“Nothing has changed under Aquino” — Karapatan

KARAPATAN Press Release

1 December 2010

THE NATIONAL human rights alliance, KARAPATAN, presented to the public
its 2010 Human Rights Report saying that the violation of civil and
political rights is “getting worse” and that “nothing has changed” in
the rights situation under President Benigno Simeon Aquino III.

(Click here to download the 2010 Human Rights Report by Karapatan)

“From the 18 killed in the last six months of Macapagal-Arroyo, there
were already 20 victims of extra-judicial killings in the first four
months of Pres. Noynoy Aquino,” KARAPATAN Chairperson Marie
Hilao-Enriquez said. “Contrary to his promised change and daang matuwid
(straight or righteous path), PNoy not only did not pursue justice for
the victims, he is adding more victims to the already long list. His
promised ‘cases of extrajudicial killings need to be solved, not just
identify the perpetrators but have them captured and sent to jail’
statement has fast become an empty forgotten promise as killings
continue without let up. In fact, perpetrators have become more
atrocious and impunity is worsening,” a distraught Enriquez bewailed.

The report covered documented data up to the end of October this year.

“PNoy’s designation of Col. Domingo Tutaan, Jr. as the new chief of the
military’s so-called Human Rights Office is an alarming message that no
essential change will take place in the character of a repressive
state,” Enriquez added. “For a start, we ask how can Col. or soon to be
BGen. Tutaan investigate his brother Lt. Col. Federico Tutaan in his
unit’s involvement on the killing of the renowned botanist Leonard Co,
and his companions? This early, the officer is already denying that they
made an error in mistakenly identifying Co’s party as rebels and washing
off his hands of culpability, ” Enriquez quipped.

Also with Enriquez who reported on the rights situation was Dr. Julie
Caguiat, director of the Community Medicine Development Foundation
(COMMED), one of the health organizations supporting the call to release
the detained Morong 43 health workers who are now on their 10th month of
illegal detention.

Karapatan expressed alarm over the systematic violation of rights and
intensified attacks against human rights defenders in the on-going
counter-insurgency program as state authorities, on November 22, 2010,
raided Karapatan- Camarines Norte office which it shares with
progressive organizations in Daet, Camarines Norte.

“The illegal search, arrest and detention of the Morong 43 health
workers are replicated in the Daet AFP-PNP raid where four activist
leaders were taken and are now detained and charged with illegal
possession of explosives based on planted pieces of evidence,” Karapatan
said. “Fabricated charges are becoming the rule, never mind if the
arrest and detention are “fruits of a poisoned tree,” never mind if the
IALAG is already abolished; it seems the military can always have its
wishes; maybe because the present Commander-in-Chief abets the
wrongdoings of the institution he heads the way his predecessor did ,”
sadly observes Enriquez.

“We strongly urge the Aquino government to free the 43 and all political
prisoners; correct the errors committed in their arrests as he so
declared and desist from conducting political persecution,” Dr. Caguiat
asserted.

“Of the 43, there are 26 women, two of whom are nursing mothers. Some,
like 62-year old Dr. Alexis Montes, have become sickly in detention,”
she said.

There are some 371 political prisoners all over the country to date.
Among them are Angie Ipong from Western Mindanao, Ed Serrano from
Southern Tagalog, and Ed Sarmineto from Eastern Visayas. They are
consultants for the peace negotiations of the National Democratic Front
of the Philippines (NDFP) and are supposedly covered by the Joint
Agreement on Security and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) with the government.

“It is not fair for Malacanang to unilaterally grant amnesty to mutinous
soldiers even if their cases are still pending in court and then leaving
the fate of political prisoners solely with the courts. In the case of
the Morong 43, it has been admitted by no less than the President
himself that the warrant was faulty and pieces of evidence were
illegally gotten,” Karapatan said.

Disturbing, too, is the state of militarization of the rural areas under
PNoy. As he announced an increase in the number of paramilitary troops,
AFP men are actively recruiting minors to the Citizens Armed Forces
Geographical Unit (CAFGU) especially in the communities which the
military suspect as “rebel strongholds.” “We call on the President to
stop the military deployment in rural areas, revoke EO 546 as a first
step in dismantling the paramilitary forces and PNoy to be more
circumspect in his announced increase in the number of CAFGU’s to beef
up the military forces. The President must really ponder on continuing
with a counter-insurgency plan, however “respectful” it supposedly would
be to human rights; he must realize that counter-insurgency measures,
which are dictated by US imperial power, only bring human rights
violations to our already-suffering people,” added Enriquez.

Concluding the presentation, Karapatan calls on the people to continue
to be more vigilant in asserting and defending their human rights in the
face of renewed counter-insurgency measures to be put in place in the
coming years. It also appeals to the international community to continue
monitoring the human rights situation in the Philippines.###