Press Statement, March 21, 2012 – “The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) should stop its habit of blaming the people whose rights are violated in the implementation of its counter-insurgency program, Oplan Bayanihan, especially when the victims are children,” asserted Marie Hilao-Enriquez, chairperson of Karapatan.
The AFP claimed that the 6 year-old Rodilyn Aguirre was killed, and her 4 year-old sister Baby wounded, because of their involvement with NPA activities, specifically in manufacturing improvised explosive device (EID). “These are not only false claims, these are preposterous! Rodilyn and her sister were hit by grenade shrapnel from an M203 launcher. The barangay residents believed that the explosion could only come from the nearby detachment of the 61st IB-PA as they often saw army personnel Willy Faulo brandishing that weapon, ” retorted Hilao-Enriquez.
Results of the fact finding by Karapatan-Panay stated that on March 11, the two children were in their house with their grandfather, Julian Aguirre, when an explosion struck a few meters from their house. The report said that, “Rodilyn was hit by shrapnel from M203 launcher in “different parts of her body, resulting in fatal injuries. The most fatal wounds were on her left eye and her neck. Baby sustained superficial injuries on her face, arms and stomach.” Rodilyn died on the way to the hospital which was “two hours walk and another hour by motorcycle away from the village.”
Karapatan said that the people in Brgy. Tacayan have, for years, complained of the military’s presence in their village for fear of their safety. Hilao-Enriquez said that, “this is proof that civilians’ lives are endangered by the mere presence of the military in the communities. Children are especially vulnerable to such violations, depriving them not only of a peaceful environment, but of their lives and security as well.”
Four days earlier, on March 7, 10 year-old Michael Mancera and brother Richard, 7 y.o., were likewise killed when soldiers from the 49th IB in Labo, Camarines Sur fired at the Mancera’s house. The 24 sqm. Mancera house was riddled with bullets. Recovered from the different spots outside the house were a total of 231 spent shells from armalite rifles. To cover up the killings, the military tagged Benjamin, Michael and Richard’s father, as “NPA militia” and called the incident an ‘encounter’ between the military and the NPA.
Karapatan said it has been the practice of the AFP to easily and immediately brand the victims of human rights violations as members or supporters of the New People’s Army (NPA) to wash off their bloodied tracks. Hilao-Enriquez added that, “the AFP often uses ‘legitimate encounters’ or ‘hot pursuit operations’ against the NPA to cover up its rights violations against the unarmed civilians in the communities. They are mindless of who are victimized in the process because they have a healthy excuse — branding civilians, including children as rebels, as if branding a person as NPA or NPA supporter justifies extrajudicial killing.”
Karapatan reiterates its call “to immediately pull out military units in the communities and stop the implementation of Oplan Bayanihan which is nothing but a repackaged Oplan Bantay Laya. ###
PUBLIC INFORMATION DESK
Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights
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Diliman, Quezon City, PHILIPPINES 1101
Telefax: (+63 2) 4354146
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.