Groups hit Aquino’s HR record

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/07 December) — Human rights advocates, civil society groups and press freedom watch organizations have continued to paint a grim human rights situation under President Benigno Simeon Aquino III.

In a press conference on Tuesday, a few days before the 63rd anniversary of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights-Northern Mindanao Region (Karapatan-NMR) claimed the Aquino administration is no different from former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

“If you compare how the Arroyo and Aquino administrations handled issues on human rights, you will realize there’s not much of a difference,” Karapatan-NMR secretary general Fr. Rolando Abejo of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente told reporters.

Abejo reported that from January to November, this year, Karapatan-NMR has documented 52 human rights violations in the region. Twenty-eight of these, he added, are incidents of threat, harassment and intimidation involving teachers, students and farmers in San Fernando and Maramag towns in Bukidnon.

Karapatan also documented two incidents of alleged extrajudicial killing and four frustrated murder cases in Northern Mindanao during the same period.

Vanessa Entia, deputy secretary general of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan-NMR) assailed the Aquino administration’s counterinsurgency program Oplan Bayanihan, calling it “a rehash of Arroyo’s Oplan Bantay Laya.”

“Despite his promise that there will be no political prisoners during his watch, 360 political detainees are still languishing in jails all over the country. We demand that the Aquino government free all political prisoners and National Democratic Front peace negotiation consultants through a general, unconditional and omnibus amnesty,” said Entia.

According to Nobel peace prize awardee Amnesty International’s (AI) Report 2011, the Aquino government’s human rights policy has remained vague to its constituents.

Dr. Aurora Parong, executive director of AI Philippines, said the Aquino government has shown “little progress” adding that “justice remains elusive for almost all the victims of human rights violations despite laws like the Anti-Torture Law.”

“One and a half years in government, the President does not have a national human rights action plan to serve as a framework for all government agencies for the whole term of the president,” Parong said in a text message Tuesday.

“The killing of Fr. Tentorio in broad daylight shows that killers think they can get away with crime,” she said.

“Asia-Pacific governments still make a habit of responding to critics with intimidation, imprisonment, ill-treatment and even death. Government repression did not distinguish between those who were clamoring for civil and political rights and those whose complaints were rooted in violations of economic, social and cultural rights,” AI International Report 2011’s regional overview on Asia-Pacific reads in part.

Raging impunity

Press freedom watch groups, for their part, expressed disappointment over the continuing media harassments and killings and snail-paced delivery of justice for victims of extrajudicial killings.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) laments that because of the Ampatuan Massacre, international press freedom bodies chose November 23 to be the annual commemoration of the International Day to End Impunity.

“The Philippines has become the international poster-boy for impunity because of the Ampatuan massacre,” Rowena Paraan, NUJP secretary general and media safety national coordinator said in an emailed statement during the commemoration of the 2nd anniversary of the massacre.

In their independent monitor, NUJP has counted 146 media killings since 1986, 104 cases under the nine-year Arroyo administration and five so far under Aquino.

This city’s NUJP chapter, the Cagayan de Oro Press Club and the Bishops-Ulama Conference condemned the murder attempt on dxIF Bombo Radyo chief of reporters Michael James “Dacoycoy” Licuanan, who was shot a day after the second anniversary of the Ampatuan Massacre. (Cong Corrales/MindaNews)