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

Pattern of Assassinations

Except for the 26 Muslim prisoners and the massacre of peasants in Palo, Leyte, most of the victims were killed by two motorcycle-riding men wearing helmets or masks riding in tandem with support from other motorcycle-riding men.

The pattern of assassinations is the same nationwide with known activists of legal left organizations as victims. They are shot in or near their houses, headquarters, offices or while going to and from these places, meaning that surveillance were conducted before the actual shooting. The killings also happen in spurts over a one-to-two-month period followed by a lull of two-to-three-months, then the killing spree resume, showing that these are centrally directed with chosen targets nationwide and specific places and timetable.

Promoting Perpetrators of Human Rights Violations

The violent attacks are committed with impunity, sometimes near or close to military or police detachments, with no police investigations carried out, and no perpetrators arrested or brought to justice. In fact, the suspected perpetrators are even promoted.

General Jovito Palaparan is a case in point. He first gained notoriety as the “butcher of Mindoro” in April 2003 after the torture and summary executions of Eden Marcellana, KARAPATAN’s Southern Tagalog regional coordinator, and Eddie Gumanoy, a peasant leader. During his stint as head of the 204th IB in Oriental Mindoro from the latter part of 2001 till May 2003, KARAPATAN recorded 27 activists and ordinary civilians killed. At that time Palparan was still a colonel. Previous to Oriental Mindoro, he was head of Task Force Banahaw which covers Rizal and Laguna Provinces. During his stint, KARAPATAN recorded 61 cases of human righst violations, including the killing of civilians and a five-year old boy.

Despite strong objections by people’s organizations and some senators and congressmen for violations of human rights, Palparan was promoted to Brig. General by President Arroyo and awarded the Presidential Citation for Valor in May 2003. He was subsequently sent to head the Philippine contingent in Iraq in January 2004.

With the withdrawal of Philippine troops from Iraq in August 2004, Palparan was promoted to Major General in October 2004. From February to August 2005, he was head of the 8th IB in Eastern Visayas. From September 2005 to the present, Palparan has been head of the 2nd ID in Central Luzon. Of the 179 summarily executed last year, 31 were from Eastern Visayas and 52 from Central Luzon. Most of the victims were killed while Palparan was the commanding officer in those regions. In addition to the 31 killed in Eastern Visayas, 32 were disappeared during his stint there, while seven (7) were disappeared in Central Luzon. .

The modus operandi of Palparan is setting up death squads that commit brazen assassinations and forcible abduction of victims, wearing helmets or ski-masks and riding motorcycles or unmarked vans, and sometimes killing or abducting the victims in their own homes before their spouses and children. Not only are these tactics reminiscent of the Marcos years, but also of the time in 1986-88 when leaders of people’s organizations, human rights lawyers and candidates of Partido ng Bayan, the left political party established after martial law, were being killed by motorcycle-riding men. At that time, Gen. Eduardo Ermita was Chief of Operations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). Gen. Ermita is now the Executive Secretary of President Arroyo.

Laying the Foundation for Dictatorship

The political killings and disappearances of activists have been brought to the attention of the highest officials of the land. In his testimony before the the Citizens’ Congress for Truth and Accountability (CCTA), presided over by former Vice-President Teopisto Guingona, Rep. Satur Ocampo of Bayan Muna, Chairman of the House Special Committee on Peace, Unity and Reconciliation and a Senior Member of the House Committee on Human, Civil and Political Rights, testified that from January 2002 to August 2005, he has had six occasions to inform President Arroyo personally and by phone, in Malacanang Palace and elsewhere, alone or in the presence of other officials and partylist representatives, of the escalating violations of human rights in the country, especially against his own partylist leaders and members, and to ask her to act in order to put a stop to the killings and violations.

On these occasions, Rep. Ocampo said that President Arroyo “appeared cold and indifferent, just looking at me and nodding her head”. Up to now, President Arroyo has not taken any action to put a stop to the killings. She has not even issued a statement to look into the killings and disappearances. This inaction on the part of the executive has emboldened her military minions to escalate the killings. In the month of January 2006 alone, six political activists have already been summarily executed in different regions of the country.

On the contrary, President Arroyo has issued several Executive Orders (EO) that virtually lay the groundwork for a dictatorship. Using a repressive law by Marcos (Batas Pambansa 880), President Arroyo adopted the policy of so-called “calibrated preemptive response” against rallies that is meant to suppress protest actions and curtail freedom of assembly. She issued EO 464 that prevents government officials and employees to appear before congressional hearings without her approval. She asked her Secretary of Justice to draft an order on emergency rule (EO 467). She is also pushing Congress to pass an anti-terrorism bill harsher than the Homeland Security Act of Bush, and to adopt into law her executive order (EO 420) on National Identification System.

Continuing Resistance by the People

The intensifying political repression has engendered growing resistance against not only against the repression itself but also against the anti-people neo-liberal policies, the corruption and election cheating of the current administration, particularly against Mrs. Arroyo and her cohorts in government and the military.

The progressive representatives of Bayan Muna, Anakpawis and Gabriela Women’s Party continue to uphold the people’s interest in Congress. People’s organizations such as BAYAN, Kilusang MayoUno (KMU), the biggest and most progressive trade union federation, and the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the biggest peasant union, stand firm in pushing for the national and democratic aspirations of the people.

The broad mass movement is growing with elements from the political opposition, such as Mrs. Corazon Aquino, the former president, the churches, such as the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) and the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), civil society groups, the military, and the masses, all coming together in coordinated mass actions and calling for Mrs. Arroyo to step down from the presidency.

The use of state terror and repression has not dampened the people’s will to fight for justice and democracy.

6 February 2006


[i] Under the partylist system, the so-called ‘marginalized sectors of society’ are allowed to field candidates for representatives in Congress. 20% of the 260 seats in the House are reserved for Partylist Representatives. To gain a seat in Congress, a partylist must obtain 2% of the total votes cast nationwide for partylist. But each partylist can only gain a maximum of three (3) representatives or 6% of the total votes. Thus, in the 2004 elections, even though Bayan Muna garnered 10% of the total votes cast for parylist, it was entitled to only three (3) seats in Congress. Anakpawis won two (2) seats and Gabriela Women’s Party one (1).

[ii] KARAPATAN reported at least seven (7) human rights workers killed in 2005. Three of them were also listed as church workers (Fr. William Tadena, Rev. Edison Lapuz and Rev. Raul Domingo) while two were Bayan Muna members (Atty. Felidito Dacut and journalist Ricardo Uy) while one was regional coordinator of Anakpawis (Atty. Ambrosio Matias).

[iii] Promotion of Church Pepole’s Response (PCPR) reported seven (7) church workers killed in 2005. KARAPATAN volunteer Abe Sungit, and Alfredo Davis, Rev Raul Domingo, Junico Halem and Jose Manegdeg of Bayan Muna were included in its report

[iv] CODAL reported seven (7) human rights lawyers killed in 2005. Atty. Felidito Dacut and Atty. Norman Bocar of Bayan Muna; and Atty. Ambrosio Matias of Anakpawis were included in the list.

[v] Two other elected government officials were listed as Bayan Muna victims. Lawyer Abelardo Ladera was a councilor of Tarlac City; and Bienvenido Bajado was the former Vice-Mayor of Maydolong, Eastern Samar who ran under Bayan Muna in 2001


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