Karapatan demands full accountability for all perpetrators of rights violations now

September 24, 2023

Karapatan sounds the alarm on the disturbing trends that further illustrate the dire inadequacy, of domestic accountability mechanisms, or lack thereof, in the Philippines, amid the recently-issued rulings of the Ombudsman and the Court of Appeals and the worsening human rights situation in the country.

We are incensed with the recent decisions of the Ombudsman in the charges filed by former political prisoner Reina Mae Nasino for the cruel, degrading and inhumane treatment she suffered while in detention, as well as that of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) on the red-tagging and other violations against their officers and members.

Reprimands against few government officials charged in the said cases can be viewed as mere slaps on the wrists, considering the sufferings endured by Nasino and NUPL and the gravity of the offenses. Full accountability for those responsible in violating their rights can be hardly gleaned from these decisions.

In the case of Nasino, officials refused to have her transferred to a facility where she and Baby River could have a suitable environment while she was nursing her child. Had authorities acted based on the framework of the UN Standard for Minimum Treatment of Prisoners or the Mandela Rules, Baby River could have had a better chance to live. Officials especially from the top tier of government weighed down heavily on Nasino and her family, at times in a cruel and derisive manner, in the wake and burial of Baby River.

In the case of NUPL, their officers and members endured, and continue to experience, the dire implications of the vile acts of Hermogenes Esperon, Lorraine Badoy, and Antonio Parlade. NUPL members Benjamin Ramos and Jose Macababad were killed, Angelo Karlo Guillen was stabbed and almost killed, while many of them have faced retaliatory charges, threats and surveillance in the course of their legal assistance to their clients and their advocacy.

Clearly, reprimands are disproportionate penalties or forms of punishment for the violations of their rights. How can there be justice when years after they filed the cases, no one is brought to jail for these acts? How can there be a message that there should be non-repetition of these acts, when the perpetrators are not made fully accountable?

Likewise, the recent decision of the Court of Appeals on the abduction and enforced disappearance of Dexter Capuyan and Gene Roz Jamil de Jesus is in the same vein of perpetuating the injustice against the victims. The CA’s denial of their loved ones’ petition for habeas corpus and the continuing disappearance of the two are telling signs that the existing domestic legal remedies are largely ineffective for victims of enforced disappearances. The CA’s granting of the petitions of writs of amparo in the cases of disappeared organizers Elizabeth Magbanua, Alipio Juat, Maria Elena Pampoza and Elgene Mungcal also beg the most important questions – where are they, who among the State actors took them, and why have they been not surfaced?

These recent court decisions are in addition to numerous other precedents, namely the Justice Department’s dismissal of the murder charges against police and other government officials in the two Bloody Sunday incidents which resulted in the killing of trade union leader Manny Asuncion and fisherfolk activists Ariel and Ana Mariz Evangelista, as well as numerous other cases where victims and families have managed to file charges against the perpetrators of rights violations, even at great risk to their lives and security, but are left empty-handed.

Karapatan deplores this worsening state of injustice that prevails under the Marcos Jr. administration. There is clearly no “real justice in real time.” We are one with the victims and their families in upholding their right to substantive justice and to ensure full accountability of those in power who committed crimes against them. We are one with the families of Dexter Capuyan and Gene Roz Jamil de Jesus, as well as the families of all victims of enforced disappearances, in demanding that their loved ones be surfaced and afforded the right to redress.