Statement of Desaparecidos on the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2012 and its IRRSubmitted on Wed, 02/13/2013 - 12:07
The Families of Desaparecidos for Justice look forward to the day without enforced disappearances.
Yesterday, February 12, 2013, Desaparecidos co-signed the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the newly-enacted law called, the "Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2012." We participated in the crafting of the IRR, after long years of advocacy and lobby work for the enactment of the law, because we view this engagement as part of the over-all enduring struggle for justice and human rights of victims and relatives, human rights advocates, and the Filipino people.
The Philippine government, through the law, officially recognized the criminal nature of the act of enforced disappearance – that enforced disappearance is a crime against persons, and that the perpetrators should be criminally liable and must be put to jail. Most importantly, the law’s acknowledgement that the said crime can only be perpetuated by State agents is an official admission and recognition that indeed, the State is most responsible in the commission of the crime of enforced disappearance. The law likewise recognizes that it is the State's responsibility to provide compensation, restitution and rehabilitation to victims of enforced disappearances and their families.
Since Marcos’ Martial Law and the series of administrations after it, including the present Noynoy Aquino government, such crime was and is being committed with impunity, with much brazenness and with full use of government resources against the very people whom government has supposedly sworn to protect.
After thousands of disappearances, anguish and immeasurable pain we bear as we waged a resolute, determined struggle for justice for our loved ones, finally, the country's recognition of this heinous crime proved us, families of the disappeared who fought and are still fighting, the correctness of our struggle for justice and human rights.
We commend progressive legislators led by Bayan Muna Reps. Teodoro Casiño and Neri Colmenares, and allies in Congress who stood with us against those who tried to deny the State’s responsibility on this heinous crime by twisting the definition of enforced disappearances. Our progressive legislators took a hard stand in asserting that it is the State which has the obligation, authority, and machinery to protect the rights of its people.
But by using these machinery and authority to commit enforced disappearance to maintain the powers-that-be, the gravity of this act is incomparably heavier than those who committed the same but are private civilians or non-state agents. It is well that these sound and grounded arguments prevailed over those of some legislators posturing as human rights crusaders who would have wanted to dilute the State’s role and responsibility and defeat the whole purpose and principle of the measure.
Our organization, Desaparecidos, is determined to stand for this principle: that enforced disappearances is a systematic act and is perpetrated by State actors.
Human rights should be an election issue, said Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan, “because the 2013 election is happening amid increasing human rights violations under the three-year old Aquino and on the last year of Oplan Bayanihan’s first phase.”
“Let not the election ruckus drown the violations of human rights under the Aquino government. The candidates should speak on the Aquino government’s human rights record so the voting public would know where they stand, as far as the promotion and protection of human rights is concerned.”
Majority of the candidates in the senatorial elections are from rich political clans, and some have been directly or indirectly involved in human rights violations such as the massacre of peasants, the violation of workers’ rights or have promoted programs and projects that cause or will result to the displacement of people from their communities.
“There is no ‘matuwid na daan’ without respecting the people’s rights. Candidates, should first and foremost speak on the Aquino government counterinsurgency program, the Oplan Bayanihan, which had resulted to gross abuses and human rights violations against the Filipino people. Will the candidates work on junking Oplan Bayanihan?” Palabay added.
Karapatan had repeatedly called for the end of the implementation of Oplan Bayanihan and is again putting forward such concern in the 2013 elections. Among those listed in the human rights agenda for the 2013 election, based on its 2012 4th Congress resolution, are:
- The end to the government’s practice of extrajudicial killing, enforced disappearance, arbitrary arrest and detention based on trumped up criminal charges, torture and other forms of human rights violations.
- An end to militarization and the immediate pullout of military troops from rural and urban communities, including the use of schools, Churches and other civilian facilities for military purposes.
- Dismantling of paramilitary forces such as the CAFGU and SCAA through the revocation of Executive Order 546 and other similar policies.
- The release of all political prisoners especially the elderly and those who have ailments. In line with this, Karapatan likewise puts forward the immediate release of all NDFP consultations based on earlier commitment by the Aquino government, for the immediate resumption of the peace negotiations between the GPH and the NDFP.
- An end to forced eviction and demolition of urban poor communities in favour of the government’s program of Public-Private Partnership (PPP).
4th Capion killed, B’laan families evacuate as military operations intensify in areas occupied by Xstrata-SMI minesSubmitted on Fri, 02/08/2013 - 11:14
Karapatan calls for the immediate pull out of the Task Force KITACOM (Kiblawan, Tampakan, Columbio, Malungon) of the 39th and 27th IB-PA and the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU) from civilian communities, as it expresses its condemnation on the killing of Kitari Capion and the forcible evacuation of some 150 residents in Baranggay Kimlawis, Kiblawan, Davao del Sur.
“We view the recent military operation as another violation of the B'laan’s right to their ancestral lands, as if the incursion of the Xstrata Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI) is not enough to wipe out the B’laan tribe," said Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan.
Kitari Capion was killed during a military operation on January 29, three months after her sister-in-law Juvy Capion and her two sons were massacred.
Initial reports from the said community indicated forced evacuation of the B’laan tribe which started on February 1, after Kitari’s death and, after military operations resumed in the B’laan ancestral lands occupied by the Xstrata-SMI Mining Corporation.
Members of the B’laan tribe opposed to the incursion of the Xstrata-SMI operation have employed "pangayaw", traditionally a “war” waged by the tribes against intruders into their defined territory but is now waged against the mining company as a way of defending their ancestral land rights.
“The military operation is meant to protect the interests of the mining company by silencing dissent in the community,” added Palabay.
Kitari is the fourth member of the Capion clan who was killed by state forces under the Noynoy Aquino government. Kitari is the younger brother of Daguil, whose wife and two children were killed by elements of the 27th Infantry Battalion in October last year.
With DOJ’s Resolution to withdraw information
With the recent findings and resolution of the Department of Justice (DOJ) to withdraw information against detained poet-artist Ericson Acosta, “it is in incumbent upon the Aquino government to file charges against the members of the 34th IB for violations of RA 7438, rights of persons arrested, detained or under custodial investigation,” said Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan.
Karapatan said Ericson Acosta's case shows the all-too-familiar violations committed by Aquino’s Armed Forces of the Philippines against activists and ordinary folks they encounter in the course of their “counterinsurgency” campaign: warrantless arrest; the right to be informed why he was arrested; denial of the right to counsel and to inform his family; prolonged interrogation and torture; planted evidence; detention in a military camp, among other violations.
“Acosta’s experience and plight showcase the situation of the 430 political prisoners in the country who were falsely accused of committing various criminal acts. In December 2012 alone, 28 people were arbitrarily arrested by the AFP based on trumped up criminal charges,” Palabay noted.
Karapatan cited the case of Maricon Montajes, a UP student, who was arrested in June 3, 2010 by elements of the 743rd Squadron of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) while photo-documenting the plight of the peasantry at Brgy. Mabayabas, Taysan, Batangas. Montajes was charged with Illegal Possession of Firearms and Ammunitions and Illegal Possession of Explosives. She is currently detained at the Batangas Provincial Jail.
“Malicious, irresponsible and anti-people”
Amid the good news of the ratification of the bill to compesante martial law victims, members of the human rights group SELDA (Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto) deplored the “malicious, irresponsible and anti-people” statements made by Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) chairman Andres Bautista over the weekend that the martial law victims should consider giving up their claims in the class suit filed in Hawaii, now that a bill to give compensation to human rights victims is set to be enacted into law.
“We are exasperated, disappointed and angry at such malicious and irresponsible statements made by PCGG chair Andres Bautista. Why should we give up the claims when the award is based on the judgement that the Marcos dictatorship is guilty of crimes against humanity, and therefore the Marcoses are accountable for the human rights violations committed under their reign?” said Martial Law victim and SELDA chairperson Marie Hilao-Enriquez.
Enriquez also said that the Hawaii court judgment is final and executory.
“The victims are happy that this has become a landmark decision for victims of human rights violations the world over. The entire Filipino nation must be proud of that and now Mr. Bautista is again squandering the chance to go after the violators! We have never heard of any public apology from the Marcoses after so many years, now Bautista is telling us to give up this meager amount to compensate the victims?” she said.
On September 22, 1992, the Hawaii Federal Court through Judge Manuel Real, issued a judgment on the class suit in favor of the Marcos victims. The said decision found Marcos guilty of gross human rights violations and the Estate of Marcos is liable to pay damages to the victims.
SELDA’s chairperson explained that the bill’s passage here in the legislative halls of the country is entirely different from the class suit that the 9,539 Martial Law victims filed in a Hawaii district court after the fall of Marcos in 1986.
“Bautista does not know what he is talking about. The Human Rights Victims Recognition and Reparation Bill, when enacted into law, will be the government’s mechanism to give recognition and reparation to victims of Martial Law. Since the fall of the dictator in 1986, the victims waited for the administrations after Marcos to go after the conjugal dictatorship and their cohorts, and make them accountable for the HRV’s committed during martial law. But no one did. The victims were the only ones who braved the systems, the Marcos maneuvers, the machinations of American and Filipino lawyers who supposedly helped the victims. It was they who fought steadfastly until they won a landmark case in a foreign court. Now it is being robbed again from them, “ Enriquez declared.
The group also called Bautista “anti-people,” in reacton to his statement that ill-gotten wealth by the Marcoses belong to the Filipino people.
“Bautista talks as if we are not part of the Filipino people who fought the dictator. The Swiss Supreme Court was clear in its order that the victims of Martial Law who filed charges against Marcos in the Hawaiian court must be considered by the Philippine government once the latter moves the recovered funds that were in an escrow account,” she said.
Enriquez also clarified that only one-third of the original total funds transferred from Switzerland and handed over to the Philippine government were asked by the victims as they fully know that the amount was gotten from the national coffers.
Two cases of disappearance reported to human rights groups after enactment of Anti-Enforced Disappearance LawSubmitted on Mon, 01/28/2013 - 14:10
As of January 29, 2013, Muin Kahal Hamja was presented by the authorities and was brought to Basilan Provincial Jail where his brother Muhammadiya Hamja is also detained. Human rights workers in Basilan are still trying to get a copy of his charge sheet.
Unfortunately, Shiekh Bashier Mursalum remains missing. According to an eye witness, he was first gunned down by his abductors before he was picked up and brought inside the get away vehicle on the 24th of January.
Karapatan and Families of Desaparecidos for Justice (Desaparecidos) deplored the abduction of Sheikh Bashier Mursalum and Muin Kahal Hamja, as these organizations add two more names to the long list of enforced disappearances in the country. The abduction happened after President Aquino signed the Anti-Enforced Disappearance Act of 2012 in December.
“Muin Kahal and Mursalum’s disappearances show that the law itself is not a deterrent in the practice of enforced disappearance. This poses a challenge to the law against enforced disappearance and to the Aquino government to prosecute those who abducted and detained them,” said Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general. “The law seems brave enough to make state agents criminally liable for the act of enforced disappearance but we have yet to see its enforcement,” Palabay added.
Sheikh Bashier Mursalum, a muslim scholar, was abducted by state agents last January 22 in Basilan. On January 24, Muin Kahal Hamja was abducted by armed men at 2:00 AM in his home in Bgy. Kumalarang, Isabela City, Basilan.
“We initially welcomed this new law, but the rage in our hearts remains knowing that the families of Hamja and Mursalum are searching in vain for their loved ones,” Lorena Santos, secretary general of Desaparecidos, said.
Muhammadiya Hamja, Muin Kahal’s brother, was also a victim of enforced disappearance in 2001 but was located by the quick reaction team composed of members of Karapatan, Muhammadiya’s son and Commission on Human Rights investigators. “We found him hidden and tortured inside the office of Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) in Camp Crame, Philippine National Police Headquarters in Quezon City,” said Palabay.
Karapatan dared the Philippine Army of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to prove before the Court of Appeals that the man they arrested illegally and tortured is indeed who they claim to be in their press releases as CPP’s high ranking official ‘Benjamin Mendoza’ "because clearly, they picked the wrong man," Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan said at today’s hearing at the Court of Appeals for detained Rolly Panesa’s Petition for Habeas Corpus.
“Panesa has been in jail for three months since his abduction on October 5, 2012, yet the government has not presented any document to prove their claim. The man should be immediately released and indemnified,” Palabay said.
Marites Chioco, Panesa’s common-law wife and petitioner to the habeas corpus case, submitted to the court Panesa’s birth certificate, baptismal certificate, school records, records of his employment, Social Security System Identification Card, Philhealth Card, driver’s license, NBI clearance and a certificate that he has gone through a training for the CAFGU.
“These are all government-issued documents and not one government agency has come out to say that these are fake documents. The AFP should admit its error because of arbitrariness on arresting Panesa,” added Palabay.
“Pres. Noynoy Aquino’s suspiciously prudent stance on the presence of minesweeper USS Guardian inside Philippine territory pales in comparison to his hysterics on China’s claim to the disputed islands in the South China Sea. Hence, it further reveals the Aquino government’s inconsistencies in dealing with the issue of sovereignty – that its loyalties and interests lie with the United States government, to the detriment of Philippine sovereignty and people’s rights,” said Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan.
Karapatan lamented the fact that it has been several days since the USS Guardian crashed into a part of the Tubbataha Reef but “the government only assumed a ‘business as usual’ attitude and instead raised the issue the territorial disputes with China before an Arbitral Tribunal under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).”
She said that Aquino is particularly interested in acquiring the US$30 million of military aid allocated by the US government. “That would explain the why the government condones the unauthorized entry of the USS Guardian at Tubbataha reef. The Aquino government had a similar reaction when a BQM-74E target drone was recovered in waters off San Jacinto town on Ticao Island, Masbate in January 7. It’s a classic display of mendicancy and subservience to the US,” Palabay explained.
The US Senate Committee on Appropriations recently recommended US$30 million military assistance for the Philippines for the use of the Philippine Navy and Air Force this year.
Karapatan took note of an increasing presence of US troops and several US war vessels in the Philippines. “The US troops’ presence and the continuing flow of US military aid for the Armed Forces of the Philippines are conspicuous factors that strengthen our belief that the US government and the Aquino administration are working double time to meet their deadline of the phase 1 of the US-inspired Oplan Bayanihan by year end,” Palabay said.
“Believe it or not, it was my first time to ride an airplane!” This was how poet Ericson Acosta greeted his supporters, friends, and family who welcomed his arrival at the Terminal III of the NAIA.
Acosta, 40, whose siblings now all live with their own families abroad, is a cultural worker and activist arrested by the military in San Jorge, Samar while doing volunteer research work for a local peasant group. Acosta has been detained at the Calbayog Sub-Provincial Jail for 23 months on trumped-up charges of illegal possession of explosives.
Yesterday, Acosta’s supporters were pleasantly surprised to confirm that the Gandara RTC in Samar granted him temporary release for a medical check-up. Acosta’s lawyers filed a motion for medical check-up in July 2012 after Acosta displayed symptoms of serious renal problems.
Attorney Persida Rueda-Acosta, Chief the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) flew to the Calbayog Sub-Provincial Jail with a medico-legal consultant and a paralegal team from human rights organization, KARAPATAN upon the request of Acosta’s family and the Free Ericson Acosta Campaign (FEAC).
It was found that Acosta has been suffering from nephritis, a condition characterized by blood in the urine (hematuria), lower back pains, high fever and painful urination (dysuria). These findings prompted the RTC to immediately grant Acosta’s motion for check-up, and allowing Atty. Rueda-Acosta to accompany him right away to the National Kidney Institute (NKTI) this morning.
“Matagal na naming hinihintay ang mapatingnan si Eric. I am coming to see him without my husband who also has an appointment with the doctor for his spinal ailment that has debilitated him for weeks. Gusto nga sana niyang sumama kay Attorney Persida pero hindi na niya kinaya ang sakit,” said Ericson’s 80-year old mother, Liwayway.
Dr. Erwin Erfe, medico-legal consultant of PAO said that Acosta’s ailment necessitates “thorough diagnostic examinations, possibly including renal biopsy and other specialized ancillary procedures in a specialist kidney hospital.” These facilities are not available at the Calbayog Sub-Provincial jail, and even in Samar provincial hospitals.
Illegal arrests, trumped-up charges
Yet another case of political repression against human rights defenders is reported under the Aquino regime.
Leaders of people’s organizations such as Karapatan-Negros Secretary General Fred Caña, Christian Tuayon of Bayan-Negros, Ronald Ian Evidente of KMU-Negros, Clarizza Singson of Gabriela-Negros, Bernardito Patigas of the North Negros Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (NNAHRA), and Gualberto Dajao of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT-Negros) are being implicated in a fabricated murder charge for the death of a certain 1Lt. Archie Polenzo who was allegedly killed during NPA-AFP clash in March 2010.
“These forms of attacks, through the filing of fabricated charges, against human rights defenders are escalating, at a time when Aquino’s counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan (OpBay) is on its last year of Phase 1 implementation. As the “architect” of OpBay Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Bautista today takes his post as AFP Chief of Staff, his assumption to office has already indicated the escalation of human rights violations under the Aquino administration,” Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan, said.
Palabay noted that 28 persons were successively arrested and detained in less than one month, from December 2012 to early January this year. The indigenous peoples in Negros Occidental were arrested and jailed in the course of military operation in the community, with the soldiers accusing them of coddling NPA members; while most of the members of progressive organizations were arrested using, and insisting on, names from existing warrants, which were not theirs. The 28 arrested were from Cagayan Valley, Negros Oriental and Occidental, Quezon province and members of Courage and Piston, organizations of government employees and drivers, respectively and, of Act Teachers Partylist. Also among those charges were two leaders from the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU)-National Capital Region.
“This reminds us of the Southern Tagalog 72 during the Oplan Bantay Laya days of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo where members and leaders of progressive organizations faced trumped-up charges to harass and intimidate them. We demand that all charges against these activists and civilians be withdrawn or immediately dismissed,” Palabay said.