Today, the NLG sent a letter to Philippines President Benigno Aquino on the recent attacks by paramilitary forces on indigenous villages and schools, including the killings of Dionel Campos, Bellos Sinzo, and Emerito Samarca. The letter calls on Aquino to take immediate action, including dismantling paramilitary groups and counterinsurgency programs and prosecuting perpetrators of human rights violations. The NLG was a co-convener of the International Peoples’ Tribunal that took place in Washington, D.C. in July. Read the full letter below or at our website here.
October 13, 2015
Dear President Aquino:
I am writing on behalf of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), a progressive bar association in the United States that is comprised of lawyers, legal workers, law students, and jailhouse lawyers who support social justice movements around the world to the end that human rights shall be regarded as more sacred than property interests.
From July 16-18, 2015, the NLG served as a co-convener of the International Peoples’ Tribunal on the Crimes of the U.S.-Aquino Regime, in which the people found your administration guilty of gross human rights atrocities in the form of violations of economic and social rights, political and civil rights, and the right to self-determination and liberation.
We are extremely dismayed and deeply concerned about the continuing occurrences of human rights violations under your watch, particularly the massive forced dislocations, harassment, threats, closing of schools, and other attacks on indigenous communities in Southern Philippines. Most recently, we are deeply saddened and shocked by the atrocious killing of Dionel Campos, Bello Sinzo, and Emerito Samarca, Executive Director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV) an indigenous school which just won the National Literacy Award in 2014 from the Department of Education. We are appalled that Mr. Samarca was taken by force by paramilitary forces, hogtied, and eventually murdered with an ear-to-ear slit on the throat and gunshot wounds in the chest in one of the school’s classrooms.
As the President of the Philippines and Commander-in-Chief of the Philippine Armed Forces, we ask that you:
1. Immediately pull-out of the 36th Infantry Battalion in Lumad communities in Lianga, Surigao del Sur, and dismantle the paramilitary group Magahat/Bagani Forces.
2. Immediately form an independent fact-finding and investigation team composed of representatives from human rights groups, the Church, local government, and the Commission on Human Rights to look into these incidents of human rights violations; and, to arrest and prosecute the perpetrators.
3. Dismantle the counterinsurgency program, Oplan Bayanihan, which continues to victimize innocent and unarmed civilians.
4. Abide by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and all the major human rights instruments that the Philippine government is a party and signatory to.
(signed) Azadeh Shahshahani
Cc: Department of Justice Secretary Leila M. de Lima, Department of National Defense Secretary Ret. Lt. Gen. Voiltaire T. Gazmin, Commission on Human Rights Chairperson Jose Luis Martin Gascon, Philippine Senate Chair of Justice and Human Rights Committee Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, Chair of House of Representatives Human Rights Committee, Members of U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, Members of U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines
National Lawyers Guild
Director of Communications
212-679-5100, ext. 15
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