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.
Ermita: Findings still not complete By Michael Lim Ubac Inquirer Last updated 01:52am (Mla time) 02/15/2007
MANILA, Philippines -- Malacañang has refused to furnish the European Union and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights’ special rapporteur a copy of the findings of the Melo Commission, insisting that the report on extrajudicial killings was still incomplete.
The report, which has yet to be made public, linked some of the killings of leftist activists to the military, particularly retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo formed the Melo Commission, which is chaired by retired Supreme Court Justice Jose Melo, in August 2006.
Both the EU and UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston have asked the Palace for a copy of the report.
Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita on Wednesday said at his regular weekly briefing that the commission’s report was just “a preliminary report” and “by no means complete.”
He reminded reporters that Ms Arroyo had earlier directed the Melo Commission “to continue with its work.”
Short of saying that the report was one-sided, Ermita pointed out that vital “resource persons” other than military and police officials had not accepted the commission’s invitation to attend its hearings.
The families of those killed, as well as members of militant groups, had expressed doubt on the commission’s independence and ignored its invitation.
Alston and his team have been kept busy meeting with officials and members of the Armed Forces, the defense department, the Philippine National Police’s Task Force Usig, and the Melo Commission.
He had a meeting with Ermita at the Palace on Monday, where the latter pledged the cooperation of the Arroyo administration, including “all the information that [Alston and his team] need, short of allowing them interference in our court system.”
Overview of insurgency
Ermita said Palace officials had given Alston, who is here on a 10-day visit, a briefing.
“We talked about his purpose for coming to the Philippines,” Ermita said.
He said he had to give Alston “an overview of the insurgency,” to “look at the issue of extrajudicial killings in the context of the overall insurgency problems in the Philippines” -- a reference to the 38-year communist insurgency and the Moro secessionist movement in the south.
Ermita said this gave Alston a good background “on why these things are happening.”
He said he also told Alston and company that the AFP was using the term “unexplained killings” to refer to the murders.
Ermita said Alston’s inquiry into the killings was being supported by Ms Arroyo “for purposes of transparency, to show them that the government under the President is doing everything to address this.”
The EU, which has repeatedly expressed alarm at the unabated killings, will also conduct its own probe. But it had said it needed a copy of the Melo report to do this.
Asked if Alston’s inquiry would open the proverbial can of worms, Ermita said: “I always say that the truth will always come out.”
He also said Alston had been shown “pictures of mass graves” of civilians and communist cadres believed to have been executed by the communist New People’s Army.
“It’s up to [Alston] how he will look at it ... and make his own assessment,” Ermita said.
Ermita also announced that Ms Arroyo had named Cecilia Quisumbing, daughter of Supreme Court Justice Leonardo Quisumbing, executive director of the President’s Committee on Human Rights, which Ermita heads.
The young Quisumbing has worked for the broadcast network CNBC and served as the Philippine consultant to the UN mission involved in human rights.
Ermita told reporters Ms Arroyo was convinced that Quisumbing, “being like you a journalist, and a foreign journalist at that,” would be “very helpful” as the committee’s executive director.
On Wednesday, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings met with survivors and relatives of the victims, according to Ruth Cervantes, spokesperson of the rights group Karapatan.
The Associated Press quoted Cervantes, who attended the meeting, as saying that Alston had met with about 20 relatives of slain leftist activists.
The venue of the meeting was not disclosed to protect the complainants, AP said.
Cervantes said activists gave Alston’s team a briefing on alleged human rights abuses under the Arroyo administration. Then the victims started to recount the attacks, some breaking into tears, Cervantes said.
Among them was Josie Javier, who was shot with her husband in their rural home north of Manila last October by suspected soldiers, who resented his membership in a left-wing urban poor group. Javier’s husband died in the attack.
“As I think of my husband this Valentine’s Day, I hope that Mr. Alston really listened to our story and will do everything in his power to give us justice,” Javier said in a statement.
The victims had sought the meeting with Alston in an effort to urge the UN and other foreign groups to pressure Ms Arroyo to take drastic steps to halt the killings, Cervantes said.
She added: “The victims have gone to the courts, Congress and the CHR (Commission on Human Rights), but the killings have not stopped.”
Karapatan has listed 832 summary killings, including 356 leftist activists, since Ms Arroyo took office in 2001. But the administration has disputed the figures and blamed many deaths on purges within the communist movement.
Even officials of the National Democratic Front, the political arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines, wants to meet with Alston in their base in Utrecht, the Netherlands.
The invitation was contained in a letter hand-delivered to Alston in Quezon City Wednesday by the staff of the NDF-Joint Secretariat.
In the letter, NDF negotiation panel chair Luis Jalandoni said Alston and his team could meet with other NDF negotiators and monitors in Utrecht “to discuss matters of mutual concern regarding the human rights situation” in the Philippines.
Jalandoni also gave Alston a study of 23 cases of extrajudicial killings that have yet to be resolved.
“The submission of human rights groups are supported mainly by fact sheets which contain enough material information for conducting an impartial investigation by concerned parties; the submission by the AFP and PNP representatives are woefully lacking in supporting documents and information,” Jalandoni said in a statement issued from Utrecht.
Jalandoni also lamented that the 23 killings had been blamed on the CPP/NPA/NDF by the police and military, causing “grave injustice to the victims.”
The 23 cases in the study given Alston included 17 victims who were members of groups “viciously vilified” by the government, Jalandoni said.
He said these included the party-list groups Bayan Muna and Anakpawis, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas and affiliated peasant organizations, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, Karapatan, United Church of Christ of the Philippines, and Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR).
The AFP is not lacking in papers.
On Tuesday, defense and military officials gave “reference materials” to Alston during a briefing at Camp Aguinaldo.
The military said that the CPP-NPA was behind the liquidation of 1,335 persons from 2000 to 2006 and that most of these incidents happened in communist-infested areas of Bicol, Central Luzon, Southern Mindanao, Eastern Visayas, Southern Tagalog and Caraga.
According to the military document, many of those killed, or 650, were civilians or ordinary citizens; 499 were military and police personnel; and the rest were former rebels and rebel returnees and government officials.
Of the 111 local government officials, 64 were purported barangay chairs of “communist-affected or threatened barangays.”
The document said 336 other persons were killed for failing to give in to the communists’ extortion demands; for suspicion they were government informants; and for malversation of funds of the movement, among others.
It also said the CPP had conducted purging operations from 1986 until the 1990s.
“The areas where the purging occurred are the same areas that are currently experiencing a high level of unexplained killings,” it said.
‘Look, listen, judge’
But the Church-based PCPR called on Alston not to be “fooled” by Palace, police and military officials.
“Look, listen and judge beyond the Malacañang-AFP-PNP cover-up on state accountability over the 833 cases of political killings under Arroyo,” the PCPR said in a statement.
The group said it had received reports that the killing of Aglipayan Bishop Alberto Ramento on Oct. 3, 2006, was supposedly cited as a robbery case during one of Alston’s meetings with government officials.
It maintained that Ramento was killed, not by thieves, but by “state agents ordered to eliminate groups and personalities advocating regime change.”
“As we have [written] Mr. Alston earlier, the fact that Bishop Ramento and 23 other church people were not spared is a glaring manifestation of an extreme level of state repression,” the PCPR said.
Challenge to Senate bets
Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano challenged both administration and opposition senatorial candidates to publicly condemn the killings.
“We are already on the second day of the 90-day campaign period and we have yet to hear the stand of senatorial candidates on [this matter],” Mariano said.
He said the network of the leftist party-list groups in the grass roots would work in favor of senatorial candidates who would speak out against the killings.”
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
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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