“The government needs to make clear that the military, paramilitaries, and the companies that underwrite the projects linked to these human rights violations will no longer enjoy impunity.”
BY DEE AYROSO
MANILA – The public outrage against the killings of Lumads in Mindanao had reached overseas, with Filipino migrant workers and international advocate groups joining the call for justice, and raising alarm over the culture of impunity under President Aquino.
On Sept. 9, members of the Hong Kong Campaign for the Advancement of Human Rights in the Philippines (HKCAHRP), along with Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Hong Kong and Macau held a protest at the Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong, and submitted a petition calling for a stop to the Lumad killings.
“As human rights and peace advocates in Hong Kong, we are outraged by the spate of killings perpetrated against the Lumads in Mindanao, southern Philippines,” said the petition, signed by 17 migrant workers and religious groups, including an Indonesian organization.
The groups said the recent killings of Emerito Samarca, Dionel Campos and Juvello Sinzo in Surigao del Sur by a paramilitary group “has shown to people in the Philippines, and also overseas, that human rights violations remain unabated and the culture of impunity persists in the country.”
The groups called for the investigation of the killings and arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators, immediate withdrawal of military troops in the communities, and the dismantling of paramilitary groups. The petition also called for the resumption of the peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.
“The climate of impunity pervading the country’s justice system fosters human rights violations on a daily basis, and it is thus very urgent for the government to decisively address these cases and implement human rights standards that the Philippines acceded to,” the groups said in their petition.
The petition was received by Consul Charles Andrei Macaspac.
Aquino’s “inaction and militarist approach”
Meanwhile, the Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights began an online petition with change.org, calling on Aquino to revoke Executive Order 546, and disband all paramilitary groups.
The online petition quoted Aquino’s words in his 2010 electoral campaign: “I will revoke EO546. Never again will public funds be used to support and maintain a private security force.”
“Since then, Mr. President, you have shown no intent or political will to abide by your promise, which is why the culture of impunity continues to wreak havoc on human rights, and among the ranks of human rights advocates in the Philippines,” the petition said.
The petition chided Aquino for ignoring recommendations by United Nations bodies, and international human rights groups to repeal EO 546 for the past five years. “You have instead supplemented the law by authorizing the formation of “Investment Defense Forces,” paramilitary groups that are trained by the AFP but are in the payroll of big mining companies,” said the petition.
“Your inaction and militarist approach, Mr. President, has earned for the country the distinction of being the third most dangerous place for journalists, Asia’s most dangerous place for environmentalists, and a top place in the World Impunity Index—distinctions that shame and enrage us,” said the petition.
Human Rights Watch researcher and Mindanao-born journalist Carlos Conde said that the recent spate of killings “were just the latest in decades of conflict in the southern tribal areas.”
“Mindanao has long been a hotbed of the Communist insurgency, fueled mainly by widespread poverty, military abuses, and the displacement of tribal communities by mining companies, plantations, and other large business operations,” Conde wrote in HRW Dispatches.
He added that government troops and “authorized paramilitaries” were used by business to encroach upon the indigenous peoples’ ancestral domains.
“The government needs to make clear that the military, paramilitaries, and the companies that underwrite the projects linked to these human rights violations will no longer enjoy impunity,” Conde said.