THE YEAR 2007 is a dangerous time for the Filipino people as state terror, impunity in human rights violations and general lawlessness grip the nation. The government of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has done little to stop the political killings and disappearances except take token steps to assuage local and international outcry. On the other hand, the year also signals victories in the people’s relentless struggle against political repression and state terrorism as the victims’ clamor for justice and democracy is echoed here and abroad.
There is no clearer picture of the Arroyo government’s iron-fist mindset and utter disregard for human rights than the sight of full-battle-geared policemen and an armored personnel carrier smashing into a tear-gassed hotel lobby to “serve an arrest warrant” to a handful of rebel soldiers and civilians, and afterwards, police
herding in the journalists and broadcasters covering the incident, their wrists strapped, like suspected criminals.
So alarming is the Arroyo government’s propensity for political repression that Philip Alston, United Nations Special Rapporteur (UNSR) for extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary executions, in his November report on the Philippines admonished that “As Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, the President (GMA) must take concrete steps to put an end to those aspects of counterinsurgency operations which have led to the targeting and execution of many individuals working with civil society organizations.” He strongly recommended that, “Extra-judicial executions must be eliminated from counter-insurgency operations.”
In Congress, GMA is besieged with impeachment complaints on the basis of her involvement in scandalous billion-peso government contracts, million-peso bribery of legislators and local government officials right inside Malacañang Palace and gross violations of human rights.
It is no surprise that results of police and military investigations of the bombings in the Glorietta mall and the Batasan (House of Representatives) complex are met with public skepticism and mistrust. Many still believe that the incidents were instigated by the military or the national security watchdogs to deflect public attention from Arroyo’s wrongdoings and the political crisis which her questioned presidency is mired in.
Instead of pursuing genuine reforms to get the country out of the economic and political crises, the Arroyo government persists in bandying about positive economic statistics which do not reflect the extreme poverty that the majority of the people suffer. To ensure sustained backing from the George W. Bush administration, GMA assiduously follows Bush’s lead in his global war of terror and imperialist globalization. She continues to be the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) which violates human rights and suppresses people’s dissent with impunity to keep her regime in power.
The Arroyo government launched Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL) or Oplan “Freedom Watch” in 2002 as its five-year national counter-insurgency blueprint. It failed to meet its targets in 2006 and was extended as OBL II in 2007. What OBL accomplished are the extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances of hundreds of men and women from among political activists, peasants, workers, journalists, church people, lawyers and other civilians from various sectors of Philippine society. OBL II aims to decimate the revolutionary forces of the Communist Party of the Philippines, the New People’s Army and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (CPP-NPA-NDFP) by 2010, the end of GMA’s current term.
Karapatan’s documentation of OBL II’s record of violations from January to October 2007 shows the continuing state violence that the U.S.-Arroyo regime commits not only against the insurgent forces but also against civilians, especially those involved in the legal democratic movement.
Download full report below.
This copy was taken from Inquirer.net.
In some areas, the leaders of leftist organizations are systematically hunted down by interrogating and torturing those who may know their whereabouts, and they are often killed following a campaign of individual vilification designed to instil fear into the community. The priorities of the criminal justice system have also been distorted, and it has increasingly focused on prosecuting civil society leaders rather than their killers.
The military is in a state of denial concerning the numerous extrajudicial executions in which its soldiers are implicated. Military officers argue that many or all of the extrajudicial executions have actually been committed by the communist insurgents as part of an internal purge. The NPA does commit extrajudicial executions, sometimes dressing them up as “revolutionary justice”, but the evidence that it is currently engaged in a large-scale purge is strikingly unconvincing. The military’s insistence that the “purge theory” is correct can only be viewed as a cynical attempt to displace responsibility.
I visited the Philippines at the invitation of the Government from 12
to 21 February 2007. I met with key government officials, including the
President, the Executive Secretary, the National Security Adviser, the Secretaries for Defense and Justice, members of Congress, the Chief
Justice, the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines
(AFP), the Chair of the Human Rights Commission, and the Ombudsman. Approximately half of my mission was devoted to meetings with
representatives of civil society, in Manila, Baguio and Davao. Pending
the submission of my final report to the Human Rights Council, this
interim report provides a brief overview of my activities and
identifies some of the issues which are of the most concern to me.
- The Government should immediately direct all military officers to
cease making public statements linking political or other civil society
groups to those engaged in armed insurgencies. If such
characterizations are ever to be made it must be by civilian
authorities, on the basis of transparent criteria, and in conformity
with the human rights provisions of the Constitution and relevant
- The Government should commit to restoring the effectiveness of
constitutionally mandated accountability arrangements, especially in
relation to the role of Congressional oversight;
- In conjunction with the executive branch of Government, the Supreme
Court should use its constitutional powers over the practice of law to
impress upon prosecutors that they have a duty to the public to uphold
and protect human rights by acting to ensure the effective
investigation of cases and protection of witnesses;
- The Ombudsman’s office should begin to take seriously its independent
constitutional role in responding to extrajudicial killings plausibly
attributed to public officials;
- The Government should provide the Special Rapporteur with a copy of an
“order of battle” relating to one of the zones in the country in which
significant conflict is currently occurring.
The Philippine human rights situation in 2005 can be characterized by the wanton use of repression and state terror by a scandal-rocked President desperately clinging to power in the face of the people's rejection.
The Supreme Court approved the use of the writ of amparo as another means to bring an end to extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances in the country (source INQUIRER.net).
The following is a primer prepared by the Ecumenical Movement for Justice and Peace (EMJP) on the Arroyo Government's anti-insurgency program - OPLAN BANTAY LAYA (Operation Plan Freedom Watch) which has wrought havoc over the lives of hundreds of Filipinos, killing at least over 700 individuals most of whom are members of progressive people's organizations.
Download presentation by Ecumenical Movement for Justice and Peace here.