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Vol. IV,  No. 30                         August 29 - September 4, 2004               Quezon City, Philippines


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14 HR workers killed under the Macapagal-Arroyo government
HR Workers’ Killings Worse than Under Marcos

The killings of 14 human rights workers under the Macapagal-Arroyo administration are unprecedented, said an HR leader. Never had there been so many human rights workers killed - not even during martial law. Despite the increasing number of killings, the worsening HR situation, and the impunity of alleged perpetrators, she said, HR workers stand firm in their commitment to fight for the people’s rights.


Eden Marcellana (left) and Benjaline Hernandez (right): 
HR workers as victims

“Never in the history of human rights advocacy in the Philippines had this happened, only during (Pres. Gloria) Macapagal-Arroyo’s term,” said Girlie Padilla, acting secretary general of the Ecumenical Movement for Justice and Peace (EMJP), a nationwide organization of advocates of peace based on justice.

Padilla was referring to the 14 human rights workers killed under the three-and-a-half year Macapagal-Arroyo administration, which she described as “unprecedented.” EMJP is a member organization of Karapatan (Rights), an alliance of organizations, groups, and individuals committed to the advancement of people’s rights.  

She also said that even during the martial law, the death toll of HR workers did not reach this high.

The killings, Padilla added, show the administration’s propensity to violate human rights, its intolerance to criticism and opposition, and its undeclared policy of targeting the legal democratic movement, including human rights workers.  She said that most of the victims were killed near their houses, except for Eden Marcellana and Benjaline Hernandez who, ironically, were murdered while conducting investigations of reported violations of human rights.

Karapatan paid tribute to volunteers who were killed in the course of human rights advocacy during its 2nd National Congress and 9th Anniversary held at Tagaytay City from Aug. 17-20. (Please see table below) The families, relatives, and friends of slain HR workers were present to show their continuing support to the cause of human rights advocacy. 

HR worker as victim

Marcellana, together with four others, was abducted in Maibon, Naujan on April 21, 2003.  She was part of an 11-member quick reaction team (QRT) tasked to investigate the cases of abduction and killings in Gloria and Pinamalayan towns in Oriental Mindoro.

On their way back to Calapan City, a group of some 20 bonnet-clad armed men riding a private jeep and motorcycles blocked their path. The armed men asked who among them is Marcellana.  When one of their companions, Christine de la Cruz, denied that Marcellana was among them, she was slapped.  Marcellana presented herself and she, Eddie Gumanoy, Virgilio Catoy “King” II, Melvin Jocson and Francisco Saez were forced into the jeep.

Gumanoy was the chairperson of the regional peasant alliance Katipunan ng Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan or Kasama-TK (Federation of Peasant Associations in Southern Tagalog), Jocson and Saez are provincial coordinators of the party-list Anakpawis (Toiling Masses), and Catoy is a videographer of ST Exposure, an audio-visual group and Cultural Center of the Philippines-awardee.

According to Catoy’s affidavit, the suspects took them along a rough and uphill dirt road. One by one, the three were dropped off leaving only Marcellana and Gumanoy.

The bodies of Marcellana and Gumanoy were found mid-morning April 22 in Bansud, less than 24 hours after they were abducted. Marcellana’s head was smashed beyond recognition and her nape bore two adjacent holes the size of an icepick. She was hogtied and showed signs of torture.

Transfers and promotions for perpetrators

Marcellana was the 28th victim of summary execution in the province of Oriental Mindoro under the Macapagal-Arroyo government. Witnesses point to the “Bonnet Gang,” a paramilitary group linked with the Philippine Army’s 204th Infantry Battalion of which then Col. Jovito Palparan Jr. was the commanding officer. Palparan named in August 2002 organizations like Karapatan, Gabriela, and Bayan Muna party-list as New People’s Army (NPA) “recruiters and communist fronts.”

Palparan was also implicated in the abduction and torture of peasant organizers and other activists in Laguna, Rizal and provinces in Central Luzon. He is included in the Karapatan’s initial list of notorious human rights violations perpetrators.  The initial list contained 43 soldiers allegedly involved in the human rights violations. Their names were submitted by human rights organizations based in the provinces.

Among the most prominent cases in the Mindoro killings were those of Expedito and Manuela Albarillo; Ruben, Rodriga, and Niña Angela Apolinar; and Edilberto Napoles. Photos used for broadcast journalist Maki Pulido’s “I-Witness” documentary on the Mindoro killings, showed the victims’ faces mutilated.  For example, one of the eyes of Manuela Albarillo was missing.

Karapatan, along with other victims’ family members and relatives have filed cases against the alleged perpetrators before the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), Department of Justice (DoJ) and other government agencies in the provinces and regions where these violations were committed. However, none of the suspects was penalized.

Padilla said that alleged military perpetrators were only reassigned to other positions and in other places but not punished. Worse, the AFP’s main man in Oriental Mindoro, Col. Jovito Palparan, was even promoted, she said.   

Palparan was promoted by Macapagal-Arroyo to brigadier general despite complaints of military abuses leveled against him. He was assigned as the commanding officer of the Philippine peacekeeping force in Iraq in spite of protests from human rights groups and legislators questioning his appointment. Palparan, together with peacekeeping team, returned to the country on July 19 after Iraqi militants threatened to behead OFW Angelo dela Cruz.

Returning from Iraq, Palparan was even appointed as the new chief of staff of the Philippine Army.

Cases were filed at the DoJ and CHR to investigate the Mindoro killings and stop Palparan’s promotion. Several hearings to investigate the killing have transpired at the House of Representatives. A fact-finding mission was held in May 2003 and was joined by then Justice Undersecretary Jose Calida. None of these, however, resulted in the arrest of the perpetrators. 

Lies in the UNCHR report

Then Department of Justice Undersecretary Merceditas Gutierrez presented the government’s Human Rights report to the 79th session of the United Nations Committee on Human Rights (UNCHR) held Oct. 21-Nov. 7, 2003 at the Palais de Wilson in Geneva, Switzerland.

Observers noted the 226-page long Philippine report was long on rhetoric and short on actual performance. The continuing impunity of perpetrators of human rights violations, the accounts of torture, the government list of terrorist acts which it said may infringe on human rights, and the violations of the rights and welfare of women and children, and workers were some of the concerns raised by some UNCHR members.

Filipino human rights activists present during the Geneva conference said that the hall reverberated with the crowd’s applause when the committee members chided the Philippine representatives. They were also scolded for submitting its report late, which was due way back in 1998.

Marie Hilao-Enriquez, Karapatan secretary general, belied Gutierrez’s statements regarding the HR situation in the country during the conference.  According to her, Gutierrez lied when she claimed that the Marcellana-Gumanoy case was already with the Regional Trial Court in Calapan, Oriental Mindoro.

Karapatan also presented a comprehensive report on the government's violations of its commitment to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and submitted recommendations for the promotion and protection of the Filipino people's rights.

Protests to hound Palparan

Karapatan- Southern Tagalog is holding a series of protest actions condemning Palparan’s recent promotion. The human rights watchdog also called on the DoJ to revive the case filed against Palparan on the twin killings of Marcellana and Gumanoy.

Dorris Cuario, acting secretary general of Karapatan-Southern Tagalog, stressed that at least 33 leaders and members of progressive organizations were killed under Palparan’s term as commanding officer of the 204th Battalion of the Philippine Army in Oriental Mindoro.

“The killings prove that Macapagal-Arroyo’s butcher does not deserve any promotion,” Cuario said.

The group said Palparan’s Army Chief position “will only give him more guts and power to continue committing human rights violations.  His stint as chief of the Philippine Army will result in a mass grave of people struggling for their legitimate rights and freedom.”

Meanwhile, such “disappointing” matters do not bother HR workers. “Despite the increasing number of deaths, the worsening HR situation, and the continuing impunity of (alleged) perpetrators, HR workers stand firm in their commitment to fight for the people’s rights, “ Padilla said. Bulatlat

Human Rights Workers Killed
Under the Macapagal-Arroyo Administration

mid-2001-early 2004

HR Worker

Date Killed

Area of Incident

Alleged Perpetrator/s

Cenon Magtipon

13 July 2001

Zamboanga del Norte

elements of the 5th IB PA Charlie Coy

Milagros Belga

22 July 2001


2 CAFGU elements under the 5th SF Coy

Felipe Lapa

25 Oct 2001


elements of the Task Force Banahaw

Crisanto Amora

5 Apr 2002


elements of the 12th SF Coy of the 7th Airborne Battalion, PA  

Vivian Andrade

5 Apr 2002


Benjaline Hernandez

5 Apr 2002


Labaon Sinunday

5 Apr 2002


Tirso Ebuenga

4 Dec 2002


elements of the 2nd IB PA

Mario Estocado

27 Dec 2002


elements of the PA

Rodolfo Lamo

29 Dec 2002


elements of the PA

Eden Marcellana

22 Apr 2003

Oriental Mindoro

elements of the 204th IB

Romeo Malabanan

23 Dec 2003


elements of the PA

Atty. Juvy Magsino

13 Feb 2004

Oriental Mindoro

elements of the 204th IB

Leima Fortu

13 Feb 2004

Oriental Mindoro

elements of the 204th IB

Source: Karapatan 

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