Peace Advocates for Truth, Healing & Justice (PATH) was formally organized in 2002, pioneering in its focus on human rights violations by a non-state armed group. Composed of torture survivors, families, relatives and friends of victims missing or executed during the anti-infiltration campaigns within the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA) in the 1980s, PATH seeks truth and justice from the CPP-NPA and other Left blocs involved in the anti-infiltration campaigns.
PATH believes that all non-state armed groups, including those not from the Left movement, should observe human rights in the conduct of their resistance against the State. Ultimately, PATH holds the State accountable as well for the purges, and for military atrocities during martial law and throughout successive administrations.
Goals & Objectives
PATH's goals and objectives are as follows:
1. Complete the documents of the cases of all victims during the purges and all those involved.
2. Organize a national community of human rights defenders and advocates composed of survivors, families, relatives and friends of victims during the purges.
3. Facilitate the healing of survivors as well as the families, relatives and friends of purge victims.
4. Conduct exhumations so that victims are given due respect and proper burial.
5. Conduct a comprehensive advocacy work. Its main components will be public information and campaign, solidarity-building and lobbying at the local, national and international levels.
6. Deepen and popularize the culture of human rights through artistic and popular education, productions and other cultural endeavors.
7. Come up with case studies of country experiences on the setting up of Truth and Justice Commissions and strive for the creation of a Truth and Justice Commission in the country together with other human rights organizations and individual human rights advocates.
Research & Documentation. Documents stories and produces a database of victims in aid of locating burial sites; conducts research to surface facts and circumstances of the purges; publishes materials as tools for justice campaigns; ensures confidentiality and security of records and files.
Recovery of Victims' Remains. In cooperation with the victims' kin, locates gravesites, retrieves the remains and arranges their proper burial; mobilizes the services of forensic experts and other professionals; initiates dialogues with the victims' families as well as with perpetrators.
Counseling & Therapy. Facilitates healing sessions that address the long-term trauma of surivivors and victims families; mobilizes professionals in the fields of psychology and psychiatry; builds support groups for victims and their families towards eventual closure.
Communications & Popular Education. Develops education programs, including theoretical materials and tools for reflection, that revolve around human rights and respect for human dignity; holds commemoration activities and builds memorials for the victims; develops external communications through publications and mass media.
Legal & Security. Leads in the initiation and pursuance of legal actions for victims; assist in the handling and protection of material evidence in coordination with the RVR Committee; conducts research on the possibilities of a Truth Commission; studies the implications of PATH's work on the peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the CPP-NPA-NDF; and ensures lines with established institutions that will help strengthen PATH;
Arts & Culture. Produces musical compositions, literary works, plays, video documentaries, films, and other cultural works from the stories of survivors and victims.
Organizing & Advocacy. Reaches out to survivors and victims' families in different regions and encourages solidarity in their journey towards justice and healing.
Jay Leno threw a signature potshot at the Philippine government's response to the Angelo dela Cruz crisis: A new world record was set on the 100- meter dash, he said, by Filipino troops fleeing Iraq. It may not be the most ingenious barb, though some were tickled pink. I myself, being a junkie for crass comedy and wicked witticism, was tempted to deliver a repartee about how the troops actually hit the finish line first by sticking out their chin. But that's being petty, and I might be accused of being a "lookist." Many Filipinos did not laugh at Leno's ribbing -- some because they took offense, others because his tirade was in fact an unwitting compliment, one that was, on the other hand, undeserved. Many other members of the "coalition of the willing" ran away faster.
But the core question still is whether to stay or not, whatever the incidentals. The thing is, the Philippines should not have found itself in the mess that was Iraq had it not been too quick in throwing its support to this American-sponsored race and having our troops sprint into the game. Now most everyone agrees that the world would be a much safer arena if Australia, the United Kingdom and America itself followed our lead and ran out of Iraq as quickly as they broke in.
More than two weeks ago, while on a brief trip to the United States, I took the most proletarian mode of travel from San Francisco to Seattle: the Greyhound bus, where one shares seats with the most interesting (and sometimes chilling) of characters. Near me was a U.S. Army trooper, looking languid and dazed, not unlike those war-shocked Vietnam veterans we often see in films. He told me how he appreciates dozing off on the bus, for he did not have the luxury of having a normal sleep during his eight months in Iraq. There was mortar fire every day, and his friends dropped like chickens in front of his eyes. He also got to fire his M-16 every now and then and hit a few warm bodies. Undeniably the whole experience was a complete trauma for him and his family, though he probably never realized how Iraqis managed to sleep in those days as well, and how they felt when their friends, sons and daughters perished in smoke like ants being fumigated.
I asked him what he thought of the war, and he said, matter-of-factly, that he thinks Osama bin Laden and George W. Bush should both be hanged. "War is ugly, man," he said. Images of explosion, blood and chains suddenly flashed in my head, thus I replied: "So I heard."
The shell-shocked anonymous trooper then looked me in the eye and said: "Frankly, there is no conceivable force in the world that would ever make me go back there again."
That was the randomly met, average American soldier for you, Mr. Leno. His is a wave of sentiment rolling all over the United States. I have not watched Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11," but I have seen how people within and outside America flock to these explicitly anti-war pieces in droves. I have seen the Abu Ghraib photos and the grisly Nick Berg video and realized that the utter revulsion I feel against this war is now becoming universally shared.
Many Philippine government officials reacted negatively to Jay Leno's wisecrack, maintaining that it is unfair to say that our soldiers are cowards. I agree. We can say a lot of things about our military, but it is definitely not lacking in courage. On the contrary, we probably suffer from them having too much of it. The same goes for their adversaries.
Our biggest problem, really, is that the warriors in our midst are much too fearless. If soldiers and rebels can be even a little less brave, perhaps they will have second thoughts before pulling the trigger. Perhaps there would be fewer gunfights, air strikes, bombings, assassinations and beheadings and less willingness to go to the wilderness or far-flung deserts to partake in wars decided and designed in the comfort and security of sanitized rooms by "dauntless" leaders within and outside of government.
Among warmongers, a subtraction of courage can be a good thing. It may be a less glorious path to peace, but our blessings are too few and far between. So let us just try and run for it.
Robert Francis Garcia is chairman of Peace Advocates for Truth, Justice and Healing, a human-rights group based in the Philippines, and the author of "To Suffer Thy Comrades: How the Revolution Decimated its Own" (Anvil Publishing, 2001). He also sits on the Board of Amnesty International Pilipinas.
Peace Advocates for Truth, Healing and Justice (PATH) 45 Matimtiman St., cor. Magiting St., Teachers' Village East Quezon City 1101, Philippines Tel. No: (632) 921-8049 Telefax: (632) 926-2893
You can also donate to PATH by clicking on the ads below
The book about the CPP-NPA Purges
"Bobby Garcia provides a riveting account of the Communist Party of the Philippines' "killing fields" and situates it within the context of a revolutionary movement that was nobly motivated but also tragically flawed. To Suffer Thy Comrades goes beyond Garcia's narrative of his and other survivors' harrowing experiences and explains why the purges took place, how both torturers and victims coped and made sense of their plight, and how they survived in the aftermath of the purge. The book sheds light on the darkest and deepest secrets of the revolutionary movement and provides insights that are useful now that the communists are negotiating peace with the government" - SHEILA CORONEL, Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism
"...Bobby Garcia had the courage to write about the 'killing fields' despite some people's efforts to dissuade him. Bobby was one of its victims -- he was 21 when his entire future was nearly taken away from him -- who was lucky enough to survive. And who is even luckier to retain a huge sense of humor and equanimity, even when talking about his ordeal, at least with friends. His book is called "To Suffer Thy Comrades"...It is certainly not something that will set your mind at rest. But read it anyway. Its virtue is to be found in that biblical observation, 'The truth shall set you free.' - CONRADO DE QUIROS, Philippine Daily Inquirer