‘2006 Worst Year for Human Rights in Davao Regions’

Dec. 03, 2006

The Southern Mindanao office of the human-rights group Karapatan released today “The 2006 Human Rights Situation of Southern Mindanao.” The report detailed abuses, mainly by state security forces in the region, against civilians, activists, peasants and workers. This year, it said, “is the worst for human rights since the toppling of the Marcos fascist dictatorship in 1986.”

Below is Karapatan’s 2006 report on the human rights situation in Southern Mindanao:


Released by Karapatan SMR on the commemoration of the 59th United Nations – Universal Declaration of Human Rights


The Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo regime ran roughshod on the Filipino peoples civil liberties and human rights as it imposed a state of martial rule and launched a campaign of terror in an effort to desperately cling to power. Propped up by the United States government, the Arroyo regime was able to muster enough political, military, and economic resources to launch a counter-offensive against those seeking to oust her from power.

On February 24, the 20th anniversary of the EDSA People Power uprising which toppled the Marcos fascist dictatorship, the Macapagal-Arroyo administration placed the country in a State of National Emergency through Presidential Proclamation 1017 (PP 1017). Copied almost word for word from Proclamation 1081 of former President Ferdinand E. Marcos, PP1017 ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to maintain law and order throughout the Philippines, prevent or suppress all forms of lawless violence as well as any act of insurrection or rebellion and to enforce obedience to all decrees, orders, and regulations It issued General Order no.5, which empowered the government to take over any institution in the interest of national security.

While it did not specify the powers vested in the AFP and the Philippine National Police (PNP), it gave them the go signal to attack the Filipino peoples rights. PP 1017 was lifted a week after but the Arroyo regime did not relent from using its martial law powers to suppress opposition to its rule. The said presidential proclamation violated Part III Article 2-Section 2 of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) (Please see Appendix A).

Violent dispersals of rallies were justified by the Calibrated Preemptive policy issued on September 21, 2005, the 32nd anniversary of the imposition of Martial Law. Even as this policy was declared as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court (SC) in April, 2006, a permanent ban on rallies was imposed in areas surrounding Malacanang Palace. Likewise, protest actions near the U.S. embassy were not allowed.

In an effort to curtail press freedom, the Philippine National Police (PNP) raided the office of the Daily Tribune during the early morning of February 25. It also attempted to issue media guidelines and warned media organizations that the police will be monitoring broadcasts and publications. The Arroyo family also filed an unprecedented 43 libel suits against journalists exposing corruption cases involving them.

The government arrested military officers and soldiers it accused of planning destabilization plots and would have them face court martial.

But the brunt of the campaign of terror was directed against the Left. Under the sponsorship of the U.S., the Arroyo regime launched and intensified its local version of the global war on terror. With the support of U.S. military aid and training, and the participation of U.S. combat forces the Arroyo regime conducted a dirty war against the Left.

At the start of the year, the Arroyo government, through its Cabinet Oversight Committee on Internal Security, came up with an Enhanced National Internal Security Plan (NISP). The Enhanced NISP, which intensified the implementation of Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL or Operation Guard Freedom), is aimed at decisively defeating the insurgency by the end of Arroyos term. By June 2006, the Arroyo government allotted an additional P1 billion for counterinsurgency

However, OBL is directed not only against the Communist Party of the Philippines-New Peoples Army-National Democratic Front of the Philippines (CPP-NPA-NDFP), the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and the Abu Sayyaf Group. It also targets the legal Left, which the AFP classifies as sectoral front organizations. Knowing the Enemy, a video presentation produced and being propagated by the AFP lumps together a broad range of progressive, church and media organizations and personalities and labels them as communist front organizations. This made them fair game for both covert and overt military operations.

Immediately after the declaration of a state of national emergency, the Arroyo government attempted to arrest progressive partylist representatives of Bayan Muna, Anakpawis, and Gabriela Womens Party. They, together with prominent personalities of these parties, were falsely charged with rebellion on the basis of fabricated evidences and statements of military assets.

Extrajudicial killings and abductions continue to escalate, averaging three political killings per week. From January to November of this year, KARAPATAN documented 185 political killings. The number of victims of enforced disappearances this year reached 93, the highest in the six-year presidency of Mrs. Arroyo.

The unabated killings in the country violate the basic right of man enshrined in the Philippine Constitutions Bill of Rights, CARHRIHLs Part III, Article 2- Section 4, Part IV Article 3- Section 1. (Please see Appendix B).

Majority of the victims of extrajudicial killings and abductions this year were leaders and members of progressive party lists and peoples organizations.

However, the Filipino peoples assertion of their rights did not waver. Public demonstrations and protest actions of varying forms have defied the undeclared martial law and campaign of terror of Mrs. Arroyo.

The families of victims of human rights violations under the Arroyo regime banded together to form their organization called HUSTISYA! Victims of Arroyo Regime United for Justice. Hustisya serves to galvanize their efforts at seeking justice and amplify their calls to put a stop to human rights violations.

The strong campaign against extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and other forms of human rights violations and the gravity of the situation have put the Arroyo regime on the defensive.

The involvement of government security forces and the impunity in the commission of these abhorrent crimes against humanity has exacerbated public distrust on the administration and has generated concern in the international community.

The general public does not believe the governments claims that most of these killings were a result of an internal purge within the CPP and that human rights groups are exaggerating the issue of political killings to destabilize government.

In response to local and international pressures to stop the killings, Pres. Arroyo was compelled to denounce political killings during her State of the Nation Address in July. It was however, a feeble condemnation as she commended Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, a notorious human rights violator, for his contribution to the advancement of the governments counterinsurgency program.

Subsequently, she was forced to form the Task Force Usig and Melo Commission purportedly to investigate cases of extrajudicial killings. But the government task force was clearly attempting to whitewash the cases and justify the official stand of the AFP and the government regarding the killings. The integrity of the commission, on the other hand, was immediately put into question because of its composition, and vague mandate and procedures.

Statements of concern did not ease as political killings further intensified. The government of Finland, the European Union, Wal Mart, U.S.-based clothing companies, and recently, the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce added their voice to the international campaign against political killings in the Philippines.

The worsening state of human rights in the country is thus, in a state of further deterioration.

Continue reading: Main Trends in The Human Rights Situation

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