“It is the height of irony that Ms. Arroyo is now complaining over ‘violations’ of her civil and political rights, when she enjoys the most special treatment of detained persons under the Aquino administration.”
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – Groups of human rights advocates and people’s lawyers wrote to the United Nations saying that former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is repackaging herself as the “pitiful victim,” in light of a bid to get her out of detention.
British lawyer Amal Alamuddin-Clooney, wife of Hollywood actor George Clooney reportedly filed the complaint before the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UN WGAD) about the violations of Arroyo’s rights as a detainee. So far, only Arroyo’s camp has confirmed this report. The British lawyer has yet to issue a statement.
The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, through its secretary general Edre Olalia, sent a letter to Vladimir Tochilovsky, chair rapporteur of the UN WGAD, expressing grave concern over Arroyo’s bid to be released.
“At the obvious behest of her local lawyers, Mrs. Arroyo’s running to the UN WGAD is essentially repackaging a violator of human rights into a pitiful victim,” Olalia said.
Cristina Palabay, secretary general of the Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights (Karapatan), in her group’s letter to the UN WGAD, said: “It is truly ironic that Ms. Arroyo would speak of civil and political rights, when her administration is considered as among the most repressive regimes in the Philippines.”
Under Arroyo’s nine year presidency, Karapatan has documented 1,206 victims of extrajudicial killing, 206 victims of enforced disappearances, some 2,000 cases of illegal arrests. Tens of thousands were forcibly evacuated and displaced due to militarization in communities.
“The Arroyo administration has violated every single article of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” Palabay said.
“In our view, it is the height of irony that Ms. Arroyo is now complaining over ‘violations’ of her civil and political rights, when she enjoys the most special treatment of detained persons in the Philippines under the current Aquino administration,” she said.
“For the WGAD’s information, she is currently detained in a hospital suite at the Veteran’s Memorial Medical Center, a far cry from the detention facilities of political prisoners and common offenders in the Philippines who are in box-like prison cells,” she added.
Palabay said that Arroyo “enjoys the first-class amenities of the hospital,” while ordinary detainees are deprived of medical care, such as in the case of detained activist Andrea Rosal, whose two-day old baby died.
Olalia said Arroyo has been indicted by UN mechanisms and international tribunals guilty of various human rights violations.
UN Special Rapporteur on Arbitrary, Summary and Extrajudicial Executions Prof. Philip Alston indicted the Arroyo government for systematic rights violations during his 2007 visit. The following year, the UN Human Rights Committee held Arroyo and then Col. Jovito Palparan guilty of the brutal killing of Southern Tagalog-based activists Eden Marcellana and Eddie Gumanoy.
In 2010, the UNHRC also found the Arroyo government accountable for the killing of Karapatan leader and campus writer Benjaline Hernandez.
“Sadly, years after such reports of UN special procedures and treaty bodies, most of the recommendations remain unheeded or just given lip service as perpetrators and Ms. Arroyo remain free from accountability,” Palabay said.
Two sessions of the International People’s Tribunal in 2005 and in 2007 found Arroyo guilty of human rights violations.
Olalia said there is also pending civil and criminal charges filed by the 43 health workers who were arrested, tortured and unlawfully detained under Arroyo. The killings of pastors and members of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines during Arroyo’s term have also been pending in court.
“But we shall leave the burden of answering her allegations with the Philippine Government as State Party to the ICCPR even as we consider that more serious charges of human rights violations should have been filed for the longest time by the present government,” he said.
Olalia added that “it is fundamentally another thing to say that Mrs. Arroyo is a victim. If so, that would be rewriting history, distorting reality, twisting roles of perpetrator to victim, and reinventing international human rights law. The UN process is also being mocked and corrupted along the way while insulting the real victims of her administration.”