“History shows that the state’s army and police officers are plagued by a culture of machismo, fascism, corruption, and a lack of respect for international humanitarian law. We remember names like Jovito Palparan, Hermogenes Esperon, Eduardo Año, Debold Sinas, Jonel Nuezca, among others.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Human rights group Karapatan is calling for an investigation on Brig. Gen. Jesus Durante III’s alleged involvement in the killings of scores of activists.
In a statement, Karapatan said Durante and his soldiers under the 1001st Brigade had been implicated in the killing of Lumad school volunteer teachers Chad Booc and Gelejurain “Jurain” Ngujo II, community health worker Elgyn Balonga, and their two accompanying drivers in New Bataan, Davao de Oro or collectively called as the New Bataan 5.
Karapatan also documented Durante’s unit as being involved in the killing of 70-year old New People’s Army commander Menandro Villanueva in Mabini, Davao de Oro.
According to Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay, they received reports that Villanueva was captured on Dec. 25, 2021 in Davao de Oro by elements of the 1001st Brigade. But 12 days after his arrest, she said, Durante announced that Villanueva died in an alleged armed encounter.
“With the involvement of the 1001st Brigade in Chua’s killing, it is imperative that independent investigations into other cases where Durante and his men were involved should be conducted,” Palabay said, referring to the murder of Davao-based businesswoman and model, Yvonne Chua Plaza.
Over the weekend, a previous Facebook post by Plaza alleging Durante’s involvement in the killing of Villanueva and the New Bataan 5 resurfaced.
This led groups, including indigenous peoples’ groups Sandugo and Katribu, to call for an investigation on the allegations against Durante.
“As human rights advocates, we take seriously allegations of violence against women, torture, and murder. Gen. Durante is not the first official of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to be involved in such,” the group said in a statement.
“History shows that the state’s army and police officers are plagued by a culture of machismo, fascism, corruption, and a lack of respect for international humanitarian law. We remember names like Jovito Palparan, Hermogenes Esperon, Eduardo Año, Debold Sinas, Jonel Nuezca, among others,” the group added.
Palabay reiterated that international humanitarian law, which governs armed conflicts, prohibits attacks on non-combatants like Booc and the killing or inflicting harm on captured or wounded combatants (hors de combat) like Villanueva.
The Philippine government also signed the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), an agreement between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.
“Ironically, despite the fact that (the) Philippines has signed and ratified more treaties on IHL than any other country in Southeast Asia and in spite of having ratified a law, Republic Act No. 9851, that punishes violators of IHL, there are constant reports of IHL violations by the AFP, such as the bombings of communities, the killings of civilians on the pretext that they are armed combatants, and the murders of hors de combat like Agaton Topacio and Eugenia Magpantay, Ericson Acosta and Joseph Jimenez, Julius Giron, Alvin Luque, and Jorge Madlos, to name a few,” Palabay said.
Durante, who served as head of the Presidential Security Group under the Duterte administration, has been relieved of his post as 1001st Brigade commander. He is also under the custody of the Philippine Army.
Palabay said that Durante and his soldiers under the 1001st Brigade should be charged under civilian courts, instead of facing court martial proceedings, and be jailed in regular detention facilities, not placed in the custody of the military.
“State authorities have also been treating Durante with kid gloves, allowing him to roam freely within an AFP camp instead of locking him up in a police detention facility like others suspected of similar crimes,” she said.
“The killing of Chua is a gruesome crime, a possible expression of how machismo in the military is in full play and how powerful men in uniform commit murders with impunity,” Palabay added. (RTS, RVO)