31 witnesses to attend HR congressional hearing in Davao

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 7 Nov) – The House committee on human rights will have 31 witnesses during its two-day hearing to be held in this city on November 8-9, Bayan Muna partylist Rep. Neri Colmenares said at a press briefing here Wednesday.

Attending the hearing, he said, will be witnesses of extrajudicial killings and victims of other human rights violations (HRV) in Mindanao since the 15th Congress in 2010 until June this year based on House resolutions filed by several representatives.

Colmenares cited a total of 114 extrajudicial killings nationwide, 26 of which are in Mindanao, since President Benigno Simeon Aquino III sat in office.

Representatives from various military commands all over Mindanao, the Commission on Human Rights and Philippine National Police will also be present, he added.

However, the military and police will not be allowed to attend the hearing on the first day for the protection of, and to prevent intimidation, of  victims and witnesses, Colmenares stressed.

He noted that House committee chair Rene Relampagos will be attending, including Representatives Luzviminda Ilagan of Gabriela Women’s Party and Karlo Nograles (both from this city), Antonio Tinio of ACT Teachers Partylist, Raymond Palatino of Kabataan Partylist and Erin Tanada, among others.

Colmenares mentioned that ANAD (Alliance for Nationalism and Democracy) Partylist Pastor Jun Alcover may attend the hearing but only on the second day, citing that the latter has been declared “persona non grata” by the city council a few years ago for declaring Davao as an unsafe city.

He said this will be the committee’s first on-site hearing in Mindanao since the 15th Congress.

The Visayas leg was done in October this year, he added.

He pointed out that it is seldom for Congress to conduct on-site hearings. But Colmenares stressed that “it is important for Congress to be accessible for many witnesses and resource persons,” especially from Mindanao.

To be included in the agenda are three resolutions filed by Bayan Muna, such as conducting probe on the deaths of Gregan Cardeno and Maj. Javier Ignacio, and Fr. Fausto Tentorio, and on the vilification of progressive groups.

Cardeno, who worked as interpreter with United States military unit liaison coordination elements, was killed on February 2, 2010 inside Camp Ranao, which hosts an Army brigade headquarters, in Marawi City, while Ignacio was professed to have vital information on Cardeno’s death.

Tentorio, who was a member of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) and parish priest of Mother of Perpetual Help Parish in Arakan Valley, North Cotabato, was shot within the church compound October last year.

Five resolutions filed by Anakpawis partylist are also included in the agenda, as announced by Rep. Rafael Mariano at the press briefing.

The resolutions include an inquiry on reported HRVs committed by security personnel in the Central Mindanao University, paramilitary and police against members of Bukidnon Free Farmers and Agricultural Laborers Association, Triad Agricultural Manpower of Rural Active Workers, and Landless Tillers Inhabitants of Musuan.

Also included are Anakpawis’s resolutions condemning the extrajudicial killing (EJK) of Tentorio, to probe the killings of Jimmy Liguyon, vice chairperson of Kasilo, an organization of Matigsalug-Manobo of Bukidnon, and farmers Reynaldo Labrador and Julius Tamondes in Paquibato District here.

Mariano also cited another resolution to investigate alleged militarization of work places, especially in areas with labor disputes and active trade union activities.

Colmenares mentioned other resolutions included in the agenda filed by other progressive partylists. These are the investigations on killings of small-scale miners in Bayog, Zamboanga del Sur, a B’laan chieftain in Davao del Sur and Ramon Batoy in Arakan, North Cotabato.

The recent killings in Kiblawan, Davao del Sur involving Juvy Capion and her two sons will be included as “muto propio” or special agenda, which the committee is yet to approve, Colmenares said.

Both Colmenares and Mariano stated that the congressional inquiry will show that there are still many “Palparans” in Mindanao as opposed to the statement of Philippine Army Chief Emmanuel Bautista that Retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, whom militants tagged as “butcher”, is the last of his kind in the military. (Lorie Ann A. Cascaro / MindaNews)