Rights group reports on the state of human rights in the Philippines

OBL bloodiest, most brutal campaign vs. Filipino people -- Karapatan

At a media briefing, the national human rights alliance, KARAPATAN, presented its annual report on the human rights situation as well as the almost-decade’s old Arroyo administration’s human rights record.

The 2009 Report on the Human Rights Situation in the Philippines was presented in observance of the December 10 International Human Rights Day, and in the midst of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's implementation of Martial Law in Maguindanao province, which the rights groups strongly opposes.

The Report features the cases of violation of human rights documented by Karapatan, from January to October of 2009. It also features a comprehensive analysis of the regime's counter-insurgency plan, Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL), which victimized legal, progressive and unarmed individuals for the span of 5 years.

In its 52-page report, Karapatan said that the OBL is "by far the bloodiest and most brutal counter-insurgency campaign unleashed on the Filipino people by any president" for it "lumps together" the armed revolutionary movement, legal and democratic organizations, media and political opposition” as targets to quell the growing dissent against Arroyo's political and economic policies.

Karapatan also emphasized that the OBL "fosters a reign of terror and climate of impunity that encourage even her warlord minions to massacre scores of men and women in a gruesome carnage in Ampatuan, Maguindanao."

With the run-up to OBL's 2010 deadline, Karapatan reported an increase in the number of victims of extrajudicial killings (EJK). From January to October 2009, 77 victims of extrajudicial killings were documented, more than half of the recorded number of victims of the same period in 2008. In 8 years and 10 months under the Arroyo regime, there were 1,118 documented victims of extrajudicial killings.  

For the same period, Karapatan also recorded a total of 204 victims of enforced disappearance and 1,026 victims of torture. There are also thousands of victims of forcible evacuation and displacement due to the military operations in the rural areas.

Karapatan also stated that "with the addition of 57 victims of the Ampatuan Massacre, the 2009 latest EJK total has surpassed those in all years of the GMA's rule except in 2005 and 2006."

KARAPATAN holds the US-Arroyo regime accountable for the Ampatuan massacre on 23 November that killed 57 individuals, 31 of whom are journalists and 2 women lawyers.  Calling it “an incident waiting to happen with the continued implementation of the OBL”, the rights group pointed out that under the counter-insurgency program, recruitment of  para-military groups such as the CAFGU, CAA and CVO’s were resorted to by this regime. These paramilitary groups, under the direct control of the military, are also used to protect Arroyo's political allies like the Ampatuan clan." Karapatan chairperson, Marie Hilao-Enriquez said.

The report also features an indictment which charged the US-Arroyo regime with crimes committed through the OBL that includes EJK, enforced disappearance, illegal arrests, arbitrary detention and torture; vilification campaign and filing trumped-up charges against leaders and activists; indiscriminate firing, forced evacuation, militarization and other human rights violations; denial of justice through the circumvention of the judicial system; persecution of human rights defenders; and repressive policies and legislation.

Karapatan concluded that the OBL is a national policy that unleashes state terrorism on the Filipino people and that President Arroyo as commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines "knowingly and willfully leads the implementation of the OBL and has repeatedly exhorted the military and related government agencies to meet the brutish targets set for 2010 despite the loss of lives, liberty and security of the victims."

"Still," Karapatan stated, "OBL is doomed to fail. There will always be protest and resistance especially from the most economically deprived and politically marginalized sectors. The defiant people will always be encouraged and bolstered by the strong public outcry here and abroad against the militarists and human rights violators."

Leaders of progressive people's organizations, together with the relatives of victims of human rights violations, tore up pages of the crimes of the Arroyo government from a mock-up of the book OBL to demonstrate that through the people's concerted efforts and actions, the regime's attacks against the people will never prevail.  

In conclusion, KARAPATAN issues its call to the people, “We salute the Filipino people who persistently work against the US-Arroyo regime’s inimical policies and join hands with them in fighting state terrorism. Now more than ever, in the face of heightened threats to our liberties and fundamental freedoms with the martial law declaration in Maguindanao, there is an urgent need to defend our human rights and oust this murderous regime! ###

Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo, CHR Chair Leila de Lima and NY Times correspondent Carlos Conde present their views on the human rights situation in the Philippines.