STATEMENT: Human Rights Day amid Human Rights Violations

From January to October this year, Karapatan documented 68 victims of extrajudicial summary or arbitrary execution, 26 victims of enforced or involuntary disappearance, 29 victims of torture,  116 victims of illegal detention and 7,542 victims of forcible evacuation or displacement, nationwide.  This excludes the more or less 40 media practitioners rounded up, handcuffed and  brought to Camp Crame by the military and police for covering the Manila Peninsula Siege. Such mass arrest of media is unprecedented, even during the darkest days of Martial Law.  

In the whole of Caraga, there were 43 documented cases of human rights violations from January to July 5, 2007 alone under Oplan Bantay Laya II.  This victimized 556 individuals or 161 families in 7 communities.  Four (4) extrajudicial killings were documented within this period.

This administration is guilty of violating the rights of people who bravely expose and condemn her corrupt and desperate government.  It is guilty of violating and selling out the Filipino people’s basic rights for the sake of clearing hinterland communities to pave the way for multinational mining companies and other foreign and local big business, depriving them of life, dignity and genuine development.

In January to June of this year, massive military operations led by the 36th IB PA were launched in the concession areas of PICOP with the 40th Scout Rangers, 23rd IB PA and DRC.  It affected 3 municipalities in Surigao del Sur and 3 municipalities in Agusan del Sur.  A motorcycle driver and businessman were summarily executed while Sitio Greenfield and Sitio Anislagan in Tagbina, Surigao del Sur and Sitio Sta. Monica in Brgy. Bunawan Brook in Bunawan, Agusan del Sur were virtually turned into military barracks.  Documented were cases of forced/fake surrender and illegal arrests and detention, illegal search and seizure, along with bombing, shelling and indiscriminate firing around populated areas, which led to the hamletting of communities and evacuation of families.  

The very recent massive human rights abuses in the ongoing course of military operations of  the 58th IB PA in the areas surrounding Andap Valley in Surigao del Sur add up to these violations.  It led to the displacement of more than 2,888 individuals or 499 families and affected about 707 school children.  Six (6) Lumad Community Schools run by the Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao Sur (TriFPSS) with more than 600 pupils were closed down along with a Lumad High School operated by the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural Development (ALCADEV).  Twenty seven (27) community teachers were also displaced as they live among the communities and schools they serve.

Cases of unjustified arrest, illegal search and seizure, setting up of illegal checkpoints, use of civilians in military operations as guide and/or as shield, violation of domicile, hamletting, imposing food and other economic blockades were documented.  Schools were used as living quarters by the military along with teacher’s cottages and homes of the community members. Children and teachers were not spared from being interrogated and harassed.  Cannons were mounted in the community of Simowao.

Amidst this situation, the people evacuated, leaving behind developed sources of livelihood, cooperatives, productive farms, various property and community schools they had painstakingly rebuilt after the 2005 evacuation that was also spurred by military operations.
 
The military blamed the people for evacuating.  Major Ental and Col. Roger Fortunato of the 58th IB PA attended the November 24 and December 1 dialogues prompted by the evacuation.  On the outset, they were told that they were not forced to evacuate, it was the people’s decision to leave.  The people demanded a stop to the military operations.  The military pointed out that since the operations were in compliance with the direct orders of the President of the Philippines, only Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo herself can put a stop to it.  The people demanded that their rights as civilians be respected.  The military insisted that they did not violate even one proviso in the Bill of Rights of the 1987 Philippine Constitution.

On December 5, in a program celebrating the Mindanao Week of Peace that was supposed to engage the community leaders of the evacuees in dialogue in Lianga, Col. Jose Vizcarra, commanding officer of the 401st Infantry Brigade, lambasted the people for being sympathizers of the NPA.  He angrily reiterated that they did not violate human rights.

Despite the presentation of direct evidence through statements of victims, photo and video documentation to the contrary, this insistence manifests feigned ignorance or sheer indifference to the human rights instruments such as the UDHR and International Humanitarian Law as embodied by the Geneva Conventions and Protocols of War.  The Philippine government as a signatory, is obligated to adhere to these instruments.  

Most appalling is that the Philippines is currently a member of the UN Human Rights Council.  But the US-Macapagal-Arroyo Regime cannot claim moral high ground on the issue of human rights.  Prof. Philip Alston’s 2007 report on his official visit to the Philippines as Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions attests to this fact.

This shameless ignorance, this sheer indifference, this barefaced arrogance is the mindset of the fascist Macapagal-Arroyo Regime, the reason why  extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances continue to happen, why countless people are dislocated from their communities, why various human rights abuses continue unabated like they were a matter of course during military actions and operations.

 As we commemorate the anniversary of the UDHR, we demand that the government of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo uphold human rights and abide by the International Humanitarian Law.

WE DEMAND THAT THE ARMED FORCES OF THE PHILIPPINES
RECOGNIZE AND RESPECT HUMAN RIGHTS!

WE DEMAND JUSTICE AND INDEMNIFICATION FOR HUMAN RIGHTS VICTIMS!

WE CONDEMN THE UTTER DISRESPECT OF HUMAN RIGHTS
AS THE GOVERNMENT IMPLEMENTS OPLAN BANTAY LAYA II!

UPHOLD AND RESPECT HUMAN RIGHTS!

Reference:  Analyn Lumawag, Deputy Secretary General, KARAPATAN – Caraga

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