Asian HR body calls for deeper probe on Pojas’ killing


DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / May 21) – A Hong Kong-based human rights group has tagged the killing of a peasant leader here as “part of military operations, which escalated human rights violations against farmers and indigenous peoples in Compostela Valley and other parts of Mindanao.”
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) issued the statement on May 20 as it called on other human rights groups and advocates to support its continuing campaign to stop extra-judicial killings in the Philippines.

The 45-year old Celso Pojas, according to AHRC, “had fought for justice together with the victims of militarization in the towns of Bagangga and Cateel in Davao Oriental and in New Bataan in Compostela Valley province.”

A rally was held in front of the Ateneo De Davao University along Roxas Street Friday where the casket containing Pojas’ remains was displayed prior to the funeral march that brought him to his final resting place.

The AHRC said Pojas had become “the object of an overt surveillance and continuing threat since December 2007 when he actively led the campaign to put a stop to the military operations in Compostela Valley Province”.

“These military operations escalated the human rights violations against farmers and lumads,” the group said.

The AHRC said it was concerned with the pattern of killings in the Philippines that were “subsequent to overt surveillance and threats against activists continuously taking place in the country”.

Out of several cases of this nature, at least two had been documented by local groups and reported to the AHRC this year.

This involves cases of labor leaders Mercy Santomin of Bulacan and Dante Senillo of Ormoc City.

Santomin’s plight began on March 10 this year when soldiers continuously threatened and harassed her and her fellow workers in Bulacan province. Her fellow workers, who are presently holding a picket line in front of their factory, were questioned in separate occasions about her personal details.

“The soldiers had been falsely accusing her as a leftist; thus, anyone who associates with her would also be pursued,” the AHRC said.

On the other hand, Senillo started receiving threats in December 16 last year. Though the threats subsided later “he once again started experiencing renewed threats sometime in April this year”.

The AHRC has suggested human rights workers to sign a petition to its continuing campaign dubbed as, “Stop the Extra-judicial killings in the Philippines.”

It also suggested that they write concerned government agencies for their appropriate action to ensure that these cases are effectively investigated.

“Investigations into the overt surveillance and threats the victims had been experiencing should likewise be looked into.  The authorities must also take action to ensure that cases of similar nature are adequately acted upon,” it concluded.  (MindaNews)

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