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.
MANILA, Philippines -- (2ND UPDATE) United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings Philip Alston described the Arroyo administration’s reaction to his 10-day visit to the country in February to investigate extrajudicial killings “deeply schizophrenic.”
The comments, contained in a transcript of Alston’s oral report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on his investigation, a copy of which was provided by the office of Senator Ana Consuelo “Jamby” Madrigal, was more biting than the description of the special rapporteur’s speech given by undersecretary Cecilia “Coco” Quisumbing of the Presidential Human Rights Committee.
Madrigal was also in Geneva to witness Alston’s submission of his preliminary report on his investigation of the extrajudicial killings. The report is also accessible on the UN website.
Earlier Wednesday, Quisumbing, quoting from accounts relayed to her by Philippine envoys who listened to Alston’s speech, said the report included impromptu comments that made his report “harsher” on the military than a draft received by the government.
In his speech, Alston noted that while President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was “taking positive initiatives” in response to recommendations he made, military and other key officials “have buried their collective heads in the sand and announced that business will continue as usual.”
At the same time, although Alston said killings by the New People’s Army are reprehensible and to be condemned,” he stressed that “there is absolutely no evidence that the recent surge in killings of leftist activists is due to a communist purge.”
“On the contrary, strong and consistent evidence leads to the conclusion that a significant number of these killings are due to the actions of the military,” he said.
He also noted that the NPA, Communist Party of the Philippines and National Democratic Front own responsibility for their own killings, and that the purges that rocked the ranks of the rebel movement happened two decades ago.
The UN expert, who made several recommendations to the Philippine government in his report, said these “will make little difference unless there is a fundamental change of heart on the part of the military or the emergence of civilian resolve to compel the military to change its ways.”
“Then, and only then, will it be possible to make real progress in ending the killings,” he stressed.
Quoting from his own statement before leaving the Philippines, Alston said the military continued to “remain in a state of almost total denial” over the killings.
Thus, a month after his visit, he said, “I have little reason for optimism.”
He cited a “colorful” statement of Defense Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane, who said last week that, “Alston won’t pay attention. He is blind, mute, and deaf. We can’t do anything about that,” reacting to the UN expert’s dismissal of military claims about a communist purge.
“Part of me appreciates the substitution of frank insults for the usual diplomatic platitudes, but anyone reading between the lines will receive a far more disturbing message: Those government officials who must act decisively if the killings are to end still refuse to accept that there is even a problem,” he told the UNHRC.
Alston said the military never substantiated its list the 1,227 names, dates, and places of individuals alleged to have been killed by communist rebels “despite numerous requests.”
He also accused the military of “disinformation” and dismissed as a “fabrication” Operation Bushfire, a purported rebel document the military claimed to have captured in May last year and which is supposed to detail a plan by the communists to kill their own members and pin the blame on the military.
“In the absence of strong supporting evidence, which I requested, this document bears all the hallmarks of a fabrication and cannot be taken as evidence of anything other than disinformation,” he said.
Alston insisted that his initial impression about the military being principally responsible for the killings remains true.
“I would repeat today that based on my fact-finding there is no reasonable doubt that the military is responsible for a significant number of killings. Subsequent evidence points to the continuing nature of that practice,” he said.
In his written report, Alston noted “a passivity, bordering on an abdication of responsibility,” in the way the government and its officials “approach their responsibilities in relation to such human rights concerns” as the extrajudicial killings as he warned that failure to end the bloodshed would lead to “dire” consequences.
Quoting a member of the Philippine Mission to the UNHRC in Geneva, Quisumbing said Ambassador Enrique Manalo, as is allowed by Council rules, countered Alston’s report and told the body of the country’s efforts to end the killings.
Reacting to Alston’s description of the government response as “schizophrenic,” Quisumbing said she “strongly disagreed.”
Contrary to Alston’s description of the military, she said the AFP has already set up a human rights office and is already investigating 80 cases of military men possibly involved in the killings. “How can that be business as usual?” she asked.
This was in contrast to her reaction earlier in the day based on the accounts of the envoys in Geneva, during which she did not exactly contradict Alston’s findings and said “the government has to take a united stand because this is a multi-faceted problem that requires a multi-faceted solution. This is not a race. It is not helpful to have a comparison [of actions] among branches of government.”
However, while saying the government is “disappointed,” Quisumbing said she was not surprised by Alston’s statement.
“First of all, the government is disappointed that Mr. Alston changed his statement without prior notice to us since the usual process is for a chance for the government to review his draft and we were under the impression that we had open dialogue with Mr. Alston,” she said.
“Secondly, this should not surprise us though because Mr. Alston said the same thing in his departure statement,” she added.
Quisumbing said that despite Alston’s “harsher” speech before the Council, she hopes the “interactive exchange of information” will continue.
She also said the government cannot comply with Alston’s request for a copy of a military “order of battle relating to one of the zones in the country in which significant conflict is currently occurring.”
She did say part of the Philippine response to the Alston report was a request for him to give the government a copy of a “leaked” order of battle he obtained while in the country and described as a 110-page document containing the names of hundreds of groups and individuals who have been classified by the military as “illegitimate” so the authenticity of the document may be ascertained.
During his visit to the country, Alston interviewed relatives of the murder victims, witnesses, and various government officials.
One of those he interviewed, Siche Gandinao, a Bayan Muna official from Misamis in Mindanao, was killed in front of her daughter on March 10. Gandinao testified about her father-in-law’s death in February.
The unabated political killings in the country, which human rights groups say have claimed more than 830 lives since 2001, have attracted international concern. Aside from the UN, the United States Congress and the European Union have offered to help solve the problem.
On Tuesday, Quisumbing said Alston’s preliminary report to the UNHRC is unlikely to endanger the Philippines’ standing in the Council, much less result in a sanction, or lead to cutbacks in aid.
While Alston’s report does not carry an executive weight, many recognize the moral effect it has. Alston is expected to submit a final report on the extrajudicial killings in the Philippines in June.
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