A Picture of the Human Right Situation in the Philippines: On Political Killings and Disappearances in 2005

By Bayan International
Posted by Bulatlat

The present human rights situation in the Philippines worsened as the Arroyo government, beset with a severe economic and political crisis, intensified its repression and use of state terror against the people and the opposition. The number of human rights violations in 2005 was the highest ever recorded since the Marcos dictatorship.

The human rights organization KARAPATAN documented 874 cases of human rights violations with 99,011 individual victims from January to November 30, 2005. The violations affected 14,302 families in 288 communities.

There were 179 victims of politically motivated killings compared with 63 victims in 2004. This number does not include 52 victims who survived assassination attempts. There were 46 victims of abductions/forced disappearances in 2005 (151 reported by KARAPATAN since Arroyo became president).

Targeting of Leaders and Members of the Legal Democratic Movement

Progressive organizations fielded candidates in the 2001 national elections under the political party Bayan Muna (People First). It received the most number of votes under the partylist system[i] and was able to win three (3) seats in Congress (Parliament). In the 2004 national elections, more progressive candidates were fielded. Bayan Muna, Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) and Grabriela Women’s Party won six (6) seats despite moves by National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales to get them removed from the partylist system, vicious anti-communist propaganda by paramilitary groups, outright harassment and terrorism by the military and police, and rampant cheating by election officials. These endeavors represent the efforts of the legal democratic left to participate in parliamentary elections.

Of the 179 cases of politically motivated killings recorded in 2005, 67 were political activists. They were leaders (regional or provincial coordinators), members or known supporters of Bayan Muna, Anakpawis and people’s organizations. Anakpawis suffered the highest number of casualties with 33 killed. Bayan Muna came next with 30 killed. Four were women and youth activists. In addition, five (5) members of Anakpawis and three (3) members of Bayan Muna were disappeared.

Two local party headquarters of Bayan Muna were set on fire. Local leaders of progressive partylist groups were harassed, illegally detained and threatened. This pattern of violence is a desperate and systematic effort to silence and annihilate the Left: the most vocal critics of the Arroyo government.

Of the 179 killed and 46 disappeared, many were professionals, performing their duties as local government officials, lawyers, a doctor, journalists, human rights activists and church workers.

Sixty six of those killed and 37 disappeared were ordinary civilians, mostly peasants, labeled by the military as relatives, sympathizers or supporters of communist or Muslim rebels. Among the 66 were two (2) fetuses in the womb of women who were murdered.

Of the 179 killed, 26 were Muslim prisoners accused of being Abu Sayyaf members. They were killed when prison guards, police and the military stormed a detention camp in Manila during a prison disturbance.

Supressing the Truth

Journalists exposing military and police abuses, graft and corruption and involvement of government officials with criminal syndicates are also targets. The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) reported that seven journalists or media practitioners were killed last year.

Human rights workers, including staffers of KARAPATAN, documenting military and police violations of human rights have also been targeted, as well as church workers, lawyers and elected local officials who support people’s organizations such as indigenous peoples and environmental groups. Among the 179 victims are one (1) human rights worker[ii], three (3) church workers[iii], seven (7) human rights lawyers[iv] and three (3) elected local government officials[v]. In almost all instances, the military misrepresents the victims or their organizations as “terrorists”, communists, rebel sympathizers or ‘enemies of the state’ to justify the violent attacks.

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