Letter to the Editor: On AFP’s claim that they have a clean human rights slate

AFP: Stop spreading your lies

 

The Armed Forces of the Philippines Human Rights Office (AFPHRO), in a news article on the Philippine Daily Inquirer that came out last May 14, is boasting that the AFP has a clean human rights slate from January to April this year and all other human rights violations cases filed at the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) from July 2010 are mere accusations.

 

The AFP should stop spreading its lies.

 

An estimated eight battalions of the Army, police and CAFGU are currently stationed in 22 towns in the southern part of Quezon. Such a concentration of forces in rural communities translates to an escalation of human rights violations.

 

In a press conference we have organized last Monday, farmers from Quezon shared stories of military abuse.

 

Among them was Christopher Prieto, a farmer from Mulanay, Quezon. Last May 9, at around 1:00 A.M., several armed men in combat boots came to his house accusing him of hiding a gun. When his wife asked the unwanted visitors who they were, they only answered “Why do you need to know who we are?”

 

Prieto said some of his neighbors were brought to a military camp last January, interrogated and accused of being New People’s Army (NPA) rebels. One was even beaten up.

 

In Catanuan, Quezon, military men disrupted 17-year-old Manilyn Caribot’s funeral, who died in a crossfire between the 85th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) and the NPA last April 29.

 

Her aunt, Genelyn Dichoso, was offered Php 150,000 by two army men (one introduced himself as a lieutenant from the 76th IBPA) for her to refrain from filing a case against the military. She declined.

 

On Caribot’s funeral last May 5, two 6×6 army trucks filled with soldiers in full battle gear stood waiting at the cemetery entrance.  The soldiers surrounded the grave where Manilyn was set to be buried. While all this was happening, soldiers reportedly ransacked Dichoso’s house, as well as five others,.and allegedly pointed their guns at children who were left at home.

 

Felix Balaston, a farmer from Macalelon, Quezon, was seen by witnesses being brought to the 85th IBPA camp on March 27, 2011. His wife, Mirasol, is still searching for him up to now.

 

Many other cases of threat, intimidation, harassment, manhandling have also been reported to Karapatan by local farmers.

 

Certainly, the AFP will dismiss these cases again as mere accusations.

 

Let us not forget that during the Arroyo administration, more than a thousand fell victim to extrajudicial killings and hundreds to enforced disappearance, yet no one was ever convicted. That does not mean that the victims were simply spreading accusations.

 

Human rights violations continue under the current Aquino administration’s Internal Peace and Security Plan “Bayanihan” or “Oplan Bayanihan.” Like its predecessor Oplan Bantay Laya, Oplan Bayanihan is a counterinsurgency program devised to quell any form of dissent, armed or unarmed, by any means necessary. It blurs the distinction between what is legal and illegal. Ultimately, innocent civilians become prime victims.

 

There is a great need to defend human rights, especially when the violators will do anything in their power to mislead the public. There is a great need for all who know in their hearts the importance of human rights to unite and take a stand against injustice.

 

Stop human rights violations now.

 

 

 

Glendhyl Malabanan

Secretary General

Karapatan-Southern Tagalog

karapatan.st@gmail.com

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