STATE OF HUMAN RIGHTS

An Update on the Human Rights
Situation in the Philippines
January to August 2007

undeclared
Martial rule
continues

The Anti-Terror Law (ATL), euphemistically called “The Act to Secure the
State and Protect our People from Terrorism” or Human Security Act started off the second half of 2007. Two months after the elections, the Arroyo government implemented the ATL on July 15. Both houses of Congress hurriedly passed the bill last February 19 through a Special Session and Gloria Arroyo signed it into law on March 6.
In tandem with Oplan Bantay Laya 2, ATL will expectedly make the human
rights situation in the Philippines even worse.
Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL) 1 and 2 took off from previous counter-insurgency programs
implemented by the AFP under past administrations—starting from the Marcos
regime up to Estrada. All these resulted in widespread repression and violation of
human rights, especially among those who struggle for genuine democracy in the
country. While other operational plans counted cleared up villages suspected to be
communist strongholds, OBL 2 tallied dead bodies as its measure of success.
Oplan Bantay Laya (“Freedom Watch”) 2 isan extension of the Oplan Bantay Laya 1
which was started in 2002. Even if the Arroyo government refuses to admit it, OBL 1 was
a failure because it was unable to wipe out the communist forces in the country in 2006,
its fifth and end year.
However, OBL targets not only the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army -National Democratic Front of the Philippines (CPP-NPA-NDFp6290088.JPGP) but also
those identified with the legal Left, or what the AFP calls “sectoral front organizations.”
OBL equates these so-called sectoral front organizations with the CPP-NPA-NDF thus
becoming targets of intelligence operations and neutralization with corresponding
deadlines. AFP intelligence operations include data gathering on target personalities i.e.,
leaders of mass organizations and alliances.
Intelligence officers pass on the data to a tactical combat unit that makes the “order
of battle” which prioritizes their targets for execution. This explains the continuing rise
in the number of victims of gross human rights violations among members of
progressive people’s organizations and partylist groups.
One of GMA’s highly placed and praised general, Jovito Palparan, Jr., played a
significant role in implementing OBL 1 and 2. To the people though, he is still a butcher
who goes into frenzy at the sight and sound of something “red.” The whole campaign is
under the supervision of the Oversight Committee on Internal Security of the
President’s Cabinet.

OPLAN BANTAY LAYA 2
The ATL and the OBL serve both as a shield and as a weapon for GMA’s
desperate bid to cling to power amid sustained charges that she cheated her way to
the Presidency in 2004 plus various major cases of graft and corruption.
With the ATL and OBL, GMA was emboldened to address all her perceived
opponents that, “I will not stand idly when anyone gets in the way of the national interest
and tries to block the national vision. From where I sit, I can tell you, a President is always
as strong as she wants to be.” (GMA’s 2007 State of the Nation Address)
FOR SOMEONE WHO ASSERTS AT ALL TIMES that she is the commander-inchief
of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and is always in control of the
situation, it is unacceptable that Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo does not claim
responsibility for the state of human rights in the country.
The government has simply tagged the victims as members and supporters of
the revolutionary movement or “enemies of the state” and are, therefore,
“legitimate” targets of the government’s counter-insurgency program. To the
government, “legitimate” targets have no rights – they may be executed, they may
disappear.
In 2007, from January 1 to July 31, there were 60 cases of extrajudicial killings.
This translates roughly to 8-9 incidents in a month for the first half of 2007.
Other cases of violations from January 1 to June 30, 2007 include:
7,417 enforced disappearances
7,412 torture
7,113 illegal arrest and detention
7,470 individuals who were forcibly evacuated or displaced
HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS
Total 886
Women 0 96
Members of cause-oriented organizations 391
Regions with most number
Southern Tagalog 162
Central Luzon 139
Bicol 126
Total Number of Extrajudicial Killings (EJK) since GMA assumed power
(January 21, 2001 to July 31, 2007)
Party-list groups
Bayan Muna 131
Anakpawis 048
Gabriela Women’s 2
Kabataan 002
Suara Bangsa Moro 001
Sectors with most number
KMP (Peasant Movement) 102
KMU (May 1 Movement) 22
Karapatan 20
Source: KARAPATAN Documentation Committee
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To the government, these may just be numbers. However, behind the statistics
are stories of real people – of a person, a family, a community and a country. These
people did nothing wrong. They tried to right the wrong.
Chronology of Highlighted Cases
Leo Velasco, 55, a consultant to the peace negotiations between the Government
of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the
Philippines (NDFP), was taken by six heavily armed men in broad daylight on
February 19 in Cagayan de Oro City.
Velasco was implicated in the 2006 controversial rebellion case against 51
individuals, including six leftwing lawmakers and another six leaders of the legal
democratic movement, as the government panicked with the threat of losing its
hold on power. He was manhandled and abducted by men who introduced
themselves as government agents.
Witnesses said Velasco was forced into a gray Mitsubishi L300 van with license
plates LCV-513. The abductors used a black Toyota Revo back-up vehicle with a
license plate ending in “692.” Witnesses also said one of the armed men wore a
sleeveless jacket with the marking ‘’CIDG.” The Criminal Investigation and
Detection Group (CIDG) denied involvement of any of its agents. The military,
specifically the 4th Infantry Division, continues to deny the incident.
His case, along with eight other NDFP members who have been abducted since
2006, was filed with the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary
Disappearance (UNWGEID). The other NDFP regional consultants who are still
missing are Rogelio Calubad, Philip Limjoco, Prudencio Calubid and Leopoldo
Ancheta. Their security and protection are guaranteed and respected under the
Total 179
Female 29
Members of cause-oriented organizations 54
Region with most number
Central Luzon 060
Southern Tagalog 027
Eastern Visayas 023
Southern Mindanao 0 13
Bicol 013
Total Number of Victims of Enforced Disappearance since GMA assumed power
(January 21, 2001 to July 31, 2007)
Sector with most number
Peasants 101
National minorities 023
Workers 016
Party-list groups
Bayan Muna 14
Anakpawis 0 5
NDF consultants/staff 10
Source: KARAPATAN Documentation Committee
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“Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees” (JASIG) entered into by
the GRP and the NDFP.
Siche Gandinao, was gunned down March 10, in front of her daughter and
husband. The killing happened barely a month after she testified before Prof. Philip
Alston, UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings. She was a witness to the
summary execution of her father-in law, Dalmacio Gandinao, Bayan Muna
Provincial Chairperson in Misamis Oriental, Mindanao. Dalmacio was killed in
front of Siche and other family members the day before Alston arrived in the
Philippines.
Siche succumbed to four bullet wounds after she was shot near a military
detachment. According to reports, the lone gunman had his motorcycle parked in
front of the military detachment. Siche was 56 years old, married with six children.
Like her father-in-law, she was a member of the Misamis Oriental Farmer’s
Association and Bayan Muna party-list organization.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) arrested Satur Ocampo, 68, lawmaker
and Bayan Muna party-list representative, on March 16. He was in the Supreme
Court to file a Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition that sought to nullify the
fabricated murder charges and the warrant of arrest issued against him and
some others. The warrant was issued on 6 March 2007 for allegedly committing
multiple murders in the province of Leyte in 1984, more than two decades ago.
The charge, asserts Ocampo, was baseless as he was under military custody
until May 5, 1985. Lawyer and former Senator Wigberto Tañada said that the
warrant of arrest was illegal because the judge did not examine the affidavit executed
by the witnesses.
In the early morning of March 19 the police dragged Ocampo out of the Manila
Police District Headquarters (MPD-HQ), where he was temporarily detained, to
board a private plane to Leyte despite the judge’s permission for Ocampo to be
detained in Metro Manila pending a decision from the Supreme Court on his case.
The police brought him back to the MPD-HQ in mid afternoon after the flight turned
back midway to Leyte. Ocampo was released on April 3 on orders of the Supreme
Court and after posting a P100, 000 cash bond. He had been in detention for 18
days.
In a related case, two residents of Nueva Ecija who claimed to be members of
the Akbayan party-list group filed simultaneously on February 16, two separate
“complaints/petitions” with the Comelec against representatives of the party-list
groups Bayan Muna (BM), Anakpawis (AP – Toiling Masses), and Gabriela Women’s
Party (GWP). The “complaints/petitions for special action” sought to disqualify
the three progressive party-list groups from running in the May elections for
“advocating violence.”
The two widows likewise filed murder charges against Representatives Liza
Maza (GWP), Rafael Mariano (AP), Satur Ocampo and Teddy Casiño (BM), whom
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they accused of having had their husbands murdered. There seems to be no end to
the harassment of the three party-list organizations.
Nine-year-old Grecil Buya was a lively girl who excelled in school. She got an
award for being “Most Neat and Clean” and finished her second grade with honors.
She wanted to be a nurse and help send her siblings to school. On March 31, she
was killed during a military operation against the NPA in Barangay Kahayag, New
Bataan, Compostela Valley.
General Carlos Holganza, Commander of the Army’s 101st Brigade, announced
on media that Grecil was an NPA child soldier with whose team the soldiers had
an encounter. They showed a picture of the dead Grecil with an M-16 rifle beside
her. Relatives, friends and local government officials insisted that Grecil was not
an NPA guerrilla. This was validated by an investigation by the local Commission
on Human Rights, which declared that Grecil was a civilian killed during a military
operation. The rifle she supposedly carried was almost as tall as she was.
Her parents Gregorio Galacio and Virginia Buya filed a criminal case on April
18, 2007 against Lt. Francis John Gabawa and the rest of his platoon from the 8th
Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army.
Luisa Posa-Dominado and Nilo Arado were abducted by unidentified members
of the military on April 12 in Oton, Iloilo. Posa, 52, is the Regional Spokesperson of
SELDA, an organization of former political detainees. Arado, 39, is the Regional
Coordinator of Anakpawis party-list, Chairperson of BAYAN (New Patriotic
Alliance) and a National Council member of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas
(KMP – Peasant Movement in the Philippines).
Together with Dominado and Arado when the abduction happened was Jose
Ely Garachico, 50 years old. He is the Vice-Chairperson of Panay Alliance –
Karapatan. Garachico survived a gunshot wound which entered through his neck
and lodged bullet fragments in the upper lobe of his left lung.
The three were on board a pick-up truck when a green Mitsubishi van overtook
them and forced Garachico, who was driving, to immediately pull off the road. A
man from the green van smashed the front window of the pickup truck and another
man shot Garachico. Dominado was dragged into the green van while Arado into
a maroon Starex sedan. A third man boarded Garachico’s pickup truck and drove
off.
Several court hearings on the writ of habeas corpus filed by the relatives of
Dominado and Arado were scheduled and re-scheduled. In one of the hearings
that pushed through, the military denied that Dominado and Arado were in their
custody. One of the respondents, Col. Mariano Perez of the Military Intelligence
Battalion, did not appear in court because, according to his lawyer, he has been
reassigned to Manila.
Jonas Joseph Burgos, 38, was having lunch in a restaurant inside a Quezon
City Mall on April 28 when four burly men who introduced themselves as policemen
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took him away. Witnesses said the police were with a “boyish-looking” woman.
The men handcuffed Jonas and forcibly dragged him out of the restaurant and into
a maroon Toyota Revo. The Army’s 56th IB was implicated in Jonas’s disappearance
after the license plate (TAB-194) of his abductors’ vehicle was traced to a vehicle
impounded at the army headquarters in Norzagaray, Bulacan.
Jonas, an agriculture graduate of the Benguet State University, has been giving
agri-technology trainings since 1998 to members of the Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa
Bulacan, a chapter of the KMP. He is the son of the late Jose “Joe” Burgos Jr., press
freedom icon and pioneer of the alternative press during Marcos’s martial rule.
On several occasions, Edita Burgos, Jonas’s mother, castigated Armed Forces
Chief of Staff Hermogenes Esperon for his refusal to furnish her a copy of the Provost
Marshal’s investigation report on the license plate despite a recent court order for a
copy of the report to be furnished Mrs. Burgos.
To divert the public’s attention from the military, the Philippine National Police
(PNP), presented three alleged NPA rebels who purportedly claimed that the young
Burgos was a victim of a communist purge. But Delfin de Guzman, who was
supposed to have ordered Jonas’s abduction, turned out to have been arrested in
2006 and has been in military detention since then. When this was exposed in the
media, the AFP, through Public Information Officer, Lt. Col. Bartolome Bacarro,
announced that there were actually two de Guzmans!
UCCP Pastor Berlin Guerrero, 46, was taken at gunpoint at 5:45 pm on May 27
in front of the Seven Star gas station in Bgy. Casile, Binan, Laguna by armed men
on board two vans. Guerrero was riding a tricycle with his wife, Mylene, and their
three children when a white Ford Fierra van suddenly blocked their path. The
armed men alighted from the vehicle, pointed their guns at them and grabbed their
belongings as they forced Guerrero into one of the vans.
He was turned over to Camp Pantaleon Garcia, the PNP Provincial Headquarters
in Imus, Cavite around 11:00 am the following day. It was there that he learned
that he was charged with murder which he supposedly committed almost two
decades ago.
The pastor was only allowed to see his family, his lawyer and the Quick Reaction
Team of Karapatan in the evening of May 28. He had cuts and bruises on his face,
body and limbs.
Guerrero was formerly the Secretary General of Bayan – Southern Tagalog. He
served for two consecutive years in the local United Church of Christ in the
Philippines (UCCP) in Biñan, Laguna.
Guerrero’s abduction took place two months after a similar incident occured
on March 29 along the Aguinaldo Highway in Dasmarinas, Cavite. Pastor Caloy
Dela Cruz, also of the UCCP, and his companion, a certain Dodong, were abducted
while they were outside the seminary premises. Both were released the next day
after having been tortured. Pastor Guerrero, however, is still detained.
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Suspected state security forces abducted Gilbert Rey Cardiño on June 6. Three
days later, Cardino was found along the Gen. Santos City-Marbel National Highway
where his abductors dropped him off. A relative said he was found barefoot and
appeared to have been subjected to mental and physical torture.
Two witnesses said that one of Cardiño’s abductors sported a military haircut
while another wore a black long-sleeved shirt with the word “POLICE” printed on
the back.
On 23 March, three months before Cardiño’s abduction, a light blue car stopped
in front of the Bayan Muna office in Koronadal City and took photographs of him.
Cardiño, 27, is the youngest member of the Bayan Muna National Council. He
is Bayan Muna’s Chairperson for South Cotabato and Regional Coordinator for the
South Cotabato-Sultan Kudarat-Saranggani-General Santos provinces
(SoCSKSarGen). Cardiño later issued a statement that he was tortured by his
military captors who tried to convince him to be a military agent.
The Dutch Police arrested political exile Jose Maria Sison, 68, in the morning of
August 27. Simultaneously the police raided several residences of Filipinos and
the NDFP International Information Office. Excessive force was used in the raids.
The police broke down the doors of the residences and shoved those whom they
found inside into corners. They ransacked the apartments and confiscated
computers, flashdisks, diskettes, CDs and hard files.
Prof. Sison is NDFP Chief Political Consultant in the peace negotiations with
the GRP. He is also the Chairperson of the International League of Peoples’ Struggles
(ILPS).
Ironically, the arrest came after the European Court of First Instance in
Luxemburg annulled, on July 11, the inclusion of Sison in the European Council’s
‘terrorist’ listing because the Council failed to give a valid reason for his inclusion.
Dutch authorities likewise used deception when they invited Prof. Sison to the
police station supposedly to give him new information about a complaint he filed
in 2001. Instead, the police arrested Sison and whisked him away without the
knowledge of his lawyer, to the National Penitentiary in Scheveningen, The Hague.
For more than one week, Dutch authorities denied Sison of visits from his family
members and doctor. Likewise, he had no access to newspapers, television or radio.
Worse, he was not allowed to receive medication and warm clothing. Sison has
been detained incommunicado for more than two weeks. [Note: The court ordered
Sison’s release on September 13 citing insufficient evidence to support the two
murder charges filed against him.]
Members of the ILPS and progressive Filipino organizations in the Philippines
and in different countries held protest actions to demand the release of Sison. They
believe that Sison’s arrest and detention is an attack on the peoples’ struggles
worldwide.
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MILITARIZATION IN THE NATIONAL CAPITAL REGION (NCR) started as early
as July 2006 and peaked in the campaign period for the May 2007 Mid-Term
Elections. Initial reports that reached Karapatan showed troop deployment in
Muntinlupa, Pasay City, Manila (Pandacan, Sta Mesa, Tondo – Parola, Baseco, Isla
Puting Bato) and at least four communities in Quezon City. The affected
communities are vote-rich. The residents are organized, active in anti-demolition
and anti-poverty campaigns and bailiwicks of the progressive party-list groups
Bayan Muna, Anakpawis and Gabriela Women’s Party. Increased military presence
was also observed in some urban centers in the regions outside Manila.
Squad and platoon-sized troops were deployed in the urban poor communities.
The soldiers imposed formal and informal curfews, made rounds of the villages in
full battle gear and conducted house-to-house visits. These visits, under cover of
taking census, were done to get information about community organizations,
progressive party-list groups and their leaders and members. The military likewise
held mass meetings, which included in its agenda a video showing of “Knowing
the Enemy” where legal organizations in the democratic movement were tagged
as fronts of the CPP-NPA. The military occupied barangay (village) halls and turned
them into temporary detachments.
The military accosted, arrested and interrogated residents and kept them in
short-term detention. Residents were required to give their addresses and name
the organizations they belonged to. The military accused a number of the residents
as members of the NPA.
AFP Public Information Officer Lt. Col. Bartolome Bacarro in a media interview
announced, “The AFP is dispatching for poll duties two Army infantry divisions, one
Joint Special Operations Task Force, 11 Army infantry brigades, 29 Army infantry battalions,
three Marine brigades and eight Marine Battalion Landing Teams, all of which could number
more than 20,000 soldiers.”
The Arroyo government and the AFP could not justify the intensification of
urban militarization. This caught the attention of various sectors, including the
church and the media. In an editorial, the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI), a widely
circulated broadsheet, stated, “When the militarization of the 26 barangays was
first exposed in the media, the administration and the military gave varying reasons.
First, the AFP said the troops were doing civic action work like conducting medical
and dental missions and repairing canals, roads and sidewalks. Then the AFP said
that the deployment of troops was intended to counteract the move of the communist
rebels to establish a foothold in the country’s urban centers. Later it said that it was
responding to requests for help from the barangays to fight criminality and maintain
peace and order. Still later, it said the deployment was meant to train soldiers in
case they are chosen for peacekeeping missions abroad.”
URBAN MILITARIZATION
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During the May 2007 elections, a People’s International Observers’ Mission
(People’s IOM) witnessed the conduct of the elections, and the impact of urban
militarization did not escape the eyes of some 28 foreign observers who came from
12 countries all over the world.
Excerpt from the People’s IOM report reads:
“The military played an extraordinarily active role in the elections, overstepping
its proper role in a democratic society. Military elements not only made their
presence felt and caused fear among the residents but actively intervened in the
conduct of voting.
“Prior to the campaign period and up to the days before the elections, the
presence of military troops increased in certain provinces. They were also deployed
in vote-rich urban poor communities of Metro Manila, a situation never before seen
since the Marcos dictatorship was ousted.
“In many areas visited and months before the campaign period, the military
conducted house-to-house visits … The people were warned, with threat of reprisal,
not to vote for these party-list groups, in the process sowing fear and terror.”
SINCE IT ASSUMED POWER IN 2001, the Arroyo government’s response to the
human rights violations in the country has been predictable. It played dead. It
brushed off Karapatan’s claims and testimonies of survivors and families of victims
of human rights violations as pro-leftist propaganda meant to destabilize its rule.
However, Karapatan’s reports on the gravity of human rights violations have
been validated by significant reports and verdicts both at local and international
levels. They confirmed that human rights violations in this country are not merely
pronouncements but a reality. Moreover, these violations point to government
accountability, if not culpability.
Following are some of the highlights.
The Alston Report
Professor Philip Alston, an independent expert appointed by the United Nations
Human Rights Council as Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or
Arbitrary Executions, visited the Philippines last February 12-21 “to inquire into
the phenomenon of extrajudicial executions.”
Alston met with the Arroyo government’s cabinet secretaries, senior officials
and members of Congress and relevant agencies like the Human Rights
Commission, Task Force Usig and the Melo Commission. He also had dialogues
with representatives of human rights organizations and families of victims.
In a press statement issued on the last day of his inquiry Alston said, “The AFP
remains in a state of almost total denial … of its need to respond effectively and authentically
to the significant number of killings which have been convincingly attributed to them.”
REPORTS AND VERDICTS
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His preliminary notes on the visit, Alston contained the following statements.
On the cause of the killings:
“The first cause has been variously described as “vilification,” “labeling,” or
guilt by association. It involves the characterization of most groups on the left of
the political spectrum as “front organizations” for armed groups whose aim is to
destroy democracy. The result is that a wide range of groups – including human
rights advocates, labour union organizers, journalists, teachers, women’s groups,
indigenous organizations, religious groups, student groups, agrarian reform
advocates, and others – are classified as “fronts” and then as “enemies of the State”
that are accordingly considered to be legitimate targets. The second cause is the
extent to which aspects of the Government’s counter-insurgency strategy encourage
or facilitate the extrajudicial killings of activists and other ‘enemies’ in certain
circumstances.”
On government response:
“One of the key impediments to the effectiveness of many of the measures
announced by the Government in recent weeks is the fact that many of the
accountability mechanisms which are invoked as checks on governmental abuses
have been rendered ineffectual in dealing with such issues. On paper, they remain
strong. In practice, they are of all too little use, and often this is the result of official
design.”
“…There is a passivity, bordering on an abdication of responsibility, which
affects the way in which key institutions and actors approach their responsibilities
in relation to such human rights concerns”.
On the over-all impact of extrajudicial executions:
“… specially problematic is the fact that the impact has been to intimidate vast
numbers of civil society actors, to send a message of vulnerability to all but the
most well connected, and to severely undermine political discourse.”
Melo Commission Report
The Melo Commission was established on August 21, 2006 by the Arroyo
government after feeling the pressure from the international community. However,
the Commission’s credibility was tainted right from the start because it had among
its members the National Bureau of Investigation Director and the Chief State
Prosecutor, the last persons whom victims and their families will trust to be objective.
The doubt cast on the commission was reinforced when it proceeded to interview
people from the military and police before anybody else. Also, there was no
guaranteed protection for the witnesses.
However, a significant finding of the Melo Commission is on the role of retired
Gen. Jovito Palparan, Jr. in extrajudicial killings:
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“…there is certainly evidence pointing the finger of suspicion at some elements
and personalities in the armed forces, in particular General Palparan, as responsible
for an undetermined number of killings, by allowing, tolerating, and even
encouraging the killings.
“General Palparan’s numerous public statements caught on film or relayed
through print media give the overall impression that he is not a bit disturbed by the
extrajudicial killings of civilian activists, whom he considers enemies of the state.
He admits having uttered statements that may have encouraged the said killings.
He also obviously condones these killings, by failing to properly investigate the
possibility that his men may have been behind them.
“… He mentions that if his men kill civilians suspected of NPA connections, “it
is their call,” obviously meaning that it is up to them to do so. This gives the
impression that he may not order the killings, but neither will he order his men to
desist from doing so. Under the doctrine of command responsibility, General
Palparan admitted his guilt of the said crimes when he made this statement. Worse,
he admittedly offers encouragement and “inspiration” to those who may have been
responsible for the killings.”
Verdict of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (PPT)
The Permanent People’s Tribunal (PPT), an international opinion tribunal,
conducted its second session on the Philippines last March 23-25 in The Hague,
Netherlands.
Hustisya (Victims of the Arroyo Regime United for Justice), Desaparecidos
(Disappeared) and Bayan requested the PPT for a second session on the Philippines
to file charges against:
“The Government of the Republic of the Philippines, and its
President Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo; the Government of the United
States of America and its President Mr. George Walker Bush for:
1. Gross and systematic violations of civil and political rights: extrajudicial
killings, abduction and disappearances, massacre, torture;
2. Gross and systematic violation of economic, social and cultural
rights;
3. Gross and systematic violations of the rights to national selfdetermination
and liberation”.
During the three-day hearing, testimonies from victim-witnesses, families of
victims and expert witnesses were presented in person and through video
conferencing. The six jurors were provided with voluminous documents and
evidences.
After having heard the testimonies and interpellated the witnesses, the Tribunal
presented its verdict:
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“The wealth and consistency of the oral and written documentation made
available through witnesses and expert reports, has convinced the PPT that each
and all of the three charges presented against Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her
Government, and against George Walker Bush and his Government are
substantiated.
“The PPT underlines that the charges cannot be considered separately nor
independently. The atrocities of extra-judicial killings, of massacres, of tortures, of
communities destroyed and dispersed are the visible and dramatic expression of
one strategy, which has its continuity and effectiveness in the mechanism and
instruments documented . . . .
“The extension and the systematic nature of the violations of the rights of the
Filipino people committed by the governments of Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
and with the support and full awareness of the government of George Walker Bush,
qualify the same violations as crimes against humanity, with all the consequences
for the persons who are responsible for them. Such violations must be stopped
immediately.
“The Philippine government and the Bush administration have knowingly and
willingly colluded with each other in implementing the U.S.’s so-called “war on
terror” in Southeast Asia and in the Philippines in violation of national sovereignty
and territorial integrity, violating the Philippine Constitution which bans the
presence of foreign troops and nuclear weapons on Philippine soil.
“The PPT has found unequivocal evidences that the militaries have a central
role in the greatest majority of the scenarios of human rights violations in the
Philippines. The PPT however wants to underline the highly misleading role of the
recurrent debates on the direct vs. indirect involvement of the military forces in
one or the other individual case. The AFP is a structural component and instrument
of the policy of the “war on terror” declared jointly by the Philippines and the US
Governments, as a comprehensive label to justify all illegal actions and their
impunity.
“The PPT denounces as unacceptable the inclusion of the Government of the
Philippines in the UN Human Rights Council:
􀂄 It undermines the credibility of the UN in this field;
􀂄 It is an intolerable offense to the victims;
􀂄 It is a denial of the many well documented denunciations of the dramatic
oooooviolations of human rights in the Philippines.”
The PPT is independent from any State authority. As an international tribunal,
it examines cases of violations of human rights and rights of peoples. It was founded
in Bologna, Italy in June 1979 and among its founders are five Nobel Peace laureates
and law experts, writers, cultural and community leaders from 31 countries.
The PPT first conducted a session on the Philippines in 1980 and found the
Marcos regime guilty of political suppression, abuse of power and of violating the
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rights of the Filipino people. The PPT also condemned the Marcos regime’s political,
economic and military complicity with the US and other foreign powers.
DESPITE WIDESPREAD CRITICISMS and moves to defer implementation, the new
law took effect last July 15, two months after the May mid-term elections. Now,
from a political jargon, “terrorism” has become a legal ambiguity.
The various crimes considered as acts of “terrorism” are already in the Revised
Penal Code. To qualify as a terrorist act, the ATL added the following: “to sow and
create conditions of widespread and extraordinary fear and panic among the
populace, in order to coerce the government to give in to an unlawful demand.”
When and how the act creates a condition of “widespread and extraordinary fear
and panic,” is as good as anybody’s guess. ATL is in effect without the required
implementing rules and regulations.
Its ambiguity gives the government undue advantage over its perceived political
opponents.
Those adjudged guilty will be meted 40 years of imprisonment (the equivalent
of a life sentence) without the benefit of parole.
Vicious violations of human rights threaten the Filipino people with the
implementation of the anti-terror law. The Arroyo regime will use the ATL to worsen
the climate of fear and sow terror against progressive forces in the country. The
ATL is akin to Marcos’s martial law. Arroyo will use it to suppress people’s rights
to free expression. With the ATL, nationwide killings and suppression of the people
become legal.
Among the dangerous features of the Anti-Terror Law are:
Surveillance. The HSA gives the state expanded rights to conduct surveillance
against so-called “terrorist” organizations or on suspected “terrorists,” and those
suspected of providing aid or support to suspected “terrorists.” This violates the
right of privacy of communication of individuals as guaranteed in Article III, Section
3 of the Philippine Constitution and by the United Nations International Covenant
on Civil and Political Rights.
Indefinite detention and warrantless arrest. The Anti-Terror Law (Section 18)
allows the warrantless arrest and detention for up to three days without charges of
suspected “terrorists.” Or suspects may be detained for more than three days in
case of actual or imminent terrorist attack. This violates the basic human rights
against illegal detention and prolonged detention without charges.
House arrest. Section 26 says that even in cases where evidence of guilt is not
strong, suspects may be placed under “house arrest.” Their right to travel, with a
ANTI-TERRORISM LAW
17
court order, may also be restricted within a city or municipality. A court may also
ban suspects from using telephones, email, computers, the internet or any other
means of communication. Aside from violating the right to free travel, penalties or
curtailment of rights despite the absence of strong evidence also violates the principle
that a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Opening and controlling bank deposits, accounts and records. Sections 27-30
allow the police to open and control bank deposits, accounts and records of financial
institutions of “suspected terrorists.” They may also sequester or freeze such
accounts and records.
Martin Scheinin, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection
of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms While Countering Terrorism, in a
statement issued on March 12, cautioned:
“… I encourage the legislative branch of Government in the
Philippines to reconsider this new counter-terrorism law which was
approved by Congress in a Special Session of Parliament on 19 February
2007. It is my hope that there will be further debate which may result
in the introduction of specific amendments or repeal of the entire Act
by the new Congress elected this spring, since implementation of this
law could have a negative impact on human rights in the country and
undermines the rule of law.”
Scheinin specifically pointed to the definition of “terrorism” as “… an overly
broad definition which is seen to be at variance with the principle of legality and thus
incompatible with Article 15 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
(ICCPR)…”
Already, GABRIELA attributed to ATL implementation the case of Dr. Annalisa
Enrile, Chairperson of the Gabriela Network – USA who was prevented from leaving
the country in August without getting first clearances from the Department of
Justice, Bureau of Immigrations and the NICA (National Intelligence Coordinating
Agency). With well-known writer Ninotchka Rosca and Judith Mirkinson, also of
GabNet –USA, the three were stopped once more by Immigration officials in the
international airport because their names were among the 503 in an immigration
watch list. With the help of public interest lawyers, they argued their way to obtain
a copy of the order rescinding the watch list. The three American citizens were
finally allowed to leave for the U.S.
18
NO AMOUNT OF HARASSMENT, INTIMIDATION AND VIOLENCE can silence
a people who survived more than a decade of dictatorship and toppled two abusive
and corrupt presidents. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her generals underestimate
the strength, resiliency and resolve of the Filipino masses if they think that a national
policy such as the Oplan Bantay Laya can decimate people’s resistance against a
US-backed government that enslaves and keeps its people mired in poverty.
􀂄 Hustisya (translated as ‘Justice’), which was formed in September 15, 2006 by
families of victims of extrajudicial killings under the Arroyo government, resumed
in March its regular gathering every third Saturday of the month. These gatherings
averaged 50-100 attendees, most of whom are relatives of victims.
􀂄 Multisectoral quick reaction teams led by Karapatan promptly protested the
disappearances of Luisa Posa, Nilo Arado, Jonas Burgos, Pastor Berlin Guerrero
and the killing of Prof. Jose Maria Cui right after reports of the abduction and killing
happened. Venues of the protest action were entrances to the offices of the
Department of National Defense (DND), NICA and major street rotunda.
􀂄 People gathered in a rally to commemorate August 30, International Day for
the Disappeared.
􀂄 Education and orientation on the anti-terrorism bill (ATB) and the human
rights situation in the Philippines were held for students from various schools and
among health professionals and artists even before the bill was signed into law.
Information materials and a primer on the ATB provisions and the bill’s negative
impact on civil liberties, human rights and democracy were distributed. Copies of
the Karapatan 2006 Human Rights Report were likewise circulated in the Philippines
and abroad.
􀂄 Selda, an organization of former political prisoners, continued to campaign
and lobby for the passage of the bill on justice and indemnification for the victims
of human rights violations under the Marcos dictatorship. The 13th Congress of the
Philippine legislature once again failed to pass into law the bill, An Act Mandating
Compensation to Victims of Human Rights Violations During the Entire Period of Martial
Law from September 21, 1972 to February 25, 1986 and Appropriating Funds Therefor.
The victims, some of whom have already died, are still deprived of justice and
compensation. Malacanang is believed to have used the money for GMA’s 2004
election campaign.
􀂄 Political prisoners and detainees in different jails and detention centers held
sympathy hunger strikes in support of the “Tagaytay 5” who were illegally arrested
and are still detained in Cavite, Southern Luzon. The political prisoners likewise
held a nationally coordinated fasting to demand the release of Rep. Satur Ocampo.
PEOPLE’S INITIATIVES AND RESISTANCE
19
􀂄 A Task Force Against Urban Militarization was the people’s response to the
deployment of troops in urban poor and rural communities nationwide. Of special
concern was the militarization of urban poor communities in the National Capital
Region, which was unheard of since the dictator Marcos was deposed. The task
force documented the deployment of troops and the human rights violations that
resulted from it, exposed the military’s abuse and atrocities, and campaigned for
the withdrawal of the troops from the communities. It got the support of two Roman
Catholic bishops.
The task force encouraged the filing of complaints with the Commission on
Human Rights. It facilitated the conduct of a workshop on documentation and
reporting of human rights abuses because of urban militarization. It led in
community caravans where community residents got together in a church and then
proceeded to the barangay hall where the soldiers were billeted. A dialogue or
confrontation with the troop leaders followed. The residents demanded the
immediate pullout of the military from the communities.
􀂄 The families and friends of the victims of extrajudicial killings and enforced
disappearances tried to exhaust the legal avenues available to them despite
disappointments from their previous experiences. Relatives of victims of enforced
disappearances filed habeas corpus cases in court. The military and police promptly
declared that the victims were not in their custody. Of the nine cases filed, some
prior to 2007, six have been dismissed because obtaining evidence to prove military
or police custody is very difficult under conditions of state repression and terrorism.
􀂄 From June 2004 to August 2007, the number of complaints received by the
Joint Secretariat (JS) of the GRP-NDFP Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) reached
2,971. Of these cases, 1,180 were filed against the GRP and 1,791 against the NDFP.
These complaints were allegedly violations of the provisions of the Comprehensive
Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law
(CARHRIHL), signed by the GRP and NDFP.
In terms of human rights violations, the cases involving the GRP were
overwhelmingly violations of civil and political rights, violations against property
and violations of sectoral or specific rights. In terms of International Humanitarian
Law (IHL), almost all the cases against the GRP were violations against civilians.
A significant number of these complaints include extrajudicial killings and
disappearances.
On the other hand, almost all of the complaints submitted against the NDFP
came from the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Judge Advocate General Services
(JAGS). From the initial assessment of the complaints, it was learned that these are
invalid in form and substance. An overwhelming number of those submitted
contained insufficient information, much less evidence, to substantiate the general
and formulaic allegations. Others were only duplicate submissions of previously
filed cases or are outside the coverage of CARHRIHL and its provisions.
20
More so, most of alleged incidents were in connection with the armed conflict
and involved legitimate military targets such as GRP military, police and
paramilitary personnel. The filing of bare, unsubstantiated and self-serving
complaint forms is considered a nuisance and a clear attempt to undermine the
mechanism of the JMC and to use it contrary to its objective of helping address
violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.
􀂄 Getting hardly any result from Philippine courts, the Commission on Human
Rights and the GRP side of the JMC, survivors and families of victims of human
rights violations also filed cases with the UN Human Rights Council and lodged
complaints with UN Special Rapporteurs and Special Representatives.
􀂄 To facilitate and systematize documentation, recording and reporting of the
human rights violations, Karapatan conducted nationwide documentation training
on July 4-10. Some 65 human rights defenders attended the training. The participants
came from 12 regions, six sectors and a party-list organization. The training aimed
to operationalize the database program, improve documentation and reporting
system, level-off on the understanding of the HRV lexicon, gather and update HRV
latest data. The systematization of documentation will aid other aspects of human
rights work as well—filing of court cases, public information and education, among
others.
􀂄 Human rights organizations likewise took advantage of relevant trainings
offered by international human rights organizations. An example is the
international training organized by the International Service for Human Rights
(ISHR) based in Geneva. It aims to build the capability of human rights defenders,
especially in developing countries, to use the UN system in the defense of human
rights and redress for human rights violations.
The World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) conducted a Complaints
Workshop: Litigating Torture Cases Before the UN Treaty Bodies in July. Trainees came
from Kyrgyztan, Georgia, Sudan, Togo, Burundi, Tunisia, Zambia, Benin and the
Philippines.
􀂄 Former Vice-President Teofisto Guingona and former Undersecretary of
Transportation and Communications Josie Trinidad-Lichauco led a delegation of
Concerned Citizens to the Philippine office of the European Union in May. They
sought the EU’s help in pushing for the creation of a UN Special Court to try Gloria
Macapagal-Arroyo. A petition paper is circulated to gather signatures. Part of the
petition states:
“The unabated killings and disappearances have reached proportions that
amount to heinous and despicable crimes against humanity committed by the
highest official of the country;
“There being no other legal means under the Philippine legal system to stop
the extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances, the Undersigned call for the
criminal prosecution of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo before a UN International
21
Criminal Tribunal for violations of international humanitarian and international
criminal law and for crimes against humanity;”
􀂄 The Philippine Aid Watch Network, with the Ibon International Department
as its secretariat, has started an international campaign and lobbying to stop all
military aid to the Philippines and to re-direct other forms of aid and cooperation
to non-government organizations and local government units instead of the national
government agencies most of which are infamous for graft and corruption.
􀂄 The International Campaign to Stop Extra-Judicial Killings in the Philippines
or Stop the Killings! (STK) continues. The campaign has effectively informed the
international community about the gross human rights violations perpetrated by
the GMA government in keeping with George W. Bush’s global war on terror. STK
drew the world’s attention to the extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances,
which had escalated since GMA became president. It garnered a broad range of
support from Filipino compatriots living abroad, human rights defenders and
advocates, solidarity groups, church institutions, international human rights
organizations, parliamentarians, representatives of foreign governments and UN
agencies.
THE FILIPINO’S PERSEVERANCE IN DEFENDING THEIR RIGHTS and seeking
fundamental changes to improve their condition continue to gain positive
international response. The year 2007 is witness to the overwhelming support the
Philippine people received from the international community.
􀂄 Rodolfo Stavenhagen, UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human
Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous People paid a visit to the
Philippines in February as a follow-up to his 2003 official visit. He lamented that
the Arroyo government has not implemented most of his recommendations,
especially on the subject of human rights.
Examples of the recommendations in his 2003 report are:
“That the Government of the Philippines carry out a prompt and
effective investigation of the numerous human rights violations
committed against indigenous peoples, which have been documented
by human rights organizations and special fact-finding missions. The
Special Rapporteur further urges the Government to take all necessary
measures to prevent a recurrence of human rights violations;
“Given the severity of the various alleged human rights abuses and
the divisive effects on indigenous communities caused by irregular
INTERNATIONAL CONCERN AND SUPPORT
22
military units or paramilitary groups, the Special Rapporteur urges the
CAFGUs be withdrawn from indigenous areas altogether, within the
framework of a national program to demilitarize indigenous peoples’
territories. Furthermore, the Special Rapporteur recommends that the
Government of the Philippines take maximum caution to protect
indigenous peoples’ rights during its military operations in accordance
with international humanitarian standards;
“That maximum protection be afforded to human rights defenders
in carrying out their legitimate human rights work;”
􀂄 The Public Services International (PSI), an international federation of public
sector trade unions representing more than 20 million members from over 150
countries worldwide sent in February an international delegation of trade union
representatives to look into the human rights situation of workers in the Philippines.
The group, along with local union leaders, had a chance to dialogue with UNSR
Philip Alston who was in the Philippines at that time.
PSI, who is in special consultative status with the UN, submitted a written
statement to the Fourth Session of the UN Human Rights Council in March in which
it “condemns in the strongest possible terms the spate of extrajudicial killings in
the Philippines, which left over 800 people killed, including among them about 80
trade union activists.
􀂄 The Sub-Committee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs of the U.S. Senate
Committee on Foreign Relations, headed by Sen. Barbara Boxer, held a hearing on
March 14 on extrajudicial killings in the Philippines. She opened the hearing with
the admonition that, “It is important we (Americans) do not have blood on our hands. . .
. If we are training the (Philippine) military with our hard-earned tax dollars, our concern
about the military cannot be discounted . . . the war on terror cannot be used as an excuse to
kill innocent civilians.” The Democrat senator from California, whose constituents
included a great number of Filipinos, proposed that the Senate should “tie some
strings around military aid.”
The Boxer Senate hearing is the culmination of the Stop the Killing! Campaign
in the U.S. and the efforts of the nine-person group of church and human rights
leaders. Eventually the group referred to themselves as the Ecumenical Voice for
Peace and Human Rights in the Philippines or EcuVoice. They traveled to Canada,
the United States and Europe in March 2007. They presented Let the Stones Cry Out:
An Ecumenical Report on Human Rights in the Philippines and a Call to Action prepared
by the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) to churches,
government bodies and UN agencies. EcuVoice was supported by the World Council
of Churches, Lutheran World Federation, National Council of Christian Churches
in the USA and United Church of Canada.
􀂄 Some EcuVoice delegation members met with Canadian parliamentarians and
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before they proceeded to Washington DC. Because
23
of EcuVoice’s lobbying, MP for Mount Royal, Irwin Cotler, on May 30, presented
in the House of Commons a petition wherein he referred to the “alarming spike in
these killings since 2001, coupled with a disturbing trend of inadequate investigation by
the Government of the Philippines.” He further warned, “Any culture of impunity
encourages further criminal conduct and the absence of accountability.” He
reminded his colleagues “The protection of human rights around the world is a core
value of Canada and of our humanitarian foreign policy.”
􀂄 After the U.S. Senate hearing, some members of EcuVoice proceeded to Geneva
for the session of the UN Human Rights Council where they made oral interventions.
They met with the Minister and Deputy Permanent Representative of the Permanent
Mission of Germany to the UN. It is Germany’s turn to be president of the European
Union. They also met with UN Special Rapporteurs and Special Representatives.
They held a briefing on the human rights situation in the Philippines.
􀂄 On August 1, 49 representatives in the U.S. Congress, led by Congressman
James L. Oberstar (Minnesota, 8th) and Congressman Joe Pitts (Pennsylvania, 16th)
presented a bipartisan letter addressed to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The
letter expressed concern with the current human rights violations taking place in
the Philippines: “The Philippines is our friend and ally, but we cannot tolerate the
unacceptable human rights conditions in the Philippines. Just this year, it is
estimated that pre-election violence claimed at least 110 victims before the May
14th mid-term congressional elections.”
􀂄 The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) sent a fact-finding mission to the
Philippines in April headed by Senator Sharon Carstairs (Canada), head of the IPU
Committee on Human Rights. Anders Johnson, IPU Secretary-General and Ingeborg
Schwarz, IPU Secretary joined her. The IPU was concerned about the arrest and
detention of Congressman Crispin Beltran, and the continuing harassment and
persecution of the Batasan 5.
Their statement said that, “The delegation was unable to dispel the IPU’s concern
that the charges, which were broad and unsubstantiated and based on questionable evidence,
in addition to the sequence of the various prosecution steps, tend to demonstrate that nonlegal
motives may underlie the prosecution of the parliamentarians concerned.” They
reminded the GMA government of its promise not to oppose Rep. Beltran’s release
pending trial.
􀂄 Human Rights Now (HRN), a Tokyo-based international human rights
organization conducted in April its own investigation of the extrajudicial killings
and enforced disappearances in the Philippines. “Human Rights Now is the first
Japanese international human rights NGO comprising a body of experienced legal
professionals dedicated to protecting and promoting human rights around the
world, with a special focus on Asia. The activity includes monitoring/ fact finding
of human rights, human rights education and advocacy work.”
24
The HRN fact-finding mission was significant because it reminded the Japanese
government, the largest donor of Overseas Development Aid (ODA) to the
Philippines, to live by the principles stated in Japan’s ODA Charter, “full attention
should be paid to efforts for promoting democratization. . . and the situation regarding the
protection of basic human rights and freedoms to the recipient country.”
The mission called on the Japanese government:
􀂄 “To suspend the Yen loan agreement up until it recognizes the
human rights situation and accountability mechanism has clearly
improved.
􀂄 “To keep monitoring human rights situation and accountability
mechanism in the Philippines, as well as conducting constructive
dialogue on human rights with the Philippine government.
􀂄 “To raise the awareness on the situation within international
community through stating the issue before the UN Human Rights
Council.”
􀂄 Various reports of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances here and
abroad alarmed the European Union that it sent a Needs Assessment Mission, which
stayed ten days in June. The six-person team of experts clarified that the mission’s
focus was needs assessment not an investigation into the killings. They made sure
that their visit did not become as controversial in the eyes of the Arroyo government
as that of UNSR Philip Alston’s.
Karapatan’s Secretary General, Marie Hilao-Enriquez, in the EU mission’s
dialogue with representatives of Philippine HR organizations implored the team
to “ask the Philippine government to immediately stop the extrajudicial killings, abductions
and forced disappearances, torture and other forms of human rights violations, including
the revocation of all hit lists that target civilians and progressive people’s organizations.”
She also appealed to the mission to support the call for the resumption of peace
negotiations between the GRP and the NDFP.
􀂄 The last international mission of the period was the one sent in August by the
International Federation of Human Rights Leagues (FIDH), a non-governmental
organization in special consultative status with the UN. The mission was composed
of Frederic Ceuppens (Belgium), Mouloud Boumghar (France) and Nabeel Tajab
(Bahrain).
Before its FFM to the Philippines, FIDH submitted a written statement to the
UN Secretary General in February, parts of which read:
“Human rights defenders face huge risks in order to document the violations
and assist the victims. The tribute they paid in 2006 is particularly heavy. The
Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of
FIDH and OMCT, recorded 23 cases of extrajudicial killings of human rights
defenders in 2006 alone. . . .
25
“FIDH calls upon the UN Human rights Council to urge the government of the
Philippines to:
􀂄 ensure that a fully independent body be in charge of the
investigation of the cases of extra-judicial killings;
􀂄 put in place a meaningful programme of protection of victims
and witnesses before, during and after the inquiry and the judicial
procedures;
􀂄 drop the charges of rebellion filed against civilians belonging to
the opposition in the absence of meaningful evidence against them,
and free Congressman Crispin Beltran;
􀂄 publicly and unambiguously denounce attacks on legal left groups,
and put an end to allegations of collusion between peaceful opposition
groups and illegal armed groups;
􀂄 ensure that there is no intrusion of the military into civil
administration;
􀂄 adopt the Bill on Torture implementing the UN Convention
Against Torture, ratified by the Philippines;
􀂄 ratify the newly adopted UN Convention on Enforced
Disappearances and adopt an implementing legislation.”
THE SUPREME COURT (SC) led by Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno, in contrast to
GMA’s Malacanang and Raul Gonzalez’s Department of Justice, made two
significant moves in the first half of the year to address the human rights situation
in the country and, in particular, the political killings.
The Case of the Batasan 5, Rep. Crispin Beltran
The long-awaited release of Rep. Crispin Beltran from arbitrary detention finally
happened with the June 1 promulgated Supreme Court (SC) decision. The SC finally
dismissed the charge of rebellion against Batasan 5, six leaders of the democratic
movement and scores of other social activists. Secretary Raul Gonzalez was chided
for politically motivated handling of the case.
The SC decision, penned by Justice Antonio Carpio, states:
“We find merit in petitioners’ doubt on respondent prosecutors’ impartiality.
Respondent Secretary of Justice, who exercises supervision and control over the
panel of prosecutors, stated in an interview on 13 March 2006, the day of the
preliminary investigation, that, “We [the DOJ] will just declare probable cause,
then it’s up to the [C]ourt to decide x x x.” Petitioners raised this issue in their
SUPREME COURT RESPONSE
26
petition, but respondents never disputed the veracity of this statement. This clearly
shows pre-judgment, a determination to file the Information even in the absence of
probable cause.
A Final Word
“The obvious involvement of political considerations in the
actuations of respondent Secretary of Justice and respondent
prosecutors brings to mind an observation we made in another equally
politically charged case. We reiterate what we stated then, if only to
emphasize the importance of maintaining the integrity of criminal
prosecutions in general and preliminary investigations in particular,
thus:
[W]e cannot emphasize too strongly that prosecutors should not
allow, and should avoid, giving the impression that their noble office
is being used or prostituted, wittingly or unwittingly, for political ends,
or other purposes alien to, or subversive of, the basic and fundamental
objective of observing the interest of justice evenhandedly, without fear
or favor to any and all litigants alike, whether rich or poor, weak or
strong, powerless or mighty. Only by strict adherence to the established
procedure may be public’s perception of the impartiality of the
prosecutor be enhanced.”
Summit on Extrajudicial Killings and Enforced Disappearance
In July, Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno convened the National Consultative
Summit on Extrajudicial Killings and Enforced Disappearance. The Chief Justice
led the Summit. Other Justices of the Supreme Court and representatives of the two
other branches of government including the Armed Forces of the Philippines and
the Philippine National Police also attended the event. Likewise, people from the
church, academe, human rights organizations and other non-governmental
organizations were invited.
In his keynote speech, the Chief Justice lamented “the frailties of our freedom,
the inadequacy of our laws if not the inutility of our system of justice” shown up by
the extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances. He pointed out that it was
time for the judiciary to “unsheath its unused power to enact rules to protect the
constitutional rights of our people, the first and foremost of which is the right to
life itself.”
The workshops in the Summit came up with recommendations on judicial
reforms in the areas, for example, of preliminary investigation, powers of the public
prosecutor, writ of habeas corpus and modes of discoveries. Discussions on
command responsibility and the writ of Amparo were most welcome.
Among the plenary speakers were Roman Catholic Bishop Deogracias Yniguez
and Karapatan Chairperson Dr. Delen dela Paz. Bishop Yniguez quoted from the
27
verdict of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal while Dr. dela Paz presented the human
rights situation focusing on the extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances.
In closing, Chief Justice Puno warned, “They who seek to remain in the safety
of the sidelines when human rights are under assault shall be condemned by history
into irrelevance.”
DESPITE NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL OUTCRY, the extrajudicial killings,
enforced disappearances, intense militarization and other violations of human rights
continue in the Philippines. An unpopular president whose mandate is under
question continues to choose military might over genuine reforms. An avid ally of
George W. Bush in the Asean, she is as eager as before to carry out the U.S.’s war on
terror, which in reality is a blueprint for state terrorism.
The people, on the other hand, persist in advancing their political, economic,
social and cultural rights. They are relentless in asserting their sovereignty,
unwavering in protecting their patrimony and defending whatever is left of
democracy in their land.
Their demands are clear. There should be a stop to the extrajudicial killings.
The disappeared should be surfaced and political prisoners freed. The national
policy Oplan Bantay Laya, which embodies the US-Arroyo regime’s state terrorism,
should be junked immediately.
The Arroyo government and the military should cease from blocking
indemnification to the victims of human rights violations by the Marcos dictatorship.
The corrupt President should keep her hands off the recovered Marcos dollars which
have been granted by courts to the victims of Marcos’s martial rule.
Foreign governments are called upon to stop all military aid to the Philippines
since it is used to stifle and crush legitimate dissent. The corrupt GMA central
government should be stripped of other forms of aid and cooperation by redirecting
them to people’s and other non-governmental organizations and the local
government units. This will ensure that such aid will reach its real beneficiaries
and not the pockets of national government leaders and traditional politicians.
The UN Human Rights Council should never have approved the membership
of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP). How can such a human
rights violator be in a body of nations supposed to protect human rights worldwide?
To expose GRP’s actual human rights record, it should be among the first to be
subjected to the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) by the UNHRC. Representatives
of human rights and other people’s organizations in the Philippines should
participate in the review.
Global struggles to stop the state terrorism of the Arroyo and Bush regimes,
especially those being waged by activists in the U.S. and the Philippines, should be
PEOPLE’S DEMANDS
28
supported by internationalists from all parts of the world. Such struggles are part
of the anti-imperialist campaigns against globalization and war.
After suffering through more than six years of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s reign,
the people cannot take three more years of abuse. GMA has to go. She should be
driven out of Malacanang by another exercise of people power.
Only then can headway be made in achieving meaningful changes in the interest
of the majority of the Filipino people.

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