Press Statement,July 6, 2013 – “The inordinate delay in the delivery of justice for the victims of the Ampatuan massacre and the recent accounts of the backhoe driver exemplify how impunity runs through from one administration to the next; in this case from the Arroyo to the Aquino regime. Despite the people’s outrage and after more than three years after the massacre, one of the key government policies, Executive Order 546, has yet to be revoked by Pres. Noynoy Aquino,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.
Palabay added, “EO 546 spurred the use of paramilitary groups and private armies by political warlords such as the Ampatuans.”
Former Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s Executive Order 546 allowed local officials to employ members of the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Units (CAFGU) and Civilian Volunteer Organizations (CVO) to purportedly address insurgency in the country. Karapatan said Pres. Aquino expanded and strengthened the EO by creating the Special CAFGU Auxiliary Action (SCAA) to protect operations of mining firms.
“EO 546 legitimized the use of civilian military groups as force multipliers to supposedly combat rebel groups, giving free reign to
paramilitary groups and the Armed Forces of the Philippines to commit heinous crimes such as the Ampatuan massacre and protect the interests of big foreign corporations such as transnational mining companies and agro-business plantations,” Palabay said.
Palabay noted “the notoriety of such paramilitary groups continue under the Aquino administration as the AFP employs them for its counter-insurgency program, Oplan Bayanihan, in their operations in the communities.” She said, “such paramilitary groups were involved in many cases of extrajudicial killings, torture and enforced disappearances in communities where there are opposition to big businesses that will dislocate the local peasants and indigenous peoples.”
From July 2010 (start of Aquino’s presidency) to April 30, 2013, Karapatan documented 142 victims of extrajudicial killing, 164 cases of frustrated killing, 16 victims of enforced disappearance, 293 persons arrested and detained, 16 children killed (with ages ranging from four to 15). Many of these violations have been perpetrated by paramilitary groups under the command of AFP units.
With Aquino’s fourth State of the Nation Address, Karapatan reiterated its call for the dismantling of all paramilitary groups in the country and the revocation of EO 546.
The continued existence of paramilitary groups in the Philippines had been a major concern among member countries of the United Nations. During the 2012 UN Universal Periodic Review, where the rights record of the Philippine government was reviewed, several foreign missions called for the immediate dismantling of paramilitary groups such as the CAFGU, SCAA, CVO and the repeal of EO 546.
With the International Conference for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines (ICHRPP) scheduled on July 19-21, the human rights record of the Aquino government will again be scrutinized by the international community as 200 rights defenders and peace advocates from all over the globe gather in the Philippines.
“When he delivers his fourth SONA, we expect Aquino to once again produce sleight-of-hand figures and other forms of deception to prettify his human rights record. But the Filipino people and those in the international community know better. We cannot be deceived. We will march against the increasing poverty, oppression, exploitation and repression under the Aquino regime,” Palabay ended. ###
Reference: Cristina “Tinay” Palabay, Secretary General, +63917-3162831
Angge Santos, Media Liaison, +63918-9790580
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KARAPATAN is an alliance of human rights organizations and programs, human rights desks and committees of people’s organizations, and individual advocates committed to the defense and promotion of people’s rights and civil liberties. It monitors and documents cases of human rights violations, assists and defends victims and conducts education, training and campaign.