January, 2013

Martial Law victims denounce PCGG chair’s declaration to give up claims

“Malicious, irresponsible and anti-people” 

Amid the good news of the ratification of the bill to compesante martial law victims, members of the human rights group SELDA (Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto) deplored the “malicious, irresponsible and anti-people” statements made by Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) chairman Andres Bautista over the weekend that the martial law victims should consider giving up their claims in the class suit filed in Hawaii, now that a bill to give compensation to human rights victims is set to be enacted into law.

“We are exasperated, disappointed and angry at such malicious and irresponsible statements made by PCGG chair Andres Bautista. Why should we give up the claims when the award is based on the judgement that the Marcos dictatorship is guilty of crimes against humanity, and therefore the Marcoses are accountable for the human rights violations committed under their reign?” said Martial Law victim and SELDA chairperson Marie Hilao-Enriquez.

Enriquez also said that the Hawaii court judgment is final and executory.

“The victims are happy that this has become a landmark decision for victims of human rights violations the world over.  The entire Filipino nation must be proud of that and now Mr. Bautista is again squandering the chance to go after the violators! We have never heard of any public apology from the Marcoses after so many years, now Bautista is telling us to give up this meager amount to compensate the victims?” she said.  

On September 22, 1992, the Hawaii Federal Court through Judge Manuel Real, issued a judgment on the class suit in favor of the Marcos victims. The said decision found Marcos guilty of gross human rights violations and the Estate of Marcos is liable to pay damages to the victims.

SELDA’s chairperson explained that the bill’s passage here in the legislative halls of the country is entirely different from the class suit that the 9,539 Martial Law victims filed in a Hawaii district court after the fall of Marcos in 1986.

“Bautista does not know what he is talking about. The Human Rights Victims Recognition and Reparation Bill, when enacted into law, will be the government’s mechanism to give recognition and reparation to victims of Martial Law. Since the fall of the dictator in 1986, the victims waited for the administrations after Marcos to go after the conjugal dictatorship and their cohorts, and make them accountable for the HRV’s committed during martial law.  But no one did. The victims were the only ones who braved the systems, the Marcos maneuvers, the machinations of American and Filipino lawyers who supposedly helped the victims. It was they who fought steadfastly until they won a landmark case in a foreign court. Now it is being robbed again from them, “ Enriquez declared.

The group also called Bautista “anti-people,” in reacton to his statement that ill-gotten wealth by the Marcoses belong to the Filipino people.

“Bautista talks as if we are not part of the Filipino people who fought the dictator. The Swiss Supreme Court was clear in its order that the victims of Martial Law who filed charges against Marcos in the Hawaiian court must be considered by the Philippine government once the latter moves the recovered funds that were in an escrow account,” she said.

Enriquez also clarified that only one-third of the original total funds transferred from Switzerland and handed over to the Philippine government were asked by the victims as they fully know that the amount was gotten from the national coffers.

Two cases of disappearance reported to human rights groups after enactment of Anti-Enforced Disappearance Law

Case Update:

As of January 29, 2013, Muin Kahal Hamja was presented by the authorities and was brought to Basilan Provincial Jail where his brother Muhammadiya Hamja is also detained. Human rights workers in Basilan are still trying to get a copy of his charge sheet.


Unfortunately, Shiekh Bashier Mursalum remains missing. According to an eye witness, he was first gunned down by his abductors before he was picked up and brought inside the get away vehicle on the 24th of January. 


Karapatan and Families of Desaparecidos for Justice (Desaparecidos) deplored the abduction of Sheikh Bashier Mursalum and Muin Kahal Hamja, as these organizations add two more names to the long list of enforced disappearances in the country. The abduction happened after President Aquino signed the Anti-Enforced Disappearance Act of 2012 in December.

“Muin Kahal and Mursalum’s disappearances show that the law itself is not a deterrent in the practice of enforced disappearance. This poses a challenge to the law against enforced disappearance and to the Aquino government to prosecute those who abducted and detained them,” said Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general. “The law seems brave enough to make state agents criminally liable for the act of enforced disappearance but we have yet to see its enforcement,” Palabay added. 

Sheikh Bashier Mursalum, a muslim scholar, was abducted by state agents last January 22 in Basilan. On January 24, Muin Kahal Hamja was abducted by armed men at 2:00 AM in his home in Bgy. Kumalarang, Isabela City, Basilan.

“We initially welcomed this new law, but the rage in our hearts remains knowing that the families of Hamja and Mursalum are searching in vain for their loved ones,” Lorena Santos, secretary general of Desaparecidos, said.

Muhammadiya Hamja, Muin Kahal’s brother, was also a victim of enforced disappearance in 2001 but was located by the quick reaction team composed of members of Karapatan, Muhammadiya’s son and Commission on Human Rights investigators. “We found him hidden and tortured inside the office of Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) in Camp Crame, Philippine National Police Headquarters in Quezon City,” said Palabay.

AFP should show proof that security guard Rolly Panesa is CPP’s “Benjamin Mendoza”

Karapatan dared the Philippine Army of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to prove before the Court of Appeals that the man they arrested illegally and tortured is indeed who they claim to be in their press releases as CPP’s high ranking official ‘Benjamin Mendoza’ "because clearly, they picked the wrong man," Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan said at today’s hearing at the Court of Appeals for detained Rolly Panesa’s Petition for Habeas Corpus. 

“Panesa has been in jail for three months since his abduction on October 5, 2012, yet the government has not presented any document to prove their claim. The man should be immediately released and indemnified,” Palabay said. 

Marites Chioco, Panesa’s common-law wife and petitioner to the habeas corpus case, submitted to the court Panesa’s birth certificate, baptismal certificate, school records, records of his employment, Social Security System Identification Card, Philhealth Card, driver’s license, NBI clearance and a certificate that he has gone through a training for the CAFGU. 

“These are all government-issued documents and not one government agency has come out to say that these are fake documents. The AFP should admit its error because of arbitrariness on arresting Panesa,” added Palabay.

Aquino’s inconsistencies on sovereignty issues show GPH loyalty to US interests

“Pres. Noynoy Aquino’s suspiciously prudent stance on the presence of minesweeper USS Guardian inside Philippine territory pales in comparison to his hysterics on China’s claim to the disputed islands in the South China Sea. Hence, it further reveals the Aquino government’s inconsistencies in dealing with the issue of sovereignty – that its loyalties and interests lie with the United States government, to the detriment of Philippine sovereignty and people’s rights,” said Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan. 

Karapatan lamented the fact that it has been several days since the USS Guardian crashed into a part of the Tubbataha Reef but “the government only assumed a ‘business as usual’ attitude and instead raised the issue the territorial disputes with China before an Arbitral Tribunal under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).” 

USS Guardian @Tubbataha 

She said that Aquino is particularly interested in acquiring the US$30 million of military aid allocated by the US government.  “That would explain the why the government condones the unauthorized entry of the USS Guardian at Tubbataha reef.  The Aquino government had a similar reaction when a BQM-74E target drone was recovered in waters off San Jacinto town on Ticao Island, Masbate in January 7. It’s a classic display of mendicancy and subservience to the US,” Palabay explained. 

The US Senate Committee on Appropriations recently recommended US$30 million military assistance for the Philippines for the use of the Philippine Navy and Air Force this year.

Karapatan took note of an increasing presence of US troops and several US war vessels in the Philippines. “The US troops’ presence and the continuing flow of US military aid for the Armed Forces of the Philippines are conspicuous factors that strengthen our belief that the US government and the Aquino administration are working double time to meet their deadline of the phase 1 of the US-inspired Oplan Bayanihan by year end,” Palabay said. 

Detained poet gets temporary release, reunites with family and friends after first ever plane ride

“Believe it or not, it was my first time to ride an airplane!” This was how poet Ericson Acosta greeted his supporters, friends, and family who welcomed his arrival at the Terminal III of the NAIA.

Acosta, 40, whose siblings now all live with their own families abroad, is a cultural worker and activist arrested by the military in San Jorge, Samar while doing volunteer research work for a local peasant group. Acosta has been detained at the Calbayog Sub-Provincial Jail for 23 months on trumped-up charges of illegal possession of explosives.
Ericson @airport

Yesterday, Acosta’s supporters were pleasantly surprised to confirm that the Gandara RTC in Samar granted him temporary release for a medical check-up. Acosta’s lawyers filed a motion for medical check-up in July 2012 after Acosta displayed symptoms of serious renal problems.

Attorney Persida Rueda-Acosta, Chief the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) flew to the Calbayog Sub-Provincial Jail with a medico-legal consultant and a paralegal team from human rights organization, KARAPATAN upon the request of Acosta’s family and the Free Ericson Acosta Campaign (FEAC).

It was found that Acosta has been suffering from nephritis, a condition characterized by blood in the urine (hematuria), lower back pains, high fever and painful urination (dysuria). These findings prompted the RTC to immediately grant Acosta’s motion for check-up, and allowing Atty. Rueda-Acosta to accompany him right away to the National Kidney Institute (NKTI) this morning.

“Matagal na naming hinihintay ang mapatingnan si Eric. I am coming to see him without my husband who also has an appointment with the doctor for his spinal ailment that has debilitated him for weeks. Gusto nga sana niyang sumama kay Attorney Persida pero hindi na niya kinaya ang sakit,” said Ericson’s 80-year old mother, Liwayway.
Dr. Erwin Erfe, medico-legal consultant of PAO said that Acosta’s ailment necessitates “thorough diagnostic examinations, possibly including renal biopsy and other specialized ancillary procedures in a specialist kidney hospital.” These facilities are not available at the Calbayog Sub-Provincial jail, and even in Samar provincial hospitals.

Just like Arroyo’s OBL, Aquino’s OpBay attacks leaders of people’s organizations, rights defenders

Illegal arrests, trumped-up charges 

Yet another case of political repression against human rights defenders is reported under the Aquino regime.

Leaders of people’s organizations such as Karapatan-Negros Secretary General Fred Caña, Christian Tuayon of Bayan-Negros, Ronald Ian Evidente of KMU-Negros, Clarizza Singson of Gabriela-Negros, Bernardito Patigas of the North Negros Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (NNAHRA), and Gualberto Dajao of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT-Negros) are being implicated in a fabricated murder charge for the death of a certain 1Lt. Archie Polenzo who was allegedly killed during NPA-AFP clash in March 2010.

“These forms of attacks, through the filing of fabricated charges, against human rights defenders are escalating, at a time when Aquino’s counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan (OpBay) is on its last year of Phase 1 implementation. As the “architect” of OpBay Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Bautista today takes his post as AFP Chief of Staff, his assumption to office has already indicated the escalation of human rights violations under the Aquino administration,” Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan, said. 

Palabay noted that 28 persons were successively arrested and detained in less than one month, from December 2012 to early January this year. The indigenous peoples in Negros Occidental were arrested and jailed in the course of military operation in the community, with the soldiers accusing them of coddling NPA members; while most of the members of progressive organizations were arrested using, and insisting on, names from existing warrants, which were not theirs.  The 28 arrested were from Cagayan Valley, Negros Oriental and Occidental, Quezon province and members of Courage and Piston, organizations of government employees and drivers, respectively and, of Act Teachers Partylist. Also among those charges were two leaders from the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU)-National Capital Region. 

“This reminds us of the Southern Tagalog 72 during the Oplan Bantay Laya days of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo where members and leaders of progressive organizations faced trumped-up charges to harass and intimidate them. We demand that all charges against these activists and civilians be withdrawn or immediately dismissed,” Palabay said.

Lt. Gen. Bautista’s Oplan Bayanihan resulted to 137 EJK

Peddled as Oplan Bayanihan’s brains, Lt. Gen. Bautista’s appointment as the new AFP Chief of Staff “signals the escalation of human rights violations” under the Aquino government , Karapatan said today. 

“Oplan Bayanihan, despite its ‘people-centered’ and ‘respect for human rights’ catch-phrases already resulted in 137 incidents of extrajudicial killings and 154 cases of frustrated extrajudicial killings (as of Dec.30,2012). Contrary to claims by the Aquino government and the AFP, Oplan Bayanihan is no different from Gloria Arroyo’s Oplan Bantay Laya,” said Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan. 

Palabay added that it was Bautista’s Oplan Bayanihan that claimed the lives of Italian missionary Fausto Tentorio, Dutch aid worker Willem Geertman, and indigenous peoples’ leaders Jimmy Liguyon and Juvy Capion, among others. 

Karapatan maintains that a counterinsurgency program such as Oplan Bayanihan and genuine respect for human rights are contradictory.  Oplan Bayanihan, in its two years had caused numerous cases of human rights violations, victimizing members and leaders of progressive organizations, including innocent civilians suspected of being members or supporters of the New People’s Army. 

“There are still incidents of bombings and indiscriminate firing, the use of schools, chapels, medical facility and other public places for military purpose. People are still forced to leave their homes because of military atrocities in their communities,” Palabay said. 

Karapatan also noted an increasing number of illegal arrests and detention on the basis of trumped-up charges. In December alone, Karapatan documented 27 people arrested, 16 of them are still detained. 

“Let us not forget the case of Rolly Panesa, a security guard who is currently detained because the AFP insists that he is a high CPP official.  That’s how arbitrary the AFP is under Oplan Bayanihan,” said Palabay. 

28 illegal arrests in less than a month: Aquino govt’s desperation shows

Rights group Karapatan today called on the Aquino government to stop the series of illegal arrests and detention of civilians whom the government “conveniently accused as members or supporters of the New People’s Army to justify its grave violations on civil and political rights.” 

Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general, raised the alarm as 28 people were successively arrested and detained in less than one month, from December 2012 to early January this year. “The government’s desperation to meet the Oplan Bayanihan’s 2013 first phase deadline shows in the manner by which these arrests were conducted and the increasing pattern of filing trumped-up charges against activists and civilians,” she said.  

"The Aquino government has established a very dangerous pattern of inserting names in existing warrants of arrest to legitimize false charges and clamp down on persons whom it perceives as its enemy, victimizing even the likes of Rolly Panesa, a security guard, whom the military insists until now as the 5.6-million-peso-prized-catch “Benjamin Mendoza” of the Communist Party of the Philippines,” added Palabay. 

The indigenous peoples in Negros Occidental were arrested and jailed in the course of military operation in the community, accusing them of coddling NPA members; while most of the members of progressive organizations were arrested using and insisting on names from existing warrants, which were not theirs.  The 28 arrested were from Cagayan Valley, Negros Oriental and Occidental, Quezon and members of Courage and Piston, organizations of government employees and drivers, respectively and, of Act Teachers Partylist.

Karapatan earlier said that an uptrend in the incidents of illegal arrest, extrajudicial killing and other rights violations against the people is likely as Oplan Bayanihan gears for its final phase against armed groups. “Oplan Bayanihan took off from Gloria Arroyo’s Oplan Bantay Laya, targeting the same communities as OBL and indiscriminately victimizing people, using the same brutal methods were employed by the Arroyo government,” Palabay said.   

Palabay said the Aquino government attempted to downplay and cover up the rights violations in the country through numerous PR gimmicks, including the setting up of a ‘superbody’ to solve cases of human rights violations.###

Amidst continuing human rights violations Aquino’s ‘superbody’ vs extrajudicial killing and HR violations mere PR scheme

Rights groups and advocates, led by Karapatan and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) met with protest the first meeting of Noynoy Aquino's "high-level inter-agency superbody" against extrajudicial killings and other rights abuses.

"The victims and their loved ones have had enough of these extraneous superbodies that are mere publicity schemes but does not solve human rights violations," said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay, "What's worse is that this body may even attempt to conceal the continuing atrocities, especially in the rural areas."

Karapatan pointed out that the "superbody," like other inter-agency task forces under the Arroyo government, is inessential in solving cases of extrajudicial killing (EJK) and other human rights violations. 

As of November 30, 2012, the rights group has documented a total of 132 victims of EJK and 12 victims of enforced disappearance under the Noynoy Aquino government.  

Palabay added that the body will not deter rights violations perpetrated by state security agents, especially by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, as long as the Aquino government's counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan is still being implemented. 

"The wave of illegal arrests and detention of a total of 29 civilians, all accused as members of New People's Army,  in December 2012 and January this year, is a reason for alarm," Palabay said. 

The most recent case of illegal arrest is that of Virgilio Corpuz, 61, Cagayan Valley regional coordinator for Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (Piston) on January 4, 2013. Corpuz was arrested at his home in Santiago City, Isabela by members of the PNP Regional Mobile Group who accused the victim as being "Harold Castillo." Castillo is charged with 17 other individuals, including ACT Teachers Partylist coordinator Rene Boy Abiva for their alleged involvement in an NPA ambush in Tinoc, Ifugao in April 25, 2012.  

"We believe that incidents of illegal arrest, extrajudicial killing and other rights violations against innocent civilians and activists will escalate as the mid-term elections draws near. The Aquino government and the military are likewise hell-bent in reaching the 2013 deadline set under Oplan Bayanihan, the counter-insurgency program that victimizes civilians,” explained Palabay. 

“If this government is truly sincere in rendering justice for the victims of rights violations, the mandated agencies and the courts should do what they should be doing -- properly and effectively investigate these incidents, and to jail and prosecute the violators,” Palabay concluded.

Martial law victims will not ‘forgive and forget’ the Marcoses

While PCGG proposes to end pursuit of Marcos ill-gotten wealth

“We cannot just ‘forgive and forget’ what the Marcoses did to us, nor must the Aquino government stop pursuing justice for martial law victims and the rest of the Filipinos.” Thus said Marie Hilao-Enriquez, chairperson of the Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto or SELDA in response to the Philippine Commission on Good Government head Andres Bautista’s statement that the PCGG should stop going after the Marcos ill-gotten wealth.

“Has the state done enough to say that they have done their best?” Enriquez asked. “What is glaring is every government that sat after the Marcoses have done nothing to gain back the billions of pesos stolen by the dictator, his family and cronies from the coffers of the Philippine government.  What was said in the PDI news that ‘despite numerous criminal and civil cases being filed against them, none of the Marcos heirs or their cronies, who have been accused of plundering government coffers, have so far been successfully prosecuted, while high-powered lawyers have been used to tie up the judicial process for years on end.’ They have only succeeded in entering into compromise deals that has allowed the Marcoses to stay in power.” 

Imelda Marcos is representative of Ilocos Norte, Imee is its governor while Bongbong is senator. Both mother and daughter are expected to run in the 2013 elections, while Bongbong is eyeing the presidency in 2016.

“After winning the historic class suit of martial law victims against the former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, where he was found guilty of committing human rights abuses against 9,539 individuals who fought the dictatorship, not one among the Marcoses, their henchmen and cronies were put behind bars.” Enriquez lamented.