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.
JOINT SSN-PATH REACTION TO PROF. PHILIP ALSTON'S PHILIPPINE MISSION PRESS STATEMENT OF 21 FEBRUARY 2007
Greetings of Peace, Truth, Justice and Healing! We acknowledge the belatedness of this reaction but wish to convey it just the same because of what we think, believe and feel are important points and angles to consider in the preparation of Notes and especially the Final Report of UN Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur Professor Philip Alston on his mission to the Philippines last 11-21 February 2007 to inquire into the "political killings" or extrajudicial executions (EJE) here in recent years. In this regard, we wish to hereunder directly address Prof. Alston on his final mission day Press Statement of 21 February 2007.
While your 10-day mission capped by your Press Statement has been the much needed "tipping point" indeed for deeper reflection and more effective action on the politically-motivated EJE in the Philippines in recent years, we feel that your Press Statement, or the various interpretations and propaganda (yes, that word again) around it, have not given due attention or treatment to the EJEs also perpetrated by non-state armed groups like the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-New People's Army (NPA).
It may help to place things in perspective if we add to the typology in your Press Statement. The current EJE issue in the Philippines swirls around the facts and propaganda involving at least three types of EJE with different sets of victims of human rights violations:
1. state/military-inspired or anti-Left EJE, esp. killings of legal Left activists like disproportionately those of Bayan Muna party-list group
2. non-state (rebel) EJE, mainly NPA liquidations or summary executions of civilians outside combat e.g. civilian informers or spies, criminal "bad elements" like rapists and cattle rustlers, policemen who do not have combat duties but are killed for their weapons, "despotic" landlords and "abusive" local officials
3. the CPP-NPA internal purges of many of its own members suspected of being military "deep penetration agents" in the 1980s (which has been PATH's advocacy issue as victims, survivors and relatives)
The first type of current EJE, i.e. state/military-inspired or anti-Left EJE, has called for and gotten the most attention, including occasioning your mission. As you said, there may be an inevitable propaganda element but it does not, did not, destroy the credibility of the information and allegations. Instead of acknowledging some military involvement in this, as you have called for, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has gone into denial mode and in the process has pointed to the second type of current EJE, i.e. NPA liquidations of civilians outside combat. To bolster this theory, the AFP further points to the third type of EJE which happened about 20 or so years ago, the CPP-NPA internal purges.
But the fact that the AFP has given the second and third type of EJE a propaganda dimension, to deflect its responsibility for the first type of EJE, does not, in itself, to pursue your logic, destroy the credibility of the information and allegations. We are talking here about three types of EJE, and each type must be given its just due. The AFP is mistakenly saying that the first type of EJE is actually the second or third type. No, these three types each have their basically distinct sets of victims, although the second and third types are both non-state or rebel-perpetrated EJE.
In the same way that you did not consider the surfacing by the AFP of two listed victims as sufficient to discredit the vast number of remaining allegations of state/military-inspired or anti-Left EJE of legal Left activists, perhaps you should not also take as authoritative Akbayan party-list Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel's clearly off-the-cuff/spur-of-the-moment (without apparent solid evidentiary basis) estimate that not more than the 10% of the total killings can be attributed to the NPA. That may be true for the first type of EJE but certainly not for the second type. The 1,227 figure cited by the AFP pertains to the second type of EJE and is different from the 800+ figure cited by Karapatan which pertains to the first type.
Of course, the AFP information and allegations on 1,227 NPA killings should also be subjected to tests of credibility. But in fairness, they should not be almost outrightly dismissed just because "The evidence offered by the military in support of this [purge] theory is especially unconvincing." Even if your mission's whole 10 days in the Philippines had focused on the 1,227 killings cited by the AFP, that amount of days was simply not enough to properly evaluate whatever evidence pertaining to that amount of reported killings, on top of the 800+ killings cited by Karapatan. Again, there must be no mixing up of or confusion about the three types of EJE as outlined above.
NPA liquidations of civilians outside combat have been an ongoing reality of its protracted people's war, just as killings of legal Left activists have become a reality of recent prominence in the wake of the state's current counter-insurgency strategy. Any inquiry into the current EJE issue in the Philippines should be informed by this local context of an internal armed conflict which involves two sides, state and non-state, but which does not of course justify violations of human rights and the laws of war.
The reality of NPA liquidations of civilians outside combat has in fact been inquired into, documented and reported on internationally at least twice in the past. One is in a section (as a contextual backdrop) in the 1988 book by the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights (New York) entitled Vigilantes in the Philippines: A Threat to Democratic Rule. Another is in significant parts of the 1990 book by the Asia Watch Committee of Human Rights Watch (New York) entitled The Philippines: Violations of the Laws of War by Both Sides. We believe that such both-sided treatment (esp. in the latter book) which corresponds to reality and provides fairness to all will also make acknowledgement by those concerned, e.g. the AFP leadership, more forthcoming.
The AFP's propaganda reliance on figures and trends relating to the CPP-NPA purges in the 1980s should not also in itself destroy the credibility of PATH's lonely advocacy on this which pre-dated the current EJE issue in the Philippines. The embroilment of the CPP-NPA purges issue in the current EJE issue should be seen as an opportunity to more properly and effectively address that still hanging purges issue, an EJE issue just like the first and second types. In fact, more than the first two types, the CPP-NPA internal purges of the 19080s involved not just one major kind of human rights violation which is EJE but also several others - torture, enforced disappearances, and even lack of due process and fair trial in the "revolutionary justice" rendered by "people's courts." The factual and evidentiary details of these are found or indicated, among others, in the confidential Preliminary Report submitted in hard copy to your mission c/o the UN Resident Commissioner's Office Philippines last 20 February.
Your evaluation of an alleged CPP/NPA document captured in May 2006 describing Operation Bushfire as a fabrication appears justified. It is an important lead about a possible covert EJE operation and operatives within the AFP because the document was listed among the 14 subversive documents (most seem authentic) captured in an apparently normal and official "After Special Operation Report" of the 76th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army. How did this fabricated document get there (among other authentic CPP/NPA documents and into an official Army report)?
The main burden in issues of this sort will always be with the state, whether it was the Marcos dictatorship or the more democratic regimes which followed up to the present. The international human rights regime is also historically occasioned and suited to respond to state tyranny. But lest the slaves or rebels of today be the oppressors or tyrants of tomorrow, recent experience and realities have shown that international human rights regime must address too, and address more effectively than it has, the non-state dimension of human rights violations.
Your Press Statement speaks of the need and challenge to restore the various accountability mechanisms that have been put in place over the years but many of which have been drained of their force in recent years. Still, all such accountability mechanisms, whether domestic or international, are largely state-oriented mechanisms. There are hardly any accountability mechanisms that deal more suitably and effectively with the non-state armed group violators of human rights. We hope that your Final Report will help develop the also needed work on this front. Thank you.
Quezon City, Philippines, 26 March 2007.
(SIGNED) SOLIMAN M. SANTOS, JR., Esq. A.B. History (UP), LL.B. (UNC), LL.M. (Melb) Regional Focal Point for Asia South-South Network (SSN) for Non-State Armed Group Engagement
(SIGNED) ROGEL M. NAVARRO Chairperson Peace Advocates for Truth, Healing and Justice (PATH)
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