8 December 2010

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers ( NUPL), strongly condemns the malicious inclusion of Prudencio Calubid, Leo Velasco and other missing political activists by the Office of the President of the Republic of the Philippines in the list of the persons who may obtain amnesty under Presidential Proclamation No. 75.

It may well be remembered that Prudencio Calubid, a publicly-acknowledged consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), was abducted together with his wife, and other companions by military agents and operatives sometime in 26 June 2006 in Southern Luzon, Philippines. Leo Velasco, also an NDF consultant, was likewise abducted by military agents on 19 February 2007. They have been missing hence and are among the hundreds of victims of the documented cases of enforced disappearances under the Arroyo and the present Aquino regimes.

Calubid’s abduction and disappearance gained publicity at that time and in fact his family filed a habeas corpus case before the Supreme Court in 2006 to compel the military to bring him to court. The case was eventually dismissed after the court accepted the general denial of the military respondents over the evidence offered to support the petition.

His inclusion in the list, as well as other political activists who remain disappeared, while characterized with subtlety, is a vicious and malicious whitewash of the role of state security forces in his abduction and disappearance. The list has the effect of saying that his disappearance and abduction by the military is false and that the latter is not at all responsible.

The action, even if borne by sheer ignorance of running the government, betrays the apathy by which the government treats human rights, their violations, and the prosecution of violators.

Already, the NUPL is alarmed by the manner and rate by which extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and other human rights violations continue to happen in the country under a climate of impunity and fear even under the present regime which vowed at the outset to be different from the previous one.

The government, and in particular the executive department headed by Pres. Aquino, should at once stop this whitewash and its attitude of apathy towards human rights and instead pursue the path of justice for the victims of enforced disappearances as well as other human rights


The NUPL itself commits that it will actively prosecute the human rights violations committed by the state security forces under the government’s counter-insurgency program.

The NUPL is a national association of hundreds of peoples’ lawyers, law students and paralegals and is committed for the protection and promotion of human rights in the country. It provides legal services to victims of human rights violations and prosecutes the perpetrators.#


Atty. Alfonso Cinco IV

NUPL Vice President for Visayas

Contact No. 09189027334


(NUPL HR lawyers in front of the women's detention center.)

A few days ago, members of the National Union of Peoples Lawyers visited the Morong 43 in their prisons in Bicutan. Their collective morale was impressively high even as they echoed what everybody asks: Why are they still in jail when their arrest was illegal? Foreign journalists covered and exposed their case to the international community. Several international organizations condemned their arrest. Even the President conceded that their arrest and subsequent incarceration were devoid of any legal foundation being the "fruit of the poisonous tree." Never mind the moral (or immoral) dimension of what happened. All we mortals in this corner of the world hope for at the maximum is for the Philippine justice system to understand the language of the law. But it seems to find justice strange. Perhaps that Lady whose statue is in every hall of justice in this country should take off her blindfold so that the system will see her face.

I was personally touched by the Morong 43's lack of self-pity. The spokesperson for the 15 male detainees said: "We understand that we are not the only political detainees you are representing. There are many of us in the country. You ask us to be strong. Yes, we are strong. Together, let us struggle against injustice."

In the women's detention facility, there were 26 of them who greeted us in their yellow shirts (You'd think they are part of Noynoy Aquino's campaign team- except that it has been almost seven months since election day.). Two were in a government hospital because they just gave birth. I looked at their faces. Some of them are mothers. I knew in my heart of hearts that they were missing their children so much. It did not show. Instead they spoke and sang of their dreams for a just society.

Today, they will begin a hunger strike for their freedom and those of other political detainees. Here is their statement:

December 3, 2010, Camp Bagong Diwa, Bicutan

Today we begin our hunger strike. This is the only course of action left us to end our continued illegal detention, there being no clear action by the government for our unconditional release.

On December 6, we will be on our 10th month in detention. We were arrested last February 6 by a joint AFP-PNP operation based on a defective warrant. We were tortured physically and psychologically, deprived of sleep, subjected to various indignities, threatened with harm, denied legal counsel for several days and illegally detained until now. Planted evidence was used and false charges were filed against us. Our human rights continue to be violated. Every day in jail is an injustice to us.

For the last 10 months, our families and friends from different sectors have never stopped working for our release. Even the international community was alarmed over our illegal arrest and continued detention. Various human rights advocates here and abroad have been unceasing in staging activities and protest actions calling on the President Benigno Aquino III to withdraw the charges against us.

The Department of Justice has conducted a review of our case. The findings have been submitted to President Aquino. The president himself has admitted that our arrest was based on a defective warrant and that “evidence wrongly gotten cannot be used.” Yet despite these findings, there are no clear indications that the charges against us will be withdrawn anytime soon.

Our action today and in the succeeding days is a call to President Aquino to simply order the withdrawal of the case against us forthwith so that we may be immediately and unconditionally released. We believe it is only fitting that we stage this hunger strike as the world observes Human Rights Week. We fight not only for our freedom but for the freedom of all political prisoners nationwide.



(Photo credit:Pistong Melliza)


Today is International Day to End Violence Against Women. I am sharing my poem that was published in Chaneg ten years ago.

While Silence is Her Refuge

He crushed her being

spat on her education

raked her self-confidence

burned her plans

charted in the kitchen

where her work was never done.

Violence upon violence

visited her scar-ridden body

The pain - so severe

she could not even scream.

Silence was her refuge.

Her wounds ran much deeper

than sisters could imagine

But she swam alone in the

sea of her nightmares and anguish

Fears covered, cries stifled

Silence was her refuge.

The crowd had a million ears

but not one for the moans

of a sister’s tortured soul

It taunted her for her questions

crucified her for her speech

Word of pain was infamy

The crowd rubbed salt on the

raw, bleeding wound

Since then, silence became her refuge

A daughter now does the work

that is never done

Her spirit protests not

numbed by her mother’s death

and her own, for like her mother

she died a hundred deaths

and will die a hundred more

because silence is her refuge.

The crowd does not know

that silence betrays

The crowd itself has run

a million times

to silence for refuge

It still does.

When will the crowd realize

that silence is a foe?

It harbors violence

and squeezes the blood

that waters and keeps alive

the tree of death

that has eternal life

while silence is woman’s refuge./ Cheryl L. Daytec, 13 March 2000


A year ago today, 58 people were massacred in Maguindanao, Philippines. The murder was heartlessly committed by a political family- the Ampatuan Family- closely allied with then Unelected President Gloria Arroyo. The very perverse crime was committed under the cover of impunity that the Ampatuans enjoyed as factotums of the Arroyo regime.

The following is the Statement I delivered today on behalf of the National Union of Peoples Lawyers during the Baguio City commemoration of the massacre.

by Cheryl L. Daytec

When Gloria Arroyo rose to power in 2001, she assumed the throne with the burning desire to sit there forever. But she knew that she would be stopped by the guardians of democracy. She would be stopped by the journalists whose pen was always thought to be mightier than the sword- these watchdogs of society who can bring a totalitarian regime down to its knees, who could set a nation free from the yoke of oppression with just one weapon: the truth. She knew she would be stopped by the lawyers who have sworn to uphold the rule of law that frowns upon tyranny. She knew she would be stopped by the defenders of justice and human rights, the inherent rights of human beings and peoples against the arbitrary and capricious exercise of state power.

So Arroyo had to stop them first before they would stop her. She targeted them: the lawyers, the journalists, the human rights defenders. She put them on military surveillance. They were threatened. Their offices were ransacked and raided. They were tagged as communists. They were arrested without warrant. Their names were put on the military Order of Battle. And she went on killing and kidnapping sprees assisted by her sycophants among the state security forces who thought that their allegiance was to her greed for power and not to the Filipino people. One by one, the lawyers, the journalists, the human rights defenders, were disappearing. One by one, they were dying in the most inhumane and horrendous of circumstances. Nobody was paying for the senseless shedding of their blood, for the enforced disappearances. Cases against perpetrators were being dismissed by a corrupt justice system.

Witnesses were being harassed. In an outright mockery of democracy, the Butcher General Jovito Palparan, perhaps the most blood-thirsty and ruthless general to walk the face of the earth, was extolled by the State as its guardian. The atmosphere of impunity was not only alarming; it was shocking. It was shocking the Filipino people. It was shocking the world.

In 2005, this country was named the most deadly place for journalists by Reporter Without Borders. The Committee to protect Journalists was kinder: it named the Philippines the second most dangerous place after Iraq which was mired in a war that time. The International Association of Democratic Lawyers and the International Association of Peoples Lawyers denounced the Philippines for the extrajudicial killings of lawyers and judges calling it one of the most dangerous places for the legal profession.

We knew then that democracy in this country was an illusion. The message of the killings was clear: In the words of the Committee for the Protection of Journalists: "Murder is the ultimate form of censorship. One reporter is killed, and hundreds are sent a message that certain topics are too dangerous to be discussed." It was a time of living most dangerously. But we did not stop. We knew then that our pens and the truth they wrote, our microphones and the truth they spoke, our courage and the justice and human rights advocacies it championed, our law books and the rule of law they enshrined – these were needed more than ever. As guardians of democracy we rose above our personal considerations, our fears for our own security safety. We founded the National Union of Lawyers in 2007. We founded the National Union of Journalists. The impunity had to be stopped. But it did not.

Last year, 58 people were massacred, 32 of them journalists. Two of them were co-founders of NUPL: Connie Brizuela and Cynthia Oquendo who used their profession fighting for the oppressed, the marginalized, the disadvantaged.

To date, no one has been made accountable for the massacre. No one has been made accountable for the disappearances and the killings of other lawyers, journalists and activists. According to the human rights group Karapatan, from the time Arroyo came into power in 2001 to the year 2009, 1118 were extrajudicial murdered, 204 were disappeared, 1,026 were tortured and 1,932 were illegally arrested. But as Prof Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary and Arbitrary Executions said: "(N)umbers are not what count. The impact of even a limited number of killings of the type alleged is corrosive in many ways. It intimidates vast numbers of civil society actors, it sends a message of vulnerability to all but the most well connected, and it severely undermines the political discourse which is central to a resolution of the problems confronting this country.

The killings have not stopped. Palparan is still calling the shots. And nobody has yet to be punished by our justice system for the crimes committed on the guardians of democracy. We honor the memory of the 58 who perished in the massacre last year by demanding that the Aquino government speed up the investigation and indict those who are responsible especially the Ampatuans who used their privileged position in the Arroyo administration to commit one of the most perverse crimes in Philippine history. We urge the Aquino government to block the dilatory tactics of the Ampatuans. A government on the straight path understands that justice delayed is justice denied and will not sleep until justice is served. We urge the government to investigate the other murders and disappearances and to release all political prisoners who were persecuted simply on account of their support for powerful expressions of dissent to tyranny. We urge the government to dismantle all private armies and paramilitary groups that have been instruments to commit political killings with impunity. The non-action of this present dispensation will make it complicit in the crimes, in the travesty of justice, rule of law and truth, and in the attack on democracy.

Someone said that “whoever thinks that the pen is mightier than the sword has never encountered automatic weapons." The enemies of truth, rule of law and justice may believe this. They do not realize that the blood of martyrs nourishes the heroism of resistance. For today, we honor the 58 who perished in last year’s massacre by renewing our commitment to democracy, truth, rule of law and justice. We honor our fallen comrades,Connie and Cynthia. We will continue the struggle. They did not die in vain.

On behalf of the National Union of Peoples Lawyers, I thank you./


The world does not belong to this place

Not to this time

Mine. Yours. Ours together

Marooned in contentment


Fear laced with sorrow

Slowly, deliberately slithers

Over our peace

Like a snake after its prey

The longing to remain here

In the circle of your embrace

To say vows

We want to honor

But may not

For to honor them

is to be dishonorable

Tugs, stays, tempts, explodes

Our pace rises to crescendo

Impelled to create as much distance

Between us and the world

Chasing us

When the sun vacates the horizon

Darkness is our wide shawl

Hiding us

From the million prying eyes

Our paths are as clear

As our catastrophe

We walk

One soul

Split in two lonely parts going

To opposite directions

Behind us a crumbling arcadia

That was never really ours to keep/ chyt may2008


Sometime in August 2009, my grad school classmate Emina Cerimovic told our class about how four-year old girls are seen in Bosnia wiping car windshields while begging for money. That story is a mirror image of what is common in the Philippines, a very wealthy country where only 5% are affluent and 70% live below the poverty line.


The red light flashes

I step on the brakes

She rushes to my direction

With a dirty cloth in her hand, she wipes

The non-existent dust off my side mirror

She stares at me with the eyes of the legion

Draped in vulnerability

Who live mourning

The death of their dreams everyday

I feel her nudging the heart of humanity

To awaken from deadwood slumber

The green light flashes

As I fish into my pocket for some coins

I hear cars behind me honk with impatience

Fearing their rage I release my brakes

And drive away as coins fall on my feet

In my side mirror I see

The slumped shoulders of a four-year old

Who looks sadder than a widow

And more venerable than a grandmother

She moves between rushing cars

In a rat race that worships gold

Five miles away…

How could a helpless infant

With an atrabilious look

Make me feel such abyssal self-disgust? /chytdaytec

(Photo credit: Emina Cerimovic)


Be careful. I say, be very careful

Doubt is an armor; trust is a weakness.

Do not just kiss the gleaming white paper

With your thumb marinated in violet fluid.

You do not know if it is your death sentence,

Or a sturdy high fence to keep you off your land,

Or an absorbent sponge to sop up your sanity

Or a sell-out of your soul or your possession,

Or a permanent pact with the Devil himself

Education has attached hideous horns to faces,

Even to those that look like cherubs or seraphs .

Those who trounce deceit need no paper

For a handshake can do as well as it does

Honesty is from the heart, not the schools./ chytdaytec


In a Café With a Meager Crowd

(Activists’ Reunion)

They often sit in a café

whose meager crowd is its lure

while the tea brews

and cream perfects its assault

on the blackness of the coffee

Their talk spirals from the pit of the mundane

to the limits of the profound

like morning glory leaping out a high fence

from the wet mound of earth

They swap stories about small victories

and large victories

About injustice which is never big or small

because size is not a benchmark of evil

which is the only benchmark of itself

They snatch moments of silence among them

that, as though soap bubbles, readily burst

into congruent opinions.

Their collective spirit hangs over them,

shrivels at their depression,

over their helplessness

They do so much. Nothing is done

as if they are pouring water

into permeable barrel

Injustice always cracks victory

What is peace in the cool valleys

when the hills are trembling in fear?

Supplicant for vigor, their spirit nags them

to let laughter soak up the tears that weigh it down

One, somehow, catches the plea

He starts sculling the dialectics

till they syncopate

into chats about the weather

Not only. Even the latest scandals

involving the movie and political stars.

The inane giggles buoy up their sagging spirit

At the close of night,

they move to different directions

looking forward to the next date

in a café with a meager crowd. / chytdaytec