AFP commits itself to protecting human rights; progressives skeptical

The Armed Forces of the Philippines celebrated National Human Rights Consciousness Week, which is commemorated from December 4 to 10, as some 200 soldiers representing the AFP pledged themselves against torture and other human rights violations. To stress their commitment, they recited Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: ‘No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment’. They were joined by other government agencies including the Department of Justice and the Commission on Human Rights who also recited different articles of the UDHR during the parade and exhibition held at the CHR Quadrangle in Quezon City Tuesday. Brig. Gen. Domingo J. Tutaan Jr., AFP Human Rights Office (AFPHRO) chief, said the continuous and active participation of our soldiers in such activities signifies their vigor and strong drive towards the promotion and protection of human rights. “The AFP had been doing similar efforts itself to manifest our dedication on Human Rights advocacy for we believe that it is one of the key in achieving a just and lasting peace for our country,” said Tutaan. “The Armed Forces of the Philippines assures the people that we will continue to defend and protect human dignity in all aspects of our operations,” AFP chief of staff General Jessie Dellosa said in a press statement Tuesday. “We hope that through active participation with other stakeholders and civil society organizations, our efforts to advocate human rights will continue to bear fruit.” In line with the week-long celebration, the AFP, through the AFPHRO, will be conducting activities to heighten the soldiers’ commitment and responsibilities as Human Rights Advocates. On December 6, senior officers holding key positions in the AFP will join the CHR led by Chairperson Loretta Ann Rosales in a round table discussion at the La Breza Hotel, Quezon City. This will be followed by a Top-Level Dialogue between the two parties. On December 9, the AFP will take part in the HR Music Fest at the QC Memorial Circle with the GHQ Band and GHQ Choral will be performing together with other Filipino artists. The AFPHRO will also attend the 2nd International Humanitarian Law (IHL) Summit on December 11. PR spin But Cristina Palabay, spokesperson and secretary general of Karapatan, called the AFP's claims that it is committed to put an end to torture and other rights violations pure hogwash. She said based on their documentation, the AFP under President Benigno Aquino III has tortured 72 victims including the alleged torture of security guard Rolly Panesa, the gross torture and brutal killing of Mindanao indigenous leader Genesis Ambason and barangay officer Ely Oguis in Albay. “[The] AFP statement is pure and simple PR spin,” she said in a text message to GMA News Online. She added they documented 129 victims of extrajudicial killings and 150 cases of frustrated extra judicial killings; more than 30,000 victims, mostly peasants and indigenous peoples, of forced evacuation due to bombings and military operations in Mindanao and Southern Luzon from July 2010 to October 30, 2012. Karapatan also recorded 1,206 victims of extra judicial killings during the incumbency of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo from January 2001 to June 30, 2010. In a separate press statement, Palabay said 2012, the second year of the Aquino administration, saw the intensification of military operations and heavy deployment of troops in areas believed to be strongholds of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA). “This has resulted in the forced evacuation and displacement of thousands of indigenous peoples and farmers from their lands, and scores of cases of human rights violations, including extra judicial killings, illegal arrests, torture and arbitrary detention and military occupation of schools, chapels, barangay halls and clinics in various communities,” she said. — DVM, GMA News

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