December, 2012

Karapatan scores Aquino, AFP on December arrests and detention of activists and individuals

Karapatan today deplored the recent spate of illegal arrests, based on trumped-up charges, this December of 23 indigenous peoples, government employees and individuals.

Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said their chapters and network organizations have reported the following incidents of arrests:

  1. Randy Vegas and Raul Camposano, both long-time union organizers and staff of the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE), were arrested last December 3 for fabricated charges of murder, theft, and frustrated murder filed at the Regional Trial Court Branch 64 in Labo, Camarines Norte. Vegas and Camposano were implicated in the said cases because of their alleged participation in an ambush of members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines by the New People’s Army in Camarines Norte in April 29, 2012. Courage, including both organizers, supported the latest protest action of employees of the Metro Manila Development Authority for the release of their work benefits.
  2. Nineteen members, including three minors, of the Tribu Bukidnon Indigenous Peoples organization in Brgy. San Agustin, Isabela, Negros Occidental were illegally arrested last December 13, after elements of the 11th Infantry Battalion of the Phil. Army barged in their village and accused the farmers of keeping members of the New People’s Army. The farmers suffered from various forms of involuntary servitude, when they were threatened and ordered by the military to go with them to another village where they were hauled off to the Isabela Philippine National Police station. Eleven of them were released on December 15, while eight farmers were charged with murder and multiple frustrated murder, and are currently detained at the Isabela Police Station in Negros Occidental.
  3. 65-year old Olegario Sevas, was illegally arrested last December 25 in Negros Oriental by elements of the AFP and PNP. Initial reports indicate that Sevas was tagged as “Filemon Mendrez,” an alleged leader of the NPA who had a P5.25 million bounty for his arrest. The military said ‘Filemon Mendrez’ was charged with rebellion and robbery in band, while the warrant of arrest against Sevas does not bear his name. He is currently detained at the Bayawan City BJMP, Negros Oriental.
  4. Rene Boy Abiva, a 23-year old employee of the Department of Social Work and Development at Cagayan province and an organizer of the ACT Teachers Partylist, was arrested yesterday December 28 for charges of murder. He was arrested by units led by a certain Col. Julius Balana of the Regional Intelligence Division of the PNP and is currently detained at the Sto. Domingo PNP station at Tuguegarao City. Upon inquiry of his wife on the supposed charges against him, his arresting officers said that he is being arrested for his supposed involvement in the April 2012 NPA ambush of at least 12 soldiers under the 86th Infantry Battalion of the Phil. Army. The said unit has been reportedly carrying out rights violations in the course of their military operations in the communities in Tinooc, Ifugao.

A year after, impunity icon “The Butcher” Palparan is still free

Karapatan today, with relatives of desaparecidos, banged the gates of Pres. Aquino’s house at Times St., Quezon City to protest the much-delayed arrest of former General Jovito Palparan Jr.  A year ago, on December 17, the Malolos Regional Trial Court Branch 14 issued a warrant of arrest for Palparan for charges of kidnapping and illegal detention of two University of the Philippines students, Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan.  To date, Gen. Palaran remains scot-free despite the P2-million bounty for his arrest.

“We are no longer interested in what the President would say to diminish the anger of the families of the two missing students, like what he said to Mrs. Edith Burgos. We’ve had enough. We only want Palparan in jail, no less. It’s been a year, and it is unacceptable that he is still roaming around, free and unpunished for all the crimes he committed against the people,” said Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan. 

“The families of Cadapan and Empeño have suffered enough and, on their own relentless efforts managed to secure warrants for the arrests of Palparan. It is time for the government to do its part,” she added.

Karapatan said that for all the claims of the Aquino government on its achievements on human rights, it has done nothing substantial to punish those who violated the people’s rights. “Palparan, like the Ampatuan massacre, is one of the symbols of impunity in this country. Yet, the government has not gone beyond public announcements to bring him to jail. As Commander-in-Chief, Aquino has all the power in his hands to mobilize his men to find Palparan,” said Palabay. 

Palace, AFP list of HR achievements will not undo 129 EJK cases

“A human rights handbook, a human rights summit, a human rights office, a human rights superbody are meaningless to the victims of human rights violations. The fact still remains: the killings continue and not one perpetrator is in jail,” said Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan on Pres. Aquino’s list of ‘initiatives to uphold human rights’.

Palabay said that the Aquino government was only “pushed to say something on the many cases of human rights violations highlighted during the recent commemoration of the International HR Day. Thus, it ranted off its so-called achievements especially because the oft-repeated line that ‘the president and his family were victims of human rights violations’ failed to illicit the expected sympathy, and could not diminish the impact of the killings, here and abroad.”

The government, Karapatan said, could not also brag about the release of the “Morong 43” saying that the arrest was “definitely illegal and the government had no reason to hold the health workers one day in jail.”  Palabay added that “we may grant Noynoy Aquino a point or two on the release of the Morong 43 but all these had now become worthless when he promoted the military officers, generals  Jorge Segovia and Aurelio Baladad who face charges for the illegal arrest and torture of the health workers.” 

Karapatan, as of October 30, documented 129 cases of extrajudicial killings, with 69 cases involving farmers and 25 indigenous peoples. Most of the victims were leaders in the people’s movement for genuine land reform and in protecting the ancestral lands from the onslaught of mining operations by transnational corporations. “Noynoy Aquino failed to mention the creation of the Special Civilian Armed Auxiliary, a paramilitary group of the AFP, assigned in mining areas and is responsible for many cases of extrajudicial killing.” 

Palabay  also cited that nothing is heard of the perpetrators of the massacre of Juvy Capion and her two sons, by the 27th IB-PA, after the AFP’s initial announcement of a court martial. “The government should answer these cases, instead of coming out with a checklist of things supposedly done but are immaterial and irrelevant on the ground. Killers and perpetrators are on the loose, committing crime after crime. Now, need we mention The Butcher, Gen. Jovito Palparan?” said Palabay.   

On Monday, December 17,  it will be a year since a warrant was issued against Gen. Palparan for illegal detention and kidnapping of the two UP students Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan.

HR violations unabated, enough of Aquino’s promise of change

Thousands of peasants and indigenous peoples from Mindanao and Southern Tagalog, with multi-sectoral support from the National Capital Region, today marched to Mendiola, undaunted by the unabated human rights violations under the Noynoy Aquino government and the ten-day series of grueling activities to culminate on December 10, the International Day for Human Rights.
Karapatan Chairperson Marie Hilao-Enriquez led the thousand of marchers  in the burning of a 7-foot effigy of a combined mining excavator and artillery tank that symbolizes the twin evils of large-scale mining and intensified military operations in peasant and indigenous people’s communities. “We have likewise set on fire whatever is left of the chances for positive change we gave Pres. Noynoy Aquino in the past two years. He did not only squander the opportunity for change but has also pushed our patience to the limit, what with all the rights violations his regime has committed against the people.”
Karapatan and Bayan, together with Panalipdan! Mindanao, Kalumaran and Bayan-Southern Tagalog, led the protest march.  Panalipdan! Mindanao and Kalumaran, an organization of Lumad or indigenous peoples, led the 74-member delegation from Mindanao; while Bayan-Southern Tagalog led the 2,000 contingent from the region.

An open letter to Pres. Benigno S. Aquino III, from Erita Capion-Dialang

Dear Mr. President,

I am Erita Capion, sister of Daguil Capion, a target of your armed forces. I believe you must have already known the merciless killing of my sister-in law, Juvy Capion and her two sons, Jordan and Mark John, both minor, by 13 soldiers of the 27th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army led by Lt. Col. Dante Jimenez under the command of Col. Alexis Bravo, on October 18.  The massacre was well-covered by the media and the incident caught the attention of the international community.  Thus, I find it appalling that you have turned a blind eye despite the circumstances of the gruesome incident.  More than a month had passed, yet we have not heard from you Mr. President. Not even a few words of sympathy from you, Mr. President.  

The Lumads , together with other marginalized sectors in Mindanao,  were among those who immediately offered sympathy to you and your family  when your father was killed during the Marcos dictatorship.  We also demanded justice for the death of your father, Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr.  while at the same time called for the ouster of the dictatorial regime.  

Juvy Capion and her sons were killed because they opted to defend their rights over our ancestral territories and resources.  Like her husband, Dagil, Juvy only wanted to stop SMI-Xstrata from grabbing our lands, plundering our mineral wealth, and pushing us further into marginalization.  But her life, and that od her sons, were brutally taken away by the military, who have abandoned their constitutional duty to protect the people to become SMI-Xstrata’s mercenary army. 

Rights group condemns illegal arrests, trumped up charges vs union organizers

Karapatan deplores the Aquino government’s continuing attacks against human rights defenders through the recent arrests and filing of trumped-up charges against union organizers and community leaders, days before the commemoration of the International Human Rights Day on December 10. 

Randy Vegas and Raul Camposano, both long-time union organizers and staff of the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE), were arrested last December 3 for fabricated charges of murder, theft, and frustrated murder filed at the Regional Trial Court Branch 64 in Labo, Camarines Norte. Vegas and Camposano were implicated in the said cases because of their alleged participation in an ambush of members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines by the New People’s Army in Camarines Norte in April 29, 2012. Courage, including both organizers, supported the latest protest action of employees of the Metro Manila Development Authority for the release of their work benefits.

Also included in the warrant of arrest obtained by the quick reaction team of Courage leaders, relatives of Vegas and Camposano, and Karapatan-Camarines Norte are the names of Bayan-National Capital Region leader Roy Velez and union organizer Amelita Gamara. 

Int'l HR org express concern for rights defenders in the Philippines

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) raised the alarm on the continuing human rights violations in the country under the Aquino government, particularly cases of extrajudicial killings of human rights defenders.  
OMCT noted “the attacks on human rights defenders in a climate of pervasive impunity” especially those fighting for their land rights and the protection of the environment.   “A climate of pervasive and systematic impunity is at the heart of this alarming situation,” said the OMCT delegation in a statement.
The OMCT conducted a mission in the Philippines on November 11 to 17, 2012, to investigate the situation of rights defenders.  Two members of OMCT General Assembly, Ms. Vrinda Grover, a prominent human rights lawyer (India), and Ms. Claudia Samayoa, Coordinator of the Unit for Protection of Human Rights Defenders of Guatemala, led the mission. They met with leaders and network of Karapatan, indigenous peoples, farmers groups, lawyers, faith-based organisations, as well as government officials, foreign embassies and representatives of a transnational mining company in Manila and Mindanao.

ManiLakbayan Mindanawons launch relief drive for victims of typhoon Pablo

The ManiLakbayan delegation, composed of more than 70 leaders of peasants and indigenous peoples from Mindano, today launched at the St. Joseph College in Quezon City, a relief drive for fellow Mindanawons affected by typhoon Pablo. 

ManiLakbayan (Journey to Manila) is a Mindanao Peoples’ mobilization for the Defense of Land, the Environment, and Human Rights is currently in Metro Manila to bring voices of concern on mining-affected communities and the attacks on, specifically the extrajudicial killing of, indigenous peoples and environment defenders. 

Today’s forum, “Pakigdait (Solidarity)” became a venue for the residents of Metro Manila not only to extend help to the victims of typhoon Pablo but also to show their concern on the plight of the peasants and indigenous peoples in Mindanao who have become victims of military operations in the government’s pursuit of its counterinsurgency program, Oplan Bayanihan, and in protecting foreign mining corporations involved in large-scale and destructive mining.  

On Aquino's superbody: No need for frills and fuss, victims need resolution and end to EJK

Karapatan today held a picket in front of the Department of Justice (DOJ) to underscore the point that Pres. Aquino’s ‘superbody’ is “extraneous and thus, inessential in solving the cases of extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations.”   

“The victims and their families need no more frills and fuss. If only the government listens to the voice of the people, they would say: Just get down to work; solve and stop extrajudicial killing,” said Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan. 

The members of the Manilakbayan mission, a 74-member delegation from Mindanao, joined the picket to highlight the cases of extrajudicial killings of indigenous peoples and peasants under the Aquino regime who are mostly killed because of their opposition to large-scale mining operations and destructive government projects in their lands. 

With the Manilakbayan delegation are the widows of slain IP leaders who pressed the DOJ to “go after the identified perpetrators of extrajudicial killings is what the victims need such as the members of the 27th IB responsible for the massacre of Juvy Capion and two children who are both minors; the arrest of Alde Salusad of the New Indigenous People’s Army Reform (NIPAR) who remains free despite a warrant of arrest for the killing of Jimmy Liguyon, a tribal leader in Bukidnon.”


Aquino to blame on typhoon Pablo tragedy for allowing foreign large scale mining –ManiLakbayan

"No one else is to blame but President Noynoy and large scale mining corporations on the lives lost to typhoon Pablo," said Sr. Stella Matutina, secretary general of PANALIPDAN-Mindanao, a network of environmental defenders, in response to National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Committee (NDRRMC) Usec. Benito Ramos' statement that the typhoon Pablo tragedy is due to illegal mining. 

PANALIPDAN-Mindanao, together with the KALUMARAN, spearhead the Manilakbayan, the Mindanao people’s journey in Manila to call the government’s attention to the disastrous effects of large-scale destructive mining in Mindanao communities, including extrajudicial killings of environmental advocates and indigenous peoples.    
"Stop blaming the people of Mindanao for not leaving their disaster-stricken homes and the small-scale miners for doing such a living," Sr. Matutina said. "Small scale mining has been sustainable since the time of the Lumad forefathers. It is not like when large scale mining came in to our towns, destroy our ancestral lands - that's when disasters start coming upon us," Sr. Matutina said. "This typhoon would not have been this tragic if not for the logging and foreign mining companies ravaging our mineral resources," Sr. Matutina continued. 

Karapatan scores Noynoy Aquino’s promotion of GMA military officers; hits CHR for granting clearance

Karapatan scores anew Noynoy Aquino’s recent promotion of military officers with clear record of human rights violations, and in fact, have pending cases before civilian courts for such violations, saying that “Aquino’s act is an outright disregard for human rights.” 
Karapatan said that the “promotion of military officers like Año and Baladad is the height of Aquino’s callousness on the plight of rights victims and their relatives. The dark days of martial law are really upon us.”
“We would like to underscore the role of the Commission on Human Rights, headed by Etta Rosales, who like Noynoy Aquino has nothing but sweet talk on the supposed decline of human rights violations under the Aquino government,” said Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan. 

Mindanao IPs, envi groups to Aquino, scrap Mining Act to avert another Pablo apocalypse!--ManiLakbayan

A group of Mindanao-based indigenous peoples and environment organizations leading a ten-day lakbayan to Metro Manila called on President Aquino to scrap the government’s standing mining policy allowing large-scale mining operations in the light of the latest disasters in Mindanao where super typhoon Pablo claimed more than two hundred lives in the provinces of Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental which have not experienced typhoons in recent years.
Environment group Panalipdan! Mindanao secretary-general Sr. Stella Matutina, OSB said that hundreds of communities in Mindanao have been rendered vulnerable to natural disasters due to the proliferation of large-scale extractive industries being promoted by the Aquino administration through existing government policies and programs such as Executive Order 79 and the Mining Act of 1995.
“Do we need typhoon Pablo to get the attention of the central government and concerned people about our issues like political killings and environmental destructions caused by big extractive industries and other agribusiness ventures?” Matutina said, adding that “we are now right smack in Manila to air out our issues.”

Aquino toughens up AFP by promoting rights violators

“Darker days ahead,” is how Karapatan describes the human rights situation under the Aquino government “that will even surpass the expected damage of typhoon Pablo.”
Karapatan, in its public presentation of the 2012 year-end report on the human rights situation said that “the appointment of known human rights violators such as the likes of Brig. Gen. Eduardo M. Año as the new chief of the Intelligence Service of the AFP and, of Brig. Gen. Aurelio Baladad  as deputy chief of staff for operations is part of Oplan Bayanihan’s design to finish, if not neutralize, its identified armed threats and their so-called supporters or mass base by 2013, its phase 1.”
“Putting the likes of Baladad and Año is part of the government’s preparation for its end game, for the nth time, with its perceived State enemies. Also, Aquino puts across the message that a reward awaits those who kill, bomb, strafe, force people to leave their homes, harass and threaten them, arrest, torture then keep them in jail. The people should brace themselves for more serious human rights violations, with this deadline and these kind of military officers who are at the helm of the military institution,” said Karapatan chairperson Marie Hilao-Enriquez.

Mindanao peasants, IPs in Manila, call to stop killings and large-scale mining

Pahubay, a Banwaon ritual that literally means to ‘soften the heart’ was performed by Banwaon Datuand Bae at Plaza Miranda, Quiapo as they appealed to the people of Metro Manila, especially those from Mindanao, to support their call for justice and to stop extrajudicial killings and forced evacuation of peasants and indigenous peoples in Mindanao, due to continuous military operation and incursion of large-scale destructive mining in their lands.


More than 70 Manilakbayan delegates from Mindanao were greeted in a salubong by members of people’s organizations, multi-sectoral and Church groups led by Karapatan, Ecu-Voice and Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP).  The delegation includes the Capion family, whose relatives Juvy Capion and her two children were massacred on October 18 in Tampakan, South Cotabato. They were joined in by widows of five slain leaders of indigenous people (IP) who died fighting for their land rights against incursions of mining corporations, agri-business corporations and megadams in their ancestral domain.


Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said “we warmly welcome our brothers and sisters from Mindanao who intend to bring the voices of the Mindanao peasants and indigenous peoples to Manila, specifically for Pres. Aquino to hear clearly that they have had enough of bombings, of forced evacuation, of killings and mining operations in our land. Aquino should stop the killings and those responsible for these atrocities should be punished. “


Aquino govt’s “righteous road to peace” bodes ill for peace

Bounty and pop stars, instead of releasing political detainees

Karapatan said that, “While the Aquino government plays dead on the call to release political prisoners, it offered bounty for so-called communist leaders and got pop stars to endorse Oplan Bayanihan, the counter-insurgency program that has caused lives of 114 people. The act is both desperate and preposterous.” 

Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan said that Aquino’s offer for bounty could mean more arbitrary arrests and detention and, further abuses and rights violations. “It is unacceptable that Aquino and the AFP chose to just sing their way out of their accountability to their crimes against the people and say it’s for peace in the country,” she added.

From July 2010 to September 2012, Karapatan documented almost 447 victims of illegal arrests under the Aquino government, victimizing especially farmers and indigenous peoples they meet in the fields and forests during military operations and presenting them as NPA members or supporters. In the said period, there are 401 political prisoners in the country, with 123 persons arrested and detained under the Aquino government.