Human rights groups urge President Noynoy Aquino: Stop the Killings! Stop Human Rights Violations! End Impunity!

While reporting of a successful participation to the 14th Session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva as a member of the Ecumenical Voice Philippine NGO delegation, Marie Hilao-Enriquez, Chairperson of Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People's Rights, condemned the continuing extrajudicial killings in the Philippines and called upon president-elect Noynoy Aquino to stop the killings and address the persistent issue of human rights violations in the country.

"It is quite alarming and deplorable that on the runup to the so-called peaceful transition between two administrations, the killings of activists and human right defenders continue to be committed with brazen impunity. We just left the country for 16 days and within that period, 6 people are summarily killed,” bewailed Karapatan chairperson Marie Hilao-Enriquez. 

On June 1, farmers Julito Etang and Borromeo Cabilis were abducted by armed men believed to be members of the military in Mobo, Masbate. The farmers were found dead on June 3, their hands tied and mouths covered with packaging tape. On June 2, labor leader Edward Panganiban was shot dead on his way to work aboard his motorcycle, by men in bonnets and helmets who were tailing Panganiban. Panganiban was the secretary of Takata Philippines Corporation’s workers union. 

On June 14, in Negros Occidental, human rights worker Benjamin Bayles was waiting for a ride in Sitio Antolo, Bgy. Suay, Himamaylan when he was shot by two men wearing helmets on board a black motorcycle. The men stopped near Bayles and one of the riders walked towards the victim and shot him multiple times. The driver also approached Bayles and shot him too, to ensure his death. Bystanders took Bayles to the hospital but he was pronounced dead-on-arrival. The police reported over the local radio that they were able to arrest the gunmen who were identified as Roger M. Bahon and Ronnie L. Caurino, and that the suspects confessed to being “organic” members of the 61st IBPA. The PNP however retracted their statement the following day and said that the suspects are not connected with the military. Bayles was a constant companion during fact-finding missions of Karapatan-Negros secretary general Fred Caña, who is also experiencing unmitigated harassment and threats.

Also on June 14, radio journalist Desiderio Camangyan was shot and killed while he was on stage, as he hosted a singing contest in Manay, Davao Oriental. The next day, another radio broadcaster, Joselito Agustin, was killed in Bacarra, Ilocos Norte while riding his motorcycle on his way home with his nephew. 

Enriquez pointed out that the human rights defenders who trekked to the 14th Session of the UNHRC correctly conveyed to the Council the reigning culture of impunity engendered by Arroyo’s Oplan Bantay Laya, the most brutal and bloodiest counter-insurgency program ever unleashed by a Philippine president.  Karapatan asserts that the Macapagal-Arroyo regime must be held accountable for the human rights violations in her nine years as Commander-in-Chief.  She, under the doctrine of command responsibility, as well as the perpetrators of these violations must be prosecuted and punished; this way can impunity be ended and justice can be initially rendered to victims.

“We strongly urge President-elect Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III to make good to the promise he made recently to prosecute the crimes of the past administration; human rights violations like killings and enforced disappearances are grave crimes against humanity that must be prosecuted,” Hilao-Enriquez points out. 

“We also urge the President-elect to scrap this so-called counter-insurgency program, identified by UN Special Rapporteur Prof. Philip Alston as one of the causes of the killings and enforced disappearances in the country, and render justice to its victims,”  Hilao-Enriquez stated.  

She further appeals to the new administration “never to embark into a similar campaign against the people and instead address, in a substantive manner, the root causes of such insurgency.” ###


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