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.
By Cynthia Balana, Fe Zamora, Gil C. Cabacungan Jr. Inquirer Last updated 02:53am (Mla time) 02/16/2007
MANILA, Philippines -- The European Union will seek more information on the Melo Commission’s report on the killing of journalists and leftist activists despite Malacañang’s refusal to provide the EU a copy.
Eneko Landaburu, the European Commission’s director general for external relations, met with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Thursday to clarify the refusal. But it could not be immediately determined if the matter was indeed taken up at the meeting.
The European Commission is the executive body of the 27-nation European Union.
“I’m going to see your President this afternoon and we’ll discuss exactly the issue, and we’ll see [what the EU decision will be],” Landaburu told reporters during the launch of the P750-million Mindanao Health Sector Policy Program at the Department of Foreign Affairs.
“At this stage, we’re waiting for more official information on the report. I hope that by the next day, it will be possible to have the information that we need to be able to assess what’s on the report and maybe prepare an answer,” he said.
The President had sought the participation of the EU in the inquiry into the unabated killings, but the EU said it needed a copy of the report to determine how it could help.
Ambassador Alistair MacDonald, head of the EC delegation in Manila, said it would be best to hear it from Ms Arroyo herself.
“We don’t rely on third-party information,” MacDonald said, referring to Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita’s remarks on Wednesday.
Ermita said on Wednesday that the 89-page report was “by no means complete” because Ms Arroyo had directed the commission chaired by former Supreme Court Justice Jose Melo to continue with its work.
Thus, Ermita said, Malacañang would not be able to provide copies to the EU as well as to Philip Alston, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights’ special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, who is in the Philippines on a 10-day visit.
The report has yet to be made public, but Melo said retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan and other military commanders should be held accountable for the killings on the principle of command responsibility.
MacDonald, one of the members of the diplomatic corps who attended a two-hour meeting with the Melo Commission on Thursday, also said the EU was watching how Ms Arroyo would implement its recommendations.
“We are certainly very interested to know how the government intends to pursue these follow-up activities,” he said.
Steven Rheault-Kihara, counselor of the Canadian Embassy, said “the general consensus” of the diplomats who attended the meeting was that the commission was “very sincere and honest in its findings.”
Melo, along with National Bureau of Investigation Director Nestor Mantaring, Chief State Prosecutor Jovencito Zuño and University of the Philippines Regent Nelia Gonzales, briefed the diplomatic corps on the results of its inquiry into the killings.
The retired justice also renewed the invitation to the rights watchdog Karapatan and other militant groups to attend the commission’s hearings and disclose what they knew.
“I am personally inviting Karapatan to come forward. We are ready to hear them,” Melo said.
But a member of the commission, Butuan Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos, took Karapatan to task for distrusting the commission’s efforts.
“Sayang talaga (It’s such a pity). It (the report) could have been more objective. That’s why I am really blaming them,” the bishop said in a phone interview. Disservice to victims
The militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said Malacañang’s refusal to furnish Alston and the EU copies of the Melo report was “a disservice to all victims of human rights abuses.”
“In failing to release the report, the Arroyo government only shows callousness toward the victims and gross insincerity in stopping the cycle of state-sponsored violence,” Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said in a statement.
Reyes pointed out that a month after the Melo Commission announced that it had submitted its report to the Palace, “the Filipino people and the concerned international community [are still] in the dark.”
He said a possible reason for the secrecy was that there was actually no complete report, and that the announcement of the submission of a report was intended to boost Ms Arroyo’s “sagging approval ratings in the EU.”
Another possible reason, he said, was the Arroyo administration’s purported inability to hold some military generals accountable for the killings, especially during the election season.
“For whatever its weaknesses may be, the Melo report has tagged generals like ... Palparan responsible for the killings. However, ... it is the election season and the administration does not want to antagonize the military at this crucial period,” he said, adding:
“Historically, the military is important for the electoral interests of any administration.”
Reyes also speculated that the report was being held hostage by the “hawks” in the administration. He pointed out that the “finding” blaming some generals for the killings could affect Malacañang’s counterinsurgency program.
Enrile Alston and his team and the EU members met Thursday with Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, the current chair of the Senate committee on justice and human rights, in the hope of getting Congress’ cooperation in their probe.
But by his account to reporters, Enrile gave his visitors a talking-to.
“They were asking questions about extrajudicial killings and I said that’s a police matter, and that if there is any need to enact corrective legislation, we will do it. But we have conducted hearings on these things and the laws are sufficient to deal with the problem,” said the architect of martial law in the Philippines.
Enrile recalled a similar encounter with a foreign human rights activist during the martial law era, who “came to see me and lectured me about human rights.”
“I told her, Look, have you handled an insurgency problem in your country? No, she said. So I said, ‘Don’t lecture me then on how to handle the insurgency problem,’” Enrile said.
He said he told the Alston/EU group the same thing: “I told them there is more to this problem than just suspecting other people.”
According to the senator, some of his guests reddened (“namumula”) and fell silent (“hindi umiimik”).
Enrile said he also told a German official in the group that like Germany’s strategy in going after terrorists, “we do the same thing -- we do intelligence work.”
“We’ve handled insurgency problems in the country but I have never allowed foreigners to interfere with my work. After all, if this country will sink, they will be safe in their country and we Filipinos will be the one who will suffer,” he said.
Enrile said if there was a problem in the unresolved killings, “it should be the function of the department head to look into the problem.”
“When I was defense secretary (under Ferdinand Marcos), when I hear of any misbehavior of any military officer or enlisted personnel, I act immediately. I don’t have to wait for any other agency to look into the matter,” he said.
Enrile also said it was he who had brought up the issue against Palparan, whom activists have tagged a “berdugo” (butcher): “I was the one who mentioned Palparan [at a] public hearing during the confirmation [of his promotion to major general], where members of the House who were complaining about him did not present complete evidence to warrant the disapproval of his confirmation.”
The senator said he saw no need to rush public disclosure of the Melo report.
But he added that he did not view the foreigners’ inquiry into the extrajudicial killings as undue interference: “They just want to find out if we are adhering to international conventions [on human rights] that we signed.”
Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez said Alston had expressed concern over the government’s treatment of supposed legal fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
Alston pointed out that the government “considers these legal fronts as enemies,” Gonzalez told reporters after meeting with the UN special rapporteur at the Department of Justice.
He said Alston had maintained that leftist party-list groups were using their funds legally: “He was sticking to his position that if the [CPP] is legal, all the funds are legal.”
Gonzalez said he told Alston that the legal fronts had been fighting the government. Documents on CPP fronts
He also said the government had documents and a videotape showing Jose Ma. Sison, chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front (NDF), and his wife identifying the militant groups Migrante, Bayan and Gabriela as fronts of the CPP.
Gonzalez said Alston’s report to the UN, if unfavorable, would reflect badly on the Philippines.
But the UN cannot impose sanctions on the country, he said.
He likewise said that his meeting with Alston was “not antagonistic,” and that he thought he had disarmed the latter.
“I thought he was already brainwashed. You know, he first met, not with the government, but with Karapatan,” Gonzalez said.
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