Struggle for Justice for Victims of Political Killings,
Forced Disappearances, and Torture!
Political repression knows no bounds. Last December 10, 2010, on the very day of commemorating the 62nd year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, human rights defenders themselves became victims of repression.
Human rights activists in Bataan and Zambales gathered separately on that day to reaffirm their commitment, review the state of human rights in their provinces and map out plans of action for the promotion and defence of human rights. Elements of the PNP in both provinces disrupted their peaceful gathering. In Bataan, intelligence operatives of the 303rd Provincial Mobile Group, headed by a certain Police Officer Gamboa, forced themselves into the gathering and took pictures of the conference participants. The disruption interfered with the planned activity for the day. Meanwhile, in Zambales, armed elements of the Zambales PNP also gate-crashed into the Zambales gathering. Later they tried to stop the torch parade for human rights by grabbing placards and blocking the road. But the persistence of the human rights defenders foiled the harassment but nevertheless the police elements have displayed utter disregard of the freedom of assembly and expression.
Both incidents underscore the prevailing state of human rights in most provinces in the country. Despite government pronouncements of its adherence to democracy, political repression reigns and the climate of terror persists. Communities known for active political engagements are subjected to continuous harassments, in various forms and manners. The more common, among others, include -- arbitrary police/army demands or “invitations” on individuals to report to the camps; security forces’ demands for accommodation into private homes at night time; mobile army or police teams announcing names of barrio folk in their “order of battle”; the unending receipt of letters with enclosed black ribbon or bullet; and, announcement of intended “visits” to homes of leaders of people’s organizations.
Such threats and intimidations, which are almost daily occurrences, continuously refresh the reign of terror from 2001-2007 marked by widespread extra-judicial killing and forced disappearance, illegal arrest, detention and torture of activists and other politically active individuals that included journalists, lawyers, doctors, priests, pastors, a Bishop and a host of leaders of cause-oriented mass organizations. Not one of these cases is yet solved and the perpetrators are roaming freely. These are despite the shelved findings both by the Melo Commission and the Special UN Raporteur, Philipp Alston that there are strong grounds to indict, for multiple extra-judicial killing, the notorious, now retired and free, former party list congressman and defeated 2010 senatorial candidate, Gen. Jovito Palparan and his “special” unit.
Though Palparan retired, but after being given special honors by Gloria Macpagal-Arroyo in her 2007 state of the nation address (SONA), the killings continued. The honors given the notorious general signified extra-judicial political killing, forced disappearance, illegal arrest and torture were state policies.
The killings, enforced disappearances, illegal arrests and torture persisted until August 2010 as far as documented cases in Central Luzon cite. Among the recent killings the more staggering were the killing of arrested two suspected rebels in Bataan on May 2, 2009 and subsequently the theft of their entombed cadavers in the early morning of November 11, 2009. On June 2, 2010 three siblings, the Milaflores brothers, were picked-up and killed in Candelaria, Zambales and were passed off as rebels killed by the PNP Provincial Mobile Group personally commanded at that instance by Zambales PNP Provincial Director, Col. Rafael Santiago. Over one month after the inaugural of Noynoy Aquino 5 suspected rebels were arrested in San Fernando, Pampanga on August 3, 2010 and tortured by the arresting unit, the Pampanga PNP Provincial Mobile Group under the command of Col. Mudzgani Mukaram. Later on August 19, 2010 a young man of Guagua, Pampanga who had been a political activist was abducted.
With this nightmarish backdrop, the continuing threats and harassments done almost at will by the military, police and other state security forces constitute continuing repression of the people’s political and democratic rights. Most excruciatingly these cause lingering and protracted mental and psychological torture not only of individuals but of whole communities.
The mere but prolonged presence of combat forces of both the military and police that indiscriminately establish detachments inside areas of residence and places of economic and social activities such as markets, barangay halls, chapels and school premises not only keep the reign of terror present but constitute continuing state repression of the people. The climate of fear gripping the people underscores there is no freedom, no democracy. Fear instilled on the people by the AFP, PNP and other state security forces reduce the people to passively bear the trampling of their democratic and political rights and never speak out even their just and legitimate grievances and demands.
It is of great historical irony that these are happening under a new administration that has repeatedly proclaimed “respect for human rights” and advocacy for democracy. These are but empty pronouncements and bloody insult on the victims, their organizations and communities who have been longing for justice. These are meaningless until justice is rendered to the victims and the people with the prosecution and punishment of perpetrators.
We call on the people, direct and indirect victims of repression alike, to unite on the cause for justice and democracy. We call on everyone concerned with upholding the democratic and political rights of the people to give support to the victims. Let us put up the challenge especially before the civilian government, legal and judicial authorities and particularly before the President of the Republic, being also the commander-in-chief, to exercise the principles of “people’s sovereignty”; “justice, freedom and democracy”; and, “civilian authority over the military”. Let us also put the challenge before the military and police institutions to subscribe to these principles.
Let us, in various forms of actions, air and pursue certain urgent demands such as:
- Stop all forms of harassment, intimidation, mass torture and militarization of populated areas.
- All combat units of both the military and police, back to the barracks.
- Prosecute Gen. Jovito Palparan (ret.) and others who have violated human rights—the International Humanitarian Law and other laws such as the Anti-Torture Law that guarantee the rights of the people.
- Release all victims of illegal arrest and torture.
- Stop the criminalization of political offenses.
- Indemnify all victims of human rights violations.