By Joey Natividad
NAGA CITY (BicolToday.com/01-June-12) – Philippine human rights advocates now in Geneva, Switzerland exposed before international human rights watchers the failure of the Philippine Government in safeguarding respect of human rights in areas of internal conflict, and rights violations committed on activists, enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings.
“For one, impunity exists under the President Aquino Administration because big-time human rights violators such as Maj. General Jovito Palparan are not being held accountable for their crimes. And two, because Aquino promotes the same brand of counter-insurgency policy that engenders extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and detention, forcible displacement and other forms of rights abuses,” said Cristina Palabay in an statement sent by email.
Palabay, spokesperson of Karapatan and End Impunity Alliance, is part of the delegation of the Philippine UPR Watch, a network of rights activists who are in Geneva, in time for the Philippine government’s Universal Periodic Review by the UN Human Rights Council.
Palabay said this in the light of the release by the US State Department report on human rights in the Philippines, and the upcoming review of compliance to rights treaty obligations of the GPH on Tuesday, May 29, 2012.
Earlier, a day before, two human rights victims narrated their ordeal before a crowd of international human rights organizations representatives and foreign missions. Human rights victims, Ernan Baldonaro and Melissa Roxas, could not hold back their tears as they recounted their experiences before the crowd.
Ernan Baldomero, a municipal councilor in Aklan and son of Fernando Baldomero, the first victim of extrajudicial killing under the Aquino regime in 2010, recounted his last days with his father. He spoke of how his father was repeatedly tagged by the military as a communist rebel before he was gunned down by two men riding on a motorcycle. He broke down as he recounted how the military had even insisted that his father was killed by the New People’s Army in an alleged “purge”. He said that justice has not been fully served.
Filipino-American activist Melissa Roxas’ abduction and torture were also painful to recall. She spoke of being abducted in La Paz, Tarlac along with two others, then being subjected to torture and other forms of indignities while in detention. Throughout her detention in what she believed to be was a military facility, she was blindfolded and handcuffed and forced by her captors to “return to the fold of the government”.
Baldomero and Roxas spoke at a side-event at the United Nations in Geneva that was organized by the Philippine UPR Watch and CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation, World Organization Against Torture (OMCT), Asia Pacific Form on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) and the World Council of Churches (WCC).
“We came here to Geneva to tell the international community that impunity and injustice are continuing in the Philippines. We have spoken to different country missions here in the UN, and hopefully they would ask the tough questions to the Philippine government,” Baldomero said.
Under the Arroyo administration, Karapatan has documented 1,206 victims of extrajudicial killings and 206 victims of enforced disappearances, while there were 2,059 victims of illegal arrests and 1,099 victims of torture.
“There is zero justice for the victims and their families. It is important to point out that the efforts to make the perpetrators accountable have been largely due to efforts of the victims and their kin’s persistence. Only one perpetrator among these cases of EJKs has been convicted, while former General Palparan, the most notorious among them, continues to mock and evade justice. While Aquino has gone after Chief Justice Corona for corrupt practices, he has left GMA untouched for human rights abuses. Military generals and police officials who committed torture and other grave violations even got promoted,” she commented.
The government’s counter-insurgency plan Oplan Bayanihan is Aquino’s version of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s bloody Oplan Bantay Laya, which left hundreds of people killed. Oplan Bayanihan is closely patterned after the US’s counter-insurgency guide, added Karapatan.
Palabay said “killings, enforced disappearance, arrests and torture, forced evacuation, bombings of communities and indiscriminate firing by the military are committed against the people in the course of the implementation of Oplan Bayanihan.”
Three weeks ago, the US government announced that it will increase its military aid to the Philippine government by three-fold, from last year’s $11.9 million to $30 million this year. The US and Philippine governments, in a “two plus two” meeting early May discussed how both countries can strengthen their common defense programs.
“With its political influence and military aid to GPH and the direction of its counter-insurgency policy, the United States government is in fact a party to the continuing human rights abuses under this government,” Palabay said in the statement. [BicolToday.com]
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