Tuesday, April 16, 2024
Home Blog Page 209

Philippine Human Rights NGO’s bring to the attention of the UN the human rights situation of the country


Geneva, Switerland March 11, 2011 – The Ecumenical Voice for Peace and Human Rights Philippines (EcuVoice), an ecumenical delegation of Philippine human rights organizations for the defense and promotion of human rights, today brought to the attention of the United Nations Human Rights Council the continuing human rights violations and the continuing impunity in the country under Pres. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino, as the council conducts its 16th Regular Session this March 2011 in Geneva, Switzerland.

The delegation is headed by Philippine Independent Church Bishop Felixberto Calang and Karapatan Chairperson Marie Hilao Enriquez.

Speaking in the general debate on the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development, Cristina Palabay of Karapatan and the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) expressed concern on the 40 cases of extra-judicial killings, 5 disappearances, illegal arrests and detention of 27 individuals from July 2010 to February 2011.

In her oral statement, she asserted that these cases indicate that the “vilification campaign against human rights defenders and the filing of fabricated charges against those who are being tagged as the government’s enemies in the context of implementing counter-insurgency programs such as the newly crafted Oplan Bayanihan of the Aquino government, continue.”

“There was no let-up in the spate of human rights violations from the Pres. Arroyo to the current government. Not one case under the Arroyo government has been rendered justice, not one perpetrator has been brought to jail,” said Palabay.

She cited cases concerning attacks against human rights defenders Benjie Bayles, who was shot dead on June 14, 2010, Benjaline Hernandez killed in 2002, and the case of Eden Marcellana and Eddie Gumanoy both killed in 2003. She also mentioned the military raid of the provincial office of Karapatan which occurred during the incumbency of President Benigno Aquino. In that raid, four human rights workers were illegally arrested and detained.

Geneva-based Franciscans International, in a joint statement, also expressed concern on the killings of human rights defenders in the Philippines. The international organization expressed that “enforced or involuntary disappearances were practices that often went hand in hand with extrajudicial killings and torture, the main targets were political and community activists who had criticized government policies.”

Bishop Calang, Enriquez and Palabay were joined in the EcuVoice delegation by Dr. Merry Mia Clamor, one of the Morong 43 health workers illegally arrested and detained in February last year; Atty. Ephraim Cortez of the National Union of People’s Lawyers, Girlie Padilla of the Ecumenical Movement for Justice and Peace, and Rhonda Ramiro of the San Francisco Committee on Human Rights in the Philippines. Clamor, Cortez and Padilla are set to deliver their oral statements on March 14.

The delegation also met with and briefed foreign missions, international organizations and United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders Margaret Sekkagya on the worsening human rights situation in the country under Aquino. Padilla and Cortez also spoke in the delegation’s side event co-sponsored with the International Movement Against Discrimination and Racism (IMADR) where they highlighted the cases of enforced disappearances under Aquino. #

Desaparecidos: Prosecution on Burgos case should go up to Gloria Macapagal Arroyo


Reference: Mary Guy Portajada, Secretary General

“We hope that through this, justice will come swiftly,” Pamilya ng Desaparecidos para sa Katarungan (Families of Desaparecidos for Justice) or Desaparecidos  say as they welcomed the Commission on Human Rights’ investigative report and recommendations on the case of Jonas Burgos.

Jonas Burgos is an agriculturist who taught organic farming among peasants in Bulacan. He was abducted allegedly by the Philippine Army on April 28, 2007 in a mall along Commonwealth Ave. in Quezon City. Jonas is the son of a prominent Martial Late press freedom fighter Joe Burgos.

At the same time the organization of families of victims of enforced disappearances reminds the public that there are still a number of similar cases petitioned for Writ of Amparo pending before the Supreme Court. Portajada cited the cases of Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño – the two missing University of the Philippines students, Romulo Robiños and Leo Velasco among others. “We are hoping that the respective courts and government agencies follow suit and come out with favourable responses on the said cases.”

Moreover, Portajada criticized AFP Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Eduardo Oban Jr.’s order of creating a technical panel to study the CHR report. “The AFP should immediately comply with the CHR recommendations, instead of creating a technical panel to study the findings. It took four long years for a government agency to come out with favourable findings on the Burgos case, we don’t want to add more and lengthen the process by undue processes that would only delay the serving of justice to victims.”

Portajada also warns the public, that even if the prosecution of 1st Lt. Harry Baliaga of the Army’s 56th Infantry Battalion will proceed, without the Philippine Congress’ passage of the Anti-Enforced Disappearance Bill, all will be in vain.

Baliaga was identified by witnesses in their testimonies as the “principal by direct participation” on the abduction of Jonas Burgos.

According to the Desaparecidos, Baliaga can only be liable for Kidnapping and NOT for the crime of enforced disappearance.

Portajada explains the difference between the two crimes, “Kidnapping is illegally seizing a person by force and against his will; it also involves the use of ransom for the surfacing of the illegally detained person. This eliminates the political motive of the state forces to disappear a person. While with enforced disappearance, a person is disappeared for political reasons by state security forces; thus both state security forces and the commander in chief will be held responsible. This would mean that, even former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo can be held liable for Jonas’ disappearance and even that of other victims.”

“The CHR report might be a welcoming development. Yet, until victims remain to be missing, and masterminds of enforced disappearances are still free, we will continue to be vigilant and our cry for justice will remain.”#

KARAPATAN Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights

Philippine Human-Rights Group Honors Former UN Envoy Philip Alston


by Ronalyn V. Olea On January 25, 2011

Prof. Philip Alston in a light moment with Ms. Marie Hilao of Karapatan and Dr. Angie Gonzales of ICCHRP

MANILA — Human-rights group Karapatan conferred a plaque of appreciation to former United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions Philip Alston on Jan. 20 in Maastricht, the Netherlands.

Karapatan and the International Coordinating Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICCHRP) awarded the plaque to Alston “for his resolute fight for human rights amidst adversity, particularly his valuable role in bringing to the attention of the United Nations and the international community his objective and fearless findings on the role of state security forces in grave human rights violations under the counter-insurgency program in the Philippines, the marked reduction of extrajudicial killings following his report, and the institutional recognition of non-government organizations like Karapatan in monitoring government compliance with UN conventions and treaties on human rights.”

Alston visited the Philippines [2]in February 2007 to investigate the spate of extrajudicial killings in the country. In his report [3], Alston blamed the counter-insurgency program of the then Arroyo government for the killings and other rights violations. He also dismissed the “purging theory” within the Communist Party of the Philippines peddled by the Philippine military as a means to dispense responsibility.

Alston presented recommendations to the Philippine government to address the extrajudicial killings, including the outright denunciation of killings in the counterinsurgency program, abolition of the Inter-Agency Legal Action Group tasked to build up legal charges against activists and dissenters, among others.

Alston of the New York University School of Law also received an honorary doctorate degree from the Maastricht University in the Netherlands, along with five other honorees for their outstanding contributions to their fields of specialization.

The conferment rites were held on the same day at the Vrijhtof Theater in Maastricht, The Netherlands, and was attended by more than 500 academics and guests. It was presided by Prof. Gerard Mols, rector magnificus of the Maastricht University.

“Philip Alston is one of the world’s most authoritative academics in the field of human rights, and author of a wide-ranging and substantial oeuvre. His work is characterized by a high degree of erudition and originality. He has a sharp tongue and enjoys knocking down sacred cows. He’s also done a great deal of practical work for the United Nations, as member of supervisory committees and as Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions”, stated Prof. Menno Kamminga of the MA Faculty of Law, in his testimonial to Alston. (http://bulatlat.com) [4]

P-Noy breaking ‘militia vow’


(Philippine Daily Inquirer)

OUR AMNESTY group 1190 in Germany has written letters on human rights concerns to Israel, Cambodia, China, Burundi, Turkey, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Nepal, Honduras, Equatorial Guinea, Guatemala and Chad.

May I call attention to human rights abuses by militias, paramilitary groups and private armies. Everyone would agree with me that the authorities have the power to revoke an executive order that has had grave consequences for human rights in the Philippines? So far, however, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s Executive Order No. 546 has not been rescinded. This 2006 presidential order directs the Philippine National Police to provide active support to the military in counterinsurgency operations, including deputizing militias and civilian volunteer organizations (CVOs) as “force multipliers.”

The full impact of the government’s tacit support for the private armed groups of local politicians became starkly clear on Nov. 23, 2009, when 57 people traveling in an election convoy were massacred in Maguindanao. Since then, former Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr., members of his family and their private army have been arrested and charged in connection with the killings. Many members of his private army were part of CVOs, which the government had established and armed.

The system of authorization for armed groups which are then used as private armies remains intact.

After the Maguindanao massacre, then Senators Benigno Aquino III and Mar Roxas issued a statement demanding the “immediate revocation of Executive Order No. 546.” On April 22, near the end of his presidential campaign, Mr. Aquino said, “Our security forces must be directed to dismantle all private armies.” Although now commander in chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, President Aquino has yet to translate his words into action by disbanding and disarming these groups. Before the President’s election, his party announced as part of its platform: “The immediate task is to establish the conditions for a genuine human rights regime in the country.” In his first 100 days, however, the President failed to make human rights an immediate priority.

In losing his father, President Aquino has personal experience of a grave human rights violation and is now in a position where he can help protect the human rights of all Filipinos.

Group 1190, Amnesty International

Leonard Co family files murder raps vs 38 Army soldiers


The family of slain botanist Leonard Co on Tuesday filed a complaint accusing 38 members of the Philippine Army’s 19th Infantry Battalion of murdering Co and his two other companions in Leyte last year.

Those who filed the complaint were Co’s wife, Glenda, and parents Lian Sing and Emelina Co.

Co’s family had earlier protested a DOJ fact-finding panel’s report that cleared the military of any liability for the the killing of Co, forest guard Sofronio Cortez, and guide Julius Borromeo at the Energy Development Corp. (EDC) premises in Kananga, Leyte.

The military had claimed that the three were killed in a crossfire between the 19th IB and New People’s Army (NPA) rebels.

But Co’s family said they do not believe the military because the Army’s shooting was supposedly “specifically directed only at Co, Borromeo, Cortez and their companions.”

“We have basis to believe that no encounter occurred between the 19th Infatnry Battalion and the communist terrorists when Co, Borromeo, Cortez were killed and that they were in fact murdered by elements of the 19th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army,” they said in their complaint.

Those named on the charge sheet were:

# 1Lt. Ronald Odchimar,
# 2Lt. Cameron Perez,
# Corporal Marlon Mores,
# Private First Class Albert Belonte,
# PFC Michael Babon,
# PFC Elemer Forteza,
# PFC Roger Fabillar,
# PFC Gil Guimerey,
# PFC Alex Apostol,
# PFC WIlliam Bulic, and
# 28 other John Does.

Lt. Gen. Ralph Villanueva, commander of the Armed Forces Central Command, said they have yet to get a copy of the complaint but vowed to make available the soldiers involved in any investigation.

“We are fully cooperating with all investigative bodies… our soldiers will be there so they can give their side and explain what happened. We are ready to [face] any of these [investigating] bodies,” said Villanueva, whose command has supervision over the battalion involved.


In their complaint, Co’s family asked the DOJ to conduct a preliminary investigation to determine whether the respondents should be charged with murder for the killing of Co and his two other companions.

Lawyer Evalyn Ursua, counsel for the family, said a review of the DOJ panel’s report would show that “the findings and the conclusions of the report are flawed and contrary to evidence.”

Speaking to reporters, Ursua said that a scrutiny of the soldiers’ affidavits would show that they did not have personal knowledge of the supposed presence of communist rebels.

“We examined their affidavits and we saw their statements. Some were hearsay and unreliable regarding the presence of armed communist terrorists, and the shooting was directed especially at the team of Doctor Co,” Ursua said.

Co’s wife and parents added in their complaint: “It is understanding that these hearsay and unreliable statements about the supposed presence of three armed communist terrorists cannot give credence to the claim that Co, Borromeo, and Cortez were killed in the crossfire between government soldiers and communist terrorists.”

They likewise said that the fact that treachery, an element of murder, was present because Co, Borromeo, and Cortez were killed defenselessly.

“Under the law, the sudden and unexpected attack against Co, Borromeo, and Cortez when they were unarmed and completely defenseless constitutes treachery and makes their killing murder,” they said.

Which has more weight?

In a separate interview with reporters, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said she will assign a panel of prosecutors that will hande the Co family’s complaint.

She added that the filing of the complaint paves the way for a preliminary investigation, which is a more formal inquiry compared with the earlier fact-finding probe done by a DOJ panel of prosecutors.

The DOJ panel’s report blamed the deaths on the communist rebels, saying the trajectory of the bullets that killed Co and his companions came from lower grounds, where the NPA rebels were allegedly located.

She added that the imminent preliminary investigation on the murder charges “effectively” has more weight than the fact-finding probe done by the panel.

“In the preliminary investigation, the evidentiary rules will apply. The ultimate goal is to determine probable cause whether the respondents can be indicted. This is a different proceeding, it’s more formal and it will be done by a different panel,” she said.

De Lima likewise vowed the DOJ’s impartiality in the upcoming preliminary investigation.

“The panel that will be created will be presumed to be regular and diligent and efficient in the discharge of its mandate,” she said. — RSJ, GMANews.TV (SOPHIA M. DEDACE, GMANews.TV)