Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Alexander Martin Remollino

Sa masang tagasuporta ng dating Pangulong Joseph “Erap” Estrada


“I believe I can best continue to repay our people the blessings that God has so graciously given me by supporting from hereon the programs of Mrs. Arroyo that are intended to attack generational poverty and hunger.”

–- Joseph “Erap” Estrada, 26 Oktubre 2007, matapos mapalaya sa bisa ng executive clemency

Kaytagal ninyong sinubaybayan ang pelikulang-seryeng iyon:
ang walang-katapusang duruan
ng isang gustong makalaya’t isang ayaw makulong.
Kaytagal na kayo’y nakingitngit, nakidalamhati
sa tauhang nakakulong
sapagkat sa tabing ng inyong mga panaginip,
siya na sana ang maghuhudyat ng inyong itinakdang araw –-
dangan nga lamang at inagaw ng iilan sa kanya,
wika ninyo,
ang luklukang inyong sa kanya’y pinaghatiran.

Sa wakas ng palabas,
umugong at dumagundong ang inyong mga hiyaw
nang ang bida’y humarap sa inyo
na wala nang posas ang mga galanggalangan –-

at aywan kung rumehistrong malinaw sa tabing
ang nabunyag na katotohanang
’sindilim ng bulwagan kung patay ang mga ilaw:
na yaong bidang kaylaong ipinagrosaryo’t ipinag-orasyon
at kontrabidang kaylaong gustong ipakulam

ay iisa lamang pala ang tunay na mukha.

At dito’y walang dapat ikapanlaki ng mga mata
sapagkat sa pelikula ng ating kasaysayan,
tayong mamamayan ay lagi nang mga hamak na ekstra
at may iilan lamang na bida’t kontrabida
na iisa ang hilatsa ng mga mukha.
At magpapatuloy ang nakapahaba nang palabas na ito
hanggang tayong mamamaya’y hindi nakapagpapasya
na maging direktor ng sariling kapalaran.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


As NUPL secretary-general and CODAL spokesperson Neri Javier Colmenares put it in an Oct. 18 forum at UP, the writ of amparo is a legal remedy that “could pierce the veil of impunity” shrouding human rights violators in the Philippines. Its effectivity as a legal recourse, however, faces a challenge from President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s recent issuance of AO 197.

Vol. VII, No. 37, October 21-27, 2007

As National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) secretary-general and Counsels for the Defense of Liberties (CODAL) spokesperson Neri Javier Colmenares put it in an Oct. 17 forum at the University of the Philippines (UP), the writ of amparo is a legal remedy that “could pierce the veil of impunity” shrouding the perpetrators of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances in the Philippines.

Its effectivity as a legal recourse, however, faces a challenge from President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s recent issuance of Administrative Order No. 197. The said administrative order, which was implemented on the same day that the Rule on the Writ of Amparo was approved, provides among other things that:

“1. The Department of National Defense (DND) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) shall work closely with Presidential Human Rights Committee (PHRC) subcommittee on killings and disappearances for speedy action on cases and effective reforms to avoid abuses with regular reports to the Commander-in-Chief through the Executive Secretary as PHRC chair, and in consultation with the Court administrator, invited as PHRC subcommittee observer.

“2. The DND/AFP (Department of National Defense/Armed Forces of the Philippines) shall draft legislation in consultation with the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office and Congress allies for safeguards against disclosure of military secrets and undue interference in military operations inimical to national security…”

A.M. No. 07-9-12-SC, approved by the Supreme Court on Sept. 25 and set to take effect on Oct. 24, provides that the writ of amparo shall cover threats or actual cases of “extralegal killings” and enforced disappearances.

Its reach extends beyond that of the writs of habeas corpus and habeas data, as it expressly disallows “general denials” of allegations in petitions for the writ.

The writ of habeas corpus requires the military to physically produce missing persons suspected to be in its custody. The writ of habeas data, meanwhile, requires that the military produce evidence or items containing evidence on the whereabouts of missing persons believed to be in its custody.

In habeas corpus or habeas data petitions, the courts have no power against the military’s denials of allegations.

Amparo petitioners and interim reliefs

Under the Rule of the Writ of Amparo, aggrieved parties or qualified persons may file petitions for the writ in the following order: any member of the immediate family, namely: the spouse, children and parents of the aggrieved party; any ascendant, descendant or collateral relative of the aggrieved party within the fourth civil degree of consanguinity or affinity, in default of members of the immediate family; or any concerned citizen, organization, association or institution, if there is no known member of the immediate family or relative of the aggrieved party.

The Rule provides that both public officials or employees and private persons may be named as respondents to petitions for the writ of amparo.

Under the Rule on the Writ of Amparo, the following interim reliefs are available to petitioners: temporary protection order, inspection order, production order, and witness protection order.

The temporary protection requires that the petitioner or aggrieved party or any member of the immediate family be extended protection by a government agency or any accredited person or private institution capable of ensuring their safety. The protection may be extended to the officers involved if the petitioner is an organization.

The Supreme Court is to accredit the persons or institutions that would extend temporary protection to the petitioners, aggrieved parties, or members of the immediate family.

The inspection order requires that persons in possession of any designated land or other property allow entry “for the purpose of inspecting, measuring, surveying, or photographing the property or any relevant object or operation thereon.”

The production order requires that persons in possession, custody or control of designated “documents, papers, books, accounts, letters, photographs, objects or tangible things, or objects in digitized or electronic form, which constitute or contain evidence relevant to the petition” to produce these and allow their inspection.

A.M. No. 07-9-12-SC provides that if either the inspection order or the production order is opposed on grounds of “national security or of the privileged nature of the information,” the court, judge or justices issuing the writ shall conduct hearings on the merits of the opposition.

Meanwhile, under the witness protection order, witnesses are to be referred to the Department of Justice (DoJ) for admission to the Witness Protection Program provided for by Republic Act No. 6981.

AO 197 and impunity

The writ of amparo faces a challenge to its effectivity as a legal recourse for victims of “extralegal killings” or enforced disappearances and their relatives with Arroyo’s issuance of AO 197 last Sept. 25.

As Colmenares told reporters who interviewed him on the sidelines of the Oct. 17 forum at UP, there is something problematic in AO 197’s requirement that matters involving killings and disappearances be reported by the DND/AFP to the Commander-in-Chief.

“It paves the way for military officers summoned by the courts (on issues regarding killings and disappearances) to claim executive privilege,” Colmenares said. “The military officer can just say, ‘Well, I cannot answer the question because that forms part of my report to the President, and since it’s part of the report it’s already covered by executive privilege.’ So all investigations, all suspicions, all updates, leads are to be reported to the Commander-in-Chief. That may be interpreted as covered by executive privilege. So that will not only defeat the writ of amparo, but that will also undermine the judicial power of the Supreme Court.”

He also sees a problem in AO 197’s instruction for the drafting of legislation to protect military secrets.

“(With that) how can the judge now issue inspection orders?” Colmenares said.

Any legislation to protect military secrets pursuant to AO 197 may also include ways to get around production orders. The items which constitute or contain evidence relevant to petitions for the writ of amparo may also be classified as part of “military secrets” to be protected.

“Whatever openings may have been created (by the writ of amparo) in fighting impunity may close again,” Colmenares said. Bulatlat

Monday, October 15, 2007


The existence of lawyer Francis Ver was practically unknown until last Oct. 9, when Anakpawis Rep. Crispin Beltran delivered a privilege speech at the House of Representatives accusing him of having offered a P2-million bribe three days before in exchange for supporting what was described as a “fake impeachment complaint” against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Vol. VII, No. 6, October 14-20, 2007

The existence of lawyer Francis Ver was practically unknown until last Oct. 9, when Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) Rep. Crispin Beltran delivered a privilege speech at the House of Representatives accusing him of having offered a P2-million bribe three days before in exchange for supporting what was described as a “fake impeachment complaint” against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Beltran’s disclosure has not only brought public attention to Ver; it has also uncovered what appears to be a rift within the administration coalition in the House of Representatives – not only between Arroyo’s party, Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (Kampi or Partner of the Free Filipino), and House Speaker Jose de Venecia’s party, Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas-CMD) –- but also within Kampi itself.

Filed Oct. 5 by Roel Pulido, who was until last September known as the lawyer of the dissident soldiers who have come to be called the Magdalo Group, the impeachment complaint cites Arroyo for betrayal of public trust in relation to the National Broadband Network (NBN) scam.

The NBN project is a $329-million contract that aims to connect government agencies throughout the Philippines through the Internet.

The deal was signed in Boao, China on April 21 – when the government was not allowed to sign contracts because of the then-upcoming senatorial and local elections. It has become controversial for allegedly being overpriced and for supposedly having been signed without going through the proper bidding process.

Jose de Venecia III, son of House Speaker Jose de Venecia and co-founder of Amsterdam Holdings, Inc. which is one of the losing bidders in the NBN deal, has accused former Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Benjamin Abalos of offering him $10 million in exchange for backing out of the NBN deal –- an accusation the former Comelec chief has denied.

In a privilege speech on Aug. 29, Nueva Vizcaya Rep. Carlos Padilla said it was Abalos who brokered the deal between the Philippine government and ZTE Corp. Padilla also said Abalos was seen playing golf with ZTE officials in Manila and Shenzen. He also accused Abalos of receiving money and women in exchange for brokering the NBN deal.

In his three-page complaint, of which Bulatlat received a copy courtesy of Beltran’s office, Pulido said:

“During her incumbency as President of the Republic, the Secretary of the Department of Transportation and Communications, Sec. Leandro Mendoza, on April 21, 2007 entered into an agreement with the ZTE for the latter to provide equipments, construct and install the same for the National Broadband Network Project under terms and conditions apparently disadvantageous to the Filipino people.

“It appears that entering into such contract was actually dictated by the illegal and corrupt machinations undertaken by high government officials, including but not limited to Chairman Benjamin Abalos of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), House Speaker Jose de Venecia, Jr. and the Speaker’s son, Jose de Venecia III. In fact, in an affidavit executed by Jose de Venecia III, he admits that a breakfast meeting was organized by House Speaker Jose de Venecia to allow the two proponents of the National Broadband Network Project, ZTE and AHI, to consolidate their proposals and corner the broadband project...

“That these corrupt and illegal negotiations were being undertaken was not unknown to the Respondent. In fact, in his testimony before the Senate, Jose de Venecia III claimed under oath that his father, House Speaker Jose de Venecia told him that the Respondent President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, House Speaker Jose de Venecia, Jr., and Comelec Chairman Benjamin Abalos discussed the respective proposals of AHI and ZTE during a golf game in China.

“Worse, Sec. Romulo Neri, in his Sept. 26, 2007 testimony before the Senate, admitted under oath that he was offered a P200-million bribe by Comelec Chairman Abalos, and that he reported the matter to the Respondent President. Despite being told of the bribe offer, the Respondent did nothing.”

His complaint was endorsed by Laguna Rep. Edgar San Luis –- who is identified with the administration coalition.

Bribery allegations

On Oct. 8, Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez –- who ran under the Genuine Opposition in last May’s senatorial and local elections -– hinted in a TV interview that an “ally of Malacañang” had approached and asked him a few days back to endorse an impeachment complaint against Arroyo. “Since I know him to be from Malacañang, I immediately got the impression that this is a ploy to prevent a more substantive complaint,” Rodriguez told ANC.

Under House rules, only one complaint can be initiated against any single impeachable official in a single year.

The next day, Beltran stunned the public with his privilege speech in which he said that Ver –- then Kampi’s deputy secretary-general -– had approached him twice on Oct. 5, offering a bribe in exchange for endorsing an impeachment complaint against Arroyo. This, Beltran said, was a few hours before Pulido filed his complaint.

“For all we know, this impeachment complaint could be a sinister plot concocted by Malacañang to save President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from a substantial, just and genuine impeachment complaint,” Beltran said.

Beltran’s allegation of a bribery attempt by Ver has triggered a string of denials, accusations and counter-accusations.

Ver has denied offering bribes to Beltran, Rodriguez, and Fernandez –- although he admitted talking to them. Malacañang has denied having anything to do with Pulido.

Pulido has denied alleged links with Ver and Malacañang. A former lawyer of the Magdalo Group, he is reportedly working in the staff of Sen. Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan, who was implicated in the “Oakwood Mutiny” of 2003 as well as last year’s alleged “Left-Right conspiracy” to topple the Arroyo regime.

A few months before last May’s elections, Honasan –- who is identified with the opposition –- was reported to have gone into negotiations with Malacañang in relation to the rebellion charges against him. He ran as an independent senatorial candidate and won in last May’s elections.

Meanwhile, Cebu Rep. Pablo Garcia –- who is a Kampi member –- has pointed to Kampi chairman and Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno as the mastermind of the impeachment complaint. Puno has denied Garcia’s accusation.

Puno has subsequently declared that Ver had been fired as Kampi deputy secretary-general.

On Oct. 11, Malacañang called House members aligned with Kampi and Lakas-CMD to a breakfast meeting. No less than De Venecia admitted that the “stability of the administration coalition” in the House of Representatives was discussed in the meeting, although he denied reports that Malacañang was conducting a loyalty check. But after the meeting, De Venecia inhibited himself from the referral of the impeachment complaint and gave the go signal to the Deputy Speaker to refer it to the justice committee which would start the process of killing the “weak” impeachment complaint.


Who is this Francis Ver, whose alleged bribery attempts on a number of opposition congressmen has provoked finger-pointing left and right?

A relative of Gen. Fabian Ver, a distant cousin of the deposed dictator Ferdinand Marcos who served as Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff during Martial Law, Francis Ver graduated from the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Law in 1981. He was supposed to have graduated the year before, but had been turned back for a year.

According to Puno, Ver worked for a long time as a lawyer at the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG). Puno said Ver resigned from DILG in the late 1990s. “I don’t know where he went after that,” Puno told reporters in an Oct. 9 press briefing.

Rodriguez said he knew Ver as the chief of staff of one of the high government officials during the administration of ousted President Joseph Estrada (1998-2001).

During the 12th Congress (2001-2004), Ver served as a congressional staff member for then Manila Rep. Mark Jimenez, who was for a long time an Estrada ally.

In 2004, Puno -– who was then already with Kampi – was elected as representative of Antipolo City, a post to which he had also been elected during Estrada’s presidency.

Puno was allied with Estrada during the latter’s presidency. He disappeared from the limelight following Estrada’s ouster through a popular uprising in 2001 –- but resurfaced three years later as a representative of Antipolo City under the banner of Kampi.

Ver, he says, volunteered to join his staff when he was elected Antipolo City representative in 2004, and he decided to take the man in as consultant.

“In Kampi, he was designated as one of the deputy secretary-generals,” Puno also said. Puno said Ver served as the liaison between Kampi and Lakas-CMD during the run-up to the May 2007 elections.

Less than five months after the May 2007 elections, Ver was accused of bribing a number of opposition congressmen to support what has been described as a “fake impeachment complaint” against Arroyo. Bulatlat

Friday, October 12, 2007

Alexander Martin Remollino

It is tempting quite to be thankful for this day’s dawning,
even as we should not be so, by any means.

For these times, which test the mettle of men and women,
afford us this unusually rare opportunity
to see –- in all their uncovered ignominy –-
the sunshine patriots and the summer soldiers among us:
they who, like the weeds,
would kiss the soil at the slightest huff of the wind.
It is not difficult in times like these
to recognize the genuine warriors –-
who would stand proud amidst the fiercest storms,
like the narra and the molave,
and refuse to settle for anything less
than the most glorious of triumphs.

Monday, October 08, 2007


Even as he is still elated over his latest victory in the Dutch courts, NDFP chief political consultant and ILPS chairman Jose Maria Sison is calling on all supporters of the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations to protest what he described as the “unjust actions” by the U.S., Philippine and Dutch governments.

Vol. VII, No. 35, October 7-13, 2007

Even as he is still elated over his latest victory in the Dutch courts, National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) chief political consultant and International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS) chairman Jose Maria Sison is calling on all supporters of the peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the NDFP to protest what he described as the “unjust actions” by the U.S., Philippine and Dutch governments.

“The unjust actions already taken against me and the panelists, other consultants and staffers of the NDFP negotiating panel are meant by the U.S., Philippine and Dutch governments to put the NDFP Negotiating Panel under duress for the purpose of pressuring it or scuttling the entire peace negotiations,” Sison said in an e-mail interview with Bulatlat over the weekend. “The advocates of a just peace must take a stand and denounce the unjust actions and the malicious calculations behind these.”

Sison was referring to his arrest in Utrecht, the Netherlands on Aug. 28 for allegedly ordering the murders of former Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) leaders Romulo Kintanar and Arturo Tabara in the Philippines in 2003 and 2004, respectively, and the raids on the NDFP International Office and the houses of several NDFP consultants and staff.

Sison had reported to the Utrecht police station on Aug. 28 after receiving an invitation supposedly regarding new information on a complaint he filed way back in 2001. He was asked to go to a room where he was supposedly going to be asked a few questions.

But he was whisked away without the knowledge of the lawyer who was accompanying him at that time, and was subsequently hauled off to the Dutch National Penitentiary in Scheveningen, Den Haag where he was left to languish in solitary confinement for 17 days.

On the same day that Sison was arrested, the NDFP International Office was raided and its computers were taken. Dutch police also raided the homes of several NDFP consultants.

Sison was released last month from detention after the Rechtbank of Den Haag ruled, citing lack of evidence against him in the case on the Kintanar-Tabara deaths, that there was no cause to keep him further in pre-trial detention.

The Dutch Prosecutor’s Office promptly filed a petition before the Dutch Court of Appeals to have Sison placed back in pre-trial detention. On Oct. 3, the Dutch Court of Appeals threw out the appeal.

“The wording of the Decision is very interesting, even better than the Rechtbank’s,” said Michiel Pestman, Sison’s lawyer, in an e-mail message received by Bulatlat.

In its decision, a copy of which was also received by Bulatlat, the Dutch Court of Appeals stated that there is no direct evidence linking Sison to Kintanar and Tabara’s killings. It also questioned the reliability of the witnesses’ statements against Sison, stating that their declarations “contain a high degree of indefiniteness in time.”

The Dutch Court of Appeals likewise described the witnesses’ statements against Sison as “perhaps” having a “political context.” It stated that these declarations “cannot just simply be taken as reliable” considering the present “political constellation” in the Philippines.

“On top of that the Court expresses its doubt about Sison’s ability to fully exercise his right to cross-examine the Prosecution witnesses, which is an implicit reference to the human rights situation in the Philippines and the dangers faced there by Sison’s defense lawyers,” Pestman said.

Sison has repeatedly denied allegations that he had a hand in the killings of Kintanar and Tabara. The CPP-NPA leadership in the Philippines owned up to both killings, citing what it described as Kintanar and Tabara’s “crimes against the revolution.” He has in a statement described the Dutch Court of Appeals decision on his case as “a triumph of justice.”

He is optimistic that the charges against him in connection with the Kintanar-Tabara deaths will eventually dismissed.

“The charge cannot prosper because I have nothing to do with the deaths of the military and police agents Kintanar and Tabara as well as with the independent judicial process of the People’s Court in the Philippines,” Sison told Bulatlat. “Therefore there can never be any direct and sufficient evidence against me. Moreover the Kintanar and Tabara incidents are acts of rebellion according to the Philippine prosecution and acts of revolution according to the revolutionary forces.”

The killings of Kintanar and Tabara are included in the rebellion case filed by the Department of Justice (DoJ) last year against Sison and more than 50 other personalities –- including Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) Rep. Crispin Beltran –- in connection with an alleged “Left-Right conspiracy” to topple the Arroyo regime. This case was dismissed by the Supreme Court.

The CPP-NPA leadership in the Philippines, in a number of statements, described the killings of Kintanar and Tabara as “acts of revolution.”

His next legal move, Sison said, would be to build up his legal defense by cross-examining the witnesses against him through his counsel.

Sison is known as the founding chairman of the CPP. In 1968 he led a group that broke away from the leadership of the Lava brothers in the old Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas (PKP) and re-established the CPP.

Under Sison’s leadership, the CPP rapidly gained strength and together with the NPA, its armed component, it developed into one of the strongest organized forces opposed to the U.S.-Marcos regime during the martial law years.

He was the CPP’s highest-ranking leader from its reestablishment until he was arrested by the Marcos dictatorship in 1977.

Released in 1986 by virtue of then President Corazon Aquino’s general amnesty proclamation for political prisoners, Sison got involved in a number of legal political activities and even delivered a series of lectures at his alma mater, the University of the Philippines (UP).

In 1987, he found himself having to apply for political asylum after the Aquino government cancelled his passport while he was in Europe on a speaking tour. He has since lived in the Netherlands as an asylum seeker.

In 2002, the CPP-NPA was included by the U.S. Department of State in its list of “foreign terrorist organizations.” Sison was likewise listed as a “foreign terrorist.” The Council of the European Union followed suit later that year.

On May 29 this year, the Council of the European Union decided to retain Sison in its “terrorist” list. This decision was annulled by a July 11 verdict of the Luxembourg-based European Court of First Instance (ECFI). Bulatlat