Dec. 10, 2012
Reference: Renato Reyes, BAYAN Secretary General
As the country joins the rest of the world in marking Human Rights Day today, we want to highlight how the tools for repression used by state security forces during the Arroyo administration have apparently remained intact and operational under the current Aquino regime. This has resulted in the continuing blatant violation of human rights which reminds us that the dark reign of impunity did not end with the previous government.
The Aquino regime’s US-inspired and supported counter-insurgency program called Bayanihan continues to target unarmed activists and ordinary civilians. Militarization of communities continue. Not one high official of the military has been made truly accountable. The “butcher” Jovito Palparan remains at large while other officers implicated in rights violations have been promoted. General Eduardo Año who was tagged in the abduction of activist Jonas Burgos Jr. was recently promoted to ISAFP Chief. The torturers of the Morong 43 have also been promoted. In just three years of the Aquino administration until October last year, about 129 victims of extrajudicial killings, 12 cases of abduction and around 239 cases of illegal arrest and detention have been recorded by Karapatan.
The so-called “superbody” formed by Malacanang to allegedly conduct an audit of human rights violations is a mere PR gimmick.
A continuing practice of the AFP is the filing of trumped-up charges against activists who are being implicated in actions attributed to the New People’s Army. We had hoped that we have seen the last of cases like the Morong 43 but the Aquino administration proved us wrong.
Case in point is the recent illegal arrest and detention last December 3 of two full-time organizers among government employees and the issuance of the same warrant of arrest against two known mass leaders of Manila-based organizations built on the ridiculous charge that they were involved in what appears to be a combat operation by the NPA in a far-flung town in Camarines Norte. This case has the hallmark of the notorious and supposedly defunct Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG). Indeed we have reason to believe that another IALAG-type body is operating under the Aquino regime.
The arrest also comes in the wake of announcements by the Aquino regime that it has a list of 235 alleged rebel leaders with a combined P467 million bounty on their heads. To date, no one outside the Aquino government has seen this list which we believe may include legal activists. This “secret list” is no different from the “order of battle” practice of the past regimes. Not only will it undermine ongoing peace efforts and existing bilateral agreements between the NDFP and GPH, the “secret list” will also be a basis of further human rights violations and inevitably, corruption of funds.
It is absolutely odd that Randy Vegas and Raul Camposano, the detained full-time organizers of the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (Courage), and Roy Velez, the Chairperson of the NCR chapters of Bayan and Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), and Amelita Gamara, the Deputy Secretary General of KMU-NCR, will be with the NPA to carry out an operation against soldiers of the 49th Infantry Battalion (IB) of the Philippine Army (PA) in Barangay Maot in Labo, Camarines Norte. Not only are they not NPA guerrillas, they are principal organizers and key leaders of workers’ organizations based in NCR. At the time of the supposed NPA operation on April 29, the accused were in the thick of preparations for the annual May 1 rallies. Besides, why will the NPA include known and active Manila-based activists in a sensitive combat operation? It simply defies logic.
But ludicrous as the accusations are, Deputy Provincial Prosecutor Annalie Thomas-Velarde charged Vegas, Camposano, Velez and Gamara, along with 28 others with five counts of murder, one count of frustrated murder and one count of theft based on the said NPA operation. What is more anomalous is that Judge Rolando de Lemios Bobis of Branch 64 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Labo, Camarines Norte found merit in the accusation and issued an arrest warrant that led to the arrest in Metro Manila of Vegas and Camposano by the combined elements of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Intelligence Service of the AFP (ISAFP). The Courage organizers have since been detained in the provincial jail of Camarines Norte.
Secretary Leila de Lima should explain why her agency and her prosecutors are being used to file trumped-up charges against legal and unarmed activists being implicated in actions of the NPA. The same has been happening in areas in Mindanao, in Negros, and in Southern Tagalog. These legal actions will not move forward without the approval of the DOJ. In many cases, the accused are denied due process, as many do not informed of the charges against them and do not go through any proper preliminary investigation. Legal shortcuts are being done to ensure that more and more activists land in jail.
The filing of trumped-up charges based on alleged participation in NPA operations was previously orchestrated by the IALAG, under the direction of the Office of the National Security Adviser and the Department of Justice (DOJ). The IALAG was supposedly abolished in 2009 following the 2007 report on the state of human rights in the Philippines by the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Philip Alston.
However, the false criminal cases filed by government prosecutors against the leaders and members of Courage, Bayan-NCR and KMU-NCR attest that the IALAG or at least the use of the same dirty tactic of using the legal system to intimidate and repress activists continues under the Oplan Bayanihan counter-insurgency campaign of the Aquino administration.
All the hype about daang matuwid (straight path) and primacy of human rights and winning the peace under Oplan Bayanihan is hogwash as the Aquino administration itself has systematically cultivated the culture of impunity.
We demand that Courage organizers Vegas and Camposano be immediately released and the trumped-up charges against them and Bayan and KMU leaders Velez and Gamara be dropped. We call on the people to mark Human Rights Day today with protests against the continuing and widespread violation of human rights under the US-Aquino regime. ###