“Local government secretary Mar Roxas should be held accountable for the organized racket of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Department of National Defense (DND) through the P466million bounty for individuals whom they accuse as communists,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay.
The Karapatan statement was issued in time for the hearing of the DILG 2014 budget by Committee on Appropriations at the House of Representatives. Palabay said the joint DILG-DND memorandum 14, announced by Roxas in November 2012 provides for P466million reward for those who can provide information that could lead to the arrest of 235 wanted individuals listed as “communists”. The said list has been kept confidential until now and, even during the DND budget hearing at the House of Representatives last Sept. 3.
Karapatan called the scheme an “organized racket,” citing the cases of arrests, torture and detention of security guard Rolly Panesa and farmer Olegario Sebas. Both were wrongly tagged as leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA).
“The reward money is better used in productive endeavours that will benefit thousands of hungry and homeless Filipinos instead of pay-offs to so-called informers who are used to arbitrarily arrest, detain, torture or kill innocent people,” Palabay added.
Panesa was arrested on October 5, 2012, tortured and detained for 11 months because he was mistaken to be “Benjamin Mendoza”, an alleged high ranking regional officer of the NPA. On August 29, the Court of Appeals (CA) ruled positively on Panesa’s petition for writ of habeas corpus, citing his case as a case of mistaken identity, and ordered the jail warden of Camp Bagong Diwa to release him from prison.
Sebas, 65, was arrested on December 25, 2012 by the joint forces of the Philippine Army and the Philippine National Police in Tubod, Manjuyod, Negros Oriental. Sebas was mistaken to be the top NPA cadre “Felimon Mendrez”, a subject of four arrest warrants for rebellion. Sebas was detained in the BJMP District Jail in Bayawan City for three weeks and was released when the court granted his petition for writ of habeas corpus.
Last month, AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista personally handed P5.25M and P5.6M rewards to informants who “identified” Panesa as “Benjamin Mendoza” and Sebas as “Felimon Mendrez,” respectively.
“Now that the Courts have ruled in both cases that they got the wrong men, the big question is where is the P10.8million bounty? Or has the money been pocketed already by entrepreneurial generals?” Palabay asked.
Karapatan research showed that the DILG has P73.6 billion at its disposal for the implementation of the counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan, including P306 million for intelligence funds.
|DILG FUNDS FOR IMPLEMENTATION OF OPLAN BAYANIHAN||2014 (proposed)|
|Support for Peace and Order Councils (DILG)||33,830,000|
|Comprehensive Local Integration Program (DILG)||74,036,000|
“Many of these items, including intelligence funds and the budget for PAMANA program, are discretionary in nature and are not subject for audit by the Commission on Audit (COA). These programs are also conduits in the implementation of Oplan Bayanihan’s components, specifically the psyops and intelligence aspects,” Palabay added.
Karapatan reiterated its call to scrap Oplan Bayanihan and echoed the people’s clamor to redirect huge amounts of government money “to social services like hospitalization and medical care for the poor and marginalized, education and subsidies to public colleges and universities and, housing facilities where people could access the funds directly and benefit from, instead of ending up either in the generals’ pockets or used to violate people’s rights.”
Cristina “Tinay” Palabay
PUBLIC INFORMATION DESK