Injustice, Impunity, Trademarks of Arroyo Regime – Rights Group


Injustice and impunity are still trademarks of the Arroyo regime, said a human rights alliance in an annual report released to the media.

BY RONALYN V. OLEA
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Bulatlat

Injustice and impunity are still trademarks of the Arroyo regime, said a human rights alliance in a report released to the media.

In its 2008 report released today, Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights) said, “The rights to life, liberty, and security of Filipinos as enshrined in the UDHR [Universal Declaration of Human Rights] and our Constitution, remain a paper promise if state terror and abuse of power are not checked.”

The group released its report on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the UDHR and the tenth year of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

According to Karapatan, 50 members and leaders of people’s organizations and party-list groups have been killed from January to October this year, bringing the total number of killings under the Arroyo administration to 977.

Impunity

Marie Hilao-Enriquez, Karapatan secretary general, said, “The Arroyo government has still not taken any significant action to arrest this continued spate of killings.”


Marie Hilao-Enriquez, secretary general of Karapatan, presents the group’s 2008 Human Rights Report at a media forum, Dec. 9.(Photo by Bulatlat)

The drop in the number of killings, Karapatan deemed, is only a ‘tactical ploy to appease global public outrage and was never the result of any measure taken by government to arrest, prosecute and convict those allegedly responsible for the atrocities.’

“It is truly saddening to note that no one has been credibly convicted even if we are presented the false illusion that extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances are on the downtrend,” Enriquez said.

Karapatan shared the Amnesty International’s observation that ‘majority of investigations [on killings] do not meet international standards as set forth in the UN Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-Legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions.’

Enriquez said, “Not even the generals and other military officers identified by the 2007 Melo Commission report for probable culpability in the atrocities have been adequately probed. What is worse is that they are coddled by the Arroyo regime.”

In August 2006, Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo by virtue of Administrative Order No. 157, created the Melo Commission to address media and activist killings.

In its findings, the Melo Commission held Gen. Jovito Palparan Jr., and some of his superior officers as responsible for failing to prevent, punish or condemn the killings under the principle of command responsibility.

Karapatan lamented that Palparan has not been sent to court for his alleged role in the killings. The group also criticized the Arroyo government for appointing former Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Hermogenes Esperon as the presidential adviser on the peace process.

Writ of amparo

The group said further, “Whatever little gain or remedy that may have been achieved …through the introduction of the writ of amparo and habeas data, are now being systematically undermined by the very institutions tasked to act judiciously on these incidents [of killings and other rights abuses].”

Adopted by the Supreme Court on September 25, 2007, the writ is a remedy available to any person whose right to life, liberty, and security has been violated or is threatened with violation by an unlawful act or omission of a public official or employee, or of a private individual or entity.

Karapatan expressed frustration over the dismissal of the petition for the writ of amparo and habeas corpus filed by Editha Burgos, mother of missing activist Jonas and the dismissal of the petition for writ of amparo filed by Lourdes Rubrico. Rubrico is an urban poor leader allegedly abducted on April 3, 2007 by armed men who identified themselves as government agents.

The group said that when court orders are favorable to the victims, the orders are ignored, questioned or not followed to the letter by the respondents.

Enriquez cited as an example the habeas corpus petition for missing activists Sherlyn Cadapan, Karen Empeño and Manuel Meriño. She said that despite the court order for the release of the three abducted activists, the military refused to admit having custody of the three. She lamented that the court denied the petition for an inspection of military camps and production of documents.

Other cases


Source: Karapatan

The group also revealed that enforced disappearances continue, claiming seven victims in the same period.

The report also notes the increasing cases of torture, with 53 victims this year and illegal arrests, with 128 victims.

Enriquez said the figure on illegal arrests does not yet include the 72 Southern Tagalog activists who were charged with multiple murder and frustrated multiple murder for allegedly participating in a raid by the New People’s Army in Mindoro Oriental and the 32 individuals charged with arson, conspiracy to commit rebellion and destruction of property. Six of the 72, including labor lawyer Remigio Saladero Jr., have already been arrested and detained at the Calapan City District Jail.

Enriquez said that under the counter-insurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya II (Operation Freedom Watch II), ordinary citizens have also been victimized and have formed part of the broader circle of targets.

For the past ten months, Karapatan has documented 139,000 victims of forcible evacuation and displacement; 2,290 victims of hamletting; 112, 920 victims of indiscriminate firing; and, 5,670 victims of food and other economic blockade. These incidents occurred during heightened military operations in communities.

Hamletting is a form of population control where residents of a community or a group of communities are herded together in an area tightly guarded by the military. The movements of people and goods are constrained to limit the flow of support to rebel groups, but in the process the people are displaced economically and are made vulnerable to harassments and human rights violations from the military.

Breakthroughs

Amid the gloomy human rights situation, Karapatan noted breakthroughs in human rights advocacy.

Enriquez said that the fact-finding mission in Limay, Bataan led by survivor-witness Raymond Manalo provided ‘solid evidence that indisputably links the military to the murderous brutalities over the last eight years of the Arroyo regime.’

In his affidavit, Manalo said he witnessed the killing of activists in a former military camp. In October this year, after two days of digging, the fact-finding team found burnt human bones believed to be that of Manuel Meriño.

Karapatan also hailed the UN Human Rights Committee’s decision on the case of Eden Marcellana and Eddie Gumanoy. The UN Human Rights Committee found the Philippine government guilty of violating the right to life, liberty and security of the slain activists and the right of the family to judicial remedy.
Enriquez said the case ‘shows hope that justice has not completely turned its back to those who are poor and powerless.’(Bulatlat.com)

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