BATU, Indonesia. Photo by Jes Aznar

Monday, December 8, 2008

International Human Rights Day

On the eve of the observance of the 60th Year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights...

(Below is a statement from Karapatan)

Karapatan reports on state of Philippine human rights, emphasizes Arroyo accountability

The biggest human rights network in the Philippines today released its annual report on the human rights situation under the watch of the Arroyo administration.

Karapatan presented to the public its 2008 Human Rights Report in a media briefing at Max's Quezon Avenue in Quezon City on the commemoration of the 10th Year of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and the eve of the observance of the 60th Year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

The report principally features cases of violation of human rights, as recorded by the Alliance, from January to October 2008. It also includes a review of escalating attacks against human rights defenders since 2001 and the current experience with the Supreme Court-issued remedy of the writ of amparo.

"Amidst our celebration of the global triumphs of our advocacy for human rights that is embodied in the 60 year-old UDHR, struggling peoples the world over and in the Philippines have yet to achieve social justice," said Karapatan Secretary General Marie Hilao-Enriquez.

In its 32-page report, Karapatan said that "the Arroyo government has not lived up to the promise of respecting the dignity and fulfilling the human rights of Filipinos, as we have not been any better over the last eight years despite repeated claims to eradicating poverty and improving democracy," and that "the government has instead unleashed the brutality of its armed forces against the very people whose lives it has sworn to protect."

The first seven years of the Arroyo regime brought, not only increased economic inequality and hunger, but death to many of the critics.

One month shy of her eighth year in office, Mrs. Arroyo is showing no sign of rescinding Oplan Bantay Laya, the counter-insurgency program identified by UN Special Rapporteur Prof. Philip Alston to be critically responsible for the continuation of the killings.

The killing spree in Southern Mindanao Region, victimizing 7 in the past 10 months indicate that the Armed Forces of the Philippines is catching up on its "quota" under the Target Research Concept of Oplan Bantay Laya.

This year, with the second phase of Oplan Bantay Laya still in effect, extrajudicial killings and other forms of human rights violations continue to be committed with utter impunity. From January to October 2008, extra-judicial killings have already claimed the lives of 50 victims while seven persons have been involuntarily disappeared. In seven years and 10 months, 977 victims of extrajudicial killings and 201 victims of enforced disappearance have been documented.

"That the acts of violence persist indicate no significant shift in the internal security policy of government and that the perpetrators, and their masterminds are still at large," Karapatan said.

The report reveals that torture and illegal arrests are on the rise and any indication on a drop in the number of killings is a "tactical ploy to appease global public outrage and never the result of any measure taken by government to arrest, prosecute, and convict those allegedly responsible for the atrocities." In the past 10 months, 53 victims of torture and 128 victims of illegal arrest were documented, bringing the total number of victims in eight years to 1,010 and 1,464 respectively.

Karapatan said, "The Arroyo government's continued persecution of political activists clearly shows that it is more interested in coddling and covering up for the criminals responsible for the killings rather than in unmasking their identities."

The report decried the continuous move by the Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG) to paralyze cause-oriented organizations by slapping fabricated charges against their leaders; this is seen in charges and warrants issued against 72 persons in the Southern Tagalog Region, 6 of whom are now jailed on the basis of such trumped-up charges and warrants.

The report cited the people's determination to assert and fight for their rights. It said that gains obtained by the movement to expose the killings and other human rights violations in the country here and abroad as well as the determination of survivor-witnesses like Raymond Manalo and the recent UN Human Rights Committee ruling on the Marcellana-Gumanoy case bring hope and "light during these dark times."

Karapatan members enjoined the public to maintain vigilance to defend and assert their rights by recalling that "through perseverance, determination and strong organization can we be able to assert our rights effectively." In a photo op session, they likened their move to a broom which when bound strongly can effectively remove the dirt that is the Arroyo administration who continuously dampens the lives of the Filipinos by its deplorable human rights record.