STATEMENT ON THE
OCCASION OF THE 60TH COMMEMORATION OF INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS
DAY: Wakasan ang Pasismo, Panagutin ang Estado!
Today, we mark the 60th year of the United Nations adoption of the
Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR) that enshrines human
rights and holds the government responsible to uphold and respect
it. In remembering this significant date, we bring to the fore the
most pressing need to assert, defend and sincerely respect human
The rights to life, liberty, security, self-determination
and the right to develop are far from being fully realized.
There remains a crying need for enough food on the
table, accessible medical services and education, jobs, the freedom
to organize and expression, and for the recognition of the importance
of political dissent and discourse in a genuine democracy.
We commemorate December 10 in the midst of the agonizing
search for James Balao - founding member of the Cordillera Peoples
Alliance (CPA), President of the Oclupan Clan, human rights defender
and genuine servant of the people. It is now 85 days since September
17, 2008, when he was brazenly abducted in Lower Tomay, La Trinidad,
Benguet by heavily armed State security forces.
James' enforced disappearance is part of the Arroyo
government's implementation of Operation Plan Bantay Laya (OBL)II.
This highly condemned state policy equates progressive people's
organizations critical of the government's policies and practices
with the Communist Party of the Philippines - New People's Army
- National Democratic Front of the Philippines (CPP-NPA-NDFP). This
counter-insurgency program makes the members and leaders of these
organizations targets for neutralization.
We will not forget that the first phase of OBL killed
our colleagues Romy Sanchez, Jose 'Pepe' Manegdeg III, Albert Terredano,
Jose Doton, Rafael Markus Bangit, Gloria Casuga and Alyce Omengan-Claver.
This operation has resulted to human rights violations
to a scale worse than the human rights record of the 20 years in
power of the former Dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Since 2001, there
are 977 victims of extrajudicial killings, 201 victims of enforced
disappearances, 1,010 victims of torture, 1,464 illegal arrests
and 868,096 displaced from their homes and villages because of military
Out of the 50 victims of extrajudicial killings
at a national scale this year, 4 are from the region. The victims
are farmers/ hunters. The violations took place in Abra and Kalinga.
In Kalinga, the two cases of summary execution were amicably settled
by the AFP with the families to quell legal actions by the communities
and further dissent. This act of settlement is an admission of accountability
but is far from the delivery of justice.
Militarization has heightened in the region. More
communities in the region have reported that the AFP has been using
their schools, medical, religious and other public places for military
purposes thereby endangering civilians. In Pananuman, the school,
church and dap-ay were used by the military in their month long
operations. In Tanglag, Kalinga, the AFP displaced the children
from their day care center because of their use of the facility.
Even homes of civilians are being used by the military as their
base in the communities. Soldiers in Baay Licuan have encamped under
the houses of residents.
Bombings and shellings, illegal searches and seizures,
divestment of properties have also taken place in the triboundary
of Abra, Mountain Province and Ilocos Sur.There is no respect for
the people's safety and security or the sacredness of significant
places in communities and cultural practices.
Women, children and elderly are not spared. This
year, we have documented a case of attempted rape in Abra perpetrated
by an element of the 502nd Brigade. We have also documented that
children and elderly residents of Sitio Pananuman, Barangay Tubtuba,
Tubo, Abra were subjected to harassment/threat/intimidation during
the March-April operations of the Bravo and Charlie Company of the
50th Infantry Battalion.
In the urban and town centers, state terrorism became
evident with the lack of tolerance by city-based police for protest
rallies and mobilizations and an increase in surveillance and harassment
of members and leaders of progressive people's organizations.
These are only among the human rights violations
committed by the units of the AFP and PNP in the region this year.
The violations continue because of the culture of impunity provided
by the government. No perpetrators are arrested or convicted. There
is no delivery of justice.
The main lesson in the adoption of the UDHR is that
people have to assert and defend their human rights. It is the only
way for these to be recognized.
As we continue to respond to the call for Mabtad
in the search for James, we search too for the genuine respect of
human rights and justice for all victims of human rights violations.
Communities and organizations have taken up the
challenge in continuing the resistance against State terrorism and
holding the Arroyo government accountable for its human rights violations.
The defense and assertion of human rights by Cordillera
people is depicted by the resistance of communities against military
presence and operations in their area. The residents of Barangay
Tanglag, Lubuagan, Kalinga recently held a dialogue to clearly state
their questions on the census, order of battle, and presence of
the military. They also strongly demanded for immediate military
pull-out and condemned the operations of the military in the communities
of Dupag in Tabuk and Barangays Poswoy, Balbalan and Uma in Lubuagan,
Kalinga. Sitio Pananuman, Barangay Tubtuba, Tubo, Abra which was
bombed and hamletted this year still continue to hold their ground
in their opposition against militarization and large scale destructive
mining. They are determined to weather the storm of development
aggression and militarization.
In the light of the heightening state terrorism,
we demand the following:
- The termination of Operation Plan Bantay Laya
- The demilitarization of the countrysides
- That appropriate punishments be given to human
rights violators up to the highest rank
- The stop of the persecution of progressive peoples
- The surfacing of James Balao and a stop to enforced
- Justice for all victims of human rights violations
- Resumption of the peace negotiations
The challenges for the continuing year is greater
with the State bent on achieving its goals set in Operation Plan
Bantay Laya II, the proposal for charter change and the nearing
Presidential elections. We must gather our strength to end state
terrorism and fascism and to hold the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo government
accountable for all its human rights violations. #
CORDILLERA HUMAN RIGHTS ALLIANCE