ALRC, KARAPATAN to UNHRC: Spate of killings in PH remains

On the eve of the submission of the joint statement of the Asian Legal Resource Center (ALRC) and Karapatan to the United Nations Human Rights Council on the spate of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, the Calago couple was killed and burned by elements of the 11th Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army in Guihulngan, Negros Oriental.  

“…Despite the Government’s assurances that it would take ‘firm measures to address the problem of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances,’ extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, and targeted attacks against human rights and political activists have continued without relent under the administration of President Benigno Simeon "Noynoy" Aquino III,” said ALRC and Karapatan in the joint statement , which was submitted to the 29th session of the UN Human Rights Council and was circulated in full by the Secretary-General to the UN member nations on May 25, in accordance with Economic and Social Council resolution 1996/31.

On May 24, 2015, at around 10 p.m., a loud sound of budyong (a sea shell used to signal for help) awakened Marcela Madronero. She immediately rose and saw the roof of her brother Endric Calago’s house in flames. Then she heard Rosalie, her brother’s wife, who shouted, “Help us, the Army is here!” Then Madronero heard a burst of continuous gunshots. Afraid that they too might be shot, Madronero and cousin Dante Flores did not go to the Calago house until 5 a.m., when Madronero heard the wailing of Erly Calago, daughter of Endric and Rosalie.  When Madronero and Flores rushed to the couple’s house, they saw the house razed to the ground, including the bodies of the couple. Endric’s body was found near the balcony with several gunshot wounds. Rosalie’s body was just outside the kitchen door, totally burned. 

ALRC and Karapatan emphasized that extrajudicial killing and other human rights violations in the Philippines continue without respite due to counter insurgency programs, military listings of human rights and political activists as “target persons,” and targeted prosecutions of activists based on ready-to-testify witnesses under military custody and evidence of questionable merit.”  

Endric “Bayoto” Calago was the vice chairperson of Kaugmaon, a local peasant organization affiliated with the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP). Rosalie was a barefoot reporter for various local radio programs in Negros and Cebu. She was also a member of Gabriela. Both were involved with the relief and rehabilitation programs for victims and survivors of a landslide that happened in 2012.

The Calago couple had been victims of human rights violations since 2013. “In 2013, the Calago house was strafed by the same army unit responsible for the couple’s death,” Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general, said. “In 2014, the couple and other members of the Kaugmaon were charged with a fabricated case of robbery, qualified trespass to dwelling, and grave coercion filed by a certain Oliver Villahermosa who is now under the protection of the same killer battalion,” Palabay continued. The case was later dismissed by the Office of the Prosecutor.

Last March 29, a leaflet was distributed with names of local leaders, including Endric Calago, as “members of legal fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army.” 

The ALRC and Karapatan urged the Council to draw the government’s attention to the withdrawal of Oplan Bayanihan and to implement the recommendations of Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial killings Prof. Philip Alston for the military to cease labelling and targeting human rights defenders as “front organization of the communists.”

“Since Prof. Alston’s report, the spate of extrajudicial killings never stopped. With 238 victims of extrajudicial killings and 270 frustrated extrajudicial killings under his reign, BS Aquino will soon have to face the courts for these crimes,” Palabay concluded.