When President Aquino promoted, instead of punishing, military officers with pending cases of human rights violations, he is sending a message to the Armed Forces of the Philippines that those who commit human rights violations would not even be reprimanded, they would instead be rewarded with a promotion.
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — If Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has a favorite general in the person of retired Gen. Jovito Palparan Jr., President Benigno Aquino III has his own favorites too. These military officials who have been promoted and appointed to key positions by Aquino have, like Palparan, tainted records when it comes to human rights violations.
Brigadier General Eduardo Año
Brigadier General Eduardo M. Año was promoted to star rank and appointed as head of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (Isafp).
Mrs. Edita Burgos, mother of missing activist Jonas Burgos, told Bulatlat.com in a previous interview, “Our belief is very strong that he [Año] had a key role in the abduction of my son.” Jonas has been missing since April 28, 2007. Mrs. Burgos filed charges of charges of arbitrary detention, murder and obstruction of justice against Año and several other military officials. The Department of Justice (DOJ), however, cleared Año of any responsibility in a resolution dated Sept. 3.
Brigadier Gen. Aurelio Baladad and Lt. Gen. Jorge Segovia
In September, the Commission on Appointments confirmed Brigadier General Aurelio Baladad as commander of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division based in Western Visayas.
Baladad, former head of the 202nd Brigade of the Philippine Army, ordered the arrest of 43 health workers in Morong, Rizal on February 6, 2010. Majority of the Morong 43, who were charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives, were eventually released.
Baladad, along with other military and police officials, is facing charges of torture, other criminal and administrative cases filed by members of the Morong 43. He is also one of the respondents to the damage suit filed by the health workers. The cases are pending with the Ombudsman, Quezon City Regional Trial Court and the Commission on Human Rights.
Dr. Alexis Montes, one of the so-called Morong 43, filed a formal protest against the confirmation of Baladad but to no avail.
Last year, Aquino also promoted another general involved in the arrest and torture of the Morong 43. Major General Jorge Segovia, former commander of the 2nd Infantry Division of the Philippine Army, was promoted to lieutenant-general. He assumed the post of commanding officer of the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom).
Montes also filed an opposition to Segovia’s promotion, citing pending cases filed against the latter.
Brigadier Gen. Ricardo Visaya was appointed “acting commander” of the 4th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army based in Cagayan de Oro City.
According to human rights group Karapatan, Visaya was former commanding general of the Army’s 69th Infantry Battalion implicated in the November 16, 2004 Hacienda Luisita massacre that claimed seven lives.
Karapatan noted that Visaya is also responsible for the following cases:
– The abduction and torture of farmers Raymond and Reynaldo Manalo on February 14, 2006, where elements of the 69th IB-PA, headed by Visaya, are directly involved. The Manalo brothers escaped after more than two years in captivity and are principal witnesses to the abduction, torture and rape of UP students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño.
– The massive deployment of soldiers under Visaya’s Civil Military Operation (CMO) Battalion in Metro Manila communities from February to September 2007 that resulted to numerous cases of threats, harassment and intimidation especially among members and leaders of progressive organizations, as well as partisan campaigning against progressive partylist organizations and recruitment of intelligence agents among the people;
– Threats, harassment and intimidation of DOLE Philippines’ farm workers during their union election in February 2011. Visaya headed the 27th IBPA assigned in Polomolok, South Cotabato. Visaya’s troops reportedly targeted leaders and members of the incumbent union affiliated with the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU);
– Encampment and use of barangay halls, day care centers, chapels, and other civilian facility by troops under 901st IBPA in villages in Albay. Visaya tried to justify the killing and beheading of Albay village councilor Ely Oguis in November 2012 by accusing Oguis as tax collector of the New People’s Army (NPA).
Karapatan said, “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 [Armed Forces of the Philippines], with its bloodstained, unbroken human rights violations record, unpunished and untouchable. It deserves nothing but to be denounced by the Filipino people.”