Six Years After Eden and Eddie's murder, 180 days after the UNHRC Views, Calls for justice ring louder

Today, April 21, the human rights organization KARAPATAN commemorates the 6th anniversary of the killing of one of its exemplary workers, KARAPATAN – Southern Tagalog Secretary General Eden Marcellana, and peasant leader KASAMA-TK Chairman Eddie Gumanoy, by holding a picket in front of the Department of Justice.

“Once more, we are here in front of this agency that, together with Malacañang, has conspired to deny justice to our beloved martyrs who were intentionally killed doing their work of defending the rights of the poor and the powerless,” Karapatan Secretary General Marie Hilao-Enriquez declared.  “Indeed, this agency must be called the Department of Injustice as it thrice dismissed the case we filed against former General Jovito Palparan, Jr., M/Sgt. Donald Caigas, M/Sgt. Rizal Hilario and others pointed to by survivor-witnesses in the twin killings of our fellow human rights defenders,” she added.

Marcellana was Secretary General of Karapatan-Southern Tagalog and Gumanoy was Chairperson of the peasant group Kasama-TK.  Both were at a fact-finding mission in Bansud, Mindoro Oriental when they were abducted by members of the 204th Infantry Battalion under the command of then Col. Jovito Palparan, Jr. They were found dead the following day, April 22, 2003.

KARAPATAN holds Malacañang equally guilty of denial of justice for its continuous inaction on its Appeal submitted to the Office of the President since May 24, 2007.  The President’s foot-dragging on this case, praising and promoting the violators, have resulted into the commission of more violations by the same brutal perpetrators as in the cases of the two missing UP students – Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño – and the escaped survivors Manalo brothers who were all abducted in 2006 and tortured by the same perpetrators who figured in the killings of Marcellana and Gumanoy in Mindoro.

“The Arroyo government is now supposedly trying to show grit in pursuing a case of alleged foul play in the death of broadcaster Ted Failon’s wife but it had never shown determination to deliver justice for victims of its military,” said Hilao-Enriquez.

“The government is running after someone whose wife most probably committed suicide but allows its military to go on a killing spree,” she added.  Hilao-Enriquez lamented that because of this, 1,009 have become victims of extrajudicial killings, 501 among them are human rights defenders.  Thirty five of Karapatan’s human rights workers have been killed in the course of their human rights duties and many more continue to experience threats and acts of intimidation.

The UN Human Rights Committee, the UN treaty body monitoring the States parties' compliance to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), has found the Philippine government guilty of violating primarily the right to life of Marcellana and Gumanoy.

It said that the Philippine government "is under an obligation to provide the authors with an effective remedy, including initiation and pursuit of criminal proceedings to establish responsibility for the kidnapping and death of the victims, and payment of appropriate compensation. The State party should also take measures to ensure that such violations do not recur in the future."

Hilao-Enriquez said, “There is still no action on the part of government to bring to trial those accused in the abduction and summary execution of human rights defenders Eden Marcellana and Eddie Gumanoy.”

The Committee's Views were put out on October 30, 2008 in its 94th session held in the UN in Geneva. They transmitted the copy to Karapatan, which initiated the complaint on behalf of the victims’ relatives barely a month later and had said, “the Committee wishes to receive from the State party, within 180 days, information about the measures taken to give effect to the Committee's Views. The State party is also requested to publish the Committee's Views.”

The deadline is about to lapse but Karapatan said the Arroyo government seems bent to ignore the UN body as it had not even published the Committee’s Views.

Worse, it continues to implement the counter-insurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya II that engenders more violations.   Thus, KARAPATAN’s demand for justice to Eden-Eddie and other victims of human rights violations ring louder especially in the face of intensifying threats and attacks against human rights defenders.###