HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Still No Justice for Rights Violation Victims
of two parts
Justice remains elusive for the almost 100,000 human rights victims. Since
the victims have nowhere else to go, two people’s initiatives to ferret
out the truth on the issues hounding the president were organized this
DEATH SPOT: A witness to the killing of Camias
Barangay Captain Bienvenido Capuno points to where it happened midnight of
Sept. 16 in this small videoke bar.
Among the 150 killed from January to
November this year, Bayan Muna (People First) party-list recorded the most
number of casualties, with 28 of its leaders and members killed. Anakpawis
(Toiling Masses) party-list documented 14 leaders and members dead, eight
of whom were human rights workers.
Eighty of those killed were confirmed
to be activists critical of the Arroyo administration while the rest were
suspected by the military as sympathizers, supporters or relatives of
communists or Muslim rebels.
According to Karapatan, 51 persons
were killed in massacres. It documented seven cases of massacre this year,
the most recent of which occurred in
on Nov. 21. Nine farmers, including a pregnant woman and her unborn
child, were strafed and killed as they were about to start tilling the
12-hectare land awarded to them by the Department of Agrarian Reform
The massacre with the biggest number
of victims was the
wherein 26 Moro inmates at Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan, Taguig, south of
Manila, were killed. An independent fact-finding mission by Karapatan
showed that only six of those killed were involved in the alleged
jailbreak that triggered the police attack. Eleven of the victims were
Moro political prisoners.
Meanwhile, the Eastern Visayas region
registered the highest incidence of forced disappearances, with 33 of the
41 victims coming from the area.
At present, there are 285 political
prisoners in jails nationwide, said Karapatan. Thirteen are women and 18
While the year saw the long-awaited
release of Donato Continente after 16 years of languishing in prison, the
criminalization of political dissent continues with the illegal arrest and
arbitrary detention of 171 individuals. Continente was implicated in the
death of U.S. Col. James Rowe.
Most of those arrested were subjected
to torture but many of the women detainees suffered sexual abuse while in
Peace advocate Angelina Bisuña Ipong,
60, sent a letter to the media detailing her 13-day ordeal in the hands of
her military abductors. In her letter, she wrote of the sexual molestation
and other forms of torture she went through. She was later charged with
rebellion, arson, homicide and other trumped-up charges.
Five detainees in Cebu, (600 kms south
of Manila, a province in central Philippines) also launched a hunger
strike Aug. 18 in response to alleged intensifying persecution by the new
management of the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC).
The strike led to the hospitalization of two detainees. The detainees were
given proper sunning time and humane treatment after the strike was
formally lifted Sept. 15.
But what makes the human rights
situation this year more deplorable is the fact that the victims come from
a wide range of sectors, classes and political affiliations who are
perceived to be “enemies of the state.”
The book Trinity of War
published by the AFP Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) categorically
declared that legal organizations of different sectors nationwide are
recruitment base of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
In previous interviews with Bayan Muna
Rep. Satur Ocampo, he said that such public announcements give more reason
to treat members of such organizations as “fair game.” Ocampo himself has
figured in several vilification campaigns by the military.
In fact, some of the names included in
the AFP’s intelligence briefing material “Knowing the Enemy” have been
killed or have disappeared.
The religious sector saw seven of
their members killed this year, all of them pastors and members of the
United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), except for Fr. William
Tadena who was with the Iglesia Filipina Indepediente (IFI or Philippine
Independent Church). Also in April, Bulatlat reported that five IFI
priests in Tarlac are in the military’s “order of battle.” One of them,
Fr. Mario Quince, survived an assassination attempt past midnight of March
Deaths and harassment were also
noticeable among lawyers. Seven public interest and human rights lawyers
were killed this year. In April, Bulatlat reported of the failed
assassination attempt on Charles Juloya in La Union, north of Manila. This
came after the murder of Bayan Muna provincial coordinator and journalist
Romeo Sanchez, a former client of Juloya.
Journalists have also become easy
targets for assassination. The National Union of Journalists of the
Philippines (NUJP) documented 10 killed for this year bringing the total
number to an alarming 35 since 2001.
The Macapagal-Arroyo presidency, which
has been under fire for alleged fraud, graft and corruption and human
rights violations, was hounded by street protests especially since the
“Hello Garci” scandal started in June.
The protest actions swelled to as much
as 60,000 in July after a number of the president’s trusted allies called
for her ouster.
To quell the heightened protests and
people’s unrest, the Macapagal-Arroyo administration applied the “no
tolerance policy” by adopting the calibrated preemptive response (CPR)
which is essentially a rehash of the Marcos decree Batas Pambansa 880 or
the “no permit, no rally” policy.
The policy’s application showed no
compassion even to the highest officials of the land who belong to the
political opposition. Police officials spared no one during the dispersal
of a religious procession led by three Catholic bishops and former Vice
President Teofisto Guingona as they approached Mendiola on Oct. 14.
Following incessant congressional
inquiries on alleged fraud and graft and corruption, the Macapagal-Arroyo
administration ordered a gag on government officials who testified against
her through the issuance of Executive Order Number 464 (EO 464). Brig.
Gen. Francisco Gudani and Lt. Col. Alexander Balutan were relieved from
their posts and were court-martialed after testifying on the issue of
Nowhere to go
To date, Karapatan said no justice has
been served to any of the almost 100,000 victims of human rights
violations this year.
Since the victims have nowhere else to
go, two people’s initiatives to ferret out the truth on the issues
hounding the president were organized this year. In August, an
International Solidarity Mission (ISM) went underway. It particularly
investigated human rights violations in five areas reported as having the
highest incidence of human rights abuses.
The ISM was primarily a venue to bring
to the international community the escalation of human rights abuses in
the country, said Atty. Neri Colmenares, spokesperson of the Counsels for
the Defense of Liberties (CODAL).
After the fact-finding missions in
five areas, members of the ISM presented this to a People’s Tribunal. The
president was found guilty as charged. As if finding justice, the
audience, made up mostly of victims and their relatives, who attended the
tribunal gave a standing ovation to the jury after the decision was read.
The results of the ISM were formally
given to the House Impeachment Team to be used as reference to the
impeachment complaint lodged against Macapagal-Arroyo in Congress. It was
the first time in the country’s history that human rights violations were
lodged against the President in an impeachment complaint.
After administration legislators in
the House of Representatives killed the impeachment proceedings, the
people found another venue for redress in another people’s court, the
Citizens’ Congress for Truth and Accountability (CCTA).
“Its basis was on finding facts on
whether or not the President committed the offenses enumerated in the
impeachment complaint,” Colmenares said.
He added that the basis for a people’s
court is the failure of institutional and legal processes to give justice
to the victims.
Eduardo Diansuy, public relations
officer of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), said there were many
cases filed at the commission this year. “Pero ang problema ay yung
pagsustini at yung pagparusa sa mga nagkasala,” (But the problem is
with sustaining and punishing the perpetrators.) he said.
Although Dainsuy would not admit to a
culture of impunity, he expressed alarm over the fact that no perpetrator
has been brought to justice. “They are free to do it, they can run, and
they can do it again. If this is always the case, the wrongdoer would
think they can escape the law,” he said. Bulatlat
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© 2005 Bulatlat
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