In forum, CHR officials and journalists from the NUJP bewail the use by the military of OBs. CHR chairperson Leila de Lima says the AFP claimed to have stopped using OBs but replaced these with “watch lists” – and military officials could not explain to her the difference.
By RONALYN V. OLEA
Human Rights Watch
MANILA – The Commission of Human Rights (CHR) has vowed to look into the continuing practice of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) of coming out with so-called “orders of battle” (OB) that lists groups and individuals as communists or enemies of the states.
In a dialogue with officials of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) Tuesday, CHR chairperson Leila de Lima said her office will demand for an official explanation from the AFP hierarchy regarding the leaked copy of an order of battle from the 10th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army.
The document, entitled “JCICC AGILA 3rd Quarter 2007 OB Validation Result,” contains 110 names of individuals and organizations including church workers, journalists, lawyers, human-rights advocates, health professionals, trade unionists and farmers.
“The OB is still there,” de Lima said, noting that the AFP, particularly its Human Rights Office, had told the CHR in a Nov. 4, 2008, dialogue that the military had stopped using the OB and replaced it with a “watch list.”
“I asked them what is the difference [between the OB and the watch list], there was just some laughter. [They had] no answer to the question,” she said at the dialogue held at the CHR office June 16.
“They told us it is in compliance with Alston recommendation,” de Lima said, referring to the use of the “watch list.” The UN’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Philip Alston visited the Philippines from February 12 to 21, 2007, to investigate the hundreds of reported extrajudicial killings in the Philippines.
In his report, Alston said he had received a leaked copy of an “order of battle” co-signed by senior military and police officials. Alston revealed that the document, some 110 pages in length, lists hundreds of prominent civil society groups and individuals who have been classified as members of organizations that the military deems “illegitimate.”
Alston said the document called on all members of the intelligence community in the regions to adopt and be guided by the order of battle to enhance a more comprehensive and concerted effort against the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army and the National Democratic Front.
“They can call it any other name, ” said journalist Carlos Conde, one of the many individuals who were included in the OB from the 10th Infantry Division. Conde said his inclusion to the OB might have been connected to his involvement with the NUJP. Conde was secretary-general of the media group from 2004 to 2006 and was active in the campaign against killings of journalists. He was based in Davao City where the 10th ID operates but has moved to Manila since 2006.
“Does mere membership with the NUJP necessitate being watched by the military?” Conde asked, noting that in 2005, the NUJP was also listed in the PowerPoint presentation entitled “Knowing the Enemy,” which contains alleged front organizations of the CPP.
CHR Commissioner Jose Manuel Mamauag asked Conde if he thought the OB had anything to do with what the stories he had written about. Conde replied that it might have. “If they did their homework, they would know that I’ve been writing against human-rights abuses often blamed on the military,” he said.
Conde related the impact of the OB on how journalists perform. “It could be unnerving. It creates such a psychological havoc on you. Younger journalists would probably think twice in writing about human-rights abuses,” he said.
Jaime Espina, the NUJP’s vice chairman, said the military should have alerted them if the NUJP, as the military claimed, is targeted for infiltration by communists.
In a press release last month, Lt. Col. Kurt Decapia, the division’s spokesman, said the names in the list are targets for infiltration by the communists. “Granting, for the sake of argument, that it is true, no one ever approached us or warned us about such infiltration,” Espina said. “We were labeled and we didn’t know. This kind of secrecy is anathema to democracy.”
Sonny Fernandez, the NUJP secretary-general, said the NUJP inclusion in the OB “endangers the lives of NUJP’s 700 members in more than 50 chapters.”
De lima, meanwhile, noted the inclusion of individuals and organizations from various sectors. “Let’s not wait for the time when CHR officials would be on the list,” she said.
Rowena Carranza-Paraan, NUJP treasurer, said that the military is still using the “Knowing the Enemy” PowerPoint presentation. “Even if the military apologized and promised to take NUJP out of it, the NUJP is still there,” she said. Conde said the military is still using the presentation in its film showings to urban poor communities in Tondo.
De Lima said her office also received complaints from students of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) that soldiers were using the said PowerPoint presentation.
She said her office will demand official explanation from the AFP hierarchy regarding the OB. “If they respond less than satisfactorily or not categorically, we will formally summon them for a dialogue,” de Lima said. “Let’s put them to task on all these,” she added.
De Lima said representatives from other sectors included in the OB will also be invited.
Meanwhile, three human-rights lawyers who were also named in the 10th ID’s OB filed on June 16 their petition for a writ of amparo before the Office of the Clerk of Court (OCC) of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Davao City, based on a statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission.
In their petition, Carlos Zarate, Angela Librado-Trinidad and Lilibeth Ladaga sought for the documents used in the preparation of the PowerPoint presentation to be produced immediately; that all the facts, information, statements, records, photographs, dossiers and other evidence, documentary or otherwise, pertaining to the petitioners be fully disclosed, and that a temporary protection order be granted to them.
Named respondents in the petition were Major General Reynaldo Mapagu, chief of the 10th ID of the Philippine Army; Colonel Lysander Suerte, chief of staff of 10th ID; Lieutenant Colonel Kurt Decapia, chief of the 10th ID Public Affairs Office; Colonel Oscar Lactao, chief of Task Force Davao; Senior Superintendent Ramon Apolinario, director of the Davao City Police Office (DCPO); and other members of the intelligence units of the AFP and the Philippine National Police (PNP). (Bulatlat.com)