Philippines: AFP should focus awareness drive on human rights in its ranks

Apr. 26, 2007

MANILA — The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is grossly deceptive in its latest scheme to hold so-called awareness drive to justify continuing military presence in urban communities during the elections. Instead of rounding up urban poor communities and universities to lecture against cause-oriented groups, the AFP should focus awareness drive on human rights among its ranks. This election season, they should all go back to the barracks and take a study leave on human rights. We don’t need them dictating upon the people the AFP’s choice of candidates in the guise of ‘awareness drive’ which actually consists of lectures against activist groups as what they did at the Philippine Normal University, Philippine Christian University and other schools and communities. We join the various groups in demanding immediate and total pull-out of AFP troops who will likely repeat the scenario of active military role in the fraudulent 2004 elections.

This was the statement of the Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR), a church-based human rights group in reaction to Maj. Gen. Benjamin Dolorfino’s announcement of the AFP’s role during the elections.

We strongly suspect that government soldiers are not even aware of CARHRIHL as human rights education is not seriously integrated in the AFP courses. We challenge government soldiers to study the CARHRIHL document and defy the Oplan Bantay Laya design which grossly violates human rights.

A true soldier of the Filipino people must know and respect human rights. It is lamentable that military forces are not being true to the AFP slogan ‘to serve and protect’ as they engage in counter-insurgency programs that target activist civilians, in gross violation of existing human rights instruments. If the soldiers are aware and if they truly care about human rights, they should stop engaging in operations where noncombatants are brutally slain on their premise that the legal activists are members of front organizations of the CPP-NPA-NDFP.

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