Progressives critical of administration's human rights record

Several progressive groups commemorated International Human Rights Day on Monday with protest actions against the Aquino administration, which they found wanting as far as protecting human rights are concerned. “Both (President Benigno) Aquino III and the CHR (Commission on Human Rights) need to get their priorities straight. Instead of going after the culprits, they punish the victims,” Kabataan Partylist national president, lawyer Terry Ridon said. Kabataan staged a protest action in front of the CHR compound in Quezon City where government agencies had gathered to celebrate the occasion. Ridon said CHR chairperson Loretta Ann Rosales has been ineffective and was a poster girl for Aquino’s human rights charade as evidenced by the arrest last December 3 of Randy Vegas and Raul Camposano of COURAGE, a progressive federation of government employees. The two were accused of participating in an ambush staged by the New Peoples Army (NPA) in Camarines Norte. He also slammed the promotion of Brig. Gen. Eduardo Año, one of the respondents in the abduction of activist Jonas Burgos, as head of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. The group also cited the cases of activists Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan, both of whom remain missing. The principal suspect in their disappearance was retired AFP chief Jovito Palparan, who remained at large. “We condemn these human rights violations and the impunity [with which they are] perpetrated by the administration. The youth will not stand by and watch their country, future and civil liberties be torn into shreds by programs like Oplan Bayanihan,” said Ridon. Mendiola protests Later in the day, Kabataan joined the protests at Mendiola along with Anakbayan; Karapatan; Panalipdan! Mindanao; Kalumaran, an organization of Lumad or indigenous peoples from Mindanao; and Bayan-Southern Tagalog. During the protest, Anakbayan called for a ban on military personnel in all schools and at all levels across the nation, as they alleged a resurgence in various forms of “campus militarization.” “In the more remote areas, the AFP has been violating international laws and agreements by using schools for their camps, deliberately putting children and teachers in harm’s way as their ‘human shields’,” said Vencer Crisostomo, national chairperson of Anakbayan. “In urban areas, especially in colleges and universities, the military presence takes on a more insidious form: through their so-called forums where they threaten and harass youth activists, and through the re-activation of the ‘Student Intelligence Network',” he added. Meanwhile, Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general, said among the 129 victims of extrajudicial killings that they have documented, 69 were farmers and 25 were indigenous peoples. Most of those killed in Mindanao were anti-mining activists and Lumad leaders who defended their land and the environment against the intrusion of big foreign mining corporations. Karapatan also believed abuses by the military continue because of Oplan Bayanihan, the government's anti-insurgency program. Militant peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas said that Rolando Quijano, a farmer and active member of the Alliance of Farmers Union in Zamboanga Del Sur (AFUZS-KMP), was allegedly shot to death last Friday in San Miguel Town by elements of the Philippine Army's 53rd Infantry Battalion. KMP spokesperson Antonio Flores said Quijano’s relatives and colleagues believe his death was due to his active opposition to large-scale mining and illegal logging in Zamboanga Del Sur. “The extrajudicial killing of Quijano by suspected state security forces clearly shows that the culture of impunity prevails under the Aquino administration,” said Flores. Mindanao rally Simultaneously in Mindanao, priests, nuns, and other religious groups held a protest rally in front of the office of the Cotabato Provincial Prosecutor along the Apo Sandawa Road to get an update on the killing of Italian missionary Fausto ‘Pops’ Tentorio. Father Peter Geremia of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Mission (PIME), one of the conveners of the Justice for Pops Movement, together with Sr. Lalyn Macahilo of the Oblates of Notre Dame (OND), met with Atty. Cherryl Cerebo of the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office. Cerebo said that they submitted their recommendation that murder complaints be filed against Jimmy Ato and his brother Robert; a tribal warrior and four of his men; and two others whom they tagged as behind Tentorio’s slay two months ago. They have yet to receive the resolution from the DOJ central office. Geremia is not happy with the way the DOJ is working on Tentorio’s case. “We’ve long waited for the DOJ resolution. What is causing the delay?” he asked. According to provincial prosecutor Jose Agerico de Guzman, the DOJ had received two sets of suspects in the Tentorio case. The first set came from the Special Task Investigation Group (STIG) Tentorio led by the Philippine National Police in Soccsksargen Region (Region 12) and the other came from the group of Father Geremia. Tentorio’s murder in October 2011 is included in the list of 129 extrajudicial killings in the country that human rights group, Karapatan, has monitored since 2010. Of the 129 cases, 14 occurred in Southern Mindanao, which included North Cotabato province in Region 12. After the rally outside the office of the Cotabato provincial prosecutor, the group proceeded to Magpet, a hinterland town in North Cotabato, where the latest skirmish between government troops and the New Peoples’ Army (NPA) was fought. On Tuesday, at least 15 mortars landed in areas suspected to be rebel hideouts. “The problem with the mortar shelling was, none among the communist guerillas was killed or displaced. Instead, the ones affected were indigenous people and poor farmers whose only source of living was tending their farm lots. These farm lots were hit by mortars,” said Gabriela-North Cotabato chair Ruby Padilla-Sison. Of the more than 200 families that were displaced because of the skirmishes, only a few returned home, according to Sison. “When you drive away people from their land where their source of living is, that in itself is a violation of human rights,” she stressed. Initiatives For its part, the CHR said that there were fewer cases of human rights violations compared to the previous administration. According to a report aired on GMA News TV program Balitanghali, of the 92 reported cases of human rights abuses involving the military recorded by the CHR, the AFP has admitted to 42 and these are now being investigated. The number of cases during the Arroyo administration was not cited in the report. Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda reiterated that the President is committed to promote human rights and does not condone extrajudicial killings. “Tandaan po natin ang pamilya ng ating Pangulo ay naging isang biktima rin po ng human rights abuse. So mahalaga po sa ating administrasyon ito: to value human rights,” Lacierda said in a briefing in Malacañang. “Meron po tayong listahan ng mga ginawa po. At hindi po totoong wala po tayong ginagawa. Malaki po ang diperensya po kung tungkol sa human rights ang pinag-uusapan and we are going after all those who have perpetrated extrajudicial killings,” he added.

The following is the Aquino Administration’s list of human rights initiatives as of December 10, 2012:




August 2010

AFP Human Rights/International Humanitarian Law (IHL) Handbook

As part of the Government’s effort to institutionalize human rights concepts as part of its overall security operations, the AFP launched its Human Rights/International Humanitarian Law (IHL) Handbook, which serves as a soldiers’ guide during the conduct of operations.

December 2010

Freeing of the Morong 43

The President ordered the DOJ to withdraw the information filed before the court, which, in effect and subject to court approval, freed those among them who have no other standing warrants in other courts. According to President Aquino, “Human rights has to be universal, has to be for everyone. When one’s rights are violated, you set the groundwork for violating everybody’s rights—so all includes our security forces, our peasantry, those below the poverty line, those who have more in this life.”

December 2010

AFP Human Rights Office

The Armed Forces of the Philippines has established a Human Rights Office. It serves as the main platform for addressing all human rights and international humanitarian law issues involving the Armed Forces. The recent designation of General Domingo Tutaan as head of this office has further strengthened its capabilities.

December 2010

PNP Human Rights Desk Operations Manual

The Philippine National Police has crafted the Human Rights Desk Operations Manual. This provides information and operational procedures to police personnel manning the PNP Human Rights Desks. Handbooks have also been prepared for regional police offices and media organizations as guides in light of the risks they face in the conduct of their duties.

December 2010

Special Task Force on Extrajudicial Killings and Enforced Disappearances

On December 10, 2010, the DOJ created a Special Task Force on Extrajudicial Killings and Enforced Disappearances. The Special Task Force is mandated to review all reported and unresolved cases of extrajudicial killings (EJKs) and enforced disappearances (EDs) and recommend measures for and cause the effective and expeditious investigation and prosecution of the said cases. It is also mandated to speed up the prosecution and resolution of cases with sufficient evidence and cause the reopening of investigations of “cold file” cases.

June 2011

Upgrade of the Philippines in the U.S. State Dept.’s TIP Report

In the U.S. Department of State’s 2011 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, the Philippines has been upgraded to Tier 2 from Tier 2 Watch List

(a notch lower) in 2010.

March 2012

Campaign against Illegal Recruitment and Trafficking in Persons (TIP)

DOJ has achieved a total of 74 convictions (cases) of Illegal Recruitment involving 89 persons since 2003, with 45 convictions (61 percent of all convictions secured) recorded during the Aquino Administration.

The DSWD assisted all 2,082 victims of trafficking who sought help from the government from January 2010 to March 2012. It provided 1,067 victims with community-based services including rescue, counseling, financial assistance, skills training, auxiliary services, temporary shelter, and legal assistance through the Recovery and Reintegration Program for Trafficked Persons (RRPTP). It also assisted the other 1,015 victims through the residential care centers/institutions such as the Haven for Women and Children.

June 2012

Media and Activist Killings

The PNP-Task Force USIG has recorded 41 validated cases of slain media practitioners and 125 validated cases of slain activists since 2001. Of these cases, 103 have been filed in court, 62 are under investigation, and one case has been dropped due to the demise of the suspect.

November 2012

Administrative Order No. 35, creating the Inter-agency committee on extra-legal killing, enforced disappearances, torture and other grave violations of the right to life and security of persons

Tasks of the new committee:

• To conduct an inventory of all human rights violations perpetrated by State and non-state forces.

• To prioritize the unsolved cases for action, and assign special investigation teams to conduct further investigation on these cases for the possible identification of the perpetrators.

• Monitor and report cases under investigation, preliminary investigation and trial.

• Investigate and prosecute new cases.

• Every six months, the Committee shall submit a report to the President detailing its progress, accomplishment, as well as their recommendations.

— DVM, GMA News