Human rights group doubts new AFP Chief rights record

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Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Bautista
Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Bautista

By Joey Natividad
Special Correspondent

CITY OF NAGA, Bicol Region (BicolToday.com/23-Jan-2013) – Barely not enough time to warm up his seat, newly installed AFP chief of staff Lt. General Emmanuel Bautista again received renewed flak from human rights groups, after environmental groups have sniped on him over the week.

HUSTISYA, a group of human rights victims, criticized the appointment of General Bautista in sarcastic manner.

“A great move for the government, a greater threat for the Filipino people,” said Cristina Guevarra in a statement sent Friday to Bicol Today.com.

According to Guevarra, Hustisya secretary general, “it is not a surprise that the government will appoint the brains behind Oplan Bayanihan, as the government targets to quash the so-called armed threats this year.”

“We were not wrong when we warned that more human rights violations will come when Lt. Gen. Bautista was appointed Army chief in 2011. We closed the year 2012 counting more victims. A hundred more families of those extrajudicially killed are seeking justice, while more persons face trumped-up charges and illegal arrests,” Guevarra said.

She said that another human rights group, Karapatan, has documented 137 victims of extrajudicial killings by the end of 2012.

“Can our families still hope for justice when the new AFP chief will only direct his men to implement the same old counter-insurgency program, only with a different name?” Guevarra poised the question in her statement.

Citizens groups have been alarmed over the rise of human rights violations and abuses committed on civilians as a result of the government anti-insurgency campaigns in the countryside. Some reported that body counts of civilians arising from extra-judicial killings have been increasing over the past years.

Oplan Bayanihan, according to Hustisya, is a “cut-and-paste” Filipino version of the US counter insurgency guide released in 2009.

“After two years, Oplan Bayanihan cannot hide behind pro-people and pro-human rights slogans, not even with music videos that sing of peace and development. In its two years, Oplan Bayanihan is a repeating nightmare of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s Oplan Bantay Laya, which makes anybody vulnerable to rights violations,” Guevarra explained.

She said Bautista’s appointment reminds them of “how the past administration rewarded its loyal minions in the military for their bloody campaign against so-called enemies of the state.”

“We witnessed their increased military presence in communities, and questioned their defense for government projects such as large-scale mining, logging and plantations. We can only find peace if Oplan Bayanihan is put to a stop,” Guevarra lamented. [BicolToday.com]

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