On the 62nd International Commemoration of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
GET OFF GLORIA’S PATH!
A closer look at the state of human rights in Central Visayas
on the 62nd International Commemoration
of the Universal Declaration Human Rights
“Cases of Extra-Judicial Killings need to be resolved; not just identify the perpetrators, but have them captured and sent to jail.”
Thus said Noynoy Aquino, then a presidential candidate, in an audience with European Union ambassadors in March, 2010.
With such avowal, hopes soar that finally the reign of terror heralded by Gloria Arroyo’s infamous Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL) in 2001, would finally come to an end. Expectations spread that indeed Noynoy’s mantra “Daang Matuwid” would pave the way for the attainment of justice to 1,206 victims of political killings and other victims of human rights violations in OBL’s wake.
But alas, hopes and expectations were misplaced. Justice remains an elusive quest for the victims and their families.
With the Noynoy’s extension of the dreaded OBL to January 2011, the killings, abductions and other human rights violations continue without let up. In fact, 20 political activists across the country fell to assassins’ bullets in the first four months of Noynoy’s term. This surpassed the 18 cases of political killings attributable to Gloria’s waning reign from January to June 2010.
From January to October this year, three political killings were committed in Central Visayas.
First to be executed was Anakpawis supporter Alberto Comiling, who was shot and killed by motorcycle-riding men in Loay, Bohol on February 22, 2010 while the country was set to commemorate the First Edsa Revolt. And as Noynoy was shopping for a barong to wear to his inauguration, peasant activist Fernando Dejino was shot pointblank inside a passenger jeepney in front of a military detachment in Siaton, Negros Oriental on June 27, 2010.
Then, in a most blatant display of impunity, 30 elements of the 11th Infantry Battalion raided a peasant house in Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental on October 1, 2010. They illegally arrested, tortured and executed Rene Quirante, deputy secretary-general of peasant alliance KAUGMAON.
In Cebu City, youth activists were harassed, assaulted and even abducted. Leaders and political allies of progressive party list groups received custom-made death threats contained in poison letters especially around the May elections.
Of the 47 documented cases of harassment in the region in this period, 29 were committed in Cebu.
These are part of the 68 documented cases of human rights violations in Central Visayas since January. Other cases include strafing, illegal searches, forced surrender, and arbitrary arrests.
These victimized 74 individuals–37 of whom are women–and 11 households.
Political persecution remains a salient feature of Noynoy’s Daang Matuwid. In the same period, three individuals in Negros Oriental were criminally charged with planted evidence and imprisoned on the allegation that they were members of the New People’s Army. These defective arrests raise the number of political detainees in the region to eight—four are incarcerated in Negros Oriental, three in Cebu and one in Bohol.
With Nonoy’s extension of the infamous OBL, it is predictable that this road will only take us back to the ways of his predecessor.
Making a Stand
It is thus important to be ever vigilant and resolute in defending and promoting our basic rights. Let us look beyond myopic stereotypes and baseless biases to lock arms with the oppressed and exploited and amplify our voices.
For a start, we should work for the following:
1. Junk Oplan Bantay Laya and all militarist programs;
2. Release of all political prisoners, especially Jigger Geverola and the Morong 43;
3. Investigate and suspend military commanders in whose area of responsibility rampant human rights violations are committed; and,
4. Disband paramilitary units, like the CAFGU/CVOs.
Let us take inspiration from the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights so not to allow an undeclared military rule to lord over us with impunity.