Attacks, rights abuses vs people continue during GRP unilateral ceasefire

“Perhaps officials of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) peace panel such as Presidential Adviser on the Peace Processes Chief Jesus Dureza and ranking military officials should first look at their own backyard and ascertain their troops’ own sincerity in advancing the peacetalks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP),” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay, a day after the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army declared the termination of its unilateral ceasefire with the GRP, citing violations of the Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law. 

 

Palabay said that, “Despite the suspension of military and police operations issued by the AFP and PNP which provided the framework for the GRP’s unilateral ceasefire, community and human rights violations have continued increasingly in the guise of ‘peace and development’, ‘civil-military’, ‘peace and order’, and other similar operations.”

From August 21, 2016 to January 31, 2017, during the GRP unilateral ceasefire period, Karapatan documented fourteen (14) victims of political killings, at least 439 illegal arrests. Among those killed by AFP units—including paramilitary units—are anti-mining activists Jimmy Saypan and Joselito Pasaporte in October 2016, and four peasant activists on January 2017 alone, namely Venie Diamante, Veronico Delamente, Alexander Ceballos, and Wencislao Pacquiao.  

Members of paramilitary groups, who are also known assets of the logging and mining company David M. Consunji, Inc. (DMCI), also abducted two Manobo activists, David Mogul and Maki Bail, in Esperanza, Sultan Kudarat on November 14, 2016. They remain missing to this date.  

DMCI company guards and assets are part of, and trained by, the AFP as Special Civilian Armed Auxiliary (SCAA). DMCI has employed the AFP’s SCAA as early as 2008 to “secure” its business interests in the different parts of the country such as in Mobo, Masbate, in Sta. Cruz, Zambales, and in Sultan Kudarat. The SCAA, a paramilitary group similar to the CAFGU (Citizen Auxiliary Force Geographical Unit) was created specifically to protect the interests of mining corporations and other similar destructive businesses. BS Aquino openly endorsed the use of SCAA in 2011.

“While there have been advances towards the drafting of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) during the third round of talks in Rome, Italy, the GRP and its forces have committed serious violations on previously-signed agreements such as the CARHRIHL which includes political killings, illegal arrests, threats and harassment of civilian communities, drug-related killings, the political rehabilitation of the Marcoses and the non-release of political prisoners. Adherence to previously signed agreements is an important consideration in crafting the next substantial agenda and ceasefire agreements,” Palabay said. 

“President Duterte and the GRP Peace Panel have promised on numerous occasions to release political prisoners, even providing a timeframe for such releases. Despite such pronouncements, political prisoners remain in jail and are met with excuses. It is unfortunate that no less than Dureza and the Duterte administration refuse to see the release of political prisoners as an issue of justice, as the GRP’s compliance to CARHRIHL. Instead of putting the release of political prisoners in the backseat, the GRP should realize that the release of political prisoners is not only a fulfillment of the GRP’s own obligations and promises, but it will also enrich the crafting, finalization and implementation of CASER, and thus facilitate the advancement of the peace talks,” Karapatan added. 

“Indeed, the road to peace is not smooth and easy. It is a pavement fraught with violations and human rights abuses, with excuses and false promises, with injustice that makes the road less and less viable for passing. For both parties to successfully traverse it, militarization of communities must stop, agreements such as CARHRIHL should be complied with, and the urgent release of political prisoners should be done,” Palabay concluded.

 

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