“What did the President decide to give these rights abusers? Not punishment, but more power to abuse.”
By IAN IRVING BAZARTE
MANILA – In a protest held in front of the headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, today July 20, human rights groups called on President Rodrigo Duterte to ignore the “warmongers” in his cabinet and listen to the peoples’ demands to end martial law in Mindanao and human rights violations by the military.
Cristina Palabay, secretary general of the Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights (Karapatan) decried the military’s influence on the policies of the Duterte administration, as she called its top security officials Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, AFP Chief of Staff Lt. General Eduardo Año, and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon “bugok” (idiots).
Duterte has appointed Lorenzana as the administrator of martial law in Mindanao, and Año, as the highest-ranking military official in the country, serves as its implementer. Along with Esperon, they are the triad who advise the President on national security matters.
“The three main operators of militarism are driving the Duterte government in a collision course against people’s rights,” said Palabay in a statement.
“What did the President decide to give these rights abusers? Not punishment, but more power to abuse,” Palabay added.
Data collated by Karapatan revealed that there are at least 416,005 individuals displaced from their homes due to government military operations against the Dawlah Islamiyah in Marawi City and the martial law in Mindanao; 357,569 victims who were subjected to indiscriminate gunfire and aerial bombardments by military forces. Karapatan also notes 26,666 people affected by the military’s occupation of public places in Marawi City and elsewhere for military purposes.
Palabay warned that violations of the people’s rights will even worsen as Congress is expected to extend and possibly even expand martial law in Mindanao.
Soldiers suspected in abduction and killing of Masbate farmer
Enrique Tomamtil, a farmer from the Bicol region, shared the plight of Rodolfo Tagalog Sr., a farmer from Milagros, Masbate, who was wounded in an April 15 shooting by suspected members of the Philippine Army’s 2nd Infantry Batallion. Soldiers from the same unit are also suspected of abducting and killing his son.
Tomamtil said Rodolfo Sr. was shot at by soldiers as he was atop a coconut tree. He was lightly grazed and fell down the tree, suffering sprains. He painstakingly crawled to some nearby bushes, where he stayed for eight days, fearful of being found, until a young boy stumbled upon him and helped him back to his family.
Back in Milagros, said Tomamtil, it was only then that Rodolfo Sr. learned of his son Rodolfo Jr.’s death. As it turned out, Rodolfo Jr. was abducted on the same day and was only found three days later, on April 18, when local authorities called the Tagalogs and asked them to identify three bodies in a nearby military camp. One of the bodies was positively identified as Rodolfo Jr.
“Kami na mga magsasaka ang gumagawa ng pagkain para makakain ang lahat, kasama na rin ang mga isinusuweldo sa lahat ng empleyado ng gobyerno… Bakit di na-eexercise ang due process of law?” (We farmers make the food that everyone eats, and provide the salaries of government employees… Why is there no due process?) lamented Tomamtil.
Karapatan reported that on July 19, Rodolfo Sr. filed a complaint on his son’s case with the government section of the joint monitoring committee on the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (Carhrihl).