This story was taken from Bulatlat, the Philippines's alternative weekly newsmagazine (www.bulatlat.com, www.bulatlat.net, www.bulatlat.org).
Vol. V, No. 44, December 11-17, 2005


 

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH

Still No Justice for Rights Violation Victims
Second 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 year.

BY DABET CASTAÑEDA
Bulatlat

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 Palo, Leyte 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 (DAR).

The massacre with the biggest number of victims was the Bicutan siege 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.

Detention

At present, there are 285 political prisoners in jails nationwide, said Karapatan. Thirteen are women and 18 are minors.

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 detention.

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.

Sectoral realities

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 31.

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.

Civil liberties

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.

No tolerance

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 electoral fraud.

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

 

© 2005 Bulatlat  Alipato Publications

Permission is granted to reprint or redistribute this article, provided its author/s and Bulatlat are properly credited and notified.