Karapatan demands scrapping of repressive, unconstitutional Negros ordinance on factfinding and humanitarian missions

On March 2, 2019, a 400-delegation was organized to conduct a humanitarian mission in several villages in Guihulngan City. Various human rights and people’s organizations and Guihulngan residents joined the said mission. Soldiers from the 94th Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army tried to disallow the entry of the humanitarian mission participants to the communities but they eventually relented after negotiations.

Among those who participated in the mission were Guihulngan residents who were victims of human rights violations by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police thru their Synchronized Enhanced Managing of Police Operations (SEMPO) or Oplan Sauron. These operations resulted in the killing of seven civilians last December 27, 2018 and mass arrests of almost 50 individuals. State forces also illegally searched and ransacked the houses in the villages, destroyed the crops and looted the residents’ personal belongings. The series of attacks also forced 200 families to evacuate.

However, on March 3, 2019, the 94th IBPA through Lt. Col. Randy L. Pagunuran issued a statement saying that the humanitarian mission violated the Provincial Ordinance no. 5 issued in 2008 on regulating outreach activities through medical and fact-finding missions in the countryside of Negros Oriental.

Under the ordinance, written permission from the office of the governor is required before conducting medical or fact-finding missions. It further requires mission participants to log in at the municipal police station’s log book before entry and log out upon return.

“Disallowing humanitarian or factfinding is repressive and patently unconstitutional. Such ordinances and acts deny much-needed aid for civilians, and it violates basic freedoms including the right to privacy and the right to defend people’s rights. These violate provisions in the Bill of Rights enshrined in the Philippine Constitution on the right of the people to freedom of speech, expression and the right of the people to peaceably assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances. These rights are also protected by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The drafters of this ordinance and local government officials who approved this invalid and illegal measure are not only ignorant of the basic law of the land but are contemptuous and disrespectful of human rights,” asserted Karapatan Deputy Secretary General Jigs Clamor.

Soldiers also alleged that the mission participants disrespect the provincial government and that they put the lives of the residents in danger.

“The AFP and PNP are the ones who are notoriously disrespecting and trampling on the civil liberties and rights of the people in Negros, when they conduct military and police operations which violate the people’s right to due process and other freedoms. They put in danger the lives of those in the communities, as evidenced by the seven individuals whom they killed in cold blood when they conducted the SEMPO,” Clamor stated.

“These rights violations are enabled through counterinsurgency programs such as Duterte’s Oplan Kapayapaan and through Memorandum Order #32,” he added.

In March 2011, the 79th IBPA in Negros Oriental also filed a complaint against members of Karapatan for conducting a mission without prior written approval of the local government. The case has been since archived by the court.

“We demand the scrapping of Negros Oriental Provincial Ordinance No. 5, as a repressive local government tool that criminalizes human rights work and humanitarian work,” ended Clamor.

Reference: Roneo Clamor, Deputy Secretary General, +639997721233 

Karapatan Public Information Desk, 0918-9790580