“Human rights defenders helping the victims and survivors, as well as those working to expose the real situation of extensive rights violations on the ground should not be subjects of attack.” – political prisoners
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Victims of human rights violations and their families expressed their support for rights group Karapatan who was accused of being a front organization of the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).
In a statement, the Free Jonas Burgos Movement (FJBM) “categorically states that Karapatan, a non-government organization duly registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission is a human rights group engaged in the promotion and protection of human rights in the Philippines.”
Edita Burgos, mother of the disappeared activist Jonas Burgos and chairperson of FJBM described the work of Karapatan as “expressions of love for the oppressed.” She said that they are also witness to the “volunteerism and selfless service and sharing that characterizes the management and manner by which the work is done in Karapatan.”
“FJBM has observed that the documentation, monitoring, research, advocacy and other services given by the staff and other volunteers without expecting any recompense or reward, are clearly expressions of love for the oppressed and those who have less. This brings to mind, Christ’s teaching. ‘By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another (John 13:35),” said Burgos in a statement of support to the group.
Karapatan assisted the Burgos family in looking for Jonas who was abducted by members of the military in a mall in Quezon City on April 28, 2007.
Brig. Gen. Antonio Parlade, Armed Forces of the Philippines deputy chief of staff for civil military operations is alleging that Karapatan as well as the think tank Ibon Foundation and Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, an inter-diocesan and inter-congregational organization of religious, priest and lay people, are fronts of the CPP-NPA. Parlade is part of the National Task Force (NTF) to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, a delegation sent to Europe in February to “clarify the issue on involuntary disappearances and anti-communist terrorist group.” He also claims that he has truckloads of evidence that will show the link of these groups to the CPP-NPA.
Assisting the families and victims of human rights violations
Burgos said Karapatan provided assistance in all aspects in their search for Jonas from the time of abduction to the present.
“Legal, psychological, social, moral, and material and other kinds of support were made available to the family of Jonas. Without these support the case of Jonas would not have progressed up to the point where the petitions for the Writ of Amparo and Habeas Corpus were granted by the Supreme Court,” said Burgos.
She also said that they have witnessed how Karapatan assisted many other families of victims of human rights violations including the families of Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño.
“FJBM asks, how can helping the oppressed and the poor be acts of terrorism or be a crime? Are we not called to be good Samaritans by Christ?” said Burgos.
Jimmylisa Badayos, a political prisoner in Cebu whose mother was killed by suspected military agents and father is a desaparecidos, said that Karapatan and human rights defenders “are dedicated individuals who seek to empower those around them to struggle, act, and fight for human rights and genuine social change.” She said they also became victims themselves while assisting the families and the victims in their quest for the elusive justice for their loved ones.
In fact, Badayos’ family has dedicated their life to human rights work. Her mother, Elisa is the regional coordinator of Karapatan in the Visayas. She was killed by suspected members of a landlord’s private army and military in November 2017 while conducting fact-finding mission on the reported human rights abuses committed by soldiers encamped in the communities in Negros Oriental. Her father Jimmy was a labor leader in Cebu was abducted by also suspected state agents in 1990.
“My mother and human rights workers like her are not terrorists. I am here to continue the cause of my mother, withstanding the same repression and persecution that she withstood. We will not be silenced, even after all the red-tagging, threats, and imprisonment. If they kill us, many more will take our place,” she said.
Nanette Castillo, mother of Aldrin who was killed in 2017 said that “Karapatan is a comforting presence to the people who have gone through violations perpetrated by the government. They are among those who respond to the needs and calls of the marginalized and the abused.”
”Is it not the government who is behind the killings and abuses against its own citizens? My son was a victim of the Duterte government, and I consider them all thick-skinned for even denying the slaughter that continues to happen in our communities. They are the terrorists, using their position to abuse and kill the disadvantaged,” said Castillo.
‘Do not wait for the next victim’
Political prisoners from Camp Bagong Diwa meanwhile condemned the attack against Karapatan and other groups.
They said that the attack against the group is alarming and should be condemned. They pointed out that “it is wrong to shrug off this issue and wait for the next victim.”
According to Karapatan’s data, there are 47 human rights workers of Karapatan who have been killed since 2001.
“To make people aware of their rights, and to stand alongside the marginalized as they defend and advance these rights, is a duty of every Filipino citizen. It is also justified to assert due process, to seek protection for children in-conflict with the law, and to support campaigns such as that calling for the release of political prisoners,” the political prisoners added.
They urged the Filipino public to be wary against attacks on human rights defenders.
The political prisoners believed that human rights issues are legitimate concerns that should be exposed and addressed.
“Human rights defenders helping the victims and survivors, as well as those working to expose the real situation of extensive rights violations on the ground should not be subjects of attack,” political prisoners said.
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