Vilifying Human Rights Defenders
June 15, 2011 STOP HARASSING HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS, STOP VILIFYING PEOPLES’ ORGANIZATIONS IN CENTRAL LUZON In January this year the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) aired its claim of “paradigm shift” in its internal peace and security plan called “bayanihan” with “ugnayan” as the Northern Luzon Command’s (NOLCOM) counterpart campaign plan. While we welcome the emphasis of “addressing the needs of our less fortunate communities, in collaboration with other stakeholders”, we are wary of the institution’s truthfulness and sincerity with the latest multiple harassment cases in Central Luzon. From June 1 to 6 this year, residents of Barangay Taal, Purok 1, Malolos City, Province of Bulacan were witnesses to a new round of military operations by elements of the 70th Infantry (Cadre) Battalion, 7th ID Philippine Army and members of CAFGU. They are looking for members of Aniban ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (AMA), Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) and SANLAKAS (all legal organizations), and alleged these groups have ties to the New People’s Army (NPA). Families were interviewed and peoples’ organizations were vilified. At least three residents were asked to report to certain Sgt. Mendoza in Camp Niugan. The incident brings to fore canny military procedure that sows fear in the communities of Central Luzon. What is more worrisome is the targeting of human rights defenders – members of organized groups whose only desire is to protect and assert their guaranteed rights under the Philippine Constitution and the International Bill of Rights. In a landmark study on the protection of human rights defenders in the Philippines, Renato Mabunga, Chairperson of HRD-Pilipinas identified threats to Life, harassment and stigmatization as the dangers for human rights defenders. These threats are borne-out of military operations’ house-to-house “census”, witch-hunting and vilification proceedings on community and peoples’ organizations. The latest case in Bulacan undermines the sincerity of the armed forces’ security plan. It projects a weak command of the military echelon in asserting a marching order of a paradigm shift. A shift in orientation from the old concept and operation to new cooperative and synergetic actions together with various stakeholders in the community. Human Rights Defenders-Pilipinas (HRD-Pilipinas) therefore calls on the Armed Forces of the Philippines: – to immediately stop its “census” and vilification operations in the communities of Central Luzon; – Review military actions in the field that breed human rights violations to individuals and communities; – Identify and penalized certain “Sgt. Mendoza” and company for instigating actions inimical to image of the AFP as “changed institution”; – to investigate the case of harassment in Central Luzon and other areas of similar situation; – Re-orient its ranks and files in its claimed broader framework of security serving society, acting in harmony with other government strategic policies for peace, security and development. To the Commission on Human Rights, to investigate and document this case in Brgy. Taal, Malolos City; and, monitor compliance of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to human rights protection and promotion.