‘Failed leadership has gone global’ – Amnesty International

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/4 July) – Nobel Peace Prize laureate Amnesty International (AI) observed in its 2012 Human Rights Report that “failed leadership has gone global,” while militant sectoral groups under the banner of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Northern Mindanao (Bayan-NMR) sums up the first two years of the Aquino administration as rife of “broken promises.”

“Failed leadership has gone global in the last year. Governments must show legitimate leadership and reject injustice by protecting the powerless and restraining the powerful. It is time to put people before corporations and rights before profits,” AI Secretary General Salil Shetty stated in their 50th global human rights report.

Shetty also observed that although this year started discouragingly, “it must become the year of action.”

Launched here Tuesday, the “AI Report 2012: State of the World’s Human Rights” covers January to December last year with a separate global update paper that covers January to May of this year. Included in the report is the documentation of “specific restriction on free speech in at least 93 countries as well as cases of people tortured or otherwise (maltreated) in at least 101 countries – in many cases for taking part in demonstrations.”

During the launching, Ritzlee Santos III, AI Philippines chairperson, told reporters that although they recognize a decrease in human rights violations since President Aquino took office, “more than 120 HRV cases have remained pending with only one case that had final judgment.”

“It’s not that we stop campaigning against corruption but the protection and advancement of human rights should also be at the forefront,” said Santos.

“There’s still a culture of impunity. Unlawful killings remain unresolved. Major (Jovito) Palparan is still at large,” he added.

Santos said AI-Ph documented that “the average number of enforced disappearances per year had barely changed since the overthrow of Ferdinand Marcos in 1986. There were 875 documented cases during his 21-year rule, compared with 945 cases in the 25 years since.”

“Until now, no one has been charged for the disappearance of Nestor Burgos,” he said.

Maj. Aldrich Uayan, Division Staff Judge Advocate of the 4th Infantry Division based in this city, said the Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP-Bayanihan) “emphasized the need for the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) to strictly adhere to the International Humanitarian Law (IHL), existing international human rights conventions and the rule of law.”

“We are operating on a higher moral plane. The respect for human rights is non-negotiable because we are state actors. We are human rights advocates, not just in the ‘PR’ sense. It is ordered to us to respect the rule of law,” said Uayan, who also presented the human rights situation in Northern Mindanao during the AI Report 2012 launching.

In this region, Bayan member-sectoral organizations assessed that since President Benigno Simeon Aquino III took his oath two years ago, his campaign slogan “Matuwid na daan” (Righteous path) remains to be a “broken promise.”

“Ang matuwid na daan nga gisaad niya hantud karon wala pa matuman. Hinunoa, misamot ang kawalay hustisya ilabi na kanamong mga lumad (Until now, the righteous path he promised has never been fulfilled. Instead, impunity has worsened especially against us indigenous peoples),” Datu Jomorito Goaynon, Kalumbay chairperson, said in a phone interview. Kalumbay is a confederation of lumad organizations in the region.

Goaynon said that until now the suspects in the killing of Jimmy Liguyon, a lumad village chief in San Fernando town, and Bobby Cabal, an environmental activist who opposed the Pulangi Hydro Mega Dam in Kibawe town of Bukidnon, remain at large.

He decried that despite four dialogues initiated by the provincial government of Bukidnon, Alde Salusad, prime suspect in the killing of Liguyon, is still free “even when the Regional Trial Court of Bukidnon has issued a warrant for his arrest.”

“It has been four months already since 43 families and residents of Dao, San Fernando have camped out in the provincial plaza of Malaybalay City for fear of being harassed by Salusad’s armed group,” Goaynon said in the dialect.

Lawyer Roschelle Daraga, of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR 10), reported in the AI Report 2012 launching that they have deployed a team to focus in the “land-based conflicts in Bukidnon.”

“We have focused our monitoring and investigation, especially in the case of Jimmy Liguyon. It is still ongoing,” Daraga said.

When asked to comment on human rights violations allegedly perpetrated by members of the AFP, Maj. Uayan said “it is natural that focus of scrutiny is on the state security forces.”

“Although these allegations have been the source of frustration of some of our soldiers, it comes with the territory. My office has yet to receive a human rights violation complaint,” said Uayan.

“If there are complaints, please file them because we do not condone abusive soldiers. On our own, we cannot police our ranks, so we need other stakeholders to file complaints of any human rights violations so that we can enforce the full brunt of the law through the court martial,” he added.

The Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights (Karapatan), in its website (www.karapatan.org), has documented 76 cases of extra-judicial killings under the Aquino administration, 14 of which are environmental activists, including Liguyon and Cabal, and 96 torture victims across the country.

National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) Mindanao Media Safety Officer JB Deveza said it is alarming to note that the witnesses of the Ampatuan Massacre in November 23, 2009 are being killed faster than the arrest of the suspects.

“The reported killing of Alijol Ampatuan (the fourth witness killed) only shows that the culture of impunity is as prevalent now as in the time of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo,” Deveza said in an interview.

It has only been three weeks after the killing of Esmael Amil Enog (another witness) when Ampatuan suffered the same fate. Both were witness to the massacre of 58 people, most of them journalists.

For her part, Rhodora Bulosan, of the Women Survivors of Sendong (wSOS), said she could not understand what the priority of PNoy really is.

“Life is getting worse. We are still coping from the devastation of Sendong and then here comes another burden – K+12 (referring to the adding of two more years of schooling). The appropriation for foreign debt has doubled, the budget for AFP modernization increased and the allocation for social services, including that of education, has decreased,” said Bulosan, also a former member of Gabriela Women’s Party.

In its submission to the Universal Periodic Review last May, Karapatan states, “The human rights situation remains, as it was in 2008, and continues to be alarming to this day, as violations continue to be committed with impunity. Extra-judicial executions, enforced disappearances, torture and other gross and systematic violations of human rights were and are being wantonly committed.” (Cong B. Corrales / MindaNews)