Mr. President: Blood Stains Smear Your Government, Hear the Cries of the People
Dear Mr. President,
Even as the world celebrates human rights day, we are very sad to begin our letter to inform you about the shocking news that the daughter of Ifugao leader Carmen Ananayo of the Didipio Earth Savers Multipurpose Association (DESAMA) was shot dead three days ago. Manang Carmen’s eldest daughter Sheryll Puguon was killed along with her cousin-in-law Randy Abay-ay on their way home to Brgy. Didipio, Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya when two men, riding in tandem in a motorcycle, blocked their van and shot them.
Earlier in January 6, 2010, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) already noted the alarming human rights situation in Didipio brought about by the mining operations officialized through the Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) of the government with Oceana Gold Philippines Inc.(OGPI). The CHR findings listed in their Resolution in 2010 stated that:
“OGPI is largely responsible for the precarious situation in Didipio given that it controls and supervises its security forces who openly carry weapons and intimidate the people. The situation in Didipio constitutes a continuing threat to the security of persons of the people in Didipio because it exposes them to constant uncertainty – to an incessant fear that something untoward might happen to them, their family or their properties. Rightly so, the local government units in the area expressed grave concerns that the situation would lead to breakdown of peace and order in the province.”
In a January 2011 Statement on the Human Rights Situation of Didipio, the CHR recommended to the government to consider the probable renewal of the FTAA and also directed the Director of the CHR Region 2 to actively advocate for the human rights of the affected community and to take every step possible to avoid the occurrence of further violence and oppression.
Obviously things have turned out for the worse. Indigenous peoples, community and environmental rights defenders continue to be discriminated against, harassed, attacked and killed – with impunity, not only in Didipio but in other parts of the country.
The Commission on Human Rights was fully right to be concerned about the threats to the rights of indigenous peoples confronted by mining and the escalation of abuses and violence as a response to community resistance. In the past three months we have been faced with the ambush of Subanen Timuay Manda in Bayog, Zamboanga del Sur which left his 11 year-old son Jordan dead, the killing of B’laan tribal leader Daguil Capion’s wife and two children by alleged personnel of the Philippine Army in Tampakan, South Cotabato, and now the fatal ambush of Sheryll, the daughter of Ifugao anti-mining leader Carmen Ananayo.
A non-IP environmentalist was also ambushed last October. Dr. Isidro Olan fortunately survived a gunshot to the chest when he was rushed to the hospital after several gunmen opened fire at him near his home in Carmen, Surigao del Sur.
Your Excellency, we did not expect the human rights situation to miraculously turn better upon your assumption of the presidency. We are actually happy with the little strides taken — the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) and the Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court, the approval of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the Anti-Torture Law, as well as having a bill on the protection of people against enforced disappearance waiting to be signed by the president. We also welcome that finally you decided to create a superbody to investigate old and new cases of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture and other grave human rights violations. We have long recommended the creation of such a body, as part of our 5-points Human Rights Agenda your your assumption to power. Administrative Order No. 35 creating this body stated that:
“The present administration declares as a matter of paramount policy that there is no room for all these forms of political violence and abuses of power by agents or elements of the state or non-state forces.”
But Mr. President, blood stains smear your government!
We are very much alarmed and disappointed by the slow and frustrating grind of the wheels of justice for victims seeking accountability, reparations, and even rehabilitation for human rights violations, as well as by the continuous and growing number of extrajudicial killings and the continuing harassments, torture and enforced disappearances – and again we underscore this – perpetrated with impunity!
Mr. President, you made promises including making the human rights situation better and making perpetrators of human rights violations accountable. You committed to “daang matuwid”.
Two and a half years in power, your government must commit its time, resources, and efforts towards ending discrimination and ensuring accountability for human rights violations; protecting environmental and human rights defenders; and prioritizing the rights of indigenous peoples over extractive activities and making all corporations accountable.
Now on human rights day, on our 25th year of existence here in the Philippines working for human rights and justice, we re- submit to your good office our Five Point Human Rights Agenda for immediate legislative and executive action.
Mr. President, please listen to the cries of the people.
Aurora Corazon A. Parong, M.D.
Amnesty International Philippines
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