Human rights advocates file vs gov’t, AFP “hitlist”

Progressive lawmakers, human rights advocates and relatives of deceased legislator and labor leader Rep. Crispin “Ka Bel” Beltran today filed a petition for the writs of amparo and habeas data at the Supreme Court in Manila, to decry threats to their “life, liberty and security” with the existence of a “hitlist” containing names and pictures of seventy (70) activists in Mindanao and national leaders of progressive organizations.

Assisted by their counsels from the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), the petitioners who filed at the SC are Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, Gabriela Rep. Emmi de Jesus, former Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano, former Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño, Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay, Children’s Rehabilitation Center executive director Jacqueline Ruiz, Rural Missionaries Coordinator Sr. Mary Francis Añover, Rev. Irma Balaba of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, and Ofelia Beltran-Balleta, representing the family of former Anakpawis Rep. Beltran who passed away in 2008.

The said hitlist was appended to a criminal complaint instigated by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, in collusion with the Philippine National Police, on charges of kidnapping, serious illegal detention, and violations of the Republic Act No. 9298 or the “Anti-Trafficking of Persons Act of 2003” and Republic Act No. 10364 or the “Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2012.”

The crimes were allegedly committed against some evacuees from Lumad communities in Davao del Norte and Bukidnon. There are more than 700 evacuees, who were forced to flee due to AFP operations and rights abuses, staying at the compound of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines in Davao City.

“….In the first place, [that] the complaints for kidnapping and serious illegal detention and human trafficking are clearly manufactured and meant to distort the truth behind the Manobos’ terrible ordeal and disparage human rights and humanitarian workers who came to their aid,” the petitioners said.

They cited the statement of the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons Dr. Chaloka Beyani, who recently conducted an official visit to the Philippines, as an independent appraisal on the plight of the Lumad evacuees in Davao:

“Let me be absolutely clear, the indigenous persons in Davao are not victims of human trafficking….The indigenous peoples whom I interviewed informed me that they relocated to this facility freely and in response to the militarization of their lands and territories and forced recruitment into paramilitary groups operating under the auspices of the AFP. My reference to their being ‘manipulated’ related to the attempt to forcibly move them out of the UCCP facility without proper and adequate consultation with them.”

Beyani was referring to the July 24, 2015 raid of government officials led by Rep. Nancy Catamco and the Dept. of Social Welfare and Development, with paramilitary groups and the PNP of the UCCP compound in Davao to force the Lumad to go back to their communities where AFP operations are still ongoing.

The petitioners added, “The civil society organizations to which the Petitioners belong have been tagged as ‘communist front organizations’ while their leaders and members have been targets of attack under the Government’s counterinsurgency programs. Many of them have experienced various forms of harassment by State forces. Some were killed or abducted.”

These, the petitioners said, were confirmed in the findings of Prof. Philip Alston, the former United Nations Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Execution in his Report to the United Nations Human Rights Council on his February 2007 Mission to the Philippines.

“Even the deceased Rep. Crispin Beltran was included in the hitlist. Ikinulong at tinortyur na nga ng AFP ang tatay ko nung siya ay nabubuhay pa. Hanggang ngayon ba naman, patay na siya, gumagawa pa ng mga kwento para sampahan siya ng mga gawa-gawang kaso. Mga lapastangan, mga walang respeto sa namatay na!” said Balleta-Beltran, daughter of the deceased Beltran.

The petitioners said the compilation and use of the hitlist were committed within chain of command in the implementation of the Government’s counterinsurgency program Oplan Bayanihan.

Respondents in the said petition are Pres. Benigno Aquino III, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, AFP Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Hernando Iriberri, PNP Chief P/Dir. Ricardo Marquez, other AFP officials such as Army Chief Maj. Gen. Eduardo Año and Eastern Mindanao Command Chief Lt. Gen. Aurelio Baladad, CIDG Director C/Supt. Victor Deona, among others. ###

For references:
Rep. Carlos Zarate, Bayan Muna (0917-7174014)
Rep. Emmi de Jesus, Gabriela (0917-3221203)
Former Rep. Teddy Casino, Bayan Muna (0920-9035683)
Former Rep. Rafael Mariano, Anakpawis (0998-2898052)
Cristina Palabay, Karapatan (0917-3162831)
Jacqueline Ruiz, Children’s Rehabilitation Center (0922-2953600)
Sr. Francis Anover, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (0949-7265619)
Rev. Irma Balaba, National Council of Churches in the Phils. (0907-5388776)
Ofel Beltran-Balleta, daughter of former Rep. Crispin Beltran (0915-3427296) 


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