In Cordillera, Right to Life is the Most Violated Right

Of all human rights, it is the right to life which is most violated in the Cordillera region. This is what is shown by figures from the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA).

Northern Dispatch
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BAGUIO CITY – Of all human rights, it is the right to life which is most violated in the Cordillera region. This is what is shown by figures from the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA).

The CHRA has documented 26 cases of extrajudicial killings in the Cordillera since last January. The group’s statistics on collective rights violations showed that there were more or less 1,500 workers and families assaulted in the picket lines and more or less 100 individuals who were victims of aerial bombings during the same period.

Lawyer Reynaldo A. Cortes, CHRA chairman, said that these violations – both of individual and collective rights – are still continuing and should serve to strengthen their advocacy.

Citing results of fact-finding missions CHRA sponsored mostly this year, Cortes said that these violations are a reality in the remote villages.

“Like an alleged victim of extrajudicial killing by alleged AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) members in Abra (whose remains) needed to be exhumed to determine the cause of his death,” Cortes told at least 150 rights advocates gathered here on Dec. 8 for the 3rd CHRA congress at the ECP Mission Hall of the Episcopal Diocese of North Central Philippines (EDNCP) Compound, Magsaysay, in this city.

Continuous killings

The 26 political killings this year include those of prominent personalities like Malbong tribal leader Rafael Markus Bangit who was gunned down by hooded assailants on June 8, 2006 in Isabela; and Alyce Omengan-Claver who was assassinated on July 31, 2006 in Tabuk, Kalinga.

The attack on Alyce also caused the serious injury of her husband Dr. Constancio Claver and their young daughter, added the Cortes report.

The CHRA report cited the following political assassinations: Albert Terredaño, an employee of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) in Abra murdered on Nov. 29, 2005; Pepe Manegdeg, a coordinator of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) murdered Nov. 28 last year; Romeo Sanchez, regional coordinator of Bayan Muna- Ilocos Region murdered in Baguio City March 9 last year.

Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights) has documented 797 killings since President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo took over the presidency.

The CHRA figures show that 96 of the victims of these killings were indigenous people. Of these, 33 were from the Cordillera.

“None of these cases has been solved to this day,” the CHRA lamented in a statement. “No perpetrator has been punished.”

The CHRA was responsible for filing complaints on political killings together with Karapatan, the Counsels for the Defense of Liberties (CODAL) and other non-government before the different offices of the United Nations (UN) – including those of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Human Rights Defenders, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and Special Rapporteur on Extra-judicial Killings and Summary Executions.

Government behind killings?

Citing observations from credible human rights watchdogs, CHRA stated that there is a pattern of politically-motivated killings as illustrated by similar affiliations of the victims; surveillance and death threats immediately preceding the killings; and “communist” labeling from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police (PNP), and the Department of Justice (DoJ).

“These international investigative teams were convinced that government security forces are behind the killings and that a culture of impunity pervades, exacerbated by apparent lack of pursuit operations, inefficient investigation, prosecution and punishment of the perpetrators and masterminds,” the CHRA observed. “Above all, these groups have noted the lack of political will from the President to strongly condemn and get to the bottom of the killings.”

The CHRA also said that death squads of the AFP or the PNP have executed orders to neutralize leaders and members of progressive people’s organizations critical against the government.

In a separate statement, CHRA observed that the extrajudicial killings took while Arroyo was aggressively pushing for charter change “to continue her hold of the presidency.” As the violations seem to be heightened with her rule, the CHRA declared it will consolidate its ranks and campaign to resist political persecution. Northern Dispatch / Posted by (

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