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    Statements of political detainees Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria

    Statement regarding the visit of the Commission on Human Rights

    First released on 25 March 2014

    We thank Chairperson Etta Rosales and two other Commissioners of the CHR (Commission on Human Rights) for the visit on 25 March to find out if our human rights were respected during our arrest.

    We emphasized to the CHR commissioners that the most important and serious issues relative to our human rights are our being framed-up, accused of fabricated charge of illegal possession of firearms and explosives and the planting of evidence to justify our illegal arrest and detention and that of our five companions in the house.

    This gross violation of human rights completely negates all the efforts of CHR to initiate in the PNP and AFP the respect for human rights. The few and trickled measures to effect in the PNP and AFP the respect for human rights are rendered inutile if the more fundamental right against illegal arrest is wantonly practiced by the whole institution and the State. This creates intense cynicism not only among the victims but also in the ranks of the police and soldiers.

    The true and serious promotion of the respect for human rights is towards the welfare and aspirations of the people. In view of this, we urge the CHR to launch an earnest campaign against the contempt for human rights of the PNP, AFP and the ruling State.

    Reply to Mr. Alex Padilla, and with regards to the violation of the JASIG

    First released on 24 March 2014

    We reiterate our condemnation of our arrest as an outright violation of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) that gives us immunity as national consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines with NDFID No. 978226 (Wilma Austria) and NDFID No. 978227 (Benito with the name Crising Banaag).

    The claim of the head of the GPH peace panel, Alex Padilla, that we are not covered by the JASIG is a warped lie. Wilma was openly confirmed as NDFP national consultant by former GRP peace panel head Ambassador Howard Dee, as well as by Pres. Ramos when he ordered the release of Wilma Austria in 1994 as a confidence and goodwill building measure. Meanwhile, Benito was among the original recipients of the NDFP Document of Identification and JASIG immunity, a thing that was expected and indubitable. Whatever pretexts the GPH panel will come up with, its claim that Benito has no role in the peace process and is not covered by the JASIG is utterly farcical.

    NDFP consultants, like us, can significantly contribute to the peace process because of our crucial role in the struggle. Our role in the struggle is a requisite to our role in the peace process. The involvement of the movement is inherent in a peace process; hence, the position of a few that the struggle must cease first before we participate in the peace process is unreasonable and will not help. We believe that for the realization of a true, lasting and just peace, the pursuit of the struggle with all our might is not contrary but rather in unity with and corresponds to the peace process.

    With regards the allegation of the AFP that Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria are the brains behind the “anti-infiltration hysteria”

    First released on 24 March 2014

    The allegation made by the Philippine National Police officer (after our statement was read) that the brains behind the anti-infiltration hysteria “kahos” were Benito and Wilma Tiamzon is a stark lie and fabrication. This is contrary to the truth.

    The “kahos” was a local campaign which was planned and started in some parts of Mindanao in 1984, at the time that Benito and Wilma were in Luzon and had no direct responsibility of the movement in Mindanao.

    When the belated report on the “kahos” was received, this was immediately stopped, investigated and the error, fully rectified.

    Benito and Wilma played a crucial role in leading the investigation and rectification, as well as in formulating, approving and disseminating clear and stricter rules on the investigation, trial and judgment.

    The movement has clear and strict policies and rules on the respect for human rights and democratic rights of its members and the people. These are systematically and continuously disseminated to all.

    The Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) that was signed by the NDFP and GPH reflects the stand and policies of the Party and the movement on the respect for human rights and democratic rights and the humane conduct of the armed struggle.

    On the other hand, the human rights abuses of the GPH and its armed forces all the more increased and intensified. Extrajudicial killings, which Palparan grossly propagated, massacres such as the ruthless mass killing of the peasants in Palo, Leyte continue. Militarization, especially in the rural areas, and all the turpitude and abuses linked to it, such as illegal arrest, torture, killing, and dislocation of whole barangays and communities are widespread.

    Rights groups slam trumped-up charges vs activists, peace consultants in talks with government

    Rights groups held a protest action in front of the Manila Regional Trial Court Tuesday morning, when the court conducted a clarificatory hearing on the multiple murder case filed against former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo and peace consultants in talks with the government, including Randall Echanis, Rafael Baylosis, Vicente Ladlad, and recently arrested consultants Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria.

    “The revival of these trumped up charges against Ocampo and the peace consultants signals the intensification of political persecution under the Aquino administration. These were charges hatched under the auspices of former Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG), which was deemed by United Nations Special Rapporteur Philip Alston as a means by which the government prosecutes and punishes “enemies of the state,” said Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general.

    Palabay said that while the IALAG was abolished due to extensive campaign of human rights groups and the international community, the policy and practice of filing trumped-up criminalized charges continues under the Aquino government.

    Karapatan has documented 570 cases of illegal arrests and detention from June 2010 to December 2013. The group also documented 427 political prisoners, as of December 2013, including 152 persons arrested under Aquino’s term. Palabay added that almost all of cases, like those of detained NDFP consultants, are criminal charges spuriously filed based on highly questionable evidence and fabricated testimonies.

    “Leaders of people’s organizations in Negros, for instance, are constantly threatened with fabricated criminal charges of the AFP and the PNP. Under the Aquino government, the assault on political dissenters through the filing of trumped-up charges is on the rise. In an attempt to silence opposition, they make up all sort of charges using the wildest of their imagination,” Palabay said.

    Organization of ex-political detainees SELDA (Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto), of which Ocampo is board member, also condemned the revival of charges against Ocampo and consultants who are performing tasks in the peace talks on the side of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

    “How the police and military have arrested, demonized and dealt with the latest political prisoners Benito Tiamzon, Wilma Austria and their five companions, and the arrest of the late Ka Roger Rosal’s daughter, is vintage martial law practice. The “planting” of evidence has been a long-standing practice of the police and military, extensively used during the Martial Law period. They use this to justify illegal arrests and detention. They also exploit the use of John and Jane Does, even aliases, to charge anyone as respondents to a case,” Bonifacio Ilagan, vice chairperson of SELDA, said.

    Ilagan, who was imprisoned during the Martial Law years, recalled “As early as the 1970s, I remember being accosted with fellow activists after a rally, brought to the police precinct at UN Avenue and slapped with illegal possession of explosives, even if we only carried banners and streamers.”

    “Circumstances of arrests and detention are highly anomalous, and the so-called evidences improbable,” said Ilagan, “human rights lawyers call the circumstances cited in trumped-up charges as beyond human experience, like soldiers’ testimonies that they identified the respondents by virtue of seeing their faces in alleged military encounters.”

    Karapatan and SELDA joined calls to free all political prisoners, and demanded that the Aquino government stop filing trumped-up charges.

    “Trumped-up charges are obviously meant to stifle the freedom of movement of political dissenters. This is the bigger crime. The Aquino government should stop silencing its critics, or his regime is bound to face bigger protests for violating human rights here and there,” Palabay ended.

    References:
    Cristina Palabay
    Karapatan secretary general

    Bonifacio Ilagan
    SELDA vice-chairperson

    ———————————————————————

    PUBLIC INFORMATION DESK:
    publicinfo@karapatan.org

    ———————————————————————

    Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights
    2nd Flr. Erythrina Building
    #1 Maaralin corner Matatag Streets
    Central District, Diliman
    Quezon City, PHILIPPINES 1101
    Telefax: (+63 2) 4354146
    Web: http://www.karapatan.org

    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.

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