By CAROL PAGADUAN-ARAULLO
Posted by Bulatlat
The controversy over the possible appointment of former Akbayan party list Representative Loretta Ann Rosales as Chair of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) merits closer scrutiny. Apart from the importance of appointing a new chairperson who can carry on the outstanding work left behind by Atty. Leila de Lima, it is as important to clarify certain human rights concepts and principles that the controversy has brought to the fore so that the CHR’s mandate is not undermined at the outset by distortions coupled with plain ignorance and muddle-headed thinking.
Ms. Rosales declares that the main reason for the opposition to her appointment by people’s organizations like the Kilusang Mayo Uno and human rights groups like Karapatan harkens back to her stand to fight for the “universality” of human rights. She said some groups get angry when she criticizes human rights violations allegedly committed by the communist New People’s Army (NPA).
Ms. Rosales says further, “It is not just the military and police that commit human rights violations but non-state agents such as private armies. If the military and police try to extort, I condemn that. But if the New People’s Army tries to extort, I also condemn that.”
On the surface, her position appears fair and neutral. But in fact it rests on the fallacy of her concept of “universal human rights” to mean that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and NPA are equally liable for human rights violations and therefore the CHR should address NPA violations as much as those of the AFP.
In the first place, the facts and circumstances of more than a thousand documented extra-judicial killings (EJKs) of activists and others critically opposed to the Arroyo regime all point to the involvement of state security forces including paramilitary groups cum warlord private armies allied to the regime.
They also reveal a pattern: The victims were at one time or another demonized by the AFP as “communist terrorists” or “communist fronts”, harassed and shadowed by military or paramilitary forces prior to being assassinated under suspicious circumstances such as close proximity to military camps or police check points. Investigations into the murders are marked by stone-walling on the part of the AFP and foot-dragging and white-washing by the Philippine National Police (PNP).
In the debates in Congress on the recently passed Anti-Torture bill, Akbayan representatives Etta Rosales and Riza Hontiveros, were isolated and failed to push their view that supposed “non-state actors” – the category where they lump the NPA with private armies and alleged “terrorist” groups -should be included as equally liable.
Civil libertarian senators and congress persons clearly saw that to do so would render the bill out of focus and defeat its purpose. It would obfuscate the real perpetrators and real victims of torture leading to the failure to serve as a deterrent against state security forces employing torture as a means of extracting information and self-incriminating “confessions”. It would also blunt the law’s effectiveness as a means to identify, prosecute and punish those state forces that use torture despite clear prohibition by law.
Ms. Rosales and Ms. Hontiveros only managed to display their ignorance, if not deliberate distortion, of international human rights norms which define torture as acts committed “at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.” (UN Convention on Torture)
These two pseudo-leftists follow the tack of various right-wing ideologues and politicians abroad in inventing new semantics to discredit and stigmatize people’s movements fighting for national and social liberation. By calling the CPP-NPA-NDF “non-state actors”, they denigrate these revolutionary forces in contrast to “duly-constituted state actors”.
They then proceed to put them in the same criminal basket together with the “private armies” (in reality, these are government-financed paramilitary groups legalized as “civilian volunteer organizations” under the supervision of the AFP) or misrepresent them as “terrorist” in the same league as the dreaded Abu Sayyaf Group.
In the recent elections, Akbayan, and prominently Ms. Hontiveros, took this a step further and plunged even deeper into the dung heap when they persistently toed the AFP line of linking Makabayan senatorial candidates Satur Ocampo and Liza Maza to the CPP-NPA, hoping thereby to demonize Ocampo and Liza and win more votes for Akbayan and Hontiveros.
It is not true that the problem lies in Ms. Rosales’ denunciation of alleged NPA human rights violations. The controversy lies in her propensity to magnify these in a way that she equates their importance to the violations by the AFP, to the point that she even wittingly or unwittingly contributes to the AFP/PNP line that the victims were killed by their own comrades, i.e. the NPA, for a variety of reasons. These purportedly include: internal conflicts, infractions of the NPA rules or for having a change of heart and cooperating with the military. This line not only totally lacks credibility, it maligns the victims, tries to instigate intrigue among those they left behind, and certainly ends up protecting the real killers.
If Ms. Rosales’ only point is that the NPA should also be held liable for HRVs, she is arguing a false issue. Being a proscribed organization, the NPA has, for several decades, been the object of unrelenting military and police operations. The full force of the law is being made to bear on the NPA for waging armed revolution, how much more their alleged HRVs?
Furthermore, in 1998, the CPP-NPA-NDF, through peace negotiations, signed the landmark Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) with the Philippine government. Even a cursory reading of the CARHRIHL would clearly show that the CPP-NDF-NPA acknowledges that its forces may be liable for human rights violations and agreed on a mechanism for accepting complaints, investigating and taking proper action on these.
The new Aquino regime may hope to utilize Ms. Rosales to put the national democratic movement on the defensive on the issue of alleged NPA human rights violations, pacify the AFP and contribute to the illusion that the regime gives top priority to implementing a counterinsurgency program that is HRV-free (an oxymoron). But he will be sorely mistaken.
Indeed, we wager that the torturers, hit-teams and other human rights violators within the AFP, PNP and the paramilitary units would be mighty pleased to have Ms. Rosales chair the CHR. (Published by the Business World/Reposted by Bulatlat)