Government must end delay
and act to protect citizens' rights
Press Release by
Asian Human Rights Commission
HONG KONG – The Asian Human
Rights Commission (AHRC) on Wednesday criticised the lack of anti-torture
legislation, weak witness protection, extra-judicial killings, and poor
complaint mechanism in the Philippines in a report on the country marking
Human Rights Day.
government's] response to these and other grave issues concerning human
rights in the country has so far been characterised by inaction and a lack
of proper direction," the Hong Kong-based rights group said in a letter to
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour.
"The government must take
genuine and effective measures to implement laws that will help prevent the
blatant violations of human rights that are currently sweeping the country."
The AHRC has issued a report
on human rights in the
as part of a series on 10 Asian countries, released on the occasion of Human
Although the Philippines has
ratified the Convention against Torture, torture is not a crime according to
the country's present laws. The AHRC has called on the Philippine President
and lawmakers to accelerate legislation against torture.
"It is becoming increasingly
obvious that getting away with murder in the Philippines is made easy by the
absence of any functioning witness protection scheme," the AHRC also noted.
According to the AHRC's
report on the Philippines, existing provisions for witness protection in the
country cannot stop state agents from intimidating and even killing
witnesses before they testify, and the authorities have made no serious
effort to address this issue.
The AHRC also highlighted 20
separate extra-judicial killings of human rights defenders and political
activists in 2005.
"The combined effect of [the
current administration's] inaction and unhelpful public statements is to
suggest that the killing of political opponents and human rights activists
is of no concern, and may even be beneficial to the country's internal
security and social order," the AHRC warned.
To aggravate these problems,
the state human rights commission set up to redress them does not have a
performance pledge to efficiently and effectively resolve complaints of
The AHRC reported this
September that village officials and officials of the Municipal Department
of Social Welfare and Development reprimanded families of farmers in Alabel,
Sarangani suffering from hunger and starvation after the families voiced
The AHRC has called on the
UN High Commissioner to pressure the Philippine government for change in
these and other human rights issues.
Referring to its calls for
sweeping administrative, police and judicial reforms, the AHRC said that,
"Only when the government of the Philippines takes these recommendations
seriously will human rights begin to receive the respect that they so
SP endorses small-scale
mining operations in Samar island-town
CATBALOGAN, Samar – The
entire provincial board members of this province, in a unanimous decision,
has approved a resolution endorsing the conduct of a “surface mining” of
manganese in this island town of Daram, one of the 25 municipalities of this
Taking no fear that it might
create another tension here as anti-mining and logging advocates who showed
a “strong avalanche of force” during their last year’s historic island-wide
anti-mining caravan that prompted the government to upheld the earlier
mining applicants, the provincial board still endorsed the mining operations
But in a press conference
held after their regular session on Tuesday, December 6, the SP members led
by Vice-Governor Jesus B. Redaja explained to the public through the
tri-media here about their reasons why they approved the said mining
“There was no single reason
for us not to approve the request (for mining) in this island,” says VG
According to VG Redaja, the
request of a certain Serafia Cobarubias to operate a small-scale mining in
Daram, Samar, particularly in the villages of Locob-lokob, Iquiran and
Casaganay was supported with all necessary documents being required by law.
The second highest official
of the province cited these documents as the Environmental Clearance
Certificate (ECC) issued by the Department of Environment and Natural
Resources (DENR), barangay and municipal ordinances and resolutions, and the
endorsement coming from the provincial environment officer of
“The province has even
accepted the extraction fees paid by Cobarubias,” VG Redaja said explaining
that before they move for the approval, public safety and public
consultations to the affected villages were held.
Atty. Rogelio T. Casurao,
chairman of the SP Committee on Laws and Legal Matters said members of his
committees and the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources chaired by
Susano Salurio “collectively agreed” to give due course to the application
considering some existing national laws and jurisprudence.
“(And) in view of the dictum
of the Supreme Court which has sustained the legality of mining operation
subject to the regulatory powers of the state… there seems to be no legal
obstacle and that the documentation required are complete, and is duly
supported by Barangay resolutions, we (committees members) favorably
approved the application,” Casurao said.
As this developed, the
resolution authorizing Caborubias, a native of Gandara Samar, to operate a
small-scale mining of manganese in three Daram villages subject to the
provisions of Presidential Decree No. 1121 and 1586, DENR Administrative
Order 2003-30 and other existing laws on the matter, was approved.
Exclusion from the 50-year
To recall, these SP members
fought intensely against the Bauxite Resources Inc. (BRI) when the latter
attempted to conduct mining operations in the towns of San Jorge, Gandara,
Matuguinao and San Jose de Buan, all in
Samar, early last year.
They even wrote the DENR
central office to cancel the permit issued by the DENR regional office
attaching the 50-year mining moratorium, Presidential Proclamation 442
declaring the 333,300 hectares in Samar as Samar Island Natural Park (SINP),
and the resolution coming from the Regional Development Council in Eastern
“This island town of Daram
is not included in the list of towns covered by their ordinance imposing a
50-year mining moratorium a year ago. In fact, there were no river here that
can be possibly affected,” SP Member Salurio stressed.
In the 50-year mining
moratorium, “it is clear there that we do not allow the large-scale mining
in most Samar towns, because the 25 major river systems that provide clean
water to 1.5 million island residents can be affected,” Salurio said.
It was learned that
government officials here replicated in three
Samar provinces and 35 towns, and with about 319 upland barangays
the 50-year mining moratorium, as influenced by church leaders and
Picking it out like money
SP Majority Floor Leader
Antonio Bolastig, who, along with the VG Redaja and other SPs, visited the
area, informed that the residents of these towns are seemed lucky for their
God given resources as anyone can pick manganese as he can and sell it.
“It’s everywhere in the
villages, we arrived there and saw villagers carrying sacks of manganese to
their respective homes,” Bolastig narrated.
He added: “Actually, its not
like mining anymore, they are like marketing, because it’s no need for them
to dig, dynamite or process anymore. They’re picking it out like money.”
It was learned that any
residents could go to the area, gather manganese and sell the same to the
one who asked application to the SP Samar. Cobarubias’s firm was there to
help and assist, buy the manganese directly from the residents.
The SP officials estimated
that each resident would earn as high as P300-500 per day. They also
dismissed the apprehension of some observers that residents might be
affected in their health saying, “it has no foul odor, and is one of the
Pull-out of the 19th IB in EV sought; probe
on Palo incident looms
CATBALOGAN, Samar –
Amid the calls of the militant groups for the immediate pull-out of the
Army's 19th Infantry Battalion out in Eastern Visayas region, different
investigation groups here vowed to probe the incident.
As this developed, the
National Democratic Front in
Eastern Visayas has joined other major militant groups here calling for the
immediate “arrest, prosecution and punishment” of military involved in the
recent killing incident in Palo,
The military involved,
composed of 19 soldiers, belong to the 19th Infantry Battalion based in Brgy.
Aguiting, Kananga, Leyte. The team led by Lt. Adrian Luel Benedicto is being
accused for allegedly firing at unarmed innocent civilians killing 10
The aftermath of the
November 21 killing incident in Palo Leyte, which the military claimed as a
“legitimate firefight” triggered militant groups in the region -- the Bayan
Muna, Gabriela, Katungod-Sinirangan Bisayas and the Pambansang Lakas ng
Kilusang Mamalakaya ng Pilipinas -- to “demobilize” the 19th IB and proposed
the pullout of the troop, as part of the 8th Infantry Division based here.
Fr. Santiago Salas,
spokesperson of the NDF in Eastern Visayas assailed President Gloria
Macapagal-Arroyo, being the commander-in-chief, for not giving attention to
the complaints of the poor peasants against the numerous human rights
complaints against the military in this region.
Meanwhile, Alex Lagunzad,
spokesperson of the Katungod Sinirangan Bisayas, a human rights advocate
based in Tacloban City
said this incident in Palo Leyte is the third “massacres” perpetrated by the
19th IB since 1998.
He said the 19th IB had been
linked to the so-called “Mogus Massacre” in 1998 and the Kananga Massacre”
Lagunzad explained that the
“Mogus Massacre” occurred on September 11, 1998 at Sitio Mogus, Barangay
Kapakohan, Palapag, Northern Samar where a family – a couple and two
children – were allegedly killed while sleeping inside their mosquito net.
On the other hand, he said,
the “Kananga Massacre” took place on April 16, 2003 at Barangay San Isidro,
Kananga, Leyte where nine people were also killed by “shooting at closed
range one after the other.” Lagunzad, however, admitted that two of them
were indeed NPA members but the seven were not.
Other militant groups said
the officers and elements responsible for the (Kananga) massacre were never
prosecuted and punished. Instead, the battalion commander then was rewarded
by the Arroyo administration, by being sent for military schooling to the
US, preparatory to his promotion.
Lagunzad said his group,
among other investigating bodies are now gathering more evidences to support
their claims. Officials of the 19th IB, however, dismissed these allegations
saying these were all “baseless and mere fabricated black propaganda.”
Fr. Salas, referring on the
latest incident in Palo, Leyte, slammed the government's reports that they
had a “45-minute encounter” with the New People's Army (NPA) and
“confiscated” a few inferior firearms and documents, and that the “military
is quick at inventing fake threats” from the NPA to justify mowing down
defenseless civilians with impunity.
“What had happened in Leyte
was seems like occurred in Hacienda Luisita in Central Luzon, all the
victims were unarmed innocent civilians that includes women and children…
and they are not rebels, as alleged by the military,” Fr. Salas said.
The rebel priest stood pat
that “no encounter” happened because there were no NPA fighters deployed in
the peasant community, and because the NPA is well-oriented to refrain from
joining civilian activities and will never put the lives of civilians in
Capt. Cromwell Danganan,
commanding officer of the 8ID Civil Affairs Unit earlier claimed that the
incident was a “legitimate operations” as they received information that
some members of the outlawed New People's Army were in the area.
Danganan, who was not at the
site of massacre echoed the version of soldiers and claimed that the
military simply acted on “information tipped off by residents on the
presence of rebels in the area.”
In his latest media
interviews, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel counseled the
military to be “circumspect” with its reporting and to make sure that they
have their intelligence reports confirmed.
Many such intelligence
reports have become a source of embarrassment lately for the Arroyo
administration since they eventually ended up as false.
Bayan Muna partylist
representative Teddy Casiño, who immediately gave a privilege speech in
Congress after learning the incident in
Leyte said he is seeking a “thorough probe” on this incident, and
that he wants the intervention of his colleagues at the House.
Other Bayan Muna leaders
also said the “massacre” in
Leyte was clearly
intended to cripple the progressive organization, which has suffered a big
number of fatalities, including a Catholic priests, protestant ministers,
lawyers and organizers since the AFP released its Compact Discs (CD)
entitled “Enemies of the People,” which fingered Bayan Muna as a communist
8ID scores another
encounter in Leyte
By Cpt. CROMWELL I. DANGANAN, (INF) PA
CAMP LUKBAN, Catbalogan,
Samar – In response to the timely information provided by the civilian
populace to the 8th Infantry Division (8ID), Philippine Army, another
encounter by operating troops of 43rd Infantry Battalion (43IB) under Lt.
Col. Raul Farnacio, against an estimated 60 fully armed Communist Terrorists
(CTs) occurred on November 24, 2005 at around 8:00 P.M. at vicinity Brgy.
Cangumay, Baybay, Leyte. This resulted to the recovery of one M653 (baby
armalite) rifle, three magazines for M16, one handheld radio (ICOM),
personal belongings and subversive documents with high intelligence value.
There were undetermined numbers of casualties on the enemy side as shown on
the bloodstains on their route of withdrawal while one soldier identified as
Pfc Domingo Cillo was wounded and immediately evacuated to Sogod Hospital in Southern Leyte.
The series of encounters
these past weeks indicate that 8ID is in the upper hand in its counter
insurgency campaign and that most significantly, it has the support of the
people. With this development, the troops are now closing in on the
different lairs and sanctuaries of the CTs to prevent their further
depredations, extortion and other terroristic acts. The success of these
encounters in Baybay and Palo, Leyte are the result of timely
information volunteered by the barangay populace which proves the point that
civilian support is essential in counter-insurgency operations.
Based on the report
forwarded to the 8th Infantry Division, the encountered CTs are fully armed
with high powered firearms which include M203 grenade launchers and M60
machine guns. This armed group has in its ranks women and minors. The
firefight lasted for around 20 minutes after which the enemy withdrew
towards different directions with bloodstains traced along their path. At
present, the 43IB is still on pursuit operations against the fleeing rebels
some of them are reportedly wounded.
In a related development,
the party list Bayan Muna is being blamed by the relatives of the victims in
the Palo encounter. Said militant organization is blamed for the deception
employed in recruiting their relatives as they were forced into believing
that they were fighting a good cause and that they would not be working
against the government. “Had they not join Bayan Muna, they should still be
alive now”, said the relatives. The CTs in the region are reportedly
focusing on their recruitment thru deception and extortion activities to
further their cause, victimizing hapless civilians in the process.
Maj. Gen. Bonifacio B.
Ramos, the Commanding General of the 8th Infantry Division is calling for
the support of the local Chief Executives in Eastern Visayas. The support of
the local government units to the Army is an essential ingredient to
demolish the CPP/NPA/NDF. He likewise urged civilians to shy away from
associating with any dubious organizations which are front of the CPP/NPA/NDF
for their own safety. “Don’t be deceived, stay safe,” he said.
High time for Philippine
government to pass anti-torture legislation
Press Release by
Asian Human Rights Commission
November 25, 2005
HONG KONG – The Asian Human
Rights Commission (AHRC) on Wednesday urged the Philippine President and
Congress to pass long-overdue anti-torture legislation. The Hong Kong-based
rights group's demands came several weeks into the Philippine Congress's
"Torture is one of the most
abhorrent assaults on human dignity," the AHRC said in an urgent appeal.
"In whatever form or manner
torture is committed, it leaves a deep and lasting scar not just on the
flesh and psyche of its victims and their families, but on the very
foundations of a society."
"Philippine history and
present-day reality is filled with accounts of tortured citizens who are
either alleged members or suspected sympathizers of armed opposition
groups," said Basil Fernando, executive director of the AHRC.
"Even ordinary suspects in
criminal cases and members of the country's most marginalized communities,
including women and children, are subjected to torture to extract
confessions or admissions that will be used against them, as well as to
intimidate and shatter their will."
The Philippines has signed
major international human rights treaties, including the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and the Convention against
By ratifying the Convention
on Torture, the Philippines
committed itself to "take effective legislative, administrative, judicial
and other measures" to prevent torture in any territory under its
The Philippine Constitution
itself prohibits torture, and provides for legislation to criminalize it.
Such legislation has been
pending in Congress for years, but has so far failed to pass, mainly because
it is not a priority for the majority of lawmakers.
The current bill against
torture, House Bill No. 4307, seeks "an act penalizing the commission of
acts of torture and for other purposes." Akbayan Party List representatives,
Loretta Ann Rosales, Mario Joyo Aguja, and Ana Theresia Hontiveros-Baraquel
filed the bill on May 11, 2005.
The bill provides for
invalidating confessions obtained under torture, and prosecution of
offending law enforcement officers as well as their superiors.
"Passing a law is a
precondition and the surest way to end torture as common practice in the
Philippines," said Fernando.
"President Arroyo and
Philippine lawmakers should demonstrate their commitment to safeguarding
citizens' rights by passing this bill as soon as possible."
SAGUPA- SB to
Press Release by
TACLOBAN CITY, Leyte –
Peasant group Samahan han Gudti nga mga Parag- uma ha Sinirangan Bisayas (SAGUPA-
SB) is set to testify on November 24, 2005 before the Senate hearing on the
controversial fertilizer scam. The group will be represented by its
Secretary General, Lito Gacusana and accompanied by Northern Samar’s peasant
group, PESANTE- NS through its representative, Jose Tico.
The groups were called upon
to testify in behalf of all farmers in the region if they have indeed
received fertilizers supposedly distributed to farmers last April 2004, a
few weeks before the May 10, 2005 elections.
SAGUPA- SB has earlier
stated the obvious, according to Maritess Macabuhay, Research Officer of the
group. “We have not received a single drop from the liquid fertilizer
supposedly intended for farmers in certain towns, districts and provinces
all over the country. The P728 million agriculture fund from the Ginintuang
Masaganang Ani (GMA) of the Department of Agriculture just disappeared into
thin air and probably landed in the pockets of a few, most especially Madam
Gloria Arroyo’s”, stressed Macabuhay.
According to Diana Ragub,
Campaign and Advocacy Officer of SAGUPA- SB, one governor, one congressman
and two municipal mayors were supposed beneficiaries of the support- funding
for the farmers in their respective areas. “Leyte’s Remedios Petilla supposedly received P5 million, same was
the case for Leyte’s
third district representative, Eduardo Veloso. In
Northern Samar, Las Navas mayor, Arlette Tan was also supposedly given P3
million for the purchase of fertilizers. Same goes for
Southern Leyte’s St. Bernard
mayor” said Ragub.
“These, however, were not
felt and received in the grassroots level. What is noteworthy of this is the
timing of the fund releases”, said Ragub. Based on records from the
Department of Budget and Management (DBM), the funds were released last
April 2004, when it was not planting season.