices. It takes bravery to defy expectations of study and career to attend to the needs of the marginalized. It takes bravery to suspend individual aspirations to work toward a better future for all. It takes bravery to face the truncheons, the rifle, the police and soldiers, and mad man of Malacañang Palace.


The first couple of weeks of 2019 do betray the gathering storm clouds but there is hope. Struggles can be won, unities can be clinched, trolls bested, convoluted conspiratorial accusations defeated and dictators ousted. 


Israeli surveillance firm to build Security platform for Cyber Spying on Philippine Citizens

Original Story By: Miguel R. Camus – @inquirerdotnetPhilippine Daily Inquirer / 08:39 AM January 17, 2019 – Modified by OCHRP’s secondary research.

MANILA, Philippines — The government is stepping up its fight against online criminals as the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) rolls out its first-ever cybersecurity platform.

High on the agenda of the project — formally known as the Cybersecurity Management System — is to identify purveyors of misinformation and election-related threats on social media, counter-terrorism surveillance and intercepting online drug traffickers, said Allan Cabanlong, DICT assistant secretary for cybersecurity and enabling technologies.

The monitoring of cyberthreats will also be “near real-time” and will cover an initial 10 priority government agencies, some of which oversee critical areas such as internal and national security.

These agencies are the Office of the President, Department of Finance, Department of Energy, Department of Foreign Affairs, National Security Council, Department of Budget and Management, Presidential Communications Operations Office, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, Department of National Defense, and the DICT.

“It is designed to monitor all attacks,” Cabanlong, who used to head the web services and cybersecurity division of the Philippine National Police, said during the project’s “kick off” event on Wednesday. Given the recent scandals concerning government spying on the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) by the police and intelligence services, one can only assume these new tools will be used for prosecuting the Philippine governments war on civil society.

The project was awarded to a venture between Filipino company Integrated Computer Systems Inc. and Israel’s Verint System Ltd., which provides surveillance tools to governments and companies around the world, including the Israeli government. The company’s solutions transform voice, video, and text into actionable intelligence used in various markets, including government and law enforcement.

The venture, which won with an offer of P508.89 million — against an approved budget of P512 million — was the sole qualifying bidder after three other rivals were disqualified. The license period will run three years while the project will be fully delivered by ICS-Verint within 10 months.

More government agencies will be included in the program as the DICT bids out subsequent phases of the project, Cabanlong said.

Monitoring will be done through Cabanlong’s Cybecrime Investigation and Coordination Center, manned by around 30 staffers who will also use Artificial Intelligence tools from ICS-Verint.

Cabanlong said the core of the project is the Cyber Threat Intelligence Platform, which will collect a “variety of threat information to different sources at the web, illegal trading sites, and critical information infrastructure sectors such as energy, financial, and banking.”

Information gathered can be shared to local and international authorities. The monitoring parameters will also be set by Cabanlong’s cybercrime bureau, which would give it enormous surveillance powers.

The reality is except for blacklisted nations like Syria and North Korea, there is little to stop governments that routinely violate basic rights from obtaining the same so-called “lawful intercept” tools that have been sold to Western police and spy agencies. People tracked by the Verint technology have been beaten, jailed and tortured, according to human rights groups.

Targets identified by the AP include a blogger in the repressive Central Asian republic of Uzbekistan, opposition activists in the war-ravaged African nation of South Sudan, and politicians and reporters in oil-rich Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean. The technology was used in Peru by intelligence operatives to spy on the Vice-President in what became a national scandal.

“The status quo is completely unacceptable,” said Marietje Schaake, a European Union lawmaker pushing for greater oversight. “The fact that this market (for suvelliance and spyware) is almost completely unregulated is very disturbing.”

Many security experts who honed their skills in Israel’s military have gone to work in the private sector, effectively putting their tech chops at the service of less sophisticated nations for a fraction of the cost.

Like spy tools wielded by larger nations, the Verint system lets officials “intercept and monitor” satellite networks that carry voice and data traffic, potentially putting private communications of millions of Filipinos at risk.

Army, NPA clash in Iligan; 100 families flee:

By Divina Suson  January 16, 2019, 8:16 pm

CHECKPOINT. Members of the Iligan City Police Office and the 51st Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army, intensify their checkpoints after the encounter between government troops and the New People’s Army in Barangay Mainit, Iligan City, Tuesday morning (January 15). (Photos by Divina M. Suson)

ILIGAN CITY – Some 100 families fled their residences in Sitio Bukana, Barangay Mainit, this city, after members of the Philippine Army under the Bravo Company, 51st Infantry Battalion clashed with members of the New People’s Army (NPA) on Tuesday morning.

Brig. Gen. Thomas Sedano, commander of the 2nd Mechanized Brigade (2MIB), however, said that some families returned after the 45-minute firefight.

The village of Mainit is about 30 km. away from Iligan City proper, and near the boundary of Manticao town in the province of Misamis Oriental.

Reports from the 2MIB said government troops were conducting combat clearing operations when they encountered some 30 NPA members at about 7 a.m.

While there was no casualty on the side of the Philippine Army, Sedano said there were reports saying some rebels were wounded.

“Residents in the area reported that they saw some wounded armed men being carried by their comrades as they withdrew,” he said. “

The skirmish prompted the Iligan City Police Office, in coordination with the military, to heighten their security measures, especially on checkpoint areas.

A scheduled mass at the barracks of the soldiers in Barangay Digkilaan, supposedly to celebrate the feast of Sto. Niño on that day, was cancelled, according to resident Marvic Manait. (PNA)

Ex-general in military corruption scandal cleared of P428M tax case

The Court of Tax Appeals acquits former military comptroller Jacinto Ligot of tax crimes, but says the deficiency assessment of the Bureau of Internal Revenue stands

Lian Buan 

@lianbuan Published 8:14 PM, January 16, 2019 Updated 8:14 PM, January 16, 2019 

ACQUITTED. Retired general Jacinto Ligot and wife Erlina are acquitted of 4 counts of tax violation. File photo from Newsbreak

ACQUITTED. Retired general Jacinto Ligot and wife Erlina are acquitted of 4 counts of tax violation. File photo from Newsbreak 

MANILA, Philippines – The Court of Tax Appeals (CTA) has acquitted retired Lt Gen Jacinto C. Ligot and wife Erlinda Ligot of 4 counts of tax deficiencies worth P428 million.

The CTA Third Division acquitted the Ligots in a decision promulgated January 8, mainly because an extensive paper trail of bank evidence was stricken off the record for violating bank secrecy laws.

“With the state of the evidence in these consolidated cases, the prosecution failed to prove that the accused Spouses Ligot have other assets purchased with undeclared income,” said the decision written by Associate Justice Ma. Belen Ringpis-Liban with a concurrence from Associate Justice Erlinda Uy.

The Ligots are out on bail.

Ligot, a former comptroller of the Armed Forces, was involved in one of the biggest corruption scandals in Philippine military history that was first exposed in 2004 and culminated in multiple investigations in 2011.

He was accused of amassing unexplained wealth during his term as comptroller.

The first to be exposed in 2004 was his successor, retired Maj Gen Carlos Garcia, who also once faced plunder charges until he entered into a plea bargain deal with under then Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez. (READ: General Garcia: How the big fish got away)

After a series of Senate investigations in 2011, then military chief Angelo Reyes, who was also dragged into the issue, took his life in front of his mother’s grave.

The prosecution accused Ligot of acquiring tax deficiencies worth P428 million from 2001 to 2004.

“A perusal of the Statements of Assets Liabilities and Networth (SALNs) shows that accused Jacinto Ligot did not declare bank deposits, assets and investments, the value of which are beyond their compensation,” said the decision, citing the case built by the Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecution.

This comes after the court orders his arrest and issues a hold departure order against him

Court also stops retired Lt Gen Jacinto Ligot from leaving the country

The Rappler CEO and Executive Editor pays P204,000 at the tax court over 4 counts of tax cases

The prosecution added: “Considering that accused Erlinda Ligot is described as a mere ‘housewife’ in these documents with no source of income, there can be no other conclusion that the accused Spouses Ligot failed to declare their true and correct income in their ITR, thereby evading the payment of correct income taxes.”

Aside from bank assets, the prosecution said the Ligots bought real estate properties include a 14-hectare land in Malaybalay City; two Paseo Parkview Tower 2 Condominium units with one parking slot in Makati City; a unit at Essensa East Forbes Condominum; properties in Anaheim and Orange County in California; and a parcel of land in Tanay, Rizal.

AMLC report struck off

The Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) was able to generate a report of the mismatch in assets and lawful income but in 2015, the CTA struck all evidence off the record because they did not fall “within any exception of the best evidence rule.”

The CTA said the AMLC probe was sanctioned for a case at the Makati Regional Trial Court (RTC), not for the tax cases.

Bank secrecy laws in the Philippines will not apply in certain cases such as impeachment, cases related to the Human Security Act, and some kinds of forfeiture cases such as when a deposit makes its way to a wrong account and the bank needs to retrieve it.

“Those exceptions, also find no application in the case of the accused Spouses Ligot,” the CTA ruled.

“Having no assets purportedly purchased with other income, they could not have willfully violated Sees. 254 and 255 of the National Internal Revenue Code (NIRC). In the face of all the foregoing, we have reasonable doubt of the guilt of the accused Spouses Ligot,” added the tax court.

The Ligots still face a related P55 million forfeiture case at the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan.

The earlier deficiency assessment of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) still stands, said the CTA.

“The records of this case do not show that the Formal Letter of Demand and Final Assessment Notice (FLD/FAN) was even protested by the accused Spouses Ligot despite actual knowledge thereof, as discussed above. If that is indeed the case, then as regards the civil liability of the accused Spouses Ligot arising from obligation, the FLD/FAN would have been rendered final and executory,” the CTA said. –

Judicial Harassment of Press in the Philippines Continues as DOJ denies Rappler’s bid to reverse indictment for tax evasion

By: Tetch Torres-Tupas – Reporter / / 06:23 PM January 16, 2019

The Rappler newsroom at Capitol Commons in Pasig City —GRIG C.MONTEGRANDE

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Justice (DOJ) has denied the bid of Rappler Holdings Corporation (RHC) and its President Maria Ressa to reverse their indictment for tax evasion.

A separate resolution also denied a motion for reconsideration by its accountant Noel Baladiang.ADVERTISEMENT

In denying the Rappler’s motions for reconsideration, the DOJ said RHC and Ressa failed to raise new issues that would warrant a reversal of their earlier ruling for filing the case before the Tax and Pasig Courts.

“Now, after judiciously going over the evidence anew together with the issues raised in the motions, we have found no sustainable ground to reverse, set aside, or modify the assailed resolution,” the DOJ resolution made public Wednesday read.FEATURED STORIESNEWSINFODuterte to walk the streets without bodyguards? That’s silly and childish, says PaneloNEWSINFONo confirmed death directly caused by Dengvaxia — DOHNEWSINFOEx-military comptroller, wife acquitted in P400-M tax evasion case

Rappler is facing cases for violation of the National Internal Revenue Code (NIRC), particularly one count of Section 254 and three counts of Section 255 for willful attempt to evade or defeat tax and for its deliberate failure to supply correct and accurate information.

The complaint against Rappler was filed by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) last March.

READ: BIR files tax evasion complaint vs Rappler before DOJ

Based on the complaint, RHC and Ressa failed to indicate in RHC’s 2015 tax returns the total gain of almost P162.5-million due to the issuance of Philippine Depositary Receipts (PDR) to Washington DC-based NBM Rappler LP, a unit of North Base Media and Omidyar Network Find LLC (Omidyar).

The DOJ said both RHC and Ressa insisted that the company was mislabeled as a dealer in securities whose PDR transactions are claimed to have yielded ordinary business income that ought to have been reported in its tax returns.

“We are, however, standing by our conviction that in so far as the subject securities and the related transactional activities are concerned, movant RHC is deemed to have dealer status within the contemplation of the Tax Code,” the DOJ said.

On the other hand, the DOJ said the motion for reconsideration of Baladiang failed to meet the required form.ADVERTISEMENT

“Certainly, we have reason to dismiss this motion outright for being unverified,” the DOJ said in a separate resolution.

The DOJ also said the content of the motion was mere reiteration.

“In fine, the motion simply failed to disclose any cogent reason to warrant movant’s desired reconsideration,” it added.

Both resolutions were signed by Assistant State Prosecutor Zenamar J.L. Machacon-Caparros and Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Miguel F. Gudio Jr. and approved by acting Prosecutor General Richard Anthony Fadullon.

READ: DOJ OKs tax evasion rap vs Rappler 

Rappler earlier branded the complaint as a form of harassment from the Duterte administration.

Read more:
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In the Philippines, women play big roles in opposing mega-dam projects

Marya Salamat  December 18, 2018  1

Laiban Dam
View from the top of the Laiban Dam Gate in Tanay, Rizal. All these to be wrested away from the people? This dam project has been repeatedly stopped by protests, but the Duterte Govt, with China loans, still wants to proceed with the project. (Photo by M. Salamat / Bulatlat)


This is a special report in a series produced by with the Asia-Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) Media Fellowship. The series aims to report on linkages between gender, ecological conflicts and climate change.

Read also : In the Philippines, a dam struggle spans generations, inspires songs of unity for the environment

MANILA – Right now, tourists are likely enjoying a walk or sightseeing by the river of Daraitan in Tanay, Rizal, a mountainous province east of Manila. The clear water and the way huge slabs of rocks have been cleaved by the raging river, creating a challenging trek and a beautiful sight, and caves with pools of cool water inside, have attracted campers and backpackers to the villages around it especially in summer.

Inside one of the many caves in Rizal and Quezon the indigenous peoples, the Dumagat and Remontados, pray to their God, the creator they call Makijapat. The Dumagat live by planting food crops in the mountains, fishing, and hunting. The mountain forest and the watershed are key to their survival and also of those downstream. The mountain range has historically served to break or weaken strong typhoons and absorb excess water runoff. Given the grim forecast on climate change, its effects of generating some increasingly strong typhoons, or intense droughts, the Sierra Madre mountain range needs all the protection it can get to maintain or expand its forest and watershed.

But the indigenous peoples’ villages and the others farther upstream are in danger of losing it and all that the river sustains to mega-dam projects. The Dumagat and Remontados stand to be the most immediately affected – they are the first to be displaced. In fact, some of them are already bearing the brunt of the dam projects even as construction has been repeatedly stopped. The next to be affected are the farmers and communities downstream who would have to live with reduced guards against the impacts of climate change.

What the people in Quezon and Rizal have opposed and stopped successfully for four decades now since the Marcos dictatorship keeps resurfacing as a threat. The Duterte government’s “Build Build Build” projects constitutes the latest threat. It includes as one of the priorities the construction of large dams such as the Laiban dam, the Kaliwa (left) and Kanan (right) dams, or the Php12.2 billion New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Dam, which will be 85% funded by China. On Nov. 20, the Chinese leader visited Manila and one of the agreements he oversaw while here was China funding the new New Centennial Water Source Project.

These are dam projects that over the past years have been approved, cancelled, repackaged and renamed. Now, under the New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Dam Project, the Duterte administration targets to build the dams over more of the same rivers in Rizal and Quezon despite protests and proven negative impacts of large dams.

For Nanay Nene Baylon, the first Laiban dam project continues to exert a heavy toll on her family’s livelihood. The Laiban dam was eventually stopped by massive protests in the 80s, but by then its massive twin gates had been forcibly constructed in their village. It has since deprived her family and that of other Dumagat of their years-long farm land. They were planting vegetables and root crops on the piece of land that became the cleared hilltop of the dam’s humongous gates.

Laiban dam
A part of the Laiban dam gate constructed before project was stopped by protests. (Photo by M. Salamat)
We climb to the top of the Laiban dam gate accompanied by some Dumagat who once farmed on that land. (Photo by M. Salamat / Bulatlat)
Dumagat at Laiban
‘We used to plant sweet potatoes here.’

She told us her family and the others planting near them were neither compensated for the crops destroyed when the dam’s gates were constructed nor for the land that was forcibly taken away from them. A young wife and mother at the time of the construction under the Marcos dictatorship, she said the construction crew and machinery came without warning and despite their protests. She recalled how their villages were enveloped in thick dust stirred up by trucks and machinery which were escorted by government soldiers. The river turned muddy as workers and machine burrowed into and exploded parts of the mountain by the mouth of the river. Now Nanay Nene is older, but she remains emphatic for the struggle to stop the renewed drive to construct the series of dams.

The Laiban dam’s gates continue to be guarded by armed security. Two years ago, as news broke out that the dam project was being pushed by the Duterte administration, the guards of the unused dam gates stirred up anew the villagers’ outrage. The guards fired at and killed two Dumagat farmers who took a shortcut in going downstream, thus passing on top of the dam’s gates.

Climbing to what was once the Dumagat’s farm but is now overgrown by grasses, and yes, dominated by the top of the thick concrete wall of the gate, Nanay Nene’s lips thinned as she recalled the days of the gates’ construction. After it was stopped their communities by the river now look tranquil – the water became clear again and they are planting food again in other parts of the mountain upstream. But there is the ever-present threat that all this may end. A cheerful host, Nanay Nene’s expression rapidly turns fierce at recalling those days of military-escorted dam construction, and, decades later, security guards gunning down her fellow Dumagat for having passed through what’s actually their land.

No to New Centennial Water Source Project
At the launch of a network opposing the renamed Laiban Dam project

She has been joining initiatives to oppose the renewed drive to build mega dams where they live. To their communities, it is a struggle not just for their right to the land and to their self-determination, but also a struggle to save the river, the remaining forest of Sierra Madre and the watershed in it.

It is a struggle demanding time, patience and courage to face not just their fellow Dumagat and the people in the cities, but also the militarization and the promises that if they are not careful, they could end up divided and scattered like the jagged rocks pushed apart by the Tinipak River.

Learning from dam Lessons

The Dumagat communities and the Filipinos in general have by now numerous tragic experiences with dams. People from north to south have been displaced by earlier dam construction without compensation or rehabilitation. Rivers have become more polluted, farms have lost irrigation when they needed it most, and were inundated with excess water when they needed it the least. People have died from the dams’ sudden or heavy release of water in times of typhoons. By now, scientists and environmentalists are saying, we should know better not to resort to building more dams. Add to this, the suspicions of progressives that the Philippines does not really need another dam.

Tinipak in Tanay
Tinipak River and Cave, part of what will be affected by planned dam under Duterte’s Build Build Build

Progressive lawmakers in Philippine Congress led by Bayan Muna, Gabriela, ACT, Anakpawis and Kabataan Partylist, said the news of water crisis hyped up in late 2016 is “manufactured to build up the necessity for the Kaliwa-Kanan-Laiban dams.”

Neither were the dam projects needed for energy because according to non-government thinktank Ibon Philippines, using data from the Dept. of Energy itself, there are enough sources of energy and it could still be increased beyond the Philippines’ projected needs if the current dams were rehabilitated.

With global warming and climate change, normal or extra-strong typhoons are becoming more disastrous than ever, offering more pressing reasons not to destroy the remaining forest and watershed to build unnecessary mega-dams, said the group AGHAM (Science for the People and Center for Environmental Concerns).
Dams have not brought the people cheaper and reliable energy, nor irrigation, as promised when the first dams were forcibly built, said peasant woman leader Zenaida Soriano of Amihan on another occasion. She has seen in peasants’ lives across the country how dams have wrecked the rivers and the environment, harmed the people’s agricultural practices and killed hundreds of people in periodic flooding and flashfloods. To this day, dam opponents are being surprised by bitter sharing that many had died from flashfloods without being reported in the news.

Danilo Peralta, 62, said some 317 died unreported as a result of sudden release of dam water in Umiray River in 2004. Today another dam, taking off from early 2000s when protests stalled it, is now being pushed to add to Sumag Dam in Umiray, the river in the boundary of Quezon and Aurora.

Dams have privatized the control of river, water and energy, further making life more difficult to women struggling to feed their family. In various fora, representatives of the Dumagat and others who have experienced dislocation due to dam building recounted how water was available to them for free before they were pushed away for the dam-building.

The people displaced by the construction of Angat Dam, Sumag Dam and Pantabangan Dam have experienced it and are warning those about to become like them: “When the day comes that you are forcibly driven away, you will not only have to pay for water that used to be free – you might not even have livelihoods so how will you pay, and live?”

The Duterte government’s revival of dam projects that have long been opposed by a broad coalition of people is nothing short of a declaration of war on the people, the Dumagat women leaders have been saying in various forum. To people like Nanay Nene, this war comes complete with military deployment and government agencies coming to their communities to “consult” and get their approval.

In some communities especially those likely to be enclosed in the planned dams in Quezon, young Dumagat women said the community members’ moves are being monitored and questioned by the military.
Some villages are regularly visited by government soldiers, or they could see armed government troops circling the village. Whenever the villagers talk in groups, soldiers would come asking what the talk is all about.

In Umiray village where one of the dam projects will be built, Imaset complained that their fellow Dumagat have been forced to live in a hamlet condition under military control and surveillance. They cannot go to work the field and they frequently went hungry. Shortly before the Dumagat formed the Imaset last August, they went on a rescue and relied mission with other support groups of the indigenous peoples.

Amid the palpable intimidation generated by the presence of armed troops, some Dumagat are also more rapidly losing their land. A village health worker said part of the reason is also the Dumagat’s natural generosity. They don’t think twice about letting another person or family to plant on their land. They did not know that pretty soon that person would claim the land, with a piece of paper, unlike in the Dumagat practice where eventually they leave the piece of land they planted with crops for some time to let it recover. Another reason is the expansion of land ownership of wealthy individuals, a village health worker and also a tour guide said as he pointed to men clearing a wooded part of the mountain along the newly built road to the Dumagat communities.

In Sta. Ines, the last village of Tanay, Rizal going north that has parts being claimed by neighboring Gen. Nakar, Quezon, a Dumagat teacher told Bulatlat they only have certificates to their claim to the land, which is not yet a CADT (Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title). She noted that they seem to be losing the land to those with money who can afford to plant more crops over more land.

The health worker said the communities definitely welcomed the new road we were traversing to their communities in late 2018. He said this will make it easier for them to go down and sell their produce – but he hoped with the road comes agricultural aid, because he feared the cost of transport means less earnings, prompting some of the Dumagat to give up parts of the land they to others with a little bit more money to bring into the land.

With the government’s renewed drive to build dams over their communities, the Dumagat and Remontados are hearing promises again of life supposedly improving because of the dam. In Norzagaray, such promises had torn some indigenous families.

But “Let’s ask those displaced by Pantabangan Dam, Angat Dam and Wawa Dam,” Nico delos Santos, son of the murdered Dumagat environmentalist, Nicanor delos Santos, said in a roundtable discussion last September of leaders of communities to be affected by dam-building.

The young Dumagat has been urging fellow Dumagat and the public not to be taken in by “deceptive packaging” such as the projects being too small it’s called “baby” dams, and the supposed closure of watershed for preservation. In the latter, he said, the indigenous peoples are barred from entering the closed off watershed. But it is not really being reforested, Delos Santos said. It’s only being turned into a plantation of fast-growing trees eventually being harvested for logs and timber. As for the supposed “baby dams”, he said, “The river is a continuing body of water. If you build a dam here and another beyond it and another upstream, these are no small dams at all but a large dam.”

Like in past struggles against the dam project, women like Nanay Nene are adamant that they will not take this sitting down. On top of their household and production roles she and other Dumagat women have embraced the added responsibility of building unity among their neighboring villages and outside. The women see the need to counter what they call as false information being spread among the indigenous groups by government agencies who they said “should know better.” To them these agencies include the NCIP (National Commission on Indigenous Peoples).The Dumagat and Remontado women are taking their role seriously in the bid to save the river, the environment and consequently their homes and life.

“We are not selfish, this is also your river, we also wanted you to sample the river,“ a Dumagat woman told Bulatlat. “You should see for yourself how beautiful the river is, how we have life because it’s there.”
Indeed, the Dumagat women are closely linked to the water – they use it for cooking meals, cleaning up, washing clothes, nurturing food crops. Lately they are also learning the ropes of ecotourism.


As the men are kept busy with work in the field, and they are more often accosted by government soldiers who invariably accuse those they see in the mountains as rebels, the women have taken it upon themselves to spread understanding and updates to the neighboring communities. With the support of the men, they tell us the women are organizing and spearheading protest actions for the river. They make the most of the women’s natural disposition to talk and swap stories after the day’s work. With them active in the struggle against the dam, they have formed a women’s assembly called Imaset. And they have even come up with a song and unity dance calling on the “kadumagetan” (the Dumagat people) and everyone to unite and defend Sierra Madre. 

PCPR hits Duterte’s tirade against church, bishops

Jan. 14, 2019 KEN E. CAGULA

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — The Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR) scored the latest remark of President Rodrigo Duterte against the church and bishops, saying his tirades “it deliberately persuades religious differences and amplifies disrespect and violence among the people.”

In a statement PCPR said the chief executive’s statement is no joke and never “should be considered as one, especially with the ‘bloody’ human rights record of the Duterte administration.”

“Without amour as a nation’s father, his words do not even attempt to promote unity and to resolve any single social problem,” PCPR said in a statement.

PCPR feared that Duterte’s provocation could lead to actual and possible threats and harassments, and physical attacks against church leaders, noting the cases of killings of against clergy and church workers.

“…his rants were so scandalous that it smokescreens and conceals horridly his administration’s neglect of its responsibilities to the people and its plans that poses even graver danger to the nation and our future. His administration has mastered the use of sloppy propaganda and diatribe to conceal and route its agenda from all rational discussion and criticism,” PCPR said. 

“Worse, he resorted to inciting violence and to inducing its forces to commit more crimes aimed at the people, including church people,” it added.

PCPR also claimed that Duterte’s tirade against the church was “part of the systematic attack against those who work to build a better society for the Filipinos and those who criticize the unacceptable, anti-people policies of the present administration.”

On Monday, Malacañang defended Duterte’s tirades against the Catholic Church as a “self-defense” in the part of the chief executive.

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo quoted Duterte saying he’ll be responding to the “attacks” of the clergymen in pulpits, using the President’s office.

“If you can unleash tirades against the President then be ready to receive some in return,” Panelo said.

Panelo reiterated that it is just the “style” of the President and what he said was meant to criticize bishops who “are living in comfort and yet people are wallowing in poverty.” (

DepEd urged: Tell AFP to leave IP communities so that IP children can continue schooling

Jan. 13, 2019 KEN E. CAGULA

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — A group advocating education for indigenous peoples is urging the Department of Education (DepEd) in the region to order the government forces to leave the lumad communities so that the children can continue schooling in the lumad schools at Talaingod, Davao del Norte. 

The Save Our Schools (SOS) Network issued a statement when a Deped Davao Region official was “making an issue” out of technicalities of Salugpungan Ta Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center Inc. (STTICLCI) when it resumed classes in evacuation center in UCCP, Haran Davao City.

DepEd Davao Region spokesperson Jenelito Atillo, in a report on last Jan.9, said that a permit of a tribal school could only be used “in the location to which it was given”. The agency recommended sending the children to the nearby public schools for their education to be counted.

“If we have to be technical about it, what about the violations made by the military against international humanitarian law and the rights of the children?” Rius Valle, SOS Network spokesperson, said.

“This is the reason why these Lumad children are in bakwit schools because the soldiers and paramilitary are encamped in the campus and padlocking them, and DepEd need to act on this,” he added.


SOS Network criticized DepEd for raising “technicality” as an issue among Lumad schools. Valle noted the incident of forcible closure of one MISFI Academy school in Kapalong, Davao del Norte back in 2015.

Yet, Valle said, the DepEd ignored the dangers by urging the Lumad evacuees to return to their communities and continue their schooling in areas stipulated in the government issued permits. 

He said DepEd should weigh in the cases of attacks on Salugpongan schools and other Lumad schools.

The group recalled the case of Salugpungan student Obillo Bay-ao, 17, shot dead by a militiaman in Barangay Palma Gil, Sitio Nasilaban in September 2017; and Salugpongan teacher Rafael Miguel survived a gun attack by a member of Alamara in 2017.

Quick-fix solution

Regarding to the DepEd official’s suggestion of transferring the Salugpungan students to public schools, Valle said that it is a “quick-fix solution but fails to address the problem.”

Aside from being far from the communities, he also doubted that public schools can fully absorb more than 600 students from Salugpungan schools.

“We remind the DepEd that Salugpongan schools and other Lumad schools ran by NGOs and religious groups are their partners in implementing their education program for the Lumad. There should be no competition,” Valle stressed.

Last Jan.7, Salugpungan campuses in Talaingod resumed their classes for the 3rd grading period in the evacuation center.

“Teaching Lumad children is such a monumental task. Education is vital to the social and cultural development of indigenous communities, so when Lumad schools are attacked it is no exaggeration to say that the future of IP communities is at stake. Because of that, we from STTICLC shall fervently resume the classes of two campuses at Palma Gil Talaingod albeit in a different area – at the Bakwit site at Haran, Davao city,” said Meggie Nolasco, STTICLCI Executive Director.

Nolasco called on the goverment forces to stop their attacks and spare their school as zones of peace as declared by the DepEd.

“We also demand to the Department of Education to strictly adhere to international covenants sparing schools and other places of learning from any form of attack,” Nolasco said.

Investigate attacks

The SOS network urged the DepEd in the region to investigate these cases of attacks on schools “which have been reported to them by Salugpongan administrators and other Lumad schools.”

Valle stressed that it is within the mandate of DepEd to enforce the protection of schools and ensure the right to education of Lumad children.

“Rather than zeroing in on the issue of technicality, the way to address these bakwet schools is to enforce the soldiers leave the Lumad schools and communities, and disband the paramilitary, so that the Lumad schools can return,” said Valle.

Salugpungan schools were facing a series of threats and harassments from the military and Alamara, over allegations that these lumad schools were being run by the New People’s Army (NPA). These accusations were already refuted by the school, arguing that they have permit to operate issued by DepEd. (

Report on 2018 CUPE Global Justice Committee visit to the Philippines

CUPE visit highlights struggle to defend human rights and public services in Philippines

Share thisJan 10, 2019

At the national office of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT). The ACT continues to organize and mobilize education sector workers, and recently exposed illegal profiling of ACT activists being carried out by the Philippine National Police.

Workers and defenders of human rights are facing growing repression and violence in the Philippines. A CUPE delegation recently visited two of our partner unions to shine a spotlight on these human rights violations and build cross-border solidarity. They also learned about community and trade union organizing to fight privatization and strengthen public services.

CUPE has built strong connections with unions in the Philippines over the last decade, including developing Global Justice Fund projects with the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) and the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE). Over that time, changes in the political situation have made living conditions worse for most people, and have led to escalating attacks on the rights of trade union leaders and human rights defenders.

ACT and COURAGE hosted CUPE’s delegation of leaders, members and staff in mid-November 2018. Members learned about the many serious challenges for workers and most people under the government of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Rising cost of living, low wages, precarious work

CUPE and COURAGE with the Cordillera Peoples’ Alliance (CPA) in Baguio City, Philippines. The CPA is an independent federation of grassroots organizations in Indigenous communities that working to promote and defend Indigenous peoples’ rights, human right

Inflation is rising, driven by growing costs of energy, fuel, transportation and water. Real wages are falling, and national spending on social services, education and housing has decreased. These conditions drive more than 6,000 workers to leave the country and have contributed to increasing personal debt. The growing use of precarious contract workers who lack benefits, referred to as contractualization in the Philippines, is a major issue for public and private sector workers.

The labour movement is calling for these contract workers to become full-time, permanent employees. President Duterte promised to address the issue during the last election, but more than two years later nothing has changed.

COURAGE is campaigning to stop privatization of public services, and for a higher minimum monthly wage. Through their members in the National Food Authority (NFA), COURAGE is also leading opposition to a bill in Congress that would open the Philippines rice market to the world market. This would eliminate the NFA’s power to regulate the price and quality of rice in the public interest. The NFA does for rice what the Canadian Wheat Board did for wheat in Canada before it was privatized.

ACT is campaigning for increased spending on education, a pay increase, and reduced workloads. Teachers are poorly paid and often pay for school supplies out of their own pockets. They held their third national sit-down strike in November to back up their demands.

Workers organize in face of threats

CUPE meeting with precarious workers and members of COURAGE to discuss a collective strategy to fight back against contactualization (the overreliance on contract workers in the public sector).

Members of the CUPE delegation could relate with the COURAGEand ACT members’ fights against austerity, for better working conditions and in support of the public sector. And we had much to learn about how workers continue to organize and mobilize in the face of violent harassment and repression.

Philippines social movements are concerned where the country is heading. The Duterte government has cancelled peace talks, extended martial law, and undermined fundamental pillars of democracy such as a free press. While national spending on social programs is decreasing, the government has increased its military and policing budgets. This spending supports a “war on drugs” which has resulted in the deaths of more than 20,000 people, most of them very poor. The military is also being deployed to suppress resistance to government policies, particularly in indigenous and farming communities.

Our delegation met with displaced leaders and students from the indigenous Lumad community, who are protecting their land from foreign and local mining operations and environmental destruction. The Philippines armed forces are occupying indigenous schools in the region, in an attempt to suppress these protests. ACT is a member of the “Save Our Schools” network, a group of national and local organizations that is defending indigenous schools from these attacks. On the heels of our visit, France Castro, a former ACT leader and sitting congressperson, was detained while visiting indigenous Lumad communities on the island of Mindanao. She was later safely released.

Human rights violations on the rise

Trade unionists and human rights activists are on high alert. Duterte has recently said he will crack down on the New People’s Army, a guerilla movement that’s part of a civil war lasting more than 50 years. These statements provide cover for attacks on people advocating for people’s land rights, decent work, and public services. CUPE’s delegation met with trade union and civil society leaders who have faced harassment, as well as with human rights organizations that have documented 195 victims of extrajudicial killings (predominately indigenous people and farmers), and over 500 political prisoners (including members of COURAGE and ACT).

The CUPE delegation learned a great deal from the trade union leaders and activists they met, and felt deep admiration and respect for their struggles against huge odds and in the face of police and military repression. CUPE will continue to raise our voice, as Canada’s largest union, in support of their struggles and in solidarity for peace and justice for all.

Stay up to date on our partner unions and their struggles:

Confederation for Unity Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees 

Alliance of Concerned Teachers

More than 2.8M voters to take part in Bangsamoro plebiscite

Comelec Spokesperson James Jimenez says the poll body expects a voter turnout rate of at least 75%

Sofia Tomacruz 

Published 5:34 PM, January 14, 2019 Updated 5:34 PM, January 14, 2019 

VOTERS. Members of the Muslim community rally outside the Golden Mosque in Quiapo, Manila as they join the start of campaign period for the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law. Photo by Ben Nabong/Rappler

VOTERS. Members of the Muslim community rally outside the Golden Mosque in Quiapo, Manila as they join the start of campaign period for the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law. Photo by Ben Nabong/Rappler 

MANILA, Philippines – More than 2.8 million people are expected to take part in the plebiscite to ratify the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), Commission on Elections (Comelec) spokesperson James Jimenez announced on Monday, January 14.

In a press briefing, Jimenez said the Comelec recorded 2,839,659 million registered voters distributed over 18,439 established precincts who were registered to vote in the upcoming plebiscite set for January 21 and February 6.

Jimenez earlier said this exceeded the poll body’s target of 2.5 million. He added that the Comelec is projecting at least 75% of registered voters in the region taking part in the plebiscite.

“We expect that there will be high turnout. Historically speaking, elections in that region have enjoyed high turnout rates, so upwards of 75%,” Jimenez said.

The final count includes the more than 150,000 former combatants from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) who registered to vote in the plebiscite.

The poll body previously relaxed some of its rules so that former MILF fighters, their families, and those living in MILF camps could register and take part in the voting exercise.

The plebiscite for the BOL is set to take place on two dates. The first voting day will be on January 21, in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), Cotabato City, and Isabela City. The second voting for Lanao del Norte – except Iligan City – and North Cotabato, as well as LGUs that petitioned to be included, will take place on February 6. (READ: Comelec approves petitions of 20 LGUs to join Bangsamoro plebiscite)

The BOL seeks to abolish the ARMM and replace it with the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), which would have greater fiscal autonomy, a regional government, parliament, and justice system.

It is the culmination of a peace deal signed between the MILF and past administrations, and builds upon the gains of previous Moro peace agreements since the 1970s. (READ: After Bangsamoro law, a bright yet bumpy path to peace) –