Skip to content

Philippine President Not Interested in Peace Only All Out War

Sunday, May 5, 2013
Gabriela, and other grass-roots organizations, protesting on Valentine's Day 2011 asking the government to engage in peace talks with the NDFP (photo courtesy of Arkibong Bayan).

Gabriela, and other grass-roots organizations, protesting on Valentine’s Day 2011 asking the government to engage in peace talks with the NDFP (photo courtesy of Arkibong Bayan).

The human rights group Karapatan says that Aquino is scuttling the peace talks because he is only interested in a military solution for the ongoing armed conflict against the New People’s Army:

“With eight months left to Oplan Bayanihan’s self-imposed deadline to supposedly render the CPP-NPA-NDF insignificant, the Aquino government is again turning the table against the NDFP negotiating panel, in a bid for a graceful exit from the peace talks and to justify intensified attacks, not only against the CPP-NPA-NDF, but more so against the ordinary tao whom the government considers as supporters of the revolutionary movement.”

The statement from Marie Hilao-Enriquez, chairperson of Karapatan, was a reaction to GPH peace panel chair, Alex Padilla “who threw a tantrum before the media and unilaterally declared the collapse of the peace talks between the GPH and the NDFP. “ Hilao-Enriquez is an independent observer to the peace negotiation between the GPH and the NDFP.

Padilla’s statement, Hilao-Enriquez said, “reflects the Aquino government’s position on the peace negotiation with the NDFP.

The GPH’s sincerity to resolve the causes of the armed conflict is questionable from the very beginning.” Now that the self-imposed deadline of rendering the CPP-NPA-NDFP insignificant in 2013, the Aquino government’s accusation that the NDFP is not intent on the peace negotiations provides it with a very convenient excuse to scuttle the talks and resort to war, Hilao-Enriquez added.

Karapatan cited the promotion of “berdugos” and implementers of Gloria Arroyo’s Oplan Bantay Laya among the military such as Col. Aurelio Baladad, Gen. Jorge Segovia, Brig. Gen. Eduardo Año; the appointment of Oplan Bayanihan’s author, Gen. Emmanuel Bautista as AFP Chief of Staff; and recently, the appointment of Gen. Palparan’s right hand man, Brig. Gen. Ricardo Visaya in the 4th ID as “a sign that the GPH means war not peace.”

Hilao-Enriquez also cited the GPH’s refusal to release the detained NDFP consultants despite the GPH’s commitment “to release most, if not all” NDFP consultants. The GPH’s commitment was contained in a joint statement with the NDFP in the February 2011 talks. “The consultants should not be in jail, in the first place, because they are covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) that was signed as early as 1995.” The NDF consultants are slapped with criminal charges.

She added, “In the years that I have been involved in the peace negotiation as an observer, I haven’t seen any proposal from the GPH that would facilitate the resolution of the root causes of the armed conflict. All the GPH want is for the CPP-NPA-NDF to lay down its arms and surrender. It’s essentially ending the peace talks. If that happens, nothing would be resolved; oppression and exploitation of the majority of the poor Filipinos will remain.”

“The GPH’s so-called “new approach” to peace is nothing new. It means war. What it cannot get on the negotiating table, it will pursue in the battlefield. The GPH merely wants to renege on its previously signed agreements with the NDFP and wipe out all forms of opposition to its pro-US, anti-people and anti-national policies,” said Hilao-Enriquez.

Karapatan called on the Filipino people to stand firm and resist the blows of terror from the Aquino government “given the GPH’s stance on the peace negotiation with the NDFP and the approaching deadline of Oplan Bayanihan.”

Labor Day meaning again lost on Philippine president

Thursday, May 2, 2013
Workers on May Day 2012 preparing to burn an effigy of president Noynoy Aquino (photo by Dennis M. Sabangan/EPA).

Workers on May Day 2012 preparing to burn an effigy of president Noynoy Aquino (photo by Dennis M. Sabangan/EPA).

The national democratic alliance, BAYAN, has called president Aquino to task for his anti-worker policies:

It is his third Labor Day as Philippine President yet the meaning of the holiday is still lost on Benigno Aquino III, according to the umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan. At a meeting with some labor groups yesterday, Aquino pitched that instead of holding protests, workers should instead celebrate and credit the positive things government has done.

“Aquino still doesn’t get it. Labor Day is held just once a year. It is a time when workers air their demands and grievances, many of which have been ignored by this and all previous regimes. It’s called Labor Day, Mr. President, not ‘cheer the government day’. You want workers to give your government a pat on the back, when in fact it should be your government trying to address the demands of the workers,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.

“With his speech yesterday, Aquino merely showed that his real concern is the image of the government and not the plight of the workers. He rejects any meaningful wage hike and job security because according to his math, these will destroy the economy. He opposes tax exemptions for workers because this will reduce government revenues and affect our credit ratings. Now he wants an increase in social security contributions so that workers will carry the SSS debt burden,” Reyes said.
Bayan said that workers have every reason to take to the streets and fight for their demands. It cited poverty and the erosion of the standard of living, trade union repression, demolition of urban poor communities and the privatization of government services as among the pressing issues faced by workers today.

“Aquino shows that he doesn’t care about the workers. His approach is no different from the previous regime of GMA. He offers non-wage benefits and job fairs as if these are enough to meet the rising cost of living. It’s a big irony since there’s this talk of the Philippines being a rising tiger yet all it can give the workers is a pittance,” Reyes said.
“Today’s protests and marches will certainly dispute Aquino’s claims of inclusive growth. The protests will dispel claims of a growing economy,” he added.

The group also called on politicians to take the side of the workers especially on important legislative measures such as an across the board wage increase. “Just how many of these candidates have taken the side of the workers, in words and in deeds? The political landscape is so dominated by representatives of big business interests it has become increasingly hard to expect meaningful legislation benefiting the workers,” Reyes said.

“Even now, huge campaign spending will tie the fortunes of the candidates and big business. How is it possible that those spending big are not beholden to their campaign donors from big business?” he added.

Filipino Labor Unions Stand In Solidarity With Bangladesh

Sunday, April 28, 2013
Rescue workers bringing out a survivor from the rubble on April 26th (photo by Stridel/AFP).

Rescue workers bringing out a survivor from the rubble on April 26th (photo by Stridel/AFP).

The national democratic labor center (one of the largest alliance of unions in the Philippines) has released a statement on the tragic building collapse killing over 300 workers in Bangladesh:

We condemn big capitalists who continue to penny-pinch when it comes to workers’ health and safety in order to further boost their profits. We also condemn the Bangladeshi government for neglecting its workers’ and people’s health and safety by promoting unsafe working conditions that have already caused more than 700 deaths in factory fires since 2006. Big capitalists and the Bangladeshi government are the main culprits behind this so-called “accident” that cost hundreds of lives.

We stand in solidarity with the workers and people of Bangladesh, especially the millions of garment workers who are now waging protests against unsafe working conditions, cheap labor and government neglect of labor rights.

Violations of workers’ occupational health and safety are also rampant here in the Philippines. The number of Filipino workers being victimized by these violations are ever-increasing especially in the construction and service sectors of the economy. In fact, until now, justice has not been served over the deaths of workers in ETON Towers, Keppel and Hanjin shipyards, and in NOVO Mall.

We call on the Filipino and Bangladeshi workers and people to take the streets and join protests on May 1, Labor Day. We must fight for safer working conditions, living wages, regular employment and respect for workers’ rights.

Twitter Round-Up 4/28/2013

Saturday, April 27, 2013

AFP Interfers With Elections and Red-Tags Partylists

Saturday, April 27, 2013
Youth and students from Kabataan Partylist at a Northern Luzon youth conference in January (photo courtesy of Kabataan Partylist Cordillera).

Youth and students from Kabataan Partylist at a Northern Luzon youth conference in January (photo courtesy of Kabataan Partylist Cordillera).

The national democratic youth partylist, Kabataan, has decried the dangerous practice of “red-tagging” by the Armed Forces of the Philippines:

Kabataan Partylist condemned the intensified red-tagging and smear campaign being conducted by military operatives, most notably in the provinces, a few weeks before the upcoming elections.

Organizers in several regional chapters including Baguio City obtained printed materials tagging the youth partylist as a front of the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army. These materials were distributed by “men in plain clothes with notable similar military haircuts” and signed by a so-called “P4P Movement,” a group closely associated with intelligence officers of the military, according to Cielo Marie Bayson, Kabataan Partylist Baguio City Coordinator.

The said group was also reported to be distributing similar flyers that vilify Makabayan senatorial candidate Teddy Casiño.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms the continued vilification of progressive partylists and candidates, particularly Kabataan, by suspected elements of the military. This shows that despite touted reforms in the military, the mercenary culture remains in their ranks,” said Kabataan Partylist President Terry Ridon.

“Red-tagging progressive partylists is an old trick of military lapdogs to discredit genuine representatives of the marginalized and underrepresented like Kabataan. Clearly, backward elements in the Armed Forces of the Philippines have yet to understand that being progressive does not equate to being a rebel; that legal democratic organizations are far different from armed rebel groups,” Ridon added.

The youth leader noted that in past elections, such smear campaign was also conducted by the AFP, resulting to several human rights violations against members and volunteers. “The military not only distributes black propaganda, but literally conducts a terror campaign in the countryside to force our countrymen not to vote for partylists that genuinely represent them,” Ridon added.

“Even if the Aquino administration masquerades as a pro-peace and humanitarian government, it is continuously using dirty tactics such as red-tagging to vilify staunch critics of the government and strong opponents of the administration ticket like Teddy Casiño,” Ridon said.

“Despite the military’s intensified smear campaign against Kabataan, we firmly believe that the public knows better. Our track record of service for the youth and the Filipino people disproves any false claims floated by military henchmen,” Ridon ended.

Clash Between NPA and Armed Escort Leaves Mayor Injured and Two Dead

Wednesday, April 24, 2013
NPA on patrol in the rice paddies (photo courtesy of InterAksyon)

NPA on patrol in the rice paddies (photo courtesy of InterAksyon).

On the night of April 20th in Capitulangan, Gingoog City, Misamis Oriental a firefight broke out between the armed escorts of Mayor Guingona and the Philippine National Police (PNP) with soldiers of the New People’s Army who were manning a check-point.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer initially reported on April 21st:

Police and military troops are pursuing a group of communist New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas who wounded Gingoog City Mayor Ruth de Lara Guingona, wife of former Vice President Teofisto Guingona Jr., and killed two of her bodyguards in an attack in Misamis Oriental province late Saturday.

Mayor Guingona, 78, a member of President Aquino’s Liberal Party (LP), suffered bullet wounds in the arms and feet. She was also wounded by shrapnel from a grenade blast during the attack in the hinterland village of Alatagan in Barangay (village) Upper Kapitulangan.

Guingona, mother of Sen. Teofisto “TG” Guingona III, was returning with a six-member escort from a town fiesta in Alatagan when they were “ambushed” by the rebels, Chief Supt. Generoso Cerbo, spokesman for the Philippine National Police, told reporters in Manila.

Cerbo said the rebels fled after a 10-minute fire fight with police. But the mayor was safely retrieved only at dawn Sunday, hours after the attack, because the site was a remote area.

The clash happened when soldiers at the NPA checkpoint were waving the escort of Mayor Guingona down and their checkpoint was rammed by the lead car which lead the PNP and armed escorts to initiate and open fire against the NPA.

Immediately following the incident NPA Jiito Tito Command apologized for the incident:

The New People’s Army-North Central Mindanao Regional Command expresses its sincere apology to the Guingonas, the Velasco family and the people of Gingoog City for the unfortunate incident last night, April 20, around 10:20 PM in Capitulangan, Gingoog City, Misamis Oriental. It is confirmed that a firefight took place between the armed escorts of Mayor Ruthie Guingona and an NPA unit where two driver-bodyguards were killed while Mayor Guingona herself and two other civilians were wounded.

We offer condolences and express our deepest sympathy for the bereaved families of Bartolome Velasco and Nestor Velasco, who were both killed in the incident.

Contrary to reports that the incident was an ambush, it started when Mayor Guingona’s armed escorts fired upon an NPA checkpoint in Capitulangan. The group was on its way home when it passed by the NPA checkpoint near the bridge in Capitulangan. The lead vehicle of Mayor Guingona’s convoy rammed against the bamboo roadblock mounted by the Red fighters while her escorts opened fire at the NPAs flagging down the convoy. The Red fighters immediately returned fire in self defense.

The said NPA unit was carrying out orders from the Regional Command to implement the revolutionary policies regarding the conduct of elections, to flag down candidates and campaigners who carry firearms and armed escorts during their campaign sorties in guerilla zones when doing their campaign rounds without proper coordination with the concerned revolutionary territorial committees and commands.

Since April 15, NPAunits in the different fronts of NCMR have launched coordinated checkpoints to implement this policy. Three of these checkpoints were put up in Gingoog City. Among those held at a checkpoint in Brgy. Samaywere four of Mayor Guingona’s campaigners. Aside from explaining our policy to her campaigners, responsible cadres in the area also personally contacted Mayor Guingona through phone, reminding her to avoid bringing armed escorts during campaign sorties.

We recognize Vice Pres. Guingona’s significant contribution to the Filipino people’s anti-dictatorship struggle and his steadfast nationalist standpoint on various issues. We look upon Senator TG Guingona’s pro-people standpoint. Thus, we are deeply saddened by this unfortunate incident. We take responsibility for this.

For the civilian casualties, we will exhaust all efforts to contact their families to extend our indemnification and lend needed medical assistance to the wounded.

Despite this incident, the NPA will continue to put up checkpoints in the implementation of revolutionary policies and to ensure the peaceful conduct of election campaign in guerilla zones. We wish to reiterate our warning to all candidates who are campaigning in guerilla zones to avoid carrying firearms or armed escorts to avoid the occurrence of similar incident in the future.

The progressive multi-sectoral national democratic alliance, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN), also came out with a statement:

Bayan is deeply saddened by the shooting incident involving a New People’s Army unit in Misamis Oriental and the convoy of Gingoog Mayor Ruth Guingona. We offer our solidarity with the Guingona family during this difficult time.
It is right that the NPA assumed responsibility for the action, apologized for the deaths and injuries of civilians, and offered indemnification to their families. Complaints by the aggrieved parties can be brought directly to the National Democratic Front of the Philippines through the GPH-NDFP Joint Monitoring Committee on the Comprehensive Agreement for Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law. Mechanisms are in place to ensure that there would be a proper investigation and that there would be accountability for the NPA actions.

It is not surprising too that the Armed Forces of the Philippines says that the NPA checkpoint was done because of the alleged refusal of Mayor Guingona to pay campaign fees to the NPA. This is meant to make the incident appear as a case of plain extortion, detached from the bigger picture which is the ongoing civil war and the stalled peace negotiations between the GPH and NDFP. The AFP should top using the incident to draw attention away from the many unresolved human rights violations linked to the military, such as the abduction of Jonas Burgos, Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan and the murder of labor leader Rolando Olalia and his driver Leonor Alay-ay.

SF CHRP Blasts AFP for Harassing Humanitarian and Human Rights Organizers

Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Protesters accuse the military and Davao Oriental governor Corazon Malanyaon of sabotaging fact-finding mission on alleged corruption of relief goods, massive logging and human rights violations (photo by Karlos Manlupig/Rappler).

Protesters accuse the military and Davao Oriental governor Corazon Malanyaon of sabotaging fact-finding mission on alleged corruption of relief goods, massive logging and human rights violations (photo by Karlos Manlupig/Rappler).

Latest press release from the San Francisco Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (SF CHRP) on the latest harassment of aid and humanitrian workers and human rights investigators by the 67th Infantry Battalion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP):

Close to 70 members of the National Humanitarian and Fact Finding Mission (NHFFM) were left stranded on the night of April 20th in Baganga, Davao Oriental after two-days of military harassment by the 67th Infantry Battalion (IB) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). The NHFFM, which includes human rights organizers, nuns, union leaders, and church workers, was in the region to provide humanitarian assistance due to the ravages of typhoon Pablo and to also investigate human rights violations by the AFP and the killing of Christina Jose, a local leader of Barug Katawhan.

Despite evidence provided by the organizers, church workers, nuns, union leaders, and journalists on the ground the spokesperson for the 67th IB, Lt. Col. Krishnamurti Mortela, denied that there was any harassment of the humanitarian and human rights workers and that they were dismayed over the fact that they were holding an independent investigation of Jose’s murder instead of cooperating with the military and local authorities.

“The intransigence and bravado of Mortela is out of this world,” exclaimed Estanislao. “He either has completely lost his mind or is spinning a web of lies that is enveloping himself. In no way has the military helped in the investigation for the NHFFM especially when they themselves are the main culprits in these violations and when they are the main suspects in the assassination of Christina Jose. They have done everything in their power to keep this humanitarian and fact-finding mission from happening.”

“Also, to suggest that the NHFFM cooperate with the perpetrators of human rights violations is ludicrous,” continued Estanislao. “Of course they would have a separate independent investigation into the spate of killings and human rights violations that have been going on recently since that will be the best way in finding the truth. Any investigation by the police or military would become a complete whitewash.”

Fianna Fáil Scumbags Claim Moral High Ground

Monday, April 22, 2013
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin asserted today at the party’s 1916 commemoration that if people wanted to know where the men and women of 1916 would have stood in later years, they would find out by looking at what they did: taking the route of constitutional republicanism (photo by Cyril Byrne/Irish Times).

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin speaking on Sunday at the party’s 1916 commemoration claiming that his party was the true party of Republicanism (photo by Cyril Byrne/Irish Times).

The leader of Fianna Fail, Micheal Martin, in a speech commemorating the 1916 Easter Uprising in Dublin attacked the Provisional movements historical role in trying to break British imperialism’s stranglehold on Ireland by claiming they had “sullied” Republicanism.

The Irish Times reported:

Mr Martin asserted that if people wanted to know where the men and women of 1916 would have stood in later years, they would find out by looking at what they did: taking the route of constitutional republicanism.

The speech, and its focus on Sinn Féin, was received as an effort by Fianna Fáil to assert its republican credentials against a party which has posed an increased electoral threat in the south.

Now, I’m no fan (of the current state) of the Provisionals and of their leadership whom I consider to be in bed with the British administered statelet of Northern Ireland (more on that later) but for Fianna Fail to attack the Provisionals in their historical role up upholding revolutionary Republicanism is both morally and intellectually bankrupt  and utterly laughable.

Fianna Fail, using the guise of “Constitutional Republicanism,” completely capitulated to the interests of the Irish and British capitalist class by turning their backs on the 1916 Easter Proclamation and of the 1919 Dail Eireann.  Many of those who had joined Fianna Fail were from the privileged class and had been part of IRA units and councils during the War for Independence that routinely would take the sides of land lords and local businessmen against the starving masses of the Irish people.

This was also the party that had outlawed the true army of the people for Ireland (and for Republicanism), the IRA, which was seeking to revolutionize (in certain ways) an Irish society that was experiencing British occupation in the north and colonization in the guise of the Free State.  This was the same group of traitors that allowed the British to withdraw from the south of Ireland in order to occupy the north and terrorize the Irish there.  This was also the same party that took up reactionary and conservative economic policies that harmed the poor, the working class, and the small farmers and also routinely bowed down to the will of the reactionary Catholic hierarchy   This was also the party that interned dozens upon dozens of IRA members in the 1940s in deplorable internment camps and prisons and let a number of them die on hunger strike.

Indeed, it was not Thatcher that first let the blood of Irish hunger strikers in a divided Ireland drip from her hands but fellow Irish of the Irish Free State.

I would argue that the Provisionals helped reinvigorate Republicanism by asserting the right of an occupied, broken, and oppressed people to stand up for themselves and to fight back against the British who had used the north as their cheap source of industrial labor and had created a neo-colony in the south in order to keep a capitalist stranglehold on the Irish people.

Of course, the Provisionals completely abandoned Republicanism by suspending a just war against the British and by allowing themselves to recognize the Irish Free State as legitimate and by also enmeshing themselves in the British administered government in Stormont through the Good Friday agreement.

The capitulation of the Provisionals to the Irish State (even claiming the army of the Republic as the “true” army of Republicanism instead of the IRA) and to the right of Britain to occupy the north is essentially no different from what Fianna Fail did 90+ years ago.  In fact, this is something reporter Harry McGee noted in the Irish Times:

[Provisional Sinn Fein]  is on a long-term upward trajectory. It’s not even, or all that quick – as the Meath East byelection and the flatline election of 2007 remind us. Will the aspiration of a united Ireland fade as it did for Fianna Fáil? Will the party’s self-styled brand of pragmatic realistic left-wing republicanism be enough to allow it capture the citadel in the South as it did in the North? Its main problem is that Fianna Fáil is still there, and it did all that 87 years ago. [bold mine]

Essentially, Martin’s attack on revolutionary Republicanism (against a now currently revisionist and reformist Sinn Fein) is mute as the Provisionals are slowly moving towards Martin’s views and visions.  Really, the real reason for the attack is as reporter Harry McGee noted, ” an effort by Fianna Fáil to assert its republican credentials against a party which has posed an increased electoral threat in the south.”

Twitter Round-Up 4/21/2013

Monday, April 22, 2013

Republican Sinn Féin sends s olidarity to Turkish Hunger Striker

Sunday, April 21, 2013


Photo of Nezif Eski'yi (courtesy of Halkin Sesi).

Photo of Nezif Eski’yi (courtesy of Halkin Sesi).

Republican Sinn Féin sends solidarity to Turkish Hunger Striker

A Turkish political prisoner is on hunger strike in a French jail since March 13, 2013, to protest against the inhumane practice of strip-searches against political prisoners in France. Republican Sinn Féin sends greetings of solidarity to him and urges the French government to immediately cease the practice of strip searches.

Nezif Eski is a Turkish political prisoner with Arab roots who went on hunger strike on March 13. He was forced go on hunger strike to demand the immediate ending of strip-searches against political prisoners. The Administrative Court of Melun, Seine-et-Marne, suspended on Friday, March 29, the full body search for prisoners which was established by the prison authorities in at Fresnes jail where Nezif Eski is held. Though the prison authorities in Fresnes still don’t accept his demands, no statement has been made from their side.

Nezif Eski had to suffer under the inhumane practice of strip-searches at every visit he received. This is a fundamental attack on his freedom and an illegal practice according to the Human Rights Convention.

Republican Sinn Féin sends solidarity greetings to political prisoner Nezif Eski. In a statement RSF International spokesperson Dieter Blumenfeld said: “I want to express our solidarity with comrade Nezif on behalf of everyone in Republican Sinn Féin. We demand an immediate end of the degrading, inhumane and illegal practice of strip-searches by the prison authorities in France. We urge the French government to stop this practice.

“Furthermore I want to use the opportunity to once more urge the English government and the prison authorities in the Occupied Six Counties to end the same inhume practice against Irish Republican prisoners. Nezif Eski is not alone. The fight against strip-searches is as the same fight as it is waged by the republican prisoners in Maghaberry.

“Republican Sinn Féin urges all supporters in France and internationally to support our comrade Nezif Eski and make his case known. Together we will win the fight for the rights of the political prisoners held in Fresnes and Maghaberry jail!” Blumenfeld said.

Bipartisan Panel Implicates US in Use of Torture

Sunday, April 21, 2013
A U.S. Navy sailor passes by a sign at the U.S. detention center for "enemy combatants" on September 16, 2010 in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (photo by John Moore/Getty Images).

A U.S. Navy sailor passes by a sign at the U.S. detention center for “enemy combatants” on September 16, 2010 in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (photo by John Moore/Getty Images).

Human Rights Watch is reporting that a bipartisan panel has found that the United States, at the highest level, was involved in and allowed the torture of detainees and prisoners of war since the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001:

A bipartisan study finding “indisputable” evidence of torture for which the highest United Statesofficials bear responsibility should spur the US government to thoroughly investigate detainee abuse since September 11, 2001, and provide redress to victims.

The 560-page study, “The Report of the Constitution Project’s Task Force on Detainee Treatment,” released on April 16, 2013, is the product of a two-year study based on evidence in the public record. It was conducted by a bipartisan task force assembled by The Constitution Project, a public interest organization. Task force members came from a broad range of ideological perspectives and professions, and include both former Republican and Democratic policymakers and members of Congress, retired generals, judges, lawyers, and academics.

“The finding of torture by a diverse, bipartisan task force, without subpoena power and looking solely at the public record, shows the need for an official US investigation into detainee abuse,” said Laura Pitter, counterterrorism advisor at Human Rights Watch. “The indisputable evidence of torture clearly raises the question: what will the US government do about it?”

The report concludes that, “The nation’s most senior officials … bear ultimate responsibility for allowing and contributing to the spread of illegal and improper interrogation techniques used by some US personnel on detainees in several theaters.” It also finds that much information obtained through torture and other ill-treatment was not useful or reliable. The report’s findings are largely consistent with Human Rights Watch’s own investigations.

The US is obligated under both domestic and international law to investigate allegations of torture, appropriately prosecute those responsible, and ensure effective redress for victims, Human Rights Watch said. No senior US officials have been held accountable for their role in authorizing and implementing torture or other ill-treatment of terrorism suspects. The US government has repeatedly sought and secured dismissals of lawsuits brought by former detainees in US federal court, claiming that litigating the cases would harm national security.

The US government should pursue credible criminal investigations against US officials implicated in torture. If it does not, other countries should prosecute US officials involved in crimes against detainees in accordance with international law, Human Rights Watch said.

“The American people deserve a full accounting of the torture conducted in their name,” Pitter said. “The work of this private, bipartisan commission sends a clear message that full disclosure is an issue of great importance to all Americans, no matter their political leanings.”

Twitter Round-Up 4/20/2013

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Guatemalan President Suspends Genocide Trial

Saturday, April 20, 2013
Ixil indigenous women hold up flowers in protest outside court in Guatemala City on Friday (photo by Luis Soto/AP).

Ixil indigenous women hold up flowers in protest outside court in Guatemala City on Friday (photo by Luis Soto/AP).

Democracy Now is reporting that the genocide trial of former US-backed dictator Rios Montt was suspended after evidence began surfacing of accusing current president General Otto Pérez Molina of war crimes:

A historic trial against former U.S.-backed Guatemalan dictator Efraín Ríos Montt on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity came to an abrupt end Thursday when an appeals court suspended the trial before a criminal court was scheduled to reach a verdict. Ríos Montt on was charged in connection with the slaughter of more than 1,700 people in Guatemala’s Ixil region after he seized power in 1982. His 17-month rule is seen as one of the bloodiest chapters in Guatemala’s decades-long campaign against Maya indigenous people, which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands. Thursday’s decision is seen as a major blow to indigenous victims. Investigative journalist Allan Nairn reported last night Guatemalan army associates had threatened the lives of case judges and prosecutors and that the case had been annulled after intervention by Guatemala’s president, General Otto Pérez Molina. Ríos Montt was the first head of state in the Americas to stand trial for genocide. Nairn flew to Guatemala last week after he was called to testify in Ríos Montt’s trial. He was listed by the court as a “qualified witness” and was tentatively scheduled to testify on Monday. But at the last minute, Nairn was kept off the stand “in order,” he was told, “to avoid a confrontation” with the president, General Pérez Molina, and for fear that if he took the stand, military elements might respond with violence. In the 1980s, Nairn extensively documented broad army responsibility for the massacres and was prepared to present evidence that personally implicated Pérez Molina, who was field commander during the very Mayan Ixil region massacres for which the ex-dictator, Ríos Montt, had been charged with genocide.

Killer of Human Rights Activist Identified

Friday, April 19, 2013
Protestors decrying the killing of Benjamin Bayles, and others, by the Armed Forces of the Philippines back in 2010 (photo courtesy of Arkibong Bayan).

Protestors decrying the killing of Benjamin Bayles, and others, by the Armed Forces of the Philippines back in 2010 (photo courtesy of Arkibong Bayan).

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers have welcomed the positive identification of AFP soldiers involved in the killing of national democratic organizer Benjamin Bayles:

On the confirmation, positive identification, and specific personal pinpointing in Negros court of killers of activist Benjamin Bayles by top Army officials (PA Adjutant Col. Alexis Gopico and 61st IB Commander Col. Richard Bayhon) that they are enlisted personnel under their command:

This is a welcome development and high point in making extra-judicial killings perpetrators accountable. This is ultimately a product of public vigilance and pressure by human rights defenders aided also by conscientious legal work. Amidst strong evidence, the military was compelled to admit this fact.

But it remains to be seen if this leads to deeper investigation, determination of other guilty parties, including possibly superior officers. Accused who are lowly private first class personnel may be sacrificial, dispensable small fry to stop investigation and let the masterminds escape identification and prosecution.

As in the case of Jonas Burgos and other rights violations, there is no closure until there is full justice for the victims and all perpetrators made to account.

The killers of Bayles, a member of Bayan Muna and lay minister of the Iglesia Independiente Filipina, were arrested at a checkpoint within hours after the crime. Suspects Private First Class Rafael Cordova and Private First Class Reygine Laus initially identified themselves as civilians using the pseudonyms Roger Bajon and Ronnie Caurino, respectively. NUPL lawyers from the Negros Occidental chapter and the national secretariat serve as private prosecutors.

British policing force attack Short Strand residents

Thursday, April 18, 2013
Police attack Irish youth in the Short Strand of Belfast (photo courtesy of éirígí).

Police attack Irish youth in the Short Strand of Belfast (photo courtesy of éirígí).

The Republican socialist group éirígí has released this press statement on the RUC/PSNI attacks on Irish residents in the Short Strand area of Belfast:

On Wednesday evening, at approximately 7.45pm, a small group of nationalist youths were gathered at the top of Mountpottinger Road in the Short Strand area of east Belfast when PSNI personnel arrived into the district and dispersed them for no apparent reason.

Meanwhile, the PSNI ignored a group of unionists who were illegally blockading the Castlereagh Road, not far from the Short Strand.

The unionists then moved on to the Mountpottinger Rodd and proceeded to take down a tricolour from a lamppost. Despite knowing the very obvious provocation that would ensue from this action, the PSNI chose not to take any action. The unionists then burned the flag in view of local residents and, inevitably, a short altercation ensued.

Instead of moving the unionists away from the interface area, PSNI personnel began attacking local residents – young and old, male and female – inflicting serious injuries as this “impartial police force” rampaged through the area.

This latest incident follows months of so-called flag protests when residents of the Short Strand had to endure weekly attacks on their area by unionists on their way to and from demonstrations in the city centre.

The flag controversy and continuing protests and attacks by unionists illustrate the continuing reality of the sectarian state – as does the accompanying partisan policing by the PSNI, which we are constantly told has changed beyond recognition. However, reality states differently.

The Short Strand is an area which has endured the wrath of unionist bigotry, aided and abetted by the crown forces, throughout the present conflict and beyond.

Residents are again fearful of what this year’s so-called marching season will bring.

While constitutional nationalist politicians cosy up to their unionist buddies at Stormont the people of the Strand hold their breath in anxious anticipation of the summer months and those carnivals of sectarianism and racism which are annually facilitated by the Parades Commission and the PSNI.