Call for Justice for Murdered Witness in the Philippines.

Call for Justice for Murdered Witness in the Philippines. The timing of it all is rather interesting?
The flood of extrajudicial killings since 2001 is a resurgence of an old problem in the Philippines. In the 1970s, the Marcos government created civilian militias as part of the military’s counter-insurgency operations. After Marcos was deposed in 1986, many of the armed groups were dissolved, having been linked to extensive human rights violations. However, in the vacuum that followed, numerous vigilante groups, many of them created and supported by the armed forces, targeted those alleged to have links to, or sympathies for, communist insurgents. During this period the insurgents also carried out bloody purges of their own members.

Please go to site and send a letter it only takes a few minute to do.
Human Right First. Org
http://action.humanrightsfirst.org/campaign/Gandinao/explanation

This is some of the Back ground.
Indictment before the Permanent People’s Tribunal The Filipino People vs GLORIA MACAPAGAL-ARROYO and GEORGE WALKER BUSH

ARTICLES ARCHIVE – VARIOUS OFFICIAL STATEMENTS
Take the time to read it.
http://www.yonip.com/main/articles/OS-0002.html

THE FILIPINO PEOPLE at the suit of HUSTISYA, DESAPARECIDOS, SELDA and BAGONG ALYANSANG MAKABAYAN,
Plaintiffs

– versus –

GLORIA MACAPAGAL-ARROYO, The GOVERNMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES and the FILIPINO INDIVIDUALS more particularly listed in the FIRST SCHEDULE hereto,

And

GEORGE WALKER BUSH, The GOVERNMENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,

And

THE INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND, THE WORLD BANK, WORLD TRADE ORGANIZATION (WTO),

And

MULTINATIONAL CORPORATIONS (MNCs) and FOREIGN BANKS DOING BUSINESS IN THE PHILIPPINES more particularly listed in the SECOND SCHEDULE hereto.

Defendants.

x———————————————x

Second Session on the Philippines

For:

1. Gross and Systematic Violations of Civil and Political Rights

Extra-Judicial Killings, Abduction and Disappearances, Massacre, Torture, etc;

2. Gross and Systematic Violations of Economic,

Social and Cultural

Rights; And

3. Gross and Systematic Violations of the Right to National Self-Determination and Liberation

INDICTMENT

Prefatory Statement

The Philippines is a rich country, with bountiful land, water and human resources. But the Filipino people are poor and are groveling in poverty, hardship, misery and oppression.

For centuries, the social wealth created by the Filipino toiling people has been unjustly appropriated, first by foreign colonizers and then by foreign capital and their local agents, always through a combination of force and deceit, and with the collaboration of the local elite. The Spaniards used the spread of Christianity as a pretext for three centuries of feudal and mercantilist exploitation and oppression of the Filipino people. The American colonizers invoked “benevolent assimilation”, democratization and education to conceal and sugarcoat its real goal of turning the Philippines into its military outpost, source of raw materials and cheap labor, market for its products and outlet for surplus capital. Both Spaniards and Americans ultimately resorted mainly to coercion and brute force to subjugate the Filipino people who had always, from the beginning, ferociously resisted foreign domination and oppression.

To suit its imperialist design, the US has imposed on the Philippines, since the turn of the 20th century to the present, a colonial pattern of trade that stunted the growth of the Philippine economy, consigning it to its present backward, agrarian, pre-industrial state. Roughly 75 percent of its population are peasants, suffering under various forms of feudal and semi-feudal exploitation and oppression. Big landlords (landlords owning more than 50 hectares), who constitute less than 1 percent of the population, or less than 20 percent of all landowners, own more than 80% of all agricultural land. Most big landlords are themselves big compradors or merchant capitalists who are the trading partners of foreign, mostly US, capital.

Rather than allow the Filipino people to chart their own path to progress and prosperity after granting the Philippines formal political independence in 1946, the US imposed onerous and unequal military and economic treaties and agreements such as the Military Bases Agreement granting the US extraterritorial rights in vast tracts of rent-free land, the Mutual Defense Pact, and the Parity Amendment on the 1935 Philippine Constitution granting US nationals equal rights as Filipinos to exploit the country’s natural resources and freely repatriate profits.

The US has been able to do this because of the collaboration of a ruling elite composed of the big landlords and big compradors whose political and economic fortunes depend on total subservience to their US (imperialist) masters. The series of governments from 1946 to the present have invariably been characterized by puppetry to US imperialism, to the complete detriment of the interest of the Filipino people. Each government’s economic policies were tailor-fit to benefit US and other foreign capital and their local comprador agents. Philippine foreign policy never deviated from that of the US, including sending Philippine troops to support US-led aggression and military intervention such as in Korea and Vietnam.

It is important to note that since the formation of the Philippine Scouts, the precursor of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), during the American colonial period to the present, the AFP has been virtually controlled and directed by the US, especially through the Joint US Military Advisory Group (JUSMAG) which provides and supervises its military training and doctrine, logistics, intelligence and planning.

The 1960s saw the deteriorating political and socio-economic situation brought about by foreign domination, economic stagnation, widespread poverty, and a graft-ridden bureaucracy led by the greedy ruling elite. Inevitably, this led to the revitalization and rapid upsurge of mass protest actions nationwide calling for national sovereignty, genuine democracy and social justice. Armed challenges to the Philippine government reemerged when the re-established Communist Party of the Philippines formed the New People’s Army in 1969 and the Moro National Liberation Front was formed in 1971 with its Bangsa Moro Army.

Both deception and force were resorted to by the US-backed Philippine government, led then by President Ferdinand Marcos, to coopt and suppress the democratic and legal mass protest actions. The rabid anti-national, anti-people and anti-democratic character of the Marcos government reared its monstrous fascist head in 1972, when, to keep himself in power and acquire more wealth, Marcos declared martial law. Not surprisingly, the US government and foreign chambers of commerce immediately gave their blessings to the dictatorship. This plunged the entire nation into fourteen (14) dark years of full-blown dictatorship marked by widespread human rights violations by state and paramilitary forces, criminal syndicates led by top AFP and police generals, IMF-imposed structural adjustment programs favoring foreign capital, spiraling prices of basic commodities, wage increase moratoriums, greater landlessness under a bogus land reform program, and unprecedented rampant graft, corruption and plunder of the economy by multinationals in connivance with the Marcos clique.

Rather than cow the people into submission and passivity, state repression under martial rule merely fanned the flames of people’s resistance. Legal mass protest actions, as well as armed resistance, spread over the land. For a long time, the Marcos dictatorship managed to survive because it was propped up by the US, loans from the IMF-WB and foreign capital.

In 1980, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), acting in behalf of the Filipino people and the Bangsa Moro people, appealed to the Permanent People’s Tribunal (PPT) to examine the Philippine situation. After convening and hearing the cases presented by the NDFP and MNLF from 30 October to 3 November 1980, the PPT found the Marcos regime guilty of political repression and blatant abuse of state powers, violation of the sovereign rights of the Filipino people and the Bangsa Moro people and other grave and numerous economic and political crimes. It also condemned the US government and censured the IMF-WB and ADB, and foreign multinationals and banks operating in the Philippines for supporting, encouraging and sustaining the Marcos dictatorship for their own interest and in violation of the sovereign rights of the Filipino and Bangsa Moro peoples.

In February 1986, a military mutiny combined with a popular unarmed uprising overthrew the Marcos dictatorship. The widely acclaimed “People Power” uprising brought hopes for the restoration of democracy and a new era of relative peace and prosperity in the Philippines. Unfortunately, this was not to be so.

While the formal democratic processes and structures such as elections and the legislature were restored, anti-national and anti-people policies and structures remained. The Aquino administration, led by the anti-Marcos, anti-fascist faction of the ruling elite whose interests nonetheless coincided with those of foreign capital, pursued the same economic policies dictated by and favoring US and other foreign monopoly capital. Rather than seize on the opportunity to institute basic and wide-ranging social, economic and political reforms, the Aquino government and its foreign backers took advantage of the post-Marcos euphoria and the anti-fascist image of Aquino as a smokescreen to squelch and coopt the people’s clamor for change. Repressive instrumentalities, statutes and measures were not repealed, such as the criminalization of political offenses, warrantless arrests, dispersal of protest actions, etc. Military campaigns and operations escalated and intensified, resulting in widespread human rights violations by state and paramilitary forces. In a short while the euphoria faded and the restiveness of the people reemerged as the economic and political crises intensified. Elements of the military, led by former military rebels as well as Marcos loyalists in the military, attempted several coups d’etat against the Aquino government.

The economy turned from bad to worse as the succeeding Ramos and Estrada governments implemented more and more policies imposed by the IMF-WB-WTO that opened up the Philippines’ resources wider to foreign exploitation, destroyed local industries, caused increasing joblessness and landlessness, and brought unprecedented hardship and misery to the Filipino people. In 1994, then Senator Gloria Macapagal Arroyo sponsored the bill and spearheaded the campaign to ratify the World Trade Organization (WTO) treaty, making the Philippines a member of the WTO and subjecting it to the destructive neoliberal policies of deregulation, liberalization, privatization and de-nationalization. Ramos accelerated the economic crisis by granting huge incentives and sovereign guarantees to foreign investors, and by running ahead of WTO schedules in dismantling protective trade tariffs, investment controls and currency controls. As a result, the economy became vulnerable and suffered heavily under the speculative attacks that triggered the 1997 Asian financial crisis, from which the Philippine economy never quite recovered.

In an attempt to create even a semblance of political stability that was needed to attract foreign investments, Ramos initiated peace negotiations with armed opposition groups such as the military rebels, the CPP-NDFP-NPA and the Moro secessionist movements. These negotiations resulted in a memorandum of agreement with the military rebels in 1995, and a Final Peace Accord with the Moro National Liberation Front in 1996. Negotiations with the NDFP (representing the CPP and NPA) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) were both on-and-off under the Ramos administration over issues of sole political authority or sovereignty and the non-implementation by the Ramos government of prior bilateral agreements.

Unlike Ramos who won the presidency on a minority vote and needed to protect his flanks by engaging in peace negotiations, his successor Estrada won by a big majority over his electoral rivals. Banking on his apparent popularity and the firm support of the US and of foreign capital, Estrada recklessly junked the peace negotiations with the NDFP as well as the MILF. Under Estrada in 1999, the Philippines entered into the Visiting Forces Agreement (aka “status of forces agreement”) with the US, allowing US troops in the Philippines and virtually granting them extraterritorial rights, reversing the historic rejection by the Philippine Senate of the US-Philippines Friendship Treaty and the dismantling of the US bases in the Philippines in 1991. Estrada launched the counter-insurgency campaign “Oplan Makabayan” (Operation Plan Patriot) against the NDFP starting July 1998, and waged an “all-out-war” against the MILF in 2000. Heavy military spending drained the national treasury already rendered bankrupt by the economic plunder under the Ramos regime, resulting in even deeper economic crisis. This combined in turn with subsequent exposes of rampant graft and corruption and immorality in the Estrada administration to fuel another unarmed “people power” uprising.

“People Power 2” — supported by a disaffected and alarmed big business community, the dominant Roman Catholic hierarchy, and finally the military – overthrew the Estrada government and catapulted Macapagal-Arroyo to the presidency. Once again, an extra-constitutional exercise of sovereign power by the people was allowed and supported by the powers-that-be to remove a ruling section (faction) that had turned from a useful instrument into a liability and source of embarrassment, and replace it with a more effective one with a fresh mandate from the people.
Once again, the people’s euphoria and celebration over the expulsion of a corrupt, repressive and widely undesirable president turned out to be short-lived. No sooner had Macapagal-Arroyo taken office when she announced that her economic policies would continue to favor big business and attract, rather than drive away, foreign capital. True enough, under the Arroyo government, IMF-WB-WTO imposed policies and measures have been dutifully implemented and accelerated, to the delight not only of foreign capital but also of the local big landlords and compradors who share a fraction of their profits. Faced with unprecedented heavy government debt and deficit, the Arroyo government resorted to increasing tax burdens (VAT and EVAT) and drastic budget cuts on health, education and other social services while increasing debt servicing and military spending and opening up Philippine natural and human resources, such as mineral resources and manpower resources, to foreign capital. The obvious Arroyo logic is that the way out of the financial crisis is to impose more burdens and sacrifices on the people in order to make the economy more palatable to foreign creditors and investors.

True enough, as the PPT had warned in its 1980 verdict, the Marcos dictatorship was replaced by a series of neocolonial governments dependent on and subservient to US and other foreign interests.

The shameless puppetry and obsequiousness of the Macapagal-Arroyo government to the US came to the fore once more when, shortly after the September 11, 2001 New York bombings, Macapagal-Arroyo declared the Philippines’ total support for the US-led “global war on terror”. She immediately offered Philippine troops, doctors and other professionals, and the use of Philippine territory, air space and facilities by the US and its allies for military actions against unnamed “terrorist” enemies and unnamed regimes supposedly harboring these “terrorists”. In November 2002, the Arroyo government signed the Mutual Logistics Support Arrangement (aka “access and servicing agreement”) allowing the US unhampered access and use of Philippine facilities for all its military needs and unspecified military activities. The VFA and MLSA combined virtually turn the entire Philippines into an unsinkable US military base, veritably a giant US aircraft carrier strategically positioned in the middle of the South China Sea.

Macapagal-Arroyo asked for, then welcomed, the US designation of the CPP and NPA as “foreign terrorist organizations” and the NDFP chief political consultant Prof. Jose Ma. Sison as a “terrorist” and actively campaigned for their inclusion in the “terrorist” listing of the European Union and other countries. She launched an “all-out war” against the CPP-NDFP-NPA under the US-directed counter-insurgency campaign “Oplan Bantay Laya” (Operation Plan Freedom Watch), suspended formal peace talks with the NDFP, and used the “terrorist” tag to gain leverage to pressure the NDFP into capitulation. At the same time, the US and Arroyo also played the “terrorist” card on the MILF, alternately threatening and attacking the MILF and offering it “socio-economic aid and rehabilitation” in exchange for a peace agreement that acknowledges the authority of the Philippine government over the Moro people and their ancestral domain and territory.

Under US encouragement and direction and using as pretext the US “war on terror”, the Arroyo government has not only intensified its “counter-insurgency campaign” against the CPP-NDFP-NPA, it has also flagrantly resorted to physically attacking the legal democratic movement since 2001. Leaders and activists of progressive organizations have been harassed, arrested without warrant, abducted and forced to disappear, as well as summarily executed with a frequency and brutality exceeding that under martial law. Finding her regime’s legitimacy under question after fraudulent elections in 2004, Macapagal-Arroyo further resorted to repressive measures and expanded the targets to include the open and legal democratic movement and the political opposition.

The growing number of extrajudicial killings and other gross human rights violations committed by the Arroyo government’s military and police forces in the Philippines today cry out for justice. KARAPATAN (Alliance for the Advancement of Peoples’ Rights) has documented since 2001 when Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo assumed the presidency more than 800 victims of extra-judicial killings, not including more than 350 who survived assassination attempts. At least 207 have been abducted and forcibly disappeared. Tens of thousands have also become internal refugees as a result of military operations, which include indiscriminate bombings and strafing of rural communities, and Vietnam-vintage “hamleting” to depopulate “rebel-infested” areas and “remove the water in which the fish swims”..

These atrocities have been perpetrated systematically and relentlessly for more than five years with hardly an utterance of concern, much less condemnation, from Macapagal-Arroyo. In fact, she praised, promoted and coddled the military commanders, including those with track records of grievous human rights violations . As commander-in-chief, she publicly gave both tacit and overt approval and encouragement to the military campaigns of suppression. Those who perpetrate the atrocities enjoy the license to kill, abduct, torture and massacre “enemies of the state” with impunity. The rapid promotion and public acclamation accorded to the most vicious, ruthless and outspoken proponent of the killings, Maj. Gen. Palparan by Macapagal-Arroyo herself was the clearest proof that indeed, the killings were state policy.

Oplan Bantay-Laya, the Arroyo government’s counter-insurgency campaign launched in 2002, differs from its failed predecessors mainly in targeting suspected civilian sympathizers and supporters of the CPP-NPA in town and urban centers. The AFP, police and other government strategists searching for the elusive key to victory over the three-decades old people’s war have come to the conclusion that they have been too soft on the legal democratic organizations. AFP documents and other official documents on internal security stress now the need to conduct military operations not only against the guerrilla forces in the countryside but also against the aboveground, legal machinery that allegedly supports the armed revolutionary movement. The AFP embarked on a “Target Research” program in 2004 aimed at an intelligence build-up, complete with quotas and timetables, on progressive organizations and personalities tagged as “enemies of the state” and marked for “neutralization’, a military euphemism for physical elimination. Most of those assassinated, forcibly disappeared,tortured and massacred were priority subjects of this “target research”.

The Arroyo government’s intensified attacks on the people, marked by the cold-blooded murder of unarmed political activists, church people, journalists, lawyers and judges, teachers and human rights defenders continue to multiply with impunity. These are motivated by Arroyo’s drive for political survival and are in line with the US government’s “war on terror” and the economic interest of multinational corporations in the Philippines. This explains why the Arroyo government has not lifted a finger to render justice to the victims of human rights violations, and to address the violations of the people’s social, economic, cultural rights, as well as the violations of the Filipino people’s sovereignty and right to self-determination. Taking a cue from the US-led global war on terror and emboldened and encouraged by the US government, the Arroyo government estimates it can also justify, gloss over or cover up, in the name of counter-terrorism, violations of human rights, international humanitarian law, and international law.

Well-documented cases of human rights violations have already been brought to the attention of the United Nations through its offices in New York and Geneva. A number of international entities have also conducted fact-finding missions and have issued reports, recommendations and condemnations of the regime’s lack of resolute action to stop the killings. Among these international groups are the Amnesty International, International Parliamentarians’ Union, Asian Human Rights Commission, the International Labor Solidarity Mission, the International Peasants Fact Finding Mission, the Hong Kong Fact-Finding Mission to the Philippines, Reporters Sans Frontiers, a delegation of church leaders led by the World Council of Churches and the Christian Conference of Asia, Lawyers without Borders and Lawyers for Lawyers from the Netherlands, International Association of Democratic Lawyers, International Association of People’s Lawyers, and four women lawyers from the United States.

Various church organizations like the World Council of Churches, Christian Conference of Asia, World Alliance of Reformed Churches, World Methodist Council, Episcopal Church of the USA, Uniting Church of Australia, United Church of Canada, United Methodist Church of the USA, United Evangelical Mission of Germany and the National Council of Churches in Japan have likewise issued their statements and resolutions calling on the Manila government to bring an end to the killings. Notably, a number of Members of Parliament from Europe and a number of officials from other countries have also expressed their concerns over the deteriorating human rights situation in the Philippines. The list continues to lengthen.

In response to this growing international pressure, Macapagal-Arroyo belatedly saw the need to take a pro-forma official action by creating the Melo Commission in September 2006 to look into the killings. This step was clearly intended to deflect and diffuse the barrage of criticisms against her government. But before this Commission could start its investigation, Mrs. Arroyo issued a blanket statement absolving her military and police forces of any wrongdoing, despite testimonies from survivors and witnesses to the contrary. As expected, the Melo Commission, in the report it had recently submitted to President Arroyo, cleared her and the AFP top brass of any responsibility, instead blaming the killings on Gen. Palparan and a “small group” of rogue military and police elements, as well as gangsters and even the New People’s Army. Curiously, Malacanang adamantly refused to release the Melo Commission report to the public until it had to give in to both international and local pressure to do so.

Nearly simultaneous with the submission and eventual release of the Melo Commission report was the statement of Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extra-judicial killings, on his findings after a 10-day visit. Mr. Alston met with the representatives of the government, including top Cabinet, military and police officials, human rights groups and relatives of victims of extra-judicial killings. In his press statement, Mr. Alston rejected the various government, military and police “theories” that absolved them from any responsibility in the killings. While he said it was clear to him that the killings are not state policy and are not centrally directed, Alston nonetheless attributed some of the killings to the government’s counter-insurgency program and indicated he would examine this in greater detail in his final report. Despite the findings of Mr. Alston and the Melo Commission attributing political killings to the AFP, Arroyo reiterated her earlier statement absolving the military of the crimes and declaring that “99.9% of the AFP is good”.

The struggle to uphold and defend human rights and the peoples’ rights continues. The Filipino people have shown that they cannot be cowed by terror nor duped by the Arroyo regime. They persist in seeking and finding avenues to make this despicable situation known throughout the world, to seek justice, and gather the broadest support for their just and legitimate struggle for national self-determination and social emancipation.

It is with this aim and hope that we file our case today at the Permanent People’s Tribunal.

Parties

This is an indictment brought by the Filipino People – the peasants, workers, women, youth & students, urban poor, fisherfolk, indigenous people, migrant workers, church people, lawyers, journalists, teachers, government employees, health workers, artists and other professionals, human rights workers – in solidarity with other oppressed and exploited peoples of the world, through the following people’s organizations:

HUSTISYA, an organization of friends and relatives of victims of human rights violations under the US-Arroyo Regime;

DESAPARECIDOS, an organization of families and friends of victims of enforced disappearances since the martial law years up to the present;

SELDA, an association of former political detainees from the martial law years up to the present; and

BAGONG ALYANSANG MAKABAYAN (New Patriotic Alliance), a nationwide, multisectoral alliance of progressive people’s organizations, hereinafter referred to as the “Complainants”.

This Indictment is against the Government of the Republic of the Philippines, its President, GLORIA MACAPAGAL-ARROYO, and the Filipino individuals listed in the First Schedule hereto, the Government of the United States of America, its President, GEORGE WALKER BUSH JR., the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the Multinational Corporations (MNCs) and Foreign Banks doing business in the Philippines listed in the Second Schedule hereto, hereinafter referred to as the “Defendants”.

Charges

The Defendants are hereby charged by the Filipino people of the following:

I. Gross and systematic violations of civil and political rights. These include extrajudicial killings/summary execution, abduction and enforced disappearances, massacre, torture, illegal arrest and detention, forced dislocation of communities and other human rights violations;

II. Gross and systematic violations of economic, social and cultural rights of the Filipino people; and

III. Gross and systematic violations of the rights of the people to national self-determination and liberation

The aforesaid acts and omissions violate:

a. The Universal Declaration of the Rights of Peoples (The Algiers Declaration of July 1976);

b. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 10 December 1948;

c. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 16 December 1966;

d. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 16 December 1966;

e. The United Nations Convention against Torture;

f. The GRP-NDFP Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law;

g. The 1996 GRP-MNLF Peace Agreement; and

h. The generally accepted principles of international law which form part of the laws of the Philippines under Section 2, Article II of the 1987 Philippine Constitution

Allegations

I

General and specific allegations

of gross violations of civil and political rights.

From the time Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo came to power on January 21, 2001 up to November 2006, there have been a total of 6,990 cases of human rights violations victimizing 396,099 individuals recorded and documented by KARAPATAN, a human rights alliance.

From 2001 to the present, there have been 834 documented cases of extrajudicial killings, with 357 more cases of frustrated assassinations, i.e., the victim or intended victim survived the attempt on their lives. At least 198 persons have been forcibly disappeared and remain missing to this day, most of them already presumed dead. Hundreds have been tortured while tens of thousands have been harassed and displaced from their homes and farms, and have experienced physical and psychological assault in the course of military operations or while exercising their rights to assembly and free speech.

The targeted victims are peasant leaders, union leaders and members of farmers and workers’ organizations, human rights workers, judges and lawyers, journalists, priests and church workers including a former Supreme Bishop of the Philippine Independent Church. Most were uniformly subjected to anti-communist slander, villification and demonization, and death threats by the military before they were physically attacked.

The intensifying political repression is being done with utmost brutality and impunity. From January 2006 to February 8, 2007 alone, 148 leaders, members and supporters of different mass organizations and party-list groups were summarily killed throughout the country;

Witnesses point to the police, military and paramilitary forces as the perpetrators of the killings, disappearances, torture, illegal arrests and detention and other violations;

The killings are concentrated in Southern Tagalog, Central Luzon, Bicol region, Eastern Visayas, the Ilocos and Cordillera regions. These are the regions identified in Oplan Bantay Laya as “priority areas” and where “counter-insurgency” military operations are most intense and sustained.

The commission of the violations is centrally directed, showing a clear pattern and practice based on the state policy of deliberate terror;

Specifically, the following illustrative and highlighted cases– chosen from among seventy case files of summary execution or extrajudicial killing, abduction and involuntary disappearances, massacre, torture, illegal arrest and detention, forced dislocation of communities and other violations of human rights in the Philippines since Pres. Gloria Arroyo assumed the presidency on 21 January 2001– show the breadth and depth and the heinousness and unmatched impunity with which violations of human rights as well as general principles of international law have been perpetrated by the Defendants in concert with each other.

MASSACRES

The Hacienda Luisita Massacre

On November 6, 2004, in Hacienda Luisita, a sprawling sugarcane estate in Tarlac City covering more than 6,400 hectares and owned by the Cojuangco-Aquino clan, the workers therein belonging to United Luisita Workers’ Union (ULWU) and the Central Azucarera de Tarlac Labor Union (CATLU) simultaneously declared a strike to compel the management/owners to heed their legitimate economic demands, such as increase in wages and better terms and conditions of employment. ULWU also demanded the reinstatement of the illegally dismissed officers and members of the union. Their strike also exposed the fraudulent scheme adopted by the management to deprive the farm worker-beneficiaries of their right to land through the deceptive Stock Distribution Option (SDO) instead of distributing it to them pursuant to the avowed land-for-the-landless policy of the state as provided under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law. By a combination of misrepresentation and intimidation, the management was able to impose the SDO scheme on the farm workers and peasants in the hacienda. It promised to them that the SDO would improve their lives. In reality, though, the scheme has further impoverished them.

Officers and members of ULWU believe that their filing of a petition in 2003 seeking the revocation/nullification of the SDO in Hacienda Luisita may have been the reason for the union busting and the illegal dismissal of the farm workers.

On November 6, 7 and 15, 2004, despite the peaceful strike of the workers, hundreds of police officers attempted to break up the picket line using tear gas, water cannon, truncheons and later firearms, which seriously injured many strikers.

Despite the threat of an impending bloody dispersal, the strikers stood their ground. On the other hand, though, President Macapagal-Arroyo and her government simply turned a cold shoulder to the plight of the striking workers. Her deafening silence was interpreted as acquiescence to the police violence in Hacienda Luisita. Worse, her alter ego at the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas, issued an Assumption of Jurisdiction (AJ) Order on November 10, 2004. Although it was issued solely against CATLU, curiously, said AJ was forcibly served upon ULWU. More strangely, the Labor Secretary deputized not only the police but also the Armed Forces in the supposed full implementation of the AJ.

To avert further violence against the strikers, in the morning of November 16, 2004, the respective officers of ULWU and CATLU went to the Makati residence of former Congressman Peping Cojuangco, a co-owner of Hacienda Luisita. Their purpose was to negotiate with the former congressman and his wife to spare the people from the looming violent and bloody dispersal of the strike as enunciated in the AJ. Insisting that the ULWU officers no longer had any personality to talk with them because they were deemed dismissed, Mr. Cojuangco and his wife denied the ULWU officers entry into their house.

No agreement was reached during the negotiation. Mr. Cojuangco stood firm on his stance to leave the matter to the decision of the DOLE. Thus, the union officers went back to the picket lines in Hacienda Luisita. At that time, hundreds of PNP elements and AFP soldiers in full battle gear were already deployed inside the sugar mill compound. Positioned along with them were two armored personnel carriers (APCs), two pay loaders and four fire trucks. Only the steel gate at Gate 1 of the sugar mill separated the combined military and police forces from the strikers.
Immediately thereafter and without any negotiation between the strikers and the dispersal teams taking place first, the latter assaulted the strikers. The dispersal teams blasted the strikers with water from the fire trucks, which stung their skin. They also lobbed the strikers with tear gas. Unsuccessful in their attempt to crush the picket line, the dispersal teams commandeered an APC that pounded upon the steel gate. When it had smashed open the gate, the people started throwing stones or anything they could put their hands on at the APC to thwart its attempt to disperse them. Having caused the APC to retreat, the people lifted their hands in jubilation, only to get shocked shortly thereafter by successive gunshots indiscriminately fired upon them. Every one scampered and ran for cover. In just a moment, seven strikers lay dead while a number of others sustained severe gunshot wounds. A little while later, more than a hundred other strikers were illegally arrested and arbitrarily detained en masse by the military and the police, not sparing a woman who was seven months pregnant.

The violent massacre did not put an end to the gross violations of the rights of the striking workers. On the contrary, the Cojuangco-Aquino family, in conspiracy with the military, the police, the paramilitary groups such as the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Units (CAFGU), and other hired agents/gunmen, has continued to harass, threaten and violate the rights of the hacienda people.

On the night of December 8, 2004, Marcelino Beltran, himself a peasant and a key witness to the massacre, was brutally murdered in his home in a remote village in Tarlac.

On the night of January 5, 2005, hacienda workers George Loveland and Ernesto Ramos were fatally injured when still unidentified bodyguards of Rep. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino, who were armed, attacked them at the picket point outside Las Haciendas gate.

On March 3, 2005, Abelardo Ladera, a duly elected councilor in Tarlac City, a member of Bayan Muna and a staunch supporter of the strike, was shot dead by a single bullet in the chest while he was buying some spare parts for his automobile.

On March 13, 2005, Fr. William Tadena of the Philippine Independent Church, who also strongly supported the plight of the strikers, was likewise gunned down after officiating mass in his parish in La Paz, Tarlac.

Thereafter, another peasant strongly supporting the strikers, Victor Concepcion, was likewise summarily executed in his house.

In the nighttime of October 25, 2005, while resting after personally distributing the unpaid earned wages and benefits of the sugar mill workers, Ricardo Ramos, president of CATLU and village chairman of one of the barangays located inside the hacienda, was brutally gunned down near his house.

Villages in the hacienda have become heavily militarized. Many villagers have complained of being subjected to illegal arrest. Others have been unjustly suspected of being NPA members and are being forced to admit and sign rebel returnee’s papers.

At 2 a.m. of November 14, 2005, strikers manning the picket point in Brgy. Balete were mauled and seized by elements of the 48th Infantry Battalion under the command of Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan who was then chief of the 7th Infantry Division. Eleven of the strikers were illegally and forcibly taken to a safe house where they were interrogated. Three of them were subsequently charged with illegal possession of firearms on the basis of planted evidence.

Rene Galang, president of ULWU, and his family have been principally targeted by the military and the police. Several elements of the military have virtually maintained a detachment in a house just across his residence. They would ask around about his whereabouts. In addition, on or about September 26, 2005, they broke into his house. His wife was slapped in the face by the military for having told the people about the break-in by these soldiers. Even his children experienced harassment and intimidation by the military while at school.

On March 17, 2006, around midnight, another officer of ULWU, Tirso Cruz, was murdered in cold blood by the military near his house inside the hacienda.

Remarkably, all throughout the struggle of the workers and their families, Macapagal-Arroyo maintained almost complete silence and showed her utter lack of concern over the issues confronting the people. Only once did she issue a statement, at the prodding of the CBCP, hypocritically hoping for a peaceful resolution ot the conflict at Hacienda Luisita. To the Hacienda workers and farmers, the president’s cold response amounted to tacit approval of the continuing unlawful aggression committed by the military, police and paramilitary forces, in collusion with the hacienda owners, against the poor working people in the hacienda.

On January 13, 2005, ULWU and CATLU and the victims of the Hacienda Luisita massacre filed criminal cases for multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder, among others, against the owners of the hacienda, the numerous military and police officers who perpetrated and ordered the violent dispersal of the otherwise peaceful strike, and Sec. Patricia Sto. Tomas. To date, however, the Office of the Ombudsman, before which the cases were filed, has sat on their bounden duty to investigate and prosecute these cases.

The Philippine National Police, feigning an impartial and unbiased investigation into the incident, likewise came up with its report of its investigation which, expectedly, absolved the state forces, save for less than a handful low-ranking police officers.

The victims of the massacre and their relatives and supporters have already brought this case to the attention of the local Commission on Human Rights, the United Nations and other international fora. It has also been the subject of legislative inquiries in the two chambers of the Philippine Congress. After more than two years and despite efforts of the victims and their relatives and supporters to seek justice, the Office of the Ombudsman is yet to act upon their petition.

Massacre of Farmers in Palo, Leyte

The San Agustin Farmer Beneficiaries Multi-purpose Cooperative (SFBMC) is composed of more or less 60 farmer-members in Brgy. San Agustin, Palo, Leyte.

Sometime in June 2004, the members of the cooperative – Rene Margallo, Renato Dizon, Fe Muriel, Bernabe Burra, Francisco Cobacha and Ariel Santiso sought help from the cooperative regarding the landgrabbing by Pedro Margallo of their respective lands.

The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) has already rendered a decision in favor of the 6 farmer-members but Pedro Margallo still insisted on taking possession of the land.

SFBMC member Bernabe Burra sought help from Bayan Muna-Metro Tacloban Chapter. When Bayan Muna positively responded, the members of the cooperative decided to schedule a “balik-uma” (return-to-the-land) on the land awarded to the farmers by the DAR and help the 6 farmers till their lands.

The members of SFBMC set the “balik-uma” on November 21, 2005. In the evening of November 20, 2005, the farmers who would be participating in the “balik-uma” were already in the “kamalig” or make-shift hut owned by the father of Rene Margallo to make preparations for the early morning planting activities. The “kamalig” was near the land to be tilled by the farmers.

At around 5 a.m. of November 21, 2005, more or less 50 farmers were gathered in the “kamalig.” It is the practice of farmers to invite neighboring villages at the opening of the planting season and this is usually met with a feast; thus, other farmers from Brgy. Teraza and Capirawan and farmer-members of the Alang-alang Small Farmers Association (ASFA) based in the nearby Alang-alang, Leyte joined the “balik-uma”.

Some of the farmers were already awake cooking their food and having coffee when, without any warning, they were peppered with gunfire by men wearing ski masks that almost covered their faces. The farmers shouted out they were unarmed civilians but these were ignored and instead, the armed men continued to fire their guns. Five hand grenades were also thrown at them.

As a result, eight farmers died including Alma Bartoline who was seven months pregnant. More than ten were injured.

When the firing stopped, the armed men who were in full-battle gear approached the “kamalig.” They were members of the 19th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army. They ordered the farmers to lie face-down and stepped on the farmers’ back, forcing them to admit they were members of the NPA.

The soldiers insisted that the farmers are members and sympathizers of the NPA, and were concealing some firearms. When the farmers denied the allegations and explained that they are plain and simple farmers and were unarmed, a soldier came with a sackful of firearms and “subversive” documents and insisted that these belonged to the farmers.

The farmers pleaded for immediate medical attention but the soldiers refused.

Col. Louie Dagoy admitted that members of the 19th IB of the Philippine Army carried out the attack but claimed that this was a legitimate military operation.

What the soldiers perpetrated was a cold-blooded massacre of innocent farmers not an encounter between the military and the NPA as falsely claimed by the military authorities in their official statements. It was clearly pre-meditated, as evidenced by the fact that the soldiers had prepared a sackful of old firearms and “subversive documents” to be planted at the scene of the crime.

To justify their actions and cover up their heinous crime, the 19th IB PA filed charges of illegal possession of low-powered firearms against nine farmers who survived the massacre, arrested and detained them. Another case of illegal possession of high-powered firearms was filed at the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Tacloban City. Unable to post bail, the farmers remain detained at the Kauswagan Provincial Jail.

While under detention, they continue to receive death threats. One of them, Joselito Tobe, a member of Concerned Citizens for Justice and Peace and Bayan Muna Party-list died while in detention. The Kauswagan Provincial Jail authorities alleged that he suffered a stroke. But the relatives and friends of Joselito Tobe are not convinced considering that two (2) weeks prior to his death, Tobe informed his relatives and friends that he and his co-detainee Arnel Dizon had received death threats.

Due to the financial support generated by various human rights groups, two of the farmers who have been receiving death threats while in detention were released on bail.

On October 3, 2006, the Regional Trial Court of Tacloban, Leyte dismissed the case of illegal possession of high-powered firearms. They are still awaiting the decision of the Municipal Trial Court in the other case.

Counter-charges are being prepared by the farmers against the members of the 19th IB, Philippine Army.

SUMMARY EXECUTIONS OR EXTRAJUDICIAL KILLINGS

The case of Rev. Andy Pawican

On May 21, 2006, Pastor Andy Pawican of the United Church of Christ of the Philippines (UCCP)-Pantabangan was on his way home to Sitio Maasip, Barangay Tayabo, San Jose City from Sunday worship in Sitio Maluyon, Barangay Fatima, Pantabangan, Nueva Ecija. He was with his wife, Dominga Pawican, their eight-month-old baby, his mother-in-law Maria Binlingan and a neighbor named Bernadette Tayaban.

About 200 meters before reaching their house, they were stopped by three soldiers in uniform belonging to the 48th Infantry Battalion which is under the command of the 7th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army.

The soldiers ordered Pastor Andy Pawican to stay allegedly because they wanted to discuss something with him. Thus, Maria Binlingan, Dominga Pawican and Bernadette Tayaban went ahead while Pastor Andy, who was carrying his eight month-old baby, stayed behind.

At around 2:30 p.m., several shots of gunfire were heard from the place where Pastor Andy was held by the army soldiers.

Several minutes later, a soldier came to the house of Dominga Pawican carrying Pastor Andy’s eight month-old baby, her shirt stained with blood and with a scratch on her face. It was then that the family of Pastor Andy learned that he was shot to death by the soldiers for allege

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Published in: on April 7, 2007 at 10:13 pm  Comments Off on Call for Justice for Murdered Witness in the Philippines.  
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