On Human Rights Day, rights groups slam Aquino government for violations

“We condemn the continuing extrajudicial killings and the plunder of our resources that take away our rights, land and lives. We denounce the US-inspired and directed counterinsurgency blueprint Oplan Bayanihan.” – Karapatan


MANILA – “We have likewise set on fire whatever is left of the chances for positive change we gave Pres. Noynoy Aquino in the past two years. He did not only squander the opportunity for change but has also pushed our patience to the limit, with all the rights violations his regime has committed against the people,” Marie Hilao-Enriquez, chairperson of Karapatan, said.

This was the statement of the Karapatan chairperson as they set fire on the effigy of President Benigno Aquino III.

The seven-foot two-faced effigy, according to Karapatan, “symbolizes the twin evils of large-scale mining and intensified military operations in peasant and indigenous peoples’ communities.”

Under Aquino, there are now 129 victims of extrajudicial killings, where 69 were farmers and 25 indigenous peoples. Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan, said most victims in Mindanao are anti-mining activists and Lumad leaders who “defend their land and the environment against the intrusion of big foreign mining corporations.”

Among those who joined the march are widows of slain indigenous people’s leaders Gilbert Paborada, Jimmy Liguyon, Rudy Dejos, Ramon Batoy and Margarito Cabal. Relatives of Juvy Capion, an anti-mining activist who was killed together with her two children in October, were also present in the protest march.

Palabay said that Executive Order No. 79 “serves as marching orders” for the military and para-military groups to clear mining areas of hindrances such as a “resistant population.” She added that “not only has Aquino spurred large-scale mining and destructive mining in Mindanao and ensured their continuing protection, his government has also practically dismissed the killing and forced evacuation of indigenous peoples and farmers as mere collateral damage.”

Executive Order o. 79 entitled Institutionalizing and Implementing Reforms In the Philippine Mining Sector Providing Policies and Guidelines To Ensure Environmental Protection and Responsible Mining In the Utilization Of Mineral Resources was issued by Malacañang July 6, 2012 to calm the resistance against large-scale mining and push the industry forward.

Continuing rights violations

The two contingents of protesters who marched from Blumentritt in España and Liwasang Bonifacio in Manila were blocked by policemen upon arriving in Morayta st. in Manila. Two fire trucks were deployed in the area.

“Get out of the way! We are going to pass,” protesters chant, “Mendiola! Mendiola! Mendiola!”

Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano, who was among leaders who negotiated with the police, told Bulatlat.com he phoned the National Police Commission to ask why they were barred from holding a program in Mendiola. “Let us not allow rights to be violated today International Human Rights day,” he said.

Several minutes later, policemen left their posts and allowed them to proceed to Mendiola. Protesters cheered as they marched.

Several days before the commemoration of the International Human Rights Day, however, Karapatan and other progressive groups noted cases of human rights violations.

Farmer Rolando Quijano, an active member of the Alliance of Farmers Union in Zamboanga del Sur, was gunned down by suspected members of 53rd Infantry Battalion, according to data gathered by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas. On the same day, two anti-mining activists in Nueva Vizcaya – Cheryl Ananayo and cousin-in-law Randy Nabayay – were shot by unidentified assailants.

Three activists were also arrested and charged with common crimes. In the town of Bago, Negros Occidental, church worker Aniceta Yaun Rojo was arrested on Dec. 7 on charges that she is allegedly behind the death of an Army officer early this year. Rojo is being vilified as a ranking official of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

Randy Vegas and Raul Camposano, both organizers of Courage, a federation of government employees, were arrested on Dec. 3 in two separate incidents by state agents. They were later surfaced at Camarines Norte Provincial Jail in Daet. They are charged with five counts of murder, one count of theft and one count of frustrated murder before the Regional Trial Court Branch 64 in Labo, Camarines Norte.

Both Courage organizers have been involved in helping employees of the Metro Manila Development Authority to get their Collective Negotiations Agreement incentive, among others.

Enriquez said Aquino did not only “turn his back on his promise to deliver justice for victims of human rights violations, but has also encouraged rights violations through the promotion of military generals known for abuses in the implementation of Oplan Bayanihan.”

Gen. Eduardo M. Año, one of the suspects in the enforced disappearance of Jonas Burgos, was promoted by President Aquino to be the chief of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Año, along with Lt. Col. Melquiades Feliciano and Major Harry Baliaga Jr., are charged before the Department of Justice with violating Article 1234 of the Revised Penal Code or arbitrary detention and possibly murder.

On human rights day, Mrs. Edith Burgos, mother of Jonas, went to the Senate to “formally inform our honorable lawmakers that we are opposing the confirmation of the newly-appointed Army Brig. Eduardo Año, the former head of ISG, and one of our suspects in the abduction of my missing son Jonas Joseph Burgos last April 28, 2007 at the Ever Gotesco Mall in Quezon City,” her three-page petition read.

“Despite difficulties we continue to endure, I continue to look for my son, whom we believe is a victim of a grand conspiracy by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police. But the Commission can help us in our quest for justice if our honorable lawmakers will stop Col. Año from getting his first star,” Burgos said in a report.

In a report, Senate president Juan Ponce Enrile assured Mrs. Burgos that he would look into the petition. “If one has committed a sin, he should be punished,” Enrile told Mrs. Burgos.

Challenge to Aquino

Campus journalists, for their part, challenged Aquino to end impunity. “It is very painful for us to report these multiple incidents of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture, rapes and other forms of violations against our countrymen and even against our fellow youth,” Marc Lino Abila, national deputy secretary general of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines, said.

Abila added that instead of addressing these human rights violations, “the Aquino government turns a blind eye and even helps perpetuate these kinds of acts through Oplan Bayanihan.”

CEGP said campus journalists are also subjects of attacks from the ranks of the military. Abila said “It is not acceptable for us to just sit in our publication offices while hundreds of people suffer from the grotesque acts of violence and misery. It is time for us to step out of our doors and march together with these thousands of people to urge Aquino to end the culture of impunity.

“Two years is more than enough. We have had enough of Pres. Noynoy Aquino’s lip service to ‘peace and development.’ His ‘daang matuwid’ (straight path) has ceased to fool us,” Palabay said, “We condemn the continuing extrajudicial killings and the plunder of our resources that take away our rights, land and lives. We denounce the US-inspired and directed counterinsurgency blueprint Oplan Bayanihan.” (https://www.bulatlat.org)

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