Sunday, November 25, 2012

Stop the Killings, Military Abuses in the Philippines, Human Rights Groups Tell Aquino

MANILA - Human rights and peace activists from various countries who were in Manila called on President Benigno Aquino to stop the killings and military abuses in the Philippines. Dozens of activists from Australia, New Zealand, Hongkong, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines made the calls along with victims and kin of victims of human rights violations during a conference held at the University of the Philippines.

The conference aims to establish the Asia Pacific Coordinating Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, a regional network that will campaign for human rights issues in the country from national up to regional and international level.

Among those who recounted their experiences were Connie Empeno, mother of disappeared UP student Karen; Genasque Enriquez, an anti-mining Lumad leader from Mindanao who is being threatened with trumped up charges of murder and multiple frustrated murder by the military; Bae Adelfa Belayong, widow of slain Datu Mampaagi Belayong who was a staunch anti-mining advocate.

According to Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of Peoples’ Rights in the Philippines, there had been documented cases of 114 victims of extrajudicial killings; 12 victims of enforced disappearances; 70 cases of torture and 447 illegal arrests; and 29,613 victims of forced evacuation during the past two years of the Aquino government.

It said among the recent cases documented by Karapatan is the massacre of anti-mining activist Juvy Capion and her two sons in Tampakan town in South Cotabato; the beheading of village councilor and peasant activist Ely Oguis in Guinobatan town in Albay province; and the labeling and harassment of Karapatan workers Jose Luis Blanco and Judde Baggo.

Pastor Joram Calimutan, coordinator of the Asia Pacific Coordinating Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, said the formation of the network will consolidate the efforts of Asia Pacific activists to strengthen and amplify the advocacy for human rights issues in the Philippines, particularly the issues of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture, illegal arrests and detention.

“We have vigorously campaigned against the terror rule of Phil. Pres. Gloria Arroyo, when killings, disappearances and arrests especially against activists and leaders of progressive organizations in the Philippines. It is very disturbing to know that, despite President Aquino’s promise to render justice for the victims and his government’s respect human rights, killings of farmers, indigenous peoples and the urban poor have continued,” Cameron Walker, Auckland Philippine Solidarity, said in a statement sent to the Mindanao Examiner.

Peter Brock, Australia Action for Peace and Development in the Philippines, also criticized Aquino’s disregard of indigenous people’s rights in favor of foreign mining companies, such as the Australian company SMI-Xstrata in Soutj Cotabato.

“Not only has Aquino furthered the plunder of ancestral lands and resources through  Executive Order 79, but he has likewise secured these exploitative industries’ interests by deploying paramilitaries and additional troops of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to kill anti-mining IPs and to silence opposition,” Brock said. The Asia Pacific activists particularly scored Aquino on his “deafening silence” on the massacre of Capion and her two sons on October 8, 2012.

“His silence bears the imprint of consent for these violations. Not only has he condoned impunity, he has likewise perpetuated it by not delivering justice for any of the 114 victims of extrajudicial killings under his administration,” Yi-Hsiang, Taiwan Committee for Philippine Concerns, said.

The APCCHRP called on Aquino to prove his claims before the international community that he has done something on the human rights situation in the country by putting a stop to the killings and by pulling out and disbanding military and paramilitary troops in rural
communities. The Mindanao Examiner

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