23 November 2012
As we approach the International Human Rights Week, we are again called to reflect and reaffirm our stand on defending human rights, social justice and peace.
Today, the Maguindanao Massacre is commemorated with sadness and lament as justice continues to fail the hundreds of thousands who seek it.
It is reasonable to state that the injustice with which the Aquino government has treated the Maguidanao Massacre case allows for impunity to prevail and encourages the perpetuation of more killings and human rights violations, leaving perpetrators from among those seated in government and the military free from liability and accountability.
Focusing on Davao, we have issues of our own that challenges the local government in light of its stand on human rights and peace. While the rest of the country demands for justice for state perpetrated and systematic crimes like that of the Maguindanao Massacre, we in Davao have a pressing issue that we must address so as to ensure that peace and justice prevails.
In the past week, a major undertaking by the Davao City Sangguniang Panglungsod to uphold huma rights and the international humanitarian law was overridden by Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte. Her statement which in essence tolerates the militarization of civilian communities, particularly of 69th Infantry Battalion in Paquibato District undermines civilian supremacy.
Mayor Duterte showed an overbearing disregard of the significance and essence of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect of Human Rights and the International Humanitarian Law (Carhrihl) and the reality of the armed conflict.
While we commend the recent passage of a Sangguniang Panglungsod resolution mandating the AFP to be booted away from civilian communities, Mayor Duterte’s statement that the presence of military troops inside barangay halls is acceptable as long as ‘permitted’ by barangay officials is below par and poses a danger on civilian rights.
We urge Mayor Duterte and other government leaders to review and uphold the Carhrihl. The Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law was signed by the Government of the Philippinesand the National Democratic Front of the Philippines on March 16, 1998. The Agreement was meant to prevent human rights violations by both parties and, in cases of its occurrence, provide a mechanism to investigate them.
It is clearly stipulated in the Carhrihl that encampment of military forces in civilian communities are in itself a violation to the people’s rights. According to Part four (4), Article 12 of Carhrihl, “civilian population shall have the right to be protected against the risks and dangers posed by the presence of military camps in urban centers and other populated areas.”
The continuing tolerance of Mayor Duterte to the presence of 69th IB in Paquibato District indirectly manifests her acceptance of theabusive actions of AFP in the said community. She has not acted on the complaints of the civilians against the military arrogance in the communities of Davao City. Mayor Duterte was even more adamant on her stand on military presence in Paquibato while the city council is discussing the resolution for AFP pull out in the area.
Military presence and the lording over of private armies, paramilitary groups and vigilante groups backed by the military in the civilian communities is a threat in attaining genuine and lasting peace.
As the crisis worsens, leading to severe exploitation of the workers, peasants and indigenous peoples, an increasing number of the youth and the poor choose to join the armed struggle and their participation is a product of a conscious and deliberate analysis of the worsening socio-economic condition of our society – a society that does not know how to address the legitimate demands of the struggling people.
The injustice in light of the Maguindanao Massacre, and the de-facto martial law in the country as in the case of Paquibato and the rest of country reflect in one way or the other the government’s culpability in the perpetuation of crimes against the people and the undermining of the people’s aspirations for genuine justice and peace.
Bayan- Southern Mindanao Region