Arroyo’s AFP day speech insults victims, Karapatan to GMA: continued human rights violations are nothing to brag about

The human rights watchdog Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights) assailed Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for attributing the “drastic reduction” of political killings as among the achievements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines,saying it is an insult to the victims of rights abuses.

"How could Mrs. Arroyo have the gall to brag about the continued human rights violations under her regime? Whether there are more victims or less, the fact is that her armed forces are still carrying on militarization in the countryside, abducting and torturing victims, and implementing extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearance," said Marie Hilao-Enriquez, Karapatan secretary general.

Enriquez added that for obvious reasons, Arroyo left out in her speech any reaction to the final report of United Nations Special Rapporteur Philip Alston, who attributed the killings to the AFP and its counterinsurgency program.

"Mrs. Arroyo distorts the truth and shows her callous disregard for the victims of human rights violations by her Armed Forces," Enriquez said.

Enriquez said that the military had only "successfully defended" the Arroyo regime as it continues to cling to power. "Arroyo and her AFP have only put the nation in danger. The 887 victims killed and 186 disappeared clearly, are not achievements she should boast of."

Among the officers who paraded before Arroyo was Lt. Col. Noel Clement, former commanding officer of the 56th IB of the Phil. Army who had been accused in the abduction and disappearance of UP students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño and peasant Manuel Merino in 2006, and also in the disappearance of Jonas Burgos in April this year.

The most recent victim is peasant Renante Romagus, 32, who survived salvaging by Scout Rangers in brgy. Casoon, Monkayo, Compostela Valley on Dec. 12. Renante recounted to Karapatan how he was tortured by soldiers who accused him of being a member of the New People's Army. After four days, he was stabbed and dumped in brgy. Hagimitan, some 30 minutes away from the detachment of the 28th IB PA in Monkayo. Renante survived only by sheer will power and with the help of barangay residents.

Karapatan attributes the declined cases to the successful international and local campaign against political killings and disappearances, the mounting pressure on Arroyo from the United Nations, the US Senate, the diplomatic community and various local and international peoples' organizations and human rights groups.

"The only way to end impunity and improve the human rights situation in the country is to replace the Philippine president." Enriquez concluded.