By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Human rights group Karapatan condemns the recent reports of violations of human rights and international law across the country.
They called on the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to investigate these incidents now that the country is preparing for the start of the official campaign period for the upcoming 2022 elections.
“The deplorable attacks against people and communities over the past week, including the shooting incident in a farmers’ community in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan and the aerial strikes in an indigenous people community in Gonzaga, Cagayan must be investigated, and their perpetrators held accountable,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay.
“We urgently call the attention of independent bodies such as the CHR, fellow human rights defenders, and local authorities to probe these incidents,” she added.
Last week, a team led by Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) in barangay Tungkong Mangga in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan were fired at by security guards of real estate company Araneta Properties Inc. The team was conducting a fact-finding mission on the demolitions in a farmers community in the area.
At least two paralegal volunteers from the fact-finding team were injured after armed guards dispersed the team and the residents. Even personal belongings — including bags, wallets, cellphones – and relief goods that were supposed to be distributed to the families affected by the demolition were illegally seized by the guards, Karapatan said.
Meanwhile, in Cagayan Valley, another KMP regional chapter, Kagimungan, reported aerial bombings on an indigenous Agta community in sitio Bagsang, Barangay Sta. Clara, Gonzaga, Cagayan. The bombings were reportedly done by elements of the Philippine Army’s 5th Infantry Division. It began around 4 a.m. of January 29.
Karapatan said about five bombs were dropped the whole morning, followed by indiscriminate firing on the ground of about two to three helicopters hovering over the village. Nearby communities were also bombed, reaching the bordering barangay of Maguing in Sta. Teresita.
The group said they are still waiting for further updates from the community.
Indigenous people’s group Punganay – Indigenous Peoples Organization in Cagayan Valley condemned the bombing in the area. The group said they are concerned about the situation of their fellow indigenous peoples in the said village.
Palabay meanwhile said that these incidents should be a cause for alarm, as both communities were targeted by either State forces or armed security guards, with no regard to the rights to life, safety and security of civilians and persons, in violation of fundamental rights and international humanitarian law.”
Attacks on peasant groups
Meanwhile, Anakpawis Partylist reported increasing attacks on peasant groups from December to January. They called on the CHR to investigate these cases.
Anakpawis said Tanggol Magsasaka and KMP documented five victims of extra-judicial killings, 14 victims of wounding by gunshot, three incidents of indiscriminate firing, three incidents of bombings of peasant communities, and four incidents of forced entry of houses, harassment and intimidation.
“The Duterte regime is true to its declaration that it is opposed to protection and promotion of human rights in the country, vis-a-vis its indictment for crimes against humanity in the International Criminal Court. There is overwhelming manifestation that this regime is violative of the constitution’s Bill of Rights, thus, the human rights crisis, and the present surge of abuses against peasant communities across the country,” said Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano, Anakpawis Party-list first nominee and national chairperson.
Mariano also urged the presidential aspirants to craft their human rights agenda especially for the poor and the marginalized.
He calls on the candidates to repeal Executive Order 70 or the abolition of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict and remove its funding from the 2022 national budget; the revocation of Memorandum Circular 32, deploying more troops in Negros, Samar and Bicol; the cancellation of procurement of weapons of mass destruction being used against the Filipino people; and the pull-out of military forces from peasant communities.
Meanwhile as the campaign period nears, Palabay calls on the public to be vigilant against State-sponsored violence “especially when public participation and involvement in the country’s affairs are encouraged during elections.”
“Attacks to the life, safety and security of the people are never justified, and State forces have no right to attack persons and communities. We vow to hold responsible only the Duterte regime, as the one that has encouraged and incited such violence, as what it has done in the past six years of its rule,” Palabay added. (RTS, RVO)