Karapatan calls on CHR to investigate escalating rights violations before election campaign period

Human rights watchdog Karapatan condemned the escalating violations on human rights and international humanitarian law throughout the country reported in the past week, as the group called on the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to investigate these violations especially as the country prepares for the start of the official campaign period for the upcoming 2022 elections.

“The deplorable attacks against people and communities over the past week, including the shooting incident in a farmers’ community in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan, and the aerial strikes in an indigenous people community in Gonzaga, Cagayan must be investigated, and their perpetrators held accountable. We urgently call the attention of independent bodies such as the CHR, fellow human rights defenders, and local authorities to probe these incidents,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay urged.

On January 28, during a fact-finding mission led by Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Bulacan on the demolitions in a farmers’ community in Brgy. Tungkong Mangga in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan, heavily-armed security guards of real estate company Araneta Properties Inc. fired at eight members of the fact-finding team along with 20 farmers and at least seven minors who are residents of the community.

Two paralegal volunteers from the fact-finding team were injured after being hit by bamboo sticks as the armed guards dispersed the team and the residents. Their personal belongings — including their bags, wallets, cellphones - and relief goods that were supposed to be distributed to the families affected by the demolition were illegally seized by the guards.

Araneta Properties Inc. is owned by Gregorio “Greggy” Araneta III, the husband of Irene Marcos, sister of presidential aspirant Ferdinand Marcos. Despite being agrarian reform beneficiaries, farmers in the said community have long been receiving threats from officials and employees of the Araneta Properties Inc.. This has been the third incident since 2021, with the company’s private guards evicting residents or demolishing structures amid plans of developing a private subdivision in the area.

Meanwhile, Kagimungan, the regional chapter of the KMP in Cagayan Valley, reported aerial bombings on an indigenous Agta community in Sitio Bagsang, Brgy. Sta. Clara, Gonzaga, Cagayan, by elements of the Philippine Army’s 5th Infantry Division, which began around 4 a.m. on January 29. About five bombs were dropped the whole morning, followed by indiscriminate firing on the ground of about two to three helicopters hovering over the village. Nearby communities were also bombed, reaching the next bordering Brgy. Maguing in Sta. Teresita. Karapatan is currently waiting for further updates from the community.

The Karapatan official stated that “these incidents should be a cause for alarm, as both communities were targeted by either State forces or armed security guards, with no regard to the rights to life, safety and security of civilians and persons, in violation of fundamental rights and international humanitarian law.”

“As the election campaign period begins in a week, we call for vigilance against State-sponsored violence, especially when public participation and involvement in the country’s affairs are encouraged during elections. Attacks to the life, safety and security of the people are never justified, and State forces have no right to attack persons and communities. We vow to hold responsible only the Duterte regime, as the one that has encouraged and incited such violence, as what it has done in the past six years of its rule,” the Karapatan official ended.