Posted 2:30 p.m., Sept. 18, 2006
BY DEE AYROSO
Families of victims of human rights violations under the Arroyo administration are urging the government’s monitoring committee on the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement for the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHIHL) to do its work and investigate the increasing cases of political killings and disappearances.
In a forum at the University of the Philippines in Quezon City this morning, Evangeline Hernandez, spokesperson of the group HUSTISYA lamented that the joint monitoring committee on the implementation of CARHRIHL has not investigated any of the 967 complaints of human rights violations filed with its secretariat, including the case of Hernandez’s daughter Benjaline, who was slain by the military in Davao
The CARHRIHL was signed in 1998, one of the fruits of the peace negotiations between the government and the National Democratic Front. Part of the agreement’s implementation was the operationalization of the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC), which is composed of representatives of the monitoring committees of the government and NDF.
As of today, there were 850 complaints filed against the government, while 117 cases have been filed againt the NDF.
Erlinda Cadapan, mother of missing student Sherlyn Cadapan, also called on the JMC to prioritize the cases of the disappeared who might be undergoing torture.
The two women expressed frustration with how the courts are proceeding on the cases of their daughters. Hernandez said the court has already freed the soldiers and paramalitia man who were accused in the killing of Benjaline, while Cadapan said she fears the habeas corpus petition at Court of Appeals for her missing daughter will be for naught.
In a statement read at the forum, Fidel Agcaoili, NDF representative in the joint monitoring committee, said the NDF “stands firm by its commitment” to the CARHHRIHL, and blamed the Arroyo administration for the non-working JMC.
Agcaoili said the JMC has had only one meeting since its operationalization in 2004, and the government section of the JMC refused to convene after the unilateral suspension of the peace talks by the Arroyo administration.
“JMC takes its mandate from the CARHRIHL, and is not dependent on the formal talks. There is no reason why the JMC could not do its work and investigate cases,” said Agacaoili.
Agcaoili said the government has not responded to the proposal by the NDF section to form an ad hoc joint investigating committee of the NDF and the government to investigate the disappearances since May this year. He added that the NDF also agreed to investigate with the government the supposed killings of 10 activists which the Armed Forces of the Philippines had blamed on the New People’s Army (NPA).
Addressing the victims’s families in his statement, Agcaoili said the NDF is committed in its quest for justice and respect for human rights and international humanitarian law “whether jointly within the frame of the JMC, or separately within the frame of the revolutionary principles.” Atty. Sedfrey Candelaria, chair of the government’s section of the JMC was invited but failed to make it to the forum.
In another statement, Agacaoili accused National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales of “jumping the gun” on the proposed mission by a Europe-based international body to investigate the political killings
and abductions in the country.
Gonzales last week said the international mission should look into the supposed mass graves of NPA victims which the AFP claimed to have discovered.
“It is the same tactic that Gonzales and his superiors in the reactionary government are using to make the Melo commission concentrate on investigating alleged NPA atrocities in a bid to pin the blame on the NPA and wash the bloody hands of government and its
armed forces of the assassinations and abductions of activists.” (Bulatlat.com)