Government's failure to legislate on torture
is a betrayal of Filipinos' constitutional rights
A Statement by the
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)
November 24, 2005
"...it is a fact of life that most torture victims are poor and marginalized
people who are unable to get justice, compensation and rehabilitation for
the suffering they have experienced."
The enactment of an enabling
law to punish the perpetrators of acts of torture in the Philippines is long
overdue. The government's failure to enact a law has deprived its citizens
of their right to be free from the most abhorrent and barbaric of acts -
torture. It is also completely disregarding its international obligations as
a State Party to the U.N. Convention against Torture and Other Cruel,
Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT). By ratifying the
Convention, the government is required to implement the provisions therein,
including by domestic legislation.
By failing to take action to
ensure the passage of an anti-torture law, the members of the Philippine
Senate and the House of Representatives, have not protected their citizens
against attacks and abuses by state agents. The provision of the 1987
Philippine Constitution, which prohibits torture, has been betrayed by the
lack of an enabling law, in particular for torture victims seeking justice
and redress. It constitutes a failure of the legislature when it cannot
protect the very people it represents.
In the Philippines, it is a
fact of life that most torture victims are poor and marginalized people who
are unable to get justice, compensation and rehabilitation for the suffering
they have experienced. This is not only because of the absence of an
enabling law against torture but also because of the attitude of those in
government and Filipino society. The victims are not only denied their
rights, they are also alienated from society. Making complaints of torture
means that a victim has to endure many difficulties.
In most torture cases, the
Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in the Philippines does not conduct
investigations. The AHRC has in the past reported several cases of brutal
torture. The Commission, however, is reluctant to pursue these cases and to
recommend the prosecution of the alleged perpetrators. This is common in
most cases. The victims have, however, had to face trials based on charges
laid against them often stemming from confessions obtained through the use
The government's cynical
interpretations of human rights protection and state responsibility must
instead be changed into realistic laws. It must produce results rather than
the empty human rights rhetoric it currently entertains.
The Philippines' reluctance
to enact laws against torture can in part be attributed to a deep-rooted
mentality that a person who is suspected of having committed a crime
deserves to be punished, ridiculed and discriminated against. There is a
poor understanding of the right to the freedom from torture. Government
officials have even accused legislators pushing for the law to be passed of
being sympathetic to the armed insurgent movement and suspected terrorists,
who compose most of the group of tortured victims.
This is evident in the
common practices of the police, the military and even the President in
presenting suspects to the media and public before they go to trial. It is a
complete disregard of a person's dignity to be presented in this way before
trial and represents a flagrant violation of the concept of being considered
innocent before being proven guilty. Most civilized societies in the world
have stopped this practice but the
has not. In Thailand, a recent police regulation has prohibited the Thai
police from taking victims or suspects before press conferences or letting
reporters or photographers take pictures of them.
This is a challenge not only
to policy makers in the Philippines but to Filipino society as a whole.
There is a need to have the law on torture enacted. This is a necessary
precondition and achievable means of enabling the protection against torture
in the country.
A statement of concern from
An Appeal to Friends
in the Media, Members of Progressive Organizations and all Freedom-Loving
Warm nationalist greetings
amidst this terroristic attacks committed by the state on our ranks!
We are about to observe the
57th Commemorative Year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR),
a landmark document which had been ratified by most governments and states
all over the world last December 10, 1948. The Philippine government is
also a signatory to this international human rights instrument.
However, we are saddened by
the fact that despite this document and other parallel human rights
instruments like the Bill of Rights of the 1987 Philippine Constitution and
the 1998 Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and
International Humanitarian Laws (CARHRIHL), still civil liberties and basic
rights of the people are grossly violated and disregarded. What is more
alarming is the fact that armed state forces/agents are perpetrating
infractions to human rights guaranteed and enshrined in these documents.
In Eastern Visayas, we have
been witnesses to the stint of Brig. General Jovito S. Palparan who then
assumed as commanding general of the 8th Infantry Division of the Philippine
Army based in Brgy. Maulong, Catbalogan, Western Samar who wrecked havoc on
peasant communities and progressive organizations including local government
units and their officials. Indiscriminately, he unleashed a terroristic
campaign to curtail basic human rights – freedom of expression, right to
peaceful assembly, organization, among other politico-civil guarantees.
Our gruesome experience
under Palparan puts the record of violations to 570 cases committed (the
number is still surging up as claims are mounting on daily basis) – from
politically motivated killings in form of massacres, assassinations,
salvagings (extra-judicial killings); abductions and enforced disappearance;
arbitrary arrest and detention; physical assault/mental and physical
torture; divestment and destruction of properties; verbal threats to media
practitioners; to sowing of the climate of terror on far-flung villages,
We have estimated the
violations to have the rate of eighty eight (88) cases per month, twenty
(20) cases per week and three (3) cases per day.
We called on President
Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to denounce the killings, investigate the
perpetrators and bring them to the folds of the law and justice. But our
cries and yells have fallen on deaf ears.
Instead, we are being
threatened with a Marcosian iron fist – laws banning rallies and legitimate
arenas to seek redress of grievances, curtailment of press freedom,
intrusion to civil liberties in the guise of combating terrorism, etc.
We have come to believe that
the government's action and inaction spell culpability to these violations.
Worse, it could mean that the Macapagal Arroyo administration officially
sanctions the wide scale of repression and curtailment moves.
Immediately after Jovito
Palparan was bolted out of his post and upon assumption into office of the
new commanding general in the person of Major General Bonifacio Ramos,
another leader was felled by bullets. Atty. Norman Bocar, regional
chairperson of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan ha Sinirangan Bisayas (BAYAN-SB)
and provincial tourism officer of Eastern
was gunned down last September 1, 2005.
On the same date, three (3)
employees of the Samar Electric Cooperative II (SAMELCO II) were massacred
by armed elements near the camp of the 34 th Infantry Battalion of the
Philippine Army in Brgy. Libas, Catbalogan,
Samar. Previously in June 2005, a SAMELCO II lineman was abducted
and tortured by the same army unit in suspicion that he was aiding the
revolutionary New People's Army (NPA) as its courier.
Again in our region, we are
again sounding the bell for us to take notice of the most recent incidents –
two killings in a week – similar to what happened previously when Palparan
was head of the 8 th ID and that of
Central Luzon when he assumed post at
The Killing of Bayan Muna
Coordinator Jose A. Ducalang in
Jose A. Ducalang, a 58-year
old father of three and a peace-loving citizen residing at Brgy. Ipil, Ormoc
City was gunned down by two motorcycle riding men in bonnets last November
7, 2005 at about 5 o'clock in the afternoon. He just came from his work at
the city agriculture office and boarded a parked pedicab which would
transport him home when the incident happened.
He was the city coordinator
of the progressive Bayan Muna party-list.
He sustained a lone gunshot
in the abdominal region of his body and was rushed by concerned citizens to
the nearby Ormoc Sugar Planter Association-Farmers' Medical Center (OSPA-FMC).
When he was still conscious, he identified the perpetrators as elements of
the 19th IB PA based in Brgy. Aguiting,
Leyte that is being headed by Col. Louie Dayog. He even scribbled the
characters "19IB" when asked by documenters on the identities of the
He died three (3) days later
on November 10, 2005 at about
10 o'clock in the evening when his body was not able to withstand the
infection brought about by the gunshot wound and its complications.
The Assassination of Former
Vice Mayor Ben Bajado
Just this evening (November
13, 2005), we were informed of the tragedy to this soft-spoken man, Ben
Bajado. He was also in his 50s, a prominent man in his municipality in
Eastern Samar province as he was previously elected as Maydolong town's
vice-mayor in year 2001 under the banner of Bayan Muna partylist.
The informant said that he
was gunned down at around
5:00 o'clock in the afternoon today in Maydolong town. He was
brought immediately to
Eastern Samar Provincial
Hospital in the capital town of Borongan but was pronounced dead-on-arrival
He was the provincial
secretary general of the multi-sectoral group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan)
and sat as a regional council member of Bayan-Sinirangan Bisayas. An
active leader, he helped in the campaign against the ill effects of mining
in Manicani and Homonhon islands in
Eastern Samar province.
He was also instrumental in
putting up progressive sectoral organizations like the Alyansa han mga
Parag-uma ha Sinirangan Samar (Alliance of Peasants in Eastern Samar or
ALPAS), Katilingbanon nga Pagkaurusa para ha Nasudnon Demokrasya (Unity for
National Democracy or KIND) and Kapunungan han mga Barangay Opisyales ha
Sinirangan Samar (Organization of Village Officials in
Eastern Samar or KAUSA).
He was also a very active
council member of Alyansa ha Pagpanalipod han Tawhanon nga Katungod ha
Sinirangan Samar (Alliance for the Advancement of People's Rights in Eastern
Samar or KATUNGOD-ES) and campaigned against the militarization in the
Another Wave of Terrorist
Attacks on Legal Organizations
The motives of the killings
are clear – their involvement in progressive organizations and/or alleged
connection with the revolutionary forces.
The identities of the
perpetrators are remarkably in the same modus operandi (manner of
execution), get-away vehicles and firearms used. They are being tolerated
by the government's inaction and still continue to enjoy impunity.
This is a total disregard to
due process and rule of law under the administration of Gloria Macapagal
Arroyo. Jovito Palparan was clear on this when he said that, " at times we
have to bypass the due process because we want to take this fast track" when
asked regarding the counter-insurgency operations by members of the
international church bodies during their Pastoral Ecumenical Delegation
Visit (PEDV) to Camp Lukban in July 2005.
This is a time for us to act
and collective respond. We cannot just stay and watch idly as our brethren
are being killed by no other than armed state agents who have sworn duty to
the Philippine flag and to the Filipino people which it represents. The
elements of the military who are said to be 'protectors of the people' and
'guardians of democracy' are killing unarmed civilians and are the very
agents who curtail democratic rights.
We therefore call on every
freedom-loving Filipinos, all media practitioners, leaders and members of
progressive and cause-oriented groups to uphold, defend and struggle for our
democratic rights and civil liberties.
Let us not be cowed by the
Marcosian rule that Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the commander-in-chief of the
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and her minions in the military are
imposing upon us.
CONDEMN THE POLITICAL
KILLINGS AND VIOLATIONS OF HUMAN RIGHTS! UNITE AND CALL FOR JUSTICE FOR ALL
VICTIMS OF STATE TERRORISM! NO TO ANOTHER MARTIAL RULE! OUST THE FASCIST AND
For the Regional Secretariat and Council of
I respectfully remain,
ALEX GARCIA LAGUNZAD
Alyansa ha Pagpanalipod han Tawhanon nga Katungod ha
for the Advancement of People's Rights in Eastern Visayas)
Fear overwhelming the lives
of ordinary Filipinos
A Statement by the Asian
Human Rights Commission (AHRC)
November 3, 2005
"The Philippines is at an extremely dangerous point in its history..."
The life of an average
citizen in the Philippines
these days is beset with fear. Even the expression "rule of law" evokes
cynical reactions among ordinary folk, as President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
uses the very same expression to justify blatant and brutal repression.
Sloganeering about anti-terrorism and anti-crime drives is used as a weapon
to subdue millions suffering from extreme economic hardship who lack any
legitimate channels through which to have their voices heard and some relief
obtained. Even people who dare to cry out that they are hungry and
impoverished face threats, rather than support, from government officials
and the members of local elites.
Throughout the country,
steps are being quickly taken to silence complainants rather than address
their grievances. Protesters and human rights defenders are being
aggressively repressed. Laws are being used to ban meetings where permits
are not first obtained, going against the very culture of a people who in
the 1980s overthrew the Marcos dictatorship and hold the right to protest
dearly. Targeted killings are continuing daily right across the archipelago.
Trade unionists, land reform advocates, farmers, journalists and human
rights defenders are among the victims. In areas of outright conflict, such
as in the south of the country, large-scale bloodshed is a fact of life.
What is happening in the
Philippines is itself part of a negative trend throughout Asia:
ideologically-driven propaganda is being used to deny the basic rights of
the ordinary people in the name of law-and-order. However, the Asian Human
Rights Commission (AHRC) has observed that in the Philippines the situation
is worse than in most neighboring countries. In other countries it has been
possible to develop effective campaigns to counteract and prevent the
hardening of extremist ideological positions by the authorities, and thereby
offset the worst effects of the repression they are designed to justify. By
contrast, in the Philippines there seems to be as yet no serious efforts
towards this end. The result is rapidly worsening rule of law, despite the
rhetorical commitments of the government to the contrary, and an
accompanying very deep sense of frustration among the ordinary folk.
The Philippines is at an
extremely dangerous point in its history. Widespread frustration about the
collapsed rule of law may completely alienate most people in the country
from the elite and authorities. At that point the
could well face upsurged violence, perhaps on an unprecedented scale,
accompanied by the building of parallel systems and institutions of
"justice" in defiance of those under control of the state.
The defense of human rights
in the Philippines is at its lowest point in many years: a new approach is
needed. Filipinos must concentrate more on shoring up and reinvigorating
their institutions of justice. They must take calls for reforms to these
institutions to the public. Though this may be a very difficult task
initially, if a measure of confidence can be restored, a movement could be
quickly mobilized and have a strong effect. For the sake of those who are
daily dying from the bullets of assassins, or crying from hunger, this work
needs to begin now.
A Statement Protesting the Lifting of the
Logging Moratorium in Samar Island, in Favor of the Enrile-owned San Jose
A Statement by the Samar Island
"We have enough lessons to teach us not to trust anymore our officials at
the national level to protect us and our forests..."
The DENR Order dated August
15, 2005 entitled “IN RE: Letter dated 11 July 2005 for the Lifting of
Moratorium Order dated 08 February 1989, which now allows the resumption of
the operations of the San Jose Timber Corporation, is a direct threat to the
lives, limbs and livelihoods of Samarnons. In January 1989, the Municipality
of Catubig, Las Navas, Gandara, San Jorge, Dolores, Oras, Can-avid, Jipapad,
Maslog of the island of Samar were inundated by massive flash floods which
destroyed the homes and farms and cost the lives, of their residents. Famine
followed the flashfloods.
There could have been no
cause other than the extensive commercial logging that were then going on.
The Samarnons thus clamored for an end to logging operations in the island.
The Aquino Administration saw the gravity of the situation and declared the
moratorium on logging. This moratorium was strengthened by the Presidential
Proclamation No. 744 of President Ramos declaring
Samar’s remaining forest as Forest Reserve. On
August 13, 2003, President
Gloria Macapagal Arroyo promulgated the Presidential Proclamation 442,
declaring the same forests as the Samar Island Natural Park (SINP). The SINP
aims to preserve the country’s largest contiguous lowland tropical
rainforest. Its area covers the habitats of many plant and animal species
that can be found nowhere else in this planet.
This Order blatantly
disregards the declared policy of three past Administrations, and opens the
floodgates for the massive invasion of Samar Island Natural Park (SINP) by
logging operations. It effectively carves out from the SINP, approximately
90,000 has. based on the Timber Licensing Agreement (TLA) granted to San
Jose Timber Corporation (SJTC). The onslaught will not stop there. There are
other TLAs whose coverage includes large chunks of the SINP. This Order
creates a precedent for other TLA holders to follow suit. As for the SINP
areas that will be left, we can trust the Chamber of Mines of the
Philippines led by Philip Romualdez and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, to
try claim those areas for mining.
Since the moratorium, we
have had no flashfloods. With the lifting of the moratorium, we will now be
gripped with fear of flashfloods whenever we have heavy rains. Since Samar
Island has the highest rainfall in the country, this lifting of the
moratorium looms as a series of acts of terrorism to be inflicted on tens of
thousands of Samarnons, especially those in the affected municipality.
We have enough lessons to
teach us not to trust anymore our officials at the national level to protect
us and our forests. First, The Marcos-Romualdez Conjugal Dictatorship sliced
up Samar’s forest into TLAs and gave these as favors for its cronies, and
later declared a part of our forests as the Samar Bauxite Mineral
Reservation for - judging by the zeal of Philip Romualdez to have the
bauxite deposits mined - the family. Then Secretary Sonny Alvarez cut a
portion of our forest and gave it as balato in the form of an MPSA to
the brother of then Vice President Teofisto Guingona who supported him in
his bid to keep his post. Now Secretary Mike Defensor has used another
portion of our forest in exchange for the support of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile,
to get his nomination confirmed by the Senate. We should stop this
continuing insult on our dignity!
The Samar Island
Biodiversity Foundation (SIBF) a consortium of NGOs and POs from the three
provinces of Samar, strongly opposes this Order. We therefore call on all
sectors of Samar island, and on all Samarnons everywhere, and to all who care
for the environment, to join us in opposing this Order.
We have already experienced
what happened in Aurora, Quezon and we cannot allow it to happen again
ISLANG BUENAS, LOGGING,
Respect the sentiments of
the Samarnons, Ban Logging and Mining in
Not again Enrile!
Resign Mike Defensor!
Signed this 12th day of
October in the year of our lord, in the City of Tacloban.
Admit imperfection, and work
for common good
By DANILO A. REYES, Asian Human Rights Commission
"I maybe wrong, but I think the Rule of Law in our country is better off
than those in our neighboring Asian countries..."
It's saddening to see fellow
Filipinos hurting each other during protest actions, some may have been
forced to do so for a call of duty or their convictions.
History could tell how
Filipinos have fought enough for struggle of democracy in previous years,
and I admired my roots. Countless precious lives were sacrificed for this
We Filipinos, regardless
from all walks of life, from ordinary people to the elite, are once united
for one cause in the 80s: "to restore democracy" in our country. That was
Today, the struggle may have
been tainted with personal and political interest, propaganda and to grab
This is, of my personal
observation why those in the government could quickly dismiss and label
these sacrifices of people who fought and protested to get rid of them, as
merely such. And it's sad the public and media may have been convinced.
And maybe why other
Filipinos have opted not join clashes with the policemen in protest though
they feel sorry and indeed have deep sympathy for the protesters' cause.
I maybe wrong, but I think
the Rule of Law in our country is better off than those in our neighboring
Asian countries, like in Bangladesh, Nepal, Burma, Sri Lanka and Cambodia.
Theirs may have collapsed.
But what made me admire to
activist from this countries, some of those is known to me, is that they
worked hard to make the system in their government work - instead of
destroying them. Unless maybe if the situation warrants it.
I believed that Philippines
is not yet a stateless society as what others may have depicted it, though
there may have been defects or bad eggs working in it. There are still good
public servant, our watchdog media, the civil society, religious leaders and
Time must come that we
must learn to understand each other, admit our imperfection and work for the
common good. By then, some ordinary Filipinos - who maybe until now are
reluctant to join or have not been able to understand the crisis in our
county - would join for the same cause, "to protect our rights stipulated in
the constitution once threatened and abused by the state".