News stories about Human Rights Situation in the Philippines
According to KARAPATAN, more than 600 activists have been killed since Pres. Arroyo assumed power. The killings here have generated a lot of media attention.
According to KARAPATAN, more than 600 activists have been killed since Pres. Arroyo assumed power. The killings here have generated a lot of media attention.
According to KARAPATAN, a human rights group in the Philippines, more than 600 activists have been killed since Pres. Arroyo assumed power. The killings here have generated a lot of media attention. Below are some of the stories that have been published in the Philippines.
WE THIRST FOR PEACE (IN BULACAN)
*published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, May 18, 2006
Peace is our prayer, hope and commitment. Peace is when the government no longer allots an indecent percentage of the national budget to military spending but to education and other services to the people. Peace is when communities are no longer harassed by military troops, taking their chickens and rice harvests. There can be no genuine peace when basic human rights are trampled upon and when the people live in a climate of constant fear and
Statistics show an upsurge in the cases of human rights violation in the province of Bulacan since the deployment of the 24th Infantry Batallion to augment the forces of the 56th Infantry Battalion, and the assignment of Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan as the Commanding Officer of the 7th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army in Central Luzon last September 2005.
Since President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo took office in 2001 and up to 2005, documented human rights violations in the province alone numbered at 36, of which 7 are cases of extrajudicial killings and 2 are enforced disappearances, not to mention the cases of physical harassment and mental torture affecting more that 1,300 workers, peasants, fisherfolks, urban poor and youths.
From January to March 2006 alone, 13 civilians were killed, excluding many civilian and barangay officials who are victims of enforced disappearance, physical and mental torture and house burnings perpetrated by armed bonnet wearing men that residents suspect as having links with the military and in some cases, victims identify the perpetrators as elements of the 56th IB and 24th IB of the Philippine Army.
The victims are deprived of their basic right to live guaranteed no less than by our faith and by existing laws, both national and international. Without any formal charges, they were arbitrarily arrested or forcibly taken and even killed in the allegation that they are NPA sympathizers or supporters. This is contrary to the constitutional principle of presumption
of innocence. The perpetrators acted as the accusers, the judges and the executioners.
It is saddening however that the present administration is somewhat indifferent to these alarming cases of human rights violations in the whole country, including Bulacan where victims are civilians, suspected of being CPP-NPA sympathizers and activists identified with the progressive leftist groups. In a democracy like ours, rights of every citizen should be
respected, regardless of religion, political beliefs etc.
In this context, we appeal to President Arroyo to immediately conduct a prompt, thorough and impartial investigation of such human rights violations which have no place in a Christian nation such ours. These investigations should lead to the prosecution and punishment of the perpetrators so that authorities may thwart the “climate of impunity” and could send a clear
message to all members of the police, military and other security forces that involvement in, or acquiescence to such human rights violations will never be tolerated.
We also appeal to immediately pull out these military troops stationed in the province of Bulacan, for it is ironical that the rampant human rights violations occurred during the deployment of additional troops, particularly the 24th IB PA under Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan. How come that in the Tamayo Farms Massacre in San Ildefonso, where 5 civilians were killed and 2 were forcibly taken by 15 armed bonnet-wearing men, the farm is located just 100 meters away from a military checkpoint and 200 meters away from a military detachment?
As people of faith, we are called to be human rights advocates and peace builders. The peace that we should seek is the peace based on justice –where human dignity is upheld and no one is denied fullness of life.
“Ang Manlilikha ay ipinagkatiwala ang buhay ng tao sa kanyang mapanagutang pangangalaga, hindi upang gamitin ito ng walang pakundangan kundi upang alagaan ito ng may katarungan at tapat na pag-ibig.” (pastoral letter of Bishop Oliveros)
Condensed from the statement “We Thirst for Peace (in Bulacan)” signed by
concerned leaders and citizens of Bulacan. The signature drive to support
this statement is still on-going.
Signatories : Most Rev. Jose F. Oliveros, D.D. -Bishop, Diocese of Malolos, Rev. Dr. Solito K. Toquero-Bishop, United Methodist Church-Manila Episcopal Area, Rt. Rev. Raymundo Rivera, Bishop- Iglesia Filipina Independiente-Diocese of Bulacan-Bataan, Bishop Elmer Bolocon-OIC Bishop, United Church of Christ in the Phils. North Luzon, Most Rev. Joseph V. Galaroza, CSC D.D.- Bishop, Igreja Catolica Apostolica Brasileira, Diocese of Malolos: Mons Andres Valera-Vicar General, Mons. Filemon Capiral, Mons. Epitacio Castro, Mons. Enrico Santos-Episcopal Vicars, Mons. Moises Andrade, Jr.-Chancellor, Fr. Pablo Legaspi-Vice Chancellor, Mons. Bart Santos, Jr-Rector, Commission Heads-Fr. Dennis Espejo-Service, Fr. Reynaldo San Juan-Liturgy, Fr. Albert
Suatengco-Clergy,Fr. Mar DJ Arenas-Temporal Goods, Fr. Angelito Santiago-Youth, Vicar Foranes: Fr. Javer M. Joaquin, Fr. Ady Vergara, Fr. Leo de Jesus, Fr. Lon Balagtas, Fr. Rey Mutuc, Fr. Jovi Sebastian, Fr. Rolando de Leon, Fr. Bert Lunod, Mons. Jaime Garcia, Mons. Manuel Villaroman, Mons. Enrique Mag-isa, Mons. Jose Antonio Galvez,Diocesan Priests-Fr. Isidro Rodriguez, Fr. Johann Sebastian,Fr. Mario Mendiola, Fr. Len Coronel, Fr. Ety Ignacio, Fr. Francis Cortez, Fr. Dars Cabral, Fr. Sonny Dazo, Fr. Bobby Mariano, Fr. Arnel Camacho,Fr. Conrad Santos, Fr . Mariano Lucas, Fr. Lazaro
Benedictos, Fr. Jimmy Palaganas, Fr. Pros Tenorio, Fr. Jigo Garcia, Fr. Romy Sasi, Fr. Nicanor Lalog, Fr. Regino Asuncion, Fr. Ricardo Moraga, Fr. Nap Baltazar, Fr. Ronnie Tuazon, Fr. Anthony Chan, Fr. Ramil Juat, Fr. Romy Dionisio, Fr. Avel Sampana, Fr. Virgilio Ramos, Fr. Narciso Sampana, Fr. Rodel Ponce, Fr. Alejandro Enriquez, Fr. Ventura Galman, Fr. Vince Reyes, Fr. Romulo Perez, Fr. Expedito Caleon, Fr. Quirico Cruz, Fr. Von Tentangco, Fr. Fernando Placibe, Fr. Candido Ersando, Fr. Roman Caleon, Fr. Ramon Garcia, Fr. Marcelo Sanchez, Fr. Rufino Sulit, Fr. Teodorico Trinidad, Fr.
Lamberto Tomas, Fr. Rodel Cristobal, Fr. Manuel Anastacio, Fr. Irineo Cabasal, Fr. Jay Lina, Fr. Coco Tibayan, Fr. Hilario San Juan-Sr. Niceta Vargas OSA-President, University of Regina Carmeli, Sr. Virginia Villaluz, OP-Superior General, United Methodist Church: District Superintendents-Rev. Ciriaco Francisco-North District, Rev. Ismael Sarangaya, Sr.-South District, Rev. Elias delos Santos-East District, Rev. Generoso Ocampo-Church and Society,Pastors,Deaconesses,Lay-Rev. Jaime Martin, Evalyn Fullido, Ruby Gunio, Nette Benedictos, Mirasol Ramos, Cleo Javier, Sheba dela Cruz, Francisco Sta. Ana, Roland Martinez, Marinel Laderas, John Santillan, Ruther Pilien, Raquel Palacio, Amy Manforte, Amie Ronda, Blesie Angeles, Lilia delos Santos, Aurea Mariano, Mec Estrella Villanueva, Rev. Arnel Villareal, Rewel Javier, May Cosicol, Elenor Sarangaya, Malou Mercado, Miriam Palacon, Ogie Mercado Iglesia Filipina Independiente: Fr. Santie Azaula-Vicar General, Fr. Nhel del Madrid, Jr.-Peacemakers Diocesan Priests-Fr. Jojit Sayas, Fr . Roderick Yñeco, Fr. Raymart Sacalamitao, Fr. Mario Quince, Fr. Nick Ventura, Fr. Paul Sacalamitao, Fr. Eric Miranda, Fr. Elmerick Azucena, Atty. Luisita Agbayani-Natl VP, WOPIC United Church of Christ in the Phils: Rev. Romeo Tomas, Rev. Alfredo Faurillo, Rev. Samuel Salen, Deac Herminia Salen, Ptr. Jerome Salen,ICAB: Fr. Roger Martinez, Jr.
Local Government Units
Representatives: Wilhelmino Sy Alvarado-First District, Pedro Pancho-Second District, Lorna Silverio-Third District, Reylina Nicolas-Fourth District, Eduardo Roquero, M.D.-SJDM Board Members: Raul Mendoza, Pat Laderas, Ernesto Sulit, Pacifico Aniag, Rod Santos, Glenn Santos, Jon-Jon Mendoza, Ike delos Santos, Daniel Fernando Municipal Mayors: Ambrosio Cruz, Jr.- President, League of Municipalities-Bulacan, Leonardo de Leon-Angat, Ma. Elizabeth Villegas-Bulacan, Felix Ople-Hagonoy, James de Jesus-Calumpit, Zoilito Santiago-Obando, Anastacia Vistan-Plaridel, Eduardo Alarilla-Meycauayan, Elpidio Castillo-Pulilan Municipal Vice Mayors: Juan Magbitang-President,
Vice-Mayors League, Gilberto Santos-Angat, Rizaldy Samonte-Bulacan, Reynaldo San Pedro-SJDM, Vicente Esguerra-Pulilan, Conchita Beltran-Paombong, Nonilo Vergara-Balagtas, Juanito Santiago-Marilao, Jose Jose-Guiginto, Kennedy Valdez-Bocaue, Leo Yap-Plaridel, Municipal Councilors: Pulilan-Bernardino Santos, Marcelo Enriquez, Marcel Espinosa, Deejay Santos, Billy Ilaga, Manuelito Reyes, Guiginto-Ariel Arceo, Calumpit-Michael Fermin, San Ildefonso-Isagani Illescas, Leomar Garcia, Henry Castro, Plaridel-Lori B. Surio, Bocaue-Dennis Carpio Heads of Provl Govt Offices: Sienna Maureen
Hilario-Chief of Staff,Office of the Governor, Alicia Javier-OSSC, Atty. Eugenio Resurreccion-Legal, Cynthia Abiol-HRMO, Rowena Tiongson-PSWD, Jesus Perez-Women’s Center, Irineo Mendoza-Gen. Services, Marina Flores-Budget, Marites Friginal-Accounting, Ricardo Medina Jr.- PENRO, Jovito Saguinsin-PCEDO Provincial Govt. Staff : Medy Santiago, Lucila Dionido, Myla Reyes, Leonida Quintas, Mary Joy Tanguiran, Razchel Javier, Eugene Geronimo Jr., Diane Deinla, Carmencita Diaz, Gina Candelaria, Lucio Mariano, Hansel Evangelista, Alfredo Orbita, Marcelo Santiago, Larry Sebastian, Rizza Sanchez, Marites Barcibe, Jing de Guia, Josefina Buenaventura, Rosanna de Castro, Dindo Dionisio, Ernie Clemente, Renato Francisco, Arlene de Leon, Yolanda de Leon, Mary Rose Roque, Irene Crisostomo, Jefferson Lopez, Mel dela Cruz, Perlyn Mendiola, Ma. Rowena Maclid, Athenie Bautista, Ponciano Sillano Jr., Rosario Racquel Bunag, Jay Rodriguez, May Mendoza, Eric Tanjuan, Loreta Baltao, Ma. Ferlina Garcia, Norilyn Mendieta, Rochelle Mangulabnan, Marichiel Manimbu, Amalia Agcaoili, Ma. Gloria Carrillo, Norberto Arevalo, Rosario Benedictos, Cornelia de Jesus, Jesusa Mateo,
Municipal Staff: Engr. Arcadio Sulit, Kitchie Jose, Romeo Garcia, Danny Santos
Lawyers: Judge Manny Siayngco-President,LAKAN HUKOM, Atty. Purificacion Bernabe-Secretary, IBP-Bulacan, Atty. Sherry Jane Quinonez, Atty. Manny Arcilla-Directors, IBP, Atty. Liberato Reyes-Former Provl. Prosecutor, Atty. Emilio Bermas, Atty. Glen Palubon, Atty. Reneiro Payumo, Atty. John Vargas, Atty. Fermin Arceo Concerned Individuals : Magdalena Reyes, M.D.-Commissioner, PKKB, Ramon Posadas-Former Board Member, Jun Aniag-Former Representative, Elmer Maniego and Jake Maglalas-Commission on Human Rights- Region III, and many others.
THE Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has weighed in on the killings of activists and members of the media. CHR Chair Purificacion Quisumbing told the Inquirer: “We strongly condemn the spate of killings that have yet to be resolved and we have noted that there is a perceived pattern of the violation of the human right to life… If several deaths happened in just a week, these constitute a pattern of impunity.” She added: “The pattern of complaints that come to us shows members of the Armed Forces and the PNP [Philippine National Police] as suspects. That has to be addressed and we call on the military to do something about it.” And then she bluntly set aside the Arroyo administration’s pet rationalizations: “We couldn’t care less what colors the killers are. Is the government so helpless?”
Quisumbing then went on to explain, “In human rights terms, the government is still responsible even if persons in authority are not those behind the killings. The government is still responsible in protecting the right to life and the security of homes and public order and property.”
That is precisely the point, and one that we have raised repeatedly: the burden of proof rests firmly on the agents of the state, and the circumstantial evidence is strong enough to warrant scrutinizing law enforcement officials.
Strong as Quisumbing’s words are, her real objective is to spur the military to action. She said it should take the lead in looking into a situation that is both scandalous and alarming.
In a sense, what is happening is just the latest manifestation of a problem that has existed since the twilight of the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship. Civilians, concerned about military abuses, appeal to the officer corps to take a hand in fighting those abuses. The Armed Forces, faced with such questions, instinctively passes on the blame to its enemies and resents calls for investigation. Even when the CHR was a presidential committee,
prior to the ratification of the present Constitution, this problem was already evident. And it hasn’t gone away.
The administration has claimed that the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) is engaged in yet another of those party purges and that the killings — whether of 143 militants from 2006 to March of this year, as the CHR has taken notice of, or 566 or even 601 (depending on who’s asked) since President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo took office — are liquidations being undertaken for the CPP’s own purposes. Such a claim is, of course,
historically plausible, as books ranging from Gregg Jones’ to William Chapman’s to Joel Rocamora’s studies of the communist rebellion suggest. What seems less plausible, though, is that such a purge would take place in such a spectacularly public manner. The past party purge undertaken after Edsa People Power I in 1986, after all, remains shrouded in mystery and controversy.
On the other hand, equally — and actually, more — plausible is the connection that has been made between the areas of assignment of Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan and an increase in extrajudicial killings and assassinations in those places. Combine these with Palparan’s penchant for bloodthirsty rhetoric, and the military brass’ decision — fully endorsed by the
President — to sweep aside all calls for investigations, preferring, instead, promotions and decorations for Palparan, it isn’t difficult to think that the administration fully approves of what he says — and does.
In the end, though, whether the military is doing the liquidating, or the CPP, or both, as Quisumbing says, is not the point. The obligation of the government is not only to put a stop to such killings but to bring the killers to justice. Violence is being done not only to a political minority, it is being inflicted on the majority. The signal being sent to a society
that already views life as cheap is that lives dedicated to particular political goals, if such goals don’t match official priorities, are cheaper still.
The Philippine military, like any other military anywhere in the world, prefers its own code and system of justice to that of civilians. But it cannot demand its own justice for the purpose of simply protecting its turf or, worse, so that it can ignore troublesome allegations. The Armed Forces likes to say it is a partner for progress. All it has proven up to now is
that it may be a party to a bloody conspiracy.
THE RECURRING scenario in the Philippines of activists being gunned down by motorcycle-riding men is now one of the concerns of Amnesty International (AI).
In its 2006 report, the London-based human rights organization noted the “sharp rise” in the killing of militant activists and community workers, as well as the “climate of impunity” that, it said, was “shielding the perpetrators.”
“Most of the attacks were carried out by unidentified assailants on motorcycles, at times wearing face masks, who were often described as ‘vigilantes’ or hired killers allegedly linked to the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines),” Amnesty International said.
The 318-page report on the state of human rights in 150 countries was presented yesterday to reporters in a press conference by AI Pilipinas executive director Jessica Soto.
On the Philippine situation, the report said: “The number of attacks on leftist activists and community workers rose sharply, with at least 66 fatal shootings reported in 2005.
“A climate of impunity shielding the perpetrators of such killings deepened as ineffective investigations failed to lead to the prosecution of those responsible. In many cases witnesses were reportedly too frightened to testify.”
The release of the report comes in the wake of the statement of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) that the Arroyo administration was accountable for the killing of activists and journalists, whether or not persons in authority were responsible.
Most at risk
The AI report said that apart from suspected members of the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), “those most at risk included members of legal leftist political parties, including Bayan Muna and Anakpawis, other human rights and community activists, priests, church workers and lawyers regarded by the authorities as sympathetic to the broader communist movement.”
It observed that the military’s labeling of activists in legal organizations as communists was one of the factors in the rise of the number of assassinations: “Increased killings in particular provinces were reportedly linked to the public labeling of leftist groups as NPA front organizations by local AFP commanders.”
Asked if the Arroyo administration might be encouraging more extrajudicial killings in the countryside with Major General Jovito Palparan’s recent promotion, the AI’s Soto said: “Yes, I can only agree with that.” She said that despite the killing of leftist activists in Palparan’s areas of jurisdiction, “you see the government giving support to him.”
“This is an indication that the government is not serious in resolving these cases,” she said.
Leftist groups have accused Palparan, commanding officer of Army troops in Central Luzon, of involvement in the killing of suspected rebels wherever he is assigned.
Palparan recently called for the re-imposition of the anti-subversion law to speed up the government’s counterinsurgency campaign.
Helping the CHR
He said CPP leaders had managed to infiltrate certain party-list groups that were “legal” but were involved in “illegal activities.”
Soto said Amnesty International would assist the CHR in bringing the Philippine situation to the attention of the United Nations Human Rights Council.
“Perhaps they can send a special rapporteur … What we’ll do is keep on writing [letters to the UNHRC] until the human rights violations in the country stop,” she said.
Soto also noted that the CHR had become outspoken on the human rights situation in the country: “Before, the CHR would not make statements on the government’s human rights record. Now, [it’s] making a strong statement.”
On Monday, CHR Chair Purificiacion Quisumbing said the government was answerable for all the unsolved killings of activists.
She said it was the government’s responsibility to ensure the people’s right to life, property, privacy, security of homes and public order.
‘Job for PNP’
But the military and police yesterday refused to take responsibility for the unabated killings.
“Well, in the first place this is the job of the Philippine National Police. These are criminal acts that fall under the jurisdiction of the PNP,” said AFP Public Information Office chief Colonel Tristan Kison.
He added: “If there are people within our ranks who would be charged, we are ready to surrender them to the [PNP] for investigation.
“If we have a way of knowing [the perpetrators], we will help in resolving this problem as soon as possible.”
PNP Director Emmanuel Carta, officer in charge of Task Force Usig which was formed to solve the killings, said it was exerting its “best efforts.”
Carta said it was “unfair” to say that the PNP was not doing enough regarding the killings.
“There are other pillars of the criminal justice system. I don’t think we should blame each other. We should work hard on this,” Carta said.
“We are exerting our best efforts to gather evidence … But what we need is for witnesses to come out,” he said.
Carta said the task force was concentrating on its assigned job because no less than President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had given instructions to its head, PNP Deputy Director General Avelino Razon Jr.
Razon, the deputy police chief for operations, left on Monday on a five-day official trip to Britain.
Kison said the AFP was assisting Task Force Usig “in the form of intelligence sharing” to identify the killers.
“But who will we charge?” he said.
The AFP had earlier claimed that the fallen militants were likely killed by their comrades. “Well, we have maintained that this could be part of a purge by the other side,” Kison said.
Asked if the military was undertaking a crackdown on perceived enemies of the state, he said: “Well, our crackdown would always be on the maintenance of peace and stability. Whether or not they are on the CPP-NPA side or the political opposition side, for as long as they are threats to peace and stability we will take the necessary action.”
Renato Reyes Jr., secretary general of the militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), yesterday challenged the PNP to relieve the police commanders in areas where activists or journalists had been killed.
“They do that for car theft cases. They should all the more do so [where] political killings [are involved],” he said.
At the House, Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna party-list Representative Satur Ocampo said the Arroyo administration should heed CHR Chair Quisumbing’s call for government accountability in all political killings.
Ocampo said the killing of activists, mostly members of Bayan Muna, and the filing of fabricated charges against himself and the other party-list representatives collectively known as the “Batasan 5” showed that “the Left is being used as a test case on how to silence the entire nation whose overwhelming majority seeks the President’s ouster.”
He pointed out that the government was bound to uphold and protect the rights and freedoms of the people under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other international human rights instruments and conventions that the Philippines had signed.
And yet, he said, “rabid anti-Left government, military and police officials have maliciously dubbed dissenters and activists as enemies of the state in a vain attempt to justify the continuing political killings.”
According to Anakpawis Representative Rafael Mariano, hit squads are now operating in Metro Manila and other major urban centers as part of the counterinsurgency program.
“This annihilation campaign is clearly anchored in the Armed Forces’ internal security operation plan Bantay Laya,” Mariano said.
He said Bantay Laya had “a two-pronged target: The organized masses in the countryside and the legal progressive movement in the cities.”
‘Candidates for sainthood’
Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez said Quisumbing would have to “be careful in making general statements” about the killings.
“The CHR, I think, always thinks that all the leftist people are candidates for sainthood, and that the government is always wrong,” Gonzalez said in a phone interview.
“I think the CHR should be more [open-minded] in [its] assessment … So many people are killed not because of their being leftist or rightist or media …” he said.
Gonzalez reiterated his challenge to the CHR, leftist groups and international organizations to help the government get to the bottom of the communist purges of the 1980s.
“Why don’t we work together to find out who was responsible for the common graves in Quezon? Who did it and why was it done?” he said, adding:
“Human rights groups should look into these things. We are criticized abroad for these killings. The government is being blamed, but what about their (the leftists’) own killings?”
With reports from Michael Lim Ubac, Armand N. Nocum and Christian V. Esguerra
Editor’s Note: Published on Page A1 of the May 24, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer
MALAYBALAY CITY — What mass graves?!
Bukidnon Governor Jose Ma. Zubiri yesterday belied claims by National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales that the military had unearthed two mass graves in the province containing the skeletal remains of 18 communist rebels and sympathizers who had been killed by their comrades.
“He (Gonzales) made it appear that Bukidnon is a massacre field. That’s a lie,” Zubiri, chair of the Northern Mindanao Peace and Order Council, told the Inquirer in a phone interview.
Citing a military report, Gonzales earlier said the New People’s Army (NPA), armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, carried out 11 killings in San Fernando town and another seven in Quezon town.
During his stint in the Regional Peace and Order Council the past five years, Zubiri said he never received reports of mass graves in the province. The military, according to the governor, had recovered only two bodies in Bukidnon — one in 2001 and the other in 2005.
“I don’t know his agenda but definitely we won’t allow him (Gonzales) to use Bukidnon for whatever agenda he has,” said Zubiri whose son, Juan Miguel, is the representative of the third congressional district of Bukidnon.
The national security adviser earlier said the NPA killings in Bukidnon proved that the wave of murders of unarmed leftist activists across the country was part of an ongoing internal purge in the communist movement.
The Inquirer sought Gonzales’s comment on Zubiri’s remarks. But members of Gonzales’s staff said questions on the Bukidnon killings should be directed at military officials who furnished the national security adviser with the report.
After reading the Inquirer report on Gonzales’s claims of two communist mass graves in Bukidnon, Zubiri said he talked to Brigadier General Jose Barbieto, deputy commander of the 4th Infantry Division, who advised him to call up Colonel Vic Morales, commander of the 403rd Brigade based in Malaybalay City.
Zubiri said Morales told him that Gonzales’s report about the mass graves was not true.
“When we went to talk in my office, he (Morales) said: ‘You know governor, I apologize for this. We were precisely telling the secretary, even discouraging him, that the report he received about mass graves in San Fernando was not true,'” the governor said.
Zubiri said Morales admitted to giving Gonzales a report. But the colonel told the governor that “the report does not say that there are killing fields in Bukidnon.”
Gonzales had said that the 26th Infantry Battalion, which is under the 403rd Brigade, had documented at least 21 cases of summary executions by the NPA since 2002. Gonzales also cited other NPA “atrocities,” including the recruitment of “child warriors” and the rape of a teenager by a rebel commander.
Gonzales had said the military report was based on the testimony of at least 12 witnesses.
But Zubiri said he was surprised to find out that one of the supposed witnesses was Jimmy Arion, the head of Barangay Kibongcog, where one of the mass graves was allegedly found.
“Arion is one of the top 10 barangay captain awardees in the province. He has delivered projects to his people. How come he has been alleged as a New People’s Army executioner?” the governor said.
In a radio interview yesterday, Arion said Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Madrigal Jr., commander of the 26th IB based in Bukidnon, had forced him to admit that he was an NPA leader when the military brought him and seven others to the 4th ID headquarters in Cagayan de Oro City for a short talk with Gonzales on May 13.
“Madrigal told us that Secretary Gonzales wanted to meet us in Cagayan de Oro for a short talk, and then the relatives of the victims of the killings would receive relief goods from the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development),” Arion said.
Arion said he was coerced into admitting to journalists that he was an NPA leader. He, however, refused to sign an affidavit.
“I didn’t have a choice, especially since Lieutenant Colonel Madrigal sat beside me and told me to admit the allegations. I yielded but I decided not to sign any of those papers,” Arion said.
Madrigal denied Arion’s allegations.
“They (witnesses) willfully joined us. In fact, some civilian lawyers spoke to them before they were presented to Secretary Gonzales,” Madrigal said.
Arion and his wife Nena were held for three days at the military camp in Cagayan de Oro. They escaped later and went to Bishop Benjamin Barloso of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines on May 16.
Bayan Muna member
Arion, who chairs a local UCCP chapter, is active in the militant party-list group Bayan Muna. His wife is a member of a women’s group engaged in livelihood activities supported by Bukidnon Representative Teofisto Guingona III.
Bishop Barloso told the Inquirer that the UCCP would extend help to Arion and his wife.
MANILA (Reuters) – Security officials from the United States and the Philippines will create a new pact this week to deal with militants, pirates, natural disasters, disease and other non-military threats, officials said on Tuesday.
The United States, a former colonial ruler of the Southeast Asian country, has been a major source of military aid for the poorly funded Philippine armed forces in the form of training and hardware such as rifles, gunboats and helicopters.
Washington has poured in more than $300 million in security assistance since 2000. In addition it has given funds to build roads, schools and water systems in poor communities seen as breeding grounds for communist rebels and Islamic militants.
“We’re formalizing the creation of a Special Engagement Board to deal with the non-traditional security threats we’re facing,” a senior Philippine defense official, who declined to be named, told Reuters.
“This is a new mechanism and framework to address the emerging threats such as piracy, terrorism, transnational crime and bird flu.”
Philippine security forces have been fighting communist and Muslim insurgencies since the late 1960s and, more recently, the influx and influence of regional militants with ties to al Qaeda.
In a recent interview with Reuters, Defense Secretary Avelino Cruz said Manila and Washington had completed the exchange of notes to implement the new security platform, supplementing their existing treaty signed in 1951.
“We are going to launch it on May 24,” Cruz had told Reuters when he joined defense ministers from 10 Southeast Asian nations in Kuala Lumpur this month.
The senior defense official told Reuters the new arrangement would also expand the role of other agencies engaged in security work, such as the foreign affairs, interior, justice and national security departments.
“It could be a response to the need of the times,” security analyst Rex Robles, a retired navy commodore, told Reuters, saying the new mechanism may “fill up the gap” left by a treaty crafted five decades ago.
But he urged the government to make the new agreement public, noting that resistance to a foreign military presence in the country was strong.
“Why was the public, and our lawmakers, kept in the dark about this new security arrangement?” Robles said.