an open letter to the press
22 March, 2011
Visayan Daily Star
We are gravely concerned over the news article by Judy Fartlow in your paper on Friday (18 March, 2011) declaring thus “KARAPATAN leader’ killed in NPA, Army encounter,” in Barangay Nagbinlod, Sta. Catalina, Negros Oriental last week.
The charge is not only downright erroneous, it is also dangerously misleading as it justifies more violent attacks against human rights advocates.
Firstly, there is no elected officer or bonafide staff of KARAPATAN in the whole of Central Visayas who goes by the name “Jonathan Khawaja Alforque”, the “said to be Tagalog-speaking and a leader of KARAPATAN” who died in said encounter. Whatever inspired the military to pick that name from their order of battle, anyone can only guess. What’s clear is that the military is so desperate in sabotaging our work in monitoring their abuses that it has sunk lower to the level of plain rumor-mongerers.
Secondly, this malicious allegation being imposed on the media by the military in Negros is clearly aimed to misrepresent us as military targets. The AFP hopes that by repeatedly dishing out this lie to the public, it could justify continued assassination and summary execution of activist farmers and human rights defenders with impunity now under the aegis of the AFP’s Oplan Bayanihan,.
This campaign of terror has already directly victimized four of our volunteers who were illegally arrested by a Sgt. Corpus and other 79th IB soldiers on Wednesday (16 March). Manuel Bentillo and three others were illegally arrested for trying to transport to the town center local resident Marvin Villegas, who the soldiers shot earlier that day and accused of being “another suspected rebel” without basis.
In spite of these threats and attacks, we will not be cowed. We will continue exposing human rights violations in militarized areas even as the AFP mobilizes government agencies to maintain an undeclared martial law especially in the hinterlands as mandated by Oplan Bayanihan.
We are only asking that in the spirit of prudence, fair play and objectivity to clarify with us recycled allegations of the military as most of these have already been dismissed in our courts, like those trumped up charges against our volunteer Manuel Bentillo. Needless to say that regardless of a journalist’s personal leanings, it is imperative to present both side of a story at the minimum if one can not give more space for the marginalized at the maximum.
Reference: Dennis Abarrientos