Peace Advocates For Truth, Healing & Justice

What is PATH?
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.
  • 7 Committees
  • 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.
  • Comments
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    Friday, July 20, 2007
    A letter for the Supreme Court Justice
    Justice Reynato S. Puno


    Attorney’s Roll No. 32334

    Lawyer, Legislative Consultant, Legal Scholar

    18 Mariposa St., Cubao, Quezon City

    Tel. 7252153, Fax 4138821

    98 Albatross St., RJ Vil., Canaman, Cam. Sur (currently here)

    Tel. (054) 4744659, Cel. (0920) 29036xx


    Naga City


    Hon. Reynato S. Puno

    Chief Justice

    Supreme Court

    Dear Mr. Chief Justice,

    Re: National Consultative Summit on Extrajudicial Killings

    and Enforced Disappearances – Searching for Solutions

    Greetings of Peace and Justice!

    I am writing you on the above-indicated subject in various capacities but, first of all, as a member of the bar and thus officer of the court. As a human rights lawyer, I join others in commending you on this initiative as well as your earlier administrative order designating RTC branches nationwide to handle such cases. Allow me to proceed to some points for consideration in relation to your planned Summit, for some of which points I mention my relevant capacity.

    (1) I wish to share with you the enclosed “Joint SSN-PATH Reaction to Prof. Philip Alston’s Philippine Mission Press Statement of 21 February 2007” to which I was a co-signatory as Regional Focal Point for Asia of the South-South Network (SSN) for Non-State Armed Group Engagement. The main point of this reaction is that it may help to place the current extrajudicial executions (EJE) issue in perspective by noting that it swirls around the facts (and propaganda) involving at least three types of EJE with different sets of victims of human rights violations:

    a) state/military-inspired or anti-Left EJE, esp. killings of legal Left activists and media persons from 2000 to 2006 -- which is what the Task Force Usig, the Melo Commission, the Alston Mission, some other international missions, and local human rights groups like Karapatan have focused on

    b) ongoing 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/politicians -- regarding which the AFP claims to have listed 1,227 liquidations, also for 2000-2006

    c) 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

    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. Political violence in the Philippines is both state and non-state.
    There must therefore be no mixing up of or confusion about the three types of EJE as outlined above, so that correspondingly appropriate measures for justice can be laid out whereby the victims of all types, not just one type, of EJE are given their due. In a state-oriented legal and human rights system, there mechanisms and processes for responsibility and accountability are much more developed for states and state actors than they are for non-state actors like rebel groups. This asymmetry has to be reckoned with in the search for solutions and justice.

    (2) In a context of armed conflict, as we mentioned, international humanitarian law (IHL) is of particular relevance as a term of reference, not just constitutional and human rights. For while human rights have been traditionally invoked against the state and state actors (though there is a recent trend to invoke it also against non-state actors), IHL can be invoked against both state and non-state actors, more precisely government and rebel forces which are parties to an armed conflict. Thus, human rights instruments on EJE largely deal with the state and state actors, while IHL provisions on EJE cover both/all parties to an armed conflict.

    Regarding IHL, it bears noting that in the case of Kuroda vs. Jalandoni [83 Phil. 171 (1949)], it was ruled that “the rules and regulations of the Hague and Geneva conventions form part of and are wholly based on the generally accepted principles of international law… Such rules and principles, therefore, form part of the law of our nation even if the Philippines was not a signatory to the conventions embodying them.” (italics supplied) In fact, the same decision referred to “generally accepted principles and policies of international law which are part of our Constitution.” (italics supplied)

    With regard in particular to enforced disappearances, we should therefore factor in whatever relevant guidance not only from the new human rights instrument which is the International (UN) Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances but also from the IHL regime on the missing or unaccounted for as a result of armed conflict or internal violence. Aside from the relevant codal provisions of key IHL treaties like the 1949 Geneva Conventions and their 1977 Additional Protocols I & II (30th anniversary this year!), there is much developed guide material on this particular area of IHL based on many years of experience in handling the matter by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The most developed material is known as the ICRC Report: The Missing and Their Families. The Court and/or the Summit can avail of this from the ICRC-Manila Delegation Office.

    (3) While we are speaking of international legal references, it might also be relevant to any effort of the Court to enhance the rules of court or promulgate new ones, to refer to the Rules of Procedure and Evidence of the International Criminal Court, which is considered the highest development of international criminal procedure. Of course, this procedural instrument is tied to or is in the context of a substantive international treaty, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, not yet ratified by the Philippines [see Senator Aquilino Pimentel, Jr., et al. vs. Office of the Executive Secretary, et al., G.R. No. 158088, 6 July 2005]. But this should not necessarily deter your Court from adopting or adapting good rules from an international model, such as in the procedural protection of victims and witnesses.

    (4) In connection with the coming Summit, you were reported as speaking of the possibility of altering the scope of command responsibility. As you know, there was extensive discussion of this concept, including its historical legal antecedents, in the Melo Commission Report (at pp. 63-71). Though the latest precise definition of command responsibility is that found in the Rome Statute’s Article 28, the general concept (not necessarily the Rome Statute definition) of command responsibility can already be considered as part of binding customary international law. Still, it is in the realm of substantive law (principles of criminal responsibility) rather than procedural rules.

    For the information of the Court and of the Summit, there have been bills filed in Congress which define command responsibility in the accordance with the latest international criminal legal definition per the Rome Statute. It is found in what the proponent Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) calls the “IHL Bill,” or more precisely “An Act Defining and Penalizing Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law and Other Serious International Crimes, Operationalizing Universal Jurisdiction, Designating Special Courts, and for Related Purposes.” The leading example of this in the defunct 13th Congress was the enclosed Senate Bill No. 2511 (see Sec. 10) introduced by Senator Richard J. Gordon who happens to also be the PNRC Chair. I in turn happen to be the PNRC legislative consultant for this IHL Bill. This will be re-filed in both legislative chambers of the coming 14th Congress.

    (5) It has also been reported that the coming Summit might tackle the problem of false charges/fabricated cases which are politically motivated by the government against Leftist personalities and activists. I wish to bring up another matter of false charges/fabricated cases especially for murder – those filed, prosecuted, tried and decided against innocent fall guys despite rebel group (e.g. NPA) claims of responsibility for the extrajudicial killings in question. There have already been a number of cases of this sort over the years. I can speak with personal knowledge of one such case which has reached the Court wherein I was a defense counsel. I am referring to the Abadilla murder case of 11 years which reached the Supreme Court in 2000 on automatic review as G.R. No. 141660-64 (People vs. Fortuna, et al. but transferred to the Court of Appeals in 2005) and on certiorari petition as G.R. No. 142065 (with a Decision on 7 September 2001, see Lumanog vs. Salazar, 364 SCRA 719).

    In that Abadilla murder case, both the RTC first and then the Supreme Court twice later rejected motions/petitions of the “Abadilla 5” death convicts to present new/additional evidence showing Alex Boncayao Brigade (ABB of the NPA then) responsibility for the extrajudicial killing of a former military officer turned civilian politician and businessman Rolando Abadilla, including his taken Omega wrist watch which an ABB personality had turned over to “Running Priest” Fr. Robert Reyes to back up the ABB’s claim in several written and verbal media statements that it was responsible for the killing, so as to exculpate the innocent death convicts. There must be a way to receive, test/cross-check and appreciate various forms of evidence that underground rebel sources who cannot come out might proffer in relation to extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances which they have had a hand in or have intimate knowledge of, if only to spare the innocent from false charges/fabricated cases.

    This is relevant to our early point in paragraph (1) above about the problem of existing mechanisms and processes, including judicial ones, when it comes to non-state actors like rebel groups which cannot just surface from their underground status – lest they themselves become victims of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances. There is an element of vicious cycle here – killing and counter-killing - that must be broken.

    Again, you and the Court must be commended for doing your/its part in breaking that cycle. The coming Summit, together with the earlier catalyzing Alston Mission, have emerged as key parts of a counter-cycle of searching for and finding solutions. Thank you for your efforts, and for your attention to this letter.

    Sincerely yours,


    posted by PATH @ 7/20/2007 04:41:00 PM  
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    About Me

    Name: PATH
    Home: Quezon City, Philippines
    About Me:
    See my complete profile
    Where to send your donations and order the book

  • 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
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  • "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
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