DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 18 Sept) – Progressive groups here said human rights violations are still prevalent in the Southern Mindanao Region, citing reports on extrajudicial killings, illegal arrests and torture.
Karapatan Southern Mindanao Region secretary general Hanimay Suazo said that since the start of the administration of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III, there have been 33 cases of extrajudicial killings in the region; 36 cases of illegal arrests involving human rights activist, environment defenders, civilians suspected as rebels, and even members of New People’s Army whose cases have not undergone due process; and 11 tortures.
Speaking at a forum on human rights and peace at the Homitori Dormitel, Karapatan chairperson Marie Hilao Enriquez said it was high time to increase vigilance by monitoring human rights abuses, especially with the approach of the anniversaries of the declaration of martial law on Sept. 21 and the Ampatuan Massacre in November.
“Nothing is happening yet with the Ampatuan Massacre,” Enriquez noted.
Suazo said that Mindanao is among the most “highly militarized” regions in the Philippines.
She accused the Armed Forces of the Philippines of allocating more than 50 percent of its resources to the regions here.
In a statement, Felixberto Calang, of the human rights organization Barug Katungod, said the Mindanao Human Rights and Peace Conference was a venue where different progressive groups aimed to reach a unified decision on different issues, among these the resumption of peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front.
“As Mindanawons, there is a need for grassroots communities and the basic sectors, human rights workers and advocates, church people, lawyers, and other professionals to come together and forge common action to meet these challenges head on,” Calang said.
Enriquez said that the presidency of Benigno Simeon Aquino III is “not helpful” to the Philippines’ human rights situation, with the administration inheriting 206 extrajudicial killings from the Gloria Arroyo administration.
“Now, during the administration of Aquino, there have been 204 extrajudicial killings, 71 missing persons, and 99 reported tortures,” Enriquez said.