A Statement of the Centre for Philippine Concerns on the killing of Human Rights Defender Atty. Benjamin Ramos

The Centre d’appui aux Philippines / Centre for Philippine Concerns (CAP/CPC) denounces the slaying of Atty. Benjamin Ramos, the Secretary General of the National Union of Peoples Lawyers (NUPL) chapter in Negros, Philippines, who was shot dead by motorcycle-riding gunmen on November 6, 2018.  Atty Ramos, 56, had recently been representing the families and survivors of the massacre of nine farmworkers, members of the National Federation of Sugarcane Workers (NFSW) who were shot while they were preparing to cultivate land in Hacienda Nene in Sagay City, Negros Occidental last October 20.

Known to many, Atty. Ramos was also a champion of numerous human rights cases of political prisoners, and that of the enforced disappearances and killings of peasants and activists.
Prior to the shooting incident, Atty Ramos was a victim of red-tagging, with public posters identifying him as a member of the New People’s Army. “These beastly attacks by treacherous cowards cannot go on. Not a few of our members have been attacked and killed before while literally practicing their profession and advocacies in the courts, in rallies, in picket lines, in urban poor communities, and in fact-finding missions,” the NUPL said in a statement.

“Ben is the 34th lawyer killed under the two-year administration of President [Rodrigo] Duterte.” NUPL said.

Atty. Ramos was also the lawyer for six young activists accused and arrested of being New People’s Army fighters last year in Mabinay town in neighboring Negros Oriental. The father of three was also a peasant advocate and had founded the farmers’ organization Paghiliusa Development Group.
Targeting human rights lawyers by killing and listing them as enemies of the state makes it evident that the Duterte administration is going on an all-out war against human rights defenders who dare to fight against rights violations and the prevalent culture of impunity in the Philippines.

We stand in solidarity with his friends and colleagues, and the communities he served. His fellow lawyers at the NUPL describe him as a “passionate, dedicated and articulate yet amiable and jolly” person who was, for the longest time, “the run-to pro-bono lawyer of peasants, environmentalists, activists, political prisoners and mass organizations in Negros.”

As a solidarity organization for the Philippines advocating various battles at the national and international levels, we call on the other Human Rights groups in Canada and in other parts of the world to join in the clamor for justice for Atty. Ramos and other human rights defenders in the Philippines who have been killed by police or military authorities while doing their service to the people.

The CAP/CPC joins with the other Canadian members of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP-Canada) in calling on the Duterte government to:

· Order an immediate and independent investigation in to the assassination of Atty. Ben Ramos and prosecute the perpetrator of this heinous crime;
· Prosecute the military and police perpetrators of human rights crimes; 
· Stop the counter insurgency program and the campaign of terror and impunity that have resulted in the killings of farmers, indigenous leaders, anti-mining activists, human rights defenders and other social activists;
· Implement genuine land reform and eliminate one of the fundamental bases of social conflict in the Philippines;
· Restart the Peace Process with the National Democratic Front.
We call on the Canadian Government to end support for the Duterte regime and: 
· Issue a public statement condemning the assassination of Atty. Ben Ramos and calling on President Rodrigo Duterte to take immediate action to end the killings and Human Rights violations against Human Rights Defenders;
· Stop all military and police cooperation and assistance;
· Stop ongoing support for the Philippine government’s counter-insurgency program including socio-economic programming;
· Stop all arms sales to the Duterte regime.


In the Land of Blood and Sugar, Negros Island

The Centre for Philippine Concerns (CPC) vehemently condemns the brutal killings of nine sugar farm workers in Hacienda Nene, Sagay City, Negros Occidental. We stand in solidarity with the peasant masses and land rights defenders of Negros Island at this time of crisis.

On the night of October 20th, while having dinner inside their tents, the farmers were brutally shot to death by several gunmen. Their bodies were then doused with gasoline and set on fire.

Before the massacre, the victims were peacefully engaging in “bungkalan” activities or the  preparation and cultivation of idle land where they can grow crops to ward off hunger during the "tiempo muerto" or the dead season of the sugar industry. All nine members which include 3 women and 2 minors were members of the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NSFW). The group assertively occupy idle lands as a "response to resonate their campaign for genuine agrarian reform and free land distribution”. This practice also reflects “the failure of the government's land reform program and the landlords’ refusal to distribute land to the tillers”.

Sagay City Police identified the victims as:
• Eglicerio Villegas, 36, from Barangay Bulanon
• Angelipe Arsenal, from Barangay Bulanon
• Alias Pater, from Barangay Plaridel
• Dodong Laurencio, from Barangay Plaridel
• Morena Mendoza, female, from Barangay Bulanon
• Neknek Dumaguit, female
• Bingbing Bantigue, from Barangay Plaridel
• Joemarie Ughayon Jr., 17, from Barangay Rafaela Barrera
• Marchtel Sumicad, 17, from Barangay Bulanon

This heinous act highlights the continuous injustice faced by landless farm workers in the Philippines. As long as the peasants are held chained in the exploitative semi-feudal hacienda system and the oligarchic families perpetuate their power through force, the Sagay 9 victims will not be the last farmers to shed their blood fighting for survival and genuine agrarian reform. Inequality and injustices will continue to push workers to resist and find ways to sustain themselves.

 Many of our members who have visited Negros Island have witnessed first-hand the struggles of  the farm workers in these sugar plantations. Earning a meager salary while working in slave-like conditions, many families in sugar plantations suffer from severe malnutrition and hunger especially during tiempo muerto. “While I was there, I was shocked to see workers out in the sugarcane fields even under scorching heat or torrential thunderstorms. Despite working from dawn to dusk, it still wasn’t enough to feed the whole family. Children are forced to stay at home and learn how to wield a cane knife early in their lives so that they can help contribute to the household income. In demonstrations, I saw young and old  side by side demanding basic rights to a government who remains blind to their plight. Due to their unbearable situation, farm workers resort to conducting agrarian reform activities on their own, without the government's assistance, putting their lives at risk,” said Sheryl Anne Montano, a member of CAP-CPC who went to Negros early in 2018 for her internship on community-based health program.

Many workers have been killed asserting their rights to land they have tilled for decades. Between 2000 to 2004, under former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s government, 15 agrarian reform beneficiaries were killed and 57 wounded due to land conflicts in Negros Occidental.

The killing of the nine farmers in Sagay City brings to 45 the number of farmers and farm workers killed in Negros island under President Rodrigo Duterte’s two-year term, according to the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) and the NFSW.

We echo the call of human rights defenders in the Philippines for:
• An independent and thorough investigation by the Commission on Human Rights;
• Justice for the victims of extrajudicial killings and an end to impunity;
• Resumption of the Peace Talks between the Government of the Philippines and the
National Democratic Front of the Philippines;
• Genuine land reform and redistribution;

We further request that the Canadian Government halt funding and cooperation with the Armed
Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police and other organizations who have been
linked to human rights violations.

On behalf of members of Centre for Philippine Concerns (CPC)
Sheryl Anne Montano


The Philippine Independent Church: Surviving and thriving for 116 years

Members of the IFI from Toronto join IFI members from Montreal, and solidarity friends, at the Monthly Migrant's Mass, to celebrate the 116th anniversary of the IFI, Sunday, August 19, 2019 at St Paul's Anglican Church, Montréal.
Solidarity message from Marie Boti on behalf of the CAP/CPC (Sunday, August 19, 2019)

Le Centre d’appui aux Philippines / Centre for Philippine Concerns (CAP/CPC) joins you to celebrate the 116th anniversary of the IFI - Iglesia Filipina Independiente.

CAP/CPC is a solidarity group active since 1983 and is made up of Filipinos and non-Filipinos here in Montreal. We are connected to many people’s organizations in the Philippines and in the migrants’ community in Canada. We have long admired the courage and the work of the IFI in providing an alternative place of faith and spirituality that is based on social justice and human dignity.

Born out of the struggle against Spanish colonialism and American imperialism, progressive nationalist priests rose up against the collusion and participation of the Roman Catholic church in colonial domination.  The Roman Catholic clergy and friars were some of the largest landowners in the colonial Philippines, and participated in the plunder of the country, committing all kinds of abuses against the local population and Filipino priests.

The formal establishment of the IFI was prevented by the intrusion of the United States of America in the revolutionary war against Spain in 1899.

It was during this period, when the institutional and missionary churches were cooperating with the colonial government, and patriotic Filipinos continued to sustain the struggle for national democracy, that the Iglesia Filipina Independiente was born in 1902.

The Roman Catholic Church hierarchy and even Reformation churches did everything they could to try to stop Fr Gregorio Anglipay and his progressive nationalist church from surviving and thriving.

The traditional churches have the monuments, wealth, land, institutions and resources gleaned in large part during the colonial plunder of the Philippines.

But the IFI, despite the adversity, has managed to set itself apart and thrive. It is the church of the poor and the oppressed, of those who thirst for justice and for the respect of human dignity. It has formed alliances with other progressive churches around the world.

The Iglesia Filipina Independiente has played a key role in the national democratic movement in the Philippines over the years. The church was with the people in their struggle against the Japanese occupation in 1940’s and during the Marcos dictatorship of the 1970’s. The IFI has had many martyrs in this struggle over the years

I remember the morning of October 3, 2006 when my partner Malcolm and I were living in the Philippines and we were taking Tagalog lesson from a church worker, Agong, and she received an urgent text message. Her face crumpled in tears when she read the news that Bishop Alberto Ramento, a bishop of her church in San Sebastian, Tarlac City, had been slain.

Faceless assassins had broken into the rectory and stabbed the Bishop in his sleep. The police initially said it was a mere case of robbery with homicide. But there was nothing to steal at his home, which was a simple house with no objects of wealth whatsoever. The brutal killing was clearly politically motivated; Bishop Ramento was an advocate of a just peace, and part of the Monitoring Group in the Peace Talks between the Government and the National Democratic Front. His killing was the consequence of his principled engagement with the people and their struggle for the fullness of life.

Today, the IFI bravely takes a stand against the growing tyranny of the Rodrigo Duterte government.

It advocates actively in favour of the peace talks between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

The lack of material wealth and resources means IFI priests have to support themselves, and are often worker-priests, like our own Fr Art. This makes it difficult to build a congregation, but on the other hand, means that this church experiences first-hand the lives - the oppression, exploitation and struggle - of ordinary working people in the Philippines and the diaspora.

The IFI has over two million members and thousands abroad who carry on the rituals; the church is a beacon of comfort and spiritual support to the thousands of migrants abroad.

It is a church which has distinguished itself as the church of the migrants... and their struggles. Members of le Centre d’appui aux Philippines – Centre for Philippine Concerns are proud to be here to celebrate the IFI’s mission and history and wish it a bright future.

Participants at the community dinner held after the Migrant's Mass at St Paul's Anglican Church, Côte de Neiges, Montréal, Sunday, August 19, 2018. The Migrant's Mass is held monthly.


The elusive justice in the Philippine Peace Process - information session

Wednesday, June 20, 6pm - 8 pm
Immigrant Workers Centre (CTI-IWC)
4755 Van Horne, #110, Montréal (Metro Plamondon)
Free event (donations welcome)

The fast changing situation in the peace talks between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front requires peace activists to take stock and understand the unfolding events. The Centre d'appui aux Philippines / Centre for Philippine Concerns (CAP-CPC) is hosting an information session on the current situation of the peace process in the Philippines with speaker Joey Calugay

Joey is a member of the CAP-CPC and a longtime human rights advocate. He has interviewed members of the NDFP peace panel based in the Netherlands and researched the peace process under various Filipino administrations since he was a student activist. With the Montreal Coalition of Filipino Students, Joey helped organize a Canada-wide tour for NDFP peace negotiators in the early part of the 1990s. This started his long commitment and activism for peace based on justice in the Philippines.

-- Joyce Valbuena, CAP-CPC

Pourparlers de paix aux Philippines - séance d’information

Mercredi 20 juin, 18:00-20:00
Centre des travailleuses et travailleurs immigrants (CTI-IWC)
4755 Van Horne, #110, Montréal (métro Plamondon)

Événement gratuit (dons bienvenus)

L’évolution rapide de la situation des pourparlers de paix entre le gouvernement philippin et le Front national démocratique (FNDP) exige que des militants en faveur de la paix fassent le point pour comprendre les évènements qui se déroulent. Le Centre d’appui aux Philippines / Centre for Philippine Concerns (CAP-CPC) organise une séance d’information sur la situation actuelle du processus de paix aux Philippines avec le conférencier Joey Calugay.

Joey est membre du CAP-CPC et un défenseur de longue date des droits humains. Il a interviewé des membres du Panel des négotiations de paix du FNDP basée aux Pays-Bas et a fait des recherches sur le processus de paix sous différentes administrations philippine depuis qu’il était militant étudiant. Avec la Coalition des étudiants philippins de Montréal, Joey a aidé à organiser une tournée pancanadienne des négociateurs de paix FNDP au début des années 1990. C’était le début de son long engagement et son militantisme pour la paix fondée sur la justice aux Philippines. 

-- Joyce Valbuena, CAP-CPC


CAP-CPC in solidarity with the evacuees from Camansi, Banglay, Lagonglong, Misamis Oriental

The Centre d'appui aux Philippines / Centre for Philippine Concerns (CAP-CPC) is in solidarity with the communities of the Higaonon Lumad in Sitio Camansi in Banglay, Lagonglong, Misamis Oriental. We sympathize with the 35 Higaonon Lumad families (158 individuals) who were forced to flee their homes—for the sixth time since 2015—due to harassment from soldiers from the 58th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) who have encamped in their communities.
We condemn this affront to basic civil and human rights among the indigenous people. We are in cognizant that these Higaonon Lumad families were repeatedly subjected to threats, harassment and intimidation by the soldiers, maliciously accusing them as members or supporters of the armed group New People’s Army (NPA).
We condemn the military for its repressive tactics to harass the evacuees that even after their escape to seek refuge in another village and seek help from non-government organizations, the military followed them and make their struggle more miserable. One Lumad girl was even nearly raped because there is no safety in the area where they built plastic tents outside of the provincial Capitol building for temporary shelter. Many of them got sick because of their exposure to the urban environment they are not accustomed to.

We are concerned that the consequences of the government’s development projects is destroying the sacred grounds of the indigenous people and consequently forcing them to leave their communities.

We support the demand of the community to pull out from their village and cease the construction of the military’s detachment in their ancestral territory.  We are in support of the evacuees’ demand to demilitarize their community, to obtain their consent on whatever development plans the government is planning for their community, and to respect their right to a self-determined development.


Karapatan condemns threats harassment vs fact-finding mission in Mindanao

Press Release | April 9, 2018

Reference: Cristina Palabay, Secretary General, 0917-3162831

Karapatan Public Information Desk, 0918-9790580

 As the three-day International Fact Finding and Solidarity Mission in three regions in Mindanao is concluded today, Karapatan scored the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police for the numerous cases of threats and harassment faced by participants to the said mission.

"Either these are proof of the State forces' paranoia overdrive or it is clear evidence that the Duterte administration has much to hide and cover up in its continuing implementation of martial law and counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan in Mindanao," said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay.

Karapatan also stressed that "the widespread presence of soldiers in the streets and communities, suspicious-looking men on motorcycles and vehicles taking pictures and intimidating participants brazenly, and the endless military checkpoints all prove that civilian authority is severely undermined by the military in the Mindanao."

"The Duterte regime is spinning a narrative that military presence is normal and for peace and order. The cases of extrajudicial killings, torture, illegal arrests and detention, forced and fake surrenders documented by the fact-finding mission all show the contrary - that there is widespread unpeace and insecurity precisely because of the presence and combat operations of the military against civilians, who they perceive are all enemies of the state," Palabay commented.

"Congratulations, AFP, PNP and Malacañang! Your dirty tricks against human rights defenders and peace advocates who joined the factfinding mission have all the more exposed the lies underneath your 'no human rights violations in Mindanao under martial law' mantra. You never fail to prove that the real terrorists are those in uniform and those in power," she added.

"Unless repressive policies are revoked, any change in the leadership of the AFP or PNP or DOJ will have no real effect in making the human rights situation on the ground any better," Palabay said.

The said mission was led by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas and the Mindanao for Civil Liberties. Makabayan legislators led by former Rep. Satur Ocampo and Mindanaoans Rep. Ariel Casilao and Rep. Carlos Zarate, former Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano, peasant leaders and rights groups like Karapatan participated in the mission.


Incidents of threats and harassment against members of the International Fact Finding and Solidarity Mission in Mindanao

Compiled from updates by Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas

April 6: Upon arrival at the Bancasi Airport in Butuan City and the Lumbia Airport in Cagayan de Oro City, delegates of the FFM noticed banners with threatening texts: "Welcome members of international fact finding and solidarity mission. Just do it right!".

In Butuan, at least five military intelligence agents held the said banner. Unidentified and suspicious looking men were taking pictures and videos of FFM participants. Two men onboard a black Toyota Hi- Lux van with plate number ABF1165 followed the delegates from the airport to the

Butuan City Highway. Men onboard two motorcycles also tailed the convoy from the highway.

In Misamis Oriental, soldiers held the FFM team led by formerAgrarian Reform Secretary Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano at a checkpoint in Brgy. Molugan, El Salvador, Misamis Oriental at 6:26am. Participants were required to get off their vehicles and present their IDs. At 6:38am, FFM delegates in another vehicle were held at a checkpoint im Brgy. Luyong Bunbun, Opol, Misamis Oriental, where the driver was asked to show his license and the vehicle’s certificate of registration. In less

than 30 minutes at Brgy. Igpit, the delegation was again held by AFP Scout Rangers who required them again to show their IDs, while their driver was questioned and threatened with some traffic violation.

April 6: FFM delegates in Southern Mindanao saw banners with threatening texts "Out International Fact Finding and solidarity mission teams. We want peace" en route to mission areas in Tagum City, Davao del Norte.

April 6: FFM delegates were harassed in at least eight checkpoints from the airport. They were tailed by men onboard motorcycles and their pictures were taken.

April 6-8: men in plainclothes onboard a motorcycle and unknown men on board a heavily tinted Toyota intermittently tailed FFM in Caraga.

April 6: FFM delegates en route to Malaybalay, Bukidnon have been harassed at least 5 times.

10:15am, Baloi, Cagayan de Oro: The team led by Amihan Secretary General Cathy Estavillo was stopped by the Regional Public Safety Battalion. The armed personnel asked their driver to show the vehicle’s Official Receipt of Certificate of Registration (OR-CR),  then instructed all passengers to

get off the vehicle and to show their identification cards. They were also told to sign the Scout Rangers’ logbook.

11:15am, Alae, Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon: The team led by former Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano was stopped by the PNP Highway Patrol Group and held for over 30 minutes without explanation. As in the last checkpoints, the HPG officers asked the driver to show his license and vehicle’s OR-CR. Before being let go, the delegates were asked to leave the vehicle and go through quarantine. The same HPG officers also held the local delegates and asked to show a permit to travel before they could proceed.

11:55am, Manolo Fortich Central, Bukidnon: The delegates were briefly stopped by armed special police forces, at which point the delegates also noticed they were being tailed by two motorcycle riders.

12:30pm, Impasug-ong, Bukidnon: FFM teams were stopped by the 8th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army and asked to get off their vehicles to show their IDs. The policemen disallowed the delegates from taking photos.

12:50pm, Dalwangan, Malaybalay, Bukidnon: The Bukidnon Provincial Public Safety Company stopped both teams and demanded that they write their names in their logbook.

The teams finally arrived at their destination at Brgy. Patpat, Malaybalay, Bukidnon at 1pm. All three contingents of the FFM were tailed hereon till they made it to the city proper.

4:30pm, Brgy. Sumpong, Malaybalay City, Bukidnon: A small contingent of the team en route to IFI Church was asked by the Bukidnon Provincial Public Safety Company to get off theirvehicles and show their IDs. Thirty minutes later, the Bukidnon Provincial Public Safety Company held the team ledby ACT Rep. Antonio Tinio. They were asked to show their IDs, and their names were listed down by the police.

April 7: A rally was staged by soldiers of the 71st IBPA and police in Brgy. Anibongan, Maco, Compostela Valley calling for the continuation of martial law in Mindanao and for the FFM teams to leave. They also took pictures of the FFM delegates. Since April 2, they have been encamped in the village, purportedly for "clearing operations." The 71st IBPA is responsible for the frustrated EJK, torture and illegal detentionof two youth peasants in Maco last November 2017.

April 7: Some 15 farmers from  Surigao del Sur who participated in the FFM focus group discussions were accosted by the police in Lianga, Surigao del Sur. They were brought to the Lianga police station, where their pictures were taken and they were made to sign on the police logbook. The license of their van's driver was confiscated. They were released after.

April 7 - Elements of Task Force Tagum, in full battle gear, flagged down, boarded and inspected the vehicles of FFM delegates in Purok Durian, Brgy. Apokon, Tagum City, Davao del Norte, while the participated were en route to Compostela Valley. Soldiers told the delegates that they will be barred

from passing through unless they subject themselves to the said checkpoint. Lt. Cricensio refused to let the delegation proceed without presenting the IDs of all the participants.

April 7 - FFM delegates in Northern Mindanao were stopped in two checkpoints from Malaybalay City on the way to the mission area in Quezon, Bukidnon. The contingent was tailed by men onboard three motorcycles, two of which do not have plates. Unidentified masked men also took pictures of delegates and their vehicle at the checkpoints in Brgy. Aglayan, Malaybalay City and Brgy. Lumbo, Valencia City.

Members of the Regional Public Safety Battalion asked if the participants were with former DAR Secretary Rafael Mariano.