[Statement] A call to human rights defenders: conduct creative & courageous actions on four (4) fronts to end impunity! -PAHRA

A call to human rights defenders: conduct creative & courageous actions on four (4) fronts to end impunity!

July 22, 2013


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“Ang mali – gaano katagal man ito nanatili – ay mali pa rin. Hindi puwedeng “Oks lang, wala lang iyan.” Kapag kinalimutan natin ang mga ito,mangyayari lang ulit ang mga kamalian ng nakaraan.Kung hindi magbabayad ang mga nagkasala,parang tayo na rin mismo ang nag-imbita sa mga nagbabalak gumawa ng masama na umulit muli.” President Benigno Aquino III. SONA July 2011

The Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) recalls that:President Benigno Aquino III, in his 2011 State of the Nation Address (SONA) popularly well defined impunity: That which is wrong, no matter how long it takes, is still wrong. No way can anyone say after sometime that:

“It already is OK. Let bygone’s be bygone’s.” Otherwise, the same wrongs will recur. If no one pays for what has been done, it would be like we ourselves have encouraged the wrong doer to do it all over again.
Impunity is a deadly social virus of such strain that addressing it with half-measures and / or insufficient dosages of actions only emboldens its bearers more while it instills more widely within Philippine society the climate of fear and of helplessness against impunity’s next choice as its victim. The danger is increased when those infected belong to the high echelons of government, the security sector and the business sector – as shown in the unwillingness of PLDT to comply with the final decision of the Supreme Court in favor of the Digitel Employees Union as well as in the still un-captured ex-Maj.Gen. Jovito Palparan, Jr. and the highly possible involvement of military and police officers in rub-outs.

Yes, the reported number of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and torture are down. But very few have been made to pay for what they have wrongly done. Government and the security sector has miserably failed to diligently investigate and appropriately prosecute the past and present violations. The culture of impunity persist. And the private sector, in varying degrees, is being infected with it. The President’s past SONA words are a warning unto itself: Kung hindi magbabayad ang mga nagkasala, parang tayo na rin mismo ang nag-imbita sa mga nagbabalak gumawa ng masama na umulit muli.

An outbreak of impunity can again occur anytime.

Extrajudicial killings, for one, by death squads are no longer confined in Davao City. Similar incidents, according to Human Rights Watch, are being reported in the cities of Zamboanga, General Santos, Cagayan de Oro and Cebu.

To prevent this backlash, we call on all human rights defenders to conduct creative and courageous actions to:
1. Assert the right to truth.
2. Pursue the right to justice.
3. Organize to obtain the right for an effective remedy and to received reparations.
4. Work for structural and institutional reforms to prevent recurrence of systemic abuses.

Determinedly work for the passage of the Freedom of Information Bill. Now we need to push for the success of the People’s Indirect Initiative as it has been freed from the clutches of political unwillingness.

Barriers to obtain the truth about graft and corruption as well as criminal activity and/or human rights violations must be demolished to deliver justice to victims and their families and to the Filipino people as a whole.

The intransigence of both the AFP and the PNP, as pointed out by the Court of Appeals, in cooperating with the CHR to obtain information relevant to the resolution of Jonas Burgos case must be decisively dealt with.
If wrongly permitted to take this course, Jonas Burgos and his family would be, despite being a high profile case, added victims of impunity, piled on cases like that of the enforced disappearances of six young casual workers from Surigao known as the PICOP 6. If there is no full consideration, as another example, of the truth about the massacre of the Capion family in Davao del Sur, proper redress and compensation along with justice will be not achieved.

Truth should not only be obtained in the realm of civil and political rights, but also in economic, social and cultural rights. The right to information is not only on the accessibility of police blotters, military camp records but also of transparency of business plans and records containing also financial reports affecting people, their sources of subsistence and the environment particularly in areas of extractive industries.

Till now there is no official National Human Rights Action Plan (NHRAP) that would guide this administration’s compliance of its human rights obligations. It must be remembered that most of the time, impunity in the realm of civil and political rights is rooted in the impunity of economic, social and cultural rights. The completion of CARPER and the people’s control, not foreigners, over sources of subsistence should be ensured to progressively root out the causes of the armed conflict and concomitant abuses.

The touch-and-go or piece-meal style in human rights will not weaken, much less stop, impunity but rather strengthen impunity by using new learned technicalities to subvert actions that respect, protect and fulfil human rights, such as blind-folding a person to escape identification in a torture case.

Passage of some legislation related to human rights, such as the laws on reproductive health, enforced disappearances, compensation for human rights victims during Martial Law and on domestic workers, are noted and commended.

While awaiting the said laws’ full implementation, there are others which should be soonest addressed by the Chief Executive who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

The President should order, not merely endorse, that transparency and accountability be diligently done in dealing with serious accusations of criminal and/or human rights violations implicating both rank-and-file personnel and officers. The President should review and / or rescind executive actions which give rise to human rights violations, like the Executive Order 546 which allows the arming of militias by local officials.
Alongside the ban, he should issue an Executive Order which bans all para-military formations and to dis-arm immediately all the said groups. There is urgency as well to check that Command Responsibility does not deteriorate into a ‘command conspiracy’ between officials both in the civilian bureaucracy and the security sector and their corresponding rank-and-file personnel.

Finally, to ensure that systemic abuses do not recur, structural and institutional changes should take into serious consideration without discrimination the promotion and protection of human rights of all, especially, the indigenous peoples, the peasants, the workers, women, children, the LGBTs, the elderly and persons with disabilities. Human Rights Defenders should monitor government compliance.

No trade-off’s to end impunity.

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