Berlin, 1 November 2015
Dear President Aquino:
It is with a very deep solicitude that I am writing this letter on behalf of my organization – Human Rights Matter (HRM) – which is based in Berlin, Germany – working to defend, with full of dedication and ardor, the rights of Human Rights Defenders, victims of torture, Human Rights within the Armed Forces and LGBTQI all over the world.
We are seriously concerned on the unrelenting violations such as extra-judicial killings and attacks perpetrated by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the paramilitary forces on the Lumad villages and schools mainly in the conflict prone regions of Mindanao particularly those attacks which have taken place in Lianga, Surigao del Sur, against prominent Lumad educational leaders and defenders.
It has come to our attention that the Philippine government has continued overlooking such unbearable destruction of the various economic, social, civil and political rights of the people both at the community and individual levels and the saddening prevalence of injustice and impunity
The recent massacre of Lito Abion, Dionel Campos, Bellos Sinzo, and Emerito Samarca together with the May 26 undignified killing of the Calago couple are among the cases emblematic of such situation, apart from the individual attacks on human rights defenders, continuing massive forced dislocations, harassment, threats, closing of schools, and other attacks on Lumad communities in Southern Philippines. Just recently on October 1, 2015, nearly a thousand individuals had to flee again from their homes in Marihatag, Surigao del Sur because of the threats by the paramilitary groups. It is a disturbing trend to see how the AFP and its paramilitary groups seem to continue to intimidate and harass the Lumad communities and the human rights defenders who work for their protection. It is clear that presence of such armed groups are only exacerbating the problem.
Human Rights Matter, therefore, strongly urges and calls for immediate actions to be taken to stop such violations. Accordingly, we request you – as Commander-in-Chief and as the Head of the government of the Philippines to:
- Immediately form a truly impartial, independent and autonomous as well as responsible panel – composed of all the relevant stakeholders – to investigate the situation, identify the perpetrators and bring them to justice.
- To send an official invitation to UN Special Rapporteurs, specifically the UN experts on extrajudicial/arbitrary killings, on indigenous peoples, and on the rights of human rights defenders, to allow them to conduct independent investigations in the Philippines in order to ensure that such results of their independent investigations reach the international community.
- As any military and security force is meant to serve the nation and not the regime in power, we strongly insist on the removal of all the army force of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in the Lumad communities in Mindanao, and to do away with paramilitary groups such as Magahat/Bagani Forces as the alleged perpetrators of such violence.
- To end immediately the counterinsurgency program Oplan Bayanihan which victimizes the very people it should aim to protect.
- Finally we would like to remind and urge your government to re-enforce its international and regional human rights obligations and constitutional based standards in protecting the diversified economic, social and political interests of its people.
Cc: Department of Justice Secretary: Leila M. de Lima; Department of National Defense Secretary: Ret. Lt. Gen. Voiltaire T. Gazmin; Commission on Human Rights Chairperson: Jose Luis Martin Gascon; Chair of Justice and Human Rights Committee Senator of Philippine Senate: Aquilino Pimentel III; Chairperson, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples: Atty. Leonor T. Oralde-Quintayo; Chair, of House of Representatives Human Rights Committee: Rep. Guillermo Romarate Jr.; Chair, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples: Leonor T. Oralde-Quintayo; Governor, Province of Agusan del Sur
LL.M. International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law
Human Rights Matter
Trautenaustr. 5, 10717 Berlin, Germany
Office phone +49.30.54887426