STATEMENT OF SOLIDARITY
Commemorating the 39th Anniversary of the Imposition of Martial Rule
Ending Impunity and Building an Enabling Environment for Human Rights:
Launching the Process towards the Preservation and Turn-over
of Martial Law Documents to Civilian Institutions
September 21, 2011
Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo
When I was told of this event, I said to myself, not without stirrings of hope and expectation: “Aha, now, hopefully, I would know what happened to a friend named Carlos Tayag, a Catholic Benedictine Deacon, who was head of the ecumenical group called the Student Christian Movement (SCM). He disappeared during the early years of martial law and not accounted for until now.
Gracious ladies and gentlemen, officials of government under the Aquino Administration, Chairperson, Commissioners and personnel of the Commission on Human Rights, officials and staff of the Diplomatic Community, representatives of Civil Society Organizations and Institutions, and of Media Heads and personnel,
Magandang umaga po sa ating lahat. Good morning to each and every one.
The Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), established in August 1986, right after the EDSA People’s Uprising to topple down the Marcos dictatorship and end martial law, wishes to express its solidarity to this auspicious event and commend the convergent effort of the Commission on Human Rights and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, through its Human Rights Office.
This act of launching the process towards the preservation and turn-over of martial law documents to civilian institutions is another step towards combating, and eventually ending, impunity. It is a significant joint endeavor to break through impunity, to breech “the impossibility of bringing the perpetrators of violations to account – whether in criminal, civil, administrative or disciplinary proceedings – since they are not subject to any inquiry that might lead to their being accused, arrested, tried and if found guilty, sentenced to appropriate penalties, and to making reparations to their victims.”* Thus is impunity defined by the United Nations.
What is happily occurring today is integral to combating impunity as found within the UN Updated Principles in Combating Impunity, i.e., (1) the right to truth; (2) the right to justice; (3) the of victims to have an effective remedy and to receive reparations and (4) the duty of states more broadly to undertake institutional reforms when necessary in order to prevent a recurrence of systemic abuses.
For the purpose of our occasion today, let us look deeper into the right to know, the right to truth. The Updated Principles present two aspects of this right: the individual(s) right to know as well as victim(s)’ families and relatives to know the circumstances and the reasons for the victim’s torture, enforced disappearance or extrajudicial killing. The other aspect is the collective aspect, wherein the nation should remember the tragedies that were consequent of the human rights violations. The obligation to preserve documents and other related evidences to the violations arise from the state’s duty. So is the obligation that public access is facilitated.
Nonetheless, the state should not only encourage but also protect the documents and other related evidences non-government organizations and institutions have collected to assist in bringing closure and healing to these cases. It is in this aspect we are eager to monitor the turnover of AFP’s documents during the martial law period and to be able to compare them to the 21,000 documented cases preserved by the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP) in its own martial law museum named “The Museum of Courage and Resistance”. Incidentally, 6,000 of these documented cases were used to help win the class suit case against the Marcos estate in an Hawaiian court. This turnover would help secure recognition of “parts of the truth as were formerly denied” that “oppressors often denounced as lies as a means of discrediting human rights advocates”, such as “One-sided press reports scored. No violations of human rights – FM” (Bulleting Today, Sunday, Jan. 23, 1977).
Hopefully, in this collective and convergent effort of remembering and of learning, we take the necessary steps to institute broad reforms so as to ensure that such violations never again recur. We must also point out that while we commend the administrations that passed the Anti-Torture Bill into law and later its Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR), we also experience that it is not enough to have a law against torture to guarantee its non-recurrence. We assert at this point that a guarantee for non-recurrence demands accountability and transparency. Passing the proposed bill on the Right to Information is an integral to the concretization of this guarantee. Passage of the said Bill on the Right to Information cannot but strengthen as well our democracy.
Once again, PAHRA commends the Commission on Human Rights and the Armed Forces of the Philippines for this courageous step towards accountability and healing. As part of civil society whose members have gone through the dark years of martial law, PAHRA commits itself to journey with you to obtain truth, justice and peace as your partners and co-human rights defenders.
Thank you. And a good morning again to us all.
- [In the news] CHR to expose contents of martial law documents (hronlineph.wordpress.com)
- [Statement] Martial Law’s Remnants after 39 years (hronlineph.wordpress.com)
- [Event] Bente Singko: A Festival of Memories, A Creation of New Stories – www.tfdp.net (hronlineph.wordpress.com)
- [Blogger] The Lesson of History – Carpe Diem (hronlineph.wordpress.com)
- P-Noy’s “matuwid na daan” is for the few (hronlineph.wordpress.com)
- [Event] TFDP launches “Beinte Singko: Festival of Memories” in campuses (hronlineph.wordpress.com)
- [From the web] Martial laws in the Philippines – emanila.com (hronlineph.wordpress.com)
- The Music of Noel Cabangon (theinnerrhythm.wordpress.com)
- Pinasikat.com’s Behind The Scenes (mskookiepookie.wordpress.com)