Posted by: usapan | May 14, 2010

International People’s Observers’ Mission

Eighty-six foreign delegates from 11 countries observed the conduct of automated elections in the country’s nine regions.

Composed of academicians, lawyers, law students, journalists, social workers, union organizers, church workers, the foreign delegates documented specific cases of fraud and violence in eight different areas in Luzon, Visiyas and Mindanao.

Delegates came from Australia, Canada, United States, United Kingdom, Japan, Hongkong, Taiwan, France, Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands.

(Courtesy of Bulat-lat)


7 March 2010

Women rights defenders in Mindanao are under threat for their battle for their abused fellows and other victims of human rights violations, which brings them to meet head-on the culture of violence and impunity that the state had allowed to thrive over the years.

This was expressed by human rights advocacy group Barug Katungod Mindanao today (March 8), in time for the worldwide observation of women’s day.  One of the casualties of the state’s agressive campaign against women defenders of human rights was lawyer Concepcion “Connie” Brizuela, one of the two lawyers killed during the November 23 Ampatuan Massacre.

Atty. Concepcion Brizuela

Brizuela was popular for her fearless campaign in North Cotabato and Socsksargen for the protection of the rights of the indigenous peoples (lumad) who are forced out of their ancestral lands because of militarization, land grabbing, and by the entry of agressive forms of development sponsored transnational agricultural companies and their partners.
She openly criticized Vice Gov. Emmanuel Pinol who sent her to jail for libel, along with chruch workers and a campus journalist.

Human rights lawyer Beverly Selim-Musni said she continues to experience being closely watched by suspected military agents as she extends services to victims of human rights abuses, many of them women in Cagayan de Oro and many parts of Mindanao.

Musni is no stranger to death threats being the chair of the human rights group Karapatan in Northern Mindanao and as a strong voice in the fight against what she calls “the collusion between the Philippine military and the American troops in tormenting Mindanao and its people.”

“They (the military intelligence) always follow me around, like I am a security threat, as if I am armed. I am a woman and a human rights lawyer and apparently these people are scared of people, of women, like me who challenge them and speak of their abuses,” said Musni.

Her ‘followers,’ she said, appears to be deliberately making their presence felt by her, wanting to send their message that she is being watched.

Musni, also convenor of Inpeace Mindanao, said she takes courage from the people who are victims of the abuses perpetrated by the Arroyo government and the security agents.

“The government wants lawyers like me to cower in fear in their vain attempt to send a chilling message to defenseless leaders of farmers and the basic sectors. But it is mistaken. People’s organizations have a long bench of leaders willing to take up their causes, filling up the void left by any frontliner,” Musni said.

In Davao City, another lawyer known for her women’s rights advocacy is also facing similar threats. Councilor Angela Librado-Trinidad is also a victim of witchhunting and surveillance by suspected elements of the military intelligence unit.

A member of the Union of People’s Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM), Trinidad was also followed by armed men who also tailed her car. Late last year, some men even attempted to barge into her residence. Also last year, Trinidad found out that her name was among the list of people in the military’s order of battle.

“The order of battle was a manifestation of the desperation of the military to succeed in their anti-insurgency campaign that they resort to witchhunting. The list, no matter how the military denied the existence of such, presented a real danger which needed to be taken seriously,” said Trinidad.

In Kidapawan City, broadcast journalist Malu Cadelina Manar has also been receiving all sorts of death threats as she performs her job of informing the public of questionable government transactions, corruption, military excesses in their operations that affect civilians, among others.

On February 1, Manar received a text messages that expressed disgust over her brand of journalism. The message read: “You speak harshly, Malu. You just wait because we will crush and destroy you.” This was followed by another chilling text message that read: “We know you. You have thick (eye)glasses.”

Atty. Beverly Musni

The human rights advocacy group Barug Katungod Mindanao said that in a small city like Kidapawan– where local elites treat the city like their kingdom–journalists and human rights defenders who expose their abuses and inefficiency are answered with threats, libel suits and at worse, bullets.

Bishop Felixberto Calang, convenor of Barug Katungod Mindanao, said people like Musni, Librado and Manar are considered threats by the government and the state agents because of their advocacies on human rights abuses.

“They speak not only about the unfortunate experiences of women in a society that hang back in a violent culture dominated by men but these women are strong voices in the larger fight against oppression of the poor. There are people who cannot stand women like Musni, Trinidad and Manar and the many other women who share the same passion,” said Calang.

Prof. Mae Fe Ancheta Templa,  another convenor of Barug Katungod, said the threats against women defenders can be fought back by organizing more women to defend human rights.

“Touching base is key to women human rights defenders protection. Organizing among women sustains and advances the advocacy with the special role of women and men in the middle sector,” said Templa.

Templa also said this May election is “an opportunity to carry women’s agenda such as women’s rights, ending the culture of impunity, gender-responsive governance, and women’s economic welfare through genuine agrarian reform and national development.”

Barug Katungod Mindanao is a consortium of various human rights groups including the Initiatives for Peace in Mindanao, Kusog sa Katawhang Lumad sa Mindanao (Kalumaran), and Kawagib Moro Human Rights Alliance. Barug Katungod Mindanao is supported by the European Union under the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights program.

Posted by: usapan | February 11, 2010

Alma Desnuda to perform at Mardi Gras Fundraiser

The Bay Area acoustic band Alma Desnuda is performing at “Mardi Gras- Filipino Style!” on February 16th.  Event starts at 7pm, band takes the stage at 8pm.

To hear their music and learn more about the band, go to the Alma Desnuda website.  See more details about the event below.

Posted by: usapan | February 5, 2010

Mardi Gras- Filipino Style!

A fundraiser for the International Philippines Election Observer Team

Tuesday, February 16th

7:00pm- 10:00pm

Pacific School of Religion Chapel

1798 Scenic Ave.  Berkeley, CA

Suggested donation of $50 ($15 student/senior) No one turned away.

Mardi Gras- Filipino Style

A night of food, enjoy wine, music and karaoke to benefit the International Philippine Election Observer Team.  Enjoy Filipino dishes and music while learning about the ever-evolving political situation in the Philippines.  This is a great opportunity to be in community with the Bay Area Filipino activist community as well as learn about what you can do to bring about redemptive change in the Philippines*.

For more information contact

Lindsey Kerr, USAPAN Coordinator at or 412 576 5763

Co-sponsors include Epworth United Methodist Church,

USA-Philippines Ecumenical Advocacy Network (USAPAN) and the PSR Methodists.

* There are still spots open for the election observation trip to the Philippines in May.  There will be applications and information about the trip on hand at the event.

Posted by: usapan | December 11, 2009

Maguindanao Massacre Vigil

Thursday December 17, 7:30 pm

Epworth United Methodist Church

1953 Hopkins St.  Berkeley, CA

The recent massacre in Maguindanao, Philippines claimed the lives for 57 people, including activists, journalists and attorneys.  Among the dead is Attorney Concepcion Brizuela, who was a mission partner of the General Board of Global Ministries through Inpeace, Mindanao.  The service will include music, meditation and installation art.

The killings were related to the upcoming 2010 elections and while arrests have been made, the overwhelming culture of impunity in the Philippines keeps justice and true democracy at bay. The International Philippines Election Observation Team 2010 (IPEOT) is directly responding to this brutality with non-violence.

IPEOT is an organization based in Northern California that will be traveling to the Philippines (including Mindanao) in April/May of next year.  This delegation will oversee various election sites in hopes of deterring violence with peaceful international presence.  Due to conflict of interest, this organization is not funded by the US or Philippines Governments.

For more information visit the IPEOT website or to find out how to donate to IPEOT or other work in the Philippines contact Lindsey Kerr at

Posted by: usapan | December 5, 2009

Maguindanao Audio Report

Courtesy of Bulatlat.  Very powerful.

Audio Slideshow: The Hills of Maguindanao, Bathed in Blood – Bulatlat

Posted by: usapan | November 24, 2009

RAGE AGAINST IMPUNITY! Statement from InPeace Mindanao



November 24, 2009

We grieve over the death of Atty. Concepcion ‘Connie’ Brizuela, a member of our board of convenors, who was among the many victims of pre-election violence in Maguindanao province November 23.

Our heartfelt sympathies go to Connie’s husband and children who have supported her advocacies through the years as former legal counsel of the Diocese of Kidapawan, as peoples’ lawyer, and as a woman human rights defender.

Connie’s killing, along with at least 35 civilians mostly journalists, political supporters, including another lawyer colleague, is a carnage that requires the Arroyo government to muster all its resources and political will to bring the suspected Ampatuan warlord clan to face the law.

We demand no less than for President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to end her political patronage of the Ampatuan warlord clan and all her armed political allies elsewhere in the country whose rule is forced on their constituencies through fraud and terrorism.

We demand no less from government than to bring justice to all those fallen by this senseless political violence.

However, we believe that this pre-election violence should be seen from the wider perspective of the culture of impunity that prevails under the present dispensation.  Government cannot claim this as another isolated and containable incidence of violence, much less as merely an election-related one.

Yesterday’s massacre was spawned by a culture of impunity that has long been kept unchecked by a government that is now widely perceived by the international community to be tolerant or approving of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and other human rights violations.

This culture of impunity imperils the exercise of the legal and media profession in the country and the defense of human rights and fundamental freedoms including the right to suffrage.

We can only surmise that, as a lawyer, Connie must have asserted herself as part of the negotiating panel to ease the tension or to remind their would-be attackers of the rule of law, if any such dialogue could have occurred at all.  We are certain as well that Connie, having been a broadcaster herself, and her companions, had thought that a horde of media practitioners and the presence of women would deter any act of violence against their party.

But because of the culture of impunity in this country, these have become mere notions.

The unchecked rule of political warlords like the Ampatuans, army and police units like those controlled by President Arroyo’s mistahs, and warmongers in government like General Hermogenes Esperon and National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales, make up a culture of tolerance for killings and contempt for the rule of law. Thus, this culture of impunity traces itself right back at the doorstep of Malacañang.

Connie had been at the forefront of the campaign against impunity. We are outraged that it has caught up with her through this tragic and gruesome death.  We will miss her. She was a gentle but firm and determined human rights advocate.  In her diminutive frame loomed large a feisty peoples’ lawyer and human rights defender undeterred by the rich and the powerful  in Mindanao.




Posted by: usapan | November 23, 2009

Massacre on Mindanao

Twenty-one politicians and journalists who were abducted in the southern Philippines have been found dead.

The group was seized on the island of Mindanao by armed men as they tried to file nomination papers for a candidate in local elections next year.

More members of the group are missing, feared dead.

Elections in the Philippines are often marred by violence, particularly in the south, where clashes connected to local rivalries and insurgencies erupt.

See entire story here.

Bulatlat analysis here.

Posted by: usapan | October 31, 2009

Relief on its way

On October 22nd, two truckloads of relief in the form of clothing and shoes was sent to the Philippines.  Many thanks to everyone in the Bay Area who helped make this a success- particularly the students, faculty and staff of the Franciscan School of the Theology and members of Epworth United Methodist Church!  Salamat kaayu!!!

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Posted by: usapan | October 13, 2009

Disaster in the Philippines- take action now!!

As you already know, hurricanes, floods and landslides have ravaged the Philippines in recent weeks.  Metro Manila has been flooded to its highest level in 40 years and along with rising casualty rates, many city residents have lost all of their few worldly possessions.

Help now!!

The Franciscan School of Theology has, with the aid of a variety of human rights groups, organized a collection of lightweight
clothing/jackets/shoes/umbrellas this Saturday, October 17. Philippine Airlines is offering free shipping for any relief goods.
Desired items need not be new but are ideally small/medium sized clothing (for men and women weighing less than 160 lbs and shorter than 5’8″) and medium/smaller sized shoes (children’s of all sizes, women and men size 10 or smaller).

The USA-Philippines Ecumenical Advocacy Network is organizing pick-up of large amounts of items throughout the East Bay.  The drop-off point is at Epworth United Methodist Church at 1953 Hopkins St., Berkeley.  Please call Lindsey
at 412 576 5763 or 510 524 2921 to arrange a drop-off/pick-up time.

Not in the Bay Area?  Don’t have items to donate?

Financial help can be given via the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR).  Click on “Philippines Emergency- give now!” on the right-hand side of the page.  All money given through UMCOR goes to essential relief items such as food, medicine and clean water.

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