Joma Sison concedes to UN’s call for a global ceasefire

Marje Pelayo   •   March 25, 2020   •   710

Jose Maria Sison

MANILA, Philippines – Communist leader Jose Maria Sison has taken a cue from the United Nations (UN) to agree on a ceasefire with the government at this time of health crisis due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

“As Chief Political Consultant, I am advising the Negotiating Panel of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) to recommend to its principal, the NDFP National Council, the issuance of a unilateral ceasefire declaration by the Communist Party of the Philippines to the New People’s Army in order to respond to the call of UN secretary general Antonio Guterres for a global ceasefire between warring parties for the common purpose of fighting the Covid-19 pandemic,” Sison said in a statement.

The founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines stressed, however, that their decision doesn’t mean they are putting their guards down against potential tactical offensives by government forces.

Prior to the UN’s call for a global ceasefire, President Rodrigo Duterte asked the communist group to agree with a ceasefire to give way for the national government to respond to the COVID-19 crisis.

Malacañang, meanwhile, welcomes the rebel group’s intention to likewise declare a unilateral ceasefire as it is much necessary at this trying times.

“It is about time they join the collective efforts of the nation to fight the spread of the coronavirus,” noted Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo. MNP (with details from Rosalie Coz)

Lacson blasts UN official for calling on Duterte not to sign Anti-Terror bill

Robie de Guzman   •   July 3, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Panfilo Lacson has criticized a United Nations official for urging President Rodrigo Duterte not to sign the controversial Anti-Terrorism Bill.

In a statement, Lacson expressed doubt that UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet actually read the provisions of the measure which seeks to strengthen the country’s campaign against terrorism.

Bachelet, in a speech during the 44th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on Tuesday, asked Duterte not to sign the bill, warning that its passage heightens concerns on the blurring of important distinctions between criticism, criminality and terrorism. She also warned of the measure’s potential “chilling effect” on humanitarian and human rights work.

Lacson questioned Bachelet’s statement since the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 was crafted based on the guidelines and standards set by the United Nations Security Council’s (UNSC) Resolution 1373.

“It was the UN that prodded the Philippines to strengthen its laws against terrorism. So, is this the United Nations going up against the United Nations?” the senator asked.

“The problem with the critics of the Anti-Terrorism Bill like the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights and the others is that they criticize without even reading the bill itself,” he added.

Lacson said that Bachelet and others opposing the measure are only “jumping into the wagon of criticisms” and have let themselves be influenced by the “avalanche of misinformation” about the bill.

“There are people, learned as they are, merely jumped into the wagon of criticisms without thoroughly reading and understanding the provisions under the proposed measure,” he said.

“All the misinterpretations and misconceptions triggered by an avalanche of misinformation and disinformation that dominated the mainstream and social media platforms have unduly influenced their thinking,” he added.

Congress passed the Anti-Terrorism Bill despite oppositions from various groups.

Some people have been campaigning for the junking of the bill, which they claim can be used to silence the critics of the Duterte government.

Lacson, who sponsored the bill in the Senate, has repeatedly stressed that the bill seeks to stop terrorism and protect people from terrorists.

He also underscored that there is a difference between the “designation” of terrorist individuals, groups, organizations/associations, and “proscription” of terrorist organizations.

“Designation as defined under the bill is a purely administrative process intended to trigger the issuance of a “freeze order” by the Anti-Money Laundering Council,” he said.

“Proscription, on the other hand, needs court intervention that requires due notice and hearing by the Court of Appeals,” he added.

Lacson also reiterated that the bill is a good measure, constitutional, and one that is swift and effective in fighting terrorism.

The senator previously said that he would join protests should authorities commit abuses in implementing measure.

Malacañang earlier said that the bill is now under final review before the president decides if he will veto or sign it into law.

UN warns of global mental health crisis due to COVID-19 pandemic

UNTV News   •   May 14, 2020

A mental illness crisis is looming as millions of people worldwide are surrounded by death and disease and forced into isolation, poverty and anxiety by the pandemic of COVID-19, United Nations health experts said on Thursday (May 14).

“The isolation, the fear, the uncertainty, the economic turmoil – they all cause or could cause psychological distress,” said Devora Kestel, director of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) mental health department.

Presenting a U.N. report and policy guidance on COVID-19 and mental health, Kestel said an upsurge in the number and severity of mental illnesses is likely, and governments should put the issue “front and centre” of their responses.

The mental health and wellbeing of whole societies have been severely impacted by this crisis and will be addressed urgently, she told reporters at a briefing.

The report highlighted several regions – such as China, Iran and the United States, and sections of societies as vulnerable to mental distress, including children and young people isolated from friends and school, healthcare workers who are seeing thousands of patients infected with and dying from the new coronavirus.

Emerging studies and surveys are already showing COVID-19’s impact on mental health globally. Psychologists say children are anxious and increases in cases of depression and anxiety have been recorded in several countries.

Domestic violence is rising, and health workers are reporting an increased need for psychological support.

Reuters last week reported from interviews with doctors and nurses in the United States who said either they or their colleagues had experienced a combination of panic, anxiety, grief, numbness, irritability, insomnia and nightmares.

Outside of the health sector, the WHO report said many people are distressed by the immediate health impacts and the consequences of physical isolation, while many others are afraid of infection, dying, and losing family members.

Millions of people are facing economic turmoil, having lost or being at risk of losing their income and livelihoods, it added. And frequent misinformation and rumours about the pandemic and deep uncertainty about how long it will last are making people feel anxious and hopeless about the future.

It outlined action points for policy-makers to aim “to reduce immense suffering among hundreds of millions of people and mitigate long-term social and economic costs to society”.

These included redressing historic under-investment in psychological services, providing “emergency mental health” via remote therapies such as tele-counselling for frontline health workers, and working proactively with people known to have depression and anxiety, and with those at high risk of domestic violence and acute impoverishment. (Reuters)

(Production: Cecile Mantovani)

Duterte’s P2-M bounty vs. NPA commanders ‘will result in the murder of many innocent people’ — Sison

Marje Pelayo   •   May 13, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria ‘Joma’ Sison warned on Tuesday (May 12) that President Rodrigo Duterte’s offer of P2 million bounty for the capture of New People’s Army (NPA) commanders will only lead to further loss of ‘innocent civilians.’

“With this kind of offer, we can expect his armed minions to manufacture more NPA commanders so that they will receive the cash reward as they have from previous fake surrenders and fake encounters,” Sison said in a post on Facebook.

“We can expect more murders being committed by military and police officers against innocent civilians who are misrepresented as NPA commanders,” he added.

President Duterte in a briefing announced his offer to anyone who would be lead the authorities to the capture of an NPA leader or commander following another series of attacks against government troops in humanitarian missions.

“Like his previous order to shoot dead any violator of the lockdown, his order to kill NPA commanders will result in the murder of many innocent people,” Sison later added.

The communist leader also noted that the President allegedly “does not care that he will go down in history as a butcher of the Filipino people.”

Sison reiterated that President Duterte is just using the NPA to cover up his administration’s ‘gross incompetence and failure’ in the fight against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) citing the lack of mass testing and contact-tracing and the increasing number of health workers dying of the virus due to lack of personal protective gear.

READ: Duterte offers P2-M bounty for the capture of NPA commanders

“Duterte has made a rambling and inane multi-media broadcast every week during the lockdown but he has not given any rational plan for the use of 275 billion pesos. And there has been no accounting of the disbursement of these funds,” he said.

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