Dangerous Regime, Defiant People - KARAPATAN 2007 Human Rights Report

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.

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