Aquino administration’s human rights policy: Big in words, too little in action

Most gruesome in these cases are the two massacres perpetrated by soldiers, according to accounts of witnesses.

On February 25, soldiers fired at the hut of the Mancera family in purok 6, sitio Mapatong, barangay Malaya, Labo, Camarines Norte, killing the father Benjamin and his two sons Richard, seven years old and Michael, ten. Meanwhile, a mother and her two sons aged 15 and seven were killed after soldiers of the 27th Infantry Battalion fired at their hut in Tampakan, South Cotabato on October 18.

Another prominent case is the killing of Dutch missionary Willem Geetman who was shot dead inside his office in Angeles City, Pampanga on July 3.

During the presentation of its yearend report, Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general, noted that “killings are becoming as gruesome as during the martial law years,” citing the case of Genesis Ambason, a tribal leader in Agusan del Sur, who was shot and tortured to death, his head had shrunk due to heavy beatings; and Ely Oguis, a village council member in Albay who was shot and beheaded.

Three days before the International Human Rights Day, three activists were gunned down in two separate incidents.

Also alarming is the increasing number of internal refugees due to heavy military operations. Despite pledges to uphold human rights, soldiers terrorized rural folk in areas where mining operations and other so-called development projects are underway.

At least 30,000 individuals, mostly peasant and indigenous peoples families, became victims of forced evacuations, Karapatan reported. In Mindanao alone, human rights groups revealed that more than 1,000 families, mostly Lumad, have been driven away from their homes by state security forces.

Arrests and vilification of activists and human rights defenders continue.

Karapatan documented 239 cases of illegal arrest and detention from July 2010 to October 2012. As of November 30, 2012, there are 398 political prisoners, at least 123 of whom were arrested under the Aquino administration.

Just before the year ended, six cases of arrests were reported. All of the victims were branded as New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas and charged with common crimes.

Two organizers of Courage, a federation of government employees unions, were nabbed in separate incidents on December 3 and brought to Camarines Norte detention facility.

Four days later, police arrested church worker Aniceta Rojo in Bago, Negros Occidental on December 7.

On December 13, nineteen farmers, including three minors, belonging to the Bukidnon tribe were arrested by elements of the 302nd Infantry Brigade in Negros Occidental. The farmers were accused of involvement in a gun battle with Army troops in Mahopaho subvillage, village San Agustin, Isabela town. Eleven were released the next day while the remaining eight are still detained and charged with murder and illegal possession of firearms.

On Christmas day, 65-year old Olegario Sevas was arrested, also in Negros Oriental. Initial reports indicate that Sevas was tagged as “Filemon Mendrez,” an alleged leader of the NPA who had a P5.25 million ($128 thousand) bounty for his arrest. The military said ‘Filemon Mendrez’ was charged with rebellion and robbery in band, while the warrant of arrest against Sevas does not bear his name. He is currently detained at the Bayawan City BJMP, Negros Oriental.

On December 28, an employee of the Department of Social Work and Development at Cagayan province and an organizer of the ACT Teachers Partylist, was arrested in Tuguegarao City for charges of murder. Rene Boy Abiva, 23, is accused of supposed involvement in the ambush against soldiers of the 86th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army in Tinoc, Ifugao.

“How could Mr. Abiva be in any way involved in the alleged crime when, at the time of the incident in Tinoc, he was and continues to work as a municipal liaison of the Department of Social Welfare and Development for its conditional cash transfer program?” ACT Teachers Party Rep. Antonio Tinio said in a statement.

“It seems that the Aquino government and the military are scrambling to show off their supposed ‘achievements’ in meeting their target of eliminating the CPP [Communist Party of the Philippines]-NPA through their Oplan Bayanihan, which resulted to grave, arbitrary and spurious arrests and charges of activists and individuals whom they easily branded as communists,” Palabay said.

Recently, the Aquino administration put out a P466.88 million ($11.38 million) reward for the capture of alleged 235 communist leaders through Joint Order No. 14-2012 of the Department of National Defense and Department of Interior and Local Government (DND-DILG).

The list has not been made public.

In a letter addressed to DILG Secretary Manuel Roxas III and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, the NUPL questioned the basis, propriety and legality of the said joint order.

“Undisclosed, the list will, based on abundant experience, definitely be used to harass political activists and leaders of peoples’ organizations,” NUPL’s Olalia said. “We continue to see the utter disregard of the right to due process when such activists and leaders are routinely and perfunctorily arrested by virtue of generic John Doe warrants of arrest by mere substitution. All these are moreover in open violation of minimum standards in international law.”

The lawyers’ group expressed alarm that the list “may even be used as a hit list, or another version of an ‘order of battle’, opening the floodgates for more harassments, disappearances and extrajudicial

Marie Hilao-Enriquez summed up Aquino’s actions and inactions on human rights: “The Aquino regime had shown that it will not bring changes or even relief to the lives of the citizens now or in the future. Aquino had kept the AFP, with its bloodstained, unbroken human rights violations record, unpunished and untouchable.”

“It deserves nothing but to be denounced by the Filipino people,” Enriquez said. (

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